California’s Proposition 8 and Morality

Well outside of Obama’s historic election win, the biggest political story was probably the victory of Proposition 8 in California.  Basically Proposition 8 was an amendment to the California constitution to ban same sex marriage.  The proposition was spurred by the California Supreme Court nullifying a law that the voters had passed in 2006, that out-lawed gay marriage.  This was quintessential judicial activism.

Well LGBT and same sex marriage supporters have already begun their protests and proclaiming that “their rights” have been violated, and that this is a failure of separation of church and state.  They could not be more wrong.

All people, and I repeat ALL people have the right to marry, both heterosexual and gay, and both are restricted from marrying someone of the same sex. Just like both gay and straight are restricted from marrying a child, or two people at once.

This is because states sanction and give benefits for marriage, not because of religious convictions, but civic good.  The state has a vested interest in seeing marriages between men and women occur because it is the fundamental relationship in which children are conceived and raised.  That is really it.  So when the state sanctions and encourages marriage it does so because it is trying to foster the normative conditions for the production and rearing of the next generation.  And ontologically, heterosexual marriage is the only union which can naturally produce children.  This is not ideological discrimination, just biological and anatomy fact.  A good case study of all of this and what happens when the state does not intentionally encourage heterosexual marital unions that produce children is Russia.  Because traditional marriage and traditional sexual morals have deteriorated so extensively, Russia is facing a declining population and serious fears about its economic and military future in the next 30 years.

All of this to say the idea that the separation of church and state is being violated and morality is being forced on homosexuals is just plan ignorant.  Because all law is morality, you cannot legislate anything but morality.  All laws are proscriptions of things you must do, or must not do so that society will run well.  All political arguments are therefore whose morals and what morals will be legislated.  In addition, claiming that legislating morality is a breach of separation of church and state is a categorical error of not understanding that morality and church are not synonymous.

The real funny thing about all of this is that when those who are outraged about morality being imposed upon them, fail to be consistent when their morality is encoded into law and imposed upon others…not even a whimper.

UPDATE:  Protests have been raging since Tuesday and this Sunday gay activists gathered at Saddleback to protest proposition 8.  Sad all the way around as it is such a convoluted picture of how we would want the church to make news in our communities.  Sometimes I am hopeful that we can move beyond the culture wars, and others times not so much…

ryan

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John Piper’s factors in this Election

Wow!!! Some great things to think and pray about.

matt

Francis Schaeffer And The Central Problem of the Church

Francis Schaeffer is quickly becoming one of the most influential voices in my life.  I was exposed to much of his writings in seminary, but now find myself revisiting them as I continue to grasp the intergration of Church, culture, and faith.  Schaeffer was way ahead of his time and his writings have proven to be classics in the sense that they transcend his time.  Schaeffer’s writings are very accessable for people of all educational backgrounds and I would highly recommend everyone read his works.  He will be a tremendous help seeing your worldview from an outside perspective and allow to think beyond it.  Here is one quote I came by today that was especially worth considering.

The central problem of our age is not liberalism or modernism, nor the old Roman Catholicism or the new Roman Catholicism, nor the threat of communism, nor even the threat of rationalism and the monolithic consensus which surrounds us.  All these are dangerous but not the primary threat.  The real problem is this:  the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit.  The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.

Pay real close attention to the last sentence. It precisely nails why much of the church is futile in it massive array of campaigns, programs and events.  Why the church seems to spin it wheels in its engagement of the culture. Our western corporate mindset drives us to act, plan and measure with quantifiable metrics.  Our fight is not one of flesh and blood but one of the spirit.

ryan


Practically Rethinking the Arminianism/Calvinism Debate

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Let me start with a quote from “A Primer on Perspectivalism” by Reformed Theologian John Frame:

“Sometimes our divisions of theology and practice are differences of perspective, of balance, rather than differences over the essentials of faith.”

Let’s apply two different (very condensed) gospel presentations through this filter:
(note: when using the terms Reformed and Arminian, I am referring to the practical expression of these theological teams today not their classical finer points)

Reformed: You are a depraved dirty rotten sinner that hates God. God has taken his wrath out on Jesus in your place. Won’t you repent of your sins and follow Jesus to confirm your election as one of his chosen people?

Arminian: You are completely lost and unable to do anything to save yourself and have a relationship with God. In Jesus God has provided a way for you to be saved and enter into relationship with him. Won’t you accept Jesus and enter into relationship with him?

Now we can safely say that these are two polar (if not hyperbolic) examples of how the two teams share the gospel. Is there a biblical basis for both examples? Yup, I would say the book of Romans covers both adequately (note: this is my sorry excuse for quoting the Bible in this post. I don’t have the time to get verse examples for all I am writing, nor to I think proof-texting is exegetically sound. This is my way of appeasing both.) Can we say that neither really attacks the essentials of the faith? Yup. Can we say that both examples represent a balance of the what God has done in salvation? Um, actually, no.

One way to really take this rethinking deeper is to focus on salvation. Namely, what we are saved from. The two teams mentioned focus on different biblical examples of what we are saved from:

Reformed: God (primary), Satan sin and death (secondary)

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Arminian: yourself (primary), Satan, sin, and death (secondary)

Separation

The main theological quandary here is as follows: what does it look like to have a balanced theological view of what we are saved from, so that we can have theologically balanced gospel presentations? Are we primarily saved or primarily lost? Surely we are not equally both? Are we? Wait, doesn’t our lostness lead to our depravity, or is it the other way around? Doesn’t God’s justice and love for his glory outweigh his benevolence and desire to see “all saved”? Is a church that only preaches one unbiblical?

Before I give an argument for how this should be practically lived out (in a later post) I would like for us to discuss it first. I mean, if we can get 50+ comments on the election then surely we can produce a lively discussion on this topic. So what say you on the questions I posed and any other that this subject brings up?

matt

Church Life and the Mortgage Crisis

Cnn this afternoon points to a very interesting Time article by David Van Biema. In his article Van Biema seeks to answer the question, “Did God Want You to Get that Mortgage.”

His thesis is that many prosperity gospel preachers have put their congregants in very unstable waters by encouraging them to embrace the “blessing” of the housing market for the past few years.

I would hypothesize that this is a problem that defies socio-economic or even denominational lines, but it does raise interesting questions.

For churches, they must ask themselves, “Have we been relevant enough to speak on these issues even though it could hurt us?”

I recently read an article by pastor Jonathan Wolfgang on his facebook page expousing the troubles this is causing in his midwestern congregation. Lee Coate, one of the pastors at my church, the crossing, recently said that the church is retooling the sermon series lineup to address these issues. While I applaud such a quick response (which is incredibly pastoral), I cannot help but once again wonder: why did we as church leaders allow this “elephant in the room” level sin to persist in our congregations for the past few years?

We sit and point fingers at the “fat cats in washington” and the bank leaders as those who are to blame. Yet I cannot help but wonder: where were we as church leaders? Were we caring for and protecting our flocks during this time? Were we above reproach in our own financial dealings during this time?

Perhaps our congregations would best be served by top down repentance. Then they would take responsibility for their irresponsibility during this time. Then, insteasd of finger pointers we would be grace embracers.

Oh God, in this time of crisis, restore Shalom to your church that we might restore Shalom to our country.

matt

Desiring God Conference Audio

Here is the website where you can hear all the sessions.  It is worth you time.  I listened to the message by Ferguson on James and was deeply enriched by it.  Partly because I had studied the book of James more in depth than any other book of the Bible, and also because it is full of truths for living the Christian life.

ryan

Total Church

In the middle of reading a really good book entitled Total Church.

What makes the book really interesting is that the authors are advocating for church models that combine a holistic, house church, community centered understanding of church, with strong theology.  Up to this point, house church and strong theology have gone together like an NFL wide receiver and humility.  Here is a quote from this book that pricked my conscience and has me thinking.

I was talking with a prominent evangelical church leader and asked him why more people are not open to a household model of church or to community groups meeting in homes.  The church leader was candid in his reply: ‘ Because people like me come from professional backgrounds, and we want churches that reflect our backgrounds.  I don’t want to be opening my home to people.  I don’t want to get involved in people’s lives.  I don’t want needy people in my church.  Before people like me went into Christian ministry, we were lawyers, doctors, businessmen.  And when we get involved in ministry we bring those values with us.  We want to lead growing churches with professional people, church administrators, healthy budgets.  We want church to be a well-run organization with polished presentations'”

Now I doubt many church leaders and pastors would be this forward in saying something like this, but the attitude is quite pervasive in many places.  It makes me wonder if we are really ready to count the cost that comes with being a messenger of the Gospel in our culture.

ryan