Tag Archives: Logic

Pro Choice Vs. Pro Life Logic

 

Disclaimer: This isn’t a comprehensive rebuke of the pro-choice position:

I got into a conversation this evening with someone taking up the dubious “pro-choice but personally opposed position.”  I thought I would share with you a bit of my reply.

The person I was dialoguing with said, “I don’t think you can label abortion right or wrong—it is merely unfortunate.”

It isn’t often that you get a softball when dialoging with abortion apologists, but this was a hanging curve.   Why would abortion be unfortunate?  Why exactly?  There must be a reason—and that must be a reason that the person thinks to be worthwhile, or they would have just said, “I wouldn’t have one, but I don’t care what others do.”  Notice, the person said it IS unfortunate.

I replied, “Your first point is noted; however, I could easily say, Eichmann and Goebbels didn’t enjoy killing Jews—that isn’t why they did it. They just worked for Hitler.”  Its not like it was their fault. They were just “following orders.”  How unfortunate for them!  I went on to say, “You would rightly note that such thinking is reckless and irrelevant.  They were guilty of actual crimes against humanity.”  But, what If I replied, “What crimes?  Nah, it was just unfortunate that they did that.”  How would they reply to that?  To what absolute would they point?  How do they know what is right or wrong?  By preference? By feeling?  In some countries, they love their neighbors.  In others, they eat them.  Do you have a preference?  Or is the latter just unfortunate?  This coincides with my friends previous statement that “Abortion is unfortunate.”  This is nothing more than relativism.

If things are just fortunate or unfortunate, there is no right, no wrong…No evil. Things just are.  Things are just unfortunate or not.

But here is the rub:  Why would a thing be unfortunate in the first place? In calling someont unfortunate, isn’t a person making a truth claim or a judgement by saying this? Why is abortion unfortunate, rather than just something that happens—arbitrarily in nature? I can think of no other reason to call it unfortunate except for the fact that the developing fetus might just in fact be a person—and we know that killing persons is wrong—whether on purpose or by accident. Can you think of another reason why an abortion would be unfortunate?  This is the problem with the “I’m pro-choice but personally opposed” fallacy.  Why would a person be personally opposed?  For what reason?  I can only think of one.

I noted that, “You go on to state that an abortion is between a woman and God.”  That is a VERY interesting line. In fact, I haven’t heard that phrase uttered by anyone on the pro-abortion side…EVER.  I commended them for it. What I often hear is, “It’s between a woman and her doctor.”

The truth is, when we bring God into the equation, we subject ourselves the world of absolutes. “It’s unfortunate” goes out the window when it comes to moral questions.  Therefore, the apologists for abortion cleverly remove the word God from the decision process.  When we enter this paradigm, what we personally believe about the morality of an issue doesn’t matter. Under a theistic paradigm, things are either right or wrong, regardless our relationship toward them.  Right exists whether we acknowledge it or not.  The same goes for wrong.  They are ontological categories.  If a thing is right, it is right even if we do not acknowledge that it is right.

But back, to the initial issue,  my friend was basically saying, “Just because you have a religious qualm with abortion, that doesn’t mean that the federal government should be able to legislate.” So, I applied the same logic to another issue: “Just because you have a religious qualm with slavery doesn’t mean that the federal government should legislate against it.” Do you see the problem? If our religious convictions can be pushed aside, then what are we left with?  If God is taken away, all we have left is man and the State.  That is a precarious position to be in.

And even at that, the use of the word “shouldn’t” invokes the absolue.  Why?  Is slavery wrong or is it just something that we “shouldn’t” do?  Why “should” the federal government legislate against slavery?  Who says?

In a relativistic framework, one could say, “I’d personally rather they didn’t keep slaves,” but they cannot say “shouldn’t.” Why?

Could it be because we know that things are either good or evil?  If that is so, how long will we continue to call abortion unfortunate?

Here are the basic questions of abortion:

Does abortion take a life?  I’d argue, yes.  Some might reply, “But we don’t know that a fetus is a life.”

In this case, there are only have 4 possibilities:

  1. The fetus is a life and you know it
  2. The fetus is not a life and you know it.
  3. The fetus is a life and you do not know it.
  4. The fetus is not a life and you do not know it.

Only one of those justifies an abortion.  The problem is, no embryology text supports #2.  So you are left with 1, 3, and 4.

How many potential babies will we allow to be murdered based on an agnostic (1, 3, or 4) position?

If a baby might just be under a haystack/or not—would you feel comfortable jabbing a pitchfork into it to find out?

Not a chance.

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GK Chesterton, TRUMP, CLINTON, the 2016 election, and the Medical Fallacy

TRUMP and CLINTON (hey, it was in the title).

Throughout the presidential campaign of 2016 we have heard a recurring theme:

“Our country is sick.  It needs to be made well.  Vote for me and I will provide the remedy it needs.  I will bring the healing that our country needs.”

There has been no shortage of rhetoric like this on either side of the political divide.

According to the inimitable G.K. Chesterton, however, this is a fallacy.  He terms this the Medical Fallacy.  How can politicians pontificate about what ‘well’ is in absolute terms, if the idea of well is of the most disputed issues in all of academia?  One side of the ideological divide defines well in one way, while the other defines it differently.

What is seen as a remedy by one side of the political spectrum will be seen as an exasperation of the original problem to the other.  This whole business of talking about “well” and “sick” is patently absurd.  It is play on emotions.  It is like invoking balls and strikes when talking about football.  Only in medicine and science can this terminology be used.

Why you might ask?  In medicine, we agree on what a well body looks like.  We agree on what good is.  The disagreement comes when it concerns malady.  In politics and social science, we agree on what bad looks like—we disagree on what constitutes the good.

That is a profound problem.

To give you an analogy, Chesterton makes this grand point:   It is a fact that a man may have pain in his leg and walk into a hospital, and due to medical necessity, come out with one leg less.

BUT HERE IS THE CLINCHER

Never will that man find himself under the scalpel of a doctor, and in a moment of creative rapture, walk out of the hospital, having being given one leg more.

Don’t fall for fallacies.  Nonsense doesn’t cease to be nonsense just because it is uttered by an “intellect” or a “smart” politician.

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The Limits of Science

I was talking with some new friends who are ardent atheists and believers in Darwinian evolutionary theory.  They continuously call my position (I’m a Christian) a faith-based proposition.  Yet, when I pressed them and noted that their very belief in science as a legitimate means to finding truth (can’t be proved in a lab), their assumption that the universe is rational, their assumption that the universe is governed by laws, and the fact that we assume that our minds correspond to reality…are all necessary to even begin to do science—they overwhelmingly accused me of playing tricks and word games. No.  Word games is when I say, “If you like your plan you can keep your plan.”  We all know the truth there.

When I talked with them about evolution and the problems with it, they seemd like I was speaking from some manual of holy dogma.  For example, I asked them:

“Suppose a group of French Cistercian monks began to copy Don Quixote from Spanish to French…keep in mind that they don’t speak Spanish, but only French.  Would it be plausible than in their accidents while copying the manuscript, and through a process of a certain amount of time, that the manuscript would randomly change and become War and Peace?”

I followed that up with this question:

“We know that to turn a Buick into a submarine would be an extraordinarily complex engineering problem.  At my most basic estimates, I would say that such a project would require at least 50,000 changes.  How many intermediate forms of the car/sub would we expect to see?  If i told you that we had in the record, 49,999, that would lead you to one conclusion.  What If I told you we had seven?  What would that do to the theory?  What if instead of a car, we had a cow, and instead of a submarine, we had a whale?  What would have to change?  Well, you would have to add a diving apparatus, a breathing mechanism, change the skin to make it watertight, change the intestinal tract to make it conducive to the sea–and these are just estimates on the surface.  How many changes would you expect?  How many intermediate forms?  49,999?  Maybe so.  Do you know how many intermediate forms we have between the primitive cow-like creature and the whale?  Seven.”

Further, when I asked them how on an evolutionary paradigm, they could believe that truth was worthwhile—they looked confused.  I told them that on an evolutionary view, survival is more important than truth; therefore, one must reject truth outright if it means it will give them a better chance at survival (keep in mind these Darwinists don’t typically believe in absolute truths–well except that one).  Perhaps the most articulate atheist of our time, John Gray (professor emeritus at the London School of Economics) says in his book Straw Dogs, that all that matters is survival.  He goes on to say that morality is only something to be used in times of comfort, and when it comes down to it, morality is a means to being exterminated.

Now—What about the truth of what would happen if I jumped out of a building?  If I were in a 20 story hotel room, and I looked out the window, the truth is—jumping out the window will hurt or kill me.  On the other hand, if a nerve agent were released in my room, or if a man with a gun came in and started shooting—or if by some chance occurrence, the entire building became engulfed in flame; I would have no choice but to go against what I know to be true and jump out of my window in the name of survival.  Survival is more important than truth to the Darwinist—and this is true even if our actions will only ensure a few more moments of survival.  On a Darwinian view, this must happen.  Survival is the predominant ethic.  It just is, and as Dawkins says: “we dance to its music.”

The final straw was when I asked them if they came to believe their views on Darwinian evolutionary theory because they weighed the pros and cons and listened to arguments—or if they were determined to hold these views.  I asked them, “Based on the evidence and the pros and cons, would you say that you hold to smooth evolutionary process or punctuated equilibrium theory?”  One of them replied, “I haven’t looked into Punctuated Eq yet…I have no opinion.”  Wow!  This is stunning.  They are actually asserting that there might be a choice!  When I pressed that point,  they again said that I was engaging in asking trick questions and resorting to metaphysics.

Are their objections true?  Notice that in their replies, they never took my arguments on.  Instead, my arguments are rendered as faith based or illegitimate.  They aren’t interested in debate, they want to remove the possibility of debate.   And I’m the narrow minded one they tell me.

Let’s talk about the belief that science is a legitimate endeavor at finding truth.  If we only take things to be true based on evidence and proof, what proof is there that the statement, “Science is a legitimate endeavor at finding truth” true?  How can this be demonstrated in a laboratory?  It can’t.  It is presumed before science can begin.  What about the assumption that the universe is rational?  Why is it that our universe is governed by an extremely accurate and fine-tuned set of numerical constants?  Why is it that if we changed the expansion rate of the universe by one part in a hundred thousand million million, we would have no universe and no life?  Why?  We assume these things to be true, but can’t even begin to answer the question why.  The truth is, there is no reason for these things to be.  They just are.  We have to assume them to engage in science.

What about proof itself?  Why is it that people who call themselves ‘scientific’ often ask for proof of God?  My dear friends, proof is only found in pure mathematics.  In science we can give explanations.  The problem is, science is not the only means of explanation, and in many ways it falls short.  If I were to ask you to explain the boiling kettle on the stove, science would say:  A heat source warms the container with water to a point where the molecules become agitated and turn to steam.  Another answer would be, “I wanted a cup of tea.”  Both are correct.  Neither is a better explanation.  What explains a Ford car?  Internal combustion, chemistry, and engineering…or Henry Ford?  You tell me.

What about the presumption that the universe is governed by laws?  Joel Primack asked an interesting question. He asked what compels the electron to follows the laws of nature.  What compels it to stay in its orbit? Good question. I don’t know. But Heinrich Himmler, who had presided over the destruction of churches and synagogues throughout Europe and was the mastermind behind the extermination of the Jewish people, asked a very similar question in 1944. When confronted with the onerous treaty obligations the German state had adopted with respect to its own satraps, he asked insouciantly but pregnantly, “After all, what compels us to keep our promises?” Moral relativism is very often derided as an unhappy consequence of atheism. I don’t think moral relativism is a particularly deep issue, but I do think the issue of what compels us to keep our promises is very relevant.  But, in the universe what compels anything to follow laws?  This cannot be demonstrated in the laboratory.  We don’t even know what gravity is.  We don’t know what energy is.  Try this experiment—ask a quantum physicist what energy is.  Then correct them:  “Sir, I didn’t ask you to describe the effect of energy, I asked you to tell me what it is.”  Just because we don’t know what something is doesn’t mean it ceases to exist.  We should be more humble.  The universe abides by laws, and we assume them to be there.

What about the existence of the mind and its ability to adjudicate the world as reality?  How can this be proven?  Many will tell you that our minds are merely grey matter that includes the random firing of neurons and so forth.  Really?  They will tell you that the brain is a product of time plus matter plus chance—and that what we think is hardwired in.  Ok—if I told you that the airplane you were flying on—that the onboard computers were the products of time matter and chance—would you trust the plane enough to fly on it?  Obviously not—survival remember?  Then why would you trust the pilots who have a brain that comes from the same process?  Further, if our brains are really randomly evolved things, why should we trust anything we think is true?  I mean, if I am predetermined to think the things I do (as is the view among Dawkins, Dennett, and their ilk), it follows that I don’t come to know things based on evidence or pros and cons.  I believe it because I am determined to believe it.  But the question is deeper yet.  This view of determinism, and that the brain is hardwired—have I come to know that based on evidence and pros and cons?  Or have I come to believe it because it is hardwired in?  How can one trust this?

Finally, what about the fact that words and semiotics carry meaning?  If matter is all there is, how can ink on a typed page carry information?  Why is it when we go into a cave and see a 30,000 year old marking on the wall, we instantly assume it is an ancient Chinese character rather that the product of time plus matter plus chance?  Further, why is it when we see the letters, “ILOVEYOU” written on the beach, we assume an intelligence?  Why don’t we assume intelligence when we look at the longest word in the world, namely, the human genome?

I love science, but one must have just as much faith to believe in a purely naturalistic view of the universe as the theist does to believe in an all-powerful God.  The conflict isn’t between religion and science; on the contrary.  It is between theism and naturalism.

I am reminded what the Nobel Laureate Peter Medwar said in his book, The Limits of Science:

 “The existence of a limit to science is, however, made clear by its inability to answer childlike questions having to do with first and last things—questions such as: ‘How did everything begin?’; ‘What are we all here for?’; ‘What is the point of living?’”

Science leaves too many things unanswered.  If matter and science were all that existed, we might as well tear down the literature, music, art, and history departments.  They can tell us nothing.  As John Gray says, “A purely naturalistic view of the universe leaves no room for secular hope.”  I fully agree.  We can make the moral case for science, but we cannot make the scientific case for morality.

Consider a story:

I have in front of me a rather remarkable button. If you should press it, yours would be untold riches, everlasting life, all the wishes you want, and whatever else you desire. The only consequence to pressing it beyond your happiness is the death of an anonymous Chinese peasant. Who among us would you trust with this button?

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The Apostle Paul and Rhetoric

We all know there are famous speeches that last the test of time.  Some orators are able to say things that make the events that they are describing seem more spectacular than they actually are.  Great rhetoric is instantly identifiable, and upon hearing just a few words, the listener is able to know who said the words, what they were talking about, and what the nature of the speech was (all without hearing the speech in full).  Take for example these opening lines: “We will fight them on the beaches,”  “I have a dream,” and “Four score and seven years ago.”  Every culture has rhetoric that children learn from an early age.  We know these speeches instantly even though Churchill was decades ago.  Gettysburg was centuries ago as well, but the speech lives on.  Finally, Martin Luther King Jr. is from a time past, but his “I have a dream” is still as recognizable as it was that day.

The question must be asked, which is greater, the rhetoric or the subject matter?  Is it the subject matter that makes the speech great, or is it the rhetoric that makes the subject matter great?

In the ancient world, around 480 BC there lived a prominent Greek statesman, orator, and Athenian General named Pericles.  He was well-known and was widely regarded the most prominent in each of those areas.  Now, when Athens was attacked by the barbarians, the Greeks successfully held them off and gained military victory.  Upon winning this battle, the leaders called together the great rhetoricians to write speeches to commemorate the victory.  Pericles wrote one of these speeches.  His was the greatest.  In fact it was so moving that grown men who had fought began to weep instantly upon hearing it.  It was so powerful that today on the anniversary of the speech it is still read today.

There is a problem though.

Even though the Athenians held off the barbarians in this attack, in a subsequent attack a short time later, the Athenians were beaten.  The defeat is more significant for the Greeks than the victory, obviously, but today we only remember and celebrate the victorious speech by Pericles.  It isn’t remembered because of a lasting victory, but because of lasting rhetoric.

In this case, it wasn’t the event that made the speech great, it was the rhetoric that gave meaning to the event itself.

Even Aristotle says, that he knew it was a folly of a speech, “but it causes my heart to soar like an eagle.”  It adds significance to the events that they don’t have.  His (Pericles) eloquence is so strong it adds meaning to the events!  It is purely his rhetorical skill that makes the speech memorable.

Now Paul was extremely well learned in the intricacies of Greek oratory.  In fact, in his book 1 Corinthians, he uses this very model found in Pericles.  The passage we are going to look at has 17 points of reference to the Pericles speech!  It has four sections of four verses.  It is a rhetorical gem in comparison to Greek oratory.  Here is the passage:

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.   18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,  “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”  20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

 

21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,  24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

 

 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,

29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.[1]

Now we instantly see the four sections.  As interesting as this is, it gets even more stimulating.  In the entire passage, Paul is exhorting the Corinthians not to employ lofty rhetoric above the Gospel itself.  He is saying “it isn’t the rhetoric that makes the Gospel special, it is the Gospel that makes the rhetoric special!”  Despite this, and in seeming defiance to his own admonition, Paul breaks into a rhyme!  Now, if you are warning against trendy rhetoric, the last thing you would encourage is a rhyme scheme.  Look at verse 23:

23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,”

This is a powerful verse.  It is amazing that he declares that Christ dying is a stumbling block to Jews.  They were waiting for a political leader who would free them from oppression in this world.  Jesus talked about freeing people from sin.  The fact that He died was not seen to the Jews as a victory, but instead it was viewed as a defeat.  How can a leader lead if they are dead?

It is a truly remarkable phrase.  I think the fact that Paul employs the rhetoric he has been warning against makes it all the more special.   Look at what it says in the Greek:

“hēmeis de kēryssomen

Christon estaurōmenon,

Ioudaiois men skandalon

ethnesin de mōrian.”

Do you see the rhyme?  He is using incredibly powerful and straight forward rhyme scheme here with an easily flowing cadence to get this message of “Christ crucified” across.  The problem is, there is no rhyme scheme like this found in any Greek poetry.  Where is it from?  It is Hebrew.  Paul has taken Hebrew literature and translated it to Greek.  Do you know how difficult this is to do?

Paul is reversing what happened with Pericles’s speech.  Pericles tried to give meaning to meaningless events through rhetoric.  Paul is saying it is not the rhetoric that gives power to the Gospel, but the Gospel that gives power to the rhetoric.  As a matter of fact, if you are using rhetoric to add power to the Gospel, the Gospel no longer has power—its all about the messenger!

The fact that Christ is deity, died, and resurrected—is power enough.

Here is the challenge I would leave with you—are you relying on your gifts and using God, or are you relying on God and using your gifts?  It is a powerful question we must all ask ourselves.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Co 1:17–2:2). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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Do Homosexuals Go to Heaven? Why this is a bad question

One question the Christian will have to field in todays culture is: “Do homosexuals go to heaven?” Now—here is the thing we must investigate if we are going to be any good at reaching the culture—why would someone ask this question?

I can think of 11 reasons why someone might ask this:

1. They want to know what sort of person I am—they want to see what my initial answer is–this is a litmus test question.
2. They are a homosexual, or may know someone who is—and maybe they want to know how to answer them.
3. They want Christianity to look bad.
4. They want to prove that the Christian God is unloving toward some types of people.
5. They are trying to get a list of the things that are deal breakers for salvation.
6. They have a problem with autonomy.
7. Maybe they want a hopeful answer.
8. Maybe they are caught up in a promiscuous lifestyle and want to know what to do about it.
9. Maybe they are hurt or confused and want help.
10. They want to know if there is someone out there who loves them regardless of what they do.
11. Maybe they are reflecting the culture. Maybe they see this as a question to make me stop talking and run for the hills.

When people in the secular culture ask about homosexuality and Christianity, and how they can coexist, they aren’t really asking about whether or not homosexuality is right or wrong.  It is deeper. They are asking something that lays much deeper than this question, but rarely will they ask it outright. There is an assumption that lies far beneath the question that we must address.  If we do not address it, we will get nowhere–very fast. Someone once asked a rabbi, “Rabbi, why do you always answer a question with a question?” To which he replied, “Why shouldn’t I answer a question with a question?”  There is something here to consider.   Notice when Jesus converses with the skeptics, he always asks questions.  We must be willing to see the questioner and not the surface layer of their question.  There is more there than just giving answers.  We aren’t answering questions to be defensive, or to win a philosophical debate.  We aren’t answering questions at all.  We are answering the questioner.

See, the problem with the way many understand apologetics today—is they think that to give an “Apologia” is a defensive act. This is absurd. Apologetics are inherently evangelistic. You could say Apologetics and Evangelism are different sides of the same coin.  Too many people think that apologetics means that you evangelize them and then you apologize for it afterward.
I am a guy who is very concerned with questions. I love answering questions, and I love asking them. But here is a rule of thumb that I live by: “If you give the right answer to the wrong question, it is still the wrong answer.”

Now, the question, “Can homosexuals go to heaven” is the wrong question.  We cannot answer it without causing an argument.  It is a bit like a game I played as a kid. I would go up to kids on the playground and ask them if their mother knew they were stupid. If they replied, “yes,” then they were stupid and their mother knew. If they replied, “no,” then they were stupid and their mother didn’t know. If they refused to answer or said, “I don’t know,” then they were so stupid they didn’t understand the question. This is called the fallacy of faulty dilemma. You know the Bible displays every form of logical fallacy? Jesus faced every form of logical fallacy known. In fact, you could teach logic and use nothing for your text except the Gospels.

Sometimes Christians answer by saying something theological.  What about the statement, “love the sinner, but hate the sin?”  Is this a proper way to look at the issue they are raising?  I think we have to keep in mind the question of identity. The problem with this line when talking to homosexuals is this—it isn’t about just the fact that they don’t see homosexuality as sin—it is deeper. For evangelicals, “sin vs. sinner” makes the clear distinction between who someone is and what someone does.  This would be the difference between their ontological existence and their personal essence.  This is the difference between brute biology and epistemological knowledge about who we are.   When someone says, “I am a homosexual,” they are admitting to you that their very identity is informed by what he does. Today’s culture has been inculcated with too much Wittgenstein, Sartre, and Camus to have a firm grasp on this misunderstanding of reality.  You can look at it this way–In Philosophy, around the enlightenment, it became clear that all reality lay in one realm.  You could call this a lower level.  With this pure description of reality based on reason alone, there was no secular hope.  What happened next?  Well, man–who denied God invented a irrational leap toward a non-rational upper level.  This is exactly what Sartre speaks about in Nausea.  Reality doesn’t function at two levels–this is a major problem with this way of thinking.  Reality functions as one.  This is what we mean when we say “unity in diversity.”

You see—the homosexual question is really a question of identity.  The rational verses the irrational view of the self.   When the gay lobby asks this question (Can homosexuals go to heaven), they aren’t really saying “am I allowed to do this?” they are saying, “am I allowed to be ME?” When the answer is, “No,” they don’t hear, “You cant do this.” They hear, “you don’t have the right to exist.” With this fundamental misunderstanding of personhood, I can easily see why someone would feel very threatened when they hear me answer, “No.”  We must be sympathetic to this.

Culture has indeed lost its understanding of what identity is.  How can we expect them to understand identity when they don’t even posit the unified reality of spirituality and the world of reason?

There is also the question of fulfillment. Now, of course, no Christians ever fall into the trap of thinking that they can be more fulfilled in life by sleeping with someone before marriage, commit adultery, or engage in pornography or sexual activity, right? (sarcasm)—truth is, we are all sinners, and all sexual sin is wrong. On another note—why is it that the same feminists who were arguing to be treated as a humans and stood shoulder to shoulder with Billy Graham in the 60’s and 70’s now wear shirts that say, “I am a porn star?”
The thing is—we also live in the culture. This has unfortunately affected the Church as well. If you are single, something must be “wrong with you.” If this is true, Mother Theresa must have been very unfulfilled. Now—im joking—but this raises the question:
“Can I ever find fulfillment if I am not allowed to do this or that?”  This is a powerful issue.   Look, if I said, “Hi my name is John White and I am a heterosexual. I’m happy to meet you…”—If this were a badge I wore, this would be strange right? Yet, when it comes to homosexuality, it is suddenly not strange.  Why is that?  We must ask, Is there more to us than our sexual proclivity?

We must make a distinction between “being” and “doing.” As humans were are more than this.

I was asked this question one time while talking to youth (“can I go to heaven if gay?”). Now, the questioner didn’t like my reply—he retorted with, “I didn’t choose to be this way and He (God) made me this way.”  Now—I think it is incredibly disingenuous to assert that Christians are alone in their disputation of the idea that people are gay by “nature” or that sexual proclivity is pre-determined.  Have you read Peter Tatchell, the outspoken gay rights guy?  It is interesting that a gay activist would condemn any search for a gay gene as  “the flawed theory which claims a genetic causation for homosexuality.”  Consider what liberal activist and author of the brilliant book, Sexual Personae Camille Paglia has said: “No one is born gay. The idea is ridiculous. Homosexuality is an adaptation, not an inborn trait.”

Mainstream opinion is that we may be genetically inclined to all sorts of behavior but it does not mean we have no control over all those different issues. Just look at the life of Henri Nouwen. He was a longtime professor at an Ivy League institution, and while viewing Rembrandt’s painting of the Prodigal Son–he made the decision to leave his professorship and move to Canada–to help the mentally impaired.  He knew that calling was more important than biological existence.  He never fulfilled the desires of his sexual proclivity—why? Because of Christ. He knew that who he was is different from what he did.

Now—the Gospel clearly says that no one can change themselves—we cannot do it, no matter how hard we try. BUT, for us what is impossible may be possible with God. If there is a way out of this lifestyle, somehow, God needs to bear some of the responsibility in bringing change.

Now—a friend of mine was doing a lecture and a guy who asked him a similar question was the head of a “Christian Gay-Lesbian” movement on a college campus and due to the answers of my friend (basically what I have said thus far) the young man said that this was the first time he had not got up and walked away in the middle of answers given at a Christian meeting.

His area of concern was that, “I cannot help myself…It’s my nature.”

You know there is a reason why porn is made free on the internet right? Autopsies done on homosexual men found that a lobe within their brains was very well-developed. Brain is like musculature that can be trained and also stimulated. Brain will eventually crave stimulation when it ceases to be exercised. Take a less controversial area like porn—people feel powerless and they cannot stop. The reason it is made free on the net is because if you can get people hooked on it at a young age with specific images and patterns, they will not be able to break free easily. It takes 9 years for the brain to go back to normal. That means if you have people locked in a certain pattern of behavior, either (A) they are going to need the healing of the brain equivalent to that of a shriveled hand OR (B) they are going to be on a path of spiritual warfare for 9 years – you can’t do it alone this is why church is important, but also why it is catastrophic when church life has become so superficial, that people feel they can no longer share with The Church things they are wrestling with because they have to pretend they are better than they really are to be accepted. Many Churches today are poor with discipleship and poor at communicating at people that “we are in the long haul with you on this.”

I don’t think “right or wrong” is the hard part to address in this problem. The homosexual community is segmented in their beliefs just like the Christian community is. I think we can safely say to the person struggling with homosexuality that within the teaching of the Bible, homosexuality is a lifestyle neither endorsed of nor approved of for the reason that marriage exists between a man and woman in the Christian sense.

What I have found is that secular homosexuals will accept this—while Christian homosexuals reject it vehemently.

It gets deeper, however.

We may hear this question:  “If Christians are supposed to love everyone, why do they hate homosexuals?”

It is like here in America, and in the West at large, we can never get away from the entire sex issue.  Our newspapers and tabloids and even televised media are full of the sordid details of the affairs of celebrities—while the church is presented as “out of date” or unapologetically “bigoted” at any point where it seeks to uphold Jesus and his teaching on morality.  It seems like we in our culture are coming from such different perspectives.  How do we even begin to address these issues?  I think one place to start is to realize that many people (as I said in the previous posts) see their identity defined by what they do sexually.  You could say that the culture does not understand in any meaningful way the differences between ontological existence and essence.

So the first major question:  Do Christians hate homosexuals?  To be truthful, it is right to acknowledge that some people who call themselves Christians have acted hatefully toward gays, and I would be the first to express my sorrow toward the victim of this hate and to repudiate this behavior by the self-proclaimed Christian.  I have come across numerous people who are in the church, but are struggling and grappling with the issue of sexual identity, and feel that they have been hurt or ostracized in some way by the church.  I endeavor to always keep this in mind when dealing with people as I present what the Bible says about the practice of homosexuality—I always try to keep in mind that this is sensitive ground—but essential.  I think the best answer to the question is to say that Christians should love people in the gay community.


The next permutation of the question is to say—“yeah, but if you don’t hate homosexuals, aren’t you a bigot to say that it is morally wrong to engage in homosexual activity?”  This is one of the first questions I encounter when talking to a gay person—and honestly it can be quite a serious barrier to someone taking an investigation of the gospel to a deeper level.  What is a bigot?  It is a person who is intolerant of the views of others.  Is this true of the Christian faith at large?  In my opinion, it doesn’t have to be.  I can speak for Christendom when I say, Christians are prepared to tolerate other people and their views—BUT—this doesn’t in any way mean that Christians have to agree with those views.  What does the word tolerate imply?  Simply that if you tolerate something you don’t agree with it—rather, you put up with it and respect the other person and their right to express that view that you disagree with.  If I agreed with their view, there would be nothing left to tolerate.

If you were to take me out to dinner and I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu—and you paid for it all—what would you say if you overheard me talking to someone later and I said of our dinner, “I tolerated it.  James was tolerable.  I tolerated him.”?  I don’t know anyone who wants to be tolerated.  I do know many people who want to be respected.  The Christian ideal says that people are equal but ideas are not.  This runs counter to the secular narrative which says all ideas are equal, but all people are not.  If in fact all ideas are equal, then that statement is false—because the statement, “all ideas are not equal” is excluded necessarily from being equal.

So—the next issue—if we aren’t bigots stuck in the middle ages—isn’t it about time that we as Bible believing Christians caught up with society and quit being stuff shirts?  The homosexual will often note that the texts in the Scripture which speak against homosexual practice should be taken as being in a particular cultural context with is completely irrelevant to a western liberal society.   Really?  It is argued here that in a society where homosexual partnerships are culturally acceptable—the Biblical texts simply do not apply.  They are outdated and because of such—the church should catch up to the “moral evolution” of society…

The problem with this is that what lays directly behind this idea is that the Bible was composed in a context that was equivalent to the Victorian era in Britain where any sex outside of marriage was repudiated.  This is absurd.  Homosexuality was widely and rampantly practiced in the Roman Empire as well as the Greek civilization. The practice of homosexuality was often seen as an integral part of a young boy’s education.  Now, some Roman writers may have protested against the sexual abuse of slaves—but the fact is—where it was consensual, homosexual practice was celebrated.  This is the context in which the New Testament was composed.  Now—if the scripture is not fully conditioned by culture and dependent upon a moralism outside of themselves, what are they actually saying?  It is also interesting that the Old Testament was composed in a similar predicament.  The Canaanite and Assyrian civilizations around Israel accepted homosexual practice—and yet several OT texts rule out homosexual practice as a lifestyle choice for Hebrews.  I can hear the objection now—“But what about wearing clothes of mixed fibers and eating shellfish?”  Well the fact that these prohibitions were lifted come down to Jesus’ claims to have fulfilled the law.  The New Testament upholds the moral law in both Jesus teaching and the teaching of the other apostles.  Now, I can see how the secular culture would see it arbitrary to hold onto some of the OT and not to others—but for Christians—we do this because of Jesus teaching and the entirety of the teaching of the New Testament.

It is clear that the practice of same-sex activity is not unique to Western Culture in the 20th and 21st centuries.  What is unique to our current day is the view that people are by “nature” homosexual.  The next question posed would be, “How can a loving God deny people the right to be who they are by nature?”  So—we are back at identity 101.  What makes me what I am?  This is the real issue of disagreement.   This is the point of tension. The Christian individual is not defined by sexual proclivity or activity.  I affirm that this may be a portion of our expression of ourselves, but it is not the ultimate definition of our nature.  The Bible says we are created in the image of God and that life is precious.   The individual has significance and full dignity just by being human.  This may sound simplistic, but however we behave and whatever our proclivities we are precious.

I do not propose to have all the answers.  This is a difficult issue.  I am simply noting that there are likely a whole range of factors that together make up sexual orientation—these can be environmental, hormonal, possibly biological conditions, and behavioral conditions.  The point is that people despite their proclivities, have the ability to make choices.  As a Christian who takes a strong view on Scripture I would want to affirm the full dignity of every person but also make a clear differentiation between personhood and the behavior of a person.

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Does Sin Exist?

We live in period of history in which nothing is wrong, well except to claim unequivocally that there is such a thing as wrong.  We live in a society that that feels that nothing is off limits, well except the idea that there are things that are off limits.  We happen to live in a world that dogmatically asserts that what we do is what we are wired to do.  That is, in the words of Richard Dawkins, it is our DNA that dictates what we do, “and we just dance to its music.”  We have moved a long way from Flip Wilson’s, “The devil made me do it.”  Now, we are prisoners of our own material body.  My DNA made me do it!

Before you you go believing this rubbish, let me just plant a word of doubt and skepticism in your mind (and yes you can be skeptical of the self styled freethinking skeptics).  When someone says that you are pre-wired to behave a certain way based on your DNA or molecular makeup, what they are saying is:  You are determined.  Determinism is the view that there is no free will and that we are captive to time, matter, and chance.  In a sense, it is the belief that Darwinian evolution is in business, and it will do what it likes–including controlling your behavior and thoughts.  Here is the problem.  If one holds to determinism, by definition, they did not come to hold this view based on weighing the pro’s and con’s for the argument.  They weren’t persuaded rationally to believe that determinism is true.  Instead, determinism would purport that they just hold the view because they were determined to do so.  If we are determined to do the things we do and believe the things we believe, how can we rationally affirm anything?  How can determinism be rationally affirmed if we are predetermined to believe it?

Don’t buy this stuff. Well, that is, if you are determined not to buy it, don’t buy it.  If you are determined to buy it, you have no choice. (please sense the sarcasm)

 


 

Now, the more interesting question is,does sin exist? Is man by nature good, or is man evil? These are questions that must be answered.  And trust me, regardless what worldview a person holds–whether they are a theist, atheist–whatever–they have a position on these issues.

Consider a story:

“Two brothers were notorious around town for being as crooked in their business dealings as they could possibly be. That notwithstanding, they continued to progress from wealth to greater wealth until suddenly one of the brothers died. The surviving brother found himself in search of a minister who would be willing to put the finishing touches to the funeral. He finally made an offer to a minister that was hard for him to refuse. “I will pay you a great sum, he said, “if you will just do me one favor. In eulogizing my brother, I want you to call him a ‘saint,’ and if you do, I will give you a handsome reward.” The minister, a shrewd pragmatist, agreed to comply. Why not? The money could help put a new roof on the church.

When the funeral service began, the sanctuary was filled by all the important business associates who had been swindled through the years by these two brothers. Unaware of the deal that had been made for the eulogy, they were expecting to be vindicated by the public exposure of the man’s character.

At last the much-awaited moment arrived, and the minister spoke. “The man you see in the coffin was a vile and debauched individual. He was a liar, a thief, a deceiver, a manipulator, a reprobate, and a hedonist. He destroyed the fortunes, careers, and lives of countless people in this city, some of whom are here today. This man did every dirty, rotten, unconscionable thing you can think of. But compared to his brother here, he was a saint.”

Every group of students I tell this joke to laugh out loud.  Why?  What is it about this story that resonates with all who hear it, regardless of cultural background or place of birth? Why can a stadium of people hear this story through their respective linguistic interpreter, and all at once let out a seismic roar of laughter at the punch line? The answer is quite simple. We are all aware of what man can be at his worst. We know the evil that resides within all of us and what it can do if allowed to prevail. If this was not a common understanding, there would be no laughter. Am I wrong?

I am reminded of the great English journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, who wrote in the first volume of his two-volume biography, a story that dealt with sin.

Working as a journalist in India, he left his residence one evening to go to a nearby river for a swim. As he entered the water, across the river he saw an Indian woman from the nearby village who had come to have her bath. Muggeridge impulsively felt the allurement of the moment, and temptation stormed into his mind. He had lived with this kind of struggle for years but had somehow fought it off in honor of his commitment to his wife, Kitty. On this occasion, however, he wondered if he could cross the line of marital fidelity. He struggled just for a moment and then swam furiously toward the woman, literally trying to outdistance his conscience. His mind fed him the fantasy that stolen waters would be sweet, and he swam the harder for it. Now he was just two or three feet away from her, and as he emerged from the water, any emotion that may have gripped him paled into insignificance when compared with the devastation that shattered him as he looked at her.  Muggeridge writes:

“She came to the river and took off her clothes and stood naked, her brown body just caught by the sun.  I suddenly went mad.  There came to me that dryness in the back of my throat; that feeling of cruelty and strength and wild unreasonableness which is called passion.  I darted with all the force of swimming I had to where she was, and then nearly fainted for she was old and hideous and her feet were deformed and turned inwards and her skin was wrinkled and, worst of all, she was a leper.  You have never seen a leper I suppose; until you have seen one you do not know the worst that human ugliness can be.  This creature grinned at me, showing a toothless mask, and the next thing I knew was that I was swimming along in my old way in the middle of the stream—yet trembling…It was the kind of lesson I needed.  When I think of lust now I think of this lecherous woman.” 

The experience left Muggeridge trembling and muttering under his breath, “What a dirty lecherous woman!” But then the rude shock of it dawned upon him—it was not the woman who was lecherous; it was his own heart.  He was the lecher.

Muggeridge himself admitted the real shock that morning was not the leper, as mind-banding as that would be. Rather, it was the condition of his own heart, dark, with appetites overpowering his weak will. He writes,

“If only I could paint, I’d make a wonderful picture of a passionate boy running after that and call it: ‘The lusts of the flesh.’”

Muggeridge, who was himself a latecomer to the faith, would go one to say,

“The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.”

Are instances like this reserved for the elite caste of the most lecherous and morally repugnant individuals in society? Hardly. Think back to the great figures we know from the Bible. David, a man after God’s own heart. He let sin overcome him and it let to lust, immorality, deceit, murder, prevarication, and dishonor. Why? All because of sin that was not dealt with properly. Think of King Saul. Perhaps Saul is a man who could have been the greatest King to ever live. What was his problem? Pride. He could not stand the fact that David had slain the giant, and as a result the songs were being sung about him, and not himself. This sin led to problems. Remember Jonah? His sin of disobedience didn’t only affect him, it affected all of the other men on board the ship!  If you remember, it took the pagan captain of the ship to get Jonah to pray to God!  You know things are messed up when sin takes control of your life to the point that unbelievers are willing to ask YOU to try God out.

I was once talking to a woman about the Christian view of the world, and she admitted,

“Being a woman about to give birth, I do wonder to myself how anyone could bring a baby into such an evil world.”

I responded to her,

“You are right about the evil out there, but what about the evil in us–in you?”

You know, the Bible refers to sin not only as being something that we do, but also as a power that controls and consumes us.  It isn’t that we do sinful things, but rather, that we are sinful.

Sin is a problem!

 


 

Fast forward to our modern age. Sin has become a problem “no more.” Sin is now seen by the postmodernists, liberals, and relativists as merely a concoction and archaic holdover from fundamental Christian dogmas.  Jacques Derrida, Michael Foucault, and their ilk will tell you there there is no absolute truth (though didn’t they just state an absolute in making their claim?). There is no absolute truth; so, how could there be something called sin?  It was Foucault who noted,

‘To die for the love of boys: what could be more beautiful?’

and,

‘all the rest of my life I’ve been trying to do intellectual things that would attract beautiful boys.’

 

Isnt it a shame that a man could admit these things, but his biographer only refer to them as the “passions of Foucault?”  This isn’t passion, this is depravity.

 

This refusal of sin as a reality affects more than just sexual freedom, however.

C.E.M. Joad once noted that

“It is because we rejected the doctrine of original sin that we on the [political] Left were always being disappointed”

Unfortunately for the Left,  this is right (pun intended).  Why is it that we can erect all-powerful legislation and control the lives of all citizens, yet still stand in complete shock when something tragic happens at the hands of human beings?  I posit that it doesn’t matter how many laws are instituted.  If man doesn’t realize that sin is real, and that evil is a reality, then I agree with Dr. Johnson who lamented:

“All the laws of heaven and earth are insufficient to restrain them from their crimes.”

 

I think G.K. Chesterton can teach us a few things when it comes to this issue of objective sin.  First of all, objective morals do exist.  Chesterton once noted that,

“Though we may differ over whether or not abortion is virtuous, we all agree that they should be performed with sterilized instruments.”

That quote may seem a bit harsh, but think about it.  Two people may disagree over the virtue of abortion–that is to say, whether it is right or wrong.  What they do not disagree over is the medical necessity of universal precautions.  Why are precautions universal if there werent a moral mandate to take care of the patient because–well–life matters?

This is the essence of the medical mistake.

G.K. Chesterton taught us that in medicine we all agree on what a well person is, but disagree on what sick is. In social and political theory however, we agree on what a malady looks like, but tear our eyes out over what a well-functioning society looks like.  The problem is, politicians and social critics continually use medical terminology to talk about social issues–“The health care situation in this country is sick.  It needs to be reformed.”  OR  “The country is sick–vote for my policies, and we can return it to health.”  This is a fallacy says Chesterton.  How can they talk about what ‘well’ is in absolute terms, if the idea of well is the most disputed issue in all of academia?  Only in medicine can this terminology be used.   It is a fact that a man may have pain in his leg and walk into a hospital, and due to medical necessity, come out with one leg less. Never will that man walk into a hospital and in a moment of creative rapture, walk out of the hospital, having being given one leg more.

Absolutes do exit.  Wrong exits.  Good exists.  We just refuse to say what it is.

I believe that Oliver Sacks, an M.D. who is no Christian said it best in his blockbuster book, Awakenings:

“For all of us have a basic, intuitive feeling that once we were whole and well; at ease, at peace, at home in the world; totally united with the grounds of our being; and that then we lost this primal, happy, innocent state, and fell into our present sickness and suffering. We had something of infinite beauty and preciousness-and we lost it; we spend our lives searching for what we have lost; and one day, perhaps, we will suddenly find it. And this will be the miracle, the millennium !”

Did you understand that?  Isn’t that interesting?  Billions of dollars have been spent on research–and here we are–stuck at Genesis 3.

Along those lines, here is an interesting quote from the renowned professor of psychology; and one time president of the American Psychological Association, Hobart Mowrer. This man was also an atheist who took his own life in his seventies:

“For several decades we psychologists looked upon the whole matter of sin and moral accountability as a great incubus and acclaimed our liberation from it as epoch making. But at length we have discovered that to be free in this sense, that is, to have the excuse of being sick rather than sinful, is to court the danger of also becoming lost… In becoming amoral, ethically neutral and free, we have cut the very roots of our being, lost our deepest sense of selfhood and identity, and with neurotics, themselves, we find ourselves asking, “Who am I, what is my deepest destiny, what does living mean?”

What is the solution?  The modern man has a solution for what the archaic man calls sin. That solution is education.  Notice that the boundaries of this debate are enforced by the self styled intellectual caste.  Is this really the way things should be?  Wasn’t Oliver Wendell Holmes correct when he stated, “The life of the law is logic not experience”?

Contrary to the beliefs of modern utopianists, education does not change the way people behave. This has been exemplified by various instances of white collar crime where ivy league university graduates are the ones committing the crimes. What then is the difference between the common street criminal and the thoroughly educated high class criminal? Method and magnitude! The common street criminal will employ crude weapons to steal a car from the other end of town. The educated criminal will employ his academic degrees to gain prominence and steal millions of dollars from the corporation that he runs. The uneducated criminal will break into a house and rape a woman. The educated criminal will use position and power to rape a nation.

As D.L. Moody put it,

“If a man is stealing nuts and bolts from a railway track, and, in order to change him, you send him to college, at the end of his education, he will steal the whole railway track.”

It is a snobbish assumption that the ignorant are the dangerous criminals. The most dangerous criminal is the educated criminal. All education does is to make the criminal more sophisticated.

The only solution to sin can be found in the person of Christ. Listen to what an the avowed skeptic, E.H. Lecky had to say on the matter:

“It was reserved for Christianity to present to the world an ideal character, which through all the changes of eighteen centuries has inspired the hearts of men with an impassioned love; has shown itself capable of acting on all ages, nations, temperaments, and conditions; has not been only the highest pattern of virtue, but also the strongest incentive to its practice; and has exercised so deep an influence that it may be truly said that the simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophers and all the exhortions of moralists.”

G.K. Chesterton said that original sin is as “practical as potatoes.” We may try to deny it, overlook it, or re-describe it, but the fact remains. We are capable of many kinds of evil. The diseases of the body are not nearly as hideous and grotesque as the diseases of the soul.

It is not merely external behaviors that vex our souls, but our internal intentions as well. Jesus explained this clearly when he said that if we lust after a woman we commit adultery with her in our hearts; that if we are unforgiving of our brother, it is like murdering him. Jesus brings ethics from the social sphere to the personal one by showing how intentions can be just as wicked as actions.

Have we taken stock of our soul recently? Have we sensed the nuances of evil in our own hearts? We need to stand guard today, and every day, with humility that we are capable of terrible evil. And at the same time, we need to avoid those things that draw us into it. Sin starts at the heart level and works its way outward.

Comparatively, leprosy on the body is not nearly as ugly as the pockmarks of sin on the soul. The good news is that Christ has broken the power of both and asks us to begin eternity now by building a soul in this world appropriate for our glorified body in the next.

How do we find the answers?  What worldview gives us a hope? Ravi Zacharias gives us an interesting method:

First, there are 3 tests that a worldview must pass.  It must be:  1)Logically consistent (its teachings cannot be self-contradictory), 2)Empirically Adequate (its teachings must match with what we see in reality, 3) experientially relevant (its teaching must speak directly to how we actually live our lives.

Second, each worldview must address the following four ultimate questions:  1)Origin (where do the universe and human beings come from?), 2)Meaning (What is the meaning or purpose of life?), 3) Morality (how do we know what is right and what is wrong?), 4) Destiny (What happens to us after we die?)

Third, there are five academic disciplines that must be employed to comprehensively study a worldview:  1) Theology (the study of God), 2)Metaphysics (the study of what is ultimately real), 3)Epistemology (the study of how we can know things), 4) Ethics (the study of moral right and wrong), 5) Anthropology (the study of what and who humans are).

You will find that only a worldview based upon God and through a relationship with the person of Christ will one view hold up to this test.  But, don’t take my word for it.  Do your own work.  Try it.

Joseph Damien was a missionary in the 19th century who ministered to people with leprosy on the island of Molokai, Hawaii.  Those suffering grew to love him and revered the sacrificial life he lived our before them.  But even he did not know the price he would pay.  One morning before he was to lead them in their daily worship, he was pouring some hot water into a cup when the water swirled out and fell onto his bare foot.  It took him a moment to realize that he had not felt any sensation.  Gripped by the sudden fear of what this could mean, he poured more boiling water on the same spot.  No feeling whatsoever.

Damien immediately diagnosed the problem.  As he walked tearfully to deliver his sermon, no one at first noticed the difference in his opening line.  He normally began every sermon with, “my fellow believers.”  But this morning he began with, “My fellow lepers.”

In a greater measure, Jesus came into the world knowing what it would cost Him.  He bore in His pure being the marks of evil, that we might be made pure.  “For this I came into the world,” he said (John 18:37).

The gospel points to the person of Christ who went to the cross, not just to transform the Jeffrey Dahmers and the money-grabbers behind the scenes, but to renew even those whose self-righteousness blinds them to their own need.  It wasn’t just the prodigal who squandered the fathers love, it was also the older brother—for he was so close to the fathers love the whole time.

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