How a Lesson from Star Trek’s Mr. Spock Affirms Divine Creation

Does Spock's logic affirm the Cosmological Argument?

Does Spock’s logic affirm the Cosmological Argument?

One of my favorite television shows growing up was Star Trek, and as a lifelong Trekkie/Trekker (whichever moniker you prefer), I mourn the loss of Leonard Nimoy. Like many, I’ve spent the last week reflecting on Nimoy’s life and legacy, and the inspiration he was to many over the years. I’ve also appreciated the many Leonard Nimoy quotes that have been bandied about the Internet these last several days – some of them from Leonard Nimoy himself and some from his best-known and most beloved character, Mr. Spock from Star Trek. Among the quotes that I particularly like is one stolen from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes…

An ancestor of mine maintained that if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains – however improbable – must be the truth.”

The process of elimination has indeed been among the greatest tools of reasoning employed throughout history, and it is one of the best used tools in the arsenal of the Christian apologist. Most of the arguments for the existence of God and for the resurrection of Jesus Christ boil down to discovering the explanation that survives the process of elimination.

In order to ascertain whether God exists, one must start with existence itself. The reality of Nature (space, time, matter, and energy — the base components of the universe and world around us) must be explained in one of the following ways:

  • Nature has always existed
  • Nature generated itself into existence
  • Something or someone outside of Nature created Nature

That’s it. You have no other options. Nature (including the universe, our planet, and all conscious life) definitely exists. An explanation of its existence is found in one of the above propositions. They can’t all be true, nor can they all be false. One of them – and only one of them – is true.

Most intellectuals who embrace atheism or agnosticism reject Divine Creation (the third possibility listed above) because they can’t access the supernatural via their senses, nor can they establish God’s existence through the scientific method. But this dismissal of the supernatural does not represent scientific open-mindedness. Quite the opposite, in fact. The existence of the supernatural may be “improbable” to some, but it can’t simply be dismissed out of hand.

Using the wisdom of Mr. Spock and Sherlock Holmes, we must eliminate the impossible. Whatever we’re left with – however improbable – is necessarily the correct explanation. How can we eliminate the impossible? That’s simple. We weight each propositional statement against known, verifiable facts and plain logic.

The first possibility (Nature has always existed) has been essentially disproved by science and is completely rebuffed by philosophy. The scientific community widely accepts today that the universe began approximately 13.7 billion years ago with a “Big Bang.” Creationists have long decried the Big Bang, arguing that it contradicts biblical timelines. But it’s atheists who should be most alarmed – and have been – by Big Bang cosmology. Creationists can, quite plausibly and with a straight face, maintain that divine intervention calls uniformitarianism into serious question. Uniformitarianism, for those who may not know, is the assumption that the same natural laws, processes, and constants – such as the speed of light or the rate of expansion of the universe – that we see in the universe now have happened the same way and in the same manner for all time, and have done so everywhere in the universe. It’s uniformitarian assumptions which allow scientists to date the universe at 13.7 billion years (give or take). But what if the speed of light hasn’t always been constant? What if the rate of expansion of the universe was much more rapid “in the beginning” (to steal a phrase from Genesis)? If that’s the case, then six-day Creationism is quite compatible with Big Bang cosmology. What’s NOT compatible with Big Bang cosmology is the idea that Nature has always been here. Therefore, the first possibility (Nature has always existed) is out.

The second possibility (Nature created itself) is even more implausible. If Nature constitutes space, time, matter, and energy and if it began to exist, then before Nature, there was….wait for it…Nothing. There was no time, no space, no matter, and no energy. There was nothing. Aristotle once defined nothing as “what rocks dream about.” That’s an apt description for the state of things prior to Nature coming into existence. How exactly then can nothing create something? It can’t. If you start with nothing, and nothing intervenes, then…guess what…nothing will happen. It’s difficult for me to believe that I have to even make this case in the twenty-first century. You would think every rational human being would understand this concept, but alas, atheists and agnostics have trouble with it. Why? Well, you be the judge of that. Whatever their rationale, it’s pretty clear that that Nature didn’t create itself.

And that leaves us with just one possibility remaining. And it’s here that Spock’s logic comes into play. If Nature hasn’t always existed and if Nature didn’t create itself, then guess what? Nature was created by something or someone else. And, definitionally, it is fair to describe the cause of Nature as superior to Nature. Thus, we can use the word Supernatural.

Gene Roddenberry and cast members from Star Trek visit NASA in 1976

Gene Roddenberry and cast members from Star Trek visit NASA in 1976

The irony in all this, of course, is that Star Trek is a show which celebrates humanism. Gene Roddenberry, its creator, was raised a Southern Baptist but became a semi-agnostic and humanist. If you watch the show (and I’ve seen every episode of the classic series – as well as Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Enterprise – yes, I’m a geek!), the premise of the entire Star Trek franchise is that science explains reality and humanity is evolving toward a higher state of intelligence, awareness, and enlightenment that is completely free from religion. At one point, Roddenberry bluntly said: “I reject religion.” One of his colleagues has said that the now-late Star Trek creator “felt very strongly that contemporary Earth religions would be gone by the 23rd century.” (Incidentally, while the heart of Star Trek is humanism, the heart of Star Wars is pantheism. Stargate and Battlestar Galactica both tip their hat toward polytheism. The only sci-fi franchise that comes close to embracing monotheism would be the wonderful, but sadly short-lived, Firefly. They at least have a main character who is Christian). Nevertheless, the logic that Mr. Spock offers us deals a devastating blow to atheism (as well as, for that matter, polytheism and pantheism).

Already, Spock’s logic (which of course is Sherlock Holmes’ logic) proves that Nature has a Supernatural Cause – a cause we can reasonably call “God.” But it’s not just process of elimination which brings us to God. We have the Cosmological Argument, which pretty much deals a death blow to atheism. The Cosmological Argument for God goes like this:

  • Premise A: For Every Effect, there is a Cause (which means that everything that begins to exist, must have a cause)
  • Premise B: The Universe Began to Exist
  • Conclusion: The Universe Has a Cause

According to well established rules of logic, if the premises of a syllogism (like we see above) are true, then the conclusion necessarily follows. Therefore, if the premises (as stated above) are valid, then we can logically conclude – in layman’s terms, we can know - that the universe has a Supernatural Cause.

It’s certainly true that the evidence and arguments presented in this article don’t get us all the way to the God of the Bible. They establish monotheism, but not necessarily Christianity. Don’t worry. There are plenty of additional arguments which get us all the way to biblical Christianity. :-) The main thing I wanted to accomplish in this article is to simply show that Mr. Spock has served up (inadvertently, I’m sure) a reason to believe in God, which is quite ironic, given that he is the most iconic character of a TV franchise designed to advance just the opposite view.

God bless you.

For more on this topic (including a more detailed overview of the arguments for Monotheism) read…

“Does God Exist? The Universe Says YES”

Rob Bell vs Christianity: Former Megachurch Pastor Says Christians Who Quote the Bible on Matters of Sexuality are Irrelevant

Rob Bell says Christian church is "moments away" from accepting gay marriage.

Rob Bell says Christian church is “moments away” from accepting gay marriage.

According to bestselling author and former pastor Rob Bell, the Christian church is “moments away” from embracing gay marriage. Until it does embrace gay marriage, Bell says the “church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and co-workers and neighbors and they love each other and just want to go through life with someone.”

Before I address Rob Bell’s comments, I want to be clear about the purpose of this article. At this point in our society (and I write this as an American), our whole nation is on the verge of legalizing same-sex marriage. Many of my readers and conservative friends are still fighting against this, but as Rob Bell himself said a few years ago, that “ship has sailed.” Through popular vote, legislative decisions, and/or court rulings, a majority of states have now redefined marriage to include gay couples. And the U.S. Supreme Court is almost certain to make that national in the coming months. Barring some unforeseen seismic upheaval in the public square, the political fight over gay marriage is over. While I personally opposed gay marriage in the civil arena (mainly because I recognize it will open the door to bigamy and polygamy – and, mark my words, it will do precisely that), I recognize political realities. That fight is done. This article therefore is not aimed at trying to generate civic or political opposition to same-sex marriage. This article is about the Christian church. What should the Christian community believe, do, and say when it comes to same-sex marriage? That’s the focus of this article.

When it comes to issues as sensitive as sexuality, love, and marriage, most people (including those in the Christian community) operate on emotions and feelings – not logic. Therefore, Bell’s words are quite compelling in this day and age. And, to be fair, he makes a valid point that there are “flesh-and-blood people” being affected (sometimes negatively so) by the teachings of the church. As a pastor who truly cares about “flesh-and-blood people,” I understand the desire many have to set aside, ignore, or redefine the Bible’s teachings on controversial matters and simply embrace people’s efforts to pursue love and happiness on their own terms.

Truth be told, I am genuinely sympathetic to those who feel their very identity has been called into question (or worse) by people of faith who believe homosexuality to be a sin. A person living with a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) orientation takes it quite personally (and understandably so), when he or she hears a Christian condemn homosexuality as a “sin” or an “abomination” – or when someone (Christian or not) says they shouldn’t have equal access to marriage. I don’t want to approach the LGBT community as some kind of insensitive, judgmental adversary. That is not my heart.

I also think Christians can be very selective about what sins they condemn. For example, the Bible doesn’t have anything nice to say about divorce, and yet the divorce rate among Christian families is equal to that of non-Christian families. Most Christian churches have ignored, redefined, or at least finessed the Bible’s teachings on divorce and remarriage to avoid offending or hurting the many people in their congregations who have experienced divorce. And I understand why. Many years ago, two of my very close friends went through painful divorces. Walking with them through their experiences and seeing their pain and their tears taught me some lessons in humility and grace that I hope I never forget. Why is it, though, that many Christians show mercy, consideration, and grace toward those who divorce (even those who divorce on dubious grounds), but condemn and completely ostracize those with same-sex attraction? This is just one example. There are many others. The truth is that many Christians overlook and excuse some sins, while jumping on a pedestal to condemn other sins – normally sins they themselves haven’t been tempted by or struggled with.

For these reasons (and many more which could be addressed), I “get” where Rob Bell and others are coming from. I understand why many Christians, even in evangelical circles (not that Bell can reasonably be called “evangelical” any longer), want to accept homosexuality and gay marriage. I get it. I do. But can we at least stop to consider the ramifications of what Bell and others are suggesting?

Look closely at what Bell says about the Bible. In his interview with Oprah Winfrey, Bell says that Christian churches make themselves “irrelevant” when they “quote letters from 2000 years ago.” In other words, according to Bell (and, it would seem, Oprah Winfrey), the New Testament is “irrelevant” on matters such as love, sexuality, and marriage. (Presumably, since Bell refers to “2000 year old letters,” he’s talking about the New Testament, since the Old Testament books are even older than that). Break down what Bell is saying logically and you’ll find that the following is his premise: Stop quoting the New Testament as being authoritative. Is that the price the Christian church must pay to embrace gay marriage? And is Rob Bell, a man who claimed God called him into pastoral ministry, that willing – even eager – to pay that price?

Before we give up the Bible, let’s understand that – throughout the Scriptures – we see people sacrificing their stuff on the altar before God in order to receive revelation and blessing from God. We see this as early as the story of Cain and Abel. Throughout the Old Testament, the sacrifice was almost always in the form of livestock – a significant sacrifice in a largely agrarian age. And in the New Testament, we see that we are to sacrifice ourselves (Romans 12:1). That means we must lay everything on the altar (at least figuratively speaking) before God – our possessions (Mark 10:17-27), our reputation and individual identity (Matthew 10:32-33), our family (Matthew 10:35-37), and our very life itself (Matthew 10:38-39). Can you not see, from this pattern, that those who choose to follow God must also be willing to put their sexuality on the altar? That is the message of Christianity when it comes to matters of love, sex, and marriage. It’s taking our desires, our wishes, our agenda, our beliefs – and laying them at God’s feet and saying to Him: “Not our will, your will be done.”

But in Rob Bell’s worldview, it goes the other direction: It’s God’s revelation that must be sacrificed, not our own desires. If we want to have sex outside of marriage or form a family unit that’s outside of God’s will (bigamy, polygamy, same-sex marriage, etc), it’s the Bible that must bend – not our agenda. It’s those “2,000 year old” letters that should be set aside or ignored — effectively sacrificed. That’s Bell’s worldview, and it’s shared by an increasing number of people who claim to be followers of Christ today.

Setting aside the obvious problem with Christians ignoring their own holy book, let’s consider an even more fundamental question: What if those “2000 year old letters” that Bell dismisses are….right? I don’t pose that question because I personally have any doubts about the Bible’s veracity. I do not. But humor me for a moment. Let’s reason this out together.

In I Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul assures the Corinthian Christians that there is indeed life after death. He assures them of this on the grounds that Jesus conquered death. And then he candidly acknowledges that Christianity itself is a fraud and that the faith of the Christian community is “vain” if Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead. In other words, the truth and credibility of the Christian faith rests on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If Jesus rose from the dead, then there’s life after death in Christ. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then Christianity is not true. That’s how Paul puts it in I Corinthians 15 – and he’s absolutely correct! So…here is what I say to Rob Bell and all those who want to set aside the New Testament….

As far as the New Testament is concerned, Paul’s letters are the only ones that explicitly mention homosexuality. This is understandable, since homosexuality was not much of an issue in Jerusalem or Judea, but it was openly practiced in the Graeco-Roman world (to which Paul was called). So…

Does Rob Bell disagree with the apostle Paul? If so, should Christians go with Bell or Paul?

Does Rob Bell disagree with the apostle Paul? If so, should Christians go with Bell or Paul?

If Jesus appointed Paul as an apostle and the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write his letters (at least the ones that the early church canonized into the New Testament), then… what Paul says reflects what God says. And if that’s the case, then what Paul writes is true. That includes what Paul writes about homosexuality. The question we should be asking ourselves is not whether we like what Paul said or whether what Paul wrote comports with our beliefs and practices, but….was Paul writing under the inspiration of God? If so, then guess what? If Paul was serving as an authentic apostolic witness of God’s revelation, then to disagree with Paul is to disagree with God!

I’m more than willing to have a conversation with Rob Bell or anyone else about whether Paul’s writings belong in the Christian canon. I know where I stand on that question (they do). But I can at least intellectually respect someone who approaches this issue from that perspective. I have no intellectual respect, however, for a professing Christian who claims to follow Christ, but who cavalierly dismisses Paul’s 2,000-year old writings (a large chunk of the New Testament) as “irrelevant” in comparison with the concerns and desires of “flesh-and-blood people” today. Weren’t the people of Paul’s day also “flesh-and-blood”? For that matter, wasn’t Paul “flesh-and-blood”? And where is it that we get this idea that God’s standards and righteousness should be based on the desires of “flesh-and-blood” human beings? It’s certainly not from the Bible that we get that idea!

If Paul wrote his New Testament epistles (letters) under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and if the early church was correct to include those letters in the biblical canon, then Paul’s letters are to be regarded as Scripture (“sacred writings”). As such, they are to command our attention, respect, and (yes) our obedience. True followers of Christ don’t have the moral right to dismiss, ignore, redefine, or disobey what Paul (or any other inspired biblical author) has to say on a given subject. If Paul writes therefore that sex between men or between women is a sin (and he most certainly does say that in several places, including most notably in Romans), then guess what? It’s a sin. We don’t have the moral right to disagree with Paul, even if we want to disagree with him. Not if Paul is writing inspired Scripture. Yet it amazes me the number of professing Christians who seem to not “get that.”

In saying all this, I recognize the emotional tension and difficulties related to homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and other such matters. We all have friends, loved ones, or acquaintances who are gay, lesbian, or transgender. And we care about them – or at least we should. And those of us with hearts of compassion and grace don’t want to come off as patronizing, judgmental, harsh, cruel, or hurtful toward anyone we care about. We therefore don’t want to cause them any pain. We don’t want to rock the boat any more in their lives, because we know that they are probably already experiencing a great deal of difficulty in their lives. Many lesbian, gay, and transgender people have been driven into deep depression, even suicide, because of how they’ve been treated by those around them. All of our caring instincts tell us to reach out to hurting people (gay or straight) with love, encouragement, affirmation, and support. And that’s why many people, like Oprah Winfrey (who is a very caring person), cheer Christians like Rob Bell who say we should keep our focus on these “flesh-and-blood people” who are hurting rather than 2000-year old letters. But…

What if those 2000-year old letters are true? What if they really do reflect God’s heart on these and other issues? And what if God (I know this is a novel, revolutionary thought) might actually know what’s best for people? What if God’s way (however restrictive or discriminating it may look to us in the “enlightened” 21st century) is the best way, even if it requires us to make sacrifices and give up many of our fleshly, earthly desires? Are we truly loving and serving people if we tell them to ignore God’s word in favor of their own desires and aspirations?

To my gay, lesbian, and transgender readers, I say this: I care about you. And I’m sorry for the pain you’ve experienced in life from other people, including from people who claim to be Christian. As a Christian, it’s my duty to love you, care about you, and pray for you. And I want to do all those things, but please don’t ask me to jettison my Christian faith or ignore the book I believe (with sound reason) to be the word of God in order to prove my love, compassion, or generosity toward you. That’s a price I’m not willing to pay. Love must be grounded in truth. I must be true to myself and my faith, just as you feel you must be true to yourself. And, ultimately, we must all be true before God – the God who searches all hearts, knows all truth, and will bring perfect justice in the end.

To my Christian readers, I say this: Love everyone. Love your neighbor – regardless of your neighbor’s beliefs, race, gender, or sexual orientation. Love all your neighbors. But don’t accept the pressure from the world (and now even from within the Christian church itself, thanks to folks like Bell) that says you must set aside the recorded revelation of God – i.e., the Bible – in order to not be a “bigot” or a “homophobe.” We shouldn’t hate anyone, nor should we be fearful of anyone because of their sins. We’re all sinners. We should be loving, gracious, kind, and humble. But we must remember that we don’t determine what is true. And society doesn’t determine what is true. Flesh-and-blood people don’t determine what is true. GOD determines what is true, because God is Truth.

God bless all of you.

The Most Dangerous Lie of “50 Shades of Grey”

There has been so much written about the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon that I didn’t really want to write this post. Let me say from the outset that I’ve neither read the book nor seen the film. I am therefore not qualified to write a review of the book or movie. And, since I have no desire or plans to see the movie or read the book, such a review will not be forthcoming. I do, however, feel the need to address at least one aspect – one I feel to be perhaps the most disturbing and dangerous aspect of the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon.

The entire premise of 50 Shades of Grey is that an “ordinary woman” finds herself intoxicated by a dark, dangerous, larger-than-life man, who in turn is irresistibly drawn to her and who ultimately finds healing and “salvation” in her. Kirsten Anderson, a correspondent for faith-based LifeSiteNews.com writes: “You’re meant to insert yourself into the story, and suddenly it’s you, in all your banal lack of glory, who has proven irresistible to these powerful, godlike, beautiful, deeply damaged men, and only you can help them find their humanity again.” It’s proved to be an enticing, heady premise for millions of women (and more than a few men) given the phenomenon’s profitability. But it’s a premise full of false and dangerous promises — the kind of lies and flawed expectations which have ruined countless lives.

We should not be encouraging women to get into relationships with damaged men by making them think they can “save” such men. How many women have allowed themselves to be drawn into toxic and destructive relationships due to such expectations? As a pastor and counselor, I’ve seen firsthand what damaged men can do to well-intentioned women. And it sickens me that Hollywood, in pursuit of the Almighty Dollar, and our society, in pursuit of cheap thrills, is celebrating the kinds of feelings, temptations, and desires that will in turn place more women into abusive and disastrous relationships.

This is not me, as some kind of prudish Bible-thumper, railing against Hollywood or sex. I don’t limit by TV viewing to reruns of The Andy Griffith Show. And I love going to the movies (and getting buttered popcorn and Coke). I don’t expect all of my entertainment choices to be completely sin-free, but at the same time, I have no intention of watching (or reading) about a rich tycoon, with serious emotional baggage and an obsession with bondage sex, stalk an impressionable young woman. And my refusal to watch or read 50 Shades isn’t simply because the movie celebrates premarital sex. Most movies and TV programs do that. And it’s not because I get a scowl on my face or sanctimoniously look down on movies that feature beauty. Yes, I’m a Christian who believes in biblical values. But I’m also a red-blooded, heterosexual man who appreciates beauty. I understand the temptation people have toward erotica or pornography. I’m human. And I am not trying to be holier-than-thou or anything like that. I’m not. I’m no better than anyone reading this, but…

Can we not see that some major lines have been crossed here? Can we not see that this isn’t simply a book or movie with sex scenes? 50 Shades of Grey doesn’t just push the envelope. It has exited the envelope and is drawing our culture into a whole new arena. Not only is it helping to mainstream pornography (that alone is disturbing), but it’s leading us to watch a powerful man stalk, manipulate, control, and (with dubious consent) abuse a young woman! And not only are we entertained by this, but we call it a beautiful love story!

No woman should see herself as the savior to a man, just as no man should see himself as the savior to a woman. There is only one Savior capable of healing the most gruesome and awful wounds of a person’s past – and that’s Jesus Christ. And we won’t find such salvation through stalking, bondage sex, or pornography. We find that salvation and that healing by repenting of our sins and throwing ourselves at the foot of the Cross.

Jesus is No Pacifist: Debunking one of the Most Persistent Myths of Christianity

In the famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus of Nazareth told the crowd “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9). Later, he told them ”do not resist an evil person” and “if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:39). And famously, he added “love your enemies” for good measure (Matthew 5:44). Later, when his time came, he would peacefully submit to arrest, even reprimanding Peter for using a sword to defend him (Matthew 26:52). These teachings have led many to conclude that Jesus taught pacifism. And with that false premise in mind, many Christians over the centuries have embraced pacifism even in the face of great evil and terrible danger. And all because they’ve ignored the comprehensive portrait of Jesus given to us in the Bible. When one looks at Jesus as he is shown throughout the Scriptures, from Genesis all the way to Revelation, one sees that Jesus Christ is most certainly NOT a pacifist.

Jesus in the Old Testament

As part of the Trinity, Jesus co-exists with the Father and the Holy Spirit – and has for all eternity. And there are times in the Old Testament, before His incarnation, when He appears to people. These are called “Christophanies.” Scholars differ on some of the specific episodes, but likely examples include wrestling with Jacob (Genesis 32:24), the calling of Gideon (Judges 6), and walking in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3:23-25). For purposes of this blog post, a very significant Christophany takes place outside of Jericho.

Joshua is leading the people of Israel into the Promised Land and is preparing to attack the stronghold of Jericho. During his preparations, he sees a rather conspicuous figure and decides to investigate. In Joshua 5:13-15, we read:

And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” Then the Commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.

Let’s be clear. This ain’t no regular angel. This is the Lord, and in the next verses, he makes clear His non-pacifist nature. Look at Joshua 6:1-5…

Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in. And the Lord said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him.”

Clearly, this ain’t no pacifist! He’s giving Joshua orders on how to take the city of Jericho. Pacifists don’t do that sort of thing! But the Lord does!

Throughout the Old Testament, we see God engaged in quite a bit of violence and destruction. Clearly, not a pacifist. And the Bible teaches that Jesus is God. Jesus makes this point himself when he declares: “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30).

Jesus in the Gospels

Still not convinced? In the New Testament, during his earthly ministry, Jesus tells his disciples that “if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” (Luke 22:36). Many pacifists or pacifist-leaning liberals have tried to argue this passage away, but it’s there. You can’t ignore it. Jesus tells his disciples to make sure they have swords (though some translations soften it to “knives”).

Why then does Jesus tell Peter to put away his sword? The answer is given by Jesus himself. First, he says to Peter that ”all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matthew 26:52). That’s a true statement (given as a proverb), but it’s not a condemnation of violence. It’s merely a wise observation. If Jesus’ followers were to take up arms, they would be put down with arms. Christianity, as a movement, would be stillborn. Jesus’ Kingdom was, as he later told Pilate, “not of this world,” which is why it was not appropriate for his followers to take up arms to install him as an earthly king (John 18:36). But that’s hardly a commentary on the proper role of civil government (which is told to bear the sword in Romans 13), nor does it negate the times the Lord explicitly told his people in the Old Testament to take up the sword as they conquered the Promised Land. The bottom line is there’s a “time of war and a time of peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:8). When Jesus came for his earthly ministry, it was not a time for war.

Jesus in Revelation

When Jesus comes to earth a second time, the story will be a bit different. The last time Jesus came to earth, he came in peace. Next time, He comes to vanquish evil and establish His kingdom. The Apostle Paul writes: ”The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8). Hmmmmm. Doesn’t sound too pacifistic to me.

We must jettison the idea that Christians must always be pacifist. There’s a time for nonviolent resistance, as manifested courageously and admirably by the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. There’s also a time for war as Alvin York, a believer in Christ, realized when he went to Europe in World War I, becoming (up to that point) the most decorated soldier in US Army history.

One line we can draw is that, as individuals, we should always act in love and with patience. We should defer, give way, and take some mistreatment, without striking back in anger. We should never seek revenge. We should be meek, gentle, and gracious. But we do have a right to defend ourselves, when our safety is threatened, and we most certainly should defend our loved ones and our neighbor when they are threatened. We should also do our part to support our civil government, which has a God-given responsibility to “execute wrath” against those who practice evil (Romans 13:4).

I don’t write any of this to boast or gloat. God Himself takes “no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 33:11). I believe we should pray for the salvation of all, and we should do all we can to advance the loving Gospel of Jesus Christ far and wide (Mark 16:15), but we must NOT buy into the naive and dangerous heresy that Jesus is a pacifist. It’s simply not the case.

Being Pro-Life: One Way the Christian Church Can Save More Lives

"Fearfully and Wonderfully Made"

“Fearfully and Wonderfully Made”

Today is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion in the United States. Since then, more babies have been aborted than we’ve had soldiers die in wartime. We’ve had so many abortions in the United States that our nation has the highest abortion rate of any western, industrialized nation. The loss of so many babies should break our hearts. But, fortunately, we don’t have to stop with a broken heart. As Christians, there’s something that our churches can do to reduce the number of abortions in our society and thus save more babies from destruction.

Obviously, what I’m about to suggest is in addition to prayer. I would like to think that prayer would be a given, but sadly, we can’t make that assumption. So, please make sure that you pray for our nation and for all the would-be mothers out there who feel driven to make such a fateful choice. But there’s something we can do in addition to prayer, and that is…

Create a Safe Zone in our Churches and Christian Homes

Many years ago, a friend of mine told me how she was ostracized by her Christian friends after she became pregnant. We’ll call her “Veronica” (not even close to her real name). Veronica was part of a pro-life group on our campus, but she got involved in a bad relationship, made some bad choices, and got pregnant. As a result, her Christian friends turned on her and broke fellowship with her. The irony is that her Christian friends were pro-life (passionately so) and my friend, Veronica, chose to keep the baby. At a time she needed her friends the most, they weren’t there for her. Later, she became a part of our Christian Fellowship group, where she was (as far as I know) welcomed with open arms.

There are many Veronicas out there. Young ladies (and, in some cases, middle age ladies) who were raised in a Christian home and who were brought up in church. They were taught that premarital sex is a sin, and that they should only have children after they are married. Good values. Biblical values. But…

They then make some bad choices and fall into sin. If they don’t get pregnant, they are able to hide their sin from most people, but if they get pregnant, their sin is now out in the open. There’s no hiding it. They are now at the mercy of their family, their friends, their fellow Christians, and let’s be honest: Christians are sometimes not very merciful.

Some of their loved ones or friends may condemn them. Others may lecture them. Some will disown them or break fellowship with them. Some will “accept” them, but the relationship will noticeably change. In some cases, there will be stares, awkward conversations, or other forms of social disapproval. However the specifics work out, the bottom line is that a young woman raised in a Christian environment who gets pregnant after sexual sin risks (and will likely experience) varying degrees of changed relationships, social anxiety, peer disapproval, domestic instability, and ecclesiastical judgment. Is it any wonder that many young women, facing such a crisis, choose to end their pregnancy?

I’m well aware that there are many reasons behind abortion. In some cases, the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. In other cases, there’s an abusive or demeaning relationship where the woman feels pressured to consent to sex. In some situations, parents are faced with the prospect of fetal deformity or disability. In many, many situations, the would-be mother and/or would-be parents are dealing with their own limitations (disability, financial, etc.) or are completely overwhelmed in life and don’t feel they can handle another burden or responsibility. The reasons behind the 1.21 million abortions that take place in the U.S. every year are numerous. In this article, I can’t solve or even adequately address all those reasons, except to say that our all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving God will walk with any woman caught in such a situation. She doesn’t have to go it alone.

For this particular article, my focus is mainly on my fellow Christians. And not on the woman who is scared and confused. There’s plenty of material out there (in articles, speeches, sermons, etc.) condemning or criticizing women for making bad choices. And some of that is appropriate — though it needs to be administered with a lot of love, mercy, and grace. My focus here is on those Christians who create environments in our homes and churches that make women feel like they won’t be loved and accepted, if they fall into sin.

Jesus didn’t love us, because we deserve it. Jesus didn’t die on the cross for us, because we earned God’s favor through our works. No, God loved us “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8). We are all sinners. We all deserve the judgment of God. Before Christ, and without Christ, we are “dead” and depraved in our sins. It is only through the love and grace of God – the unmerited favor of heaven – that we can be saved. Why then do we, those of us who have received the grace of God, cast such judgmental eyes on those who sin?

Yes, I know the verses on church discipline. I know the verses that talk about breaking fellowship with sinners. I’m a pastor. I can quote them. But, folks, those verses apply to Christians who are continuing in sin and who are causing harm to the church (or other Christians) because of their sin. When it comes to young women who have been raised in the church and who have accepted Christ, most of them (dare I say “virtually all of them”) recognize that the unplanned pregnancy they now face is a departure from God’s holy standard. They recognize they made a poor choice. Even if a reminder of this is necessary, it needs to be offered in love and grace, not in condemnation or anger.

Christians can be some of the most judgmental, critical, temperamental, and (frankly) difficult people to deal with or live with. I know that sounds harsh, and I realize that there’s an underlying irony in my even making a statement like that. But I really believe it’s the truth, and I think we need to call it like it is. We Christians can sometimes be very unmerciful and very ungracious. And even those of us who tend to be more gentle can sometimes be insensitive. The Bible tells us to balance “mercy and truth” (Proverbs 3:3) and to speak the truth “in love” (Ephesians 4:15). A cursory perusal of Romans 12, Galatians 6, Ephesians 4, Philippians 2, and many other passages should convince anyone that God wants us to be sensitive, gracious, kind, and forgiving to one another – and that includes women (and men) who commit sexual sin, even when (dare I say “especially when”) that sin leads to an unplanned pregnancy.

As a church, in general, we’ve got to hate sin, but love sinners. We can’t allow ourselves to routinely condemn, hate, look down upon, and ostracize people who sin. Where does that end? Where does that stop? After a while, we’re going to run out of people to ostracize and condemn? We’re all sinners!

I’m not saying we turn a blind eye and deaf ear to sin. Yes, we should teach that God is real and that we’re accountable to Him. Yes, we should teach that God has called us to purity and that premarital sex is wrong. Yes, we should teach that – and, yes, we should model that and live those principles out. But when people fall into sexual sin, we as a church need to be there to prayerfully help them get out of that sexual sin. And, yes, that means locking arms with them. And it means helping them deal with the consequences of their sin. Because, sometimes (quite often, in fact), God can bring wonderful and awesome things out of sin. Or do you not believe Romans 8:28?

We as a church should stand for the sanctity of human life. We should proclaim the high value God places on all life, and we should oppose abortion. All that is true. But we should also create and foster a safe environment within our homes and within our churches for sinners to come to repentance and for the righteous to be renewed, because that’s the nature of the God we serve!