And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Still, I don't know if architecture is the best example of the phenomenon. Modern art caters to popular tastes just as little as architecture. A great deal of performance and installation art strikes most normal people as a colossal joke or a straight-up con. And please don't tell me that my failure to appreciate three squares and a triangle or a blob of paint on a canvas is my shortcoming. If something isn't aesthetically pleasing or interesting, doesn't require skills I do not have, and makes a stupid point stupidly, I don't appreciate it as art. That doesn't make me a philistine. It makes me a non-rube.
Anyway, it seems to me that the more a relatively artistic field of endeavor caters to critics over consumers, the worse it gets. You can see this all over the place, from haute cuisine to music. Some of my best friends in college were music majors, and they would ramble on about how Philip Glass is a genius. Maybe he is. But I'll take Beethoven or the Beatles over him any day. I don't follow the literary world too closely these days, but my impression is that the same is true in the world of fiction. If you write for the critics, only the critics will read you.
Monday, November 14, 2011
...So that buck I wrote about? Well, my hunting buddy had it walk by his stand at 15 yards and that was all she wrote. It was a mainframe 8-pointer with an abnormal sticker point on one side that scored 124 7/8". A nice buck, but not a monster. My friend and I split the meat on whatever we shoot, so yesterday afternoon I helped him skin and quarter it. The hams and chops from my half are all currently sitting in my freezer, neatly carved into roasts and steaks, while the remaining 15 lbs of de-boned meat is in bags in the fridge awaiting the grinder. Perhaps tonight I'll get around to that. If not, then tomorrow morning.
Meanwhile, I am also getting ready to boil the skull for my friend for a European mount. I hope it turns out well. It's a cool looking set of antlers and should make for a good mount. Pictures to follow when I'm done.
This weekend is also the start of shotgun season. Which means deer that were heretofore too far away are now in range...
Friday, November 11, 2011
Instead, after I got everything set and was pulling the bow into the treestand with me, I discovered that my arrows had disappeared from my quiver somewhere between the truck and the tree. With no arrows, this was proving not to be much of a hunt. So I slipped out of the stand and walked back to the truck, flashlight in hand. I did not see them on the way back, so I waited at the truck for daylight, frustrated.
After it got light, I walked down, packed up the decoy and gathered my kit, it now becoming obvious I was in for a different kind of hunt-to find about $100 of arrows. I did finally find them, on the way back up the hill. Apparently, they had caught on some of the thorn tangle I had to plow through on the way down in the dark and popped out to the ground.
But by this time, it was 7:30 and the first magic hour-and-a-half was gone, and the spot I was hoping to hunt was probably scented up by all my tromping around. So, if I was going to actually hunt deer at all, it was going to be out of another stand.
When I arrived at another stand, overlooking a hot scrape which is easily 4' in diameter near some big rubs, I settled in comfortably and prepared to call and wait and call and wait. And it started to rain. Not hard, just a good steady sprinkle that soaks you a little at a time.
Tomorrow is another day for me and the woods and the bow. Perhaps God's grace will prevail and I will get meat for the freezer and the family. Perhaps not. But either way, any coyotes in the area best be alert for airborne special deliveries.
Friday, October 28, 2011
“every true, born-again follower of Christ ought to embrace a Christian over a non-Christian.” ~ Robert Jeffress, Senior Pastor, First Baptist DallasOn the off chance this particular deceased equine hasn't been sufficiently flogged, let me ask the question: Is that true? Should a Christian always prefer the Christian candidate in any particular political race? What if the candidate in question is a fool, or his/her theology is off more than half a bubble out of plumb? How much theological heterodoxy is permitted before a person can be safely declared "not a Christian" and thus no longer require me, a "true, born-again follower of Christ" to vote for him or her?
These are not idle questions, but cut to the heart of the matter: How should a Christian vote?
In my mind, it comes down to the following criteria:
- Proven character. A good leader should be a good man or woman first. If he or she has not proven faithful in smaller matters, like being able to police his/her passions, why should he/she be trusted with a position of leadership? Personally, I was never comfortable with the idea that a person can be privately immoral, but publicly lead well. A person who has integrity in private will exercise it also in the conduct of his/her official duties, and who lacks it privately sooner or later won't be able to demonstrate it publicly either.
- Effective leadership. Can the person inspire people and get important tasks accomplished. Is there a record of such accomplishments? Any politician will have to lead not just people of his/her own party, but also those of the opposition. Can he/she make even enemies be at peace with good decisions, well executed?
- Enforcing justice fairly. This is one of the areas of our society which is always under challenge. Biblically, we must not grant special favors to the rich or connected because of their riches or connections. Cronyism or class-based favoritism is prohibited. But similarly, we must not put a thumb on the scale for the poor against the wealthy. We in the church are called to help the poor, but government's role is to enforce the law fairly for all. Does the candidate understand that, or does he/she stand on one side or the other?
- Policy proposals that focus on results rather than intentions. Nothing is easier than endorsing policies which sound good and make their promoters feel good about themselves. But as the old proverb says, "The road to hell..." Good intentions matter less than good results where people are concerned, and politicians do well to remember that Murphy was an optimist, and most policies have unforseen consequences. [Consider for example the push for so-called "electric cars." What they really are in most parts of the country is "coal powered cars," since the electricity they run on is provided by coal, a less-efficient and dirtier form of energy than gasoline. If everybody buys a taxpayer subsidized electric car, that will effectively result in a need to construct a whole lot more coal-fired electrical plants and much dirtier air].
- Minimization of the role of the state. If we believe what the Bible says that man is sinful and that man given power is prone to not just mischief, but destruction, then we should seek politicians who want to minimize rather than maximize their own role and their own scope of power over others' lives. This applies whether the pol in question seeks war or just do goodery "for the children." The power of the state seems to operate on a one-way ratchet, so look for pols who are either seeking to undo the ratchet a few clicks or at the very least, advance it no further.
- No political messiahs. This is related to last one. It seems that every election brings out the messianic in every pol. This is natural, as it seems you have be an above-average narcissist just to run for office. Thus, they promise "heaven" to those who vote for them and that "hell" will result if they are not elected. They scare the voters, hoping that the glories they promise for support and the hell of their own loss will result in their elevation. But knowing that this is the nature of politics, we as Christians ought not be bamboozled. There is one Messiah, Jesus, and all others are mere pretenders. Don't vote for a man or woman who is there to save the world; they can't. Vote for the fellow who takes the tragic view that our best efforts can only improve things a bit, if at all. It's downbeat as a philosophy, but realistic in it's expectations of fallen people.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
But moving over to the theological realm, the answer is certainly an emphatic "YES." Consider the following:
- Mormonism was founded by Joseph Smith, who claimed that he was told via direct revelation that he needed to found a new church of "Latter Day Saints' specifically because all other churches and Christian denominations were false and corrupt. Thus, their differences with historic Christian orthodoxy are not incidental, but central to Mormons' self-identity and reason for existence.
- Mormonism rejects the unique authority of the Scriptures, and considers them their inerrant nor complete, adding to them not only the Book of Mormon, but also Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price.
- Mormonism emphasizes the continuing nature of revelation through official prophets. Through the Mormon hierarchy of President, First Presidency, Twelve Apostles, First Quorum of the Seventy, and Second Quorum of the Seventy, Mormons can receive authoritative interpretations of both the Scriptures, the Mormon additions, and entirely new authoritative revelations. It is uncharitable to point out that some of these "new revelations" have come about because of the changing of social mores or desire for social acceptability in the wider culture, but with issues such as polygamy and the admission of blacks to the Mormon priesthood, such certainly seems to be the case.
- Mormonism affirms a primordial spiritual existence before birth as God the Father's spirit sons and daughters, who receive bodies when humans procreate here on earth. How the first humans got their bodies I do not know, since there seems to be a need for a first set of bodies for the Father's spirit children to inhabit, but whatever.
- Mormons are non-Trinitarian. They affirm the Father, Son, and Spirit as unity in purpose and mind, but not in essence, and such unity as there is not eternal. Moreover, Mormonism is explicitly polytheistic, with Brigham Young teaching, "How many Gods there are, I do not know. But there never as a time when there were not Gods and worlds."
- To Mormons, Jesus is Redeemer, but his deity is derivative and lesser than that of God the Father.
- For the Mormon, humans are not inherently sinful. They do not possess an innate sinful nature, but are basically good.
- Mormonism teaches that eternal reward can come to Mormons by their own efforts. Salvation is thus essentially not by grace, but by works.
- Mormon salvation means that good Mormons ascend to the highest level of reward (the Celestial Kingdom), where they and their spouses (to whom they are still married for eternity!) continue to procreate as Gods, whose spirit children will one day inhabit other worlds. Less good people, who aren't quite righteous, go to the Terrestial Kingdom, where they don't suffer, but also aren't ruling as gods. The Telestial Kingdom is for the wicked and includes suffering. And finally, the Devil and fallen angels are confined to the Lake of Fire.
This touched off a series of highly predictable events:
- Pastor Jeffress was denounced as a "bigot" by pundits both right and left.
- Rick Perry "backs away" from Jeffress, apologizing and damage controlling for comments he neither made nor solicited.
- Mitt Romney, the Republican frontrunner, gives yet another tiresome speech, of the same variety given by politicians at least since the Catholic Al Smith, in which he tries to walk the tightrope of a religious man whose faith isn't shared by the majority of Americans--that is, "my faith will guide me enjoy to give me political credit as a good and decent person, but won't influence me so much that I will say, follow the pope's guidance on foreign policy, or make wearing "temple garments" (aka "holy underwear") compulsory for all federal taxpayers."
- Debate ensues among the punditocracy about whether the constitution's prohibition of religious tests for office precludes voters from allowing their thoughts about a candidates particular faith or lack thereof to be a determining factor in their vote. The fact that the Constitution is meant to restrict the powers of government rather than individual voter behavior escapes notice.
I heard from a friend that he had finally apologized to someone and begun the process of healing that long-since broken relationship. I know both men and knew that my friend was, at least partly, in the wrong. So it cheered me to see the Spirit's work in his heart to repent and attempt reconciliation. It had been years since they had spoken. Where, except in the Body of Christ, does this happen?
I also heard through the grapevine about an old friend. I had helped bring her to Christ years ago, but she had shortly afterward wandered away from church and from Karen and I. I was deeply grieved over her, almost physically pained that someone genuinely converted could slip so easily back into a former life. At the time, I found myself doing some re-thinking about my theology of conversion, and wondering if indeed she was the type of "believer" described in Hebrews 6, whose conversion only seems genuine, but isn't. As I saw the slippage happening, I prayed that it would end, but I stopped after it seemed permanent. But wonder of wonders, I have since heard she is not only back in church, but has re-committed herself to Christ and is married to a man who is also a Christ follower. Color my cynical, faithless heart shocked, but joyful!
And last of all, I've found myself restoring relationships with a few people that I had hurt and who had hurt me. Years have passed since the original incidents, allowing the pain to ease, but never really heal. I had forgiven, but not reconciled. And honestly, I held out little hope that real healing would ever happen. I had stopped praying for it, just as I had stopped praying for these other things. Yet God was gracious to me, as He ever is, and kept working to bring about what could not happen without Him.
Oh the depths of both the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and His ways past finding out!
It really is true what Dad used to say: "Even blind hogs can find acorns once in a while," so every now and then, even secular culture finds some true things to say. After 10 years as a pastor, what I find over and over again is that it is the sins we can't quite repent of that destroy us and the area of life in which that sin promised the greatest fulfillment. A girl with eating disorders finds her body destroyed by her attempts to perfect it. A man with a sexual addiction eventually finds no pleasure in actual sex. An alcoholic or a drug addict no longer enjoys, but still must have, that which now only adds to the pain he starting out trying to medicate. And on and on..."It's always your favorite sins that do you in." ~ You and Tequila
Sin promises what it will not, ultimately, deliver. And with it comes the Thief, whose aim is to steal, kill, and destroy. Over time, the Father of Lies is revealed for who he is, though not before destruction has poured forth from every corner of the destroyed person's life. And then repentance is a long journey home from a far country, smelling like pigs.
I am thankful that we still get to come home and still get that glorious welcome from a Father who runs to meet His children. But my pastor's heart grieves for those I see wandering, doing the very thing that will destroy them in the end.
Friday, September 9, 2011
Thursday, September 8, 2011
I brought all this out because I think the text is teaching us that there are no coincidences and that God is in even the small details of our lives. It was surely not simply coincidence that the servant just "happened" to find right spot to meet Rebekah, that she just happened to be the first girl he met, or that she just happened to pass the test through which the servant had prayed for the right girl to be revealed. Neither was it simple coincidence that she was willing to go with the servant to marry a man she had not met because she believed in God's promises to him, nor that her family was willing to have her leave. God was in these circumstances, leading, guiding, and showing his steadfast love and faithfulness to Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, and the servant.
I had opportunity to remind myself of these things when I came home from the service and found this awaiting me:
What I find is that our motivations are often varied. Sometimes, we want to stop sinning in some fashion because continuing down that road is causing pain in a relationship. So we want to change because we want our friends, spouses, or family members to stop bugging us about this thing we do (or have done, again!). We want peace, so we change. In our better moments, we may even do so in repentant fashion, because we see the hurt we've caused and want to change because we love the person more than we love being the person that we are. Change on these bases is good. It contributes to harmony, and even, at times, personal holiness.
Sometimes we want to change because it will increase our level of social acceptability and help us "fit in." So we stop cussing because that's not cool in our social circles, stop getting drunk because that's frowned upon, and stop running around because that's simply not what nice people do and we want to be viewed as one of the "nice people." And again, that's not worthless change. Who doesn't think that restoring some of our culture's former taboos and recovering the stigma attached to certain behaviors would be a good thing and to the benefit of our culture?
And for me sometimes, I even find that I want to change because I want to be less in need of grace. My theology tells me that I must have grace, because without it, I am completely unacceptable before God. But my pride tells me that needing it is a terrible shame and so I want, sometimes, to change simply so I can feel more worthy and less needy when I come before God.
But the best motivation for change is because we want to glorify God rather than ourselves, please Him rather than our companions, conform to Christ rather than culture, and stand holy before Him because of His grace rather than pridefully working to not need it (an impossible task, since we ar still sinfully prideful). I cannot get out of my head the thought, probably planted there by John Piper or maybe Westminster, that my chief purpose (and yours too) is that we bring glory to God. And He is not glorified by us working harder, but by our allowing His Spirit to transform us, by His grace. He is glorified when we recognize that we need to seek tranformation not so we can feel or look or act better, but because God in Christ has come to save us from our sinfulness so that He can work in us and conform us to the image of the Son and so become, not just better versions of ourselves, but partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). He is glorified when we seek transformation not to better ourselves, but to better glorify Him.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Our enthusiasm remained undimmed, despite bouts of the worst family infestation of stomach virus I've ever seen. Hopefully, you can see that in the "highlight reel" below:
This is the Pioneer Zephyr, the train that set a land speed record for its non-stop run between Denver and Chicago back in the day. This was also one of the kids' favorite parts of the Science and Industry Museum. Personally, since it was my first trip too, I could have spent a lot more time looking around the U-505 submarine and the associated exhibits. The history connected with that was irresistible for me, but alas, not so much for the kids.
This is Nate's evaluation of the experience of riding the "El." The others weren't quite so impressed, but it was still the only time in my memory when public transport was a highlight...
On our last day, the boys and I headed off to the Lego Store, home of Lego Darth, Lego Woody, Lego Yoda, and a large assortment of Lego sets, games, and miscellaneous pieces (to help you re-build the sets to which you have mysteriously lost some of the pieces). It was a fun sort of trip to a version of boy heaven (except that nothing there comes by grace), and John and Nate got to pick out some small things to add to their collections.
Our adventures in Legoland ended, and so it was time to journey down a floor to join the girls at American Girl. With Sara off still figuring out exactly how to spend the $50 in squirreled away allowance (far easier than it sounds, in that place--$50 doesn't go that far), I got Ashley to be my all star American Girl while she waited with the boys and I by the door. As an aside, why are there never any comfortable chairs in a girly store? Don't they know that men and boys are often semi-willing participants in the shopping excursion there?
And finally, it's just not a Horn family vacation if there' no stop at Cabela's or Bass Pro somewhere, so this was our last stop on the last day. If you can't read it, the sign over the door reads, "Welcome Hunters, Fishermen, and Other Liars." At lot to be said for truth in advertising, if you ask me, so I'm wondering how a sign like that would look over the doors at church.
Friday, July 8, 2011
So when a friend sent me the following video, while there is a part of me which thought, "I can't believe this guy makes his living doing this," there is also another, perhaps deeper, geekier, more boyish part which thinks, "If this pastor thing ever doesn't work out, I have found my new calling!" Anyway, enjoy a laugh or two with me:
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
And He does so in a most unusual manner, instructing Abram to cut in half a heifer, a ram, and a goat, and to lay out a young pigeon and a dove, leaving a bloody aisle between the halves. This was part of a covenant making and/or sealing ceremony, in which the covenant participants walked the aisle between the pieces, and in so doing laid on themselves an implied death sentence if they break the covenant (i.e., "May it be done to me like these animals"). But after all is arranged, it is God alone (symbolized by the torch and smoking firepot, v. 17), who passes through, symbolizing that it is God alone who will keep the covenant, since He alone made it.
In this, I find great personal encouragement and even sanctifying grace. For, as Paul says in Romans 15:4, "Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us..." And what this little incident reminds me is that I have a much better covenant than Abram, for mine was sealed not with God symbolically pronouncing death on Himself, but with the actual slaughter of the Son of God, whose death paid for my covenant breaking and established a new one, which likewise God alone keeps with me. Through that covenant, enacted by God's merciful, holy love, I cannot be rejected despite my ongoing sinfulness, because God has already paid the penalty for my sin. And since no matter what I've done or do, God is right there re-affirming His love for me, I am motivated each day to confess my sin and live in greater obedience. This is indeed, amazing grace.
Friday, July 1, 2011
John loved playing Robin Hood, but he is cross-dominant, which means that even though he is right-handed, his dominant eye is his left. Due to the the shortage of left-handed bows, this meant that he needed to shoot right handed and cover his left eye. So despite looking like a pirate with a caution tape "eye patch," he did learn to shoot pretty well and really enjoyed himself!
Here, John is doing his other favorite camp activity, BB guns. He earned his sharpshooter patch, and outshot everyone else his age. Needless to say, Dad was pretty proud of John's first time out.
This is human foosball. It is set up exactly like a foosball table, only with ropes instead of rods. Each player slides down the rope using the pieces of PVC they are holding and knots in the rope limit movement to their zone of play, like the stops on a foosball table. The boys had fun, but about 1/2 hour's worth is all they could take before they wanted a break. John is in the center, wearing a clear poncho, because it had just stopped raining (again!).
It rained off and on all three days, including an epic downpour on the first day. On the night of the second day, there was a massive storm that knocked down trees all over the park where we were having camp. So our Cub Scout Service project was helping pick up limbs and sticks for an hour. But we all also spotted the huge hollow treetop that came down which contained a honey beehive. As the intrepid sort who had to try to collect some, and since the odds of me coming across another wild hive like this in the future are somewhere between slim and Barack Obama's re-election prospects, I waited until all the boys were otherwise occupied and then hustled back to the truck for some gallon sacks to stick some honeycomb in. For the curious, no, I did not get get stung. What I got was a lot of honey filled comb with no very good idea how to extract the honey.
I called a friend, who told me that commercial honey producers cut open the combs and separate the honey from the comb with centrifuges. Huh. Learn something new everyday. But my garage being a little light in the centrifuge department, I had to rely on something else: hillbilly ingenuity, which quickly devised a plan involving a bowl, a glass jar, a funnel and some brand new knee high pantyhose (which were a bargain at $ .33 a pair). Clean, sweet, fruity tasting honey was the result. I was excited to be able to show the kids where honey comes from and more excited (being kinda cheap), not to have to buy honey for a couple weeks.
Next project: Find some wild locusts to eat with it and a camel hair coat to preach in next Sunday...
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Indeed, one of the more common attacks against it is the idea that there is simply no such thing as "biblical marriage" as equivalent to one man, one woman given the polygamy of some of the patriarchs and kings of the Old Testament. Thus, the reasoning goes, if God does not condemn polygamy, how can monogamous, albeit homosexual, "marriages" be worthy of condemnation? They are, in this, partially correct. It is true that God nowhere explicitly (more on that in a moment) condemns polygamy anywhere in the Old Testament and it is true that some of the patriarchs and kings were polygamous and yet blessed by God. So how can this be if it is true that God's plan was always monogamy? But they conveniently choose to leave out the following facts:
Genesis 1 tells us that God, in making humanity "in his image" created one man and one woman in a relationship (marriage) designed for fruitfulness and mutual blessing. There are no indicators that any other kind of relationship was ever part of God's original design.
Genesis 2 speaks of God creating and then bringing the woman to the man as his perfectly suited companion. Again there is no indication that multiple women, or indeed, multiples or singles of anything or anyone other than a woman would be the ideally suited companion to complete the man.
In Genesis 4, we meet Cain, who is not only the first murderer, but also the one who sets up a civilization opposed to God. One of Cain's descendants (Lamech) not only doubles down on Cain's murdering, he is also the first polygamist. Say what you will, this is hardly a recommendation for the concept.
Or, if you want to get actually into the details, consider the four major figures who were polygamous in the Old Testament. All were blessed by God, but it must have been in spite of their polygamy, because their polygamous families are all presented in their respective narratives as a mess you wouldn't want any part of. Consider first Abraham: Abraham married Sarah, Hagar the Egyptian, and Keturah. He had Isaac through Sarah, Ishmael through Hagar, and six sons through Keturah. Hagar and Sarah were at war when they lived in the same household and Hagar was eventually "sent away" (i.e., divorced). Her son, along with the sons of Keturah, formed the Arab and Bedouin tribesmen that were at war with Israel (the sons of Abram's grandson Jacob) from 1500 BC to the present day. So that worked out well.
Now consider Jacob: He had two wives, Rachel and Leah, along with two concubines, Bilhah and Zilpah. There was unrelenting competition among the legit wives, who each gave their handmaiden to Jacob as an additional wife. The whole sordid story, including Leah "renting" Jacob from Rachel in exchange for some of Reuben's mandrake roots, the selling into slavery of Joseph, the firstborn of Rachel, and so on makes one wonder "How can God be using these people to redeem the world?" but it never makes you think, "If only I had some more wives, because this looks like a good plan that God blesses."
How about David? Well, one of his sons (Amnon) raped his half-sister Tamar, in recompense for which he was murdered by his half-brother Absalom. Absalom then, after a complicated series of events, led a rebellion against his father David and took the kingdom for a time. This rebellion was due, at least in part, to the fact that David was not going to give the kingdom to him, but to the son David had with Bathsheba, whom David had gained as a wife through seduction and murder. That son, Solomon, had his half-brother (Abijah) executed because Abijah was scheming for the throne as Solomon's older brother by a (more) legitimate wife. So again, this seems like a pattern worth replicating, no?
Solomon, the all time biblical polygamy champ, was "led astray" from the Lord by his many wives, who introduced explicit idolatry into Israel again. He is in fact the living embodiment of the reason for God's command in Deuteronomy 17:17 that the king "must not take many wives for himself, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold." Moreover, because of Solomon's violations of these very commands, his foolish son Reheboam lost the northern half of the kingdom to a former general who set up idolatry, continuing the worship that had been imported along with Solomon's wives. The spread of idolatry, which grew to prominence in precisely this way was in fact the reason for the eventual exile from the land of both northern and southern kingdoms.
Moving to the New Testament, Jesus emphasized repeatedly that "At the beginning of creation, God 'made them male and female.' 'For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one." (Mark 10:6-8). Note that Jesus goes back to Genesis 1 and 2, emphasizes the original pattern given by God as equivalent to God's plan for marriage. Also note the following: 1) male and female; 2) "wife," not "wives"; and 3) the repeated use of "two" as the number denoting a proper marriage. Jesus doesn't support the polygamous idea as anything other than a corruption of God's ideal.
Further, in the list of requirements for church leaders (elders and deacons) in the Pastoral Epistles, the Greek term mias gynaikos andra (literally, "one woman man") is used to indicate that the proper number of wives for a Christian leader is one.
Thus, there is simply no evidence for the claim that biblical marriage has a wider definition than that of the one-flesh union of one man and one woman. Not that I think this will convince anyone not already inclined to accept the Bible as authoritative and true. That is, I don't believe that anybody making this argument is doing so as anything other than as a way to tell Bible believing Christian to shut their collective pie holes already. But at least you can point them to what the Bible actually teaches on the subject rather than what they seem to think that it does.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
We also spent all day going exploring in the Everglades and Big Cypress National Parks. And if anyone tells you that alligators are "endangered," don't you believe it. There were alligators in every pool and canal, lying in every culvert and under every bush. We saw over a hundred just in the little places that we walked through. Babies, adults, and great big monsters of the water. Gators were everywhere! I was amazed that the alligators would let me get as close as I did to them, and even more amazed that there aren't more rules, park rangers, and fences preventing such foolishness. We also saw hundreds of fish of every shape and size, turtles (including one immense snapping turtle), plus four varieties of herons, egrets, massive eagle nests, anhingas, black vultures, purple gallinules, giant grasshoppers, gumbo limbo and strangler fig trees, orchids, bromeliads, mango and papaya orchards (we stopped for a fresh papaya milkshake), and more gators. Overall, the area was much different than I expected. I was thinking giant live oaks and cypress trees, not mangrove swamps and oceans of sawgrass. But it was amazing, nonetheless. Oh, and in case you needed any reminders not to ever hang your feet off a dock in Florida, I hope you enjoy this photo.
We missed our kids like crazy by the week's end, so it was great to know that they weren't missing us overly much. They were too busy living it up at Grandma and Grandpa's house. They spent their days making banana splits, watching movies on a giant "screen" outside under the stars (with full surround sound, no less!), holding the various members of a new litter of puppies, swimming in the pond, having enough Nutella to affect the stock price, playing in the playhouse, riding the Mule (a 4x4 golf cart), and in general running amok. Still, when we got back, they remembered that they missed us, and were all happy to be headed home. At least, all except Ashley, who is happily spending "just a few more days" by herself at Chez Horn. (We agreed to let her do this because we are aware that in a family like ours, time for "just me" to do something is a rare occurrence. Nathan got his turn last summer. This is Ashley's year. Hopefully, we'll be able to do the same for Sara and John in years to come.)
So to sum up: We had a blast. We felt incredibly blessed. We are glad to have gone and glad to be home.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
- Item #1: Rob Bell, the well-known Grand Rapids pastor formerly known as an evangelical, openly flirts with universalism and seems to deny that explicit faith in Jesus in this life is required for entrance into God's Kingdom in the next.
- Item #2: Seal Team 6 invades Pakistan and shoots Osama bin Laden in the chest and head before burying his body at sea to be consumed by its creatures.
- Item #3: Majid Movahedi, a 30-year-old Iranian man, is sentenced to being blinded with acid for the crime of throwing a bucket of acid in the face of Ameneh Bahrami, a formerly beautiful Iranian woman who refused to marry him. Bahrami is disfigured and blind, and her prospects of marriage or even living outside her parents' home are remote at best. Islamic law, with its concept of qisas, allows for literal enforcement of "an eye for an eye."
Bell's problem is that he cannot support the biblical idea that a God of infinite love is simultaneously a God of infinite holy wrath and justice. So he redefines God's love to exclude eternal hell for anyone. Yet in what sense is it just, indeed, in what sense is it even loving to allow the guilty to escape punishment? In Bell's world, the finally impenitent are to be welcomed into heaven; but that means that both rapists, torturers, pedophiles, murderers, sadists, child-sacrificers, Nazis, Communists, and dictators are all to be allowed to live forever with those they victimize. Where is the love in that? Do not even the worst of people protect their children from these things? Why would God's love mean less? Further, isn't it true that many criminals escape justice in this life and never pay for their crimes? Many murderous dictators die in their beds. Many murderers, abusers, and other assorted nasties never serve a day in prison, nevermind dance at the end of a noose. And even if people "get what they deserve," it does not seem to me that the scales are fully balanced even then. Consider that Saddam Hussein butchered 300,000 of his own people, often in ghastly fashion. Are we to believe that justice is satisfied because he was hanged? What about the other 299,999 lives he took, which debt remains unpaid?
Bin Laden's death was weird. I was elated. We who had suffered had finally put paid to a man responsible for 3,000 dead of my countrymen on 9/11 plus 18 crewmen of the USS Cole, plus two embassy bombings and Khobar towers. It was about time, in my mind, that death came for the one who had brought so much of it. Yet many of my Christian brothers and sisters told me not to rejoice in the falling of my enemy, because Christ tells us to turn the other cheek and because we ought not rejoice that the rod that struck us is broken. I found that reaction genuinely odd. Jesus' statement has nothing to do with enabling people to murder you; it is about enduring personal insult (hence the right cheek). Moreover, by any biblical standard OBL was an evil man who murdered and oppressed the innocent. By what logic are we not to celebrate the end of oppression and the bringing of justice? Is not the diminishment of the quantity of sin and evil in the world, even if by only a slight amount, in itself a good thing worth celebrating? And will not God's bringing of justice on the Great Day be just as much a cause for glorifying God as the salvation from judgment given to us who trust in Christ?
And finally, what about "an eye for an eye"? Is that a barbaric relic, a leftover idea best left in the past? Are the world's human rights groups correct to protest? It should be noted that Islamic law is hardly revered for its justice, but what about in this case? What is the appropriate punishment for blinding and disfiguring a woman simply because she refused to marry you? How do we determine?
It seems to me that true justice, biblical justice, involves both reparation and retribution. Reparation is simple-It involves repairing, to the extent possible, the damage your evil has done. Thus, in the Mosaic Law, a thief had to repay what he stole, a man who seduced a virgin had to marry her and could not divorce her, and a man whose ox caused damage had to pay for it. But there is also a retributive element, of punishment for having done evil in the first place, especially as it relates to crimes for which reparation is impossible. Thus murderers, kidnappers, adulterers, and idolaters are put to death. Likewise, the thief has not only to repay, but must pay back four-fold.
One reason I believe in hell, in addition to the fact that the Bible emphatically teaches it, is that I have to believe that a God of justice eventually balances the scales. The unrepentant sinner must pay his debt. The wicked must not be allowed to continue in their wickedness forever. Oppressor and victim must not share eternal dwellings, for that would be the triumph of Satan instead of the victory of God. Evil must be atoned, one way or another. Which, in my case, greatly magnifies the glory of the cross, at which my debt for my treasonous rebellion was paid. But we must not minimize the glory of the God who offers two pathways, one of the Substitute, whose death covers my evil, and the other of full recompense for it in my own body, by pretending that love requires us to eliminate one of those roads. Else what do we do with the bin Ladens and Pol Pots, and Hitlers, and Stalins? What do we do with the Majid Movahedis? What do we do with the more mundane evil done by ordinary sinners like you and me?