Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Evangelical Mind

2016 will definitely be one for the books. We are currently in what may be the craziest election cycle in the United States’ history. Campaign season can be fun or stressful for a lot of reasons, but I am always particularly interested in how the American evangelical community responds to candidate choices. Evangelicals traditionally have had conservative leanings in this country. There is, of course, no harm in this fact. Many churches in recent years have done a fairly decent job at emphasizing the arbitrariness of political leanings in evangelical orthodoxy. But this election cycle has caused my stomach to churn in unsettling ways.

 

I would like to believe that churches are becoming more neutral on political leanings, but this is not so. Due to the unfortunate nature of our divisive two-party system, we are left with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The evangelical response to Trump and his candidacy has been peculiar, to say the least. I could only hope and pray that Trump’s candidacy would be the knock-out hit to the unabashed evangelical devotion to the Republican Party, but this is not what has been observed. Multiple evangelical leaders across this country, many of them with big names and big churches, have, without question, endorsed Trump. And this is not an endorsement based off of the lesser of two evils, but rather these leaders genuinely think that Trump is a good moral agent who should be leading this country, with one pastor in particular calling Ch

 

ristians who do not vote for Trump “fools.” This only damages the evangelical mind by re-enforcing the false historical conception that America somehow used to be “great” and “Christian” and “blessed by God” and the Donald Trump, with his right-wing prowess, will successfully return America back to the good old days. We have officially uncovered a truth about many evangelical Christians that many others have suspected all along: To worship Jesus is to worship Western conservatism.

 

If these pastors and leaders cared to line up biblical morality with Trump morality, they would find that they go together, as Simon Cowell says, like vanilla ice cream and sausage: They don’t. But there is another side to this coin. There are many Christians, not just liberal, but conservative who have given a great deal of backlash to these leaders. Many evangelicals think Trump is a morally bankrupt agent and that Christians should not support him at all. There has been a strange mix of opinions amongst the evangelical community. Is this good? Well sure. It causes the church to wrestle with itself and its convictions. However, my ultimate concern for evangelical Christians has nothing to do with whether pastors are endorsing Trump or opposing him. My concern lies with the abrasive nature of their leanings. We bank on or against Donald Trump, or Hillary Clinton, or Bernie Sanders, or whoever. We care so deeply about who our president will be. Americanism has a nasty way of pulling us back into its false religion of exceptionalism, a concept that is unfortunately praised by many Christians. Let’s face it; many Christians do a much better job of worshipping America rather than Jesus.

 

What I have discussed thus far is just a symptom of the bigger issue. The big issue is this: Christian hope has been staunchly misdirected. We all hope America will get better, and we hope for a good president. But this is just a cheap replacement for real hope. Christians can be unnecessarily pessimistic people. We often buy into doomsday theories and fear that anything going wrong in our country is a sign that we are “turning away from God” and hope we are nearing the end of days so Christ will return. I am convinced that for evangelicals, this negative sense of hope has bred in us a longing not for God and His control over His creation, but for America and its leadership. So many Christians are too fatalistic in thinking that things have to get much worse before they can get better that hope in God and His providence has become meaningless. We desire hope in things that we can see with the naked eye and things that we can control, and refuse to let God maintain control.

 

I am not at all indicating that taking pride in America and loving our country is a bad thing. But this is important: American exceptionalism and Biblical Christianity are antithetical to one another. Our hope lies in Jesus Christ and his ability not to save the world later, but to continue saving the world at present. Christ’s physical resurrection rendered the old order useless and gave us hope for our present age as well as our future.

 

Ryan Ellington Edit: Besides, this world is not our home.

The Sin of Excessiveness

pizza and beer

One of the greatest evils in our world is abusing the creation God has given us. To commit “evil” can be seen as abusing something that was intended to be good.   For instance, sex, something that has always been God’s good intention, is certainly abused more frequently and maliciously in our contemporary culture. Alcohol is a wonderful substance that has even been included in the holy Christian communion, but there are certainly ways to abuse that. I bring these two examples up first to describe what I believe most Christians view as “the great evils.” People who have sex in the wrong contexts are creating a much more cultural evil than others. “Drinking and partying”, as it is often referred to by youth in the Bible belt, is one of the worst high school crimes a person can commit from the vantage point of a youth group student.

 

“Alcohol and sex, the two greatest evils.” This can be and often is phrased as a joke to describe a certain sect of Christianity that most modern evangelicals do not wish to associate with. But if we can joke about it and act as though it is just a fundamentalist ghost of our evangelical past, why do we still handle it with a nasty attitude? Many Christians, although they recognize that it is not actually sinful to drink alcohol or participate in sex in the proper contexts, still get very negative intuitions when the words are spoken. I have had many, many Christians tell me that it is wrong for a Christian to drink alcohol simply because it will “ruin your witness” or something like that. The problem is it is only Christians who actually seem to be concerned about this, not anyone else. I care nothing about being a witness to other Christians, and if a non-Christian were ever to tell me that drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco was offending to them, I would immediately drop the activity so as to not ruin my witness. I have yet to hear a non-Christian say this. And I am not harshly condemning those Christians who make this claim, because I have been there myself. But the root has nothing to do with alcohol, cigarettes, or sex, but this infectious idea that certain activities are permissible for the Christian to do and certain ones are not. The whole “smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol will ruin your witness” is a modern fad that is influenced by theological dualism, not biblical Christianity.

 

Let me be clear, I am not in any way, shape, or form saying Christians should start lighting up and drinking. Not in the least bit. But the real sin does not lie in participating in a certain activity because it is inherently evil. We cause non-believers to wonder why Christians are opposed to “certain things” when we purport this condemnation. It is unbiblical. I am just as guilty as the next person when it comes to being judgmental of some of the things certain people do, such as partying or whatever. I am also just as guilty as committing the same sin. I am thankful that I have never had a personal problem with alcohol or the abuse of some substance, but I am committing the same sin nonetheless.

 

I have a problem with moderation. As someone who is emphatically impulsive and ADHD, I have a huge self-denial issue. For instance, I eat way too much. Yeah, gluttony is a real sin for me. I often will find pleasure in large amounts of pizza, donuts, oreos, fried chicken, etc. I also have an exercise problem (too much). Again, when I say I have a moderation problem, that includes everything. I tend to exercise way more than I should in a single period of time, sometimes for the purpose of relieving stress or finding comfort from my hectic schedule, or maybe because I ate one too many oreos. Is this bad? Not necessarily. Is it bad to find comfort and release in normal, healthy, day-to-day activities? No. My problem has little to do with what I am doing and much to do with how much I am doing it, and for what purpose. If I am feeling stressed out and anxious, I will either consume a large pizza to “stress eat” or go run 9 miles when my body really does not need it at the moment. Either way, I am looking for fulfillment in something that ultimately cannot supply it. I idolize it, and if I’m being honest, I idolize a lot of things. I am no different than the alcoholic or the cigarette addict who are looking for fulfillment from material products. Consumerism is a very American thing and can be hard to resist. But I find in the times where I need comfort and I look to the cross for fulfillment, I find a much greater satisfaction than when I seek it in food, exercise, watching TV, or something else. The real sin is not “doing something bad”, but “worshipping the creation rather than the Creator.” Idolatry is the real evil in all this. God has created us as creatures who are to enjoy the beautiful creation He has given us, but to find ultimate satisfaction and fulfillment in Him. A tendency toward excessiveness, which ultimately leads to idolatry, will crush this picture every time.

 

“Late modern society is principally concerned with purchasing things, in ever greater abundance and variety, and so has to strive to fabricate an ever greater number of desires to gratify, and to abolish as many limits and prohibitions upon desire as it can. Such a society is already implicitly atheist and so must slowly but relentlessly apply itself to the dissolution of transcendent values. It cannot allow ultimate goods to distract us from proximate goods. Our sacred writ is advertising, our piety is shopping, our highest devotion is private choice. God and the soul too often hinder the purely acquisitive longings upon which the market depends, and confront us with values that stand in stark rivalry to the only truly substantial value at the center of the social universe: the price tag.”

-David Bentley Hart

 

Why Our Opinions About Gay Marriage Don’t Matter That Much

Same-sex marriage has been the topic of discussion and debate this weekend. The SCOTUS ruling this weekend has left many with hope, but many questioning the moral landscape of our nation. I have had trouble figuring out how to address this issue to both others as well as myself. Personally, I find it hard to put my view on the matter into words, so I refer to my very good friend, Gunner Briscoe, who addressed the issue very properly on Facebook today:

“My reaction to today’s Supreme Court decision and, more specifically, the reactions to it:

The Church has long permitted divorce and turned a blind eye to it despite biblical prohibitions to it. It is nothing more than blatant hypocrisy to tolerate divorce yet decry same-sex unions as an affront to the sanctity of marriage. Treat the two equally or say nothing.

Let us rebuild the sanctity of marriage within the Church, and then try to influence the world on what marriage is and is not, as it stands evangelical divorce rate is as high, if not higher, than the surrounding divorce rate of the world.

Yes, in accordance with scripture and orthodox teachings of the Church, it is my position that a same-sex union is not a marriage. But I am a child of divorced parents. My younger brother was born out of wed-lock. So long as we tolerate these, we cannot stand against same-sex unions. Reform the Church, then influence the world.”

Amen. I truly could not have said it better myself. For those Christians who think that this law is going to contribute to the moral downgrade of our society, why are you not concerned about the US government allowing divorce and other sins that the bible strictly prohibits? My personal fear is not whether homosexuals do or do not get marital rights. My fear is that a great many Christians who oppose same-sex marriage are putting American exceptionalism and patriotism above the love and respect that Christ has commanded us to have for one another. With that view in mind, I really don’t care about the Supreme Court decision. It honestly is really of no concern to me.  I care only about what God has to say.  Many people pull the “love the sinner, hate the sin” card and then jump on these rants about how the American government is falling apart because gay people can now get married. That is not to say that people who are defending traditional marriage in America right now hate homosexuals. What it means is that we have to be careful, because I do believe that there is a degree of hypocrisy involved with the person who rallies against gay rights and turns a blind eye to issues of divorce, abortion, etc. (and yes, for some reason people are taking this more seriously than abortion right now) and people notice that.

With that being said, all of my moral authority stands on the Word of God. I believe that Scripture has made it very clear that homosexual behavior is sinful. That does not mean that homosexual orientation is, but the behavior is. I need to preface my next statement by saying that the authority of Scripture is not bound by only the things that Jesus has said. However, it is important to make the point that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, and the bible does not say anything at all about gay marriage. Jesus talked about many things, but above all he emphasized the command to love our Creator and His image bearers. If our rants against sin overtrump that, we are doing a disservice to God. This is something that I, along with every other Christian struggles to do daily. In the end, all of us (straight, gay, whatever) are not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners. Keep the authority of Scripture the center of your life, and let the love of Christ bleed into the lives of everyone around you.

10 Biblical Passages That Radically Shape My Worldview

The Bible can be a tricky book. Much of what I study is how to properly interpret it. However, to make things simple, I’m just going to post ten different passages that have had a significant impact on my life:

  1. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.                                                     Romans 12:2

This verse is fairly well known among many Christians, but there’s just something deep about it that really sticks out to me. For one, to be conformed to Christ, by definition, is a moment of radical change that cannot be achieved by means of anything else. Also, it shows the powerful, life-transforming power of Christ to change someone, regardless of who they are or what they have done.

  1. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a]whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1: 2-4

One thing that my dad always told me growing up was to try and figure out what God is teaching you during any given hardship. While this is difficult to do, this verse is speaking to that kind of situation. When I have this kind of perspective, it not only makes hard times bearable, but it also gives me a tremendous amount of comfort, knowing that God will make all things work together for good. It is a method of spiritual growth that cannot be achieved any other way.

  1. The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Psalm 19:1

People have different ways of connecting to God spiritually. My particular way is through being out in His creation. This helps me to connect to God in a way that no other method does. This verse just helps shed light on God’s beautiful handiwork.

  1. Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;

James 1:19

Try this. You would be amazed the amount of wisdom, insight, and joy you can get from listening to others (particularly those who have more life experience than you).

  1. But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Matthew 5:39

To turn the other cheek when you are slapped in this culture is a sign of shaming the other person. Do so in love, not in hate or an act of revenge. A non-violent behavior can go a long way with people who cause conflict in your life.

  1. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Colossians 3:2

This verse is simply speaking about focus. The human struggle revolves around a constant anxiety, and sometimes even depression that can hinder people from living the abundant life that God has meant for them to have. The main cause of this is focus. Have your focus on things that are good, things that are of God, and not things that are meant to cause you harm.

  1. One who is full loathes honey,
    but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.

Proverbs 27:7

Sometimes it’s good to throw in a metaphor. I like this verse because it puts the satisfaction of God in simple human terms. This sort of connects to John Piper’s idea of Christian hedonism. “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

  1. he predestined usforadoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

Ephesians 1:5

Adoption is a beautiful thing, one that I have had the privilege to witness first hand in my own family.

To know that Christ had the intention to adopt us, children who were lost, is a powerful message that fully grasps the sovereignty of God.

  1. “If your brother or sister[b]sins,[c]go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.

Matthew 18:15

Need help solving problems in your personal relationships? There you go. That’s as simple as it gets.

  1. He will destroy death forever.
    The Lord God will wipe away the tears
    from every face
    and remove His people’s disgrace
    from the whole earth,
    for the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 25:8

This is my favorite verse in the Bible. The knowledge that Christ will defeat death in the end is what gives the most powerful feeling in the Christian walk: Hope.

My Dearest Marcela, Welcome Home

Marcela Baby

As many of you know, my family chose to adopt a couple years ago. There are many people who feel as if they are called to adopt, and this is seen as a beautiful thing by our society. Adoption IS a beautiful thing. It pulls children from a hopeless world into a hopeful reality. It helps better the human condition. As an anthropology student, one thing that I strive to do is help better the human condition. As a Christian, I am able to take this to a whole new level.

My sister’s name is Marcela.

As a Christian, I feel that I am called to not only help people better improve their lives for the sake of rights, pleasures, etc. My ultimate purpose would be lost if I were not furthering the Kingdom of God. This is my passion. It is my calling. If I were to be sitting around doing some sort of anthropological research without having the Kingdom of God as my basis for gaining understanding and applying it to the human condition, then I would feel that my calling is dubious. As a Christian, THIS is my calling. As a member of the Crawford family, our calling is to adopt. But not just adopt in order to give a little girl an earthly family, but a heavenly relationship with God as well.

My sister’s name is Marcela. She grew up in a nominally Catholic family, with little to no understanding of the Gospel message. Her future did not look so bright.

Adoption is what gives the Christian life meaning. It is what fuels Christian’s lives in order to persevere on and keep going. For Ephesians 1:5 claims that God predestined us to be ADOPTED into His kingdom. If it weren’t for the act of adoption, nobody would see the entirety of God’s glory. Adoption is an essential part of the Christian walk.

My sister’s name is Marcela. She is happy, talkative, and full of energy.

From the dawn of creation, man has cursed itself with the inevitable conclusion of destruction. For God created us in His image, and that image has never been so twisted and torn. The thousands of years of humans fighting, torturing, starving, crying, trying to fight on for one last breath as the universe that they were created in is now trying to kill them, seem like an endless chasm of pain and suffering with nothing in sight.

My sister’s name is Marcela. I now know that she has hope.

For within this gawd-awful, bastardized creation the Creator Himself, God Almighty, allowed Himself to be born into this world and live a life as one of us. He was beaten, tortured, ripped apart by the very people that He created in His very image just to help man see the light of day. He was hung on a tree as He took upon the weight of every single sin and dastardly deed that man had ever and will ever commit, JUST to give man hope that he would be adopted; just so I could receive a text from my dad on November 15, 2014 that Marcela had accepted Christ’s gift of eternal salvation. Now, Marcela is truly adopted. This is grace, and this is peace. More importantly, this is love. To be loved by God despite Him knowing every single flaw and detail about you is a gift that allows us to keep going, and fight through the trials and the hardships of this world.

My sister’s name is Marcela. Welcome home.  🙂

Christianity and Suicide

suicide picture

Amidst the deeply theological/philosophical stuff I usually post on here, I like to occasionally speak to the Christian community as a whole, and how we should handle sensitive issues like this. This post in particular will be about suicide, one of the leading causes of death in the United States, especially among teens. This is a sensitive issue, in fact one of the most sensitive issues. Suicide in one way or another affects many people, whether it is struggling with suicidal thoughts themselves, a loved one, or even a good friend committing suicide.

Suicide has affected me personally, and this is spread out among four very specific instances that have taken place in my life. When I was in seventh grade, there was a student in my history class named Joe. Joe was a nice guy, even though I never really knew him that well. But one morning, I came to school to find out that Joe had taken his own life. This was the first time I had ever encountered anything like this. Even though I did not know Joe very well, it deeply affected me. I could not imagine how much of a low point a 14 year old kid had to hit to do something like that. It was a tragic event, and it affected many people in Joe’s family and many people at his school.

On my 15th birthday, I got news that a local pastor’s son, Aaron, had taken his own life. I never actually met Aaron, but I knew many people who knew him very well. This affected me primarily because my dad was a pastor, and Aaron was very close to my age.

The third event, and definitely the most personal, happened on December 26, 2011. It was the day after Christmas, and I was sitting in my room enjoying the video game I had received as a gift the day before. My dad walks in, sits down, and tells me to turn the game off. He proceeded to explain to me that my good friend, Zane, had passed away. When my dad got back from meeting with Zane’s family, he told me that Zane had taken his own life. I immediately broke down crying. I couldn’t help it. Zane, one of the happiest, most joyful, most adventurous people I had every known, was gone. Zane was so caring. He loved everybody in his life, and he even donated his time to helping people with physical disabilities. He was one of the strongest believers in Christ I had ever met. I was in a daze all week leading up to his funeral. At his funeral, I saw more pain in the souls of the people surrounding me than I had ever seen before. It was at this moment that I realized that suicide is the most one of the most detrimental things human beings can experience, not just for the person who it is directly affecting, but for the people around that person as well.

The final event happened just this last July, when I received news that pastor Ergun Caner’s son, Braxton, had taken his own life. This one sort of began to anger me based off of the Christian community’s response to it. A pastor up in Montana, JD Hall, was getting all kinds of flack for engaging in conversation with Braxton on Twitter just weeks before. Let me say this real quick, JD Hall and I have gone at it before on his own blog, and we have had our disagreements, but he is NOT responsible for the death of Braxton Caner. Hall even came out two weeks later and repented for his sin, which is all we can ask of him. To have this kind of attitude toward people like Hall is not only a false accusation, but it is making an assumption that one fully knows what Braxton was going through, and NOBODY knows that.

Now, these four events did have a significant impact on my life, but I need to say some things about suicide from a Christian perspective:

Suicide is the single worst decision one can make.

 

Please don’t misread what I am saying. Suicide may be the worst decision one can make, but you have got to at least partly understand what suicidal people go through. They hit the absolute lowest point they could ever hit in this life, and they feel as if they have no other way out. We often try to figure out why someone would do such a thing, which to a degree is healthy. It helps us to better understand the situation that is at hand.

Our culture influences suicide.

 

Christians, we have got to be aware of the fact that we live in a day and age that borderline encourages suicide. You don’t believe me? How many times have you heard somebody say, even if it was a joke, “go kill yourself”? Christians all over the world talk about how selfish suicide is, which is insulting and degrading to someone who struggles with suicidal thoughts and actions, and it does absolutely no good. Euthanasia is becoming increasingly popular. Involuntary suicides are beginning to take place in certain countries around the world, and voluntary assisted suicides are being encouraged, not just for people who are severely disabled, but for people struggling with anxiety and depression as well. It is a poison that is affecting the very world that we live in, and it is madness. We have got to become conscious of this fact, and spread Christ’s love and offer help to people to prevent it from taking place.

And my last point…

 

Handling suicide from a Christ-like perspective.

 

Let me make this very clear. Suicide does not prohibit one from entering the Kingdom of Heaven. Many Christians try and make this claim, and it is not only perverting but bastardizing the Word of God. It is literally adding a false doctrine into the Bible. Suicide is a sin, but God doesn’t get mad and throw you in hell because of it. It breaks God’s heart, and He mourns for you. My good friend Zane made a terrible mistake, but I follow closely to the words of his uncle, who spoke at his funeral. “I cannot allow a single act of sin to outshine an entire life devoted to God.” I cannot help but find so much truth in that. Just because we may have been saved by God’s grace, doesn’t mean that we will not struggle in this life. We must allow our lives to flourish in God’s creation, and to spread His good message to the entire world. We should help Christians and non-Christians alike if they are struggling with suicide thoughts, and we should be there to support one another through the hard times. God did not create us to be lonely creatures, but to be interactive and to support one another. This is discipleship, and it is Christ-like.

“O Lord, we call upon You in our time of sorrow,

That You give us the strength and will to bear our heavy

burdens, until we can again feel the warmth and love of

Your divine compassion. Be mindful of us and have mercy

on us while we struggle to comprehend life’s hardships.

Keep us ever in Your watch, til we can walk again with

light hearts and renewed spirits.”

Amen

The Dangers of Joel Osteen’s Message

osteen

 

When we hear the term “prosperity gospel” what do we typically think of? Almost everybody would say Joel and Victoria Osteen. This attractive and wealthy couple has gained an incredible amount of popularity among many contemporary evangelicals. And it’s no surprise. You see, as a Christian, I am willing to admit that the life of one who follows Christ is not an easy, or comfortable one. It can often be one of suffering. But it is also one full of joy and satisfaction. So here’s the problem with this prosperity gospel that the Osteens and many others buy into:

 

IT IS COMPLETELY ANTITHETICAL TO THE GOSPEL MESSAGE THAT IS PRESENTED IN THE BIBLE.

 

I would argue that Joel Osteen, pastor of the largest protestant church in North America, Lakewood Church, has presented a perverted version of God’s Word. To put it simply, it’s not God’s Word at all. It’s a false message. So, why does he gain so much popularity? It’s simple. Let’s take a look at this man, Joel Osteen.

 

Osteen was born in Houston, Texas. His father, John Osteen, was a Southern Baptist minister who eventually founded Lakewood Church. Upon John’s death in 1999, Joel took over as Senior pastor of Lakewood. Since then, Lakewood Church’s attendance has grown from 5,000 to 43,000. Incredible. So what is he doing that all other churches aren’t doing? Now, I am going to commend Osteen on one thing. He is not obsessed with hell. For some reason, many modern day evangelists scare people into accepting Christ so that they do not burn for eternity. This is weird because Jesus never taught this way. But that’s beside the overall point. Osteen cares nothing about repentance or sanctification. Like, not at all. What Osteen cares about is making people happy. In an interesting video I saw the other day, his wife, Victoria, was preaching and she said to not worship God for the sake of God, but for us. Her reasoning is that God is happiest when we are happy. I don’t know where she gets this from, but it sure isn’t God’s Word. The logic of the prosperity gospel goes something like this:

 

If you worship God, not really caring about Him but caring about yourself, then God will give you a happy life (your best life now) and you can essentially take pride in the fact that God loves you enough to give you stuff.

 

The Osteens are obsessed with God, but they care nothing about sanctification through Christ. They care about material possessions. They care about getting whatever they can out of God. You can just hear it in Joel’s voice as he preaches. At best, the man is a motivational speaker speaking on a basis of false motivation. Why does Joel Osteen look like he’s got it all together? Because he has turned his church into a multi-million dollar industry by telling people what they want to hear, and not the uncomfortable truth of Christianity.

 

So, can we get anything out of what Osteen teaches? Sure. He is right in that God does want us to be happy and full of joy. He is wrong in the way that he presents it. This is the most important part about what’s wrong with the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel is presented in a way that God can be glorified by means of satisfying our sinful desires. That’s the kicker with Osteen’s message. He loves people and he cares about them, but he does not understand the basic message of Jesus Christ. We live in a messed up world that doesn’t need to be destroyed, but restored. God created this world for us to thrive in and worship him in. We are supposed to get pleasure and joy out of worshipping God, but because of our fallen nature, we automatically turn to the one thing that Christ warns us against: Getting satisfaction from the world without having the peace of Christ in your life. That’s when true pain and suffering comes. Ever hear that C.S. Lewis quote, “Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither”? The prosperity gospel aims directly at earth. We are called to be a people of repentance, a people who sit in and can be satisfied in God’s loving embrace. We are NOT a people who are designed to get satisfaction out of riches and then claim we got them because God loves us. Yes, all good things do come from God, but if our focus is on getting riches and a happy life from God, then we will never gain the full and joyful life that God ultimately has for us. If you want to hear the real gospel, not one of material possessions but one that is centered around Christ, look at the famous words of Keith Green:

 

“The Gospel is simply this: Jesus will forgive all your sins if come to him humbly, lay down at his feet and say, ‘You are the LORD! And I will follow you for the rest of my life on earth, so that I can spend eternity with you, and have the glory of your Father!’”

Racism: The Day the Crawfords Turned Brown

Often times people consider racism to be something of the past. But, what we have really seen is just a sort of transition into the way in which we handle racism. As a kid, I was under the impression that racism was dead, that it was something that was pretty much forgotten about. As I got older, I began to understand that I had a very false perspective on this issue.

 

Growing up, I often learned about the slavery in America that took place in the 19th century. What I was taught was that people (and in this case, it was whites and blacks) were not to “own” other people or to treat people differently based upon their skin color. As I got into Junior High, I learned even more about the issues of civil rights, segregation, and other issues related to racism that took place in the 20th century. It’s a simple lesson to learn as a kid, but it is drastically oversimplified. Coming into late Junior High and early high school, I noticed that kids would make racist “jokes.” It’s all fun and games until you insult the wrong person. I am guilty of this as are most people. Racism is not dead. It is still alive. It has simply taken a new form.

 

I didn’t realize this until I looked back on certain parts of my life and I realized that I myself had some racist tendencies. It seems to me to be an inevitable difficulty of the human race to be afraid of people who are different than us. For some reason, the simple issue of skin color is what has manifested itself into our culture. I remember going through Junior High and High School, growing up in the city of Fort Smith, Arkansas, where my school was very racially diverse. I remember thinking some not so very nice things about people who had different skin color than me. I remember subconsciously associating them with various different kinds of stereotypes. I remember watching movies that would associate Arab people with American terrorism, and I just simply thought that was normal. But, and here me out on this, I would have never admitted to being a racist of any kind. I would never THINK of myself as that kind of person. Intellectually and spiritually, I knew it was disgusting and wrong. I had friends growing up who were black, Hispanic, etc. but for some reason, I would always subconsciously think that they were different in some way. The culture that I was raised in, as we all are raised in, is obsessed with the issue of race, and it has been implemented into our everyday lives. And, after getting to think about it more, I realized that our culture is still very racist.

 

People in the 19th century would often misconstrue certain verses in the Bible, making it look like slavery, even slavery based on skin color, was something that God honored. I am here to say that racism is fundamentally unbiblical in every single way. To think that one person is of lesser value than you is a very perverse way of thinking, and it is not the way that God intended for us to view each other.   The issue of race isn’t even a biological problem; it’s a cultural one. If you were to go to an biologist and talk about race, they would have no idea what you were talking about. Our culture has screwed up the way that people view skin color. We could have just as easily made people with brown eyes superior to people with blue eyes, it wouldn’t have made any difference at all. We can make any sort of laws and regulations that we want to restrict racism, but if the underlying issue of thinking one individual is of lesser value than another persists, the problem will not go away.

 

The issue of race as it relates to skin color became very prevalent in my family just two years ago in February of 2012. My parents sat me and my siblings down and told us they were seriously considering international adoption. They were looking into adopting from Colombia, which would mean that my new little sister was most likely going to have a different skin color than the rest of us. I was so excited, but I still did have those tendencies to think that people who were of a different skin color were different than me. I remember people saying some very rude things to me and my family, wondering why we would ever want to adopt from a place like Colombia. Once we got Marcela into our family, the issue didn’t go away. People would often give us weird looks and wonder why we had a little brown girl with us. Why is this? Because racism is not dead. It’s not the individual person’s fault, it’s the fault of our culture as a whole being obsessed with this issue. It wasn’t until Marcela came into our family that I really started to gain a new perspective on race. I began to view it in a new light because I now had a family member who was not even biologically related to me. In a way, this adoption sort of reshaped my worldview. I began to disassociate stereotypes with certain people groups. I began to stop viewing people as different than me. I began to see people as just simply people, and not anything else. Skin color is no different than eye color or hair color. It is no different than short people or tall people. We are all PEOPLE. We are all created in the Image of God and we all have our flaws. But it is also important to understand that we are all DIFFERENT as well. We all struggle with different sins and convictions. We all have our own personalities. But, and this is the most important part of this post, we have to appreciate the differences in people if we are to appreciate the fact that we are all one big human family. Yes, my family adopted a little brown girl, and I LOVE that little girl. Since she arrived in America, I have gained a whole new appreciation for people who are simply just different than me.

 

So, how do we get racism out of our culture? We shutup about it. We stop focusing on it and we celebrate in our human differences as opposed to focusing on “what is wrong” with their differences. We are all formed in God’s Image, and to insult someone’s skin color is to insult God Himself.

 

Me and Marcela

Sexual Ethics and Homosexuality

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“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

 

-Rick Warren

 

 

I am writing about this issue for a couple of reasons.

 

  1. I have been asked to by many people.
  2. I have been avoiding it too long and it is arguably the biggest issue our culture is facing today.

 

To start off I posted a quote from Rick Warren. Many people have criticized Warren for being hateful and a bigot because of what he said. Looking at this quote from any sort of viewpoint, I cannot see what they are talking about. He stated his opinion, and he stated it good. Now, in terms of the issue of homosexuality, I have recently, in the past few years seen a few very, very big issues on the news and in the theological world surrounding the issue of same-sex relationships.

 

  1. The Chik-Fil-A issue – S. Truett Cathy states his view on same-sex marriage… JUST HIS VIEW! What happens? Protests, protests, and protests. In this area, many people who supported same-sex relationships showed just what they were claiming to fight against: hateful bigotry.
  2. Phil Robertson stating his view on homosexual relationships. Now, while it was his own view, A&E did have the right to suspend him for whatever reasons. I don’t have much to say about this issue because it was blown way out of proportion on both sides.
  3. Then we have good ole John MacArthur. MacArthur recently released a video describing what he thought about how we should handle professing Christians who are gay, claiming we should completely alienate them. He gave a very hateful response to the gay community that should not be advocated by any kind of Christian group.
  4. Then we have a new book that’s been put out on the radar. God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines has grasped the attention of many in the evangelical community. He offers a new outlook on how Christians should view same-sex relationships.

 

While these issues may be big, all they really show is issues on both sides of; (a) People who support homosexual behavior and, if you oppose it, you are being hateful, and (b) Conservative Christians who take issues with sexuality way too far and end up becoming hateful themselves.

 

So, where does the heart of the matter really lie? Is homosexuality wrong? To ask such a question, as the great theologian N.T. Wright says, is to admit defeat right off the bat. If what is “right” or what is “wrong” is defined by social or cultural standards, then we have no choice but to subject ourselves to an arbitrary way of thinking when it comes the issue of sexual ethics. For instance, Paul wrote Romans 1 in an effort to describe to the people of that time what was honoring to the Lord and what was degrading. It is so incredibly easy for us to jump on the bandwagon of “this was just a cultural issue.” Once we do that, the game is lost. Every single ethic, and in this case, every sexual ethic, goes directly against what is considered “love” in our way of thinking. This is a mistake that our society has made, and it is the very lie that Pastor Warren was describing in that quote.

 

Now, it is very important to discuss WHY many Christians claim that homosexuality is not sinful. The argument often goes like this: “Every moral or ethical issue in the Bible has one central problem behind it: It causes harm to people. As long as an action is out of love, such as homosexuality, then there is no harm.” Wait, so as long as it doesn’t cause harm, we are to disregard it completely, right? After all, who am I, a sophomore in college, to tell someone that they can’t love who they want because I think the Bible says so? Yes, homosexuality is counter-intuitive to our culture. I completely get that, but let’s not be so quick to jump to a conclusion because of our current cultural state. I think everyone would agree that there is something that they think is pretty screwed up about our culture. The purpose of Paul’s teachings were to establish just exactly what the creative order should look like. Not only that, but they are about how to become a renewed human in the sight of God, to restore his very image within us. There is a right way and a wrong way to go about this. Homosexuality is just the wrong way. Yes, I get that it’s counter-intuitive to the culture, but that’s because the entire system of sexual ethics in the Bible are counter-intuitive. It’s not supposed to be abnormal to our culture simply because, well, our culture has accepted a huge moral lie. Everybody struggles with SOME kind of sexual sin that they can’t seem to shake off (Pornography, polygymy, pre-marital sex, lust in general, HOMOSEXUALITY, etc.) Everybody craves sexual intimacy, and everyone struggles with it for different reasons in the wrong way. This does not in any way excuse the behavior. Just because “that’s the way you are” doesn’t mean the behavior is beneficial in any way. THIS is the point that Paul was trying to get across. Not that “homosexuality is wrong because your culture says so”, but “this is literally God’s creative order.” We must be very careful about our biblical compromises, because, what may look beautiful on the outside may just be a lion ready to attack.

 

“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

-C.S. Lewis

 

Saving OBU: More On Jacob Lupfer and Academic Freedom

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Jacob Lupfer and his ideas about OBU. I have to admit, when I first heard of the guy and his blog, I couldn’t take him seriously at first. After reading many of his posts and his ideas about academic freedom in liberal arts Christian colleges, I gained a lot more respect for him, and I have decided that there are many things that I do and do not like about his posts. Overall, I really do think Lupfer has many great ideas. First of all, I would like to say that despite the fact that I may disagree with him on many of his religious views, I do feel as if this doesn’t really have much to do with finding common ground on the way liberal arts education is supposed to be run.

 

How should OBU’s education system be run? I’ll focus primarily on the religion staff at OBU, primarily with the philosophy department (since I think that it has a lot to do with academic freedom). First off, we seem to have professors that withhold many different views regarding issues such as Calvinism/Arminianism, the age of the earth, the human soul, Biblical ethics, etc. This is a GOOD thing! The wide stretch of views in this department allows for academic freedom for all ministry students, which is of upmost importance when it comes to training students in reaching people for Christ. Lupfer doesn’t seem to like it when more conservative professors are hired. I disagree with him on this. However, I completely see where his concern lies and I can concur with it. If OBU gets on a track to get rid of the more “not so traditional” professors, academic freedom is out the window, fast.

 

Now, Lupfer seems to also show dislike to the changing philosophy program, claiming that it is starting to turn into strictly apologetics. I’m not sure if I agree with this claim, but, once again, I definitely agree with his concern. Here’s why:

 

Something that I have really learned in my short time at OBU is that Christian apologetics programs do not work in the most efficient way that they could. I came into OBU as a philosophy major (now a minor) with a plan to put my emphasis on apologetics. I slowly lost interest. Not because of the way apologetics was being taught, but because that’s just one piece of the puzzle. You can teach an apologetics course, but it will be biased (which is fine). I have changed a lot in many of my views regarding biblical interpretation and how to properly defend my faith, and I have to say that none of them had to do with philosophy classes that I’ve been taking. Last year, my senior year of high school, I took an apologetics class. It was unavoidably one-sided. My views did not change one bit. I learned more about what I believe (which is good) but nothing really challenged me. Being at OBU, among a wide variety of views in both professors and students, is what has really challenged me. If you want to effectively teach students to build their own ideas, get them out of their comfort zone by providing them with different mentors, professors, and other people to help challenge their beliefs into the ground. Give them every reason not to believe, yet still believe yourself. Provide them with Calvinists, Arminians, Young Earth Creationists, Theistic Evolutionists, liberals, conservatives, etc. Is this hard to do? Yes. Can it be done? I think it can.

 

Now, I would also like to briefly hit on the point of what should be taught outside of the religion department. I feel like the humanities department is currently doing a pretty good job when it comes to teaching moral and cultural issues. Of the ones I’ve taken/know, I really don’t know anything about their personal views. However, I can say that they do a good job teaching what they do. You don’t have to agree with everything you learn about in anthropology or sociology, but you do need to be exposed to it and know that it is out there. This goes right back to spreading the gospel in an effective manner. If you cannot embrace different cultures and customs for what they are, you are going to drastically fail at fulfilling the Great Commission. I’m not making any claims about anybody in particular, but I do know individuals who are very stingy when it comes to learning about certain fields in the humanities and sciences. To have that attitude is just wrong.

 

What about the hard sciences? I have never seen a scientific model for intelligent design or creationism, ever. Should we be teaching creationism to students, even at a Baptist school?? Not in the science class. I’m not sure why this is an issue, because we’ve been through it many times in history. THE BIBLE IS NOT A SCIENCE BOOK. It is a book about theology and eternal salvation. It saddens me that there are professors who seem to be afraid to teach this truth. If we cannot have an education system to teach students the TRUTH about the natural world through the lens of Christianity, we have a serious problem.

 

I need to stress the point that I am not making any claims about what the OBU board of trustees are trying to do. I simply don’t know. All I’m doing is stating how I think OBU’s education system, especially in the Hobbes College, should be run. Just because we are a Southern Baptist University does not mean that we should ONLY teach what the Southern Baptist doctrine holds to.

 

I highly recommend that you check out Jacob Lupfer’s blog for some more great reading on academic freedom, especially as it relates to OBU.

http://saveobu.blogspot.com