Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Same-Sex Marriage in Kentucky

SCOTUS has rejected without comment (unfortunately) an appeal by a Kentucky county clerk to impose a stay on a lower court order that she must issue same-sex marriage licenses against her religious convictions.

I say SCOTUS’ refusal to comment is unfortunate because it is a coward’s way out. They have smiled on the imposition of a religious test for public office with nary a word.

“A religious test,” you say? Yes, a religious test. As it now stands by judicial fiat, persons of religious conviction may not hold a county clerk’s position in the state of Kentucky. They are now required to abandon their religion at the door of the office, which means effectively, that they can have no religious convictions (since a conviction, by definition, cannot be left temporarily; it can only be compromised). If you can abandon your religious conviction when you go to work, you don’t have a religious conviction. You have a preference.

The solution to this situation is simple. SCOTUS should have reversed its earlier embarrassment and rejected same-sex marriage. This should have been done for the preservation of culture and families.

An even simpler solution would be for the couple to travel twenty-two miles—yes, only twenty-two miles—to the next county where they could easily get a marriage license without attempting to force a citizen to violate their religious convictions.

But they didn’t. They chose a road of national exposure, legal bills, and frustration.

One of the parties says, “I feel sad, I feel devastated. … I feel like I've been humiliated on such a national level, I can't even comprehend it."

Yet the humiliation is his alone. And it’s hard to imagine that someone living in Kentucky cannot comprehend that there are people with convictions about marriage and family.

To avoid humiliation, he could have driven a short distance and easily gotten the license months ago. He could have already “married” his partner and been done with it, and no one would have ever known.

How do I know this? Someone real quick tell me anyone who has gotten a marriage license in a neighboring county in the last two months.


You probably don’t know a single person. And you would have never known this person had he simply done that.

But instead, he chose to make himself a national spectacle. And now, he must accept the consequences of that.

But there’s a bigger problem. He is humiliated about the wrong thing. He should be humiliated for being in a same-sex relationship violating what he knows to be true. He should be humiliated for his ignorance that rejects the Creator’s plan for life. He should be humiliated for living life the way he is living. He should be humiliated for making it public.

Instead, he confirms the truth of Romans 1. Though he knows God, he rejects that knowledge. Therefore, he has been given over and is now demonstrating a hardness of heart that has led him to make a spectacle of himself in front of a whole nation.

Not only that, he takes pleasure in the things of which he should be ashamed. Knowing, and yet ignoring, that those who live this way (among other ways) are worthy of death, he not only does it, he gives hearty approval to those who do it along with him (Romans 1:32).

And he tries to force his religious convictions on others who disagree, all the while begging for tolerance for himself.

What should this Kentucky clerk do?

Some are calling on her to resign, saying she shouldn’t hold office unless she can do what the office requires. There are several problems with this.

First, it amounts (as I already pointed out) to a religious test for office. She is being told she cannot hold her religious convictions and also do her job. And yet there is no good reason for this. Marriage licenses are a small part of her job, and those could be easily issued in a neighboring country.

Second, it amounts to an override of the vote of the people. The people of this county elected her to this position. The radical homosexual lobby has no right to try to negate that vote. At the next election, they may throw all their resources at the ballot box and try to remove her by the legal means—namely, electing someone else. To force her out of office for being a Christian is a tragic denial of democracy.

Third, she could easily do the job she was elected to do. The job requirements changed by judicial fiat after she took the job. She should not be held liable for a job she did not sign up for.

Fourth, the problem is easily remedied by other counties who will do exactly what this couple wants. Which confirms the point that they don’t want a marriage license; they want an issue. The marriage license would have been easy to come by. If that was their desire, it would have been long ago done.

In this day and age, individual Christians must decide on their convictions (as opposed to their preferences). For better or worse, the pressure is now coming from outside our own hearts to decide what we believe.

What would I do if I were a county clerk in Kentucky? I have no idea. But I am firmly convinced that judges have no right to demand her to do this.

What should we as Christians do? We should love people. When we have encounters with those who differ with us on same-sex marriage, we must love them with gospel love, showing them the way of the Creator both for life and eternity.

We should look on them with pity, because there is a great Savior who looked on us with pity and loved us and saved us in spite of ourselves.

We should minister to them with hope, knowing that God is bigger than sin and eternity is longer than life.

Monday, July 06, 2015

They Actually Said It

Jeff VanVonderen in Families Where Grace In In Place says,

Paul was angry at the Galatians. His letter to them is a scathing confrontation of the fact that they had been "walking by the flesh" instead of the Spirit. But the "flesh" for the Galatians was not pornography, drunkenness, or thievery. The Galatians had begun to measure their acceptance spiritually by whether or not they performed certain religious behaviors. They let religious performance direct the way they acted, instead of allowing that Spirit to do so. Paul calls this "walking in the flesh."

I saw this statement quoted and looked it up to see if he actually said this. He actually did.

What’s interesting is what the Apostle Paul actually said to the Galatians:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,  20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,  21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

Comparing VanVonderen’s statement to Paul’s it raises a curious problem: How can VanVandoren say that the “the "flesh" for the Galatians was not pornography, drunkenness, or thievery” when Paul calls the flesh two of those three—sexual immorality and drunkenness? (Though Paul leaves out thievery, it’s doubtful he intended thievery to be understood as a work of the Spirit.)

Surely VanVonderen isn’t hanging his argument on “deeds of,” as in Paul said “deeds of the flesh” while he is just saying “flesh.”

And it raises a significant question: What possesses an author, a Christian author, to completely ignore what the Bible says in order to make his own point? Should we not have more reverence for the text than that?

This leads me to say two things.

First, the text is not our servant. It is our master. So we must say what the text says, even if it doesn’t say what we want to say. If we want to say something else, we need to find a text that says that (before we attach our own desires to it).

Second, there is a lot of much needed talk about grace today. For far too many people in Christian circles, grace gets way too little discussion, and even less use.

But in some circles, grace gets redefined in such a way—as with VanVonderen—to ignore what grace actually is. Such talk of grace completely misses the grace of the Bible and substitutes something else in its place. Then, anyone who actually names the sins in the Bible as being sins that should be avoided are accused of being legalists.

But much of the talk about grace seems like VanVonderen’s—it completely misses the Bible. The grace of the Bible does not refuse to actually read (and say) what the Bible says.

What God defines the flesh for us in Galatians 5:19-21, we do not have the liberty to define some other way, even in the pursuit of a good message, which isn’t even good if it doesn’t deal with Scripture rightly.

The grace of the Bible is the grace that teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live soberly and righteously and godly in this present age (Titus 2:11-15).

The curious thing is that I doubt VanVonderen would allow for pornography, drunkenness, or thievery as legitimate practices of a Christian life. So why say it like he did?

I have no idea. I wonder if perhaps there is a fear of appearing legalistic. Perhaps a superficial understanding of grace. Maybe an oversight or a failure to write precisely. Maybe just a bone-headed “oops.”

Yet we must take care to say everything that the Bible says about grace and flesh, about holiness and sinfulness, about life in the Spirit and true salvation.

Let us not soft-pedal the grace of the gospel by failing to say everything that the Bible says about it.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Around the Horn – 2/20/15

At first, here’s a long but interesting article on ISIS. It’s worth the read though it will take a bit. It gives insight in the mindset of ISIS, and should leave us feeling somewhat of the dilemma of the best way to deal with it.

At second, here’s an article about a photograph album containing previously unknown pictures from Auschwitz. Several people, having seen the picture, commented that “the strangest thing about the album for them is that a person can look again and again at the images and never find an answer to the question ‘How could you have done what you did?’” It is true that a picture is worth a thousand words but there are some words that pictures just cannot provide. I have always thought that something like World War II could never happen again, but having seen the recent events of ISIS, and reading the article above, it may well be that something like WWII might happen again.

At third, here’s a helpful article on public prayer. It’s something that those who pray publicly should give careful consideration to. Pastors often spend hours preparing their messages yet pray off the top of their head. Talking to God might be worth a little planning, particularly when others are going to be listening in and praying along.

And the homerun today is an amazing display that seems fairly useless. I am not sure what benefit this is, but I can't help but be impressed. And glad I don't have to learn how to do it.

And BTW, pitchers and catchers are reporting this week, which means only two things in the midwest: Spring is just months away and the Cubs are on the verge of elimination.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Around the Horn–1/16/15

At first, JD Greear brings it strong here on evangelism. It is one of the calls of pastoral ministry, and yet it seems like a lot of pastors ignore it in favor of other things. We need to consider the priority of evangelism in our lives as Christians, and especially as pastors.

At second, Christian hip-hop personality Lecrae confesses to an abortion. As we approach another anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the plight of the unborn should weigh heavily, as should the plight of the already born. But I wonder how much public confessions like these help. Perhaps for some it gives them the encouragement that they are not alone. But I also wonder if it gives some “street cred” in some sense. I am quite sure Lecrae is ashamed of it. But I admit to not knowing how to process testimonies like these. It seems like there is the attitude that if someone big or important or notable says something, it carries more weight than if someone else says it. Maybe it’s the clergification of the confession. 

At third, here’s an article asking “Does missions separate families?” He gives a longish answer. The short one is “Yes,” and the reason has to be “Because Jesus is worth it.”

Lastly, the book, The Boy Who Came Back from the Dead (about about a boy who died and went to heaven) is in the news for being fiction. The boy and his parents have now admitted it. Of course anyone with an ounce of discernment would have known it was false. But it speaks to the incredible naiveté of the Christian buying public (and it is a huge market). Be wary of things sold in the name of Jesus.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Around the Horn – New Year’s Edition – 1/2/15

At first, Paul Tripp talks about why New Year’s resolutions usually don’t work. Life change usually doesn’t come in one moment of crisis. It comes through the thousands of little things. So do a lot of little things. After a while, they add up.

At second, for those who love to see success stories and are motivated to dream and to act by them, here is a great one about a guy who climbed a really big mountain one day at a time. His issue might not be your issue, but the process of life change is largely the same for all. A lot of people want to be different, but few want to change. As a result, dreams die in the reality of daily life. If you want to be different, then change … and start with the little stuff.

At third, here’s an interesting article on why college students lose their faith. It has some helpful insights that should give us some insight in ministry. The preacher is, at least on one level, an interpreter of reality. It is our job to help people interpret the world around them through the authoritative lens of Scripture. Hiding from hard questions won’t suffice, and neither will pat answers.

For the homerun today, the two semi-final games for the college football playoff took place yesterday. I don’t know if anyone predicted that outcome, but my new year’s resolution is to bet on myself more often.