As we pointed out yesterday, critics of the Bible say that it describes many disgusting stories. Of course, that is true, but the critics fail to realize that the Bible accurately reports human history without condoning it.
The Bible does not even whitewash its heroes. David’s horrible sin with Bathsheba is reported, but it certainly is not endorsed. A man named Jephthah makes a vow that he will sacrifice to God whatever comes out of his house if God gives him a victory (Judges 11:30-40). God did not command that, and He has always discouraged careless vows on the part of His people. In this case, Jephthah’s daughter was the first thing that came out to him after the victory. This was not a case of God commanding human sacrifice as atheists have claimed. Exactly what was done with the girl can be argued, but the message is about vows, not a command of God to engage in human sacrifice. The incident is reported but certainly was not condoned or commanded by God.
Another example is Judges 20:5-7, where a woman is raped and killed. Then her body is cut into pieces, and the parts are sent throughout Israel to rally a response to the crime. Again, this awful story is a news report, not a religious act done at the command of God.
We all know that whatever is on the news is not something the channel or the news reporter necessarily endorses. In the same way, the Bible reports human history without condoning it.
Critics of the Bible say that it describes many disgusting stories. However, they are missing the point that God tolerates human actions He does not desire.
Polygamy is a good example. We all know that many biblical characters had more than one wife–especially in the Old Testament. In Genesis 2:24, God said the man was to have one wife, and that man and wife were to become one. Despite that, Lamech takes two wives in Genesis 4:19-22.
In Deuteronomy 17:17, God commands one wife, but Solomon takes hundreds of wives as God pleads with him not to do it (1 Kings 11:1-10). God is tolerant and does not force the issue, but the Bible shows the problems created by having multiple wives and refusing to do what God said.
In the New Testament, Jesus tells the Jews that God tolerated these things “because of the hardness of your hearts” (Matthew 19:3-9). However, when God gave instructions for the church leaders called bishops and deacons in 1 Timothy 3:2, 12, He specified that they were to have only one wife. What God wanted for marriage is described in Ephesians 5:22-33 and 1 Corinthians 7:2-5.
God never commanded polygamy. He warned against it and tried to teach humans what a wonderful thing marriage could be with one man and one woman for life. Tragically, that concept has been lost today, but God tolerates human actions He does not desire.
Human actions are often contrary to God’s will. We will continue along this line of thought tomorrow.
We received the following poem from friends who found it in an anonymous publication. It is titled “The Dash” and has a good message for us all:
“I read of a preacher who stood to speak at the funeral of his friend. He referred to the date on his tombstone from the beginning to the end. He noted that first came the date of his birth and spoke of the last date with tears But he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years. For that dash represents all the time that he spent alive on earth And now only those who loved him know what that little time is worth. For it matters not how much we own; the cars, the house, the cash. What matters is how we lived and loved and how we spent our dash. So think about this long and hard, are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left, you could be at ‘dash midrange.’ If we could just slow down enough to consider what’s true and real, And always try to understand the way other people feel, And be less quick to anger, show appreciation more, And love the people in our life as we’ve never loved before. If we treat each other with respect, more often wear a smile, Remembering that this special dash might only last a little while. So when your eulogy is being read with your life’s actions to rehash, Would you be pleased with the things they say about how you spent your dash?”
Domestic violence is a major problem in the United States today. The Cora Lamping Center reports that one in four women and one in nine men experience intimate partner violence. We suggest that Christianity is the one belief system that directly addresses this issue. Ephesians 5:22-33 spells out the Christian system of domestic relationships:
“You wives must learn to adapt yourselves to your husbands as you submit yourselves to the Lord … Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church and gave himself for it … So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. The love a man gives his wife is the extending of his love for himself to enfold her … But as for you individually, you must each of you love his own wife exactly as if she were yourself and the wife must see to it that she deeply respects her husband…” (Phillips translation)
Galatians 3:28 adds to this view by describing the equality of all humans in the Christian system. “All distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and freeman, male and female, have vanished for in union with Christ you are all one.”
Many religions teach that women are inferior to men and have a servant role. While Christianity assigns roles to men and to women, the equality and rights of men and women are clear. The most basic cause of domestic violence is an unwillingness to follow what God has told us about relationships with one another. The media and proponents of evolution suggest that our lives are driven by “survival of the fittest,” and we have to “look after #1,” meaning ourselves.
Why are premarital sex and cohabitation rapidly increasing in our culture? If a man can get what he wants and then walk away from the relationship, his investment is minimized. Marriage, as described in Ephesians and Galatians, involves sacrifice and patience. It isn’t hard to understand the reason for domestic violence. The only real answer is for men and women together to look to God for the strength to live and love as He intended. Becoming “one” and following God’s plan works. Alternatives do not work and lead to frustration and destructive results.
Our Catholic friends are struggling with political conflicts. Six of the nine current Supreme Court Justices are Catholics, as are President Biden, the Speaker of the House, and many other government officials. One of the Catholic political conflicts is allowing the president to participate in the Eucharist because of his position on abortion.
Previously, Biden said he believed that life begins at conception. Now he supports abortion and the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. (The Hyde Amendment bans federal funding for most abortions.) Pope Francis waded into the Catholic political conflicts by saying, “The Eucharist is not the reward of saints, it is the bread of sinners.” This seems to be at odds with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and indicates some strife within modern Catholicism. In the 2020 election, Catholic voters cast 20% of the votes, so they play a significant role in American politics.
The wisdom of Jesus in telling his followers to separate politics from His spiritual message (Matthew 22:21) is demonstrated in current Catholic political conflicts. As a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and living in the shadow of that school, I have seen the struggles that result from mixing religion and politics.
Our primary concern about the Catholic political conflicts is the domino effect of the struggles. Many people leaving Catholicism separate themselves from any kind of religious faith. God’s word is the real answer for how we should live. Read Matthew 5–7 and see what authentic Christianity is. Read Acts 2:14-42 and see the message Peter gave to seeking people. This is the same Peter that Catholicism looks to as the founder of their faith. However, Peter would not have recognized much of what is practiced by many Catholics today.
The dictionary defines an intoxicant as “that which produces feelings of pleasure or happiness in a person.” America is becoming a land of intoxicants. The enormous success of science and technology has given our culture a comfortable lifestyle and a sense of security. The illusion of self-sufficiency is constantly reinforced by Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and even many churches.
In the meantime, our culture is rejecting the words of Ephesians 5:15-18 despite the evidence that they are true: “Look carefully how you walk. Do not act thoughtlessly, but like sensible men. Make the most of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days. You can not afford to be reckless but understand what the will of the Lord is. Don’t get your stimulus from wine but let the Spirit stimulate your souls.”
America is becoming a land of intoxicants lagging behind other countries in recognizing the destructive nature of substance abuse. The American entertainment industry pushes alcohol. Even country music, which used to emphasize the negative effects of alcohol, is now saturated with promoting it as a way to pleasure and happiness. The destructive nature of alcohol is astounding. Biotech Investor’s Journal for September 2021 published a research report on the harm caused by alcohol compared to 20 other recreational drugs. Alcohol ranks # 1 in harmful effects, far beyond LSD, Meth, Crack Cocaine, and Heroin.
Some countries have recognized the serious consequences of alcohol and have passed laws to control it. For example, Scotland and Sweden have passed stringent laws to mitigate the use of alcohol. In America, the maximum blood alcohol content allowed for a motorist is 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood or .08%. In Scotland, the limit is .05%, with penalties of the automatic loss of license, fines up to $7000, a criminal record, and possibly a prison sentence. In Sweden, the limit is .02%.
For some who claim to be Christians, their religious experience may be an intoxicant. The desire to find an intoxicant in Church has led to the prosperity gospel, which teaches that God will supply wealth (materialism) to His children. Other intoxicants for some religious people are emotional experiences of speaking in tongues or even out-of-the-body experiences.
The Bible’s description of successful Christian living involves recognizing that Satan controls activities on Earth (1 John 5:19). If we are looking for heaven on Earth, we are in for disappointment and pain. The Bible indicates that the influence of Satan is all around us. (See 1 Corinthians 15:33; James 1:27, 4:4; 2 Peter 1:4, 2:20; 1 John 2:15-17.)
As America is becoming a land of intoxicants, people learn that using intoxication to find pleasure and happiness doesn’t work. However, being a light in a dark world (Matthew 5:14; Philippians 2:14-15) brings contentment and satisfaction that not only leads to a meaningful existence on the Earth but ultimately to eternal joy and happiness with our Lord.
Some religious people have claimed that taking the COVID vaccine is a response to fear. They have posted that idea online and in publications, saying that you won’t get sick from the virus if you have faith in God. This is a sad commentary on human ignorance of medical facts, the Bible, and how God works. It also shows a lack of understanding that the Church’s task is to help people. We need to follow 1 John 4:1: “…do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they come from God.”
The history of “Christians” and vaccines is not good. They have sometimes been responsible for opposition to vaccines for smallpox, measles, and polio. This ignorance is destructive because vaccines have saved many lives. As Christians, we must do whatever we can to minister to the lost. One way to do that is to make sure we do nothing that harms people. My son died because a man who claimed to be a Christian didn’t care enough about him to get a vaccine or wear a mask so he wouldn’t carry the virus to him.
In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me all of you who labor … and you shall find rest…” The Church is people, not a building (1 Corinthians 3:16), and the Church’s task is to help people, not harm them. When Jesus was on Earth, He acted when humans could not. In Luke 5:4-9, when Peter had fished all night and caught nothing, Jesus told him to let down his net again. When he did, his catch was amazing.
Miracles in both the Old and New Testaments challenged humans to apply what God gave them. When the prophet Elisha told Naaman to wash in the Jordan seven times, he resisted that silly requirement. But when Naaman did it, his leprosy (the COVID of that day) was cured (2 Kings 5). God has given humans the ability to stop the virus, but we must use what He has given us.
The Bible makes it clear that God does not use force to accomplish His will. Even salvation is not forced on humans. In Acts 2:38-40, Peter says, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” The Church’s task is to help people by sharing the good news of salvation through Jesus. Read Colossians 2:13-3:2 and ask yourself if you want to be a part of the world driven by fear and selfishness, even in the name of religion? Christians must care enough about others and about “the temple of the Holy Spirit” to make sure we do no harm to either.
The history of modern civilization has been marred by human power struggles using racist attitudes to promote their agenda. European Enlightenment scholars decided that humans should be divided into discrete groups as some animal species are. They attached meaning to skin color using cultural stereotypes that included temperament, intelligence, and behavior. Slave owners used this concept to justify enslaving African people. Nazis in Germany sought to define a Germanic people based on racial exceptionalism.
Racist attitudes have even shown up in medicine. In 1793, a yellow fever epidemic struck Philadelphia. White physicians claimed that black people were immune to yellow fever even as it killed many blacks. In 2016, a study of 200 medical students at the University of Virginia found that half of them believed there were biological differences between blacks and whites. Those differences included the belief that black people have thicker skin and higher pain tolerance than whites. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, some reports said that black people couldn’t catch the virus, and a few months later, more articles came out saying that blacks were more susceptible to it.
The biblical discussion about race is entirely different from the power struggle that has gone on for a very long time. Genesis 3:20 tells us that Adam called his wife Eve “because she was the mother of all living.” That means that all races go back to Eve, and we are thus all related. In Acts 17:26, Paul told the intellectuals in Athens that God “has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the face of the earth…” These passages emphasize the oneness of all humans.
In a National Geographic article, Angela Saini wrote that science has shown “that we are genetically more alike than any other primate species and that individual difference far outweighs any group difference.” Saini warns against the narrative that “searches the margins of our genomes for the tiny statistical differences between populations, consciously or unconsciously playing to those who seek to divide us in other ways.”
Racist attitudes are not justified by biology or the Bible. Racism is a cultural activity, and it opposes the Bible in loud and clear terms. Those who claim to be Christians and yet practice racial discrimination need to read their Bibles and not listen to Satan’s agents sowing hatred and division among the human family.
One of the challenges we face in 21st century America is the growing rate of mental illness cases. Every day the media informs us of a tragedy caused by someone who is mentally ill. Closer to home, many of us have had a loved one afflicted with some form of mental illness. Is there a connection between mental health and faith?
Mental illness has many causes. A small percentage of mental illnesses result from a medical condition. For example, my son’s schizophrenia resulted from a congenital condition. Because he was adopted, we don’t know all of the factors leading to his multiple illnesses, but his birth mother had German measles during pregnancy. Brain injuries and drug abuse can also result in mental illness.
A far more common cause of mental problems involves life experiences. Some of us were forced to witness the horror of war, and many others have suffered abuse. Those things have caused a variety of mental issues. We frequently hear atheists claim that religion causes mental illness by heaping guilt on people over something they have done in their lives. Indeed, some preachers have used guilt to motivate people to change behavior or convert to a doctrinal view.
The reality is that there is a connection between mental health and faith. Christianity is a guilt-removing belief system. The Christian message is designed to free people from guilt and promote a healthy and mentally stable lifestyle. The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5–7 gives guidelines to a healthy mental attitude. There you will find these keys to mental health: loving others, not exacting revenge or retaliating, caring for others (even your enemies), not being religious for show, and not being obsessed with material things.
We all fail in life, but the Christian system brings forgiveness. When Peter asked Christ how often he had to forgive, Christ’s answer indicated forgiveness should be infinite (Matthew 18:21). Carrying a grudge can cause enormous mental pain, which John compares to walking in darkness, but loving others brings us into the light (1 John 1:7-11). James gives insight into how we can endure hardships and help one another gain a positive perspective on life (James 5:10-16).
As Americans turn away from the teachings of Christ and rely on pop psychology and drugs to achieve sound mental health, the result has been the opposite. Pill popping and drug use have skyrocketed, and so has the number of people in desperate mental stress. Living the Christian life brings stability and fulfillment and the knowledge that there is a place of peace and love when this life is over. Mental health and faith in Christ go together.
Discrimination is a buzzword that has all kinds of implications. Of course, we don’t want to be accused of discriminating against someone based on race or gender. However, the federal government has gone far beyond those categories and has gotten into areas involving morality. So what are the consequences of new anti-discrimination rules?
In February of 2021, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a directive barring discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity. For schools and colleges, this means that dorm rooms, locker rooms, shower spaces, and restrooms must be open to anyone, no matter their gender or sexual orientation. Schools not following the directive face fines and criminal penalties.
We are already seeing the consequences of new anti-discrimination rules in high schools where boys are demanding to use girls’ locker rooms and participate in girls’ sports. A more complex situation is confronting Christian colleges because of moral concerns. They can be threatened with government action if they have a girls’ dorm or a boys’ dorm.
The College of the Ozarks near Branson, Missouri, is involved in a court battle. This school, affiliated with the Presbyterian Church USA, was established in 1906. It has 1426 students and 30 academic majors. The college’s five-fold mission is to encourage academic, Christian, cultural, vocational, and patriotic growth in its students. With the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, the school is challenging the new government rules.
The federal government has taken the Civil Rights Act of 1968 as the basis of its directive. That law was written to stop discrimination against African Americans, but they are reinterpreting it to accommodate LGBTQ activists. The consequences of new anti-discrimination rules for Christian colleges will be to open all dorms to everyone. An alternative would be to close the dorms and force students to find off-campus housing, which would be a financial hardship for the schools. Christian colleges across the nation are watching what happens in this court battle.