Monday, May 30, 2011

A Biblical Model For Marriage?

A couple weeks ago in one of my seminary classes someone mentioned a "biblical model for marriage" during a class discussion. This ignited some fireworks amongst the students, but especially amongst the teachers (there are two teachers for this class: a main teacher and a co-teacher). In general, I think their sentiment could be summed up by saying they didn't think there was any evidence for a singular "biblical" model for marriage. The co-teacher said that the "biblical model for marriage" that she saw most prevalently in the Bible was one of polygamy. After all, it seems like everyone in the Old Testament had several wives. This doesn't seem to jibe with the modern Christian belief that marriage is between one man and one woman, so how do we explain that (it should be noted that she said this in somewhat of a flippant manner, to show how supposedly ridiculous it is to suggest that the Bible would actually insist on a particular model for marriage, and to ostracize those who would believe that they have discovered it)? The professor stated that "I can't find a biblical model of marriage that I can get excited about." His sentiment was based on the fact that pretty much every time you can see a marriage in the Bible, it's screwed up: David, Solomon, etc.

But I think this line of thinking is, to say the least, really uninformed, not to mention completely fallacious in its attempt to discount the idea that marriage is designed by God to be between one man and one woman, which, to be sure, was the intention of my teacher(s). Especially the bit about polygamy being the supposed biblical model for marriage. Just because polygamy existed - even amongst the Old Testament saints - does not mean that it was a God-ordained model for marriage. God did not give his "rubber stamp" of approval on those who had many wives. In fact, God said that having many wives would lead to sin and difficulty. So just because many, if not most, of the folks in the Old Testament had several wives, it doesn't mean that God condoned their actions. In fact, coupled with what Jesus says, it would seem that a lot of those OT saints were living in perpetual adultery. Just because people practiced polygamy didn't make it God's "design" for marriage, or even OK.

In Matthew 19 Jesus says that Moses allowed the Israelites to divorce their wives because they had hard hearts. In other words, because they were sinful - prideful, lustful, and selfish. Divorce was not God's ideal for marriage, and it still isn't. It was permitted by Moses, however, because the people were hard hearted. So, using my professor's line of thinking, is God OK with divorce because the Israelites practiced it? No. Does the fact that divorce took place in the Bible nullify an ideal biblical design for marriage? Certainly not. To suggest that it does would be ignorant.

I would argue the same for all deviations from what I believe is the God-ordained plan for marriage: one man and one woman, for as long as they both shall live. Anything other than this, while perhaps culturally acceptable (or is made acceptable by a hard-hearted generation) is not the ideal. This would mean that all of the Old Testament saints that had multiple wives were not following God's ideal design for marriage.

This gets interesting when we look to other cultures, however. In some cultures, women are completely dependent upon men for their livelihood. They won't eat or have anywhere to live unless they are married to a man who is able to provide for them. So, when a woman's husband dies, she may be forced to marry her dead husband's brother or some other relative just so she can survive. So in some cultures, polygamy can be used as a means of providing for the needy and showing compassion. Maybe this was part of the reasoning of the Old Testament saints, as well. I don't know.

But I think we can still say that this is not God's ideal for marriage. Yes, widows are being provided and cared for, and yes, it is a cultural system in which polygamy is used almost as a means of compassion. Does that mean it isn't sin? I don't know. God will judge that. But I believe it still stands that this is not what God intended.

When my professor said he couldn't find a biblical model of marriage that he could "get excited about," based on the screwed up marriages of people like David and Solomon, he similarly lacked perspective about marriage and the people involved in it. David didn't screw up his marriage because God's plan for marriage was flawed. David screwed up his marriage because David was a fallen, sinful human being. Solomon didn't take 700 wives and 300 concubines because God's plan for marriage wasn't good enough. Solomon took all those women because Solomon was selfish, prideful, and lustful. In every case where marriage doesn't "work," the problem is not the institution of marriage - it's the sinful, fallen people in the marriage. The fact that people in the Bible screwed up their marriages doesn't prove that God's design for marriage was/is wrong. It only proves that the people in the marriage were sinful people!

We need to also note that for all the ways that people can goof up or not follow God's design for marriage, there are an equal number of ways to bring about forgiveness and restoration to marriage and to the lives of the people involved. There is always hope. There is always the opportunity for repentance and forgiveness. And I would also argue that this is part of the genius of God's design for marriage. When people work through the difficulties in marriage in order to conform it more to what God desires for it, it shows the value of the institution.

I'm not claiming to be an expert on what the Bible says about marriage, and God knows that my own hard heart confounds his ideal for my own marriage. But what I do know for sure is that pointing to the polygamy of the Old Testament as proof that God does not have an ideal model for marriage, or that unsuccessful marriages show that God's design is flawed, are arguments that lack serious historical and biblical perspective.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Prayer for Memorial Day

OUR FATHER GOD, as we look back on our nation’s history, we can see that your hand has been upon us and has provided us the blessings of life and liberty. This is no more evident than when we think of those who have given their lives fighting to preserve the freedom that you have given us.

We thank you, O God, that you used the lives of men and women to preserve our freedom – even to the point of death. May we not forget their sacrifice and your goodness.

Thank you, O Lord, for the ones who have died to protect our freedom here. And thank you even more for your kingdom, which can never be threatened by any enemy.

We long for the day of your righteous judgment, when you shall settle disputes among nations, and when swords will be beaten into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks; when nation will no longer take up the sword against nation, and when we will no longer train for war.

Until then, may we honor the memory of the fallen, and may we live in the light of your mercy. AMEN.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Where Does the Bible Come From, Dad?

Tonight during our bedtime routine, I was singing the "Matthew 5.8" song from Seeds Family Worship with The Fergeson. I asked him what he thought it meant that, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." He didn't know what it meant, which didn't surprise me. So we talked about that a bit. Then I told him that "blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God" is something that Jesus tells us in the Bible.

Then he asked, "Where does the Bible come from, Dad?" This caught me a bit off guard, just because it seemed to come out of left field, but I told him that the Bible is God's message to us. He had people write it down so we could read it. "Oh," he said.

Then the next question really caught me off guard: "How is God going to put the Bible in our mailbox?" Huh? In our mailbox? Then it hit me. Earlier tonight I told Jamie that I ordered a new storybook Bible that would be coming in the mail in a few days. He was really excited for it to come so we could read it.

So I told him that we were just waiting for the Bible to arrive at our house but, in a way, God was putting the Bible in our mailbox. No matter how we get it, we get it from God. He seemed OK with that answer. It was pretty cute.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Strange Tension of Biblical Social Justice

Social justice is a hot-button issue on Christian university campuses, it seems. In both my experiences at Sioux Falls and Bethel seminaries, it would seem that a deep concern for social justice issues is the trend (and I mean that in the purest sense of the word, unfortunately). In my experience over the last several years, most students' ideas of what social justice is usually translates to liberal politics, or as Phil Johnson puts it (at right):

But a little deeper thought about what social justice looks like in scripture should give us a bit of a different perspective. I've been thinking about this issue for a while, mostly because I am faced with it as the popular trend whenever I go to school. Most of my professors seem to feel that social justice concerns are the primary issue the church is facing right now, and specifically that the church, quite frankly, sucks at it (although I've dispelled this myth here and here). My "deeper thoughts" about this topic have centered around two areas: social justice for the world, and social justice for Christians.

First of all, we can certainly affirm that God values social justice. He does not like oppression or inequality, or poverty, or unfair laws, etc. He values freedom, equality, fairness, and charity. This is observable in scripture in a myriad of ways. In Amos 5 God refuses to receive the sacrifices of his people precisely because the rich were walking on the backs of the poor. There was no fairness, no equality. The rich got richer, and the poor got poorer. So because of this, God basically cuts his people off. In Luke 4 Jesus proclaims that he has come to the world to set the captives free, liberate the oppressed, and bring good news to the poor. Even a cursory glimpse of his life and ministry shows how he reached out and ministered to the least of these. John the Baptist instructs those who participated in his baptism (particularly the tax collectors and Roman soldiers) that one of the main behavior modifications that should be present as a result of their repentance is fairness and equity in their dealings with others. To be sure, social justice issues are big deals to God and his people.

Over and above God's valuing of social justice is his command to his people to pursue social justice causes as well. We are to have the same attitude as Jesus, our example, and stand up for the cause of the oppressed and the captive, and those who have been treated unfairly and unjustly. This is where many of my professors and classmates would say the church has dropped the ball (although, again, this is not true). And the typical belief of these folks is that the government needs to pick up where the church left off.

The interesting thing, when it comes to social justice for believers, however, is that it would seem that it is something that we are not supposed to pursue for ourselves. In other words, scripture seems to say that when we are treated unfairly, or are taken advantage of, or are held in inequality, we are not to try to rectify our situation in the same way that we would for those oppressed people of the world. For example, what would Jesus have me do if I, as his follower, were treated unfairly in some way? Would he have me demand fairness for myself? Would he have me stand up for my rights? That's certainly not what Jesus did when he was "oppressed" (to put it lightly). Instead of standing up for his rights, Jesus suffered. He took what was given to him. He didn't fight to be treated fair, or even with justice, and it seems to me that scripture teaches Christians to not demand justice for themselves.

Why not? I think part of the answer is that our satisfaction - our joy - is not found in justice or fairness for ourselves, or our "rights." Rather, our satisfaction and joy are found in God. Therefore, when our rights are trampled on and when we are treated like garbage, and when the wicked flourish while we waste away, we can remain satisfied, knowing that we belong to God.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus famously says that if a person (presumably one of his followers) is struck on the face, he should offer the other cheek as well. What? You mean he shouldn't confront the guy and say, "What gives you the right to treat me so badly? I'm going to report you to the authorities!" Similarly, Jesus says that if someone demands your robe, you should offer him your tunic as well? "Huh? Why? It's my tunic, for crying out loud! The guy isn't entitled to my robe, let alone my tunic!" Jesus also says that if someone asks you to go with him one mile, go with him two. Jesus said this because there was a Roman law that stated a Roman soldier could legally require anyone to carry his armor for up to one Roman mile. Jesus is saying that instead of demanding your rights be respected, and that the Roman soldier had no right to ask you to take his armor for any distance, instead, submit to him and and suffer. That's pretty radical, and it's part of the counter-cultural-ness of being a follower of Jesus. I would even dare to say that part of being a Christian is sacrificing your rights and gladly putting up with unfairness and inequality.

So there's at least some tension between the kind of justice we are to give others, and the kind we are to demand for ourselves. How do we balance standing up for justice for the oppressed and yet not demand it for ourselves? There's a significant line that needs to be walked that, when crossed, could lead to selfishness and pride. It's also an interesting paradox that fits nicely with Jesus' words about the last being first, and that he who would be great must first be the servant of all. Maybe when it comes to social justice issues, the point is that we put ourselves low by not demanding our rights, while standing up for the rights of others.

I've only just begun thinking about this, so sorry if my thoughts are a bit disjointed and hard to follow! At the least, it's given me something to think about and flesh out further as time goes on.

My Translation of the Beatitudes

My translation assignment for this week was Matthew 5.1-12, the Beatitudes. Here's a link to the NASB and ESV if you'd like to compare. The more I'm learning about translation, the more interesting it becomes to read the main English translations of scripture to see how and why they translated the text the way they did. I'm still a beginner at translating Greek, but I think I'm getting better.

And having beheld the crowd, he went up into the mountain, and having sat down, his disciples came to him. And having opened his mouth, he taught them, saying, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Blessed are the ones who are mourning, because they will be encouraged. Blessed are the meek, because they will inherit the earth. Blessed are the ones who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness, because they will be fed. Blessed are the ones who are merciful, because they will be having mercy. Blessed are the clean in heart, because God will appear to them. Blessed are the peacemakers, because they will be called sons of God. Blessed are the ones having been persecuted on account of righteousness, because the kingdom of heaven is of them. You are blessed when they may reproach and persecute you and say all evil against you, having been liars because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because your wage is great in the kingdom of heaven. For thus they persecuted the prophets before you."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Whirlwind Weekend

A month or so ago I got an email from Camie Treptau, director of Village Creek Bible Camp, asking if I would be willing to put together a group of guys to come and lead worship at this weekend's Men and Boys retreat. Camie had been asking us to lead worship for this retreat for the past two or three years, and there was always some reason why we weren't able to do it. I asked the guys in the band this year, and everyone was able to go. The only sticking point was that just a few days before I received the email from Camie, Vern Hildebrandt had asked me to preach at the Dakota County Jail for our church's turn in the jail ministry rotation on the same Sunday of the retreat weekend, which I agreed to do. I made preparations for both, however, making sure that the band could cover for me not being there.

So the preparations were made, and Ferg and I headed out for camp on Friday afternoon. Jamie loves the camp, and he usually asks me at least once a week if we can go there. He was really jazzed about being able to go. But this time, he was really whiny ("Are we there yet?"). I encouraged him to just sit back, relax, and try to take a nap, which he did.

Being down at camp was busy. We had zero time to rehearse our sets before we went down to camp, so we spent a significant time rehearsing in the indoor chapel. So coordinating that, while trying to connect to the speaker for the weekend to make sure everything fit together, while trying to manage a three year old was rather taxing. Add onto that that I never sleep well at camp. My body just doesn't like camp beds. So sleep was at a minimum.

On Saturday we got to do some fun camp stuff, and Ferg went nuts, doing all the camp stuff he could do, including the trampoline. At one point he actually said in amazement, "I'm flying!" I like to watch him have fun.

But by Saturday night it was time for us to leave, as I had to be on my way to the Dakota County jail by 8 AM Sunday morning. We left the camp at about 8:40, and got home at around midnight (I drove a little slower because I was overly paranoid about hitting a deer). After unpacking my stuff and getting everything settled at home, it was 1 AM before I went off to bed.

I woke up at 7 AM the next morning and headed to church to unpack my amplifier and guitar and put back the stuff I borrowed from the church for the retreat. Then it was a 25 minute ride to the jail.

I've been to the jail several times, but never to preach. Usually I go along as the musical talent. There are a few songs that we like to sing for and with the inmates, and they seem to really enjoy it. I think they just like something to break up the monotony of prison life. Either way, I think they are blessed by it, so it's well worth the effort.

Doing ministry (or anything, for that matter) at the jail is quite an involved process. As soon as you get there you have to put your ID into a metal box that someone on the other side of dark glass checks, to make sure you're clean. Sometimes the prison guards have even wanted to search our guitar cases and instruments before we are allowed into the jail. But then again, sometimes you move right through as if you were just entering a high school or something. This time it was pretty easy: we just showed our ID's and they brought us right through.

This time our team consisted of three people: myself, Vern Hildebrandt, and Mario Castillo. If you know Vern, you've never really truly seen him in his element until you see him "working" the crowd of prisoners. Vern goes to the jail each Wednesday also, to lead a Bible study. He has an incredible heart for the prisoners.

The jail service takes place in the gymnasium (which is interesting - the Dakota County jail actually feels more like a high school than it does a jail - the doors all look the same, and there are even classrooms down the hallways, and even a gym; but I've never seen the cells where the prisoners stay - maybe I just get to see the good side of jail!). About 80 guys came to "church" today.

The guys show up in different groups, depending on their security level, and by the time we were supposed to start, one of the guards informed us that one of the groups had gotten held up in the medical wing - guys were still getting their meds and would be late to the service. He asked us if we just wanted to start anyway, or wait for them. Vern said we should wait for them, and he asked me what we could do to kill some time. I grabbed my guitar and asked if anybody there liked bluesy, gospel music, to which most of them replied positively. So I was able to teach them one of the songs my band does, "Walk With Me." They loved it. They sang along great. It was a lot of fun. Then I sang "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" for them too, which I think they liked.

After we started Mario Castillo gave his testimony. Mario also has a great heart for ministry to the prisoners, and he has a powerful testimony of how God has worked in his life. Mario has some good ministry ahead of him.

Then I got to preach. I must confess that as I was preparing what I was going to say earlier in the week, I was a little nervous. What does one say to a group of 80 prisoners? Most of these guys are pretty hard looking, and have been around the block a few times to say the least. I pretty much couldn't have less in common with them! I concluded that the most important thing was to just be myself, and not try to be someone/thing I wasn't, and to just deliver the gospel as I knew it.

The Gideons have supplied all the prisoners with Bibles, but most of the guys are completely unfamiliar with scripture, so I made sure to have page numbers ready for them to look up the passages I was talking about. And then I just basically gave them the law and the gospel, by way of the Romans Road. I have no idea if anything got through to them, but I suppose that's why I leave God to do the work. I can only pray that they will repent and believe, just like I'd pray for anyone else who's ever heard the gospel.

Our time was over by 9:45 and the men all went back to their cells while Vern, Mario and I hoofed it back to WSP to make it to church before the service started. I came into the service completely unprepared - nothing ready for announcements, and I totally forgot to tell the worship team about my absence from rehearsal. But everything went smoothly, which was nice.

By the time I got home from lunch, I could barely keep my eyes open. I hadn't fully recovered from the lack of sleep and energy expended at camp, and I was coming off a totally new experience of preaching at the jail. I was wiped. By 2:00 I was dead to the world on our living room couch. Two hours later I awoke, having slept more soundly than I had even the previous night.

And now I'm writing this post, having completed a couple hours of homework that is due this week. It was a busy and fun weekend, but I'm not sure I could do it all the time. Oh well. It was worth it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


We translated Matthew 18 for Greek class tonight, and an issue arose that I was previously unaware of. In Matthew 18 Peter asks Jesus how many times he is to forgive his brother. Peter seems to suggest that forgiving his brother, 7 times at the most, would be adequate. Jesus responds by saying in verse 22: "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven." (ESV)

The most common interpretation of this verse is that Christians are to forgive those who wrong them 490 times before they hold a brother's offense against them. The point that Jesus is making is that Christians are to forgive their brothers always. He uses a big number to communicate the fact that forgiveness is supposed to be the standard, not holding a grudge or taking revenge. Jesus was most definitely not saying that Christians should have a checklist and count the number of times that Christians forgive their brothers and sisters until they've reached 490. He's being overly dramatic. Because if you're counting the number of times you've forgiven someone, you haven't really forgiven.

The trick is that, in Greek, there is no way of expressing multiplication. The Greek in verse 22 literally reads "hebdomékontakis hepta." The first word means "seventy times" and the second word means "seven." In all other places where numbers are communicated in New Testament Greek, numbers in multiples of ten are communicated by saying "seventy and seven," which seems to be the case here. So the translation, "seventy times seven" (as in multiplication) is most likely not accurate. Rather, Jesus probably meant "seventy and (plus) seven" giving us a total of 77 times that a Christian should forgive his brothers.

Here's how some modern translations render the verse:

NIV: Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

NASB: Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

ESV: Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

KJV: Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

TNIV: Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

77 is a lot less than 490, but Jesus' point is the same: how many times should I forgive my brother? Answer: a lot of times. In fact, don't stop. Always forgive.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Even So, Come Lord Jesus

Pastor Wick and I once joked that the only people on earth who don't want Jesus to come back (aside from people who aren't Christians) are seminarians: we've invested so much into this educational process that we can't fathom not being able to complete it and use it in the ministerial world. While it's obviously tongue in cheek, there's some truth there. Seminary is a lot of work, and sometimes that work entails sitting in your seat, keeping your mouth shut, and putting up with the ridiculous crap you hear from your profs.

(Aside: as I typed that last sentence, the prof for this class just said, "I can't find a biblical model of marriage that I can get excited about.")

Well, I can safely say that I am once again looking forward to the return of Christ. In fact, if he would come back before I have to go to this ridiculous "Self in Community" class again next Thursday, that would be ideal.

So here's a prayer request: Lord, please come back for the sake of your glory (and my sanity), if at all possible, before 8:00 PM next Thursday. Amen.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A No Hitter!

Got to hear baseball history on the radio tonight. Francisco Liriano tossed a no-hitter against the hated Chicago White Sox.

I left Greek class at 6:58 tonight and got to my car by the time they announced the starting lineups. The Twins haven't been doing too well this year, and Liriano has been struggling in particular, so needless to say, I wasn't expecting much at the start of the game. After the Twins failed to do anything in the first inning, I remember being disgusted when Liriano walked the first White Sox hitter he faced. "Here we go," I thought to myself, expecting the White Sox to break it open in the first inning (as Liriano has been having a hard time not giving up runs in the first so far this year).

When I got home, the fam was playing out in the yard. I turned on the radio in the garage and left the door open so we could hear the game as we played. Beetz and I played catch while the kids went down the slide and played in the sandbox. By this time, Jason Kubel had hit a solo home run in the fourth inning to make it a 1-0 game. This would turn out to be the winning run.

I took a break from the game to put the kids to bed. We sang some songs and read some books, and then it was bed time. After this, I got my laundry ready and went downstairs to put it in the wash and to take a shower. A couple years ago I bought myself a small radio that I could listen to in the basement while I was working or doing whatever. I brought the radio into the bathroom with me and listened to the game while I showered.

After a shower and a shave, Liriano had made it through 6 innings without allowing a hit. I went upstairs to find the Mrs. watching "The Voice," so I picked up my computer and "watched" the game on One new feature they have on their "gameday" presentation is brief live video looks (which is really cool for those of us who don't have the option of watching the Twins games on TV). With two outs in the 7th inning they gave a live look into the game and I got to see Danny Valencia make an incredible play at third base to save the no-hitter. It was fantastic.

I told the Mrs. that if Liriano kept the no-no on into the ninth, we were turning the TV off and the radio on. She agreed. I called friends and family to make sure they were tuned in to potentially witness history.

The ninth inning came, and broke into the video of the game live, so I got to both watch the ninth inning and hear Gordo call it (man, I'm going to miss him when he's gone). Gordo called the third out thusly, "And a liner right to Tolbert at short! He's done it! Liriano has done it! He has a no-hitter!" It was awesome.

The Twins are really stinking it up this year, but that's OK. I just love baseball. And to be able to see this was really cool.

Monday, May 2, 2011

My Thoughts on bin Laden's Death

Lots of posts on Facebook about the death of Osama bin Laden yesterday and today. Last night when the news broke, I don't think there was even one status update on my wall that didn't address the bin Laden situation. Most people expressed joy and elation when they heard that bin Laden had been killed. There was a lot of talk about how it had been a long time coming.

My own reaction was initially one of surprise. When I saw the flasher at the bottom of the TV screen (interrupting Celebrity Apprentice!) indicating that a special announcement from the president was coming up, I had no idea what it was. When I learned that bin Laden had been killed, I was initially really surprised. I didn't expect that to be the announcement.

My second reaction was one of gladness. I was glad that he was dead. I was glad that his reign of terror, so to speak, was over (although it will no doubt be carried on by countless thousands), and that lives will no doubt be spared as a result of his demise.

Some of my friends on Facebook posted scripture. I saw Proverbs 24.17-18 quoted a few times: "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him." My pastor quoted Matthew 26.52: "...all who take the sword will perish by the sword."

All this got me thinking about how a Christian should respond to the death of a wicked person, such as Osama bin Laden. Should we rejoice? Should we be sorrowful? Should we say, "It's about time"? I don't think it's as simple as Proverbs 24.17-18. We need more theology than just what those verses offer in order to formulate a right response to the death of a wicked man like Osama bin Laden.

Then I stumbled on these two excellent pieces, one by John Piper, and one by Justin Holcomb of Mars Hill, Seattle. Both pieces masterfully bring out excellent biblical points on how God views the death of the wicked and how Christians should view the death of the wicked. I highly recommend them.

So how should a Christian respond to the death of Osama bin Laden? Here's what I think:

1) We should praise God that we haven't suffered the same fate. I mean this both in the physical and spiritual senses. I am every bit just as evil as Osama bin Laden. My heart was just as rotten, I had the same potential for unspeakable evil, and I deserved the same fate. But by God's grace, I did not fall into such wickedness, and, also by God's grace, I have been forgiven of my sin. Christ took for me the punishment that Osama bin Laden is experiencing at this very moment. So let's praise God that he extends grace to those who will receive it, and that he extends mercy.

2) We should long for the salvation of those who do not believe. The thought of anyone entering the eternal torment of hell should scare us. I don't want anyone to go to hell - not even Osama bin Laden. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance and faith, and that includes bin Laden. But all those who do not come to faith will be judged. That alone should fuel our preaching endeavors.

3) We should be glad that God's justice and righteousness have been served. In sovereignly ordaining the death and judgment of bin Laden, God exercises his justice and righteousness. He punishes evil where it is found. He shows no favoritism. He remains faithful and true to who he is. This is good news.

4) We should be glad that God has removed such evil from the world. The Bible is full of examples of how God removes (or kills) people who are exceedingly wicked from their position, or even their life. Such removal can allow peace and justice to flourish. Let's pray that's the case with bin Laden's death.

5) We should not be glad that bin Laden is in hell (see #2).

6) We should not feel that bin Laden is getting what he deserves without remembering why we have not gotten what we deserved (see #1). Such thinking would be, I believe, judgmental and sinful.

7) We should not think that God vindictively killed bin Laden (see #3). God works within his justice and righteousness, not out of spite or vindictiveness.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Atheist Chaplains

Would you ever go to an atheist for spiritual council? Probably not. That, however, is what several atheists would like to see happen in the military.

This article reports that several atheists are lobbying to have atheist chaplains in the military to offer support to atheist troops. But, from what I understand, military chaplains don't necessarily counsel soldiers in their particular faith, but in the professed faith of the soldier seeking counseling. So how could an atheist chaplain council someone in his or her faith, if said atheist chaplain had no faith whatsoever? If it sounds like it doesn't make much sense, it doesn't.

The article goes on to say that the atheists want atheist chaplains in order to "win official acceptance in the military." The only problem with that is that atheists already have official acceptance in the military. How don't they? They aren't discriminated against for their lack of faith. Nor are they prohibited from any type of military service in any way as a result of their lack of faith.

What's really behind this is that the existence of atheist chaplains will allow atheist groups to be able to publicly promote their beliefs (or lack of beliefs) and distribute literature. So it has nothing to do with faith (obviously) but more of an abuse of the chaplaincy, if you ask me. If you just want to be a chaplain to get yourself out there, you shouldn't be a chaplain.

But what's interesting about this is that if atheists truly feel the need to promote their worldviews (and counsel those who adhere to them within the context of such a worldview) then their views, it seems to me, must be identified as a faith group. Any and all worldview of faith system is guided by principles of belief and not fact, making every worldview a matter of faith. And certainly atheists hold beliefs that others don't, even if they are beliefs that state that beliefs are useless and ignorant (and they are beliefs, and don't let anyone tell you different), so what they think and believe is unique to itself, making it a matter of faith. So if atheists want to be chaplains in order to promote their beliefs and to counsel fellow atheists, go for it. They just have to admit that their supposedly faithless way of seeing the world is actually brimming over with faith (just faith in nothing).