The Roman Senator, Seneca the Younger, in an essay titled “On Tranquility of Mind,” section 12, wrote of those whose lives are full of activity but no real purpose. Rushing here and there, being involved in everyone’s business, their lives are full but without purpose. And the busyness can often lead to disaster due to the fickleness of the Roman goddess Fortuna (Fortune). She may bless or bring calamity.
“For if a man engages in many affairs, he often puts himself in the power of Fortuna, while his safest course is rarely to tempt her, always to be mindful of her, and never to put any trust in her promises.”
Though Seneca noted, in section 10, that “All of us are chained to Fortuna,” he advised that the less we do the less we tempt capricious Fortuna. Continuing the discussion in section 12, Seneca recommended that individuals always have an acceptance that their plans may fail. This failure, of course, is due to the fickleness of the goddess.
“Say, ‘I will set sail unless something happens,’ and ‘I shall become praetor unless something hinders me,’ and ‘My enterprise will be successful unless something interferes.’ This is why we say that nothing happens to a wise man contrary to his expectations — we release him, not from the accidents, but from the blunders of mankind, nor do all things turn out as he has wished, but as he has thought; but his first thought has been that something might obstruct his plans. Then, too, the suffering that comes to the mind from the abandonment of desire must necessarily be much lighter if you have not certainly promised it success. We ought also to make ourselves adaptable lest we become too fond of the plans we have formed, and we should pass readily to the condition to which chance has led us, and not dread shifting either purpose or positions — provided that fickleness, a vice most hostile to repose, does not get hold of us. For obstinacy, from which Fortuna often wrests some concession, must needs be anxious and unhappy, and much more grievous must be a fickleness that nowhere shows self-restraint.”
The Scriptures say some very similar things. For example, Jesus spoke of a man who unwisely left God out of his plans.
And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. (Luke 12:16-21)
The half-brother of our Lord, James, wrote something very similar in chapter 4, verses 13 through 16.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.
The fundamental difference between Seneca’s attitude and that of the Scriptures is the attitudes seen in the respective deities. For Seneca, the decisions of Fortuna are one moment beneficial and the next, injurious. “[W]e ought at least to reduce our possessions, so as to be less exposed to the injuries of Fortune.”
But in the Scriptures, God’s plans for us always have a purpose and are never capricious. In Jesus’ parable, the rich man left God completely out of his plans, not considering what God desired for him, not even behaving as if God existed. Jesus gave this parable as an example of the effects of greed and of not trusting in the Lord’s ability to provide for us.
James gave his instructions in the context of God’s place as the Lawgiver and Judge. One must always consider God and His desires when planning one’s own future.
In both cases, God’s permission or restraint is governed by His plans for mankind as Lawgiver, Judge, and Provider. The Scriptures never present God as permitting something one day and stopping it the next. He is never capricious. In fact, earlier James wrote of God that “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
So one can follow Seneca’s advice and refrain from doing much so as to not give fickle Fortuna more opportunities to harm you, or one can follow the Scriptures and go out to do much, confident that what God allows or restrains, He always does for a good purpose.
Living Jesus’ and James’ way makes for a much more peaceful and confident life: a mind with true tranquility.
The Western Roman Emperor Theodoric, in a letter to his Praefectus Urbis, the official in charge of the needs of the city of Rome and it’s environs, on the occasion of some disquiet caused by public insults, wrote, by the hand of the Christian civil-servant Cassiodorus, “Your highest praise is a quiet people.” [Book 1, letter 32] Theodoric exemplified this belief in his various letters of instruction, writing to keep officials from oppressing the citizens by injustice, oppressive taxes, undue burdens, and so on. Citizens who are content give rulers little cause for alarm and demonstrate their just sovereignty.
From the viewpoint of the governed, Christians in general are commanded to pray for their governing officials in order that the Christians may be able to live quiet lives. This is contained in the Apostle Paul’s instructions in his first letter to his young protege Timothy.
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity (1Timothy 2:1-2).
The Church took this to heart in it’s various writings. For example, in the Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, twice in prayers in Book VIII, Section II, this passage is referenced. Once, so that the quietness might enable Believers to glorify God through Jesus Christ (p. 489), and once, that the rulers themselves might be peaceable towards the Believers (p. 490). It is also present, in the same volume, in an early liturgy prayer to God on behalf of the king that the king may subdue all his adversaries and enemies so that there may be peace for his subjects to enjoy “a calm and tranquil life in all reverence and godly fear …” (p. 551). Of course, this carries the assumption that Christians are not among the adversaries and enemies. We are to “submit [ourselves] for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right” (1Peter 2:13-14).
Athenagorus, writing A Plea for the Christians to the Roman emperors Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, also referenced Paul’s instructions in his concluding plea for Believers to be fairly judged.
For who are more deserving to obtain the things they ask, than those who, like us, pray for your government, that you may, as is most equitable, receive the kingdom, son from father, and that your empire may receive increase and addition, all men becoming subject to your sway? And this is also for our advantage, that we may lead a peaceable and quiet life, and may ourselves readily perform all that is commanded us (p. 148).
In each case, the just actions of the ruler is desired so that the governed are able to lead “a tranquil and quiet life.” This, in turn, reflects favorably on the ruler. His or her just rule brings the citizens to praise their ruler. The justice meted out restrains evil. The fairness of taxes enables the laborers to enjoy the fruit of their labors. The fair treatment of all demonstrates that all have equal value and worth.
And for Believers, this enables them to focus on obedience, not only to their earthly sovereign, but also to their ultimate sovereign, God. For Christians, this quietness is also important in our dealings with our fellow man. The Apostle Paul instructed the Christians at Rome, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). In regards to Believers with Believers, Paul also wrote “Live in peace with one another” (1Thessalonians 5:13). If we want peace, we must ourselves be peaceable.
But, if Theodoric’s statement is true about a governing official, would it not also be true about the ultimate official, God Himself? As citizens of a heavenly Kingdom, we Christians serve under a holy God. He has given us a handbook of behavior to which He has asked us to voluntarily submit. The question for us is, do we regard these instructions as onerous, too difficult to live by? Are we at peace with the way our Sovereign governs? Is it too difficult to be loving towards all? Is it unreasonable to ask us to live at peace with all men? Are we at peace with God when He allows things into our lives which are difficult to bear? Have we, like Paul, “learned to be content in whatever circumstances” we are. Do we “know how to get along with humble means, and … how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance” have we “learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (Philippians 4:11-12)? After all, didn’t Paul write “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (4:13)? Is that true of us with our sovereign? Are we truly at peace with how He governs our lives? Does our attitude under our Sovereign reflect favorably upon His rule? Are we at peace with God? For those outside the Kingdom looking in, does our attitude towards our Sovereign cause them to want to become citizens as well? In regards to God Himself and our attitude towards the way He governs our lives, is it not perfectly true that His highest praise is His quiet people? Do we truly believe what one author wrote?
For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O LORD of hosts, How blessed is the man who trusts in You! (Psalm 84:10-12)
Perhaps we need to ask ourselves if our attitude in any and all circumstances does reflect favorably on our Sovereign’s rule. Do we glorify our King by our peaceable and quiet behavior, by our contentment with His rule?
Athenagoras, A Plea for the Christians (Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325, vol. 2) Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Revised by A. Cleveland Coxe. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2012
Bible, New American Standard, 1995 ed. La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus, The Letters of Cassiodorus. Teddington, Middlesex, England: The Echo Library, 2006.
Constitutions of the Holy Apostles (Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325, vol. 7) Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Revised by A. Cleveland Coxe. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2012
It has become quite a common thing in Evangelical circles to reinterpret Genesis one to include deep time. This enables them to then introduce evolution into Genesis one since they have now injected Genesis with long ages.
For example, in commenting on the language of Genesis 1:11-12, Derek Kidner wrote, “If this language seems well suited to the hypothesis of creation by evolution (as the present writer thinks), …” (p. 48) A little later on, in general comments about the entire first chapter of Genesis, he wrote,
The view that the chapter is intended to reveal the general sequence of creation as it affected this earth, is based on the apparent character of the writing. But it is reinforced, one may think, by the remarkable degree of correspondence that can be found between this sequence and the one implied by current science. (p. 55)
While it would be difficult to sustain Kidner’s phrase “the general sequence of creation” due to the specific way each day is described and its place in the sequence of days is delineated, one can understand his describing the sequence as “general.” This is because there is one glaring difference between the sequence given in Genesis and that “implied by current science.” This is the creation of the plants prior to the creation of the sun, moon, and stars. Modern science declares the stars existed prior to the earth. This would mean, of course, that they existed prior to the plants.
One common way to avoid the force of plants before the stars is to create an artificial symmetry between days. Gordon Wenham does this in his commentary on Genesis, diagramming the days in two different ways, thus allowing the sequential nature of the text to be taken non-literally. In his “Explanation” section on chapter one of Genesis, Wenham wrote,
It has been unfortunate that one device which our narrative uses to express the coherence and purposiveness of the creator’s work, namely, the distribution of the various creative acts to six days, has been seized on and interpreted over-literalistically, with the result that science and Scripture have been pitted against each other instead of being seen as complementary. Properly understood, Genesis justifies the scientific experience of unity and order in nature. The six-day schema is but one of several means employed in this chapter to stress the system and order that has been built into creation. Other devices include the use of repeating formulae, the tendency to group words and phrases into tens and sevens, literary techniques such as chiasm and inclusio, the arrangement of creative acts into matching groups, and so on. (p. 39)
As can be seen, the proposed symmetry and stylistic features allows Wenham to object to the meaning of the precise order given by the text. But the symmetry Wenham proposes is superficial. Here are his first of two diagrams of the days from page 7:
Day 1 Light Day 4 Luminaries
Day 2 Sky Day 5 Birds and Fish
Day 3 Land (plants) Day 6 Animals and Man (plants for food)
Now, this looks significant, until one looks at the text. On Day 1, Light is created, but so are the Heavens and the Earth which was composed of a vast ball of water. On Day 2, the Sky is created in which birds fly, but birds also need land, which did not appear until Day 3, and fish need water, which is created on Day 1. So a true symmetry would have fish created on Day 4 and Birds created on the same day as animals and Man with the Sky created on the same day as the land appears. As the text stands, the symmetry only works broadly for Days 3 and 6, and only slightly for Days 1 and 4. Then there is the issue of the creation of water, which is necessary for all life, created on Day 1 and air, assumed to have been created on Day 2, also necessary for all life. So the supposed symmetry given by Wenham collapses under its own weight.
Here is the second symmetry of the Days given by Wenham:
Day 1 heaven
Day 2 heaven
Day 3 earth
Day 4 heaven
Day 5 earth
Day 6 earth
However, this too is not quite accurate since Day 1 includes the Earth, Day 2 also includes the ball of water below the expanse which is the Earth.
Thus the proposed symmetries in the text which Wenham uses to allow himself the luxury of ignoring the obvious sequential nature of the text and, by this, to declare belief in a literal six days as “over-literalistic,” fails. The creation of plants prior to the creation of the stars remains a barrier to all schemes which man has created to destroy the obvious declaration of the text that God created the entire Universe and everything which it contains in six literal Days.
But this was noted over 1800 years ago. Theophilus, a pastor in the city of Antioch, writing about A.D. 180 to convince a friend, Autolycus, of the truth of Christianity, discussed the Days of creation. This is what he wrote about Day 4:
On the fourth day the luminaries were made; because God, who possesses foreknowledge, knew the follies of the vain philosophers, that they were going to say, that the things which grow on the earth are produced from the heavenly bodies, so as to exclude God. In order, therefore, that the truth might be obvious, the plants and seeds were produced prior to the heavenly bodies, for what is posterior cannot produce that which is prior. (Book 2, chapter 15)
One can see he anticipated Carl Sagan’s statement, that we are all “made of star-stuff,” by over 1800 years. As noted above, the creation of the stars and moon on Day 4 stands as a barrier to all schemes designed to ignore the truth that Moses wrote in Exodus 20, verse 11, “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them.”
F. Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) Edited by D. J. Wiseman, Madison, WI: Inter-Varsity Press 1982.
Carl Sagan, The Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective. Anchor Press, 1973.
Theophilus, Theophilus to Autolycus (Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325, vol. 2) Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Revised by A. Cleveland Coxe. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2012
Wenham, Gordon John. Genesis 1-15, Volume 1 (Word Biblical Commentary). Edited by David Allen Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker. Waco, TX: Zondervan, 2014.
Early in his letter to the Church in Rome, the Apostle Paul wrote: “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts.”
In a similar vein, in chapter 93 of his Dialogue with Trypho, Justin wrote,
For [God] sets before every race of mankind that which is always and universally just, as well as all righteousness; and every race knows that adultery, and fornication, and homicide, and such like, are sinful; and though they all commit such practices, yet they do not escape from the knowledge that they act unrighteously whenever they so do …
We can see this in the ancient laws, such as Hamurrabi’s, or the Sumerian Law Code, that have been recovered through archaeology. They all have very similar restrictions on the behavior of mankind in regards to those they consider ‘citizens,’ those that are not considered as the lower classes such as barbarians or slaves. We also see it in the laws of the Roman Empire in regards to those considered Roman citizens. For lesser people, the law was much less fair. For example, when Paul, who was born a Roman citizen, was about to be beaten, he objected to the soldiers.
But when they stretched him out with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?” When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and told him, saying, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman.” The commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?” And he said, “Yes.” The commander answered, “I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money.” And Paul said, “But I was actually born a citizen.” Therefore those who were about to examine him immediately let go of him; and the commander also was afraid when he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had put him in chains.
The soldiers understood fully the requirement of formal charges by an authorized person in the Roman Law for any Roman citizen to be deprived of freedom or to be punished in any way. To violate that law was to personally put themselves in danger of that same law. That is why they feared. The law, in regards to Roman citizens, was again, similar to other ancient law codes. They showed that a common law was written on the hearts of all mankind. But to those not Roman citizens, the soldiers were free to violate a person’s right to fair treatment. They were free to chain a person and then beat him until they decided to stop. They had obviously been educated on to whom the Law applied fairly and to whom it did not. Merely on Paul’s statement that he belonged to the favored class, they changed from treating him wrongfully to respecting his rights as a human being. The law, by fiat statement, divided up humanity into two divisions: the favored class and all others.
Which brings me back to Justin. Above we stopped in midsentence. Here is a fuller quotation.
For [God] sets before every race of mankind that which is always and universally just, as well as all righteousness; and every race knows that adultery, and fornication, and homicide, and such like, are sinful; and though they all commit such practices, yet they do not escape from the knowledge that they act unrighteously whenever they so do, with the exception of those who are possessed with an unclean spirit, and who have been debased by education, by wicked customs, and by sinful institutions, and who have lost, or rather quenched and put under, their natural ideas. For we may see that such persons are unwilling to submit to the same things which they inflict upon others, and reproach each other with hostile consciences for the acts which they perpetrate.
Justin pointed out that one loses that sense of a violation of the law by “debased … education, by wicked customs, and by sinful institutions.” Those Roman soldiers had been taught by education and by custom to hold to that sinful institution of the law’s division of mankind so that they were perfectly justified treating an innocent man as guilty simply on their own whim. Paul did not have the right to the same consideration as the commander even though Paul was obviously a thinking, breathing, human person just as was the commander. What the commander would not accept upon himself, due to purchasing membership in the favored class, he was perfectly willing to inflict upon Paul
In our western culture, this is exactly what has happened. Our culture has educated the people to ignore the obvious realities of the human body in favor of an artificially constructed division based solely on the fiat statement by a favored class. Where we would normally divide people by the obvious reality of their birth sex, now we are expected to ignore the obvious sexual identity of birth in favor of an artificially declared sexual identity, no matter how grievously this impacts those who hold to that reality of birth, which is the vast majority of humanity now and throughout history.
Justin continued with these comments.
And hence I think that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ spoke well when He summed up all righteousness and piety in two commandments. They are these: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbour as thyself.’ For the man who loves God with all the heart, and with all the strength, being filled with a God-fearing mind, will reverence no other god; and since God wishes it, he would reverence that angel who is beloved by the same Lord and God. And the man who loves his neighbour as himself will wish for him the same good things that he wishes for himself, and no man will wish evil things for himself. Accordingly, he who loves his neighbour would pray and labour that his neighbour may be possessed of the same benefits as himself.
The transgender movement, demanding the right to be included in the bathrooms, the changing rooms, the showers of the opposite sex, are wishing upon their neighbors the things from which they themselves are demanding escape. They are not granting to their neighbors the same benefits as themselves. In insisting on not being included with the sex they reject, they demand acceptance by those whose very use of separate facilities shows their desire to not be included with the sex they reject. By fiat statement, the transgender movement desires to treat others as a less favored class. They are not allowing their neighbor the same benefit they give themselves. They “ are unwilling to submit to the same things which they inflict upon others, and reproach each other with hostile consciences for the acts which they perpetrate.”
As Justin wrote, God “sets before every race of mankind that which is always and universally just.” In violating this, the transgender movement aligns itself with every unjust division of law throughout history which created artificial divisions within humanity in order to treat people as divided between less favored and more favored, less rights and more rights.
Where God regards all men alike, it takes education which supports wicked customs and sinful institutions to so divide people up that not all are treated with equal consideration. Because this violates the natural law that God has built into all humanity, we, as followers of God, must reject the demands of the Transgender movement.
We here, in the United States, have entered a period of civil unrest. Those on one side see government and its agents as unjust and, as a consequence, have chosen to call for attacks upon the agents of government. The result has been many woundings and even killings of these representatives and enforcers of the law. Is a Christian’s response to be based on justice? Are we to decide who is in the right and who is in the wrong and respond accordingly? On what do we base our response to this civil unrest and perceived injustices?
For those who call themselves Christians, claiming to follow the teachings of Jesus, there are some extremely clear guidelines. Jesus told His followers,
You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)
The principle that Jesus has left us is to respond to those who attack us with kindness, with prayer, with the character of God Himself. The apostle Luke put it even clearer when he recorded Jesus’ words thus, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28)
Does this high standard of conduct extend even to those who are the legal earthly representatives of government? Does this command apply to those who wield the power of government?
Yes. Jesus explicitly commanded us to “render unto Caesar the things that belong to Caesar.” The Apostle Paul expanded on this in his letter to the church that dwelt in the heart of the Roman government’s power. In Romans 13:7, writing of the need to submit to government, he wrote “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” We are to give honor and obedience to our governing authorities and to their authorized representatives, our “Law Enforcement.”
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. (Romans 13:1-2)
Paul reminds us that to oppose the civil government is to oppose God Himself since God established the government. And notice that the government’s justice, or lack of it, is not an issue. The command is simply to “be in subjection.”
This applies equally to those who have the responsibility of enforcing the government’s laws. During the Roman Empire, this was, in Israel, the responsibility of the Roman soldiers. When John, known as the Baptist, was giving instructions on righteous behavior to groups of people in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 3, a group of soldiers asked him what they should do. John did not tell them to stop enforcing unjust laws or representing an unjust government, he simply told them not to be unjust themselves. “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.” And we are to willingly and intentionally submit ourselves to these representatives of government, whether or not we believe the laws they are enforcing are unjust. The Apostle Paul called them a “minister of God” to us. As God’s ministers, we are to submit to them in obedience.
Paul further expanded on this, writing about those who resist their authority.
But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.
Resistance to government’s authorized representatives can result in experiencing their right to kill or maim, their right to carry and use ‘the sword.’ So it is not unusual or evil for government’s representatives to use deadly force to enforce obedience to government and its representatives. They carry a ‘sword’ for the purpose of enforcement. What they carry they have the right to use. So it is up to us individually to so react to them that they know that they have nothing to fear from us, that they do not need to use that force on us because we fully and completely obey them.
The apostle Peter summed it all up this way,
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. (1Peter 2:13-17)
So, we who call ourselves followers of Christ must exemplify submission to government and its representatives, no matter whether we are treated justly or unjustly. It is not our right to choose what laws we will obey or what representatives of government we will submit to. We are commanded to obey and to submit. In this way we demonstrate our obedience to God and to His Son, Jesus. And if we are treated unjustly, we are to respond with kindness and love, praying for those who so mistreat us. In this way we truly show ourselves to be sons of our Father Who is in Heaven.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world. (Philippians 2:14-15)
This month we celebrate the birth of our nation. As Christians, we obey Scripture by seeking the good of the place where we live. We are thankful for this nation into which we were born. But we also need to remember that we are sojourners in this land and, ultimately, our true citizenship is in another place. We serve the Great King, along with our brothers and sisters in the Lord in all countries of the world. Early in the history of our Church this was also recognized. In a letter from about A.D. 130, one such Believer named Mathetes wrote:
“For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life.”
Even though we are citizens of this land, and we love our native land, yet we look further to our ultimate home with our Lord and our extended family, our fellow Believers in Christ. What we as Christians do that is peculiar to others is to gather together as a separate people to worship our Lord and to encourage each other. Less than 20 years before the above letter was written, a Roman governor noted about the Christians he persecuted that:
“… they met on a stated day before it was light, and addressed a form of prayer to Christ, as to a divinity, binding themselves by a solemn oath, not for the purposes of any wicked design, but never to commit any fraud, theft, or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble, to eat in common a harmless meal.”
They would meet early like this as many were most likely slaves and would have to be in attendance on their masters. Meeting before daylight provided a time to worship early enough to still make it back to their domestic duties before their masters rose. Sometime before A.D. 165, a prominent Christian, named Justin, described Christian worship in his day:
“[O]n the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.”
As we can see, they were very similar in their practices to our worship practices today, showing our common heritage with them. We read the same sacred texts. We worship the same Lord. We obey the same commands. So as we celebrate our nation’s independence, let us not forget to celebrate daily the greater nation and heritage of which we are all members and citizens, along with our brothers and sisters in every nation of the world.
But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. [1 Peter 2:9-17]
Tragedy, heartache, immense suffering, and death. Sometimes the things we hear about is more than we can process. As we are told about fifty people murdered along with some fifty more wounded in Orlando, we also hear of nineteen girls murdered in a most horrific way in the Middle East. In every case, suffering and death came at the hand of those who have yielded themselves completely to the depravity of their own hearts. It does not matter what excuse mankind uses to justify such acts, they are expressions of the evil that lies in their souls.
Jesus told us of the ultimate source of this murderous, hateful behavior. Speaking to some religious leaders who also had hatred in their souls, Jesus said,
“You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
This demonic attitude of murderous hate has been clearly seen in the events of this past weekend. Jesus also noted that, “… out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man …” Every one of these men who killed, along with every one who approved of these deaths, show clearly the depraved nature of their hearts. They have shown the world the defiled nature of their souls. In spite of the claims of most of them, they have shown themselves to be, truly, children of the devil.
But they are not alone. All mankind lives under the same influence. The Apostle John wrote that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” This can be seen in all the acts of hatred in this world towards God and His Son Jesus, all the acts of rebellion against Their righteous standards of behavior given in Their instructions to mankind recorded in the Scriptures. All mankind is equally depraved since all mankind lies equally under the influence of the wicked one, the devil, and all are equally under God’s judgment.
In spite of this, there is a message of hope in the midst of all this suffering. Though all the world lies under the influence of the wicked one, and all the world is justly condemned because of this, yet God sent His Son Jesus to willingly suffer the penalty due every person for their rebellion against God’s righteous standard of behavior. And Jesus did this in order to offer freely to every person forgiveness, freedom from the power of the wicked one, and a restored relationship with God Himself.
This is the real message of those who actually do represent God. As Jesus Himself told His followers,
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. … But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.”
God Himself “is kind to ungrateful and evil men.”. Though He could simply destroy everyone who is in rebellion against Him, yet He does them kindness by supplying them with the necessary things for life, giving them good things, family to enjoy, rain and food, and time to repent of their evil and place their trust in the sacrifice of His Son Jesus. And those who are His true followers do the same.
So we say to this world, do not be surprised by the evil that men do. They are only expressing from their hearts the influence of the wicked one. They do not and cannot represent God Himself Who is kind to men. Look, instead, for these who show love in the midst of suffering, who pray for those who mistreat them, who are kind towards those who seek to destroy them. It is only from these that you will hear the truth that you need to escape the power of the wicked one whose influence rests in your heart as well.
Before you read the rest of my reply, I would like you to read three brief articles. The first is a brief statement by the American College of Pediatricians on the issue of transgenderism, officially called Gender Dysphoria.
This second article is by Paul McHugh, formerly psychiatric chief at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at the John Hopkins Medical School. He is not a Christian, that I know of, but has extensive experience dealing with this field.
The third article deals with the whole subject of homosexuality, transgenderism, etc, noting that there is no biological basis for these behaviors.
Thank you for reading these.
With the above articles in mind, I hope you noted that these sexual issues are not either/or. Each person involved in them does so on the basis of choice or because of psychological factors. They are changeable. The belief that a female spirit was accidentally placed in a male body, or vice-versa, has no support in Scripture and no empirical evidence outside of Scripture. We are born male or female, determined by our biology, and discomfort with that role is produced in us by the circumstances through which we live and the culture around us. It does not arise from our biology. As such, it should be treated like any other struggle we go through or any other psychological or behavioral disorder. For example, those struggling with kleptomania are not best treated by allowing them to steal as they wish. If we do so the true owners of the items stolen become the victims. Those struggling with rage are not best treated by allowing them to express their rage whenever they please. If we do so those who suffer the psychological distress at their rage or those abused by them become the victims. Those struggling with irrational fears are not best treated by supporting and agreeing with those fears. Those falsely accused by them then also become victims of these irrational fears (think Salem Witch Trials). Racism is not best treated by allowing racists to freely express their hatred. If we do, then the object of their racism become victims of that hatred and suffer because of it. In an identical way, those struggling with the psychological disorder of Gender Dysphoria, by supporting their right to use the bathroom of their choice, make every other person in that restroom a victim of their psychological struggle. It would be no different, logically, than if we allowed those with kleptomania to steal whenever they wished, and then forced the shopkeepers to accept it.
This also allows greater opportunity for sexual offenders to enter into female bathrooms with no method of stopping them. This is a very real threat, as I pointed out to you with this article to which I linked (http://thefederalist.com/2015/11/23/a-rape-survivor-speaks-out-about-transgender-bathrooms/).
As far as being a Christian is concerned, loving a person never implies loving their behavior. The Scriptures are adamant that we love one another, and even love our enemies. If that implied that we also love their behavior then there would never be one word condemning anyone’s sin. But the Scriptures are full of condemnation of behavior. Part of loving someone is helping them by warning them of self-destructive behavior and assisting them in overcoming and changing that behavior. Alcoholism, eating disorders, and substance abuse are additional examples of destructive behaviors.
Is it loving to encourage anyone in a behavior clinically shown to be highly destructive? Sweden has been very supportive of those in the LGBT crowd for a very long time. Note this Swedish study (http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0016885). Let me quote the results of the study:
The overall mortality for sex-reassigned persons was higher during follow-up (aHR 2.8; 95% CI 1.8–4.3) than for controls of the same birth sex, particularly death from suicide (aHR 19.1; 95% CI 5.8–62.9). Sex-reassigned persons also had an increased risk for suicide attempts (aHR 4.9; 95% CI 2.9–8.5) and psychiatric inpatient care (aHR 2.8; 95% CI 2.0–3.9). Comparisons with controls matched on reassigned sex yielded similar results. Female-to-males, but not male-to-females, had a higher risk for criminal convictions than their respective birth sex controls.
Recall what the American College of Pediatricians stated: “Rates of suicide are twenty times greater among adults who use cross-sex hormones and undergo sex reassignment surgery, even in Sweden which is among the most LGBQT – affirming countries.” That is a suicide rate of 2000% compared to the non-LGBT population. Do you really want to affirm behavior with that consequence? Do you want to support behavior that has a much higher rate of cancer and other health risks? Doesn’t our society soundly condemn cigarette smoking because it leads to cancer? Why does our society not condemn this behavior when treatment also leads to a higher cancer risk?
May I remind you that, unless you make it clear to others that all people are under God’s condemnation, you can never show them their need for salvation. That means that you have to reveal to them that they are condemned by God for their sinful behavior and that this sinful behavior has horrible physical and spiritual consequences. I ask you to read carefully Ephesians 5:1-12. Notice what we are commanded in verse 11. We are to expose deeds of darkness, not support them. Denying one’s biological sex is a denial of God’s good creation. To be male or female is not a biological mistake. Transgenderism is a declaration that one’s created identity is a mistake. That in itself is sin. God made us male or female and that maleness or femaleness is determined by whether one has two X chromosomes or an X and a Y chromosome. It is not determined any other way. To deny this is to deny the most fundamental fact about our humanity. We do not love anyone by denying their created identity as a male or female, determined by their biology. To do so is to create and support a false reality and to deny that what God designed is good.
Don’t, please don’t, buy into the sinful behavior of this culture. You only dilute your own witness and make the claim that God loves evil, which is to call God a liar.
Go back to the Scriptures. Let them determine truth for you, not the culture.
As a Pastor and as your Christian brother, I urge you to allow the Holy Spirit to teach you through His Word and to forsake the evil claims of our culture.
Peer pressure can be an insidious thing. Kids get into all sorts of trouble through it. A mother has been reported recently in the news who called law enforcement on her teenage daughter for being in a stolen car. It turned out that the car was car-jacked. The mom lamented that she had not raised her children that way. That sounds like every parent’s nightmare. But it is also a description of much of the American Church.
The Apostle Peter, in his first letter, writes of how the Church came into existence.
“For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23)
We have been brought into existence by the Scriptures, by God’s Word. The Scriptures created the Church community. And we are nurtured by the Scriptures as well. The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews lamented about Christians who would not grow up, needing milk now when they should be handling meat.
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” (Hebrews 5:12)
Here the writer of Hebrews equates milk with “the elementary principles of the oracles of God.” As a newborn needs milk to grow, so a newborn Believer in Christ needs to learn the basic principles given in God’s “oracles,” His Word.
Again, the Apostle Peter wrote, “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2)
But the continued necessity of the Scriptures for life and growth was also expressed by others. Way back in what is probably the earliest book of the Bible, Job, Job expressed His need of God’s Word.
“I have not departed from the command of His lips;
I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.”
In fact, we are told that all of the Bible is necessary for us to become mature, responsible Believers. The Apostle Paul wrote to his protege Timothy,
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Just as a responsible parent gives instruction to their child with the hope that the child will listen and grow up to be a responsible adult, so the Scriptures give us instruction to help us grow into responsible adult Believers, equipped for every good work that God has prepared for us ahead of time. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Asia,
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.“ (Ephesians 2:10)
So the Scriptures give us birth, then nurtures us as spiritual infants, then gives us spiritual meat to enable us to grow up and become useful spiritual adults, able to do the work that God has called us to do.
So, what about this peer pressure?
Our culture, of course, rejects the Scriptures as any source of truth or authority. Instead, they have their own views of truth, their own views of the purpose and roles of men and women, their own attitudes towards sexuality, and their own beliefs about origins.
So, what has this to do with the Church?
When the culture influences the Church to ignore clear statements of the Scriptures, statements long understood by the Church as meaning exactly what they say, we have submitted to the peer pressure of our culture. When the Church turns its back on statements such as, “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day,” in order to accept the godless culture’s pronouncements, that is yielding to peer pressure to turn their backs on what they are taught through the Word.
When the Church turns its back on statements such as, “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet” in order to accommodate the cultures revision of the male and female roles, that is yielding to the culture’s peer pressure.
And when the Church turns its back on statements such as, “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error,” in order to accommodate the culture’s revision of God’s plan for sexuality, that is yielding to our culture’s peer pressure.
Is it any wonder that the Church in America is so weak and ineffectual? We have come to need milk and not the meat of the Word. We have, in our rebellion, turned aside to foolish pursuits, ignoring our clear instructions given to us to become mature Believers.
If we, as a Church, as a body of Believers, are going to become effective again in showing God to this world, in restraining evil, in bringing light to the spiritual darkness of our culture, we must get back to becoming mature Believers and quit turning our backs on what the Scriptures state. We need to learn again to handle the meat of the Word and quit being rebellious.
After all, as that grieving mother stated, we were not raised that way.
The Book of Genesis is one of the most polarizing books in the Bible. People bring to it all sorts of presuppositions that predetermine their viewpoint of its accuracy. From its description of the origins of the Universe and all that is in it, to Israel’s right to the land, Genesis is a polarizing book. Since the Gospels quote from or allude to Genesis 1-7 and the entire New Testament quotes from or alludes to all chapters of Genesis except for chapters 31, 43 and 44, it is important to consider the accuracy of the Old Testament book of Genesis.
One of the most persistent attacks on Genesis, and the rest of the Pentateuch, is what is called the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis. Originating before H. K. Graf in the 1700s but developed by him and subsequently by Julius Wellhausen, it posits that the Pentateuch is a late compilation of the writings of four sources: J, E, D, and P. J is the Jehovistic source from the 9th century B.C., E is the Elohistic source from the 8th century B.C., D is the book of Deuteronomy from the time of King Josiah, and P is the priestly source from the period following the exile, or the 5th century B.C.. The terms ‘Jehovistic’ and ‘Elohistic’ refers to their preferred names for God, “Jehovah (Yahweh)” being the proper name and “Elohim” the generic word ‘God,’ indicating different authors. That an author could and would use different names was rejected. The priestly document supposedly reflected the concerns of the priesthood and the Deuteronomic document supposedly reflected Levitical concerns. According to Wellhuasen’s 1877 book,
“… the Jehovistic author compiled a narrative document from the sources J and E, and this was supplemented by the addition of Deuteronomy in the time of Josiah. Leviticus 17-26 was added to the priestly document somewhat after the time of Ezekiel, while the remainder of the priestly material in the Elohistic source was compiled by Ezra. At a subsequent period the entire corpus was revised and edited to form the extant Pentateuch, perhaps by about 200 B.C.” (Harrison, 22-23)
By the 20th century, the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis had become the accepted narrative for the origin of the Pentateuch, including Genesis, in liberal scholarship, and continues so to this day. The hypothesis has not remained static but, in the hands of various liberal scholars, has been expanded. In 1907, E. Sievers divided J, E, and P into five, three and six different sources making fifteen sources. Others have shortened sources to three or expanded them to five and frequently many more. Some rearrange them in chronological order. The large range of proposals show the emotional rather than factual basis of this hypothesis.
The hypothesis was not without its vigorous opponents. Conservative scholarship has attacked the hypothesis all along. As archaeology of the Middle East began to make leaps and bounds in the late 1800s as royal libraries were being discovered, Genesis 12-50 began to be recognized as fitting into the larger picture of the early second millennium B.C. Rather than being a fabrication to give Israel some history, Genesis was being shown to fit within the cultural and political milieu of the time it claimed its events were occurring. M. J. Selman, after an extensive discussion of early second millennium texts from Mari, Ugarit, and other places, listed thirteen cultural similarities to the passages in Genesis from the early second millennium culture (Selman, 91-139). Kenneth Kitchen listed several aspects of Genesis and the Old Testament that showed the texts were from the period they claim to be from. First, he noted how the price for slaves listed at various places in the OT reflected accurately the increasing price for slaves in the larger culture. Second, he noted how the forms of the various treaties and covenants given in the OT reflected the forms of treaties and covenants recorded in the texts of the wider culture, changing over time and that change accurately reflected in the changes in the form of treaties and covenants over time in the OT. Third, he noted how the geo-political conditions described in Genesis and the rest of the OT accurately reflect the geo-political conditions garnered from archaeology and ancient records. Fourth, the political conditions in Egypt also reflect that given in Genesis at the time Genesis claims to be occurring. Fifth, “the form of the patriarchal names themselves can help us date the Patriarchal Age. Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and even Ishmael (Abraham’s son by Hagar) have names that in their original language (Yitzchak, Ya’akov, Yoseph and Yishmael) begin with an i/y-prefix; scholars of Northwest Semitic languages call these ‘Amorite imperfective’ names” (BAR 21:02, 1995). Kitchen went on to note that, for the early second millennium B.C., of over 6,000 names, 55% of all names beginning with i/y are Amorite imperfective names. Compare this to the late second millennium names where the percentage for Amorite imperfective names is down to 30% and 25%. For the Iron Age (c. 1200 – 700 B.C.), it drops to 12%. For Assyria it drops to 1.6%. So the names of all the Patriarchs except Abraham reflects mainly the early second millennium, just as Genesis presents them (BAR 21:02).
Then there is Hebrew poetry. A simple look at the book of Psalms shows the usage of various names for God within the same composition. If we applied the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis to the Psalms, we would have to literally shred them. For example, notice how these two passages use both Yahweh (LORD) and Elohim (God):
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were born
Or You gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. (Psalm 90:1-2)
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!” (Psalm 91:1-2)
The famed archeologist Cyrus Gordon rejected the JEDP hypothesis based on his observations of early Middle Eastern texts. He noted, “The urge to chop the Bible (and other ancient writing) up into sources is often due to the false assumption that a different style must mean a different author” (Gordon, 4). He continued,
One of the fragile cornerstones of the JEDP hypothesis is the notion that the mention of “Jehovah” (actually “Yahweh”) typifies a J document while “Elohim” typifies an E document. A conflation of J and E sources into JE is supposed to account for the compound name Yahweh Elohim. All this is admirably logical and for years I never questioned it. But my Ugaritic studies destroyed this kind of logic with relevant facts. At Ugarit, deities often have compound names. One deity is called Qadish-Amrar; another, Ibb-Nikkal. … The most famous is perhaps [the Egyptian god] Amon-Re… [W]hen we are told that ‘Yahweh-Elohim’ is the result of documentary conflation, we cannot accept it any more than we can understand Amon-Re to be the result of combining an ‘A’ document with an ‘R’ document (Gordon, 4-5).
A seriously flawed system of fragmentation, the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis cannot support the weight of a fragmented, developing series of myths written to create a national and theological history for the Jews: i.e the critics view of the Old Testament. Instead, the Pentateuch, and primarily Genesis, presents details that fit very well into the cultural and geopolitical historic time period that the Pentateuch, including Genesis, claims to present. It is history, not myth.
Cyrus H. Gordon, Higher Critics and Forbidden Fruit, Christianity Today IV/4, 1959.
Roland Kenneth Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Peabody, MA: Prince Press, 1999).
Kenneth Kitchen, The Patriarchal Age: Myth or History?, Biblical Archaeology Review 21:02, 1995.
M. J. Selman, Comparative Customs and the Patriarchal Age in Essays on the Patriarchal Narratives, ed. A. R. Millard and D. J. Wiseman (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1980).