Monday, May 20, 2019



The Bible on marriage, gender, and sexuality

All human beings are created in God’s image and are, therefore, of immeasurable value (Gen. 1:26-27). Our male and female genders are also a part of God’s original good creation, and our sexuality is to be celebrated. The God-ordained context for virtuous sexual expression and procreation is marriage, a sacred covenant between one man and one woman (Gen. 2:24; Mt. 19:4-6; Heb. 13:4).

For Christians, the sanctity of the marital covenant is further reinforced by the New Testament use of marriage as a metaphor of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31-33).

The biblical design for human sexuality demands sexual faithfulness for married couples (Exod. 20:14; 1 Cor. 6:13-20) and chastity for those who are single (1 Thess. 4:3-8). All premarital and extra-marital sexual activity (e.g., fornication, adultery, incest, prostitution, homosexual behavior, and all sexual activity involving children) is immoral.

Homosexual behavior is explicitly and repeatedly forbidden in both the Old and New testaments (Romans 1:27; Jude 1:7; 1 Timothy 1:8-11; Mark 10:6-9; Matthew 19: 4-16; 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11; 1 Corinthians 7:2; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Genesis 19:4-8)

And all use or involvement with pornographic materials is sinful, as are all forms of sexual abuse, exploitation, and harassment (1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:9-10).

SOURCE



Repeated from June 22, 2017:

The scripture that the mainstream churches can't find

Here it is:

"Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

Their theologians can find it though.  It's in 1 Corinthians 6:9. So what do liberal  theologians say about it?  How do they wriggle around it?

They say that the word "Arsenokoitai" (meaning homosexual) in Paul's original Greek is of uncertain meaning.  And it is true that Paul's use of it in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 is the only mention of the word in the NT.  And my Liddell & Scott Lexicon of ancient Greek notes it as being found only in the NT. So let us look at the complete passage in the original Greek:



Tricky, Huh?  The word we are interested in is the last one on the third line.

Not really tricky.  Liddell & Scott give the word as a pair:  "Arseno-koitees".  And "arseno is the normal Greek word for a male. And "koitees" means to sleep. So the word clearly means "male-sleeper'.  Paul just jammed two common words into one -- with  perfect confidence that his meaning would be obvious. Only a liberal theologian could doubt what he meant.

Curiously, when academics talk about sexual intercourse, they often refer to it as "coitus".  They actually use an Anglicized spelling of the same Greek word that Paul used in referring to sex with men. The Left really are pathetic in their flight from reality. 

There is a very extensive coverage of the whole issue here.  They are more polite than I am but come to the same conclusion.

And if there were any doubt about the NT condemnation of homosexuality, Paul makes it REALLY clear whom he is talking about in Romans 1:27.  They are among those who have been abandoned by God.

A small footnote: In 1 Corinthians 6:9 Paul does not in fact refer to homosexuals generally. He specifically refers to MALE homosexuals, people whom Britons and Australians still sometimes call "poofs" or "poofters". I won't repeat the American slang term as it is rather more excoriating than the British one. Lesbians don't get off entirely, however. See Romans 1:26.

UPDATE:  While we have a large body of writings on which to base our understanding of classical Attic Greek, we have nothing like that for the "koine" Greek of Christ's day.  The NT is just about all we have of it.  So it could obviously have been common for "Arsenokoitai" to be widely used at that time without  our having any surviving evidence of that.  And I get the feeling from Paul's casual use of the term that it was in fact common.  I think that it was most likely to have been the contemptuous term of its day.  "Male-sleeper" is not as contemptuous as "f***ot" or "poof" But I think it probably served a similar function.

And, if I can build speculation on speculation, we can perhaps see an explanation for why Paul was so explicit in his description of homosexuality in Romans 1:26,27.  Why did he not simply use "Arsenokoitai", as he did elsewhere?  Possibly because it was Greek slang that would not be well understood in Rome. Greek was perfectly well understood in grand Roman society but Paul was probably addressing poor Romans whose native language was Latin.  Was the epistle to the Romans in fact originally written in Latin?  For an educated man like Paul to understand Latin would not be surprising.  And we know that he did once say something important in Latin: "Appello Caesarem".

Wednesday, April 24, 2019




Predestination and Donald Trump

The doctrine of predestination is part of Christian teachings.  It is to be found primarily in Paul's letter to the Ephesians, chapter 1 but there are also various hints of it in Christ's words.  For instance, when Simon Peter cut off the servant's ear with his sword in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said: "Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" -- John 18:10.

The early Christian reformer, John Calvin of Geneva, was a great expositor of predestination. He placed it front and centre of his teaching.  But it was a difficult doctrine.  If everything is predestined before we were born, what is the point of trying to be good? We could personally have no hand in what we did. And, more to the point, whether we were saved to eternal life in heaven or not was also pre-ordained. So, as Calvin saw it, the interesting thing was to see which group you belonged to:  The saved or the damned.

And you could find that out by looking at the lot that the Lord had given you. If you lived a virtuous and prosperous life, that suggested that the Lord had picked you out as one of the good guys and you could be proud of that.

So that was a considerable discipline.  If you misbehaved, it would reveal you as one of the damned. And all good people would shy away from you.  So you had to act very virtuously or you would have no hope of eternal life.  So Calvin built up a reasonable ethical system that way, that did take predestination into account.  You were always looking for signs of God's favour to reassure yourself of your destiny and the signs were your own ethical behaviour.

And Calvin was influential.  His disciple John Knox took his teachings to Scotland, where they took strong root and the various Presbyterian churches preached it from their pulpits. And the Dutch Reformed churches are generally Calvinist too.  Protestant Dutchmen in Australia generally just go along to their local Presbyterian church.

In my lifetime, however, I doubt that I have ever heard any mention of the doctrine from a Presbyterian pulpit.  It has sort of unofficially died out as being too "difficult" a doctrine.  The odd thing, though, is that the doctrine has lived on among the Presbyterian laity.  I remember well the way both my mother and my aunties would say to me on occasions -- with quiet confidence --   "Don't worry, John.  It was all planned out before were were born".  The people are still often Calvinists, regardless of what the clergy are.

My theology is no better than Calvin's so I don't propose to attempt an improvement on it. I think it may be helpful  however if I point out a few things.

The most important is that predestination is part of the mercy gospel, which is a prominent element in Christian teaching. Its powerful preaching in Matthew 5 is well known:  "If a man smiteth thee on thy right cheek ..."  So predestination fits in there.  If you know that an evildoer cannot help it, that he was predestined to do that evil, you are much more likely to be forgiving than if you think he could possibly have refrained from doing that evil deed. "There but for the grace of God go I". So predestination makes Christians merciful, which is probably a good thing.

Predestination also helps to make sense of the world.  If strange things happen, you will not be disturbed by them.  They are just God's will and nobody can know the mind of the Lord.  So the doctrine gives you mental repose.  Whatever happens, it is all taken care of.  There is no cause to worry. And it seems to work.  In my experience Presbyterians do seem to be steadier in the face of life's uncertainties and difficulties.  "It's all God's will". So they just get on with their lives as best they can.   It's about as non-neurotic as you can get.

The great example in our era of steadiness in the face of furious and prolonged abuse and attack would have to be Mr. Trump -- and he was brought up as a Presbyterian, courtesy of his Scottish mother.  Did he hear from his mother:  "It was all planned out before we were born"?  I would be surprised if he did not.

Arabs also, of course, believe that everything is fated:  "InshAllah!". But it seems to be altogether too relaxing to them.  It becomes an excuse not to strive. They don't have Calvin's wisdom on that.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019


Obedience to the authorities and Romans 13

Romans 13 was for a long while held to support the divine right of kings.  But does it? It is certainly a command to be a good citizen and one cannot easily object to that.  But the idea that one should just accept anything that any government does is surely troubling.  Even more troubling is the idea that all governments, however bad, were put there by God. So let's see where Paul may have been coming from in writing that.

I have previously suggested here and here that some of the commands to Christians given in the NT were not meant as instructions for all times but rather for the very transitional period when the first flowering of Christianity was in danger of being crushed under the feet of the established authorities, mostly Roman but also more local.  The imperative was for the faith to survive but once that was firmly in place "normal" rules could apply. That helps us to understand the most disobeyed instruction in the Bible:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Matthew 5:38

That advice runs against all nature.  No-one naturally behaves that way.  It is anti-instinctual. So it must have been designed for a very special occasion.  And it was.

It seems to me that these were instructions Jesus gave in full knowledge of the hostility that already existed towards him and the great danger his followers would be in after his death.  He wanted his teachings to survive his death and the disciples were to be the vehicle for that survival.  So he gave them instructions which would minimize hostility towards them.

How do we know that these instructions were for a transitional period only?  Easy.  Many of his other instructions were quite martial. "He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.".  Again: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword".  And Christ himself drove the moneychangers out of the temple. And when Simon Peter cut off the servant's ear with his sword, Jesus did not say that the use of the sword was wrong.  He simply said that the time was wrong for that -- John 18:10.

And Romans 13 is clearly an elaboration of the instructions in Matthew 5. Paul was a good apostle. It reads:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.  For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.  For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.  Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.  This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.  Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Paul was writing in the very beginning of the Christian expansion and there was already hostility to their "strange" beliefs in the Greek cities where they were mostly to be found.  So he wanted to instill attitudes of non-resistance to make them safe.  That both he and Christ saw non-resistance as powerful was in fact amazing wisdom for the time.  It was brilliant advice on how to survive hostility and danger. Psychologists these days teach "de-escalation techniques" for dealing with conflict but Christ and Paul taught such techniques 2,000 years ago.

But are we certain yet that the desire for a peaceful life lay behind those instructions?  I think there is one more piece of evidence that clinches it. It is in I Timothy 2:

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty

So it is clear that deflection of aggression from the authorities is the single theme of Matthew 5, Romans 13 and 1 Timothy 2. And in those times deflecting hostility was vital if the faith was to survive.  Being known as good people would help them survive.

But what if the survival of the faith is no longer threatened, as is the case in the modern world, with its billions of Christians?  I think in that case the instructions continue as useful tools but they are not something mandatory.  They were instructions for a particular time and circumstance.  So we may no longer use swords but armed self-defense is allowed. But Christian forgiveness still is a wise response to many conflict situations in 1 to 1 relationships.

So was Paul pulling a fast one in telling us that all governments were ordained by God?  Was he telling a white lie in order to get the early Christians to behave?

He was not.  He was simply re-iterating the doctrine of predestination, as found in Ephesians chapter 1.  John Calvin was much taken by that doctrine and did much to elaborate it and it survives as an official doctrine of Presbyterian churches to this day.  It is even preached in the 39 Articles of Religion of the Church of England, albeit in a rather strangled way. That does however raise new issues so I will leave a discussion of it for another day.

Friday, March 29, 2019


Bible verse scrawled on a tribute wall to victims of the Christchurch mosque terrorist attack sparks outrage - as mourners call for it to be removed immediately

Since nobody else seems to be offering an exegesis of Luke 19:27, perhaps I should.

For a start, it is part of a parable in which Jesus is emphasizing that deeds have consequences and that good deeds are expected. And as a parable it is not meant to be taken literally.  So saying that it commands that non-Christians should be slain is wrong.

The first part of the parable tells us that we should use our abilities for good.  So those who contributed something got a reward.  And doing nothing was insufficient.  The man who had simply locked away the money he had was penalized.

And then we come to actual opponents of the good.  They were to be slain -- as the wicked would be at the last day



A Bible verse scrawled on a tribute wall for the Christchurch mosque massacre victims will be removed after it sparked outrage among members of the public.

The message, which simply read 'Luke 19:27', was spotted by Duncan Lucas as he made his way past the wall on a development site in Auckland on Tuesday.

Mr Lucas decided to look up the gospel verse, and was shocked to find it was a reference to enemies being killed in front of a king.

'Not being somebody well versed in biblical studies, it struck me curious someone would write it up with no reference,' Mr Lucas told Stuff.co.nz.

'Without any surrounding context, it [the verse] shows a particular standpoint and indicates that anyone of one particular faith is not deserving of equal treatment,' he added.

In the King James version of the Bible, the verse reads: 'But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.'

While Mr Lucas didn't think the reference needed to be removed he did say it was a 'bit sick' that someone had appeared to deliberately leave out any context.

'I just think whoever put it up there knew they avoided context and knew it would speak to people who looked it up. I think that's a bit sick,' he said.

The marketing manager for Precinct Properties, which erected the tribute wall, confirmed the company were 'making steps' to remove the reference.

She said the company were happy to hear from any members of the public who might deem a message on the wall as inappropriate.

But she added that in the main the wall had been filled with 'overwhelmingly positive' content.

Since the message board was created many well-wishers have taken the time to write touching tributes and inspirational words. 

SOURCE