How Idolatry Ruined Israel

goldencalf1 Corinthians 10:1-14

I want to continue looking at Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians regarding eating food sacrificed to idols and the extent of Christian liberty. Previous three posts can be seen here,

PART 1
PART 2
PART 3

Just to recap, the Corinthians believed they could maintain their previous, non-Christian relationship with the pagan culture of Corinth. That attitude further convinced them they were at liberty to join in the ceremonies and other festivities of the pagan temples. In fact, given the tone of Paul’s letter in regards to the matter, they were rather insistent about their participation.

That insistent attitude, however, was ruining their testimony with unbelievers, as well as leading other Christians astray into idolatry. Rather than telling them they have that liberty, yet to be mindful of the so-called “weaker brother,” the standard interpretation of these passages, Paul confronts them with a sharp rebuke telling them to get out of those places altogether. Their liberty does not give them that right; in truth it was really a false, self-serving liberty.

Over the course of 1 Corinthians 8-10, Paul, I believe, presents his case for the Corinthians rejecting their false liberty  around four broad areas, 1) It was a danger to believers, 2) It disqualified one’s overall ministry, 3) It ruined Israel, and 4) It disrupts the fellowship of the brethren.

With this post, I come to the third area Paul presents as to why the Corinthians must get out of the temple and stop eating idol food. That is, idolatry ruined Israel.

Paul breaks down his argument along three points,

The Record of Idolatry – He begins by directing his readers back to the OT history of Israel. That he would bring up the OT is interesting. He is primarily interacting with gentiles when he writes the Corinthians, offering correction to individuals who wouldn’t necessarily be familiar with the OT at all. Paul, none the less, instructed them in the history of Israel, because the OT is so vital to understanding the promises of Christ and how they relate to the Christian Church. There is application to be made from God’s dealings with Israel who were His people, to the Christian Corinthians who are also His people.

The Corinthian church came from somewhere. Their existence is anchored in history, so Paul is essentially instructing them in that history. Additionally, Christ was there as well with Israel. That of course is because Christ is God, and like he was with Israel, so to is He with the Corinthians.

There are similarities between the Israelites and the Corinthians. Just as the Israelites were called out from bondage to Egypt, Christ called out the Corinthians from bondage to sin. Just like God protected and provided for Israel in the wilderness, so also Christ protects and provides for the Corinthians.

However, in spite of having God and Christ with them – seeing the cloud of glory, seeing the miracles, and having God provide directly for them – Israel involved themselves with sinful, idolatrous activity. They are what Paul describes as examples from whom the Corinthians can learn by observing God’s dealings with them.

The Warning of Idolatry – As Paul notes in 10:7, Israel engaged in building a golden calf as recorded in Exodus 32. He goes on to remind the Corinthians how they also committed sexual immorality in Numbers 25, complained against God in Numbers 21, and also complained against God’s chosen man, Moses, in Numbers 16. Each one of those instances involved elements of pagan worship. They worshiped false gods, engaged in sexual immorality, and ultimately reject God and Christ.

Those OT events stand as examples, or illustrations, the Corinthian church needs to ponder. They should learn from their tragic example. Just like Israel had first hand experience with the true and living God when He brought them out of Egypt, the Corinthians did as well, especially in experiencing salvation. With that in mind, Paul is warning that they need to consider their slouching toward disobedience with their abuse of liberty. As he writes in 10:12, the Christians needed to take heed, lest they fall into idolatry and incur the judgment of God. Their continued persistence in participating in pagan temple could at any moment destroy them as a church.

The Call to Put Away Idols – Paul then finishes up his warning by reminding the Corinthian’s in 10:13 of God’s promise to take care of His people. He does so by writing that none of them will be overtaken in a temptation, and will never be tempted beyond what they are able to bear.

This verse is misunderstood. The typical view of what Paul is stating here is taken as him telling the Corinthians that when hard trials come their way, particularly in their individual, personal lives, God won’t give them more than they can handle. In reality, however, that isn’t always true: sometimes a person does get a lot and they can’t handle it on a personal level at all.

That is not at all what Paul means with this verse. In the context of our discussion about them abusing their liberty in the pagan temples, the Corinthians would be tempted to involve themselves in the temple ceremonies because it is cultural. As I noted in a previous article, they would see the temple, not merely as a place of idol worship, but as a cultural center where those who want to get ahead in society would gather to be seen and heard and to gain influence among peers. If they were to cut themselves off from those opportunities, there could be severe, financial and cultural repercussions. At least that is the worry on the part of many in the church.

However, the greater good they could do is flee from the blatant idolatry in those temples. The Corinthians need to cut their participation in those places out of their lives, and if they experience uncomfortable persecution and financial hardship, God is faithful, writes Paul, to help them. He provides the way of escape, as it were.

The much greater harm is the idolatry itself. For just like it destroyed the nation of Israel over the course of their history, it too will certainly destroy the Corinthians. That is why Paul commands them to flee from idolatry. It is not a matter of the extent of their Christian liberty, but obedience to the Lord.

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Disqualifying Your Ministry

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1 Corinthians 9

I have been exploring the extent of Christian liberty as it relates to Paul’s teaching on the topic of eating meat sacrificed to idols from 1 Corinthians 8-10.

Previous posts can be read here, PART 1 and PART 2

In review, Paul opens his argument in I Corinthians 8 by explaining how eating meat sacrificed to idols can be a danger for believers. He confronts and rebukes the Corinthian Christians for their egregious abuse of liberty that was damaging the testimony of their church and bringing reproach upon Christ. They believed that because they understood that idol worship really did nothing spiritually to a Christian, they had the right to participate as believers in the pagan temple rituals of Corinth. Paul spends three chapters in his letter explaining how they were wrong about their participation in pagan temples, and exhorted them to get out of those places and have nothing to do with them.

Beginning in chapter 9, Paul moves to correcting their abuse of liberty by drawing their attention to his personal ministry and missionary endeavors. His ministry as an apostle gave him the right, or freedom, to ask and receive financial assistance from those to whom he ministered. Paul instead relinquished his financial rights so as not to be an unnecessary stumbling block that would hinder the spreading of the Gospel. Likewise, he exhorts the Corinthian believers to not disqualify their ministry in Corinth.

Keep in mind that the pagan temple services were societal and cultural gatherings for those in Corinth. If a person wanted influence, social status, connections, and personal power within the Corinthian social ranks, that person received invitations to any pagan festivals, rituals, or feasts. If he were to forsake those invitations, he not only gave up social prestige and getting ahead in Corinthian society, there was also the possible forfeiture of financial gain.

Considering the argument that the Corinthians would personally lose there social benefit if they were to give up their so-called liberty engaging in temple ceremonies, Paul points to his own life and ministry. In chapter 9:1-14, Paul lays out his reasons why he not only had the freedom, but the very right, to ask for financial gain from the Corinthians, but yielding up those rights brought so much more spiritual benefit for the Gospel’s sake.

He starts out speaking to his apostleship, 9:1-6. Just as the other apostles exercised their right to financial support, and even the support of their wives, so too did Paul and Barnabas have such a right. Next, he points out how soldiers are taken care of by the army, farmers eat the produce of their own fields, and shepherds can partake from their own flock, 9:7. He then points out the scriptural principle that one who plows has the freedom to eat of what it is he plants, 9:9-10.

In like manner, Paul explains how the Corinthians were the product of his ministry and he had a right to ask them for financial support, 9:11-12. And then he states that those who perform sacred duties, which could include both pagan and believing ministers, regularly share from the altar, 9:13-14. In other words, they are supported financially by those who attend the temple or seek out their spiritual services.

Now the question may be asked, “What does financial support have to do with disqualifying someone’s ministry?”

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A couple of thoughts,

First off, Greek and Roman culture valued oratory. In other words, an erudite speaker with the ability to articulate ideas and persuade with his words so that he compelled listeners with the philosophy he presented, would have the potential for a lucrative talent. In fact, he could be paid quite well.

Additionally, the educated leisure class, or those who commonly frequented the pagan temple festivities, believed that anyone who did not charge for his speaking abilities obviously did not have anything substantive to say. The message he presented was essentially worthless. A really good lecturing philosopher would charge for his philosophy talks. Paul countered that thinking frequently during his ministry. For instance, he responded to the Corinthians for this very attitude in 1 Corinthians 1:17-2:5.

Yet Paul chose not to charge for his preaching, nor did he care about his speaking talent at all. Instead, he refused his right to receive money from the Corinthians and supported his own way through tent-making and other means. He then points to his custom as an example as to why the Corinthians should put aside any liberty they believed they had with participating in pagan temple rituals and get themselves out of those places.

Paul, then, lays out three broad reasons how the Corinthians can disqualify their own ministry if they would not give up their misguided liberty.

Devalues God’s Calling – 15-18. God had called Paul to salvation; to be HIS apostle who carried the Gospel.  However, if he preached the Gospel, as “under compulsion” (vs.16), accountable to others apart from the Lord, he would be beholden to a big donor or perhaps a group of donors. In other words, the Gospel he preached may not be the true Gospel, but the one his benefactors wished him to preach because they gave Paul money.

Paul on the other hand makes it clear that he is beholden to no living person. He is only accountable to God because he choose to give up his rights when it came to making a living at ministry. While he was entitled to financial support, he saw how it could possibly cause others to doubt the credibility of his overall ministry, thus discrediting God’s calling on his life.

Diminishes His Service – 19-21. Paul turns to explaining how surrendering his rights to be supported for ministry freed him for more service (vs.19). Freed from any obligation to a set of supporters provided him liberty to minister to a wide variety of people.

On the one hand, he made himself like the Jews, or what he describes as “those under law.” He wasn’t unnecessarily offensive to the Jewish people, but accommodated their practices for the purpose of having inroads to their synagogues.

An excellent example of Paul’s ministry in this fashion is seen in Acts 16:1-4 where he has his young disciple, Timothy, circumcised so as not to be an offense to the Jews. Paul certainly recognized that honoring certain Jewish tradition did not add anything to his salvation (vs.20), but it did provide him the ability to attend Jewish gatherings for the purpose of proclaiming the true Gospel.

Yet on the other hand, when necessary, he adjusted his ministry to reach gentiles, or those “without the law,” with the Gospel. He avoided the snobbery that Jews often displayed against the gentiles, like for example Peter’s separation from the gentiles when other Jews from Jerusalem visited with him at Antioch (Galatians 2:11-13).

And just so that Paul was clear to the Corinthians, when he states he is “without the law,” he is not saying he lives a lawless life with no holiness. He is submitted to the “law of Christ,” (vs.21). That doesn’t mean he lives under an entirely different expression of the law of God, but that his ministry is directed by Christ-likeness. Similar to what Paul will later write in this letter in 11:1 to be “imitators of me as I am of Christ,” or how the law of Christ constrains him to bear one another’s burdens in Galatians 6:2.

Damages Others – 22-27. Lastly, Paul explains how continuing with the participation in temple festivities can disqualify one’s ministry by losing the opportunity to present the Gospel to the weak.

Now the question among commentators at this point is who does Paul have in mind when he mentions “the weak?” Is it the idea previously discussed in chapter 8, a person with a weak conscience? A Christian who has a thin faith and lacks the knowledge of God like the strong, and who could easily fall back into patterns of sin from which he was saved? Or does he have something else entirely in mind?

The understanding  that the weak is a person struggling with his conscience on matters like whether or not Christians have the liberty to eat idol food would make sense if Paul’s main argument in 8-10 is for the strong to show love for the weak in faith by giving up their liberty for their sake. But as was established in the previous articles in this study, Paul’s argument is for the Corinthians to totally remove themselves from pagan temples and idol feasts. He isn’t trying to settle a dispute between those with the freedom of knowledge to eat idol food and those still trapped by their weak consciences.

Considering the context here, it is better to understand the weak as not Christians with weak consciences, but as unbelievers who were the social underclass in Corinth and could never prosper from the participation in temple culture from their rituals. The primary reason for drawing that conclusion has to do with Paul’s overall discussion from 19-27.

The illustrations in chapter 9 are used by Paul for explaining how giving up his right to financial support helps him further the Gospel. His reasoning from 19-22 for giving up that right is so that he could reach the lost in all levels of society, Jews, Gentiles, and now the weak. If the weak were already Christians, categorizing them with unbelieving Jews and gentiles is strange.

The point he is making is meant to confront the Corinthians who used their liberty at the pagan temples as a means for their personal financial gain. Their right to be free in regards to temple rituals and feasts not only isolated them from those Christians who could be led astray back into idol worship, but also from the unbelievers who were of a lower social class with no economic ability to participate in those temple practices. For Paul, he relinquishes his financial rights for the weak so he can bring them the saving Gospel, (22-23).

As Paul concludes his thought, he notes the discipline of athletes, (24-27). A runner who wishes to win the gold medal will discipline himself so that he can obtain it. He denies himself leisure time, and instead runs to build endurance. He limits his diet, eating those foods that will strengthen his body. He takes care of his feet, perhaps spending extra money on well-made running shoes.

In the same way, Christians need to discipline themselves, and that would be centered squarely on limiting what perceived liberty they believe they have. In doing so, it will keep them from a disqualified ministry that limits the effectiveness of the Gospel.

Lame Arguments Liberty Drinkers Should Avoid

I originally wrote this post back in 2011 after John MacArthur stirred the dander of the 30-something pastor set who love to play like they are sophisticated metropolitans or who want to “take dominion over and reform drinking booze.” He wrote an article basically telling them to put down their beer steins and wake up to the fact that there is more to Christian liberty than the unshackled, William Wallace shout of freedom with drinking micro-booze.

When I engaged the critics of John’s article, I quickly discovered they made some of the lamest arguments for liberty drinking I had ever encountered. I wrote up a response to each of their key talking points. Since then, new arguments have been put forth, and seeing that this is an issue that is still a problem in local churches, I wanted to update my initial post.

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Allow me to start off by affirming to my readers that I am not a teetotaler. I would never advocate for being a teetotaler. I probably have just as much disdain, if not more, for the legalistic social mores binding undiscerning Christians to classic American fundamentalists.

In fact, I like a good wine. I may have a glass if I am on vacation with my wife and we have opportunity to stay at one of those fancy Pacifica hotels dotting the coast of California. Recently, I have started taking a Coke Zero and rum in the evening, which I find delicious. When Costco has a case of that fruity, alcoholic beer-malt liquor stuff on sale, we’ll pick one up. And during the holidays we splurge a little and buy a bottle of Bailey’s.

However, I am also aware of the fact that alcohol in any form is viewed by the majority of American Christians as being “sinful.” Yes, I realize they are mistaken about that, but reality is reality, and that attitude is not changing anytime soon, in spite of anyone’s efforts to the contrary.

As long as beer and wine is perceived as a terrible vice used by party people on spring break, rowdy tailgaters at a football game, and tavern brawlers whose mugshots appear on the Smoking Gun website, it is not a wise idea for Christian ministers to foster alcohol consumption among their people. My life is lived in front of many folks, and it is to those people I am responsible for ministering Christ. Making it a habit of obnoxiously flaunting my liberty with alcohol consumption is not helpful for them, and will only generate more confusion than is necessary.

Now, with that being stated, there are individuals who insist Christians should not only express their liberty with drinking, they have anointed drinking as a spiritual virtue. Anyone who opposes their outlook is mercilessly ridiculed and condemned. The arguments they put forth, however, are not well thought through. So, let’s look at the lame arguments I have encountered defending Christian liberty drinking.

Martin Luther and/or the Reformers and/or the Puritans brewed beer and consumed wine.

That is generally the immediate response to my position of cautious moderation. “Well, Martin Luther and/or the Reformers drank beer, so why can’t we?”

Keep in mind that Martin Luther lived 500 YEARS AGO!

While we certainly applaud Luther and express our heart-felt Christianly thanks for him defending the timeless truths of the Gospel, that does not mean we are to automatically emulate him, or any other Reformer for that matter, and his various social convictions.

Think about it. What is more important? That we reform ourselves according to biblical standards or historical standards? What was a normal part of society in Germany 500 years ago may had been acceptable, but was it necessarily biblical? Even if it is just American Christians who have weird hang-ups with alcohol because of the old prohibition days still doesn’t mean we need to be like German Christians today. It may not be the best use of liberty for them either just because they live in Europe and have no connection to our prohibition past.

The same can be said about the other Reformers as well. Do we adopt all the social conventions of the Reformers and the Puritans just because they did them? Several Reformers practiced astrology, like Phillip Melanchthon. That’s not to say everything Melanchthon wrote stinks of new age mysticism. He was just as much a complex sinner as the rest of us. But his belief in astrology does reflect a common, historic practice among many Protestants during his time. So, who is ready to reclaim and take dominion of horoscopes from the Fundies and reform them for the glory of God?

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The more bizarre use of the “Luther drank beer” argument is the appeal to Puritans, who supposedly were quite the bar flies, or at least one would think according to their beer drinking defenders. But we’re talking about the Puritans. Those were the guys who thought wedding rings were popish and outlawed Christmas during Cromwell’s Protectorate. Will we “reform” according to those convictions?

And just a closing word about the absurd claim that a brewery was the first building the Pilgrims built upon arriving in the new world. That is an urban legend. If you and your people are sick and dying and winter is coming on in a strange land, do you waste time building a brewery? Or will it be basic shelter?

obesity

Food is abused by way too many people, but you don’t hear Christians crying out about gluttony. Yet there are more people in churches who overeat than there are alcoholics and drunkards. No one rebukes those gluttonous Christians for their reckless overindulgence in food.

The biggest (no pun intended) problem with this argument is that gluttony is not just overeating. It is especially NOT overeating in the sense of a guy eating an entire large pizza in one sitting or scarfing down Chili’s 3,200 calorie “Freakin’ Onion” appetizer all by himself.

Gluttony is always tied to drinking in the Scriptures. What we know to be a drunken, debauched lifestyle. One may say overeating is a part of the debauched lifestyle, but it is the idea of out-of-control, riotous living that makes “gluttony” sinful. This is not super-sizing your McDonald’s order.

Consider Deuteronomy 21:20: And they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’

If you look at the entire context, you have parents – PARENTS MIND YOU!; you know, mama and daddy – bringing their son before the elders to be judged because he is basically a thick-headed good for nothing who spends his time and money (family’s money) on riotous living. The word “glutton” has the idea of a vile, worthless person.

Notice what happens with this son. He is brought before the elders of the town so they can pass judgment upon him and if they judge against him, he is stoned to death. That’s the death penalty, folks. He is not executed for being 60 pounds overweight and having lunch at Jack in the Box every other day. (See my further study HERE).

scooterThe Health Consequences associated with eating recklessly is no joke. Just ask anyone with diabetes. Overeating should be treated just as seriously as alcoholism.

Related to the “gluttony” argument is the “obesity is just as bad if not worse than alcoholism” argument. This one is usually put forth in the combox after a teetotaler lists a bunch of statistics telling how many people die from alcohol related deaths, or how many women and children are abused by alcoholic husbands or parents. As a rebuttal, it’s dogmatically proclaimed that obesity is just as bad if not worse of an epidemic and social problem as alcohol.

That is a profoundly ridiculous comparison. The societal impact of alcoholism and obesity is incomparable. That is because alcoholism has the greatest potential to destroy innocent lives.

Many. innocent. lives.

In fact, alcohol has destroyed those lives unmercifully. There are no Mother’s Against Obese Driving organizations advocating against 350 pound people driving automobiles. There are no laws against driving under the influence of fried chicken. A cop won’t stop a guy and ask him if he has been eating, and then give him a breathalyzer to test his blood-gravy level. And there is a good reason for this: Obesity only hurts one person. No man, after leaving the Macaroni Grill has ever gotten into his SUV, and under the influence of the Mama Mia! chicken Alfredo platter he consumed 30 minutes before, crossed into on-coming lane and killed a family.

Now, just so I am clear. I am not saying obesity is a good thing. Being overweight does have considerable health problems for the individual. AND I would say Christians should make eating healthy a part of their spiritual lives. My point here is to merely show that obesity is no where near being the societal problem associated with the consumption of alcohol. No where in the ball park. Obesity is a result of bad lifestyle choices. Much like smoking, another vice liberty drinkers tend to encourage.

ed youngSex is abused just like alcohol. Are we going to forbid sex as well?

That objection falls flat because Christians are not equating the flaunting of liberty drinking with drunkenness and alcoholism, the common idea when one speaks of  “abusing alcohol.”  Christians who are troubled by those who flagrantly parade their liberty drinking from the pulpits, and among others at church, are simply saying that such behavior is profoundly immature and wildly inappropriate.

Married couples are certainly at liberty to make out with a bit of PDA if they so choose. They are also free to touch one another in an arousing fashion that would lead to sex. Not one person is forbidding them from partaking in the act of sexual relations.

But I think we can all agree that it would be grossly unseemly, not to mention a bit icky, if that couple were to have one of their big PDA make out sessions at church in front of the single folks. I think we would all say the same about them sharing explicit and graphic details about their sexual experiences at a Bible study fellowship.

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Why do we want to be so legalistic about alcohol when it is such a blessing to mankind? God created wine for us to enjoy the bounty of His earth. The prohibition is against drunkenness, not consumption.

Again, no one is condemning the consumption of distilled spirits. We are all on the same page with the prohibition against drunkenness, not consumption.

The faulty logic of this claim suggests that because wine is processed from grapes, and alcohol is a natural derivative of fermented grapes, that places alcohol in a special category of blessing. Additionally, it is argued that passages like Deuteronomy 14:26 and Psalm 104:15 proves that God not only blesses the consumption of alcohol, but commands it.

Of course, that line of argumentation ignores the overwhelming multitude of biblical passages that warn against the consumption of alcohol. Certainly the prohibition is against drunkenness, not consumption, but seeing that the Bible speaks so pointedly against the dangers of drinking alcohol, why would God’s pastor want to use a pub as a setting for a men’s Bible study?

Moreover, that is the exact same argument I have heard from Christians who seriously think God has blessed the smoking of pot. I kid you not. I once had one fellow, with a stern conviction in his voice and passion in his eyes, explain to me that God gave ALL the grass and green herb of the field for man to use, and that means cannabis. I reckon, by extension it would also include opium and the coca plant. And before anyone tries to “rebut” me by saying “but the grass and herbs were meant to be for FOOD, not SMOKING, duh,” keep in mind that pot can be baked in brownies.

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I realize a lot of the liberty drinkers were saved in one of those smothering, fundamentalist Baptist churches who regulated every behavior and activity with an iron fist of legalism like a draconian-driven HOA board of directors. I mean, a person couldn’t even wear short pants in the church building, let alone dream about drinking a beer. I sympathize with those folks. I really do. But honestly, is drinking beer really THAT important?

When the in-laws were in town for the holidays, there were times we would go to Sunday brunch at some fancy restaurant. My wife had a niece who would only eat macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets. She had an entire buffet laid out before her, and she obsessed on the mac N’ cheese. I remember telling her, “You have this wonderful banquet of food and all you are eating is mac N’ cheese? You know, there is much more to life than mac N’ cheese.”

Likewise, there is much more to Christian liberty than sitting in pubs drinking micro-brews.

Jesus and Wine Theology and the Reformed Hermeneutic

Jesus Drank ReislingTheology that is really cool and fun and stuff

At the risk of receiving a severe wedgie from a number of my Reformed acquaintances who run around my game circle, I wanted to respond to a discussion that took place at the ReformCom 2016 with the guys of Apologia radio, N.D. Wilson, and Darren Doane.

I specifically want to focus in upon the bizarre ramblings from Doane regarding what I call his “Jesus is wine theology.” Doane’s “theology,” if we can even call it that, perfectly highlights the horrendous abuse the historical Reformed, typological hermeneutic rains down upon the Bible when a person studies it.

I’ll begin with a bit of background.

Doane is a commercial video director, as well as a filmmaker.  He is known for religiously themed work such as Unstoppable, a movie addressing the problem of evil with Kirk Cameron, Collision Course, a documentary that follows around Doug Wilson and the late Christopher Hitchens as they debate in various venues, and Saving Christmas, that carries a 0% at Rotten Tomatoes and has the honor of being the winner of the 2015 Razzie award for worst picture.

So much for taking dominion, but I digress.

I tussled once with Doane on Twitter in the months before his award winning Saving Christmas was released. I even stated that I thought the trailer looked fun when I was defending Kirk’s promotion of the movie on a Catholic radio program against some finger-wagging discernment folks. I wrote about that HERE.

Where I took exception with Saving Christmas was with Doane’s excessive overuse of typology. For instance, in our Twitter exchange, he insisted that Christmas trees are talked about in the Bible because God was the first one to bring a tree into His house. He likened the lamp stand in the tabernacle with us putting Christmas trees in our homes. I wrote about out exchange HERE for those interested.

Doane has since moved from spiritualizing Christmas trees to now spiritualizing wine. At the ReformCon2016, he participated on a live podcast interview for Apologia Radio where he enthusiastically discussed the topic of wine and Jesus and drinking for the Christian. The audio can be heard HERE. His comments begin at the 56:06 mark. Or watch the Youtube portion HERE.

I’ve written out a loose transcript of the relevant portions I wish to address. Keep in mind that I have slightly edited his remarks removing the “…and ums,” along with smoothing out the excitable effervescence that bubbles from his talk.

When I became a Christian I didn’t drink, which is even better because I was double-holy. I not only became a Christian, but I was like super moral. Like double-anointed portion.  I don’t drink. This is fantastic, I was the sober guy.

When I became a Christian, the last thing I even thought about was alcohol. I mean, I just received salvation. My sins were forgiven. My interest for the word ignited. I dug into the Scriptures because I wanted to nail down what the Bible taught on important points of doctrine. I couldn’t have cared less about determining the limits of my Christian liberty with drinking a beer or scotch. There were deeper, more profound truths that occupied my heart.

And who was he hanging with as a new Christian? He gives the impression all his friends from church were a bunch of frat party drunks and he was the designated driver taking them home from a Sunday night fellowship.

Skipping to the end, as he wraps up his musings about Jesus and wine, he explains that even after he had studied out wine from the Bible, he still did not drink. That was until an acquaintance asked him why and then remarked, “Whose gonna teach your daughter to drink?” implying, “how is she gonna learn to drink?”

When I heard that, I thought, “Eh?” Christian parents are obligated to teach their kids how to drink? Your kids have to be taught how to drink? What exactly does that entail? Them watching you regularly down a rum and coke? Spirited dinner table discussion of the state drinking age limit? Or what is the best way to age whiskey? Honestly? What is the bizarre fixation with neo-Reformed folks and drinking booze? I’ve never understood it. It’s like a little kid who is now potty trained and has to tell everyone he is wearing big boy pants.whatwouldjesusbrewBut let me move along to what I wish to address specifically and will get me into trouble,

Years later, because I love theology, every year I would sort of pick something to dive into. One year I picked wine. Jesus did say “I’m Wine;” so I thought I would dig into the Bible on “wine.” So I spent almost a whole year going through the Bible, looking at how wine was used.

Jesus said “I’m wine?” Searching my Bible Works, I can’t find any where in the Gospels when Jesus said such a thing. Maybe he has in mind John 15, where Jesus says “I am the vine and you are the branches?” While it is true that wine comes from grapes that do grow on vines, that is not the same as Jesus saying “I’m wine.” Or it could be when Jesus talked about putting new wine into old wine skins, and he assumes the “new wine” is Jesus. Who knows?

Moving along,

When you start digging into something it gets super fascinating. Like when did wine first appear? When did fruit first appear? In fact in creation it’s at the end of day three and that ties into end of day three of Jesus’ Resurrection, there some cool stuff going on there. What is wine? With wine, you actually have to take grapes and kill them and you have to smash them and you have to kill it, you have to bury it. And put it into somewhere dark then after time it comes out. It’s totally new. It’s glorified. You have this Jesus-picture thing going on. It’s like in theology this is getting really cool and fun and you’re going through this stuff.

And then something hits me about communion, and that’s what theology does, it does everything, it rolls, it starts going, it starts paradigm shifting, all because of theology, right? … And then all of the sudden it hit me that wine burns. [pause here for dramatic effect]. You take grape juice. It’s sweet, it’s fun. My kids love it. But you take wine, Wooo. It burns. It’s fire. God is a consuming fire. Oh Darren’s on the skinny branch right now, he’s just reaching. But you go back and look at fire in the Bible [another dramatic pause] That’s. What. Theology. Does.

I can imagine the scruffy-bearded young folk in the audience listening to that nonsense for the first time thinking to themselves, “Oooohhhh, That’s so deep. I never thought about all those connection between Jesus and wine before.” Well yeah. No one else has either. What he presents is borderline neo-orthodoxy gobbledygook. (I chuckle when he says wine burns and is like fire and you need to go back and look at fire in the Bible. Someone has. It doesn’t mean what you think).

Let’s break down that theology:

God created the seed-bearing plants on day three.
Grapes are seed-bearing plants.
You have to crush and squeeze and essentially “kill” grapes to make wine.
Jesus said he was the vine and we are the branches.
Jesus was crushed and squeezed and killed.
But was raised to life three days later.

See? God creates plants day 3+grapes being crushed=Jesus in the tomb 3 days! Wine! THEOLOGY!

brewing companyDoane’s theology is no more theological as that tongue speaking 13-year old girl telling everyone God says in the Bible that he wants them to be a funnel to receive His blessing. The only difference is that Doane gets a pass from the folks at RefCon because he hangs with Doug Wilson and says he is Reformed and Calviney and of course, drinks wine.

Now I can hear my detractors complain, “Fred, that is Doane’s views, and he is a little whimsical when he reads the Bible.” In fact, during the Facebook comment discussion when I reviewed Saving Christmas, even R.C. Sproul Jr. chimed in telling me that Doane’s imaginative interpretations are unique to a small number of individuals in the theonomy camp like James B. Jordan (who is no longer a theonomist as I understand it). That sounds like a reasonable clarification. It’s inaccurate to impugn a majority of individuals based upon the weird ramblings of a few.

I believe that objection is problematic, however.

Here is where my observations will stir up with my Reformed acquaintances the kind of excitement generated when one throws a live squirrel into a gymnasium filled with 250 yellow labs: The tendency to spiritualize and abuse Scripture with heavy doses of typology is endemic to the Reformed hermeneutic.

The Reformed hermeneutic claims that because Jesus is the fullest revelation from God, the Apostles, as they wrote the New Testament, were led by the Holy Spirit to spiritualize the Old Testament. They would, for instance, redefine the recipients of the OT prophecies that were originally given to the people of Israel, as now pertaining to the Church. The Reformed hermeneutic teaches that the NT has interpretative priority over the OT. Thus, Reformed interpreters believe they are at liberty to utilize a typological/spiritualized hermeneutic when reading the Bible.

The degree to which typology adversely effects the meaning of Scripture will vary from person to person, but it is certainly there among the Reformed. One need merely to look over the few Reformed commentaries on the Song of Solomon to see what I mean. Guys like John Gill and John Collinges, wrote massive, encyclopedic works on Song of Solomon simply to say it is a book about Jesus loving the Church. A.W. Pink, who has always been a favorite of mine, was also notorious for his heavy typological emphasis in his various gleaning series, and even the 1689 Federalism Baptists emphasize typology almost to the exclusion of other hermeneutical elements necessary to the reading and understanding of Scripture. The worst is with folks like John Walton, who turns the creation account of Genesis into some theological picture about the temple of God or whatever.

I certainly believe God presents pictures and types in the OT that are fulfilled with an anti-type in the NT, but the writer of Scripture tells us what is going on. He doesn’t leave it to us to creatively find the type/anti-type connection. A good example would be marriage originally intending to picture Christ’s love for the church and the church loving Christ. The thing is, however, Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 that marriage was meant to be that picture.

Types become a problem when enthusiastic Christians begin seeing types when none really exist. One that just drives me crazy and is often appealed to by Reformed folks is 1 Samuel 17 when David defeated Goliath. I listened to one Lutheran pirate, who will remain unnamed, spiritualize that entire story as a type of Jesus defeating Satan. David was Jesus, Goliath Satan. He went so far as to claim the five smooth stones David gathered from the brook before he met Goliath in battle were the 5 wounds of Jesus on the cross, the nail prints in his hands, his feet, and the spear wound in his side.

facepalmI’m Sorry. That deserves a Jesus facepalm

Though it sounds all pious and spiritually insightful, it misses the entire point of what 1 Samuel is trying to convey. It’s merely contrived fancy to say it is all a big story about Jesus defeating Satan.

Where types don’t really exist, any that are discovered become subject to the interpreter’s imagination and it ultimately strips the real authorial intent from the meaning of Scripture. Bible study is turned into a free-for-all, and the true understanding of the text is lost. If you take that approach to reading the Bible you will always be out bobbing around out on the skinny branch with Doane.

The Myth of the Stronger Brother

realmen1 Corinthians 8

I recently introduced the topic of Paul’s discussion on eating food sacrificed to idols from 1 Corinthians 8-10. Folks can pop over to my first post to catch up on the background info.

However, to provide a little recap:

It is my contention that Paul was doing much more than settling a dispute between factions of believers at the Corinthian church who were divided over whether or not a Christian had liberty to eat meat sacrificed to idols. I think Paul was insisting that ALL the Corinthian believers were to leave the idol temples and have nothing to do with them. He did not see eating idol food as neutral that ultimately did no spiritual harm to a Christian. He sees eating idol food as seriously dishonoring to the LORD and a disaster to the Christian Church.

Over the course of three chapters, Paul lays out his case as to why the Corinthians must leave the pagan temples and abandon eating idol food all together. I broke down his argument into four larger points: Eating idol food, 1. is danger to believers, 2. disqualifies one’s ministry, 3. destroyed Israel, and 4. disrupted the fellowship.

With this post, I want to consider the first point: Eating idol food is a danger to believers.

An overview of some critical concepts introduced in chapter 8 will help us understand Paul’s argument.

First, what exactly did Paul mean by the idea of “things sacrificed to idols” in 8:1?

As I noted in my introductory article, the classic interpretation of 1 Corinthians 8-10 believes when Paul speaks of those things sacrificed to idols, he is talking about meat from a pagan sacrifice that is used in a religious ceremony, but then is taken to the local street market where it is sold to the general public for a price. The temple authorities not only use the meat in their ritual but also turn a profit in the local market by selling off what was left.

The Corinthian Christians were shopping the local markets for food to buy, find a fabulous piece of meat for a cheap price, and purchase it for the family to eat. Other Christians, who were once heavily immersed in the Corinthian pagan culture, are troubled by those fellow Christians who so easily, without a second thought, purchase food that was once used in a religious sacrifice. In their minds, that piece of meat has the stench of the pagan ritual wafting off of it. Those Christians are defiling themselves and cursing God by eating it.

Turning to 1 Corinthians 10:25, that seems to be the scenario that Paul is addressing as I will explore when I come to that chapter. However, eating things sacrificed to idols is much more than preparing a prime rib dinner for a fellowship time with meat purchased at the local market that just so happens to have been sacrificed to idols.

What Paul has in mind when he addresses the topic is the religious ritual and the meal eaten by the participants partaking in that meal. No Corinthian could avoid the rampant paganism that pervaded their city. Paganism was everywhere. Participation in the temple rituals are what connected them to their society and their culture.

Eating meat sacrificed to idols entailed an elaborate religious meal eaten by all the participants sharing in that meal. The animal for sacrifice was brought to the temple. The appropriate rites were performed that involved a priest making the sacrifice on behalf of the person or persons. The priest would examine the entrails of the animal determining whether there was a “revelation” from some deity. The rest of the food would be prepared for a banquet and eaten by the friends and invited guests. Individuals with unique privileges or social status could use special sanctuaries in the temple for their ceremony.

Participation in those various ceremonies was an integral part of living life in Corinth. Everyone attended and utilized the temple. It was the place where a person would make social connections, advance in business dealings, and demonstrate he or she was an upstanding member of Corinth. In other words, the pagan temple, and all the feasts that took place there, reflected a particular worldview.

That is the reason eating idol food in the temple should have been such a big deal among the Corinthian Christians. Eating at the temple was tied directly to a specific religious worldview opposed to God. What Paul is intending to address throughout chapters 8-10 is that the Corinthian Christians did not see their participation in those ceremonies as a problem and they should have. Rather than leaving the temple culture of Corinth behind them, they whole-heartily participated in it and attempted to synchronize their Christian faith with that participation.

Another important concept Paul outlines in chapter 8 is the idea of “the weak.”

Again, the classic view understands the weak as Christians troubled with eating meat sacrificed to idols. However, the “strong” Christians had matured sufficiently so as to understand that eating meat sacrificed to idols did nothing to really do any spiritual harm. The weak were merely enslaving themselves to a silly superstition regarding meat sacrificed to idols and needed to think biblically. Because their consciences were misinformed on the matter, they were infringing upon every one’s liberty.

buddhistDown the street from my church in LA is one of the largest Thai Buddhist temples outside of Thailand. Nearly every week there is some festival or ceremony happening at that place. The folks attending there bring their food to be offered to the monks and in the various ceremonies. To raise money for the temple, the Buddhists sell food at their temple as well as at a nearby Thai restaurant. Many folks from my church frequent the place. (They have some excellent fried bananas, by the way). However, some of my Christian friends believe the restaurant is a living example of what Paul was discussing in 1 Corinthians 8 and will refrain from eating there for fear of violating someone’s conscience from our church.

The problem with that perspective, and the strong/weak dichotomy in general, is that it doesn’t really exist in Paul’s discussion within these chapters. In fact, the use of the word “strong” to describe the mature believers is nowhere mentioned from 8-10. It is merely assumed that because Paul discusses the “weak” that the opposite, the “strong,” is implied with his argument.

That conclusion is drawn from Paul’s discussion of those with “knowledge” or “who know” found in 8:1-4, 7, 10-11. Thus, those with knowledge, or described as “who know,” are understood to be the mature, strong believers. They recognize that the idol is nothing, that the false religion is just that, a false religion, and eating any food associated with one of the false sacrifices does nothing spiritually or physically to the person. Similar to what Paul writes in 8:4-6. As the strong, they have liberty to buy and eat idol food and to enjoy it. The weak, however, do not. Their consciences trouble them when they eat idol food, so much so that they are said to become defiled from eating it.

The idea of knowledge in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, however, is his way of calling someone a Christian. Knowledge is equated with the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit to understand and receive spiritual truth. For instance, in 1 Corinthians 1:5, Paul writes of being, “…enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge” This use of knowledge is also found throughout many of Paul’s epistles like, 2 Corinthians 2:14, 4:6, 10:5; Ephesians 1:7; Philippians 1:9; Colossians 1:9-10; and Titus 1:1 to list a few.

The knowledge the Corinthians had revealed to them the true nature of false gods and false religion, 8:4-6. But rather than their knowledge being a good thing, it was in fact terribly misused. Backing up to 8:1, Paul expresses how knowledge can make one arrogant. When Paul writes in 8:9, “But take care that this liberty of  yours does not somehow become a stumbling block…”, that liberty is not a good thing; he is actually chiding their false liberty they had developed. What they considered liberty had made them arrogant toward one another within the church as well as those outside the church.

It needs to be kept in mind that the Corinthians’ so-called liberty was not merely limited to only purchasing meat that just so happened to have been sacrificed in a pagan temple. Instead, they were Christian believers actively involved in pagan ceremonies. The Corinthians were not asking Paul, “Is it alright if we eat food sacrificed to idols bought in the market?” but were insisting, “What’s the big deal about participating in temple services?”

Pulling our discussion together, the weak that Paul describes are those Christians who were still infused with old habits as idolaters.

Those weak Christians heard the Gospel. They believed upon Jesus as the Savior Who delivers sinners out of the bondage to their sin. Christianity is the religion of the true and living God. The worship of God and the fellowship with His people takes place in an entirely different and radically new way. God hates idolatry, according to His own word, and will suffer no other gods before Him.

Yet, fellow believers from their own church still frequent the temple and participate in the services that were offered, fellowshipping with pagans and attending their feasts that were often profane. All the while, those believers claim that because they are now in Christ, they have true knowledge about God and thus the liberty to eat and drink in the temple.

But that attitude poses two significant dangers that threaten the church.

First, it sins against the believers. Paul argues in 8:10-11, “for if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, it he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died.”  Paul’s words could not be clearer: The Christian who has developed a false sense of liberty in his mind and thinks it is okay to participate in the pagan festivities at the temple could very well bring a fellow believer to ruin. The idea of ruin means destruction, not just offended sensibilities.

Second, it sins against Christ. Paul continues in 8:12, ” And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.” Beyond just bringing spiritual disaster against a fellow brother, the Christian is sinning against the Lord Jesus. That is because He is the one who secured that one’s salvation and now it has been place in danger by the foolish behavior of a fellow Christian.

What is Paul’s solution? Does he tell the Corinthians to be on the alert for immature believers and avoid them so as to not to offend their sensitive to the notion of eating in temples? Does he suggest discipling the weaker brother to grow in maturity so he can eventually join everyone else down at the temple? Not at all. He writes, “Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.” In other words, completely eliminate your participation in such activity.

As we will go on to learn, dining in the idol temples is not just a stumbling block for the so-called weaker brother, it is a horrendous idea for all Christians.

Idol Meat and Christian Liberty

idolAn Overview of 1 Corinthians 8-10

I have been meaning for a while now to post some of my studies on 1 Corinthians that I presented to my volunteers at Grace to You over the last year. I was particularly anxious to toss up my studies on chapters 8-10, because I believe they are so wildly misunderstood by the larger Christian community.

But alas… I got distracted and put it off. However, a little dust up with some NCT folks on Facebook ignited my passion, so here we are.

Like I noted, I think chapters 8-10 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is totally misunderstood and misapplied by Christians, especially among the Red State evangelical and neo-Reformed types I bump into on social media. The chapters address specifically the idea of eating meat sacrificed to idols and the concept of Christian liberty, and the wrongheaded thinking among Christians about the subject has created a misapplication of what it is exactly Paul was addressing.

The idea of Christian liberty, in my opinion, has fallen upon hard times nowadays. It is usually defined along the lines as having the freedom to sit in pubs, drink beer, smoke cigars or pipes, and watch popular television programs, while at the same time conversing about theology. Many of those new libertines once circled around in the orbits of strict, fundamentalist congregations that were ran like a concentration camp by straight-laced, kill joy finger-waggers who condemned those activities they now celebrate.

Yet, at the same time, any Christian who even suggests that drinking and smoking and consuming entertainment is not necessarily the wisest testimony to present before the world, are shamed as being legalists. They will be labeled the “weaker” brothers, and some go so far as suggesting that they are “in sin” because they wish to place a yoke of burden upon the “stronger” believers who have been freed by the work of Christ to enjoy their new found merrymaking. The entire scenario is a concept taken from the chapters in Corinthians that are before us here.

drinkingwhat.That liberty/strong and weak conscience dichotomy represents the classic understanding of 1 Corinthians 8-10. It is taught that Paul was responding to an internal squabble taking place in the church of Corinth over whether or not Christians were at liberty to eat food that had been offered in sacrifice to idols. Two factions had emerged. On the one hand there were the so-called strong believers who felt that all Christians have the ethical freedom because of Christ to eat any food that may have been offered to idols. Yet on the other, there were Christians in the church, who came out of the rank paganism of the Corinthian culture, who are weak in conscience regarding the eating of food sacrificed to idols.

The strong believers wrote Paul asking him to arbitrate the dispute. They wanted his instructions regarding the matter, especially they wanted Paul to inform the weak to stop worrying about offending God with partaking of delicious food that just so happened to be sacrificed to idols. When Paul wrote back to them in our letter that is 1 Corinthians, he sided theologically with the strong, but rebuked them for not considering the weaker brothers among them. Instead of giving them total freedom to eat a succulent prime rib that just so happened to have been used in a sacrifice to idols and telling the weak to shut up and enjoy their freedom, he informed the strong to lay aside their liberty for the sake of the weaker brothers serving them until they had sufficiently matured in conscience so as to enjoy the prime rib with them.

That interpretation is the standard one taught from the pulpits and believed by most Christians today; but it misses the point of the passage.

Rather than Paul deciding between two groups arguing at Corinth over whether or not the food they were eating was tainted with pagan hands, Paul was disagreeing with all the arrogant, enlightened Corinthians who insisted they could be a practicing believer AND still participate in idol temple ceremonies that were a staple of their culture there in Corinth. Chapters 8-10 isn’t about eating food that just so happened to have been used in a pagan sacrifice. Paul was telling them to get out of the temples and stop eating idol food all together, because the food was being eaten during a pagan service. These chapters have nothing to do with the freedom of strong believers eating food sacrificed to idols and deferring to the weak in conscience.

Now, before I unpack all of that, a little background is in order.

We in the 21st century, western society really cannot comprehend the power of religion, particularly a pagan, non-Christian one, forming our political-social lives. Here in the good ole U.S of A., we consider ourselves a “Christianized” nation, but if we are honest about it, we for the most part experience a secularized version of the Judeo-Christian ethic. As much as atheists will complain bitterly that atheism is shut out of the political arena and a person has to be a Christian to run for office because the entire US is “Christianized,” given the trajectory of our country’s moral decline, that is absolutely untrue.

Probably the closest we can come to the situation in Corinth during the time of Paul would be Islamic states and those countries where Roman Catholicism has a heavy influence among the people like Croatia and Mexico. India, with its commitment to Hinduism would be another, as well as a number of Asian nations committed to Buddhism. In those countries the politics and culture are interwoven to such a degree with the main religion that it dominates everything.

When the Apostles began to take the Gospel into the uttermost parts of the world beyond the boundaries of Israel, they went into a world that was pagan with a myriad of different religions, idols galore, and temples everywhere. We see in the book of Acts how the Gospel bumped up against idolatry. For instance, in Acts 14:11-13 the pagans tried to sacrifice to Paul thinking he was a god, Acts 17 records Paul’s famous encounter on Mar’s Hill in Athens, and in Acts 19, a riot breaks out in Ephesus when Paul preached the Gospel and challenged the cult of Diana.

A huge part of the pagan religious world was the feasts served in idol temples. Those feasts were what connected the pagan gentile to his culture and his gods. Just think about the religious milieu that was part of the everyday living for the OT Jews. In the same way, the temple practices were at the center of every facet of their lives, and the feasts and food offerings God required were considered to be so important that He brought judgment upon Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phineas, for their sacrilege with mishandling those offerings on behalf of Israel.

Thus, when we come to Paul’s letters in the NT, idolatry and idol worship were a major theme he often addressed. For example, in his two letters to the Corinthians, Paul explained how idols were a part of their former lives (1 Corinthians 6:9), how idols lead people astray (1 Corinthians 12:2), and asked the Corinthians what business does God’s people (that would be them) have with idols (2 Corinthians 6:16).

In other NT passages Paul commends the Thessalonians for turning away from idols to the true and living God (1 Thessalonians 1:9). In Acts 15:20,29 it is interesting that the letter from the Jerusalem counsel told gentiles to abstain from fornication, things strangled, consuming blood, and idols. Acts 21:25 reiterates those same commands.

With those passages in mind, it is important to recognize that Paul is not okaying the so-called stronger believer eating a pot roast he bought at a market that was only offered in a sacrifice. The fact that the Jerusalem counsel condemned all of the areas gentiles participates in when worshiping in a false, idolatrous religion, and the fact that Paul spoke against idolatry throughout his epistles, makes it clear he was not talking about a pot roast someone bought at a market that was offered to an idol. What he was telling the Corinthians in 8-10 was to get away from the idols and temples and the pagan feast.

But we need to keep in mind that it was a major struggle for the gentiles to abandon their idolatry. That is because the new gentile Christians came from a pagan saturated society. Eating a meal in a temple to a deity would be a big, social-economic opportunity. It would be difficult to just give that up. Participating in those ceremonies and showing interest in the goings on in the local temple is what made them Roman or Corinthian. It demonstrated they were fit for leadership, that they were diverse and multicultural. In our day, it would be similar to attending a gay wedding of a business colleague. 

What the Corinthians were proposing to Paul was not the question of “do you think it is okay for us to eat food sacrificed to idols,” but rather they were brashly stating, “What’s the problem with attending pagan festivals and eating food sacrificed to idols?”

First Corinthians 8-10 lays out four reasons why it was a problem for the Corinthian Christians to eat meat sacrificed to idols.

1. It was a danger to believers

2. It disqualified one’s ministry

3. It destroyed Israel

4. It disrupted the fellowship among believers

I’ll consider each one of these points in turn as I work my way through these chapters over the course of the next few posts.

Rachel Held Evans Then and Now

Sibylline Oracle, Rachel Held Evans, September 7, 2012,

God’s name is not something to use to score political points.  It’s not something to throw around lightly or to use as a weapon against a political opponent. God and Our Political Platforms.

God’s little sweetheart, Rachel Held Evans, November 19, 2012,

This, I believe, is the real evangelical disaster—not that Barack Obama is president and Mitt Romney is not, but that evangelicalism has gotten so enmeshed with politics, its success or failure can be gauged by an election. The Real “Evangelical Disaster”

Rachel Held Evans, January 30, 2016,

Rachel Held Evans, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Rachel Held Evans is a Christian blogger and the author of Faith Unraveled, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, and Searching for Sunday.In addition, Ms. Evans speaks at retreats, conferences, universities, and churches across the country. She has been featured on NPR, Slate, The BBC, The Washington Post,  The Huffington Post, CNN, The View, and The Today Show, and in 2012, she was named one ofChristianity Today’s “50 Women to Watch.”  Ms. Evans received a B.A. from Bryan College.

President Obama Announces Key Administration Posts

Remember kids, Christians and politics is bad and makes Jesus cry when conservative, evangelical Bible-believing Christians are involved. But enlightened, faith-building when leftist, pseudo-Christian bloggers are involved.

Religion in Star Wars

Star WarsSo. The latest Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, was finally released and it, shall we say, awakened the millions of fans who were enthralled with the original series back some 35 years ago. (I’m not counting the terrifically bad episodes 1-3 when I say “enthralled).

Latched onto all of the pop culture excitement for the new movie like mynocks sucking on power cables are Christian fundamentalist types wagging their fingers and earnestly lecturing us how Star Wars is nothing more than New Agey propaganda that is a Jim Bakker CERN particle accelerating portal to unleashing devil worshiping all over the world. If kids go watch Star Wars, by golly, the next step is Ouija boards, consuming Monster Energy drinks, and a spiraling descent into a hellish, Chick tract witch coven nightmare!

Over the weekend of the movie’s release, I got into a tussle with one of those finger-wagging religious moralists at a FaceBook group. He had posted a link to a lecture railing against Star Wars as New Age/Devil unleashing propaganda. The speaker is the pastor of a KJV Only church in MN (Of course!) who also has an audio catalog of sermons and podcasts crying out against the hidden evils of Christmas and CCM. The guy reminds me of a watered-down version of barefoot runner, Steven Anderson.

At any rate, my FB antagonist insisted that George Lucas had filled his movies with thematic elements pulled from a number of eastern, mystery religions and ignorant Christians gleefully lap up those hidden demonic messages all for the sake of entertainment. They are being duped by the devil into a life worldly compromise and devil worship.

Well of course I agree that “spiritual” themes exist in the Star Wars movies. I certainly don’t deny that. Obviously an universally transcendent “force” that a person can tap into and manipulate for either good or bad purposes is new agey. I mean, the whole idea of a Jedi order that demands a loveless commitment to a life of singleness and celibacy reeks of the monastic lifestyle promoted in many religious sects.

But do those religious themes mean that Lucas intended to make a series of movies filled with hidden spiritual undertones for the purpose of promoting a religion that the devil will use to bankrupt the Christian faith?

Good grief! Of course not. Do you seriously think that neck-bearded, flannel-wearing toy salesman created his cinematic universe for the purpose of introducing generations of children and then their children to religion? No! He wants to sell toys. Lots and lots of toys.

Sure, Lucas pulled from Joseph Campbell’s works regarding how hero journey myths weave themselves through various cultures, but to conclude it was for the purpose of creating a new religion in order to fool people into becoming New Agers is patently absurd. There was good reason Lucas insisted on maintaining the merchandising rights to his movies. It’s the reason why you can get a set of Dengar and Bossk plush toys,

dengarbosskBut let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Lucas has intended to make disciples for his oddball Jedi religion with his movies. Does it really matter? Seriously?

I asked my FB debater to tell me how many folks he knew who watched the movies and then left the theater thinking, “I really want to know more about that dark side of the force thing,” and before you know it the person has created the church of the Sith that is rapidly growing in popularity.

He had to say he knew of none, which is true. There aren’t any. Oh, I know somebody can maybe find a few anecdotal examples from around the world somewhere. But I bet genuine examples will prove as difficult at conjuring up than the stolen data plans of the Death Star.

Most normal people are like me. They grew up loving the movies. Perhaps collected the toys and action figures and replayed the various movie scenes with them. My kids currently do the same thing. They build the Lego ships and swing their plastic light sabers around at each other.

bibBut eventually they will grow out of the toys, and maybe they’ll be like me, a fan that maintains a nostalgia for the original movies so that I have a talking wampa on my desk sitting next to a Admiral Ackbar action figure caught in a mousetrap as part of my “geekosphere.”

Apart from the middle-aged weirdos who dress up like Bib Fortuna for Comic Con, I don’t know of anyone who even cares about alleged religious themes in Star Wars.

Honestly, the real hidden agenda of the devil, if we even want to call it that seeing that his agenda is clearly discernible, is to get conspiracy mongering Christians to obsess on silly things like demonic mysticism in the Star Wars movies, rather than focus upon those elements that do enslave the souls of men.

The biggest example being the shallow, spiritless preaching and fleshly entertainment that comes from the pulpits of the vast majority of Churches in the US that has only led to millions of false converts. 

Or what about the horrendous theology being taught, like the influence of the stealth atheism of Biologos in churches, or the man-centered apologetics that has created apostates to Catholicism. Worst of all is charismaticism that has been a devastating, negative force on Christians throughout the Church worldwide for the last 40-plus years.

That is where our attention should be focused regarding biblical purity, doctrine, and spiritual compromise. Not upon some misguided conspiratorial alarmism about a series of popular movies.

Debunking Ancient Aliens

aliensI remember as a kid watching an episode of “In Search Of…” that told about how aliens had visited earth thousands of years ago and helped humans build the pyramids and other ancient monuments. I sat transfixed as Leonard Nimoy’s sober narration convinced this 8 year old that aliens used tractor beams and levitation in order to stack giant rocks.

So recently I am driving to work early one morning and I am listening to the replay of Coast to Coast AM, which is like the equivalent of Charisma News or Sid Roth for atheists, New Agers, and UFO enthusiasts. The guy that was being interviewed had put together a documentary that basically debunked the whole ancient aliens idea, with particular focus on the History Channel series. The weekend host was asking him questions that had a tone of sarcastic disbelief, like, “You’re telling me men can move giant, 800 ton stones? Really?” The interviewee patiently explained how ancient societies accomplished such engineering feats and how ancient alien believers tend to exaggerate or outright fabricate the evidence. In other words, they lie.

The guy being interviewed sounded familiar and when the show went to a commercial break, the host says, “we’ll be back with our guest, Chris White, right after this,” I thought, “Yes, I know where I heard him before.” He was once a guest on Echo Zoe radio during which he talked about identifying the Great Harlot of Revelation 17 and 18.

Knowing the guy was a Christian, I immediately knew I wanted to check out his documentary. It’s available for free on YouTube through White’s main website,

Ancient Aliens Debunked

The video is three hours long, so make sure to pack a lunch; or you can break it up into chapters or sections and return to it when it is convenient.

Now some folks may be wondering why I would recommend a 3 hour YouTube documentary on debunking the claims about ancient aliens. That’s a fantastic question.

Well, if you are like me, I would imagine you have encountered various individuals from internet subcultures that assert with much passion the truth of ancient aliens building the pyramids. Sure, those folks are few, but they are there and they can have an influence on the unlearned.  Additionally, they tend to be really hostile toward God and Christianity specifically, claiming that the aliens that visited the earth were the deities worshiped by the civilizations.

So while it may seem silly to many, I guarantee my readers that they either have come across such people or will eventually. Here you have a fabulous online apologetic resources to answer such absurdities.

Also, the audio of White’s Coast to Coast AM episode is currently available at YouTube,

Chris White Coast to Coast AM interview

That discussion is only an hour and a half or so rather than 3 hours, but you’ll miss seeing all the great visuals. Make sure to fast-forward to around the 40 minute mark where the interview begins.

The only criticism I had with his interview is that he avoided talking about being a Christian. If I hadn’t known of him beforehand, I would have concluded he was just another one of those typical skeptic debunker types. I personally think he missed an opportunity with not making it clear to the audience from where he was coming from as a Bible-believing Christian. He also made the assertion that he thinks aliens can fit into his current worldview and I totally disagree with that, and believe it messes up biblical theology.

Those peripherals aside, I highly encourage folks to check out the documentary when you can. My kids and I watched the first section dealing with ancient monuments and they loved it. It will certainly help to shore up their thinking if and when they encounter friends who believe in ancient alien civilizations.

Tim Tebow and His Ex-Girl Friend

tebowSo I saw on Facebook’s news feed that Tim Tebow’s girlfriend, a former Miss USA, Olivia Culpo, broke up with him because he refuses to have sex with her.

My immediate reaction was, “good for him! Way to stand up against temptation and sin.”

Speaking as a red-blooded male here, given that she is, in the currently popular Red State evangelical vernacular, “smokin’ hot,” maintaining his integrity and staying true to his commitment to save sex for marriage was probably a difficult achievement, especially if Ms. Culpo willingly and readily made herself available.

However, as I reflected upon the various media articles linked in my FB feed, I began to wonder why Tim Tebow, a professed Christian who has shown the public, at least in my opinion, that he is semi-serious about his faith, would be pursuing a woman who is the moral equivalent of a diamond encrusted sow ear.

I am only going off the reports, and we all know how media reports can be wildly inaccurate and lopsided, relaying only partial, one-sided facts; but according to friends who know the guy, he expressed genuine care for her by sending her gifts and writing her notes. Sure, note writing and gift sending is a nice thing to do, but a guy generally doesn’t write notes to a lady or spend money to purchase her gifts unless his intentions is for moving the relationship a bit deeper.

Obviously she was willing to fornicate with him, so again, that begs the question as to why he would be chasing a woman of ill repute? But I suppose if I were a single guy, and a Miss USA winner was showing interest in me, I may go a little stupid as well.

I would think, though, that my resistance to such feminine wiles would be much more than just a really strong belief in abstinence. I mean, anyone can choose to be abstinent. Golly, the Catholic Church, and even Buddhists, have like entire religious orders of both men and women who live cloistered together in rural, isolated communities who are abstinent.

I would hope that if I was a major, public figure and the choices I make with my sex life as a single young man were to come under the ridiculing scrutiny of atheist hacks on the internet, it would be a bit more than just “I’m committed to the principle of abstinence.”

I remained abstinent before marriage not because I thought it was the best way to prevent STDs and pregnancy, but because I had the holiness of God as my first and foremost objective in my personal life. I wanted to honor Christ. Honoring Christ was living a sanctified life set apart to him. Was it difficult to stay singularly focused on the Lord? Yes, it was, even with the help of the Holy Spirit. And I didn’t even have a “smokin’ hot” Miss USA winner begging me for sex.

My exhortation to Tim if he should happen to stumble upon this obscure blog and read my post is to make sure folks understand your convictions are born out of a love for Jesus Christ and His holiness. Anyone can pursue abstinence; but the vague principle of abstinence doesn’t save anyone. Point them to the Lord who saves, not a worthless, stand alone morality.