Posted in Christianity and Culture

Unreal Reality

By Weylan Deaver

The fact of God is the ground of all truth. Reality is what it is because God made it. Truth is what corresponds to reality. Take away God and you take away the anchor for truth, morality, purpose, value, beauty and obligation. God’s book—the Bible—explains where we came from, why we are here, where we are all headed, and how to prepare for judgment. Reject the Bible, and you are left a life without substance. Early on, people “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25, ESV). That old bargain never gets better with time or technology. But it does explain where our culture is today, when anything goes and each person (or group) determines his own “truth,” as though human thought is the deciding factor for what is real. It explains why so many believe that humanity descended from lower life forms. It explains why so many think it is right to take the life of an unborn baby. It explains why so many now see nothing wrong in men sleeping with men, or two women who want to “marry” each other. It explains why so many applaud a man who decides he wants to be a woman. It explains why so many think all religions are equally valid (or, equally invalid). But, to embrace the unreal as real is to labor under a “strong delusion” and “believe what is false” (2 Thessalonians 2:11). Feeling good about a belief does not make it true, just as drinking grape-flavored poison does not make it safe. Fantasy is not made fact by wanting it badly enough, or thinking about it long enough, or getting enough people to agree with it. Lies cannot save. Jesus still says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Visit us at the church of Christ, “which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

Posted in Christianity and Culture, Gender, LGBTQ

“Transgenderism” and the Bible

“For all intents and purposes, I’m a woman.” That’s what former Olympian, Bruce Jenner, told Diane Sawyer in a much-hyped two-hour interview aired April 24 on ABC’s “20/20”. Jenner is 65, has been married to three women, has six biological children and four stepchildren. He thinks he has crossed from manhood to womanhood. “Transgender” is identifying with a gender other than the one a person was born with. The first known use of the word dates to 1979. It seems American culture is eager to embrace the most outlandish claims, as long as biblical morality is eroded in the process. Instead of new categories of gender expression, what we need is divine instruction (cf. Mark 6:34). What Bible truths can be brought to bear on this subject?

First, gender cannot be changed verbally. A man’s claim to be a woman does not make it so. The idea that men have a feminine side (or, that women have a masculine side) is without foundation in the Bible. Likewise, the idea that a man could have a body with one gender, but a mind with the opposite gender. God is the Father of spirits (Hebrews 12:9), but not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). Jesus highlighted human inability to do such a small thing as “make one hair white or black” (Matthew 5:36). If we cannot even alter hair color (without temporary, artificial means), surely we cannot change as fundamental a thing as the gender with which we were born.

Second, gender cannot be changed behaviorally. David “changed his behavior” on one occasion and pretended to be insane (1 Samuel 21:13). Acting insane did not make him insane. Nebuchadnezzar, for a while, lived outdoors “and ate grass like an ox” until his reason came back to him (Daniel 4:33-34; cf. Jude 10). He was not pretending. But, his behaving like an animal did not make him an animal. Behavior is not identity. A man who wears a dress does not become woman thereby. Moreover, he sins in so doing. “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 22:5, ESV). The New Testament, as well, is plain on the distinction between men and women, and clear about their God-given roles.

Third, gender cannot be changed medically. No person is just a surgery away from becoming the opposite gender. “Sex reassignment surgery” (as it is called) is simply the severest form of playing make-believe. It is the drastic resort of desperation to be what one can never become, and thrives on the money of the mentally ill. Whatever surgeons may cut off or stitch on will never change a person’s DNA. Nor is genetic makeup changed by taking hormones. God asked, rhetorically, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?” (Jeremiah 13:23). Some things are not subject to surgery. Jesus did say, “there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:12). On being taken captive, Daniel may well have been made a eunuch (cf. Daniel 1:7), but, if so, he was still a man. The Ethiopian officer baptized by Philip in Acts 8 was a eunuch, but he was still a man. Gender is more than anatomy and hormones, and surgically altering anatomy does not change gender.

As Jesus stated about the sexes, “he who created them from the beginning made them male and female” (Matthew 19:4). He did not say that God made them male, female, transgendered, confused, or undecided. Veering from Scripture is never the path to spiritual prosperity. “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:28). “Transgenderism” is a manmade concept, and those who respect the Bible ought lend it no endorsement.

Posted in Christianity and Culture, Church History

“Hatred of the Human Race” (A Lesson from Nero Caesar)

By Weylan Deaver

An age that worships sin does not relate well to people who teach moral purity. The gospel of Christ demands godliness, as defined in the pages of his New Testament. The less the gospel is known and respected, the bolder sin becomes. That is how an ethically challenged culture can pit itself against God, who loved enough to send Jesus to die in our place: the supreme expression of divine love for humanity that, somehow, evokes derision, opposition, rejection. It explains how Christians who proclaim heaven’s ultimate message of love can be condemned as unloving, bigoted, intolerant, hateful just because they refuse to endorse homosexuality, Islam, skepticism, evolution, or other things contrary to the gospel. It explains how the Bible, whose principles once wove our national fabric, can now be considered “hate speech.” America is in a moral fog, wandering to the wrong side of reality. When Rome burned in July of the year 64 A.D., emperor Nero looked for someone to blame, pointing an accusing finger at the city’s Christians. In his Annals, Tacitus, the ancient historian, tells what happened. Christians “were arrested; next, on their disclosures, vast numbers were convicted, not so much on the count of arson as for hatred of the human race.” Two millennia ago, a godless culture decided Christians were too “hateful” to put up with. In the interest of power, sometimes a government has to do hard things. So, those “hateful” Christians were slaughtered by the enlightened who, we assume, had only love for the human race. Tacitus notes that “derision accompanied their end: they were covered with wild beasts’ skins and torn to death by dogs; or they were fastened on crosses, and, when daylight failed, were burned as lamps by night.” Many see today’s society as more open-minded than people used to be. Loud are the voices calling us to tolerate diversity of every stripe, assaulting the walls of long held prejudice. But, the gospel is not about diversity, and therein lies the insuperable difficulty, as today’s confused masses seem unable to respond peaceably to the fact. That is why Christians now can be so vilified by the spiritually myopic, not unlike in the days of the progressive minds of ancient Rome. And so, let Nero teach us this: the more things change, the more they really stay the same.

Posted in Christianity and Culture

Keep Christ Constantly

By Weylan Deaver

No one knows Jesus was born on December 25. The best that can be said is that December 25 is Christ’s birthday, by tradition, but that is a long way from provable fact. Had God wanted us to know the exact date, he would have told us. That no one knows Jesus’ date of birth is evidence God never intended for it to be religiously observed. The first mention of celebrating Jesus’ birth in the extant historic records does not occur until A.D. 336. Even though December 25 cannot be proven as Jesus’ birthday, some may ask, “Isn’t it still good that so many think about Jesus on that day?” Well, it is certainly good to think about Jesus. The problem is, most do not think about him enough. They do not meditate on his message. They do not let the gospel bring them to obedience. In the end, what good does it do a person to keep Jesus’ birth in his thoughts during a particular season of the year, if he is not going to obey the Lord throughout the year? As Jesus remarked, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14, ESV). Jesus commanded many things, including repentance (Luke 13:3), baptism (Mark 16:16), and putting God first in everything (Matthew 6:33). Jesus never demanded we celebrate his birthday. To remember his birth while forgetting his commands does no one any lasting good. If one wants to focus thoughts on the Lord’s birth at Christmas, then he ought to follow up by focusing on the Lord, including all his commands, every day. The gospel is not seasonal (2 Timothy 4:2), and Jesus’ words will judge us all one day (John 12:48). Visit us at the church of Christ, where our goal is not to keep Christ in Christmas, but, rather, to keep Christ constantly.

Posted in Christianity and Culture, World Religions

Reflecting on the Koran

Recently I set a personal goal of reading the Koran in its entirety. Now a good way into it, I am compiling a list as I go of passages where its conflict with the Bible is glaring. Here are a few impressions so far, and a few quotes (all quotations taken from A. J. Arberry’s translation, The Koran Interpreted). The Koran obviously borrows from and revises biblical events, including the account of Cain and Abel, the incarnation of Christ, and the crucifixion. There would be no Koran had the Bible not been here first to influence Muhammad and provide him with religious people and doctrine to oppose.

Whatever the page, you are never far from a line in the Koran about unbelievers, chastisement, an evil homecoming, or being roasted in the fire. There is an unmistakable fixation on punishment that permeates the Koran. The gospel stresses holiness and the struggle against sin, whereas the Koran hammers on the conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims. Over and over the Koran criticizes Jews and Christians as unfit for friends on earth, and losers in eternity. Take out its constant criticism of non-Muslims, and its unending talk of their chastisement, and what is left? There is no soaring story of redemption, no sacrifice by God on the cross for humanity’s sins, no church where the saved congregate. Read the New Testament and the Koran’s inferiority is painfully evident by any measure of comparison.

But what it lacks in veracity it makes up in violence. The New Testament teaches Christians, “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh” (2 Cor. 10:4) and “our wrestling is not against flesh and blood” (Eph. 6:12), and “love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44). It is a far cry from the Koran’s instruction to slay people. As one of a multitude of examples from the Koran, consider: “This is the recompense of those who fight against God and His Messenger, and hasten about the earth, to do corruption there: they shall be slaughtered, or crucified, or their hands and feet shall alternately be struck off, or they shall be banished from the land. That is a degradation for them in this world; and in the world to come awaits them a mighty chastisement, except for such as repent, before you have power over them. So know you that God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate” (from Sura V, p. 133).

Sura II says, “for whatever verse we abrogate or cast into oblivion, We bring a better or the like of it” (p. 41). Question: If the Koran existed eternally and God wrote it, why would he need to come back and replace any verse with another which set the first verse aside? Yet, while claiming the right to change, the Koran also claims perfect consistency when it says: “What, do they not ponder the Koran? If it had been from other than God surely they would have found in it much inconsistency” (Sura IV, p. 112).

Sura III boldy claims, “The true religion with God is Islam” (p. 75) and “Abraham in truth was not a Jew, neither a Christian; but he was a Muslim” (p. 83).

Sura IV is called “Women,” and has somewhat to say about them. Men may “marry such women as seem good to you, two, three, four” (p. 100). “Men are the managers of the affairs of women…And those you fear may be rebellious admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them” (p. 105).

The same surah (or, chapter) advises against praying while drunk: “O believers, draw not near to prayer when you are drunken until you know what you are saying” (p. 107). This verse was evidently modified by others with stricter teaching that frowns on alcohol altogether, demonstrating that teaching in the Koran can evolve and is not internally consistent. The same chapter strongly denies that Jesus was crucified (p. 123). Sura V says, “O believers, take not Jews and Christians as friends…Whoso of you makes them his friends is one of them” (p. 136).

This is a tiny handful of examples, and much could be said regarding the traits of inspiration in the Bible, and their absence in the Koran. The ethic of Christ and the ethic of Muhammad are light years apart. Remember, the New Testament and church of Christ had been on earth nearly 600 years before the Koran was written. Islam is a late comer on the scene. It offers nothing good except what it borrows from the gospel (which is always better stated in the New Testament), which it mixes, unashamedly, with a host of gospel-denying verses.

Islam’s threat to Christianity comes, not from any theological superiority, but from its oft-exercised powers of intimidation, threat, coercion, and violence. Those who still live in a culture not dominated by Muslim oppression should recognize the threat and refuse to buckle. Silencing ourselves for fear of reprisal means we are already losing to its influence, and being victimized by the very definition of “terrorism.” We, in the church of Christ, choose to plant our flag in the ancient gospel, come what may.

Posted in Christianity and Culture

Witchcraft and the Bible

By Weylan Deaver

In Galatians 5 Paul gives a catalog of sins that will keep a person out of heaven. Among them is “sorcery” (v. 20). “Sorcery” is the English translation of the Greek word pharmakia. Though this term has to do with using medicine (our word “pharmacy” is derived from it), in biblical times pharmakia included drugs used in occult rituals and even poisoning. By the time the New Testament was written, pharmakia also included magic and sorcery in general, even to the extent that it is translated in our English Bibles as “sorcery” or “witchcraft.” As used in the Bible, “sorcery” is a broad term that would include hallucinogenic and poisonous drugs—even abortifacients—witchcraft, voodoo, palm reading, tarot cards, Oija boards, astrology, fortune telling, horoscopes, séances, and the like. God has forever frowned on sorcery. Deuteronomy 18:10-12 specifically forbade anyone from practicing divination, telling fortunes, interpreting omens, and from being a sorcerer, charmer, medium, wizard or necromancer. In the New Testament, Ephesus was a city where witchcraft was prominent. When the gospel began to make inroads in people’s hearts, many former witches brought their magic books and burned them in what must have been a huge bonfire (Acts 19:18-19). Getting rid of what God condemned was the natural response of a people newly impressed with gospel truth. Contrary to popular thought, there is no such thing as a good witch (at least, not in the Bible). There is no distinction between magic that is white or black. All sorcery is portrayed as evil. Witchcraft trusts in a power other than God. Since it is opposed to Christianity, its true origin is with Satan (cf. John 8:44). Ultimately, to be involved with sorcery is to shake hands with the devil. According to the Bible, Christians are in a war against “world-rulers of this darkness,” and “the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Some things are not to be toyed with, and witchcraft is surely among them. In fact, in the Bible’s closing verses, as though we needed one last reminder, God said it again—that those who will be left outside of heaven’s gate will include, along with murderers, liars and idol worshipers, the sorcerers (Revelation 22:15).

Posted in Apologetics, Christianity and Culture, Evolution

Aliens and Evolution (What Happens When Imaginary Green Men Get Credit for God’s Work)

By Weylan Deaver

Aliens are ingrained in our cultural psyche. They abound in books, movies, radio, and a thousand theories about the extra-terrestrial, little green men, UFO sightings, abductions, Area 51, and Roswell.

The year 1898 saw publication of H. G. Wells’ novel, War of the Worlds, which helped pioneer the concept of aliens (and aliens versus man). It was adapted in a 1938 radio broadcast which frightened many into believing aliens were invading America. H. G. Wells was an adoring student of Thomas Huxley, who was known as “Darwin’s bulldog” due to his staunch defense of Charles Darwin’s theory of human origins.

If aliens are defined as physical creatures inhabiting other planets or galaxies, then they have no place in a worldview informed by the Bible. Angels and demons are treated as matter-of-fact realities in the Bible, but not as living in space. Stars are created by God (Gen. 1:16) and, though sophisticated instruments will only allow scientists to guess at their number, God knows the precise number of stars and has already named every one of them (Psalm 147:4). One thing the Bible never hints at is intelligent life in outer space.

However, aliens do go hand in glove with evolutionary theory. In his 2008 documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Ben Stein chronicles extreme prejudice in academia against belief in intelligent design in the universe. At the movie’s end, Stein interviews Richard Dawkins, one of today’s leading advocates of atheism. Asked about the possibility of the world’s being intelligently designed, Dawkins replies:

“Well… it could come about in the following way: it could be that uh, at some earlier time somewhere in the universe a civilization evolved… by probably some kind of Darwinian means to a very, very high level of technology and designed a form of life that they seeded onto…perhaps this… this planet. Um, now that is a possibility. And uh, an intriguing possibility. And I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the um, at the detail…details of our chemistry molecular biology you might find a signature of some sort of designer.”

In other words, even an atheist like Dawkins feels the pressure to admit the possibility of what to so many of us is painfully obvious: we are surrounded by intentional, intelligent design. So, with straight face, he posits as a serious suggestion that unidentified aliens, at an untold time, from undisclosed location, by an unknown method, “seeded” on earth a “form of life” they “designed.” Dawkins’ desperation is palpable, and a grasping at cosmic straws.

The debate may be shifting. Whereas atheists used to deny intelligent design in nature, at least some now seem willing to admit it, as long as the designer is anyone but God. What but an entrenched anti-God bias would produce a baseless assertion, such as Dawkins’ theory of intelligent design by aliens? Yet, some will doubtless view it as scientifically credible, since Dawkins said it, even though there is nothing scientific about it.

Scripture affirms the existence of Adam and angels, but not aliens. Rational, thinking beings that we are, there is no excuse for confusion about where we came from. Noting the inescapable evidence for God all around us, the apostle Paul writes that “the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

Posted in Christianity and Culture

If You Give a Fool a Favor

By Weylan Deaver

How often does it make headlines that an atheist group is upset that prayers are being said somewhere, or that some religious symbol is in the public, or that something is said or written that makes unbelief feel the least bit unwelcome? It does seem that adamant atheists think that Bible-believers’ main duty in America is to make sure atheists are not made uncomfortable in any way by their presence. The best expression of Christianity is one that is neither seen nor heard by any potentially offended unbeliever. A recent grievance from the godless is chronicled by Fox News contributor Todd Starnes in a July 24, 2013 online article, “Chaplain Ordered to Remove Religious Essay From Military Website.” Evidently, it is no longer a given that chaplains can do the very things that make them chaplains, lest some atheist see and feel discrimination (which has become one of the longest four-letter words in English). The Air Force chaplain’s column dealt with the origin of the phrase, “no atheists in foxholes.” Naturally, an atheist group complained. The Air Force capitulated and, within hours, the essay was removed. In the ongoing offensive to eliminate what offends, we rarely step back to analyze the scenario’s illogic. If the atheist is right about God’s non-existence, then nothing in the universe has intrinsic value, including his own feelings and mental comfort. Therefore, if the atheist is right, why should anyone care what he approves, since his views are just as meaningless as anyone else’s? In other words, if the atheist is right about atheism, then he is implying the rest of us have no obligation to listen to him about anything. Atheism implies its own worthlessness. Let that sink in. It has always been that “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). What does it say of our military, or society that we craft any custom or policy based on the complaints of fools?

Posted in Christianity and Culture, LGBTQ

Then and Now

By Weylan Deaver

“While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to laud the more distinguished Character of Christian.” General George Washington gave those words to his army at Valley Forge on May 2, 1778. Modern sensibilities and prejudices (allegedly enlightened and tolerant) would disallow Gen. Washington from even thinking about saying that out loud. Were he alive today, the Founder of our Country would be supremely unelectable and condemned in the court of public opinion. On May 12, 1779 Gen. Washington told some Delaware Indians, “You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ.” With today’s political-correctness run amok, that statement would be deemed totally unacceptable on so many levels. In March of 1778 Gen. Washington had a soldier drummed out of the army, “never to return,” for “attempting to commit sodomy.” Our current Commander-in-Chief does not seem proud of America’s historic beliefs and achievements (made possible by a gracious God), but he does take pride in homosexuality and seeks its tireless promotion and forced acceptance–even designating June 2013 as “gay pride month.” The cultural divide is quickly opening into a chasm so wide it will not be closed without one side’s defeat. We can seek our country’s roots, grounded in principles taken directly from the Bible, or we can continue transforming into an increasingly godless, secular, immoral, confused people who proudly tolerate everything except the very beliefs that got America off the ground. The difference in then and now is a difference of day and night. We are reminded of the sobering words of Thomas Jefferson, “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever….”

Posted in Christianity and Culture, LGBTQ

Sin Pride Month

By Weylan Deaver

In case you haven’t heard, we Americans are supposed to be celebrating sin this month. At least, that’s what our President tells us. From his whitehouse.gov website comes a proclamation which reads, in part:

“NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2013 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.”

Sin has come a long way, hasn’t it? There was a time when it troubled people. Remember when Abraham’s nephew, Lot (a resident of Sodom), was “greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked” (2 Peter 2:7)? Of course, Lot was distressed by wickedness because he was “righteous” (ibid.). Which explains why our President is not distressed at all about homosexuality. President Obama proudly endorses evil, doing whatever he can to force its acceptance by the rest of us. We refuse to follow him on such a misguided errand. In fact, here is another quote, but, instead of coming from a presidential desk, it comes from the throne in heaven:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10, ESV).

Now, if it is right to single out a particular sin as an object of celebration (a concept which ought to be too absurd to mention), then why not add some more special months to the calendar, such as…

  • National Pride in Sexual Immorality Month
  • National Pride in Idol Worship Month
  • National Adultery Pride Month
  • National Thief Pride Month
  • National Drunk Pride Month

Not long ago there were laws on the books against sodomy (i.e. homosexuality). Today, we are supposed to prop up homosexuality at every opportunity, applaud it by governmental proclamation, and reserve hatred only for those who refuse to endorse it. If the President is serious about the need to, in his words, “eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists,” then my question to him is this: Why does your Oval Office harbor such prejudice against the Bible and those who believe it? When is the President going to become intolerant with a culture that increasingly is willing to kick Christianity in the teeth? Obama’s hypocrisy is as odious as it is obvious and, for all his championing of “great diversity,” he clearly has no respect and little tolerance for views differing from his own, such as those held by Christians who still understand the distinction between good and evil.

No, Mr. President, we take no “pride” in homosexuality in any of its perverse manifestations. Neither in this month, nor in any other will we respect your directive to do so. Moreover, we hold your proclamation in contempt, realizing the utter foolishness of taking “pride” in anything which the Lord condemns. We bow to no king but Jesus, and he has already made a proclamation that excels and supercedes yours in every way. But, as long as we’re talking about “pride,” Mr. President, we submit this truth to your consideration: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).