Posted in Christianity and Culture, Church and State

What are we to do?

Several months ago I wrote an article entitled “Can A Church Cancel Services During A National Emergency?” (available here). I discussed at that time ten points:

  • Each of us is under obligation to preserve his own life.
  • While a person’s own self-preservation is inherent in nature and obligated in Scripture, it has never been the ultimate obligation.
  • God has established the implementation of authority within three realms of responsibility: the home, the state, and the church.
  • If government requires what God disallows, or if government prohibits what God demands, all men should obey God rather than man.
  • Human government is to be viewed as a minister of God.
  • Just as personal and domestic conditions may vary, just so in the state conditions may vary, too.
  • God does not view all situations in the same way.
  • God treats disruption differently than He treats routine.
  • God manages His world including the use of disease that has entered it.
  • The nature of emergency may obscure the clarity of one’s obligation.

I supported my conclusion by two arguments that I won’t repeat here. What I want to do here is to respond to two points that some writers have made in their criticism that religious services ought to be closed for a while. Remember that my article was written to establish the point that in an emergency such as we have found ourselves in with the Coronavirus, that government has a right and obligation to protect its citizens, and that Christians have the obligation to submit to civil authority.

Objection One:

It has been suggested that we should just go ahead with our services as usual and let the sick stay at home from services as has been our normal policy. Furthermore, the idea has been presented that we should not cancel services because spiritual welfare is more important than physical welfare. But I suggest that to argue in such fashion is self-contradictory. Why? It is because the spiritual welfare of any sick person who stays home from services with our approval is also equally more important than is his own physical welfare. In other words, the truth that one’s spiritual welfare is more important than is his physical welfare applies with equal application to the sick who already stays at home as normal policy. So, (1) to approve one sick person’s staying at home (as normal policy would dictate) with the approval of the rest of the congregation, and (2) to disapprove the rest of us staying at home (closing the services) for health purposes on the basis that the spiritual is more important than the physical makes no sense. The principle that the spiritual is more important than the physical applies equally to a sick person staying home already with approval or the rest of us staying home with disapproval. If there is legitimate criticism of the right of an eldership to suspend services temporarily for health reasons, it has to be based on some other route of argumentation.

Objection Two:

It has been stated that religious services should not be closed because the government does not run the church. Yes, it is true that the government does not run the church, but we Christians do submit to it in other ways anyway! The government does not run marriage. God does. And yet we must go to the government to get a marriage license. We do submit to government requirement regarding marriage because the New Testament obligates us to do so. And yet, as we do this, we still clearly understand that God rules marriage—not the state. So, to argue against service closure on the basis that the state does not rule the church is a misguided effort.

Remember that our former article and this one have to do with a temporary and emergency situation. It is not a discussion of submission to governmental decree to close services either as (1) a permanently required condition or as (2) a punitive measure. If the government requires permanent closure of public religious services and enforces such, then we will all of necessity become worshipers “underground” (or prisoners who will be unable to congregate as usual in governmental custody) or in private. If government forces the shutdown of public religious services as punishment, we will be forced to congregate in private so as to continue our services. I know that we have brethren right now in a Muslim controlled area of the world who have to worship in secret. May God help them, and may God help Christians everywhere to be faithful in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Posted in Church and State

Can a Church Cancel Services During a National Emergency?

By Mac Deaver

We live in a unique moment in history. We have not seen anything like this in our country or world before. The world has experienced and/ or witnessed many calamities before our time, and we see some of these recorded in Scripture. But personally, none of us has ever been alive during a Pandemic, and it behooves us all to look at the universal event through the lens of Scripture to find our way.

Let me make several fundamental points that we learn in Scripture that help us to clarify how we are to look at our current responsibilities. How are we Christians supposed to act with regard to government decree in this crisis moment? Let me identify a few very fundamental truths relevant to our understanding of our duty during this crisis.

First, each of us is under obligation to preserve his own life. No one else could possibly be under obligation to help save my life if I am not first of all under obligation to save it myself. Personal survival is revealed as an obligation both in nature and in Scripture. We do not breathe as a choice. We breathe naturally, and we do what is necessary to get oxygen into our lungs. We may have to struggle, but struggle we will for life-sustaining air. From the moment of the first intake of air after coming forth from the womb, we strive for that air until the moment of death. We do so as a matter of inherent self-preservation. Hence, the Bible will base our attitude toward our neighbor on our attitude toward our self (Matt. 22:37-40; Eph. 5:29). No one can carry out his other duties on earth without first seeking his own survival.

Second, while a person’s own self-preservation is inherent in nature and obligated in Scripture, it has never been the ultimate obligation. The Bible teaches that all men have always been under obligation to be faithful to God regardless of consequences (Eccl. 12:13-14; Rom. 2:14-16; Rev. 2:10). This is each person’s ultimate priority.

Third, God has established the implementation of authority within three realms of responsibility: the home, the state, and the church. The home is the oldest, historically (Gen. 2:18-25). Next came the state (Gen. 10:8-10). And while the church was eternally in the mind of God (Eph. 3:8-11), it was the last of the three divinely appointed institutions to be established on earth (Mark 9:1; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:1-8; Acts 2:1-4). Parents are over the home (Eph. 6:1-4), government is over the state (Rom. 7:1-13; 1 Pet. 2:13-17), and elders are over the local church (Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:17).

Fourth, if government requires what God disallows, or if government prohibits what God demands, all men should obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). All Christians should defy any demand (from government or any other source) if the demand requires disobedience to God. This demands conviction and courage, and we appreciate and admire the willingness of anyone to die for right conviction. The Bible records the death of some of these heroes. We should strive to have and pray for faith and courage necessary to ultimate sacrifice if the situation requires (Rev. 2:10; 2 Tim. 4:6-8, 18).

Fifth, human government is to be viewed as a minister of God. Paul informs us that all authorized power comes from God (Rom. 13:1). Too, to resist government is to withstand the ordinance of God Himself (v. 2). Further, such resistance will eventuate in condemnation (v. 2). Rulers are designed by God to be a terror to the evil only (v. 3). The principle of submission tends toward government approval (v. 3) like the principle of obedience to parents tends toward a long life (Eph. 6:1-4). A principle as such is not the equivalent of a law. While childhood obedience tends toward longevity, developing cancer or being seriously injured does not. The principle may not always find application due to other matters that are involved in any given situation. Some governments have persecuted good, and some good children have died young. Yet, the principle in its application in human life tends toward a desired result (cf. 1 Pet. 3:13-14). Preachers are not the only ministers. Rulers of the state are God’s ministers, too.

Sixth, just as personal and domestic conditions may vary, just so in the state conditions may vary, too. For example, personally a person may move from immaturity to maturity, from ignorance to knowledge, from poverty to wealth or from wealth to poverty, from health to sickness or from sickness to health, from not being employed to finding employment, etc. Domestically, he may change by leaving home, having lived with parents, from being unmarried to being married, from not having children to having children, etc. So, clearly, personal adjustments are necessarily required as one’s circumstances are altered. State conditions may move from many people to few or from few to many, from wealth to poverty or from poverty to wealth, from peace to war or from war to peace, from expansion of territory to loss of territory or from loss to expansion, from general well-being to non-well-being, etc.

Seventh, God does not view all circumstances in the same way. For example, there are many purposes served in this life by the way that God has arranged reality. Solomon long ago affirmed that there is a season, and there is a time to every purpose under heaven (Eccl. 3:1-8). There are various purposes in the mind of God (cf. why God provides various kinds of weather [Job 37]). Job also told us that because of this circumstance, human misery is great (Job 14:1 cf. Eccl. 8:6). God sanctions some things in war that he does not sanction in time of peace (Eccl. 3:8; cf. 2 Sam. 22:35; 1 Kings 2:5).

Eighth, God treats disruption of routine differently than he treats routine. That is, at times people simply cannot do what they in normal times can and must do. We all know this, but at times we may forget the principle. Who among us rightly criticizes someone for staying home from church services because of his illness? Who among us rightly criticizes his fellow Christian for missing the morning service on Sunday because he stopped to help someone injured in a car accident? Imagine a Christian hurrying past the injured with the thought in mind that “I’ve got to get to the service! I hope a non-Christian comes by shortly who will help the victim!” Whoever thinks this is Christianity is devoid of reason and Scripture (Luke 10:25-37; Matt. 22:37-40).

Furthermore, even in regard to matters of routine, who among us rightly criticizes someone who misses the assembly on Sunday because he had to work? Imagine doctors and nurses refusing to work on Sunday because of criticism from one of our preachers. In such an event, we should see that the Lord’s lesson against such reasoning has been lost on the critic (cf. Matt. 15:1-9). The sick must have care even on Sunday! And since all men now live under the authority of the Lord’s new law, if non-Christians can serve the sick on Sunday, then Christians can, too! The Lord taught the necessity of some activity even on the Sabbath (Luke 13:15; Matt. 12:1-8). We must not become critics of good by reclassifying the good as “evil.” There are some things that must be done on Sunday. No one has a right to force a Christian to give up his work because he can’t be at all the services. All of us should work (2 Thess. 3:10), and the time for it is not in all cases an option available to us. Each of us will give account for our own decisions regarding how often we had to miss services. And we should not be unwisely critical of any brother (cf. Rom. 14:1-12). Remember, we will be judged as we have judged others (Matt. 7:1-5).

After God moved Israel into Canaan and placed his name in Jerusalem, He required that the men go to Jerusalem three times a year to worship (Deut. 16:16). During their deportations, Israel and Judah could not comply for they had lost access to freedom and thus to Jerusalem. Such men as Daniel and his friends were still faithful during the time when this requirement could not be met (Heb. 11:33). During the wilderness wandering, the divine requirement for circumcision was neglected. But before God allowed the next generation of Jews to enter Canaan, he “rolled away the reproach” of the nation by requiring all the uncircumcized to receive it (Josh. 5:2-9). God could have reemphasized the requirement to Moses during the wandering period. But He did not. He waited until the new generation was ready to cross the Jordan. But notice that God’s law that governed the routine did not cease to exist simply by disruption. The two deportations of the Jews show us that even though their law remained in place, since they were not and could not be in the place where it could be obeyed, their faithfulness (cf. Daniel) was not measured by their failure to show up in Jerusalem. We can learn God’s attitude toward His people during this time when they could not get to Jerusalem (cf. Rom. 15:4).

Ninth, God manages His world including the use of disease that has entered it. God early on promised Israel that if she would be faithful, she would not have disease (Exod. 15:15; Deut. 7:15). But, as we know, she was not faithful, and the diseases moved into her national body. By the time the Lord came to the earth, he found much sickness and disease (Matt. 9:35-36). Just how much sickness and disease is attributable to natural law only and how much is attributable to God’s providential use of it, no one can comprehend (cf. Elihu’s remark in Job 37:5 regarding the weather). But God still determines whether or not sickness is unto death (2 Kings 20:1-7; Eccl. 8:8; Heb.9:27).

Tenth, the nature of an emergency may obscure the clarity of one’s obligation. If we all clearly perceived that a thief was going to break into our house, we would watch for it (Matt. 24:42-44). The emergency would be clear. And perhaps our own desperation would become clear. However, in some circumstances, the emergency or the desperation is not perceived. A man may not perceive his own desperation in spiritual matters while at the same time he is well aware of his current physical well being (Luke 12:20).

We are now in a national emergency situation. While God is in control, our government is the one in authority, and our government has the right and obligation to seek the good of this country. We are to submit to that authority for the Lord’s sake (1 Pet. 2:13). Here in Texas, when our governor decreed that citizens of our state should no longer gather in groups of more than ten, in order to help prevent the spread of a deadly and fast moving virus (in order to save lives!), we had no choice but to submit.

As I get closer to the end of this article, let me ask a few questions for your humble consideration:

  1. If someone is a carrier of a deadly disease (and he knows it), does he have the obligation to avoid contact with other people?
  2. If a person suspects that he is a carrier of a deadly disease, does he have the obligation to avoid contact with other people?
  3. Do Christians have any obligation to help prevent the spread of a deadly disease?
  4. Since all men now live under the law of Christ, isn’t it true that if Christians do not have an obligation to prevent the spread of a deadly disease, then no one has the obligation to prevent the spread of a deadly disease?
  5. Is a civil decree required before the church is obligated to help prevent the spread of a deadly disease?
  6. Shouldn’t the church desire to help prevent the spread of a deadly disease even in the absence of any civil decree?
  7. If a medical doctor were to tell me to stay home from church services until the threat of a deadly disease is past, should I heed his counsel?
  8. If a medical doctor advises a young mother to stay at home with her newborn infant for two months before going out into society, should she heed his words?
  9. If the government advises any and/or all of us to stay at home to help prevent the spread of a deadly disease, should we all comply?
  10. If a Christian stays at home to help prevent the spread of a deadly disease and he does so under either medical counsel or legal decree, does he thereby forsake the assembly?

Finally, let me put my conclusion into a series of syllogisms that will provide the thought process whereby we know that we are doing right to comply with governmental decree to stay at home or to refuse to gather in large groups or to comply with “social distancing.”

Argument #1

  1. If the government has divine authority to take life, then the government has divine authority to save life (which is the opposite of taking life).
  2. The government has the authority to take life (John 19:10-11; Rom. 13:1-7).
  3. Then, the government has divine authority to save life.

Argument #2

  1. If the government has divine authority to save life, and if its current temporary prohibition against public gatherings is in order to save life, then its current temporary prohibition against public gatherings is within the purview of that divine authority.
  2. Government has divine authority to save life, and its current temporary prohibition against public gatherings is in order to save life (see Argument #1 and the above discussion concerning the routine and the disruption of the routine; also, note that the spread of the disease causes sickness and death).
  3. Then, its current temporary prohibition against public gatherings is within the purview of that divine authority.

The question has been asked, “Who has the right to cancel the services?” Well, while it is clear to me (though this is not discussed in this article) that elders have the right in given situations to cancel services, in the situation addressed in this article, the government does!

Posted in Christianity and Culture, Church and State, Gender

Battle for the sexes: American women in combat

By Weylan Deaver

In Dec., 2015, the United States Secretary of Defense declared all military combat roles open to women. That proclamation led quickly to the question of whether women should have to register for the draft with Selective Service, as men are required to do. After all, if women can fight in uniform wherever men fight, however men fight, as well as men fight, then why should the country require one sex to register for potential combat roles, while exempting the other?

The question makes perfect sense if you have a godless worldview. Secularists are not the target of this piece, since no appeal to Scripture will convince those who already despise Scripture. But there are still many in America who claim respect for the Bible. A Christian worldview has always maintained a distinction between the sexes by appeal to biology (the way God created men and women) and the Bible (what God wrote about men and women).

[Read the rest of the article here.]

Posted in Christianity and Culture, Church and State, LGBTQ

What the Supreme Court did not change

By Weylan Deaver

The Court declared homosexual “marriage” a Constitutional right in a 5-4 decision on June 26. With fallout still to be felt, the decision did immediately change Texas law, gave sin a victory, made a mockery of marriage, and opened a door that may be impossible to shut to further imaginary rights of groups who define themselves by their deviant sexuality. For example, if marriage is not gender-dependent, why must it be number-dependent (enter, polygamy)? Why must it be age-dependent (enter, pedophilia)? Why must it be species-dependent (enter, bestiality)? If God, who created marriage, is not the grounding factor in our concept of the institution, then there is no rational argument against an ever-evolving definition of it. Yet, despite such a monumentally mistaken decision, growing out of colossal confusion, some things remain as they were. First, the Court cannot alter God’s definition of marriage (“…a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” [Genesis 2:24, ESV]; “…each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” [1 Corinthians 7:2]). Second, the Court cannot change who God joins. “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?… What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6). God joins no couple in marriage out of harmony with his own marriage law, which excludes all same-sex relationships, as well as all adulterous ones. Third, the Court cannot change what the church teaches about marriage. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). That should scare us. Divine law is not nullified by misguided human efforts—no matter how popular—and those who respect God will not be swayed by evil practices cloaked in legal respectability. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Posted in Christianity and Culture, Church and State, LGBTQ, Marriage

I Am Ashamed

With the absolutely absurd recent decision rendered by the United States Supreme Court with regard to marriage, I am ashamed.

I am ashamed because the nature of marriage entails heterosexuality as any right thinking person should know. One does not have to be a Bible student in order to determine that in nature itself human sexuality is to be expressed between males and females. Such knowledge does not require the Bible nor a preacher nor a course in a Bible College. It requires only the knowledge of anatomy and a reflection upon it. High I.Q. is not prerequisite to this knowledge. The Bible, of course, reinforces this truth obtainable through nature itself. Perhaps if more Americans still lived on farms and ranches, more children growing up would not venture to disgrace themselves in adult life by attaching their intellects to such pathetic conclusions as that recently reached by the highest court in our land. Evaluating animal behavior perhaps could bolster the right concept of human sexual behavior if, for some reason, the concept had grown vague or fuzzy in little minds.

Furthermore, since child conception is in humans restricted to heterosexuality, that in and of itself should inform confused people of the fact that sexual expression is natural only among heterosexuals. The continuation of the human species is tied in nature to heterosexuality. The species can continue with no homosexuality whatever. However, the reverse is not true. If all contemporary adults practiced homosexuality from the initiation of their adulthood, the species would die out. Does that not say something to us about the proper direction of human sexual expression? This by itself shows that homosexual activity is not natural.

But what if a homosexual’s response to the foregoing paragraph went something like this? “I admit that the species would die out if all men and all women exclusively practiced homosexuality, but who is to say whether human sexuality is simply for the purpose of child conception? Practicing homosexuals are not practicing such for the purpose of child conception anyway.” In response to such thoughts I would offer the following: I am not saying that child conception is the only purpose for sexual intercourse, but I am saying that by the fact that child conception comes via heterosexual human intercourse, such provides us with the knowledge that since conception can only take place within the confines of heterosexual expression, then whatever other purposes there can be for sexual intercourse are purposes that are ontologically correspondent to or related to a heterosexual relationship, as child conception shows. Since child conception is natural only in heterosexual intercourse, nature is saying that any other legitimate purpose or purposes of human sexual activity are restricted by nature to expressions of heterosexuality.

I am ashamed because that since my first point is true, the nature of marriage should never have become a political issue in the first place. It is only to the fundamentally and radically confused that such an idea that two women could actually “marry” each other or that two men could actually “marry” each other would appear as a legitimate possibility. It is the depth of depravity and the extreme of irrationality for anyone to attempt to uphold the concept that marriage is for those of the same sex! What are citizens (who practice normal sexual behavior and who have not caved in to “political correctness” regarding homosexuality) to think when the highest court in the land decides (albeit by a close vote) that marriage cannot, after all, be restricted to husband and wife?

It is enough almost to make one ashamed to be an American. How can our culture have reached such moral depravity to produce justices who would attempt to attack nature in the name of law? But it is no more possible for two women to “marry” one another or for two men to “marry” one another than it is for a man to marry his dog or that two dogs can “marry” one another. Will animal rights activists at some point call for the legalization of “marriage” among animals? Calling the relationship “marriage” in no way secures it as real. A merely legal redefinition of what marriage is or can be in American society does not attack its actual standing in reality at all. Such simply cannot be accomplished by any set of judges. American law currently stipulates that if a person is missing for so many years, that person can then be legally declared “dead.” Such a declaration, however, with all of its legal ramifications, still has absolutely no bearing whatever on whether or not the person is actually dead! A man declared “dead” by such procedure can be on the one hand legally dead, and on the other hand actually very much alive. This much ought to be clear to all of us. Legal definition and actual condition are not always the same!

Why not let the high court go on and redefine “sisters” and “brothers”? If a real marriage can exist between two men or between two women, why can’t the high court redefine “brothers” (plural) and redefine “sisters” (plural)? In other words, why can’t the court simply say that “brothers” can minimally mean not only two males born to the same parents, but that it also can legally entail one male and one female born to the same parents? And why can’t the high court redefine “sisters” so that it at least minimally applies not only to two females born to the same parents, but also to one female and one male born to the same parents?

If it is simply a matter of legal definition, what is the limit? Where does it stop? Language becomes meaningless as concepts entrenched in nature become distorted.

It has taken us well over two hundred years to reach this absurd historical moment, but it is pitiful beyond proper description that the moment arrived at all. The nature of marriage cannot be altered by mere human vote, even if the vote is unanimous! A horse cannot become a cow and a cow cannot become a dog by vote! And humans cannot become non-humans and non-humans cannot become humans by redefinition, by constant declaration, or by a vote! And being human entails certain characteristics, which characteristics do not disappear or subside by what a society says. Legal declaration is no substitute for natural existence and cannot affect it at all!

As technological advancements have characterized our country for years, our morals have lagged far, far behind. The Supreme Court decision sanctions sexual abomination and degrades the concept of marriage. The New Testament tells us to honor marriage. The Supreme Court now stands in outright violation of that biblical obligation and in the unenviable position of having attacked marriage, which God himself arranged for man’s welfare on the earth. Many have been in our time dishonoring marriage by the immoral practice of licentiousness, fornication, and adultery for years. The high court, however, has now attacked the institution of marriage at the point of concept. And that constitutes a more fundamental attack since it is an attack on the nature of the institution itself.

I am ashamed of a court, supposedly comprised of relevantly informed people, that voted five to four in favor of attempting to change the nature of marriage in the country. In one sense, one might think that at least four people voted with reason and nature. But to think that five did not is mind-boggling! Why in the name of common sense, did anyone vote in favor of attempting to legally give sanction and dignity to that for which God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah? Homosexuality is and always has been a distortion of human sexual expression! It is not a natural condition.

If one were to argue that we cannot depend on the Bible for truth regarding Sodom and Gomorrah, much less the nature of marriage, I would respond by saying that if God is removed as the originator of marriage, then, morally speaking, we need not concern ourselves with marriage as a morally binding relationship at all anyway ever. If there is no God and if God has not defined what marriage is, then “marriage” can be what men want it to be, but in their determinations, they cannot ever make of it anything that is morally superior to fornication and adultery. “Adultery” ceases to be a morally meaningful concept when marriage is reduced conceptually to a merely human construct! If God is not the divine arranger of marriage, then there is no dignity to it that raises it above the moral level of fornication, adultery, and sexual relations among animals. And if that is the case, there is no “dignity” in the marriage arrangement worth the perverted pursuit of it that homosexuals have been giving to it for years.

If one had been living in Sodom during the days of Abraham, he would have found that homosexuality was indeed normal behavior in that it was widely practiced and socially accepted. But it was never natural behavior! That is, the practice of homosexuality was the norm to and among many, but it never redefined what was natural. The God who created nature does not make homosexuals and then condemn them for what at birth they could not help, any more than he would by nature’s laws arrange for a genetically identifiable Anglo-Saxon baby born to Anglo-Saxon parents and then condemn the child for his Anglo-Saxon heritage! Such is absurd, but such absurdity evidently escaped the notice of our high court.

Perversity of human sexual desire may well begin very early in human experience, but no one should ever blame such an unnatural desire upon God or the nature that God has made. God is the father of our human spirits and the original creator of the earth from which the human body was taken. We surely should realize that temptation to sin, including the temptation to practice

sexual deviation, does not arise ontologically (that is, in the nature of being itself) from our human spirit or from the body in which it is encased. Something must happen in order to redirect the proper channel of human sexual expression. And when humans are redirected in a perverse way, they stand in need of help. They do not need their deviate desire to be dignified and protected as though it were something natural. Such people should be pitied and helped. And when society attempts to “help” them by sanctioning their deviation, it is providing no help at all, but rather encouraging them to feel “natural” when they are “unnatural.”

Voting cannot turn nature into non-nature; it cannot change non-nature into nature. When two non-natural persons (homosexuals) are told that they can “marry” and they attempt such, they and the society that encourages them, face the impossible situation of trying to take two non-natural persons (persons with non-natural sexual desire) and form one legitimate natural relationship. It simply does not and cannot happen! If a man develops a sexual desire for his pet dog, no court in the land by changing the definition of “marriage” can provide legal cover that actually dignifies such a relationship so that the man can attempt to “marry” his dog. If a person cannot grasp this concept, then he is unreachable on rational grounds with regard to the comprehension of what marriage is.

If a trial had been held in Sodom over the legitimacy of homosexuality as a proper and natural route to human sexual expression, the vote perhaps would have been unanimous. It gives me little comfort to think that our court was divided. That the vote was close gives me little encouragement. Over something so basic to human existence and to society, it is appalling that anyone on the court could have voted in support of an effort to reconstruct the nature of marriage at all. It requires much ignorance and no little arrogance to attempt such. As Jesus once told Pilate, Pilate would have no power against Jesus unless God had given power to him. His sin, therefore, was indeed “greater.”

Our Supreme Court has sinned against God and this country in rendering their five to four decision which attacks the home and seeks to legally sanction abominable immoral practice. The confusion of the high court should be evident to most Americans. That it is not evident to all Americans, and given the fact that the decision is now celebrated by quite a few Americans, it is clear that America is, as a country, losing its moral and intellectual direction. Our national law is becoming hostile to God and family, and by such hostility, it is becoming its own destroyer. The Bible still declares that it is righteousness that exalts a nation and that sin is a reproach to any people. And while Christians are under obligation to pray for our government, I shudder to think what it has already become. Yet, we will continue to pray for it and for the welfare of our heretofore divinely blessed country.

But I am ashamed of the repulsiveness characteristic of the Supreme Court in its ridiculous decision regarding the nature of marriage. Those of us who respect the Bible as the inspired, infallible, and all-sufficient word of the living God, will continue to live our lives before God with the proper concept of marriage in mind, which concept corresponds to our divinely provided human nature. Our high court has attempted to redefine what marriage is, but it can no more change the nature of marriage than it can reconstruct by redefinition human nature itself.

Posted in Church and State, Church History

“Compelle Intrare”

In Jesus’ banquet parable (Luke 14:12-24), the master sent his servant to gather up guests for the feast. His instructions were, “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled” (v. 23, ESV).

In Latin, “compel people to come in” is written, “compelle intrare.” From early centuries of church history through medieval times and beyond, the Roman Catholic Church leaned on a grotesquely twisted interpretation of “compelle intrare” in Luke 14:23, concluding that governmental authorities had the right to coerce people into the church. In a perverse marriage, Catholicism and the state were so tied together that the former could dictate the latter use deadly force against the church’s enemies. And, the church’s enemies included whatever men and doctrines were not in lock step with what the Catholic Church taught. Forced conformity to Catholicism was the glue holding society together. Naturally, if people were allowed to study the Bible for themselves, voluntarily practice what they believed from their own study, and freely preach their views, it would be a fundamental threat to the church’s power (and the crumbling of society, as they knew it).

Reformers such as Martin Luther are often hailed for their courage in confronting the status quo in religion (i.e. Catholicism). Yet, what they created in the Reformation was simply another state religion like Catholicism—only with certain different doctrines. In other words, while Luther opposed the Catholic Church, he very much endorsed the idea that the Reformed church could use force against its own enemies.

While the reformers (such as Luther, John Calvin, etc.) were battling Catholicism, there were others insisting that both sides were wrong in their concept of a church which forced itself on everyone in a given locale. The view of these objectors was that the church of Christ consisted of voluntary believers, and that it had no connection to the state; nor was it biblical to use force in spreading the gospel. They studied their Bibles and clung to their convictions. They also found themselves mercilessly persecuted by both the Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformers.

Martin Luther commissioned his friend, Urbanus Rhegius, to fight those who were calling for a church formed only of voluntary believers. Rhegius said:

“The truth leaves you no choice; you must agree that the magistracy has the authority to coerce his subjects to the Gospel. And if you say, ‘Yes, but with admonition and well-chosen words but not by force’ then I answer that to get people to the services with fine words and admonitions is the preacher’s duty, but to keep them there with recourse to force if need be and to frighten them away from error is the proper function of the rulers….What do you suppose ‘Compelle intrare’ means?” (quoted in Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren, p. 74).

Those who thought the church and state were separate, that the state should not interfere with the church, and that the church should be organized along New Testament lines, were considered radicals and hated as enemies. One of them was Felix Manz, of Zurich, Switzerland. His goal was “to bring together those who were willing to accept Christ, obey the Word, and follow in His footsteps, to unite with these by baptism, and to leave the rest in their present conviction” (ibid.). In other words, Manz was opposed to coercion and held that the church should consist of true believers—those who wanted to accept and obey the gospel.

For his “heretical” ideas, Felix Manz had his hands tied around his bent knees, with a big stick shoved between his elbows and knees so that he could not move his arms. He was put in a boat and rowed into the Limmat River, where he was thrown into the frigid water to drown. The date was January 5, 1527.

Over the recent centuries, both Catholicism and Protestantism have had to back off of “compelle intrare,” but neither the former nor the denominations that sprang from the latter have gone all the way back to the primitive church’s organization and practice. Therein lies their insuperable problem.

If we, in the church of Christ, had lived back then, we would have been hunted like dogs by both Catholics and the Reformers. We are still at spiritual war with their religious descendants, but, thanks be, at least they cannot come after us today with a death warrant.

Posted in Christianity and Culture, Church and State

Putting It In Perspective

By Weylan Deaver

The 2012 presidential election was a bitter pill to swallow. We oppose the President on moral grounds (e.g. his rabid support of abortion and homosexuality), but there are too few Americans who know what morality is these days. It is easy to despair with thoughts of gloom and doom, but a dose of Scripture helps put it all in right perspective. For the Christian there is not only a silver lining to a dark cloud, but a big blue sky, above which God smiles down on his own.

Our reins are still in God’s hands. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Prov. 21:1, ESV). That includes the President. Nebuchadnezzar learned the hard way “that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Dan. 4:17, 25, 32). Jesus reminded Governor Pilate the only reason the latter had any authority was because God gave it to him (John 19:10-11). Whether we think it looks that way to our feeble eyes, God is still in ultimate control.

Our riches are still flowing. Jeremiah had to live in dark days, when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem. He wrote of “my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall” and that his soul was continually bowed down (Lam. 3:19-20). Yet, in the very next verses, he wrote of hope because the “steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning” (Lam. 3:21-24). Government does affect the supply of certain things, such as money, jobs, freedoms. But God’s supply line does not go through Washington. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

Our reputation is tied to God’s family. When Paul reprimanded the Corinthian church for members suing other members, he asked, “if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church?” (1 Cor. 6:4). The residence of greatest honor is not the White House; it is the Lord’s house. And the President himself, not being a Christian (per the Bible’s definition), has no standing in the Lord’s church, which is the place where standing truly counts. The world’s power-brokers may never know our names, but God’s family has standing in God’s eyes. And that is the only reputation that will matter, come Judgment Day.

Our responsibility to government never compromises our Christianity. True, we have a duty to pay taxes (Luke 20:25; Rom. 13:7), and our taxes will likely go up next year. But, isn’t it great that God has not left us without direction when there is conflict between government and the gospel? If it comes to that, then we “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Government never trumps the Good Book. God’s kingdom comes before my country. If right is outlawed and wrong is legalized, God’s truth remains the same (cf. John 12:48).

Our resistance has not cost our blood. Some early Christians were reminded, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Heb. 12:4). We freely assemble, freely teach, freely put articles in the newspaper, and no one has arrested us, shot at us, or beat us up. Of course, if we faced those consequences, our duty would remain. So let us be glad America still has a religious freedom that Paul and the apostles never knew.

Our reasons to rejoice are better than anyone’s. John wrote that he “rejoiced greatly” to learn of faithful Christians, and wanted them to go on to “win a full reward” (2 John 4, 8). Winning that reward by far eclipses winning any political election. In fact, winning the presidency pales to insignificance next to the reward of which John wrote. How can a four-year term of earthly power begin to compare with eternal life?

Our rulers are headed to judgment like everyone else. Judgment Day is not just for the “average Joe,” which is why John “saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne” to be sentenced based on their past deeds (Rev. 20:12). None will miss that appointment, including governors, congressmen, judges (cf. Heb. 9:27). John paints a terrifying scene where the world’s elite desperately, but in vain, try to hide from divine punishment. “Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?'” (Rev. 6:15-17).

Our reward is safe from the wicked. As Jesus noted, our money may be stolen on earth, but treasure in heaven is beyond any thief’s grasp (Matt. 6:20). A pleasant thought, that there will be no taxes in heaven. No onerous regulations. No ruler who constantly requires more and more of citizens, giving less and less in return. The Lord observed that kings do not require taxes of their own sons, indicating that sons are “free” in a way others are not (cf. Matt. 17:24-26). As sons and daughters of God, we will experience ultimate freedom and blessing in heaven where the inheritance is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Pet. 1:4). In other words, our real wealth is off-limits to any American President or Congress. Our country has much to offer, but “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).

Posted in Christianity and Culture, Church and State

Whatever happens in the election…

By Weylan Deaver

Whatever happens in the election, God will still be on his throne, for “the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Dan. 4:25, ESV). Whatever happens in the election, the Bible will still be true in all it says, since “it is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18). Whatever happens in the election, Jesus will still be the only way to heaven, for he is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Whatever happens in the election, good and evil will still be defined by the Lord, and government will still have the duty to function as a “servant, of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:4). Whatever happens in the election, for protection our military will never be as powerful as morality, since “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34). Whatever happens in the election, citizens will still be obligated to work in such a way they are “dependent on no one” (1 Thess. 4:12), which means government ought not foster a culture of dependency. Whatever happens in the election, America will still not be as important as the church of Christ, for it was “obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Whatever happens in the election, every American is still supposed to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37), remembering “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10). In the church of Christ in the United States, we are thankful to be Americans, but even more grateful “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).

Posted in Christianity and Culture, Church and State

Booing God

By Weylan Deaver

In recent years, the Democratic party in America has abandoned all respect for the Bible’s teaching on marriage, life’s sanctity, and sin in general. In their official party platform for 2008, they were hanging onto God by a thread when they mentioned him once in stating, “We need a government that stands up for the hopes, values, and interests of working people, and gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential.” Notice, that was no call for anyone to worship God. It was no call for anyone to thank God or even respect him. Rather, it was a statement about needing big government to take care of little people, with a passing reference to God.

In the initial 2012 Democratic party platform, God rated no mention at all, with the statement reading, “We gather to reclaim the basic bargain that built the largest middle class and the most prosperous nation on Earth — the simple principle that in America, hard work should pay off, responsibility should be rewarded, and each one of us should be able to go as far as our talent and drive take us.” Rather than credit God with blessing America into the most prosperous country, Democrats think it resulted from something they term a “basic bargain.”

On September 5, the chair of the platform drafting committee suggested “God” be put back into the platform’s language, as well as an acknowledgment that Jerusalem is “the capital of Israel.” The head of the Democratic National Convention then put the matter to a voice vote and, after a third try, declared the motions passed (even though two-thirds were clearly not in favor). What followed was some loud and angry booing, which speaks with much volume about the heart of that political party.

Why would anyone boo the mention of God? Perhaps some objectors were Muslims who reject the God of the Bible, but some who booed simply want nothing to do with God, period. A godless people feel free to pursue their selfish lusts without needing to worry about being judged by a righteous Creator who hates sin. The sad truth is, plenty of people want to live like a troop of baboons, not worrying about right vs. wrong, not wrestling with a conscience, not thinking about heaven and hell, never thanking or listening to their Maker.

Though the mention of God engenders debate, there are uncontested issues dear to the Democratic heart: a woman’s ability to legally kill her unborn child, and a man’s right to fornicate with another man while calling it “marriage.” The innocent are annihilated, the perverse are applauded, and a morally bankrupt party loves to have it so.

It is precisely as Paul described the wicked: “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” (Rom. 1:28, ESV). In verses 26-31 Paul condemns homosexuality as godless, dishonorable, unnatural, shameless, and erroneous, mentioning also several sins related to abortion, including murder, malice, arrogance, heartlessness, ruthlessness, and being disobedient to parents.

Those who “boo” God are no better than those who wagged their heads at Jesus on the cross (Matt. 27:39). No culture has the right to endorse what God condemns, and does so at its own peril. In defining family and morality in a civil society, the New Testament and the Democratic party could not be at greater odds. If those in the political sphere wish not to be rebuked by Christians, then they should stick to politics. Calling an issue “political” or “social” does not make it non-moral. And politicians who venture where the Bible speaks ought not be surprised when Bible-believers have something to say about it.

Posted in Christianity and Culture, Church and State

A Preacher’s Perspective on the President

By Weylan Deaver

Much criticism has been leveled at Mr. Obama over his apparent continual conflict with the U.S. Constitution (shouldn’t he be the last person at odds with that document?). Others can articulate valid concerns about our current government’s shortcomings and failures. My perspective is that of a man who stands every Sunday in front of a congregation of the church of Christ to present sermons which, first and foremost, must be in harmony with the Bible. On that basis, I offer these words. Mr. President, in a way, you actually make my job harder. Hypocrisy is never helpful in converting souls to the gospel, and, when it comes to being a Christian, your claim does not square with your conduct. You stand in favor of so many things I am duty bound, based on the Bible, to oppose. Thanks to you, and voices like yours, I have to spend time in the pulpit dealing with matters like homosexuality and abortion. You have done all in your power to bring such morally repugnant themes to the forefront of society in an effort to force their acceptance and protection. Thus, my children, and other young people, must grow up hearing lessons about what’s wrong with “gay marriage,” or the wanton killing of unborn babies, or why two women having sex is sinful. Other subjects would be more pleasant, but you help make unavoidable the vilest of topics. Your moral confusion is inexcusable in light of the clarity with which God’s word addresses the issues. At one time, you tried to make a point that people have not been reading their Bibles. Have you looked in the mirror? Increasingly, thanks to you and your allies, I must preach a message more and more at odds with a culture adrift from any objective standard of behavior. Mr. President, it seems the right to freely practice biblical teaching is not as dear to you as it is to others. That is plain from your effort to force people to fund what goes against their religious convictions, all in the name of “health care” (e.g. contraceptives, abortifacients). Surely, this fosters a growing disrespect for the office you hold and the laws of our land, making honest citizens feel like they–by no bad behavior of theirs–may still be made into criminals for refusing to violate their own conscience. You may think the pulpit needs to stay out of politics, but in fact, Mr. President, when you venture into moral issues addressed in the Bible, you have strayed from politics onto my turf. We were both born in the 1960’s, but who could have imagined we would see our country entertaining debate on whether men should marry men, and whether the unborn should have a right not to be killed? Even were I to agree with you on every other policy, I could not support you, based solely on moral grounds. I regret we are so opposed, and will pray your influence is minimal. You are my president, but greater allegiance I owe to my King.