Well, men should not wear long hair. At least, the apostle Paul says so. Why? Because nature says it’s unnatural. But how does Paul arrive at such a conclusion? Isn’t nature the reason why men can grow long hair in the first place? Today’s question comes from the one and only Dr. Andy Naselli, who asks this.
“Hello, Pastor John! Paul argues from ‘nature’ in both Romans 1:26–27 and 1 Corinthians 11:14–15. In Romans, Paul argues that same-sex passions and intercourse are ‘contrary to nature’ because they fundamentally rebel against God’s created design for sex. In 1 Corinthians, Paul asserts that ‘nature’ teaches that long hair on men and short hair on women are dishonorable. How do you reconcile those two passages?
“Is Paul using the word ‘nature’ in the same way? Or is he using the same word in different senses? It’s problematic to see Paul using ‘nature’ in exactly the same way in both passages. If you say they are both only cultural, then that opens the door to same-sex passions and intercourse being okay in other cultures. But if you say that they are both based on God’s created design, then you have to say that long hair on men and short hair on women are always wrong in every culture without exception. And, as a friendly reminder, Jonathan Edwards had long hair!”
First, let’s quote the two passages.
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature [that’s the word Andy was referring to] and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26–27)
Now, I think what Paul means by nature in this passage is who we are as male and female humans, designed by God with our built-in, God-designed natural differences — both physical, and more essentially, the deeper-than-physical, distinct realities of manhood and womanhood rooted in our God-designed male and female souls.
Now, that’s a long definition of nature, but you can pause and go back and listen to it rather than me repeating it here. The implications for Paul are that we should conform our sexual relations to what God has designed our natural bodies for and written on our natural male and female souls. Homosexual intercourse, Paul says, is contrary to this nature and so is shameful and dishonorable.
Now, here’s the text in 1 Corinthians 11 that Andy is specifically focusing on, dealing with how women may properly pray and prophesy in mixed gatherings in Corinth in the first century. Here’s what he says: “Judge for yourselves: is it proper” — prepōn in Greek: fitting, seemly. That’s an interesting ethical category for Paul. It’s very important. “Is it proper” — is it seemly, fitting — “for a wife [woman] to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature [same word as in Romans 1:26] itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering” (1 Corinthians 11:13–15).
So a women takes her hair, wraps it up, and puts it on her head for a covering. Now, the key statement is, “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is a disgrace for him?” (1 Corinthians 11:14).
Andy asks, “Is Paul using the word nature in the same way in these two texts? Or is he using the same word in different senses?”
Human males, left to nature, will have just as much hair on their heads as women, and more hair on their faces. If you think one way, you seem to get the opposite of what Paul’s saying. But Paul’s not stupid. He could feel his cheek — he’s not stupid.
I don’t assume that Paul is thinking that way. I think Paul is saying that nature — that is, natural, intrinsic maleness — inclines a man to feel repulsed and shameful for wearing culturally defined symbols of womanhood. Paul is saying that nature — that is, natural, built-in, God-given, intrinsic maleness — inclines a man to feel repulsed and shameful by wearing the culturally defined symbols of womanhood.
If I walked into church five years ago, while I was still preaching, wearing a dress, high heels, stockings, long floppy earrings, and lipstick, the elders should hustle me off to a side room and with dismay say, “Pastor, doesn’t nature teach you not to wear a dress?”
They would be right. It does. It would be horrifically contrary to my maleness. Nature does teach me that. This is the very same nature that teaches me that having sex with a man is shameful. But this is not because kilts in Scotland are sinful or that long earrings on men in Papua New Guinea are sinful. This is because whatever culturally defined accompaniments of femininity are in a culture, a man’s nature as a male will find this proper — that Greek word prepōn, the opposite of unseemly, improper, shameful, and repulsive.
Here’s my summary. Did nature teach the Corinthians that if a man wears long hair, it is a disgrace for him? Yes, it did. Nature did because the God-designed, healthy male soul revolts against clothing himself in symbols of femininity, just like the God-designed, healthy female soul revolts against presenting herself as a man. That revolt from nature is a God-given teacher.
Jesus, John get to the @#$%#* point. If a man’s hair makes him look like a woman it is a sin. The same goes for women. If their hairstyles make them look like a man, they are breaking God’s law. Question? WHO decides what is feminine and what is masculine? John Boy and his fellow Fundamentalists do. Piper throws a bunch of “exegesis” and “interpretation” — also known as Baptist word salad — at the issue and concludes that what determines whether a particular male or female hairstyle is sinful is Fundamentalist definitions of feminine and masculine. As always, the answer remains, WE decide. And that’s how worldlings do it too, John Boy. WE decide, and we’ve decided you can take your Fundamentalist claptrap and shove it up your … you know that place you and your fellow anti-homosexual buddies spend way too much time sniffing around.
I am married to a beautiful, sexy, maturing woman. In October, my wife will turn sixty. When we married, Polly had short hair. Later in our married life — after I got a message straight from Jesus and his Holy Word — Polly let her hair grow out. Not that she wanted to, but she obediently — based on her husband’s straight from the mouth of God preaching and head of the home leadership — let her hair grow. We had two young daughters, and they too let their hair grow out. Both of them were out of high school before a beautician’s scissors ever touched their long red hair.
After my long hair on women phase went the way of all such words from the Lord, Polly got her hair cut a bit shorter every time she went to the beautician’s shop. Soon, the length of her hair crept up from her waist to her shoulders. And once she was free of Jesus and the Bible? Why, she’s right back to wearing her hair as she did when a young, brash redheaded boy came up to her and asked out on a date forty-plus years ago. Funny how that all works out, eh?
What shall we say to these things? Something must be said because sickness and death are threats to faith in the love and power of God. And I regard it as my primary responsibility as a pastor to nourish and strengthen faith in the love and power of God. There is no weapon like the word of God for warding off threats to faith. And so I want us to listen carefully today to the teaching of Scripture regarding Christ and cancer, the power and love of God over against the sickness of our bodies.
I regard this message today as a crucial pastoral message because you need to know where your pastor stands on the issues of sickness, healing, and death. If you thought it was my conception that every sickness is a divine judgment on some particular sin, or that the failure to be healed after a few days of prayer was a clear sign of inauthentic faith, or that Satan is really the ruler in this world and God can only stand helplessly by while his enemy wreaks havoc with his children — if you thought any of those were my notions, you would relate to me very differently in sickness than you would if you knew what I really think. Therefore, I want to tell you what I really think and try to show you from Scripture that these thoughts are not just mine but also, I trust, God’s thoughts.
God controls who gets sick and who gets well, and all his decisions are for the good of his children, even if they may be very painful and long-lasting. It was God who subjected creation to futility and corruption, and he is the one who can liberate it again.
My point in that article [Do Men Owe Women a Special Kind of Care?] and in this podcast is that the egalitarian assumptions in our culture, and to a huge degree in the church, have muted — silenced, nullified — one of the means that God has designed for the protection and the flourishing of women. It has silenced the idea that men as men — by virtue of their created, God-given maleness, apart from any practical competencies that they have or don’t have — men have special responsibilities to care for and protect and honor women. This call is different from the care and protection and honor that women owe men. That’s my thesis. That’s my point.
Now, it seems to me that for decades Christian and non-Christian egalitarians have argued, have assumed, and have modeled that those peculiar roles and responsibilities among men and women in the home, in the church, and in the culture should emerge only from competencies rather than from a deeper reality rooted in who we are differently as male and female.
Let me put it another way. If your nine-year-old son asks you, “Daddy, what does it mean to grow up and be a man and not a woman?” — or if your daughter asks, “Mommy, what does it mean to grow up and be a woman and not a man?” — it won’t do to answer, “What it means is that when you grow up, you will have maturity and wisdom and courage and sacrifice and humility and patience and kindness and strength and self-control and purity and faith and hope and love, etc.” That doesn’t answer the question. Those traits are absolutely right, but they belong to both men and women.
The question was “What does it mean to grow up and be a man and not a woman?” And “What does it mean to grow up and be a woman and not a man?” “Is there, Mommy and Daddy, a God-given, profound, beautiful meaning to manhood and womanhood?”
The kids don’t say it like that, but that’s what they want to know eventually: is there a difference beyond mere anatomy? Are there built-in responsibilities that I have simply because I’m a male or a female human being. There is a pervasive egalitarian disinclination to say yes to that question. The egalitarian inclination is to define all our relationships by competencies. And my suggestion or my contention is this is hurting us.
This refusal to answer that question or be burdened by it is hurting us. It confuses everyone, especially the children. This confusion is hurting people.
It has moved way beyond confusion. It’s a firm conviction of most of our egalitarian culture that men as men do not owe women a special kind of care and protection and honor that women do not owe men. I believe they do. I believe fifty years of denying it is one of the seeds bearing very bad fruit, including all those sexual abuses you talked about in your question. There are others seeds in our culture, but this is one of the seeds.
My point in this podcast is that this divine design for men as men to show a special care, protection, and honor to women is essential for good — for the good of families, churches, society, and for women in particular.
Millions of people in our day would rather sacrifice this peculiar biblical mandate given for the good of women. They would rather sacrifice it than betray any hint of compromise with egalitarian assumptions. What I’m arguing is that we have forfeited both a great, God-ordained restraint upon male vice and male power and a great, God-ordained incentive for male valor because we refuse to even think in terms of maleness and femaleness as they are created by God, carrying distinct and unique responsibilities and burdens.
We have put our hope in the myth that the summons to generic human virtue, with no attention to the peculiar virtues required of manhood and womanhood, would be sufficient to create a beautiful society of mutual respect. It isn’t working.
Men need to be taught from the time they are little boys that part of their manhood is to feel a special responsibility for the care and protection and honoring of women just because they are men.
Let’s take the words of Jesus and apply it to women. I don’t know how many women do this, but everyone should look at these words. Men don’t have to take and convert the passage to appropriate language for men because it’s addressed to men directly. It’s our issue.
Women, though, should do this — take the words of Jesus that are addressed to men in Matthew 5:27–29 and convert them into appropriate language for women. Believe me — Tony would vouch for this, I think — based on the questions we’re getting at APJ, there are major sexual-temptation issues going on for women as well as men.
Here’s what Jesus would say if he had said those words today: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ You women, you should not commit adultery. But I say to you that every woman who looks at a man, or a woman with a sexy outfit, or a kissing scene on television, or who reads about sexual intercourse in a novel, or listens to one on Audible, or does anything else that feeds the desire to lure their eyes with sexiness has already committed adultery in her heart.” He’s going to be just as blunt with women as he is with us guys, surely. “If your right eye causes you to sin, women, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body would be thrown into hell.” Jesus says that to men and women.
Now when Jesus says, “Tear out your eye,” surely he at least means stop using the eye to feed the desire. It may not be possible to avoid every sin-awakening sight in our culture, but it is possible to keep dozens of them out of your eye. It is possible to set before you worthy things, holy things, beautiful things. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). Surely, Paul said that because of the principle “garbage in, garbage out,” or “sexy in, sexy out.”
The principle here is this: find the streams that are feeding the river of sensual desire, and cut them off.
— John Piper, Desiring God, What Wrong with Dressing Immodestly for Attention? January 10, 2018
What children need at age one, five, six, fourteen, eighteen is simply amazing, and so is what those needs call forth from a woman’s creativity and heart and mind, personally for each one of these little ones that are coming along.
And, just being able to focus on the home where ministry can happen—not being enslaved by anybody’s clock—you can say, ‘I want to work my tail off for King Jesus, but I don’t want anybody to pay me for it. I’m going to do it right here in this neighborhood with my husband’s connections and my connections. We’re going to lavish grace on people’s lives.’
So, I’m calling for ministry full-time when I say ‘don’t work full-time if you have a family.’ Turn your family into ministry. Turn your family into a global dream for what this family might become, or what this man might be, or what we might be together as we are home.
Your calling is you are on planet Earth to put a telescope to the eye of the world. That’s why you exist. By your behavior, your parenting, the way you do your job, the way you worship, and the way you handle your things in life, everyone should read off of your life, “God is great.” That’s why you exist.
Evangelicals such as Calvinistic Fundamentalist John Piper have a reductionist view of the world. In their minds, the sum of everything is the Christian God. Everything traces back to God. He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, and the beginning and the end. God is in believers, they live their lives through him, and to him go all praise, honor, and glory. This God is a jealous deity, demanding that his followers worship him alone. Worshiping other Gods or no God at all brings upon people his wrath and judgment. This God demands that believers in him devote their entire being to him. He is not only the hub around which everything turns, he is also the rim, tube, and tire. Simply put, from birth through eternity, life is all about God.
After Evangelicals have spent their entire lives worshiping God, guess what they get to do after they die? More of the same. Believers will spend their days, months, years, and centuries in Heaven prostrate before God, giving him praise, honor, and glory for saving them. Granted, according to the Bible, there will be no more pain, suffering, or death, but surely an eternity spent in repetitious worship will, in time, become b-o-r-i-n-g. Who really wants to spend every moment of every day telling God how awesome he is? Wouldn’t a thousand or two years of devoted adoration be enough for God? We humans love and crave the approbation of one another, but I suspect if all we heard day in and day out was people telling is how stupendous we are, we would finally say, enough! Much like Donald Trump, God never tires of hearing our praises. Keep the praise coming! Tell me again about how hugely awesome I am!
Realizing that the aforementioned picture of eternity is not too appealing to most people, Evangelicals try to spice up the sales pitch with stories about eternity being a perfected version of now. Remove sin, sickness, pain, death, LGBTQ people, Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, and Democrats and give everything that remains eternal qualities — that’s an eternity worth dying for. In this Hitlerian-sanitized world, God’s people will have the desires of their heart. Sure, there will be times of organized praise and worship. Can’t forget who made the awesomeness of eternity possible, right? But most of the never-ending time will be spent enjoying the very things we enjoyed on earth.
While this second version of eternity sounds more appealing, I wouldn’t want to spend eternity living in a place where I can’t enjoy the very things that make this life worth living. Remember, in eternity there will be no family connections. No wife, no children, no parents. All human relationships are dissolved the moment Jesus, the groom, is eternally married to his bride, the church/elect/saved. I can’t imagine a life worth living without Polly, my children, and grandchildren. God, of course, demands loyalty, obedience, and singleness of heart, so I understand why he demands all familial relationships be dissolved. Can’t have anyone getting between individual believers and their jealous God.
No matter how eternity is viewed, everything tracks back to the thrice-holy, triune God of the Protestant Christian Bible. It’s all about him. It has ALWAYS been about God. Think, for a moment. Why did God create humans 6,022 years ago? Why did God cause/allow humans to sin? God created us without sin, yet he lets us be tempted and fall into sin. Why? So he could ride in on his white horse and save us. God could have created humans so they would never, ever sin, yet he chose, instead, to give them the capacity to kill, rape, steal, and destroy (and even commands them, at times, to do so). The only reason I can think God did this is that he wants to feel needed. Surely this is the reason for all the sickness, disease, and famine. Once humans are laid low, then they will cry out for help, and God will be right there to answer their prayers .000000000001 percent of the time; answering just enough petitions to make people think that he is a prayer-answering God; answering just enough prayers to make believers think that their deliverance is more than randomness and chance.
John Piper would have us believe that the sum of human existence is to give testimony to the greatness of the Christian God. What he fails to answer is the question WHY? Why does the Evangelical God need us to tell him and reveal to others how super-duper he is? Dare we dig too far into this question, only to find out that the reason God needs human approbation is that he is a narcissist; that he is as needy as a cat, demanding to have the back of his head constantly rubbed? God has some deep-seated emotional problems. He would probably benefit from therapy. If this is not so, explain to me why God created humans as he did. Wouldn’t it have been better for everyone if God had left Satan and sin out of the construction plans? Think of how much less work it would be for God if humans were just like him. Christians wouldn’t need to pray, and God wouldn’t have to spend time hearing and not answering prayers. Life, in every way, would have been better if God hadn’t written the “falling into sin” narrative into the script. But, he did. Why?
The Bible actually gives us the answer to this question in Genesis 3:22:
And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever
Sin, oddly, gave Adam and Eve the capacity to be Gods. All they needed to do eat fruit from another tree — the tree of life. If they had eaten this fruit they would never have died; they never would have had any need for the Christian God. Can’t have that! The Gods blocked access to the tree of life. From this moment forward, Evangelicals and their God have been in a codependent relationship — each needing the other. God craves the adoration, worship, and praise of believers, and Christians crave the purpose, meaning, and direction gained from worshiping him.
To atheists, what I have written above sounds like grade-A hooey — nonsense of the first degree. However, countless people believe the sum existence and purpose of their lives is God. These sincere followers of Jesus trudge through life thinking that they don’t matter; that everything they say or do is for the glory of God. Jesus told his followers in John 15:5: for without me ye can do nothing.
Suppose you are totally paralyzed and can do nothing for yourself but talk. And suppose a strong and reliable friend promised to live with you and do whatever you needed done. How could you glorify this friend if a stranger came to see you?
Would you glorify his generosity and strength by trying to get out of bed and carry him? No! You would say, “Friend, please come lift me up, and would you put a pillow behind me so I can look at my guest? And would you please put my glasses on for me?”
And so your visitor would learn from your requests that you are helpless and that your friend is strong and kind. You glorify your friend by needing him, and by asking him for help, and counting on him.
According to Piper, humans are paraplegics unable to do anything for themselves. Unbelievers, of course, rightly laugh at such a notion. We know differently. Our experiences tell us that many varying factors influence our actions; that we can live life fully and happily without belief in God. In fact, many Christians know this, yet pretend otherwise when at church or in conversations with fellow believers. Common sense says that we are not helpless. And once people realize that they are not helpless, guess what? They no longer have a need for God. This is why the John Pipers of the world spend significant time telling people that they are hopeless, helpless sinners who need God in their lives. Instead of helping people become better, many Evangelical preachers spend their lives reinforcing the codependent relationship between addicts and their dealer. Jesus, then, becomes like a snort of coke, causing believers to become high on (and addicted to) God. As long as the supply of drugs flows, addicts will continue to praise the awesomeness of cocaine. This is why churches have so many activities during the week. Churches have midweek services so congregants can make it to Sunday. Wednesday night church becomes a snort of Jesus to get believers through the week. The same can be said of Bible studies, youth group, special meetings, Christian exercise programs, Christian concerts, etc. All of these things are meant to keep Evangelicals high on Jesus. After all, without cocaine, uh, I mean Jesus, believers can do nothing.
As an atheist, I too have a drug of choice. Instead of turning to formularies of a Bronze Age religious text, I choose instead to get high on life. This life is the only one I will ever have. I have no thoughts of heaven, hell, or eternity, choosing instead to focus on the here and now. I say, LIFE IS GREAT. Yes, with life comes pain, suffering, disappointment, and loss. On balance, though, today is an awesome day to be alive. It sure beats the alternative.
Let me conclude this post with the piece of advice I give on my ABOUT page:
You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.
Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you’d best get to living it. Some day, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
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The most exquisite sexual ecstasies in this age are like a child’s enjoyment of ice cream. There is as much distance between sexual pleasures in this world and the ecstasies of the spiritual body in the age to come as there is between a child’s enjoyment of ice cream and the pleasures of his marriage bed twenty years later.
Childlike ice-cream pleasures are prelude and pointer to adult sexual pleasure. Similarly, sexual pleasure in this age is prelude and pointer to unimaginably greater pleasures of the spiritual body in the age to come.
Houston, Texas, and other coastal cities are under water, thanks to Hurricane Harvey. The devastation, suffering, and misery are widespread, resulting in horrific death and untold property loss. These communities, much like New Orléans in 2005, will be dealing with the aftermath of Harvey for months and years to come. The political spectacle in Harvey’s wake put forth by Not-My-President Donald Trump and Texas’ Republican congressmen would be laughable if it wasn’t for the backdrop of human suffering and loss. Trump, ever the narcissist — obsessed with the size of his penis — seems more concerned about the size of the crowd at his speech and TV ratings than he does the people of Texas. And then there are the hypocritical Republican senators and representatives, who just months ago who were adamant about massively cutting Federal spending, who are now demanding immediate and huge expenditures of taxpayer money to help Texans recover from Harvey’s torrential, record-breaking downpours.
The “fake” news media will certainly focus much of their attention on the aforementioned subjects. I want to focus, instead, on the irony of a state and cities dominated by Evangelical Christianity being inundated with God-sent, Noah-worthy floods. I am sure some Evangelicals will immediately object, saying that Harvey was a NATURAL disaster, and God should not be blamed for the devastation. Wait a minute. I thought the Evangelical God is in control of everything — that nothing happens unless the Big Man Upstairs puts in a work order?
The Bible is clear on this matter, God is in absolute control of the weather:
And the LORD turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt. Exodus 10:19
And there went forth a wind from the LORD, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day’s journey on this side, and as it were a day’s journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth. Numbers 11:31
For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven; To make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure. When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder: Job 28:24-26
But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. Jonah 1:4
But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live. Jonah 4:7,8
He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven: and by his power he brought in the south wind. Psalm 78:26
These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. Psalm 107:24,25
He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings for the rain; he bringeth the wind out of his treasuries. Psalm 135:7
And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him! Matthew 8:25-27
Behold, to morrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now. Exodus 9:18
And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt. Exodus 9:22
Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire. Isaiah 29:6
And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.Genesis 6:17
Thou didst cleave the fountain and the flood: thou driedst up mighty rivers. The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun. Psalm 74:16
For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; 2 Peter 2:4-6
For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. Genesis 7:4
And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full. Deuteronomy 11:13-15
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:45
For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth; likewise to the small rain, and to the great rain of his strength. Job 37:6
Now that I have established that what is currently going on in Texas is God’s doing, I want to consider the question, WHY is God doing this? According to the Pew Research Center, seventy-seven percent of Texans are Christian: thirty-one percent Evangelical, twenty-three percent Catholic, thirteen percent mainline Protestant, six percent Black Protestant, and four percent other. Sixty-five percent of Texans believe that God created everything, including, I assume, rain. The dominant Evangelical sect is the Southern Baptist Convention. Megachurches are everywhere, including the largest church in the country — Lakewood Church in Houston Texas, pastored by the smiling, sending-prayers-your-way multi-millionaire Joel Osteen. I think I can safely say that God is big business in the Lone Star state.
When natural disasters, school shootings, and other tragic losses of life befall non-Texans, God’s prophets in Texas often thunderously say from Mount Self-Righteousness that these events are due to abortion, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, evolution, socialism, Barack Obama, or any of the other hot-button issues that keep Evangelicals up at night — besides YouPorn, that is. Where are all these prophets now with their doom, gloom, God-is-going-to-get-you declarations? Surely the land of Baptists and Republicans is not exempt from God’s judgment. For what, exactly, is God judging Texas? Surely there is no need for anyone to pray. These so-called men of God have shown that they have a direct-line to the Evangelical God’s office. Is the phone line now silent? WHY did their vending machine, on-demand, pour out his wrath on Texas?
I am sure other Evangelicals might throw up the old canard: God’s thought are not our thoughts, God’s ways are not our ways. Who are we to question why God does what he does. Wait another minute. Evangelicals have no problem speaking authoritatively on virtually everything — including that which they know nothing about. But now that disaster has come to their front porch and is materially affecting them, they are clueless as to God’s purposes and design?
Other Evangelicals will likely suggest that Harvey is meant to test the faith of God’s faithful. Think about this for a moment. Last Thursday, God the Evangelical Father is sitting in Heaven’s Board Room with Jesus, Gabriel, and Satan talking about what he plans to do over the weekend:
Let’s see, I think I will send a hurricane and flooding to the coastal region of Texas. Jesus, tell Zeus, Ba’al, and Tezcatlipoca to prepare to ravage Texas with wind,rain, and flooding. Make sure there is billions of dollars property destruction and loss of life. And why you are at it, drown a mother and leave her toddler daughter hanging on to her for dear life. Cool, right? Sure to get BIG ratings! And remind everyone who dares to “prayerfully” complain, that I am the Lord God Almighty and I can do whatever the hell I want to do. Oh, and before I forget, make all of this a test. You know, one of our special tests that make absolutely no sense and for which the answer will always be a m-y-s-t-e-r-y.
I have written all of this to show the absurdity of invoking God’s name in the midst of natural disasters. The God of Evangelicals is a figment of their imagination, and no amount of prayers will stop the rising flood waters currently washing over Texas’ lowlands. What is desperately needed is governmental and human intervention. Imagine leaving everything to the God who supposedly has everything in control; the God who whispers in the ears of suffering Evangelicals, No worries, I’ve got it.
My thoughts are with the people of Texas, especially my friends who are greatly suffering at this time. While I can’t offer up a prayer, light a candle, or utter a “what the fuck, God?” I can use my voice to make sure that the powers that be do all they can to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Now is not the time for partisan political squabbling over money. People are in desperate need of help, and local, state and federal government agencies need to do all they can to meet their needs. Left for another day will be discussions about FEMA, the wisdom of building in flood plains, sprawling development, global climate change, and the Federal flood insurance program. For now, food, water, shelter, medical care, and safety are all that matter.
After writing this post, I did stumble upon a couple of Evangelical preachers who think the flooding in Houston is God’s judgment over abortion, homosexuality, Planned Parenthood, and a former lesbian mayor. Damn, those Lesbians!! It’s all their fault. (That’s snarky sarcasm, by the way.)
End Times radio host Rick Wiles used his “TruNews” broadcast yesterday to declare that the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey is God’s punishment for Houston’s “affinity for the sexual perversion movement.”
“This is a proud city that, in recent years, has boasted of its allegiance, its dedication, its devotion to the homosexual/lesbian agenda,” he said.
Wiles asserted that Houston is under God’s judgment because it formerly had a mayor who is a lesbian, currently has “a pro-homosexual mayor,” has persecuted Christian pastors in the city and is among “the top-tier, most gay-friendly cities in America.”
“How’s it working out for them right now?” he asked. “Here’s a city that has boasted of its LGBT devotion, it’s affinity for the sexual perversion movement in America. They’re underwater.”
A Charismatic prophetess by the name of Pamela Banda, to whom God gives revelations of what will happen in the future, had the following “vision” on May 24, 2016:
Well on Tuesday May 24 2016, this is what happened. I got off work at 6 am and I was really tired. I ate something, got in bed with my son, and said a short prayer that went like this, “Papa Yahweh, in the name of Yahshua I repent. I ask that your will be done with me and Zion (my son) as we sleep. I pray for divine safety and divine protection. Amen.”
I hadn’t been praying heavy like I should, but in this small prayer I said Yahshua I repent. Well, I turned my head towards the wall and I hadn’t even closed my eyes for a minute before I instantly saw a vision.
I suddenly found myself up in the air in the city of Houston TX. It was daytime. It looked like it was around 10 am. In front of me I could see about four tall gas tanks and other normal things you would see in the city. I live outside of Houston, but I don’t know where the oil tanks are. As I zoomed in on the gas tanks I could see they all had thick black smoke coming from them and one had caught on fire. I thought it was strange to see tall gas tanks in the city because I mostly see them in industrial areas.
Next to the gas tanks was an apartment complex that looked like it was about four or five stories high. All of the sudden, the fire that was on one of the gas tank jumped onto the apartment complex!
All of a sudden the oil tanks caught on fire and, when they did, there was an apartment complex next to them that caught on fire as well. Then the whole apartment building just collapsed. I was in utter shock.
Then out of the corner of my right eye I saw a wave of water that looked around five feet high from where I was up in the air. So it was not as tall as the buildings, but enough to cause severe damage. After that it was like a ripple effect. When I saw the water, I said, “Where did this water come from?” I wondered because I was in the city, nowhere near the beach.
Then the Holy Spirit said, “The water represents judgment. Judgment is coming to Houston and it will be destroyed, desolate, and uninhabitable.”
Again I was stunned! Houston was being destroyed! I got scared because people were screaming and there was nothing anyone could do because it was happening so fast.
I closed my eyes and said, “Yahshua!”
I think the wave of water is what did it for me. Then the water retracted, but then it came back again with force and strong winds. The water was destroying everything in sight. Cars were being flipped over and everything was catching on fire.
When the winds came it moved me in the air and that was when I began to panic because until then I thought I was only seeing a vision. I began to hear people screaming and I suddenly realized none of us were not going to make it. So I began to think, “Oh no!” And I started yelling, “I Repent, I Repent.”
I closed my eyes and said Yahshua several times, then I finally came out of the vision. I opened my eyes and I was in my room, shocked at how real everything was I had just seen and so relieved I didn’t wake up in hell. I was made to understand that if you are in Houston on that day you will not survive. The sky was clear, so nobody was expecting it.
When I came out of the vision, I said to the Lord, “I don’t live in Houston, I live in the Woodlands.”
He said, “Where you are, you are not safe.”
So I prayed and asked Him, “What are my instructions?”
After that prayer, I went to sleep for real. I was so tired, I didn’t dream of anything, but when I woke up, I heard God say to me, “Tell them to seek me and I will tell them where to go for safety. Tell the church three things they need to do.”
I suppose I should leave space for when John Piper, Al Mohler, and their fellow Calvinists weigh in on why Hurricane Harvey was all part of God’s master plan. John Piper, in particular, always seems to have time for defending God when natural disaster occur — that is when he isn’t too busy trashing and railing against the LGBTQ community. You can read Piper’s words about the 2007 Interstate 35W bridge collapse here.
Question: “Pastor John, did God cause, or would God cause, my wife to miscarry our child because I have a struggle with lust and pornography? I have a lot of guilt right now, and I don’t know how to think about God’s discipline and punishment for my sin. I’m very confused, please help.”
May that discipline come in the form of harm, even death, to others that we love, as well as ourselves? And the answer is yes, it may. This was certainly the case with David’s sin of adultery and murder with Bathsheba and her husband. Nathan the prophet said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin” (2 Samuel 12:13). And then the next thing, “Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord” — and surely that is what pornography is — “the child who is born to you shall die” (2 Samuel 12:14).
So, I would certainly say in my own life — now hear this carefully — I would certainly say in my own life the most painful and humbling disciplining from the Lord has regularly been though the pain and suffering and sometimes death of those I love, rather than through any blows against my own body. Oh, that we only suffered in our own body. This has been the way the deepest Christians have always thought about the losses through the death of those they love. Jonathan Edwards preached numerous sermons about the way the Lord disciplines a church by taking away a godly pastor in death. Edwards’s godly wife Sarah spoke about kissing the rod of God in the death of her 54-year-old husband — a rod of discipline that she felt more than anyone. She called it a rod of God on her back. And she kissed it.
Every loss that we endure as sinful children of God have two designs: one from Satan, one from God. Satan designs our unbelief and rebellion and renunciation and guilt and paralysis and loss of faith. God designs our purification and that we would hope less in this world and more in God who raises the dead.
I don’t know whether our friend who wrote this question lost his child in miscarriage as a direct discipline from God because of his pornography. I do not know. He does not know. I do know that in the loss of the child, God wills a new humility and a new submission and a new faith and new purity through the pain of this loss.
According to Fundamentalist Calvinist John Piper, Old Testament commands concerning the execution of homosexuals no longer apply. According to Leviticus 20:13, homosexuality is punishable by death. God’s inerrant, infallible, never-changing Bible says:
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
I find no ambiguity in this verse. Have sexual relations with someone of the same gender and God commands that you be put to death (Though technically, this verse does not mention lesbians). So then, how does Piper, a staunch believer in inerrancy, get around Leviticus 20:13? Piper states that things have changed, that the way God views homosexuality now is different from how he viewed it in the Old Testament. While homosexuality is still a sin, says Piper, the punishment for it has changed. In other words, God changed his mind. Rather than stoning homosexuals to death, God is content to wait until they die. Then he can fit them with a body that will withstand untold pain and suffering. Once fitted with a God-approved fire suit, God will then spend the next billion or so years torturing homosexuals in the Lake of Fire. Ah yes, the kinder, gentler, nicer God of the New Testament.
I would love to ask Piper if he would approve of homosexuals being sentenced to death. If U.S. law, mimicking the commands of God’s inerrant Word, allowed for the execution of those convicted of sodomy, would he support such a law? I suspect he would. According to Calvinists such as John Piper and Al Mohler, God is perfect, righteous, and just in all his ways. If this is so, then when God commanded Israel to kill homosexuals (and non-Jews, fornicators, and adulterers), his command is perfect, righteous, and just. Since I know how Piper views God, I can say with great confidence that he would have no problem with the U.S. legal code using the Bible’s laws, commands, and precepts as a foundation for regulating human behavior. Surely God’s law is superior to man’s law, right?
What prompted Piper’s post was a question from a podcast listener:
Dear Pastor John, I want to first thank you for the Ask Pastor John podcast and for your obedience and love for the Lord. One thing I have always struggled to communicate is the difference between the Old Testament Law and the fulfilled Law after Christ. I have many atheist friends who press me here, specifically when it comes to homosexuality. Why do we as Christians not believe practicing homosexuals should be killed for their sin if that is exactly the prescription in our Bibles in Leviticus 20:13? How would you answer this objection?”
Ah, those pesky verse-quoting atheists, using the Bible against Christians. According to Piper, these atheists really don’t understand the Bible, nor do they know how to interpret it properly. Piper writes:
This is huge and absolutely crucial. And we need an answer for it to those who ask. It is such a common response for somebody that has a smattering of knowledge or has just read that there are these verses in the Bible like that. And it is not difficult to answer this problem. It just takes a little willingness on the part of people to listen for a few minutes as we describe the nature of the Christian Bible.
Besides, what these atheists really need is not answers about God commanding the execution of homosexuals. Oh no, what they really need is — drum roll please — Jesus. Piper concludes his post with this:
So our overall aim in dealing with our critics who don’t know their Bibles is to direct them to Jesus, who is the goal of everything in the Bible and to try to help them see that God has been moving through history in different ways at different times to bring us into a relationship with Jesus for the salvation of our souls.
In other words, ignore their questions and point them to Jesus. Once they are saved, atheists will understand how to properly explain away Leviticus 20:13 and dozens of other verses which clearly show that the Christian God is a narcissistic, bloodthirsty psychopath.
Piper appeals to Matthew 5:17 as proof for his contention that there is a new God, with a new law, in town. Matthew 5:17 states:
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
We see the first pointer of how things have changed dramatically in Matthew 5:17, where Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” So all the Old Testament finds its completion and fulfillment in Jesus—and that is a basic truth that a person needs to understand. Everything in the Old Testament was pointing toward Jesus as the Son of God incarnate, dying and rising to save His people. And, therefore, in His person, in His ministry, the whole Old Testament reaches a climax and is dramatically altered.
Seems pretty straight forward. Jesus, by his death on the cross for the elect, fulfilled (satisfied, completed) the Old Testament. Thus, its laws, commands, and precepts are no longer binding today. Once Jesus died and rose again from the dead everything changed. Or so says John Piper.
Taking Piper’s position at face value, this means that none of the Old Testament’s laws are in force, including the Ten Commandments. So, Bro. Piper. Are the Ten Commandments applicable to today? Let the shuck and jive begin. In a post titled, Are Christians Under the Ten Commandments?, Piper wrote:
No. The Bible says we’re not under the law. …. So, our approach towards ethics is different. We don’t ask the question, “Am I under the law?” We are under grace. The law is already fulfilled perfectly by Jesus. We are in Jesus and as far justification goes, God sees it as completed for you, one-hundred percent. He says, “You’ve trusted my Son. You’ve been grafted in him. You are in Christ Jesus and he fulfilled the law perfectly. He covered all your sins.” God sees you in and through Christ, therefore, as far as final judgment goes God is 100% for you. That is settled and nothing is going to change it. …. Love God and do as you please is not bad advice, if you’re bent on holiness. If you’re bent on love the ten commandments are really important. You should hang them on your wall and you should measure your life by them, but in a very different way than when you were under them, because they have been kept for you.
No, the Christian is NOT under the law, says Piper, but if he really, really, really, I mean really loves the Evangelical God, he will keep the Ten Commandments. Sure sounds like the Ten Commandments are binding and in force.
Like all Evangelicals who resort to playing the Bible gymnastics game, Piper uses Matthew 5:17 in a way that makes it say something other than what it actually says. Why didn’t Piper quote the relevant verses after verse 17? You know, to give a bit of context. Here is what Matthew 5:17-19 says:
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
No wonder Piper didn’t quote verses 18 and 19. These verses undo and contradict the point he was trying to make. Well, let me, an atheist theologian, educate Piper and others of his ilk, about this passage of Scripture.
First, the gospel of Matthew was written 40 to 70 years after the death of Jesus. This means it was written at least four decades after Jesus, according to John Piper, established the New Covenant through his atoning death and resurrection from the dead. Why would the author of Matthew write about whether the Old Testament law had been fulfilled? Surely, two to four generations after Jesus died. Christians would by then KNOW the Old Testament was no longer in force?
Second, does this passage really say that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament and that it is no longer binding? Verse 17 says yes, but verses 18 and 19 say no. Verse 18 states unambiguously that the law of God (the Old Testament) is in force until “all be fulfilled.” The fulfillment here is not the Old Testament or even the death and resurrection of Jesus. The text states that the Old Testament is in force until heaven and earth pass away. This passing away is described in 2 Peter 3:10-12:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
Go outside and look up. Are you standing on earth? Is heaven (the sky) still above you? Okay, maybe you didn’t have to go outside to know this. Evidently John Piper needs to spend more time outside. Matthew 5:17-19 is quite clear: until heaven and earth pass away, the law of God is still in force. In fact, the Bible says that every jot and tittle of God’s law is valid and binding. This means that every minute detail of God’s law applies to New Testament Christians: from the execution of homosexuals to not eating certain foods such as pork and shellfish.
I am sure someone will suggest, hoping to rescue Piper from the sea of contradiction, that the law that is now binding is the New Covenant (New Testament). Here’s the problem with this attempted end run around the text. At the time of the writing of this text, Christians had not yet completely collated the canon of Scripture. Thus, at best, all early Christians had was a partial book of God’s laws. It makes more sense, especially when considering that most early Christians were Jews and Christianity was considered a subset of Judaism, that the word law in Matthew 5:17-19 refers to some or all of the Old Testament.
Verse 19 is one of the most difficult verses in the Bible. Well, difficult for Fundamentalists such as John Piper. Believing the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God requires Evangelicals to harmonize the Biblical text. There are no mistakes, errors, misstatements, contradictions, or bad writing days. According to a normative reading of verse 19, there are two classes of people who will enter the kingdom of God: those who break the laws of God and teach others to do the same and those who keep the law of God and instruct others to do the same. So then, there will be deliberate lawbreakers in Heaven, those who not only disobey God, but also teach others to follow in their footsteps?
The Apostle Paul, a man known to pen quite a few contradictions himself, disagrees with the writer of Matthew. According to Paul’s gospel (a gospel that is quite different from Jesus’), breakers of God’s law will NOT enter the kingdom of heaven:
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9,10)
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (Galatians 5:19-21,24)
Of course, Paul, ever the jokester, writes in other epistles that no one will enter the kingdom of God by keeping the law of God. Paul, Paul, Paul, what are we going to do with you?
Don’t you just love playing the Dueling Bible Verses Game®? I have long believed that the Bible can be used to prove virtually any belief. The various Christian sects have fought internecine wars for centuries over whose interpretation of the Bible is correct. I have come to the conclusion that all of them are right. The Arminian, Calvinist, cessationist, non-cessationist, and every other theological name Christians give to their one-hundred-percent-pure interpretations of the perfect Word of God, are all correct!
I have no doubt that an Evangelical or five will likely point out that my exegesis is wrong. They will quote verse after verse, massaging and shaping them to fit their peculiar theological system of belief. But, try as they might to make sense of an incoherent book, all their contortions will do is cause more inconsistencies and contradictions. It is, contrary to thousands of Evangelicals books that say otherwise, impossible to make the Bible internally consistent. The best that Evangelicals can do is obfuscate, explain away, or stutter when confronted with verses that do not fit their particular theological paradigm.
Leviticus 20 also commands the execution of people for all sorts of sex crimes.
Evangelical Tom “shares” the gospel with Atheist Jean
Christmas: it’s that time of year. Joy to the World. Handel’s Messiah. Cookies and fudge. Eggnog. Shopping. Evergreen trees decked with ornaments and lights. Cards. Presents. Ugly sweaters. Family gatherings. Excited grandchildren. Ah, the wonders of the Christmas season.
But there’s one aspect of Christmas hated by non-Christians, and that’s their Evangelical relatives and friends using the holiday as an opportunity to evangelize those they deem lost and headed for hell.
From tracts stuffed into Christmas cards to Christian-themed gifts, evangelistically- motivated Evangelicals make sure that their non-Christian family members and friends know that Jesus is the Reason for Season and that unless they know The Prince of Peace, They will Have No Peace.
Even worse are those Evangelicals who make a concerted effort to talk to unsaved relatives about their spiritual condition at their family Christmas gatherings. Told by their pastors to use the Christmas season, with its focus on joy and family, as an opportunity to witness to the lost, Evangelicals make a concerted effort to put in a good word for Jesus whenever they are given the opportunity to do so.
We’ve all been there. We’re hanging out with our family at the annual Christian gathering: eating Mom’s food, swapping childhood stories, drinking wine, laughing, and enjoying life. And out of the corner of our eye we see Evangelical Uncle Bob coming towards us. Oh shit, we say to ourselves,not THIS again. “This” being Uncle Bob snuggling up to you so he can tell you for seemingly the hundredth time that Christmas is all about Jesus, and that the greatest gift in the world is the salvation that God offers to every sinner. Sinner, of course, being you. And as in every other year, you will politely listen, smile, and think in your mind, just one time I’d like to tell Uncle Bob to take his religion and shove it up his ass. Your thoughts will remain silent, and after your evangelizing relative is finished extolling the wonders of Jesus and his blood, you say to him, just as you do every other year, Hey, Uncle Bob, how about them Cowboys? You know that there is one thing that Uncle Bob loves to talk about almost as much as his savior Jesus, and that’s America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys.
Fundamentalist Calvinist pastor John Piper recently reminded blog readers of the importance of giving non-Christian relatives prayed- over, Bible- saturated books during the Christmas season. Piper wrote:
The Christmas season is ripe for “reviving your concern” (Philippians 4:10) for the spiritual wellbeing of friends and family members. We may lament the expectations of gift-giving and the excesses of holiday spending, but we can take it as an opportunity to invest in eternity by putting God-centered, gospel-rich content into the hands of those we love.
Next to the Bible, perhaps the most enduringly valuable gifts you can give this Christmas are books soaked in God and his grace. Online articles, sermons, and podcast episodes change lives and sustain souls, but they don’t make for typical material Christmas gifts. Printed books, on the other hand, wrap well, and can be just as life-changing and soul-saving, and more.
As Christmas approaches, we wanted to remind you of our recent titles from the team at Desiring God. We’ve done our best to saturate them in the Bible and fill them with God and his gospel, and we’ve prayed over them again that they might be a means of God’s grace not only for you, but also your loved ones…
I know this sounds counterintuitive. In fact, to some, this may sound like downright heresy! Some of us have been trained to “make sure to state the whole gospel” or “their blood will be on our hands.” To me, that sounds a bit like a lack of trust in the sovereignty of God. In our day of constant contact (through email, texts, tweets, etc.) we can trust God to string together a partial conversation at Christmas dinner to a follow up discussion the next day, to a phone conversation, to numerous emails, etc. Some of our unsaved family members and friends need to digest parts of the gospel (“How can God be both loving and holy?”) before they can take the next bite (“Jesus’ death resolves the tension of God’s love and his holiness.”)…
Back in the days when I was a fire-breathing Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher, I encouraged church members to use the Christmas holiday as an opportunity to witness to their unsaved relatives. Hell is hot and death is certain, I told congregants. Dare we ignore their plight? Remember, the Bible says that if we fail to warn our wicked relatives of their wicked ways and they die and go to hell, their blood will be on our hands. Despite my attempts to guilt church members into evangelizing their relatives, not one member reported successfully doing so. Most of them, I suspect, ignored my preaching and said nothing to their relatives. And those who did likely made half-hearted attempts to interject Jesus into family Christmas discussions. Regardless, not one church member was gained as a result of our Christmas witnessing.
Let me conclude this post with a heartfelt, honest appeal from non-Christians to Evangelicals bent on witnessing to family and friends during the Christmas season:
Christmas is all about love, joy, peace, and family. Religion, like politics, is a divisive subject, and talking about it will certainly engender strife and resentment. I know that you think our negative response towards your evangelistic effort is the result of our sinfulness and hatred of God. What you fail to see is that our irritation and anger is the result of your unwillingness to value family more than you do Jesus. Besides, we’ve heard your Jesus shtick before. We get it: we are sinners, Jesus died on the cross for our sins and resurrected from the grave three days later. If we want our sins forgiven we must repent of our sins and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. If we refuse God’s wonderful offer of salvation and eternal life, when we die we will go to hell. See? We heard you. There’s no need for you to keep doing your best imitation of a skipping record. If we ask you a question about your religion, then by all means answer it. We asked, and we wouldn’t have asked if we didn’t want to know. However, if we don’t ask, please keep your religion to yourself. If you truly love and respect us, please leave us alone.
If you choose to ignore our request, we will assume that you are determined to be an asshole for Jesus. While we will likely walk away from you, we might, depending on our mood, decide to give you a dose of your own medicine by sharing why we think your God and Jesus are fictitious. We might even challenge your so-called Bible beliefs. You see, we know a lot more about Christianity than we are telling. It’s not that we don’t know. We do, and we find the Christian narrative intellectually lacking. While Jesus gives your life meaning, purpose, and peace, we have found these same things in atheism, humanism, paganism, or a non-Christian religion. We don’t need what you have because we already have it.
Most of us who are non-Christians will spend the Christmas holiday surrounded by Christmas. In many instances, we will be the only non-Christian in the room. While we love the Christmas season, with its bright colors, feasts, and family gatherings, contemplating the fact that we will be the only atheist at the family Christmas gathering can be stressful. We understand that Christmas is considered a Christian holiday. When Christian prayers are uttered we will respectfully bow our heads. When Christmas carols are sung around the hearth, we will likely join in (many of us like singing Christmas songs). We will do our best to blend in.
Please, for one day, when we are all gathered together in expression of our love for one another, leave Jesus and your religion at the door. By all means, if you must talk about Jesus, seek out like-minded Christian family members and talk to them. When talking to us, how about we agree to talk about the things we have in common: family, childhood experiences, and our favorite football team
This guest post was written by Sheldon Cooper. He is a former fundamentalist, and works in the warehouse industry in the St. Louis area. He talks about his past life, and current beliefs at his blog, Ramblings of Sheldon.
I think any former fundamentalist out there that is reading this post will know what I am talking about when I say that there’s usually regrets that you have when you give up your former beliefs. You wonder sometimes why you didn’t give it up sooner than you did (or how you could have possibly believed it in the first place).
I have my moments like this sometimes, and recently I’ve been having my regrets about introducing myself to the teachings of John Piper. It was in the last years of my time in fundamentalism, and John Piper was rather popular in the Southern Baptist circles I was in (and is still popular there).
I was a confused, doubting young fundamentalist, who had a lot of questions, and started talking about those questions to a man that I considered my spiritual mentor (I’ll call him Mike). He was a big John Piper fan, very obsessed with his teachings (and also a big fan of John MacArthur and Paul Washer as well), and he had been getting his Sunday School class, which I was a part of at the time into Piper’s teachings.
Piper’s teachings sounded great to someone in my position, and since I have had depression for most of my life, his concept of “Christian hedonism” (odd name, I know) sounded great. It’s an old concept, but the way he presents it, that we can know the greatest heights of joy if we do everything that pleases god, sounds appealing. It sounds so positive and life affirming to someone who is used to living in fundamentalism all their life.
I did have my questions about him, and some disagreements, his extreme Calvinism troubled me, and I had a lot of questions (and long discussion with Mike, the spiritual mentor) about Piper’s accompanying views on god’s sovereignty All in all, though, I found his views interesting, and even read some of his books.
The doubts about Christianity itself didn’t go away though, and in time, I would end becoming an agnostic, albeit an undercover agnostic (check out the Undercover Agnostic series on my blog to see more of what I mean by this), and I would end up distancing myself somewhat from Mike after a bizarre incident where his wife said to their Sunday School class, (and told the class that he wanted her to tell them this), that he had cheated on her. When I mentioned this to him later, and asked him about it, they both denied it, and complained about people “spreading rumors” about them (yes, this actually happened, I wish I was making it up, I had a lot of respect for him).
Life went on, we parted ways for the most part, and I ended up becoming an agnostic. It turns out that my doubts weren’t just a passing phase, it’s been five years since I quit believing in Christianity. It had been a while since I had even heard of John Piper again, but when an old blog post of his, talking about his views on women in the military started resurfacing on various atheist blogs, I was surprised at what I didn’t know about John Piper.
He’s even more into the idea of complementarianism than I would have ever thought he was, and this would have repulsed me, even as a fundamentalist. Even then, I believed in gender equality (supporting equality in other areas, such as gay rights, well, I didn’t get around that until after leaving Christianity). Here’s what John Piper says about women in the military:
If I were the last man on the planet to think so, I would want the honor of saying no woman should go before me into combat to defend my country. A man who endorses women in combat is not pro-woman; he’s a wimp. He should be ashamed.
For most of history, in most cultures, he would have been utterly scorned as a coward to promote such an idea. Part of the meaning of manhood as God created us is the sense of responsibility for the safety and welfare of our women.
Well, I guess according to John Piper, I’m a “wimp” then…….
I’ve never had a problem, even during my fundamentalist days of believing that women were just as capable as men. Perhaps that came from being raised by a stay at home mom that was also very (how should I put this?) strong willed.
His post gets even more ludicrous:
Suppose, I said, a couple of you students, Jason and Sarah, were walking to McDonald’s after dark. And suppose a man with a knife jumped out of the bushes and threatened you. And suppose Jason knows that Sarah has a black belt in karate and could probably disarm the assailant better than he could.
Should he step back and tell her to do it? No. He should step in front of her and be ready to lay down his life to protect her, irrespective of competency. It is written on his soul. That is what manhood does.
This statement defies common sense in so many different ways. Instead of letting Sarah step forward, because she knows hand to hand combat, and could disarm the attacker more easily than Jason, who has no such experience, he would rather Jason go ahead and try to fight him.
Most people would say that Sarah should go after the attacker, because if she does there is a greater possibility that both of their lives will be saved. He would much rather let his outdated views on gender and chivalry cost both the students in this example their lives than to let Sarah use her wealth of experience and training in this area.
I love what blogger Joe Sands of Incongruous Circumspection said in the title to his response to John Piper: John Piper Wants to be Murdered . I think what is very telling about the example with the students is that he said “irrespective of competency”. He’s saying that even when a woman has the training and skills, she shouldn’t be allowed to use them. That’s the problem with this kind of thinking, people who ascribe to complementarian ideas think that they are showing respect for women, by putting them on a pedestal like this, but I see this kind of view as degrading to women.
In his example of the two young lovers being confronted by someone with a knife, he is saying that even though the woman has proven herself capable of doing something (in this case hand to hand combat), by what she has learned through training, and proven by experience, she should still not be allowed to put those skills into practice. It’s saying that even though you have proven yourself capable, we won’t allow you to act as though you are equal.
If I had known what I know about John Piper now, I wouldn’t have considered his views so appealing. I feel foolish now for not fully knowing what he believed, and not digging deeper. Even as a fundamentalist, I would have disagreed with him on gender issues. I guess it’s one of those regrets I’ll learn from and move on.
There’s much I have learned from that time in my life, and I think sometimes I’ve learned some valuable lessons from it. In some ways, it’s helped me now that I am an agnostic. I can understand the beliefs, the mentality, the culture more than most of the population can. It’s because I’ve believed the same beliefs, repeated the same lines and arguments, and lived a life similar to them.
I understand that world and it’s culture in ways that someone without experience can never fully understand (I’m sure many former fundamentalists know that feeling). It’s given me more understanding, and patience, because I remember who I once was, and what I sounded like. That doesn’t mean I still don’t get frustrated with fundamentalists, but I know where they are coming from in life, and that helps in trying to have discussions and debates with them. It’s one thing that I don’t regret about my past experiences, but there’s still much more that I will have to learn to move on from.