Monday, June 27, 2016

SMR #172 Biblical Christians DO NOT MURDER GAY PEOPLE!!!

Smoky Mountain Reflections #172
            Biblical Christians DO NOT MURDER GAY PEOPLE!!! The various commands issued by God throughout scripture can be broken into three classes: ceremonial, civil & moral. These distinctions are not enumerated for us in scripture but are very helpful in applying God’s law to our lives. We can use God’s word to untangle them just like we use it to provide a clear understanding of the Holy Trinity. The distinctions are important to understand, not only because they help us to properly apply God’s will in our lives and to love God and our neighbor in accord with His will, but because Christ himself tells us in Matthew 5:17, “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.” Let’s look at these three ‘classes’ or categories, and define and apply them.
            The clearest category of the three is the ceremonial law. Old Testament religious regulations/rules fall in this class. These are the commands which deal with the temple or tabernacle. This law directs temple tools and accoutrements, priests and their garments, temple ceremonies, feasts and festivals, and includes dietary and clothing restrictions for the people. Ceremonial laws are called “hukkim” or “chuqqah” in Hebrew, which literally means “custom of the nation”; these words are often translated as “statutes”. These statutes/laws point to the coming Messiah, and were fulfilled/completed in Him. For example, the shedding of Christ’s innocent blood for the atonement of sins on Good Friday fulfills what all the temple sacrifices before him pointed to. No need for further sacrifices. Many books are filled with clear explanations of how “customs of the nation” were fulfilled in Christ. Even Jewish scholars (who of course do not see Christ as a fulfillment) agree there is a definite distinction between ceremonial and moral laws.
            The civil, or legal, category of commands we see in the OT is not accepted by Jewish scholars, and actually has a mixed reception within Christendom. But the majority of Christian scholars agree that such a class or category of commands is helpful in understanding history. Civil laws are those which applied directly and exclusively to the nation of Israel from 1446 BC to 586 BC while remnants of that nation-state existed in exile. These were laws regarding issues such as slavery, punishment of multiple forms of sin (by stoning), and other issues applicable to the time. Similar to ceremonial law, they functioned to point to the coming Christ, keeping God’s people separate and distinct because the promised Messiah, the savior of all would come from them. God fulfilled this in Christ through Mary and His step father Joseph. However, the kingdom for which those civil laws were written no longer exists. Today’s nation-state of Israel, being a modern construct of the UN, cannot legitimately claim a real connection to the kingdom that fell in 586 BC.
Since the civil and ceremonial laws functioned to point to, prepare for, and announce the coming Messiah, the purpose for which God established those laws has come to pass. It would be a denial of Christ as the Messiah to continue adhering to those types of laws. The metaphor here is that the concert is over; one does not put up posters and hand out flyers for a concert that has already taken place. In accord with biblical principal, Christians have never and should never resort to vigilante mob justice, which (apart from God’s word to the Israelites in that particular time and place) is what stoning is. Instead, we trust God to execute civil judgment through the authorities He puts in place, and He calls us to be good citizens of whatever worldly kingdom we live in.
            Finally, moral laws. These are the laws of God which scripture speaks of in Matthew 5:18 as not passing away. The 10 commandments are a clear example of these timeless moral laws. To be sure, there are laws within the two previously mentioned categories which carry moral content that still applies but they are then ‘moral’ laws.
            Let’s look at commandments 3 through 6 for some clarification on this. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it Holy” actually fits in all three categories but because the ceremonial and civil natures of the law were fulfilled in Christ, we are free to worship on any day if the week (1 in 7 is the moral element which requires weekly worship). For 2000 years Christians have chosen the day of Easter (a Sunday) to be their primary day of worship; some must work on Sundays but they have six other days to make use of for spiritual and physical nourishment and rest. “Honor your father and mother” speaks to all authority in our lives, though when the law of a civil government violates God’s law, Christians must follow God rather than man (Acts 5:29). “You shall not murder” does not prohibit all killing; war and capital punishment can justify the taking of life by a government. Murder is the taking of innocent life. Gunning down an abortion doctor or strangers in a gay bar fits this definition and is murder. The sixth commandment makes clear that sex belongs in marriage, which is between one man and one woman. This is an undeniable biblical principal that Christians are called to speak the truth in love about. Not to mention a biological reproductive truth.
Speaking the truth in love, incidentally, does not include shooting, yelling at, or shunning anyone. It means being kind and loving toward one’s neighbor (and all people are your neighbors). Tell them that violating God’s moral law is not good for them, and that Jesus paid the price for all our violations by perfectly fulfilling the moral law on our behalf. Eternity is sure for those who do not reject this truth. Therefore, continue to live out your faith in their presence, being kind, generous, friendly, and hospitable. That is what the “love your neighbor” part of the moral law looks like. Jesus does not force himself on anyone and neither should we.

In Christ,
Pastor Portier

For further reading on this topic I recommend the following links

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

SMR 171 Everyone believes in something

Smoky Mountain Reflections #171

            Who is your God? Comparative religion classes on university campuses lack analyses of some belief systems that therefore avoid being studied critically. While not normally referred to as “religions”, they should be addressed because they, just like all other religions, have an ultimate authority and a system of beliefs driving their worldviews. Here are four ‘belief systems’ which I think should be added to the studied list and a summarization of their beliefs as I see them.

Atheism is the belief that there is no God. It follows naturally then, that the atheist views himself as the ultimate source of authority in his own world; functionally speaking, his own god. Psalm 14:1 says “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.” (It would be logical to celebrate Atheist day on April 1st.) J

Secular Humanism embraces human reason, ethics, and philosophical naturalism while specifically rejecting religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience, and superstition as the basis of morality and decision making. To a secular humanist, the ultimate source of authority is the collective goodness of mankind. Therefore, one can logically deduce that functionally speaking, in this view, mankind is the benevolent god of the universe. This, however, is a fantasy. World history flies in the face of the idea that mankind is capable of moral decision-making.  Romans 3:23 tells us “all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.”

Scientism is the belief in the universal applicability of the scientific method and approach, and the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative worldview or the most valuable part of human learning, to the exclusion of other viewpoints. To someone who holds to this view, the scientific process is god. In the not-so-famous words of Esqulieto of the movie Nacho Libre, “I believe in science”.

Similar to eastern mysticism, one can hold one or all three of the aforementioned views simultaneously, and since they each have logical inconsistencies, they can all occupy the same mind and not be concerned enough with each other to cause any conflict. We then come to the last on my list today.

Agnosticism is the view that the truth of certain claims – especially metaphysical and religious claims such as whether God, the divine, or the supernatural exist – are unknown and perhaps unknowable. This position sits on the fence between theism and atheism. It expresses skepticism, but is not foolish enough to assert atheism because logic, history, and truth demand the existence of a god.

            Most other religions claim the existence of one or more gods or at least some form of divine consciousness, and are therefore addressed in comparative religion classes. Let me conclude with this thought: Christianity rests on the evidence of real events testified to by witnesses who saw the risen Lord. Many of them gave their lives rather than deny that witness and thousands of copies were made of their firsthand accounts. The truth of the Bible’s claims are affirmed by the findings of history, archeology, and science, and the unique nature of that truth is this: the goal of the individual in non-Christian belief systems is to get themselves to whatever their version of god is, while the metanarrative of Holy Scripture is how God came to you in the person and work of Jesus Christ, for the purpose of redeeming you to Himself. He is the only way, not one among many. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Have a blessed summer
In Christ,

Pastor Portier