Sunday, June 08, 2014

Why all this fuss over the Bain affair . . . why not just go off and do some good for some poor person for a change (and conveniently shut up) . . .

Barbara Gloudon, longstanding Jamaican media personality and talk show host, begins a recent Jamaica Observer Column:
HEAR ye, hear ye! Let it be known far and wide. There shall be no same-sex marriage in the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas. So it was declared at their recently Connexional Conference held in Montego Bay. The Church has spoken. The decision is non-negotiable. No minister of their faith will perform any same-gender rituals . . . 
Later, she adds:
Right now, homosexuality and the attendant lifestyle have become a fixation with some people. What do you think is at the base of all the hullabaloo about free speech and taped mouths? Some have asked why is the Church, of varying denominations, so concerned with the topic when there are other life and death challenges in the community? Isn't it time we got back to "feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless?" As to the big one, "love thy neighbour". Is that forgotten because we don't approve of his lifestyle?
She summarises the Methodist answer:
The Methodists expect scrutiny but they are undaunted. A leader to whom I spoke yesterday sees homosexuality as a moral issue which the Church cannot and will not turn away from, whatever some people may think. Some criticism is expected, but whatever it is, the Church says it will not give up.
This takes us to the heart of an increasingly relevant issue.

Namely, that moral concerns are increasingly seen as optional matters, to be set aside when inconvenient to the fashionable opinions and agendas of our day.

 As in, shut up and go help some poor person (too often, said in a sneering manner, as though the churches, across the ages and across the world today have not helped many a poor person . . . including Dr Bain who in 1983 took his life in his hand to reach out to desperate HIV/AIDS sufferers as a Christian physician).

For, in our time, some clever folks have obviously decided that they can persuasively repackage the distortion of sexuality out of Creation Order, then make up out of whole cloth the demand for "equality" and "rights." And, with a bit of packaging and promotion, they then demand legal protection, and wish to tag those who object, as "bigots," opposing rights and worse.

So, many Christians are forced to take an increasingly unpopular stance: no, fundamental issues of right and wrong and truth are non-negotiable. And properly so.

Why do I say that?

First, what is a right? 

A morally binding expectation or demand that we be respected in particular ways, such as our life, our liberty, our innocent reputation, our property, etc. 

Rooted, in the end, in our inherent worth and dignity as human beings made in God's image. 

If you want, we can point out that rights imply OUGHT is real, not just a playing out of the politics of might and manipulation. Given that, OUGHT rests on a foundational IS that can bear its awesome weight. There is but one serious candidate . . . on pain of that terrible nihilist credo of might makes right . . . the inherently good Creator God, who is the root of reality and a necessary, maximally great being.

We could elaborate on that practically forever [cf. here and vid here], and in the end, we will end up back at the same point just summarised. It's one of those pivotal worldview foundational points, you can reject it if you will, but will end up inescapably in absurdities that point straight to nihilism and its kissing cousins. 

And, after centuries of such cases, by now we can safely say that the burden of proof belongs to those who would reject the just above.

So, we may as well start from there.

The second consequence, is that: if we are to properly claim a right, our claim must be first, in the right.

That is, we may not properly demand of others that they approve and uphold or support us in wrong, or shut their eyes to wrong.

Or, as the old prophet Isaiah put it:
Isa 5:18 Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood,
    who draw sin as with cart ropes,
19 who say: “Let him be quick,
    let him speed his work
    that we may see it;
let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near,
    and let it come, that we may know it!”
20 Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
    and shrewd in their own sight!
22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine,
    and valiant men in mixing strong drink,
23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
    and deprive the innocent of his right!
We are duty-bound to give true and fair counsel, and in that not to call good evil and evil good, nor to put light for dark and dark for light, nor to exchange sweet and bitter, nor justice and injustice, robbing the innocent of his right.

Or, again, as the Apostle Paul built on this:
Eph 4:17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.
18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,[f] which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Notice: "They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity."

So, in a day in open and reckless -- often angry  -- rebellion against the Living God of the gospel and the Scriptures, it is not surprising to see warped thinking among those in rebellion against God, or to see the attempt to substitute darkness for light and light for darkness.

Our duty, instead, is to stand for and live by the clear truth and right.

But, how do we know it is true and right? Are we simply imposing "our" morality and "our" truth on others? (Meanwhile subtly those who object like this are demanding that we quietly swallow their immorality and falsehood as though they were right and in the truth. Such is the perverted, self-refuting "logic" of might makes right.)

Let us start with what truth is. 

Aristotle, in Metaphysics, 1011b, said it well: truth says of what is, that it is; and of what is not, that it is not.

The right is like unto that: that which is right fits with -- is true to -- purpose and nature.

So, for instance, we have a right to life, as it fits us to fulfill our duties to and under God. Without life, we can do nothing, so to rob an innocent person of his or her life is to frustrate, pervert, and harm his or her purpose and potential under God. It is evil.

Therefore also, murder is plainly wrong.

Likewise, it is naturally evident Creation purpose, that we are male and female to complement one another and perpetuate the race. So, that which perverts and frustrates this will also be wrong.

As Jesus put it (directly speaking to the divorce and remarriage game but with much broader implications):
Matt 19: 4 . . .  “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’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, nor Eve and Sue (or, Fido).

In short, the God who made us male and female defines marriage in light of creation order. So-called "same-sex marriages" simply are not genuinely marriages, but an objectively disordered frustration and distortion of marriage. Never mind what clever activists, or even judges or Prime Ministers etc. may wish to say.  They speak out of turn, in short -- waaaaay above their pay-grade.

No wonder the apostle Paul, building on these principles . . . and giving a hope for restoration, writes:
1 Cor 6:Or do you not know that the unrighteous[b] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[c] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Couldn't be plainer. (And BTW, in case you think that homosexual behaviour is innate, genetically programmed and unchangeable, kindly read here.)

Of course, many are extremely dismissive towards the credibility of the gospel and the scriptures, some of them full of New Atheist talking points from recent sophomoric bestsellers. (For more on this issue, try here on, e.g. this. Vox Day here is still worth a read too.)

I suggest a pause to listen to the Apostle Peter, about to face a cruel death in his old age at the hands of the demonically mad, perverted Nero:
2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son,[i] with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
But isn't that just begging the question, quoting the text of the Bible to prove the Bible?

Not at all, what we have here is the final testimony of the principal eyewitness to the Resurrection, the man who literally preached the very first Christian Sermon on Pentecost Sunday -- which we celebrate today -- even as he faced the dungeon, fire, sword and worse. Unflinchingly.

And, this is that core testimony of the 500+ eyewitnesses, as summed up by 35 - 38 AD and as passed on in writing by Paul  in 55 AD:
1 Cor 15:For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received:
  •  that Christ died for our sins 
  • in accordance with the Scriptures, that 
  • he was buried, that 
  • he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that 
  • he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared 

. . . to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed
That is the testimony that unstoppably launched the Christian faith and its message of truth and call to penitence and transformation towards the right, around the world. A message backed up by the power of God that has transformed millions down to today, indeed millions all around us. Millions changed by living encounter with God in the face of Jesus the Messiah, our Lord and Saviour. 

That, too, is an unshakeable -- but often willfully ignored or dismissed -- fact.

We could go on and on with debates over this, but a simpler solution is to point to a video that serves as a 101 introduction:

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel from Slaves4Christ on Vimeo.

So, now, the issue at bottom pivots on a different ground than one may have thought.

No, it is not whether the church can negotiate this or that teaching or practice, or whether the state can order us to do so. It is whether the church has found the truth in the face of Jesus of Nazareth, and is therefore bound by faithfulness to the unshakeable truth, to what is so. 

Whether or not we like it.

Yes, we are to do good to others, especially the vulnerable and needy, but we must also stand by the truth and the right without compromise. 

And whether or not standing by the truth or the right brings us face to face with dungeon, fire, sword, or worse.

For, "we did not follow cleverly devised myths . . . "

And, as a wise man said of truth and its power:

Truth does not need anyone's approval or acceptance to be truth. Reality is synonymous with truth and truth is unyielding. One can choose to ignore it, scorn it, or even curse it, but all to no avail.

So, that is our challenge.

Once the gospel is truth, manifested in fulfillment of prophecy and with 500+ unshakeable witnesses, it is non-negotiable, the proved word of God. 

Non-negotiable, because foundational reality is non-negotiable. 

Ultimate reality.

The reality of God, manifest in the Christ and reported in his gospel. 

Changing lives by the millions, including for many caught up in life dominating sins.

And if that is the real issue, let us deal with it frankly and squarely; understanding the consequences at stake -- for this life and for eternity. END