Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Church and State

I am using the common term 'church and state' in a different way as a title for this post. My hope is that some will read it because of the title.

Anyway, I will not discuss 'separation of church and state', but a related matter. I hope to clarify certain debates and assertions that Christians sometimes make regarding political matters as it relates to the Bible.

First of all, we must recognize that God has ordained both government and the church. With that in mind we all know that the church and state perform different functions; otherwise, there would be no need for both. With that said, we also affirm that the church and state occupy the same moral universe. By that I mean that good is the same for both the state and the church. For example, certain commandments are propagated by both. "You shall not steal" and "You shall not murder" come to mind right away.

So it is a good thing that the state enforces these moral laws just as the church preaches against them. But there are some good things that we have found it is best for the state not to do. We do not want the state to favor one religion (even true religion) over another. At one time, governments did this and where it still occurs it is a bad thing.

We will tolerate cults and Satan-worshipers though we know they propagate evil. That is, we tolerate them until they murder, steal, etc. So it seems best to limit the government's role in restraining certain behaviors.

Lately, however, some governments have taken it upon themselves to limit things like 'hate speech' - more so in Europe and Canada than in the US though I suspect we are not far behind. Now Christians can agree that any sort of hatred of another, expressed or not, is a bad thing condemned by Jesus and the NT. But does that mean it should be illegal? And just who gets to define hate speech? Recently, in Sweden, a pastor was jailed for preaching against homosexual behavior. And this is not an isolated incident. (How odd it is that government allows outwardly immoral behavior but outlaws speech and even thought.)

The very reason for our first amendment (freedom of speech and religion) is to keep the state from persecuting the innocent and harming those who are exercising their rights however odious their speech or religion might be. It seems that even law students today have swallowed the idea that the state has the right and responsibility to hinder some speech because it may offend or even make someone feel uncomfortable. Even Jesus would be prosecuted under such a regime. He offended a crowd of thousands by telling them to eat his flesh and drink his blood.

I think most Christians would agree with me on this, but there I believe that there are also times when the state and church ought to play paradoxical roles when it comes to certain issues. One is the issue of illegal immigration. I have heard some suggest that since the Bible tells us to be kind to the alien and to help anyone who is in trouble that that means that we ought to encourage the state to not enforce the law or even to do away with the law.

Here is where we have to have a mature understanding. It is right and good for the state to protect our country (that is its main duty) while the church exercises compassion on those who may have broken the law. If a criminal came to a pastor in need of food and forgiveness, should the pastor not show mercy and try to help this poor soul? Of course he should. But does that mean that the church should try to change the law so the person will no longer be a criminal? Should we tell the state not to enforce the law because Jesus preached love and mercy? Certainly not.

There is no contradiction between the church showing mercy and the state enforcing the law. The biblical injunction to be good to aliens and strangers, in my view, has nothing to do with the government setting reasonable restrictions on immigration. That would be like prison ministries advocating the release of all prisoners on the grounds of mercy.

I like something that Martin Luther said about church and state. He wanted the government to enforce the law and the church to show mercy and to preach the gospel. While the church should not try to enforce the law neither should the state be doing what God told the church to do.

I heard something really bizarre in this past week's debate over whether to let the tax cuts expire. One commentator said that lowering tax rates on the rich was immoral and he tried to use Jesus to back him up. He noted that Jesus told the rich (actually one rich man) to sell all that he had and give to the poor. Well, it is true that Jesus said this but, He never said that the state ought to do this. Jesus just might tell you to do that very thing, but it would still be up to you to do it.

I would argue that the state is immoral when it taxes too much. The state should not greedily consume our resources or do the job of the church.

There is a modern tendency for even Christians to look to government to solve all of our social problems. This is not only a bad thing, it is idolatry. Christians must always look to God for solutions and only push the state to action when it is appropriate. It is especially inappropriate when the state, in trying to do good, accidentally does harm. It is not good intentions that are needed but wisdom to produce positive results.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Two kinds of Christians

Those of us who believe in the Baptism in the Holy Spirit as an experience one can have subsequent to the New Birth (salvation) are often accused of making two classes of Christian - one superior to the other. It is argued that there cannot be two classes of Christians, one having this Baptism and the rest lacking it. That would put some Christians above others.

Now I will admit that some Pentecostal Christians do think that they are superior to others, but I have found that this disease affects Christians of all sorts. Some think because of their denominational affiliation or their doctrine or whatever it is that they are somehow better than others. This is spiritual pride and it is odious no matter who has it. Also, I must add that some have had a superior attitude against Pentecostal Christians because we do strange things like speak in tongues and worship God very loudly. (I personally am not all that loud.)

I must address, however, the complaint that God could not possibly have this separate Baptism in the Holy Spirit since it would actually divide Christians into two categories. This assertion, though, betrays a basic misunderstanding of what the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is for. It is not to make one holier and more spiritual (despite what the church at Corinth thought).

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit and the manifestations of the Spirit (1 Cor 12) are for power to minister. Jesus explains this in Acts 1:5,8, "You shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit ... you shall receive POWER when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be my witnesses." So it is for power to be a witness and not for personal holiness.

Does that make two classes of Christian? It does not. Otherwise, we would have many classes of Christian since their are different ministries and different levels of power and anointing given to those ministries. Take evangelists, for example. Obviously, Billy Graham has greater power to minister than most ministers, even other evangelists. Does that make him a higher class of Christian? Certainly not, though some Christians might think of him that way. And we often do that with ministers of the gospel in general. We put them in a different class, in our own minds, because of their ministry.

But if you talk to those ministers then you will find that they are no different from the rest of us. They have the same struggles with the world, the flesh and the Devil that all of us do. They just have power to minister to others and a greater responsibility because of that ministry.

So I hope that we can decide these matters on scriptural grounds and not on arguments based on our general sense of what we think that God does or does not do.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"The Lord told me"

Have you ever heard someone say, 'The Lord told me' this or that? Did it bother you? I read an article in a Christian publication recently where it really annoyed the author when someone did this. A decision was being made in some sort of church meeting when someone insisted that God had spoken to them on the matter. The author did not like it because it seemed like sort of a trump card to him. No other opinion would matter.

I certainly understand his reaction from a natural point of view. If someone says that they have the mind of God on a matter, it would seem to end all discussion.

But this situation does not bother me nearly as much as the author's reaction, which seemed entirely negative. He did not even bring up the point as to whether or not this person might be right. Maybe they did hear from God.

Now if you do not believe that God speaks to people, then it would be understandable that you would be annoyed at such a thing. (Also, if you do not believe that God speaks to people, then I gently suggest that you read the Bible more carefully. If you do, you should quickly realize that God does speak to His children.)

Another possibility is that God did not speak to this person and only thought that He did; or worse, they simply said this to impress or manipulate whoever they were talking to. In that case, it would be best to simply not accept the 'revelation' that this person had.

So we can break down this situation rather easily. Either God spoke to them or He did not. So, then, what do we call it when someone says they are speaking on God's behalf? We usually call it prophecy, do we not? How do we deal with prophecies according to the NT?

Prophecies are supposed to be judged by those who hear it. "Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test all things (prophecies). Hold fast to what is good." 1 Thess 5:20-21 "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment." 1 Cor 14:29 (I hope that you noticed that we are not to disdain those who speak in God's name, truly or mistakenly.)

Anyone with a 'Word from the Lord' or prophecy ought to let others who have the Spirit judge their revelation. If they will not submit their purported revelation to others then they are proud and should be ignored. God will certainly reveal what He desires to those who are in authority. Now this does not mean that those in authority necessarily listen to God, but that does not mean that someone who might actually know the mind of the Lord is allowed to despise or judge or usurp authority. God is not the author of confusion. If God shows you that the leadership is going in the wrong direction then you should pray for them, not cause a ruckus.

If everyone understands this, then there should be no hard feelings when one's 'revelation' is not received. I think that the problem here is that we have some who believe that God will speak to them and those who do not. Of course, if you do not have prophecy in your church, as most churches do not, then they never learn how to handle such things.

Having spent many years in Pentecostal/charismatic groups, I have heard this much more often than the average believer. It is generally handled very well, especially by older Christians who have a lot of experience in this. I have found that it is often best, even if God has shown me something, not to say 'the Lord showed me this or that'. It's better just to put it out there and hope that God shows them the same thing. And much of the time people who say this are just plain wrong. But even if they are wrong, and it is judged by mature believers, then no harm is done.

The conclusion: Everyone remain calm. Those who say 'the Lord showed me' need to be willing to have their revelation judged by others. Those who hear this should feel free to judge these things according to the Word and by what the Lord bears witness to. That does mean, of course, that we should lightly brush off (despise) what is brought forth even by immature believers or by those who are a little overzealous to have their spiritual experience confirmed.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Political Correctness

You may have heard the term 'political correctness' and are not quite sure what it means. I am not going to define it here, but I will give an example of it and try to explain why Christians should resist it.

I was watching television a few days ago when some so-called journalist came on the air bemoaning the fact that people in America do not like Buddhism and Islam. In fact, it was pointed out that most Americans dislike Buddhism even more than Islam. The "journalist" immediately began talking about what we ought to do about this. She jumped to the conclusion, without hesitation, that if someone does not like another's religion then they must hate that person. And if we hate someone that is a bad thing. We ought to love one another.

If there is one vestige left of Christianity in our culture it is the idea that one should love one's neighbor. But, as usual, the world has perverted the concept of loving one's neighbor to approving that neighbor's behavior, or in this case, religion.

Now it is true that if someone hates another's religion then that hatred may be directed towards a person who practices that religion. And that, of course, is wrong. We must very careful that we do not fall into hatred no matter how much we may despise the religion that person follows.

But there is another side to this coin, too. We are called not only to love our neighbors (whatever their religion is), but also to hate evil. We should hate evil actions and evil religions. Now some will object at this point and say that it is un-Christian to say that someone's religion is evil. After all, there are certainly many good people in that religion. To put down their religion is to put them down.

No, that is not true at all. Just because their religion is wrong does not make them bad people (they may or may not be), it may only make them deceived. Paul told the church at Corinth that "the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God." (1 Cor 10:20) Paul does not condemn the practitioners of that religion, only the religion itself. He warns against participation in it by Christians.

We need to pray for those who are in demonic bondage to false religions. Those people need God's mercy and grace so that they can be delivered from this bondage and recognize their need for Jesus Christ. We are not to support them in their deception. If we truly loved them, we would do whatever is in our power to see them set free by the gospel.

The big problem with political correctness is that it tries to tell us what to think and feel about things. We are supposed to love Islam and Buddhism and every other religion. That is multicultural nonsense. We should be discerning about these things.

Do these religions bring people closer to God or farther away from Him? Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father but by Me." Do we actually believe that, or do we believe that one should not witness to those who are in a 'faith community' that does not acknowledge Jesus as Lord?

If we are not careful, our political correctness could be consigning those 'good people' in those false religions to an eternity in Hell because we do not wish to offend their religious sensibilities.

I am willing to offend those who are politically correct to save a fallen world.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hawking's Blunder

Recently, Stephen Hawking, the world's most famous living physicist, announced that God was not needed to create the universe. This caused an immediate reaction from both the religious and scientific community. Many were disappointed in him and many rightly criticized his statement. Science simply cannot explain how physical laws came into existence.

But I am not writing to add my two cents to this discussion. Rather, I want to focus on why I think that this is surprising coming from Hawking.

Now it is well known that many scientists are atheists and find no place for God in their science. What is less well known is that it very much depends on their field of expertise. Biologists are the most likely to be atheists, but physicists are the least likely. Astrophysicists in particular are the most likely to believe in God and many are becoming Christians.

Let's examine why this is so: Biologists examine earth's living things and try to understand how they function both separately and in ecological systems. They have a overarching hypothesis, called Evolution, which for them ties all things together. In defense of this hypothesis (it is technically a hypothesis and not a scientific theory) biologists have opposed Creation Science and Intelligent Design which see the need of a Creator. So there is an animosity that has developed between many biologists and Christians who are scientists. (Ever since Mary Baker Eddy it is awkward to use the term Christian Science in a way that would actually make sense.)

In Astrophysics, there is no such animosity. More importantly, they have the Big Bang Theory (once again a hypothesis) that most physicists use to account for the existence of our universe. The 'Big Bang' states that the universe has a beginning. This means that both time and matter had a beginning. It also means that matter is not eternal which is what atheists have always insisted on.

If something happened that brought matter and time into existence, it logically follows that whatever was the cause of the Big Bang must have certain properties. It must not be subject to time and space limitations (ie., it must be eternal and omnipresent). It also must be supremely knowledgeable and intelligent (ie., omniscient and omnicompetent). And it must be more powerful than what it created (omnipotent). Does this sound like anyone you know?
It's a description of the God of the Bible.

No wonder that so many astrophysicists believe in God. To me this is what makes Hawking's statement so amazing. He seems to be ignoring what other physicists see very clearly. Not just that it is likely that Someone is behind the wonderful order of this vast universe, but that physics practically falls apart without Him.

I am not surprised that an evolutionary biologist like Richard Dawkins is an atheist since God may seem to him to be a threat to the reigning hypothesis of his field. Hawking, however, seems to be ignoring the logical conclusion of the main hypothesis in his own field.

I understand while Christians have reacted negatively to Hawking's statement. But I must remind us all that Hawking is not speaking in his area of expertise and that we should, perhaps, ignore all famous people who offer their opinions on things that actually know little about.

Personally, I turn off anybody, no matter how famous, who "speaks out" on a matter that they may firmly believe in, yet cannot be considered an expert on in any way. (All of us, of course, may express our beliefs and opinions, and God requires us to preach the gospel to everyone, but that is far from acting like an expert in a field in which we are untrained.) I am amused when actors will testify in Congress about some issue that they know little about, though they pretend they do. And their political views I generally find both ridiculous and out of touch with what normal people think.

In the same way, we should be wary when someone who is expert in some area speaks about things in another area. Why should the average person be interested in Hawkin's view of anything but physics?

He committed two blunders. First, he rejects the very idea of a Creator, and that is sad enough in itself. Second, he thinks that he is qualified to make public declarations beyond his area of expertise. This is almost as disappointing.

So, let's pray for him and others who think that the knowledge that they have replaces their need to believe in the living God and in His Son, Jesus Christ.

By the way, I do not want to discourage any Christian from sharing the gospel because he or she is not an 'expert' on the faith. No, your experience of being born-again and personally knowing and walking with God makes you more of an expert than mere academic learning could ever make you.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Other Side

Have you ever had something that you believed, or perhaps even taught, that has been misrepresented by another? If so, join the crowd. The apostle Paul experienced this when he taught justification by faith. Some of his opponents reported that Paul was teaching that the grace of God was given so freely that the more one sinned, the more grace would come. "We are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say, 'Let us do evil that good may come'" (Romans 3:8). This was a gross distortion and misreading of the great teachings on grace by Paul. Nevertheless, he had to fight this corruption of what was truly taught throughout his ministry.

In my early years as a Christian I was presented with some teachings by those who are called Calvinist. They believe that God selects some for salvation and others for eternal condemnation. Those who propagated those views tried to discredit the opposing view, usually called Arminianism, which teaches that God desires to save all, but that the choice is left up to us. (I am oversimplifying this to make a point. I am not trying to enter into a discussion about either view.)

I decided to investigate these claims concerning Calvinism and studied the Scriptures to find whether these things were so. I was also discussing these issues with some Calvinists who were prominent in our college fellowship. They represented their own view very well, but it seemed to me that they were rather biased against the Arminian view. So I read what the Arminians had to say and I found that my suspicions were correct. The Calvinists, probably unintentionally, were not properly or fairly representing the other view. I was finally convinced that Calvinism was not the Word of God.

At a later time, I heard some speak negatively about a theology called Dispensationalism. At the time, I had no clue what that was, but it was presented in a rather poor light. By this time I was enough of a skeptic that I immediately began to read up on what Dispensationalism was. (It is, generally speaking, a particular view of interpreting the Bible especially in regards to the End Times.) You can guess what happened. I became a Dispensationalist.

One problem that I found with an introduction to it by one its opponents is that the particular Dispensational minister that was quoted was quite on the extreme of the movement. He did not represent everyday, mainstream dispensational thought. To me, this is a rather cheap and all too common trick to discredit something that you disagree with. We should deal with any subject, not by looking at some extreme version of it, but by examining what the mainstream proponents of it teach.

Besides misrepresenting (perhaps unintentionally) another view because you disagree with it, there is something becoming very common that is even worse. And that is publicly condemning a teaching that you have not really researched or understood. I hear this all the time. I can usually tell when someone has not done their homework when the criticism leveled against a teaching is grossly inaccurate or even the opposite of what is actually taught.

I will give an example of this from a current controversial teaching. (Once again, I am not bringing this up so that we can argue the pros and cons of this teaching, but only for illustrative purposes.) There is a teaching that is often called the prosperity gospel. From this teaching, it is considered the will of God that His people prosper in every area of life including finances. I read an opponent of this teaching say that the prosperity gospel encourages people to go deeply into debt to finance an expensive lifestyle. This critic has little or no understanding of what the prosperity gospel is. If he had done some basic research, he would have known that this teaching is generally against any kind of indebtedness, often to an extreme. Probably the most prominent prosperity teacher, Kenneth Copeland, falls just short of calling the borrowing of money a sin. He continually affirms that neither he nor his ministry has borrowed any money for anything in more than 40 years. And he is not alone in this. Fred Price, another prosperity teacher, preaches against Christians loading up on debt to finance a fabulous Christmas and then paying it off all year.

So why does this critic say these things. Because he has not bothered to actually examine these teachings and just jumps to all shorts of bad conclusions since he is convinced, without much evidence, that this teaching produces certain kinds of results. This is the same thing that Paul's opponents were doing with his teachings. They did not sit down and listen to Paul and get the whole picture he was trying to paint. They heard a certain part of it, or someone's version of it, and assumed that Paul was trying to give us a license to sin.

How should we react when we hear or read something that strikes us as wrong? How about a little fairness, objectivity, and calm, rational thought. We should do our homework before we condemn any teaching. Also, we should do our best to not misrepresent what anyone is saying.

One other thing. When I was studying Calvinism, I learned quite a lot from them. I find that you often can learn from those whom you have deep disagreements with. God may have actually revealed some things to them that you need to hear. But if we just shut our ears to our 'opponents' then we may be missing some very important things.

For my part, I have learned much from Calvinists, non-Dispensationalists and even prosperity teachers. And this is coming from a very opinionated person. Few people will battle for his point of view harder than I will. But I hope it is never said that I have misrepresented anyone or treated any view with a jaundiced eye.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Who is your master?

I operated a retail business for over twenty years and I had the privilege of meeting many nice people who came into my store. Most of them, I hope, were satisfied customers and many became my friends. On occasion, though, there were those who were not satisfied for some reason and they would complain to me. Often they had legitimate complaints and I would try to address those as best as I could. A few times, however, someone would complain about what an employee did and suggest that I fire them. What that person did not know is often the employee was doing as I had instructed them. They were following my orders. Of course, the customer may not have known that. They "blamed" the employee for something when they were only doing what they were told.

Paul told the church at Rome, "Who are you to judge the servant of another?". Indeed. What right would a customer have to try to pass judgment on those who are only carrying out their assigned duties and following the policies that have laid down for them?

How is it that we so freely pass judgment on servants of the Lord? I am speaking specifically of criticism and judgment of ministers of the Gospel whose ministries we dislike. Paul specifically mentions the danger of judging ministers. "Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God."
1 Corinthians 4:5

The apostle tells us that will be a time when the Lord will judge ministers of the gospel, but not until he returns. It is not right for us to judge them. They do not work for us. They work for Him.

I particularly like the part of Paul's statement regarding the motives of ministers. God will bring that to light as well. Yet many continue to judge the motives of ministers who do or say things that they do not like. This, I think, is even worse than judging their teaching. It is one thing to disagree with someone or not to like a certain type of ministry at all. It is another to judge what is in their hearts. We have no right to do that. Once we do that then it is our hearts that are wrong. We have set ourselves as judges over God's ministers.

Okay, I know what the response of some will be. It will be that these are not true ministers of God, but false teachers who are leading God's people astray. In some cases, this is true. We should not accept false teachers.

But are all those whom we may be judging actually false teachers? False teachers are those who deny certain basic doctrines of the faith. They deny the deity of Christ, the Trinity, the atoning death of Christ and His physical resurrection and His literal return to earth. Beyond that there is not too much which can rightfully considered to be heresy.

Recently, I read an article in a Christian publication written by a Christian scholar who is concerned that the gospel is being compromised. (I often share his concern.) But as I read at what he said was 'false gospel', I must disagree with him. The main thing that he talked about was the message that "God has a wonderful plan for your life". He said that this is not the gospel at all. The gospel is the Word made flesh, crucified for our sins and raised again from the dead. Well, that certainly is the core of the gospel. Is the one who proclaims that 'God has a wonderful plan...' denying that? Doesn't God have a wonderful plan for each of us? Isn't the result of Jesus' dying to free us from our sins and bring us into the fullness of the Kingdom of God? We can certainly say that 'God has a wonderful plan' is not the complete gospel, but it is part of the gospel.

Different ministers are called to preach different parts of the Word. Just because a minister preaches one part of the Word that does not mean they deny the other. One preacher was asked why he always preached a certain kind of message. He answered that that was what he knew well. It was what God had given him to preach.

There is a lot in the Word to preach and teach. If we all just focus on the main core of the gospel, then much of the Word will remain untaught and unknown. Some will focus on deeper truths of the Word that others, even highly educated people, will not grasp. Sometimes those who think that they have great understanding of the Word because of their education will be the ones who accuse others of being false teachers. And often they will be wrong. God does not reveal everything to the educated. "At that time Jesus said, 'I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.'" (Matthew 11:25)

So what do we do if we believe that a minister of the gospel has fallen into some error? Is the answer to criticize them either publicly or privately or to judge them in our hearts? Should we not pray for them and ask God to bring them back to the right path? Are we to sit in judgment on them, or to acknowledge them as brother or sister and help to restore them to the truth?

We ought to try to restore them. I must warn you, however. If you pray for those in 'error', then God might show you that it is you who are wrong and not those you are praying for.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Creation Care

I have been in Christian circles long enough to see spiritual fads come and go. Someone comes up with a so-called revelation from God or supposedly new insight from the Bible and they push it as if it were the most important thing in the world. Eventually, the whole thing is shown not to be a work of God but a human idea of not much value at all. After a little while everyone forgets it - if we are lucky.

Unfortunately, sometimes these wrong-headed ideas, which have caused some of the church to focus on the wrong thing, become a tradition that hinders the mission of the church which is to preach the gospel and make disciples of all nations.

Now when I say that these are bad ideas, I am not suggesting that they are evil or spring from some bad motive. They often have good aspects to them and usually come from well-meaning people. Those who promote them use the Bible (incorrectly) to back them up. And often some good is done, but in the final analysis it usually distracts the church from its biblical goals of reconciling the world to God and bringing Him glory.

The focus of this blog is on the idea of Creation Care, specifically the notion that we humans are stewards of God's earth and that polluting or 'hurting' it will offend God. But as we carefully study the Bible we will find the language of stewardship does not apply to our relationship to the earth.

Now the Bible does use the language of stewardship in relation to various things in the Christian's life. We are to be good stewards of our finances (Luke 16), the Word of God (1 Corinthians 4), and of our ministry in the church (Titus 1:7).

But there is other language used for the believer's relationship to other things. One concept that is used is that of 'dominion'. For example, the Christian is to exercise dominion over demons. "In my name, they shall cast out demons". (Mark 16:17) "Resist the Devil and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)

We find more direct language like this when the Bible describes our relationship to the earth. "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." (Genesis 1:26, repeated in v. 28) "You made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; you have put all things under his feet." (Psalm 8:6) This is not the language of stewardship, but of dominion.

Why, then, is the stewardship model used by some to describe our relationship to the earth. Well, one of the passages used is Psalm 24:1, "The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein". This clearly establishes God's ownership of the earth. So the reasoning is that if God owns it and we live on it, then we, not being owners, must be stewards. So if God is owner of it, how can we have dominion over it? Does not ownership imply dominion? If God gave us a kind of dominion, is that dominion not really a kind of stewardship?

Not necessarily. A person can have dominion over something without owning it. A person owning a home and living in it has dominion over it. But if that person leases that home to another, then a kind of dominion, not stewardship, is passed to the person leasing it. That is the kind of dominion that we can exercise over the earth. Not a dominion of ownership, but a dominion based on a lease.

You could say that God gave Adam and Eve a lease on the earth. Some day that lease will run out and the owner will return to take dominion back. Until that time, we have dominion. "The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD's: but the earth has he given to the children of men." (Psalm 115:16)

At this point, one might complain that if we use the language of dominion then that means that we can simply do as we please and ruin the environment and destroy God's creation. If we use the language of stewardship, then we will take better care of it because we are responsible to God for it.

I reject this reasoning on two grounds.

First, if the Bible uses the language of dominion and not stewardship then we ought to as well since, otherwise, we would be promoting a false concept.

Second, I reject the conclusion that exercising dominion means we will ruin it. If I lease a home does that mean that I would ruin it because I was not a steward? Not at all. I would care for the place because I live in it and I want it nice for myself and my family. I do not want to live in filth.

I want to live in a nice, clean environment. That goes for wherever I am. If I go to work, I want it to be clean as well. But there is a catch. Since the Fall of Man the environment tends to disorder and chaos. I have to work hard to create a good environment and to make a living. But to make a living some pollution is necessary. I certainly believe that God understands that some pollution is necessary when we are producing goods that make our lives better. But we can take reasonable steps to keep from polluting unnecessarily.

I am afraid, though, that this whole 'stewardship/creation care' model is just an attempt to hijack Christianity and use it to promote the radical environmental agenda. I am always suspicious when Christians begin talking like the world. We do not get our agenda from the world but from the Word.

Another point that I think is relevant is the impression given by the advocates of 'creation care' is that we sin if we do not focus on the environment and care for it. I am not implying that we should be careless about the environment; I just think that we need to focus on what God has directly told us to do in His Word and not get into these side issues.

There is no scripture that indicates that God will judge us regarding our care of creation. We will be judged by how we treat our fellow human beings (Matt 25) and by how we fulfill our ministry (1Cor4:4), but never by how we treated the environment. These things are not biblical matters. Rather they come under our dominion and our judgment as to what kind of environment we wish to live in. If we mess it up, then we have to live in our mess. If our rules are too strict then we endanger our means of making a living.

We need to focus on winning people to the Lord, caring for their needs, and discipling them in the faith. Now if caring for their needs to help clean up their environment, then we can address those issues. But it is too easy to get distracted from those things that the Lord has called us to do and to focus on other less important issues.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Wisdom - Conventional or Divine, part 2

There are many ideas in our society that have recently become part of conventional wisdom. Some of them are just human foolishness and wonderful-sounding ideas and things that just seem like they would be good solutions in the real world.

But when we test them in the real world we find out if they are truly practical or if they are not all that they are cracked up to be. In this blog we will discuss the use of ethanol (fuel make from corn) to use in running car engines. Now I must confess that I fell for this one and supported it for some time until it was clearly shown to be a terrible idea.

The basic idea is this: it is better to use renewable resources like corn we can grow rather than the limited resources like oil which must eventually run out. Sounds good, so far. Then we should make an abundant crop like corn to burn in car engines while at the same time making new car engines burn different kinds of fuel - gasoline and ethanol, for example. In the end, all engines will run on ethanol and similar fuels, and we will never run out of fuel. Energy problem solved.

Or not. First of all, to make ethanol from corn, it takes about 3/4 of a gallon of oil or more to make it. It takes a lot of energy to make ethanol, far less to make gasoline. Perhaps if we had a lot more nuclear energy we would overcome this, though the same environmentalists who have been touting this, object to nuclear power.

Anyway, even if we took all the corn in the US and made it into fuel, we could only produce enough fuel for 16% of our vehicles. (Remember that we not only use corn for food but for many other things as well, like various kinds of plastics.) We also must keep in mind that the corn we produce feeds much of the world. The poor, especially, rely on it. If too much goes to fuel, then the price will rise and the poor of the world will starve. This happened a couple of years ago when corn prices rose dramatically and poor countries did not get theirs.

Then there is the issue of efficiency. I and others have noticed that when we put 10% ethanol in our gas tanks (notice the sign at most service stations) then our mileage is reduced by more than 10%. So ethanol causes us to use more oil (gasoline) even if we used nuclear power to produce it. It is very wasteful.

So, what sounded like a great idea is really a disaster, and, unfortunately, it has become government policy. Even with the revelation of recent years that this ethanol is a complete debacle, the government is subsidizing it and supporting it.

The auto industry, responding to market forces, is going in the direction of hybrid vehicles, combining big batteries with traditional engines backing them up. We are not seeing too many of the flex-fuel vehicles.

So, knowing this, what has the government done? Stop supporting or subsidizing ethanol? No. It continues its policies because farmers like it. And when a small and powerful constituency benefits from subsidies, then politicians give them what they are now used to getting.

This is why we need to examine conventional wisdom, especially from so-called experts, and why we need for government to keep out of it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Wisdom - Conventional or Divine, part 1

"Conventional wisdom is a term used to describe ideas or explanations that are generally accepted as true by the public or by experts in a field. The term implies that the ideas or explanations, though widely held, are unexamined and, hence, may be reevaluated upon further examination or as events unfold." (Wikipedia definition)

There are many ideas in our society that have recently become part of conventional wisdom. In the next few posts, I will examine some of these to find if these ideas are the wisdom of God or just human foolishness. I think that we will find is that the opinion of so-called experts and other well-meaning people may not be wise at all. Now I understand that not all will agree with my conclusions, but I hope that they will realize that conventional wisdom is often mere opinion and that there is more than one side to every issue. Let's keep an open mind as we examine some of these things.

The first idea that I want to examine is the notion that it is better for the environment and our wallets if homeowners replace their incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs. We are told that they use 75% less electricity and last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. So, even though fluorescent bulbs cost a lot more, it will save the homeowner money and help the environment by using less energy. Sounds like a win-win situation. And we are assured that there is no down side to this.

But there is a down side. I know about fluorescent bulbs because I used them in my business. I had a bakery and a deli operation. The Health Department required me to put shields over my fluorescent bulbs. The reason: fluorescent bulbs contain mercury and if they are broken they release that mercury in the air. Everyone knows that that is a serious hazard, especially in a place where food is kept.

On the same website where the federal government recommends the use of these bulbs, there is a link containing information about what to do if a fluorescent bulb breaks. Let me summarize: First, clear the room for 15 minutes, especially removing delicate things like children and pets. Turn off central heat or a/c. If the mess is on a hard surface, DO NOT vacuum up. Use sticky tape to clean and then damp rags. Put all cleaning stuff and broken light bulb pieces in a sealed plastic bag and put outside in the trash. If it is carpeting that needs cleaning, then do vacuum but immediately replace the vacuum bag by putting it in a sealed plastic bag. If any stuff gets onto clothing, DO NOT put the clothing in a washing machine because the mercury will get into the washer and contaminate what is washed in it later. And I hope that you remember to wear a mask and gloves to do all this. Shall I go on?

Here's more. While these bulbs are efficient, they actually flicker 60 times per second. Most people cannot see this consciously, but it is not good for your eyes and some people get headaches from it. What is worse is that most autistic people do see the flickering and it is really bad for them.

Will it save money and the environment (outside the home)? That is actually uncertain. There is a lot of evidence that fluorescents do not last any longer that regular bulbs. People do not seem to be experiencing longer usage. They seem to burn out like any other bulb. Also, there is anecdotal evidence that most people do not see a drop in their electric bills. So it is uncertain that the benefits which are touted by the 'experts' really pan out.

No doubt you have guessed my conclusion. Fluorescent bulbs are not a good idea for a home environment. I have no plans to use them even if they would save me money. I consider them an unacceptable risk. I will pay a few more dollars a month to get lighting that is much more safe and easier on the eyes.

I have no objection if someone decides to use these bulbs. But I think that we need to be fully informed and weigh the risks and benefits in a rational way instead of pushing it as if it is necessary to 'save the earth'.

It is important that we carefully examine conventional wisdom to find whether it is wisdom from God or just someone's bad idea. It is too easy to be taken in by so-called experts who are pushing something out of some ideology like what we get in our current environmental movement.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Good Meditation

Some years ago, if you mentioned the word 'meditation', some Christians would give you a funny look. The term was popular with New Age types who were referring to transcendental meditation (TM) that was much discussed in the popular culture, and which emanated from Eastern religion. In that kind of meditation, one was supposed to mutter the name of a god over and over. It is pure idolatry and clearly forbidden by the Word of God.

But here I want to talk about the value of Christian meditation and why all Christians can and should practice it. Let's see what the Word has to say about meditation.

"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." (Joshua 1:8)

"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." (Psalm 1:1-3)

These two passages are very similar. They both teach the godly person that they should meditate on the Law of the Lord. What does 'meditate' mean here? It means to 'mutter' according to my Hebrew Lexicon. In other words, say something over and over (quietly) and continue to think about it. Now that might not sound to us as something that would be very useful, but we read in both these passages about the fruit that such meditation will bring. The passage in Joshua indicates that meditation will help one to be a 'doer of the Word' (like James says) and it will make you a successful believer. Do we not want to be successful in our Christian lives? The passage in psalms says the same thing. Meditation brings success and prosperity in our lives.

What do we meditate on? The Law of the Lord (Torah - the first five books of the OT)? That's what it says, but I think that Christians, who are not under the Law (Torah), should meditate on any part of God's Word, especially the New Testament.

We can meditate on the whole Bible, but we can meditate upon one verse or several verses at a time. What happens when we do this? The Spirit of God begins to reveal the meaning to us and open up our spirits to what God is saying. How is this? Jesus said that His words are spirit and life. As we meditate upon the Word, it becomes a revelation to us. Too much of the time we are trying to figure out in our heads what it means. That's how we get our various theologies and separate into different camps. We can learn much by reading and studying the Bible, but we need to meditate upon the Word and let the Spirit make it a reality in our lives. He is the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.

I have known Christians who could barely read and write and yet they had a deep knowledge of God and the Bible because they meditated upon the Word. They were God-taught. I have heard the same insights from them that I have heard from Bible scholars who came to their conclusions after years of study. I appreciate the work of Bible scholars, but I know that the Spirit who lives in me knows the Word far better than they do.

"But the anointing (Holy Spirit) which you have received of Him abides in you, and you need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it has taught you, you shall abide in Him." (1 John 2:27) John is not saying that teachers are unnecessary (he was a teacher of the Word), but that we must rely on the Spirit of Truth to teach us the truth. No teacher can lord it over us.

An Easy and Effective Way to Meditate: Some use meditation extensively and do actually meditate on the Word at every possible moment. I admire that but I found that my mind tended to wander after a minute or two. Recently, however, the Lord led me to read a certain passage once a day for many consecutive days. I do not try to wrest the meaning from it and often I already have a good understanding of it in my head. But whether I understand the passage or not, I just read it over carefully, just once a day, until the Spirit brings me revelation regarding it. I must say that this works wonderfully. It has borne great fruit. Try it. It's easy.

So many Christians do not read their Bibles because they do not understand what they are reading. I encourage you, as a part of your daily devotions, to meditate in this way on the Word. It works.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Gideon and the 300

I am sure that many of you have seen the movie, The 300, the story of 300 Spartans who defended the pass at Thermopylae against an overwhelming army of Persians in 480 BC. It is based on a historical event and it is considered one of the most remarkable military feats in history. Although the 300 inevitably lost the battle, they allowed the Greek city of Athens to evacuate and be spared from the revenge of the Persians who were defeated by the Athenians at the battle of Marathon. The Persian king, Xerxes (Ahasuerus), who led the Persian army, married Esther after returning from this invasion of Greece.

But I am not focusing on that event, but on another battle recorded in the book of Judges that occurred 700 years or so earlier. It is the story of Gideon and his 300 warriors who defeated an invading army against overwhelming odds. God had called Gideon to raise and lead an army to defeat the Midianites who had invaded Israel. Gideon called on the Israelites to defend their country and 32,000 men showed up. Then God told Gideon to send most of them home.

"The LORD said to Gideon, You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, announce now to the people, 'Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.' So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained. But the LORD said to Gideon, There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them out for you there. If I say, 'This one shall go with you,' he shall go; but if I say, 'This one shall not go with you,' he shall not go. So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the LORD told him, Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink. Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink. The LORD said to Gideon, With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midians into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place." Judges 7:2-7

First, God sent 22,000 home. Then He sent another 10,000 home, leaving only 300. Then those 300 defeated the Midianites in battle. It's a great story, but what lessons can we learn from it?

The first lesson we find in the passage above. If the Israelites had a military advantage, then they could boast of the victory themselves instead of giving God the credit and glory that was due Him. It needed to be obvious that God won the victory.
We must not take credit for the victories that God gives us. How prone we are to say the our faith or works has accomplished some good thing for God. No, it is God Who has done it and we have played a part in it.

Another lesson can derived from this as well. And that is the principle that God does not need everyone to accomplish any particular good work, even as something as big and important as delivering Israel from its oppressors. Now don't get me wrong, God needs all of us to do something for Him. We all have assignments from God. But we all have different assignments. He calls some to do one thing and others to do something else.

But I have noticed something that happens often in the church. Someone deeply cares about some important issue and, perhaps, is called by God to do something about it. They then try to recruit every Christian to fulfill their vision and help them with their ministry. However, not every Christian (or church or ministry) may be called to do that. I have heard time after time, though, that this particular issue is so important and so urgent that everyone needs to pull together to solve this problem. But it is simply not so.

God is the One who solves the problem. It is He who calls whom He wills to do something about it. It is He who gives them the strategy and wisdom and ability to accomplish the task. It is He who gets the glory. He is not going to bless our plan.

Now there are some things that God calls all Christians to do. We are all to pray for those in authority and government. We are to pray for one another. And as we pray about the bad things that we see, God will begin to prepare the way and call some to help Him bring deliverance and change where it is needed.

And God will not just work on one problem, but on all of them. He will call some to one task and others to the rest. He will give the leaders the vision and direction necessary to accomplish the task and He will provide others to help fulfill the vision. Some works will have many workers and some will have a few, but "nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few" (1 Samuel 14:6).

I think that this tendency to recruit everyone to our good cause is the result of our focusing on our meager resources rather than on God and His abundant supply. We focus too much on the problem and not on the solution that God can bring. And we generally would not approach the problem the way that God would. Which one of us would have done what God told Gideon to do? God's ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. So let's do things His way and not our own. Let's get the victory from God and give Him the glory.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tears in Wineskins

One of the great things about studying the Bible is finding out new things through the study of the customs and culture of the society of the ancient Hebrews. One little tidbit that I found was in Psalms 56:8. It reads, "You Yourself have recorded my wanderings. Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your records?" In almost every English translation, the middle part of this verse uses the word 'bottle' as a place that God puts our tears.

That's a little blind to us. Why would someone put tears in a bottle? When we dig deeper we find that the Hebrew word translated 'bottle' is actually the Hebrew word for a wineskin. Well, then, why put tears in a wineskin?

To know why this image is used we have to understand one of the ways that wineskins were used. Of course, wineskins were used to hold wine, but scholars tell us that wineskins were also used to hold precious liquids. Wineskins were the best way to preserve various liquids just as pottery jars were used to store just about everything else. (The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in pottery jars.)

If God put our tears in wineskins, it must mean that they are very precious to Him. The psalmist asks God to store his tears as precious things. And He does. Sometimes we think that God is far away when we are suffering, but we must know that He is storing our tears and writing them in his book. They are preserved forever.

So when you read Psalm 56, remember what this meant when it was written. I think the translators used the word 'bottle' because we would be confused by the notion of storing tears in wineskins. But I prefer a very literal translation with explanatory footnotes at the bottom of the page. Then it speaks to us more clearly than trying to translate ancient customs in modern parlance. "Tears in a bottle" just does not do it for me.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Facts and Interpretation

Usually when Christians think of the word 'interpretation' they think of interpretation of the Bible. For this blog, however, our subject is the interpretation of facts. But, you may say, do facts need interpretation? Aren't they true all by themselves?

The answer to that is both yes and no. A firmly established fact by itself needs no interpretation. But facts do need interpretation when they are used to promote ideas. For example, the US Civil War (1861-1865) is a historical fact which contains many historical facts. But when we discuss the causes of the Civil War, we must interpret those facts.

One of the big controversies regarding the interpretation of facts is regarding the origins of the universe, the earth and mankind. Secular biology interprets the facts of scientific discovery one way (in accordance with the theory of evolution) and the Creation scientists interpret them another way. [For the purposes of this blog, I will use the laymen's term "theory" instead of the scientific term "hypothesis". The correct terminology is 'hypothesis of evolution' not the common term 'theory of evolution'.] And proponents of Intelligent Design interpret them yet a third way. (Let us not confuse Creation Science with Intelligent Design.)

All three of these views of our origins use the same scientific facts, but use them in different ways. Evolutionists claim that the facts support their theory and so do the Creation Scientists and Intelligent Design advocates. I will not, in this blog, talk about the strengths and weaknesses of each view. I only wish to point out that all qualify as science. Now evolution is the reigning view today, but that does not make it more scientific.

Evolutionists often claim that Creation Science is not science and should only be taught in religion classes (if at all) instead of biology class. They say that teaching Creation Science (or Intelligent Design) in biology class alongside evolution would be like teaching in a history class that the Holocaust never took place. And there some who deny that the Holocaust ever did take place. But that is a different thing entirely. The Holocaust deniers are not offering a different interpretation of historical facts but are denying well-established facts. It is a denial of facts that is the problem here. Certainly, we should not teach any form of history that expressly denies these facts. Creation Science and Intelligent Design do not deny facts; they interpret them differently.

Now let's examine some facts that you often hear cited in Christian circles. One of them is the statistic that people in churches are as likely to be divorced as those outside the church. I have heard this statistic for many years and I have no reason to doubt it. But how should we interpret this fact? Well, here is a case where we really need more information. Fortunately, deeper studies have apparently been done that shed more light on this subject. One study that I heard of examined people in churches and not only their marital status, but also their place in the church and their own history in it.

What they found is very interesting. They found that those who had the most longevity in church and were considered to be the most active and committed within the church were far less likely than the general population to have ever been divorced. Those who are more on the margins and are more recent members are far more likely than the general population to be divorced. It seems that people who have been recently divorced often go to church (or return to church) after their divorce.
So it may be that, overall, church members are as likely to be divorced as anyone else, but it is different for different groups within the church.

Now this makes sense to me. I do know some people who are deeply committed to the Lord and are very active in the church who also have been divorced. I do not have a problem with that. Divorce is not the unpardonable sin. However, I have noticed that more of the longtime 'core' members of the churches that I have attended generally are not.

What we need to take from all this is that we should not base our preaching on these kinds of statistics because statistics may give us one impression but further study and analysis leave quite another. I am not saying that statistics are always misleading, or that they should not be used. We just have to be careful with them and realize that they are not the last word and probably should not be the basis of our teaching and preaching.

There is another statistic that I have heard over and over for more than 30 years. And it sounds very plausible. I am sure you have heard it, usually from youth ministers. It goes something like this: "If a person is not saved by age 15 (or 14 or another age in that range) their chances of being saved are very slim". This is quoted to get church people to support youth programs.

You might be surprised by what I am about to say about this statistic. You might guess from my skeptical tone that I am about to tell you that this statistic is not true, but I am not going to do that. It is a true statistic; unfortunately, it is also completely irrelevant. The reason that it is irrelevant is because of what Jesus said. "Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." These are sobering words indeed. Jesus is telling us that only a few find eternal life. These words tell us something statistically. They tell us that only a minority will be saved. That means that if a person is not saved by ANY age, chances are they will not be saved at all. In other words, I could say that if a person is not saved by age 6, chances are that they will never be saved. And I could say the same thing about age 86 as well.

So the statistic about those who do not get saved by their teen years probably will not be saved at all is a true, but irrelevant, statistic. Now, as a person who was saved at age 15 I want to say that I am fully in favor of youth groups and of evangelizing teens. I do not, however, think that we should use this phony statistic to bolster our case. It is unnecessary. If God is leading you to work with the youth, then do so. If you want more support then tell others and let God lead them.

Whenever some statistic seems to bolster our beliefs or arguments, Christians tend to accept it with no examination. This is not good. We have often been taken as suckers. We do not really need statistics to back up our biblical perspective or our ministry. Isn't the Word of God and the leading of the Spirit enough for us? We need to lose our skepticism of the promises of God and the prompting of the Holy Spirit and increase our skepticism of statistics. I think we have it backwards sometimes.

In conclusion, the church needs to use facts and statistics very carefully. Even if they back your own view, do not accept them without examination or further analysis. If more or better information is not available, then lay them aside until you can correctly interpret them.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Liberal Theology is Idolatry

Liberal theology should not be confused with liberal political or social views. In Christian theology, a liberal is a person, claiming to be a Christian, but denying certain fundamental truths that Christians have held for 2000 years. Two truths that liberal Christians do not believe is in the infallibility of Scripture and the deity of Jesus Christ. There have been those who believe in the infallibility of Scripture and have still denied the deity of Christ through the ages but it requires that one read the scriptures in some extraordinary ways. For example, the Jehovah's Witnesses have their own corrupted translation of the Bible in order to deny Christ's full deity.

Liberal Christians use the scriptures in the way that they see fit (in a "scholarly" manner, of course) but do not hold that the scriptures are altogether true. They pick and choose what to believe, or not believe, according to the thinking of the age in which they live. They interpret it as metaphor as it pleases their own modern sensibilities and decry any sort of 'literalism' that would require them to actually believe what it says. They generally interpret clearly historical events such as the Resurrection of Christ as something that happened to the disciples rather that something that happened to Jesus. They deny the physical reality of the Resurrection while claiming to accept the spiritual import of it.

In the nineteenth century, liberal Bible scholars began to interpret Jesus according to their own liking. They felt free to reject the deity of Jesus while accepting him as a great moral teacher or a prophet or whatever suited them. Another liberal scholar, Albert Schweitzer, wrote a book in the early 20th century pointing out that each of these new views of Jesus turned out to support that scholars view. Their own individual "Jesus" agreed with them completely. How convenient. It just so happened that Jesus believed whatever that scholar believed.

What was happening here was obvious. These scholars were trying to make Jesus in their own image and likeness. They were making an idol out of him. It is no different from what Isaiah told the unfaithful Israelites. "He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. It is man's fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, Ah! I am warm; I see the fire. From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, Save me; you are my god." Here is a description of the ancient Israelite making an idol for himself. Isaiah shows clearly how foolish this is.

This is no different than the modern, liberal Christian making Jesus into whoever they want him to be. They are making him into an idol. They use their tools (critical scholarship) like the workman in Isaiah. And like that workman they apply the same tools to God's Word that they would to any common book. They have no respect or awe for the Word or for the real Jesus as depicted in the New Testament.

We cannot pick and choose what aspect of Jesus we want to believe in. We have to accept those things about him that offend modern sensibilities (things like miracles, pronouncement of judgments to come, and especially who he claimed to be). We must accept things we do not like and assume that God knows better than we do.

What the modern liberal Christian do is really worship his or her own thoughts. They do not worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. They set up idols in their minds and expect us all to bow down to their 'enlightened' views.

This should be a warning to us conservative, Bible-believing Christians as well. We must make sure that we are not trying to make Jesus into Someone who supports whatever we think or believe. We have no right to believe anything but God's Word. We need to accept what the Word says no matter how it fits our personal theology.

Many times I have had trouble accepting certain things in the Bible because they did not seem right to me. I accepted them anyway. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. (Liberals think that their thoughts are above the Word.) As I have matured in the Lord I began to more fully comprehend some of the things that I had trouble with earlier. I gained wisdom. "[God] lays up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a shield to them that walk upright. He keeps the paths of judgment, and preserves the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness, and judgment." Proverbs 2:7-9

So let's not follow down the liberal path of idolatry. Let's renew our minds to the Word.