Category Archives: Ethics

The Cripplegate: Developing a church statement on human sexuality

There are two reasons churches need to have clear teaching on human sexuality (sexual attraction, sexual identity, gender distinctions, etc). The first is because this is an issue which Scripture speaks about. It is under attack in today’s culture, and thus churches should be quick to clearly explain what the Bible actually says on the issue.

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The second reason is because our culture is particularly litigious. With that in mind, churches have a stewardship over their finances and property to make sure that they are protected against such lawsuits, and currently the best legal protection we have is churches have the freedom to structure themselves around their own teachings. However, this legal protection is moot when churches don’t have any articulated or published views on the topic.

The point of this post is to encourage churches to develop some statement and teaching on this issue, precisely because it is the issue currently under attack.

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CultureWatch: Abortion Contrasts

by Bill Muehlenberg

The division between good and evil is perhaps nowhere better highlighted than in the issue of abortion. Very simply put, on the one side is the promotion of death, while on the other side in the celebration of life. The contrast could not be more stark.

Admittedly many women are forced into this terrible situation by other people, and in a sense they too are victims. But here I want to contrast the activists for death with the activists for life. The groups pushing for the right to kill unborn babies can be ugly in the extreme.

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Ligonier Ministries Blog – The State of Theology: Take It or Leave It

 

One of the greatest book titles of the twentieth century declares rather simply: Ideas Have Consequences. Theological ideas also have consequences. Good theological ideas have good consequences. Bad ones have bad consequences.It should come as no surprise, then, when we find that The State of Theology survey also reveals bad consequences in American culture and in American Christianity. The survey could have asked any number of questions on ethics. We asked one specific question regarding sex outside of marriage. Is sex outside of marriage a sin?

Before we get to the survey results, consider a few other questions we asked. We asked if the Bible has the authority to tell me what to do. This gets at one of the key issues of the modern age. Are we in the twenty-first century going to submit to a book that stretches back from the centuries BC and the first century AD? Will we submit to an ancient book? Less than half, 49%, say yes. That leaves slightly over half of Americans unwilling to submit. Two out of ten Americans rather strongly deny the Bible’s authority.

If we ask a more general question we get a better response. We asked if God has authority over people because he created human beings. We found that 61% agree.

So why the drop down when it comes to the Bible? It’s one thing to say God has authority. It’s another thing to get specific about what God has to say and what is specifically authoritative. The idea of something that tells me what to do in the particulars becomes too strong of a proposition.

And so we circle back to the question: Is sex outside of marriage a sin? 48% say it is. Over half are not willing to say so. And what about American evangelicals? What do they say? We should expect to see close to 100% agreement on this question. This is not a gray area. Scripture is rather clear that marriage is the exclusive domain for sex. Sex outside of marriage is a sin. We don’t see close to 100%. We see a quarter of evangelical Christians unwilling to agree with the plain teaching of the Bible on ethics.

To put the results of the survey rather directly: half of Americans do not care what the Bible says about ethics. And, a quarter of American evangelicals do not care what the Bible says about ethics. In other words, when it comes to the Bible and what the Bible has to say about life, we can take it or leave it. Many are leaving it.

The survey reveals Americans prefer a God of their own making over and above the holy and sovereign God of the Bible (see The State of Theology: The Taming of God). Americans prefer the Bible as merely a good book over and above the Bible as God’s authoritative and true Word (see The State of Theology: The Good Book). The survey reveals an ethic of our own choosing over and above the law and commands of God.

All that is to say, a bad theology means a bad ethic.

God has not made us as brains on a stick. We are not Spock-like creatures, with brains and reason only. Anyone who thinks Christian living or discipleship is exclusively about right thinking is wrong. Anyone who thinks the end of all living is merely right theology is wrong. Living matters. What we do matters. Our ethic matters. But our ethic and our lifestyle flow from our doctrine, from our right thinking.

It’s always helpful to gain some wisdom from the past. J. Gresham Machen was battling bad theology in American culture and in the American church in the early decades of the 1900s. He was even battling bad theology in the very seminary where he taught. These battles led him to write his classic text, Christianity & Liberalism, a book full of wisdom. One such sage observation is this: “We do not mean that if doctrine is sound it makes no difference about life. On the contrary, it makes all the difference in the world.” He then thunders, “If our doctrine be true, and our lives be wrong, how terrible is our sin!”

Both a good theology and a good ethic, both doctrine and lifestyle, constitute faithful Christianity. Like ham and eggs.

We, too, have our battles with bad theology and bad ethics in American culture and in American Christianity. Like Machen in his day, we need to take the same courageous stand in our day. We cannot afford to adopt a take it or leave it attitude when it comes to thinking about and obeying God’s Word. We must take it.

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Ligonier Ministries Blog – The State of Theology: The Good Book

“4.7”

This represents the current number of Bibles per American household, according to a survey by the American Bible Society. Of course, many households have more; some have less. But that same survey reports that nearly 9 in 10 of every American household has at least one Bible.

I remember seeing a list of books that every well-stocked and well-respected home library should have. Next to the writings of Shakespeare, comes the standard list of classics. Then follows the biographies and autobiographies. Next, poetry, and don’t forget philosophy. You also need a few good reference books, especially a good dictionary. Large folio art and architecture books are sure to impress. And, of course, no self-respecting home library would be without a Bible, or two. Or, as the case may be, 4.7.

A crucial question, though, remains: Are these Bibles being read?

In his rather short second inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln had rather somber words. This was not a time of celebration, as most inaugurations are. The nation was divided and at war. The speech is full of biblical citations and biblical allusions. Lincoln can barely go three or four sentences before he pulls from Scripture. I’m not at all implying or even trying to imply that Lincoln was a Christian.

To paraphrase Keith Green, quoting Scripture doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger.

What I am saying is that Lincoln had a Bible, as did most American households in 1865, and as do most American households today. But Lincoln also read his Bible. And what’s more, his audience read it. In his address Lincoln comments on how both sides, North and South, pray to the same God. Then he adds, “Both read the same Bible.” And read it they did.

Therein lies the difference. We have Bibles. We have lots of Bibles. But we aren’t reading them anymore.

A second crucial question, however, remains even still: What is the attitude toward the Bible? To answer this question, Ligonier partnered with Lifeway research to survey American attitudes toward theology. You can find the full survey results at TheStateOfTheology.com. A handful of questions were asked about the Bible in particular.

Here’s what Americans think. Less than half, only 47%, think that God is the author of Scripture. About the same amount think Scripture is true. And the same amount, 48%, agree with the statement, “The Bible alone is the written word of God.”

If we press even further we find that only 43% agree that the Bible is 100% accurate in all that it teaches. More disagree with that statement than agree. To be exact, 46% disagree.

The Bible has had and continues to have a place, quite literally, in American homes. But the Bible does not have the place it deserves.

C. S. Lewis made the memorable observation that Jesus is either Lord, liar, or lunatic. One thing He can’t be, though, is a good man or a good a teacher. He’s either delusional or deceptive; or, He is exactly who He claims to be.

The same is true of Scripture. It’s either God’s authoritative and true Word, or it is a dangerously deceptive book, or it is a book of tales by deluded madmen. It cannot be one thing, however. It cannot be a good book.

To a certain extent, it is good that the Bible has a place in American culture. The Bible provides a solid ethical base for a civil society. The Bible is the means by which God’s grand plan of redemption is revealed. The Bible is powerful and life-changing. Its presence in homes should be encouraged and applauded.

It was said of Calvin’s Geneva that as domestic issues reached the ruling body of the City, known as the Consistory, one of the first questions asked was if there was a Bible in the home. If not, the first thing the Consistory did was to order that a Bible be secured. For those without means, the Consistory readily provided one.

Exposure to God’s Word is a good thing. But good things can become problematic things. So it is with the Bible in America.

The State of Theology survey shows that Americans prefer a tamed and domesticated God. The State of Theology survey also shows they prefer a tamed and domesticated Word of God. Just as a tamed God is really not God at all, so, too, a tamed Bible is really not the Bible at all.

There is a long distance between the Bible as a good book and the Bible as God’s book.

The results from these questions in The State of Theology survey reveal that American culture has reached a tipping point. Less than half consider the Bible to be the Word of God and, therefore true. This is a harbinger of things to come. This is a loss of a moral compass. This is a continuation of a slide towards a post-Christian culture. This is sobering.

American Christians

The American church needs to pay attention to these findings. There is something else we also need to pay attention to. It is rather easy for American Christians to be impacted by American culture. What do we as American Christians think of the Bible?

American Christians have Bibles. We tend to have even more than 4.7. Do we read them? Do we cling to our Bibles as the authoritative and true Word of God to us? Do we obey and follow what we read? The answers to these questions make all the difference in the world.

See also:

Dr. Stephen J. Nichols is president of Reformation Bible College and chief academic officer for Ligonier Ministries.

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Religious Affections – A Look at the Lists: Pastoral Passages and the Character of a Christian Leader

Several “C’s” help me organize my pastoral theology. A pastor must have the call, that is, a Spirit-given desire to be in ministry (cf. 1 Tim 3:1). He must also have a certain competency, that is, a Spirit-given gift-set that includes oversight and teaching (cf. 1 Tim 3:1–2). There must also be a confirmation, that is, the Spirit-led approval of the church as a whole to set aside a man to be an elder in his church (cf. 1 Tim 4:14; 5:22). Certain circumstances must be true of him as well, such as not being a recent convert (1 Tim 3:6) or one whose reputation among unbelievers is particularly disparaging (1 Tim 3:7).

To add another “C,” an obvious emphasis in Scripture is that pastors or leaders in general be men of character. Whatever one may mean by the term Christian leader, the leaders in the NT were apostles, pastors, and the like, and if one is a “leader” in the church in some capacity, passages that describe their required character should be our guide for evaluating leaders today. Today’s post begins a topical walk through 1 Timothy 3:1–7, Titus 1:5–9, and 1 Peter 5:1–4. Other passages will be referenced in the future for good measure (e.g., 1 Tim 4:12; 2 Tim 2:22).

1 Timothy 3:1–7 yields a dozen and one-half or so requirements for the overseer, depending on how one breaks apart certain descriptions. Apart from character, as referenced above, one of these requirements involves the overseer’s call (desire; 1 Tim 3:1), two others involve his competency (teaching and oversight of his home and the church; 1 Tim 3:2, 4–5), and two more involve his circumstances (not a new believer and well thought of by outsiders; 1 Tim 3:6–7). The majority of the remaining descriptions involve his character, most of which are found in 1 Tim 3:2–3.

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TGC: 9 Things You Should Know About Atheism

The number of people who identify themselves as atheists in the United States has been steadily rising in recent years. According to the Pew Research Center, when asked about their religious identity, 2.4 percent of Americans say they are atheists, up from 1.6 percent in 2007.

Here are nine things you should know about atheism:

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Dare one call it treason? – Family Security Matters

by LAWRENCE SELLIN, PHD

Many Americans believe that the US Government, the Democrat and Republican Parties and the media are deliberately misleading the American people, hiding the most heinous fraud and Constitutional crisis in the history of the United States.

Individuals at the highest levels of the federal government may have aided and abetted a deception, which included willful ignorance, misinformation, false interpretations of the Constitution, outright lies and the creation of fraudulent documents and computer records to protect an ineligible, ill-prepared and unworthy candidate for the office of President of the United States.

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Faith and Mental Illness

According to a 2013 survey by LifeWay Research, one-third of Americans agree that “prayer and Bible study alone can overcome serious mental illness.” Nearly half (48 percent) of evangelicals agree. (1)

“On one hand, a naturalistic perspective reduces human beings to a mass of physicochemical accidents. On the other hand, a hyper-supernaturalistic reaction is to treat physicochemical problems simply as spiritual maladies. Good theology is not enough, but bad theology kills—literally, physically and spiritually.”

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Albert Mohler Blog: “The Hobby Lobby Decision: A Big Win for Religious Liberty — and a Very Revealing Divide on the Court”

In his recent Blog Essay, “The Hobby Lobby Decision: A Big Win for Religious Liberty — and a Very Revealing Divide on the Court,” Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. responds to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on Hobby Lobby and religious liberty. Mohler writes,

“Today’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case represents a huge win for religious liberty in America, and the 5-4 decision will now stand as a landmark case that will reshape the religious liberty debate for generations to come. At the same time, the deeply divided court also revealed in startling clarity its own internal debates over religious liberty — and that division of understanding at the nation’s highest court is very disturbing indeed.”

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SRN June 2014 Update and Newsletter – Chris Lawson

With the growing trend of many Christians, professing Christians, and even non-Christians involving themselves in Christianized New Age literature (God Calling, Jesus Calling, Have Heart, The Jesus Letters, etc.) and mystical occult-oriented practices (centering prayer, breath prayers, Christian mantras, Christian yoga, Christian séances, passive listening prayer-journaling, etc.) I thought it might be helpful to write more on how these types of things can be an open Gateway to Ghosts, Hauntings and Apparitions. It is not just undiscerning adults that are engaging in such things, undiscerning youth are too. Effectively targeted by Emerging Church and New Spirituality leaders, many people are falling prey to such things.

My June 2014 SRN Newsletter (PDF) is now online and an HTML page will be available soon, on my new SRN website.
Gateway to Ghosts, Hauntings and Apparitions (Part 2): Resistance Phenomenon and God’s Condemnation of Occultism – By Chris Lawson
Spiritualism: Satan’s Tool – By Ben Alexander

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I do recommend reading PART 1 (April 2014 SRN Newsletter) of this series first, to gain a clear understanding of God’s loving care toward us, and the serious consequences of involving oneself and one’s family in occult practices, even when they are made to look “Christian.”
Gateway to Ghosts, Hauntings and Apparitions (Part 1): Occultism and the Paranormal – By Chris Lawson
One of Satan’s Final Masquerades – By Sandy Simpson
Mantra Meditation: A Warning! – By Chris Lawson
Mantra Meditation – By Ray Yungen

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Lastly, I am happy to say that we have rounded the corner after six long months of behind the scenes footwork. A small note about this is available on page 2 of the June newsletter.

Proclaiming the Gospel and Encouraging Biblical Discernment!
Chris Lawson
Philippians 1:8-11

Biblical Theology and the Sexuality Crisis –

By R. Albert Mohler

Western society is currently experiencing what can only be described as a moral revolution. Our society’s moral code and collective ethical evaluation on a particular issue has undergone not small adjustments but a complete reversal. That which was once condemned is now celebrated, and the refusal to celebrate is now condemned.

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