Ethics: Part 2

Greetings all. It’s been a long time, but for this morning at least, I’m back. It’s been so long since I’ve posted on here that perhaps you thought I was Taylor. Zing.

Continuing my series on Christian ethics, there are practical questions and categories of questions that should be addressed. This post will be a bit lengthy, so I hope you’re comfortable. If you haven’t read part one of this series, you may want to review it before reading this post.

Question 1: If you are a server or hotel clerk and you are serving a couple whom you know to be a husband and his mistress, should you cooperate with their illicit affair by serving them lunch or renting them a room?

The short answer to this question should be obvious: it depends. If one is a server, working in a restaurant, one has two obligations, the first to his employer, and the second to the customer. If a server’s first obligation is to his employer, then it would seem that he should give his employer an honest day’s work (Col. 3:23-24, 1 Cor. 10:31), even if that means that he may serve a man and his mistress. There may be any number of ethical considerations that a server has to consider on a daily basis; perhaps the same situation presents itself, but rather than the man being married, the customer is single, and a known fornicator. Perhaps the restaurant has a bar, and there is potential to serve too much alcohol to patrons. While the server may well know that the man he is serving is an adulterer, or a drunkard, it is not necessarily true that by giving that man quality service (as Christians are biblically required to provide in all professional endeavors), the server is supporting the man’s sinful activity. It is important for the Christian person to give an honest day of work to his employer, for the agreed upon wage. Providing service to those involved in egregious sin may well be an unappreciated part of the job, but it is one that all men have to expect when working in a fallen world, filled with sinners apart from the work of Christ. If the server has a tortured conscience over this issue, it may be appropriate for him to have another server take this table to put his conscience at ease. Suffice to say that while it is not necessarily sinful for a server to serve adulterers, it may also be a good option to have another do it for him. As an employee, the one thing a server does not have the right to do, apart from the instruction of the owner of the restaurant, is refuse service.

The same thing could be said for a hotel employee when a married man and his mistress want a room for the night. However, the possible difference would be a hotel owner in the same situation. If a Christian man owns a hotel he may do his best to forbid adulterers and fornicators from renting a room, even though he takes pride in the service he offers, and considers his hotel to be the best in town. While giving good service to the adulterer as an employee is probably the best option for a server, a Christian hotel owner is well within his right to refuse service to the same man. In this way, a man may make known that he does not condone the adultery, and in fact would rather lose money, than allow such sin to take place under the roof of a business that he owns. In this case, the Christian hotel owner has a right that the restaurant employee does not, as he prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he does not give approval to the actions of the adulterer (Rom. 1:32).

Question 2: Should Christians invest (as in the stock market or donation) in companies whose products, services, or practices violate any of God’s commandments?

Again, it depends. There is a hierarchy of commands in Scripture and while it may be acceptable to invest in a company that breaks some of the commandments, others are not acceptable. For instance, if a Christian man thinks that investing in Dick’s Sporting Goods would be a wise investment, he would have to come to a conclusion as to whether or not the fact that Dick’s is open on the Lord’s day is reason enough not to invest. In such a situation, assuming a man believes in the integrity of the sporting goods store; that is, that the products are well made, and sold at a fair price, then it seems reasonable to invest, even though the Christian man believes that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath, and that such stores should be closed. One way that such a man may try to promote his views of the Sabbath would be to promote a closing of the store on Sundays to other stockholders where appropriate.

However, a Christian man may not invest in companies that actively promote anti-Christian values, and sinful lifestyles; companies involved in obvious immoral activities are off-limits. For instance, a Christian may not invest in businesses that promote, or take part in abortion, pornography, or homosexual activism, as these industries not only break the commandments, but actively do so at all points, and base their entire business model off of openly breaking God’s law (Rom. 1:32). Actively murdering unborn children is something that it totally unacceptable. There is a difference between investing in a gun manufacturer, as guns are not intended or necessarily used for evil all of the time, and investing in Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood (Hereafter PP), though offering some medical treatment for women, is universally known for abortion and abortion promotion, especially in the African-American community. While there may be some good things that could happen inside of a PP, one can be sure that any support of or investment in such a company will inevitably result in the murder of more children. On the other hand while guns are often used in criminal activity, and are certainly used to murder people across the world, the investor may indeed come to the conclusion that guns are either generally intended for sport, hunting, or self-defense, and therefore investing in a gun company may indeed be ethical. No gun manufacturer makes guns so that more people will be murdered, but every abortion clinic operates to ensure that more abortions take place. (Note: this bearded Presbyterian prefers the superior quality and perfection of the Glock pistol)

Question 3: If you’re a shopper and you know a company has moved operations to a Third World country where there are appalling and unhealthy working conditions, should you buy their products?

This depends on the company itself. Just because they have moved operations to a country where the work conditions are bad, doesn’t mean that the company is treating its employees poorly. Some homework should be done before making a commitment to either continuing to buy, or ceasing to buy from this company.

First of all, the laborer deserves to be paid his wages (Luke 10:7), so there has to be an evaluation of whether or not those working in Third World countries are being fairly compensated. When looking at the master/slave relationship in Scripture, we can observe much about employer/employee relationships, even though it is not exactly analogous. While the slaves are told to obey their masters (Col. 3:22, 1 Peter 2:18, Eph. 6:5), masters are also told to treat slave with respect because God declares it, and because God is the master of both the slave and the free, and he favors neither (Eph. 6:9).

With this in mind, a Christian should examine how the company operates in the third world country. It is possible that the company pays better wages, and takes better care of their Third World employees than other companies that outsource their work to the country. It is possible that the employee will have a far better life working for this company than they ever would have otherwise. This is not to say that the reason the company moved to said country was out of love for the citizens of the country, indeed they have likely outsourced because it will save them money. However, it is entirely possible for a company to spend half the cost in a foreign country that they would domestically, and still provide good pay and benefits in the Third World. If this is the case, a Christian is not bound by Scripture to stop buying products from the company.

If it is found that company is indeed using essentially slave labor in the Third World, there is a moral concern. Assuming the company at hand is a big box store, where prices are low, it is certainly desirable to manage one’s money well, and honor God with finances. However, if a Christian has the financial ability to pay for fair trade products at a higher price, that’s what he should do. But if a Christian is struggling to get by, living paycheck to paycheck, it is more important for him to take care of his family as economically as possible, even if that means buy from the big box store that uses unethical practices in the Third World. His first obligation is to his own family, then to injustices around the world.

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Ethics: Part 1

The spring semester is over at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. It ended last week, and I’m posting for the first time since March. This past semester I took a two credit Ethics course with Dr. Nelson Kloosterman, and it was outstanding. I have to say that it was the best and most enjoyable class I’ve ever taken, despite it being offered in a four hour block on Mondays throughout the semester. That being said, I’m going to do a series on Christian ethics here on the blog.

Raised in evangelicalism, ethics was a troubling subject. I have vivid memories of youth group discussions where we were told it would be a sin to lie if we were in World War II Germany trying to hide Jews from Nazis. This boggled my mind at the time, and the explanations given were weak at best. In this hypothetical situation, we were told that had we been hiding Jews in the house and the SS showed up and asked us point blank if we knew where any Jews were hiding, the best answer would be to say, “I don’t see any Jews.” This of course would be trying to lie… badly. The intent was to mislead the authorities, but without actually telling a lie.

These kinds of situations were always creeping around the corner, and they brought about a lot of stress to a young person, trying to understand what his moral, and ethical obligations were in the modern world. Looking back, I can see that my answers to such problems were usually correct, and I would say that they were based on common sense; but my common sense was lacking a solid starting point in the discussion. Christian ethics starts and ends in Scripture, specifically the Decalogue. But how does this help us with regard to creation, and our relation to it?

A robust doctrine of creation is important and relevant to the discussion of Christian ethics because human beings are created in the image of God, by God, and for God. Christian ethics deal with the intra- and inter-human relationships. As this is the case, creation is an important place to start when dealing with the subject. For starters, when speaking of creation, we do not limit the word to only human beings, but to animals and to the environment. Surely we differentiate between these categories, but they must all be included. Though there is a qualitative difference between man and animal, we must remember that we are to be stewards of creation, and thus while the animal is not our neighbor, it is still important to protect our animals, and make sure they are taken care of. The same can be said for the environment. While we certainly do not make the mistake that some new-age cultists do, by worshiping the created order, we have to take responsibility for taking care of it. It is the obligation of the Christian ethicist to not only take account of his actions in relation to other human beings, but also to the rest of creation. While many animals are raised merely to be slaughtered, it is important that we treat them with respect because God told us to do so. Proverbs 12:10 tells us, “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.” And Matthew 10:29 says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” Not only has God told us to take care of our animals, but he himself also takes an interest in them, and cares for them. If they are important to him, surely they should also be important to us.

When looking at the relationship of creation and culture (in relation to Christian ethics), one can clearly see that culture will be benefited by a Christian ethic. When men understand their identity as a creation of God, it will impact how they treat their fellow men. As noted, this will also influence how he will treat animals and his environment. Living according to the golden rule, that is, doing unto others what you wish they would do unto you, sounds great, but even that must be bound by what Scripture says (Matthew 7:12). While other cultures and religions have the general golden rule teaching, they do not have Scripture, and so their version of the rule can be, and often is self-serving and wicked because it has no Scriptural foundation. Only through Scripture can one understand his proper place in the universe, as well as his relationship to the rest of creation. When men understand this their culture blossoms, where they do not, their culture withers and dies. Of significance for the Christian and his culture is the civil magistrate. The Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 23, tells us that God has established the magistrate for the good of the public (WCF 1.1). It goes on to explain that the magistrate is to be obeyed regardless of his religion, so long as his commands are lawful (WCF 1.4).

The Christian doctrine of the Imago Dei, or image of God is extremely important for Christian ethics. Scripture tells us that we were created in the image of God. While some of what the Imago Dei entails may have been lost at the fall, it remains in some form or other on the human race. This can be seen where capitol punishment is commanded for murder (Gen. 9:6), and where we curse at other men, who are also made in God’s image (James 3:9). Again, if we understand other human beings as created in the image of God we will treat them with more respect because of what it means to be human in light of creation.

All of creation is headed toward the consummation; this is the key to eschatology, and all of Christian theology. While Scripture tells us that we are living in the present, with all of its ethical implications, it tells us that we must persevere to enter the new heavens and new earth. All of the Christian life points to the future fulfillment. As already established, the golden rule doesn’t function without the rest of Scripture to inform us how to live. Thus, it is extremely important to realize that if one is to be truly ethical, certainly biblically ethical, he has to tie his ethics to Scripture. Matthew 5:18 says, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Therefore, the law abides with us until the end of the age. In the new heavens and new earth the law will still exist, but no one will break it. All men will honor God and their neighbors perfectly, and all men will finally practice the Christian ethic with consistency.

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Walking On A Wire…

Hola readers! This is my first post in a while, so I will start by saying this:

It’s been a long while since I’ve posted, or dealt with TBP at all for that matter. In this, I humbly ask your forgiveness. I have gone through a lot of tough decisions recently, and have changed career paths back to law enforcement from full time pastoral ministry. That said, I do not wish to abandon this project I started with Michael, and will be back to posting as regularly as he does (as time allows while I head into Police Academy). And now, my theological ravings will be tainted with law enforcement jargon, innuendos and funny stories. Everybody wins, right?

 OK. Here we go.

 A child was riding his bike through a dry and barren land, desperately looking for water. He’d been searching for longer than he could remember and had found nothing. Anything resembling refreshment turned out to be a mirage, and illusion driven by severe thirst and dehydration. That’s why he doubted himself as he drew closer to what seemed like the edge of a cliff in this dry desert. From a distance it looked as if there were two types of people coming and going: older men and women dressed in suits and fine clothing, and others children like himself. 

But where from, and where to? 

As he pulled to a stop he saw a long rope bridge, spanning a large gulf between the dryness where he stood, and a lush paradise across the way. There was no illusion here, this was real. He could vaguely see the outlines of others who’d made it across, splashing in a clear stream, playing and jumping, with trees of shade and refreshment a plenty all around them. It seemed all one had to do was cross the bridge. He decided to approach the entrance of the rather narrow bridge, and saw a sign that read:

 “Life lay beyond this bridge: do not tarry, do no stray, yet do not fear; 

Though narrow is the way, there is strength in the journey.”

He could do this. He could make it across! After all, the bridge was narrow, but it was crossable. He left his bike and began to walk. His thirst all but drove him to jog along the bridge. His journey began well, and he could see his paradise nearing with every step; but a strange thing began to happen along the way. He started to see the adults, dressed in fine and fancy clothes, balancing on the ropes which supported the bridge, towering over either side of him! The ropes were so much thinner than the bridge itself, so much narrower than the planks which he walked. He wondered to himself why they thought it necessary to balance the ropes rather than walk the bridge. He also noticed that the further he went, the adults who’d thus far been silent on his journey, began to warn him that his steps were too broad. Even on this already narrow bridge, apparently he was not supposed to strut a wide gate. So, he heeded the warnings of these seemingly wise suit-wearers. He brought his feet closer together and kept moving.

“Closer!” Someone shouted. “You are in danger of falling!”

This confused him because he seemed well within the narrow bounds of the bridge, but their urgency created fear in him; a fear of tumbling over the edge into the bottomless abyss below. So with each shout of warning, with each call of judgment, his steps became closer and closer, until someone yelled,

“You can walk better up here!”

And so, he did just that. He hopped up to the rope where the others stood. As he did so, he realized that he was no longer a boy. He had become a man, instantaneously, and he was dressed in as fine a suit as he’d ever seen. As he inched along, his steps much smaller and much more careful than the days he jogged freely down the narrow bridge, he began to notice that he had to push past the other suits…because they had all but stopped moving. And as his movements required more and more effort, pushing and pulling, balancing and skirting around others, he began to lose his will to make it to the refreshing paradise on the other side. Sure, he was thirsty, but he had yet to topple over the edge of the bridge, and that was of the utmost importance. It took all his effort just to balance, there was no use in moving closer and wasting his energy on forward motion. He knew paradise was there, and he’d make it….eventually. But he had to keep his balance…this was the priority. He had to warn others to keep theirs, too, for he’d hate to see them fall into the abyss. It was the loving thing to do….

In the book of Mark we get to see a candid reveal of Jesus’ ministry. It is a book driven by the Greek word ‘euthus’, or ‘immediately’, thus making itself an action book. And in the first three chapters, we get a disturbing look at the stark pharisaical nature of the human heart. We hiss an boo at the pharisees who decide that law is more important than grace; that a man with a withered hand shouldn’t be healed on the sabbath. We scowl at those who tried to hang the very son of God with the law which he had ultimately written before they’d even snubbed their first widow, and yet all we see as we look at the accusing nature of the pharisees, if we are honest with ourselves, is the state of our own hearts. Scripture says that Jesus was grieved at the hardness of the hearts of the pharisees, and rightly so. It grieves us to a certain degree just to read the story. 

Obviously, we see this and think ‘I’d better guard my heart against this attitude’. And how exactly do we do this? Yes, we can treat others with grace, realizing that we have been shown grace ourselves, a grace that trumps the laws condemnation. We can remember that we are saved by grace, not the law, and no matter how ‘learned’ we get of the law and how skilled we think we are at mastering its ways, the best of us are still broken, wretched sinners with hearts prone to depravity. But I would submit that the greatest way to head off this attitude of the heart is to examine closely how we, especially those who teach others, view the law itself.

We pride ourselves as Presbyterians on the three uses of the law, rather than the Lutheran emphasis of two. For those unfamiliar with this, an overly simplistic explanation of the law’s usage is as follows: For Lutherans, there is a prevalent belief in the law as used for convicting one of sin, and pointing him to Christ; while Presbyterians believe in a third use: the law as a guideline for Christian living. And that third use, the ‘guideline for Christian living’, is an important one. But as much as we rag our Lutheran brethren for their underuse of the law, we can easily tread into the territory of an overuse of the law, by slapping others in the face with this use rather than gently encouraging each other to follow Christ’s example; not out of a fearful obligation, but out of love. Fearful obligation, when faced with inevitable human failure, turns into frustrating hopelessness: one that says ‘ill never achieve his standard, and this lessens his love for me’. Obedience from a grateful heart results in a confidence that comes from knowing that inspire of inevitable failure, Christ’s blood has secured us, wedding us eternally to himself. 

(Hint: I’d rather live in the last one, myself.)

Too often that misguided focus of ‘third use striving’ begins to stink of self-righteousness and false senses of security. This affects how we minister to others (a complete severance from anything resembling the secular) and how we worship (a sense of entitlement from the sacred), and separates our theology from our practice. 

What say you about these things? Sound off below.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Taylor

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To Drink, or not to Drink?

UPDATE: I’ve decided to preface this blog entry with the fact that I am NOT making a counter argument that Christians should drink. I am actually evaluating Mrs. Sanders argumentation. I stated this below, but as I have seen the feedback from this post, I thought I’d go ahead and post it at the top, so that any future readers will realize that this is the case.

I’ve been thinking about this post for a long time. This is a response to an article called, Why I don’t Drink, that was written by Angela Sanders over at the Word Slingers blog in July of last year. I saw the article almost immediately, as many of my facebook friends thought that she was spot on in her analysis of alcohol in the Christian life. I do not know Mrs. Sanders, but I am sure she is a wonderful Christian woman, and in no way do I wish to impugn her character. I do, however, want to respond to what she says concerning Christian consumption of alcohol, and for posterity’s sake, I’ll mention that you can find the article in question right here: http://www.wordslingersok.com/2013/07/why-i-dont-drink/

As noted, I first saw this article a day or two after it was written. I had planned to write a response the last week of July, but when I actually sat down to do so, the link had mysteriously quit working. I tried again the next day, but again, the link was still down. So, it got put on the back shelf until today.

For the record, I was raised in an evangelical, Southern Baptist environment, where drinking was at least taboo. My parents drank very rarely, and were somewhat secretive when they did. This only pushed me further toward an ideal of total abstinence from alcohol in my high school days. I reasoned that my parents occasional drinking was proof that they were at least poor baptists, if not poor Christians.

My first two years of college I went to a very fundamentalist Bible institute, which demanded all student abstain from alcohol, and taught that whenever wine is mentioned is Scripture it is referring to water that has been purified with a little bit of alcohol; not enough to get anyone drunk. I immediately bought into this, as it proved my bias. However, it was Scripture itself that eventually proved to me that alcohol was actually alcohol. Scripture is replete with warnings against drunkenness, and if one is going to be honest, he must come to the conclusion that if there are numerous warnings against drunkenness, then drunkenness must have been a legitimate possibility when drinking said beverages. This means that “wine” and “strong drink” in Scripture, must at least sometimes actually mean “wine” and “strong drink”.

In an attempt at full disclosure, I will admit that I’m a beer drinker, and that makes living in Grand Rapids a great thing. I also home brew as much as time allows. But enough about me, let’s review the article. This is not an argument for drinking, but a response to her argumentation. I will not be critiquing every point, but I will hit the highlights (and lowlights) of her argumentation.

Mrs. Sanders initially said: “To my brothers and sisters who do drink, please do not take offense.  I’m sure that you have weighed and prayed about your decision as well.  I do not think less of you for the decision you’ve made…”

While this sounds encouraging, she does exactly what she says she’s not going to do. This will be seen in more detail as this critique continues. My interaction may seem somewhat pithy, but it’s not intended to be so.

Below I will post her arguments with my thoughts about them in parenthesis.

Mrs. Sanders notes:

*  The Bible says not to be drunk, and the line between having a drink and having too many drinks is just too fuzzy.  Drunkenness, or being controlled by alcohol (even for a short time), is something that Christ died to set us free from.  To me, drinking after He did that would be like being released from jail and choosing to frequent the jail parking lot.

(I agree with her point about drunkenness; who wouldn’t? However, as she continues, her argumentation gets worse. As a woman who is married with children, I am curious if she would argue that since sexual immorality is something that Christ died for, that sexual relations in marriage “would be like being released from jail and choosing to frequent the jail parking lot.” My guess is that she would not make the same statement about sex in marriage, and she shouldn’t. However, her argument falls flat because she fails to see that there is a right and wrong way to do most anything. Eating, drinking, and sex are all things that can give glory to God, or trample his grace, and the list could be much longer.)

*  I don’t want to contribute financially to an industry that capitalizes on the pain, neediness, and addiction of anyone.  I know too many people whose lives have either been ruined or forever altered by alcohol.  Though many people are able to drink without becoming addicted, I wonder how many people, without realizing it, have come to depend on alcohol as a social crutch, trading in Christ-centered or even people-centered relationships that might have been for ones that revolve around the consumption of a substance.

(Her argument seems to assume that “pain, neediness, and addiction” are the reasons that all breweries exist. It’s almost as if she thinks that all beer company executives are sitting in a dark room, waiting to hear the good news about alcohol dependency and drunk driving related deaths. I don’t know her, but I would be much more persuaded by this if she believes the same thing about fast food and all clothing made in sweat shops. Perhaps she does, but I haven’t seen it. If she’s not 100% organic and fair trade, then her argument is insincere.)

*  Alcohol dulls sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.  Alcohol creates spiritual static, making it hard for me to discern what God might be saying to me, and I never know what He’s going to say or when.  Missing a divine appointment because I chose to drink, for me, would be like letting someone drown because I’m busy watching TV.

(This is the argument that makes my blood boil. We (even she, as a Southern Baptist) are Sola Scriptura people. We get our information about God and his will from Scripture alone. This type of thinking is rampant in evangelicalism, everyone has their own personal Jesus sitting on their shoulder, giving them personal instructions. I’ve often heard people say that “God told me…” to do any number of things that violate Scripture. If Mrs. Sanders wants to hear God speak to her then she had better open her Bible, because that is the only way that God speaks to his people. Any belief that she will miss some secret message from Jesus because she had a drink is not only mystical nonsense, but breaking the second and third commandments.)

*  I don’t want to exclude anyone or hinder relationships. People who do drink often exclude those who don’t drink when they gather socially.  I like peanut butter, but I don’t let it keep me from spending time with friends who have peanut allergies.  I simply don’t eat peanut butter when I’m around them.  The effects of drinking often carry over into the next day, causing others to feel as if they are less important than the drinking experience to the one who chooses to drink.

(I’m curious about this one. I had friends who drank (and smoked reefer for that matter) in high school and college. Not a single time did they ever exclude me because I didn’t. More often than not, they told me that they really respected my decision to abstain. Perhaps the people Mrs. Sanders knows who do this are just crummy people. Everybody has different experiences, and if these are hers then I feel bad for her, but my experience is the opposite. On another note, one could make the exact same argument against vegetarians and vegans… but I’m curious if she would do so. As for her idea about “The effects of drinking often carry over into the next day…”, well, this can be said about any group of people who enjoy a specific hobby; football, baseball, soccer, bridge, scrapbooking, etc. So again, this isn’t a real complaint.)

*  I don’t want to point others, particularly my children, toward anything that could potentially become a problem for or hurt them.

(Well, fine. But I hope you include fast food (any food, really), all sugar, diet soda, all sports, driving…)

*  If I chose to drink, it would be for me, to fulfill my own desires and purposes, which is where every sin issue I’ve ever had has started.   I just don’t want to go there.

(Fair enough. If this is going to lead you to sin, then by all means abstain. I am a little curious if she considers all of her own desires sinful, or at least that they open her up to sin.)

* If I broke off a piece of the Loritab, Darvacet, Percacet, or Vicadin in my cabinet every time I felt the need to relax, people would say I had a problem.  I struggle to see how that is any different than pouring a glass of whatever when I feel the need to chill. 

(Here is a shot below the belt. She implies that everyone who drinks does so because they need help relaxing, and then she compares it to abusing prescription drugs. Remember when she said initially, “To my brothers and sisters who do drink, please do not take offense.  I’m sure that you have weighed and prayed about your decision as well.  I do not think less of you for the decision you’ve made…” well, turns out that wasn’t true.)

*  I just don’t need it.  As a Christian, every freedom is mine in Christ.  In fact, the spiritual yard that the Father has given me to play in is way too huge for me to worry about whether or not to set foot in the 10X10 plot of freedom that is social drinking.

(Fair enough.)

*  I want to be set apart.  The Bible doesn’t say that no one can ever drink, but God does tell several individuals whom He sets apart for higher tasks not to consume alcohol.  There has to be a reason for that.  On some level, He must value abstinence from alcohol, and, hey, if God is taking volunteers for higher tasks, sign me up!

(I get the feeling that this is a powerful argument in many evangelical circles. It was how many things were presented to us in youth group growing up, and at the time most of us thought it was cheesy. However, what she infers from Scripture is fairly silly. God indeed commanded some not to drink alcohol, those taking a Nazirite vow come to mind (of course, those who had taken a Nazirite vow were also prohibited from vinegar, grapes, raisins, and cutting the hair on their heads), but of all the people God DIDN’T forbid to drink, one important figure was Christ. Not only did Christ drink wine, but his first miracle was turning water into really great wine. I think that puts some of this into perspective.)

Thus concludes my critique of her article. As a conservative Presbyterian, I’m glad that this type of thinking is not prevalent in my circles.

Eat, drink, and do it all to the glory of God.

(All beer pictures taken from the first page of google images for “beer”)

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Seminary Graduate Hubris

I am still plodding on in seminary. Lord willing, I will graduate in December of this year. As I’ve worked full-time since my first semester of seminary, I’ve had to take it very slowly. I’ve changed schools and moved my family halfway across the country. In the process, I’ve taken a few semesters off as well. For more than two years I’ve been working very part-time in publishing, as well as my full-time job, and the whole husband/father thing. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is a beautiful feeling.

Thus far, I’ve learned much, and I hope that I will continue to learn. This brings me to the point of this post; many men I know who have gone through seminary believe they have nothing left to learn. This is quite troubling. This trait isn’t something that is relegated to reformed or average evangelical Christians, but in my experience is common among all strains of Christianity. I have seen it in graduates of my own school, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. I’ve also seen it rampant among those who have attended any of the SBC schools. I’ve seen it with DTS grads, and those who went to Liberty Seminary. It is an equal opportunity offender that knows no cultural or theological distinction; men graduate from seminary and for some reason believe that they now know everything that Scripture has to say extensively. They have “done their time” and now have no reason to reevaluate any position they have.

As one who was raised in the cesspool of average American evangelicalism, I can say that when a man actually decides to go to seminary I am greatly encouraged. In the circles I was raised in, seminary was really seen as something that was only done by those who were really dedicated… or those who wanted the approval of men. The most important thing was that a man felt “the call.” What exactly this “call” is, I’m not sure. I assume that when these types of folks speak of it, it’s in the same category as all of the other “movements of the Spirit” which they have felt… again, something I’ve never experienced (and truthfully, neither have they). I’ve actually heard people in this camp say that seminary is going against the will of God, because if one has been called to preach, he should be preaching, not going to school. Ugh…

So again, I’ve never felt the mystical evangelical liver shiver, and I respect any man who decides that he needs to go to seminary. However, when one goes to seminary and believes he has graduated knowing everything, he has missed the whole point of a seminary education. Seminary does give us much information, but it does not give us all information. Seminary equips us to study, it does not equip its graduates with all of the knowledge which has been revealed in Scripture.

I am very pro-seminary. I am pro-seminary to the point that if a man says he is called to ministry, but refuses to go to seminary, I have no reason to believe he has been called. However, seminary graduates need to beware of of theological arrogance. If you have graduated seminary, you have done a good thing, but you still have much to learn. If you graduate seminary and believe you have no room to grow in your understanding of the Triune God, and the revelation he has given us, you are supercilious, haughty, and pompous. A man who graduates seminary should be aware that he will continue to grow in his understanding of God and the Scriptures for the rest of his life and ministry.

We, seminary students and graduates (especially reformed and Presbyterian men), are truly blessed to have had the opportunity to study, and gain such a strong foundation. However, we must be cautious and not fall into the trap of theological hubris. We all have room to continue to grow, and Lord willing, we will all continue to do so.

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It’s Been a While…

So, toward the end of the summer I vaguely remember a blog entry where I mentioned that I was committed to posting once a week, and staying engaged on the interweb blogosphere. As of today’s date, it has now been over three months since my last entry, and that is excessively longer than one week. Turns out that working full-time, part-time, being a seminary student, and having a family all burgle my time. To the one or two of you who actually read this blog, I apologize.

I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with Taylor, other than some changes in his plan following graduation from seminary, but he hasn’t posted much here to begin with. I, however, will be posting on a more regular basis… at least until spring semester starts.

More to come in the near future.

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Jesus on Every Page

Title: Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament
Author: David Murray
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Year: 2013

http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Every-Page-Simple-Testament/dp/1400205344/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

I had the opportunity to review Dr. David Murray’s new book, “Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament”. Overall, I think it is a great book for helping the average Christian understand that Christ is the focal point of all of Scripture, not just the New Testament. This is a problem that plagues much of evangelicalism, and even some in reformed circles; however, Dr. Murray helps us to understand the importance and necessity of finding Christ, even in obscure Old Testament texts.

This established, I found it strange that he took so much time “refuting” the idea of republication in the Mosaic covenant. As an open-minded republicationist, my main problem with his approach is that he didn’t make any substantial exegetical argument to prove the lack of the republication of the covenant of works in the Mosaic covenant. My only other complaints are editorial, or on the publication end of things. First, the endnotes should have been footnotes, it would have been much easier to reference them. Secondly, there were far too many subheadings throughout the chapters for my liking, and at times there was only a single sentence or paragraph between them. Lastly, I’ve still yet to receive my physical copy of the book; were it not for the PDF that Dr. Murray sent me, I wouldn’t be writing this review.

All that aside, I think the best parts of the book were when Dr. Murray went through the various OT genres (history, covenants, law, prophecy, poetry, etc.) to explain how to look for and where to find Christ. Further, the book is very readable, even sharing Dr. Murray’s own personal struggles in this area over the years; such honesty is encouraging for those of us who struggle with these issues in our own lives.

Overall, this book is a wonderful tool for guiding the reader to find Christ throughout Scripture. It could be a great resource for small groups, and Bible studies. I would highly recommend it.

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