Category Archives: Commentary

Bible study: what does the Christian concept of “grace” mean?

A good shepherd rescuing a lost sheep who had no hope
A good shepherd rescuing a lost sheep, who had no hope

My friend Wessel sent me this sermon a few days ago because I was looking for a good sermon on grace. Some of my friends pitched in with sermons, but this one from a South African church was BY FAR the best. I’ve listened to it 3 times already. The speaker sounds exactly like one of best friends from university, Andrew, who is from South Africa.

I’m testing out a new file download service, so I hope this works… here is the MP3 file. (7 megabytes, 30 minutes) [FIXED!]

Let me know if you can’t download that.

The text of the sermon is Genesis 48:1-20:

1 Some time later Joseph was told, “Your father is ill.” So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him.

When Jacob was told, “Your son Joseph has come to you,” Israel rallied his strength and sat up on the bed.

Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me

and said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful and increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.’

“Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine.

Any children born to you after them will be yours; in the territory they inherit they will be reckoned under the names of their brothers.

As I was returning from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan while we were still on the way, a little distance from Ephrath. So I buried her there beside the road to Ephrath” (that is, Bethlehem).

When Israel saw the sons of Joseph, he asked, “Who are these?”

“They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father.

Then Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.”

10 Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them.

11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.”

12 Then Joseph removed them from Israel’s knees and bowed down with his face to the ground.

13 And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel’s left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them close to him.

14 But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger,and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn.

15 Then he blessed Joseph and said,

“May the God before whom my fathers
    Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully,
the God who has been my shepherd
    all my life to this day,

16 the Angel who has delivered me from all harm
    —may he bless these boys.
May they be called by my name
    and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
and may they increase greatly
    on the earth.”

17 When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head.

18 Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”

19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.”

20 He blessed them that day and said,

“In your[c] name will Israel pronounce this blessing:
    ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’”

So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.

So, in this story, God continues his tradition of choosing the lowly people in the world instead of the people who are seen as “better”. God does this in many cases, because he has a big heart for people who are born in a bad position. Normally in the world, people always choose what they think is best for them. They choose the prettiest girl. They choose the most tallest man. Those who need a little extra help or care are passed over. God sometimes does the complete opposite of this. Instead of choosing the obvious “best person”, he chooses a much lower person, and he lifts them up to do great things.

Consider 1 Corinthians 1:26-31:

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called.Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.

27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are,

29 so that no one may boast before him.

30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

The speaker in the sermon explains the idea of grace by talking about sheep and shepherds. He explains that unlike clever homing pigeons, sheep are prone to wandering off and they aren’t able to find their way home. Sometimes, they get lost, and sometimes they even wander into danger. A bad shepherd would just say that he only wanted to have the best sheep – the smartest ones or the richest ones or the best looking ones or the most popular ones. But a good shepherd is sorry for the sheep that needs the most help, and is the most lost, and in the most danger. God is like a good shepherd. God sends his Son to die to atone for the sins of the bad sheep in this world, even when they didn’t deserve it. (John 3:16-17) That’s grace. But he also arranges the world in a way that bad sheep have an opportunity to reach out and find him. (Acts 17:24-27) That’s grace, too.

In my own life, I have often found myself being excluded or discounted by people, usually because of my skin color or because of my early childhood poverty or because I just struggle to understand what I’m expected to say and to do. But a funny thing often happens. Right when I am feeling the worst about being excluded, God comes along and gives me something special to do, that makes me forget about being excluded. And that’s been my experience of grace, ever since I was little and even to this day. The honor of being allowed to participate in God’s plan makes me forget what it feels like to be excluded. The very best things I’ve achieved in my life are the times where God showed me someone who started out life in a terrible situation (usually because of the selfish decisions of their irresponsible parents) and then I participated in God’s plan to lead them out of the mess they started out from.

I think one of the biggest reasons why some Christians stick with Christianity through thick and thin is that they have this experience of grace. This experience of grace means that no matter what, that sheep is going to loyal to that shepherd who chose him when he was at his lowest and most vulnerable. The first part of the choosing is obviously Jesus dying on the cross to atone for your rebellion. But after that, God carefully reveals himself to the sheep. And then there is the guidance that helps the sheep to avoid destroying himself with sin. If the sheep makes mistakes, the good shepherd has already laid down his life to pay for them. This is a lot of effort being put into this rescue operation. It’s difficult for people who have never experienced grace to realize how real and life-transforming it is. For those who have not experienced it, I really recommend that you pray to God, in the name of Jesus, and ask him to give you grace.

There are still things in my life where God has decided that he is not going to fix it. And, strangely enough, that doesn’t make me disloyal to him at all. Why not? Well, you have to read the Bible and understand that Jesus was not spared from suffering or death in his loyal obedience to God. He wasn’t given everything he wanted to feel happy all the time. When you understand that this is the character of your shepherd, then it’s much easier for you to put up with the things you lack, too.

I had no idea that there were so many people making decisions based on feelings

Brett Kavanaugh, his wife, and his two daughters
Brett Kavanaugh, his wife, and his two daughters

I’ve been reading about Christine Ford’s accusation against Brett Kavanaugh a lot. Ford hasn’t been able to provide any specific details about when and where this assault happened, or who was present, or how she got to and from the place where it happened.  I listened to a few debates on the facts of the case, and no one on Ford’s side could produce any evidence to back up her story.

Rob Tracinski posted an interesting article at The Federalist. He had been engaging with many people who “believed” in Ford’s story on Twitter.

He writes:

There is only one fundamental dividing line in the reaction to the televised hearings about accusations against Brett Kavanaugh, and it’s not solely a partisan one. It’s the line between those who judged the hearing based on emotions and those who judged it based on reason.

The testimony of Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, added nothing of substance to the claims already reported. She was still unable to place her accusation at a specific time and place, to fill in many of the gaps in her recollections, or to find a single other person supposedly present who could confirm any aspect of her story. It remains a vague claim with no corroborating evidence.

Based on reason and evidence alone, you would have to conclude that we have gotten no farther in the case and are not likely to get any farther.

[…]But evidence and logic are not what we heard about in most of the reactions to the hearings. What we heard about is how the testimony made people feel.

The attack on logic began before the hearings, with commenters pointing to quotes saying the case against Kavanaugh is “plausible” and “believable”—but providing no actual evidence that it actually did happen—then describing this as “compelling.” But “plausible” is the opposite of compelling. Direct evidence compels belief, logically speaking. Someone’s speculations about what might have happened have no logical standing and compel nothing.

Or consider the phrase you probably heard a thousand times today: that Kavanaugh should not be confirmed because he is “credibly accused.” What does that mean? What makes the accusation “credible,” and what evidentiary status does that give it? A vague accusation with no independent corroboration from the very people the accuser herself described as witnesses doesn’t sound all that credible to me.

But you will look in vain for any clear standard of what is “credible.” It is not an evidentiary term but an emotional one. All it means is “this is something I feel like believing.”

People are not judging credibility based on evidence. They are judging based on how the two witnesses made them feel, which is to say that they base it on a purely emotional reaction—a reaction heavily influenced by partisan loyalties that prejudice you for or against the two witnesses.

So we get pure appeals to emotion like this one: “I can’t imagine how many thousands of women, around the world, are in tears as they listen to Christine Blasey Ford’s voice cracking.” Kavanaugh’s voice cracked, too. Does that mean we should also embrace his side of the story?

The ability to jerk tears in the audience does not constitute evidence, and if all important issues are to be resolved by the test of who is a more charismatic speaker, then impartial justice becomes impossible. On this issue, Conor Friedersdorf makes a highly relevant point: “I’ve studied too many criminal trials that sent innocents to jail or that acquitted the guilty to trust that a mass audience can distill whether anyone is telling the truth or not by consulting their gut while watching testimony.”

This was the problem from the very beginning. Everyone was talking about how each of the witnesses “looks” and about what’s “sympathetic”—as if it’s all about the feels, rather than evidence or logic.

One far-left feminist named Ana Marie Cox tweeted that she didn’t believe Kavanaugh’s tears because “the boyfriend that abused me cried a lot”:

When it’s all about feelings, the logic must be bent and twisted to fit. So when Kavanaugh became emotional while describing his young daughter’s reaction to this case, it wasn’t proof of a man who loves his daughter. No, it was proof that he was abuser. Why? Because “The boyfriend that abused me cried a lot.” Get the logic here? Because one man was abusive and cried in an attempt to get sympathy from his victim, then any man who cries is therefore an abuser. This line was repeated a lot, mostly by women citing an abusive man in their own lives, sometimes a father but usually an ex-boyfriend or ex-husband.

Note that whenever a woman has a defective father, that man was chosen by her mother. Her mother is responsible for the choice of this man and the choice to make babies with this man. Similarly, a woman who has a defective ex-boyfriend or ex-husband is responsible for her choice of this boyfriend or this husband. Although women often blame men for treating them badly, in almost every case, the harm results from a woman’s own choices. The choice to drink too much, the choice to go to parties, the choice to pursue an attractive irresponsible bad boy, etc.

NPR posted a poll on the trial, and the poll found that:

  • 32% of men believe Kavanaugh’s account, 28% believe Ford.
  • 35% of women believe Ford’s account, 20% believe Kavanaugh.

Why are so many women opposed to Kavanaugh?

Well, thanks to feminism, many women find it very hard to choose men who are good at commitment, self-sacrifice and marriage roles. Feminists consider the traditional male roles to be “sexist”, so they don’t choose men who can perform the traditional male roles. In pre-feminist times, women looked for men who were chaste, sober, good providers, good with children (e.g. pro-life), serious about religion, serious about moral character, and who put the needs of others first. They chose men who would be good at marriage. But because of feminism, choosing men based on “rigid gender identities” for a “sexist” institution like marriage is simply not done. Men who are good at marriage are “boring”, and the best men are the men who let women be as selfiish as they want to be. So, feminists marry men like Ted Kennedy, Anthony Weiner and Bill Clinton because those men are “feminists” who believe that recreational sex, abortion and no-fault divorce are good things.

I had a female friend who I used to work with in my last job who once showed me a web site filled with pictures of men’s faces. Some of them were normal people, and some of them were crazy. And she proudly told me that she was able to pick which ones were crazy with 100% accuracy. She was so proud of her ability to judge men based on appearances. She had complete confidence in her feelings and intuitions.  In fact, she got some kind of crazy thrill out of making decisions based on her feelings. The freedom to choose without having any evidence was intoxicating to her. Logic? Evidence? Those things were restrictive and would take away her freedom to make herself happy. She married an atheist devotee of Ayn Rand, despite being Catholic herself. And naturally, they divorced. Trying to think through whether a person who extols the virtue of selfishness can enter an institution like marriage is hard work. She decided to just make the decision based on appearances, feelings and intuitions. I’m sure that today she would tell me how untrustworthy, scary and evil all men are, too.

Feminists want to choose men based on how the man makes them feel, rather than by evaluating his suitability for commitment. This plan never works, and it makes these women very, very bitter. In fact, the same women who are believing Ford based on their feelings, without any evidence, are the ones choosing bad men based on their feelings, without any evidence that he is able to do the job of a husband and father. The problem is the same – making decisions with feelings instead of being bound by the evidence.

Frequent denial of sex breaks the marriage covenant as much as adultery

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

Let’s start this post by quoting a passage from the Bible.

1 Corinthians 7:1-5:

Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.

But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.

The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.

The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

So with that in mind, I want to turn to a well-known Jewish talk show host named Dennis Prager, who is much loved and listened to by Christians. Dennis Prager features a lot of discussions about male-female relationships on his show, particularly during the male-female hour. In this two part series on male sexuality, he explains why women should not deprive their husbands of sex without a good reason.

Part 1 is here.

Excerpt:

It is an axiom of contemporary marital life that if a wife is not in the mood, she need not have sex with her husband. Here are some arguments why a woman who loves her husband might want to rethink this axiom.

First, women need to recognize how a man understands a wife’s refusal to have sex with him: A husband knows that his wife loves him first and foremost by her willingness to give her body to him. This is rarely the case for women. Few women know their husband loves them because he gives her his body (the idea sounds almost funny). This is, therefore, usually a revelation to a woman. Many women think men’s natures are similar to theirs, and this is so different from a woman’s nature, that few women know this about men unless told about it.

This is a major reason many husbands clam up. A man whose wife frequently denies him sex will first be hurt, then sad, then angry, then quiet. And most men will never tell their wives why they have become quiet and distant. They are afraid to tell their wives. They are often made to feel ashamed of their male sexual nature, and they are humiliated (indeed emasculated) by feeling that they are reduced to having to beg for sex.

When first told this about men, women generally react in one or more of five ways…

He then explains the 5 ways that women respond to this.

Here’s one:

1. You have to be kidding. That certainly isn’t my way of knowing if he loves me. There have to be deeper ways than sex for me to show my husband that I love him.

I think that this is a common mistake that liberal women make because they think that men are just hairy women. But men are not women, we are different and sex means something different to men than it does to women. In the past, most women understood how men are different than women, but younger women have been taught that there are no differences between the sexes. To think any different is “sexism”.

Here’s another from the list:

4. You have it backwards. If he truly loved me, he wouldn’t expect sex when I’m not in the mood.

Again, this is the common mistake that many younger women today make in thinking that love is a one-way street – flowing from men and children to the woman. If men and children DON’T do what the woman wants, or if they make demands on her, then they don’t “love” her and she is justified in ignoring them.

Liberal women have been taught to believe that they are always victims or some group of oppressors, such as men and children or corporations. It makes them rebel against having to do anything for anyone else, because they don’t want to be “oppressed”. That makes them unable to accept that relationships are give-and-take, Once a commitment to love another person permanently has been made, then each person has responsibilities to provide for the needs of the other.

I actually had a conversation with a Christian woman once who said that women should not be obligated to do things that they didn’t feel like doing. I asked her if men were obligated to go to work when they didn’t feel like going. She said yes, and acted as though I were crazy for asking. I just laughed, because she didn’t even see the inconsistency. The truth is that men often don’t feel like working, but they get up and go to work anyway, whether they like it or not (in most cases). Similarly, a women should feel obligated to have sex with her husband, even if she is not in a perfect mood for it (in most cases). Sometimes, a man stays home from work, and it’s OK. And sometimes a woman says no to sex, and it’s OK. But it’s not OK to stop doing it for months and months with no good reason.

Part 2 is here.

Excerpt:

Here are eight reasons for a woman not to allow not being in the mood for sex to determine whether she denies her husband sex.

He then explains the eight reasons.

Here’s one of them:

7. Many contemporary women have an almost exclusively romantic notion of sex: It should always be mutually desired and equally satisfying or one should not engage in it. Therefore, if a couple engages in sexual relations when he wants it and she does not, the act is “dehumanizing” and “mechanical.” Now, ideally, every time a husband and wife have sex, they would equally desire it and equally enjoy it. But, given the different sexual natures of men and women, this cannot always be the case. If it is romance a woman seeks — and she has every reason to seek it — it would help her to realize how much more romantic her husband and her marriage are likely to be if he is not regularly denied sex, even of the non-romantic variety.

Women have to engage their husbands if they expect their husbands to engage in the marriage as a husband and father. Men can’t do their protector, provider and spiritual leader roles forever unless their needs are met at some point. Performance of these male duties is not free. Wives have to love their husbands in the way that men expect to be loved. That’s what they vowed to do in the wedding, isn’t it?

At the end of the article, Prager makes a general point about women that I think needs to be emphasized over and over and over:

That solution is for a wife who loves her husband — if she doesn’t love him, mood is not the problem — to be guided by her mind, not her mood, in deciding whether to deny her husband sex.

This problem of sex-withholding is so widespread, that it really makes me (although I am a virgin) wonder what women think that marriage is about anyway. When a woman vows to love her husband, what do they think that word really means? Why do women think that men marry? What do men want that marriage provides for them? Which of those needs are the women’s responsibility to provide for? I think these are questions that men should ask women. I think women should be prepared to answer them. Men should expect that women be reading books on men and marriage, and that she has relationships with men where she is giving support, respect, affirmation, affection and approval. You can learn a lot about a woman by how she treats her father, for example.

Unfortunately, many men today haven’t thought through what they need from wives in a marriage. They spend their young years chasing women who are fun and sexually permissive. Every husband I asked about what they need has told me that respect, affirmation, affection and regular sex are more important than appearance and fun. Pre-marital sex, having fun, getting drunk, and going out, etc. are not the right foundation for marriage – which requires mutual self-sacrifice in order to work.

Another point: I have a friend who is very concerned that men are breaking sexual rules, but he seems oblivious to 1 Corinthians 7:1-5. I asked him privately what he thought about sex-withholding, and whether this might cause husbands to turn to pornography and even affairs, and I mentioned 1 Corinthians 7:1-5. He said: “no, it’s not something I take much interest in”. I was tempted to ask him if the Bible was something that he does not take much interest in.

I think he misreads 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 so that it could only be used to condemn men. If that were his view, then it actually worries me if well-meaning men are actually undermining marriage, by teaching women that they have no responsibilities to keep the marriage going, and helping them to feel like victims when their marriages fall apart. Sometimes even people who claim to be pro-marriage can undermine marriage practically-speaking, because of their unBiblical belief that women are “naturally good” and should not have any responsibilities in a marriage.

I thought this attitude was so interesting in view of what I read in the Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. In that book, Dr. Laura urges women to be sensitive to their husbands’ different male natures in order to avoid them looking at pornography and having affairs. Withholding sex from a man is the equivalent of a man withholding conversation to a woman. Sex is how a man feels loved! What’s remarkable is how female callers on her show are shocked that men react badly to being deprived of sex.

I do think that some men will look at porn and cheat regardless of what their wife does sexually, but then it again falls to the woman to choose a man who has demonstrated that he has self-control – i.e., a virgin who has remained chaste with her throughout the courtship and protected her from doing sexual things outside of the covenant context. Chastity is hard, but it is how a man loves his wife self-sacrificially, before he even meets her. It should be a trait much sought after and respected by women. Basically, women need to be led by their minds, not by their feelings, when choosing a husband.

A man has to get up and go to work every day for his family, regardless of whether he feels like it or not. In fact, the many decisions he has made before getting married are also made not because they make him happy, but because he needs to be responsible to his future wife and children. The decision to study science? Loving obligation. The decision to go to grad school in science? Loving obligation. The decision to work in a demanding, risky career? Loving obligation. The decision to save money and eat instant oatmeal for dinner? Loving obligation. Men don’t do these things because we enjoy them. We do it because we love our wives and children self-sacrificially, before we ever even meet them. I think that women need to do the same.

Ryan T. Anderson lectures on marriage and why it matters

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

Here’s the lecture:

About the speaker:

Ryan T. Anderson researches and writes about marriage and religious liberty as the William E. Simon Fellow at The Heritage Foundation. He also focuses on justice and moral principles in economic thought, health care and education, and has expertise in bioethics and natural law theory.

Anderson, who joined the leading Washington think tank’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society in 2012, also is the editor of Public Discourse, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, N.J.

Anderson’s recent work at Heritage focuses on the constitutional questions surrounding same-sex “marriage.” He is the co-author with Princeton’s Robert P. George and Sherif Girgis of the acclaimed book “What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense” (Encounter Books, December 2012).

The lecture starts at 7:20 in. The lecture ends at 49:35. There are 32 minutes of Q&A.

Introduction:

  • When talking about marriage in public, we should talk about philosophy, sociology and public policy
  • Gay marriage proponents need to be pressed to define what marriage is, on their view
  • Every definition of marriage is going to include some relationships, and exclude others
  • It’s meaningless to portray one side as nice and the other mean
  • Typically, marriage redefiners view marriage as a more intense emotional relationship
  • Marriage redefiners should be challenged in three ways:
  • 1) Does the redefined version of marriage have a public policy reason to prefer only two people?
  • 2) Does the redefined version of marriage have a reason to prefer permanence?
  • 3) Does the redefined version of marriage have a reason to prefer sexual exclusivity?
  • Also, if marriage is just about romance, then why is the state getting involved in recognizing it?
  • The talk: 1) What marriage is, 2) Why marriage matters, 3) What are the consequences of redefining marriage?

What marriage is:

  • Marriage unites spouses – hearts, minds and bodies
  • Marriage unites spouses to perform a good: creating a human being and raising that human being
  • Marriage is a commitment: permanent and exclusive
  • Male and female natures are distinct and complementary

The public purpose of marriage:

  • to attach men and women to each other
  • to attach mothers and fathers to their children
  • there is no such thing as parenting, there is only mothering and fathering
  • the evidence shows that children benefit from mothering and fathering
  • boys who grow up without fathers are more likely to commit crimes
  • girls who grow up without fathers are more likely to have sex earlier
  • Children benefit from having a mother and a father
  • can’t say that fathers are essential for children if we support gay marriage, which makes fathers optional
  • without marriage: child poverty increases, crime increases, social mobility decreases, welfare spending increases
  • when government encourages marriage, then government has less do to – stays smaller, spends less
  • if we promote marriage as an idea, we are not excluding gay relationships or even partner benefits
  • finally, gay marriage has shown itself to be hostile to religious liberty

Consequences redefining marriage:

  • it undermines the norm in public like that kids deserve a mom and a dad – moms and dads are interchangeable
  • it changes the institution of marriage away from the needs of children, and towards the needs of adults
  • it undermines the norm of permanence
  • we learned what happens when marriage is redefined before: with no-fault divorce
  • no-fault divorce: after this became law, divorce rates doubled – the law changed society
  • gay marriage would teach society that mothers and fathers are optional when raising children
  • if marriage is what people with intense feelings do, then how can you rationally limit marriage to only two people?
  • if marriage is what people with intense feelings do, then if other people cause intense feelings, there’s no fidelity
  • if marriage is what people with intense feelings do, then if the feelings go away, there is no permanence
  • the public policy consequences to undermining the norms of exclusivity and permanence = fatherless children and fragmented families
  • a final consequences is the decline and elimination of religious liberty – e.g. – adoption agencies closing, businesses being sued

We’re doing very well on abortion, but we need to get better at knowing how to discuss marriage. If you’re looking for something short to read, click here. If you want to read a long paper that his book is based on.

Dennis Prager: which sin is the worst sin?

Let's take a look at what the Bible says
Let’s take a look at what the Bible says

In this post, Dennis Prager argues that the worst sin is when people who claim to have allegiance for God perform evil acts, thus bringing God’s reputation into disrepute.

I found a Prager University video on the same topic:

Excerpt:

The worst sin is committing evil in God’s name.

How do we know?

From the third of the Ten Commandments. This is the only one of the ten that states that God will not forgive a person who violates the commandment.

What does this commandment say?

It is most commonly translated as, “Do not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. For the Lord will not hold guiltless” — meaning “will not forgive” — whoever takes His name in vain.”

Because of this translation, most people understandably think that the commandment forbids saying God’s name for no good reason. So, something like, “God, did I have a rough day at work today!” violates the third commandment.

But that interpretation presents a real problem. It would mean that whereas God could forgive the violation of any of the other commandments — dishonoring one’s parents, stealing, adultery or even committing murder — He would never forgive someone who said, “God, did I have a rough day at work today!”

Let’s be honest: That would render God and the Ten Commandments morally incomprehensible.

As it happens, however, the commandment is not the problem. The problem is the translation. The Hebrew original doesn’t say “Do not take;” it says “Do not carry.” The Hebrew literally reads, “Do not carry the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”

This is reflected in one of the most widely used new translations of the Bible, the New International Version, or NIV, which uses the word “misuse” rather than the word “take:”

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.”

This is much closer to the original’s intent.

What does it mean to “carry” or to “misuse” God’s name? It means committing evil in God’s name.

And that God will not forgive.

Why not?

When an irreligious person commits evil, it doesn’t bring God and religion into disrepute. But when a religious person commits evil in God’s name he destroys the greatest hope for goodness on earth — belief in a God who demands goodness, and who morally judges people.

The Nazis and Communists were horrifically cruel mass murderers. But their evils only sullied their own names, not the name of God. But when religious people commit evil, especially in God’s name, they are not only committing evil, they are doing terrible damage to the name of God.

Sean McDowell has a post about Dennis Prager’s view, and he says:

Given this context, an obvious example is Muslim radicals killing innocent people in the name of God. But the most recent example, which is rightly a prominent story in the news, is the rampant sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests. The story runs deeper than most people could have ever imagined, involving the systematic cover-up of over 1,000 cases against children by 300 priests in Pennsylvania alone over the past seventy years. The individual stories are harrowing, heart-breaking and infuriating.

Sadly, these horrific actions don’t merely reflect on the individual priests, but on the Catholic Church, the entire Christian faith, and religion in general. And rightly so. Can we really blame people who abandon God when his “representatives” commit such abominable crimes?

As Prager has sadly, but correctly, observed: “No atheist activist is nearly as effective in alienating people from God and religion as are evil ‘religious’ people.”

Now, I don’t agree with Dennis on his ranking this sin as the worst. I would put carrying the Lord’s name in vain lower, and say that rebellion against God is the worst sin. That’s what I would say intellectually speaking. Emotionally speaking, I think that attacking people for their allegiance to God is the worst sin, like when gay activists go after Christian business owners for trying to take the Bible seriously about marriage, for example. Just don’t get in the way of a Christian and their relationship with God, you atheists. You’re doing something absolutely horrible when you make it harder for a Christian to follow Jesus. You might disagree with Christianity, but it would be wise not to persecute Christians, just in case we’re right about what is true.

Dennis is Jewish, so he believes that religions should be judged based on whether they produce good or not, rather than whether they are true or not. I try to listen to Dennis’ radio show as often as I can, and although he does like to discuss what we can know about God from science and history, he doesn’t think that getting the right answers to theological questions is as important as doing the right actions. I think that might be why he chose this one as the worst, because actions are more important to him. I agree with him that it is certainly very bad to invoke God in a way that makes God look bad.