Tag Archives: Sin

Don’t dismiss best practices for Christian living as “legalism” and “denying grace”

Telling a woman how to make wise decisions protects her
Telling a woman how to make wise decisions protects her

On Sunday, I listened to a very interesting discussion between Sean McDowell and Jessica van der Wyngaard on Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable show. The topic was on the pros and cons of purity culture. I didn’t know a thing about “purity culture”, and had never read any books about it. I didn’t really disagree with anyone on the podcast, but I did want to say something about it in a blog post.

Description:

20 years ago Joshua Harris was the poster boy of the evangelical ‘purity movement’ having authored the bestselling book ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’. Today, Harris regrets writing the book, and has also recently changed his mind about Christianity.

Justin is joined by Jessica van der Wyngaard, director of the documentary film ‘I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye’, and Christian apologist Sean McDowell, to discuss purity culture, singleness and the Joshua Harris story.

The MP3 file is here.

First, here’s a brief summary of what everyone said on the podcast:

  • JW: the book urged people to give up dating in favor of courting and suggested other rules that would guarantee a successful marriage to your soul-mate
  • JW: some of the rules proposed by the book were not Biblical
  • JW: I’m not a virgin and I’m in early-30s, but I accept that we should teach what the Bible says about abstinence
  • SM: purity culture is the idea that if you remain sexually pure, God will give you a spouse and bless you in the future
  • SM: purity culture is the idea that if you have premarital sex, you will be tainted forever
  • SM: I’m afraid that those reacting against purity culture will build a sexual ethic solely based on their shame, their hurt, their concern about legalism, and this will not help the next generation
  • SM: let’s have a balanced Biblical approach to sexuality instead
  • SM: there is scientific data to back up the Bible’s teaching that marriages work better when sex occurs only within a marriage
  • SM: it’s a mistake to define your spiritual standing based on whether you are a virgin or not
  • SM: following the Bible’s rules for sexuality is an important part of discipleship
  • SM: the Bible is replete with examples of people restoring their standing before God through forgiveness and redemption

Right now, we are living in a secular culture where people are hooking up, having premarital sex, living together, and breaking up far more often than in the past. There is this pattern of choosing partners based on secular criteria: outward appearance and ability to entertain. And this approach to dating – choosing people for the wrong reasons, and trying to force a commitment using premarital sex – is now common practice, even among Christians.

I think people should have a plan to counter this trend that’s realistic and guided by studies and evidence. For example, studies show that people who have no sexual partners before marriage are more likely to still be married 10 years later. Studies show that cohabitation negatively impacts the stability of a future marriage. It’s difficult to accept that this is the way the world is, but if a stable marriage is a goal for you, then you should care about the best practices for having a stable marriage.

Take a different example. Suppose you have a lot of shame and bad feelings over having run up $90,000 of student loans. Now your retirement will be much more difficult. The answer to these feelings of shame is not to say that you can invoke “grace” and that will make everything OK. It won’t. It might help you to make better decisions going forward, but that debt is going to affect your future spouse, your future marriage and your future children.

There are real costs to these behaviors for your future, and being forgiven through Jesus’ atonement isn’t going to instantly make the effects of those choices disappear. It’s good to warn young people about these costs. It’s also good to help people who have made mistakes undo the damage by investing in them. I don’t want us to throw out evidence-based best practices as “legalism”, because they help us to reach the discipleship goals specified for us in the Bible.

The goals of the Bible (e.g. – not aborting, not divorcing) are good goals. If we find out from science that premarital promiscuity or cohabitation reduce our odds of achieving that goal, then it’s a mistake to dismiss that evidence because it make us feel bad about our past. It’s not legalism to investigate evidence and consult wise advisors in order to choose how best to achieve goals like marriage. That’s actually being wise.  Making good decisions doesn’t give you the right to be proud and compare yourself to others, but it is good to make good decisions for yourself, and to share your reasoning with those who ask you.

I agree with the speakers that purity culture is wrong to promise people a happy marriage if they only keep their virginity. That’s just the prosperity gospel, and it really is not a Biblical view of the Christian life.

People who choose to have premarital sex haven’t separated themselves from marriage. But studies indicate that they have damaged the stability of their future marriage if they do nothing to counteract the effects of their choices. And I think there is more to counteracting these bad effects than just stating to your partner “Jesus forgives me, so you can’t judge me”. The focus of the “no-rules because I feel ashamed” crowd doesn’t seem to be on taking the damage seriously and fixing it. Their focus seems to be on not being judged.

I don’t think that a cursory response (“don’t judge me!”) is adequate to undo the damage from premarital sex. But if a person is willing to be honest about their past, and put in the work to understand the effects of premarital sex on their future marriage, renew their minds, and re-establishing their bonding ability, then they should be able to fully counteract the damage. I have met people who have done this, and you can see in their choices and lifestyle that there’s been a complete turning against their former use of sex for fun and attention and self-esteem. It’s not “idolizing virginity and idolizing marriage” to look at the data, and make choices that are likely to lead to a stable marriage.

The most important thing Christian parents need to focus on with their children

A family praying and reading the Bible
A family praying and reading the Bible

I know what you’re thinking – I’m going to say apologetics. But I was actually having a talk with a young women who found the arguments for God convincing, but wasn’t sure whether she was ready for a personal relationship with the God of the Bible. It got me thinking about my past and what it was about the God of the Bible that caused me to make a commitment.

If I had to say what it is that cause me to take Christianity seriously, including accepting Jesus as my Leader (more than just as my Savior), it would be the conviction that God was lining things up in my life to show himself to me. This was particularly welcome because I could see that I had not been blessed with the best situation in life to start out with.

Sean McDowell has a recent post about it, and since he is an expert in apologetics, I’m inclined to agree with him.

He writes:

In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis makes a distinction between “Gift-love” and “Need-love.” As for Gift-love, he gives the example of a father who works and plans for the future well being of his family, even though he will die without seeing them benefit. As for Need-love, Lewis gives the example of a lonely and frightened child who comes to its mother’s arms for comfort and protection. Such love is neither selfish nor improper, because children are intended to have nurturing mothers, and mothers are intended to care for their kids.

According to Lewis, God’s love for mankind is entirely Gift-love: “The Father gives all He is and has to the Son. The Son gives Himself back to the Father, and gives Himself to the world, and for the world to the Father, and thus gives the world (in Himself) back to the Father too.” God does not need our love or worship. Rather, He freely loves us as an extension of His grace.

But our love for God is different. While we may be able to offer God Gift-love, our love is primarily need based. Lewis explains: “But man’s love for God, from the very nature of the case, must always be very largely, and must often be entirely, a Need-love.” We desperately need God in both this world and the next.

And then Lewis makes an additional (and helpful) distinction—while our objective need for God will never change, our awareness of that need can. And if our awareness of the need for God fades, then so may our faith. Thus, Lewis says:

There seems no reason for describing as hypocritical the short-lived piety of those whose religion fades away once they have emerged from “danger, necessity or tribulation.” Why should they not have been sincere? They were desperate and howled for help. Who wouldn’t?

In other words, if someone believes in God because of an immediate need for safety or comfort, then as soon as the danger or pain ends, so may the faith. How does this relate to students? Think about it. If a young person believes in God for social or relational needs in the family, church, or school, then when those needs fade, so will his or her faith. If belief in God fulfills some external need, then as soon as that need fades, or another venue provides satisfaction of that need, the student will likely abandon his or her faith (or minimally, have a marginalized faith).

The whole post is worth reading, because no less than Sean McDowell himself had a moment like this where he realized his own sinfulness and had to rely on Jesus for his forgiveness.

Judging from his tweets, I know that Sean is obsessed with super-heroes like Spider-Man, and so he would not be comparing himself to his peers in terms of righteousness. That sort of distance between you and Spider-Man can be really grating for boys. Inside, we feel like we are meant to be super-heroes. Many young men go into apologetics because they see it as a super-power. The problem of not measuring up is very strong for us, because we see the demands of Christianity as much greater than mere church attendance. I imagine that as Sean engaged with people using his apologetics super-power, he probably realized how difficult it was to know everything and give an answer to everyone. That’s above and beyond the standard shortcomings or pride, anger, hatred, and so on that are inside of every person.

We are not super-heroes but we need to have super-human righteousness (that is, perfect righteousness) in order to stand before our Creator and Designer. The only solution is to rely on the imputed righteousness of Jesus for our super-hero status. It is a good and healthy thing to take on Jesus as King, and to imitate him. But when we fail, we must also rely on him as Savior. And thank God the Father for that provision of salvation. And indeed, I myself think of Jesus as Savior in the moments where I am conscious of my own sin. But I need to think about him more than that, and I’ll explain how next.

In my case, I wanted to be a super hero growing up, but I knew I wasn’t coming from a family or a background that made super-heroes. I was saved in a non-Christian home where, thanks to my hands-off “parents”, I was on a very dark path to failure. In fact, I can see where I would have ended up by just looking at where my older brother is now. That disaster is what my parents, my schools, my culture, etc. produced in him, and it would have been me except for God stepping in to make himself known. I get excited about God as initiator and architect of salvation (not without my free will to trust). When God architects a divine appointment for me to use my prepared abilities in his defense or in mentoring little ones, I praise God as author of salvation. But I forget that Christ is the one who allows me to be clean enough to participate in this plan.

My ambition from small was to be a super-hero, and this later turned into great respect for people in the military, especially those who are awarded the Medal of Honor, like Michael Murphy. I want God to give me the Medal of Honor, too. But sin ruins my ambition every day. When I am called out to serve and am found faithful and competent, I need to remember that what makes me fit for service is Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. His shed blood is the cape that I put on when it is my turn to come off the bench and be who I was designed to be. It is very important to me that the God I serve is the kind of God who won’t turn away from me when I fall short.

Rugby player has $4 million contract canceled because he tweeted Bible verses about sin

Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle
Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle

I used to think that if you were really good at your job, then it wouldn’t matter if you were serious about your Christian beliefs, because no one would fire you. But I guess that’s not true when it comes to the conflict between gay rights and the Bible. On Friday, an Australian rugby player had his contract canceled because he shared some Bible verses on social media.

Here’s the story from the UK Daily Mail:

Israel Folau says he ‘deeply saddened’ by Rugby Australia’s decision to tear up his $4million rugby contract, but his religious beliefs should not stop him from playing the sport.

The decision, which was announced on Friday afternoon, makes the devout Christian the first Australian athlete dismissed for expressing religious beliefs after sharing a homophobic Instagram post.

[…]’The Christian faith has always been a part of my life and I believe it is my duty as a Christian to share God’s word.

‘Upholding my religious beliefs should not prevent my ability to work or play for my club and country.’

The words he cited are from 1 Corinthians 6:9-14 which are about sin and repentance and who will be admitted to the Kingdom of God.

Just to be clear, the Christian position on sexuality is that you cannot have sex outside of marriage. And the Christian position on marriage is that it is one man and one woman for life. Authentic Bible-believing Christians may fail to live out that standard, but they can never take any other stance than that in public. If you are a Christian, you cannot say that sex outside of marriage is fine with God. If you are a Christian you cannot say that redefinitions of natural marriage are OK with God. There’s only one kind of authentic Christian, and that’s the kind that takes the Bible as authoritative, including on moral issues. Telling someone they can’t quote the Bible in public is essentially telling them that they can’t be a Christian in public.

Whenever things like this happen to Christians who are serious about their beliefs, I always try to find out what the people who take away their livelihood have to say about it. These people usually think of themselves as very tolerant and open-minded, so it’s interesting to hear how they keep their self-image after firing someone for their religious beliefs.

The article says:

In a press conference this afternoon, Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle said Folau was a ‘great player’ but that everyone has the right to be respected regardless of sexuality, race, gender or religion.

[…]’Our clear message today is that we need to stand by our values and the qualities of inclusion, passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork.’

Ms Castle said she had told all rugby players in Australia that RA supports their rights to their own beliefs.

‘But when we are talking about inclusiveness in our game, we are talking about respecting differences as well,’ she said.

‘When we say rugby is a game for all, we mean it. People need to feel safe and welcoming in the game, regardless of their race, background or sexuality.

[…]’I’m confident because those players understand that everybody has a right to their own views or religious beliefs, and as long as they continue to express them in a respectful way we will continue to support them,’ she said.

[…]Ms Castle said she was ‘disappointed’ that Folau had not apologised.

So, did the rugby player have a right to be respected regardless of his religion? No, he needed to be fired. Did she respect his differences? No, she fired him. She says that authentic Christian quoting the Bible on social media is not being a Christian “in a respectful way”. So there’s a non-Christian telling a Christian how to behave like a Christian. And after she fires you, she’s disappointed that you didn’t apologize to her for not being Christian in a respectful way.

My thoughts

I have two thoughts about this. First, if you want to be public about your Christianity and keep your job, then you need to have an alias. Because of this intimidation from secular left fascists, Christians are refusing to speak out on moral issues on a daily basis. To help you to be more comfortable speaking out, you should have an alias. I have blogged about sexual issues and marriage many, many times on this blog, often citing peer-reviewed research in order to support the Christian position on these issues. And so far, no one has been able to get me fired. My goal is to have an influence. I want to do as much as I can without letting the fascists on the other side stop me.

Second, I’ve noticed that it’s increasingly common for Christians to side with the gay activists against other Christians. And that’s because Christianity has become so much about feelings and self-esteem that many people who claim to be Christians think that Christianity should always make them feel good and be popular. If all you have is feelings, it’s pretty easy to put your need to feel good above the need to defend what the Bible teaches.

For those who would like to be bolder but don’t know how, the Bible actually has an answer to that in 1 Pet 3:15. In order to be bold, you need to be prepared. By reading books outside of the Bible, you’ll equip yourself with evidence so that you can debate non-Christians who don’t accept the Bible. They may not accept the Bible, but they have to accept evidence, or they’ll look stupid and irrational.

House Democrats pass Equality Act bill to put sexual orientation and gender identity above religious liberty

21 states have SOGI anti-discrimination laws
21 states have SOGI anti-discrimination laws

Remember watching that video of the fascist thug Democrat Brian Sims, as he bullied the pro-life lady who was praying outside of an abortion clinic? Well, imagine that abusing Christians who take the Bible seriously became the law of the land, and a minority of secular leftist were empowered to use government as a weapon to silence and coerce Bible-believing Christians.

Regular readers will be familiar with the cases where gay activists went after bed and breakfasts, wedding venues, photographers, florists, bakers, etc. who refused to participate in celebrations of same-sex marriage. Christians oppose same-sex marriage, because the leader of the religion defined marriage as being between one man and one woman. However, religious liberty wasn’t a defense in these cases, because these states had passed “SOGI laws”, which made it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Equality Act is a Democrat bill that forces all the states without SOGI laws to allow gay activists to weaponize government against Christians, forcing them to participate in non-Christian celebrations of gay activism.

The Federalist described some effects of the bill:

On the surface, the “Equality” Act is supposed to protect LGBT folks from discrimination by adding the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity to all federal civil rights laws, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It would make claims of discrimination related to these characteristics legally actionable in the way racism is, and applying to virtually every area of life: the workplace, education, banking, jury service, federal funding, housing, medicine and psychiatry, and all public facilities.

It is a power grab in the guise of anti-discrimination. A bait-and-switch. It’s another attempt by a ruling micro-clique to exert mega-control over everyone else’s lives, including those it purports to protect. It allows the Mass State to maximize bureaucracy and social engineering, especially by its huge regulation of speech and expression. It erodes individual rights while claiming to uphold them.

Sane people of goodwill have a host of good reasons to object to the so-called Equality Act. And many of those reasons have been written up, including the de-sexing of toilets and showers, the compelled speech inherent in pronoun protocols and severe punishment for “misgendering,” the promised harassment of business owners, the invasion of girls’ and women’s sports by biological men who force on them an unequal playing field, the utter contempt for individual conscience, and more.

The net result of this act would be a huge inequality of power accrued to the state and drained from the individual.

Other areas that would be affected: tax exempt status for churches, private college admissions, scholarships and curricula, moral standards in Christian organizations, forced transgender treatments at hospitals and health clinics, foster and adoption agencies could not prefer naturally married couples.

The author of that article lists five specific effects of the law:

  1.  It Undermines Everyone’s First Amendment Rights
  2. The Ambiguities in the Bill Threaten the Rule of Law
  3. Nudge Toward a Chinese-style Social Credit System
  4. Redefining Humanity By Outlawing Sex Distinctions
  5. It Enshrines Socially Destructive Identity Politics

Let’s see what the article says about #2:

The first thing that should hit any reader of the so-called Equality Act is the ambiguity of its language, especially with the bill’s outright emphasis throughout on “perceptions.”

[…]Consider how much the “Equality” Act would rely on bureaucratic and court actors to divine the “perception” of the perpetrator or victim of so-called discrimination: it would have to calculate your intent, read your mind, check out your body language, pick you apart for any suggestion of malice. For example, it repeatedly refers to sexual orientation and gender identity as “actual or perceived.” Many times throughout, the text notes that discrimination (or identity?) involves “perception or belief even if inaccurate” (emphasis mine).

This dependence on perception or belief about a person’s self-identity did not exist before. The language of this proposed law is more fluid than gender fluidity on steroids, and it’s wild stuff to push, especially at the federal level. It invites no end of accusations and lawfare that bodes ill for society and promises much human wreckage. The only people “empowered” by such a scam are those on the upper levels of this newly devised food chain who can call the shots.

Here’s more about #3 for those who didn’t know about the China social credit system:

If passed, we shouldn’t be surprised if it eventually produces a social credit system not unlike what is happening in China, whereby your livelihood, education, career, mobility, and access to goods and services is based on a literal “score” of your compliance with government policy. To paraphrase Sir Richard Scruton’s excellent observation of how that works in China, I’d say that the so-called Equality Act would help create robots out of Americans, with the state programming what they can say and do.

As more people self-censor because of the risk of losing their livelihoods and social status, they simply become more prone to robotic compliance and conformity with limits on their speech. This is fast becoming the case in China, where citizens feel the need to build up their “social credit” to be allowed access to jobs, education, housing, and who knows what other goods and services. The so-called Equality Act’s restrictions on First Amendment freedoms would be a big step in that direction.

A social credit system that scores you for conformity would be a logical effect of the intent of the Equality Act: to punish free expression in just about every sphere of life, including the workplace, at school, in the public square, and in all public facilities, and any place that might be connected with federal funding. (By the way, Scruton was punished—stripped of his chairmanship of an architectural commission in Britain—simply for explaining what the social credit system does to people in China. That should be another lesson for us here.)

Just to be clear, I live in a state with no SOGI law, and I still write about studies, etc. that are critical of the gay agenda from behind an alias. The second that this Equality Act becomes law, I would instantly have to delete this blog, my Facebook page, and my Twitter in case “discrimination” was “perceived” by an LGBT activist based on my previous writings, and they decided to investigate.

Watch: Democrat legislator harasses elderly woman praying outside abortion clinic

Pro-abortion Democrat, and misogynist
Pro-abortion Democrat, and misogynist

I follow Senator Ted Cruz on Twitter, and he tweeted out a video posted by the legislator in question. The legislator, from Philadelphia, is a Democrat. And he thought it would be a great idea to go to the local Planned Parenthood clinic, and film himself in an interaction with an elderly woman who was praying outside.

Here’s the video: (Must-see!)

(Another link, another link, another link – in case that video is taken down)

And Life News has the story:

A pro-abortion Democrat lawmaker posted a video of himself harassing a peaceful pro-life protester while invoking his office last week in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania state Rep. B**** S*** repeatedly bullied the pro-life woman in an unhinged rant as she stood alone outside a Planned Parenthood in his district in southeastern Pennsylvania.

S*** called the woman a “racist” and her sidewalk counseling “grotesque.” He followed her around, hurtling insults at her; and at one point, he got in her face with his camera and ignored her requests to leave her alone.

He wanted to get the woman’s address for some reason, maybe for vandalism, or something more violent. He’s famous for being an openly gay college football player, so he’s definitely strong enough to be a physical danger to her. People like to talk about toxic masculinity and bullying, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better example of toxic masculinity than from this bully. He clearly has no idea how his greater height, physical strength, etc. would be perceived and experienced by an elderly woman. Or maybe he does, and he just doesn’t care.

I think a lot of Democrats like to think that they are representing women, but they are only nice to women who agree with them. If a woman is pro-life, or has actual Christian convictions, then this is how they get treated. This interview of the Democrat reports him saying that he’s an atheist. I thought it was interesting how a self-confessed atheist started lecturing a religious person on how to be religious. Not sure why so many godless people think that they should be trusted as an authority on religion. His biography says that he was raised Catholic and stopped attending church at 16. Whatever was going on in his head at the time, you can be sure that it wasn’t evidence that convinced him to do that.

Now a man is designed to have an inclination to protect children, animals, anything weak, from strong aggressors. But abortion changes all that. When a man decides that inconvenient children can be killed for the benefit of the selfish adults who made her, then all bets on morality are really off. He’s willing to kill an innocent unborn child that gets in his way. So anything is possible. She should really be afraid of him, even there in broad daylight.

I think the lady did the right thing, by calling the police.

Town Hall reports that he may have broken a state law:

Pennsylvania Democratic State Rep. B**** S*** thought it his duty to videotape and harass a pro-life woman protesting against abortion outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in his district, repeatedly telling the unnamed woman he had the same constitutional right to film as she did to protest. While Americans have the right to record protesters in Pennsylvania, the state also has a strict a two-party consent state, meaning even in public both parties involved in a conversation must give consent to be audio or video recorded. At various points in the video, Rep. S*** indicates he wants to have a conversation, to each time the women says no and does not give permission to record.

But this is Philadelphia, the city of Kermit Gosnell, so they have a habit of overlooking violence against women if abortion rights are at stake.

Life News says that this isn’t the first time that he’s tried to use coercion to bully those who disagree with him:

LifeNews recently learned of a second video that S*** posted several weeks ago where he made a similar request. He offered his viewers $100 to identify four pro-life women who were peacefully praying outside the same Planned Parenthood.

His requests suggest that the state representative may be trying to intimidate pro-life advocates through doxxing, an online practice where a person’s name and contact information are posted publicly online usually to encourage harassment.

The women, who he called “pseudo-Christians”, were just praying outside the clinic. I guess he thinks that if they were really Christians, then they’d endorse homosexuality, abortion, and the entire secular leftist platform – something which would be at odds with the Bible, and Christianity down through the centuries. But I guess his need to not feel “shamed” is more important than their freedom of religion, and freedom of speech. His feelings matter more than your rights, so he’s justified in silencing you.

I have spent a lot of my life studying scientific, philosophical and historical evidence for theism in general, and Christianity in particular, but there is another argument for Christianity that is personally convincing to me… although I would never use it in a debate. And that argument is how the Bible describes sin. I read how the Bible describes sexual sin in Romans 1, and then I see how sexual sin sometimes causes people to hate others and to use force to coerce, silence or destroy them. This is why the Bible calls some behaviors “sinful”, because people who do them know it’s wrong, but they think they can make the guilt from rebellion go away by coercing those around them to celebrate the sin. By the way, I include abortion, divorce, adultery, premarital sex and even drug or gambling addictions as sins.

He seems to be unable to control his temper when faced with people who haven’t turned their backs on the God of the Bible, and who are actually doing hard things in order to promote the moral values of the God of the Bible. There is something about Christians taking God seriously that offends him, and his response to their authentic self-sacrificial service to God is hatred and violence. It’s probably a good idea for us who take the Bible seriously to be seen acting self–sacrificially on our convictions. It bothers atheists, and that’s a good thing.