Missing the point

This is one of those times where you desperately wait for the “just kidding!” to come, but it never does.

A while back, I added John Shore to my Google reader, after a rather spirited discussion at Boar’s Head Tavern in which he played a key part. Since then, I’ve read his posts as he writes them with increasing confusion, as the topics seem to have gotten more and more bizarre with time. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s how it feels. Recently, he’s written some heavily satirical posts mocking New Age thinking and his recent liberal-vs-conservative Christianity post had the conclusion “In the end, who cares?” – so when I saw his post the other day entitled “Christian men SHOULD lust,” I expected another satirical piece. So, I began to read:

The ancient, persistent, pervasive idea that being a good Christian man means being a eunuch (a castrated male) is something that I think we need to reconsider. Men are men. Men lust. They lust constantly. They can’t help it. And I get real uncomfortable whenever I hear anyone say we should want them to help it. […]

Being a man means that in the privacy of your imagination, you are going to do to think a great many lustful thoughts. That’s just a fact about being a man. That won’t change. It can’t change. It shouldn‘t change. The whole idea that somehow Christian men aren’t reallysupposed to be men is ridiculous, and harmful.

Healthy sex isn’t just a good thing; it is the necessary thing. It’s how our race survives. It’s what makes the whole world go round.

If God didn’t want men to be men—to do their part to help that world go around—he wouldn’t have filled them with all that testosterone. That certainly doesn’t mean that men should ever be promiscuous, or in any way ever disrespectful to women. But it does mean that men are bound by their very nature to, in the privacy of their imagination, have lust for women.

Oh, wow. Not so satirical. And his proof that lust isn’t really a sin, but rather the overindulgence in lust, as with any other “unhealthy fixation?” A generously stretched interpretation of a paraphrased text.

Mark Driscoll, when talking about the beginnings of the “emergent church” movement, talks about how it began with a group of people asking a bunch of questions about how church was run and how evangelism looked. He’ll bring up a story about a group of guys who started asking questions, though, that shouldn’t be asked in that context – or at least should be quickly and decisively answered if they are. Questions like “is Jesus really God?” or “is there really a Hell?” – these are the dangers of a modern liberal mind, which refuses to accept absolutes and universal truth. If you don’t like something in the Bible, just explain it away by using phrases like “cultural relativism,” and then for bonus points grab another text, strip away the context, and say it relates to whatever new (un)truth you are preaching.

I didn’t know if Shore realized this is what he was doing, or if he was just being a little sloppy with his thinking, so I didn’t comment –  I didn’t want to give some sort of knee-jerk reaction before I saw what others said. It’s rare that I comment on blogs anyway, so it wasn’t exactly a hard thing to restrain myself from doing. However, after a day had passed, instead of a clarification or gentle rebuke, there were 27 comments echoing support and gratitude that he’d challenged the stifling puritanism of the eeeevil conservative Christians. There was even a comment by Shore, who posted that he was shocked Crosswalk.com took the article off its site – a note which inspired a chuckle from me, I must admit – which received a response of, basically, “of course they did. They’re Christian wimps.”

It’s amazing how someone can get so much so wrong in a single post.

But then, another post went up in follow-up to the original! My hopes for sanity to return to Shore’s site flared briefly as I clicked through to “The Christian Sexual Animal” – very, very briefly. As I read, I came across his basic premise (excerpted to get at the good parts):

I think Christians do have a very serious problem with sex, and for a very good reason: Nobody can have sex without utterly losing control of themselves. […] It’s an extremely terrifying force, that way. […]

And that’s just the normal, everyday reason for which humans obsess on repressing sexuality. Christians have a humongous additional reason for fearing and repressing sex. As one good Christian commenter on my last blog put that reason: “Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit.”

And there you have it: the reason behind 2,000 years of Christian sexual repression, boiled down to eight words.


Being sexual = being an animal = betraying God.

Being human = being sexual.

Therefore, being human = betraying God.

Okay, now I see where he’s going with this. I took logic back in high school, so let’s tackle this one like Doug Wilson would. Shore’s going with a simple if-then structure, which I’ll rephrase as: If you are human, you behave sexually. If you behave sexually, you behave like an animal. If you behave like an animal, you betray God. Therefore, if you are human, you betray God. [A→B, B→C, C→D,  ∴A→D]

Ignoring the fact that the last statement ends up being completely true due to entirely different circumstances, this argument is formed correctly from a structural but makes a lot of big assumptions in its formation. And most of them are patently false. Let’s break it down.

Claim #1: If you are human, you will behave sexually. He doesn’t really specify the exact definition, but from the context of this post and the one before it, he seems to mean that all (male) humans will (want to) have sex. Fair enough. Biologically, this is true; humans are hardwired to reproduce, and the method of reproduction is sex. If he means this as “if you are a male, you will lust,” then I would disagree. If he simply meant “be attracted to,” then that would be one thing, but he explicitly says that he means that to lust is to “constantly imagine himself in sexual situations with all kinds of women” – something that we are specifically forbidden to do, ironically in the very text he tries to excuse himself with. The word used in Matthew 5:28 for lust is specifically intended to mean a morally wrong desire for something not belonging to you – it’s used also by Paul in Acts 20:33 when he says he doesn’t covet the physical possessions of others.

Claim #2: If you behave sexually, you behave like an animal. Contextually, he means that if you behave sexually, you cannot exert self control. (Just because animals do something doesn’t mean it is morally wrong; would you challenge the morality of breathing or eating?) His evidence is that when having sex, you “at the very least shudder whilst making funny faces.” So he’s already shifted gears from having a basic sexual nature to a specific sex act, that is, the orgasm – the moment at which the brain loses itself in a temporary endorphin rush. He’s changed the terms on us. It is entirely possible to behave in a self-controlled manner unlike an animal in your normal interactions! Think about a young dog that has not been neutered; it, purely by natural instinct, walks up and begins to hump whatever it thinks it  might be able to mate with. That is what the complete lack of self control looks like – a dog humping a chair. As humans, we call this “dating,” but that doesn’t mean it’s any less ridiculous. Is it possible to live without engaging in this behavior? Of course it is.

The point he wants to make here is that if you are 0f a sexual nature, you will lust uncontrollably. This is where go off his beaten path completely, because he only addresses this by saying “all guys do it,” without suggesting why.  This, of course, is a classic ad populum, or “appeal to the people;” just because a lot of people do or believe something doesn’t make it right. Let’s assume that every guy has, at some point, seen a beautiful woman and fantasized about her sexually – it’s not too large an assumption to make, I think. In that moment, that man has just sinned. Now, being convicted of this, he goes about his day and encounters other women, equally beautiful, and he sees them and recognizes their beauty but does not fantasize. He does not entertain that next step, does not let it enter his mind. As Driscoll puts it, he doesn’t put it in his mental library for later use. This is an entirely plausible scenario, and I suspect that most of my readers who are Christians have had this exact situation play out in their lives, as I have. That moment when you decide not to cross the line from “she’s pretty” to playing out your mental fantasies is a won battle in the war against lust. You’re gonna lose a few. But don’t believe the line about not being able to win any.

Claim #3: If you behave like an animal, you betray God. Well, now that we’ve actually defined what “acting like an animal” is, then I suppose he might be correct here. Being characterized by that sort of behavior is no doubt sinful, but only the nuttiest of the nuts would suggest that having an orgasm is, in and of itself, a sin.

So, in conclusion: Is lust something men deal with? Yes. Is lust something that very few men will ever actually “conquer?” Yes. Does that mean the answer is to surrender to it – or even accept and embrace it? Hell no, Mr. Shore. We keep up the good fight, gird up with spiritual armor to do battle against the flesh, and try not to embarrass our Lord and Savior on the battlefield.

What I Believe: The Scriptures

Consise statement: The Bible is, in its entirety, the verbally inspired and totally infallible Word of God.

Key ideas:

  • Plenary verbal inspiration: The Bible is verbally inspired in its entirety by God, down to the very letter in the original text. (John 16:12-13,  Acts 1:16, 1 Corinthians 2:13,  2 Timothy 3:15-17, 2 Peter 1:20-21, 2 Peter 3:16)
  • Infallible and inerrant: The text is totally free of any errors of any kind. (Proverbs 30:5, Matthew 5:18, Matthew 24:35, John 17:17)
  • Biblical study through the Holy Spirit: We are commanded to learn and study the Bible, and the work of the Holy Spirit is required for proper understanding. (Luke 4:4, Romans 15:4, 1 Corinthians 2:12-16)

I believe that God the Holy Spirit supernaturally guided the fallible human authors of Scripture in such a way that his message was recorded perfectly and completely, without interfering with the free will, literary style, or personal perspective of the author. It is key to note that this inerrancy applies to the original text only, and not necessarily the further copies and translations; when the most accurate answer is being sought in study, it may be necessary to refer to the original texts for further information or insight.

This is not simple dictation, or any similar process in which the human author’s mind was not actively engaged in the writing. The personality, culture, style, and outlook of the authors comes through without distorting the message in any way, and is not reflective of any lack of control over the text on God’s part, but rather an evidence that God did not coerce the free will of his followers in the writing of these texts.

Some professed Christians propose that the Bible is only partially inspired, usually suggesting that there are historical errors or inconsistencies due to the authors’ mistakes, and it is only the doctrinal principles that are inerrant. This view is inherently flawed and has never been evidenced; archaeology has never contradicted a biblical reference and has only proven time and time again that the Bible is correct in its accounts, even giving discovery where previously there was no corroborating evidence  for the events recorded. By suggesting that the Bible contains historical errors, they reject the Scriptures as an entirely trustworthy source and seek to filter what they want to agree with through a fallible lens.

We are therefore to study the Bible with the knowledge that it is the wholly perfect and God-breathed word to us, being mindful of our own limitations and biases as well as our sinful nature, in order to discover the commands and intentions of God, which can only be revealed to us through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit.

On heretics and core doctrine

A little announcement of intent: my current plan is to work my way through a statement of faith, fleshing out various doctrinal positions so that I have a written and accessible record of my beliefs on both core and secondary doctrines. This post is intended as a sort of preface to that series.

Going through 2 Peter right now in the Trial series means that there is lots of talk about false teachers and other heretics. It’s one of those big, scary issues that a lot of people like to ignore or gloss over because it’s so uncomfortable a topic. Almost nobody likes using the word “heretic,” and the ones that do generally like using it a bit too much. It’s a very harsh, very specific term, however – which means it is easy to define. A heretic needs to meet two criteria, and it’s really quite common to see the term used incorrectly when one does not apply. So before I begin to address the ideas of core beliefs or start work on a statement of belief, I’d like to define some terms.

1) A heretic must claim to be a Christian. An atheist is not a heretic. He is an atheist. If you don’t claim to be a musician, I can scarcely hold it against you when you can’t play “Mary Had a Little
Lamb” on the piano.

2) A heretic must reject a core Christian doctrine. Driscoll calls these “primary doctrines,” defined as doctrines that are critical to the Christian faith. If someone denies any of these doctrines, they would be by definition not a Christian. This is in contrast to secondary doctrines, which would be those doctrines on which Christians can disagree while still being united in Christ.

So, what are the core doctrines?

I mentioned in an earlier post that the Nicene Creed was a good way to summarize the core beliefs of Christianity, but sometimes the language of the Creed is a little unclear and disputed. So, let me clearly restate here what I believe to be the core, fundamental doctrines of Christianity:

  1. The Bible is, in its entirety, the verbally inspired and totally infallible Word of God.
  2. Man was created in the image of God, but because of Adam’s original sin is fallen, inherently sinful and rebellious against God, and is unable to remedy this condition.
  3. God is eternal and triune; one God in three persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  4. Jesus, who is fully God, became also fully man (without ceasing to be God), was born of the virgin Mary, led a sinless life, died a substitutionary death for mankind, physically rising from the dead three days later, and then ascending into heaven, where he still is, and he will return again one day to judge the living and the dead alike.
  5. Salvation is obtained only by grace, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and is not effected by nor enhanced by any works which we do.

I believe these are a good summary of the essential doctrines of Christian faith; I will expand more on them later, but know that in future post, when I refer to “core doctrines,” these are the doctrines I speak of.


So I’ve been listening to Mark Driscoll’s Trial series and we’re in 2 Peter now. I was really struck by the message today. Peter opens his letter with a simple statement, but one that is really quite profound:

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ…

The key phrase here that I love is “obtained a faith of equal standing as ours.”  It’s so obvious, but so awesome – we have, purely by grace, obtained a faith as excellent and powerful as that of the apostles and Peter himself. Equal standing! These are the men handpicked by Jesus to follow him around for years, learning at his feet. Peter, in particular, is one of the three closest to Jesus, and ultimately the leader – he got to meet Moses and Elijah at the Mount of Transfiguration, to preach the gospel at Pentacost, and write books of the Bible before ultimately giving  his life for Christ – and he says we have a faith of equal standing to his own.

Your first reaction should be, “How?”

We obviously haven’t had the opportunities he had. We haven’t made the sacrifices he did. We, on good days, read the Bible – he wrote some of it. So how is our faith even in the same ballpark as his, much less completely equal?

Because it isn’t our own faith.

Let me repeat that, because it’s a big one:

It isn’t our own faith. It’s Jesus’ faith.

There’s an astonishing doctrine called “justification” that a lot of people kind of gloss over as they’re studying the Bible. Justification is the act of making the unjust into that which is just. This is something that sounds simple, but think about how this would look in a day-to-day example: imagine a judge trying a man for murder, and the jury finding him guilty after monumental evidence is brought against him. The judge hears the guilty verdict, then turns to the man and says “you are innocent, and free to go.” If a judge were to do such a thing, he would lose his seat! But that is exactly what God has done for us.

But how can a just God allow that which is unholy, which is sinful and abhorrent into his presence? If heaven is perfect, then how can we imperfect people get there, regardless of how good or faithful we are? The obvious answer is that we can’t, not on our own. This is where the sacrifice of Jesus comes into play.

The faith we are judged upon is that faith which was given us by Jesus, not our own. His is the only one that is perfect and pure and complete, and not even the apostles could add one iota of worth to that gift. So – do you see now? Regardless of what we do, regardless of who we are or how good or moral we are, we are unable to earn our way even into God’s consideration. It is only by accepting that perfect gift of Christ’s, that which is so far beyond anything we are remotely capable of, that we can stand boldly before the throne of grace and expect anything but eternal damnation.

It’s not you. To think you can add anything to his work is blasphemy. While dying on the cross Jesus cried out that his redemptive work was finished, and who are you to dare say you can add anything more to what God himself said was complete?

That’s justification. We’re all in the same ballpark because that’s where Jesus put us all there. Peter didn’t deserve it any more than you do. Knowing that, how can you not be overcome with hope? With joy? With a complete and total sense of unworthiness and thankfulness?

This is the God we serve, people. How awesome he is!

The most terrifying verses in the Bible

Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

This passage has caused me more fear and self doubt than any other in Scripture, because it tells the story of people who have heard the word and done the deeds and seem genuinely shocked when Jesus rejects them at the seat of judgment. These people sure sound sure of their salvation when they are begging Jesus to reconsider, and the possibility that you could be so sure and have borne what seems to be such good fruit and still not make it is a very scary thought.

I have yet to find an interpretation of the passage that I am confident in and can endorse, so I will instead list my questions and thoughts and see if any of my readers have any ideas. Growing up, I was taught that this passage referred to people who simply claimed to be Christians but never repented and never showed any fruit, being unregenerate because they have never actually been saved. My teachers said that these were the hearers of the Word, but not the doers – those who came to church as kids or who had learned all about the Bible but never believed, never let it change them because they never turned over control of their lives to God. It kind of felt like being told there was a monster in your closet ready to eat you if you disobeyed your parents.

I don’t think that it’s a correct interpretation. Here’s why. Continue reading The most terrifying verses in the Bible