Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Jesus Came to Make the Father Known: A Christmas Eve Sermon

This is one in a series of Advent sermons. The series is entitled Why Did Jesus Come?

Tonight we answer the question of why Jesus came by considering what we are told in the prologue of John’s Gospel.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (John 1:1-5, 14, 16-18).

I want to zero in particularly on this last statement, “he has made him known.” One of the reasons Jesus came into the world was to make the Father known. This is not stated as explicitly as the the other reasons we have mentioned, but it is nonetheless clear. Jesus came into the world to reveal the Father.

It is not that the Father was entirely unknown before. He had been revealing himself to men from the very beginning through the prophets. As the writer of Hebrews says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers through the prophets, but in these last days [meaning more recently, from the perspective of the writer], “he has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb. 1:1-2).

He is making a contrast. What he is getting at is this:  as wonderful and as glorious as it was to have the word of God delivered to them by the prophets, it was even more glorious to have his word delivered by his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The reason why this should be so is explained by John.

John explains that Jesus existed with the Father from all eternity:  “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God.” The Word—who is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ—was with God in the beginning. This is John’s way of saying that Jesus participates with the Father in the attribute of eternity. Jesus himself spoke of this when he prayed, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (Jn. 17:5). He was in the beginning with God, long before the creation of the world. He is thus uniquely qualified to reveal the Father. No one has known the Father as long as the Son.

But it is not only his long-standing relationship with the Father that qualifies him to bear a unique testimony concerning him, it is also and chiefly the fact that he shares in the same divine nature as the Father.

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (Jn. 1:1).

This is the most astonishing thing about Jesus of Nazareth, and we must never forget it. He is God manifest in human flesh! In this way, he is utterly unique. There is no man like him. Never was before; never has been since; and never will be. He is absolutely unique.

It is true that he looked like any other human being. You wouldn’t have been able to pick him out in a crowd. There was no aura about him or any light emanating from his body that set him apart from others. He looked like any other human being; but he was like no other human being. Do not misunderstand me. He was fully human, and in that sense he was like every other human being. But he was more than merely human. And this is the extraordinary thing about him.

The hymn-writer, Charles Wesley, expressed this very beautifully when he wrote,

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity;
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

Emmanuel means God with us. Jesus was the Word made flesh. He was God clothed in human nature, living with his people Israel.

The Scriptures bear very eloquent testimony to this fact—the fact of the deity of Christ. The writer of Hebrews says,

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Heb. 1:3a).

Paul tells us in Colossians that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). In other words, if you wish to see God, look at Jesus. He is the visible expression of the invisible God. As Paul goes on to say in the same letter, “In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). And this is why he could also say in his letter to the Romans that “Christ…is God over all, blessed forever. Amen” (Rom. 9:5). He is God over all.

It is for this reason that Jesus could say, as he did in John 10:30, “I and the Father one,” not one and the same Person, but sharing one indivisible divine essence. And this is also why our Lord could tell Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9). Not that he is the Father, but that he is a perfect expression of the Father.

Philip had said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us” (Jn. 14:8). Jesus was always talking about the Father, saying things like the Father sent me into the world, I have come forth from the Father, the Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father. He said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me” (Jn. 6:37), and “No one can come to me unless the Father draws him” (Jn. 6:44). He spoke of the temple as his Father’s house, and said that he must be about his Father’s business (Jn. 2:16; Lk. 2:49).

Jesus was always talking about the Father. In fact, he had just said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6). And this is when Philip said, “Lord show us the Father and it is enough for us.” And Jesus said,

Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father’? (Jn. 14:9)

He would go on to say, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (Jn. 14:10). There is an inseparable bond, an inseparable union between the Father and the Son. In our opening text it says, “No one has ever seen God; the only [begotten] God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (Jn. 1:18). Now, this is an odd phrase, “the only begotten God.” But it points to our Lord’s divine nature. He shares the same nature as the Father, and has been at the Father’s side, a place of close companionship, forever. And he has come into the world in order to make the Father known. No one knows the Father, like the Son, and so there is no one better to make him known.

We who could not otherwise have seen the Father, have him made known to us in Jesus Christ. He is the image of the invisible God. What we see in him—in both word and deed—is a revelation, an unveiling, a disclosure of the Father. Consider what Jesus says in John 12:49.

I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak (Jn. 12:49)

When Jesus speaks, therefore, it is a revelation of the Father’s will because he says only what the Father has given him to say. Likewise, when he acts, he does only what the Father would have him to do.

Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise (Jn. 5:19).

So, for instance, when Jesus was moved with compassion to heal the sick, he was revealing the Father’s compassion for them. When he was dealing tenderly with sinners and calling them to repentance, he was revealing the Father’s will for them to repent and find grace and forgiveness. In everything he said and did he was revealing something of the Father’s purpose, power, and glory.

Because of his divine nature, Jesus is superior to the prophets, even the greatest of them. He is greater than Moses; greater than Isaiah; greater even than Abraham, who is referred to as God’s friend.

Jesus is greater even than the angels. This is a point that the writer of Hebrews goes to great lengths to make. He says,

3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
You are my Son,
       today I have begotten you”?
Or again,
I will be to him a father,
       and he shall be to me a son”?
6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
Let all God’s angels worship him.”
7 Of the angels he says,
He makes his angels winds,
       and his ministers a flame of fire.”
8 But of the Son he says,
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
       the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
       therefore God, your God, has anointed you
       with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
10 And,
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain;
       they will all wear out like a garment,
12 like a robe you will roll them up,
       like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
       and your years will have no end.”
13 And to which of the angels has he ever said,
Sit at my right hand
       until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?

What wonderful things are said here about Jesus! It was necessary that we should have such a Savior! By man sin and death came into the world, and so it was necessary that salvation should also come by a man. It was a man, a human being, who robbed God of his glory when he rebelled against him, and so it was necessary for a man to make restitution for man’s transgression. But what man is adequate to the task? Only one, our Lord Jesus Christ:  perfect God and perfect man in perfect union. Amen.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

40 Answers to Give an Atheist, pt. 2

Here are my responses to questions 13-17 of Thomas Swan’s 40 Questions to Ask a Christian. For answers to questions 1-12, scroll down or click here.

13.  If organized religion requires a civilization in which to spread, how could this civilization exist without first having a moral code to make us civil?

There never was a time (or place) when human beings lived together without a moral code. It’s never a question of whether a civilization has a moral code or not, but which moral code it will have. As mentioned in answer to question 12, the image of God in man guarantees an inescapable knowledge of the basics of good and evil. Individuals and societies alike either conform or fail to conform to this innate moral knowledge.

The question an atheist has to answer is this:  If God doesn’t exist, how can there be any such thing as morality? Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that an atheist cannot act morally. I am saying that in a world where God does not exist, there can be no such category as morality. There can be personal preferences and wishes and likes and dislikes of certain human behavior. But nothing can ever really be said to be right or wrong. These are meaningless concepts, mere words. In an atheist world there is no ought. There is only is. An atheist cannot say for instance that the holocaust was wrong. He can say he doesn’t like the idea of killing Jews. He can say that he would prefer that it not be a matter of state policy. He can say that he would not personally participate in it. But what he cannot say is, “It is wrong.” Ditto for any other human evil:  torture, murder, rape, extortion, abuse of children, etc. There are no cosmic guarantees of value in an atheistic world, unless it is the survival of the fittest. (That’s a subject for another post.)

14.  An all-knowing God can read your mind, so why does he require you to demonstrate your faith by worshiping him?

Why must you stand in a court of law when the judge enters the room? Why are you required to address him as “Your Honor” instead of “Bob”? Why is it considered proper protocol to address a member of Congress, an academic, a medical doctor, an officer of the law, etc., by his appropriate title? Why do you expect your children to obey you and speak respectfully to you? It’s because you know that it is right for inferiors to show all due respect to superiors. If this is true with regard to our relationships with each other as human beings (who are ontological equals), how much more so in our relationship to God, our Creator, Lawgiver, and Judge?

15.  If God is all-knowing, why do holy books describe him as surprised or angered by the actions of humans? He should have known what was going to happen.

God is justified in his anger toward evil men, even as you (I trust) feel angry toward them. As far as God being surprised, surely you must know that this is a figure of speech known as an anthropomorphism.

16.  An all-knowing God knows who will ultimately reject him. Why does God create people who he knows will end up in hell?

To demonstrate the glory of his justice by punishing those who choose evil over good and refuse his call to repentance and spurn his repeated offers of mercy.

17.  If God is all knowing, then why did he make humans in the knowledge that he’d eventually have to send Jesus to his death?

He did not “have” to send Jesus to his death. He is under no obligation to save sinners. This is the whole point of grace. He could have washed his hands of the human race immediately after the fall. Instead, he is pleased to save sinners because of his great mercy. He is willing to forgive all who forsake their rebellion against him and pledge their fidelity to Jesus of Nazareth who died and rose again for their salvation.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

40 Answers to Give an Atheist

I happened to run across a blog post today entitled 40 Questions to Ask a Christian by Thomas Swan. As I have time, I will give a brief response to each one. Here are my answers to the first twelve.

1.  If a hundred different religions have to be wrong for yours to be right, does this show that people from all over the world like to invent gods that don’t exist?

Yes it does. And Scripture makes this same observation also. When people do not like the God who is, they manufacture gods more suitable to their tastes (Rom. 1:18-25; cf. Ps. 106:20).

The implication, however, is that if so many gods are “invented,” the God of the Bible must be invented too. This is about as persuasive as arguing that the existence of thousands of Elvis impersonators means there never was any such thing as the real thing.

2.  If your parents had belonged to a different religion, do you think you would belong to that religion too?

Yes, it is quite likely. But it is logically irrelevant to whether a particular religion is true or false. I am profoundly grateful that God placed me in a Christian family and that even when I strayed into agnosticism he helped me return to my senses.

3.  If people from the five major religions are each told conflicting information by their respective gods, should any of them be believed?

If five different people give five different accounts of, say, a crime or an automobile accident, should any of them be believed? Would you have us simply dismiss them all? May not one of them be correct? Shouldn’t an investigation be held? Shouldn’t the credibility of the witnesses be examined? Shouldn’t we see if there is any other corroborating evidence?

4.  How can you tell the voice of God from a voice in your head?

Easy. The only voice in my head is my own.

5.  How can you tell the voice of God from the voice of the Devil?

I assume you mean in my head? If so, refer to my answer to the previous question.

6.  Would you find it easier to kill someone if you believed God supported you in the act?

Undoubtedly. But let me explain. God allows killing in three (and only three) circumstances:  (1) self-defense, (2) capital punishment by a lawfully ordained civil magistrate, and (3) in a just war.

I am not a civil magistrate so #2 doesn’t apply to me, unless it should be in an indirect way (e.g., if I should be called upon to serve as a juror in a capital crime).

If I should find myself in a situation in which I or a member of my family or another innocent party was in danger of being murdered or suffering great bodily harm at the hands of a criminal (#1), or if I should find myself fighting in a just war (#3), I hope I would have the courage to kill. And yes it would be easier to kill in these circumstances knowing that God supported me in the act.

7.  If God told you to kill an atheist, would you?

I have a question for you, Mr. Swan:  “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Your question is no less loaded or complex than mine.

(For those unversed in logic, a “loaded” or “complex” question is one that requires a yes or no answer but makes an unwarranted assumption that gets a person into trouble no matter which way he responds. Consider the “have you stopped being your wife” question. The question requires a yes or no answer, but either answer implicates you, and it may very well be the case that neither answer is appropriate. For most people the question is unanswerable with a simple yes or no because they have never beaten their wives. And so it is with Mr. Swan’s question, “If God told you to kill an atheist, would you?” The question is based on two false premises: (1) that God speaks directly to individuals, and (2) that he would command someone to kill an atheist because he is an atheist.)

As far as the matter of killing is concerned, see my answer to the previous question.

8.  When an atheist is kind and charitable out of the kindness of his heart, is his behavior more or less commendable than a religious man who does it because God instructed him to?

Mr. Swan, you seem to be committed to asking either/or questions when there are often more than two alternatives. Is it really so that one may be either “kind and charitable out of the kindness of his heart” or kind and charitable “because God instructed him to”? Is it not possible for someone to be kind and charitable out of the kindness of his heart and have a regard for God’s command?

The truth is that any one of a number of different motives may be at work in any particular act of kindness. Let us suppose several different people who see someone in need. The first individual feels no natural compassion, and nothing can move him to render aid. The second feels no natural compassion, but nevertheless renders aid because he fears social disapproval if he doesn’t. The third feels no natural compassion, but renders aid because he is trying to impress others with his “kindness and charity.” (Jesus addressed this very thing when he said we shouldn’t sound a trumpet when giving alms to the poor, Matt. 6:1-4). The fourth feels no natural compassion, but nevertheless renders aid because God (in the Scriptures) commands him to. The fifth feels natural compassion and renders aid, and has a regard for God’s instructions.

To come to the point, it is commendable to be “kind and charitable out of the kindness of one’s heart”; but it is even better to be kind and charitable out of the kindness of one’s heart, and seek to honor God in doing so.

9.  If you are against the Crusades and the Inquisition, would you have been burned alive as a heretic during those events?

Perhaps during the Inquisition; but perhaps not, since its scope is often exaggerated. This is not to excuse it, however. The Inquisition was by no stretch of the imagination compatible with biblical Christianity. Ditto for most of what happened during the Crusades.

But it is far more likely that I would have been guillotined during the atheistic French Revolution or received a bullet to the back of the head under Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot (atheists all). The Inquisition and the Crusades were mere child’s play compared to the body count under various atheistic regimes.

10.  If your interpretation of a holy book causes you to condemn your ancestors for having a different interpretation, will your descendants condemn you in the same way?

If your interpretation of reality, Mr. Swan, causes you to condemn your Christian ancestors, will your descendants condemn you in the same way if they interpret it differently than you?

11.  Rape wasn't always a crime in the Middle East two thousand years ago. Is that why ‘do not rape’ is not part of the Ten Commandments?

No. Each of the Ten Commandments is a leading example of an entire class of sins and/or crimes. “You shall not push an old woman into the path of a speeding chariot” is not in the Ten Commandments either, but it is implied under the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13). Murder is the supreme example of doing bodily harm. All other forms of bodily harm are implied.

Likewise, “You shall not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14), is representative of all forms of sexual sins and/or crimes, including rape. Scripture often gives summaries of our duty to God and our neighbor. It would be quite unwieldy to have an exhaustive list of every conceivable form of sin and/or crime, as the Statutes of the United States and the United States Code demonstrate.

12.  Do lions need ‘god-given’ morality to understand how to care for their young, co-operate within a pack, or feel anguish at the loss of a companion? Why do we?

God created man in his own image and likeness, which among other things includes a basic understanding of right and wrong/good and evil. Since we are both fallen and finite in our understanding, he has supplemented our innate knowledge of him and our moral duty with his word (the Bible).

God did not create animals in his image, but endowed them with various (and often complex) instincts that aid their survival.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Either/Or or Both/And

I have never quite understood those Christians who have said that believers should not be politically active by supporting candidates, contributing to campaigns, speaking out on the issues of the day (even from the pulpit), and advocating for particular pieces of legislation and public policy. “Just preach the gospel,” they say, “and when people’s hearts are changed, culture and the law will change, too. In the meantime lead by example.”

I am all for preaching the gospel. I readily admit that changed hearts eventually result in a change in culture and the law. And it’s true that example is a powerful thing. But why must we think of the matter as an either/or proposition:  either we preach the gospel and lead by example, or we are politically active? Why can we not do both?

Imagine yourself living in the days when the slave trade flourished and you felt compelled by Christian conviction to speak out against it and to support officials who had similar convictions. And suppose some well-meaning Christian came along and said, “Don’t mix religion and politics. Politics is a dirty business, don’t you know? Just stick to preaching the gospel and lead by example.” What does leading by example look like in a situation like this? If you’re opposed to the slave-trade, don’t buy a slave? This is the sort of thing people tried to tell William Wilberforce. Thankfully, he didn’t listen.

Or what if you lived in Germany during the Third Reich and some well-intentioned Christian told you not to speak up about that whole Final Solution thing? “Just preach the gospel, and if you’re opposed to killing Jews, don’t kill one.”

Political activity is not only not inappropriate for Christians, it is instead (especially in a system like ours) a vital aspect of responsible Christian living. To think otherwise is akin to Gnosticism. 

This is not to say that we should be beholden to a political party. Far from it. Our ultimate loyalty is to Christ our King. Insofar as a candidate or a political party embodies the righteousness and justice of his cause, they are entitled to our support. Insofar as things are otherwise, they deserve our correction and rebuke.

The level of involvement in the political process will vary for each one of us according to ability, opportunity, and calling. But clearly a part of our responsibility to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world consists in doing what is in our power to elect godly men to public office and seeking to influence office-holders to form public policy that is consistent with the teaching of God’s word.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Patriotism or Idolatry?

We have a natural affinity for those who are closest to us:  our spouse, our children, our church, our school, community, country, etc. We are attached to them emotionally and otherwise precisely because they are ours.

All this is well and good. It is as it should be. God created us to live in just these kinds of covenantal relationships. We should love them and feel a sense of loyalty to them and even take pride in them. But such love, loyalty, and pride have their limits. They must not exceed our love and loyalty to God.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (Matt. 10:37).

If this is so—that not even the love we have for the members of our immediate family (as great as that love is and should be) may take precedence over our commitment to the Lord—how much more is it true of every other relationship, including our love of country?

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been proudly flying the stars and stripes this week. I get choked up when I hear the national anthem. I am amazed at (and grateful for) our nation’s military power and the commitment and courage of those who serve in uniform.

I trust that many of you feel the same way. As I said, all of this is well and good. But we must never allow patriotism to become idolatry. 


Yes, idolatry. Idols are idols even when they are not made of wood and stone. Whatever we love, fear, trust in, or obey more than God—in other words, whatever has the greatest influence in our affections and decision-making—has in fact become an idol to us.

We may (and ought to) apply Jesus’ words to this very subject:  “Whoever loves his country more than me is not worthy of me.” We must never elevate America above God and take the attitude:   “America right or wrong.” Nor should we assume that we are automatically in possession of God’s blessing since after all, we’re America. God doesn’t exist to bless America (although we should humbly petition him to do so). Rather, America exists to serve God. To the extent that she does so, let us be proud with a godly pride. To the extent that she does not, let us play the part of a prophet:

Cry aloud; do not hold back;
            lift up your voice like a trumpet;
and declare to my people their transgression,
            to the house of Jacob their sins (Isa. 58:1).

So let us love our country by celebrating that which is good in it, and laboring to correct whatever does not meet with God’s approval.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Ethics of Killing in Self-Defense

With the George Zimmerman trial in full swing, we might benefit from considering what the Scriptures teach concerning the ethics of killing in self-defense. The subject is broached in Exodus 22:1-4. The passage as a whole is concerned with the crime of theft, and in what manner a thief is to make restitution for his crime, but verses 2-3a deal with a special case—that of a homeowner who uses lethal force to protect himself and his property.

If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him, but if the sun has risen on him, there shall be bloodguilt for him.

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The concern of the law at this point is to determine when a homeowner is and is not justified in using deadly force against a thief. In short, he is justified when the thief is actually caught in the act. If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him (v. 2). The meaning is:  the homeowner shall not be charged with criminal homicide. He is not guilty of unjustly taking a human life. But why is it not unjust? The penalty for theft is restitution, not death. [1]  

Lethal force is not unjust in such a scenario because while the act is in progress and the motives of the intruder are unclear, the homeowner is within his rights to fear the worst—that the intruder may intend not only to steal, but also to kill. In such a case, the homeowner is not to be charged with the guilt of shedding innocent blood.

But what are we to make of the next statement? But if the sun has risen on him, there shall be bloodguilt for him (v. 3a). Most commentators, both Jewish and Christian, understand this of a break-in that occurs during the day as opposed to one that occurs during the night.[2] If the break-in occurs at night, the homeowner is justified in using deadly force (v. 2); but he is not justified in using deadly force if the break-in occurs during the day (v. 3a). If the break-in occurs during the day, and the homeowner kills him, the homeowner shall be charged with criminal homicide. In the words of the text, there shall be blood guilt for him. He shall be held accountable for spilling the blood of someone who did not deserve to die.

Why should there be a difference between killing a thief who breaks and enters by day as opposed to one who does so by night? Several reasons are given:  (1) the power and intention of a thief are more difficult to determine in the dark of night; (2) a thief is more likely to be bold enough to kill a homeowner who resists him at night, trusting in the cover of darkness to hide his identity; (3) the homeowner is less able to “guide his blows with that discretion and moderation which in the day-time he might use”;[3] and (4) during the day there is a greater chance of identifying and apprehending the thief without resorting to killing him.[4]

Rashi interprets if the sun has risen on him metaphorically:  “if it is clear as day that the thief has no evil purpose,” (i.e., he does not intend to murder or otherwise harm the homeowner).[5]

It may be best, however, to understand but if the sun has risen on him to stand in contrast to found breaking in. In other words, the intended contrast may not be between a thief who is found breaking in during the day as opposed to the night, but a thief found in the act as opposed to after the fact. If this is the proper way to take it, then the homeowner who catches a thief in the act of breaking and entering (regardless of whether it is day or night) is justified in assuming the thief’s willingness to commit murder also, and consequently justified in using deadly force to stop him.[6] However, if the homeowner does not catch him in the act, but afterward discovers who he is, hunts him down, and kills him, he is guilty of criminal homicide.[7]

The reasons for this should be obvious. When a thief is caught in the act of breaking and entering, his victim has no way of knowing his full intentions. The homeowner is justified in assuming a worst case scenario—that the intruder intends, or at least is willing to kill if caught in the act. If, however, the thief is caught after the fact, it is apparent he had no intention to harm his victim.

To kill the intruder after the fact is wrong for two reasons:  (1) a thief does not deserve to die for his crime, and (2) whatever punishments are inflicted upon criminals are to be inflicted upon the authority of the civil magistrate after the due process of law.

Certainly, if it can be determined that the intruder means no bodily harm, care should be taken so as not to kill him in the effort to stop him; but the mere circumstance that the crime is committed during the day is no guarantee the intruder means only to steal and not to kill.

The basic principle to be kept in mind is this:  the use of deadly force is justified when there is a reasonable fear the intruder intends bodily harm. This is true whether the crime is committed in the daylight or in the dark of night. Of course, if the would-be thief is observed to possess a weapon, or makes threatening statements or menacing movements, his intentions become clearer.

Undoubtedly one has the right of self-defense in other circumstances also. If one has the right to use deadly force against a thief when caught in the act—when the threat to one’s life and limb is less clear—how much more when the threat is obvious and direct.

In cases of self-defense, quick judgments must be made by the victim concerning the offender’s intentions and what degree of force is necessary to stop him. The details of each case will necessarily be a matter for deliberation by the appropriate governing authorities.

     [1] See vv. 1, 4
     [2] For example, Rashbam, Nachmanides, Cassuto, Paul, Cohn, Telushkin, Calvin, Keil, Clark, Rushdoony, Jordan, Douma, Frame, etc. See also William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book IV § 214
     [3] Matthew Poole, Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, vol. 1, p. 165
     [4] See Frame, “The presumption seems to be that if the sun has risen, less lethal remedies, including help from others, are available” (p. 693.). See also Douma, “In the darkness of night, the situation is confused. Is the intruder armed? Is there only one, or are there more? If the owner (properly) refused to let the intruder simply rob him, a fight could well break out at the cost of the intruder’s life. But during the daytime the situation is clearer, and then everything must be done to prevent bloodshed. From this twofold regulation we see how precious human life is. Even when someone is busy robbing another, care must still be taken with his life” (p. 234). Compare The Twelve Tables of Roman Law: “If one is slain while committing theft by night, he is rightly slain” (VII.3). “If the theft has been done by night, if the owner kills the thief, the thief shall be held to be lawfully killed. It is unlawful for a thief to be killed by day....unless he defends himself with a weapon; even though he has come with a weapon, unless he shall use the weapon and fight back, you shall not kill him. And even if he resists, first call out so that someone may hear and come up” (VIII.12-13). See also the Laws of Eshnunna (§ 12-13).
     [5] The Soncino Chumash, p. 480; cf. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, “If the thing be as clear as the sun that he was not entering to destroy life, and one hath killed him, the guilt of the shedding of innocent blood is upon him.”
     [6] Of course, if the homeowner surprises the thief and the thief attempts to flee, but the homeowner kills him nonetheless, the homeowner is guilty of unjustly taking the intruder’s life.
     [7] This was also the view taken by John Peter Lange, “Inasmuch as further on it is assumed that the thief has really accomplished his theft, the expression probably means:  If some time has elapsed. If in this case the owner kills the thief, he incurs blood-guiltiness” (p. 91).

Monday, July 1, 2013

He Made Them Male and Female

Last week we began to examine what the Bible teaches concerning man. Some of the most important points we considered were that (1) man is not the product of blind evolutionary forces, but is instead the very handiwork of God; (2) the creation of man was a collaborative effort of the Holy Trinity; (3) man was created in the image of God; (4) the human race is one (implication:  since we are all descendants of one man, we are all distantly related and there is no room in the thinking of a Christian for racism); and (5) man was created to glorify God.

What we did not have time for last week, but is nevertheless essential for us to discuss—especially after the decisions of the Supreme Court this past week—is the fact that God made man male and female. In our opening text we read this:

So God created man in his own image,
            in the image of God he created him;
            male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

And then in chapter two we have the details. Chapter one gives us a general overview of creation. Chapter two gives us some of the particulars about the creation of man. This is important to understand because there are some people who set these two chapters over against each other and claim they give us two different and contradictory accounts of creation. Perhaps to a superficial reader they appear contradictory, but they really are nothing of the sort. They are complementary, chapter one giving us an overview, and chapter two breaking it down and giving us some of the details.

The thing that is vital for us to understand, however, is the fact that the creation narrative is paradigmatic of God’s intention for marriage. This means that the creation narrative sets the example, serves as the pattern, gives us the model for properly understanding God’s intention for marriage. In other words, the creation narrative is an expression of his will.

This is certainly what Jesus teaches, isn’t it? Do you remember when the Pharisees posed a question to Jesus concerning divorce? They asked him, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” What they were asking is expressed more fully in the NIV:  “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any and every cause?” They asked this question of Jesus because there was a controversy in his day between the two chief schools of rabbinic thought. The majority sided with Rabbi Hillel who taught that a man could divorce his wife for virtually any reason whatsoever. And they were asking Jesus, “Is this true?” And how did Jesus respond? It’s very interesting. He grounded his answer in the creation narrative. He took the narrative as an expression of God’s will concerning marriage. He said,

Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? (Matt. 19:3-5)

And then he draws a conclusion that relates directly to the question he was asked. He said, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:6). Jesus takes the creation narrative as an expression of the divine will and as providing moral norms with respect to marriage. (And by the way, Paul does the same thing in First Corinthians 11 and First Timothy 2.)

The question Jesus answered from the creation paradigm concerned the subject of divorce. But the creation narrative expresses a number of other aspects of God’s will concerning marriage as well. What things? Though we could identify several more, let me just mention four today.


The first is monogamy. The word monogamy, of course, means marriage to one person. You will recognize the Greek prefix mono as meaning one (monologue, monocle, monotone, monotony, monopoly, mononucleosis, etc.). The second half of monogamy comes from the Greek gamos, meaning marriage.

God’s will concerning monogamy is evident from the fact that God created one man and one woman. He did not create one man and several women. It wasn’t Adam and Eve and Mary and Susan and Patty and Jane. Nor did God create one woman and several men. It was one man and one woman. This provides us with the divine norm for marriage and clearly rules out polygamy or plural marriage. This is why we find Paul teaching that one of the qualifications for serving in the offices of elder and deacon is that a candidate must be “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2, 12). A more literal translation of the Greek is “a man of one woman.” This means that not only are elders and deacons each to have only one wife, but they are to be faithful to their wives, meaning that not only is polygamy ruled out, but so is adultery and everything else that betrays a lack of devotion to one’s wife.

Paul establishes this as a rule for elders and deacons because it is in accord with God’s will as it is revealed in the creation narrative, and elders and deacons are to be examples to the flock. They are to be devoted to one woman. And this devotion to one’s wife is to last for life.

Lifelong monogamy

God’s will, then, is not only monogamy, but lifelong monogamy. God didn’t create Adam a new wife after a few years of living with Eve, or Eve a new husband after a few years of living with Adam. He didn’t say, “Look Adam I know you need a little variety in life to spice things up a bit, let me create you a new woman.” No. God said that a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. He shall not discard her.

This rules out serial monogamy. This really was the question the Pharisees posed to Jesus. Those of the school of Hillel taught that a man must be faithful to his wife so long as he was married to her, but he could divorce her for any one of a number of different reasons, including not cooking his food according to his liking, or because she had bad breath, or even because he found another woman more attractive. Any light or trivial thing could be used as a justification for a man to divorce his wife. Jesus, on the other hand, said that divorce was allowable only when there was an offense that struck at the heart of the marriage covenant, like infidelity.

The liberal divorce law of the Hillel school is the sort of thing the Lord speaks against in Malachi.

And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. [dje – that is, the Lord has no regard for your worship or answers your prayers] But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them [dje – husband and wife] one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her [dje – without proper justification], says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” (Mal. 2:13-16)

The paradigm of creation teaches not just monogamy, but lifelong monogamy. Only when there is an egregious breach of the marriage covenant resulting in a lawful divorce, or in the case of the death of a spouse, is a second marriage permissible.

Heterosexual Lifelong monogamy

It should be obvious from everything that we have said so far that God’s intention for marriage—his will for marriage—does not include homosexual relationships whether gay or lesbian. God made man male and female. He made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, nor Eve and Genevieve. He made a man and a woman. He made man male and female, and he made them this way for a purpose, in order to fulfill a calling.

God’s Calls Married Couples to be Fruitful and Multiply

This calling is central to the creational paradigm for marriage. We must not overlook the fact that God called Adam and Eve to be co-creators with him in the procreation of children.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28).

Remember what we read in Malachi:

Did he not make them one [husband and wife], with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring (Mal. 2:15).

Procreation, or having children, is not incidental to God’s purpose for marriage; it is fundamental. But of course procreation is impossible in homosexual relationships. It is a calling that neither two men, nor two women can fulfill…for obvious reasons:  they are not properly equipped for the task.

Now perhaps someone will argue, “Well some male-female couples are unable to bear children, too. Does that mean that they have no business being married?” No, it doesn’t mean that at all because there is a vast difference between the two. The inability of a homosexual couple to conceive is inherent in the nature of the relationship. The inability of a heterosexual couple to conceive is only accidental. Homosexuals know going into it that they cannot produce children. Infertile heterosexual couples don’t know until afterward. In their case, it is a matter of finding out that something is physiologically wrong. But a homosexual couple can be perfectly healthy and they can still never bear children. In other words, they cannot fulfill one of the fundamental purposes of marriage.

Heteros Trashed Marriage, Sex, and Family First

I must say that it has been a departure of heterosexuals from a biblical view of marriage, sex, and family that has paved the way for the advance of the homosexual agenda. The decline of marriage—the assault on marriage, really—began among heteros with the separation of sex from any consideration of bearing children, a separation which was made possible by the pill. (A good book to read on this subject is Adam and Eve After the Pill:  Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution, by Mary Eberstadt, 2012). If there is little to no risk of sex leading to children, then there is little to no need of waiting for marriage to have sex. Casual, recreational, indiscriminate, and promiscuous sex does not bear the same consequences as it had always done in the past with respect to producing children. Knowing that a brief casual sexual encounter might lead to a lifetime responsibility of being a parent had the effect of encouraging sexual self-control—especially among women, because the larger share of the responsibility of raising a child has always fallen upon the mother. It was not in her interest to have a child out of wedlock. Enter the pill. Consequence removed.

There are still other consequences, of course:  physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational consequences, but these are not as immediately obvious or as easily quantified and so they don’t provide as much incentive for sexual self-restraint. But my point is that when heteros began to think of sex apart from marriage and family, it paved the way for homosexuals to say there really is no difference between us.

This point is well made by Yale professor George Chauncey, who is himself a homosexual. He has shown that the acceptance of homosexual behavior was,

profoundly shaped by the sexual revolution of the 1960s and ‘70s. All around them, lesbians, bisexuals, and gay men saw their heterosexual friends decisively rejecting the moral codes of their parents’ generation, which had limited sex to marriage, and forging a new moral code that linked sex to love, pleasure, freedom, self-expression, and common consent [dje – in other words disassociate sex from marriage and family]. Heterosexuals, in other words, were becoming more like homosexuals [dje – whose sexual acts could never produce children], in ways that ultimately would make it harder for them to believe gay people were outsiders from a dangerous, immoral underworld. Moreover, the fact that so many young heterosexuals considered sexual freedom to be a vital marker of personal freedom made lesbians and gay men feel their quest for freedom was part of a larger movement. Ultimately, both gay people’s mass decision to come out and heterosexuals’ growing acceptance of them were encouraged by the sexual revolution and became two of its most enduring legacies. I think this did not represent the assimilation of gay life into the Normal so much as the transformation of the Normal itself.[1]

Most of us here in this room were raised either during or after the sexual revolution. We can hardly imagine a world in which the Norm is not “do whatever you want with whomever you please whenever and wherever you wish.” We can hardly imagine a world in which the cultural expectation was more or less consistent with what the Bible teaches, even if it stemmed more from pragmatic considerations than from Christian convictions. We can hardly imagine a world in which the institutions of society supported marriage and welcomed and encouraged the having of children, encouraged fidelity, looked with disapproval upon sex before marriage, a world in which virginity was beautiful and honorable and a prized possession.

The vast majority of our social ills would disappear if such things were true today. Today’s cultural assumptions and practices with regard to marriage, sex, and family have been devastating at all levels:  personal, family, and societal. For instance, one of the reasons the government has grown to such enormous proportions is because of the breakdown of the family. The government is increasingly taking on the role of parent, and this only further encourages the breakdown of the family. If the government is there to pick up the slack, then we can all shirk our responsibilities.

The transformation of the Normal with respect to sexual behavior necessarily includes a redefinition of marriage. Marriage is no longer viewed even by most heterosexuals as a “comprehensive, exclusive, permanent union that is intrinsically ordered to producing children.”[2] It is instead “an emotional union, rather than one inherently ordered to family life.”[3] And if such an emotional bond can lead to marriage among heteros, in other words, if heteros no longer think of bearing and raising children as fundamental  to marriage and sex (children are just an option)—then why not homosexual marriage?

Reasons for opposing the redefinition of marriage

There are many reasons to oppose gay marriage. The first is because “gay marriage” is an oxymoron. It’s a self-contradiction.  It is war against reality. And it is never wise to tamper with reality.

The second reason to oppose what is called by the oxymoronic term “gay marriage” is that if such a union is given the same legal status as real marriage, then on the principle of equality, people in said unions will demand the right to have children (adoption, artificial insemination, surrogate motherhood, etc.), and it is demonstrable that children who are brought up with same sex parents are worse off in nearly every measurable way. [4]

There are eight outcome variables where differences between the children of homosexual parents and married parents were not only present, and favorable to the married parents, but where these findings were statistically significant for both children of lesbian mothers and "gay" fathers and both with and without controls. While all the findings in the study are important, these are the strongest possible ones--virtually irrefutable. Compared with children raised by their married biological parents (IBF), children of homosexual parents (LM and GF):

·      Are much more likely to have received welfare (IBF 17%; LM 69%; GF 57%)
·      Have lower educational attainment
·      Report less safety and security in their family of origin
·      Report more ongoing "negative impact" from their family of origin
·      Are more likely to suffer from depression
·      Have been arrested more often
·      If they are female, have had more sexual partners--both male and female

The following…are some additional areas in which the children of lesbian mothers (who represented 71% of all the children with homosexual parents in this study) differed from the IBF children, in ways that were statistically significant in both a direct comparison and with controls. Children of lesbian mothers:

·      Are more likely to be currently cohabiting
·      Are almost 4 times more likely to be currently on public assistance
·      Are less likely to be currently employed full-time
·      Are more than 3 times more likely to be unemployed
·      Are nearly 4 times more likely to identify as something other than entirely heterosexual
·      Are 3 times as likely to have had an affair while married or cohabiting
·      Are an astonishing 10 times more likely to have been "touched sexually by a parent or other adult caregiver."
·      Are nearly 4 times as likely to have been "physically forced" to have sex against their will
·      Are more likely to have "attachment" problems related to the ability to depend on others
·      Use marijuana more frequently
·      Smoke more frequently
·      Watch TV for long periods more frequently
·      Have more often pled guilty to a non-minor offense

The third reason why we ought to oppose what is called gay marriage is for the purpose of giving hope to those who ensnared in this sin. Legalization legitimizes a behavior. It expresses social approval. And if homosexual behavior is viewed with approval, what social incentives are there for homosexuals to change? Approval only confirms them in their sinful and self-destructive ways and offers them no hope of escape. If we love them and care for them—and we should—we will tell them that their behavior is unacceptable to God and offensive to him, but that his mercy is great, and if they turn to him he will forgive their sins and give them the power to overcome their temptations and change their desires (1 Cor. 6:9-11). You can find many wonderful and very moving testimonies online.[5]

The fourth reason we ought to oppose what is called gay marriage is that widespread acceptance and practice of homosexual behavior and other sexual perversions will be visited with the wrath of God. We have, of course, the example of Sodom and Gomorrah (not that homosexual behavior was the only sin that led to their downfall, but it was certainly a prominent reason). In addition, we have the warning of Leviticus 18:24-30 and the teaching of Paul in Romans 1:18-27.

If This Then That

We are na├»ve to think that recognizing homosexual relationships as the moral and legal equivalent of marriage is where the matter ends because the reasoning which is used to justify it will inevitably lead us to justify polygamy, incest, and even pedophilia. If all that is necessary is an emotional bond where two people profess their love for each other, then on what rational basis can we limit the relationship to just two? Is it not inherently discriminatory to polyamorous people to prevent them from marrying? Why shouldn’t marriage involve more than two so long as they can say, “But we love each other”?[6]

On what rational basis can we deny marriage to a brother and sister who profess their love for each other, or between a mother and her son, or a father and his daughter? I mean, if they really love each other? We can no longer use the excuse that children born to incestuous relationships are more likely to have birth defects, because after all there is always the pill, and if that fails there is always abortion, or if Peter Singer has his way, infanticide.[7]

Further, if “love” is the only requirement for sex or marriage why not an adult and a child, if the child is willing?[8]

My point is that the rationale or the logic used to justify same-sex marriage necessarily leads us to this brave new world where anyone could marry (or at least have sex with) anyone and as many anyones as they profess to love.

But perhaps the most troubling aspect of the SCOTUS decisions last week is the assumption, clearly written into the opinion of Justice Anthony Kennedy for the majority in the DOMA case, that those who oppose the legalization of gay marriage are motivated by hate. Justice Antonin Scalia put his finger on this when he wrote in his scathing dissent that the court has adjudged those who oppose gay marriage to be “enemies of the human race,” and that by so opposing it we intend to “disparage,” “injure,” “degrade,” “demean,” and “humiliate” homosexuals.

Even though the DOMA decision only affects the definition of marriage for federal purposes—striking down the requirement that marriage necessarily involves a man and a woman—the reasoning of the court will necessarily lead to challenges of state law. If limiting marriage to the union of a man and woman at the federal level is hateful and discriminatory, why wouldn’t this be true at the state level? And if so, the situation will have to be remedied.

The redefinition of marriage will also have a huge impact on religious liberty. If opposition to gay marriage is hateful and bigoted then clearly such opposition cannot be tolerated. They try to assure us that it will not impinge on religious freedom, by which they mean that ministers and churches will not be forced to participate in homosexual unions. But that is the limit of their idea of religious freedom with regard to this issue.

There has been, of late, a troubling change in terminology by members of the current administration, a change from talking about freedom of religion to freedom of worship.[9] The change may seem inconsequential, but it is potentially very far reaching in its implications. Worship can be taken to mean “what you do in church.” If this change in terminology reflects an underlying shift from the exercise of religion in the broad sense that the First Amendment undoubtedly has in view, to “what you do in church on Sunday morning,” then what this effectively means is that you may behave as a Christian when you are in church, but not elsewhere.

The First Amendment might well keep clergy from being forced to celebrate same-sex weddings, but their lay coreligionists will not enjoy similar protections, nor will their educational and social-service institutions long escape discrimination in licensing and government contracting. From the wedding on through the honeymoon and into common life, couples transact as a couples with countless people. Photographers, caterers, innkeepers, adoption agency officials, parochial school administrators, counselors, foster-care and adoption providers, and others will be forced to comply with the revisionist view or lose their jobs.

We are not scaremongering:  we are taking revisionists at their word. If support for conjugal marriage [dje – traditional marriage to the exclusion of “gay marriage”] really is like racism, we need only ask how civil society treats racists. We marginalize and stigmatize them. Thus, in a rare departure from professional norms, a prominent law firm in April 2011 reneged on its commitment to defend the Defense of Marriage Act for the House of Representatives. In Canada, Damian Goddard was fired from his job as a sportscaster for expressing on Twitter support for conjugal marriage. A Georgia counselor contracted by the Centers for Disease Control was fired after an investigation into her religiously motivated decision to refer someone in a same-sex relationship to another counselor. A ministry in New Jersey lost its tax-exempt status for denying a lesbian couple use of its facility for a same-sex wedding. A photographer was prosecuted in the New Mexico Human Rights Commission for declining to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony.

The courts are already eroding freedoms in this area, as champions of the rights of conscience have shown. In Massachusetts, Catholic Charities was forced to give up its adoption services rather than violate its principles by placing children with same-sex cohabitants. When public schools began teaching students about same-sex civil marriage, precisely on the ground that it was now the law of the commonwealth, a Court of Appeals ruled that parents had no right to exempt their students. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty reports that over “350 separate state anti-discrimination provisions would likely be triggered by recognition of same-sex marriage.”

Because of the mutual influence of law and culture, moreover, emerging legal trends are mirrored by social ones. The dismissal of the conjugal view as bigotry has become so deeply entrenched among revisionists that a Washington Post story drew denunciations and cries of journalistic bias for even implying that one conjugal view advocate was “sane” and “thoughtful.” Outraged readers compared the profile to a hypothetical puff piece on a Ku Klux Klan member.[10]


It remains to be seen just how hard and how consistently the proponents of gay marriage are willing to suppress dissent, but at this point things do not look good for those who are anything other than enthusiastic cheerleaders for the cause.

In the meantime let us be remember that “no wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord” (Prov. 21:30). He is not worried. Rebellion against the Lord is doomed to failure.

Why do the nations rage
            and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
            and the rulers take counsel together,
            against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
            and cast their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
            the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
            and terrify them in his fury (Ps. 2:1-5)

One last thing:  the political and legal battles must be fought, and thank God for those individuals and organizations who are on the frontline, but that is only one aspect of the warfare. The other—and more important one—is the Christian family. Never underestimate the powerful witness of a home that is filled with love and joy and peace as a result of the grace of Jesus Christ. It is a beautiful thing. Let’s strive to live in such a way in our own families so that when others see it they can’t help but say, “I want that!”

[2] Justice Samuel Alito in dissent in the DOMA case as quoted in “The Supreme Court, You and Me, and the Future of Marriage,” by Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George
[3] Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George, What is Marriage? Man and Woman:  A Defense (New York, NY:  Encounter Books, 2012)
[4] See the results of the study released last year by Mark Regnerus, “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study” (; for an overview of the study see “New Study on Homosexual Parents Tops All Previous Research,” by Peter Sprigg (
[6] “Plural marriage supporters find hope in this week’s court rulings” ( The ACLU’s official position is favorable to polygamy (
[7] “Taking Life:  Humans” and excerpt from Practical Ethics, 2nd edition, Cambridge, 1993, pp. 175-217 ; see also Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, “After-birth abortion:  why should the baby live?” (
[8] “Pedophiles want same rights as homosexuals:  Claim unfair to be stigmatized for sexual orientation,”
[10] Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George, What is Marriage? Man and Woman:  A Defense (New York, NY:  Encounter Books, 2012)