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Demons, Dreams, and Deceptions

May 29, 2012 2 comments

I figured I should write on this subject while the content is still somewhat fresh in my mind. We all really need to learn how to discern the truth from a wide array of information sources. I hope this will at least give people a general idea and awareness to supplement their knowledge of the Bible.

Everyone has dreams, and many people even claim to have visions or to have heard from God in some way. How are we to know if these dreams are reliable sources of information? Well, it first helps to concretely realize this fact: Dreams come from only three different sources: 1) our own subconscious, 2) God, and 3) demons. That’s it.

Most dreams probably come from within ourselves—sometimes deep within our subconscious. They are a jumble of past experiences, thoughts, and things we have sensed, felt, or feared. The next time you have a dream, try tracing its steps. When I do dream, I can often determine later why a certain person appeared in a certain setting or whatever. And don’t underestimate your own capacity for creativeness, especially when you are unrestricted in imagination. When you’re asleep, you’re not worried about things making sense or if a train of thought is strange or corny. You know how musicians claim to make better music when they’re on drugs? Well, it’s because they become unrestricted creatively. They are “freeing their minds” (although in a very dangerous and often destructive fashion). Likewise, with our conscious minds switched off, our thoughts can roam freely with fewer hindrances.

Those are dreams from a natural source. But sometimes, more rarely, dreams or visions can also come from supernatural sources. And determining where a dream came from is not as simple as people seem to think.

There seems to be a line of thought where if a person identifies him/herself as a Christian, then all those dreams must be from God. Those that receive demonic dreams must be unbelievers, they reason.

This is far from the truth, actually. As Christians, we are protected from certain kinds of demonic attack, but not all. For instance, we cannot be fully possessed and controlled by demons because we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who is far greater in power. But we can still be tempted and deceived if we are not vigilant and on guard—equipped with truth to combat the lies. Deception is by far the #1 tool of the enemy. Satan is not called the “Father of Lies” for nothing.

While demons cannot read our minds—because they are not omniscient like God—they can implant thoughts and ideas into our heads. And knowing what they themselves have implanted, they can know what you are thinking at certain moments. They are also keen observers who have been watching mankind since our inception, so they quite literally know us better than we know ourselves. We must never take them lightly (nor should we have an inordinate amount of fear paralyzing us from possessing a bold faith). Satan is smarter than all of us, so the only way we can hope to discern the truth is to study the Word of God and stay in prayer.

Remember: A genuine dream or communication from God will never, ever contradict scripture—nor will it add to it. God does not tell or empower anyone to “fix” or “update” His word.

Aside from blatantly contradicting scripture (which is a HUGE portion of Satan’s lies), there are certain signs that a dream or a “truth” is coming from a demon rather than God. This isn’t an exact science, of course, but this list has scriptural and theological support. Feel free to replace the word “dream” with a lot of other things, like “feeling,” “conviction,” etc…

The dream tells you what you want to hear, even though you know it’s probably wrong. Satan likes to whisper sweet nothings in people’s ears, pushing them to do wrong by easing their conscience. He also tries to inject some Christian-sounding justifications for our wrong behavior to trick our gullible minds. (Satan knows the Bible, too, but his interpretation is always twisted.) You’ll notice that many of Satan’s lies are simply variations from the original granddaddy of them all: “[Go ahead and eat that fruit]…you will surely not die!”

Example #1: “Go ahead and marry that alcoholic, non-Christian, and volatile bad boy. You can do God’s work by converting him, and love can change people!”

See 2 Corinthians 6:14, which flat-out contradicts this. True, God can change anybody’s heart, but it’s a huge risk and an exception He makes purely out of grace. Even when we disobey, God can still show us kindness—but it’s still sin. Dangerously, more often than not, the unbeliever drags the believer down.

Example #2: “Sure Christians can regularly go clubbing and live a lifestyle close to sin. After all, how else will those lost souls be reached? Don’t be so prude and legalistic!”

God tells us to run far from sin, not dabble in it or toe the line. If God wants to bring a lost soul to Him, it can be accomplished in other ways. While efforts like prison ministry are valid because of the general lack of influence prisoners have on ministers there, a “clubbing ministry” or “partying ministry” would be highly suspect.

The dream gives the recipient a sense of power and uniqueness that puffs up pride and self-worth. Again, there’s nothing new about this; pride is the original sin. Satan knows this, so he instructs his demons to find ways to make people feel special by giving them a false sense of purpose and power.

Example #1: “You are to lead up a new religion! God has specifically chosen you out of everyone else to show the error of Christianity to the world. Those Christians will try to tell you how you are plainly wrong according to scripture, but don’t you listen. ‘God’ is on your side, chosen one!'”

(You can pretty much substitute “new religion” with “atheism” and “God” with “logic”…the lie and the appeal to pride are the same.)

Many false religions probably began like this. While it is true that the church has often been corrupt and in need of reform, God would never revise His already-completed Word. While interpretation of the Bible has been botched for man’s selfish purposes, the words themselves have remained steady and true. Check your beliefs against the Word daily.

Example#2: “I, ‘God,” am now giving you the power to tell others what to do with their lives. They will line up at conferences and retreats to hear your wisdom. You are a modern prophet!”

Any time in the Bible that miracles or prophets are used by God, it is to facilitate a great movement of some kind—whether fulfilling a grand promise of God, stirring a nation to repentance, or validating the revelation of Jesus Christ as savior and Messiah. A person is never bestowed with divine power or knowledge to simply feel useful or even just to help people. Do you ever notice how such “prophets” seem to always tell everyone else that they are chosen to do “big things” for God? Plus, there’s a lot people can tell by looking at the eyes, so it’s not all supernatural.

If I went to those people with a mean look on my face, I might get the “God is telling me that you need to pray more” response rather than the “you are going to do big things for His kingdom.” Just maybe…or am I being way too cynical here?

The dream communicates with someone from heaven or hell. The purpose of Satan tricking people into hearing from “the beyond” is usually to spread some kind of deception or to lure them away from relying on God as their source of truth. I am hard-pressed to find a single example from the Bible where anyone on earth successfully hears from someone in heaven or hell. Why would anyone in heaven or hell be interested in earth’s affairs?

Even when Jesus told of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:14-31), that was a parable, not a real-life occurrence. There seems to be a practically impenetrable divide between our world and theirs, so be aware of this. The only one we can maybe hear from beyond is God, but that’s because He is God. Plus, He is omnipresent, so He’s present in this world anyway. (Please note: I am aware of the potentially sensitive content that is about to follow, but I think that people have shied away from this too much when people need to know the truth.)

Example #1: “Granny Smith came to me in a dream last night, and she told me that she is happy in heaven right now! That is such a relief because I was pretty sure she wasn’t even a Christian while she was living.”

I am convinced that Satan perpetrates this particular kind of lie very often to get people to alter their views on salvation and God’s standard. It tricks people into thinking that getting into heaven is easy, and all you need to do is basically be a “good person,” again contradicting the Bible and shifting the priority away from God’s sovereignty to human works.

Example #2: “An oracle told me that Uncle Bob is in heaven, and the guy was pretty nasty! I guess God’s grace really does cover all. I know the oracle was telling me the truth because she also mentioned Uncle Bob was sitting in his favorite polka-dotted couch, and how could anyone know about this??”

Again, same sort of lie, but this time it is bolstered with “evidence.” Of course, any demon who observed Uncle Bob for any amount of time on this earth could tell the oracle that. The oracle is speaking to a trickster demon, probably without even realizing it.

Example #3: “A pastor claims to be able to speak with people in the afterlife, and apparently, John Calvin is in hell pleading with us not to believe his theology!”

(A real-life pastor actually claimed to hear John Calvin warning us from hell. The person that told this to me did not necessarily believe it, but just mentioned it as an observation.)

Again, there is no reason to believe in speaking with those in the afterlife, so we can reasonably conclude that this is another demon trying to trick us. Since we know that deception is their main tool, we can pretty much believe the opposite. Calvin is almost certainly in heaven (we can only speculate, after all), and he was probably onto something that Satan didn’t like. By the way, don’t believe someone just because they hold the title of “pastor.” The world is rife with false teachers—even those who don’t realize they are misleading others; they can be nice people with good intentions. Being a pastor does not mean they have a good grasp of the Bible. Heck, Dan Barker went to seminary and he botches even basic elements of interpretation. I have a B.A. in Economics from a good university, but other than supply and demand and “sunk cost,” there’s not much else I remember.

What’s even more alarming from this example is that God explicitly mentions trying to call upon the dead as an abomination, and it was punishable by death (Deut. 18:11; 1 Chron. 10:13-14). Attempting to convene with the dead is basically inviting demons to mess with you. Believing these types of dreams can lead us dangerously astray as well. I fear for this pastor’s spiritual well-being. I might expect this from someone involved in the occult, but not a Christian.

*Please note that just because we dreamed about someone we love being in heaven, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s false or demonic. It’s possible that we are piecing that together in our own subconscious and drawing upon our own memories and hopes for that person. It’s also possible that God may be comforting us with this knowledge, but it’s pretty unlikely. I don’t think we would be directly speaking to that individual in any case. If there appears to be an unmistakable supernatural element to it, then immediately be on guard.

**It is my guess/observation that the vast majority of people fall into one of two camps: 1) They believe in the afterlife and that communication between both worlds is possible, even common; and 2) there is no afterlife, and therefore, all supposed communication between both worlds is a trick or scam. My personal stance from reading the Bible is that there is an afterlife, but no communication between both worlds. If there is spiritual communication—whether from God or demons—it is done on earth and not through some invisible portal. If there were some kind of portal, only God would have the authority to use it anyway.

I think you’re starting to get the gist, and as you can probably surmise, these kinds of deceptions are not limited to dreams only. They could come as visions or even “moments of clarity” or revelation. Sometimes, I’m tempted to think that the words I write on this blog are coming almost directly from God, but I have to quickly check my pride. While I do think God can use me, nothing I write is infallible and should be checked against scripture.

The Bible trumps all other knowledge, and not every supernatural “feel-good” experience is from God. Let’s equip ourselves by studying the Word every day. If you don’t know the Bible, then you won’t know if something is contradicting it. Always remember Jesus’ exhortation to us all: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” — Matthew 10:16.

As always, mind and heart—not one or the other.

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Misinterpreting Scripture (Part 3: Hyperbole – Updated 5/25/12)

May 24, 2012 1 comment

Yes, even the Bible uses hyperbole (and metaphors, analogies, etc.). What’s the point of this, you ask? Well, to make a point clearer or to convey emotion and urgency rather than straight information.

You see it often in the Old Testament prophets whose jobs were not simply to predict the future, but to warn people of their disobedience and to snap them out of their spiritual malaise. They would use very graphic and extreme language to voice the displeasure of God. Otherwise, the Jews wouldn’t have listened with ears perked because of their stubbornness. Saying “Nation of Israel, God is not happy with you right now” simply doesn’t have the same sobering effect of comparing them to “whores” (essentially cheating on God with other false gods).

Jesus uses hyperbole as well. Consider this passage from Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

Now, as we saw in Part 2, let’s ABC (assume basic competence) here. Nobody could have possibly thought this was actually telling us to hate our own parents in the traditional sense. Heck, honoring our parents is even one of the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:12)! Not only that, but Jesus himself affirms this command in Matthew 15:4.

So what is Jesus saying here? Well, first of all, the word translated as “hate” does not mean to have an intense feeling of dislike as we might assume. In Greek, it means something closer to loving something much less. (There’s a lot of subtle meaning that English apparently doesn’t have that Hebrew and Greek do. This is one of the lingering negative effects of man’s rebellion at the Tower of Babel, I suppose…dealing with translation issues.) For our purposes, “hate” is still a close-enough translation, hyperbole considered.

Basically, if we are truly followers of Jesus Christ, He must come clearly first. If parents are to be honored, as is emphasized multiple times throughout the Bible, but we must “hate” them in following Jesus, how much more must we relegate the lesser things in our lives! Things like social status, money, or pleasure…they need to take an ever further back seat.

Practically speaking, this means that the will of God takes precedence over our parents. If we are clearly called by God to become missionaries, for example, but our parents want us to become doctors or lawyers, we must obey God and ignore our parents’ wishes in this case. If our parents are nonbelievers and want nothing to do with you because of your Christian faith, you must choose your faith over your parents’ unbelief. Better still, you should continue to try to evangelize to them.

Of course, as with everything, we must have a balanced view here. Jesus is not telling us to ignore our parents’ commands completely. We are to love and honor them whenever possible, and importantly, they are still above us in the chain of command. If this life is like a big company, our parents are still our day-to-day, immediate supervisors—but Jesus is the President and CEO. Obviously, if the CEO comes down to ask something of you personally, you do what he says.

Often, our parents’ wishes will function as confirmation of what God wants us to do IF they are continually in prayer and living their lives in accordance with God’s will. If they are worldly parents, then they can still bestow worldly wisdom and experience, which can be helpful, but such advice is ultimately hit-or-miss and contingent upon circumstances.

If you feel led by God to do something, but your godly parents are wholly opposed to it—and have good reasons as well—then God might be telling you, “I don’t know where you felt that leading from, but it certainly wasn’t from me.” If you feel that your prayers have been answered, then confirmation from reliable outside sources should also follow if it is legitimate.

*Update: Another example of hyperbole would be this famous passage:

Matthew 5:29-30: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

First, let’s consider this passage at its most basic level. What is Jesus saying? One of the more obvious points he’s making is that sin is very serious—in this context, especially lust. We need to take drastic measures to keep ourselves from continually sinning. Too often, we abuse God’s grace thinking, “We’re forgiven anyway, what’s the big deal?” This mentality simply cannot persist in a true believer.

Also, Jesus is telling us that sin can actually cause a person to go to hell.

Give that a second to sink in. I’m sure a number of objections are popping into your mind at this moment.

“But we’ve all sinned!”

“Sinning can’t make me go to hell if I’ve already accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior!”

I agree wholeheartedly on both counts. What I think Jesus is indicating here is that a person who perpetually sins—and is not already saved—is driving himself away from God, making the likelihood of coming to salvation more and more unlikely. If a person tries to be humble and does not engage in a very sinful lifestyle, he is naturally more receptive to the word of God. If a person is living recklessly, continually indulging in his lust (which is the primary focus of this passage, really) or pride, then they are pushing themselves away from God. Ultimately, they are driving themselves closer and closer to hell.

A person may also presume upon his salvation when he is really not there yet. Many people attend church and think themselves to be saved, but if they continue to live in sin, they are doing two things: 1) indicating that they are not being sanctified and may have not received the Holy Spirit to begin with; and 2) they are not interested in following Jesus Christ with their lives.

There are also some Bible-believing Christians who think that Christians can actually exercise their free will to such an extent as to lose their salvation. While many do not agree with this position, it would be prudent not to completely dismiss it either.

Now, is Jesus literally saying to gouge out your eyes? Maybe. If a pedophile really cannot help himself, gouging out his eyes might be what he needs in order to prevent himself from sinning and harming others. Maybe that’s the only way he can recenter his life and try to focus on God. In extreme cases, it’s possible that such measures would be worth it.

More likely, however, this passage is another example of hyperbole. Jesus is teaching a poignant truth: the extreme seriousness of sin and lust. If this passage were completely literal, there would be Christians with eye patches everywhere. I don’t think that’s what Jesus expected, but like God does in other parts of Scripture, He’s making a point we can remember. He’s shocking us to wake us up from our spiritual and moral slumber. He knows our tendency to ignore soft wording.

A little bit about me…(very open and informal)

May 23, 2012 2 comments

I think of myself as a somewhat odd sort of Christian, and I am definitely still a work in progress. I have always been somewhat rebellious at heart, and for much of my life, that showed in my lack of respect for my parents and for authority in general. Not that I got into huge trouble with the law or anything like that (I cared a little too much about myself for that), but I always questioned everything people told me. I still do, even when it comes to my solid church pastor, but especially when that person is hit-or-miss. This usually led to teachers not liking me at first, though some came around eventually.

I am also a strange Korean-American. Honestly, I feel neither Korean nor American, and I don’t necessarily mean that in a “my citizenship is in heaven” sort of way (though there is certainly that, especially when it comes to morals). My mother tried persistently to get me to be a friendly, respectful Asian boy, but I never quite mastered the art of bowing 90 degrees to elders and stuff like that. Maybe it was pride, but I think most of all, it was my intense hatred for fakeness. Unless there is some specific reason to refrain, I like being as real as possible—while avoiding rudeness if possible. This sometimes leads me to trouble, and I’m sure if I ever become a pastor or something, people are going to hate some of the things I say and flame me.

I also don’t feel fully American in that I don’t really care about the “American dream” of stability, white picket fences, and material things. I don’t care for small talk much at all, and while I am generally pretty adept in social situations, I could literally live in a cave by myself for years and be perfectly fine. I don’t mind being around people, especially my close friends, but I also don’t mind being alone for the most part. Of course, that has changed since I’ve gotten married and it’s difficult to imagine a life apart from my wife for any significant amount of time (short periods of time are OK haha)…but yea, that’s who I am naturally.

While no one is completely impervious to social pressures, I really think I am on the extreme of not caring what people think—unless maybe their opinion actually matters to me (and even then, it will give me pause and make me think, not necessarily drive me). I don’t go along with the crowd, but I also don’t try to go against it deliberately like some people who want to feel unique and different. You know the type: the ones who hate everything mainstream and look down on the rest of society for being sheep and blah blah blah.

One example would be where I was a youth group teacher years ago at a church retreat, and the guest speaker was telling the group to come up to the front if we would like to re-dedicate ourselves to Christ and pledge to study His word fervently from now on. To me, it sounded like a lot, and I honestly wasn’t in a good spiritual place at the time (and yes, not all teachers/leaders are, sadly), so I stayed seated. I prayed that the desire would grow in me, but I noticed that literally 99% of the group went up there—kids and teachers alike. The only stragglers were some of the newcomers and me. One of the kids who knew me was shocked and had a look of concern on his face. He later asked me, “Why didn’t you go up?” I answered, “Because I wasn’t honestly ready for that kind of commitment.” I would have followed up with, “Are you??” but I left it alone because he was young and idealistic.

Perhaps I may have hurt some people’s trust in me at that point, but I really can’t fake it. I’m told I need to smile more, but I’m thinking, “Isn’t smiling for when I’m actually happy about something in particular?” Sometimes, I actually think I’m smiling, but when I check the mirror, I still have the same “con man” face on. I have poor control over my facial muscles, apparently. You should have been there for the first couple of wedding photo sessions. It wasn’t pretty. (I eventually learned that in order to make a normal smiling face, I need to conjure up something completely different in my mind.) I really need to become more approachable to people.

I am also a natural procrastinator—though I’ve matured in this area a great deal (still need to improve more)—and have a hard time caring about what’s coming up in the future. This is why it’s so humorous to me when atheists accuse me of being a Christian for that warm assurance of eternal life when I die. Really, you think I’m already thinking about death? I’m not even thinking more than a week ahead at a time (except maybe financially). Death is the furthest thing on my mind. Even though nothing is certain, I just assume I have a long way to go. I actually know what it means to want to follow God regardless of heaven or hell, as hard as it is to believe.

It’s also funny to me when they say that Christians can’t think for themselves or they are pressured into it. If anything, if I feel pressured into something, I recoil and go the other way. I’ve thought a lot about spiritual matters, and I have no hesitation in tackling difficult issues or picking arguments with others or myself. (I do give up arguing when I see the other person is completely tuned out to reason, though.) Cognitive dissonance is something I do not avoid, even if I have to grow another gray hair in the process.

You really think I’m a Christian because it’s pleasant and comforting? Atheists are so “brave” to face the “truth”? There have been a few times where I came to a “logical” decision where I thought, “Wow, there really must not be a God!” The feeling I experienced in those times was not despair, but rather this distorted, wide-eyed, sick-happy sense of “I CAN LIVE HOWEVER I WANT??!” It was the “freedom” that atheists often refer to, but I know what it was deep down—even at the time, I knew. It wasn’t freedom, but rather it was the thrill of open rebellion. It was the selfish desire of mine to not be accountable to anyone or anything. Don’t tell me I’m a Christian because I’m fearful. Almost everything in life that is hard is right, and quite frankly, atheists are the ones taking the easy way out.

Well actually, atheism is a sort of “freedom” in the same way that a dog escaping from his loving owner’s house is freedom. He can wander the woods without a leash, eat all the worms and poop he wants, but in the end, it spells doom for him.

The thing is, whenever I would come to the conclusion that there might in fact be no God, my pesky logic would kick in. It would say, “Wait, wait, wait a second cowboy…what about this? And what about that?” Then, I would be forced to face reality again. My flirtation with atheism would be over, and truthfully, it wouldn’t necessarily feel all that great at the time.

This is the part where I could easily get prideful, but I promise I won’t. I’ve already made my peace with God about it. For some reason or another, I was born with a very logical brain (if it is fully engaged, that is…I can easily tune out with things I’m disinterested in). Even when my brain was completely crusty and rusty from inactivity for years, I scored very high on things like the LSAT, and I’ve always had  a knack for things like math. In law school, my problem was lack of interest, not an inability to argue. Logic is not always directly correlated with intelligence, in my opinion. I’ve met some mediocre academics, for instance, who are extremely sensible and just “make sense.” Then there are brilliant students who seem to miss even the obvious, like their minds are too busy in formulas and theorems rather than the real world. Many university professors are like this, actually, as their view naturally becomes very narrowly focused.

I’ve often bemoaned going to law school since I didn’t become a lawyer but still got saddled with the debt. But more and more I’m realizing that God had a purpose for even my detours. Among some other things, I’ve learned two very valuable truths: 1) It is possible to make convincing arguments for any side (though deep down inside, we can detect which is true if we are not too far gone); and 2) right and wrong are often decided on a hair’s breath of difference. Let me explain that latter point.

The way law school goes is that the case books are filled with cases, often paired up with other cases that are almost identical. Case A and Case B are pretty much 95% the same, but A will return a “guilty” verdict while B returns a “not guilty” verdict. It’s your job as a law student to figure out why—what were the subtle differences that changed the outcome?

It’s a lot like that in theology as well; atheism vs. theism. On the whole, people are very bad at seeing subtleties. A lot of times, they also just don’t want to; it’s willful blindness. Instead, they are caught up in catchy arguments, parroting them without seeing where their flaws are. Atheists are often more eloquent, so people hear them and think they “sound better.” Christian theologians may be saying what is more correct, but because they don’t present it with a sharp, biting wit, they sound inferior sometimes. We have to continually train ourselves to see through all that mess without getting caught up in emotion and distractions.

One curious thing I notice about myself as I grow in the faith is that I feel I am appearing dumber and dumber to the world. I can sense I have this seemingly vacant look to people, when really it’s a strong serenity and contentment that God has given me. I am seriously thankful for my life—my wife, family, friends, home, pets, and most of all, having my eyes fully opened. I say things with such excitement and eagerness sometimes—usually only when I’m talking about theology—that I bet even my friends think I’m a little cuckoo and simple-minded. I have to tone it down sometimes or else I’ll lose their interest in the dialogue. Honestly, I can’t blame atheists for thinking we’re dumber. When you develop this child-like faith and joy, it’s only natural to seem less intelligent than the cynical, mocking atheist scholar on YouTube. If you really want people to think you’re smart, be cynical.

I have questioned God and the Bible so many times, and every single time, I have been shown that God is 100% trustworthy. When that happens a few times (or in my case of extreme stubbornness, about 200), you start to develop a lot of trust. When people ask, “But why is that wrong?” or “How do we know it’s true?”, nowadays I honestly just want to blurt out, “Because God said so, and that should be enough!” But of course, that doesn’t work with other people, so I have to put on the mask of doubt and find some reasonable answers to share. Plus, it helps reinforce it in my own mind, just in case my faith wavers at some point in the future. Intellectual certainty is nice to have, even though it does take a backseat to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

I really don’t understand what the point of this post was, or why I felt led to write it, but hopefully it has a purpose. Let’s learn to see through the fog and develop sound thinking, Christians and skeptics alike!

Arguments Concerning Homosexuality

May 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Homosexuality is a huge issue for debate in our country today, especially after President Obama became the first U.S. Commander-in-Chief in history to officially endorse gay marriage. You hear gay activists praising the president for this risky step, and then you hear those darn old conservatives decrying the collapse of society. Curiously, you also hear certain “evangelicals” chiming in, telling the rest of us how Jesus would have condoned homosexuality. What is the right position for us as Christians, and how do we answer the objections raised by the other side?

First off, I am not going to stir the pot by answering in some unpredictable way. Homosexuality is sin, period. I really don’t see how a person could believe otherwise if they consider the Bible to be the ultimate authority in their lives. Fitting in with culture is not our objective, but following God as the Lord of our lives is. Whether or not our view is popular is irrelevant. If the world around you has convinced you that homosexuality is really OK, then please check your views against the Bible. Don’t assume that just because you are grown up now that you are immune to outside influences and peer/societal pressure.

Leviticus 18:22 puts it plainly: “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination.”

This brings us to our first argument: “Yea, but that’s in the Old Testament. There’s a lot in there that we don’t follow today, such as animal sacrifices, so why should we follow such an outdated law?”

Well, the reason some of the laws are obsolete is because Jesus Christ came and died on the cross for our sins. He was a perfect, blemish-free sacrifice on our behalf, so there’s no need to continue with lesser substitutionary sacrifices. Our debt is paid if we accept Christ as our Lord and savior. We also do not need to practice other rituals to temporarily appease God in order to approach Him. We as believers are clean in His sight. But these requirements are totally separate from what’s morally right and wrong in God’s eyes, which remains unchanged (even if the penalties can differ). Plus, some of the Old Testament law really was intended only for those Jews.

The New Testament is also clear on homosexuality, so it’s not just an “Old” decree.

Romans 1:26-27 states: ” For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

Likewise, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 lists “unrighteous” offenders who will not inherit the kingdom of God:  “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

As my pastor would say, “Well that’s about as far as we’re going to go in the passage today, so it’s time to ask our most important question: ‘SO WHAT?'”

It’s clear from Romans that homosexuality is dishonorable and contrary to nature. Can you name for me one dishonorable thing that is not considered a sin or offense to God? Also, sin defined at its most basic level is anything apart from the will of God. Doesn’t “contrary to nature” (or the way God intended the world to be) directly imply that homosexuality is sin? Passion for the same sex is sin; it is an error, plain and simple. No amount of modernization or “getting used to the idea” changes the will of God.

The passage in 1 Corinthians above is actually very, very loaded. First of all, if you’ll notice, three out of the first four offenses listed are related to homosexuality. Sexual immorality is defined as any lust (manifest in physical acts or even deliberate thoughts) outside of the confines of marriage, which includes incest, bestiality, homosexuality, fornication, adultery, and homosexuality. Adultery is any sexual act or relation outside of marriage, and since marriage is defined in the Bible as between one man and one woman, homosexuality is always adultery (man-made definitions of “marriage” don’t apply here), just as polygamy is. Then, there is an explicit mention of men who practice homosexuality.  Why is the Bible so repetitive here? For the same reason it usually is: for emphasis.

You’ll also notice that other sins are listed as well, such as theft, greed, and drunkenness. This shows us that homosexuality is not alone in separating people from God, and also, this list is NOT meant to be comprehensive. Basically, any perpetual state of sin indicates that someone is damned since they are clearly not being sanctified.

The last part often gets overlooked, but is very significant: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

This basically tells us that even the earliest church had converts who were formerly thieves, swindlers…and even homosexuals. That’s right, ex-gays existed when Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians. So all is not lost for people who are struggling with this particular sin.

“But Jesus was all about love, and he never specifically condemned homosexuality as sin.”

Sure, if all you do is do a primitive word search, this is true. But let’s use some common sense.

Mark 7:20-23 reads: “And [Jesus] said,’What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.'”

Do I really need to spell it out further? It’s true that there are a lot of specific sins that Jesus did not condemn, such as bestiality (which is also encompassed in “sexual immorality”) or tripping a running child in the mall…maybe he gave our intellect more credit than we deserve.

“Just like heterosexuality, homosexuality is a practice common to all cultures in all ages. It is, therefore, a natural orientation, something common to all civilisations (common in the animal world as well), and it has existed since the primordial beginnings of humankind. The first known record of homosexuals is that of an Egyptian male couple who lived circa 2400 BC … 24 centuries before Christ.”

By that logic, murder is acceptable as a “natural orientation” as well since it has been practiced in all of mankind since Cain and Abel. What is common or uncommon does not determine right or wrong. And no, I’m not equating murder to homosexuality, but I’m just attacking this single point of contention concerning “natural orientation.”

“Homosexuality is genetic; they were born that way. So why would God condemn gays for something they can’t help?”

First of all, the research and science behind this “born that way” conclusion is sketchy at best. While people can be born with a proclivity toward homosexuality—just as some inherit genes that make them struggle more with anger, for instance—it is not set in stone or an unavoidable fate. There are undeniable environmental factors at play, which help determine a person’s sexual orientation. For instance, homosexuality is more common in people who come from broken homes or abusive parents. (What good comes from broken homes and abusive parents anyway? Is homosexuality the lone exception?) If a boy grew up without a strong father figure in the home to help him define his masculinity, he is significantly more likely to become homosexual, and so on…

The bottom line is that homosexuality is NOT comparable to uncontrollable factors such as ethnicity. There are many “ex-gays” around. I know of no ex-Blacks or ex-Asians.

All people, including homosexuals and Christians, are called to fight their sinful desires and urges rather than succumbing to them fully. You could argue that heterosexual men “naturally” want to get in bed with any attractive woman that they see, but why don’t they? Because they learn to control themselves and they also know that there are consequences to their actions. They learn to suppress these desires until they have them under control. A poor person may feel a stronger urge to mug passerbys on the street, and we may even empathize with them, but that doesn’t somehow make it acceptable behavior.

What is natural for a person is not prescriptive behavior. Oftentimes, it is destructive and unhealthy for both the individual and for society.

This is the same kind of mentality that excuses overeating and obesity. Just because people are born with certain genes doesn’t mean that they should just give up all self-control and eat as much as they “feel” like. They may have to work harder than the rest of us, but it’s a worthwhile fight.

“How can homosexuality be a sin if it’s not really hurting anybody? I can understand murder and theft, but why sexual orientation, which is a private, personal preference and nothing more?”

I’ll start with the theological answer, which is that sexual sins are the only sins that God mentions as being against one’s own body.

1 Corinthians 6:18: “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”

This is not necessarily talking about harming our own bodies physically, since overeating or self-injury would also accomplish this. This is talking about defiling our bodies morally and spiritually, as we are supposed to be temples for the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are not our own; God owns us, which is of course an unpopular concept in our secular world.

By living a homosexual lifestyle, people are defiling the temple that God desires to dwell inside. There is a reason why active homosexuals cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and that is because God’s holiness cannot coexist with uncleanliness.

Something needs to be clarified at this point, however. It is true that active homosexuals cannot attain salvation, but that goes for all other sins as well. The bottom line is that a continual state of rebellion against God indicates that we are not truly born again to begin with. If we remain slaves to sin, that is a clear sign that we have yet to receive the Holy Spirit. People who say they are born-again Christians yet continue to lie, steal, cheat, murder…without repentance, improvement, and a noticeable turning away from their old lifestyles are highly suspect.

In the same way, active homosexuals cannot be born-again if they continue living in their sin without a genuine conviction and effort to change their lives. Lack of remorse for sin and rebellion indicates that our hearts are not in the right place; we are still lost. Homosexuality is arguably more dangerous than other specific sins because it is such a pervasive part of a person’s life. It is an entire lifestyle and way of thinking rather than isolated mistakes.

Now, as for whether or not homosexuality harms anyone, there are two points to consider.

First, homosexuality is not as happy-go-lucky and “gay” as we are programmed to think. As a whole, homosexuals have higher levels of promiscuity (and more broken hearts), depression, and suicide. And it’s not all society’s fault. Many ex-gays confess to having struggled with constant feelings of private guilt and enslavement, but they tried to ignore their consciences.

Homosexuals also have significantly shorter expected lifespans. They are highly susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS. In short, they are potentially harming themselves and their partners in the process of living this lifestyle. Furthermore, even secular research shows the benefits of having a stable familial structure in the house: a father and a mother. Without these dual roles and gender balance, a child is missing out on certain areas of development, whether obvious or not.

Second, the standard for sin (as mentioned earlier) is NOT whether or not it harms someone directly. It is simply a departure from God’s will, as homosexuality clearly is.

Leviticus 18:22 tells us that homosexuality is an abomination, and it happens to be couched between two other abhorrent sins: child sacrifices and bestiality. Let’s discuss the latter.

Imagine a person who has been hurt by his peers many times in his life, and he decides one day that he hates humankind. He starts to develop a relationship with a farm animal, who has always appreciated him and loves him. He decides to “marry” this animal and consummate the relationship. (This is not quite as outlandish as you may think: http://articles.nydailynews.com/2010-12-02/news/27083045_1_pet-dog-wedding-honey.)

Neither the man nor the animal seem to mind very much, and somehow neither one develops any illnesses. No harm, no foul, right?

Doesn’t something deep down inside of you morally object to this union? No one is being “hurt” directly, but somehow we instinctively know that this relationship is wrong. It is not just wrong because they cannot procreate and populate the earth. We know it at a more fundamental level. Practicality is not the measure by which we judge this situation. The moral code that God implanted in all of us is setting off alarms.

Now, imagine that somehow, this sort of union starts to become more and more common in the world, perhaps because the human population has largely died off due to war and famine. It starts out taboo, but increasingly, people get used to the idea and sight of these relationships. Maybe they even make a hit TV show about it. Eventually, it becomes lawful and we’re told not to judge these people who have a natural desire for animals. We become calloused and forget why it was wrong in the first place. The “alarms” grow more and more muffled until it is practically inaudible to us.

Does this change the truth? Has wrong suddenly turned into right? No, of course not. The problem would be with us in this situation, not with the original moral law.

I realize this is almost a ridiculous example, and I would concede that bestiality seems to be a step deeper in perversion, but the basic idea is the same. It’s really just a matter of degrees. All it takes is a gradual accumulation of compromises and concessions, and given enough time, the moral fabric of society starts to tear in a big way. It’s like entropy.

If there is a God of the universe who declares truth and moral right, then those things are constant no matter what the tides of culture dictate.

“Obama cites the ‘Golden Rule’ as grounds for legalizing same-sex marriage.”

Wow, talk about completely botching biblical interpretation. President Obama is referring to Matthew 7:12 where Jesus is telling us to treat others as we would like to be treated. In other words, if we were thirsty and would want people to give us water, then we should likewise offer water to someone in thirst. We should be mindful and thoughtful toward other people, treating them with love. And supposedly, if we would want to get married, we should allow homosexuals to get married to each other.

But Jesus is telling us to do good, not legalize wrong. This passage is not telling us to overlook sin and condone the very things that God calls an “abomination.” Legalizing gay marriage is effectively saying that homosexual relations are OK, and why in the world would Jesus give us a “rule” to disobey his other rules? This is just dumb, I’m sorry, and it serves as a great example of how having a Harvard education and high IQ does nothing to help in spiritual matters if you are sufficiently blinded by the world or pride.

If I were a thief, I would want the employees of a bank to ignore me as I snuck out with piles of money in my bag, but that doesn’t mean they should; nor should I if the roles were reversed. If I had committed a murder, I would want the cops to understand that the victim made me really, really mad and then let me go…but they wouldn’t and shouldn’t.

You get the point.

The bottom line is that homosexuality is clearly a sin, and living an active homosexual lifestyle without repentance will lead to damnation. It is not necessarily “worse” than other sins, which can also spell doom for a person, but it is especially dangerous due to its sexual nature and pervasiveness in a person’s daily life.

There is definitely hope, as demonstrated by the many people who have turned away from this sin and have come to Christ. Yes, some of the struggles may remain, just as all believers continue to fight against their old nature to varying degrees. (Never underestimate the power of Satan’s deception or the human capability to rationalize anything under the sun.) But with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will continue in the process of sanctification until we receive our glorified bodies, apart from the struggles of the flesh.

We in the church need to show love to homosexuals around us by praying for them and being kind to them as a brother or sister in need. But showing “love” is not ignoring their paths to destruction and giving them false hope. You wouldn’t “love” someone by allowing them to destroy themselves, but rather tactfully—and firmly—pointing them in the right direction. Rebuke may be necessary, and we need to be careful not to do it in a hateful and judgmental way.

Misinterpreting Scripture (Part 2: Applying “Secret Techniques” to the Iron Chariots Story)

May 17, 2012 1 comment

Two posts in two days…what is going on? Well, yesterday put a little wind in my sails, and I wanted to keep some momentum going. Plus, I already had this post written inside of my head, so I wanted to get it out. 

What I am about to share with you all is a biblical interpretation technique that is so powerful, it will aid you for the rest of your life. It is so profound, no aspiring scholar can do without it. If skeptics picked up this one simple tool, many of us would be spared their bad arguments. It is a springboard to figuring out many of the Bible’s puzzling passages.

Am I exaggerating a bit? Sure. I’m being a little facetious. But honestly, this patented (not really) technique of mine will prove useful in pointing you in the right direction.

It is simply this: Assume Basic Competence (ABC) of the Jews. That’s it. (It also works great in tandem with another secret technique, UCS: Use Common Sense.) Why is this important and how do we apply this technique? By assuming that the Jews behind 65 of the 66 books of the Bible were not complete morons, that’s how. Make the basic assumption that the Jewish people, especially in biblical times, took their theology seriously. They grew up studying and discussing theology throughout their lifetimes, and they pretty much had all of the biblical stories memorized to the detail, especially during the times of oral tradition. It was not uncommon, for example, for young Jewish boys to memorize the entire Torah word-for-word. In short, whether you believe the Bible is God-breathed or not, at least give the Jews credit for knowing their own theology.

Let’s apply this technique to the following commonly misinterpreted passage. As I mentioned in my previous post, this is an absolute favorite of anti-religious people everywhere.

Judges 1:19: “The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots.”

Wait, what? An army powered by God Almighty lost the battle because of the superior power of iron chariots, a man-made invention?

Hold yer horses! Let’s assume the Jewish person responsible for recording these events was not a complete neophyte, and if he were, someone would have corrected him before his book went to print, so to speak. Let’s assume that he grew up hearing the widely told stories of Moses crossing the Red Sea, God destroying Pharaoh’s army (which included chariots), or even God being the creator of the entire universe. Is that a fair assumption to make?

Let’s go even further (I know, I’m getting crazy here) and assume that the writer of “Judges” did not have a complete memory meltdown when he later wrote three chapters later that the Jews were able to triumph over an army of iron chariots (see Judges 4:13-15).

So what is a possible explanation here? Well, we don’t really need to get technical just yet. Let us use our reasoning skills and even personal experience to try to come up with a preliminary solution. From the passage, it is clear that God was with the men of Judah. That’s a good thing for sure. But what could have possibly contributed to their defeat? Could it have been a lack of faith and dependence on God? Whenever you see God commanding His people to go head-on into overwhelming odds, they see victory IF they obey with conviction. Apparently, these Jews forgot the mighty God that they served and instead thought to themselves, “This is impossible, how could we possibly defeat these iron chariots?”

With this kind of doubt thrown in the face of God, it’s no wonder they were not given victory. We do the same thing every day. True believers have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but we still try to do things our own way, which is why we still sin. We sometimes feel God calling us to do something or pulling us one way, but we decide to calculate and plan in our own wisdom. What ends up happening is that we crash and burn, and we wonder why God let such calamity fall upon us. It’s due to a lack of obedience and faith. We are now empowered to do right, but we often choose to do wrong because of our disobedience. It is our own failure, not God’s.

The same thing apparently happened here in chapter 1. The Jews had won previous battles and instead of thanking God, they probably attributed their victories to their own might. When it came to iron chariots, however, they were completely stricken with fear because they could no longer rely on their own strength. Their reliance on God had gotten rusty, which contributed directly to their defeat.

That wasn’t so hard was it? By giving even the slightest bit of credit to the biblical authors, it pushed us in the right direction to draw some reasonable conclusions.

Now, let’s go a little deeper.

The Book of Judges is written with a general circular pattern that goes like this:

1) The Jews rely on God and achieve great victories;

2) The Jews start to forget about God and start crumbling to the insistent pressure from their enemies;

3) God chooses a great prophet or “judge” to wake the Jewish people up and turn them back to obedience and faith; and

4) Go back to #1, rinse and repeat (but each time, God starts to lose patience and increasingly delays His deliverance).

With this knowledge in hand, we might notice that the first 18 verses or so constitute step #1 above. The Jews seem to be winning every battle handily. The verse where they failed to defeat the iron chariots, however, is the start of step #2. We now see some victories, some failures—we start to see some chinks in the armor.

There is also a literary device being employed here that could prove very enlightening. Let me start by saying that everyone should acknowledge that the Bible is written with all kinds of different styles—sometimes through very straightforward prose (such as genealogies or historical facts being retold), poetry, allegory, and other literary styles that facilitate storytelling.

In the case of Judges 1:19, the author is employing a perspectival device that views the story from the eyes of the characters involved; namely, the men of Judah. (This literary feature was more common in ancient literature, but it’s almost nonexistent today.) Because they themselves thought it was impossible to defeat iron chariots, the author recorded that as the reason for their defeat. They viewed it as a match-up between Jewish military strength and the unstoppable power of iron chariots. They should have seen it as God > everything.

As mentioned earlier, just a few chapters later, the Jews are able to defeat an army of iron chariots. What was the difference this time? No, the author did not have a brain fart previously—ABC. What happened was that God sent a great prophetess, Deborah, to wake the people up (remember, step #3). They finally obeyed God fully—in their hearts and in their actions—and were victorious (back to step #1). At least for a while.

Misinterpreting Scripture (Part 1: Context and a Little Bit of Hebrew)

May 16, 2012 1 comment

(Quick note: I’ve been somewhat overwhelmed these days with work, personal life, and seminary, as you may have noticed. This upcoming summer term, I am actually lightening my academic load so that I can regain my balance and focus more on my spiritual life rather than scrambling to finish papers, etc. Hopefully, that will leave me with more time and energy. *Edited 5/17/12 for a little more precision.)

Without further ado, let’s get started with this series!

1) Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

The first passage we will examine demonstrates one of the common reasons for misinterpreting the Bible. In a word: CONTEXT.

People seem to love this verse because it has a very positive, encouraging feel to it. Clearly, God wants us as His children to prosper and do well in this life, right? Well, yes and no. Of course, God loves us and wants the best for each one of us. The problem with this interpretation, however, is at least two-fold.

First, while God does have our best interest at heart, His plan might be different from our definition of “prosper”-ing. While God does sometimes bless his children with worldly wealth and success, He is far more concerned with the big picture—that being eternity. Think about it, if God had a choice between granting you riches on this earth or putting you in the best position spiritually to attain eternal life (and to receive far greater riches in heaven), wouldn’t He choose the latter out of His love and wisdom? Sometimes these things are mutually exclusive. Too often, riches right now spoil people and ruin them spiritually. It generally leads to far less dependence on God, a lack of humility, and materialism. Becoming complacent due to wealth is a curse, not a blessing. God knows better than we do whether or not we can handle this form of prosperity. Hardships can be a blessing in disguise if it refines our character and turns us into better people.

Second, many things in the Bible are not meant to be blanket statements that are true in every situation. In other words, we need to consider context. Where does this verse come from? It comes from Jeremiah during the time of the first great Jewish exile. The Jews had lost their land—the very land God had given them as “The Promised Land”—due to serious disobedience over generations. They were dejected and hopeless with enemies on every side. While these people needed to be taught a lesson and scared back into dependence on God, being the empathetic father that He is, God also wanted to give them hope for their future. It wasn’t too much longer after this that the Jews were allowed to return to their land (unexpectedly thanks to the pagan, Cyrus the Great), setting the stage for the savior himself, Jesus Christ, to be brought to mankind.

Bottom line: This promise was made specifically to the Jewish people.

*Special note: If this promise can be considered prophetic, notice that it has had at least two fulfillments so far in history–one near, one far. While the Jews had gotten their land back for a time, they again lost it in 70 A.D. when the temple was destroyed, persecution ensued, and the Great Diaspora happened. The Jews did not return to their land until almost 1,900 years later, but they now enjoy a great deal of success and prosperity—just look at a list of Hollywood actors, producers, or company CEOs. The nation of Israel has grown by leaps and bounds in just a few short decades. While an enormous amount of tribulation is about to fall upon the Jewish people once again, in the end, their capital city (Jerusalem) will become the focal point of God’s future kingdom on earth.

The unfortunate thing about misinterpreting this verse is that it gives people a false and distorted hope. The same thing goes for the “Prosperity Gospel” going around these days. This verse is not ensuring success for your business! People start expecting that becoming a believer and serving in the church will open the gates to God’s riches, worldly success, and strong health. Relationships and overall happiness should flourish! When things don’t go their way, however, they grow bitter and disappointed with God. Even worse, their faulty logic surmises that God must not exist since an omniscient being could never be wrong in making promises.

Think about it: Jeremiah preceded the New Testament, and we have abundant examples of people who followed Jesus only to endure extreme hardship and pain. All but one of the disciples were martyred. Paul was stricken with a “thorn in the flesh” (a persistent physical ailment) and went from prison to prison being severely beaten nearly to death. Does this sound like our typical view of “prosperity”? Paul even begged God three times to take away his “thorn,” which God declined. The apostle’s mission and eternal destiny were too important to risk letting comfort and pride set in. God’s approach worked (of course), and Paul succeeded in spreading the gospel around much of the civilized world. Christianity would not be where it is today without him and the ordeals he overcame. Imagine if he had given up and pouted at God! I bet Paul is smiling right now, knowing that it was all well worth it. Any temporary suffering has probably long been forgotten.

2) Genesis 9:20-27 tells the story of how Noah (post-flood) had gotten drunk and passed out naked in his tent. (By the way, this is descriptive, not prescriptive; i.e., just because Noah did it doesn’t make it good.) One of his sons, Ham, came into the tent and here is what transpired:

Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”

This passage demonstrates how insufficient knowledge of history or Hebrew could lead to confusion or shallow interpretation.

Let’s start with the most surface-level interpretation. It might be easy to think that Ham accidentally or innocently wandered into the tent—perhaps to ask his father a question—only to be shocked at what he saw. Rattled, he walked out and told his older brothers who would know what to do. And yet, Noah is furious and curses Ham’s son, Canaan, who wasn’t even involved in the situation!

How is it fair to punish Ham (and his son) for a simple mistake like this? Even if Ham had thought it was funny that his father was naked, or simply did not have the consideration to immediately cover him, what’s the big deal? People disrespect their parents all the time, and they don’t receive serious punishment, let alone curses on their offspring. Sure it’s wrong, but isn’t this an overreaction by Noah?

Well, we need to dig deeper. The key word here is a basic one: “saw.” Reading an English translation, whether the NIV or ESV, does not capture the entirety of the text’s meaning. We have to refer to the Hebrew to better understand the story.

In Hebrew, the word we translate as “saw” in this verse actually implies seeing or gazing upon something with pleasure, particularly in a sexual sense. What Ham did was not accidentally stumble into a tent and shield his eyes out of shock, but rather he probably stood there and soaked in the sight. He relished seeing his naked father. Not only was this a disturbing act of disrespect toward his father, but it was also incestuous and homosexual in nature. He probably told his brothers afterward so that they could share in his delight. We might also be able to infer some other details, but at this point, don’t we already have enough?

To further bolster these facts, we also have a key clue in Ham’s son, Canaan. Don’t we recognize that name somehow? Sure, he and his descendants would later constitute some of the Jews’ greatest enemies, the Canaanites. Biblical scholars and secular historians both agree that these were a group of people who practiced all kinds of wicked rituals. They were not only sexually immoral (rampant homosexuality and orgies), but they also committed child sacrifices and worshiped false gods like Baal. Clearly, there was something in the line of Ham that was deeply corrupt. This was no innocent man caught in an unlucky situation.

*Another sidenote: Why isn’t this passage translated better in our English language Bibles? Doesn’t this point to a weakness in God’s Word? Well, ideally, reading this passage should go in one of two ways: 1) Because we trust God (with a child-like faith), we know that He is fair even when we don’t fully understand; or 2) something seems off to us, so we go and research this passage, learning that there is more than meets the eye.

Of course, what often happens is someone with a doubting heart reads this and thinks he/she understands it just fine. “God is unjust and wildly unpredictable.” In a sense, that person is elevating his or her moral standards and code above that of the ultimate judge, God the Creator. If that person could have the right heart (scenario #1) or be less sloppy and do some disciplined research (scenario #2), this kind of misinformed assessment could be avoided.

Furthermore, think about the issues that translators faced when tackling this passage. This is Genesis 9, near the beginning of the Bible. This is a book that even children read. Is it worth it to make kids start thinking about this kind of sin at that young age? Couldn’t it possibly plant some bad ideas or make things awkward with their own fathers? I know if I read something like that before I was ready, I would have been a little scarred and disgusted. Full and open disclosure is not always the wisest idea, and withholding some information is not always a weakness. We are given enough information to learn about God and be edified, but not be sickened with excessive details.

* * * * *

Well, that’s it for now. I’m trying to avoid making these posts too long and “epic” because it makes it difficult to even get started when I’m pressed for time. I really can’t help myself sometimes.

I hope to update more frequently since I have fewer excuses to be tired. With my job stabilizing and the lighter course load (and our new puppy settling in), I should be good to go most weeks.

Next time, we’ll look at one of the favorite passages that anti-religious skeptics love to mock. Hopefully, you’ll see again just how shallow their interpretation is and how the slightest bit of an open mind might help them to realize their error.