One of the great things about being in a regular bible study with thinking adults is that you come across questions and issues that otherwise wouldn’t occur to you. This past week, one of my friends posed what seemed like a simple question, but I think it has a lot of deeper implications.
He basically asked, “Why is Satan so hell-bent on being evil? Why is he so opposed to everything good?”
This is the kind of question that might be overlooked because for so long, we’ve equated Satan with pure evil. But why is that exactly? If you really think about it, it seems almost cartoonish and unrealistic.
To illustrate, imagine a movie villain who is determined to destroy the entire world. He has no redeeming qualities, doesn’t care about anybody else in the world, and everything he does is pure evil. Whatever the “good” choice is, he does the opposite for reasons that are hard to finger.
Sounds kind of outlandish, doesn’t it? In my opinion, such a character would lack the depth and balance to make him seem realistic. Most villains today seem to believe they are doing something good, even if they are misguided or extreme in their measures. Take Magneto from the “X-Men” series, for example. He is one of the main villains, but he earnestly believes that mutants are the future and that homo sapiens are an obsolete species characterized by intolerance and ignorance.
So why is it that Satan is pure evil? How is that believable?
Simply put, it is because he has completely separated himself from God, who is the source of ALL moral good in the universe. Apart from Him, any modicum of good is literally impossible. The reason that human beings are capable of good—even villains—is because they are made in the image of God, which includes morality, dominion over this earth, creativity, etc.
If Satan were to commit even one decent act to the benefit of others, that would mean he is an additional source of good. This is, of course, not the case. In fact, one of his favorite tricks is to turn anything good into some destructive force. Self-assurance turns to haughtiness and pride; serving others becomes an ego boost and a way to feel morally superior; love and acceptance turn into tolerance for things that God explicitly states are wrong. The list goes on and on. You could name anything and chances are, Satan has distorted it in some way. We are all easily fooled if we are not discerning and Spirit-led.
OK, so now that we’ve established that God is the only source of good and that’s why Satan is pure evil…what does that mean for the afterlife? What does that mean for hell?
It means that once people have been eternally separated from God and sent to hell, they are now completely stripped of their godly nature. That means that it’s not going to be a chummy party down there by any stretch of the imagination.
I have actually heard atheists say, “Well, if I’m wrong and I’m going to hell, at least I’ll spend eternity with cool, interesting people! Maybe I’ll see Jimi Hendrix down there!”
Maybe you will see certain “interesting” people down there, but any redeeming qualities they may have had on this earth are going to be completely gone. Whoever you see down there is not going to be someone you enjoy, even if you were to somehow avoid the torment of the flames. You will not be having warm, friendly reunions.
Furthermore, if you are thinking that adopting Satan as your new master might be some consolation (because of his beauty or talents, maybe), then again, you are sadly mistaken. He is not going to be governing hell or setting up some kind of viable alternative to heaven. He is going to be thrown into the lake of fire and burning just the same as everyone else. Remember, God is the ruler of everything, even hell. Any power Satan currently enjoys is temporary, and there will come a time when God no longer permits him to act in rebellion.
Finally, I know a few of my long-time readers may be wondering about my stance on the eternality of hell. I apologize because this is long overdue, and you may have already noticed I took my posts on annihilationism down a while ago.
My view now is that hell is probably eternal torment, as the traditional view presents. I will concede that I’m not 100% sure, but much of the scriptural support for annihilationism came from the Old Testament where it talked about “death” and “being no more.” My knowledge of the Old Testament was far more incomplete at the time, and now I realize that conceptions of the afterlife were not fully developed during that period. Before Jesus came and fully paid for our sins, no one could go to Heaven (or even Hell) yet. Everyone who died went to the same realm, called Sheol, although there were separate places for God-fearing people. Sometimes, this is referred to as “Paradise,” but the terminology can get confusing. Either way, it didn’t make sense for God to talk about the afterlife much when His work of redemption was not yet complete (until Jesus said “it is finished”).
So my current idea of hell is that it is a place of eternal separation from God that probably involves the literal pain of burning flames. As the final humiliating act of defeat, Satan will be suffering there along with everyone else who chose to reject God and separate themselves from Him. There will be degrees of punishment, for sure, but we don’t know exactly what that will entail. In the end, whether you go to heaven to worship Almighty God or go to hell to pay the price for sin, God is glorified to the utmost by praise and justice.
If you’ve been in the American church for any amount of time, you are probably familiar with the concept of the “sinner’s prayer.” Basically, a preacher asks people in the congregation to repeat after him if they are interested in having Jesus Christ come into their hearts and save them. The prayer will generally go something like this: “God, I know I’m a sinner, and without you I am destined for eternal punishment. I repent of my sins. Please forgive me and come into my heart. Be my Lord and Savior. Amen.”
Poof! If you’ve repeated this prayer, then you’re now magically saved, right? Well, not exactly. It doesn’t work like a flu shot.
People will often point to the fact that when they repeated these words, they “meant it” and therefore, it has to be legitimate. Well, maybe or maybe not. The problem is, the words that come out of our mouths can often be at odds with what’s actually in our hearts—even if we feel like they are the same.
People can be swayed very easily by their feelings, whether it be the lovey-dovey atmosphere created by the powerful preaching, dim lighting, or soothing music. It could also be peer-pressure-induced, where friends or loved ones nudge you into saying the prayer or answering the altar call. Either way, the Bible warns us in Jeremiah 17:9 that human hearts are deceitfully wicked…who can know it?
There is not one place in the Bible that tell us that repeating a formulaic prayer will grant us salvation. A simple man-made prayer does not have special abilities. However, these prayers often contain a lot of correct elements that clue us in on how to actually find Jesus. Using my sample prayer, let’s break it down a bit.
“God, I know I’m a sinner, and without you I am destined for eternal punishment.”
The first step toward real salvation is acknowledging and understanding fully that we are sinners. This is more than saying “I’m not perfect” or “I have done wrong at least once in my life.” Everyone in the world could admit to that! No, this means recognizing that we have broken God’s law and that as sinners, we are broken beyond repair. This is letting go of the secular idea that we are essentially “good people” who slip up sometimes. Rather, it’s a realization that our sin nature leaves us in a very grave situation. We are rotten to the core, and there’s nothing we can do about it on our own. In light of a fully just God, we deserve hell.
Do you really believe that? Or do you look at other people around you and say that you are comparatively “good”? Do you secretly think, “If God turned me away from heaven, that would be unfair!” If you feel this way, you are not ready.
“I repent of my sins.”
Do you really? In addition to genuine remorse for your sins, are you ready and willing to do whatever it takes to turn completely away from that lifestyle? Do you see those things in a different light now, as dirty and serious? Or do you cling to your desire to dabble in sin, do enough “good” to cancel out the bad? Do you wish to be saved but have no desire to be sanctified?
Do you think this way? “Of course, I want to go to heaven! But while I’m here on earth, I don’t need to be a saint or anything. I’ll live it up because Jesus loves me and forgives me.”
If this is your mentality, then you are not genuinely repentant. Someone who is ready to be a Christ-follower may slip up time to time, but they do not brush it off as if it were nothing. When they slip off the narrow path to life, God comes for them and they continue fighting their flesh. If this is not you, you are not ready.
“Please forgive me and come into my heart.”
Let’s think about our own lives for a minute here. Let’s imagine you are married and you’ve had a heated argument with your spouse. Hurtful words were hurled and you’re still stinging from the pain.
Now, let’s say he or she comes up to you and says, “Please forgive me.” You look at them, and they are not truly sorry, nor do they have any intention of trying to improve themselves in the future. They just want the fight to stop so you can cook them dinner or give them other benefits. Would you forgive them?
In the same way, God is not interested in idle words and empty gestures. As Paul Washer once said, “the greatest heresy in the American church is that if you ask Jesus to come into your heart, he will definitely come in.” No, this isn’t how it works. If Jesus sees your heart and you are not ready or willing to do what it takes to make it work, he will not come in. He does not force himself upon you just because of some words you’re repeating in an instant of conviction.
There’s a reason why many will come to the gate and say, “Lord, Lord,” only to hear Jesus say to them: “I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:21-23) How do you know this isn’t going to happen to you?
“Be my Lord and Savior. Amen.”
People often think about Jesus as their savior, but that’s it. They are glad he will whisk them away to heaven and save them from the flames of hell, but they forget about the other requisite part.
He has to be LORD.
Most people in America will call themselves Christians, but they are the furthest thing from Christ-followers. They prayed a prayer and called him “Lord,” yet they live their lives as they see fit.
When someone is your LORD, that means he is your master. You are his servant/slave. Does your mentality really reflect this at all?
If the Bible says something is sinful or commands us not to do certain things (or support them), do you brush it off as outdated “advice”? Do you regard the opinions of man and culture more highly? Do the things that scientists proclaim to be true take precedence in your life?
Do you gloss over the uncomfortable portions of scripture that do not appeal to you, but rather focus heavily on God’s grace and love? Do you profess to love God but fail to live out his commands? John 14:15 tells us that if we love Him, we are to obey.
If you have the (surprisingly common) mentality of “I’ll follow, but only when I really agree,” then Jesus Christ is not your Lord. ANYone will follow someone’s commands if they fully agree with them already. Are you willing to obey even when you don’t fully understand or it rubs you the wrong way?
If God is not your Lord, then He is not your savior. Please don’t fool yourself.
If everyone who calls themselves “Christian” is capable of deceiving themselves and feelings are an unreliable measure, then how in the world can you know if you are really saved? Well, the Bible says that a good tree will bear good fruit (and a bad tree will bear bad fruit…and be cut down and thrown into the fire) – Matthew 7:17-19. It exhorts us to examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5) to see if we are in the faith. The test is not whether we prayed a prayer one time in our life, but rather whether our lives are truly changed and on the narrow path in this world. Are we being sanctified? Are we convicted of our sin and repenting continually?
Granted, change is a gradual process for most people, but the trend should be unmistakeable over time. If you were “on fire” for Christ for a short period of your life but have fallen back to a secular lifestyle, there is a possibility that you are like the second or third (unsaved) soils in the Parable of the Sower.
James calls faith without deeds useless and dead. “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” (James 2:14)
If we are living our lives just as we were before, or we appear just like the world around us, then this is a serious symptom of a “dead” faith. This doesn’t mean that you are simply living a feeble Christian life, but rather, it means you are not His at all!
In conclusion, reciting the so-called “sinner’s prayer” has no magical powers on its own (though it does have some useful elements in it). This is not the way to test if you are a Christian. The true test and evidence comes in the way you walk and talk, the way you think. Is it conforming to God’s Word, or do you still belong to the world? Remember that you cannot serve both the world and God; it’s one or the other.
In fact, if you are truly a child of His, chances are at some point, the world will hate you or find you foolish (e.g., Matthew 10:22; 24:9; John 15:19). If the world finds you perfectly agreeable, then raise the red flags…there’s something wrong.
Sola scriptura. That’s how it should be in the church, right? By scripture alone should we determine authoritative truth.
Sadly, the Catholic church has strayed far from this ideal for centuries. Are Catholics still “Christian”? Well yes, by definition they believe in the fundamental doctrines of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, the Trinity, the virgin birth of Mary, and so on. However, I do think that Catholics have more obstacles and pitfalls in the way to true understanding. As I’ve pointed out in earlier posts, many (if not most) churchgoers who identify themselves as Christian may actually be in danger of lacking salvation. This danger is even more pronounced in Catholicism where distractions and false doctrines abound in alarming fashion. Some even say that deep, hardcore Catholicism toes the line that could condemn the souls of its adherents. I’d want to stay far from this line if possible, and my hope is that others will feel the same.
So what’s so wrong about Catholicism anyway? If I had to summarize it in two very succinct points, it’d be like this: 1) It is not biblically sound in some of its beliefs and practices; and 2) the work of Jesus Christ seems unfinished in the eyes of Catholics.
Let’s examine some specific points and you can decide for yourself.
Sacraments and Rituals
Out of all of Catholicism’s distinct features, the emphasis on sacraments might be the most understandable. For instance, many Catholics believe that baptism and the eucharist are necessary parts of being a true believer. In other words, in addition to placing one’s faith in Christ and following Him, a person also needs to carry out the sacraments to activate their faith and salvation. They justify this by pointing out that Jesus himself commanded that believers be baptized and to carry out the eucharist in remembrance of him.
However, while we should obey Christ and even carry out the sacraments carried out in the Bible, these are not prerequisites for salvation. Many verses clearly state that we are saved by faith alone and not by any works we do. Ephesians 2:8-9 states: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Furthermore, Jesus told the thief on the cross next to him: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” The thief was saved by a repentant heart that chose to place all faith in Christ alone. He obviously didn’t get baptized or carry out any other sacrament. When it comes to salvation, God does not make exceptions to the rule of redemption by faith. While I certainly do not recommend disobeying God, acts of disobedience alone cannot disqualify someone from salvation. After all, Jesus also commands us not to hate or lust, and yet none of us would seriously consider breaking these commands on occasion to mean that your spiritual doom is ensured.
As far as Catholic rituals such as all the kneeling, chanting, and repeating what the priest reads, this is purely human tradition and nothing more. The Bible does not prescribe these things at all, and personally, I don’t see how anything repetitive and habitual (and relatively mindless) could be edifying to one’s soul. If anything, it would simply foster a sense of false accomplishment and holiness. But these empty works do not earn you brownie points in God’s eyes. Works are evidence of what’s within, but they have no saving power in and of themselves. Apart from a real relationship with God, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). The only time rituals had any place in worship was when God specifically instructed His people what to do (i.e., Leviticus), and each step had a purpose. God never told us to go ahead and develop our own.
I imagine that when a Catholic person visits a Protestant church, it would seem “too easy” and almost like cheating. In their minds, perhaps religion is supposed to be difficult, as most good things in life come from hard work and effort. But rituals on Sunday do not qualify. If coming to worship God is painful, something is probably wrong in either our hearts or in the service itself. The difficulty in the Christian life comes from daily sanctification, dying to ourselves, and from letting the Word of God pierce our hearts even when it hurts and is uncomfortable to our pride.
Reverence of Mary (and other “saints”)
Surely, being chosen as the earthly mother of Jesus Christ is an immense blessing. Mary deserves our respect and admiration. But there is no biblical basis to think she plays any further role in our relationship with God.
There is not a single mention in the scriptures that we need to pray to Mary or come to her as an intermediary. Paradoxically, Mary is a child of God—just as we are. Why do Catholics pray to her or use beads and such? I imagine this came about as some kind of guilty response after generations of sexism and relegating women to second-class citizens in the church. Perhaps it came from human logic after recognizing the importance and authority of mothers. But this is a unique case in human history where the child was superior to the parent in every way. Jesus obeyed her in accordance to the scriptures as an example to us, but also to indulge her out of his love and sympathy. When I read the stories of the wedding miracle (wine to water) or even when Jesus stayed behind in the temple and worried his parents, I don’t sense that he feels subjected to Mary or is dependent in the usual way a child is, do you?
The reverence of Mary is not biblically based and frankly, it is a distraction away from our complete focus on the triune God. In fact, you see frequent examples of apostles and spiritual leaders deflecting attention away from themselves and calling attention to Jesus instead.
After Christ’s death on the cross, the traditional role of priests became obsolete. They are no longer necessary as far as acting as intermediaries between us and God. Sorry, but that’s just how it is. Sure, they can still serve an important teaching role, but Catholic priests unknowingly overstep their bounds.
Why can we not come directly to God in prayer and confession? Are we not called children of God after we are saved? Can children not openly and honestly talk directly to their fathers? Is God a worse version of Captain Von Trapp? What gives priests the authority to take our confessions and to give absolution? Even worse, what gives any “man of the cloth” the authority to ex-communicate or condemn anyone? Only God is the righteous judge with this authority! (I won’t even delve into the grievous offenses of the past, such as indulgences and other corruptions.)
I couldn’t help noticing when watching the recent The Bible series (backed by the Catholic church) on The History Channel that there was very little emphasis on the tearing of the veil in the temple of Jerusalem. In fact, it was quickly portrayed as a thin, silky curtain falling to the ground after Christ’s death, which could happen to any curtain in an earthquake. The reality was far more miraculous: a hefty thick curtain supernaturally tore in half down the middle. This event had massive significance.
Before this happened, a High Priest would have to approach this place—the Holy of Holies—with much cleansing, prayer, and trepidation. They would even tie a rope around themselves in case they dropped dead from God’s fearsome presence…then his fellow clergy could pull his body out without risking their own lives by entering. But the tearing of the veil was a clear signal that we can now approach God boldly as his children. Once we are washed with the blood of Christ, we are pure in His sight and no longer need a priest to act on our behalf.
Only Christ can forgive our sins. A priest has no such authority, and actually never has, even according to Levitical law.
Another strange part of the Catholic priesthood is their requirement of celibacy. I’m sure they quote Paul who says that celibacy can be ideal for someone in the ministry since even marriage can be a distraction.
But celibacy is a very rare calling indeed. Most people in history have not been called or built for it. Even Peter the apostle whom Catholics revere so much was married. Are priests today called to something higher than “the original pope” himself, Peter? Marriage is more often portrayed in a positive light and is even used as a metaphor for the church’s relationship with Jesus Christ.
Consider this: Paul had to be single as the most prolific missionary the world has ever known. His calling was much different than the everyday clergyman. He was personally approached by Jesus Christ after the resurrection and ascension. Paul was directly shown glimpses of heaven and the future glories that laid ahead just to empower and motivate him to the end. He spent every waking minute preaching the Word to hostile crowds, traveling, being brutally punished and imprisoned, fleeing from death, and writing letters that compose almost half of the New Testament.
What is it that modern day priests do exactly that precludes marriage in their ministry? Marriage is a blessing and would probably prevent so many of the problems that plague the Catholic church today. It also teaches people so much about their own wretchedness and can be a great source of accountability and support.
The vast majority of men simply were not made for celibacy, and this is not an indictment on character or righteousness.
The Infallibility of the Pope
Where in the world does this notion come from? That once a person is chosen as the Pope that he suddenly becomes infallible? Show me a verse, any verse, please!
Was any person other than Jesus ever perfect and blameless? How can it be that the Pope can declare something and then every follower has to adopt that as truth? The only source of ultimate truth in our lives is the Bible. No man today qualifies as having equal footing with God’s Word.
People may reason that God chooses certain people to be pope, and maybe this could be true. Certainly, nothing happens without God allowing it. But just as kings appointed by God could fail or even fall away, popes are still prone to error. Human sin and free will are always factors.
Maybe people compare popes to prophets. It is true that prophets in the Bible always declared truth (otherwise, they would be false prophets)—even if they were sinful in other areas of their lives—but the Bible and the events that helped shape it are already finished. Prophets are used for specific purposes in light of significant historical events with heavy spiritual consequences. God always chooses prophets directly by speaking to them. God does not appoint prophets using man’s voting procedures or councils.
Crucifixion of Christ
What is it about the crucifixion of Christ that seems unfinished to people? We are not “crucifying Christ over and over again” as some people like to dramatically put it. Mel Gibson, a Catholic, insisted on using his own hands to nail the hands of Christ in the movie portrayal The Passion of the Christ because he feels he crucifies Christ with every sin.
You may notice that Catholics have crosses that depict Jesus hanging on it still. He is risen! He has defeated death and sin on the cross and left it behind. He is in glory in heaven right now, preparing for his triumphant return as king and conqueror. Why is he still on the cross in Catholicism?
To me, this seems like a clever trick of Satan. He may put it into people’s minds that this is a good way to always remember the cost paid and the pain suffered. While these things are important indeed, the more important part is Christ’s victory over death and sin. If he had simply suffered and died, he would be a false prophet and nothing more than every other criminal who died the same Roman death. But it is his resurrection that validates his claims and his deity, not the hanging on the cross.
Jesus uttered his famous words toward the end of his life, “It is finished.”
That means sin was defeated and that people now have a direct bridge to God (and heaven).
How in the world did the idea of purgatory come about? I am utterly confused. It is not mentioned or even hinted at in scripture at all. The Bible tells us that once we come to faith in Christ, we are seen as blameless in God’s sight. We are “white as snow.”
According to the doctrine of purgatory, our sins are NOT fully paid for, and we’re not quite ready yet. We need a little more punishment, a little more purification. Again, this plays into the erroneous emphasis on works and payment for sin outside of Christ’s redemptive work for us. It is completely unbiblical.
This is really just scratching the surface, but you’ve probably noticed the trend again and again by now; unbiblical, Jesus’ work was unfinished, not enough…these are serious red flags that make Catholicism seriously deficient in some ways. No denomination is perfect, of course, but I think this goes beyond small theological differences and misunderstandings. Hopefully, people can focus on the doctrines that are correct and find a way toward a better, more biblical truth. Sola scriptura—not tradition, not man-made systems and bureaucracies.
Like I often do, I’d like to start with a disclaimer…
This is my own way of thinking and it works for me, but it is by no means authoritative or complete. No one can actually come to believe in Christ without the Holy Spirit, but it helps to be able to fall back on logic in times of doubt and weakness.
I encourage people to think through these steps (or steps like these) and really dig at the heart of the issue. It perplexes me still just how little people delve into these things when literally everything is riding on them. Keep in mind that this is a logical path, so things like feelings, personal preferences, and predispositions need to be kept in check as much as possible. We are making probabilistic judgments along the way and ignoring what we like or dislike. As humans, these things seep into our decision-making and conclusions all the time, but it has little relevance here.
This is a very surface-level post, so don’t expect it to be comprehensive, but I think it’s a good basic overview. This is my simple three-step path to deciding that Christianity is the one true religion.
OK so the very first step is to decide for yourself:
1. Is there a personal creator of the universe? Yes or no? There are only two options.
*Based on some feedback I’ve gotten, I felt the need to clarify the term “personal creator.” In apologetics terms, this does not necessarily refer to a relational person or what not, but it simply refers to a being who decided to create by his own volition (as opposed to being some natural force without a mind). I suppose the “personal” part of it, as most people understand it, would be more directly addressed with the second question in this post.
Most people claim to believe “yes” to this question because some things seem inherently obvious (of course, many simply state “I believe there is a higher power somewhere” and leave it at that). The universe is not eternal—as skeptics used to propose—and therefore was created or came into being at a finite point in our past. Nothing comes from nothing, so there had to be some external first-cause, right? Natural causes couldn’t sufficiently handle this creation duty, and what natural causes are there to speak of anyway when “nature,” matter, and even time didn’t exist? (Yes, even time came into existence at the Big Bang, most scientists agree.) A personal being had to choose to create the universe rather than there being nothing.
Things like the Cosmological Argument and the impossibility of an actual infinite come into play here…and in my opinion, common sense. When we look around and witness the beauty and intelligence around us, it seems almost preposterous to think it all happened by chance from inanimate and impersonal matter.
So for me, the answer to this question is YES. That leads me to the next question…
2. Did this personal creator choose to reveal itself to us? Yes or no.
One could imagine a scenario where a disinterested creator or god brought this universe into being, and then stepped away to leave us to our own devices. It’s possible. But when we have to decide probabilistically whether this is the case, it’s hard to defend.
In my view, why would a powerful and personal creator make this world (and the resulting intelligent life) and have no interest in it? Why would this creator bother making humans who yearn for answers and even for worship in some form? Why would this creator be satisfied in making such splendor and complexity and being completely detached from it? Doesn’t it make more sense that this creator would ultimately try to make contact with us and for us to recognize him/her?
In my view, it makes more sense that if this grand creator bothered to make us, then a relationship of some sort would naturally follow. If you don’t agree, it’s hard to convince you otherwise (but I’d love to hear your train of thought on this).
Now, if this creator has revealed information and truths to us in some way, I think that would constitute what we refer to as a “religion” or set of beliefs. The question now becomes something else entirely…
3. Out of all the world’s religions, which is most likely to be true? Which one is the right one?
Before we delve into this, let me stop some of you peace-loving hippies (or postmodernists even) out there. 😉 No, not all religions can be right, and they do NOT all point to the same thing. They all state contradictory “facts” about this greater power and are mutually exclusive from each other. The issue is not “what’s true for you” because truth is true whether or not you feel it. Someone can believe with all their heart that 2+2 = 3, but they’d be wrong. Like it or not, there is objective truth…some things are correct, some things are incorrect. You can’t really get around that by trying to be open-minded when it comes to truth.
If this great creator (from steps 1 and 2) has such incomprehensible power, you can safely assume that he/she would make sure that the right set of beliefs is correct all the way. You can’t pick bits and pieces from different sources. Wouldn’t that be a rather incompetent higher power?
Anyway, a likely obstacle you’d come across at this point is this: “you can’t prove whether a religion is true. It’s all taken on faith, not evidence.”
Yes, there is a measure of faith in the unseen and incomprehensible; I understand that. But what we’re trying to decide is which religion is most likely to be true, given what we know and have available to us.
From my study of the major world religions, it was easy to notice some predictable patterns. Some dude has a dream or vision, and then tells other people about it. Sometimes, they are just the person’s own ideas. The hearers of these so-called truths or revelations sense conviction in that person’s voice and demeanor, and they decide he is not lying. Being superstitious and gullible, they start believing and following this original source. Eventually, their numbers increase and you have an established religion.
(Don’t get me wrong…it is my belief that many of these religious leaders believed their own story. There was not much understanding of dreams back then, and visions can come from various places and for different reasons…possibly were even demonic.)
Sometimes, the religion spreads by word of mouth in light of little or no opposition. Other times, it spreads by military might or government mandate.
In almost all cases, the source can be primarily traced to one man who in his enlightenment, writes some scriptures for people to follow. It takes maybe a few months or years. Nothing within these scriptures can be proved or disproved because they largely deal with the metaphysical. This person likely enjoys a heightened status as a leader of a new movement. Who doesn’t like having followers looking up to you, right?
But one religion stands out in stark contrast: Christianity.
The Bible was not written by one person trying to get followers, but rather 40 different authors spaced out over thousands of years. If you know your Bible well enough and pay close attention, you’ll notice a striking continuity and an unmistakeable unified purpose throughout. No single author or leader received all the glory, and if anything, they were severely persecuted or even martyred for their teachings.
We have the Synoptic Gospels, which all tell the same story (with varying levels of detail), so there is multiple attestation making it more credible according to methods that help determine historicity. Keep in mind that these people weren’t collectively working on something known as “the Bible” today. They were not collaborators, but rather were people who in some cases didn’t even know each other directly.
We also have biblical stories squarely entrenched in the midst of actual known human history. We see Caesars, Xerxes, and other known figures throughout. These are not fables in mythical settings with made-up events, but are real locations with historical details being confirmed by archeology and ancient historians continually (even including lost civilizations that modern scholars initially claimed the Bible made up…until they are proved wrong by the next excavation). The Bible even contains startlingly accurate prophecies regarding the man of Jesus and even the rise and fall of empires. The Dead Sea Scrolls and other finds confirm that these prophecies were recorded well before the actual events took place.
For me, the fact that the Bible tells us things we don’t want to hear even helps confirm its truthfulness. What other religion tells us that we are held accountable even for our thoughts? Or that we are unable to come to good standing with our own works and effort, but rather are completely dependent on the mercy of Jesus? That the love of money or wealth itself can be bad for you and is dangerous?
If I made a religion, I’d tell people to get as rich as possible. This would help support the cause, right? Other religions try to tell you things that make them appealing, like having multiple wives or the promise of 72 virgins in the afterlife…true biblical Christianity is hard and humbling.
The list goes on and on, but you get the idea. Nothing else even comes close.
Does this make Christianity a certainty? Of course not, but you might be compelled to agree that it’s the best candidate for the one true religion.
If this is true and the Bible is the true word of God, then at this point, does it really matter what you feel? Does it matter that you like Buddhism’s teachings better or that you find things in the Bible to be objectionable? You should know as well as anyone that you are fallible and prone to mistakes. What you believe one day can change the next.
The crux of the issue is what is true.
And that is the basic gist of why I believe Christianity to be the one true religion. It’s hard to capture it in a readable blog post, but I hope you get the idea.
This is a very good question that my wife raised after my last entry, and I’m sure I don’t fully understand it yet (does anybody?)…but I’ll take a stab at it for now.
*Disclaimer: When I say “speaks to you,” I’m referring to a literal and direct form of communication. The leading of the Holy Spirit is a separate and complex issue on its own, though I do touch upon it here.
All I can really do—since I’m limited in this kind of experience—is theorize and try to deduce truths from the scriptures and from my coursework. I’m basically using what I’ve read and observed in the Bible and trying to make reasonable assumptions for today. You can also take some of the things I wrote in my previous entry regarding demon deception and flip it around (for instance, God often tells people what they don’t want to hear or do, considering our naturally sinful flesh).
I’m going to try to limit it to three basic conclusions, and you can decide for yourself whether my reasoning is valid:
1. God speaks clearly and decisively.
If you think or feel you might have been told something from God but you’re not sure, then it wasn’t from God…at least by direct authoritative means.
When God speaks to someone on earth, whether personally (as a theophany…never directly in full glory) or through a messenger angel, the recipient of that communication is never left wondering what he or she was told. All we need to do is consult the Bible and we’ll see this demonstrated repeatedly.
A clear demonstration of this is found in 1 Samuel 3 where God is calling Samuel to be a prophet, but Samuel thinks it is Eli calling him from the other room. This shows us two things: 1) God can communicate in an audible voice with actual words; and less importantly, 2) His voice might not be as booming and distinctive as we assume (God doesn’t even need to sound the same every time; it’s not like He has a fixed set of vocal chords or anything…He probably just uses what is most effective in each situation).
Another famous example is when Paul (formerly Saul) met Jesus on the road to Damascus.
Acts 9:3-6: “As [Saul] neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
I think it’s clear that when a communication is truly from God, we are left with more than feelings or urges. We are left with actual words, instructions, warnings, and awe. I like what Greg Koukl (str.org) said on one of his podcasts, and I’ll paraphrase: “If you’re going to say, ‘God told me,’ then you better be prepared to say something that is on the same level of authority as the Bible and God himself.” While it may be tempting, we should never use the phrase “God told me” lightly.
Now, this is not to discount the leading of the Holy Spirit for believers, which is also important and much more frequent. Sometimes, He can lead us strongly with convictions and desires, but this would generally be used for more localized purposes such as the direction of your own life. The Spirit might be leading us on the right path or growing us to become a stronger, more faithful person. To confirm answers to prayer, we will often get support and agreement from godly brothers and sisters who are not as clouded with emotional bias and tunnel vision.
But this does not seem to be the way that God uses people to command others with bold authority. You cannot use the leading of the Holy Spirit and accurately say, “God told me to tell people…” God knows our propensity to misjudge feelings and convictions, so He uses something more concrete when history is on the line.
What about an angel/messenger of God? Well again, there is no uncertainty. When people are approached by angels, they are usually in awe and fear, and again hear direct words.
Luke 2:9-10: “And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
Revelation 22:8: “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.'”
These angelic examples bring us to the next point…
2. If your encounter was definitely supernatural, then consider whether it was truly a messenger of God or a demon.
If we encountered something supernatural, we would know it unmistakably. But is seeing a greater being necessarily a good thing? Is it a messenger of God or of Satan?
Notice how both angels responded to people’s fear and even worship. “Fear not” and “Worship God” were their reactions. They were delivering a message for God, and they did not want to intimidate or impose their superiority over people. They quickly turned away worship because they wanted all glory to go to God, not themselves.
Angels always deliver messages that are consistent with the Bible and further God’s glory, not any individual’s. Often, these messages concern a nation’s repentance or deliverance.
Contrast that with a very probable demonic encounter—one involving Muhammad, the founder of Islam.
To his credit, Muhammad actually suspected that he had been approached by a demon or even had been possessed, but he was given assurances from his wife and uncle that it was from God. This demon, posing as Gabriel, told Muhammad to recite: “In the name of thy Lord who created, Created man from a clot of blood.”
Here we have something that directly contradicts or adds to scripture. That is the first big clue. Nowhere does the Bible say we were created from a clot of blood, but rather from the dust of the ground.
Muhammad was left with great fear instead of being comforted and assured, as with angels. (Demons do not care about our well-being, but want to destroy us.) He also experienced numerous violent seizures when he would receive these visions, further supporting the fact that there was some level of possession going on. In the end, great glory wound up going to Muhammad on this earth as the revered leader of a new religion. Most prophets in the Bible, however, wound up being ridiculed, persecuted, and martyred.
3. Genuine spiritual encounters are rare today, but not impossible.
You may be thinking, “If this stuff is true, then we probably never hear directly from God!”
I would partially agree with that assessment. We still are in communication with Him through prayer and such, but the need for God to speak direct words to us is vastly reduced. The two biggest reasons for this are: 1) The Bible and 2) The Holy Spirit. God’s Word is now complete and we are given the information we need to live our lives according to His will. When a specific leading is needed, the Holy Spirit guides our lives as true believers in the right direction. The Holy Spirit came to us at Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection, so functionally speaking, it’s primarily His time on earth now.
That being said, I do believe that God has more in store for us as far as communicating directly. We definitely know of at least two cases in the future when God will speak to people: the two prophets spoken of in Revelation during the Tribulation. They will receive precise instructions on what to preach and warn people about. Again, we see a clear purpose in history for doing so.
Some people—including pastors—claim that God has spoken to them and told them things. I won’t mention names, but certain big-name prophecy guys say this or at least strongly hint at it.
Yes, it’s possible that God can still speak directly to people for a greater purpose. But all it usually takes is one look at the track record of these “prophets” to dismantle their case. If they have proclaimed something in the name of God and have been wrong even ONCE, they are false plain and simple. “The rapture is coming on this date!…oh wait, nevermind, now it’s this date!” Write them off as prophets immediately, though they may still have some valid teachings to offer.
God is never wrong, and neither are His prophets if they have genuinely been chosen for that purpose.
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.
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.