Holiness


smoking-nuns11Most American Christians have identified smoking or chewing tobacco as sinful, but what is the Biblical basis for this conclusion?  There is no verse that says “Thou shalt not smoke.”  So why should we think it’s morally wrong?

The two reasons I typically hear are related to (1) health and (2) addiction.  Regarding health, the verse appealed to is often 1 Corinthians 3:17 in which Paul says God will destroy those who defile the temple of God.  The temple is understood to be the human body, so anything that destroys the human body is sinful.  I’m not convinced this is the right interpretation of the verse, but let’s run with it for the sake of argument.  There’s no question that smoking cigarettes is not good for the body.  It’s unhealthy and thus unwise, but is this enough to warrant considering it sinful?  How many other things do we consume that are unhealthy for us?  Are we prepared to call too much consumption of chocolate, ice cream, soda, red meat, and the like sinful as well?  These are also unhealthy when consumed too much.  One may object that while these things are unhealthy, they do not typically kill the person who consumes them.  That may be true of each item individually, but not necessarily as a whole.  A person who consumes too much sugar, fat, etc. often develops diseases such as diabetes or cancer, and some die as a result.  If we’re not prepared to consider it a sin to eat too much ice cream  or drink too much soda, then why are we so quick to consider smoking a sin?  Perhaps we should consider both to be sin, but I doubt most would see it that way (you can pry my ice cream container away from my cold, dead hands!!).

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john-piperJohn Piper writes:

[T]here are two kinds of approaches to questionable practices in life. One I would call a minimalist approach to holiness and godliness. The other maximalist.

In the first case, your typical question is, “Well, what is wrong with it?” It would apply to movies and music, and kids often ask their parents, “What is wrong with it?” And the other approach is not to ask, “What is wrong with it?” mainly, but, “Will it make me more Christ like? Will it make me more devoted to Jesus? … Will it make me more bold in witness or weaken me? Will it help me be spiritually discerning of the ways of Satan in the world and will it help me lay up treasures in heaven?” …

You can see that there are these two kinds of approaches to life. I want to maximize my godliness and my holiness by drawing nearer and nearer to God, and the other one is just trying to do as many things as you can do without being tripped up explicitly by sin.

How true!

Cohabit - Not MarriageThe American College of Pediatricians explains why cohabitation is bad for society in just about every way imaginable.  And yet cohabitation continues to rise as the folk wisdom says it will increase one’s chances of marital success.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The most happiness does not come from receiving the benefits of marriage (sex, playing house) without actual marriage, but from marriage itself.

 

See also: The sociology of cohabitation: “Shacking up” isn’t such a good idea after all

YuckTrying to make Christian morality palatable to those in moral rebellion against God is like trying to make civil law palpable to criminals. They will never like God’s laws no matter how reasonable we demonstrate those laws to be. Defiant children do not care that eating too much candy will make them throw up or give them diabetes. They simply want candy. Likewise, those who want their sexual sin, their abortion, and a myriad of other sins do not care about the wisdom in God’s laws. They want what they want, and they will ridicule and deride those who say otherwise. This is not to say that we should not attempt to explain the reason for and benefits of God’s law. It’s just to say that we shouldn’t be surprised when this fails to change their behavior.

CohabitationCohabitation – the politically correct term for what used to be called “shacking up” – has become very common in our day.  Nearly 8 million opposite-sex couples live together today, compared to less than 1 million 30 years ago.  Nearly 10% of all opposite-sex couples are cohabiting, and over half of all first marriages are preceded by a period of cohabitation.

How did we get here?

How did cohabitation go from being illegal in all states prior to 1970 and held in moral contempt by society at large to being so ubiquitous and accepted today?  There are several reasons:

  • The sexual revolution removed the moral stigma of premarital sex.
  • Our culture has moved from a culture of traditions and social conformity to a culture of individualism and personal gratification.
  • We shifted from a deontological view of morality to a pragmatic and relativistic view of morality in which any activity that does not cause harm to others is morally permissible.
  • The recognition of the fragility of marriage, and a corresponding fear of divorce.
  • The rise of feminism which rejected the traditional roles played by married women. Cohabitation promised personal autonomy and more relationship equity.
  • The increasing economic independence of women made marriage less necessary for them. And men, who are generally more fearful of commitment, supported the arrangement since it still provided for their needs of sexual gratification and domestic support.[1]

Cohabitation is not what it seems

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SinMany Christians wonder whether God will forgive them for intentional sin – particularly premeditated and habitual sins.  It’s easy to believe God will forgive us for accidental sins, but not for sins that we plan out in advance or choose to do over and over again.

So, will God forgive such sins?  Before we answer that question we should be clear about what God thinks of these sins.  He hates them because He hates all sin.  Sin is contrary to His holy nature.  Sin ruptures God’s relationship with us, and this grieves Him.  He has given us the power to choose righteousness (Romans 6; 8:1-4), and yet we choose unrighteousness instead. (more…)

Cannabis leaf on grunge background, shallow DOF.Now that Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington D.C. have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, more Christians are asking whether smoking marijuana is truly immoral. After all, it’s legal.[1] Joe Carter has a thoughtful article on this issue that I found extremely helpful.[2] He argues that smoking marijuana is immoral. Here is Carter’s argument in a nutshell (with some ad-lib on my part at certain points): (more…)

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