Country music star and confessing Christian, Carrie Underwood, has voiced her support for homosexuality and same-sex marriage in the past.  Now, her pastor – Stan Mitchell of GracePoint Church in Franklin, Tennessee – has followed suit.[1]  He announced to his church that

Full privileges are extended now to you [practicing homosexuals] with the same expectations of faithfulness, sobriety, holiness, wholeness, fidelity, godliness, skill and willingness. That is expected of all. Full membership means being able to serve in leadership and give all of your gifts and to receive all the sacraments; not only communion and baptism, but child dedication and marriage.

What?  Expectations of holiness and godliness?  How can they be holy and godly when they are engaging in sexual behavior that the Bible condemns as abominable?  That’s like telling adulterers in the congregation that their behavior is fine so long as they have sex outside of marriage in holiness and godliness.  Their behavior is the opposite of holiness.  (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…)

porneiaDavid Janzen wrote an article in 2001 that was published in the Journal for the Study of the New Testament on the meaning of porneia in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9.[1] In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce, Jesus only allows for divorce in cases of porneia.  But what does this refer to?  It’s usually translated as “adultery,” but the Greek word for adultery is moicheiaPorneia has a wider semantic rate, referring to a range of sexual sins.  It can be used of adultery, incest, pre-marital sex, etc.

Janzen argues that Jesus’ use of porneia is best understood from the cultural context.  In Jesus’ day, some argued that divorce could be obtained for any reason, while others argued that one must have just cause.  All agreed, however, that the husband only had to return the wife’s dowry to her if had just cause for divorcing her.  Jesus sided with those who taught that the only justification for divorce was a just cause.  He identified that cause as porneia.  What does porneia refer to?  Is he referring to a wide range of sexual sins?  Janzen argues that the cultural context makes it likely that porneia refers specifically to something akin to adultery.  Why didn’t Matthew use moicheia, then?  The most likely explanation is that Jesus did was not limiting the exception to sex with another person during the marriage (adultery), but was also including sex with another person during the betrothal period (which, in Jesus’ day, was as legally binding as marriage).

Check out the article: Porneia in Mt 5_32 and 19_9–Janzen

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[1]David Janzen, “The Meaning of Porneia in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9: An Approach From the Study of Ancient Near Eastern Culture,” in Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 2001; 23; 66; available from http://jnt.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/23/80/66.

Lions Daniel FastWhenever an all-church fast is called, pastors commonly give people a range of fasting options to engender wider participation.  On the one extreme, total abstention from food and drink (except water) is called for.  On the other extreme is what is often called “the Daniel Fast.”  This is usually defined as eating only vegetables and drinking liquids.

Two passages of Scripture are called upon to support the Daniel Fast: Daniel 1:8-16 and 10:2-3.  We’ll look at both in turn to see whether either of them teach a fast involving the eating of only vegetables. (more…)

Most Christians are conExperienceGodvinced of God’s existence based on their personal experience of God rather than by rational argumentation (though some are convinced by a combination of experience and argument).  This is a rational justification for such a belief. After all, we generally take our experiences to be veridical unless and until we have good reasons for thinking our experience was not veridical. An argument for God’s existence based on personal experience goes something like this:

  1. I seem to have had an experience of God
  2. I should trust my experiences unless I have good reasons to doubt their veracity
  3. I have no reason to doubt the veracity of my experience of God
  4. Therefore, I have experienced God
  5. Therefore, God exists

Atheists will often claim that they would also believe in God if they had a similar experience.  It’s not uncommon for this claim to be followed up by a question: Why, if God exists, have they not experienced Him?   (more…)

Open LoopSome believe the Biblical stories were myths or exaggerations.  At worst, everything is an invention.  At best, just the miracle claims were invented.  When you examine the Gospels, however, you find plenty of evidence that the authors were being faithful to what really happened, even when it was embarrassing.  Examples abound, including Peter’s denial of Jesus, Jesus calling Peter “Satan,” the disciples not understanding Jesus’ predictions of His resurrection, etc.  This is called the principle of embarrassment, and is one of the key principles historians use to judge the historicity of a report.

While reading Matthew the other day, another example of this principle stood out to me in a way it had not before.  We are told by Matthew that the chief priests went to Pilate “the next day” after Jesus had been crucified and buried to ask for guards to be posted at the tomb (Mt 27:62-63).  Why?  Because Jesus had predicted that He would rise from the dead, and they feared that the disciples might come and steal his body from the tomb and then claim Jesus’ prediction had come true (Mt 27:64).  (more…)

worshipSinging is a spiritual exercise (Psalms; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).  Few things can open up hearts to God like beautiful music and meaningful lyrics.  The effects of music on the soul are nothing short of amazing.  That is why virtually all Christian congregations feature music in their services.  But what we sing about is just as important as the fact that we are singing.  After all, singing the latest Taylor Swift song would not be deemed spiritual just because it was sung in church.  Content matters.  But not just any ‘ol content that mentions God will do either.

Theologically Lean

I have been increasingly concerned over the years with the lyrical content of mainstream “worship” songs.  Many of our songs suffer from theological anorexia.  There’s not enough theological content in them to make the Devil yawn, yet alone choke.  They are so generic that one may have a hard time telling what God they are talking about (if God is even mentioned).  Then there are the “God of my girlfriend” songs that are spiritually androgynous.  One can’t tell whether they are singing about their love for God or their love for their girlfriend.  Finally, there are songs some have called “7-11” songs: They contain seven words sung 11 times.  If you want to know what theologically robust songs look like, get yourself a hymnal that’s more than 30 years old.  They are pregnant with theological substance. (more…)

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