Dear church: Get your deep and sincerely held beliefs in line

June 29, 2015

From U.S. President Obama’s speech in the Rose Garden on the occasion of the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex “marriage” in all 50 states:

I know change for many of our LGBT brothers and sisters must have seemed so slow for so long. But compared to so many issues, America’s shift has been so quick. I know that Americans of good will continue to hold a wide range of views on this issue. Opposition in some cases has been based on sincere and deeply held beliefs. All of us who welcome today’s news should be mindful of that fact, recognize different viewpoints, revere our deep commitment to religious freedom. But today should also give us hope that on the many issues with which we grapple, often painfully, real change is possible. Shifts in hearts and minds is possible. And those who have come so far on their journey to equality have a responsibility to reach back and help others join them. Because for all our differences, we are one people, stronger together than we could ever be alone.

Talk about speaking out of both sides of your mouth. For all the talk about “separation of church and state” that you hear from the illiberal Left, it’s actually a one-way street. On the one hand, those of religious conviction have no business trying to “impose” their values on society.

On the other hand, it’s apparently quite fine for the President to call for those same religious people to amend their “sincere and deeply held beliefs” if they conflict with the values of the current Zeitgeist, and for those same secular Leftists to make a call “to abolish, or greatly diminish, [churches’] tax-exempt statuses” if they won’t pile on the gay-rights bandwagon.

These people want a comfortable, inoffensive church that won’t rock the boat or tell them that what they are doing might be wrong. The majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges says, “The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.” But the First Amendment doesn’t ensure the right merely to “teach” one’s religious principles; it ensures the right to exercise them. A conviction held is nothing, if it is not a conviction lived out. That means that all those beleaguered Christian bakers, photographers and florists actually have a constitutional right to act on their convictions and to opt out of taking business that would require them to participate in a ceremony they believe is wrong.

Charles Colson once wrote, “[The church] does not settle into a comfortable niche, taking its place alongside the Rotary, the Elks, and the country club. Rather, the church is to make society uncomfortable.”[1] The present animus toward the Christian faith is evidence that, however halfheartedly, we are making society uncomfortable. And the principalities and powers don’t like that, one bit.


1. Charles Colson, Loving God (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 176.


Tossed to and fro

May 18, 2015

Michael Coren has crossed the Tiber. Again. He first converted to Roman Catholicism as a young adult in 1985, then converted to evangelical Christianity in the early 1990s, then returned to Rome in 2004. Now, he has announced that a year ago he left the Roman church again and began worshipping with the Anglicans. (If this trend continues, he is due to re-convert to Catholicism in approximately 2024, by which point his personal swimming lane in the Tiber River will be marked off with pool ropes.)

The reason for Coren’s departure from Rome is all too predicatable these days, as he notes in an op-ed published Saturday in the Toronto Star:

I gradually came to embrace the cause of same-sex marriage, more liberal politics and a rejection of the conservative Christianity that had characterized my opinions and persona for more than a decade. . . .

The change was to a large extent triggered by the gay issue. I couldn’t accept that homosexual relationships were, as the Roman Catholic Church insists on proclaiming, disordered and sinful. Once a single brick in the wall was removed the entire structure began to fall.

In other words, like so many, he’s capitulated to the spirit of the age, and it looks like he’s found a church that won’t challenge his assumptions: “I quietly and privately drifted over to an Anglican Church that while still working out its own position on many social issues, is far more progressive, open, relevant and willing to admit reality.”

Not that it’s difficult. The Anglican Church of Canada has been drifting toward the left on this issue for years. Currently ten dioceses are authorized to “bless” same-sex unions, including the Diocese of Ottawa where I live. The 2016 General Synod will vote on whether to authorize same-sex “marriages.” Meanwhile, Canon XXI of Anglican church law, as well as the marriage ceremony in the Book of Common Prayer, still presuppose that a marriage consists of a man and a woman.

If you go to a wedding ceremony, you are likely to hear such biblical passages as Genesis 1:26-28, Genesis 2:15-24, or Ephesians 5:21-33 read. Marriage is not merely a license for guilt-free sex. It is a powerful symbol of the relationship of Jesus Christ and his church. That’s why, notwithstanding whoever the world says can be married, within the church a same-sex “marriage” is a theological absurdity. It would be interesting to know what Bible verses about marriage are going to be read at Anglican same-sex ceremonies.

I viewed Coren’s TV show from time to time and have read some of his books, and found them worthwhile. But this bouncing back and forth from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism and back again every decade is symptomatic of a deep spiritual immaturity. His denominational affiliation is driven by his current likes and dislikes; he is the very definition of one “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14).

Pray for Michael Coren that he finally grows up in his faith and stops swimming.


Blurred lines, part 2: You and me, baby, we ain’t nothing but mammals

July 11, 2014

(Two weeks ago, I posted an article titled “Blurred Lines,” about the eroding of the male-female “binary” and the clash of biblical and secular worldviews. That article was originally posted at Faith Beyond Belief, and contained two parallel arguments. I removed the second argument for brevity and relevance. Had I known what last week would bring, I could have kept the whole article intact and just changed the news stories at the beginning.)

Last week, Texas teenager Kendall Jones was the target of an Internet lynching after photos of herself with African big-game animals, which she had shot, went viral. For her part, Ms. Jones claims that some of the animals were tranquilized for the purposes of research or veterinary treatment, and that the ones she killed either provided food for the locals or aided conservation. For my part, I believe her (on that last point, specifically—as far as I’m concerned, the others require no defense): coming from Northern Ontario where hunting and fishing are popular pastimes, in my experience the most devoted conservationists are hunters. Ducks Unlimited, for example, is dedicated to preserving waterfowl habitats. It was founded by, and primarily supported by, hunters: not merely because they want to preserve their hobby, but they also love nature and want to protect it. Conserving wetlands ensures not only a good supply of ducks to shoot, but has the side benefit of protecting other species that live there as well.

Nonetheless, hordes of easily angered Internet slacktivists descended upon Ms. Jones, demanding (successfully) that Facebook remove the pictures from her page—though a “Kill Kendall Jones” fan page was allowed to exist for a few days longer. Some folks have started online petitions to have her banned from hunting in South Africa or Tanzania, even though her kind of hunting is legal and generates revenue. The usual death threats were issued via Twitter, and one liberal douchebag is even offering $100,000 for nude pictures of her. Mike Dickinson’s apparent rationale is that “hunting” nudie pics of Ms. Jones is the moral equivalent of her hunting animals. (The Web site of this alleged, self-proclaimed Congressional candidate is currently disabled. I wonder why?)

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Blurred lines

June 27, 2014

The cover story of the June 9, 2014 issue of Time was titled “The Transgender Tipping Point,” arguing that transgenderism is the next social movement, after same-sex marriage, that will push for full social legitimacy. Certainly the media (in addition to Time) has been working overtime in recent months to normalize “transgendered” persons of every stripe.

A handful of articles have caught my attention in recent days reflecting this trend.

In Vancouver last week, the school board approved a policy change intended to protect students from being singled out and bullied on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity. In addition to the usual confusion about who gets to use what bathroom, this new policy mandates the made-up pronouns xe, xem, and xyr for those students whose self-identification doesn’t fit into the usual categories of, presumably, he/him, she/her, or them.

Similarly, last fall, at Mills College, a woman’s college in California, the all-woman student body began to abandon “binary” gender identity (male and female) in favour of choosing their own preferred personal gender pronouns: in addition to the conventional she, these include he or they, or even a slew of custom PGPs like ze, sie e, ou, or ve. (I imagine that professors, frustrated by the laborious task of keeping this word salad straight from one student to the next, may ultimately put the kibosh on this inhumane torture of the English language.)

However, the most serious offender is an opinion piece published yesterday on Slate, titled “Don’t Let the Doctor Do This to Your Newborn.” It begins,

Imagine you are in recovery from labor, lying in bed, holding your infant. In your arms you cradle a stunningly beautiful, perfect little being. Completely innocent and totally vulnerable, your baby is entirely dependent on you to make all the choices that will define their life for many years to come. . . .

Suddenly, the doctor comes in. He looks at you sternly, gloved hands reaching for your baby insistently. “It’s time for your child’s treatment,” he explains from beneath a white breathing mask, shattering your calm. Clutching your baby protectively, you eye the doctor with suspicion.

You ask him what it’s for.

“Oh, just standard practice. It will help him or her be recognized and get along more easily with others who’ve already received the same treatment. The chance of side effects is extremely small.” This raises the hairs on the back of your neck, and your protective instinct kicks your alarm response up a notch.

After several more paragraphs of this melodrama, the author asks, “Would you consent to this treatment for your child? . . . Or would the stakes be too high: Russian roulette with your baby’s life?” By now I, a typical reader, am wondering: What is this highly risky medical procedure? Is this an anti-vaccination article? Anti circumcision, perhaps?

Alas, no.

It’s called infant gender assignment: When the doctor holds your child up to the harsh light of the delivery room, looks between its legs, and declares his opinion: It’s a boy or a girl, based on nothing more than a cursory assessment of your offspring’s genitals.

If you like playing spot-the-sophistry, you might have noticed that our trans-activist author commits a categorical blunder: identifying the sex of a newborn isn’t a treatment, it’s an observation (and one that even the most ardent of LGBTUVWXYZ-rights activists would have to concede is accurate in the overwhelming majority of instances). Fortunately, sanity prevails: even most Slate commenters thought this op-ed was asinine.

These kinds of stories—I could point to many similar ones—blur the distinction between man and woman or attempt to destroy it outright. This confusion repudiates biblical categories established at creation.

When God created humanity in the beginning, “male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). God created a woman for Adam because nothing else was a suitable mate (Gen. 2:20). Man and woman coming together in marriage to produce offspring was the design from the beginning. “[A] man shall . . . hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Male and female—not male and male nor female and female—are natural counterparts. Jesus Christ’s teaching on divorce (Matthew 9:1-12) appeals to these same two passages (Gen. 1:27, 2:24) to reaffirm that God’s original intent was a lifelong, exclusive bond between husband and wife. We are often informed that Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality, but really he did—because his strong affirmation of heterosexual marital fidelity excludes the lawfulness of same-sex unions. He affirms the male/female “binary” as natural and right.

Of course, we Christians also affirm traditional marriage because it pictures the relationship between Christ and the church. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-26). Paul does not confuse his categories. Christ is represented by a husband, and the church by a wife. They are not interchangeable. (I wrote about same-sex marriage and the church in more depth last June.)

Nor did God blur the male-female categories by creating a wide spectrum of sexualities in between, like the 50-odd gender identifications recently offered by Facebook for user profiles. Social-science academics often draw a distinction between sex (determined by biology) and gender (a social construct). This theory was popularized in the 1950s by a sexologist named John Money. It was tested in the 1960s, after a baby boy named Bruce Reimer had his genitals mutilated in a botched surgery. Money recommended that Bruce be surgically reassigned as female and raised by his parents as a girl, saying that if they did so, he would accept his gender identity. So they did, and renamed Bruce “Brenda.” Money declared the sex reassignment a success, and it became the standard procedure for similar cases.

However, Money had covered up the truth. Even though Brenda Reimer hadn’t know she was born a boy, she never accepted being a girl. At 15, Brenda took the name David and became male again. Sadly, after a short life that included depression, bullying, and a failed marriage, David Reimer committed suicide in his 30s. The line between male and female just isn’t as blurred as the gender-studies mavens want to believe. Nonetheless, the nature-vs.-nurture debate continues even though Money’s gender theories were discredited.

Original sin is responsible for these blurred lines. Paul describes the universal human condition in Romans 1. Idolatry is one symptom of mankind’s rebellion against the authority of God: they “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Rom. 1:23). A sculpted beast cannot adequately represent the living God. Mankind alone bears God’s image. Trying to represent God with an animal erodes the distinction between the Creator and the created—not to mention man and animal.

Paul also writes, “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” (Rom. 1:26-27). Humanity has rebelled against God again by overthrowing natural sexual relations for unnatural. Men and women become interchangeable objects of desire.

A clash of worldviews is at work here. Our supposedly secular culture now idolizes both unlawful sexuality, without shame. It blurs the lines that God established in the beginning, calling them antiquated and hateful. However, the Bible affirms that what God made was very good (Gen. 1:31). As Albert Mohler has said:

The reality is that Scripture reveals that binary pattern to be built into creation, and to have been established by the Creator. The categories of male and female, and more importantly of man and woman, are not merely social constructions that human beings have come to know. . . .

The Bible says that we are not who we think ourselves to be, but who our Creator made us to be. And that means that no matter how we say we know ourselves, or what we claim about ourselves, the key issue for eternity is what our Creator thinks of us, because he knows us better than we know ourselves, because he made us. . . . [T]he only way we can come to terms with that is by reading the Scripture and hearing what God says in his word about who we are. And once we know that, we’re stuck in the same position as we are in every other reading of the Scripture. The question really isn’t “who am I,” but rather, “will I obey or disobey the Scripture?” Will I come to terms with who God says I really am?1

When we declare the whole counsel of God against its secular critics and social engineers, we need also to reaffirm the good “binaries” that exist between man and woman.

(This article has been edited from its original form as published on Faith Beyond Belief.)

Footnote

1 Albert Mohler, “The Briefing 02-28-14,” AlbertMohler.com, MP3 audio file, <http://albertmohler.com/>, accessed 1 April 2014.


Friday in the wild: May 16, 2014

May 16, 2014

Another Friday means another great opportunity to share all sorts of goodness from the Web and blogosphere. Out there, they do FridayFollow; here, we do Friday in the Wild. This week, three articles caught my attention.

Yesterday, May 15, was the 30th anniversary of the death of my personal favourite Christian apologist, Francis A. Schaeffer. (As I write this, I have two of his books, The God Who Is There and The Church at the End of the 20th Century, on loan from the library.) I first read Schaeffer in my university years; he was the first step toward my trying to adopt a comprehensive Christian worldview. Over the years I’ve adopted a certain number of his frequent catchphrases, including “true truth” and “brute fact.” Ray Ortlund at The Gospel Coalition expressed his gratitude for Schaeffer’s ministry:

All my life I’d been exposed to conventional people using conventional methods, and I don’t mean that in a condescending way. I had the privilege of knowing men of true greatness, like my dad. But Schaeffer was just different. He located the gospel within a total Christian worldview. He talked about modern art and films and books. He spoke with prophetic insight about cultural trends. He worked out fresh ways to articulate old truths, even coining new expressions like “true truth.” He had a beard and long hair and dressed like a European. He had Christian radicalism all over him, called for by those radical times. I found him non-ignorable. To this day, I dislike conventionality, partly because I saw in Francis Schaeffer a man who made an impact not by conforming and fitting in but by standing out as the man God made him to be, the man the world needed him to be.

[Read Gratitude for Francis Schaeffer]

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Friday in the wild: May 9, 2014

May 9, 2014

Hello! This might be a longer installment than usual, simply because I was unable to post last week, so I have about two weeks of interesting (and now, slightly stale) stuff to pass around. Which is fine with me.

First, an intriguing article from The Art of Manliness, which promotes traditional masculine virtues. It’s intriguing not merely because of the subject matter—though as someone who enjoys the occasional glass of whiskey, of course I enjoyed reading about a shared interest—but because the blog owners are Mormons, who would not normally drink alcohol. It’s a guest post. Obviously there’s plenty of room in the tent for varying views on masculinity! (AoM featured articles on cocktails and pipe smoking as well in the past.)

In spite of its sometimes tumultuous history (see the Whiskey Rebellion), whiskey is a drink that men have enjoyed for centuries. Men like Mark Twain, Winston Churchill (often accompanied with a fine cigar), and Clark Gable imbibed regularly. When one thinks of masculine images, you often conjure up a picture of a man in a tweed coat with a glass of whiskey in his hand by the fire. If you’ve ever wanted to be that man and explore this manly tradition, you’re in luck. While we’ve given you a primer on Scotch whisky, today we’re going to broaden that and talk about whiskey as a whole—especially how to enjoy it!

[Read How to Drink Whiskey]

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Friday in the wild: April 25, 2014

April 25, 2014

It’s been a while since I’ve done an edition of FitW (let alone blogged anything at all, for that matter). However, in light of a few recent current events, I felt moved to post something, centred around the theme of same-sex “marriage.”

Christians are often asked, “Why are you so obsessed with homosexuality?” My answer is, “Because homosexuality is the wedge issue by which a secular society is trying to vilify and marginalize Christians.” Or, as a friend on Facebook has also pointed out, it is actually a sex-obsessed society that is demanding answers from us. (Similarly, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler has said that the media frequently contacts him for an opinion.) It makes you wonder who is really obsessed, doesn’t it?

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