Like most of you, I’ve thought a fair bit about marriage over the last decade.
When I went off to school and started developing a more libertarian mindset, I formed the opinion that the state shouldn’t have anything to do with marriage. It should be left up to the church.
Then, attending school in California, I was confronted with Prop 8. Since the state wasn’t leaving marriage alone, how should I vote? I voted Yes on Prop 8 because we are not free to define marriage contrary to God’s Word, but I still wasn’t convinced the state should be involved.
But then I began learning more about reformed theology and history and realized that the reformation took marriage out of the church (where Rome made it a sacrament) and placed it in the hands of the civil authorities. In fact, some colonies went so far as to defrock any minister who attempted to perform a marriage.
I never got around to finishing that study, but thankfully I’ve found a series of posts I can say summarize my current view of the matter:
I have been interested in reading John C. Lyden’s book “Film as Religion” ever since I read a summary of it several years ago:
The lights dim, the voices hush and the devotees prepare for a sacred, transformative experience. This scenario does not describe a ritual in a cathedral or temple, but one occurring in another religiously charged space: the cinema. Lyden, a professor of religion in Nebraska, argues that if we define “religion” by its function-what the activity does for the people who participate in it-then movie-going is the religion of our time. Movies provide the collective myths to help us deal with our cultural anxieties and hopes, and catharsis in the form of rewarded heroes and punished villains. (Publisher’s Weekly)
I finally checked out a copy at the library and am going to try to blog through the book (hopefully that will get me to finish it – something I have a hard time doing with books!). I hope you find it interesting and more than that I hope it provokes some discussion on the topic – so let me know what you think.
As you read in the summary, Lyden’s thesis is basically that “there is no absolute distinction between religion and other aspects of culture, and that we have a tendency to label certain sorts of activities as “religious” chiefly because they fall into the patterns that we recognize from religion with which we are familiar.” He continues:
As a result, we have a tendency to limit what we view as religion to that which is recognized as such by us in our own culture. The result is that we can find ourselves shortsighted when we encounter a diverse form of religion – as, for example, the European colonists who came to America did. For a long time, they refused to even grant the name “religion” to the activities in the Native American culture that paralleled those undertaken by Europeans under that name. In time, they came to see that the “otherness” of American beliefs did not disqualify them from performing the same functions for Native Americans that Christianity did for most Europeans, and therefore these beliefs might be considered equally “religious.”… It may be that we experience a similar form of shortsightedness when we encounter aspects of our own culture that we view as opposed to religious values or beliefs. We fail to acknowledge the extent to which modern people base their worldviews and ethics upon sources we do not usually label “religious. (2-3)”
Lyden relies upon Clifford Geertz’ functional definition of religion. “This definition includes the three aspects noted in this book’s title: a “myth” or story that conveys a worldview; a set of values that idealize how that world should be; and a ritual expression that unites the two. (4)” “…I will argue for an understanding of [myth] that does not reduce it to a psychological projection or an illogical hegemony-promoting falsehood, but rather views it as a story that expresses the worldview and values of a community. (4)”
In regards to film as ritual, Lyden notes: “Films offer a vision of the way the world should be (in the view of the film) as well as statements about the way it really is; the ritual of film-going unites the two when we become part of the world projected on screen. We often hope and wish for a world like the one we see in the movies even though we must return to a very different world at the end of the show; in this way, films offer an entry into an ideally constructed world. (4)”
Lyden’s thesis is intriguing. Though he may not put it in these terms, he seems to be basically acknowledging that all of life is theological and that we cannot safely divide our “secular” life from our “religious” life. Everything we do is wrapped up in religion, which is why Paul said “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Furthermore, everyone has a religion. Everyone has a worldview and they seek out things in their life that confirm and support that worldview. We cannot neglect the pervasiveness of “religion” in our “secular” affairs.
I also appreciate his willingness to acknowledge the religious power of film. Film-going is absolutely a ritual and every film preaches a message. It is very disturbing to see how many people, Christians especially, watch movies completely uncritically. They willingly turn their brains off and stuff themselves with popcorn, all the while telling themselves “its just for fun.” That may be the case, and there’s nothing wrong with kicking back and enjoying 2 hours of Star Trek. But if you ignore the fact that you’re listening to a sermon and you get sucked into cheering for the emotional thesis of the film (1: rebellion is a virtue, 2: follow your heart, not your head), then you are neglecting your Christian duty to “test all things; hold fast was is good.”
However, I am leery of Lyden’s thesis being “Film as Religion.” That’s like saying “Writing as Religion.” I don’t think we can make the medium the religion. I know that’s not what Lyden intends, but we’ll see how careful he is about it. Perhaps a better title would be “Hollywood as Religion” because that entails film, a specific manner of film-going, and a particular worldview & message. We’ll see how this is worked out throughout the book.
One other area of concern may be Lyden’s definition of religion. Religion is notoriously difficult to define. In his book Religion, Reason, and Revelation Gordon H. Clark concludes that there is no proper and fitting definition of religion other than “God’s creating Adam in his own image and giving him a special revelation…” as well all distortions of that original religion (which includes just about everything). (Clark argues that because distortion of this religion is the result of sin, and sin is irrational, that there cannot be any logical classification of religion).
I think Lyden’s thesis would still qualify under Clark’s definition, but I am content to go along with Lyden’s definition for the purposes of the book. Wikipedia is generally a good measuring stick to gauge what the world thinks about any given topic, and it provides a definition similar to Lyden’s: “in general a set of beliefs explaining the existence of and giving meaning to the universe, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.” That definition works for me and it looks like Lyden’s thesis may be true. We’ll see.
Over a year ago I wrote a post about Ray Boltz’ apostasy, including an analysis of his songs in light of his apostasy. https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2008/09/30/who-is-ray-boltz-god/
Boltz, a Christian music icon, recently abandoned his wife and children and moved to Florida to fulfill his homosexual desires anonymously. Yet he does not claim he is no longer a Christian. As is typical, he simply rejects those backwards Christians who say homosexual acts and desires are sinful.
Well, he hasn’t stopped making music (though it appears he should have). He has released a single from his new album called “Don’t Tell Me Who to Love.” It’s supposedly a song about an interracial couple fighting injustice in the 60’s, but I’m sure you can figure out what he’s really talking about.
Here is his flamboyant, Cher inspired diatribe against the Word of God http://rayboltzblog.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/dont-tell-me-who-to-love-mix5.mp3
While I was writing the song “Don’t Tell Me Who To Love” I was not familiar with the supreme court case “Loving v. Virginia.” Growing up in the sixties, however, I was aware of the attitudes concerning people of different races being allowed to marry. As early as the 1800’s, judges had claimed that such behavior would lead to “deplorable results” producing children that were “generally sick and effeminate.” Preachers also claimed that it was “immoral, unnatural and against the will of God.”
It was only as the song was nearing completion that I read about how Mildred Jeter (a woman of color) and Richard Loving (a white male) met during the fifties, fell in love and were married in Washington DC. When they returned to Virginia they were arrested and faced spending a year in prison unless they left the state. Eventually, they challenged the Virginia law and in 1967 it led to a landmark supreme court decision, in which Chief Justice Earl Warren said, “Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man, fundamental to our very existence and survival.”
At the time this decision was made a vast majority of Americans felt that the court was wrong. Fortunately, today, this is not the case and that is evident by our nation’s recent decision to elect a president whose parents are of different races.
The only line in the song that was changed after my research was in the first verse. Originally, I had written that in 1966 the couple were “making their wedding plans” but this was changed to “wearing their wedding bands” because I felt it was more reflective of Mildred and Richard’s situation.
On Saturday, November 15th, 2008 I sang this song before a thousand people who had joined together to protest the recent passage of Prop 2 in Florida. As I sang the words, “now there always will be hatred and voices that condemn, but I believe that true love is going to make it in the end,” I remembered a statement made by a beautiful black pastor at a conference I recently attended. She said that people of color did not receive equality because white people suddenly decided they were worthy of equality but rather when people of color decided they were worthy of equality. I hope this song encourages us all to say “I know what’s in my heart and that should be enough…don’t tell me who to love.”
SONG LYRICS: “Don’t Tell Me Who To Love”
written by Ray Boltz (c) 2008 Shepherd Boy Music/ASCAP
The year was 1966 and they were wearing their wedding bands
She was black and he was white and some people didn’t understand
The judge said that’s not legal, the preacher called it a sin
But they couldn’t stop them cause he loved her and she loved him
Don’t tell me who to love, don’t tell me who to kiss
Don’t tell me that there’s something wrong because I feel like this
I know what’s in my heart, that should be enough
Don’t tell me, don’t tell me no, don’t tell me who to love
Maybe you’re in love today and you’ve been making wedding plans
But there is someone in your way shouting things cause they don’t understand
The judge says that’s not legal, the preacher calls it a sin
Oh you just remember they were wrong before and they’re wrong again
Now there always will be hatred and voices that condemn
Oh but I believe that true love is gonna make it in the end
REPEAT CHORUS (fade)
Hebrews 6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits. 4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. 7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.
Modern Two Kingdoms theology has never, ever made sense to me. In very short summary, the position of Two Kingdom advocates (spearheaded by David VanDrunen) is that there is no such thing as a Christian worldview. They are emphatic that the Bible is only supposed to be used in the church and that it must not be used in issues of civil government, work, or even family.
The most absurd part is that they argue everything that is not governed by the Bible, which is everything except church, is to be governed my natural law. It does not matter if you point out to them that natural law is simply the law of God written on the hearts of all men, the same law that has been clarified for us in the Bible.
When I attempted to point this out to a Two Kingdoms advocate recently at Darryl Hart’s blog, they insisted that natural law provides us with all kinds of information necessary to live life. Because this person was a plumber, his example was plumbing:
Anyway, Christian plumbing is my turf here, your talking to a 4th generation plumber (I worked on the business end mostly though). I would argue that observation and natural revelation and all true domains of human knowledge are inextricably linked. General revelation functions to point to a Creator who sets up a functional cosmos; it also informs us on how the cosmos functions. All cosmic functions necessarily operate within the laws of nature whether they are moral or amoral. Plumbing is entirely dependent on natural revelation/natural law even though it is amoral. Let me explain…
There are many laws of nature that have to me navigated in even the most simple plumbing process such as soldering copper pipe which has taken mankind a few thousand years to master. It takes a understanding of the metallurgical properties of copper that make it desirable as a potable water delivery system: copper is malleable and resistant to corrosion and relatively abundant and easy to extract (which makes it inexpensive in relation to other non corrosive metals). Soldering itself requires an understanding of welding, which in this case requires the binding of two different metals to form a seal sufficiently tight so as to be impenetrable by water molecules, which again is governed by fundamental laws of chemistry. I could go on to explain how hydro-mechanical principles govern waterflow, but I won’t bore you with more details. I am sure though that nearly every vocational discipline, including the justice system interact so much with natural law that it would be staggering to draw out the processes in entirety.
When I pointed out that the “law” of gravity is something completely different than the law of God, and advised not to confuse the two, I received the following reply:
We must be using different dictionaries. I am really not sure how you can maintain that functionally physical laws and moral laws operate on different planes. They can be violated, but there are consequences. Yes, I do agree that natural law includes the moral code written on the human heart, but that is simply because these exist in a larger cosmic system where God created a good universe that worked just as he designed it to. It is precisely because of this that governments operate off of general revelation even if imperfectly and/or unknowingly. Why else would we have similarities in Hammurabi and Moses, Roman law and American law. Discontinuities are a given, but the commonality of law, and prevasively political nature of human history even in the absence of special revelation testifies to the sufficiency of natural law in the political arena.
I’m not making this stuff up. I suggested we go ahead and look at the dictionary, naively thinking it would help clarify things with this man:
law: 1a: a rule or order that it is advisable or obligatory to observe
synonyms law, rule, regulation, precept, statute, ordinance, canon mean a principle governing action or procedure. law implies imposition by a sovereign authority and the obligation of obedience on the part of all subject to that authority
Precept: 1 : a command or principle intended especially as a general rule of action
2 : an order issued by legally constituted authority to a subordinate official
That is what law means when we talk about the law of God and natural law. Way down in definition 6 is a different definition for things like the “law” of gravity:
6 a : a statement of an order or relation of phenomena that so far as is known is invariable under the given conditions
synonyms: see in addition hypothesis
God’s law is not God’s law because God saw what would naturally occur if we committed adultery and he wanted to protect us from those natural consequences. It is God’s law because He sovereignly imposed it on those bearing His image as a rule for what ought and ought not to be done.
Furthermore, are you suggesting that the “law” of gravity is just a statement of what ought to be done? Are you suggesting that we should all obey the law of gravity, meaning we should not violate it by floating around? I didn’t think so.
one definition is prescriptive, the other is descriptive.
The prescriptive nature of moral law is something that I believe flows from the descriptive nature of natural law…
…The prescriptive command: “Don’t jump off of a cliff” presupposes (the is) gravity. Assuming a person values his life, the moral implication of the isness of gravity is that one ought not act out in a way where gravity becomes a life-threatening reality. I would argue that the Decalogue extrapolates its prescriptions from the ises of God’s character and from the world he creates.
How else can the psalmist claim that the heavens tell of the glory of God if there is no revelatory value in nature itself that cannot be extracted from even cursory observation?
So the Decalogue is really just a hypothesis about nature. Maybe God should have submitted it to a peer review journal?
See related: Karl Popper and the Emperor’s Clothes
Our nation’s current distress has provoked many to consider the sinful nature of man. Some believe that the problems we are facing are the inevitable result of an economy founded upon self-interest. Richard Dahlstrom, Senior Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, WA says:
What else could you expect from an economic system predicated on the notion that everyone acting in their own self-interests will always lead to a win/win situation. Somehow, I wonder: WWJT. What would Jesus think?
Dahlstrom is referring to Adam Smith’s “invisible hand.” In his “Wealth of Nations,” Smith said:
…he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention… By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.
To put it more simply, he said:
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.
In other words, the butcher isn’t motivated by how his meat will help you, he is motivated by the money that you give him in exchange for it. Furthermore, the more money he desires to earn, the harder he works to provide you with whatever you want. Thus out of his own interest he provides for you.
As for the win/win aspect of it, it’s simply the result of a voluntary exchange. The only reason that two people volunatrily choose to trade is because the trade will make both of them better off. No one trades in order to lose. Now, it may be true that they don’t get everything they want out of the trade, but, if they voluntarily make the exchange, it is because they believe they will be better off by doing so. Thus it is a win/win situation.
The alternative to this system of voluntary exchange is force, which is what Dahlstrom and others like him are in favor of. When force is involved, it is not a win/win situation. Someone is losing because they are being forced to do what they would not want to do.
Ah, you say, but what about Mother Teresa? Well, I’m convinced Mother Teresa was paid by philosophy professors across the world so they would have something to talk about when they get to the topic of altruism in class. Hitler got a check too as he is the go to when any topic of evil is mentioned.
But was Mother Teresa really motivated by a sense of altruism? A sense of abandoning her own interest for the sake of the poor?
She was deceived by Rome’s false gospel. She spent her life living in the most miserable conditions because she was taught that her personal suffering would bring her closer to Christ. Furthermore, she intentionally deprived suffering people of relief because she wanted to be in a community of suffering.
For more on Teresa:
Mother Teresa’s Redemption
The Myth of Mother Teresa
Penn & Teller on Mother Teresa (a heavy dose of profanity)
Is Mother Teresa a Saint? Part I
Is Mother Teresa a Saint? Part II
The Missionary Position (A Review)
That’s interesting, you might say, but my morality isn’t derived from some 18th century economist. My sense of right and wrong comes from the Bible and the Bible says self-interest is sinful.
Dahlstrom makes only one reference to Scripture, Matthew 6:33:
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
In regards to this verse, he says Jesus would “think we should put the interests of the kingdom before our own.” The error here is that Dahlstrom thinks that the interest of the kingdom is not our own interest. He thinks we should put aside our self-interest for food, drink, and clothing, and pursue something that is not in our self-interest at all. I’m not sure how he feels, but the kingdom of God is very much in my self-interest.
Rather than teaching us to pursue things that are not in our own self-interest, the verse directs us to what is truly in our highest interest.
John Piper has much to say about this:
When you have the notion that high moral acts must be free from self-interest, then worship, which is one of the highest moral acts a human can perform, has to be conceived simply as duty. And when worship is reduced to a duty, it ceases to exist. One of the great enemies of worship in our church is our own misguided virtue. We have the vague notion that seeking our own pleasure is sin and therefore virtue itself imprisons the longings of our hearts and smothers the spirit of worship. For what is worship if it is not our joyful feasting upon the banquet of God’s glory?
By Christian Hedonism, I do not mean that our happiness is the highest good. I mean that pursuing the highest good will always result in our greatest happiness in the end. But almost all Christians believe this. Christian Hedonism says more, namely, that we should pursue happiness, and pursue it with all our might. The desire to be happy is a proper motive for every good deed, and if you abandon the pursuit of your own joy you cannot love man or please God – that’s what makes Christian Hedonism controversial.
Christian hedonism aims to replace a Kantian morality with a biblical one. Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher who died in 1804, was the most powerful exponent of the notion that the moral value of an act decreases as we aim to derive any benefit from it. Acts are good if the doer is “disinterested.” We should do the good because it is good. Any motivation to seek joy or reward corrupts the act. Cynically, perhaps, but not without warrant, the novelist Ayn Rand captured the spirit of Kant’s ethic:
An action is moral, said Kant, only if one has no desire to perform it, but performs it out of a sense of duty and derives no benefit from it of any sort, neither material nor spiritual. A benefit destroys the moral value of an action. (Thus if one has no desire to be evil, one cannot be good; if one has, one can.)2
Against this Kantian morality (which has passed as Christian for too long!), we must herald the unabashedly hedonistic biblical morality. Jonathan Edwards, who died when Kant was 34, expressed it like this in one of his early resolutions: “Resolved, To endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness in the other world as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.”
In his lecture on “The Ethics of Self Interest and Profit”, part of his “Introduction to Economics” series, John W. Robbins points out that self-interest is not sinful. What is sinful is mistaking what is truly in our self-interest. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. It is in our highest interest to do so. Because we are sinful, we think it is better for us to sinfully break God’s moral law and rebel against Him.
I have read much from Robbins on a variety of topics and he has continually brought fresh insight from the Bible to bear on the topics. His method is to start with a topic, then start at the beginning of his Bible and read it all the way through, making note of every passage that has any relevance to the topic. This can be a tedious task, but it is very rewarding.
A short cut is to simply start with a concordance. If we look up the word profit, we get a few results that are worth discussing:
1 Samuel 12:21 And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 22 For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.
Here we are instructed to turn to God because He can profit us, unlike the kings Israel sought after instead of God.
Proverbs 3:13 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
and the one who gets understanding,
14 for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
and her profit better than gold.
We are to seek wisdom because we can profit from it, because it is in our self-interest.
Proverbs 11:4 Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death.
This verse illustrates Robbins’ point above. The riches of this world do not profit anyone in the day of wrath, but those who trust in Christ profit from His righteousness. Thus we are to seek Christ, not riches, because it is in our self-interest.
Next we come to perhaps the strongest verse in support of Dahlstrom:
Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
This would seem to be an airtight argument that we should not do anything out of self-interest. But let’s continue reading the passge:
25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Here, again, we see that it is not sinful to act out of self-interest. What is sinful is thinking that gaining the whole world is in our highest self-interest.
1 Cor 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Paul is appealing to self-interest. In fact, Paul condemns these actions that are devoid of love precisely because they do not profit.
Renewing our Minds (Rom 12:2)
Dahlstrom closes his note by saying: “If Christians, who have the very words of Christ about money refuse to altar their view of self-interest economics, how will the rest of world do?”
To that I say, if Christian pastors, who have the very words of God about everything in life, refuse to transform their minds, how will their sheep do?
I pray that God will give us all wisdom as we seek understanding from His Word.
One of my last posts was called Who is Matisyahu’s God? In it, I explained that Matisyahu is not worshiping the God of the Bible because Jesus says anyone who claims to believe what Moses said but rejects Him, does not actually believe Moses.
I hope this does not become a regular series, but a recent event has triggered a similar question to be asked of Ray Boltz. If you don’t know who Ray Boltz is, take a peek at the music videos below. He’s won 3 Dove Awards and was a huge Christian artist in the 80s and 90s. Well, if you have not read, He recently announced that he is gay in an exclusive interview with Washington Blade. You can read it here: http://www.washingtonblade.com/print.cfm?content_id=13258
In short, what the interview reveals is that Boltz told his family a few years ago, divorced his wife, and moved to Florida to anonymously dive into fulfilling his homosexual desires in the gay community there.
For those not familiar with Boltz, take a look at the following videos. I think it’s worth taking a close look at his songs in light of his interview. Please read the interview before continuing.
Watch the Lamb
This very emotional song ends with:
What have we seen here,
There’s so much
that we don’t understand
I believe these words apply to Ray Boltz as much as the children in his song.
This song is a tribute to the “altar call” prevalent in so many places. I’m sure you’ve experienced them before. It’s generally a very emotional setting with music playing, calling you to come to the front of the church and “accept Jesus into your heart.” Boltz’ song is a drawn out plea for people to come forward and use the altar to solve their problems and change their lives. The following lines are repeated throughout:
The time has come to give them (struggles) to the Lord
That’s what this altar is for
Now, one thing that strikes me about this is that I’m not sure what altar he is talking about. I don’t have an altar at my church. Furthermore, there is hardly any mention of altars in the New Testament. However, there are a lot of references to altars in the Old Testament. If you want a deatiled description, read the book of Leviticus. Here is one such passage:
Leviticus 4:22 “When a leader sins, doing unintentionally any one of all the things that by the commandments of the Lord his God ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, 23 or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring as his offering a goat, a male without blemish, 24 and shall lay his hand on the head of the goat and kill it in the place where they kill the burnt offering before the Lord; it is a sin offering. 25 Then the priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of its blood at the base of the altar of burnt offering. 26 And all its fat he shall burn on the altar, like the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings. So the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin, and he shall be forgiven.
This seems to be somewhat similar to what Ray Boltz is singing. If we have sinned (or have struggles, burdens as Ray Boltz refers to it), then we are to bring it to the altar and offer it to the Lord. He says that’s what this altar is for. But the problem is that there no longer remains an altar for Christians to come to offer what they have. The most an altar is mentioned in the New Testament is in the book of Revelation where it is described throughout John’s description of heaven as being before the Father.
Christ’s Finished Work
Many of you at this point would simply remind me that Boltz is talking about Jesus, not Old Testament altars. Well, I know he is, sort of… The problem is that Ray does not understand Jesus or His work on the cross. Hebrews 10:11-14 says:
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
Christ offered His sacrifice at the altar of His cross. The Father accepted it as a worthy sacrifice and Christ was raised as a result. Christ’s work is finished. There is nothing we can add to Christ’s finished work and as a result, there no longer remains an altar for us to use on earth. Jesus is not, as Boltz sings, waiting for you to come to the altar and offer yourself. He has offered Himself and now He sits at the right hand of God.
Finally, note that Ray’s song about the altar is a song about us. It is not a song about what was done at the true altar. It is not a song about Christ. It is a song about us and about changed lives.
Lives are being changed
And those who call upon Him
They will never be the same
I read a great commentary on such songs:
People view their Christian walk and struggle as awaiting some “second blessing” to be delivered from further temptation and sin. The gospel of grace that announces Christ’s righteousness and not our own is rarely preached from pulpits. Even the song “Thank You” is a song of the victory theology that permeates the “Christian” music scene.
Christianity is viewed as something that “works” or it doesn’t. What kind of “testimonies” are on display with respect to sin? “I was delivered from alcohol and never desired another drink” or “I was gay and now I like women because God healed me completely”. Those who never hear the true Gospel but simply hear the stories of victorious living by those who “dare to be a Daniel” are left hoping, week after week, that if they try really hard or “really let go this time” that they’ll break through and their sincerity of effort will deliver from sin.
Feel the Nails
Another of Ray’s songs reflects this lack of understanding of the Gospel.
One of the blogs I read made a post about this song one year ago, long before any news about Ray broke. The link no longer seems to be active, but the blogger said:
I can appreciate the fact that he does not want to grieve the Lord thorough sinning. I also like the way that he emphasizes God’s holiness. However, note the chorus and verse 2. Anyone whose read Hebrews knows the book emphasizes the following truth repeatedly: But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…( Heb 10:12). Does He still feel the nails? No. Does He hear the crowd shout Crucify, again? No. Does He re-live the agony He felt on that tree? No.
Now, it is true that I am being very critical of these songs. In all honesty, there is much worse music out there (theologically speaking). Boltz at least mentions Christ’s blood and the idea of appeasing God’s wrath in His songs. However, I am being very critical in an attempt to understand how it is possible for someone to sing these songs their whole life and then end up like Boltz is now. It is true that he could have simply been singing these songs without believing them. But it may also be true that he fully believed them, yet they did not accurately communicate the Gospel to him.
In his interview http://www.washingtonblade.com/print.cfm?content_id=13258 , Ray said “I’d denied it ever since I was a kid. I became a Christian, I thought that was the way to deal with this and I prayed hard and tried for 30-some years and then at the end, I was just going, ‘I’m still gay. I know I am.’ And I just got to the place where I couldn’t take it anymore … when I was going through all this darkness, I thought, ‘Just end this.'”
Notice that he says he chose to be a Christian, not because he was convicted that he was a wretched sinner in need of a Savior, but because he thought Christianity solved life’s problems. He looked at Christianity as the best 12-step program out there. Note that he still does not believe he is a sinner in need of a Savior.
He continues: “”That evening (a concert) had a profound impact on my life,” he says. “I realized that this was the truth and that Jesus was alive … that’s really where I made a commitment to Christ. I decided I could be born again and all of the things I was feeling in the past would fall away and I would have this new life.””
Again, he says his reason for professing to be a Christian was to get rid of the feelings he was struggling with. He also misunderstands what it means to be born again. He thought it was something he could make himself do. Nobody can make themselves be born again.
How can a man be born when he is old?
John 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
At the end, Jesus shows us that we cannot control the process of being born again by explaining the work of the Holy Spirit like the wind. The Holy Spirit sovereignly blows where He wishes, regenerating the hearts of whom He pleases. We hear the sound, we see the changed life, but we cannot determine where it came from or where it is going next.
Also, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he should understand this because it is not a new teaching. Nicodemus, someone who was an expert in the Old Testament, should have understood Ezekial 36:
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Thus, regeneration, being born again, is the work of God. It is not something we do to ourselves. We cannot remove our own hearts and replace them with new ones. Note also that a result of being born again is a desire to walk in God’s statutes and to obey His rules.
Emotional Altar Calls
It is worth noting that what Ray calls his conversion experience took place at a large concert in the Jesus Movement. There was most likely a large emotional emphasis at the concert to make a decision for Christ. Consider this in light of his song “the altar” that we discussed above. He was probably assured by those putting the concert on that he was saved if he said a prayer. Thus he was assured throughout the rest of his life that he was saved because he could point back to that moment. In contrast to this, Jesus says in John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments... 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” This does not mean that only those who perfectly obey the commandments are Christians. What it means is that a hatred of sin and a desire to obey Christ’s commandments are the marks of a Christian, not a profession or prayer that may have been prayed.
I would highly recommend listening to Paul Washer’s sermon on Matthew 7:21-23 (though please take not of the concerns I express in the comment section of the video on youtube) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cncEhCvrVgQ
*side note, the article says: There was some exploration of “ex-gay” therapy though Boltz never attended an “ex-gay” camp or formal seminar.
This is not the biblical way of dealing with sin. Christian “therapy” is discipleship. It is being sanctified by the Word in a local church setting. For more on this I recommend the ministry of Martin and Deidre Bobgan.
A New Understanding of Sin
“I had a lot of questions [about faith], but at the bottom of everything was a feeling that I didn’t hate myself anymore, so in that sense I felt closer to God.”
Compare his attitude with that of the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14.
Is Ray Boltz Saved?
So, does Ray Boltz show the marks of a Christian?
Is he remorseful of his sin?
Does he desire to obey Christ’s commandments?
You might say yes. He spent his life trying to overcome his homosexual desires. That may be true, but that does not mean he saw those desires for what they are – an offense against God.
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
51:1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
David committed adultery yet he says that his sin was against God alone. Our responsibility is to God. Ray saw his desires as something he didn’t like and didn’t want to have, not primarily as an offense against God. He saw his homosexual desires as a bad habit that God could cure him of, not as a heinous sin that a just God must punish.
So is he a Christian? Is it possible for him to have once been a Christian, but not anymore?
1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. (Note what Scripture says here and compare it with Boltz when he says that his homosexual desires are from the Father, therefore they are ok). 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
I think watching this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzhFyNp3Ja8 shows us something important. These words are being sung by a man who does not, and did not while he was singing, love Jesus.
Consider the words of Christ:
Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Here is a good blog post about Ray: Thoughts About Ray Boltz Declaring His Homosexuality
Roger at A-Team Blog recently posted a summary of J. P. Moreland’s paper that he presented at ETS. The paper was called “How Evangelicals Became Over-Committed to the Bible and What Can Be Done About It.”
Some comments were made on the blog about the adequacy of Scripture. Someone posted an essay from Greg Koukl that they said was the paper they wished Moreland had given.
The person who posted the essay called it a masterful case for the right use of natural theology. I was disappointed with the essay. So disappointed that I keep feeling the need to write out my objections to it. So here it is, comments welcome.
Disclaimer: I am not defending BCF. I have not read their publications. I am merely responding to Koukl.
Koukl’s paper is divided into two sections:
1) “the Bible itself does not teach ‘Bible only.’”
2) “Man is not so distorted by the fall as to lose his ability to discover true things about his broken world or about his fallen condition and to develop ways to improve both of those circumstances.”
I recommend reading Koukl’s paper before reading my objections so it will make a little more sense.
Koukl claims this passage says the Word is valuable, but that it doesn’t say anything about other “material.” He writes it off with one sentence, offering no explanation. Throughout the paper, Koukl reminds us that the Reformers (plural) agree with him. Although he implies they all agree with him, he cites only one, Calvin. Let’s see if Calvin actually does agree with Koukl’s interpretation of Psalm 19:
“The first commendation of the law of God is, that it is perfect. By this word David means, that if a man is duly instructed in the law of God, he wants nothing which is requisite to perfect wisdom. In the writings of heathen authors there are no doubt to be found true and useful sentences scattered here and there; and it is also true, that God has put into the minds of men some knowledge of justice and uprightness; but in consequence of the corruption of our nature, the true light of truth is not to be found among men where revelation is not enjoyed, but only certain mutilated principles which are involved in much obscurity and doubt. David, therefore, justly claims this praise for the law of God, that it contains in it perfect and absolute wisdom.”
Koukl seems to have a problem with understanding the concept of revelation. BCF argues that Deuteronomy 4:2 says we should not add psychological counseling to God’s Word. He says Deuteronomy 4:2 could not possibly mean that we should not add to God’s Word (in the sense BCF argues) because 61 books of the Bible were written after the Pentateuch. Fair enough, Deuteronomy 4:2 does not refer to the close of the canon of Scripture. But is that what BCF was arguing? No. They are arguing that we should not try to live our lives according to God’s law and according the teachings of men. Koukl performs a slight of hand here, and he does it again with the 2 Timothy passage.
If Deuteronomy 4:2 does not refer to the close of the canon, then what is it talking about? It is talking about adding any human laws or traditions to the laws that Moses is giving. 4:1 says that by doing these laws, men will live. If Israel wanted to live, all they had to do was follow God’s law. No additional teaching from men was required and no additional teaching from men was allowed.
The worst part of Koukl’s paper is his handling of 2 Timothy 3:16-17. He uses the same argument Romanists do to attack the adequacy of Scripture by saying the Bible doesn’t really mean sola or only when it says adequate, every, etc.
It goes something like this.
1) God’s word is adequate
a. Therefore we do not need anything else and we shouldn’t trust anything else. (BCF’s claim)
2) In 2 Tim. 3:16 Paul is referring only to the OT
a. Therefore we do not need and should not trust the NT
Koukl says this second conclusion makes Paul’s claim self-refuting if we understand it to mean the Bible alone is sufficient. However, in footnote (5) Koukl recognizes his problem. His argument would refute the inspiration of the NT. Koukl defends himself by saying “Paul’s statement here was a statement about Scripture, which at the time included the Old Testament. He did not assert that no more “God-breathed” Scripture would be forthcoming. The corpus of Scripture was expanded by the New Testament writings and therefore they’re included under the claims of this verse.”
3) Paul is talking about all God-breathed Scripture, which includes Scripture that is yet to be written
a. Therefore 2 Tim. 3:16 refers to OT & NT
Do you see how the conclusion of 3) destroys the premise of 2)? Koukl contradicts himself and destroys his own argument.
Koukl uses several examples of how natural man supposedly discovers truth, and how we should therefore trust him. He quotes a Dr. John Coe:
“Consider this scenario. When a city is plagued by violence, the people decide to execute murderers. Immediately the murder rate drops and peace is restored to the city. These people used their fallen, human wisdom to employ a biblical solution – government bearing the sword to mitigate the impact of evil. They accurately assess and solve a human problem, even with no knowledge of Scripture. This kind of thing happens all the time”
Then Koukl explains how many of the Proverbs originated in the Wisdom Literature of the Amenomope. He says this means that natural man can discover truth and that we should trust him to do so.
The problem with these examples, and his others, is how we can know these things are true. In the first example, was that society correct because their methods worked? Or were they correct because they were following the law of God revealed in the Bible? Other societies think the solution is to rehabilitate criminals. Who’s to say they are wrong? Do we judge them based upon which one works better? Utilitarianism has not proved helpful, and is actually one of the greatest problems we face today.
Not all of the Wisdom Literature of the Amenomope is found in Proverbs. Does that mean not all of it is true and trustworthy? How do we know if the rest of it is trustworthy? Were the sayings considered trustworthy by Israelites prior to God’s revelation of the book of Proverbs? How do we know which parts to trust?
Another example could easily be created. Divorce rates are incredibly high in the U. S. It causes a great amount of problems for children of divorced parents. Some people who are not Christians recognize this as a problem and they endeavor to remain married despite their troubles. Does that mean we should look to them to solve our marital problems? Does that mean we should take their tips and advice? What about those who’s solution is to just not get married and have abortions instead. Should we follow their advice?
The answer to all of these questions has to be that we know what is true by determining which of the positions advocated is either expressly stated in the Bible or is properly deduced from the Bible. Koukl thinks that finding “true and useful sentences scattered here and there” (to use Calvin’s words) means that we can and should trust natural man to deal with our personal (spiritual) problems. Simply showing that natural man can stumble upon truth does not answer the question “How can we know what is true?”
I think these are enough reasons to render this masterful defense of natural theology useless. But what do you think?
Wikipedia defines psychology as:
Psychology (from Greek, Literally “to talk about the soul” (from psyche (soul) and logos)) is both an academic and applied discipline involving the scientific study of mental processes and behavior. Psychologists study such phenomena as perception, cognition, emotion, personality, behavior, and interpersonal relationships. Psychology also refers to the application of such knowledge to various spheres of human activity, including issues related to daily life—e.g. family, education, and work—and the treatment of mental health problems.
Psychology is derived from the Greek word for soul. Coincidentally the NT was written in Greek. Let us consider a few verses that mention the soul, the healing and understanding of which is the purpose of psychology.
Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (psyche). 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Hebrews 4:11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul (psyche) and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(consider that passage in light of Jeremiah 17:9)
1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul (psyche).
James 1:21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls (psyche).
1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls (psyche) by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
Update: Martin Bobgan has also written a critique of Koukl’s essay.