Thursday, October 25, 2018

Is God A Genocidal Madman? -Part 1

"When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee. And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it: And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword: But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee. Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations.But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:"  Deut 20:10-17

 It's a common trope among scorners to present passages like this one to the Christian in order to confront the Christian with the presumably bloodthirsty and vengeful God of the Bible.  This  highlights the tragic misunderstanding the scorner has towards the Bible, and their insincerity while 'searching for the truth'. Even more tragic , however, is how many Christians have no real reply for this, instead adopting a sort of embarrassed stance with some believers drawing at least a mental distinction between the 'mean God' of the Old Testament and the 'nice guy Jesus' of the New Testament.
  The Bible offers no such path of escape, though. The Bible claims to be an accurate, inspired, consistent revelation of the Creator to His creation.The same God quoted in Deuteronomy 20 is, according to scripture, the same God who took on the likeness of sinful flesh and gave His life on Calvary in order to redeem His enemies. The Bible does not allow an honest reader to  draw any distinction between the two.
  I submit to you, as a Bible believer, that we owe it to ourselves to face this issue. After all, a Christianity that cannot withstand the scrutiny of intellectual midgets like Voltaire or the scribbling of a self-professed monkey man like Dawkins is not a Christianity worth defending.  Rather than dismiss this attribute of God, we should examine in the full light of scripture. In doing so, we will find that the removal of the Canaanites was not only consistent with God's character throughout the Bible, but was the morally right thing to do.

1. You Aren't God, He is.

  In the same way an ignorant child draws incorrect conclusions about the world, the scorner assumes that just because God didn't do things they way they would have, God was either wrong or non-existent.  In order to establish the proper perspective, let's be frank; God doesn't solicit opinions from His creation. In fact, God says many times in scripture that His opinions and judgements are superior to that of man on the basis of Who He is and what He has done.  In Isaiah 40, the Holy Spirit says;
"Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?
With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. ....All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity."
  In Isaiah 59:8-9 God says, in unequivocal terms that he is smarter than you.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
  God asserts in Romans 9 that he stands above mankind, and outside the realm of man's ability to appropriately assess His actions.
Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
The Lord, when speaking to Job, makes it very clear that Job should remember his place in the grand scheme of things.

Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it, And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed? Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place; That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it? ..... Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth? Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death? Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all. Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof, That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof? Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? or because the number of thy days is great? Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war? By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth? Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder; To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man; To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth? Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it? ... Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth? Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee? Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are? Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart? Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven, When the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together? Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the appetite of the young lions,When they couch in their dens, and abide in the covert to lie in wait?Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.
  In Deut 32, God claims to have the final authority in matters of life and death.

See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever. If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me.

 Just to reiterate, God is smarter, wiser, and more powerful than His critics.  He has superior intellect, superior information, superior ability and regularly does things that no man is even capable of understanding. He made all things, and He sustains all things. In fact, He is so far ahead of the curve of human intellect that His ways are "past finding out".  God doesn't always explain Himself because not only are we not owed an explanation, but we wouldn't understand His explanation if He did.
  That's interesting, because according to Romans 1, God wrote His law  on the hearts of men, giving them a hard-wired sense of right and wrong, however marred by sin and muddled by culture it may be.  God, as a moral being, created beings with a sense of morality derived from Him. He then interacts with those beings, knowing that His creation has the capacity to assess His actions in the light of the rules He laid down and based on the information He has provided them. He ensures, through scripture that an accurate record of these interactions exists for future humans to see.
  It's perfectly legitimate for a man to look at what God has revealed about Himself, and, use his God-given sense of morality to assess those actions taken by God. But to make a proper assessment, a man must weigh all the factors before him, not just he ones that fit his bias against his Creator.  The scoffer and the scorner see what they want to see, blinded by the darkness of their own heart.

Fret not, this is not my entire argument.  I'm just laying the groundwork.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Life is Ministry, Ministry is Life

 Our community has an annual event; a downtown festival of sorts  that they dub 'The Scarecrow Stroll.  When it began  it was truly a community endeavor in which families would  build a scarecrow and display it in the local downtown area for several days, culminating in 'the Stroll'.  We built a scarecrow every year for years and used it as platform to get the gospel out.  As of late though, the Stroll has turned into a promotional event; a Halloween festival with local businesses and politicians throwing together some half-hearted scarecrow and handing out candy to kids in costumes.
  I’m opposed to Halloween, but I can’t rally a consistent argument against free candy, so my wife takes the kids down there with gym bags and we load up, sans costumes.  Later on, I extract a small portion of the proceeds that my children call ‘the chocolate tax’.
  The way this particular day worked was that I went street preaching, and then met my wife downtown. We walked around, looked at scarecrows, talked to our neighbors and scarfed up free candy. But I was unsettled the whole time. Maybe it’s because I was still in ‘street mode’ or whatever, but I looked at this crowd of  easily over a thousand people, including church folks , and realized that, other than me getting rid of  20 or 30 tracts, there was no visible gospel witness at this event. Nobody was preaching, nobody was handing out tracts, nothing.
  I’m not advocating a church get a booth down there as that would be inappropriate. Besides most church booths are, in my opinion, horribly ineffective and come across as a plea of  ‘Please like us! We’re nice!’. For example,  if the early church had opened up a booth at the Jupiter festival in  pagan Rome and made balloon animals, I hope we can agree that would have been a little bit 'off-mission'.
 I freely admit to you, dear readers, that I  don’t know what I think should be done.  I think the church has an obligation to distance itself from some aspects of the culture, and to purposefully visibly abstain from some of the more questionable cultural practices.  I think you can be present at an event without being part of it. You do what you're supposed to do and people will understand that you aren't with them in their revelry. You wont even have to tell them.
  What is our obligation, as the church, and as individuals, to the community at events like this? I think it’s clear; the people in our towns need to be confronted with the gospel at every opportunity.    That usually means they will hate you, and  most professing Christians will be annoyed with you. That’s my little red wagon to pull, and I pull it with gusto.
  I also freely admit to being a workaholic in the ministry. I see every public gathering as an chance to present the gospel. If it's within 100 miles of my house and I can make it there, I try.  I preach at street corners and football games and parades and festivals. I preach on vacation. I preach when I'm sick. I've preached in every weather condition except snow. I relish in buying tracts and putting gas in the car to drive hither and yon preaching.  Jesus Christ took the handwriting of ordinances that was against me and took them out of the way, nailing them to His cross. I owe Him my life. I owe Him my time. I owe my fellow man the chance to hear what God has done for them and what He will do to them in they persist in their rebellion.
  But I also have a family, and  I also have a wife that sometimes just wants to walk around and look at scarecrows and scarf up free candy without me being 'that guy' that disrupts everybodys good time.  She wants to be, for lack of a better word,'normal'. I do have obligations to her. I have an obligation to not make her life any harder than it has to be.  But I also am under orders from the King.
  This tug of war takes up a significant portion of my thoughts.

 I left the Stroll, as I  leave many public gatherings, thinking about the people there. I thought about what I have and what they need and how to balance  family life and ministry life.  I thought about how they ought not be separate things, but sometimes they are. 

 I'm only one guy who has been given the biggest job ever. How do I do it? And how do I get the gospel to them next year?