Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15

About Me

I am a young man who is following God's call into pastoral ministry. I have been so blessed with the privileges which the Lord has granted me. I am blessed to serve the Mt. Joy congregation in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I am constantly humbled and amazed at what the Lord is doing in my life.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Crazy Chick-Fil-A Controversy

I have to admit that I have been following all of the hoopla over the controversy that has erupted concerning the recent statements made by the president of Chick-Fil-A, Dan Cathy, with amazement. Much of what I have read and heard have just been unbelievable. Coming from my background in philosophy (part of my major in my undergraduate studies), seeing so many logical fallacies in public debate is just abhorrent. Though I do believe that much of the reaction to Mr. Cathy's statements supporting the biblical definition (and thereby God's definition since Scripture is His Word) of marriage does reveal much of how the pro-homosexual agenda operates. This controversy has been telling in more ways than one.

What began as an innocent statement of the values of the president of a successful restaurant chain have escalated into an all out war with people siding in favor of Chick-Fil-A (those going to eat there today for "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day") and those opposing by boycotting the company (either by refusing to eat there again or choosing to no longer provide toys for their kids meals). Much manipulation was used by the pro-homosexual agenda to get to this point. First of all, how surprising is it that Mr. Cathy, a professing Christian of one of the few restaurants that are closed on Sundays to articulate a Christian view that the Bible unambiguously teaches and in which the Christian church has held for 2000 years? What else would one expect? (But then again I am constantly amazed when couples planning for marriage meet with me in my office to ask me to conduct their wedding and appear surprised when I address the issue of them living together to be a sin according to Scripture.) That in itself technically is not controversial. I actually find it more controversial when a professing Christian who claims to take the Bible as God's Word supports so-called same-sex marriage despite God's clear definition of marriage given in Genesis 2:24 and affirmed all throughout the Bible, and by Jesus Himself (Matthew 19:4-6)!

Also, how did we go from a statement that Chick-Fil-A "are very much supportive of the family unit-the biblical definition of the family unit" and pointing out how a movement to redefine God's institution of marriage basically is man raising his fist to God in rebellion and claiming that he knows better than God (a claim I myself have made several times) to Mr. Cathy hates homosexuals and Chick-Fil-A discriminates against gays and lesbians? Mr. Cathy never said anything about homosexuals in any of the statements in which I have read. He actually spoke on what constitutes a marriage and a family. It appears to me that what we have here is deliberate manipulation to promote an agenda. Mr. Cathy's statements on marriage would not create such a firestorm but if the American public could be convinced that homosexuals are once again a victim of unfair treatment, more attention and sympathy may be gained to their cause. A similar tactic can be noticed by the pro-homosexual agenda in regards to their claim that they are the new "civil rights" movement of the 1960s; comparing themselves to the unjustifiable unfair treatment of African Americans. (Dr. Voddie Baucham reveals how erroneous and manipulative such a claim is here in his very well written article.) Such manipulation appears common by many in this group pushing for the acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle and a redefinition of marriage to suit their carnal desires. The facts of Mr. Cathy's statement probably would not have generated as much buzz nor aided their cause as well.

A New Definition of Tolerance and A Double Standard
Not only does this controversy show some of the manipulative strategies that many in the pro-homosexual lobbying groups are willing to use, it also reveals what they really mean by tolerance. This group over and over again preaches tolerance. "You must tolerate my lifestyle even if you don't agree with it." To promote their cause they have redefined the historic understanding of the term tolerance. Erwin Lutzer explains this well: "This word [tolerance], which at one time meant that people should be free to believe whatever they wished, now meant that they could do whatever they wished, and it was improper to judge their conduct. Tolerance now demands an affirmation of virtually all behavior, no matter how immoral, unnatural, and bizarre" (20; emphasis in original). However, the kind of tolerance that this group demands is not the same kind of tolerance we are witnessing them give. Many within the pro-homosexual lobby certainly are not tolerant of Mr. Cathy's perspective concerning the family (and for that matter much of America at this point, including almost all of the US presidents with Mr. Obama being the most notable exception). Two leaders in Chicago, Proco Moreno and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel do not seem to be espousing such a tolerance but threatening to deny Chick-Fil-A a permit to establish restaurants in the respective area they serve over. So much for acceptance of that in which one disagrees. It almost makes one wonder if much of the redefinition and talk of tolerance serves more as rhetoric to promote their agenda.

This is not the only example of a double standard that we see in this squabble. The Mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino, stated that "Chick-Fil-A doesn't belong in Boston" because "We're an open city. We're a city at the forefront of inclusion." Interestingly enough, by saying that "Chick-Fil-A" does not belong in an "open city . . . at the forefront of inclusion" actually shows that such a city is "closed" to this restaurant and desires to "exclude" it because of its views. As I have noticed in the denomination in which I serve, "openness" and "inclusion" serve as buzz wards to promote this pro-homosexual agenda. Those who use them seldom are "open" and "inclusive" to those who disagree with them. The current Chick-Fil-A incident stands as a case in point.

Now I won't be joining the many who decide to support Chick-Fil-A today by having my lunch or dinner there. I personally am not a huge fan of the food at the restaurant and prefer unhealthy burgers over the chickens (Sorry cows, I know you tell me to 'eat mor chikin'!) and McDonalds and Taco Bell are cheaper. However, I can't help but point out some of the common methodology used by the pro-homosexual agenda that we notice in an example like this. They do have an agenda and are working relentlessly to push it. I don't think that this is an agenda that we should try to stop by using similar tactics. But we must be aware of it. The question for us believers is: Are we just as dedicated in sharing the gospel, with both heterosexual sinners and homosexual sinners alike? The way to combat this sin, as with all sins, is with the faithful proclamation of the gospel. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16).

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!!!

Works Cited
Lutzer, Erwin w. The Truth About Same-Sex Marriage: 6 Things You Must Know About What's Really At Stake. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2010.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Egalitarianism, Homosexuality, and The Authority of Scripture: An Interesting Connection

I was pondering the issue of the intended roles of women in ministry the past few days and I began to see an interesting connection with the arguments of those who hold to what is known as the "egalitarian" position and those within the visible church (as compared to the invisible church which only God knows who belongs) who are part of the pro-homosexual lobby. A common element with both would be that they compromise the sole authority of Scripture (the Protestant principle of Sola Scriptura).

Egalitarianism and the Authority of Scripture
The "egalitarian" position basically argues that men and women are fully equal in all aspects such that the husband has not be placed in authority over his wife and that women can and should serve the major leadership positions in the church just as much as men. Such a view leads to the promotion of the licensing and ordination of women to serve as pastors in churches and other such high offices. The other perspective, and the one that a majority of theologians, pastors, and teachers have held throughout church history, as well as the perspective of this author based on his study of Scripture, has been labeled as "complentarianism." This perspective follows Scripture's teaching that God created men and women in His image both equal in status (Galatians 3:28) but with different roles that compliment each other in the home (1 Corinthians 11:2-16; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1-7) and in the church (1 Corinthians 14:34-35; 1 Timothy 2:11-15). A typical trait of "egalitarians" has been to elevate the Galatians 3:28 passage to the exclusion of the other passages here cited. When faced with the plain teaching of these other passages, they actually wind up appealing to another authority outside of Scripture. For instance, a common attempt to get around 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15 that explicitly state that God has not ordained for women to serve the role of elder in the church has been to claim that the culture of the time these verses were written were different than our culture today and thus no longer apply. In 21st century America, women are viewed as doing pretty much anything that men do. Predominantly this is due to the feminist movement. (I long for the day where the high calling of women to serve as mothers would once again take precedence over the picture of the career woman. But I digress.) Women work in the same jobs and serve in the same roles as men. The argument follows then that these passages need to be read in light of today's culture instead of examining our culture in light of Scripture. It is as Matt Chandler puts it, "The culture begins to define the Scriptures instead of the Scriptures defining the culture" (The Explicit Gospel, 194). Hence, the authority appealed to for their position is not Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura) but the culture. (For the record, the textual evidence of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15 do not support Paul's instruction concerning women not serving in a "teaching" or "authoritative" role over men in a congregational setting being a cultural issue limited to Ephesus or Corinth as "egalitarians" often claim. Right after making such a statement in 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul does not reference a problem occurring specifically at that local church that serves as the reason for such a prohibition but the design and order of God's creation itself. For Adam was formed first, then Eve (v. 13). In the Corinthian context, Paul states that this teaching concerning women learning in submission is As in all the churches of the saints v. 33b.)

However, culture is not the only authority that "egalitarians" appeal to in order to substantiate their claim for women to serve in the role of elder or pastor in a church. I don't know how many times I have had an egalitarian tell me something to the effect, "But they feel that they are "called" to be a pastor. You can't argue with God's Holy Spirit if He is calling them to such a ministry." The problem here is that they are the one actually arguing with the Holy Spirit who inspired the words of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15! Their authority here is not Scripture alone but emotions. It is based on what someone "feels" or "senses". (I believe the Unibomber claimed that he "sensed" that God "called" him to blow up the Oklahoma City building and I have talked to people who claim that God "called" them to leave their wife for another woman.) Or proponents of such a view appeal to experience. They point out the gifts that a woman has for ministry and claim that you cannot tell them that God has not intended them to serve as a pastor due to the gifts He has given them. (In such a case, I would encourage a lady with such gifts to see how God may intend for her to use them in a role in which He has ordained for women to serve in the context of a church, such as working with the children's ministry or the youth or leading a women's Bible study or home group.) In each of these cases, the authority for the "egalitarian" is not Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura) but culture, feelings, or experience. Interestingly enough, these are the same authorities that we notice the pro-homosexual group within the visible church appealing to as well.

Homosexuality and the Authority of Scripture
No one promoting the pro-homosexual agenda actually holds to Sola Scriptura. They can't because if they did, they would not promote such an agenda. God's perspective concerning homosexual acts and relationships has been laid out clearly in His Word. I actually have done an extensive study of the passages that relate to homosexuality in the Bible and the paper that I have written on it can be found here. We find though with the homosexual agenda that has crept into many churches today that they also appeal to culture, feelings, or experience instead of Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura). A study guide concerning Scripture passages that "supposedly" related to homosexuality was put together by a committee within my denomination about two years ago that individual churches were encouraged to go through. One of the actual passages that concerned the issue of homosexuality was Romans 1:18-32. (I found out that one of the conservatives on the committee did suggest the other six passages that deal with homosexuality but he was told they were "clobber passages" and therefore would not be included.) The brief commentary given to go with such a passage stated something to the effect that "Paul did not share the same understanding of sexual orientation as we do today." Again, we find culture serving as the authority and not Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura). Basically, they are saying that what God said through the pen of Paul to the church at Rome does not apply today because we live in a different, more enlightened culture that has figured things out better. (Figured more out than the Ultimate Author of that text?! Perish the thought that God was ignorant about what He inspired to be written about homosexuality or that we know better about it now than He always has when He had these words in Romans to be written! Yikes!)

We also can find "emotions" or "feelings" serving as this group's authority. One of the main arguments of the pro-homosexual agenda is that those who identify themselves as "gay" or "lesbian" "feel" as if they have been born this way. And thus, they reason, if they have been "born this way," then that must mean that God made them this way and it cannot be categorized as a sinful lifestyle regardless of what the Bible actually says. For them, "emotions" and "feelings" trump Scripture. The same can be seen with the authority of experience. I am losing count of how many times I have been told about some homosexual couples who have demonstrated a better loving relationship than many heterosexual couples (and of course comparing them to the Britney Spears', Kim Kardashian's, and Katy Perry's does not really say much as none of them would come close to resembling what the portrait of a biblical marriage should look like). Just like with the "egalitarian" position, we find the pro-homosexual agenda appealing to other authorities outside Scripture instead of Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura).

The Danger of Compromising the Sole Authority of Scripture
So what is my point in showing you such a comparison that I have noticed? I am NOT saying that those who hold to an "egalitarian" position necessarily will adopt the pro-homosexual view. Many thankfully will not. However, this has certainly been the case with the denominations who have, as of this point, accepted so-called same-sex unions and permitted practicing gays and lesbians to be licensed and ordained to serve as pastors in their churches. I do not know of a denomination which has made such a move that didn't first decide to license and ordain women to serve as pastors and elders. Compromising the authority of Scripture in one place inevitably opens the door to compromise it's authority in another place. And as you can see, the same types of extrabiblical authority used to open the door to the one is the same as that used to open the door to the other. In fact, I heard arguments at my denomination's Annual Conference just two weeks ago of how the acceptance of homosexuals being licensed and ordained was just like how women used to not be allowed to be licensed or ordained. The church just hasn't caught up to the culture yet again!

The only remedy to the homosexual issue in the denominations that are currently facing it (such as the beloved Church of the Brethren in which I serve) is to get back to Sola Scriptura; Scripture being our sole authority for everything in our lives. We need to stop flirting with culture, emotions/feelings, and experience. As a denomination, as congregations, and as individuals we either believe that the Word of God is sufficient as it claims (2 Timothy 3:17) or we don't. We either are obedient to God's Word or we are disobedient. Sola Scriptura served as one of the rally cries of the Reformers when they recognized that the unbiblical abuses within the Catholic Church of Rome arose from a departure from holding to Scripture as the sole authority. Such a reformation calling us back to the authority of the Word of God is needed in many denominations today. May God, in His grace, bring us once again back to His Word as our authority and thus to glorifying and honoring Him.

For the sake of God under the authority of His Word,
Lee Smith
Soli Deo Gloria!
Sola Scriptura!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Lessons From The Book of Daniel

This past week I have been spending a significant amount of time studying the book of Daniel as that has served as the Bible lessons for the kids in Vacation Bible School. So often when we read the book of Daniel we focus primarily on the adventures of Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (or as they are more commonly known by their Babylonian names-Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). In fact, we even have a popular song that we sometimes sing called “Dare to Be A Daniel.” However, upon a closer examination of the book, we realize that the author of the book emphasizes not the mere man, Daniel, but instead His great God.

Daniel and his friends were part of the intelligent young men taken from Judah to serve King Nebuchadnezzar in the nation of Babylon (1:3-6). They found themselves in a foreign and strange land with a vastly different culture. Their Jewish identity had basically been taken away from them as they were forced to learn the literature and language of the Babylonians as well as be given different names (1:4,7). They were in a place and among a people that thought and viewed things much differently than the Jews in the nation of Israel. Yet the author reminds the original Jewish readers who would have been in Babylon in captivity themselves at the time that regardless of where they were, God still was with them and served as the ultimate sovereign and king.

Though the people no longer were in God’s promised land, God showed them that He still was with them. He had never left them though they had left Israel. As Ezekiel, a prophet contemporary to Daniel, saw, God’s glory also resided with His people in Babylon just as it had in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 1:1-28). God remained at work in the peoples’ lives as seen with His blessing towards Daniel upon his greater allegiance to Him when he refused to defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank (1:8), His deliverance of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace after they refused to bow to the king’s statue (3:19-27), and His protection of Daniel in the lion’s den (6:16-23). God vindicated these men when they followed the law of God’s kingdom over the law of man’s kingdom when the latter contradicted the former. God had not abandoned the people in exile but continued to be present and work in their lives.

God not only reminds the people that He is still with them, even in Babylon, He also demonstrates that He still rules over them, while in this foreign land. Regardless of who may have occupied the thrones of man, God remained seated on His heavenly throne in charge of all of man’s affairs. He reminds all three of the kings recorded in the book that He is their ultimate King and they have to answer to Him. He humbles King Nebuchadnezzar through giving him a dream that shows how temporary his kingdom is since it will be followed by three other empires and ultimately God’s coming everlasting kingdom (2:31-45) as well as making him live like an animal for seven years (4:28-33). All of this served the purpose to bring the king to realize That the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men (4:17,25,32; 5:21). The King later comes to recognize through all of this that God serves as the ultimate King. He states, For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth. And no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?” (4:34-35). Later, God takes away King Belshazzar’s (Nebuchadnezzar’s successor) kingdom because he failed to acknowledge God’s ultimate rule over him (5:1-30). The “writing on the wall” revealed that his days as king were numbered since the God in whose hand are your life-breath and all your ways, you have not glorified (5:23). Again, God serves as the ultimate ruler over the kings and kingdoms of the earth. King Darius as well was reminded of God being the supreme ruler after witnessing God’s protection of Daniel in the lion’s den (6:26-27). He even declares: For He is the living God and enduring forever, and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, and His dominion forever (v. 26). God further shows His ruling over all of history in the visions given to Daniel concerning the future establishment of His ultimate everlasting kingdom ruled by the Messiah, the Lord Jesus (chapters 7-12).

While this book proved comforting for the Jewish people who questioned God’s presence and plan during their time spent in the foreign land of Babylon, it also serves as an encouragement for us today. It reminds us that God is still present with us in our modern day Babylon; that He is still in control and directing all things to the establishment of His glorious everlasting kingdom. No matter what you may find yourself going through today, take heart that God is there and still in control. We may not be aware of His presence or know His plan but we can rest assured that He is in control and working in all things for His glory just as we notice in the book of Daniel. Praise God for His everlasting reign over His everlasting kingdom!

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee