, ,

The Growing Danger of White Supremacy, pt. 1

The events in Charlottesville this past week have brought the topic of white supremacy to the forefront, and for good reason. Many are under the impression that white supremacy is an old danger and no longer poses a threat to the future, but…
, ,

Police Racism in America?

With every new shooting of a Black American comes a deluge of Facebook posts calling for an end to racism in policing. In the latest shooting, a white, female police officer fatally shot Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man, in what appears…
,

The Dark Underbelly of Calvinism: Double Predestination

Standard disclaimer: Calvinism/Arminianism is minor doctrine and should not result in disunity in its discussion. Many of the greatest Christians I know differ with my position on this matter, and yet it is important to discuss these differences…
, ,

The Most Misunderstood Chapter in Scripture: Romans 9

I'm listening today to Wayne Grudem's systematic theology podcast, which is pretty good for a summary of biblical theology. I appreciate Grudem's even-keeled temperament and clear exposition. I also like that he marries serious intellectualism…
, , , , ,

My favorite podcasts

I listen to a lot of podcasts. In fact, since I've turned 30, the only time I listen to music these days is if I'm studying or praying. Most of the time in the car, or when I'm doing semi-mindless tasks, it's either an audiobook or podcast…
,

In the Wake of Orlando

America has just suffered its worst terrorist attack since 9/11 and, like everyone else, I've been digesting the event and the various responses for the past couple days. Many things about this attack are notable, including the fact that the…
,

Blog Reboot

Now that I'm (mostly) out of school, I find I have enough to time to write again, so I'm rebooting my blog. This time around my heart is a bit different, as I want to write about various things I'm interested in, and not just theology and politics…

My Take on the Primaries so far

Now that the Iowa Caucus is done, I think it's a good time to give my perspective on the primaries: We dodged a Trump bullet. If Trump had won Iowa as he was predicted to do, it was very conceivable that he could have run the table for…
, ,

A Theology of Judgment

I saw a quote by Bill Johnson the other day, saying “Let God’s goodness be the cornerstone of your theology.” Let me preface my reaction to that quote by saying I have the utmost respect for Bill Johnson. I am incredibly thankful for his…
, ,

The Growing Danger of White Supremacy, pt. 1

The events in Charlottesville this past week have brought the topic of white supremacy to the forefront, and for good reason. Many are under the impression that white supremacy is an old danger and no longer poses a threat to the future, but events like the one in Charlottesville are waking people up to the reality that this form of racism is still alive and well. It is a major long-term danger.

I speak out a lot about “reverse racism” in our culture today, and some immediately interpret that as being motivated by my own White privilege/prejudice against minorities. But that could not be further from the truth. In fact, it is a strong sign of how their own mind has been warped by the racism that has become popular in our culture today.

Rather, my continual point is that racism, on both sides, springs from the same root. One kind impassions and emboldens the other. Satan cannot cast out Satan, and fighting against White racism by appealing to victimization only exacerbates the overall problem. In fact, the “reverse racism” that has become entrenched in progressive politics today is just as dangerous for stirring up racial strife. Moreover, it is tearing down societal safeguards (such as free speech) that I believe will pave the way for white supremacy in the coming decades if not stopped.

But how can I be so sure that my view of racism is the correct one? I challenge all Christians to submit to the authority of Scripture and seriously consider what it has to say on this issue.

Firstly, Scripture does warn about the dangers of the rich oppressing the poor. This is a real danger that the progressive wing of our nation rightly recognizes. There’s little disagreement here, so I won’t go in depth on this topic.

The controversial issue is that the Scriptures also tell wives to submit to husbands, slaves to submit to masters, and oppressed people to “turn the other cheek” when they are wronged. This is not fair, and the Bible never claims that it is… until the Day of Judgment. The reason that we are to bear unjust treatment in this life is because (1) God promises he will compensate all injustices and right all wrongs on Judgment Day, (2) God forgives us a much greater debt in Christ, and (3) Jesus set the example for us to follow. The biblical teachings on forgiveness and ultimate judgment must be the foundation upon which all prescriptions to the problems of oppression flow. Why do we honor and submit to unjust rulers? Because God promises that He will judge, and in the meantime we show trust in Him when we forgive. The biblical gospel is that we can be free *now* through faith in Christ and forgiveness. We don’t need to stay in inner bondage until our oppressors repent. If we bear unjust treatment we are taught not to rage but to rejoice, for we are promised eternal reward if we bear it rightly. This is most clear in passages like 1 Pet. 2:

18 You who are slaves must submit to your masters with all respect. Do what they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel. 19 For God is pleased when, conscious of his will, you patiently endure unjust treatment. 20 Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you.

21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.

Those with little faith will complain that obeying these instructions enables and empowers oppression. That would be true, if freedom was primarily an outward thing. But from the biblical perspective, freedom is something we have on the inside. Jesus said that if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. He said this as a member of a conquered and oppressed people group. He never preached a vision of freedom that was about being free of foreign oppressors–he preached about freedom from the effects and consequences of sin, of having abundant life on the inside in the midst of outward persecution and suffering. Karl Marx preached a freedom that came from forcefully taking it from oppressors, but this is not the way of the Kingdom. We forgive, are freed inside, and trust God to right all wrongs at the Judgment.

Misunderstanding this biblical priority makes us vulnerable to unrighteous judgment. In Mat. 7 Jesus warns that we cannot remove the speck from another’s eye unless we first remove the planks in our own eyes. This speaks of offense that clouds our understanding and perspective of others. The nature of holding on to offense is that it becomes unrighteous judgment within us. When we are hurt by the words of another, and it is never dealt with through forgiveness, it will turn into a judgment about how that person is mean/bigoted/stupid/etc. and eventually can morph into “those kinds of people are… mean/bigoted/stupid/etc.” Most Christians I know severely underestimate the importance of forgiveness in their own lives. Think about it! Jesus taught that if someone refused to forgive others then their own sins would be held against them (Mat. 6:14-15). This is an incredible warning. Even a relatively small amount of unforgiveness can warp our perspective of others in a major way. It is a gaping, open door to demonic influence. We must be relentless to remove all offense from our hearts, to be ruthless in forgiveness. Only then can we see clearly and help others see clearly as well.

Any solution to racism in America starts with the preeminence of forgiveness and God’s judgment. There is a God in heaven who will right all wrongs. He will remember the deeds (and misdeeds) of all people, and reward those who obey His commands to forgive and love those who oppress them. In fact, Scripture says that we should rejoice if we undergo undeserved persecution, because if we bear it rightly we receive great eternal reward. Why do we get great reward for this? Because it is both the most difficult response and the most effective in destroying embedded hatred. The great temptation for Christians is to think like the World, to believe that we must have justice now, to nurture offense, and to lose sight of our calling to disciple the nations and teach them to obey Jesus’ commands.

, ,

Police Racism in America?

With every new shooting of a Black American comes a deluge of Facebook posts calling for an end to racism in policing. In the latest shooting, a white, female police officer fatally shot Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man, in what appears to be a bad shooting. I’ve seen the videos and it does appear that there was little cause for lethal force, although I do think it is important to refrain from judgment until an investigation can be done.

If this was a bad shooting, which seems likely at this point, it is indeed a tragedy. I mourn, as I think we all should, the death of a man who probably did not deserve it. The officer, if guilty, should be prosecuted under the law. That being said, I think it is a mistake to lump this shooting in with the raft of other white-on-black police shootings that further cement a narrative of police racism. Here’s why:

  1. Many of these shootings have been woefully misrepresented. The Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson is probably the prime example. Personally, I went from deep sadness to near rage when I actually took the time to investigate the facts of the case. The media portrayed a narrative where Michael the gentle giant was shot with his hands up by a clearly racist officer. That story basically created months of rioting in Ferguson. In fact, Brown was a criminal who had charged Officer Wilson and was rightfully gunned down. This is a major problem. The mainstream media has become so entrenched in a liberal bias at this point that it seems to be intentionally crafting a bird’s-eye-view narrative of this issue that is false. And this is demonstrated in the data.
  2. The statistical fact is that cops shoot almost twice as many whites as blacks (50% vs 26% of police shootings). Though some will argue that blacks are only 13% of the population, this is misleading because they commit the majority of violent crimes. Heather MacDonald writes that “the black violent crime rate would actually predict that more than 26 percent of police victims would be black.” Furthermore, a 2015 DoJ report shows that Hispanic and Black officers are more likely than white officers to shoot blacks. The greater point here is that white on white or black on black police shootings don’t make good TV, but white on black ones are trumpeted on every news network and re-shared ad nuaseum via social media, hence the number of comments on my Facebook wall saying, “how does this keep happening?”
  3. Our media and university system have embraced a deeply flawed concept of racism. I do not refute the fact that racism exists in our police and court system, because racism exists everywhere. On the other hand, I absolutely reject the notion that the only racism that matters is the systemic racism of oppressive groups. It is racist when someone assumes that an officer acted out of racist intent, without actual evidence. It is bigoted when Colin Kaepernick likens cops to pigs. The fact that these racist attitudes are not held by white people does not make them less racist or bigoted.

And this is where the gospel comes in. We live in a flawed world, but God, the great judge of all, promises to judge each person according to his/her deeds and situations. This is a glorious truth. He will make all things right and reward those who bore unfair treatment in faith. He never promises that this world, in this age, will be totally fair or right, but he promises he’ll take all these things into consideration when he judges.

This is important to know, because this truth gives us grace to repent for our own wrongs, and forgive those who wrong us. In forgiving, we free ourselves from offense that locks us in pain and causes us to judge others falsely. My call, especially to my Christian brethren, is to let go of offense in this area so that we can see clearly. Offense and anger cannot cast out wickedness, it only makes it worse.

From that perspective, let’s evaluate each of these shootings in turn. Let’s refrain from condemning all police or making accusations of racism without evidence. Let’s fight for the guilty to be punished, the innocent to be saved, for police reform where needed, and for justice for each person.

,

The Dark Underbelly of Calvinism: Double Predestination

Standard disclaimer: Calvinism/Arminianism is minor doctrine and should not result in disunity in its discussion. Many of the greatest Christians I know differ with my position on this matter, and yet it is important to discuss these differences openly, disagreeing with but not  dishonoring any brother/sister in the Lord.

Calvinist teachers often proclaim how glorious it is that Christians have been personally chosen by God before the foundation of the world, not because of anything they have done, but because God chose to love and save them, and how this truth should make Christians stand in awe of God’s great generosity and compassion.

What rarely gets preached is the flip-side of this coin: how “glorious” it is that unbelievers are predestined to eternal torment, though they are no more or less deserving than those being saved, so that God may be glorified.

Here I should mention that there is a debate within Calvinist circles. Some argue that double predestination (the notion that God predestines some to hell) is the only logical conclusion, and some say that it is best to leave it a mystery, so as not to give the appearance that God is the author of sin (though they offer no real logical alternative – hence the “mystery”).

The fact that there is such a debate should demonstrate how terrible this point of doctrine is. How exactly does the eternal torture of billions glorify God? Why couldn’t God predestine all to be with Him in heaven? There’s no good answer. No less a Calvinist authority than John MacArthur posts on his website:

Question:
[A very young Child]: I listened to your sermon last Sunday, and I was wondering, why didn’t God choose everybody to be saved?

John MacArthur:
Kids always ask those questions. Adults don’t ask them because they’ve learned there’s no answer.

“Why didn’t God choose everyone to be saved? You know something, honey? I don’t know. I don’t know. But, I’ll give you a basic answer, Ok? And the basic answer–and I hope you can understand this–the basic answer is: because He got more glory for his own name by doing it the way He did it. God does what He does for His glory. And somehow, in some way, God is glorified in what He did, and that’s why He did it.”

(http://www.gty.org/resources/questions/QA182/why-didnt-god-choose-everyone-to-be-saved)

This is the answer of someone forced to say something he doesn’t want to, because the “truth” doesn’t seem good at all, to him, or to anybody.

I contend that telling Christians that they should praise God because he has predestined them for salvation is like telling 18th century white slave owners that America is great because of slavery. When the natural rebuttal is presented–but it doesn’t seem so great for the damned/slaves–the answer is usually something like, “don’t look at them, look at yourself! See how merciful God is to you and how great you have it, and be thankful. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth son.” The poor neophyte Calvinist is herded away from such “childish” questions (as MacArthur would seem to think) and back to the mysteriously “great” sovereignty of God.

Now let me say that I understand why many Calvinists say what they do–because they are trying to be faithful to what they understand Paul to be saying in passages like Romans 9. When Paul says that God predestines some to hell in order “to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy” (Rom 9:23 – Calvinist reading), it’s understandable why devout Christians would feel obligated to celebrate something that doesn’t seem all that great. It’s like God is some crazy football coach who forces his family to cheer for his team whether they want to or not.

Or… we can consider that maybe we’ve misunderstood passages like Romans 9, and perhaps for very understandable reasons. In fact, the Bible itself foretells the very reason why this happens. In Romans 11, Paul warns Gentile believers that if they become arrogant towards the Jewish people on account of their rejection of Christ, that God will cut them off.  (v13-24) And this is exactly what happened. The early Church started to stray from honoring Israel, eventually began to persecute Jews, and were in many ways “cut off” from grace during the Dark Ages. Some of the Church’s deepest misunderstandings of New Testament passages are a result of arrogance towards Israel, thinking that we can rightly interpret Jewish writings without understanding the culture from which they came. Election is a prime example. Most Calvinist interpretation of passages like Romans 9, Ephesians 1, and John 6/10 flows from a misunderstanding of Jewish concepts of election.

In truth, God does actually desire that all people be saved. There’s no “secret” will; he commands all men to repent and believe in Jesus whom he sent to die for the sins of the world. He created the world without sin, and man, through his own free choice, chose to sin even though he was warned that if he did so death would be the result. Despite this well-deserved condemnation, God still desired reconciliation with man and sent his own Son to die for the sins of humanity.

Understand how different this picture is from Calvinism’s. In Calvinism, the overarching picture is one where God condemns many people (and saves a few) to glorify himself. He–essentially–uses people for his glory. In “Arminianism,” God condemns himself–he uses himself–to glorify people. He humbles himself to exalt us. It’s very easy to see how God is glorified in the latter. He shows himself the great loving King, worthy of praise and emulation.

Calvinism’s portrayal of the gospel only works if we emphasize the beneficial side of the coin. Aren’t we so lucky (at their expense)? Isn’t God so good (to us)? But a God who is only “good” to some is not truly good. Would it make sense to your unbelieving friend that God very well could have predestined him to hell so that you would be more thankful? Such a notion seems ridiculous when stated so baldly. Could it be that such a concept of election is not at all what the biblical authors intended to communicate?

In fact, there are very good Arminian explanations for all Calvinist “proof texts,” and I shall be going over some of the major ones as I did with Romans 9 earlier. It seems that in the vast majority of cases when I do explain Arminian counter-arguments to Calvinist talking points, that it is the first time that many have even heard the argument. It is indeed a sad state of affairs that Calvinists today have so dominated the conversation (at least in my circles) that most have not even heard the other side of the argument. These rebuttals should ideally stand, in the hearers mind, next to the great preponderance of biblical texts that assume that readers actually do have free choice, and that one’s decisions do truly matter.