The Mosaic Law, Foreigners, and the Church

A few days ago I posted Deuteronomy 10:17-19 on Facebook in reference to how Christians should respond to immigrants and refugees who come to America. It reads:

For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.

A representative of the New York Bible Society distributing bibles and religious literature to the emigrants at Ellis Island
A representative of the New York Bible Society distributing Bibles and religious literature to the emigrants at Ellis Island

Predictably, my post was met with comments informing me that I was wrong to apply this passage to the current situation because it’s part of the Mosaic Law, and therefore, applicable only to Israel, not to the Church. Every major Evangelical commentary, however, disagrees with that sentiment.

In Be Equipped, for example, Warren Wiersbe writes that “God has a special concern for the helpless, especially the widows, the orphans, and the homeless aliens” and that “God’s dispensations change but His principles never change,” while the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary says, “Clearly the Christian is no different from Israel in this respect and the emphasis of this verse on social concern is equally applicable.” The Word Biblical Commentary says, “What Moses emphasized was simply a vital relationship with God that is worked out in terms of specific responsibilities toward our neighbors,” and the New American Commentary emphasizes that loving the foreigner is part of loving one’s neighbor. Continue reading The Mosaic Law, Foreigners, and the Church

More Thoughts on #Ferguson

G. K. Chesterton defined bigotry as “an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition” and wrote that “It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.”

It is not wrong to think that Officer Wilson was justified in killing Michael Brown or that those who looted and rioted were committing criminal acts. I definitely agree with the latter and have no trouble believing the former.

It is wrong, however, to assume the right to tell others how they should think and feel without any attempt to understand how they actually think and feel.

It is wrong to tell the African-American community that they should not mourn the loss of another young black male because he was just a thug, brought his death upon himself, and the real problem is black-on-black violence, especially when you make no effort to express sympathy or empathy–to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).

It is wrong to assume that your experience as a middle-class white suburbanite is valid and somehow gives you the insight and ability to immediately assess every situation while telling African-Americans that their experience is not valid.

It is wrong to assume the moral high ground–on either side of the issue–without having any dialogue with someone on the other side. (Chesterton also said that “Thinking in isolation and with pride ends in being an idiot.”)

It is wrong to shout down people who disagree with you and bully them into taking down their posts.

It is wrong to assume that if they take a position different than yours that they are promoting looting, rioting, and violence against police (seriously, is anyone actually advocating those things?) or that they must be a racist.

It is wrong to think your own race is the only one that views issues of race objectively or correctly.

It is wrong to attack the image of God in another human being–in word, thought, or deed–just because they believe, act, or look differently than you.

We don’t all have to agree on everything, but let’s treat each other with a little compassion (and, for Christians, with gospel grace), and let’s remember that the onus is on each of us–no matter what stance we take on issues like these–to work for the good.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. … Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:18, 21)


Thoughts on #Ferguson

My heart breaks for ‪#‎Ferguson‬ and for America this morning.

My heart breaks over the fact that the the death of an unarmed teenager at the hands of a police officer is accepted as standard operating procedure.

My heart breaks for all the police officers whose lives are endangered and jobs made more difficult by the suspicion and lack of respect that situations like this breed in the community.

My heart breaks for the African-American community whose cries for justice are drowned out by the sounds of looting, vandalism, and rioting by some of their own number.

My heart breaks that so many others could not muster up any sorrow or sympathy when an 18-year-old was lying dead in the street, but are now suddenly filled with righteous indignation over burned cars and businesses.

My heart breaks that after centuries of slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow laws, there are still people voicing the opinion that looting and vandalism is proof that African-Americans deserve to be shot dead by police (and yes, that sentiment has been voiced by some of my Facebook friends).

My heart breaks that we Christians, who claim to worship the Prince of Peace, the One who tears down dividing walls and who loves justice, are often the ones perpetuating and promoting a divide between the races, and that we so often do not even realize we’re doing it.

My heart breaks that I am often content to ignore injustice and go about my life.

My heart breaks that even with the destructive effects of sin on full display, we are so hesitant to preach the gospel, which alone has the power to root out systemic injustice and heal racial tensions.

“Therefore justice is far from us,
And righteousness does not overtake us;
We hope for light, but behold, darkness,
For brightness, but we walk in gloom. …
All of us growl like bears,
And moan sadly like doves;
We hope for justice, but there is none,
For salvation, but it is far from us. …
Justice is turned back,
And righteousness stands far away;
For truth has stumbled in the street,
And uprightness cannot enter.
Yes, truth is lacking;
And he who turns aside from evil makes himself a prey.

Now the LORD saw,
And it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice.
And He saw that there was no man,
And was astonished that there was no one to intercede;
Then His own arm brought salvation to Him,
And His righteousness upheld Him.”

(Isaiah 59:9, 11, 14-16)

The Meaning of Success in Joshua 1:7-8

Stock illustration: Business
Source: FreeImages

The rise of the prosperity gospel—a teaching which elevates earthly success and prosperity as significant signs of God’s blessing—has led to much confusion as to the role of success in the Christian life. Many Christians may read a passage like Joshua 1:7-8, where God commands Joshua to obey in order that “you may have success wherever you go,” to mean that Christians will be successful in all their endeavors (Howard 1998, 86-87), which naturally implies that a lack of success must indicate some disobedience that has caused God to withhold his promised blessing. This paper, therefore, will utilize Hebrew language study tools to examine the meaning and usage of the word תַּשְׂכִּֽיל (H7919) in Joshua 1:7-8 in light of its context and other relevant material. Attention will be given to the word’s semantic range, its usage throughout the Old Testament, and finally to how the word was translated in the Septuagint, and a conclusion will be reached as to the precise meaning of the word for the passage in question. Continue reading The Meaning of Success in Joshua 1:7-8

Albert Mohler on Preaching

“Few people grasp the preacher’s challenge. Where else in life does a person have to stand weekly before a mixed audience and speak to them engagingly on the mightiest topics known to humankind: God, life, death, sin, grace, love, hatred, hope, despair and the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Who is even close to being adequate for this challenge?”

(Albert Mohler, The 2013 Preaching Survey of the Year’s Best Books for Preachers)

5 Purposes of Pain in the Works of C.S. Lewis

1354895_97706322There are few things more common to the human experience than pain and suffering. Yet despite (or perhaps because of) their universality, there are also few things that seem more incompatible with the human experience. This is why a period of suffering, and especially a prolonged one, causes us to ask God why–to question the purpose behind our pain.

C.S. Lewis, the famed atheist-turned-apologist, was himself intimately acquainted with suffering–essentially orphaned at the age of 9 when his mother died and his father shipped him off to a strict boarding school, physically and mentally wounded while serving in the trenches in World War I, and tragically widowed when he finally married following a long bachelorhood. Unsurprisingly, considering his experience, his literary works are filled with references to, meditations on, and explanations of the problem of pain. How do we reconcile an omnipotent, benevolent God with the existence of pain and suffering? What possible purpose can pain have?

What’s interesting is that while Lewis agrees that pain is undoubtedly evil, he insists that it is sometimes a necessary evil (God in the Dock, 224-25). He goes even further in The Great Divorce, an allegory about the afterlife, when George MacDonald, his guide through the purgatory-like state in which the story takes place, tells him “that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory” (The Great Divorce, 69). He doesn’t actually explain how one’s pain results in glory, beyond saying that “the good man’s past begins to change so that his … remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven (The Great Divorce, 69), but based on the rest of the Lewis canon, there are at least 5 ways that this “momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17): Continue reading 5 Purposes of Pain in the Works of C.S. Lewis

The Cult of the Visioneer

I’m currently a full-time seminary student and part-time pastoral intern. About a year ago, prior to landing at my current church, I was looking at church job boards and other similar sites, trying to find a ministry position. My wife and I were stunned by how many pastoral job descriptions required some sort of ‘vision’-related skill or experience and how few required ‘accurately handling of the word of truth’ (2 Timothy 2:15).

From reformation21 comes a cautionary tale of how Evangelicalism has fallen into this trap and exactly why it is so dangerous:

The process is simple. A church has a pastor. The pastor receives from God a specific vision and mission for his church. The church follows the visioneer. …

Combine unbiblical ideas of a pastor who receives visions from God with slick fashion, cutting edge marketing, and shameless self-promotion and you have a cult-leader in the making.

This is an excellent warning for pastors to find the church’s mission in God’s Word rather than an extra-biblical word from God, and for church members to follow the Great Shepherd rather than a cult of personality.

(HT: challies)

C.S. Lewis on Real Life

“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own’, or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life—the life God is sending one day by day: what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination.”

(C.S. Lewis, Letter to Arthur Greeves, 20 Dec 1943)

Source: The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 2

Robert P. George on the Separation of Church & State

Professor Robert P. George of Princeton University on the separation of Church and State:

Here’s my key take away from the video:

“In separating the institutions of the Church and the institutions of the State, there was never a thought, nor should we entertain the idea, that there is a separation of religion from public life or religion from politics. Our tradition in the United States is really quite the opposite. Religious people have always been involved in politics. Religious leaders have been leaders of important movements–the movement to abolish slavery, the movement against child labor and abusive and exploitative labor practices toward women, the movement to correct the great injustices of segregation. These were all led by religious people.”

We need not separate religion and public life to preserve the separation of Church and State. Click the link below for more information about Professor George’s work on this topic.

(HT: Between Two Worlds)

Chrysostom on an Idle Life

chrysostom“The whole life of men in ancient times was one of action and contention; ours on the contrary is a life of indolence. They knew that they were brought into the world for this purpose, that they might labor according to the will of Him who brought them into it; but we, as if spiritual things. I speak not only of the Apostles, but of those that followed them. You see them accordingly traversing all places, and pursuing this as their only business, living altogether as in a foreign land, as those who had no city upon earth. Hear therefore what the blessed Apostle saith,

‘For this cause left I thee in Crete.’

As if the whole world had been one house, they divided it among themselves, administering its affairs everywhere, each taking care of his several portion of it.”

(John Chrysostom, Homily on Titus 1:5-6 [emphasis mine])