Autonomy vs. Obedience: Isn’t “self-rule” contradictory to Christianity?

The word “autonomy” simply means “self-rule.” And I actually believe that autonomy is GOOD, in proper context. However, it seems hard to reconcile this with what I believe the Bible teaches. But although it “seems” hard, it’s not. Follow me through this line of thought.

Self-rule: Isn’t that Biblically bad?

The Old Testament takes its readers through a roller coaster ride. The first five books, best known as the Torah (Christian theologians call it the “Pentateuch”) are Moses account of God’s creation and dealings with humanity (Genesis 1 through 11) and then God’s creation and dealings with the nation of Israel (Genesis 12 through the end of Deuteronomy). At the end of Deuteronomy, Moses dies.

Then, God appoints Joshua as Israel’s leader. Joshua is faithful, and Israel mostly follows his leadership. Therefore, Joshua is a book of victory, as the people of Israel (none of whom are trained soldiers) win military victory after military victory, because they had faith in God.

And then, after this high of victory, the reader comes across the book of Judges. Judges is, to the Bible, what every “2” of almost any trilogy is. It leaves you with this sucky feeling, like something has to be fixed.
Yes, Judges is the “Empire Strikes Back” of the Bible. The “Attack of the Clones” of the Bible. The “Goblet of Fire” of the Bible. The “Matrix Reloaded” of the Bible. There are victories in there…but the overarching theme is that things are messed up.

Anyway, one of the main motifs of the book of Judges is that every so often it says something along the lines of “In those days, there was no king in Israel, and every man did what was right in his own eyes.” The mark of Israel’s failure wasn’t that “they did bad stuff that they knew was bad.” Rather, that they decided on their own view of morality.

However, self-rule is no worse than any other ruler, Biblically speaking.

In the book of Samuel, the people demand of God a human king. God warns them, but then grants them their wish. You see, Israel was supposed to be a theocracy, ruled by God Himself. But He consents to them and grants them a human king.

Now, although there were some good kings, Israel found itself in just as bad of a state under these kings as it did when “every man did what was right in his own eyes.”

What does this have to do with today?

I do not actually believe that self-rule is good…I believe that the only being fit to rule is the All-Knowing God. But I do believe that self-rule is often a necessary step to get there.

Children should, in a sense, be ruled by their parents. The child certainly doesn’t understand what is best for themselves. But…

1)      Parents are not always godly, and

2)      Parents will not be around forever.

2.5) Parents will not be around all the time.

I believe that the greatest problem with the idea of teaching “obedience” as an end-all-be-all is this…who will they obey? Parents today…but who tomorrow?

Bragging about my own parents for a second…

My parents weren’t perfect, of course. But they did teach me how to respectfully disagree with them, by…

a)      Setting the example by respectfully disagreeing with me, and…

b)      …reinforcing, not punishing, the times where I would respectfully disagree with them…as well as…

c)      …when I disrespectfully disagreed, they punished the disrespect, not the disagreement.

Now, there were some hiccups in this process, but to this day, I actually don’t think it was a bad thing. Since my parents treated me with the same respect due an adult, I would not feel respect for any adult who treated me like a kid.

Sounds bad, doesn’t it? However, as a martial arts instructor, I have been made all too aware of the fact that not all adults are good guys. And if someone is taught to “respect them because they are an adult” or “obey them because they are an adult,” it is not easy to simply turn that training off simply because they tell you to do something inappropriate.

So the strong-willed child?

Perhaps the idea of a “strong-willed child” is every potential parent’s nightmare. But I think that it is not a curse, but a challenge that comes with a blessing: A child that has the strength to stand up to his/her parents is a child who has the strength to stand up to peer pressure. A child that disagrees and reasons with parents is a child who can disagree and reason with the atheist teacher.

And in the end? Wouldn’t a strong-willed person make themselves an enemy of God?

Wouldn’t a strong-willed person argue with God?

Maybe. And maybe not. We don’t know. But I do know this…no one else can lay down that strong will of theirs. No parent, no coach, no mentor, no one. Only that person, and that person alone, can make the decision to put their will aside and accept God’s will.

And, I suspect, the strong-willed person who devotes his life to Jesus Christ will not be stopped by needing the approval of the world.

I believe in obedience to parents and teachers…as a temporary solution. But only as a temporary solution. If your child has to disobey you in order to obey God (like when Mary was trying to summon Jesus home), will he/she be able to do it?

Are we capable of setting them up to succeed in that day?

In summary, I believe that self-rule comes one step before God-rule. We cannot lay our authority down at His feet until we have it in our hands. I wish it weren’t this way, but is there any story that shows differently?

Freedom from Freedom: Sexual Freedom

Ah, you knew it was coming, didn’t you?

Because how could we continue to talk about the “freedom” or “restrictions” of the Christian life without talking about sex? The main concept of this blog series is that we often find freedom when we go the exact opposite direction from it, and we often lose our freedom when we exercise too much freedom. Does this concept hold true on the topic of sex? Let’s discuss that, shall we?

Sex has become one of the main battlegrounds of the Christian worldview. But not because it is such a spiritually important topic (more to come on that!), but because our culture has…well…such a very different idea about sex and sexual ethics. Also, I am of the opinion that it is one of the first topics where a church-raised Christian has to decide whether they are going to side with the Bible or the culture around them, and if they choose to side with the Bible, then they either end up in a lot of debates where they defend WHY they believe that, or else they just become very, very quiet.

So before we talk about sex, we MUST establish the proper importance of the topic.

Concerning spiritual matters, sex is NO MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANY OTHER TOPIC. Sex cannot get you to hell faster than lying, or judgmental attitudes. Christians…don’t ever let anyone, anyone fool you into thinking that losing your virginity means you are worth less. Virgins are not worth more than non-virgins in God’s eyes. Anybody who says otherwise has a very distorted view of how God sees us…or they believe in some god other than the God of the Bible.

The Christian who continues to have premarital sex (which is outside of God’s design for it) is in the same boat as the Christian who abstains, but continues to speak ill of others. Or the Christian who abstains, but has developed the habit of being lazy instead of being a hard worker.

Concerning one’s spiritual status before God, sex is actually not very important of a topic.

However, concerning wise living and having a happy life here on this earth, the topic of sex is INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT.

When we become adults, we find that more and more often, we are faced with decisions that affect the direction of our whole lives, and even the lives of others. I have, in the past twelve years…

  • Chosen to go to different conferences, camps, and mission trips (when I was 16, 17, 18, 19). Without these, I would not have been motivated to read my Bible, and I would not be knowledgeable enough to teach on Biblical topics…something that I enjoy doing. That decision sent my life a certain direction.
  • I chose to go to community college for two years. Okay, 2 ½. That sent my life a certain direction.
  • I chose to continue the instruction of taekwondo, rather than pursuing other careers.
  • I chose to go to Corban, and stay in Salem. (My wife chose to go to an out-of-her-state college, which brought her down here to Corban.) That affected where our lives would go.
  • We chose to get married.
  • We chose to start a family.

So as I entered adulthood and began adulthood, I found that a lot of my decisions strongly affected my future. However, let’s be honest: Decisions I made when I was 10 years old haven’t played as big of a role as the decisions I made when I was 17. Sure, they’ve played some role. But mainly, it was my parents that were directing my life when I was 10.

So when we hit 13 years old, suddenly our bodies get these strange urges that we didn’t really have when we were 10. And over those next several years, we have to decide (daily): What is my decision on this topic going to be?

That decision has the potential to derail my entire life, if I choose wrong. Career goals can be thrown off by an unplanned child. A relationship that could’ve been great can be destroyed by a breach of trust. Or maybe sex happened too early, and so a relationship that should’ve ended then continues in order to “make it not a mistake.” That happens. A lot, unfortunately.

What’s that saying that a bunch of kids are saying right now? “YOLO”? You only live once? If we only have one life here on Earth…which we do, then we should be all the more careful about the topic of sex.

SEX: THE FIRST BATTLEGROUND

Some (Christians and non-Christians both!) will choose to keep their virginity. Some will choose not just to keep their virginity, but to keep from even playing around. Some will choose not to even kiss. Everybody chooses their lines, and some “adjust” those lines as they continue throughout those years.

However, whatever their choice, people tend to get pretty defensive about their choice…defensive enough to attack the other side. The Christian virgins prepare to explain what God says about sex. Those that didn’t decide to keep their virginity prepare their arguments for why they didn’t (“Try before you buy!” “Well, you have to do it before your wedding night! What if they aren’t good in bed?” Hey…if someone ended a relationship because and solely because the other person was bad in bed…then maybe that’s not the person they should be marrying anyway, wouldn’t you agree?).

This is why sex becomes the first battleground that Christians find themselves on. It’s not because it is a more important topic for spiritual health…but rather because it is often the first important topic that they have to defend. And some Christians, when faced with sexual temptation, will walk away from Jesus Christ because they can’t handle the feeling of conviction. (Jesus Christ does not leave you because you slept with someone. Ever. Period. Rather, many leave Jesus Christ because they don’t like “believing” that it’s wrong but doing it, so they give up the believing part so that they can do it without guilt.)

SO RETURNING TO THE CONCEPT OF FREEDOM FROM FREEDOM…

And then, there are many non-Christians who stay away from Christianity simply because of Christianity’s teachings on sex. They value their “sexual freedom”, and view what Christianity teaches as sexual restriction.

However, is that really accurate? No. No, it’s not.

I have walked both paths. I wish I couldn’t say that. But yeah, I have. However, I am happy to say that sexual sins are in my past and not in my present.

Does that mean that I entered from “sexual freedom” into sexual restriction? Total bull. I am more free now than ever. Monogamy within marriage truly is the most free that you can possibly be on this topic.

Forget Hollywood. Forget the words. The hype. The sassy Facebook conversations. Here’s my question…are those advocating “sexual freedom” really free?

Let’s analyze this one.

Monogamous marriage: Only with one person, until one of you die.

“Sexual freedom”: Whoever you want, as long as they agree to it

Okay, sure. I get that. And many people, if not most, are tempted in some way, shape or form in this area. Different would be exciting, wouldn’t it? A change of scenery?

However, “excitement” fades. If you did it with a different person…well…what’s next? Another different person?

Monogamous marriage: You have a sex partner. Consistently. Until one of you dies.

“Sexual freedom”: When you get horny, go clubbing or facebooking. Then, keep hoping that your hunt will be successful.

This is a Biblical fact: Wives are mandated by Scripture to meet their husbands sexual needs. Husbands are mandated by Scripture to meet their wives sexual needs. God didn’t want you to suffer through horniness your whole lives. Read 1st Corinthians chapter 7. It’s all right there.

Monogamous marriage: Security and “insurance.” (Supposed to be, anyway)

“Sexual freedom”: Partner could exit at any time. And then, if sexual desires are to be met, new partner must be established…partner that doesn’t have the same trust yet.

Now, I know that this isn’t how it actually is…but I want to point out how it’s supposed to be. Today, we are seeing a lot of divorces…covenants that SHOULD be secure and should protect that vulnerability, but don’t. We are also seeing a lot of non-married couples who, for all practical purposes, are married. They have kids and joint bank accounts and everything.

As a Bible-believing Christian, of course I believe that they should get married. However, as I understand the act of sex…for all practical purposes they are unified, so if I were in a conversation with these couples, then I would simply say…stay together. Commit. Stay.

See…my problem with people that advocate sexual freedom is this…when all is said and done, are you really more “free” than those married couples? And for those teenagers who said “don’t tell me what to do…I’ll do what I want!” When we look at those same teenagers ten years later, do they really look free?

I have nothing against single moms…I think that they are hardworking warrior-women who make huge sacrifices for their kids’ sake. However, some of them were “sexual freedom” advocates way back when…but don’t feel free anymore. And I don’t hear of that many single mom’s enjoying a vibrant, exciting sex life.

Freedom from being scared of “what would people think if I were pregnant?” Trying to get my wife pregnant was a lot of fun. A lot of fun.

It would seem to me that sexual freedom does not result in sexual freedom. It results in bondage. It often results in regret. And therefore, I believe what God teaches about sex. And I believe that what God teaches about sex is the easiest and most free way to handle this topic.

Freedom, the freedom to have sex whenever you want, the freedom to not have to go looking for a partner, the freedom to be part of a two-person-team in the difficult task of raising children (Sarah has offered to let me sleep in tomorrow when Abrielle wakes up if I will let her sleep in on Monday) and not a highly-taxed one-person team, is found in God’s plan for sex and marriage.

Freedom is found when we run in the exact opposite direction of freedom.

Next up: Financial freedom.

The Art of Apologetics: Does God Give Proof? (Part 4 – Is the Bible the Word of God?)

Last post, I explained my EXACT position on the Bible (I believe that the Bible was inspired and inerrant when it was written, and that the copyists have done an incredibly good job, although not inerrant). This view is often attacked in one of two ways…

  1.       Inaccuracy or change: “The Bible has changed over the years” or “the church leaders changed what it actually said and edited out what they didn’t like.” Et cetera, et cetera.
  2.       Non-supernatural: “Sure, Paul wrote a lot of the New Testament books, but how do we know that Paul didn’t just say whatever he wanted to say, and then just tell us that this was God’s word?”

My explanation of my exact position last post automatically would lead me to argue against the inaccuracy or change…so if you are interested in that, scroll down and click the last post arrow. Other than that, it’s time to move on to the next objection/question: Why do we believe that the Bible is supernatural? And does God give proof in that regard?

Not-so-convincing reasons

Here are some arguments that Christians make that I find totally insufficient.

  1.       “The Bible is the Word of God because the Bible SAYS that it’s the Word of God.” When it comes to apologetics, I have an important rule: I do not put forth any argument that I would not accept from the other side. The Quran says that it is divine revelation. So does the book of Mormon. I do not accept those arguments as convincing from them, so I do not put forth that argument myself. It’s not convincing.
  2.       “As you read it, you can tell that the words simply sound divine.” (Divine meaning “from God”) This is a matter of opinion of what “sounds divine” or not. Islam argues this for the Quran, which is an incredibly poetic book.

So what reasons do I call on to defend my point? Two things…true prophecies and apostolic authority, authority bestowed by Jesus himself. But let’s expand on those two, shall we?

Prophecies coming true:

As I mentioned in previous posts, God doesn’t ask us for blind faith…He asks us for faith, and He gives as much evidence as He chooses to give. So one of the ways that God proves that the Bible is His word is by showing it’s “supernatural-ness” by predicting the future.

Now, let me back up for a second and define “prophecy.” Prophecy by EXACT definition simply means a message from God…however, our culture’s usage of the word “prophecy” tends to mean “prediction of the future.” For this post, I am using the latter definition.

The Bible made predictions that came true. The Bible made these predictions BEFORE they came true. This is one of the reasons I believe the book to be supernatural.

OBJECTION: “Yeah, right. The Bible predicts future events because somebody added those parts AFTER they happened. I might as well write a letter that says ‘World War 2 will end in 1945’ and date the letter for 1910. Would you believe that as prophecy?”

REBUTTAL:

  1. Our presuppositions color our interpretations. A lot of people do believe that these were added later. But we must remember this rule, and this rule is found in everything. Our presuppositions color our interpretations. Liberal scholars (those who believe that the Bible is not supernatural) date certain books as written for AFTER certain dates based upon the belief that the supernatural doesn’t happen. Other than that…is there any other evidence that they base it on?

Here’s a simple example: Jewish exile to Babylon prophesied by different Old Testament prophets. Other Old Testament prophets predict that exile will only last 70 years.

Anti-supernaturalists: “This must have been written after 538 BC, because there is no way that they could’ve known the future.” (Do they have any reasons to date it for this time, other than that?)

Supernaturalists: “It must have been written before these events…because this was prophecy!” (Again, presupposing that the Bible is the Word of God colors the interpretation of the evidence.)

As you know, I do believe that the Bible is the Word of God. However, I have to watch myself, too. My interpretations are also colored by my presuppositions.

2.For the New Testament: Adding the prophecy afterwards would have taken too much work.

Remember that the letters were distributed rather quickly. In order to add words after certain things happened, somebody would’ve had to follow the copies of Scripture to 1000 different cities at once.

One of the New Testament prophecies that happened: Jesus predicted that Jerusalem would be destroyed. His hyperbole was that “not one stone would be left on top of another.” Sure enough, Titus Antioches sacked and destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70.

If Jesus didn’t really say this, then they would’ve had to change all the copies of Mark’s written gospel and added this portion after 70 AD. Mark’s gospel had already been copied and distributed to many cities. There would be no way to change all the copies. It was not available in Word format. It was not backed up on Google Drive. Sure enough…Jesus predicted it, and it happened. The idea that it was added after the fact is simply too hard to back up.

Modern example: The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Isaiah Scroll

Back in 1947, Bedouin goat-herders (Bedouin’s are like, nomadic, wandering dudes in the Middle East) found a cave somewhat close to Jerusalem. They found a bunch of scrolls in a cave. Then, they found more caves. Then they found more scrolls in those caves. So on and so forth. These scrolls came to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls was an entire, intact, complete scroll of Isaiah. It was dated to be from about 100 BC, whereas at the time the oldest copy of Isaiah that we had (the Codex Leningrad) was dated at 1000 AD.

So, the two were compared. In Isaiah 53, there were about 17 differences found. But these differences were simply letters being added or omitted. It would be the equivalent of saying “Our current copy says ‘isn’t,’ but this ancient text says ‘is not.’” The meaning did not change. Thus, we found further evidence from the Isaiah Scroll that the Codex Leningrad was accurate.

Why is this significant? Observe. Here is Isaiah 53 in its entirety:

 

Isaiah 53:1-12 (NIV)

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,and like a root out of dry ground.He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men,a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,yet we considered him stricken by God,smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,he was crushed for our iniquities;the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,each of us has turned to his own way;and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted,yet he did not open his mouth;he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.And who can speak of his descendants?For he was cut off from the land of the living;for the transgression of my people he was stricken.   9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,and with the rich in his death,though he had done no violence,nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,he will see his offspring and prolong his days,and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. 11 After the suffering of his soul,he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied;by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death,and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many,and made intercession for the transgressors.

It seems pretty blatantly obvious that this passage, this passage in which we have a copy that modern science dates at 100 BC, is talking about Jesus. It is talking about Jesus 130 years before this all even happened. It was written sometime around 700 BC.

God wanted evidence to be available, that we may know that the Bible is His Word, because the Bible is supernatural.

The second reason: Apostolic Authority

OBJECTION: “So people wrote the Bible after Jesus ascended, right? Who is to say that they didn’t just say whatever they wanted to say, and then simply claim it was the Word of God?”

REBUTTAL: Remember this tendency: When God puts something NEW in play, He tends to use miracles to back up His point.

Follow me through this line of thought for a moment.

  1. Jesus came with a message. To verify that this message actually was from God and that Jesus wasn’t insane, God used miracles to show His stamp of approval.
  2. Jesus gave His closest disciples authority (apostolic authority), saying that whatever they loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven, and that whatever they bound on earth would be bound in heaven. In other words, Jesus actually trusted them and basically said that He would back their decisions. They could make decisions for the future of the church. (If they would’ve said “circumcision is required!!!” then it would be required. But they didn’t, saying in Acts, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose no burden upon you other than this…keep away from sexual immorality, and don’t eat meat sacrificed to idols.”
  3. God did miracles through the Apostles, showing that they had God’s stamp of approval.
  4. Apostles (those with decision making authority) wrote the New Testament.

This is important because as we answer the question: “Is the Bible the Word of God?” Let me say it like this…God’s Spirit was in these people as they wrote it. However, they weren’t mindless robots as they wrote. The Spirit of God led their hearts a certain direction…however, they were allowed to make some decisions in what they required of the churches or what they didn’t require. And since Jesus said that whatever they bound/loosed on earth would be bound/loosed in heaven, then the words of Scripture stand backed by Jesus Christ, being “His” words while at the same time being “Paul’s/Peter’s/John’s” words, etc.

Scripture was not just made up by guys who were just “really convincing” and inspired a following. Scripture was written by people who, by the power of God, busted out some miracles. God didn’t just ask us to “guess.” God gave evidence.

So why do I have faith that the Bible is the Word of God? Because that faith is reasonable. Faith and reason have never been opposites.

Next time…the three questions that EVERY SINGLE WORLDVIEW tries to answer.