Friday, November 30, 2007

Oral Sex and Backrubs

Its Friday, so time for something different. I've been debating Driscoll's preach on the Songs of Songs in this post over at Dave Warnock's blog. Apparently a preacher talking about oral sex is still controversial these days. What does the bible say about all this, you ask?

  • each man should have [sexual] relations with his own wife and each woman with her own husband.
  • A husband should give to his wife her sexual rights, and likewise a wife to her husband.
  • It is not the wife who has the rights to her own body, but the husband. In the same way, it is not the husband who has the rights to his own body, but the wife.

-- 1 Corinthians 7:2-4 NET

Read this slowly, and then read it again. This is mind-blowing. Apparently a wife has a sexual right to be pleasured by her husband. Guys, if you are married and your wife is not sexually satisfied, you may be in sin! Likewise, girls, if you are married and not sexually satisfying your hubbies, you too may well be in sin. And finally, if you are not married and are sexually satisfying your partner, you are definitely in sin! Can't win, eh?

Paul and Lori describe this principle as sexual stewardship:

It's interesting that there's a symmetry here; she owes him the same thing he owes her. This symmetry isn't found in other areas of the marriage, so God obviously felt it important to tell men they owed their wives sex. This is where we see the idea of stewardship. A steward is put in charge of something which does not belong to him. The steward is given both authority and responsibility for the thing (or person) he's made a steward of, and he's accountable to the one who made him steward. In the case of sex, God has given the husband stewardship of the wife's sexuality, and the wife stewardship of the husband's sexuality. A steward never puts his own desires above the care of what has been entrusted to him, and we must do the same with sex, putting the good of our spouse above our own sexual desires.
-- From The Marriage Bed: Sexual Stewardship.

Now the actual point of debate is whether Driscoll encouraged oral sex as a holy activity within marriage, or whether (in general or in one particular instance) he commanded it. Dave Warnock feels that he had commanded it (based on Song of Songs affirming it), and therefore that command itself would be wrong. I would agree in principle, if Driscoll indeed commanded said activity. But I never got that impression. Scripture does say something like "whatever does not proceed from faith is sin", so I think we can all agree that even if the bible affirms something, if our conscience troubles us, we are to abstain until we can resolve the issue.

Those of you who are single may be wondering why I am telling you all this. I wonder myself...but at the end of the day, biblical sexuality is the same as everything else for us Christians: our life is one of service, of sacrifice, and of great joy. Too often our sex lives are ignored by churches and pulpits. I thank God for those who are willing to speak out on this issue.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Does Mark Driscoll believe in a God of Love or Hate?

Mark and I

Folks have been debating for about a week now on the whole issue of the wrath of God and how this co-exists with the love of God. Mark Driscoll's preach in Edinburgh on Friday touched upon this theme as a small part of a larger sermon on the atonement of Jesus. Many who were not present but read Adrian's synopsis have attempted to understand what Mark was actually saying. I have perhaps confused matters by putting in my thoughts, as I was also present at this meeting.

But rather than throw around opinion, what I offer now to help steer the debate is an almost word-for-word transcript of the controversial section of Mark's preach. I've cut out a few jokes and verbal slip-ups, but apart from that this is what Mark said. Please note that much of this was said with humour, which does change the way some of it is interpreted.

Jesus is our Propitiation

This word appears four times in the Greek New Testament. Most translations don’t include it, they say “people don’t know what the word propitiation means”, so they put in other words like “sacrifice of atonement.” People don’t know what that word means either! So I don’t think it helps. Use the word, it’s a good word.

1 John 4:10 is one example

“This is love, not that we have loved God”

- see that’s why I hate freakin’ religion – religion tells people, if you are a good person then God will love you. The gospel says, God has loved you, look at the cross, now you can live a new life. You don’t obey so that God will love you, you obey because God already does!

The gospel is so much better than religion. “This is love, not that we have loved God” – not that we went first, not that we initiated, but that God has loved us and sent his son to be a propitiation for our sins.

Stupid people – stupid theologians – but they say things like

“I don’t believe in propitiation because how can a loving God…”

Propitiation is how God demonstrates his love. Come on! We know God loves us because he propitiated our sin!

Here is what propitiation is: GOD HATES SINNERS. You’ve been told that God loves the sinner but hates the sin. No he doesn’t: Ghandi says that, just so you know, he’s on a totally different team than us.

14 times in the first 50 Psalms God says he hates somebody. Says he hates group like the Nicolations. Hates dudes like Esau. Hates those in Proverbs with haughty eyes. He hates all kind of people! When someone says “I hate the sin but love the sinner” that’s dumb because we are sinners. I hate the essence sum total of what you are, but I really like you!” What the! We do what we are: we have an old nature and we commit old acts of sin.

It says it in Psalm 5:5 “I hate -- or it says, You hate all who do evil”. Now let this settle. People say things like “God doesn’t hate anybody!” Yes he does! He hates tonnes of people! He does. Some people say “that’s not fair”. Course its fair! You hate people! And God’s far better than you and he knows a lot more people!

God hates sinners and he hates their sin. I preached this doctrine of propitiation. The third time I preached this … a guy pulled a knife and tried to get up on the stage to kill me. So people will respond to this doctrine … we grew the next week by 800 people [after preaching this doctrine…]

GOD HATES SINNERS. He works it out through his wrath. God wrath is mentioned more than 600 times in the bible. If you have a bucket of verses that say love, and a bucket of verses that say wrath, wrath is a bigger bucket.

The whole “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” -- that’s the wrong place to start. “God hates you and its going to go really really bad forever!” – hey now that is true…

What happens with propitiation is that Jesus stands in our place and the wrath of the Father is poured out on the Son. I want you to see the masculine suffering of Jesus. He is dying by suffering the wrath of God. And the wrath of God is poured out on Jesus and is thereby propitiated, diverted, taken away, from sinners who are in Jesus Christ.

I love this! People come up to me and say “How can a loving God send anyone to hell?” My question is, “How can a holy God take anyone to heaven?”…

People need to know how good God is, how angry God is, so that they understand how significant Jesus is. “I’m under the wrath of God? I need to go to Jesus and I need to be propitiated.”

This is shown in the Passover, when literally the wrath of God was going to visit every home except those who were covered literally by blood – substitution. And as they were covered by blood, so the wrath of God passed over them. Just as we are covered by the blood of Jesus. 1 Cor 5:7 “Jesus Christ the Passover lamb has been slain.” He is the blood that covers us, so that the propitiating work of God is accomplished, so that the wrath of God passes over.

If I may add a brief observation of my own, its clear that Mark is espousing a particular model of penal substitutionary atonement (PSA), a model which I have described in the past as "hard" penal substitution. I don't think I can fully agree with this, as it goes beyond what scripture actually says. I'm more comfortable with soft PSA, a somewhat more subtle model that theologians across the board can agree with, including Wright and possibly even Steve Chalk, although no-one really understands what he believes about substitutionary atonement these days!

UPDATE: Peter Kirk offers his revised response to this message, given the accurate transcript above.

UPDATE AGAIN: If you want to hear Mark's Friday and Sunday night preaches, you can can get them courtesy of Destiny Church Edinburgh: [ Sunday 10am | Sunday 12noon | Friday - leaders meeting]

Monday, November 19, 2007

Does God Love or Hate You?

There is a little controversy brewing at the moment, believe it or not, on the topic of whether God loves or hates us. To be honest I do think the church and general public is in a muddle right now over this issue. Let me walk you though the different points of view, and lets see if we can get to the heart of this debate.

On one side, we are told that "The Father loves you", and that in scripture we can see a love letter from Father God to each and every one of us.

Well, that settles it, doesn't it? Not so fast. Because apparently the same scriptures also teach us that God hates us !? Mark Driscoll explains it best:

To be honest even I am a little confused. And I know for a fact that there are many here in Edinburgh who are a little mixed up about whether God loves or hates people right now, following Driscoll's visit this weekend, where he spoke on this issue at a leaders meeting.

Let's see if our old friend Tom Wright can't shed some light on the issue. Wright recently wrote:

The biblical doctrine of God's wrath is rooted in the doctrine of God as the good, wise and loving creator, who hates - yes, hates, and hates implacably - anything that spoils, defaces, distorts or damages his beautiful creation, and in particular anything that does that to his image-bearing creatures. If God does not hate racial prejudice, he is neither good nor loving. If God is not wrathful at child abuse, he is neither good nor loving. If God is not utterly determined to root out from his creation, in an act of proper wrath and judgment, the arrogance that allows people to exploit, bomb, bully and enslave one another, he is neither loving, nor good, nor wise.
-- The Cross and the Caricatures, N T Wright.

Well, that helps a little bit. Let's see where we are just now:

  • God (not just the Father, but the entire trinity) is a loving, wise and good creator. God is indeed love.

  • Because God is love, he must relentlessly, absolutely, completely, and totally hate sin.

So far so good. Now here comes the catch. According to Driscoll, we can't separate the sin from the sinner. He mocks the idea that God can love the sinner, but hate the sin, as surely a person acts out of who she is. (He also correctly notes that "hate the sin, love the sinner" is one of Ghandi's teachings.)

This is where it gets tricky, and this is where I want my readers to chip in. To start the ball rolling I'll do my best to attempt to reconcile all of the above and come to some sort of conclusion.

I believe Driscoll is right in saying that because God hates our sin, he is angry at us. I prefer to put it like this: God hates that our sinful, corrupt, fallen, Adamic nature is the essense of what we have become. Therefore, without the mercy of Jesus we stand before God utterly incapable of escaping who we have become, and utterly incapable of avoiding the wrath and anger of God. Now I say "become", and not "are", because I believe also that God has created all of us in his image, and that we are all image bearers of God, whether you are a Christian or not, and whether you believe it or not. Thus far, this should not be controversial to anyone. Additionally however, I believe scripture informs us that the "Adamic" nature trumps our image-bearing nature, and therefore in some sense and in some way, we find ourselves as enemies of God, not because God for some particular reason hates us personally, but because as Wright reminds us, God hates all that is evil and wicked and wrong and perverse, and there is something of that nature in everyone.

So God loves humanity, not just a little bit, but without measure or bound. At the same time, he also hates everything evil that we do, and even more than that, he hates what we (without the grace of God) have become. Fortunately for us, he loves us even as we sin and even as we are his enemy. In other words, in the love/hate equation inside the Trinity, it is love that triumphs!. That love compelled the Triune God to send himself, the Son, in order to live, die, resurrect and ascend to Glory to sit down on the very throne of heaven itself, in order to rescue us from what we have become, and to restore us to a Glory even greater than that which we were meant to have, right back in the beginning of Genesis.

Why do I believe this? I think ultimately because of the biblical truth that on the cross, those that believe in Jesus also died with him. Although Jesus died for us, the mystery of the atonement runs much deeper. Scripture is absolutely clear about this:

2 Cor 5:17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away – look, what is new has come!

Rom 6:3 Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Rom 6:6 We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 6:7 (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.)

What I read from the above is this: there was something so wicked, so evil, so corrupt, in each one of us, that God has to destroy and kill this in order to give us life. Jesus is not only our substitute, our sacrifice, and our representative. Metaphysically, or spiritually, those of us that trust in Jesus have been crucified on the cross with Jesus!

I believe that this is why God "hates us" -- because of the "old man" and "body of sin" that cannot be separated from the "true you" apart from blood of Jesus. So perhaps I would summarise the whole issue like this:

  1. God, that is, the Father, the son -- Jesus, and the Spirit, is love.

  2. God loves each and every person on this planet.

  3. God created us all with dignity, value and worth. We are all image bearers of God made by the hands of God, whether Christians, Muslims, Hindus, or any other faith, including no faith at all.

  4. God, because he is love, absolutely hates sin and wickedness and perversion and evil.

  5. All humankind finds themselves alienated from God, and in a sense he is opposed to us, because we are not "good people doing bad things", but image-bearers who have been tainted with a terrible disease of sin from which we cannot escape.

  6. We are under and subject to the wrath of God, for he opposes what we do and what we have become.

  7. Yet, even as we rebel against him, God loves us and his love triumphs and wins through. His love and forgiveness is poured out at the Cross of Jesus. Jesus himself says "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do".

  8. And even though God loves us and forgives us, our "old man", our Adamic nature, is crucified and dies on the Cross of Calvary alongside Jesus.

  9. And finally, those that do not accept the reconciliation that God offers may ultimately face the prospect of existing for an eternity outside of God's love and outwidth his Kingdom; in other words they will be in hell. This is because although God loves all, he hates what we have become, and unless we turn back to him, we can never escape the corrupting influence of the body of sin.

Thanks for listening. Perhaps there are more concise or better ways of explaining this. What do my readers think?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Is Your Church Missional or Missing The Point?

I was just listening to talk by David Bisgrove, from Redeemer Presbyterian Church, and heard a great soundbite. In fact, I have stopped listening in order to write this. David was talking on the subject of sharing the good news of Jesus in a post-Christian culture. Let's cut to the chase:

Scripture tells us that ... non-believers are expected to be in our worship services ... [They should find our] worship challenging and comprehensible, NOT comfortable.

When you preach, or teach, preaching is done as if the whole community is listening...If you preach as if non-Christians from the community are there, even if there are not, it will not long be long before they are brought.

In most (even thriving) churches the whole service usually assumes
- a lot of biblical knowledge
- a we-them mentality
- a lot of evangelical terminology.

Most Christians, even if they are edified in the church, know intuitively that their non-Christians friends would not appreciate the service.

Sad but very true. For years now I have lamented the "Christendom" or "Holy Huddle" approach to meetings, where it is always assumed everyone is a Christian, an often a mature one at that. I always feel somewhat bad about this, because people often respond with "but the service blessed me", "I really found the Lord during worship", "the sermon was really interesting". I'm glad David Bisgrove has hit the hammer on the head of the nail with this one. Public Christian meetings should not be catering for obscure teaching, bless-me praise times, and lengthy in-house announcements which often bore the people the news relates to, let alone anyone else. I think many churches believe their public meetings are a cross between a social gathering and an annual general meeting. In other words, there is a preoccupation with internal, inward-looking, in-house matters, rather than the public proclamation of the gospel, a time of worship which both Christians and non-Christians can in some way enter into and appreciate, and a time of corporate prayer for the city and nation.

Now some people will say, "but Alastair, we want meat, not milk; we want depth, not shallowness; we want to glorify God, not be seeker friendly". I suppose the answer to that is two-fold: One, as David Bisgrove went on to say, should people really be seeking such things from a public worship/gathering ? He points out that Redeemer has other venues and times where education, training, counseling, etc. takes place. They don't jam it all into their Sunday meetings. In addition, I believe it is possible to hold a public Christian meeting in which God is given the glory, he is worshiped in Spirit and in Truth, and the gospel proclaimed, in such a way that both Christians and non-Christians can a) comprehend/appreciate and b) be challenged by and (c) be given space for appropriate ways to respond.

So what do you think?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mark Driscoll in Edinburgh This Weekend

When I first heard about this I was very skeptical that Mark would come along to Edinburgh, what with the huge number of speaking engagements he must be offered on a daily basis. So I am thrilled to announce that Mark will be in Edinburgh this weekend, and you will be able to catch him at a number of different venues.

  • Friday 16th 7pm Destiny Edinburgh Destiny Edinburgh is hosting a leaders meeting with Mark Driscoll. If you want to attend you'll need to email Destiny first - check the link above for more details.

  • Saturday 17th 9.30am Men Makers Mark Driscoll will be the keynote speaker at this annual conference. Its for men only (sorry girls), and I strongly encourage all Edinburgh men of faith to come along.

  • Sunday 18th 10am Destiny Edinburgh Mark with be preaching at Destiny Church Edinburgh.

  • Sunday 18th 12noon Destiny Edinburgh Mark will be preaching at the lunchtime service as well.

  • Sunday 18th 6pm - GLASGOW Mark's last public speaking engagement in Scotland will be with Destiny Church Glasgow, at 6pm.

UPDATE: Adrian (didn't realise he was around and didn't see him unfortunately!) has provided a detailed synopsis of both Mark's preach on Friday, Andrew Owen's preach on Saturday, and Mark's first preach on Saturday.

Monday, November 12, 2007

New Bibles

I'd like to draw attention to two new bibles out on the market.

The first is the NET Bible Compact Edition, which is essentially the NET bible text with abridged notes and some nice extras. Its great to see the NET bible slowly maturing into a premium product.

The second somewhat more news-worthy bible is the Gay And Lesbian Study Bible, translated and edited by Dr Ann Nyland, and based on her previously released Source translation. If you want to jump into a discussion on this bible, you'll find one over at Better Bibles.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

UK Abortion Debate

I'm not sure where to start, but I'd like to blog a little on the topic of Abortion. Forty years on from the introduction of the Abortion Act, abortion is as controversial as ever. According to the BBC, "terminations in Britain are running at 450 a day." Although this is an outrage for some groups, for others its not even enough.

I actually believe that there aren't enough abortions
-- John Parsons, a consultant gynaecologist

Recently the UK's House of Commons select committee on science and technology concluded (amongst other findings) that there is no reason to lower the current 24-week limit for abortions. Now it appears that this cross-party committee was relying on the findings of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), which has recently been accused of ignoring data supporting a lowering of the limit. So what evidence is this then? Apparently Professor Stuart Campbell and Dr KJ Anand have both been pioneering research into pre-natal life.

Campbell has produced new 4D imaging which "has produced vivid pictures of a 12 week-old foetus 'walking' in the womb." However it appears many Gynaecologists have dismissed these images, saying that although more detailed than what was available previously, they haven't brought anything new to the table. ("The RCN’s view is that 3D and 4D imaging only serves to reveal what is already known, but with greater clarity.")

Dr Anand, it appears, has established (through an as unyet unpublished paper?) that a foetus can experience physiological stress similar to and consistent with what we understand to be pain from around 20 weeks gestation.

My first comment on this complex issue is this: what is the big deal about feeling pain? If an regular adult was anesthetized so that she could not feel pain, would it be ethical to terminate them? As important as pain is, surely the debate needs to move beyond this to looking at defining sentience and human life.

BTW, for sources for unsubstantiated quotes, check out Ministry of Truth (*), which appears to be a pro-choice blog (can anyone correct me?). BTW for the avoidance of doubt, I cannot endorse the opinions and views presented on the Ministry of Truth blog.

Update: Ruth Gledhill (Times religion blogger) has a good summary on recent events concerning this.

Update 2: Channel 4 has covered this issue recently with their Dispatches programme.