Formed by God

In their book, Whatever Happened to the Human Race, Francis Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop describe the horrors of Nazi Germany.

The first to be killed in Nazi Germany were the infirm, the senile, and the mentally retarded. Then came the aged and the “defective” children. Eventually, as World War II approached, the doomed undesirables included epileptics, children with badly modeled ears and even bed-wetters. The transportation of people to these killing centers was carried out by “The Charitable Transport Company for the Sick.” The plan then was to kill all Jews and Poles and to cut down the Russian population by 30,000,000.

We’re all struck by this great Holocaust and wonder how it ever could’ve happened. Leo Alexander, who served as a consultant to the Secretary of War in World War II and who was on duty with the office of Chief Counselor for the War Crimes tribunal in Nuremberg, says that what happened in Nazi Germany “all started with the acceptance of the attitude that there is such a thing as life not worthy to be lived.” In German, it was called lebensunwertes leben, which roughly translated means “life unworthy of being lived.”

An elderly German man who lived through the Holocaust tells the following story. These are his words.

I always considered myself a Christian. I attended a church since I was a small boy. We had heard the stories of what was happening to the Jews; but like most people in America today, we tried to distance ourselves from the reality of what was really taking place. What could anyone do to stop it?

A railroad track ran behind our small church, and each Sunday morning we would hear the whistle from a distance and then the clacking of the wheels moving over the track. We became disturbed when one Sunday we heard cries coming from the train as it passed by. We grimly realized that the train was carrying Jews.

Week after week that train whistle would blow. We would dread to hear the sound of those old wheels because we knew that the Jews would begin to cry out to us as they passed our church. It was so terribly disturbing!

We could do nothing to help these poor people, yet their screams tormented us. We knew exactly at what time that whistle would blow, and we decided the only way to keep from being so disturbed by the cries was to start singing our hymns. If some of the screams reached our ears, we’d just sing a little louder until we could hear them no more.

Years have passed, and no one talks about it much anymore, but I still hear that train whistle in my sleep. I can still hear them crying out for help. God forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians, yet did nothing to intervene.

Does this sound anything like the United States in 2018? Are we tempted to cover our ears and just “sing a little louder”? As we face a virtual holocaust on the dignity and sanctity of life, are we tempted to cover our ears and just sing a little louder?

It all began with “the attitude that there is such a thing as a life not worthy to be lived”—lebensunwertes leben. We may think we’re beyond that. We may think that only oppressive Nazi regimes would pursue this. Surely, modern people wouldn’t think that there’s such a thing as a life not worthy to be lived.

But listen to this. Many people in the European country of Iceland have recently been bragging that they’ve virtually eliminated Down Syndrome from their country.

We may think this is good news. Have they found a cure for Down Syndrome? Wouldn’t that be fantastic! They could share it with the rest of the world!

But, no, they haven’t found a cure for Down Syndrome. They’ve just reached the point where virtually 100% of the babies who are diagnosed with Down Syndrome are killed in their mothers’ wombs. So, they’re bragging that they’ve virtually eliminated Down Syndrome from their country.

But Iceland isn’t alone. In Denmark, 98% of babies who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome will be aborted. In the UK, the number is 90%. In France, it’s 77%. In the USA, it’s 67%. That’s 2 out of every 3 babies who are diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted. Do these babies represent lives not worthy to be lived? Are their lives lebensunwertes leben? Are we any different than the Nazis?

Have you ever thought, “If that person really knew me, he/she wouldn’t love me”? Many of us have deep, dark secrets in our lives that we don’t share with anyone for fear that people won’t love us if they know who we really are.

We may fear that we’ve done something in the past or that we’ve had something done to us in the past that makes us unlovable. In Psalm 139, David writes,

Psalm 139:1
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!

These two verbs “search” and “know” are going to form “book ends” on this psalm. They appear here in the opening verse, and the same two verbs appear again in the same order in the second to last verse of the psalm.

The verb “search”—in the original language—means to consider something in detail, to analyze something so that you can discover its essential features. The verb “know” is used multiple times throughout this psalm [verses 1, 2, 4, and 23 (x2)]. In the original language, it means to become familiar with something through experience.

David’s point in using these two verbs in the opening phrase of this psalm is to let the reader know that God’s knowledge of us is both complete and intimate. There’s nothing that God doesn’t know about us. We may keep secrets from our parents. We may keep secrets from our siblings. We may keep secrets from our spouses. But we keep no secrets from God (cf. 139:2–6).

David declares in verse 7,

Psalm 139:7
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?

This are rhetorical questions. They’re questions with an obvious correct answer. They’re questions designed to get us thinking. Where can we go from God’s Spirit? No where! Where can we flee from his presence? No where!

God is with us and he loves us. There are no invisible people in God’s eyes. We may make people invisible in our eyes, but there aren’t any invisible people in God’s eyes.

We make people invisible by refusing to think about them, by refusing to have open, honest conversations about them.

We take a young woman who’s a part of the sex industry, and pornography turns her into an object of lust. In our mind’s eye, she’s no longer someone created in the image of God. She’s become invisible.

We take the refugee who is fleeing persecution, and we complain that his presence here makes us feel uncomfortable. In our mind’s eye, he’s no longer someone created in the image of God. He’s become invisible.

We take the baby in the womb and we declare that what the mother does with what’s in her body is her choice. In our mind’s eye, both the mother and the baby are no longer people created in the image of God. They’ve both become invisible.

We take the elderly and the infirm and we warehouse them away and encourage them to choose death with dignity. In our mind’s eye, that old woman’s no longer someone created in the image of God. She’s become invisible.

God is the master craftsman (cf. 139:13–16). He forms us while we’re in our mother’s womb. God creates and gives life and God values human life—all human life.

God values the life of the women who is being sex trafficked.

He values the life of the refugee who’s fleeing persecution.

He values the life of the mother and of the baby in her womb.

And he values the life of elderly and infirm.

God values all human life because unlike any other part of creation, human life is created in the image of God.

Genesis 1:26–27
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image after our likeness. . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

He formed us. He knitted us together. We were intricately woven together.This is poetic language, but it’s language that speaks of being carefully and thoughtfully put together. We are fearfully and wonderfully made (139:14).

But when it comes to the topic of abortion, we’ve taken this beautifully poetic language and we’ve exchanged it with cold, sterile, and sanitary terms like “pulling the plug” or “making a choice” or “fetal tissue.” And in so doing, we’ve removed ourselves from what’s really happening—the taking a human life.

There are only 7 countries in the world that allow an elective abortion after 24-weeks. And of those seven countries, only four countries allow for elective abortion at any point in the pregnancy—right up to the point of delivery:

  • The United States of America,
  • Vietnam,
  • China, and
  • North Korea.

How’s that for company to keep? Vietnam, China, and North Korea. All three of those countries are among the top of the list of countries where human rights are regularly violated. And that’s the company we keep in allowing abortion for any reason at any time during a pregnancy.

Statistics tells us that 3 in 10 women in the local church have had at least one abortion. But abortion isn’t just a women’s issue. Women don’t get pregnant without the help of a man. In many cases—not all, but in many cases—women choose abortion because the man leaves her with little choice.

Now, to be clear, having an abortion or coercing your girlfriend or wife to have an abortion isn’t an unforgiveable sin. It’s not. It is a sin. But there is forgiveness and grace to be found at the cross. God’s grace can cover all of our sins.

But we have a crisis on our hands. There have been over 60 million abortions in the USA since 1973. These are human beings. These are human lives.

But there’s also some good news here as well. There’s been a steady decline in the number of abortions since 1990. In 1990, there were 1.6 million abortions. That was the high-water mark of abortions in the USA.

In 2017, there were an estimated 900,000 abortions. That’s still a lot. That’s one abortion every 8 seconds. But that’s over a 40% decrease since 1990, and that’s good news.

Statistics tell us that the younger people are, the more opposed they are to abortion. And I think I know why. I think it’s the sonogram or ultrasound machine. We have a generation of adults now who grew up with a sonogram picture of their brother or sister taped to the fridge. When you use a sonogram machine to look at what’s happening in a mother’s womb, there’s only one conclusion you can come to: LIFE! What’s in mommy’s belly is LIFE!

And now we have generations of young people who have grown up seeing these pictures of their brothers and sisters in mommy’s belly. Some have even gone with mommy to the doctor’s office to see the baby in the womb. There’s no other way to say it. That’s a human baby in her belly.

We need to celebrate the sanctity of life. We need to celebrate the sanctity of life from conception until natural death.

So, you may be wondering what you can do. There are any number of things you can do. Here are seven things you might consider.

  • First, if you’re a parent, start by educating your own children on these issues. Show them what the Bible has to say about this.
  • Second, volunteer at your local crisis pregnancy center. They’d love to hear from you.
  • Third, volunteer at a homeless shelter. When we talk about the sanctity of life, we’re not only talking about babies in the womb. Every human being on the planet is created in the image of God. All human life is precious.
  • Fifth, volunteer at an assisted-living facility. Some of the men and women who live in these facilities feel like they’ve been forgotten. They feel as if they’ve been warehoused in a facility and left there to die. Make it a part of your schedule to go and visit the residents of a local assisted-living facility.
  • Sixth, learn to teach English as a Second Language (ESL). There are refugees who have come to America because they’re fleeing persecution in their home countries. And they live here now. They want to speak better English. They just need someone to come alongside them and teach them.
  • Seventh, volunteer at a battered women’s shelter. These shelters serve as a temporary place of residence for women who’ve been in relationships that have been marked by domestic violence.
  • Eighth, become a foster parent. There are children all over this country who need a safe place to live. Without the foster-care-system, many of these children would be homeless. Show these children the love of Christ by bringing them into your homes.

Now, we can’t do all of these things, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do something. These are just a few of the things you can do. You can do many of these things either individually or as a family.

The point here is simple. There are men and women, boys and girls, all around us, all of whom are created in the image of God, many of whom are hurting, many of whom need to experience the love of God.

What can we do to show them the love of God?

What Are We to Make of President Trump’s Transgender Ban for the Military

President Trump is no stranger to controversy. This was true long before he became our nation’s 45th president. And now, President Trump has once again stepped into the firestorm. In three successive tweets on July 26, POTUS wrote,

After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow . . . . . .

. . . . Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming . . . . .

victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you

The political and media firestorm that has erupted from these tweets was to be expected. While the firestorm on this issue has since died down, a church member asked me how Christians should think about transgender individuals in general and about the proposed transgender ban in the U.S. military in particular.

First, it may be helpful to clarify what is meant by transgender. Here is a commonly accepted definition. A transgender person is someone whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex. According to this system of thought, gender and birth sex are not the same. Indeed, according to this system of thought, gender is not even binary. Gender is fluid, and it exists along a continuum.

A related, and some say, synonymous concept is gender dysphoria. By definition, gender dysphoria is the condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be different than one’s biological sex. This dysphoria would manifest itself with an “intense desire” to have a physical body that corresponds to one’s perceived gender identity. According to medical experts, this dysphoria would also be accompanied by feelings of dissatisfaction, anxiety, and restlessness, so much so as to interfere with a person’s normal life.

As Christians, we should have compassion for those who struggle with gender dysphoria. We should acknowledge that these individuals did not choose this struggle for themselves. They are often deeply torn, and they are men and women created in the image of God. They deserve to be treated with love and compassion.

Furthermore, we acknowledge that mankind’s fall into sin has affected all of creation. This does not mean that every person struggles with gender dysphoria, but the fall has manifested itself in the lives of some people in this way. We may or may not struggle with gender dysphoria, but we have all been born into this world under the burden sin, and as Christians, we recognize that the gospel is the only answer for our sin (see Romans 6–8). So, we dare not cast stones, rather we show love and compassion and proclaim the gospel.

But also as Christians, we should not accept the current cultural thinking regarding gender identity. We recognize the inherent sinfulness in rejecting God’s good gift of gender and pursuing our own gender identity. We must not encourage people to be their “true selves.” We must acknowledge that God made us in the beginning male and female (Genesis 1:27). Gender was created by God, and God called his created order “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Now, what are we to make of the military ban? Let’s rehearse a bit of recent U.S. history.

The ban on transgender individuals openly serving in the U.S. military was lifted in the waning months of the previous administration’s term (specifically, June 20, 2016) so the practice of allowing transgender individuals to openly serve in the U.S. military has not been in place for a long time. This fact, in and of itself, does not argue for the “rightness” or “wrongness” of any policy decisions. This is mentioned only because some on the “progressive left” portray those on the “conservative right” as intellectual Neanderthals for disagreeing with the “new sexual norm,” when, in reality, this “new sexual norm” is a brand new development and even most of those who identity with the progressive left did not believe the things they are now saying just a matter of months ago.

As for a Christian response to transgender individuals openly serving in the U.S. military, arguments can be made on both sides of the issue.

Perhaps the strongest argument to allow transgender individuals to serve is the anti-discrimination standard. Our country is not a theocracy. While Christians desire men and women to live holy lives that honor God, we recognize that the only way to make this happen is through gospel-transformation. We do not keep people from serving in our nation’s armed forces just because they are sinning. For example, while adultery is a sin, we do not forbid adulterers from serving in the U.S. military. Since this is obviously true, why should we ban transgendered individuals from serving their country in the military?

If, however, the “sin” keeps the individual from properly carrying out his duties, then individuals could be banned from service in the military. It could be argued that by the very definition of gender dysphoria that transgender individuals are not suited for service in the U.S. military. Would it be prudent, for example, to give weapons to individuals (who by current medical definition) have strong psychological desires that include anxiety and depression?

There is a second argument that is often put forward against transgender military service. This second argument is a fiscal argument. The medical treatment (e.g., hormonal treatment and gender-reassignment surgery) and psychological treatment (e.g., counseling) for transgender individuals is often extreme. Two questions arise as a result. First, is it right to spend an inordinate amount of our limited defense budget to care for such a small population of individuals? And second, is it right to use taxpayer funds to pay for things that many find morally questionable?

These are questions that must be carefully thought through before reaching to a conclusion. May Christians allow the gospel to shape our hearts and minds, and may we have the wisdom to navigate these questions with clarity and compassion.

 

*** Albert Mohler posted an audio podcast discussing the current administration’s military transgender policy on August 25. See here to listen.

Sarah, Here’s Your Letter to Sign Up for the Selective Service.

It’s a letter with which every 18-year-old young man is familiar. It’s almost like a right of passage. It comes as a measure of your age, not necessarily your maturity. Uncle Sam sends this letter to every young man reminding him of his responsibility to sign up for the selective service. While the United States hasn’t had a military draft since the early 1970s, the selective sewomen in combatrvice registration requirement allows the government to populate a list of eligible young men should a future military draft be necessary.

While there are individuals who are devout pacifists, the selective service requirement for young men is largely a non-issue in our culture. But now there is talk from top military leaders that young women ought to be required to sign up for selective service as well.

This is outrageous, but we didn’t get into this situation overnight.

Feminism has long championed the cause that a woman can do any job that a man can do. They’ve argued that there isn’t any difference between men and women. And this anti-biblical logic ultimately led to the announcement on December 3, 2015, by Defense Secretary Ash Carter that women are now eligible for all front line combat roles.

What kind of society sends their mothers and daughters to the front lines to fight their wars? A broken society!

Now, you might argue that these women are all volunteers and they’ve sought ought these front line roles. While this may be true for the time being, it doesn’t make it right. But what’s equally important is this. If women want full equality with respect to roles, then full equality is exactly what they’ll get. This is why top military leaders are talking about requiring women to sign up for selective service. And if there really isn’t a difference between men and women as the feminists insist, then women should be required to sign up for the selective service.

But, oh, by the way . . . if the draft is re-instituted and your daughter or your wife’s number is called, she won’t get her choice of “non-combative” assignments. She will be sent to the front lines along like the men. And why? Because we’ve denied the obvious differences in creation and claimed that there isn’t any difference between men and women.

Friends, this is ludicrous. Anybody with a simple basic anatomy knowledge knows that there are inherent differences between men and women. This isn’t to say that one gender is superior to the other gender. Neither gender is superior to the other. They simply are different.

In the Christian community this discussion centers around two poles, egalitarianism and complementarianism.

Egalitarians argue that men and women are equally created in the image of God. They argue that men and women have equal worth before God and before our fellow human beings. And they argue that it is inherently wrong to insist that men and women aren’t capable of fulfilling the same roles.

Complementarians also argue that men and women are equally created in the image of God. They also argue that men and women have equal worth before God and before our fellow human beings. But complementarians recognize that God has created men and women differently and with diversity, not because one is “better than” the other, but so that they can “complement” each other.

I, for one, don’t want to live in a society in which we send our mothers, sisters, and daughters to the front lines to kill or be killed. I would much prefer to live in a society in which the men cared for and protected women and treated them with gentleness and respect. Not because women aren’t “tough” or that they somehow can’t take care of themselves, but because a man’s God-given role is to provide safety and shelter.

I want to see men care for women and treat them with respect because I believe this honors God.

No, women aren’t yet required to sign up for the selective service, but if things keep going in the direction in which they’re heading, it won’t be long until you need to call your daughter and say, “Sarah, here’s your letter to sign up for the selective service.”

For His Glory,
Pastor Brian

What does Genesis 1 tell us about creation?

When we think about how the universe came into being, Francis Schaeffer, inGenesis 1 Genesis in Space and Time, argued that there are basically four options.

  1. Once there was absolutely nothing, and now there is something.
  2. Everything began with an impersonal something.
  3. Everything began with a personal something.
  4. There is and always has been something.

Genesis 1 gives us a great deal of information about creation. For the purposes of this post, we will define creation as follows. God created the entire universe out of nothing; it was originally very good; and he created it to glorify himself.

What is the relationship between Scripture and the findings of modern science?

Many people (both Christians and non-Christians) argue that modern science and Scripture cannot be reconciled with one another, but, as Schaeffer wrote, there is no final conflict between modern scientific findings and Scripture. All truth is ultimately God’s truth so when Scripture and science are properly understood, there will be no final conflict.

How might we reconcile the appearance of great age in the universe (i.e., billions of years) that modern science asserts with the relatively young age of the universe (i.e., thousands of years) that many Bible students believe? [NOTE: This is not to say that all Christians believe in a young earth.]

Many Christians disagree about the age of the earth, but in our disagreements, we must be careful not to adopt a theory of origin that would be incompatible with a high view of Scripture. For example, theories such as the “Big Bang,” Darwinian Evolution, and even Theistic Evolution must be rejected by those who hold a high view of Scripture.

So, what then are some theories of origin that still allow for a high view of Scripture?

“Old Earth” Theories of Creation

Here are two theories of origin that account for an “old earth.” The purpose of this blog is not to “expose” the strengths or weaknesses of any of these theories. There are other resources that do this quite well.

First, we have the “Gap” Theory. No, I’m not talking about the clothing store from the 1980s! In its most basic form, the gap theory suggests that there is lengthy (think billions of years) gap of time between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 (or between Genesis 1:2 and 1:3). This lengthy period of time would account for the ancient fossil record and the carbon-dating of the world.

According to this theory, this would also allow for the time when Satan and his angels rebelled against God and were cast out of heaven. During this “gap,” Satan and his angels rebelled against God and were cast out of heaven. During this period the earth underwent great cataclysm and was left “formless and void” (Genesis 1:2). God then re-created and reconstituted the earth in six literal days that are described in the rest of Genesis 1.

Second, there is the day-age theory. According the day-age theory, again in its most basic form, the “days” mentioned in Genesis 1 are not six 24-hour days but rather each of these “days” represent a lengthy period of time (think millions or billions of years). During each phase of creation God created what Genesis 1 said was being created on that day.

“Young Earth” Theories of Creation

Here are two theories that account for a “young earth.” Again, the purpose here is not to highlight the strengths and weakness of each of these theories.

First, some people argue that God created everything with with the appearance of age. For example, God created Adam and Eve as fully grown adults. This theory is sometimes called Mature Creationism. So, according the this theory, the apparent age of the earth is just that — it’s only an “appearance.” Those holding this theory would say that God created the fossils as fossils to give the appearance of age.

Second, there is the Flood Geology Theory. This theory would argue that the flood described in Genesis 6-8 would have been so cataclysmic that it would be impossible to use many of our modern dating processes to get an accurate picture of how old the earth is. For example, the age of some fossils is determined by the layer of rock in which they are found. Flood Geology Theory would say that the various layers of rock are unreliable because the flood would have disrupted the various layers.

Either “Old Earth” or “Young Earth” Theories

Finally, there are two theories that can be used to argue for either an “old earth” or a “young earth.”

First, there is the Literary Framework Theory. This theory would argue that the purpose of Genesis 1 was not to describe God’s process of creation, but rather, Genesis 1 actually has a literary framework. Days 1, 2, and 3 are the “form” of creation, and days 4, 5, and 6 are the “filling” of creation. For example, day one of creation corresponds to day four of creation since day one separates the day and night and on day four the sun and moon are set to govern the day and night. Day two corresponds to day five. On day two God separates the sky and the sea and on day five God creates sky animals and sea animals. And day three and day six correspond to one another. On day three God separates the land and sea, and on day six God creates the land animals and human beings.

Second, there is the  Historic Creationism (Preformative) Theory. According to this theory, Genesis 1:1-2 is about God creating the entire universe, and then Genesis 1:3-2:4 is about God preparing the “land” for human habitation and flourishing. This view is propounded by John Sailhamer in his book, Genesis Unbound.

These are a few of the various viewpoints about the creation of the universe. I hope this brief overview has been helpful.

For His Glory,

Pastor Brian