The Cost of Having a Spine

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Peter Vlaming has paid the price for being a man of integrity and sense in America today.  The Virginia school teacher was fired because of his unwillingness to march in step with the mandates of the transgender movement.  He has committed the terrible offense of refusing to lie about a student’s identity, and therefore must be punished.  The revolution does not brook dissent.

From what the article says, it doesn’t seem Mr. Vlaming was even very confrontational about things.  He was perfectly willing to just refer to the student by name.  But, in a moment when a quick word was required, to try and prevent the student from coming to harm, he accidentally referred to her as she.  She has recently started identifying as he, so this was completely unacceptable and has led to Mr. Vlaming being disciplined because he will not recant.

The story is disturbing.  The school board’s decision was apparently unanimous, which tells us that the whole group has lost the use of their reason; not only are they fully on board with jettisoning science in favor of feelings, but they fully support trampling Mr. Vlaming’s freedom of conscience.  These are people tasked with overseeing the education of children–an education that ideally would include a modest grasp of biology and respect for other people’s conscience.

Here is the school’s Principal: “I can’t think of a worse way to treat a child than what was happening”.  Really?  You are a high school principal, and you can’t think of anything that would be more abusive to a student than a teacher lovingly refusing to lie to them about their gender?  And you are someone who should be entrusted to oversee education?

Here is the West Point Schools Superintendent: “That discrimination then leads to creating a hostile learning environment.  And the student had expressed that.  The parent had expressed that…They felt disrespected.”  So the feelings of the student and parent overturn reality?  Conscientiously refusing to lie is discrimination?  And your leadership as Superintendent is going to help the school train students in integrity and rational thought?

This is the consequence of the secularization of American education.  Having rejected the knowledge of God, they have lost the knowledge of mankind as well.  They purport to educate children, but they have educated themselves out of what even most children know–the difference between boys and girls.  The goal now is to miseducate children into sharing their ignorance of this basic facet of humanity.

It is, of course, a clash of fundamental worldviews.  Mr. Vlaming has the Christian worldview, wherein the world is intelligible and humanity is understandable, as creatures of a loving Creator; “in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27, NIV).  And the same God who told him what boys and girls are told him he must not lie about it.

The authorities in the West Point Schools have a secular worldview, wherein the world is unintelligible and the human being is in flux.  Girls may become boys, so ultimately there are no such things as girls and boys.  Educators should cooperate in the spiritual and psychological abuse of children by helping confuse them about their gender.  Truth and conscience are to be trampled upon in the rush to accommodate feelings.  Reason is out, but the argumentum ad baculum is very much in.

Now, which worldview would we rather see at work in our nation’s educators?  A difficult choice, to be sure.

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Believing God

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It takes courage and clarity of thought (not a lot of courage and clarity of thought, but a little) to engage in moral reasoning in public.  It’s easy for us to lose our nerve or suddenly become confused when put on the spot.  That’s why it’s so important for Christians to be deeply rooted in the Scriptures; we can stand on God’s truth, even when our wits desert us.

Singer Lauren Daigle has recently been caught up in a kerfluffle.  While open about her Christian identity, she has recently publicly stated that she can’t say whether or not homosexuality is a sin.  Why not?  As is usual in cases like these, the problem seems to be that she doesn’t have a good grasp on the authority of Scripture.

In the first place, relationships with homosexuals have confused her about whether it is right or wrong.  “I have too many people that I love and they are homosexuals,” Miss Daigle said.  This is standard fare, a basic strategy of the sexual revolution.  Normalization has done its work on her.  The logic is, once you get to know people who do x, and see that they are regular, kind, good people, you will come to realize that x isn’t sin.  But that does not follow.  Regular, kind, ‘good’ people do all kinds of sinful things.  Scripture tells us what is sinful, not social mores and the practices of people we love.

But that, again, is standard fare.  I found her other piece of reasoning more interesting.  Miss Daigle went on to say, “I can’t say one way or the other, I’m not God.”  This is not new either, but it is a rather extreme case.  She is saying, in effect, that only God can make a proper moral judgment on this issue.  It follows that, if you claim to have the answer about whether or not homosexuality is sin, you are putting yourself in the place of God.

I think that what is going on is that Miss Daigle has confused judging people with making moral judgments about issues.  This is a confusion encouraged by the left, who insist that making moral judgments about certain issues is condemning people, thus bigoted and hateful, etc.  Pope Francis is famous for falling into this trap, with his “Who am I to judge?” response on this very issue several years ago.

It must be observed that this only arises regarding certain issues.  Ask Pope Francis what he thinks about greed, and suddenly he will rediscover his ability and prerogative to make moral judgments–even to judge greedy people.  Ask Lauren Daigle what she thinks about racism, and I’m guessing she will have no problem making the correct moral judgment, even though she’s not God, and without any sense that one needs to be God in order to know the truth.

That tells us that the sudden inability to engage in moral reasoning, the sense that to do so would be putting oneself in the place of God, is a smokescreen.  I do not mean that Miss Daigle was lying.  Perhaps her nerve failed her, when put on the spot; but perhaps she is only confuses what is already confused to her.  There is a whole advocacy machine at work trying to change Christians’ minds about this issue.  The fog is thick in our culture.

What Christians must understand is that God’s Word is authoritative, and cuts through the fog with the mighty gale of the Spirit, the clarion call of truth, the light in our cultural darkness.  Miss Daigle was right in that God is the judge and His judgments are true.  But that would mean that making moral judgments is putting oneself in the place of God only if God had been silent.  If God has spoken, then it is good and proper obedience to cling to what God has said.  If God has spoken, then it is putting oneself in the place of God to deny the truth of what God has said.  If God has spoken, then we can know the truth.

If God has spoken and told us what is true, then we must have the clarity and courage to cling to God’s truth.

You don’t have to be God to know moral truth.  You just have to believe God.

Advent

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Advent is a season of joyful expectation, as we reflect on the coming of our Savior.  This world is full of darkness.  But into our dark world trumpets the proclamation of the prophet Isaiah:

The people walking in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of deep darkness

a light has dawned.

(Isa. 9:2, NIV)

            This is a message wonderful and strange.  What is the great light that brings hope in our darkness?  How has God reached down to us, and shown us the way home?

For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

(v.6)

The answer is even stranger.  The light in our darkness is a child, a son—the birth of one who would be great and rule over all.  This is the miracle of Christmas.  God sent His Son into our world, for our redemption.  God the Son came down and took on flesh.  He was born as a child, to bring light in our dark world and offer hope to you and me.

But what a child.  What a Savior!  The prophet gives Him these glorious titles, for the child born on that first Christmas is our Redeemer, Comforter, Guide, and God.  He is the great light, and all who receive Him will find the way home.

Star and Guide

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“O holy Spirit, Love of God, infuse Thy grace, and descend plentifully into my heart; enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling, and scatter there Thy cheerful beams; dwell in that soul that longs to be Thy temple; water that barren soil, over-run with weeds and briars, and lost for want of cultivating, and make it fruitful with Thy dew from heaven.  Oh come, Thou refreshment of them that languish and faint.  Come, Thou Star and Guide of them that sail in the tempestuous sea of the world; Thou only Haven of the tossed and shipwrecked.  Come, Thou Glory and Crown of the living, and only Safeguard of the dying.  Come, Holy Spirit, in much mercy, and make me fit to receive Thee–Amen.

-Augustine of Hippo, quoted in Great Souls at Prayer, 61

The Greatest

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Luke 9:46 is a good reminder of our human weakness, and how very vulnerable we are to pride.  Following the revelation of Christ’s glory in the transfiguration (Lk. 9:28-36), the demonstration of the disciples’ lack of faith that they could not drive out a demon (vv.37-43), and Jesus’ repeated prediction of His coming betrayal (vv.44-45), comes the remarkable statement that “An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest” (v.46).

That’s just like us, isn’t it?  We see Jesus’ glory, we see our weakness, and somehow we get the lesson that we’re pretty great.

Jesus has a different lesson for them, and for us.  “Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him.  Then he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.  For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest” (vv.47-48).

Christ has a lesson to teach, when He directs the disciples’ attention to a little child.  Greatness is not found in wealth, or education, or power, or celebrity status.  Greatness is found in simple and childlike faith.  Greatness is all about Christ: putting our focus off ourselves and onto Christ, and treating those the world sees as unimportant with Christlike love.  Christ is great; our concern should be advancing His greatness.

Not a Hard Question

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Following up on my last post, someone might ask, ‘but what are the dangers of having celebrity pastors?’

Well, here’s a ‘for-instance’: Harvest Bible Chapel Sues Former Members, Julie Roys for Defamation.

Should a megachurch and its celebrity pastor, James MacDonald, be suing a journalist and some other writers over criticism?  It’s not actually a hard question.

The answer is no.

What could possibly have inspired them to think this was a wise and righteous course of action?  1 Corinthians 6:1-11?…no, that wouldn’t do it…Luke 6:28?…no, that doesn’t help either.  One suspects the inspiration for this litigation comes from something besides the Scriptures.

This quote from MacDonald is, I think, telling:

“It isn’t that some of the criticism wasn’t fair. I believe in the marketplace of ideas and of regular, vibrant discussion inside a local church. It’s just that their words were often untrue, their information was incomplete, and over time their tone of reasonableness disintegrated, exposing their obvious goal of ending our ministry. Over a three–year period, their materially harmful untruths drove more than 2000 members out of our church — a church we founded with a handful of people more than 30 years ago and have given our lives to,” MacDonald explained in the statement in which he said he was “devastated.”

The church belongs to Christ.  It’s His church; we give Him our lives.  The bigger and more famous we get, the easier it is to forget.

 

Power and Purpose

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In Luke 9:42, Jesus frees a boy from demonic possession.  Once again His divine power is displayed, and people respond with awe: “And they were all amazed at the greatness of God” (v.43).

But it is interesting that this demonstration of the power of God is followed by a statement of the unexpected plan of God.  “While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, ‘Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men'” (vv.43-44).

How could that happen?  He’d just shown that He could send a demon packing!  Surely a human betrayal–and one that He saw coming–would be no threat.  But it was going to happen because it was the purpose of God, it was why Jesus came, that He should be condemned for us and bear the penalty of our sins.

The power and the plan of God go hand in hand.  We must respect not only His might, but also His wisdom.  It can be hard to suffer knowing that God could take your suffering away.  But He has a plan.  His purpose involved sending His own Son to die in your place.  His purpose involves Christ coming once again, and raising to life eternal all who are united with Him by faith.

And He has the power to do it.

White Robes

“To the angel of the church in Sardis write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.  I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up!  Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.  Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent.  But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes.  They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.  The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white.  I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.  Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 3:1-6, NIV).

            Recent times have seen a bit of a dust-up over the Trump administration’s attempt to root gender in biology.  Sensible and scientifically-valid though this is, it met with outrage from advocates for transgenderism.  Andrew Walker offered a sound response to the pro-transgender objections (see further here).  On the lighter side, the ever-incisive Babylon Bee has given a couple of good replies: “‘Anti-Science’ Trump Administration to Revert Definition of Gender to Objective, Scientific Standard,” “On Gender, Left Steps Up Effort Against Notorious Hate Group: Reality”.

            To these responses, I wish to add only a specifically theological observation.  Transgenderism represents a profound confusion about the nature of humanity.  It is the sort of confusion that is scientifically indefensible, but it is not surprising to find it in the world, which is lost in darkness and shuts out the light of truth.  What is worse is to see this sort of confusion about humanity among professed Christian teachers.  What are we to make of certain “transgender Christian leaders” expressing dismay about the idea that gender be defined in accordance with God’s design?

            Our response must be that loving your neighbor does not mean lying to them, and that sanctification is not an optional add-on to the Christian faith.  Christians are saints, those who have been sanctified by Christ, and are called to grow in sanctification.  There is such a thing as a Christian who struggles with gender dysphoria, but there is no such thing as a transgender Christian.  If cross-dressing is a sin (Deut. 22:5), it is most assuredly a sin for a man to claim to be a woman or to hormonally and surgically mutilate his body to appear female.  Our response to “transgender Christian leaders” is, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows” (Gal. 6:7).  The day of judgment is coming; repent and be saved.

            It has been the concerted and very effective strategy of the LGBTQ+ movement to hijack the civil rights movement, to portray perversities as oppressed minorities.  The rainbow revolution has only succeeded to the extent that it has deceptively seized moral high ground.  Once again, it must be stressed that this is expected of the world, which is in the grip of the evil one; but it should not be seen or tolerated in the church.  Any “Christian leader” who dons a rainbow stole must face the truth that believers are called to walk before God dressed in white.

            That comparison brings to mind a scene from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.  Gandalf has come to meet with his companion Saruman, unaware that Saruman has gone over to the enemy.  “I looked and saw that his robes, which had seemed white, were not so, but were woven of all colours, and if he moved they shimmered and changed hue so that the eye was bewildered.”  Purity no longer pleased him. 

This is a terrible thing to see infiltrating the church.  Christianity is not compatible with the LGBTQ+ revolution.  We must choose between rainbow garb and robes of white.