Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Last Twelve Verses of Mark

9 Now when he was risen early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 And they, when they heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, disbelieved. 12 And after these things he was manifested in another form unto two of them, as they walked, on their way into the country. 13 And they went away and told it unto the rest: neither believed they them.

14 And afterward he was manifested unto the eleven themselves as they sat at meat; and he upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them that had seen him after he was risen. 15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned. 17 And these signs shall accompany them that believe: in my name shall they cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall in no wise hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken unto them, was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed. Amen

Why are we to doubt this passage? Don't we know for a fact, from the testimony of scripture itself, that the apostolic generation did have these experiences? Don't we know they cast out demons over and over and over? That they spoke in tongues? That Paul picked up a poisonous viper and shook it off without harm? Don't we know they healed the sick miraculously over and over and over? Why is there any doubt about this passage? Why do the scholars choose to believe the corrupted texts preferred by Westcott and Hort? Answer: They are trusting in their fallible minds instead of in GOD.

Yes, I know the problem with this text comes in with applying it to the church after the apostolic age, but taking it just as written there is no need to insist on that application, since we know it is almost word for word prophetic of the ministry of the apostles. We know mostly of Paul plus some accounts of a few others, but from their experience we shouldn't have any trouble surmising that all the apostles experienced such miraculous powers. Some other time I might even be willing to argue that they are still available today under certain circumstances, but for now just on the face of it this much-disputed passage in Mark ought to be regarded as unimpeachably the word of the Lord.

And then if you read the evidence for its legitimate transmission in the following you should have no more doubts at all. This is a page about Mark 16 from Dr. Thomas Holland's Crowned With Glory which gives historical reasons to accept the passage and gets at the mutilating effects of the fleshly mind on God's word:

Most scholars believe the original ending to Mark's Gospel has been lost. [3] If this is true, the concept of preserving the words of Scripture is forever annihilated. The words cannot be preserved and lost at the same time. However, textual scholars usually call for its inclusion even if they question its originality. Dr. Bruce Metzger departs from the maxim of modern textual critics, Brevior lectio potior (the shorter reading is preferable), and supports the longer ending even though admittedly he does not regard the passage as genuine. He considers it to be a legitimate part of the New Testament because of its traditional significance to the body of Christendom. [4] The passage is not contained in the Alexandrian texts, minuscule 2386, the Syrian Sinaitic Version, and a few other translations.

However, it is in many of the Greek uncials (A, C, D, K, X, D, Q, and P) dating between the fifth and ninth centuries. It is also contained in later dated Greek minuscules (137, 138, 1110, 1210, 1215, 1216, 1217, 1221, and 1582). It is the reading found in the majority of Old Latin texts as well as the Coptic versions and other early translations. Finally, it is cited (at least in part) by many of the early church fathers such as Justin (165 AD), Tertullian (220 AD), Hippolytus (235 AD), Ambrose (397 AD) and Augustine (430 AD). [5]

In 177 AD Irenaeus wrote Against Heresies. In it he cites from Mark 16:19, establishing that the longer reading was in existence at this time and was considered canonical, at least by Irenaeus:

Also, towards the conclusion of his Gospel, Mark says: "So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God; " confirming what had been spoken by the prophet: "The LORD said to my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thy foes Thy footstool." Thus God and the Father are truly one and the same; He who was announced by the prophets, and handed down by the true Gospel; whom we Christians worship and love with the whole heart, as the Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things therein. (3:10:5).

The difference here is extremely important. If we conclude that this passage is not authentic, then we must question what happened to the original ending of Mark. It is not logical that the Gospel would end at this place so abruptly. Nor is it likely, as some scholars have suggested, that the Gospel was never finished, calling biblical inspiration into question. The conclusion held by most textual scholars, whether liberal or conservative, that the original ending has been lost over the passage of time certainly denies the doctrine of biblical preservation.

Seems to me the W&H defenders need to shake off their trust in the scholarly establishment, or more to the point shake off their fleshly intellect and open their spiritual eyes! If you exercise your fleshly mind on these things without immersing yourself in prayer in the fear of God and abiding in Him, you will end up discarding His very word and missing the spiritual riches He has given us.

Doubt about the passage is based completely on accepting Westcott and Hort's text and their despising of the Textus Receptus which was the traditional text on which the KJV was based. It also suggests the liberal prejudice against the supernatural we're so familiar with today. Both inclinations have brought about the mutilation of the Biblical text which had been passed down through the centuries, a mutilation apparently accepted today even by the most conservative scholars, even those who are usually alert to this kind of destruction. Following Westcott and Hort's mugging of the Bible, today conscientious studious pastors of even the most Bible-focused churches determine the canon of Holy Scripture by the flesh rather than the spirit. That is why they have either done away with Mark 16:9-20 or hold it in oh-so-fussy head-proud "doubt."

I know so many sincere Christians who will defend the Westcott and Hort profanation of God's word. Otherwise good preachers trust in their scholarly training and their carnal intellectual strengths for judging God' word. The church is so weak compared to what it seems to me the Bible shows us is possible and desired by the Lord. The flesh can preach the Bible, can even preach spiritual truth (and I am susceptible to the same mistake), but only what is preached in the spirit has value and has power to save.

Fargo Prays

SO glad to see this, the churches in Fargo, North Dakota, praying with such focus for their flood-threatened city, a number of churches meeting in one place, doing without the usual high-tech aids but meeting in the simplicity of the early church for the basics -- hymns, prayer, fellowship. The title is typically worldly of course, as if church were not the city's salvation but human exertion were:
Fargo divides day between church, city's salvation
Of course prayer is presented as a sort of afterthought by some -- we do our best and THEN it is in God's hands; we do our best and THEN ask God to help when we see it isn't going to be enough. That gets it all backwards unfortunately. Of course the media aren't going to get it right so who knows what the Christians of Fargo were actually doing all along, I just hope many of them were praying their hearts out and actively putting all their trust in God the whole time they were moving those sandbags.

The expected worst seems not to have happened. Thank You, Lord.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The World Trade Center is a continuing target for God's wrath

Now they're arguing about what they are going to call the building chosen to replace the World Trade Center. The name "Freedom Tower" has been the working name for the last few years, but now ownership of the construction project has changed and the new owner wants to revert to "One World Trade Center" and this has the advocates of "Freedom Tower" upset.

The original architect designed a twisting form he wanted to imitate the Statue of Liberty, with a spire that rose to the deliberate height of 1,776 feet to recognize the year of American independence. Politicians called the tower proof of the country's triumph over terrorism.

Former Gov. George Pataki said visitors to the iconic skyscraper "will know our determination to overcome evil" in a 2003 speech that first gave the Freedom Tower its name.
Human hubris, the whole thing, it seems to me.

"Proof of the country's triumph over terrorism"? Not if it was God's judgment and the "triumph" is really the usual fallen human defiance of God's will, which is going to invite more judgment. "Our determinaton to overcome evil"? Jesus says "Do not resist evil." Jesus has a way of giving us commands that go against our fallen human nature, that seem impossible and even wrong to our fleshly judgment. But the secret to spiritual power is in obeying them. If we want to save America we have to do HIS will, not our own. The weapons He gave us for overcoming evil are not resisting our enemies but loving them, repenting of sin, praying for the nation, not rebuilding what He knocked down.

So many Christians in the West these days are what are sometimes called "carnal Christians." We believe the basics so we're saved, but our daily lives are not ruled by the mind of Christ but by our carnal minds. We decide how to deal with something like the attack on the WTC not by spiritual standards but fleshly fallen standards. No wonder the church is weak and worldly and spiritually limping. No wonder we don't have revival.

A truly spiritual church leadership that is truly obedient to Christ would have the women in the churches cover their heads for one small instance, the way they have the men uncover theirs, but no, this is judged carnally the way the Corinthians were judging it, which is why Paul was writing to them. A spiritual judgment of divorce and remarriage would lead pastors to give the strict interpretation because that is where spiritual strength will be found, but instead they appeal to a worldly fleshly standard of human happiness, attributing it to the mercy of God, to allow all kinds of disobedience of Christ rather than inconvenience anyone. Good grief, you hear Christians justifying "nukin" our enemies. You hear them defending immersing oneself in Harry Potter or sports or television sitcoms or any other worldly or demonic activity as Christian Liberty! And if you suggest there might be a problem wih any of that you get called a legalist. I'm not even mentioning the poor deluded Christians who think God just wants to give us lots of money if we have enough faith for it, and you'll even get upbraided for gossiping or slandering the televangelists if you try to show how they are fleecing the flock while they preach that rot! WAKE UP CHURCH!!!

We shouldn't be rebuilding anything at all on that site. 9/11 was God's judgment on America, a very small judgment compared to what it could have been, and it's fair to think of it as the beginning of worse judgment yet to come, but judgment for our national sins in any case.

With very few exceptions Christian pastors did not preach it as judgment, and there was no call to repentance from the nation's leaders either. Instead, the nation's sins that deserve the judgment were compounded by a sentimental cry of "God bless America," and our President, who should have called for a period of repentance and prayer, as former Presidents have done in times of national woe, instead called together a motley crew of religious leaders to pray for the country, leaders of religions that are the enemies of God and His Christ. Such an act can only be invitation to worse judgment to come.

And what have we been seeing? Plenty of judgment since then. The economic crisis is judgment, Obama's getting the Presidency is judgment. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. It can only get worse because the only way to stop it is national repentance, or at least a strong movement of repentance in the churches on behalf of the nation. If it isn't too late, and it may be too late.

The nation was attacked on 9/11 in three major symbols of our national identity -- one is: money/trade/prosperity (and the world itself is judged as well in this symbol, not just the US, boding the worst for our economy plus the world's).

(If we have a "Freedom Tower" and the nation has not already gone under by then, it could be attacked too and would make a fine symbol of the loss of our freedoms as the nation goes more and more Marxist, and why not? We've been through a half century when our freedoms have come to mean freedom for sins of a sort never before officially sanctioned by any government I know of, so freedom itself is now corrupted, and the cry for freedom rings hollow until that is faced).

Second, the Pentagon, symbol of our military, was hit too, but just a nick compared to the symbol of trade and economy -- second on the judgment agenda perhaps. Well, we're certainly taking a battering from world opinion on our military work in Iraq. Yes, I know, our guys are good guys, we have probably the most humane army that was ever mobilized on earth, but if the nation has gone rotten our wars aren't going to be blessed by God any more. The leftist mindset wants to do away with the military altogether, which would be fine if we had a Christian mindset in which to do it, but we don't so it's just another form of God's judgment.

Third symbol the executive branch. Well, the White House didn't actually get hit, we only know it was a target and was spared. But Obama's being there now is certainly judgment on the nation, a judgment more destructive to the nation than demolishing the building would have been.*

(*not that McCain would have been much better, probably just a slower form of God's judgment. And while at first I was a strong fan of Sarah Palin I'm afraid the family's attitude about the daughter's pregnancy has lost me -- Christians must not rationalize or minimize sin as they have done. If you're going to represent the church in public office you need to do better than that. Bush was no Christian representative either. So of COURSE we've got an even worse President following on the officeholders and contenders we've had in recent years).

I'd say the symbolism of 9/11 has been playing out remarkably consistently. It's not yet a major enough crisis to bring the nation to abject misery, but what's to keep it from getting there?

So there shouldn't be ANYTHING constructed on that site. We've offended God enough without adding that offense.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

If men are to remove their hats in church, shouldn't women cover their heads?

Since someone who has a website about head covering (Lisa) recently came along and posted here I've been thinking I need to do more on that subject. In fact I may have to start a separate blog because the topic can get very involved, as you can see if you visit that link and start tracking down other links from that site.

My own focus is strictly Biblical, and I do believe the Bible requires us to cover our heads. It's interesting that more women seem to be discovering this in the last few years, to judge by the number of blogs on the subject that have appeared recently.

I think that the more women spend time praying about this the more we'll see a move in this direction, because the Holy Spirit will certainly bring about that conviction for any who wait on Him for guidance. He would also show the wrongness of the idea that Paul was saying that long hair is the covering, or that he could have had a mere cultural custom in mind that is now no longer in force. I have no doubt about this. The churches understood Paul to be requiring a head covering and enforced it for 1800 years, until feminism came along.

This question, like too many others, has been too often decided by intellectual investigation of the scripture with too little prayer behind it. I'm convinced that serious dedicated prayer and meditation on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 along with diligent research into the history of the question would show that we are required to cover our heads. Research should be based on intimations from the Holy Spirit, it shouldn't itself be the foundation for arriving at a conclusion.

As I read that passage I don't connect it as directly with the other Biblical writings on women's role as many do. Of course it's not unrelated, but just in itself it isn't calling women to submissiveness or to modesty or even particular roles as other passages are, it's making a completely objective statement about the meaning of the head and whether it is covered or uncovered.

Paul says quite a bit about the necessity of the man's head being uncovered as well as the woman's being covered, and the fact that Jewish men did and still do cover their heads for worship helps prove that Paul was giving a specifically Christian directive. Even Roman men covered their heads for worship of their pagan gods.

Paul uses hair as an example for BOTH men and women. He points to the natural state of men's usually having shorter hair, even less hair than women if you consider that baldness is natural to men, as well as the natural state of women's hair being longer. When you recognize that he is addressing both sexes it may be easier to see that his point is that the natural state is to be reflected in men's uncovering their heads in church as well as women's covering theirs. Women's naturally longer way of wearing their hair (universal in Paul's day and in fact throughout history with some striking but rare exceptions) is to be taken as a cue to cover their heads, just as men's shorter hair is a natural cue to uncover.

Therefore: if we ask men to uncover their heads when they enter church, we should also ask women to cover their heads.

But we do the former and don't do the latter.

You'll often find discussions that treat it as a matter of a woman's conscience and advocate leaving it up to her whether to cover or not. Well, as long as church leadership doesn't take a position on it I suppose there's no other choice, but in the spirit of the teaching it's not about individual conscience, it's something the church should simply require of its members. Instead, they obey part of Paul's teaching and ask men to take off their hats while leaving the women's heads to their own discretion. This all by itself ought to show that the teaching has become infected with feminist hypersensitivities and is far from reflecting God's will.

The more I think about this the more I think it's far from a minor little thing, and Paul didn't treat it as minor. He appealed to God's order at Creation, he appealed to nature, he appealed to the fact that angels watch. I'm convinced this is one of the things the church is doing that offends God and has weakened us spiritually and in fact is bringing judgment against the church.

This topic is usually discussed in the blogs in tandem with modest feminine dress, and while I don't think it's specifically related in Paul's thinking in the passage about the head covering, both are certainly Paul's concern and I think there's a lot to be said about how women are pushing the envelope about dressing modestly, even in the conservative churches. I think this is apparent to anyone who gives it any serious thought. I'll take that up soon, or maybe I'll move all this to another blog.

Later: Here's my new blog Hidden Glory.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland

Just happened to read a novelized story of Patrick's life over the last week -- just picked it up and started reading, not really thinking about the fact that Patrick's Day was coming up. Pure serendipity, pure Providence. Finished it yesterday. This was Let Me Die in Ireland by David Bercot, available at Scroll Publishing. When I ordered the book I didn't realize it was fictional or I probably wouldn't have bought it, but it was well enough done so that I feel I got a pretty good sense of the man, although I'd probably have appreciated a straightforward historical biography more.

I'd become aware some time ago that there was a lot more to Patrick than the familiar myths, and thought I'd like to know him better. This book shows him to be a dedicated evangelist who had nothing whatever to do with the Roman Church that has since taken possession of his image. He was a Briton who lived in the 5th century, some four or more centuries before Beowulf, which makes one wonder what sort of "English" he spoke. He was kidnapped as a teenager by some pretty wild and rough Irishmen who had a habit of kidnapping English/Britons and enslaving them.

As a slave in Ireland he served as a shepherd for six years. He hadn't been much of a Christian back in England although he was a member of the English church of the time, a Celtic church independent of Rome, before Rome had grown into the behemoth it later became. But in Ireland, probably under the influence of some other English slaves, he became a Christian and prayed up to a hundred times a day to be set free, for the whole six years he was there.

Finally God did give him freedom and a way back to England, only to call him through a dream to return to Ireland as a missionary. But it was another 25 years before he could go because the English church withheld its blessing from him.

He was almost fifty when he was able to return, but having obediently waited on God all those years, and now having a few equally dedicated companions along with him, he returned in great spiritual power and thousands of Irish were converted through this little band of Englishmen (Britons) under Patrick's inspiration. They lived a life of poverty, in crude huts, often sleeping outside on wet cold ground, a completely sacrificial life dedicated to God entirely and fueled by frequent long prayer and fastings. That is how power comes by the church, it doesn't come through soft self-indulgent worldly people but through those willing to die to themselves.

Patrick established in Ireland a powerful Irish church which in turn sent out its own missionaries, to Scotland and Europe, until it was finally captured by the Roman church at sword point.

Patrick was a truly great man of God, nothing like the silly myths about him, and not a Roman Catholic. He certainly never wore that ridiculous garb he's always depicted wearing, the fancy robes and the pointy bishop's hat. Besides the fact that his church was not Roman but Celtic, and the fact that even in the Roman church this sort of garb was not common in his day, I've already discussed it here as pagan in inspiration anyway. Nothing could be further from the spirit of Patrick than such a get-up, or from Christ Himself either of course.

He died on March 17th, 461.

I'm happy to celebrate his day.

P.S. Here's his own testimony, on which that book was based.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Inspiration from K P Yohannan

Just heard an inspiring talk by K P Yohannan, founder of Gospel for Asia.

Incidentally he reports that persecution of Christians in India is much higher recently than it was even a few years ago.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

How far from Jesus' teachings have we strayed?

Why aren't American Christians being persecuted? I remember pondering this years ago, soon after I became a believer. Doesn't scripture say

...all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution? (2 Timothy 3:12).

"All?" Does the fact that I'm unable to convince family and others of Christ count as persecution? Does the fact that they politely tell me to buzz off count? Does the fact that serious atheists get very rude about it in internet discussions count? Does the fact that I early on lost a lot of my pre-Christian friendships count? Is that persecution? Well, to an extent I suppose some of it is, though some would probably tell me it's just the expected result of my own faulty way of presenting the gospel, and they may be right. But of course even if it's persecution to some extent, it's far from the horrendous sufferings and martyrdoms of millions of true believers through the ages and across the world even now, and far from Paul's own experience in the verse just previous to the one quoted above:

...persecutions, sufferings. What things befell me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. (2 Timothy 3:11)

We in America thank God for our freedom to worship here, for the freedoms built into our Constitution that permit it. It just seems that we are living in a time and place where we are blessedly free of persecution. But scripture says we SHALL experience persecution IF we are living godly in Christ Jesus. This suggests there is more to it than the happenstance of living in a tolerant nation.

Some of us see a time coming soon when our freedoms are going to be more and more restricted. President Obama right now is discussing rescinding the previous administration's protection of the conscience of medical staff who object to abortion. He wants a law denying them that freedom of conscience. Will he get it? The signs are that he probably will, eventually at least. His views are very popular.

What will it mean if he does? Well, it OUGHT to mean, I think, that Christian doctors and nurses who oppose abortion will defy the law, refusing to participate in abortions as always, expecting to lose their jobs, or leave their profession altogether before that happens.

THEN some of us may begin to know what it means that those who would live godly SHALL be persecuted.

THAT's the radical Christian life as we should be living it. That's life in this world as the scriptures present it to us. That's the called-out life that brings persecution and if we aren't living it we aren't obedient to Christ, we're useless Christians, we're salt that has lost its savor. This is certainly not life as we've been living it in the West, but that's because we've been living it wrong. We've capitulated to the culture. We're supposed to be salt and light to the culture, but instead the culture has completely ensnared us.

So perhaps a law against freedom of conscience could be the beginning of the radicalization of the church that we've been needing. ANYTHING to force us to begin to live as true citizens of our Lord's Kingdom which is not of this world, and show ourselves distinct from the kingdoms of this world as we should -- and FINALLY, start getting persecuted for living as we should.

That would be a very good thing but the problem started way before we got to this point, though it's been rationalized away on the basis of our living in such a tolerant country. Under this rationalization the church has simply been conforming more and more to the culture and losing more and more of our savor as salt.

Really, it's probably the case that it wasn't ever just that we enjoy peace because we have freedom to worship in this country, we've simply been bamboozled by our belief that this is a Christian nation with our best interests at heart, or at least was at one time. That is probably one of the main reasons for our weak and backslidden condition. Whatever the reason, we don't live enough like the true Kingdom of God to BE the church that Jesus founded, so we don't push the culture, it pushes us.

If we DID live as He wants of us, we WOULD be persecuted.

To what extent have we in America been putting our trust in a WORLDLY INSTITUTION, the Constitution of the United States, RATHER THAN IN GOD?

Of course we ARE living in a blessedly free country (so far) so there's something to the reasoning that we are spared persecution for that reason, but still I often remember the scripture that says flatly that we WILL be persecuted if we are living right and puzzle over it.

Seems Christians make compromises with the world without acknowledging it as such, or they may rationalize it as a necessity of some sort. By that kind of reasoning just about nothing the Lord asks of us can be practiced because it's ALWAYS inconvenient. The Kingdom of God just IS at odds with the world. I've known Christians who gave in to a son's living with his girlfriend without marriage, even under the Christian's own roof, accepting them without objection just as they'd chosen to live. The reasoning usually goes that there's really nothing they could do about it, they're adults after all, and they wouldn't want to break up the family, and they WERE going to get married eventually -- such as when the girlfriend's divorce was final, which from my new perspective on remarriage makes that a double sin.

They'd have experienced some persecution if they'd refused to allow them to live together in their home. THEN they would experience what Jesus taught about His truth bringing a sword into families. When we capitulate to the culture we bring Jesus' warnings to naught, but they will judge us in the end.

So I had those questions in my mind at the beginning of my Christian life but although in the first flush of impassioned belief I did try to live up to what I understood to be Jesus' strict call, it was easy to let it go and become just like the rest of the church, easygoing, no different from the world around me.

We aren't going to be persecuted if we aren't being obedient to Christ. America may well be a wonderful nation that allows us many freedoms, and Christians do usually remember to thank God for this blessing, but perhaps this very blessing has worked to the detriment of Christian witness in this country. Prosperity is generally not a good thing for the Christian life.

That has often been the case through history. Radical obedient movements have sprung up over and over, ALWAYS courting persecution and often martyrdom, only to lose their cutting edge as they prosper and the next generation forgets what it cost the first to follow Christ. America's prosperity has been our undoing. And we tend to forget: America is not the Kingdom of God; America is a worldly kingdom no matter how tolerant of Christianity.

And it is tolerant only up to a point, and the tolerance has been decidedly shrinking over the last decades.

The Pax Romana (a long period of peace in the Roman Empire) was attributed by at least one early Christian writer to the church's praying for the empire; but we reverse this order and say our peace as Christians is to be attributed to the wisdom of the state we live in? Something doesn't compute here.

Whatever the causes, and they're probably many, at the very least we haven't been living obediently enough to push the envelope on how far America really would make room for the true Christian life. We've capitulated over and over in this country. It's frequently lamented by Christian observers how little the church differs from the culture, how our divorce rate is equal to and even higher than the culture at large for instance, but I don't think I've seen a radical enough critique of the situation from these commentators, something that really gets at the root of our problem.

How many even think about whether we've fallen and how far? Many churches are quite content and complacent in their lukewarm Christianity. The root of the problem is really the abandonment by the best most conservative churches of Biblical commands we hardly even think about any more. Some of them have been theologically rationalized away, some have merely fallen into neglect.

We've only started to object to the world's imposition of ungodly practices in abortion and homosexual rights over the last few years. But our sickness started way earlier than that and it's OUR sickness, not the culture's. Such things as abortion and gay rights wouldn't even come up if God weren't judging not just the nation but the churches in this nation.

What does God have against us? This is going to take much deeper soul searching than noting our divorce rate. That's just the tip of the iceberg. That's just a symptom. Our inability to have an impact on abortion laws is another symptom. Obama's being elected is another symptom.

It's also God's judgment, against the nation.

But primarily against the church.

It's time for the church to radically separate from the culture.

I think we should seriously set ourselves to let go of every worldly comfort we've permitted ourselves and cut ourselves down to the barest possible minimum. Four walls, the simplest bed to sleep in, the simplest food to eat, the simplest neat functional and modest clothing, the minimally necessary transportation. Away with everything unnecessary, everything of fashion and indulgence. Give away the TV and all the electronic paraphernalia that isn't absolutely necessary. Give away most of our money to the poor -- THAT's a Biblical guideline we push off on specific circumstances and don't apply to ourselves. Not just a little here and there, not just a tithe, but for those who have large incomes MOST of it has to go for alms, or for the Lord's causes as He directs. And those who are poor, those for instance who lose their jobs for standing up for Christ, should be willingly supported by the rest of the church (one of the early church fathers showed that they did this in their day. We have certainly fallen short of that standard in ours!).

But this is just to begin to begin to sketch in the picture I'm starting to have in mind and starting to try to live myself, slowly. I'll get to more of it as time goes on, Lord willing.

Justifying second marriages by spurious logic

Got to pondering the question of what God really requires concerning divorce and remarriage.

Jesus made a very clear statement prohibiting divorce, saying that unless it is on account of adultery it will lead to adultery, meaning of course that it would lead to remarriage. The statement is really pretty clear: remarriage after divorce IS adultery. Only the death of a spouse makes a second marriage permissible. (Divorce for the commission of adultery is often said to be permissible and remarriage afterward, but think about it, it's only "permissible" because adultery has already been committed; but remarriage will simply continue the adultery and for the innocent one of the divorced spouses it will actually cause adultery to be committed. How can that really be what Jesus had in mind?)

Heard a teaching recently that was pretty strict in an overall way about this prohibition, but did find some Biblical exceptions (or loopholes, depending on your point of view). The preacher is quite clear that remarriage IS adultery, as Jesus said, since marriage was ordained by God as the making of one flesh out of two at the very creation of humankind, but he believes there is scriptural support for second marriages after divorce that were already contracted before one or both of the spouses became Christian believers.

The basic idea is that becoming a Christian erases your past sins and clears the slate so to speak. Sometimes this argument focuses on baptism as the point of change, but this preacher argues simply that if you are a believer your past sins are forgiven and your guilt is gone. The idea is that when second marriages are already in existence at the point of coming to belief, when the people recognize the sin involved and confess and repent of it, the sin of divorce is forgiven and the sin of remarriage is forgiven, washed in the blood, wiped clean, and you start anew as a new creation with no guilt.

This makes logical sense up to a point, but as I kept pondering it the logic began to fall apart.

One thing that is questionable in this preaching is how you can "repent" of remarriage without actually leaving the marriage. Perhaps this preacher is accepting sorrow for the sin in this case as repentance. But this is just one aspect of the problem with this idea.

In a discussion at another message board, someone reported struggling with another argument, similar to this one: that baptism can wipe the slate clean and make a remarriage valid. He answered himself by pointing out that baptism doesn't break the previous marriage bond, the bond established by God and not merely by human law, and that if it did it would also break the bond of legitimately married couples who get baptised.

I have to add that neither does forgiveness of sins break the previous legitimate marriage bond, in reference to the argument I've been considering here. So the argument for the cleansing of baptism may really be the same as this pastor argues -- not that the bond is broken but that the sin of remarriage/adultery is forgiven through the blood of the Lamb. Your past sins are wiped clean, the sin of remarriage is wiped clean along with all the rest ...

...making it a valid marriage?

That's the logic, yes, that's the argument here.

This of course treats the sin as the one-time sin of the illegitimate marriage contract itself, rather than the ongoing sexual sin within the marriage, which you will find often debated when you follow this topic for a while.

I believe I've finally resolved this. I came to realize that this reasoning really does not hold up. There is no way to wipe out the ongoing sin of adultery in the remarriage by simply wiping out the PAST sins of the adultery. The sin isn't merely the marriage event, which by God's standards isn't even valid, it's the entire sexual relationship.

It has to be. Consider this: If a person committed fornication/adultery without marriage or remarriage, say a couple who were living together without marriage, we'd certainly expect THAT sin to stop cold upon belief, either by their getting married or splitting up. If either of them was previously married there's no way to justify a remarriage, however, based on the facts I've already given above, so splitting up would be the only possible option, simply ending the sin, a true repentance.

When we come to the Lord, we repent, that is, we STOP SINNING. Sometimes we even have to make restitution for our past sins, but at least we STOP sinning. Likewise, if later, at any point after we've become a Christian, we come to understand that something is sin although we were ignorant of this fact before, we also repent then.

The past sin is forgiven, yes, but if the adultery continues after the person becomes a Christian, or after the sin is recognized, this ongoing sin has to come under church discipline, and in the case of unmarried people there is no doubt in anyone's mind that their continuing in the sexual relationship is sin.

So why is the situation any different if the couple is in an illegitimate second marriage? If we compare such a remarriage with unmarried adultery, how can we think that a remarriage is NOT ongoing sin? Isn't it really the same thing?

What's the difference? Nothing!!! Only a man-made contract.

Again, the former adultery is forgiven, no problem, but the ongoing adultery HAS to stop, same as it would have to stop if the couple were not married. Again, we INSIST that it stop if the person is unmarried, but somehow we're confused into tolerating the case of the second marriage by the mere fact that there is a man-made contract involved. A man-made contract has no power over God's ordinance which made the original couples one flesh -- in fact the ordinance makes the man-made contract itself sin.

Later: I just thought of another way this argument doesn't hold water. Consider a couple, either one or both of whom was previously divorced, now in a relationship and planning to get married. But before the marriage occurs, one or both of them comes to Christ. If the remarriage is the sin then now that they are believers they CANNOT marry, while the other couple who is already remarried simply has to "repent" of their previous sin, now forgiven and washed clean, and are allowed to go on in their remarried adulterous state as if it were no longer adulterous. So one couple gets to stay married "legitimately" while the other couple, due to bad timing, can't marry at all, though their situations are identical otherwise.

Any way you look at it, if a second marriage was adultery before coming to Christ then it is adultery after coming to Christ.

Conclusion: There is NO way that remarriage after divorce is not adultery. That's certain. However, it might be possible that there are circumstances that make it permissible, For instance, remarriage could be the lesser of two sins which are a person's only options, and there are some arguments along these lines I might consider later. However, becoming a believer whose past sins are forgiven does not fit this circumstance.