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Shades of Gray–Abortion

10 Mar

Shades of Grey – Abortion from Sun Valley Messages on Vimeo.

Focus on the Family’s Reply to: “Dear Conservative Christians: It’s OK to Evolve on LGBT Equality”

7 Feb
By Jeff Johnston, Focus on the Family

Pastor Louis Giglio, well known for his leadership in fighting human trafficking and for founding the Passion worship conferences, was invited last month to give a prayer at President Obama’s second inauguration. Then a liberal blog unearthed a sermon he’d given in the 1990’s where he described same-sex sexual behavior as a sin and talked about people coming out of homosexuality. After a huge outcry was raised by lesbian-, gay-, bisexual- and transgender- identified (LGBT) activists and their allies, Pastor Giglio withdrew from the event.

Shortly afterward, Joseph Ward III published a letter at an LGBT – focused religious web site that’s been re-posted around the Internet, “Dear Conservative Christians: It’s OK to Evolve on LGBT Equality.” Below is my reply.

Dear Joseph (and other LGBT-identified activists and allies),

Your recent letter invites conservative Christians “to evolve” and embrace the LGBT agenda. The letter also labels our deeply-held beliefs about humanity, sex, marriage and family as “anti-gay” and says they deny the “full human dignity” of some people. Perhaps most importantly, you state that our beliefs are no longer “welcome in the public square.” But for Christians to “evolve” and embrace homosexual unions and LGBT demands about human identity would be to tear from our faith remarkable truths that are woven through all of Scripture; it would be to shred and tear God’s word and make Christianity into something it isn’t. Let me explain why we cannot accept your invitation.

In Genesis we learn foundational truths: humanity is created in the image of God – male and female – and marriage is designed by God to be the union of a husband and wife . This is not peripheral theology, but is central to the Bible. Marriage imagery runs from Genesis through the books of the law and the poets and prophets; it continues in the New Testament with Christ and His Bride, the church; and the picture ends with a marriage feast in Revelation. Humanity’s existance as male and female is a reflection of who God is, and male-female marriage is the central picture of our relationship with Him.

In the beginning, God creates the first human and puts him to sleep, separating out the side of the man and fashioning a woman. Our word “sex” reflects this separation or division or cutting into two – male and female. Genesis points out that humanity is unique among creation for being made in the image of God. The woman and the man are fully human, both valuable, yet they are distinct and uniquely made for each other. It’s not just the Bible and Judaism and Christianity that teach this, but experience, nature and science acknowledge humanity’s sexual dimorphism, a sexual complementarity that virtually all cultures recognize.

It’s important  to understand that Christians cannot and will not leave the truth of revelation, a revelation that comes to us through nature and our own bodies, through millennia of Jewish and Christian living and teaching, and through God’s revelation in the Bible and by His Spirit. It would be folly for Christians to leave God’s truth. God’s truth about marriage, sex and sexuality stands now and throughout eternity, regardless of how politicians, academics and entertainers “evolve” and attempt to redefine things.

Same-sex unions do not reflect the reality of male and female bodies. Humans can participate in a variety of relationships and be quite inventive with sexual behaviors. But only a male and female sexually uniting can produce children. This is why all cultures have recognized marriage between a husband and wife as a unique relationship, a relationship designed to keep husbands and wives together and designed to keep children with the parents who made them – to be loved, nurtured, educated, disciplined and equipped to become healthy and functioning adults.

Despite years of brainwashing from academia, radical feminists, the media, and entertainment, most people know that men and women are different, unique and complementary. A society that attempts to erase male and female or to create new categories to stand next to male and female is living in unreality. Which of the supposed “other genders” being created by individuals or groups can reproduce or replicate itself?

The issue is not “equality” or “fairness.” It’s not “equal” that only women can carry another human and give birth. It’s not “fair” that only a man and a woman can make a child. It’s not “equal” that men and women are different. It’s “not equal” that people have different gifts and talents. And as I tell my kids, it’s “not fair” that they are born and live in the U.S. while others are born into abject poverty. Equality does not mean identical or interchangeable; it means we all have equal value and rights. But the issues are: what is marriage and what do children need?

Just as male and female are needed to create a baby, male and female are needed to raise a child. Children need a mother and father. Yes, there are tragic circumstances where a child loses one or both, but society works to mend that loss, as best it can, by providing what was lost – a mother or father or both. That is the ideal that society must acknowledge and promote and support, if it wishes to thrive. The growth of fatherless homes and of divorce has wreaked havoc in our world.  Further removing gender from the home will only compound the pain for children.

Be assured that Christians will work so that the needs and well-being of children are placed ahead of the desires of adults. We will fight to keep children from being sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. We will work to give children what they deserve, a mother and a father. In the past weeks there has been a remarkable uprising in France against the notion of “same-sex marriage.” The movement includes gay-identified people and Christians of all stripes. Their marching cry: The rights of children trump the right to children.

Our love for children leads us to oppose abortion, to support and encourage marriage, to train parents to raise healthy children, to teach and equip the church and society to respect all life, and to protect all people from bullying and hatred – not just select groups or identities.

As Christians we also reject the reduction of humanity to groups defined by their sexual attractions and behaviors. Male and female are categories of existence – there is the biological reality of being male or female, and we live in the spiritual reality of a masculinity or femininity that reflects God’s image. It is de-humanizing to categorize individuals by the ever-proliferating alphabet of identities based on sexual attractions or behavior or “gender identity” – LGBBTTQQIAAFPPBDSM – however many letters are added. No. We stand with the truth that there are male and female. There is no recently discovered race of “homosexuals” or “gays” or “lesbians.” We don’t define people’s essence, their being, by their sexual appetites or by other desires.

Just as we don’t label people by sexual behavior or attractions, it would be helpful if activist groups would really engage on the issues, instead of smearing those who disagree with labels such as “haters,” “bigots,” “homophobes” and “anti-gay.” We stand opposed to an agenda that we believe harms individuals, families and our culture. But we don’t hate the individuals pushing that agenda. And we don’t hate individuals who wrestle with same-sex attractions or who are confused about their identity as male or female. We offer support, encouragement, resources and hope for these individuals.

We will also continue to speak out in the public square, arguing for the rights of all to freedom of speech, religion and association. We know these rights are being assaulted, from groups like the ACLU, the Freedom from Religion Foundation and from a number of LGBT-identified activists and their allies. Recent examples include trying to eliminate funding for organizations like The Boy Scouts and The Salvation Army, attacking businesses like Chick-fil-A and its charitable foundation, creating laws against counselors who help men and women with unwanted same-sex attractions to follow their faith and vilifying a pastor who leads people to worship God and who works to stop sexual trafficking.

Do you notice something about these efforts? The groups and individuals under siege are doing good things – yet many LGBT-identified groups want to take away their rights, to silence them, to force them to agree, even if it means stopping the good they do. This is destructive and wrong, and it’s time for all people to recognize it and speak out against this – honestly and with civility, as difficult as that may be.

Our inalienable rights to life, liberty, free speech and freedom of religion do not come from the government, the media, academia, the entertainment world or those attempting to redefine marriage. They come from God. And they do not stop because someone disagrees or is offended.

Finally, I would appeal to you, Joseph, and to others who read this, to consider the message of Christianity. Yes, we are all made in God’s image, male and female, but we are all horribly impacted and broken by sin. Sin is a destroyer. When Jesus began his ministry, he preached a gospel of repentance. In essence, he said stop going the direction you are going, turn around and put your confidence in me. I will forgive your sins, and as you follow me, I will free you from bondage to sin, guilt and shame. Jesus said that he is the way to Father God, and that he will send his Spirit to live in you to bring truth, change, healing and new life. We have the choice to bear our sins or to allow Jesus to be the sin-bearer for us.

I wrestled for years with same-sex attractions, lust, pornography and sexual sin (and plenty of other sins, too). It was not an easy path, but through the church and through God’s grace, truth and power, I followed Jesus and allowed him to change my life. I will not turn back down that road again, through God’s strength and grace. Joseph – I urge you to turn and follow Jesus with me.

What Kind of ‘Christian’ is the President?

31 Jan

By David Wheaton, host of the Christian Worldview radio program:

“By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but the corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7: 16-20)

[Recently] Barack Obama was sworn in for a second term as president of the United States.  In his inaugural address, President Obama outlined his vision for America, promoting liberal policies in terms of “equality” and “justice” for those he deems marginalized.  One example is when he said:

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

President Obama claims to be a Christian.  And yet how can a Christian so strongly advocate for what the Bible clearly calls sin (i.e. homosexuality)?  How can a Christian be so zealously in favor of continuing and expanding the killing of unborn babies?  What kind of “Christian” is Barack Obama?

Last Saturday on The Christian Worldview, Jefrey Breshears, author of the book The Gospel According to Barack, discussed the book’s subtitle, Where Did Barack Obama Get His Ideas About Christianity?  We’ve previously analyzed the president’s political worldview; this time we looked at his religious worldview.

Listen to the program here.

No, Piers Morgan, the Bible does not Need Updating

18 Jan

Listening to The Christian Worldview radio program recently, host David Wheaton played audio of Piers Morgan’s interview with Rick Warren. Morgan asked Warren if the Bible should be updated to get with the times. This is the 21st– century after all.

For a pastor, Warren stumbled badly and could not coherently articulate a proper response. I wanted so much to respond then. And now I’m taking the opportunity to do so right here.

So, should the Bible be updated to fit the demands of those who don’t believe in it?

No! Our culture isn’t progressing; it’s declining. It’s a coarse culture in a perverse generation.

God has our best interests in mind. It’s reflected in His Word.

People have the free will to accept or reject God’s Word. But has the rejection of it been a good thing or a bad thing? Let me ask additional questions to answer this question.

How many people have died of AIDS? Drunk driving? Alcoholism or drug abuse? Suicide?

How many women and children have been killed by live-in boyfriends?

Has hedonism made people’s lives better? Or worse?

Has pornography harmed people or enriched their lives?

How many billions of dollars has government spent trying to pick up the pieces of broken families?

How many men who grew up without accountable fathers are in prison?

How many marriages have been ruined by compulsive gambling?

Is cheating in sports not rampant?

The answers to these rhetorical questions are obvious. The lesson is to be careful for what you wish for.

If more people heeded God’s timeless Word, it would be a much better world with less crime, less hurting, and less suffering.

Piers, now let’s go a different direction. Let’s suppose you invented a widget and opened a factory to mass produce widgets. Each product is sold with an instruction manual. But unfortunately a few people didn’t bother to read the instructions.

As a result of misusing the widget, some people were badly injured. Some even died. Many people accused you of intolerance for including an instruction manual with your product. They claimed you are evil for telling them the best and the safest way to use the product.

But you say you had their best intentions in mind when you wrote the manual.

That’s how it is with God’s Word. He tells us how we can live victoriously by living according to His Word. We can choose to ignore His advice and live life our way. That’s what we’re seeing with many in the world today. No, God, I’ll handle it my way, I don’t need you.

You see the results every day, and it’s not a pretty picture: tyranny, murder, rape, drugs, violence, STDs, AIDs, hate, death, socially unredeeming media, hopelessness, depravity.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Our culture can be redeemed. Abstinence, fidelity, honesty, respect, and the Golden Rule are within our reach. The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

No, Piers, the Bible does not need updating for the 21st century. The world needs the timeless, unchanging, sustaining Word today, tomorrow, and always. The free gifts of forgiveness, salvation and everlasting life are available for all.

Arizona Pastor Leading Flock Astray on Virtue, Spiritual Discernment

11 Jan

Warren Stewart Sr. is the senior pastor of First Institutional Baptist Church, an inner city congregation in Phoenix, and president of Paradise Missionary Baptist State Convention of Arizona, Inc. He has just come under fire by homosexual activists for having expressed disappointment with President Barack Obama for endorsing same-sex “marriage.”

The introductory remarks to that statement bear close scrutiny. They are highly problematic for lack of spiritual discernment and leadership. Following are the pastor’s evaluations of President Obama, followed by The Arizona Christian’s response:

Pastor Stewart: He is very intelligent, successful, effective and courageous.

Arizona Christian: President Obama does show some signs of intelligence. Yet he also shows signs of a lack of intelligence. He is not dedicated to truth, but to political deception in the tradition of one of his leading role models – the late Saul Alinsky, whom he worked for. Alinsky’s notorious book, “Rules for Radicals,” was dedicated to Lucifer.  Obama is succeeding at demonizing his political enemies. He is effective at spending taxpayer money far beyond America’s means – immorally saddling future generations with mountainous debt, effective at downsizing America’s national defense, effective at attacking free speech, religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and America’s highest ideals. He is a highly effective socialist. He is not in the least way courageous. Obama is supporting Planned Parenthood despite the abortion giant’s defrauding of taxpayers and its insistence on killing a sizeable portion of America’s future – including a highly disproportionate number of preborn African Americans. He is extremely skilled at bringing into the highest levels of government people with poor (humanist, communist, Marxist) values and scandalous backgrounds. He revels in the demonization of America’s achievers and wealth creators. He is destroying the business climate during a down economy. He has presided in the nation’s highest elected office over a sharp rise in Black poverty. Much of what Obama says on a daily basis is located 180 degrees from truth.

Pastor Stewart: He is probably the highest profile role model as a leader, husband and father in the world.

Arizona Christian: Obama appears to be dedicated and faithful to his wife and family. But he is modeling anti-Christian values to them. He is not encouraging their spiritual growth or standing up as a godly husband and father. If he is corrupting America, he is corrupting his family. He and his family are spending millions upon millions on lavish vacations while his kinfolk in Africa live in squalor. He is not his brother’s keeper, and all the world knows this. There are many great role models in America — Tony Dungy, for example — but Obama is not one of them.

Pastor Stewart: Since he campaigned for the presidency and became president he has been an agent of change not only in our nation, but the world.

Arizona Christian: Indeed he has been an agent of change, but it’s the wrong kind of change, pastor. It is destroying America’s prosperity, morality, national defense and economy and business climate. Obama would prefer businesses close down – exposing families to the loss of jobs and income — for not providing abortion-inducing drug insurance to employees. Many things in America need changing, but not the changes wrought by the dominant left-wing, progressive, socialistic influences pervading the Obama Administration. Obama is trying to destroy God’s plan for marriage in America, and by endorsing same-sex “marriage” he is dooming more children to the ravages of fatherless homes. We need changes for the better in leadership and morality, and we are not getting them from this president or his administration.

Pastor Stewart: In addition, he speaks often about Jesus Christ being his personal Savior. For this and more we are thankful.

Arizona Christian: He has been labeled by former White House spokesman Robert Gibbs as a “mainstream Christian.” But talk is cheap, and nothing could be further from the truth. Where is any evidence of the fruits of the Spirit in this president? Where are the outward workings of a life based on faith? There are none. In fact, no president in America’s 237-year history has so openly and brazenly attacked religious freedom as Obama has. Obama at best could most accurately be described as an “election year Christian.” In his book, Obama admitted to doubts about his “faith.” He has never worshipped in a mainstream church, only in a church preaching hate for America and radical liberation theology. He frequently mischaracterizes scripture in attempts to make veiled cases in support of big government socialism, which is part and parcel of anti-God humanism. Obama spoke of “collective salvation” – a concept nowhere found in the Holy Bible. Obama is trying to drum Bible-believing chaplains out of the military, attacking a tradition going back to President George Washington’s time. If anyone believes Obama is a “mainstream Christian,” he is seriously deluding himself.

In conclusion, one would expect and hope for much more spiritual discernment and leadership from a leading Arizona pastor than what Pastor Stewart has demonstrated with this particular message. President Obama reflexively governs against the Christian worldview. With his vast government power, he is opening the door for sin and depravity, and slamming the door shut on religious freedom and free speech.

A Gem of a Life — A Tribute to the Late Frank Pastore

28 Dec

By David Wheaton, host of The Christian Worldview Radio Program

I could sense it when we first met about a decade ago: Frank and I had a bond.  Even though we were raised in very different families and even though we lived two thousand miles apart and saw each other only occasionally, our life experiences connected us on several levels.

Frank and I both grew up playing sports and both of us made it to the “major leagues” — he in baseball and I in tennis.  Both of us came to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord during our pro sports careers.  Both of us became hosts of Christian radio programs that discussed the issues of life from a biblical worldview.  Both of us were follically challenged and wore what remained of our hair close to the scalp (mine, however, not close enough for Frank as he would urge me to “Just Bic it!”).

Like I said, Frank and I had a bond.

I am going to miss Frank.  I know God has welcomed him into His presence and I rejoice in that, but I am going to miss his friendly face, his exuberant personality, and his passion for the truth.  I will miss him and yet I will always remember the gem that God created in His surrendered life.

God’s comfort and grace to Frank’s family and those who knew and loved him.

Newsweek Takes Final Shot at Christ

18 Dec

By Albert Mohler Jr.

The major festivals of the Christian year often prompt major cover stories in the nation’s weekly news magazines. Time, Newsweek, and US News & World Report all regularly feature major articles timed for Christmas and Easter. The days of these cover articles may soon be over, however, since US News & World Report is no longer publishing a print edition, and Newsweek’s final print edition will be dated December 31, 2012.

In years past, these cover articles had featured the work of reporters who interviewed a range of scholars and authorities from several theological perspectives. More recently, both Time and Newsweek have instead featured essays written by a single author.

Timed for this Christmas, Newsweek just released a cover essay by Bart D. Ehrman, who is well-known for his belief that the New Testament is largely historical fiction. “Who is Jesus?” is the question on the cover. “The Myths of Jesus” is the headline on the essay itself.

Newsweek’s agenda is clear, and it has chosen to feature a cover article denying the historical basis of Christmas as one of its last print editions.

Ehrman begins, predictably, by reviewing the controversy concerning the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” that emerged earlier this year when Professor Karen King of Harvard University claimed a tiny papyrus fragment to be a monumental discovery. Even as she insisted that the fragment did not prove in any sense that Jesus had a wife, she fueled the confusion in carefully-staged media appearances in which she referred to the fragment as “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.”

A professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Ehrman’s academic specialization is in the history of the New Testament and its times. As such, he dismissed the papyrus fragment as either irrelevant or a hoax. He writes, “As it turns out, most experts on early Christianity have come to think the fragment is a hoax, a forgery produced in recent years by an amateur who, unlike King and scholars of her stature, was not well versed in the niceties of Coptic grammar and so was unable to cover up the traces of his own deceit.”

A close look at that statement reveals a strong critique of Professor King who, according to Ehrman’s logic, should have been able to detect problems with a papyrus fragment probably manufactured by an amateur.

Ehrman cites that controversy, however, in order to make the point that there were hundreds of “proto-gospels” about Jesus floating about in the first few centuries of the Christian church, and that much of what modern people think they know about Christmas is actually not to be found in the New Testament.

He rightly states:

“As Christians around the world now prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth, it is worth considering that much of the ‘common knowledge’ about the babe in Bethlehem cannot be found in any scriptural authority, but is either a modern myth or based on Gospel accounts from outside the sacred bounds of Christian Scripture.”

Of course, that is profoundly true. The New Testament tells us that Jesus was born in unusual circumstances and placed in a manger because “there was no room in the inn.” There is no innkeeper in the New Testament, however. There is no record of the number of the magi, no reference to December 25 as the date of Christ’s birth, and no mention of barnyard animals, much less a little drummer boy.

Beyond these rather familiar issues, Ehrman also points to a host of claims about Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the larger Christmas story that amount to “legends and fabrications” that are rightly recognized as implausible and untrue.

Ehrman then turns to press his case on the New Testament itself. After reviewing a number of traditions and non-biblical accounts he asks, “Are the stories about Jesus’ birth that are in the New Testament any less unbelievable?”

He then says that the answer to that question “depends on whom you ask.” To leave no doubt, Ehrman answers the question directly in his essay. The New Testament writings “are not historically reliable descriptions of what really happened when Jesus was born,” he asserts.

Ehrman juxtaposes those who are “interested in affirming the narratives of Scripture” and those who are more interested in “knowing what actually happened in the past.”

He then explains:

“And there is indeed a very wide swath of scholars—Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, agnostic, and others—who have a very different view of the accounts of Jesus’ birth in the New Testament and who realize that there are problems with the traditional stories as they are recounted for us in Matthew and Luke, the only two Gospels that contain infancy narratives. However valuable these writings may be for theological reflection on the meaning and importance of Jesus—and why should anyone deny that they are tremendously valuable for that?—they are not the sorts of historical sources that we might hope for if we are seriously engaged in trying to reconstruct the events of history.”

In other words, Ehrman argues that Matthew and Luke simply can’t be trusted to convey historical truth. He points to what he insists are inconsistencies and erroneous historical claims, arguing that though some attempt to explain these questions in an attempt to affirm the veracity of the gospels, it is better just to abandon them altogether if you are “seriously engaged in trying to reconstruct the events of history.”

Just as a practical matter, a reading of Bart Ehrman’s many books, along with similar efforts, reveals that those who claim to abandon the New Testament in order to “reconstruct the events of history” find themselves coming back to the New Testament again and again. The reason for this is simple — there are no comparable sources.

Ehrman reveals his real agenda in the sentence that follows his denial of the historical truthfulness of the New Testament. He asserts, “For some Christian believers that is a problem; for others, it is a liberation, as it frees the believer from having to base faith on the uncertainties provided by the imperfect historical record and the fallible historians who study it.”

In Ehrman’s view, liberation comes in freeing the believer from a faith based in the claims of the New Testament, or in any historical record, for that matter.

The interesting point about Ehrman’s proposed path of liberation for Christian believers is the fact that Ehrman is himself no longer a believer. He was once a conservative evangelical, but now describes himself as an agnostic who has left the church.

Like many others, Ehrman tries to argue that the New Testament is still useful for “theological reflection on the meaning and importance of Jesus.” He asks, “And why should anyone deny that they are tremendously valuable for that?.”

But the New Testament does not present itself merely for the purpose of theological reflection. It makes unvarnished historical claims and direct statements of fact. Ehrman attempts to sideswipe this truth, stating that the New Testament contains writings identified as “gospels” rather than “histories.” But the word “history” in that sense is a fairly modern invention. The gospels do contain interpretation and theological elaboration, but all four gospels, including Matthew and Luke, contain explicit and pervasive historical material — the bedrock historical claims of Christianity itself.

Christianity stands or falls on the truth concerning Jesus, and thus it also stands or falls on the authority and truthfulness of the Bible. What you believe about historical truth defines what you believe about Jesus Christ. Without the revealed truths of the New Testament, there is no Christianity, just superstitions and fantasies about Jesus.

Interestingly, Bart Ehrman does believe that Jesus existed. In a recent book he debunks those who dismiss all claims about Christ as mere myth. He believes Jesus to have been a Jewish apocalyptic prophet, but not God incarnate in human flesh.

The cover article in the magazine, timed for maximum publicity at Christmas, was a premeditated act. Securing Bart Ehrman to write the essay set the course, and the cover art is intended to sell the magazine.

So, in the waning days of Newsweek as a print magazine, the editors decided to take on the New Testament. Readers should note carefully that it is Newsweek, and not the New Testament, that is going out of print.