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Archive for the ‘Christian ethics’ Category

Four Faculty Members of Dallas Theological Seminary got together to do two Podcasts to have a Biblical response on the topic of Same-Sex Sexuality.  Specifically they are responding to the arguments that some have tried to explain away the verses in the Bible that described Same-Sex Sexuality as a sin.

The four professors are Dr. Darrell Bock, Dr. Robert Chisholm, Dr. Joe Fantin, and Dr. Jay Smith who are from the Old and New Testament department of the Seminary.  I appreciate that these are scholars of the Bible giving their input on the text.  They examined the biblical passages often brought up on homosexuality.  The first video is on on material in the Old Testament while the second video is on the material in the New Testament.

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love hate

I think in the biblical worldview loving what is good and hating what is evil are not mutually exclusive.

Loving what is good and of God is a given for many Christians.  But hating what is wicked?  The Psalms have multiple references to hating what is wicked with the referent being God and man:

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Abortion and the Christian What Every Believer Should Know

John Jefferson Davis is a professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  He authored a book titled “Abortion and the Christian: What Every Believer Should Know” which was published by Presbyterian and Reformed.

The book is available online for reading for free!

Here’s the table of Contents:

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Matthew vines

Introduction

Matthew Vines has written a book titled God and the Gay Christian in which he argues that “Christians who affirm the full authority of Scripture can also affirm committed, monogamous same-sex relationship” (Page 3).   Al Mohler and the faculty at Southern Seminary has published a book-length response titled God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines, which they have made available as a free e-book.  In their responses Al Mohler, James Hamilton, Denny Burk, Owen Strachan, and Heath Lambert addressed the biblical, theological, historical, and pastoral issues raised by Vines’s best-selling book.  

Matthew Vines’ research for his book was not done in a vaccum.  Throughout the book Vines reveal the precommitments he had before he began his research.  It is important to address the core arguments that Vines has presented (and Christians have already done so such as the faculty in Southern Seminary) but I also think there is an important role in considering Vines’ problematic pre-commitments since these pre-commitments shapes his theological method which then lead to his conclusion that “Scripture affirm same-sex relationships.”

Here in this post I want to address Vines’ pre-commitment concerning his meta-ethics.  Specifically I want to argue that Vines holds on to a humanistic consequentialist view of ethics that is seriously deficient.

Vines In His Own Words

Unlike other gay theology literature Vines professes to have a high view of the Scriptures:

In my view, the Bible can’t be reduced to a collection of great literature, stories, and poetry  It’s God’s written revelation to humanity, as the accounts of Jesus’s life and ministry in the Gospel make clearer to me than anything else.  Jesus said that ‘Scripture cannot be set aside’ (John 10:35), and since childhood, I’ve made discerning God’s will through prayerful study of Scripture a priority” (Page 11).

But when it comes to his view of the foundation of ethics, even God’s revealed rules within Scripture is not as highly regarded by Vines as much as his ethical theory.  In fact, the Bible’s ethical norm is subject to the scrutiny of the higher court of his meta-ethics and we see that with how he approached the Bible’s condemnation of same-sex relationship on page 12 :

I had a second reason for losing confidence in the belief that same-sex relationship are sinful: it no longer made sense to me.

My mom taught her Sunday school students that sin was ‘missing the mark’ of God’s will for our lives. But while the Bible helps us understand God’s will, neither my parents nor my church referred only to the Bible when I asked questions about morality.  They also explained why something was right or wrong, and why the Bible said what it did.  By understanding the reasons behind Scripture’s teachings, I could apply its principles to all circumstances in my life, including those it didn’t directly addressed.

But as I became more aware of same-sex relationships, I couldn’t understand why they were supposed to be sinful, or why the Bible apparently condemned them.  With most sins, it wasn’t hard to pinpoint the damage they cause.  Adultery violates a commitment to your spouse.  Lust objectifies others.  Gossip degrades people.  But committed same-sex relationships didn’t fit this pattern.  Not only were they not harmful to anyone, they were characterized by positive motives and traits instead, like faithfulness, commitment, mutual love, and self-sacrifice.  What other sin look like that?”

It is important to keep in mind that according to the previous page before this block quote (page 11) Vines described how his ethical outlook led to his struggle with the case against same-sex relations before he came out as gay and before he started researching for his book.  His evaluation of Scripture according to his ethical theory fundamentally tipped the scale of his research towards the direction that same sex relationship ought not to be condemned.  Seeing how important his ethical theory is, we should analyze more closely his ethical theory as it is expressed above.

Vines’ Ethical theory Humanistic and Consequentialist

Is Vines’ Ethical theory Humanistic?

Vines’ ethical theory is certainly humanistic, that is, it is man-centered.  As seen in the above quote, Vines’ rejection of traditional view on same sex relationship is because “it no longer made sense to me.”  There is a sense in which Biblical Christianity will not be fully grasped by finite man; we expect some aspect of mystery with true Christian doctrines if it is genuinely from the Word of God.  Ultimately what determines truth for the God-centered Christian is not how much it “makes sense to me” (that is, conforming to one’s previous pattern of thought) but whether or not the doctrines are genuinely taught in Scripture even if one might have unanswered questions.

A man-centered or humanistic theological approach on the other hand is very different.  It would have man as the final arbitration of what is right and wrong and according to what makes “sense to me.”  The fundamental question being asked is not whether the teaching is in the Bible; even if there is a teaching from the Bible the crucial question is whether it makes “sense to me.”  Therefore what one cannot make sense of according to one’s finite mind and presuppositions ought to be rejected.

The man-centered nature of Vines’ ethical system is further evidenced above when Vines talked about “reasons behind Scripture’s teachings.”  Of course there are times one can see that there are good reasons for Scripture’s moral teaching.  However Vines goes further when he explains the pattern of his mother and church that it’s not enough to be satisfied with going “only to the Bible when I asked questions about morality.”  Vines goes on to say “They also explained why something was right or wrong, and why the Bible said what it did” with the implication that one ought to know why the Bible said what it said.   So when one doesn’t know the reason behind the Bible’s command and prohibition Vines then find that there are then good “reason for losing confidence” in that belief as it was with the case of prohibiting same-sex relationship: “I couldn’t understand why they were supposed to be sinful, or why the Bible apparently condemned them.”

Is Vines’ Ethical theory Consequentialist?

Vines’ ethical theory is not only humanistic, it is a humanistic consequentialism.  That is, for Vines knowing the consequences of one’s conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness or wrongness of that conduct.  Vines believed that something is wrong and sinful only when it causes damage.  So if it doesn’t cause any damages that a human being can know of, it is not sinful.  Vines presupposes this when he said “With most sins, it wasn’t hard to pinpoint the damage they cause.”  He followed this with some examples and then concluded “But committed same-sex relationships didn’t fit this pattern.”

The Problem with Vines’ Ethical Theory

Here is my response:

  • Vines stresses more than once in the book that he has a high view of God’s Word like any other Evangelical including those not affirming of Same-sex relationships.  If he does believes in a high view of Scripture then he must have his humanistic ethical consequentialism be subject to the scrutiny of God’s Word rather than vice versa as he has done.
  • If Vines operate with the theological method that a proposition must be rejected when “it no longer made sense to me” what would remain of his Christianity?
    • Our study of every largely-accepted true doctrine in the Bible will always run into some aspect of mystery in which we don’t have an answer for.  Does that mean we must reject every Christian doctrines?
    • For instance, 1 Timothy 3:16 admits there is mystery of godliness does that mean that one should reject godliness?
  • While at times Scripture does discuss how certain sinful behavior causes damages to oneself and others, Vines have become reductionistic to think this is the only criteria of measuring whether something is right and wrong.
    • Nowhere in Scripture does the Bible say that what is sinful is only measured by whether something causes damages to others.
    • If consequences is the only way to measure what’s right and wrong in God’s eyes then it is surprising that Scripture doesn’t always give a cause-and-effect explanation for why everything that is a sin is wrong.
    • Scripture doesn’t exclusively present a purpose or result driven measure of right and wrong conduct.  Scripture’s discussion of ethics also acknowledges the deontological aspect of ethics (good acts include those as a proper response to duty for the sake of the duty even against one’s own and others well being) and existential aspect of ethics (focus on the internal character of a person that determines what is good).  A good resource on this is John Frame’s discussion of Triperspectivalism in his Doctrine of the Christian Life.
  • Surprisingly Vines himself is inconsistent with his belief that damages to oneself or others is the only basis to measure right and wrong when it comes to his view on Self-sacrifice.
    • Self-sacrifice (putting duty first before one’s well being) is a dentological virtue that goes against the grain that damages to a person per se is sinful.  According to Vines ethical system, self-sacrifice ought to be a sin.
    • We expect Vines to be against self-sacrifice and yet in the block quote above Vines listed “self-sacrifice” among the virtues of those in committed same-sex relationships.
    • If Vines see self-sacrifice as a virtue then it is not merely something that he sees is personally good for himself alone but this is a character trait that is good for others to have.  Thus by believing its a virtue Vines invite others to follow one’s duty even if it is “damaging” to oneself, an act that involves “damaging” others.
  • For the sake of the argument even if there is always a consequentialist reason behind all of God’s prohibition and command that doesn’t mean as Bible believing Christians one can disregard these rules when it is “hard to pinpoint the damage they cause.”
    • In all things, don’t forget we are finite and God is infinite!
    • The Lesson from the Garden of Eden
      • Remember: “God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” (Genesis 3:3b)
      • Adam and Eve might not be able to pinpoint exactly the damage disobedience to this might cause yet that doesn’t mean they should disobey God’s Law!
      • Furthermore, people today might still not know or discern the reasons why that tree was in the Garden in the first place but that doesn’t mean Adam and Eve or us can disobey God.
    • An illustration: A toddler might find it hard to pinpoint the damage that disobeying his father’s prohibition not to run on the streets might cause.  But that doesn’t mean it is right nor rational for the toddler to disobey his loving father’s prohibition!
      • This illustration is fitting for our context given that we are like the toddler in our finite knowledge compared to God’s vastly superior wisdom and knowledge.
  • Vines believe same-sex relationship is “not harmful to anyone” but fail to consider God in his belief that same-sex relationship is not harmful.
    • First, it is negatively against God.
      • Remember Vines’ examples of the damages of sins: “Adultery violates a commitment to your spouse.  Lust objectifies others.  Gossip degrades people.”
      • If violating a commitment, objectifying others and degrading a person is bad because it is “harmful to others,” what are those advocating same-sex relationships doing when they are violating God’s prohibition of same-sex relationship,  degrading God as less than God in their disobedience to His Divine prohibitions and objectifying God as something less than God when they go against His Word?
    • Secondly, it is negative against the participants of same-sex relationships.
      • Remember the way of a Sinner is hard!
      • 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 reveal the eternal consequences for such sinners: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor[a]effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
  • Vines believe same-sex relationship is “not harmful to anyone” but fail to consider studies considering the negative impact of same-sex relationships
    • Time doesn’t allow me to go into more details as it’s worth being another message.
    • Remember, we are not dependent upon the statistics to make our case in light of all our discussion above concerning consequentialists ethics.

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Christian Bioethics A Guide for Pastors, Health Care Professionals, and Families

C. Ben Mitchell and D. Joy Riley.  Christian Bioethics: A Guide for Pastors, Health Care Professionals, and Families. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2014. 197 pp.

This is a wonderful book on bioethics from a Christian perspective.  I have felt for years that there is a need for more works on Christian bioethics and no doubt this book makes a contribution.  The book exceeded my expectation.  I appreciated the fact that both authors’ background helped in making a contribution to the book:  C. Ben Mitchell has a PhD in medical ethics in addition to his pastoral background while D. Joy Riley is a physician with a masters in bioethics.  Both Mitchell and Riley serve in hospital ethics committee and have written previous on bioethical issues.

The book is divided into four parts.  The first part is an introduction with chapter one on doctors and medicine and chapter two on how to apply the Bible for the Twenty First century.  The “meat” of the book is in part two through four which adopts the bioethics rubric by theologian Nigel Cameron of “taking life, making life and remaking/faking life.”  Under “Taking Life” there is a chapter each on abortion and human dignity in death.  Under “Making Life” the authors discusses the topic of assisted reproductive technology, organ donations, transplantation, cloning and human-animal hybrids.  Part four consist of one chapter on the topic of aging and life extension technologies with a significant discussion on Transhumanist movement.  General readers will learn a lot from these chapters concerning these controversial issues.

I also appreciated the format of the book.  Each chapter opens up with a case study followed by some discussion questions based upon the case study.  The heart of each chapter is a dialogue discussion between the two authors.  At first I wasn’t sure whether it would work having the book set up as an “interview” but I was pleasantly surprised that it worked out well and brought out the authors’ particular knowledge and specialty.  The interview format allows us to see two experts dialoguing on the issue with the readers being able to “listen in.”

It was thoughtful of the authors to have helpful summary in the back of some of the chapters; for instance, there is an outline for the “Process for Medical Ethical Decision Making” after the chapter on how the Bible communicate to the Twenty First Century and a helpful list of suggestions of practical ways the church may help with the issue of abortion.  In fact, the book was constantly giving practical advice to the readers.  For instance I found the chapter on human dignity and dying to be very practical as a pastor to think about how to minister to those who are dying—and also got me thinking about my own death as well.  As the book documented, we are in an interesting age in history in which many people in the West have the privilege of not having to constantly think about death as many people in the past have to face.

I would encourage that if one were to read this book to read it with a highlighter since there are a lot of information.  I learned a lot reading this!  I enjoyed learning the historical background of the Hippocratic Oath, its pagan origin and how it was later adapted to reflect a Christian worldview.  I was also surprised to learn how it is not an administered oath for doctors today.  The book also discussed about the Christian origin of hospitals and historic precedence for caring the sick.  The book did a good job defining terms and my only criticism of the book is that it would be nice to see a glossary given the many acronym and medical terms used it could be easy for a general audience to forget them.   One helpful discussion about defining terms is the book’s discussion about the problem of defining death in terms of brain activity or the lack thereof.  The book mentioned that there has been documented case of over 175 “brain dead” long term survivors which should definitely serve as a caution.  I also appreciate the book’s discussion about the mechanics of cloning and embryonic stem cells.

I highly recommend this book.

NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher B&H Publishing Group  through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my honest opinion. The thoughts and words are my own and I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

Purchase: Amazon

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ethics under scope South Bay Alliance Church has hosted a monthly series in 2014 on the topic of Christian Ethics.  I commend this church for their moral courage to tackle on various issues some of which are controversial in our day and age.  I also appreciated the fact that they approached these topic with the desire and effort of being biblical. I hope you would all enjoy these videos.  I encourage you all to save this page and to share with others!

Introduction to Christian Ethics (January)

Woman, the Word and Worship (February)

The Statutes of Liberty (March)

Christians and Politics (April)

Christian Ethics: Euthanasia (May)

A Time for War (June)

Christian Ethics: Recovery of Vocation (July)

Contemplations for the Single Christian (September)

Worthy Life Aborted (October)

Homosexuality in the eyes of God (November)

Science, Philosophy, and God (December)

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revamped-logo1-e1402512175915

The South Bay Christian Alliance Church has a monthly series on Christian Ethics.  For November they focus on the controversial topic of what the Bible has to say about homosexuality.

Here is the video:

Christian Ethics: Homosexuality in the eyes of God
Selected Passages
Speaker: Jason Wong

About ten minutes into the video the speaker Jason Wong shared something that made the rest of the message very powerful.  It moved me to tears knowing it.

Don’t underestimate the power of the Gospel.

 

 

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Annise-Parker Did you hear what the first Lesbian mayor of Houston just did recently? Over at Fox News they are reporting this story:

The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court. “The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Christina Holcomb said in a statement. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.” ADF, a nationally-known law firm specializing in religious liberty cases, is representing five Houston pastors. They filed a motion in Harris County court to stop the subpoenas arguing they are “overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious.” CLICK HERE TO JOIN TODD ON FACEBOOK FOR CONSERVATIVE CONVERSATION! “Political and social commentary is not a crime,” Holcomb said. “It is protected by the First Amendment.” The subpoenas are just the latest twist in an ongoing saga over the Houston’s new non-discrimination ordinance. The law, among other things, would allow men to use the ladies room and vice versa.  The city council approved the law in June. The Houston Chronicle reported opponents of the ordinance launched a petition drive that generated more than 50,000 signatures – far more than the 17,269 needed to put a referendum on the ballot. However, the city threw out the petition in August over alleged irregularities. After opponents of the bathroom bill filed a lawsuit the city’s attorneys responded by issuing the subpoenas against the pastors. The pastors were not part of the lawsuit. However, they were part of a coalition of some 400 Houston-area churches that opposed the ordinance. The churches represent a number of faith groups – from Southern Baptist to non-denominational. “City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge,” said ADF attorney Erik Stanley.  “This is designed to intimidate pastors.” Mayor Parker will not explain why she wants to inspect the sermons. I contacted City Hall for a comment and received a terse reply from the mayor’s director of communications. “We don’t comment on litigation,” said Janice Evans. However, ADF attorney Stanley suspects the mayor wants to publicly shame the ministers. He said he anticipates they will hold up their sermons for public scrutiny. In other words – the city is rummaging for evidence to “out” the pastors as anti-gay bigots.

We need to be praying. Praying for the pastors not to be intimidated.  Praying for God to curb this over-reach and political manuvering by the city.

UPDATE: On Twitter, we just “turned in” to the Mayor of houston our blog post concerning homosexuality and the Gospel: https://twitter.com/DomainforTruth/status/522454033932775424
Let’s all do it!

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Doctrine of Christian Life John Frame

Note: You can purchase this work at a discounted price over at Westminster Bookstore by clicking HERE.

A massive volume on the important subject of Christian ethics by one of the most sophisticated Biblicist today.  This volume by Dr. John Frame in his theology of Lordship series was a wonderful read and was intellectually stimulating and doxological—what I expect from John Frame’s work and something I hope to be able to emulate in my own teaching ministry.  This work is different than most Christian text book on ethics in that it applies John Frame’s Triperspectivalism (looking at things with the consciousness of the normative, situational and existential perspective) and a robust Reformed and Biblical theology to the area of Christian ethics and living.  I also think Frame’s Van Tillian side is also a big a plus since I appreciate how the beginning of the book John Frame goes about refuting non-Christian philosophy, religion and worldview that are competitors against the Christian worldview of ethics.  This section is excellent and can be a small book that is worth buying alone.  Frame also wasn’t just into refutation but a positive presentation of the Christian position on ethics as well.  In fact the bulk of the book was his exposition on the ten commandments and he did a good job of showing how other parts of the Scripture illuminates the Decalogue with more specific application or nuances.  Even if one might not agree with Frame in the particular, he nevertheless will provide great food for thought and challenge the reader to think more biblically and rigorously on ethical matters.

Frame was able to strike my interests and simulated my thought throughout the thousand page book which I think is quite a feat.  In what follows I can only share some of the highlights:

  • Frame had a good discussion in the book about the danger of exclusively preaching redemptive-history especially without the intention of application. If one reads his collection of shorter works, Frame expands on this concern he has.
  • The chapter on motive and virtue was saturated with the Gospel and how it motivates a believer’s sanctification; this same chapter also had a good discussion trying to reconcile imprecatory prayers with loving one’s enemy with Frame noting the distinction between wanting God to pour out His wrath while we not doing this ourselves.
  • Another highlight in the book was John Frame’s discussion about racial equalities. I think what he has to say is probably the closest position to mine that I have seen in print.  In particular, I find it helpful his discussion of various ways people use the term “racism.”  I also liked his discussion about race within the context of the church such as his quote: “Churches do not have to seek a quota of every ethnic or national group in their vicinity.  But they must welcome everyone” (John Frame, Doctrine of Christian Life, 674).
  • The discussion on war is a good one; Frame is conscious of what the Scripture say and does not say and he brings this to bear in his observation and criticism of Just War theory. As a Marine myself, I have had some questions about various aspect of Just War theory that seems problematic such as what is proportional force, etc.  I appreciate Frame saying that Just War Theory isn’t so much a theory as it is a series of good questions we must ask concerning war.
  • I really appreciate the section of the book on culture. He does a good job working towards a theological definition of culture and from there explain the various model of the relationship between Christ and culture along with his criticism of each respective views’ strength and weaknesses.  Frame’s discussion about culture also led to the topic of Christians and film; he gives some good principles of what to ask when one watches movies as a Christian and also a defense that movies are not wrong in of itself.
  • For anyone who has read Frame before, there are many points he makes that makes one think not only with the doctrine or position at hand, but also the theological method that is driving Frame as well. I feel Frame is great to read to think about theological method more consciously.
  • In terms of the appendix, I really appreciated Frame’s review of RJ Rushdoony’s book, The Institute of Biblical Law. I thought Frame did a good job of noting Rushdoony’s contribution to Christian study of the law while also being critical in a helpful way that can help push the Christian Reconstructionist movement forward.  His review noted some good problems in Rushdoony’s book while Frame was also able to address Theonomy’s critics that they must not knee-jerk emotionally reject God’s Law out of hand just because we don’t like it, because afterall it was at one time God’s Law.

With the positive I must add a few constructive criticism of the book but I hope this is not misconstrued to mean that I thought Frame did a poor job.  On the contrary, I think it speaks to the quality of the book that my criticisms are few for such a lengthy book:

  • The book is weaker theologically concerning eschatology and especially the millennial positions. Frame doesn’t get into much of eschatology although I think its worth pursuing by others more systematically the relationship between eschatology and Christian ethics.
  • The book gave a short treatment on the topic of spiritual growth and I wished he talked more about sanctification but for such a lengthy book that already covered so many areas one can’t really fault John Frame.
  • A lot of the appendixes were book reviews of works in the 1980s or earlier. Since the book was published in 2008, I thought it would have been nice to see reviews of books that are more recent in publication.

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John-Frame

Here’s an extended quote from John Frame on defining culture.  He begins first with two definitions of cultures given by others and work on a more nuance definition.  It is important to make a good definition for culture if one is engage in cultural apologetics, Christian ethics and engage in the thinking of the Christian Worldview.

The Lausanne Committee on World Evangelism defined culture as “an intergrated system of beliefs, values, customs, and institutions which binds a society together and gives it a sense of identity, dignity, security, and continuity.”  Ken Myers writes that culture is “a dynamic pattern, an ever-changing marix of objects, artifacts, sounds, institutions, philosophies, fashions, enthusiasms, myths, all embodied in individual people, in groups and collectives and associations of people (many of whom do not know they are associated), in books, in buildings, in the use of time and space, in wars, in jokes, and in food.”

From definition and descriptions of this sort, you might come away thinking that culture is everything.  But that would be a mistake.  We should make an important distinction between creation and culture.  Creation is what God makes; culture is what we make.  We should make an important distinction between creation and culture.  Creation is what God makes; culture is what we make.  Now of course God is sovereign, so everything we make is also his in one sense.  Or, somewhat better: creation is what God makes by Himself, and culture is what he makes through us.

(John Frame, Doctrine of Christian Life, 854)

 

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John-Frame

We have been posting daily quotes from John Frame’s Doctrine of the Christian Life on our facebook and twitter account.  This morning I want to share an extended lengthy quote from John Frame on the relationship of the intellect, will and emotions.  John Frame is at his best when he explores the inter-relationships and/or inter-dependence of things and here is no exception.  People often have a wrong conception of the relationship between will and the intellect so the following is helpful.

Traditionally, will is contrasted with intellect (reason) and emotions.  In some accounts, it almost seems as though will, intellect, and emotions are little beings up in our heads who vie for supremacy.  Arguments have been made both about which of these three faculties is superior to the others and about which one ought to be superior.  Philosophical movements have been identified by views on this alleged conflict: Aquinaas has been called an intellectualist, Scotus a voluntarist, and Kierkegaard an emotionalist.

My own view, however, is that we make decisions as whole persons, and that intellect, will and emotions are perspectives on the whole persons, not subsistent entities.  The intellect is the person’s ability to think, the will his his capacity to decide, and the emotionsa re his capacity to feel.  We are talking about three abilities that people have, not three independent entities within them.  That I think is a more biblical perspective, for Scripture never distinguishes these three capacities or make any general statements about the superiority of one or the other.

In my view, the three abilities are interdependent.  You cannot make a decision (will) unless you judge (intellect) that it is the right thing to do.  On the other hand, you cannot make the right judgment (intellect) unless you choose (will) to make it.  The will is certainly involved in our intellectual judgments.  As Paul teaches in Romans 1, certain people choose to disbelieve in God, despite the sufficiency of the evidence of his existence.  Other people choose otherwise.  In both cases, belief is a choice.  The intellectual judgment is a decision of the will.  That is one reason why I have emphasized that the intellectual realm has a moral dimension, that there is an ethics of knowledge.

So will and intellect are dependent upon one another, and so are choice and reason.  They are not independent entities, but perspectives on the mental acts of human beings.  In everything we do, there is thought and choice.  And we think about what to choose, and we choose what to think.  And we choose what to think about what to choose.  We accept reasons because we choose them, and we choose them because we find them reasonable.

(John Frame, Doctrine of the Christian Life, 368).

I find the above helpful.  I would add that not one of the above faculty is morally superior to another.  Our sinfulness has corrupted all our faculty.  So we sin with our mind, our choices, and have sinful emotions, etc.  This has implication for apologetics that we have unpacked on our blog elsewhere; certainly the most obvious is that our mind is not a neutral arbiter of facts, nor does appealing to our intellect alone would necessarily lead someone to Christ if the sinful will chooses not to do so.   How much more do we need the grace of God.

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ethics under scope

Here’s a video on the Introduction to Christian Ethics that kicks off a church monthly series on Christian ethics at South Bay Alliance Church:

This lecture lays the foundation for ethics and touches on the inter-play of the Christian worldview, apologetics and Presuppositionalism.

Here’s the handout:

HAND-OUT: FOUNDATIONS FOR CHRISTIAN ETHICS

Selected Scriptures

Purpose: Today we will explore the importance of studying Christian ethics and provide a general direction of defending Christian ethics from the perspective of life and worldview so that you can live out and articulate God’s requirement in our lives.

I. What is Ethics and Christian Ethics?

Secular view: “Ethics may be defined as the philosophical study of morality..Morality has to do with right and wrong conduct and with good and bad character.”[1]

Christian view: “Ethics is theology viewed as a means of determining which persons, act and attitude receives God’s blessing and which do not.”[2]

 

II. Why Study Christian Ethics?

 

 

 

 

III. What is the Basis for Christian Ethics?

 

 

 

 

 

IV. What is the relationship of Christian ethics to Life and Worldview?

Worldview

 

Metaphysics

 

Ethics

 

Epistemology

 

 

 

 

Life

 

 

 

 

Conclusion:

 

 

 


[1] Paul W. Taylor, Problems of Moral Philosohy (Encino, CA: Dickenson Publishing Company Inc., 1972), 3.

[2] John Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed., 2008), 10.

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Real Marriage Driscoll

This is a helpful book though I do have some concern.

The Good

I appreciated Mark Driscoll and his wife Grace writing this book together.  I appreciated their openness and their honesty, with Mark Driscoll’s description of a tired pastor going all out as something I can identify with.  I thought this work was unique among many Christian books on marriage in that devote a whole chapter towards the subject of spouses being friends, and what that look like biblically.  I appreciated Mark and Grace writing this book in such a way to apply it to our lives Biblical truths.  Mark makes a good point that when a man is married, his wife now becomes the standard of beauty, and the beauty changes along with his wife.  The book discusses all kinds of marriage problem and addresses them even the issue of dealing with past abuse and sexual sins.  I appreciated the book memorable alliterations: Repentance involves confession, contrition and change; Sex is not a God, nor is it Gross, but a Gift from God; Communication problems being driven by contempt, complaint and criticisms, etc.  The book also took a stand for heterosexual marriage as Biblically defined.

Constructive Criticisms

Mark Driscoll is controversial when it comes to the topic of sex.  I suppose some of the concerns people have for Driscoll’s teaching on sex is the same I have with Driscoll’s book.  For starters, I think he allegorizes a bit too much Song of Solomon in the Bible; and I’m not saying this as a Victorian Era Prude but because of my commitment to the Bible and being hermeneutically conscious.  I don’t see some of the sexual acts he describe to be found in some of the passages from Song of Solomon because I see Song of Solomon to be a beautiful book between lovers that capture that love in appropriate veil languages; moreover, if you study again carefully Song of Solomon you might be surprised to see how few the instances are when it describe physical contact.  The most disturbing part of the book for me is the supposed vision Mark received from God of his wife committing a sexual sin before they were married.  I know Driscoll has described visions of seeing other women engage in sexual sins of those he’s counseling, and I don’t know if it’s part of the nature of God biblically for him to give a pornographic sexually explicit vision.  While marriage is more than taking care of the kids, I also think that’s a real part of marriage; and if kids come about from sex, I think it would have been wonderful if Driscoll could have talked about raising children.

Conclusion

I have a hard time wondering if I can recommend this book: on the one hand there’s some really Godly counsel especially with marriage issues and problems but on the other hand, you don’t want it to be stumbling nor is Driscoll’s exposition of Song of Solomon biblical at the hermeneutical level.  Perhaps I must give it an appropriate rating of BG—Biblical Guidance needed, readers’ discretion is advised.

(The book is available on Amazon by clicking HERE)

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chris-dorner-11

It’s important as Christians to think about what’s on the news clearly.

For a whole week the news of former Los Angeles Police Department officer Chris Dorner going on a rampage has captured national attention, with the climatic ending yesterday up in Big Bear, California.

Some have elevated Chris Dorner up as a hero.  A hero for pointing out the sinful culture of the LAPD.  A hero and a martyr who held his ground to the very end.

For the Christians with the understanding of Romans 3:23, one would understand that even police officers and institution that’s meant to enforce justice and the good can also become bad.  As William Parker, a famous LAPD police chief once said, “We’ll always have cases like this because we have one big problem in selecting police officers … we have to recruit from the human race.”  Since Dorner’s manifesto was so exact as to the time and nature of certain events, there might be truths concerning the injustice he saw.

At the same time, that does not make Dorner a hero, especially with what he’s doing.  The end does not justify the means.  It’s also painfully ironic and hypocritical:

  • He’s protesting against the kicking of a mentally challenged innocent man…but then he himself resorts to holding Civilians hostage, tying them up and the murder of two citizens.
  • His manifesto’s “You are a high value target” line was directed basically towards all LAPD officers (black, white, Hispanic, Asian and Lesbians) since they are all bad…and yet his manifesto also had shout outs to good officers within the LAPD.
  • Seeing that defending a good name is important…when he gives a blanket condemnation against all LAPD officer, does that justify them going all out against him to defend their name?
  • His manifesto also promised “asymmetrical warfare” with LAPD…but ends up hurting more people outside of LAPD than within LAPD itself.

In the end it is tragic.  Reading his manifesto, it seems that Chris Dorner’s problem is bigger than just with the LAPD.  He talks about being picked on as a kid…he names principles from elementary school.  He has an issue of bitterness and it’s not just with LAPD.

I also don’t want to unnecessarily demonize Christopher Dorner to the point of a caricature: we all have something within us that can make us become a Chris Dorner.  And that is called sin.  I think for the Christian we do have to deal with bitterness before it hurts us or hurt someone.  For the Christian, this is possible through Jesus Christ.  If He has forgiven you for a debt that you could never pay, of an infinite worth, then forgiving others as motivated by the Gospel is a true possibility:  Jesus Christ is the reason why a believer can forgive people.  It’s not just possible, but a believer who truly reflect on God’s saving grace for their sins will want to forgive others, it would be a joy.  A closure.  A tragedy avoided.

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Purchase: Amazon

This is a good work on the biblical use of satire. As always, the author Doug Wilson delivers with wit, wisdom and humor along the way. As it is indicated throughout the book, this work was prompted as a defense against some who charge Doug Wilson and the contributors of Credenda/Agenda with sinning in their use of satire. The book begins by first defining satire, notably it’s four necessarily components (object of attack, vehicle, tone and norm) and making the distinction between Horatian and Juvenalian satire by it’s tone, the former being more subtle and the latter being more biting. Since those who use satire is often attacked as arrogant, this is the subject of Wilson’s second chapter in which he notes the two different standards the world and the Bible has in measuring humility and arrogance. One sees humility as focusing on self, while the other preaches Christ; one sees arrogance as believing you have the truth while the other see arrogance as an attack on God. This is followed by a biblical survey of the use of satire by Jesus, the Old Testament prophets and the Apostle Paul. After this survey, Wilson explores some of the reason why satire is needed and answer some anticipated objections. I thought his explanation of the reasons why American Evangelicalism is an appropriate target of satire when they are unbiblical is worth pondering carefully over. Towards the end of the book Wilson also add some caveat that satire ought to be used carefully and only during certain situations in particularly towards false spiritual leaders and fools. He also mentioned (which I’m glad he did say) that those who love to practice satire on their loved ones ought not to be encouraged to practice this and that such a person is being unbiblical. Overall a good book I recommend, and it should make Christians aware of not assuming Victorian prudish expectations to be the same thing as Christian ethics. I’ve highlighted and written all over my copy of this book as I was reading it–especially the principles given and the witty remarks and illustration. They get my mind fired up to adapt, discover and invent more witty sayings and illustration to make the point more forcibly for use in the pulpit and during evangelism and apologetics.

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