In no way?

This post is overdue. I’ve been meaning to write on this topic for a while, and I recently received the prodding that I needed. A group of Pastors and church leaders in the Steinbach area wrote a letter expressing their support for our current public health measures, and to my knowledge, this includes the recent dictates to completely close any and all churches, forbidding any and all assemblies for worship, and even small group gatherings in homes. 

“We believe that Manitoba’s current public health orders in no way contravene our ability to obey and worship God.”

https://www.steinbachonline.com/local/23-local-churches-declare-united-support-for-public-health-officials?fbclid=IwAR1GV72ccwys8fe0P16xBX3uVRkbzyFDcGhJ-Lb3K1WQoPJUBdtyG1jbedc

For Realsies?

This honestly baffles me. My hope is that this was simply careless wording that some of the signers overlooked in their desire to show support for our health officers.  I’m more than willing to extend the benefit of that doubt. However, when you’re interacting with something like a letter, you need to interact with what someone has written, rather than what you hope they meant, and in this case what was written is extremely troubling, and, as I intend to demonstrate, patently unbiblical. 

Just consider the implications of this statement; “Manitoba’s current public health orders in no way contravene our ability to obey and worship God.” Considering the scope of the present public health orders, this statement is therefore a claim that (among other things) God does not require the gathering of the body for worship, that God does not require any personal (in-person) interaction between members of a church, and that a Christian is fully able to perform all of their Christian duties while in nearly complete isolation. The list could go on, but we’ll start with these. 

The Gathering

The Church must gather. The very word translated  “Church” in the New Testament is the word Ekklesia, which means ‘called out ones.’ Thayer’s Greek Lexicon gives the definition: “properly, a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place; an assembly.” The very word itself, describes a gathering, a congregation, an assembly. 

The New Testament assumes that Christians will be gathering together for worship, edification, teaching and fellowship, and Hebrews 10:24-25, contains the command: 

“…Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” 

Now whatever your interpretation of this passage, I think one thing should be very obvious; there is no way to fulfill this command under the current health orders of our province. Hebrews 10:25 specifically says that we are not to neglect meeting together. We are not to abandon the gathering of ourselves, our assembling together. How can we obey this command when we’re not allowed to leave our homes?

The answer of many churches over the past few months has been to say that we can go online. Live stream a service, have people sing along from their living rooms, and listen to a recording of the sermon. Okay, so then I have a question: is “virtual Church” a sufficient replacement for the gathering of Christ’s people on the Lord’s Day? To you pastors, would you be totally satisfied if your congregation never congregated again? No more in-person services ever? 

My fear in all of this, is that many Christians will simply believe what their pastors said.  Imagine the conversation in 2021 after our freedoms are restored (optimistically) as the pastor calls a member: 

Pastor: “Hey brother, how are you doing?”

Member: “Hey Pastor, good! It’s great to hear from you!”  

Pastor: “Glad to hear that! Hey, I’m calling because we haven’t seen you in Church for quite a while, just wanted to see what’s been going on; is everything okay?”

Member: “Yeah, we’re doing fine… why do you ask?”

Pastor: “Well, when you became a member, one of the things you committed to was regular church attendance, you committed not to forsake meeting together with this body of believers.” 

Member: “But Pastor, I haven’t! My whole family gets up, we put on our Sunday best, and watch the livestream of your sermon every week!” 

Pastor: “Well that doesn’t…

Member: “You said yourself that we can still have church, just not in person. When the Church was closed by the government, you signed that letter saying that the closure of church did not in any way contravene our ability to worship or obey God… So what’s the problem?”

Pastor: “umm…”

Not even close

Here’s my assertion: A number of scattered households, who never come together, but happen to watch the same live stream every Sunday are not a Church. Quite honestly this doesn’t even come close to the biblical definition of a local Church. Yet this is all that is permitted under the current public health orders. Taking these pastors at their word when they say that these orders “in no way contravene our ability to obey and worship God,” we are left to conclude that they believe that God does not require His people to gather, and that watching online sermons or live-streamed services in isolation from other believers is a suitable replacement for the gathering of the saints. 

More than Sunday Morning

Read through any of Paul’s letters to the Churches and one thing that becomes quite clear is that the Church is meant to care for one another. In Romans 12:5, the Church is described as the body of Christ, with individual Christians described as “Members individually of one another.” Each member is called to serve the body with the gifts that God has given them. 

“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them; if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving, the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”  – Romans 12:6-8

You, as a unique individual have been given particular gifts, abilities, or strengths by the Holy Spirit. God’s intention for you is that you would serve the body of Christ with the gifts you have been given. Riddle me this, Batman: how will you serve the body with your gifts from the isolation of your home?

The answer comes; ‘we can pray’, and absolutely we should; you won’t hear me for a moment downplaying the necessity or power of prayer. But is that the only thing we’re called to do? Notice the list Paul makes: prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, contribution, leadership, and acts of mercy. Are we to believe that Zoom or Skype allow us to fulfill our duties to perform acts of mercy, service, teaching, exhortation and the like? These technologies certainly help, and I’m grateful to God for them, but let us not claim that they are a suitable permanent replacement for in-service, exhortation, teaching, etc. As anyone who has attempted a zoom Bible study can tell you, it is not the same. 

Is anybody going to try to maintain that they are able to perform service or acts of mercy through zoom? The duties of Pastors to shepherd their flocks, (1 Peter 5:2) visit and pray for the sick, lay on hands, anoint with oil (James 5:14), provide diaconal care, (Acts 6:3) and many other duties require our presence.

The public health orders directly contravene our ability to serve the body in obedience to God. 

Not Required to Sin?

A steady drum beat that I’ve heard from Christians looking to justify and require obedience to the lockdowns has been this refrain that we are not being required to sin. This letter included a similar sentiment:

Since Jesus is our Lord (King) our first allegiance belongs to Him. However, obeying governing authorities whenever the laws of the land do not cause us to disobey God is also every Christian’s duty (Romans 13:1-7).

https://www.steinbachonline.com/local/23-local-churches-declare-united-support-for-public-health-officials?fbclid=IwAR1GV72ccwys8fe0P16xBX3uVRkbzyFDcGhJ-Lb3K1WQoPJUBdtyG1jbedc

I believe this view requires an incredible shrinking down of the duties which God requires of us. People seem to think of “being required to sin” as the government declaring to you that you must assault your neighbor, or steal their jewelry. They seem to be thinking only of the high-handed and obvious sins, (theft, assault, murder, etc.). This however, takes a very narrow view of God’s requirements. To those who take the ‘not being required to sin view’ I would ask; what does God require of you? We’ve already looked at this question in relation to the gathering of the Church, and our duties to one another in the body, but I challenge you to consider; what other requirements do we have? Are there not many responsibilities in the life of the Christian? 

To care for orphans and widows in their distress? (James 1:27). To care for the poor and needy? (Proverbs 14:31). To show hospitality? (Hebrews 13:2). To provide for our families? (1 Timothy 5:8). To visit our parents? (Exodus 20:12). To make disciples? (Matthew 28:18-20).

I heartily affirm Romans 13, and the God given role of civil authority. I heartily affirm the requirement upon Christians to be in submission to governing authorities. Amen to Romans 13! I am not advocating for Christians to become scofflaws or develop a rebellious attitude toward civil government. This being said, I agree with these pastors that there are important limitations placed on civil governments. As they point out, our first allegiance must be to Christ! We must acknowledge therefore, that nobody has the authority to command what God forbids or forbid what God commands, and it cannot be doubted that the current orders have forbidden much of what God commands.

In Almost Every Way

I find the statement baffling, because I believe the exact opposite is true. The current public health orders directly contravene our ability to worship and obey God in almost every way. To say we are not being required to sin is functionally to deny that God requires anything of us at all that we cannot fulfill while under house arrest. This is nonsense! Even one year ago, none of the claims I’ve made would have been even remotely controversial. The Church is required to gather. Christians are required to serve one another (in person) with their gifts. Christians have a whole host of duties which God requires of them which they cannot fulfill while locked in their homes. 

The Benefit of that Doubt

There is a massive difference between the following two statements: 

  1. “We believe that Manitoba’s current public health orders in no way contravene our ability to obey and worship God.”
  2. “We believe that the current health orders are justified as temporary measures given the current pandemic.”

For clarity’s sake, I do believe that in times of legitimate emergency, the church may suspend its gathering for a time without being in sin before God. I do believe that various extenuating circumstances may legitimately prevent Christians from fulfilling their duties to one another or their duties to their neighbor. Pestilence, war, alien invasions, etc. But as we’re huddling in our basements hiding from the little green men, we must not pretend that the state of emergency is not contravening our ability to worship and obey God. 

Even if you agree with the legitimacy of the government’s decision to close churches because of COVID-19, you can do so while maintaining that online services are not a sufficient replacement for the gathering of the saints. I believe it to be a respectable position to close your church in a time of legitimate emergency, while mourning the loss of the corporate gathering. The messaging I would hope to hear from Churches in such a situation is lament, and a longing to be re-united. 

The letter goes on to acknowledge that freedoms are being limited, but then asserts that it is justified in order to serve the greater good. This gives me hope that Statement #2 is what they meant. I would call upon the pastors to clarify their meaning, as the implications from the initial statement are truly troubling. 

I do not intend to split hairs, and so I should mention that this post is not only directed to those pastors and leaders, rather, their letter provided an opportunity to address the broader sentiments that have been common from many churches and leaders. 

The Church is not a Building

Another common refrain is that the church is not a building. To this I say amen! We planted Grace Covenant Church last year in September and we do not own a building. I heartily affirm that statement; I’m very glad that we don’t need a building in order to be a church. We do however need to gather. There’s no meaningful sense in which we are a local Ekklesia (assembly) if we never assemble. We can’t consider ourselves a congregation if we never congregate. The duties which God requires of us are absolutely being contravened by these public health orders. The question I have for Christians who are in favor of the lockdowns, is this: “When does it become time to obey God rather than men?” Food for thought. 

Soli Deo Gloria

Who Cares?

I want to challenge the narrative. The narrative goes something like this: COVID-19 is a deadly pandemic, and the truly virtuous thing to do is to support any and all measures aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

It has become the politically correct thing to support lock-downs, masking mandates, social-distancing, and whatever other COVID measures the government may implement. The impression you get in public discourse right now, is that if you don’t support these measures, you must not care about people, or you must be selfish or immature. At least this has been my experience.

I would like to challenge this assumption. There are many reasons to oppose these measures that have nothing to do with immaturity, selfishness, or a lack of care and concern for the vulnerable. The first thing I ask for is grace. In our discourse with one another, we should not be quick to impute bad motives to those who disagree with us. I aim to keep my tone charitable toward those who disagree, in hopes that I will gain a hearing.

Trade-offs not Solutions

If we are to care for people, I am convinced we need to have a long discussion about what that entails. What is the truly caring and compassionate position to take? The narrative says that if you care for people you will be pro-lockdown, pro-mask, pro-whatever measures are promoted next. I do not believe that this is the only caring position. As a citizen who cares deeply for my neighbors, the good of my community and the well-being of all God’s image-bearers, I implore you to consider the many angles.

The lock-downs have been a trade-off, not a solution. Even if we were to grant their effectiveness in slowing the spread and negative effects of COVID-19 (which I consider to be highly debate-able) there can be no question that we have created a whole host of new problems in our bid to solve one. For example, shutting down businesses has had an extremely detrimental impact on the economy. Now before you accuse me of caring more about money than people, let us remember that poverty kills people too.

Dr. David Nabarro from the World Health Organization said in an interview with the Spectator:

 “Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never, ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer.” He added, “Look what’s happened to smallholder farmers all over the world. Look what’s happening to poverty levels. It seems that we may well have a doubling of world poverty by next year. We may well have at least a doubling of child malnutrition.”

https://spectator.us/lockdown-incredible-vanishing-world-health-organization/

So what is the compassionate and caring position here? Lockdowns harm people. People with families and children, with no less value than you or me. If there is a doubling of world poverty as a result of these lockdowns, as Dr. Nabbarro suggests, then we will very likely see many thousands more die as a result of the lockdowns than we ever would have seen if COVID had simply run its course.

The Great Barrington Declaration is a statement drafted by concerned epidemiologists and public health scientists that similarly warns about the negative effects of the lockdowns:

“The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice. Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.”

https://gbdeclaration.org/#read

We need to ask ourselves these difficult questions; how many people will miss receiving a cancer diagnosis until after it’s too late for treatment because of the lockdowns? How many people having their regularly scheduled check-ups cancelled will have heart attacks which could have been prevented? Again, I am not accusing people of not caring, but I will press for consistency; if we care about people, shouldn’t these all be very serious concerns?

Job losses, business closures, elderly people, dying in isolation, their loved ones trying to communicate to them through the window. What is the caring position to take? A very common sentiment I have heard from the elderly that they would rather die of COVID-19 than die of loneliness. Now please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should not protect the vulnerable, but we must do so in a way that doesn’t create a host of new problems.

Rights and Freedoms

There is no question that the freedoms protected by the Canadian Charter of rights and freedoms have been absolutely trampled to varying degrees for the past 8 months or so. Without entirely re-hashing my last post, my question is whether we as a nation care about freedom? What precedents are we setting right now? We can argue later about how deadly COVID-19 may or may not be to the overall population, but if we could take a step back to a time before all of this happened, where might we have set the bar in regards to something that could justify the suspension of our most fundamental rights and freedoms?

To put it another way, what do we as a nation consider to be a state of emergency? As someone who holds freedom in very high esteem, I would like to see the bar set very high. If the government is going to take freedom, I want to see the kind of emergency that no sane person would be able to dispute, something along the lines of little green men climbing out of spaceships with ray guns and plans for global domination.

A people that values freedom ought to have extremely high standards for the government to meet, if they are going to take away freedom. To this point, our nation seems willing to accept slavery in exchange for the promise of security. If this sounds exaggerated to you, I would encourage you to think about what’s happened in our nation: if you agree that our freedoms have been taken (or at least severely hindered) what is the opposite of freedom? What do we call it when someone does not have freedom? It’s called slavery; a cage, chains, being under the absolute authority of another.

Free men and women don’t have to ask for permission to leave their homes. Free men and women are able to gather unhindered with the saints for worship. Free men and women don’t have a master telling them what they must wear on their faces. The governments of free nations respect the freedom of their citizens. The governments of free nations do not treat their citizens like children or like slaves.

Even one year ago at this time, nothing in that last paragraph would have even been considered controversial.

A people who do not value their freedom will not have it for long.

Turning Neighbors into Enemies

Another concerning development is the COVID tip line. The government is calling on its citizens to report their friends, family and neighbors for any violations of the COVID restrictions. Let us remember that when (or if) this is all over, we’re going to live and work with each other. Employing citizens to report one another in this manner will inevitably breed hostility, suspicion and bitterness in our communities.

The Church

The Church is a free institution. It does not exist by permission of the state, but was founded by the Lord Jesus Christ, the sovereign ruler of the kings of the Earth (Rev. 1:5). The free assembly of the church is not incidental to Christian worship but is an essential component of our worship. The treatment of the Church by our government can only be described as dismissive, if not outright hostile at times. This concerns me for the future of Church-state relations, and the protection of religious liberties.

So Who Cares?

I care about people. I care about people being plunged into poverty, I care about people missing check ups and surgeries because they have been deemed “non-essential.” I care about the people who will die as a result. I care about the people who have lost their jobs, I care about the people who have been forced to close their businesses (I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive the government for running Nora’s Diner out of business). I care about the elderly dying in isolation, I care about the trampling of rights and freedoms, particularly the freedom of the Church. I care about the deterioration of public discourse, and how neighbors are turning on each other, I care for future of our economy and the broad-sweeping, long term impacts these lockdowns will have.

Because I care, I want to challenge the narrative. Public Health is multi-faceted, and we need to consider the trade-offs we are making, and soberly count the cost. Many thousands of people are being harmed by by the measures that have been taken to combat COVID-19, and if we’re going to be truly caring and compassionate, we need to take a holistic view of public health, both locally and globally.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Strong and Free?

Regina, Saskatchewan is apparently having a mayoral election right now. While that would not normally be of any interest to those of us here in Manitoba, a post from one of the candidates has been making its rounds on the internet, and I think it hits at the heart of a conversation we need to be having. Candidate Mitchell Howse writes:

“As Mayor of Regina, I won’t tell you what to wear or place municipal lockdowns, curfews or other restrictions on your freedoms and rights. That goes for businesses as well as the people. I am not your parent. And, I won’t treat you like you’re my child.”

I know nothing about Mr. Howse, nor do I have any interest in Regina politics, but this statement is interesting. It strikes at the question, ‘what is the job of the government?’ Is the government responsible to make sure that I never get sick? If I do get sick and I’ve been following the government mandates, may I blame the government? Here in Manitoba, our premiere is under tremendous pressure from people who hold such a view. Following the announcement of our province’s highest single-day tally of COVID cases, activists got personal, setting up a graveyard in Brian Pallister’s front yard with a picture of him dressed in a grim reaper outfit. https://globalnews.ca/news/7434639/covid19-manitoba-premier-brian-pallister-protest/

What is the job of the government? If I get sick with COVID-19, has the government failed me? Before we answer that question, let’s consider another one: how much power does a government need to have in order to bear that responsibility? Any time we give responsibility to someone, we must also give them corresponding authority; it is nonsensical to blame someone for failing in a task that they lacked the authority to perform.

For example, I can’t get mad at my daughter for failing to clean my study if I kept the study locked and never gave her the keys. In such a circumstance, she lacks the authority to perform the responsibility. If I truly want her to justly bear that responsibility, I need to give her the authority to perform the task.

Applying that to the government and my personal health; what kind of society do we want to live in? Our national anthem boasts of being a nation that is “strong and free.” Historically freedom has been cherished. Freedom involves responsibility. Freedom means being responsible for myself. If I exercise my freedom by rock-climbing without a rope, and I fall and get hurt, I can’t blame the government for my injuries. I don’t want that type of thing to be the government’s responsibility because I want the freedom to make my own decisions. I don’t want a nanny state; a government that treats me like a child.

Similarly, it is not the government’s responsibility to keep me from contracting viruses. As a free citizen, I have the freedom to go where I want, to see who I want, to do business with who I want, and all of this involves risk. In a free society, individuals take those risks upon themselves, and do not blame the government when they get sick, when they have car accidents, or experience negative consequences from the exercise of their freedoms.

What kind of authority does the government need to have to perform the function we’re demanding? The complete abolition of our freedoms. The authority to tell us where we can go and when. The authority to tell us where we can shop, when we can shop, who we can see and for how long. The authority to tell us what to wear…

I for one do not believe that the government owns my face. And I don’t want them acting like they do.

COVID-19 is not Brian Pallister’s fault, and it is unfair that activists and his political rivals have told him that it is.

In our political discourse, the solution to nearly every problem is more state intervention and funding. I believe we need to think long and hard about the kind of society we are creating. The state is not the messiah, and it makes a lousy Savior. The state should not attempt to take the role of savior, or the role of parent for that matter. We are on the path towards slavery; freedom and responsibility taken away as we are all made wards of the nanny state. That is not a society I want to live in.

Jesus Christ is the only true Savior, and He is the only true Sovereign. My hope and prayer is that our nation would recognize again the “supremacy of God” as our founding documents put it. We need to turn to Christ, as our only Savior, one can save not only from physical ailments, but who offers salvation and reconciliation to all who will come in repentance and faith.

“May He have dominion from Sea to Sea and from the river to the ends of the earth.” – Psalm 72:8

Soli Deo Gloria

Now that the West has Fallen

There can be no question, even among the most optimistic of us that we are in a bad way. Our neighbors to the south look about ready for civil war, and pending the results of the November election, only God knows what’s in store. Here in Canada, things are in some ways looking similarly bleak, with Marxist secular ideals having worked their way through nearly every institution, with their idealogues showing themselves more than willing to censor and stifle their opponents.

For many Christians, this negative trajectory along with other world events are seen as clear evidence that Jesus must be returning soon… Within this framework, cultural decline is almost seen a good thing, after all, who doesn’t want the Christ to return in their lifetime?

The unfortunate side effect of such thinking, is that it produces something of a retreatist mindset. The idea is that we can just sort of pull back and wait for Jesus to come fix this mess. So we huddle together talking about how messed up things are, while we wait for the next stage of end-times events to unfold.

An extreme example of this mindset is seen in the false predictions of Harold Camping. Camping was convinced that Christ would return in 1994, or possibly 2011. When 1994 came and went with no apocalypse, 2011 became the focus. Some of Camping’s followers were so convinced by his predictions that they sold their possessions, quit their jobs, and stopped investing in their children’s college funds; giving large sums of money to publicize Camping’s predictions… The dates of Camping’s predictions came and went, and I can only imagine the people standing around looking at each other, asking ‘now what?’

Unfortunately, this mindset is not uncommon in Church history. We are far from the first generation to suppose we are the last generation. Many Christians through the centuries have seen the world events in their day as “clear” indications that the end times were upon them. Possible candidates for Gog and Magog (evil nations making war on the saints in the end times) have included: the Huns, Goths, Muslims, Hungarians, Avars, Mongols, The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, Turks, the Papacy, Native Americans, Russia, and of course more recently, Bill Gates (Okay, so he’s technically seen as the anti-Christ, not Gog and Magog, but you get my point). Going back as far as the fourth century, the activities of these groups/people were seen as “clear evidence” that the World was facing its last days.

Hindsight allows us to look back at the people in fourth and fifth centuries and feel a tad embarrassed for them. Any of them who adopted a retreatist mindset, was unlikely to accomplish much of anything for Christ… When you’re convinced that the return of Christ is right around the corner, it seems like a poor time to found a Christian school…

Looking at history, I for one do not want to be another embarrassed name in a long line of Christians who turned out to be wrong about the imminent return of Christ. I certainly wouldn’t want my speculations to cause me to pull back from the building, fighting or evangelizing I’ve been called to. If people saw difficult days ahead, how much better off would they and their children have been, if instead of waiting around for the rapture, they had been training their children, equipping them with the tools and worldview they would need to survive the difficult times? How much better off if they had brought the gospel to bear on the situation, holding forth the only message that can transform a heart?

“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast ,so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. “who then, is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.” – Luke 12:35-37a, 42-43

Jesus says that since we don’t know when He is coming back, we ought to be all the more diligent to ensure that we are found serving Him when He returns.

There’s truly no down side here, if Jesus’ return is not imminent, then we better be building, making disciples, and equipping them for what lies ahead, and if He is about to return, what could possibly be better than to be found by your master hard at the work He assigned to you? “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.”

So this is an invitation: Join the work of the Kingdom. Find a Church that knows how to build and fight (or is at least open to learning how). Make disciples, build for the future; get married, have children, raise them in the discipline and admonition of the Lord. Equip them so they’ll have the tools and worldview to thrive, rebuild and make disciples in whatever civilization they find themselves in. If the west does fall, Christ will still be King, the Church will still endure, and there will be a strong need for Christians with a backbone and a solid worldview to live and build and make disciples as Christ’s ambassadors in that place.

No question that our culture is on a bad trajectory; our current culture worships sin and death. It makes war on fertility. It mutilates healthy bodies, chemically castrating and sterilizing men and women through hormone ‘therapy’ in so-called “sex-change” operations. It condemns God’s design for marriage, condemning God’s good plan as ‘hetero-normativity’ and patriarchy. And it worships death through the bloody sacrament of abortion.

Any culture that murders its Children, opposes the family, attempts to sever sex from marriage and childbearing is a culture that has signed its own death warrant. Whether our children will continue to battle this culture, or whether they find themselves facing a radically different cultural landscape, the need will be same: faithfulness and fruitfulness. A people who will either stand against the cultural decay, or build in the ruins, a people who will honor marriage, celebrate children, and disciple them.

This ought to be what we are aiming to produce in the future. A people whose spirits cannot be broken, because they know that Christ’s body was broken for them. A people who know how to stand against wickedness, with sword in hand, a twinkle in their eye, a smile on their face, and a joyful hymn in their heart.

Death came for Christ, and it couldn’t hold Him. Christ rose from the grave and gave a commission to His Church: to advance His Kingdom, to see it spread like yeast through a batch of dough; to disciple the nations, to bring forth a multitude no one can number from all tribes, peoples and languages. This mission will be successful. Christ will have His inheritance. This world is His, and as we fight, we rejoice in the victory He has won. Our calling is faithfulness, the results are in our Lord’s hands, and He will not fail.

Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday School at Grace Covenant Church

Introduction

In this post I want to address a vitally important topic: Youth Discipleship. The question of Sunday School has come up in conversation about our Church, and I thought it may be prudent to put in writing our thoughts regarding youth discipleship, and how we intend to run Sunday School. So, for starters, what does the Bible say about the discipleship of youth?

I began looking into this in earnest as a youth pastor. I had been tasked with discipling the youth in my church, and so I turned to scripture to see if there was guidance for how I should do my new job. What I found surprised me a little bit. I found that scripture does in fact have a lot to say about the discipleship of children and youth, and that every single passage without exception that specifically addresses the discipleship of children and youth is directed at their parents. 

I’m still open to being proven wrong on this, but from what I’ve found, every time the discipleship of children is addressed directly, the instructions are always directed to their parents. To give a few examples: 

Deuteronomy 6:4-8: “Hear O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these word that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise.” 

Proverbs 29:15: “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.”

Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” 

Starting Point

If every Scripture passage that specifically addresses the discipleship of children is directed to their parents, then I believe it is safe to say that God intends for parents to be the primary disciplers of their children. At GCC, it is our conviction, that in approaching the discipleship of youth, the Church must begin with what the Bible says is primary. 

This means that if we as a Church desire to see the children well-taught, loving Jesus, knowing their Bibles and growing up as Christians, the very best thing we can possibly do to this end is to equip parents for the role that God has given them

In the wisdom of God, He has ordained that each child should have two live-in Sunday school teachers/youth/Awana leaders. Their names are mom and dad. Before anyone else, before elders/pastors, before the godly men and women in the Church, mothers and fathers are assigned by Almighty God to teach the scriptures, lead in prayer and worship, and form a godly home for children to grow in. While the Church is absolutely necessary, and plays a vital role, we must always recognize it to be a supplemental role. 

We must trust that God knows what He’s doing. If He has set things up in a particular way, we need to trust that God’s way is the best way. I am absolutely convinced that persuading parents, and particularly fathers of their God-appointed role to disciple their families will be far more effective than any youth, Awana or Sunday school program. 

The Church

The Church has a vital role in all of this. In a healthy church, there ought to be a culture of discipleship. Every member ought to understand that they have a responsibility to every other member. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we ought all to be helping one another grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. I, as a church member, have a responsibility to you, my brother in Christ, and you have that same responsibility to me. It is the responsibility to be praying for one another, bearing each other’s burdens, using our gifts for mutual up-building, in short, doing what we can, to help one another follow Christ. 

Imagine a faith community functioning like that. We ought to include our children in this. If our children are believers, we ought to treat them like members of our faith community. Their faith will not yet be mature, and so what better place for them to be, than surrounded by a worshiping community of godly men and women who share the burden to help disciple them; to model for them what godliness looks like, to take an interest in their lives, and seek to bless them. If our children are not yet believers, then the church ought to treat them as someone in need of evangelism. Someone who needs the gospel, and needs it explained simply at a level they can understand. 

The Church also helps by equipping parents for their role. Godly elders must teach parents from Scripture what their role is, modeling for them how to read and interpret the scriptures through expository preaching and bible study. Encouraging and building up through regular conversations, corporate prayer, fellowship and discipleship. Godly men and women come alongside parents to help and encourage, offer counsel, advice and support. In short, the Church helps by creating a culture of discipleship.

…And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for:

This brings us to our proposed solution: Starting in a few weeks, we will be running an integrated Sunday School. No division by age, rather, one class, adults, children, teens, all together. We will be working through the New City Catechism, you can see some introductory videos here: http://newcitycatechism.com/videos/

Cata-what?

For those of you who may not be familiar, a catechism is a series of questions and answers about Biblical topics. Memorizing (good) catechisms is a fantastic way of providing solid Biblical grounding. we’ve chosen to use the New City Catechism because it is simple and straight-forward, it is theologically sound, being based upon older well-known and trusted catechisms, and because it has a good number of resources for parents and teachers.

Each question has a kids version and an adults version which goes into more depth. Each question also has Biblical references for all the answers given. There are kids songs available online to go with each question.

Each week we will begin by reciting (or singing) The catechism question from the week before, then introducing this week’s question, reciting it together, then working through the relevant Biblical passages as a group. We will then open up the adult version of the question, and discuss in further depth. 

Our Hopes

Our hope for both children and adults is that we would learn and grow through the catechism, being rooted and grounded through the memorization of these truths. 

Our hope is that the children would see that they matter to the church, as they are treated as brothers and sisters in Christ, with an entire body of believers investing in them and their spiritual growth. 

Our hope is that the adults would grow to see the importance of creating a culture of discipleship in the Church and do what they can to help and encourage their brothers sisters in Christ, regardless of their age. 

Our hope is that parents would be equipped through the discussion to go deeper with their children throughout the week, as they review the questions every night in their home during family worship. 

Join us!

We invite you to join us, whether you are a parent with young children or teenagers. Whether you are single, married, empty nesters, or at anything else. Join us as we seek to build a culture of discipleship. Join us as we take doctrine seriously, as we pray and study together that we may grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

 

 

 

Burden or Blessing? (Rejoice Sometimes part 2)

Introduction

Back in the blissfully care-free days of April of 2019, I wrote a post titled rejoice sometimes… In that post, I discussed how the distinction I was making between happiness and joy had allowed me to create a category of joyless joy, effectively letting me off the hook from the many biblical commands to be joyful always. Picking up from the conclusion of that post, I have some additional thoughts that have been extremely helpful to me, and, I hope, may be of some help to you, my esteemed reader.

Burden or Blessing?

Unless we’ve taken to the ascetic life, and find ourselves living on top of a pillar somewhere (yes, that’s been a thing) we all have people in our lives; people that we likely spend a fair bit of time with on the regular. No matter who you are, your presence has an impact on the people in your life. This is absolutely inescapable. My daughter turned one in July, and has been slowly adding words to her vocabulary. One of her recent words is “Hi!” which she enthusiastically says to anybody and everybody we meet when out in public. It has been remarkable seeing the kind of impact that such a little person can have on others. While the rest of us may not have the cuteness factor that Everly does, the fact remains that we too have an impact on the people around us. Since this is the case, we ought to ask ourselves, what kind of impact are we having? Is our presence a burden or a blessing?

When I come home from work, is having me around going to have a positive or  a negative impact on my wife? Will I be an encouragement to have around or will my presence be draining? Do I increase the tension level in the room, or does my presence bring peace? This thought has helped me greatly. I want to be a support to my wife. I want to make her smile. The net impact on her mental state, stress levels, etc. after  spending time with me ought to be a positive one. I want to help, not hurt, lift up, not bring down. I want to be blessing, not a burden.

Setting the Tone

Early-ish in our marriage, my wife and I had to work through a challenge. I’m a bit of a daydreamer. It’s quite easy for me to zone out, stare out the window, and get lost in my thoughts. From the outside, it’s nearly impossible to know what’s going through my head in that moment, and so Diana would begin asking me. Sometimes it was something stressing me out at work, occasionally, it was something that had happened between us, but most of the time, it was innocent daydreaming. Being the relationally sensitive type, Diana would assume that when I zoned out like that, it was always because I was upset at her about something. Through our discussions I came to realize that I have a tremendous impact on her, simply through the way that I am around her. My moods, my attitudes and my behaviors, affect her dramatically.

Realizing this, I was confronted with this question; what kind of impact do I want to have? This question is especially important for husbands and fathers; as the heads of our homes, we have a disproportionately large impact on our families. That is to say, I affect my wife, more than she affects me. I believe this is simply an outworking of the fact that “the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the Church.”  Notice that this is a statement Paul makes “the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church. Men therefore have an added layer of responsibility to use the influence they have to be a blessing.

The Golden Rule

Those of us who grew up in the Church likely had this one memorized from a young age; Jesus says in Matthew 7:12: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Applying the golden rule to this situation, I would love it if the people around me showed concern for the impact they were having on me, and sought to set a positive tone. This would be a great blessing. Since this is the case, I ought to have that level of concern for the impact I’m having on them.

Ask yourself the question: what character am I in their story? What follows the scenes that we appear in together? Are they edified, are they built up, are they encouraged? Are they better off for having encountered me? Or is the opposite true?

There’s an important qualification to make here. Not everybody is going to like you. I’m not saying that Christians should be universally loved. The fact is, if we are representing Christ well, there will be people who hate us for this very reason. Our Lord was frequently run out of town, and was eventually executed… do we really expect better treatment from the world? The most loving thing we can do for someone might very well be something that they define as hate. When we’re applying the golden rule, we must ask, not what the sinner wants from us, but what we would want if we were in their shoes. That answer is clear. If I was walking in darkness, I would want friends who would point me to the light no matter how many times I told them off. Love desires what is truly best for someone, even if it may not be something they want in the moment, and so we can’t gauge our faithfulness by someone’s response to us.

Man’s Chief End

I’ve focused in on one particular element of a larger point; we are called to rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 4:4). Reflecting on the impact my attitude has on those around me, I have found to be helpful; an additional reason to be committed to the calling on my life to rejoice in the Lord. Every interaction that I have with another person is an opportunity for me to glorify God through my interactions with them. Both in scripture and in my experience, I have seen that God loves to use small acts of obedience to accomplish His purposes.

The ultimate reason for all of this is the same as our ultimate purpose for all things. We are here to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. The ultimate reason that we aim to be a blessing to those around us, is because we are called to glorify God with our lives. I believe God is honored when I focus more on the impact I’m having on others than how I happen to be feeling personally. In humility, we are to regard others, as more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). I have found it to be a powerful way to overcome my own mopey-ness to reflect on how I’m impacting the people around me. I believe this to be an attitude that glorifies God, and therefore, increases my enjoyment of Him. As Christians, Glorifying God is our main goal in life; we strive bring every area of our lives under the Lordship of Christ, and this includes our attitudes and the tone we set for those around us.

Soli Deo Gloria

Not One Bit

2020 has been quite a year. I won’t even try to make an exhaustive list but some of the highlights include a global pandemic, nationwide lock-downs, riots in the streets, and a short-lived Kanye West presidential campaign. For those of us used to a much more stable existence, 2020 has felt tumultuous to say the least. For this reason, I thought it appropriate to remind us all of one very important truth: Jesus is Lord, and His Lordship is not threatened or destabilized by chaos in the World. Not even a little bit.

Absolute Sovereignty

I believe we need to be reminded from time to time that, not only is God’s rule not challenged by the tumult on earth, He Himself is the one guiding history. The chaotic events that we encounter are from the hand of the Lord. “I am the LORD and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD who does all these things.” – Isaiah 45:7. While we are always responsible for our own sins, in an ultimate sense, whatsoever comes to pass is from the hand of the LORD:

“Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all my purpose.” – Isaiah 46:8-10

God has ordained all things, He is sovereign over them, has a purpose in them, and He will ultimately be glorified. No doubt, this claim will cause trouble for some, but I press this point, because I believe that the Bible is clear, and that these truths are among the most comforting realities for believers, especially in times of turmoil.

God is sovereign. Part of what this means is that there is nothing that catches Him by surprise. God is never left scrambling, trying to figure out how He’s going to clean up this mess. God never has to resort to plan ‘b.’

“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.” – Psalm 2:1-4

The Lordship of Christ is not challenged by earthly turmoil. There is no panic in the court of heaven. Jesus is Lord, and nothing that happens down here has any bearing on that fact whatsoever. This ought to be comforting for those who are citizens of His Kingdom.

Much-Needed Perspective

Nations rise and fall. Empires come and go. People scurry about on the face of the earth with a highly inflated sense of self-importance. In the end we are all a vapor. Mist. Vanity. Dust and ashes. Canada can crumble. The United States could dissolve. Jesus will still be King. Regardless of what happens in our world right now, 500 years from now, Jesus will still be King. 1000 Years from now Jesus will still be King. 100 million years from now, Jesus will still be King for: “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and his dominion endures from generation to generation.” – Daniel 4:3b

When things seem to be spiraling out of control, look to the Lord. If we could gaze into heaven and see His face, there would be no panic in His expression. His reign is not challenged, His rule is not in jeopardy. His plans are not shaken. The outcome is not in question. It was accomplished when Jesus rose from the dead. He is King, and one day all His enemies will be under His feet. We live in light of these realities, finding joy and peace in the arms of our Sovereign Lord. Jesus reigns, and He always will; the chaos of man does not shake the heavenly throne, not one bit.

Soli Deo Gloria

Equality (Part 2)

In my last post I began responding to Pastor Ben Klassen’s posts regarding equality. To get caught up on the discussion, please see my Equality (Part 1)

LGBTQ+

Ben’s position once again:

2) I am affirming of LGBTQ+. I don’t believe it is sin. I believe they should have all the rights and privileges of everyone else.

As we’ve seen, Ben has argued that a restriction should not be placed on someone because of who they were born (as). He assumes that LGBTQ+ identities/orientations are given by God, and people should not be discriminated against for their God-given identities.

One of the many problems with this is that the Bible does not share these assumptions. Somebody claiming to be born with a desire does not legitimize that desire. Applying the same reasoning to other sins illustrates this: somebody declares that they are born with an inclination towards a particular sin. They declare that their bent towards this sin is “an orientation” and part of their identity. Then they argue that for God to forbid this sin would be an example of inequality, and since we know that God cares about equality, He must be okay with this sin. By this reasoning, we would lose the ability to identify anything as sin…

Once you accept the world’s categories of orientation/identity, you must ask: Who gets to decide what a legitimate orientation/identity is? Once we’ve rejected God’s authority to define marriage and who we are as male or female, what are we left with? Who gets to say? The “+” at the end of LGBTQ leaves things open-ended. Are people free to fill in those blanks with whatever they choose? Supposing someone were to declare that they have deep, abiding sexual attraction to children… is this a legitimate ‘orientation’? Can ‘p’ for pedophile be added to the acronym? If not, why not? If you argue that consent is the defining factor, I would point out that you’ve now departed from the initial argument about equality. Why would you discriminate against them based on ‘who they were born as?’ Should pedophiles not have equal rights and opportunities provided they claim they were born with this “orientation” and it is part of their identity?

Or to leave the issue of sexuality for a moment; are we free to claim any sin as part of our identity, provided we believe that we were born with these desires? Of course not. Calling a series of besetting sinful desires ‘an orientation’ does not legitimize those sinful desires. Claiming we were born with particular desires does not make those desires holy in the sight of God. Because of our fallen state, we all will have sinful desires that we didn’t ‘choose.’ Consider Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, describing their natural condition:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind.”  – Ephesians 2:1-3

By nature, we are all sinners. In our sinful condition, we had sinful desires; the passions of our flesh. What we must not do is grab hold of any of these sinful desires and claim they are an essential part of our identity. The calling for all believers is: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” – Colossians 3:5-6. We don’t get to use the excuse that we’ve always had certain desires, as if this makes them acceptable; if the Bible describes our desires as evil, our calling is to kill them.

The “Clobber Passages” 

So then, what does God’s Word say about homosexuality? The fact is, every single passage in which homosexuality is specifically addressed condemns it as sin:

Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” 

Leviticus 20:12 “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” 

Romans 1:26-28: “For this reason God  gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those which are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” 

1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 

1 Timothy 1:8-9: “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.”

Jude 1:7: “Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of fire…”

I believe this conversation would be settled even if these verses were not in the Bible. The fact that the Bible gives us positive teachings about what marriage is, would be entirely sufficient to rule out any and all deviations. Consider again Ephesians 5:22-23: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its savior.” Marriage provides a picture of Christ and the Church… Two men cannot form a picture of Christ and the Church, two women cannot form a picture of Christ and the Church; whatever other deviations are added to the acronym, only one man and one woman bound together in a one-flesh union can form a marriage union that forms a picture of Christ and His bride, the Church.

So even without these so-called “clobber passages,” I believe this question is firmly settled. What’s more, considering the positive biblical teaching on what marriage is and what it represents, also refutes one of the most common ways that the “gay Christian movement” tries to get around the clear teachings of the Scriptures on this issue. The most common argument that I’ve encountered in my readings on this issue goes something like this: ‘The ‘clobber passages’ are all addressing either pederasty, male cult prostitutes or gang rape (Sodom and Gomorrah) and are not addressing committed, loving, monogamous same-sex relationships.’

Now firstly, I find this to be very weak argumentation but for argument’s sake, let’s say we found it persuasive. We would still be left with the question, can two men or two women form a Biblically legitimate marriage? We would be left going to scriptures to ask the question, ‘what is marriage?’ How has God defined it? We would discover our Lord Jesus pointing to creation and quoting from Genesis: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” We would find the apostle Paul describing marriage as a picture of Christ and His bride the Church. We would find Peter similarly calling for submissive wives, and husbands who honor their wives as weaker vessels (1 Peter 3:1-7).  And so even if we conceded that the “clobber passages” were not addressing ‘loving, monogamous same-sex relationships, we would still be forced to conclude from scripture that two men together or two women together cannot form a Biblical marriage.

The ‘T’ in LGBTQ+

The worldview required to be affirming of LGBTQ+ is fundamentally at odds with the Christian worldview. This is seen nowhere more clearly than considering the issue of ‘transgenderism.’ The question raised by transgenderism is: ‘can one thing become something else?’ Who is the definer? Who gets to say? Transgenderism says that we have the ultimate right of self-determination. It says that we can create our own reality. It is man the creature, attempting to usurp the role of God, as we claim the right to self-determination.

The problem with this of course is that this is God’s world. No matter how we mutilate our bodies, we will never become something other than what we are. A man who puts on a dress does not magically transform into a woman. This is true regardless of what he cuts off of his body, or has surgically added. Giving him a girl’s name and forcing the entire to society to call him a ‘her’ also does not make him a woman. No matter what He does or has done, he will always remain a male, created by God, in God’s image.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27

A man cannot become a woman any more than a man can become an elephant.  The God who created us in His image is the one who made us who and what we are, and there is no surgery or hormone “therapy” that will change that.

A Matter of Love

We need to consider the stakes. This is not merely an inconsequential theological question about which we can agree to disagree. If homosexuality is sin, then to affirm it as a lifestyle is to be a cheerleader for someone as they travel the road to hell. If men cannot truly become women, then to promote transgenderism is to promote high-handed rebellion against God as creator, and the mutilation of healthy bodies, causing permanent, irreversible physical damage and untold psychological trauma. 

If the lifestyles and identities under the LGBTQ+ banner are sinful, then for a teacher or preacher to affirm them, is to promote sin. A teacher or preacher that actively promotes sin is a false teacher. Any Church that promotes sin is an apostate church; they have lost the gospel, they have denied the faith and are endangering the souls of all who hear their message.

This is where the matter of love comes in. If I want to be loving toward those living a lifestyle that the Bible says will result in them not inheriting the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9) I must call them to repentance. We do sinners (of any stripe) no favors by soft-pedaling the severity of sin, just as a doctor does no favors to a patient by downplaying the severity of their illness. And here’s the diagnosis. We are sick. Desperately sick. In fact according to scripture, our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately sick. (Jeremiah 17:9) One of the things this means is that they make lousy guides… turns out Disney didn’t have great advice for us on this one.

All of us, however we may wish to identify ourselves have been identified by the one true God, and He has deemed us guilty. We have all sinned against Him, and are deserving of death. But in His great love, God sent His one and only Son, into the world to provide an atonement for sin. Through the finished work of Christ, there is forgiveness of sins for all who turn from their sin, and follow Christ in a lifestyle of faith and repentance.

As sinners come to faith in Christ, they are cleansed of their sin. God forgives them through the blood of Christ, and they begin their new lives as God’s adopted children; citizens of Christ’s Kingdom. If we are to show love to those who identify as LGBTQ+, we must preach this message, and we must do so with boldness and clarity.

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (emphasis added)

The grace of God transforms sinners. Among the Church in Corinth were saints who had been caught up in all manner of sin before coming to Christ. But through the work of Christ, that was not who they were anymore. They were washed, sanctified and justified, and left any and all sinful identities behind them.

So to anyone identifying as LGBTQ+ who has read this far, I invite you to repent. Turn from your sin, and turn to Christ in repentance and faith. Find a faithful body of believers and be baptized upon your profession of faith, and be joined to the family of God. To those presently attending a Church that affirms LGBTQ+, come out from among them. Find a faithful, Bible-believing, gospel preaching Church, and join them for worship and discipleship. And to Ben, I would humbly call you to repentance as well. Leading people to be accepting of any sin, will damn those who hear, and bring judgment upon the teacher as well. I truly believe you are endangering your own soul, and those who would follow you in this. I hope you can hear my heart behind the rebuke. I truly do wish you well, and desire the best for you. 

Sincerely,

-Riley

Soli Deo Gloria

Equality (Part 1)

In this post I will be responding to a couple of posts that were posted by Ben Klassen. You can find the original post here, and the follow-up here. For those of you who don’t know, Ben Klassen is the former pastor of discipleship and teaching at the Altona EMMC, and was my pastor for most of the years that I was actually paying attention in church (adolescence onward). Before I begin with my response, I want to acknowledge the debt of gratitude that I owe to pastor Ben. I have no doubt that I have been dramatically shaped by sitting under his preaching for so many years, and for this I am truly grateful. I hope it is evident to anyone who reads this, that I harbor no personal animosity toward Ben, and my goal is not a personal attack, but to deal with the ideas and theological positions he has taken, which are quite troubling.

Ben’s Position

Ben’s first post was very brief, and concluded with these two statements:

“1) I support the full equality of women. I believe there is no restrictions on the roles women can and should play in the church, world or family.

2) I am affirming of LGBTQ+. I don’t believe it is sin. I believe they should have all the rights and privileges of everyone else.”

Ben argues that the burden of proof lies on the person insisting on a ‘restriction.’ He argues that equality requires no restrictions be placed on someone simply because of who they were born (as). Based on his conclusions this would mean that there are no restrictions or differences between the roles of men and women in the Church, the family or society, and also that all expressions of  sexuality as indicated by the open-ended LGBTQare not-sinful and therefore acceptable in God’s sight. The core of his argument is this:

“Equality is a great theme in the Bible. So this is where I begin. I default with equality. Any limitations or exceptions to this great theme will need to clearly proven (and with more than one or two verses – especially when those verses could be understood a different way).”

For Ben, placing restrictions either on the roles of men and women or on sexual expression would demonstrate inequality, and since equality is a major theme in scripture, and therefore very important to God, we must reject all inequality.

Definitions and Assumptions.

I believe the key issue here is in our definition of Equality. What is equality?  Are men and women equal? That depends, equal in what ways? In value? Worth? Salvation? Dignity? Baptism? In these ways and others, Absolutely yes, 100% yes and amen.

In strength? Speed? The ability to bear and nurse children? No, in these ways men and women are definitely not equal… and this is because God made us for different things. My wife and I are not interchangeable. There are certain things that she can do that I cannot do, just as there are certain things that I can do that she cannot do.

If equality requires that there can be no differences between the roles played by men and women, (and that’s quite a big if) then the Bible does not promote equality. And this is what I would contend: the Bible does not promote the kind of “equality” that Ben describes in his articles. While all human beings made in the image of God are equal in value, worth and dignity (which is what I would argue equality is really about). God very clearly provides different roles to Men and Women. In the marriage relationship, husbands and wives are a picture of Christ and the Church. Ephesians 5:23: “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” 

This provides a good test case for one of Ben’s claims: “If there is to be a restriction placed on a person simply because of who they were born that needs to be 100% definitively proven.” Here’s a question, can a woman be a husband? Can a man be a wife? (Leaving aside the question of transgenderism for a moment), the obvious answer is no. Christ and His church cannot play interchangeable roles, and so neither can men and women. This is a clear and unambiguous example of a “restriction” placed on someone “simply because of who they were born.”

There’s a vitally important point to be made here. The question of “who they were born (as)” is presented as an arbitrary and unfair basis for placing ‘restrictions’ on someone.  But let’s not forget who determines a person’s sex…“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” – Psalm 139:13-14. God is the one determined your sex. He is the one who made us male and female in His image. He is the one who made men and women, and told us what we are for. As our creator, He has the right to define these things. This is one point at which the ‘t’ in lgbtq+ is such a clear act of high-handed rebellion against God. It is man the creature claiming the right to self-definition, an attempt to transcend God’s intentions in making us as He did, by attempting to re-make ourselves as we see fit.

God made us male and female, and He gave us different assignments. This is true in marriage, Church and society, and it is a good thing. A difference in role does not indicate a difference in value. A beautifully clear example of this is found in the trinity. 1 Corinthians 11:3: “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” All orthodox creeds and confessions maintain that the Father, Son and Spirit are co-equal as members of the Godhead, yet, there exists some type of headship. “The head of Christ is God.” This demonstrates that a difference in roles does not necessitate inequality.

LGBTQ+

As we’ve seen, Ben’s reasoning  is this: 1. God made all people equal 2.God highly prizes equality 3. A restriction placed on someone is a demonstration of inequality 4. Therefore, there can be no restrictions placed on a person’s sexuality.

This argument smuggles in one massive and tremendously problematic assumption. It assumes that LGBTQ+ orientations are a good part of who God made someone to be. It assumes that sexual orientation is an integral part of someone’s God-given identity and therefore to place a restriction on who someone can or cannot marry is a demonstration of inequality…

When the LGBTQ+ “community” was lobbying for ‘marriage equality,’ those who opposed them inadvertently conceded the debate simply by accepting their language. What do I mean? If you accept their terminology in fighting for ‘marriage equality,’ the way the debate has been framed, the opposing side is now the side of ‘marriage inequality’ …nobody in our p.c. culture wants to defend that… But the reality is, the debate was never over ‘marriage equality,’  the lgbtq+ folks were lobbying for the redefinition of marriage.

Definitions

What is marriage? How does the Bible define it? When Jesus is asked a question about divorce, He quotes Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” –Matthew 19:5-6 Marriage, according to Scripture is the one flesh union of one man and one woman for life. It is described as a picture of Christ and His Church.

So when the LGBT+ folks argue that there should be no restrictions placed on who they can or cannot marry, what they are really saying is that they should be allowed to redefine marriage any way they choose. At root, this is again an attack on God’s right as as definer. What is a man? What is a woman? What is marriage? Who gets to say? God does. And He has said so very clearly in His Word.

Before I get to what the so called “Gay Christian movement” refers to as ‘clobber passages’ (which I’ll address in a future post) I want to again point out that Biblically speaking, this argument is settled simply by looking to the Bible’s positive presentation of what marriage is: the one flesh union of one man and one woman for life. Husbands and wives are a picture of Christ and His Church, and their roles are not interchangeable. Any attempt to redefine marriage, constitutes a clear act of rebellion against God as creator and definer. Scripture is both clear and consistent in this regard.

Conclusion

All people are made in God’s image, either male or female. God is the one who defines what men and women are, and also what they are for. He is the one who instituted marriage, and has the sole right to define it. The boundaries or ‘restrictions’ placed on our roles, do not mean that there is any difference in our value or worth. I’ll have more to say in my next post.

Soli Deo Gloria

Bubble Wrap vs. Boot Camp

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I am convinced that Christian parents need to get their kids out of government schools as soon as they possibly can… As God’s providence would have it, this has suddenly become a reality in the wake of the Coronavirus shutdowns. In light of the present situation, I want to offer some thoughts for Christian parents.

Given my attacks on the government school system, you might suppose that I am now very pleased with children being away from the secularizing influences of our school divisions, and you’d be partially right. It is a very good thing to remove children from a system promoting an explicitly anti-christian worldview. However, removing Christian kids from the government schools is not enough. It would be woefully insufficient to simply remove children from that environment without a Christ-exalting alternative. Please hear me closely: sheltering is not enough.

Bubble Wrap vs. Boot Camp

As I have been railing against our socialistic, secular-to-the-core, government schools, I imagine that my readers might be given the impression that simply removing their children from that situation is enough; ‘just get em out and we’ve done our job, right?’ Not so fast. Before we settle on our path, we need to know our destination; where are we hoping to get? That is, if all things go according to plan, what will my kid be like upon graduation? What kind of 18 year-old am I shooting for?

The sheltering strategy, what I’m going to call the bubble-wrap method, is a great idea… provided that what you’re aiming at is an 18 year-old as fresh and soft as an infant from the womb… I would contend that this should not be your goal.

Instead of bubble wrap, I would advocate boot camp. Just replace the screaming drill Sergeants with God-fearing parents and you get the idea. Bubble wrap protects, boot camp prepares. If you want to produce a warrior, you will have to spend time training. Before you send a soldier to the front lines, you want them to have the necessary skills so that they won’t get their head blown off the moment the shooting starts. And if you want them to do more than just survive, but actually gain some ground against the enemy, they will have to have been taught to do more than simply cower in fear.

The training and tools needed will be a fully-orbed Biblical world and life view, and deep and abiding faith. Now obviously, this can’t happen without the work of God’s Spirit. We are not responsible to change hearts, but we are responsible to bring up our children in the discipline and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). Our part is education and discipleship. We must teach our children to think like Christians. There is no part of education that is ‘neutral.’ We exist in God’s world, He is actively sustaining and ruling the universe and this means that every area of life must reckon with His Lordship.

As Vern Poythress writes:

“Cultural leaders want most of life to be “secular,” a realm where religion makes no difference. They say in effect, “Keep your Jesus out of business, work, education, science, technology, government, politics, entertainment, media and the arts.” But if Jesus is in fact Lord of all, he is Lord of all these areas of life. He is already there in his divine authority and power and presence. You cannot “keep him out.” And trying to keep him out is already a violation of his claims to lordship.”

– Vern Poythress “The Lordship of Christ.” pg. 11-12

We need to understand the implications of our claims as Christians. If Jesus is Lord of all, if God is the one who made this universe, this has significant implications for how we approach and think about literally everything. Every school subject relates to God. A thoroughly Christian education would attempt to show how everything fits together, and how it relates to God. A Christian Education would teach on all of these subjects from a Biblical perspective. And rather than shelter, and avoid, a thoroughly Christian education would seek to equip, by engaging with other perspectives and demonstrating how to critically analyze and interact with them.

But I’m not a teacher…

I anticipate an objection: ‘Okay, this all sounds wonderful… But how am I supposed to do this? I’m not qualified…’ This is certainly an understandable concern. First, I believe we need to de ‘mythologize’ university degrees.

I believe that if the average parent could sit in on the actual education being given to today’s teachers, they would not hold our government’s qualifications in such high esteem.

My wife completed her teaching degree last year, and in her experience, a large portion of the education she received, was essentially worldview training. As I’ve documented, our government education system has a strong agenda that they are pushing. They are intending to produce a certain type of citizen through the education they provide. In order to accomplish this, the teachers need to be advocates of that worldview. She also said that a large portion of her education was fairly specialized, and not directly relevant to much of what she could potentially be teaching; she has a bachelor’s degree with a major in English and a minor in history, and after completing her education degree she could now teach in any level school in any subject.

Which means that she has the “qualifications” to be a high school physics teacher or a homeroom elementary school teacher without having received any specialized training in a variety of the subjects she could be teaching. What she found to be by far the most helpful for equipping her was her practicum; where she was able to gain experience through actually teaching. What this means is that a dedicated Christian parent after their first year of homeschooling has the potential to be better equipped than a University graduate with a teaching degree.

Especially for those starting out with their kids from the youngest grades, there is a very real sense in which you learn as you go. When you’re starting out, you don’t need to be a scientist to teach a first-grader biology. You simply need to be one day ahead of your six-year-old. This is not something you have to do by yourself. There are godly people offering tutoring, and other experienced home-school parents who are willing to help.

Other Options

Homeschooling is not the only alternative to government schools. There are multiple solid options available. As we get closer to school age with our daughter, I’ll be doing more research into what’s out there. From what I’ve seen so far, Logos Online School looks to me like one of the better available options. There are also home school co-ops where home-schooling families partner together to socialize, pool resources and encourage one another. And who knows, If God wills, maybe one day we’ll be able to open a Christian private school.

Conclusion

Sheltering is not enough. Having your kids out of the public schools is not enough. There is sin in their hearts, and so even if you could successfully bubble wrap them from all the negative influences of the world, that still wouldn’t cut it. Children need more than sheltering, they need to be brought up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). Christian worldview boot-camp can take a variety of forms. Step one is realizing it’s your responsibility as a parent to educate and disciple your children. Let’s take this task seriously, pool our resources and see what God will do with our faithfulness.

Soli Deo Gloria