The Eclipse of Wisdom

Solar Eclipse

As far as we can tell, Christians predicting the end of the world have gotten it wrong every time so far, and this trend shows no signs of ending. Wait… signs? Did I say signs? Sorry… what was I thinking!

We could help the cause of the Gospel (which includes our public image) by no longer claiming that everything is a sign of the end. Whether it’s a President we don’t like (I’m looking at both parties here), the return of ugly fashions, or strange patterns on tortillas, we just can’t seem to help ourselves. Everything seems to portend the Antichrist just ahead, waiting at the next truck stop. And a solar eclipse obviously ratchets this sort of thing up to the next level.

One pastor is quoted as saying that today’s “Great American Total Solar Eclipse” could possibly fulfill the prophecy of Joel that the sun will be turned to darkness before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. While I do believe in that prophecy, which I think has already happened once (Acts 2) and will happen again (Matthew 24, Revelation 6), has anyone done a quick Google search to see that there are about two total solar eclipses every three years? Which of these 65 or so eclipses in a century, over 1000 since the time of Christ, is the right one to herald His return?

 

Just wait till next year: 2018 will be a doozy!

Other folks are fired up about a supposed sign in the stars that’s coming next month. And just wait until next year! In 2018, people will be speculating hard again about the End, because 2018 marks 70 years since Israel’s rebirth as a nation-state. (Trust me, I’ve already heard this one, and you’re definitely going to hear it also.) After all, these people say, it’s been 70 years, and that makes one biblical generation. And don’t forget, Jesus said this generation won’t pass away until all these things come to pass.

Two problems with this thinking leap out at me, and they should leap out at you, too:

  • What generation was Jesus talking about? Ask five scholars and you’ll get six answers.
  • And how long is a generation anyway? Why pick a 70-year generation? Why not a 120-year generation like it was with Noah, or maybe the evil generation of 40 years under Moses? Of course, we also read in the Psalms that our days are 70 years – however, our lifespan is apparently 80 years if we’re strong! Confused yet? You will be.

 

Time out! (Please?)

Let’s call “time out” on this kind of speculation. We’ve already had too many of these self-inflicted wounds. You probably remember the Harold Camping debacle of a few years ago. I grant you that date-setting was only one of Mr. Camping’s theological quirks, but modern media and the sheer stubbornness and implacability of today’s Christians guarantee that anything strange we say will be widely disseminated.

It’s worth noting that the eclipse story I quoted above came from the “weird news” section of the newspaper. That’s never where we want to be, if we can help it. Let’s stop terrifying ourselves and stop amusing unbelievers unnecessarily.

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Betraying the Son of Man

Photo posted by U2 on Instagram
Photo posted by U2 on Instagram (https://instagram.com/p/2-ON_VAF1Q/?taken-by=u2)

An interesting bit of news. As Ireland votes on whether to allow homosexual marriage, U2 frontman Bono has come out in favor of a “Yes” vote and was quoted as saying, “Marriage is now an idea that transcends religion.”

So you see, this is how you can claim to be a committed Christian and yet not have to face the scorn of the world for saying that marriage is only between a man and a woman. You just say that marriage has nothing to do with religion.

That may be a coherent line of thinking in the opinion of someone who does not profess to be a follower of Jesus Christ, but it can never be considered “wholesome words” for someone who truly loves God and His Word.

No Christian can ignore the fact that the very first recorded words of a human being are these:

“This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:23 KJV)

After telling us this, Moses, the founder of Western Civilization (may it rest in peace), immediately comments, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24 KJV)

Read the beautiful creation story in Genesis 2 and you will see that marriage was God’s idea. The man-woman bond was reinforced in the Law of Moses and, despite what homosexual activists say, was restated by the Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles Paul, Peter, Jude, and John in the New Testament.

And U2? The band posted on its Instagram (see photo above) a phrase from Bono’s song, “Pride (In The Name Of Love).” The song, which has a social justice theme, contains a line about Jesus:

“One man betrayed with a kiss…”

I wonder if we’re doing the same.

Southern Baptist missionaries now allowed to speak in tongues

fire-643106_1280

Reversing a 10-year old policy, the International Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention will receive applications from missionary applicants who admit to speaking in tongues.

The Board will still end employment for any missionary who places “persistent emphasis on any specific gift of the Spirit as normative for all or to the extent such emphasis becomes disruptive.”

I can’t be sure how much of change in theology this is. Clearly the Southern Baptists are not going full Pentecostal, but the acknowledgment that there even is such a thing as a private, devotional use of tongues would seem to be a big step. (This was something we wrote about at length during the “Strange Fire” controversy in 2013.) Because so many Baptists of different stripes are cessationists, meaning they believe the gifts of the Spirit have passed away, it will be interesting to see the reaction to this decision within the wider Baptist family.

The mystery of the missing Millennials

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It may be bad form in 2015 to disagree with Rachel Held Evans too much, but perhaps the lack of Millennials in the pews will not be solved by offering an experience of a God who is somewhat tangible in bread and chrism.

In last week’s super-viral piece in the Washington Post, Ms. Evans skillfully calls out the hip Evangelical worship paradigm, but is veering towards sacramentalism the answer?

I don’t think so. I think the reason Millennials aren’t in the pews is simply because they have no Christian cultural background that makes going to church part of being an American. In a great many parts of our country, going to church is just not something you do any more. (So I can at least acknowledge their lack of hypocrisy.) And the culture has changed so completely in the past 50 years that we have jettisoned what was affirmed for the last 3,500 years.

The consequences? To give just one example, teens and 20-somethings come into churches already “knowing” that there is nothing wrong with gay marriage, to say nothing of homosexual activity. How do they know this? They know this because it’s what everyone in their world believes and knows. So when, as a young person, you go to a church and hear someone reading Romans 1 from the pulpit, you are outraged and you want to call the Human Rights Commissions. You do not cringe with disgust or cover the ears of your kids as your grandfather did in 1955.

So, with due respect to Ms. Evans, encountering God in a “sacrament” is meaningless without the content of faith (the Word) which is behind it, and giving God’s own definition to it. The baseline of the Gospel (which everyone’s flesh hates) is the call to repentance – to yield to God’s diagnosis of my condition and to yield to His prescription for my condition.

Under the wisdom of such a Physician, “culture-war sins” such as abortion and homosexuality are ills just as dangerous for the human condition as the sins that Left and Right can agree to denounce such as greed, racism, and theft. When the Church refuses to say so, Millennials – and others – will not only be missing from the pews, but they will miss their opportunity for repentance and life.

Australia judge says incest may no longer be taboo

Stop Sign

Christians in Western nations must begin to set aside serious time for prayer and fasting. It is no longer something that can be left to the people who are “into” praying. The Apostle Paul said that in the last days perilous times (more literally, exceedingly fierce times) would come. (2 Tim. 3:1) And it appears we are right there.

Fences and gates continue to be thrown down by those falsely promising freedom and joy. All morality and common sense is rejected and renounced as interfering with a person’s right to express and actualize himself apart from God or any other restraints at all on his behavior.

The faster a wall is broken down, the faster and easier the next ones fall. In the past few days there are stories about people advancing the normalization of pedophilia, and now there is this:

Australian judge says incest may no longer be a taboo – Telegraph.

While we can be glad that many were outraged, the insidious worm of pro-incest thinking has likely been planted in a few minds who will now seek to carry this further.

The Red Heifer and the End of the Age

Red_Angus_Heifer

I’ve recently finished a stretch where I’ve been teaching on the end times for about nine months. I always think that the one who teaches learns more than those who hear him, and this was no exception. It was a wonderful experience to talk about the basics of eschatology (the doctrine of “last things”) and then go through the Book of Revelation verse by verse.

Because of all this, I’ve been interested to see stories popping up about the discovery and raising of a pure red heifer, and Christians and Jews speculating about its prophetic significance.

What is the red heifer and does it mean anything for us? This is one of the most complicated and mysterious subjects in all of Jewish religious law – actually, it is possibly the most mysterious. In a nutshell, the Old Testament required (Numbers 19) that the ashes of a red heifer be used in the purification of the Temple. The Israeli organization known as The Temple Institute, like many others, considers the sacrifice of a red heifer to be necessary in order to erect a Third Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

Watch the brief YouTube video above and understand that The Temple Institute now believes that a pure red heifer has been found which could possibly be used for that purpose, allowing the Temple to finally be rebuilt after more than 19 centuries. These Orthodox Jews believe that after the Temple will be rebuilt the Messianic Era will soon follow.

Many Bible-believing Christians also think there will be a Third Temple, but believe that its rebuilding is a more ominous sign. Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24 that the coming Antichrist will defile this Third Temple and that this event (the “abomination of desolation”) will begin the time of persecution and terror called the Great Tribulation. The Apostle Paul also taught (2 Thessalonians 2) that the Man of Lawlessness will stand in the Temple area and assert that he is above all gods. From the perspective of the Christian Scriptures, the rebuilding of the Temple is a sign of impending tribulation – even while it is a necessary prophetic precondition to the return of Jesus Christ to the Earth.

None of this means that “the end is near” in the sense that it is going to happen this year, or this decade. What it does mean is that there are people who are seriously preparing in practical (not just spiritual) ways to build a Third Temple. They are committed to making this a reality. And they will do so when conditions are right. Once this occurs, the world will truly be on borrowed time.

Our forebears in the faith would be amazed to see in our day the rebirth of Israel and the conquest of Jerusalem by the Jews – as well as the prophesied alignment of anti-Semitic nations ringing that tiny country. The Third Temple is coming, likely sooner rather than later. Are we asleep to these prophetic realities or are we considering the lateness of the hour?

Judge Declares Utah Polygamy Law Unconstitutional In Part

Marriage License

So much for dismissing the idea of a slippery slope.

Yesterday was another watershed in the hard-to-look-at, slow-motion death of our culture. In a case brought by the star of the “Sister Wives” reality TV show, the Federal courts have now begun to chip away at prohibitions against polygamy, succumbing to a carefully planned strategy designed to not only permit polygamy as we usually think of it (polygyny as among Muslims and Fundamentalist Mormons) but true polyamory.

In its opinion, the Court was unkind to our Christian heritage and the common heritage of Western Civilization in general. Judge Clark Waddoups of the District of Utah quoted an historic U. S. Supreme Court case disapprovingly, and commented on it.

“The organization of a community for the spread and practice of polygamy is, in a measure, a return to barbarism. It is contrary to the spirit of Christianity and of the civilization which Christianity has produced in the Western world.” Late Corp., 136 U.S. at 49. [Late Corp. was the 1890 U. S. Supreme Court case which upheld a Federal statute disincorporating the Mormon Church because it promoted polygamy.] This observation [is] unthinkable as part of the legal analysis in a modern Supreme Court decision…

To be sure, I am providing here just a small slice of a 91-page opinion, but this is illuminating because it’s only when Courts and Presidents are tearing down our Christian heritage that they admit that we actually did have one.

I never liked the term “post-Christian America,” because it seems to me that defining something by what it isn’t is no definition at all. Such language is unhelpful to its intended hearer, and is a self-deception on the part of the speaker. I may tell you that my dog is not a cat, and still leave you in the dark about what a dog really is.

If polygamy is on the way in (to be followed by what else?) then isn’t it time we stopped calling America “post-Christian?” For something is never post-anything without having already become something else – if not in its entirety then certainly in its essential character.

How then shall we call this era? Neo-Pagan America seems a sound choice to me. Others may think differently. Based on their quote above, it appears that the U. S. Supreme Court of 1890 would have called us Barbarian America.

That will be left to the historians. In the meantime, trying days are ahead.

More here: Federal judge declares Utah polygamy law unconstitutional | The Salt Lake Tribune.