Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Did Jesus Agree With Paul?

Recently, a commenter to my blog made the comment. “I don’t believe a LOT of what Paul said.” She further stated, “I cannot believe that Christ treated and felt about women the same way Paul did.” The comment was made after I made a comment after the difference in roles that God gave women and men, and referenced some of what Paul wrote.

So is that true? Did Jesus teach something different from Paul? Many people want to look at the teaching of Jesus and focus on the what seems to be the loving nature of him, but because little is said in the gospels about some of the things Paul taught, they assume there is a difference. They compare Jesus to the God of the Old Testament and they see Jesus as being more loving while the God of the Old Testament is more firry.

But look at what you see in the book of Revelation. In particular, look at what Jesus said to the church at Thyatira:
Notwithstanding, I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, who calleth herself a prophetess,to teach and to seduce My servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication, and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He that searcheth the reins and hearts; and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. – Revelation 2:20-23

Doesn’t that sound a lot like Paul? But this isn’t Paul. This is Jesus speaking. His problem with the church at Thyatira was that they were letting this woman teach. As a result, she was leading people astray. If the men had been doing what they should have been doing, she wouldn’t have been teaching and would have had no opportunity to lead people astray. But look at what Jesus said he would do. He would kill her children as a warning to the churches.

The name Jezebel is significant. It is unlikely that this woman was named Jezebel, but rather she was like Jezebel. As you recall, Jezebel wore the pants in her family and Israel suffered for it. Ahab was bad enough, but he let Jezebel tell him what to do. For someone who isn’t supposed to agree with Paul, Jesus had some very strong words to say about this situation.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Above the Law?

There’s been a lot of discussion concerning freedom of religion recently. To mention a few things, there is the Obama Care issue in which Christians may be forced to purchase insurance that pays for abortions. Then there is the New York schools trying to prevent churches from using their facilities when they are not otherwise used, but allowing other organizations to meet. Most recently, I heard about a couple in Orange County California fined for holding a Bible study in their home.

With the first two, it is clear were Christians ought to be standing. The government should not be forcing people to purchase something that violates their beliefs, nor should it exclude a group from meeting just because it is religious. But what about the last one? It sounds terrible, doesn’t it? What right does the government have to tell people they can’t have a Bible study in their own home? And that’s the way people on Facebook were looking at it. They seemed to think this was a violation of freedom of religion.

But let’s back up and look at this again. The images you get when you think of a home Bible study are those of a few friends sitting around a table with Bibles in front of them. That’s not what is happening. Instead, there are around fifty people gathering in the home twice a week. The city says that is a church and if they intend to use a home in a residential neighborhood for that purpose they must pay for a parking and environmental impact study, as well as equip the home for handicap access.

Home Bible study? Church? It really is a matter of semantics. Every denomination has their own way of defining what a church is. These folks are Catholic, so even though they are holding a worship service with fifty people twice a week, they aren’t likely to call it a church because it doesn’t involve a priest and all the other stuff they expect in a church. The city, however, sees an assembly of fifty people, many of whom are parking in front of the neighbors’ houses and they see a potential safety issue.

Here’s the thing. The government should not put undue restrictions on religious activities. At the same time, churches should not feel that they are exempt from the law just because they are religious. It isn’t good enough for someone to tell the government they have nothing to be concerned about because they are putting parking cones out in front of houses where the residents don’t want people parking. Studies have to be done to determine the impact. Rather than causing a stink about such things, we Christians should be an example for doing what’s right. We should not be trying to exempt ourselves from laws meant to protect us and those around us.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Why Is There Power In the Blood?

You’ve heard that there is power in the blood. Perhaps you have sung that wonderful old hymn about the wonder working power in the blood. It is fun to sing the words that Lewis E. Jones wrote, but have you stopped to consider why there is power in the blood?

If you’ve watched the Indiana Jones movies, you know all about the Holy Grail and its supposed power to heal. I suppose, it there were such a thing as a Holy Grail that was used to collect the blood of Jesus as it drained from his body, then maybe that isn’t so farfetched. The idea that the Holy Grail was used to catch his blood is nothing more than an artist’s conception. Jesus’ blood fell to the ground, beginning at the garden, all the way to the cross, where blood and water came from his side.

We talk about the blood being applied to our hearts and it brings to mind images of God using a brush to paint our hearts with the blood of Jesus, much like the blood of the Passover lamb was applied to the doorposts. But that is just figurative. God doesn’t actually apply a coating of Jesus’ blood to us.

To understand the power of the blood, we have to go back and look at the Old Testament. There is so much blood in the Old Testament as we see sacrifice after sacrifice. The penalty for sin is death. The life is in the blood, so to shed blood is death. But the Old Testament demonstrates a way of escape. If we were to shed our blood, we would be dead, so the penalty would be paid, but we could not have fellowship with God. In the Old Testament, rather than people shedding their own blood, they sacrificed an animal. It was an imperfect sacrifice, but it delayed the ultimate penalty. So, when we get to the New Testament and see Jesus offer himself as a sacrifice, the precedent is already set that the blood of a sacrifice can be applied to the sins of living person. But Jesus is the perfect sacrifice. The lambs of the Old Testament were supposed to be without spot, but there’s never been a completely spotless lamb. Jesus, however, was without sin. He was also a man, so he identified with us. But he was also God, so he is without limit. Why is there power in the blood? Because it is sufficient to pay for the sins of the whole world, and to give us fellowship with God without the need for our own death.

Friday, February 24, 2012

What Really Divides Christians

The great divide in Christianity today boils down to one thing. What do you believe the Bible is? In a discussion the other day, I used a passage from the Bible to prove a point. The other person in the discussion responded by saying that she didn’t believe that passage means the same today as it did then and more than that, she didn’t thing Jesus would agree with the passage. Then she made the statement, “the Bible contradicts itself.” Compare that to the follow excerpt from the doctrinal statement my church has adopted:
The Scriptures are God's inerrant revelation, complete in the Old and New Testaments, written by divinely inspired men as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (II Tim. 3:16; II Peter 1:21). Those men wrote not in words of human wisdom but in words taught by the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 2:13).

The Scriptures provide the standard for the believer's faith and practice (II Tim. 3:16, 17), reveal the principles by which God will judge all (Heb. 4:12; John 12:48), and express the true basis of Christian fellowship (Gal. 1:8, 9; II John 9-11).
The two views are complete incompatible. Are the scriptures God’s words recorded by men, or are they just words written by men who were faithfully trying to worship God, just like we are? If the Bible isn’t God’s words, then the Bible has little more value than the books you can find on the shelves of your local Christian bookstore. But more than that, if the Bible isn’t God’s words then we disagreements concerning doctrine must come from other sources. This makes it very hard for two people who disagree to come to any form of agreement on how God intends for Christians to live.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why Labels Are Dangerous

I heard a term I’ve never used before, the other day. The term is egalitarian and I heard it used to describe Rachel Held Evans. If you don’t know who she is, she is the self proclaimed “follower of Jesus” who has gathered a following by making fun of the Bible, including doing such things as sitting her roof for 89 minutes because Proverbs 21:9 says, “It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop than with a brawling woman in a large house.” Proverbs 21:19 is similar, “It is better to dwell in the wilderness than with a contentious and angry woman.” (Which may explain why some men like to go hunting.) But my intention isn’t to talk about her silliness. Instead, I want to talk about the problem of labeling her as an egalitarian.

While it may be true that the egalitarian vs. complementarian debate may have been Rachel Held Evans’ motive for her silliness, I don’t want to label her an egalitarian. That’s not to say that she doesn’t hold to the ideas held by egalitarians, I think she does. The problem I see is that the moment we assign labels, people start saying “I’m an egalitarian” or “I’m a complementarian” and form up teams on either side of the issue. Once this happens, someone on the egalitarian team will listen to those on the egalitarian team to learn more about it and they will reject what people on the complementarian team are saying and vice versa. It doesn’t take long before you have people who are staunch supporters of their team and are certain that the Bible backs them up, but they don’t even know what the Bible says on the subject. I have seen this happen with the issue of Calvinism vs. Arminianism. People assume that if you aren’t a Calvinist you must be an Arminian, when most people are neither.

Ultimately, it is the Bible that should be our guide to doctrine. We should not place labels on ourselves that will prevent us from changing our mind if we find the Bible says something we didn’t realize it said. And if we do change our mind, we should not feel compelled to jump from one side of the debate to the other because doing so may cause us to support ideas that are wrong. To put it in political terms, a Republican shouldn’t have to become a Democrat and support abortion just because he has decided he likes fiscally liberal policies.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Wrong god

Have you heard this argument before? In the Bible it says that God told Joshua to kill all of their enemies at Jericho, therefore, the Bible isn’t accurate.

I may bore a few people today. I have the urge to talk about logic. Also, I’m a little rusty on that subject.

If we can write the statement as:
A: God told Joshua to kill all of their enemies at Jericho.
B: The Bible says A
C: The Bible isn’t accurate.
Not(A) And B => C ( Not(A) And B Implies C)
This would be the same as saying God didn’t tell Joshua to kill all of their enemies at Jericho but the Bible says it did, so the Bible is inaccurate.
We know that B = True. (From reading the book of Joshua.)
Not(A) And True = Not(A), meaning Not(A) => C
To prove the inaccuracy of the Bible, we must prove A = False, God didn’t tell Joshua to kill their enemies.
Herein is a problem. To be able to show that God didn’t do what the Bible says he did, we must have evidence from a source outside of the Bible. Some people answer this by saying that God wouldn’t do this, so he didn’t do it.
D: God wouldn’t do A
D => Not(A)
So, D => C
But can we say that D is True?
We first need to define who God is in a form that is useful. One of the things the God of Joshua is said to have done is that he controlled the weather.
To say that God would not order Joshua to kill his enemies is to say that God would never kill anyone. At the time I am writing this, a quick search finds an article titled “Freezing weather kills 110 in Russia.” Why they had to died, I don’t know, but God had the power to prevent it and did not. D is clearly False.

Therefore, the claim that the Bible must be inaccurate because it says God order the death of certain people is false.

The fact is, God kills people. We might not like that, but it is true. If the god you worship doesn’t, then you’re worshipping the wrong god.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Marking Up the Bible

People have a tendency to pick and choose the things they want to believe in the Bible. Some people are blatant about it, while others of us may do it without realizing that we’re doing it. Martin Luther thought that the book of James conflicted with his theology and wanted to edit it out of the Bible. Thomas Jefferson thought it was a good idea to rewrite the Bible with the references to angels, the genealogy of Jesus, the prophecy of his birth. He also wanted to remove miracles, the divinity of Jesus, and Jesus’ resurrection. All he had left were 46 pages that he thought were “pure and unsophisticated doctrines.” Recently, one commenter to this blog told me that she disagrees with a lot of what Paul wrote. She didn’t like what he said about women being submissive to their husbands and about women not teaching men in church. But how often have we simply not read a passage because we didn’t think it had anything interesting? Or how often do we look for verses about a particular subject without giving much thought to others?

How quickly we forget that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly equipped for all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) God didn’t give us the Bible for us to pick and choose what we wanted to believe. He didn’t tell us to twist it around to fit our culture. If we’re honest, there are parts of the Bible that make us uncomfortable (Hebrews 4:12). There are parts of the Bible that aren’t politically correct. There are parts of the Bible that don’t fit with the way we think the world ought to work.

We sometimes scare people away when we take a firm stand on the truth of the scriptures. It isn’t much fun when that happens, but our relationship with God must always take precedence over our relationship with other people.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Keeping Up With the Techies

I’m amazed at what some people think is keeping up with the latest technology. They’ve all got to have the latest phone, the latest handheld device, and they’ve got to be a member of the latest social media website. Rachelle Gardner recently suggested that staying current on these things would help stave off dementia or help you maintain marketable skills. That’s a nice thought, but really, do you think knowing how to use Facebook, or Twitter, or now Pinterest is going to do all of that?

Other than the fact that there are some people who are convinced that the latest technology is too hard to try, many of the things that people think are new technology are old technology with new packaging. The social media networks are driven by fads. But given the number of people who are using them, you can be sure that it’s okay to skip the latest thing. You don’t have to sign up for the latest social media website. You don’t have to have the latest handheld device. If at some point you see a reason to use it, it won’t take you very long to figure it out.

What many people see as the latest technology is more like the latest book or video game. People who read books don’t read every book that hits the market. Instead, they make a determination of whether it is a book they feel is important to them. If it isn’t, they pass and wait for a book that is. The same is true of gamers, and music enthusiasts. Just because there is a new game or a new song doesn’t mean they have to buy it.

Imagine if you were to try to read every book that was published. Forget that. Imagine if you were to try to read every book that came out on the New York Times bestseller list. Maybe just the top one or two in each category. You would be well read, but you wouldn’t have time to do anything else. The same is true of trying to keep up with the latest, whatever. Sure, you’d be able to use all of the latest buzzwords, but you wouldn’t have time to do anything real. So stop worrying about it. Use the stuff you actually need or enjoy and pass on the rest.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Cite Your Sites

Do you give create where credit is due? The other day, I happened across a blog and the author quoted me, without stating my name. While I don’t believe that is illegal, or even plagiarism, since she didn’t claim the statement as her own, it would've been nice to have my name next to the quote, even nicer if there were a link back to the statement I made. (Or course, you realize I’m mentioning what she did without providing a name or a link.)

My thought is this: if you use something someone has said as the basis for an argument or a point of disagreement, it is important to cite your source. If you are giving an example of something someone has done, but you believe it is representative of what many people do, it isn’t so important to cite them, especially when it may place them in a bad light.

From doing research papers, you know the importance of citing your sources so that people can verify your work. When it comes to online stuff, one of the reasons I think it is important to provide links back to your source is because it gives the person who made the original statement the opportunity to rebut or provide more insight. The links you provide made it easier for that person to find the people who are referencing his material. Indirectly, it can also help your site in the search engine results. Links to a blog will often result in links that are automatically linked back to your site, making it easier to people to find you.

Another reason to provide links to the sources you cite is that it encourages people to link to your site as well. If you are not willing to link to other sites, then why should other sites link to you?

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Okay, Wow! One of my books is available for free right now on I knew it was going to happen, but I had let it slip my mind. But I didn’t see any harm in it. After all, the whole point is to encourage a broader audience to take a chance on it. Apparently, hundreds of people decided to do just that. It makes my sales numbers look good, even though I’m not making a red cent from any of them.

Do You Know?

See if you can answer the following true or false questions without looking them up.
  1. Before his death, Barnabas looked up and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. Saul, later called Paul, held the coats of those who stoned him.
  2. One night, Peter preached for so long that a young man went to sleep and fell out of a window to his death.
  3. David had a one night stand with Bathsheba while his army was off in battle. As a result, their first son, Solomon was born.
  4. The Lord told Hosea to buy Gomer, a prostitute, and marry her.
  5. King Saul consulted with a witch and asked her to bring Isaiah back from the dead.
Think you know the answers? Compare your answers with those at the end of this post. Did you get them right? The point of this exercise is to highlight the existence of Bible illiteracy. Many people go to church and they claim to believe the Bible and yet they don’t know what the Bible says. Some churches don’t bother teaching from the Old Testament these days. I don’t know how they think they can understand the New Testament without the Old Testament, but that is the case. I was in one church where the pastor read one verse at the beginning of his sermon and then spent the rest of the time talking about things that I would have expected to hear in a college psychology class.

I’m not sure what the solution to the Bible illiteracy problem is. I would like to think that parents would start teaching their kids about the Bible again. I would like to think pastors would read the Bible from the pulpit again. I would like to think that individuals would read the Bible on their own again. But how do we convince Christians that they need to get back in the Bible? I don’t mean non-fiction books that may or may not accurately reflect what the Bible says; I mean actually picking up a Bible and reading it.

I suppose there are a few things Christian authors can do to encourage their readers to study the Bible. I enjoy writing books based on Bible stories. I would hope that these stories would encourage my readers to compare the story in the book to the Bible story and not just assume that the Bible story matches what I have written. But we need more people reading the Bible, or the world will grow dark.

Answers: 1. False, it was Stephen who saw Jesus standing at the father’s right hand at his death. (Acts 6:8-8:2) 2. False, Paul was preaching. (Acts 20:9) 3. False, David and Bathsheba’s first child died. Solomon came later. (II Samuel 11:2 – 12:25) 4. False, Hosea did buy Gomer, but she was already his wife. She turned to other men, fell into slavery, and he bought her back. (Hosea 1:1-3:5) 5. False, Saul sought to bring up Samuel by a woman with a familiar spirit. (I Samuel 28)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why Do We Want Authors to Sign Their Books?

I’ve already said more about autographs than I intended to and probably so much that some of you are tired of hearing about them, but I’d like to say one more thing. Aside from the increased value an autograph gives a book and the personal connection that exists when we meet a favorite author and ask them to sign a book, why do we ask authors to sign books? Forget the famous authors, what about those who aren’t so well known? I have purchased a few self-published books that haven’t sold very well. I won’t mention the names of the authors because you wouldn’t know them anyway. But if I were to meet these authors, I would ask them to sign their books. Why?

Asking an author to sign his book is a way of recognizing him for the work he has put into the book. Maybe the book is poorly written. Maybe we couldn’t get past the first page. That doesn’t matter. We want to show the author that we appreciate him, whether we think much of his book or not.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Rereading Books

When I was a kid there were a few books that I would read, reach the end of the book, and immediately flip back to the beginning and start reading again. I don’t remember the name of the book, but there was one such book Mom gave me for Valentine’s day. It was about a kid who was on a trip with his uncle. His uncle was some kind of spy. You know, the James Bond type spy, not The Spy Who Came in From the Cold type spy. Anyway, there were these guys after them and his Uncle had this special kind of watch with a type of keypad on it. At the time, that was amazing stuff. These days, that is old technology. But I remember reading that book, being disappointed because I had reached the end of it, then turning to the beginning to read it again. What I wonder is why I don’t do that as an adult.

Part of it is that adult books are longer. That book was probably a hundred pages long, if that long and the text was probably slightly larger than most adult books, so it wouldn’t have taken me long to read it. Then there’s the fact that I have a lot more money than I did at that age. Today, if I finish one book, I can just go buy a new one. As a child, I only got books as gifts or by ordering them from Troll Book Clubs at school. Occasionally, we would make a trip to Marble Hill, where the Bollinger County library is.

Also, children’s brains work differently than the brains of adults. All my life I’ve heard adults say that they can’t learn Bible verses like children can. I got the idea that children could remember things better. But after working in Awana for several years, I find that it is easier for me to memorize a verse than it is for the children I’m working with. I can read the verse a couple of times and know it well enough to correct them as they are trying to say it, but the children may spend thirty minutes trying to learn one verse. I wonder if that also impacts how we read. Children are in the world of the book for as long as they are reading it. Adults are able to remember more of the book and stay in that world long after they’ve finished the book.

Let’s not forget that adults are more critical than children. Children tend to think that if a respected adult, such as an author, says it is so, then it must be so. Whatever mistakes the author and the editors may have made, children accept it and move on. They may not catch the mistakes. But adults will pick at what the author says. It is much easier to injure an adult’s suspension of disbelief than it is a child’s. It is also easier to bore and adult.

I don’t suppose it is any one thing that does it, but all of these things add up to a situation in which an adult is unlikely to reread a book in a short period of time. Given the right circumstances, it is possible, but it is much more unlikely with adults than children.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Kindlegraph and Autopen

Evan Jacobs, the creator of Kindlegraph recently posted the following on a blog:

In my opinion, [it is] the connection between authors and readers that is the important thing and the signed book is simply a memento of that connection.

The move toward digital books doesn’t [mean] that these connections will no longer exist or no longer be important. On the contrary, I believe that authors and readers have even more opportunities to connect. I created Kindlegraph as an acknowledgment of the power of personal connections even while people become more anonymous because of technology

It is interesting to see his perspective, even though I still remain critical of Kindlegraph. For those who are uninformed, Kindlegraph is a means by which Kindle readers can request a personalized inscription for e-books. The concept is that an author will fill out a form and the software will generate a file that can be stored on the reader’s device. But what the reader actually receives is a message written in a generic cursive font. At the bottom is an copied image of the author’s signature. Copied signatures has long been considered been a very impersonal way to sign documents. This is why the autopen has been used by many people. The autopen is also impersonal, but it has the appearance of a real pen on paper.

The biggest problem with the autopen and with the Kindlegraph is that of the use of assistants to sign documents. If you make a request through Kindlegraph and sometime later you receive a Kindlegraph personalization on your Kindle you have no way of knowing whether the author sat down at this computer and typed something in or whether he is paying someone to handle all Kindlegraph requests. Worse, he may have automated the process, so that when a request comes in, the computer automatically enters a generic personalization into Kindlegraph.

When you look at it that way, it is possible for Kindlegraph to exist with no personal connection between the reader and the author at all. E-mail and blogs are also out because some people pay an assistant to respond to e-mails and blog comments. I believe the signed book is more than “simply a memento.” The signed book provides proof that the author touched the book. It proves it is real. In a world where we can copy everything by machine, autographed items remain proof that somewhere there is a real person running the machine. We need that more than ever.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Autographed Books

Why do people like getting books signed? If it is a popular author, a signature can raise the value of the book. That is as long as it isn’t made out to anyone in particular. I suppose it would raise it even more if it were made out to an equally wellknown person, but for most of us, having our name on a book we didn’t write will lower the value of the book. But what is it about signatures that make them desirable?

What it really comes down to is that personal connection. In a world in which so many things are mass-produced, an item autographed by its maker is a rare thing. I think people like having a book that they know the author held in his hands and signed. That may mean they have to meet the author and ask him to sign the book. That experience in itself makes it even more meaningful, but the signature alone makes the book unique.

Some people question what will happen to autographed books since it seems that books are going to the eBook format. If anything, I think this will increase the desirability of hand-autographed copies. After all, what value is there in something that is easily duplicated? A book the author has autographed with his own hand cannot be duplicated, even by the author. And autographed copies are by nature a limited edition. How many books can an author sign? It takes me about ten seconds to sign my name. If I spent eight hours a day for a year, just signing books, I could sign about 1,051,200 copies. No author is going to put in that much time signing books, but even if he did, there are some books that sell more copies than that.

I think people get the wrong idea about book signings. They have the idea that they’ll sit at a table in a bookstore and the customers will buy their books because they’re signing books. Some will, but the real value is that fans have an opportunity to meet the author and get a book signed.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What's the Point?

There are some things that an author should delay telling the reader for as long as possible. In a whodunit, the author shouldn’t tell the reader who committed the crime until late in the book, but that’s not what I’m talking about. As I was watching a video the other day, I found that I was enjoying the video, but in the back of my mind I kept asking, “what’s the point?” I was sure the creator of the video was going somewhere with it, but when I reached the end of the video, I got it. The whole point was to leave a heritage for those who come after us. Once I saw that, I could look back at what I remembered from the video and see how the creator had supported his theme.

In a novel, one thing we don’t want to do is to come right out and tell the reader what we want them to learn from the book. If we can do that, we should be writing non-fiction. Fiction deals with topics that aren’t easy to talk about. You don’t just say, “leave something behind for the people who come after you.” Instead, we want to bring the reader to the point that they have a desire to leave something behind. We would do that by first showing a person who has benefited from that, but as the story comes to an end we show that person leaving something behind, just as those before him did. It allows us to think that the next person will do the same and we want to be part of that.

You might get the idea that an author shouldn’t have a point that he wants to make before he writes a novel. Some people fear that the book will come across as preachy if the author is trying to make a point. That is a potential problem if the author states the point too soon. But there’s nothing wrong with an author trying to make a point, if he does it right. He must use the whole novel to state his point. He should not use the story to entertain the reader for just long enough to make a few jabs.

It is my opinion that authors should be intentional about the point they make in their novel. They should craft their story so that readers have that voice in the back of their heads saying, “I see that, but what’s the point?” And then, as the story draws to a close, the reader should think, “Now I get it!”

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What Do We Do With Karen Handel?

As you are aware, in the aftermath of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure/Planned Parenthood debacle, Karen Handel submitted her letter of resignation. The text leaves us with as many questions as it does answers. Did she leave because she felt she was no longer valued as an employee? Does the offer of severance pay imply that Nancy Brinker requested that she resign? Did she leave because Susan G. Komen for the Cure allowed it to be manipulated by the Democrats while Karen Handel is a card carrying Republican?

I’m sure we could brainstorm motivation all day and still not know anything. What I do know is that Karen Handel looks like the hero in this mess. It is certain that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization has made a bad decision by reinstating abortion provide Planned Parenthood. It is certain that Karen Handel left the organization because of that decision. For that, she should be applauded. My prayer is that others in that organization will follow her example and cause Nancy Brinker and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization to reconsider their affiliations.

A Favorite Story

All stories are retold, over and over, but some are better than others. One of my favorites is that of a boy who begins in a position of weakness and ignorance. A person of wisdom comes along and instructs the boy in how to develop strength and wisdom. The mentor dies, leaving the boy to wonder how he can possibly go on without his teacher to guide him. Meanwhile, the enemy begins his attack. Seeing that all is lost if no one counters the attack, the boy rises up out of his grief and leads his men into battle.

We see this story in so many different places and yet it never grows old. Star Wars followed this plot very literally. We also see it in The Neverending Story. The book Holes follows this plot, somewhat, though that book is as much about the character finding an appreciation for his family name.

I think this plot was more popular when I was a kid than it is now. That could explain why I like it so much. Maybe I’m trying to relive my childhood. Maybe it’s just a guy thing. You recall those stories in which a king would send the young men off on a quest, the man who could bring back the head of the dragon, or whatever, would be given the king’s daughter in marriage and up to half of the kingdom. Off they would go and the hero of the story would return victorious. Those stories would always end, “and they lived happily ever after.” They never spent much time on the marriage because no one cared about that. The quest was what was important in those stories. The girl was just a reason to send the young men on their way, but what made the story interesting was that the hero learned to be a man. He went off wet behind the ears and he came back with hair on his chest.

When you think about it, a lot of video games are designed around that story. Through each level the player has to battle the enemy forces until he reaches the goal. When the player starts out, he hardly knows the game and even the lower levels may be difficult. But when he reaches the end, he can play the lower levels with ease. He isn’t the same player he was when he started.

We need boys to become men. We need boys who will answer the call and take on the responsibilities of manhood. Men don’t slay dragons these days. The task they have is even harder. We need men who will take responsibility for their families. We need men who will lead their families by good example. We need men who are not satisfied to sit on the sidelines of life but will take action.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

His and Hers Stories

Girl Power movies or stories are “about a female character who starts off without any acceptance—be it social, intellectual, physical, economic, romantic or political—and spends the rest of the movie gaining it.”[1] It would seem that we don’t have boy power stories. Girl Power stories often make the claim that girls, at least the girl in the story, can do whatever the boys can do, only better because she can do it with makeup on. I don’t imagine there would be much interest in a story that showed a boy doing girl stuff. This is partly because guys already believe they could do the girl stuff, if they really wanted to, so they don’t need a story to tell them they can.

The male counterpart to the Girl Power story is the Coming of Age story. Remember Karate Kid? Of course we remember great lines like “wax on, wax off”, but when we look at the journey of the character, it is not one of gaining acceptance but gaining strength. In a Girl Power story, the female character already has as much strength as she is ever going to have, but no one believes she has it. But in Karate Kid the main character begins from a position of weakness and stupidity, but ends with great strength and wisdom. The same is true of Star Wars, in which Luke Skywalker begins as a farm boy who would rather hang out with his friends than do anything important, but ends with him being the leader of men.

I find the differences between the two types of stories interesting. I believe they reflect the values that the writers believe girls and boys should learn. With girls, the statement seems to be “you have inner strength, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” With boys, the statement seems to be “you are nothing, but you can achieve greatness if you will take charge.” You might ask why girls are not encouraged to gain strength and take charge or why boys are not encouraged to see their inner strength. Some people won’t like hearing this, but I believe it has to do with the difference in the way God designed boys and girls. Girls are more prone to self-deprecation. Boys don't have as much need for someone to remind them how strong they are. If anything, they need someone to warn them not to do some of the things they’re willing to try. That’s where the need for wisdom comes in. For boys to become men, they need to develop the strength they already believe they have and they need the wisdom to know how to use it. But once they do that, they become natural leaders.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Is God Male or Female?

God, is he male or female? If you read the Bible, all references to God are in the masculine form. Some have argued that this has more to do with the male chauvinism the time when it was written than an indication of what God is. Some people have attempted to rewrite the Bible in gender-neutral form. Some have even decided that God is a woman, as the author of The Shack did. The argument of some people is that since there is only one God, it doesn’t make sense to say whether he is male or female. And they have a point, if we look at gender as merely the two parts of the reproductive puzzle.

Before we decide whether God is male or female, let’s consider what it means to be male or female. Forget about the reproductive organs and the differences in appearance for a moment. Forget about the typically stronger nature of the male and the nurturing nature of the female. Let’s imagine that we have two beings that are blank slates. Essentially, they are equal in every way. Imagine that we can decide what traits they need later, but right now we have to decide which one is male and which one is female. When you think about it, that is the position God was in when he created the world. He could have made Adam look like Eve and Eve look like Adam, if that’s what he wanted to do. Before they were created, they were blank slates on which God could build the features he wanted them to have.

What then is it that distinguishes Adam from Eve? The true difference is not in the features they have, but in the order they were created. God created man first. Then, because man needed a helper, God created a woman because she came out of the man. Even if God had given Adam the features that we think of women having and Eve the features that we think of men having, the fact that Adam was created first would make him the man and Eve the woman. But God, in his wisdom, decided to give men the features he gave them and women the feature he gave them.

But what does that have to do with whether God is male or female? God can’t be a woman because he didn’t come out of anything. God is first. God is the first of all firsts. There was nothing before him. There was nothing from which he was created. God is male because he is the first of his kind.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Abortion is Not "the Cure"

Many of you have heard by now heard about the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization first indicating that they would no longer be providing Planned Parenthood with grants and then reversing their decision and offering an apology. The apparent reason for Susan G. Komen for the Cure cutting funding was that Planned Parenthood is under investigation. It should also be noted that Planned Parenthood doesn’t provide mammograms, which is a very important service in the fight against breast cancer. So, abortions or no abortions, it makes sense that Susan G. Komen for the Cure would spend their money elsewhere. So why then did they first say that Planned Parenthood would not be funded and now they are saying it is a mistake. The answer seems clear. This is an abortion issue, not a breast cancer issue. Susan G. Komen for the Cure was receiving a lot of flak about supporting the primary abortion provide Planned Parenthood. The policy that cut funding to organizations that don’t provide mammograms was probably seen as a diplomatic way of cutting their ties to Planned Parenthood without Susan G. Komen for the Cure actually saying that they oppose abortion. But there is no neutral ground in the abortion debate and the Planned Parenthood political engine forced Susan G. Komen for the Cure to take a stand. Unfortunately, they took a stand for abortions instead of against them.

What I would like to say to Susan G. Komen for the Cure is this: Abortion is murder, it is not “the cure.” But as I stated in a letter that I am sending to their leadership, I very much doubt that statement will change their mind. Instead, I have asked them to consider the cold hard facts. Breast cancer kills about 40,000 people in the United States each year. In comparison, Planned Parenthood admits to killing 289,750 babies through abortion each year. To put that in perspective, Planned Parenthood kills 7.24 times as many people each year as Susan G. Komen for the Cure hopes to save by additional research and programs for breast cancer. Susan G. Komen for the Cure has some evil bedfellows. And while I doubtful Susan G. Komen for the Cure will reverse their decision again, that is exactly what I want them to do.

As for you who are reading this blog, I am asking you to join me in writing letters to Susan G. Komen for the Cure voicing our disapproval for their support for the primary abortion provider in America. Their address is below:

Susan G. Komen for the Cure
5005 LBJ Freeway Suite 250
Dallas TX 75244

What Do Angels Look Like?

Angels have wings. Some do anyway. We all know what they look like because we’ve seen so many pictures of angels. They always have these big wings sticking out of from their shoulders that are covered with feathers. How different that is from the image of the seraphims we see in Isaiah 6:2. They have six wings. Two are to cover their face. Two are to cover their feet. Two are for flying. Perhaps all could be used for flying, if they weren’t in the presence of God.

What I really find interesting is that the word used for this six winged creature is also used for a venomous serpent. It is sometimes translated as dragon. How very different that seems than a beautiful woman with dove’s wings strapped to her back. I suspect that these creatures look more like a flying reptile than they do the images of angels we see.

But some angels have the appearance of men. I don’t know that these have the ability to fly. Why would they need to climb Jacob’s ladder if they could fly? I suspect they don’t, but if they did, I doubt they would have feathers on their wings. I would imagine that their wings would be more like bats’ wings, only bigger.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What is Christian Fiction?

What is Christian Fiction? There is a genre called Christian Fiction and it has several sub-genres, including romance, historical, women’s fiction, speculative fiction, etc. so it seems like it would be easy to define what is and is not Christian Fiction. Some people (including Christians) avoid Christian Fiction because of certain beliefs they have about the books in the genre, but Christian Fiction isn’t easy to define. But I can understand the reluctance of some people because most of what I see in Christian Fiction these days are either women’s fiction (including romance) or super dark stories about the end of the world. This is very different from the Christian Fiction of yesteryear that included such classic novels as The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Not My Will, and In His Steps. In part, the change may be because traditional Christian publishers and authors were more interested in the message than the money. Modern publishers of Christian books are mostly Christian themed imprints within a secular publishing house.

A definition that we frequently hear for Christian Fiction is “a fictional story with a Christian world view or that deals with Christian themes in a positive way.” The problem with that definition is that it is so broad. First, a Christian world view could mean many things, but let’s suppose it means that the book holds to the world events outline that the Bible lays out for us.
  1. God created the world in six days.
  2. Man sinned, bringing about the curse.
  3. Jesus established the first church.
  4. Jesus died for the sins of all mankind.
  5. The gospel message that all who repent and put their faith in Jesus will be saved is preached to the whole world.
  6. The events before the end occur, including the rapture and the tribulation period.
  7. Jesus returns and rules the Earth with his saints.
  8. The wicked are sent to hell.
  9. A new heaven and new earth are created for those who have accepted Jesus.
The are many books that aren’t in opposition to that. Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries, for example, could be said to have a Christian worldview. Someone dies, and the guilty party is caught and punished. That fits within the definition of a Christian worldview. But what we see more commonly in Christian Fiction today is a discussion of end time events or we see clean romance novels in which the characters have come to know the Lord or prayer in some way helps to solve the problem. Prayer is good, but if that’s the only reason we have to call a novel Christian, I don’t know that it is of great value. These days, I’m about to decide that what makes a novel Christian Fiction is that it is written by an author who wants his work classified as Christian Fiction. Publishers are likely to require it to be cleaner than they would require for the non-Christian counterpart, but there isn’t a hard rule that forces a book into the Christian Fiction category.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Morally Neutral?

Good protagonists come from morally neutral places and move toward relatable goals, not agendas. That is why the best stories appeal to large groups of people across many beliefs, faiths and moral codes.”

I saw the statement above in the comments of a blog. It’s quite the statement. I’m having a hard enough time figuring out what it means and a harder time figuring out if I agree. I think I don’t. First, I’m not sure what is meant by “morally neutral”. I suppose that means the protagonist doesn’t know what he believes. Morals are essentially the collective beliefs of society concerning what is right and wrong. On any moral issue, there are extremes on either side and almost no one who is neutral, but the statement above implies that our protagonist should be one of those people.

Next, the comment mentions “relatable goals, not agendas”. I don’t see any reason why a protagonist can’t have an agenda. For that matter, I don’t see why an author can’t have an agenda. Where it becomes a problem is when the author starts making leaps in his argument. A story is basically an argument that author is making to support his theme. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a classic example of a book with an agenda, put an end to slavery. What made it so powerful was that the author stated her argument well. Instead of just showing slavery as a terrible thing, she also showed the good side of slavery. That was necessary because she needed to silence the critics. It is a debate tactic. Rather than let you opponent point at the flaws in your argument, you bring up all the things you think he will mention and point out their flaws before he can bring them up. What you are left with is a book that shows that while there were some good things about slavery, the bad things were so much worse that slavery needed to end.

My claim is that good protagonists are about to die. A protagonist is at a place where change must take place or he will die. That could be because he is in a morally bad place. Or it could be that he is suffering because of someone else who is in a morally bad place. Death is caused by sin, so if a protagonist is on the verge of death, someone has to be sinning. So, if the story is about the protagonist overcoming whatever it is that is killing him, then every story is about overcoming sin.

That’s what makes me think that the second statement is wrong. A large part of why there are so many different religions is because of different beliefs about what sin is and how to overcome sin. The Church of England was started because a king didn’t like what the Catholic Church taught concerning divorce and remarriage. When the very essence of what a novelist is doing is writing about sin and overcoming it, he isn’t going to please everyone. For some people, overcoming sin means killing all the bad guys. For others, it means catching the killer. In other books, it means finding a way to forgive. And in some books it means walking the aisle at church and asking Jesus to come into your heart. If the book happens to be written by someone who sees religion as the sin, it might mean the character turning his back on religion.

Whatever the author sees as the sin and whatever it takes to overcome the sin, it is the author’s responsibility to state is case well. Show us why another solution won’t work. Show us why your solution is the best one. Or show us why your solution is the wrong one. But whatever you do, don’t just put it out there and assume we know why it must be so.