A Gay Hymnal and a Message of Hope

CrossThere’s no question that the usage of hymns in worship, though employed and beloved by the faithful for centuries, has been in sharp decline for decades. The Hymn Society wants that to change—so they are offering a new hymnal with a twist.

The new hymnal, Songs for the Holy Other: Hymns Affirming the LGBTQIA2S+ Community, promises “queer hymns—hymns by, for, or about the LGBTQIA2S+ community.”

The collection includes nearly fifty hymns with titles like “The Kingdom of God is the Queerest of Nations,” “Quirky, Queer and Wonderful,” and “God of Queer, Transgressive Spaces.” The Episcopal Church in the US and the Anglican Church of Canada have both publicized the hymnal.

The hymns offer worshippers a dangerous theology that flies in the face of Scriptural truths about God, sin, gender, and sexual ethics.

One hymn gives “thanks to God for grave disorder,” in direct contradiction to the divinely revealed truth that “God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33). In a ploy to defend gender-bending as godly, another hymn refers to God as “our Father, Mother, Parent,” despite God’s revealed insistence that we call Him “Father.”

Many of the hymns—including “God Calls You Good” and “A Hymn for Self-Acceptance”—promote the heretical belief that God’s love for us means we don’t need to repent and turn from our sins. Instead of being redeemed and transformed by God’s grace, we just need to “accept” ourselves and celebrate those harmful desires and activities which God calls sinful.

What a stark contrast with the hope proclaimed at the Changed Movement event that took place in Washington, DC, last week, when 18 individuals who formerly identified as LGBT met with legislators to share their testimonies of how God transformed their lives by His grace.

Many states have banned counseling that helps individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria. A bill that would ban these therapies nationwide is now being considered in the US House of Representatives. Efforts to ban so-called “conversion” or “reparative” therapy in Idaho have failed so far.

Without access to the help and tools counseling provides, the “formers,” as they call themselves, don’t think they would have found liberation from their destructive lifestyles.

These brave men and women are walking monuments to the transforming power of God. “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral… nor men who practice homosexuality… 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).

Instead of condoning our sin, God promises to regenerate us. He sanctifies us in His Truth and calls us into righteousness.

That is good news for all of us. In Christ Jesus, there is hope, redemption, and deliverance. And that is a message and power worth singing hymns about.


This article was written for Family Policy Alliance of Idaho.


 

Four Reasons Christians Must Defend Religious Liberty

Bill-of-Rights3By April 1777, John Adams—then a delegate in the Continental Congress—felt a sense of growing despair. Facing the realization that American success in the War for Independence was anything but certain, he grew concerned that his countrymen were losing their resolve to fight in the face of consecutive military defeats and that they were growing wearisome of the sacrifices necessary to secure independence and liberty for all.

Distressed but still clinging to the hope that God would come to the aid of his fledgling nation, the future president wrote a letter to his wife Abigail, in which he made this startling declaration:

“Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present generation, to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

Perhaps the most treasured of these freedoms is religious liberty. Called the “first freedom” because of its place as the first inalienable right protected by the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, religious freedom is also protected by the Idaho Constitution, which forcefully affirms:

“The exercise and enjoyment of religious faith and worship shall forever be guaranteed; and no person shall be denied any civil or political right, privilege, or capacity on account of his religious opinions.”

Despite its legally protected status under our federal and state constitutions, religious liberty is under attack today.

Here are four reasons Christians should be concerned about preserving religious freedom:

  1. Our ability to openly preach the Gospel is at stake: As historian Bill Federer astutely puts it, “Our most important job is to preach the Gospel. Our second most important job is to defend our right to preach the Gospel.”
  2. Religious freedom is biblical: The Bible tells us that we are accountable to God for our religious beliefs and the actions that flow from those beliefs. Romans 14:4 says, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall.” The Bible makes clear that civil government should neither infringe on our duties to God (Acts 5:17-42) nor coerce someone to believe or act contrary to their conscience (Daniel 1, 3, 6).
  3. Our right to live, and raise our children, according to the dictates of our faith is in jeopardy. And not only living out our faith just at home or church, but at work and in school and in public, too.
  4. Love for neighbor: We should work to ensure religious freedom is preserved not only for ourselves, but for our neighbors as well, whatever their faith may be.

Our founding fathers warned that a government willing to infringe religious liberty will soon begin violating other dearly held rights. James Madison, the ‘Father of the Constitution’ and our fourth president, rightly cautioned:

“There is not a truth to be gathered from history more certain than or more momentous than this: that civil liberty cannot long be separated from religious liberty without danger, and ultimately without destruction to both.”

The founding generation sacrificed much to secure our freedoms, as have generations of soldiers, statesmen, and citizens since. Christians today must take seriously their duty to preserve religious liberty for their neighbors and children, and for future generations.

For their sake and ours, let us recommit ourselves to this righteous cause, protecting our freedom to share the Gospel and our right to live, work, and raise our families according to the precepts of God’s Word.


This article was written for Family Policy Alliance of Idaho.


 

This Independence Day, Remember to Give Thanks to God

Praying-with-Flag-960-wSir William Jones, the renowned eighteenth-century English jurist and scholar, once remarked of his native England, “We live in the midst of blessings till we are utterly insensible of their greatness and the source from whence they flow.”

Sadly, the same could be said of the American people today. We are blessed to live in the most prosperous, secure, politically stable, and free nation in the history of the world. Yet too many turn their backs on our national foundations, indignantly sneer at the biblical morality we once shared, and speak with contempt of the founding fathers and other faithful men who have—by their vigilance and sacrifice—secured, maintained and preserved our republic for future generations.

What was, to paraphrase Sir William Jones, the source from whence our blessings of liberty, prosperity, and security flowed? What was the source of our national greatness?

In his first Thanksgiving Proclamation, President George Washington unequivocally answered: “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.”

That, indeed, was the unanimous opinion of the founding fathers who appended their names to the Declaration of Independence exactly 243 years ago. In fact, Independence Day in early America was celebrated as a day of national thanksgiving to God.

Our founders attested to God’s intervention on our behalf during the War for Independence and His goodness in guiding them as they created a nation rooted in the idea of liberty under God’s law and built upon His unchanging Word. They believed the American people should come together to extend gratitude and worship to God for His protection, favor, and blessing.

Writing to his wife Abigail immediately after joining with his fellow delegates in voting for independence, John Adams presciently foresaw both the importance of the event in which he had just taken part and the traditions that would be celebrated by successive generations of Americans:

I am apt to believe that [Independence Day] will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations [fireworks] from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.

Yes, John Adams predicted that Independence Day would be celebrated with fireworks, parades, sports, and guns! How’s that for a prediction come true?

But also notice that John Adams says Independence Day ought to be celebrated by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. God, who is the source of all blessings, deserves our worship and thanksgiving today. He has given us our liberty, and He has allowed us to live in a nation that has done better than any other in offering opportunity to all and empowering everyone to exercise their rights freely.

As you celebrate Independence Day, take a few minutes to pray with your family, thanking God for all he has done for the United States of America. Join with me in following the wisdom of President Washington, who over two centuries ago encouraged his countrymen to acknowledge God’s providence and authority, obey His law, be grateful to Him for the blessings we have been given, and humbly ask him for his continued protection and favor.


This article was originally written for Family Policy Alliance of Idaho.


 

Do Our Rights Come From Government or From God?

Chuck Todd, MSNBC commentator and host of NBC’s Meet the Press, was seriously uneasy after Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore won the Republican primary last week.

Chuck.jpgAfter disparaging the senatorial candidate’s religious beliefs (“The phrase Christian conservative doesn’t even begin to describe [Moore],” Todd said disdainfully), the NBC pundit questioned how well Moore understands the Constitution.

Roy Moore, who has previously served as the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, often says our rights come from God, not government. Chuck Todd calls Moore’s view “very fundamentalist.” According to Todd, those who believe our rights are God-given don’t “believe in the Constitution as written.”

In accusing Roy Moore of infidelity to the Constitution, Chuck Todd demonstrates his own ignorance of the American founding.

The founding fathers understood that our rights come from God. As the Declaration of Independence proclaims, all people are created equal, “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”

The constitutional framers recognized this important truth: if our rights are given to us by government, then government can take those rights away. In the words of John Adams, it’s because our rights are “derived from the great Legislator of the Universe” that they “cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws.”

Like too many today, Chuck Todd believes government can give, change, and take away the rights of the people, depending on the whims of the majority and the ambitions of those in government. Their philosophy asserts that some rights, like the freedom of speech and religious liberty that protect the right of bakers and photographers to decline participation in same-sex wedding ceremonies, are antiquated. On the other hand, the “right” to marry a person of the same sex, which was never given by God, can be declared into existence by a Supreme Court decision.

But our founding fathers knew the truth—our rights do indeed come from our Creator, and no government can take those rights away.


This article was originally written for the Indiana Family Institute.


 

Toward a Trinitarian Understanding of the Free Market

1in_god_we_trustThe concept of the Trinity is foundational to the Christian life. This fundamental doctrine teaches that there are not three gods but one God in three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Each person of the Godhead is equally, eternally, and fully God. There is unity among the three persons of the Godhead; they are “equal in every divine perfection” yet “execute distinct but harmonious offices in the great work of redemption.”

All human relationships reflect the Trinity. Because God created us in His image, we are relational beings. We were created to live in community. Although some types of social relationships are more intimate and lasting than others, all relationships are interpersonal and require at least some cooperation and interdependence. Furthermore, just as there are different roles among the persons of the Trinity, there are also roles within every social relationship.

Theologians often point to God’s design for the family as one example of this phenomenon. Familial relationships are characterized by interdependence, cooperation, and mutual service. The husband is called to lovingly exercise headship over the family, following the pattern of Christ and the church. Conversely, the wife joyfully submits herself to her husband’s proper exercise of authority, and children submit to their parents. Thus, the biblical pattern for family exemplifies the interdependence and interpersonal cooperation of the Trinity.

This Trinitarian pattern also applies to our relationships in the marketplace. Consider the relationship between employer and employee. Employers are called to lovingly and righteously exercise authority over their employees, and their employees are called to submit joyfully, so long as the employer isn’t directing the employee to engage in unholy or illegal behavior. In doing this, the employer and the employee glorify God by imitating the Father’s proper exercise of authority and the Son’s joyful submission as well as through acting righteously toward each other.

Even economic exchange between strangers reflects the Trinity and glorifies God. “Society under the market economy means a state of affairs in which everybody serves his fellow citizen and is served by them in return,” wrote the famed economist Ludwig von Mises.

This axiom is obvious to those who have studied the market economy. The businessman serves his customers by producing the goods and services they desire, and the customers compensate the businessman for those goods. The employee serves his employer by providing his labor, and the employer returns the favor by remunerating the employee for his work.

Through its division and specialization of labor, the market drives every person to rely on everyone else to supply his needs. No one person is self-sufficient. By fostering interdependence and interpersonal cooperation, the relational nature of economic exchange reflects the relational nature of the Trinity. Accordingly, the free market bears the mark of its Creator.

The nineteenth-century Christian philosopher and economist Frederic Bastiat affirmed this truth:

“We should be compelled to contemplate the Divine plan that governs society… And see how, by means of social [economic] laws, and because men exchange among themselves their labors and their products, a harmonious tie attaches the different classes of society one to the other! It is therefore certain that the final result of the efforts of each class is the common good of all.”

Adam Smith, renowned by historians as the father of modern economics, famously wrote that market participants “are led by an invisible hand… without intending it, without knowing it,” to “advance the interest of society.” Even when they are merely seeking their own benefit, market participants are led by the mechanisms of profit and loss to use their productive energies to meet the needs of others. Christians recognize that this invisible hand must be God, who uses the laws of economics that He created to guide market participants into the service of others.

In the free market, this mutual service through economic exchange is voluntary. No party is forced to supply the needs of the other. Instead, profit and loss direct individuals into the service of their fellow men. Assuming the absence of force and fraud, the people and companies who earn the greatest profit are those who best serve the needs of their customers. Christianity understands this and therefore affirms that profit is morally good.

In Matthew 25:35-36, Jesus commands His disciples to attend to the needs of others. Can it not be said that this is accomplished through the mechanisms of the market, at least in part? Do food workers not feed the hungry? Do pipe workers not help supply water to the thirsty? Do retail workers not help to clothe the naked? Do doctors and nurses not attend to needs of the sick?

This explains why the Christian Reformers believed that all work is sacred and provides an opportunity to glorify God. All work, even the most mundane, is a high calling. God uses our work and economic exchange to provide for ourselves and others. Through the process of voluntary market exchange, we glorify God by reflecting the Trinity’s interdependence and interpersonal cooperation in our own lives.


This post was published by Baptists for Liberty.


 

Is the Idea of a Christian Nation Heretical?

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Highlighting our nation’s Christian heritage, “In God We Trust” is inscribed on the wall behind the Speaker’s chair in the U.S. Capitol Building House Chamber.

Is it wrong for Christians to celebrate a nation’s godly heritage?

The answer is yes, at least according to an editorial published today in the Washington Post.

In his opinion piece, multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens asserts that Christians engage in “heresy” when they “declare the United States a Christian nation.”

As a matter of historical fact, the United States was indeed founded as a Christian nation.

From our nation’s earliest beginnings, Americans recognized God’s authority and sought to recreate society in accordance with His design. The Pilgrims and Puritans who first disembarked on American shores understood themselves to be “New Israelites” settling a “New Israel,” and later generations of American colonists explicitly expressed in government documents their belief that their communities were in covenant with God.

Our corporate reliance on God and affirmation of His truth was also evident throughout the American War for Independence. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, John Adams affirmed that “the general principles on which the [founding] fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity.”

The revered Declaration of Independence, our first act as an independent nation, contains four references to God, extolling His role as humanity’s Creator, the Author of natural law and divine revelation, the Supreme Judge of the Universe, and the sovereign and providential disposer of people, nations, and history.

Even the Supreme Court formally declared America to be a Christian nation, legally and historically speaking, in Holy Trinity Church v. U.S. (1892).

Sufjan Stevens’ argument is predicated on his implied belief that it is wrong for Christians to celebrate a nation’s faithfulness to God, His natural and revealed law, and His Gospel. “You cannot pledge allegiance to a nation state and its flag and the name of God,” he writes, “for God has no political boundary.”

It goes without saying that God has no political boundary. Jesus was not crucified as a substitutional, atoning sacrifice and resurrected from the dead to give salvation to only one nation or people – He died for all people, of all races and ethnicities (Galatians 3:28). No individual should put faith in their nationality as the basis for their salvation.

However, George Washington would have disagreed with Stevens as to whether it is heretical for Christians to celebrate their nation’s godly heritage and give thanks for all that God has done for them. In his 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation, our first president wrote, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.”

President Washington’s sentiment comports with biblical truth: “The nations who forget God shall be turned into Hell” (Psalm 9:17). Thankfully, our nation was built on the firm foundation of the Judeo-Christian worldview. As a Christian, I pray that we recommit ourselves to that firm foundation. After all, although the Psalmist tells us that “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 33:12), he also warns, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3).

Ironically, while Sufjan Stevens’ editorial accuses others of heresy, he flirts with heresy himself.

First, Stevens denies that Christians should be loyal and patriotic citizens, contradicting the Bible’s teachings (Jeremiah 29:7, Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-17, Titus 3:1-2) and thousands of years of Christian tradition. If the Apostle Paul claimed his rights as a Roman citizen (Acts 22:22-29), why shouldn’t Christians all the more happily claim their American citizenship?

Second, by writing that Jesus “acknowledged [government] as a necessary evil,” Stevens mischaracterizes Matthew 22:21. The Bible and Christian tradition tell us that government isn’t a necessary evil. Instead, government is part of God’s design for ordering human life in a fallen world. Lest we forget, God created the nations of the world (Acts 17:26). When acting within their legitimately delegated sphere of influence, government officials are “God’s servants” for the good of their citizens (Romans 13:4).

Our nation was founded on the revealed truth of the Judeo-Christian Almighty God. Not only should Christians rejoice, but we should also recognize and assume the additional responsibility that accompanies the blessings and favor God has shown our nation by walking in obedience and working for justice in society and the world.

The Bible and Income Inequality

300px-day_3_occupy_wall_street_2011_shankbone_5During the 2016 presidential campaign, Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders built his platform on the promise of reducing economic inequality. He repeatedly proclaimed his belief that “the issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time.”

While “income inequality” is a favorite rallying cry for socialists everywhere, the Bible doesn’t denounce wealth or material possessions, nor does it indicate that economic inequality is somehow morally wrong.

Many of the Bible’s great men came from considerable wealth. Instead of condemning these men for their affluence, the Bible seems to laud their riches. For example, Abraham “was very rich in livestock, silver, and in gold” (Genesis 13:2, NKJV). Similarly, King Solomon’s treasures were unequaled. After Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge to rule over Israel rightly, God promised to give him “riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like” (2 Chronicles 1:12, NKJV). Likewise, before the devastating events of Job’s namesake book unfolded, he was more prosperous than anyone else in the East. Furthermore, God doubled Job’s wealth after his period of tribulation (Job 42:12).

We can use our resources and property for many moral purposes. These moral purposes include providing for our family’s needs (1 Timothy 5:8), investing and saving for the future (Ecclesiastes 11:2; Proverbs 21:20), voluntarily giving to those in need (Hebrews 13:16; Proverbs 21:13), and providing for the work of the church (Proverbs 3:9; Philippians 4:15-18). But it is also morally good for us to use our material possessions for our own enjoyment, offering thanksgiving to God for all He has provided. Paul tells us as much, writing that God “gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). Yet many people criticize those who live in abundance as if it is morally wrong to have more material things than others.

The Parables of the Minas (Luke 19:11-27) and the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) serve as relevant biblical case studies. In these parables, a master who is leaving town gives talents or minas (denominations of money) to each of his servants, telling them to “engage in business until I return.” When the master returns, he finds that two of his servants invested his money and made a profit, but one of his servants unwisely refused to invest his money and failed to make a return. The servant who made the greatest return on investment is given the greatest reward, whereas the servant who declined to invest his money has his property taken from him. Through the means of divine providence and the laws of economics, God acts the same as the master in the parable. God has given larger tasks to some people that require many resources, and He has also given smaller tasks to others that need fewer resources. Our responsibility is to be faithful stewards of the resources and opportunities God has given us, trusting in His sovereignty without envying those who have been given more.

What causes inequality? Assuming there is no fraud or theft, inequality results from only three things:

First, inequality often results from some people working more hours than others. King Solomon affirmed this truth: “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread” (Proverbs 12:11, ESV). Conversely, those who work fewer hours live in less abundance since laziness leads to poverty (Proverbs 6:10-12). Unsurprisingly, a study by the Brookings Institution found that the poverty rate would decrease by 42% if all poor families had one full-time worker earning the same hourly rate he or she makes now.

Second, inequality arises when one person is more productive, and uses resources more efficiently, than another. The person who can produce 50 units per hour will receive a bigger reward than the person who can produce only ten units per hour. Like the servant in the Parable of the Talents who doubled his master’s money through prudent investing and being more productive than the others, those who exhibit greater industry receive a larger reward.

Third, inequality develops when one person produces goods or services that are more highly valued. Engineering and medicine pay more than many other vocations because there is greater demand for engineering and medical services. Using another example, Tony Award-winning actors get paid more money than those working in local musical theaters because society is willing to pay more to watch them perform.

Economic inequality reflects God’s design for the world. Not only has God unequally distributed aptitudes, abilities, and opportunities to men, but he has also structured the laws of economics to reward those who produce goods and services that are highly valued by others, as well as those who use their resources productively and efficiently.

This inequality also provides us with many opportunities to glorify God. Those who have been entrusted with “one talent” can glorify God by faithfully stewarding the resources He has given them, relying upon God’s provision without complaining or envying others who have more. On the other hand, those who have been entrusted with “ten talents” can glorify God by using their resources to build wealth, give generously to the church and the poor, and offer thanksgiving to God for the blessings He has provided.

Contrary to the arguments of Bernie Sanders and others, wealth and income inequality is not “the great moral issue of our time.” Economic inequality reflects God’s design for society, not a moral aberration needing to be eradicated.


This article was originally published by Baptists for Liberty.