No expiration date on truth

Earlier this month there was a bit of an uproar within the National Baptist Convention in general and around American Baptist College in particular. American Baptist College was founded in 1924 for the purpose of training African-American ministers. Located in Nashville, the school has a rich connection to civil rights issues. It is a historically black college and has an all-black faculty. But none of that really has anything to do with the uproar mentioned above.

The problem arose when the college invited a married, lesbian bishop to speak at the school. Some conservative black preachers called on the school to withdraw the invitation because the Bible makes it clear that homosexuality is a sin. The bishop in question, Yvette Flunder, was not scheduled to address anything associated with homosexuality. Instead, she was to speak at the school’s annual Garnett Nabrit Lecture Series “about her work advocating for the rights and needs of people suffering from HIV and AIDS,” according to The Tennessean.

The Tennessean went on to report that the National Baptist Fellowship of Concerned Pastors stated the following in a news release calling for the invitation to be rescinded: “For a Baptist college president to invite a lesbian bishop legally married to a woman, to be a guest speaker and worship leader on a Baptist college campus is irresponsible, scandalous, non-biblical, and certainly displeasing to God.”

In response, American Baptist College President Forrest Harris said, “I think they have misappropriated the theology of the National Baptist Convention which says that churches and individuals can hold their own theological beliefs about what they think is right and wrong. It’s tragic these conservative pastors are in opposition to what education ought to be about, to expose students to critical moral thinkers and a broad education.” Harris may have been able to make a legitimate claim for the second part of the statement, because students do need to be exposed to critical moral thinkers. Still, there are plenty of critical moral thinkers who are not practicing homosexuals, and the invitation clearly implies an acceptance of Flunder’s lifestyle choice. Far more troubling is the assertion that the National Baptist Convention says that churches and individuals can “hold their own theological beliefs about what they think is right and wrong.” I do not know if the NBC teaches that or not, but if it does, it is a heretical organization. no where does the Bible allow churches or individuals to decide what they believe is right or wrong. Are there areas on which the Bible is not explicitly clear and about which individuals and even churches can decide they hold certain convictions? Absolutely. But the Bible is explicitly clear about what is right and wrong in many areas, and when the Bible is explicitly clear there is no other alternative.

That Harris is not much concerned about what the Bible has to say about the matter is clear in another statement he made, which has been reported in a variety of news outlets. “It’s sad that people use religion and idolatry of the Bible to demoralize same-gender-loving people,” Harris said. He then said “idolatry of the Bible” occurs “when people say (the Bible) is synonymous with God and the truth.” He continued, “We can’t be guided and dictated by a first-century world view.”

I beg your pardon, Mr. Harris, but saying that the Bible is synonymous with God and with truth is not idolatry; it is exactly what the Bible says it is. I am certainly not advocating a first-century worldview. Rather, I am advocating a biblical worldview. That the New Testament was written in the first century does not at all mean that it delivers a first-century worldview. All that means is that the first century is when God chose, in His sovereignty, to reveal His Word.

John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” I am not sure how Mr. Harris could miss it, but I believe it would be an accurate paraphrase to say that John 1:1 says the Bible is synonymous with God. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all Scripture is breathed out by God. I am not sure how Mr. Harris could miss it, but I believe it would be an accurate paraphrase to say that the Bible is synonymous with God and truth. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” I am not sure Mr. Harris could miss it, but I believe it would be an accurate paraphrase to say that if it was true in the first century it is still true today; there is no expiration date on biblical truth. Romans 8:14 says that all those who are led by the Spirit of God are the Sons of God. That same Spirit of God inspired the authors of Scripture way back in the first century. I am not sure how Mr. Harris could miss it, but I believe it would be an accurate paraphrase to say that we must be guided by that worldview.

May we never be ashamed of holding fast to the Word of God!

Reason for Living

It seems a fitting follow up to yesterday’s post to highlight the fact that those who do have the inheritance made possible by accepting Christ as Savior not only should have and exhibit an inexpressible joy, but have a reason for living that goes far beyond any temporal emotion, excitement or circumstance this life may have to offer. Just as it is difficult for me to imagine facing the trials and tribulations of life without a relationship with Jesus Christ it is difficult for me to imagine what might keep me going in life when those things around which I had based my happiness or hopes had failed me.

There was an excellent example of the futility of placing one’s hopes in worldly circumstances in the reaction of the fans of Brazil’s soccer team following the team’s loss to Germany in semifinal round of the World Cup (being held in Brazil). The story released by the AP, and posted on Yahoo among other places, provided this overview of the situation in the story’s second paragraph: “The national team wasn’t just defeated by a powerful German team. It was routed in front of the entire world, humiliated at its own party. Young and old, Brazilians shared in the anguish of what many called a national calamity — the worst loss in their team’s storied World Cup history.”

Yes, it was an incredibly lopsided loss for Brazil, who lost the game 7-1. Yes, it was no doubt frustrating and disheartening to lose and those emotions were surely compounded by the fact that Brazil was the host nation. But a “national calamity”? Perhaps there is a problem if a team’s loss in a soccer match rises to that level. Unfortunately, it gets worse.

A 67-year old retired teacher watching the match commented, “I’m feeling disappointed, sad, but more than anything I’m feeling embarrassed. It was embarrassing to watch.” I could probably understand and even relate to those emotions. That seems fairly reasonable. But fan Pablo Ramoz said, “you are going to have the most depressed country ever” after Brazil was defeated. Really? Ever? I suspect perhaps several European nations rolled over by Hitler’s blitzkrieg, Japan following the bombs following on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the United States following the attacks on 9/11 would be just three examples among many of countries that would have been more “depressed” than Brazil following a soccer loss.

It gets worse yet, though. The AP story also stated that Samir Kelvin “clung to a street pole and loudly cried: ‘I have nothing left! I am Brazilian and humiliated I want to kill myself!'”

For anyone to have nothing more to live for than the success of a national soccer team is a poignant–and incredibly sad– commentary on the ways in which we humans seek to find fulfillment and meaning in this world. Of course nothing can provide that fulfillment and meaning other than a relationship with Jesus Christ. That is why we can find ample evidence of the complete devastation of individuals who seemingly have everything man could want and yet still lack meaning and fulfillment and contentment in their lives.

Joy Elms penned the lyrics to a song that addresses the inability of anything other than Christ to provide meaning in life–and the incredible ability of Christ to provide that meaning. The first verse goes like this:

I’ve been blessed with so many things, God’s been good to me
I have family and friends who share in all I do
But if I lose it all and I am left with nothing
If I have the Lord I know I’ll make it through

Surely the loss of family and friends and “so many things” would be worse than the 7-1 defeat of the national soccer team, no? Yet Elms makes it clear that there is still reason to live despite those overwhelming losses. And what is that reason? Here is the chorus of her song…

He’s the only reason I live, but oh, what a reason
He’s the only reason I live, but oh, what a reason
There’s nothing in this world worth living for
It only leaves you empty and longing for more
Oh, He’s the only reason I live, but oh, what a reason

The second verse of the song goes like this…

Now you may have tried a lot of things to find real happiness
But if you’ve looked very long, then you know it can’t be found
Until you find the Lord, in the power of His Spirit
Jesus will be your reason to live and He’ll never let you down

Therein we see exactly what I am getting at here. Whether it is the success of a soccer team, the attainment of a position or title, the house, car, clothes, boat, income or whatever that one desires, celebrity status or anything else, none of it will bring “real happiness.” Jesus will never let us down. Soccer teams will lose, positions can be lost, houses can be destroyed, cars can crash, clothes can go out of style, boats can sink and celebrity status is incredibly temporary–but Jesus will “never let you down.”

Psalm 138:8 says, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.” Nothing about the Lord is temporal; He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). His love endures forever. And He will fulfill His purpose in the lives of those who accept Him and yield to Him. May that be our source of fulfillment, our reason for living…and nothing else.