I’d rather use a list
-If Romans 13 means we can never stand against a government, we cannot stand against the vast majority of injustice throughout history or in the world today
– Authority is given to other entities as well (church, family) and in none of these cases is it explicitly stated the limits of that authority. Yet rare is the person who argues a church or family can demand whatever they wish of its members.
– The two things given that government can do that would be sins for other people are taking money and taking life. The argument for the extent of one exegetically implies the other.
–  I agree that Romans 13 gives the state has the right to take life or property at times and for reasons where it would be immoral for other entities to. The question can they take property or life for any reason they decide and it never is immoral.
– The two listed reasons for Government is the punishment of the wicked and rewarding of good behavior. Arguments that see these as only examples and that a Government exists to do well beyond that import these ideas in.
-The exceptions that even the most strident defender of absolute rights of states, such as that we should not stop worshiping, or that we should inform on house churches, is in no way explicit or even implied in this passage. If the authority taught is limitless, any limits one thinks belong on it must be theological and not biblical and thus are open to the same arguments others make.
– Paul’s command “to not resist” needs to be exegeted, it is more likely he is saying do not rebel as the zealots were doing. There is a far cry between not forming a militia against the Roman Government and giving them overt support.
– If the authority is limitless in scope because explicit limits are not given, though positive duties are listed, we must keep in mind limits are not explicated placed on the Church or Family either. Why then can these entities not take over the state’s role?
– arguments that the churches authority over their members (or husbands authority over wives) are limitless because no explicit limit is given are unheard of.
– the church and family are given authority without any implication of where specifically that authority lies, yet we limit it. The state is given authority WITH clear delineation (carrying out God’s wrath against the wrongdoer)
– Those who argue for full submission in payment no matter what, yet that we should abandon male headship because there is a history of men using it to abuse their wives should be honest about history. Has not the State claiming ultimate authority to do anything they want led to far more harm? Can the numbers even compare to the atrocities that would be excused if it is argued that the state must be submitted to no matter how extreme and for any reason, rather than only within her justifiable authority, the roles given it in scripture? If there are no limts to her what she may do and not sin, let’s stop wining about any “injusitce” done by countries to their citizens.

While there are other passages in the New Testament and many in the old relevant for this discussion I focus on Romans 13. Old testament passages are less explicit in that the state and church are essentially one in such commands. Likewise, many of the commandments are based on Israel being God’s covenant people, and so would really fit better under one another commands. The best question I see being raised from these is if a certain thing was not under the control of national Israel, a theocracy, the most expansive form of involvement in people’s lives (political and spiritual combined), it is hubris for modern states to assume to go even further. Passages where Jesus interacts over the payment of taxes are very situational. When asked about Taxes to Caesar, he is not being proposed with an honest question and gives an answer that denies the ability to trap him. If his answer had meant 1) Nothing belongs to Caesar, everything belongs to God, the Jewish leaders could have gotten him in trouble with Rome. If his answer meant (as many today assume) that anything Caesar wants belongs to him, the Zealot Jews would have turned against him. As it is, his answer did not give any ammunition for either side nor does it define what belongs to Caesar or to God. Merely that there are things, at least financially, which belong to each (and thus one could not claim a monopoly) Other passages are also only inferential. Zacchaeus repents and pays back 4 times what he had “cheated” people of. Cheating people is impossible if a tax collector had the moral right to take as much as he wanted (and he certainly had the political right as far as Rome was concerned.)  Something like this is seen again when the tax collectors ask John what they should do, and he tells them not to collect above what they need to.
The main point is that the right to tax is not limitless. In fact, the purpose for taxing are given
for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.”
We pay taxes in order that they can attend to “this very thing”. This very thing is not everything and anything they want but appears to be the bearing of the sword. For those who want to make “because of this you… pay taxes… (so that they can attend to this very thing” mean “anything and everything” I simply challenge them to see what the text is talking about. Their job is “to bear the sword” and “to carry out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” If someone sees beyond maintaining of protection and order in these, it must be imported in from elsewhere.
The Government’s right to take taxes and life are not limitless but are restrained to their proper role for which God ordained them… to carry out his wrath on the wrongdoer. And exegetically to make one limitless (taxes) one must also make the other (taking of life) so that no matter who they state punished they were never in the wrong.  If we say they can take any amount for any reason, and their authority has no restrictions, then we must say the same for the church and family who are also given authority without specific restrictions. Yet we do not, and yet when the church or family challenge the state over some area, people are told “Romans 13!” and the church and family are expected to abandon their claims.
Certainly, there were times in history where the family and the church tried to take over the States rightful domain. One thinks of the Hatfields and McCoys, forgoing the state to meet out justice on their own terms. And this has been played out numerous times in society. Or of the Church in the middle ages punishing criminals. Even if they did a fine job of it and their courts were just, that is not the role of the church. But nowadays it is the State who is infringing, seeing itself as the prime character in the spiritual formation, education, and upbringing of everyone. Unless we would be okay with a Church raising an army or families holding anyone whom they had a grievance against prisoner, we must admit that the state has these rights with the limits of her authority and not without limits. And those limits are determined by God, not subject to any modern idea of the state no matter how universal. However, if we take the positive affirmations of these different institutions as implying what their role is, we come away with a state whose job is maintaining of order while the role of spiritual formation, education, and taking care of one another are done by church and family. And for one of these to try to take over the other’s God-given authority is immoral, just as it would be for a dad from Norway to suppose he has the authority to discipline and raise your family in Nebraska.

As Trump has rolled out his new travel ban, a fresh wave of criticism has followed. Christians leaders have lauded their usually brand of “I disagree with that and my stance is the biblical one” defenses. The usual ammunition sounds like “Israel always welcomed refugees” “the bible always calls us to care for the poor and marginalized.” and similar platitudes. These do not go so far as some of their secular counterparts in saying this is the outright Muslim ban Trump hinted at (which, of course, he did not say, but rather a temporary one until proper vetting was in place.) On that phrase, one visiting professor I had said it “resonated with those parts of the country where racism is still large” and sarcastically that  “such thoughtless comments really help are missionaries among Muslims.” Maybe not, but let’s keep our heads in this discussion… at least those of us Christians not living in the Moe’s empire.
I believe such statements are ill placed and do not match with the biblical witness for the following reasons: Old Testament Israel clearly had standards for who came in as individuals as sojourners, how they should behave, and which nations they were allowed from. Sojourners were only allowed from certain nations. Likewise, those sojourners who did come had to be in line with Israel… none of them got to set up a block of Jerusalem (or London) where the Baal cult determined the laws.
Even St. Thomas Aquinas recognizes this that Israel did not have open borders
http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/01/31/saint-thomas-aquinas-opposed-open-borders/
Notice that these rules for the Old Testament theocracy did not change based on the needs of those wanting entry. Nor do I ever hear wise Church leaders putting their flock at risk in order be compassionate.
If someone argued that Israel and America are not the same, Amen. But they brought it up as an example, and if in the strictest theocracy the example is the opposite; the one country that had their laws from God did, in fact, deny entry to many, though not to all, who wanted entrance.
      Before I move to the other less direct biblical arguments (i.e. always on the side of the marginalized, compassion, keeping good P.R. so we can witness.) I would like to add a binary reflection about ancient Israel and modern nation states. 
The issue with which individual foreigners could be let in involved being subversive to the goals of Israel, against its core values. Islam is an ideology and an ideology that would be as subversive to an ancient theocracy as it is to one founded on ideas of freedom, individual rights, and non-coercion, in private matters. The mistaken thought that “anyone can believe whatever they want in America” only goes so far. If a belief system does also believe the government should not only protect it, but favor and enforce their’s, they are subversive to the society. Islam by both explicit declaration and practice has no interest the various laws of nations it enters  It is unfair, I would say almost blasphemous to a Muslim to say that Islam is a religion and not a political ideology. They see them as one and the same, and any devout Muslim wants the government to become Islamic.
Certainly, there are individual Muslims that don’t adhere to this. Just as with any ideology. I’m sure there are plenty card-carrying communists who are not trying to subvert their neighbor’s free expression and are delightful to talk to (in fact, I know several, as I do several pleasant Muslims and some kind elderly relatives who were mildly racist by my reckoning). That does not change that they are part of that club, and in the case of Islam, are so officially.     The point it, whether in the 40’s with Nazis, the cold War with Communists, or today with Islam, there are always a great many people born underneath the worldview. They had no other options around, and would be very delightful to get to know. There still a part of it. And if you want to jump on me for comparing Islam to these other worldviews, I would only say that my approach allows me to reach out to people with ideas even my most “progressive” of friends treat with contempt. The power to care for individuals while being against what they stand for is liberating.
But what about the marginalized and keeping up good P.R., this vies tries to avoid the tradeoffs it is making. In the first place, the fact that we have favored Muslim refugees over Christians who are clearly more marginalized testifies against us. Add to the that the fact that the preferential option in the bible is not for the ppoor, but for other believers, and those condemning Trump need to check why they were silent as long as Christians were marginalized. Unless it’s because the Media didn’t tell them there was injustice going on.
Biblical ethics give’s me no right to endanger my neighbor. Not even for virtual signalling. Let alone arguing that a small terrorist attack two or three times a year is worth not being seen as “unloving” by the global community, the migrant situation in Europe would still be a disaster. Higher crime, which is mostly affecting the marginalized of European culture. This includes higher rates of rape, not limited to adults. If we have a duty to the less fortunate, it starts with those who are in danger of being victims of life-destroying crimes, and with other Christians who are always our first priority in giving help (Galatians 6:10, 1 John 3:23)
And that brings us to the last bad argument. It doesn’t help our witness. This has been used in varying forms, but it boils down to we should not stand against evil in order to keep communication lines open, and those suffering evil are worth sacrificing for the open door of evangelism.
I’m not even going to deal with the accusation that a “Muslim ban”resonates with those parts of the country that are still xenophobic. The inferiority of rural human beings has long been a theme of “progressive” Christians. And the associating of “Muslim” with a race is ridiculous. It shouldn’t even be normalized by being seen as a legitimate argument.
The duty to do right and to resist wrong is never to be compromised for a photo-op. The fact that we have let Christians suffer in the Middle East, when economically and influentially the Church could have stood up for them is a shame. But it’s not just an ignoring of it, it is intentionally letting them suffer and patting ourselves on the back for being so “compassionate” as to not challenge Moe’s empire.
     The conclusion of the matter is this. Old Testament Israel had specific limitations on which individuals could enter and from which countries. Islam is not an ethnicity or a race, but an ideology, and as much political one as Communism. The Christian call for compassion also means not exposing the weakest and vulnerable to life destroying crimes like rape or terrorist actions. There is not an “acceptable increase” of rape. There is not an acceptable level of dismissing evil and suffering imposed by a group in order not to offend them, especially why they oppress Christians, our first responsibility.
I have argued biblical on principles here. I have tried to show that even if most Muslims weren’t “really” Muslims in the fullest sense and are quite nice, this is no less true for other destructive groups.  Party members of an organization with explicit goals, who are not super active in carrying those goals out, are still members.
When you bring God and the Bible in to support your political opinions, you have raised the bar and the gauntlet has been thrown down. I think many of us would do well to state our stances quite freely but be extremely cautious to make biblical pronouncements Biblically there does not have to be a travel ban, but it is not against scriptural ethics. Likewise, we need to realize that very often in our world, the darkest movements have had plenty of nice, sweet people caught up in them. But that should not keep us from weighing the merits of the ideology and, if found wanting, standing against it while still loving those people. Whether Communism, Islam, Fascism or Racism, the love we have for those caught in it (even those who are poor and marginalized) does not give us the right to put others at risk.
As usually, I am happy to explain the scriptural basis for any of the principles I have laid out. And will try to interact with any questions or disagreements, hoping our views will be sharpened if we both defend them by the text.

A full repentance

Posted: January 19, 2017 in Uncategorized

Martin Luther interpreted the command to “repent” to indicate a new way of life. Not a one time repenting, but a life full defined by repentance. Even this can fail to go far enough if we only repent of those mistakes we make in our own plans of being good. A full repentance goes beyond confessing my failure to live up to the values I adhere to. It is a realization that I’ve not only failed at what I was trying but what I was trying was messed up. And I don’t mean slightly off, I mean. Well.
What I mean is I have woken up some days this year and realized, I’m a jerk. Not only am I a jerk, but I justify it as if I have a passion for truth. It’s not been a slip from my good motives to care about people, it’s been my modus operandi.
It’s come out in various ways. My conversations are attempts to push an agenda, not because I care about that issue but want to be seen as more right than others. If not desiring this my goal was jokes, a desperate desire to be seen as funny at any expense.
So I have to repent of Who I am. I am sure some theologian would say “that’s true of everyone” but I don’t think that’s true, at least not like this. I’ve realized that my beliefs, my faith, has all been… I haven’t been trying it right and missing the mark, or having an imperfect approach, it’s a full example of what not to do.
So what is it I need to do? I tried praying and saying “hey, just change me” and that didn’t work. Should I change my theological beliefs entirely? Yes and No. What I made important and why I made it important are the problem. I made details important so I could feel superior to other Christians. Or I held political positions so I could stand in judgment on people.
What will this full repentance look like? I don’t want to just be the exact opposite of what I’ve been. It will probably be a lot of habits I have to break, once I do automatically that I’m not even aware of. And it will take feeling deeply the way I have let others down. Wish me Godspeed.

It has become fashionable among professional theologians to label opponents with a heresy. This heresy is supposed to be what the opponent really teaches, if they were consistent with their ideas.
This tactic is fine it it’s was true that the teachings essentially or by consequence, lead to the mentioned heresy then let us call a spade a spade. But that requires argument not cool shaming.
For example, if I was to call Wesleyenism Semi or full blown Pelegianism that would be unfair. Wesleyenism tends not to deny men’s total depravity or that God moves first. On the flip side, though many passionate young men who claim to be Reformed may be fatalist, this label would flatly misrepresent the position that has been held by the majority of protestant divines throughout history.
Yet labels of Gnosticism, Modernism, and many others names are leveled against those whose beliefs neither lead there nor do they live like they do. Simply because they do not embrace the opposite extremes that their name callers are trying to make the new normal. This is a smart tactic, since it would be a lot harder to deal with someone arguments. Smart not being a moral category here.
Since they do this, I find it only fair to point out what the practical outworking of their theology should be called- practical materialistic universalism. “Practical” since this new emphasis of theology would have some statements buried in the doctrine, not impacting their preaching and actions, that denies materialism or universalism.
Universalist: These men and women allow no distinction between believer and unbeliever. If such a distinct group of people as the church is acknowledged, it is seen as to existing as the servant of all mankind. The church does not exist to care for the sheep and to call as many as possible into that flock. As one former pastor said who later became open to universalism “the gospel is either good news for everybody, or it’s not good news for anybody.” God’s judgement is pretty bad news, actually.
Wait, is there not a call to care for and love all humans? Is there not some sense in which all people bear God’s image and thus deserve our service? This would assume that I am accusing universalism of anyone who wants to love both believer and unbeliever. No, what I am saying is that there is a priority on and a distinct group called believers. This is not exclusion, but a priority. We should be investing our thoughts, our money, and our time on the People of God, and if no evidence in our speech, of a priority for those in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, we might as well be Universalist.
Likewise the preaching and teaching of such tend to run along themes that deal with a universal tint. Anyone claiming for even the slightest separation from the world is seen as failing in cultural engagement, and countless lessons on blessing the city and supporting human flourishing whether or not redemption is flowing through their soul are standard fare. True phrases like that God will redeem humanity are spoken in a way to give the impression that humanity and the new, redeemed humanity will have all the same members. When ethical summons are given upon the financial giving of the members, as is well and good, pushes are made not for the supporting of the Church but for the support of the community. Of course, by community they do not mean the church, but the town.
Materialists. As they have gotten into the habit of anyone who believes that there is spiritual reality as well as physical reality “Gnostics” it is only proper that they be labeled as materialists, since they, unlike those that they label, really do live as if only atoms exist. It is doubtful they would officially deny a spiritual world, but their ministries, missions, and daily concerns only see the physical as “really real.” If you think I am going too far, I ask you, does focusing one’s joy for the world to come on the new physical earth and not on the Joy of daily being in God’s presence strike you as odd? And if this is their view of the ultimate goal of salvation… simply the restored physical universe (noting that no one has ever denied the restored physical earth as part of “thy kingdom come,” yet it was not before put as the ultimate hope but a means to an end) than even their gospel proclamation is materialistic. Their encouragements for heaven are all based on material needs and joys only. These are, indeed, good. We should not return to the self-imposed life of misery and denial of the enjoyment of God through the physical means. But to react to it by making salvation purely physical is equal asinine. No further proof is needed than the way that the word “creation” is understood synonym for nature or the environment. I ask, is economics, relationships, architecture, cities, rest, and souls created things, the will, understanding, all part of what is referred to by creation in scripture, and not just the great outdoors?
I am sincerely challenging those who follow these men and women, listen to what they describe salvation as, and then lesson for what all their missional goals attend to, it is primarily if not exclusively physical. Rare is the church or zeitgeist surfing theologian, whether from Oxford, middle America, or Vatican City, who is investing as much money and time in combatting demonization as they are in bringing down world hunger. Feeding the hungry is a fine thing to care about, but does not the lack of concern for demonization alarm us?
Look, honestly I don’t have the numbers. But the kind of bare admittance that demonic influence, both in demonization and Satan’s bigger lies is a problem, while in most practical cases it receives little attention and investment, show us how materliastic they have become. The spiritual world may exist, but let us focus our efforts elsewhere. The world said “the spiritual realm, such as demonization and the lies of Satan do not exist.” So the church said, well, we still think they exist, but they are hardly worth doing anything about. But when will the Pope (and I sincerely hope one will) speak at the U.N. and tell them their refusal to recognize evil as real is inhibiting them from good policies? Keep in mind I am addressing certain leaders, including the current pope, and not those loyal preachers who see Satan as a worse threat than poor education
I do believe if cornered, these would admit to the church’s priority for the people of God and the reality of both physical and spiritual, but in the way they preach, set up ministries, and think about life daily they may as well not. Thus the qualifier “practical” which hopes that behind closed doors that they aren’t developing fine sounding arguments that would simply justify the practical outworking.

For the last year I have been working for a Congregational Church. Church government is not often seen as a core issue of belief, but it is a decision that has to be made and so I’d like to explore the scriptural basis for congregationalism.
There are three basic forms of church government: Episcopal, Presbyterian and Congregational, and we should note that these forms of government go well beyond the denominations that bear those names. The episcopal form, found in Anglican, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox is a top down government where the leadership is appointed. Here decisions are made by leaders, and the higher leaders appoint lower leaders. The Presbyterian system is representative government, such as we find in the United States government. Here the decisions are made by the leaders, but the leaders are selected by the people. Congregational form of government means that the whole community decides together on what to do, what we might call a true democracy, though it often requires more than a slim majority for decisions. The only place this really exists in America is when some New England towns do town meetings.
Often reasons given for the congregational form of government wherein issues are brought before the whole church body for everyone to vote on, is that the Holy Spirit can speak to any believer and that voice needs to be heard. Others cite the equality among believers. Beyond these, theologians who favor congregationalism cite a number of passages.
When the first church needed to select seven men to serve at tables, commonly referred to as the first Deacons (the the word Deacon occurs later) The Apostles, undisputedly given authority, gave the task of selecting these men form. “Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them” Acts 6:3 NIV. Many point to this as a time when if anyone had a right to appoint people, it would be them, but they deferred to the congregation.
The New testament epistles written to whole churches (vs. those written to individuals) where meant to be read to all the church. These included commands to make decisions, such as in 1 Corinthians when Paul tells them to excommunicate someone. Jesus also appeals to the congregation when seeking decisions on settling disputes and church discipline in Matthew 18:17. This is also true of the instructions about the ordinances (also known as means of grace or sacraments) such as in 1 Corinthians 11
Appeals to a congregation in a day and age when the average laymen was uneducated and often illiterate show us the force of the congregational argument. This also was not merely for deciding policy, but for decisions as important as excommunication. This is helpful, because during the middle ages “the church” often referred to the magisterium ruling the church, rather than to the whole gathered Body.

I am not saying that maybe Adam wasn’t lonely. What I am tired of is a neglect of seeing what Adam was made for and what he needed a partner/helper for (either word still proves the point.) All the animals were brought before Adam, and what he was looking for as a suitable partner. He wasn’t looking to see who could keep him company, but for a partner to enhance him in his call to work the garden and fill and subdue the earth.
God made eve for them to work together, and couples who look for a mate not simply who makes them feel less lonely but who are good partners for the general call of all of life, they will do well. Even the phrase “it is not good for man to be alone” we conclude it’s not good to be alone because you need someone to hang out with. We don’t see it as it’s not good for this man to be without a fitting partner in this labor of dominion.
This is what people should be looking for in a mate and striving for in Marriage. They are teamates, and if our view of marriage is to have someone satisfy us or we them, we miss the point that marriage is for the duty of serving God. This less romantic view may sound disappointing to those who feed off of a steady diet of romance novels or chick flicks, but those who want something that will give more richness to the earthy reality of day to day life, and will find enhancement instead of mere satisfaction.
Romantic love has made marriage more difficult because we go into it looking to get needs met it was never meant to. The need it meets is a suitable counterpart for living your life. When you see couples like this, you find they are the ones who love each other more 20 years into the marriage than at their wedding, rather than declining over time.
It was not good for Adam to run the world without a suitable partner. The reading that he was lonely would allow us to see Adam still ran the world alone he just had someone to talk to when he was on break.

lies

Posted: June 24, 2014 in Devotional/Poetry

It seems so good and like it’d work
that it would really satisfy
with no drawbacks, plenty of perks
& I can’t see that it’s a lie

We all do this more than we know,
so badly we don’t notice
we agree with everyone here below
unaware of what we miss

we have nothing from our birth
And nothing that we gain can fill the hole
that’s been there since the fall of earth
and we switch from wrong goal to wrong goal

some things are nice but that is all
and we either reject them or in them seek life
Not just enjoy them but we, Like Saul
start hoping in them… then our hope  will die

often pursuing opposite dreams,
When one fails the other is sought
one day putting our  hopein wealth and things
than thinking simplicity is what we sought

Or maybe in our food or family
or in being liked by all our friends
Maybe even in being holy
or in accomplishing noble ends

but almost worse than our false hopes in
The lies about pure dust satisfying,
is that culture, Satan, our flesh and Sin
Convince us God’s plan is boring

We believe that being holy isn’t fun,
That we’re missing out if we do what’s right.
We want to see our church time get done,
instead of getting excited on Saturday night

we don’t look forward to a family,
or to having someone to answer to every night
We fear to have responsibility
when it really means is a life with more delight

How can we help each other not believe lies?
It’s like having to be told the sounds that we hear
Or that the colors and things we see with our eyes
aren’t real at all despite we feel them when their near

But here is the chief fight with things who our lives would steal
The spiritual warfare of which we have heard
It is choosing not to believe what our eyes and ears say is real,
And believe what God has said in his Word.