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By In Culture, Politics, Scribblings, Wisdom

The Tip That Keeps on Giving

Information does tend to flow in trends through the social media conduits. For sheer lack of time, I find myself being fed ideas on what to think about in a given day, or what book to put on the reading list for the new year. And that’s okay, we tend to see what’s in front of us by design. Such is our need for community.

Of late, a bit of chatter that seemed to be recurrent in my November social feed troughs are several stories about the behavior of members of the body of the Lord Jesus Christ at the table. Not the communion table, mind you, but the local eatery. Said stories regard the practice of tipping of food servers. One article even asked, “what would Jesus tip?”

My wife and I have a long history of a debate that I lovingly refer to as “The Tip”. The Tip Debate began back before our eleven-year marriage. It even threatened said-marriage from ever materializing at one point in time. It caused me to seriously question my life decisions and God’s will in my life (Lord, forgive me but it’s the truth). In an effort to preserve the union, the Tip Debate has caused me to black list certain establishments wherein my wife has formerly been employed due to the unbearable dining experience of trying to enjoy a meal and maintain rare adult conversation while she leaves mid-sentence to go find the maitre d’ in order to report an observed insufficiency in staff performance. Yeah. It was a dark time.

An old friend, with what some would refer to as a sense of the humorous, had a propensity for the charming habit of placing a stack of brand new one dollar bills on the table, in plain view of the desperately stressed, over-worked and under-appreciated server. As the attendee would approach the table, my friend’s keen gaze would intensify and his hand would hover over the meager  mound of moolah a. One wrong move, and he would swipe away one of the dollars with a relished drama. No tip for you!

I’m happy to report that today I am in a position to regard myself as somewhat of a good tipper, which is closer to where my wife wants me to be. All was well on that front.

But then these shysters in sheep’s clothing have to come along and stir up the coals of a long quelled discussion on proper tipping etiquette. The first to come to my attention was the story of Christian diners who left a “tip tract”. You’ve heard of these ingenious devices that turn the two-edged sword of the Word into a knife in the ribs? They consist of what appears to be a respectable tip – a tenner, a Jackson, a Benjamin, WHAT?!? – but once removed from the bill holder by the server, it is revealed to be a slight-of-hand Gospel witness all up in what was your momentarily excited face.

Stupid Human Tricks

Stupid Human Tricks

receipt

Another such instance of the golden tip was a tale circulating about Christian patrons who left no tip whatsoever. At least, not in monetary form. Rather, an explanatory note was left that read: Sorry, but I can’t tip as I do not agree with your lifestyle, Love you (emoticon winky, bemused, apologetic smileyface, tear). Treasures in heaven, y’all, which you will never enjoy because you won’t ever get there lest ye REPENT!!! And I’ll give you your pen back if you give me an extra mint (they’re wafer thin). Bill Maher couldn’t believe it b

The Internet Justice Brigade (IJB) wasted no time in exposing this story as false and discrediting the former Marine as a troubled soul with an instagram account and a history of conduct issues – reportedly. Wounded warrior indeed. Your chosen means can weaken your cause.

The story was then book-ended by a tale of the most bodacious tip ever left in the name of Christ. Customary gratuity is bush league to @TipsForJesus c. That’s one way to do that, steward. I hope you’re still giving thanks to YahWeh when the APR kicks in on that American Express. May we all aspire to such generosity at sports bars.

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You know the kind of tipping story I’d like to read? One that mentions the vocational courses in Europe that can last as long as two years or more before restaurateurs will allow be-gloved servers to hit the floor and represent their brand. And how no one is entitled to an income just for showing up, especially if they cannot fulfill their job role in a satisfactory way that is equal to or greater than their agreed upon compensation. And I say that as a person who has worked in kitchens and on wait staffs, and stunk at it. Your relationship with Jesus may get you a job, but it’s still up to you to see it done.

I personally like the stories of innovators in the food industry who have raised their pay scales, done away with Darwinian tipping system, and won lifelong loyalty in customers (and employees) in doing sod. Showing up again ought to be all the gratitude any of us require. A little extra expression of gratitude –  a manifestation of appreciation in tangible means? Well, that’s straight gravy. Serve your neighbor as you would be served. Judge your neighbors service as your would have your service judged.

A little Capon is appropriate, I believe:

‘O Lord, refresh our sensibilities. Give us this day our daily taste. Restore to us soups that spoons will not sink in and sauces which are never the same twice. Raise up among us stews with more gravy than we have bread to blot it with, and casseroles that put starch and substance in our limp modernity. Take away our fear of fat, and make us glad of the oil which ran upon Aaron’s beard. Give us pasta with a hundred fillings, and rice in a thousand variations. Above all, give us grace to live as true folk – to fast till we come to a refreshed sense of what we have and then to dine gratefully on all that comes to hand. Drive far from us, O Most Bountiful, all creatures of air and darkness; cast out the demons that possess us; deliver us from the fear of calories and the bondage of nutrition; and set us free once more in our own land, where we shall serve thee as though hast blessed us – with the dew of heaven, the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine’. – Robert Farrar Capon, 1925-2013 e

capon

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  1. from the Irish moll oir – pile of gold, Daniel Cassidy, How the Irish Invented Slang, 2007  (back)
  2. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/11/10/1254527/-MUST-SEE-Bill-Maher-BLASTS-selfish-Christian-hypocrites-who-don-t-tip-waiters#  (back)
  3. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/12/02/248245882/tipsforjesus-is-leaving-thousands-of-dollars-for-servers  (back)
  4. http://www.slate.com/articles/life/culturebox/2013/08/tipless_restaurants_the_linkery_s_owner_explains_why_abolishing_tipping.html  (back)
  5. The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection (Garden City: Doubleday, 1969), 278  (back)

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By In Theology, Wisdom

Getting in the Ring: Faithfulness in Theological Debate

By Peter Jones

How do we debate with intellectual honesty as Christians?  Christians should be passionate about the truth. But often this passion can lead us to debate in ways that are intellectually unfaithful. We retreat into our monastery and declare that we are right and everyone else is wrong. We refuse to deal with the arguments of our opponents. This retreat mentality does not come from intellectual rigor and discipline, but from laziness and weakness. A true scholar is not afraid of getting in the ring.  But many Christians have not been taught how to think. Their minds are flabby and they get tired easy. So instead of getting in the ring and actually fighting they yell at their opponents at the weigh in, but refuse to show up for the match.  The reason for this is fear. We are afraid of losing. We afraid of getting knocked out.  So we don’t engage. Over the years, I have learned by experience and from other men how to try to engage in real, honest debate.  Here are some of the ways I have learned to be faithful in theses debates.

First, I must have a biblical hierarchy of sin and this hierarchy should include both practices and beliefs. I must know what is the importance of the point under debate. This will determine how I approach the debate. For example, good Christians disagree about the mode of baptism. That debate can be carried on with rigor, but understanding that souls are not at stake. But good Christians do not disagree about Modalism. If you believe in Modalism you are not a Christian.  Sometimes this can be hard. For example, baptism is not normally an issue of heresy, but if someone believes baptism automatically saves you or that all baptisms not done in their denomination are invalid there are serious problems. It may not be heresy, but it is starting to stink.  Many of the most grievous errors in debate come from making major sins, minor or minor sins, major.

Second, I read the best proponents of the opposing viewpoint.  A paedo-baptist who is studying the credo-baptist position should not go find the worst Anabaptist in history and read him. That is intellectually lazy and dishonest.  Who are the leading Christian thinkers who disagree  with you? Read them.

Third, I try to take on my opponents strongest arguments, not their weakest. (I think I learned this from Vern Poythress.) For example, it is lame for someone arguing against Dispensationalism to ignore all the passages that seem to point to deep discontinuity between the Old and New Covenants like II Corinthians 3. What is your opponent’s most convincing argument? That is where you want to begin the debate.

Fourth, we must not demonize those who disagree with us.  It is easy to treat everyone who disagrees with us like a wicked, evil heretic. And of course, they might be.  But slapping a label on someone before  evaluating their arguments is lazy and is often a way of shutting off honest debate..  Faithfully look at their arguments and then slap a label on them that is honest with what they believe and that you can prove is true. Labeling them prior to debate, unless they themselves accept the label, is failing to get in the ring.

Fifth, I must not assume that just because someone is wrong in one area they are wrong in another. For example, someone may be wrong on women’s roles and right on paedo-baptism.  A Pentecostal might be right about Genesis 1-3 and wrong about I Corinthians. We are lazy if we say, “They are wrong here so they must be wrong there.”  There are connections between certain teachings. I am not arguing against connecting the dots.  But we must not shut down our opponents on the point under debate because they are wrong on a separate issue.

Sixth, I have learned to not label someone unteachable just because they do not come to see things my way.  This is the last refuge of the intellectually lazy. They won’t listen to me so they must have a heart of stone and a head to match. Someone is right and someone is wrong, but do not impugn your opponents motives just because they don’t change their mind.

The upshot of this is that true theological debate requires hard work and patience. It requires long hours of thinking and processing ideas. It requires being quick to hear and slow to speak.  Our Lord requires faithfulness in all areas of life, including and maybe especially when we are debating others.
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By In Culture, Politics, Theology, Wisdom, Worship

The KC Team: What’s in a Name? Abraham Kuyper

KuyperEtch
“On this day in 1907,” writes George Grant,  “the entire nation of the Netherlands celebrated the seventieth birthday of Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920). A national proclamation recognized that “the history of the Netherlands, in Church, in State, in Society, in Press, in School, and in the Sciences the last forty years, cannot be written without the mention of his name on almost every page, for during this period the biography of Dr. Kuyper is to a considerable extent the history of the Netherlands.”

To celebrate the birthday of this titanic figure in history, we, Kuyperian Commentators, would like to tell you briefly what we have learned from this giant of history who called us to see the Lordship of Jesus over all things.

Kuyper turned my world upside down! Not only did he engage every sphere of life with a joyful passion, but he provided the intellectual tools to develop a compelling narrative of the Christian Gospel. —Uri Brito, Founder of Kuyperian Commentary.

Kuyper was a man who refused to abandon God’s covenantal blessings in any area of life. We are the heirs of this Kuyperian vision of incarnational theology. That by Christ’s death salvation has come to all men, giving us dominion over death, and all creation has been made new. This is the Gospel. May we live as Kuyper describes here: ” instead of monastic flight from the world the duty is now emphasized of serving God in the world, in every position in life.” — Steve Macias, Kuyperian Commentary Contributor

“The spheres of the world may each have an earthly head, but those heads are all subject to the one sovereign, the Lord Jesus Christ.” — Luke Andrew Welch, Contributor

Kuyper made me more conscious of my tendency to abstract spiritual matters, instead of applying them. A common problem, I know, but Kuyper was the kick in the pants that this guy needed. — Joffre Swait, Contributor

Abraham Kuyper’s life drives me to dream bigger than I feel I ought, and then take one step toward that goal, even if it’s a small one. And then another. And then another. He was a living, breathing, long-suffering, succeeding example of Calvinism at work: an unswerving faith in God’s good plan and an unrelenting struggle to take every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ. —Marc Hays, Contributor

Some of my favorite Kuyper quotes and paraphrases:

“Never forget that all state relief for the poor is a blot on the honor of your savior. The fact that the government needs a safety net to catch those who would slip between the cracks of our economic system is evidence that I have failed t…o do God’s work. The government cannot take the place of Christian charity. A loving embrace isn’t given with food stamps. The care of a community isn’t provided with government housing. The face of our Creator can’t be seen on a welfare voucher. What the poor need is not another government program; what they need is for Christians like me to honor our savior.” ~ Abraham Kuyper, The Problem of Poverty

“If you see a thing, you are called to it.” a

“A Christian culture is established through the education of a Christian populace. You cannot teach mathematics apart from God because math implies order, and God is the creator of order.”

“In the midst of corruptions, your duty as an equipped disciple of Christ is to always seek to uphold that which is honorable, that which is lovely and that which is of good report among mankind.”

“Kuyper’s desire for the Netherlands was that the nation would revive and persevere in its Calvinistic heritage with its doctrine of limited government that respects the autonomy of all spheres of authority and thereby guarantees the freedom of its citizens. ” ~ James McGoldrick b
Aaron W Eley, editor and contributor

What has the work of the Holy Spirit through Abraham Kuyper meant in your life?

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  1. http://www.wordmp3.com/stream.aspx?id=5482  (back)
  2. http://www.wordmp3.com/stream.aspx?id=13606  (back)

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By In Culture, Wisdom

Food and Holiness: The Final Post, I Think

By Peter Jones

This is the final post in a series. Part I is here. Part II is here.

Eleventh, it is easy in our culture to see exercise as a means of holiness. Men and women who exercise should remember I Timothy 4:7-8, which follows closely on the heels of the I Timothy 4:1-5. Paul says that physical exercise is of little value or it could be translated is only valuable for a short time. Paul is not saying exercise is wicked or unprofitable. But he is saying that we should keep it in perspective. Exercise is of limited value in this life and of no value for the next life. In our sports and super model saturated world it is difficult to keep our exercise in perspective. Go without exercise for a week or a month and see what that does for you spiritually. Did you feel guilty? If so, your perspective is off. Women, do you feel ashamed if you put on a few pounds? Then you need to adjust your thinking. Do you feel as ashamed about your gossip as you do about missing a workout?  Men do you feel as guilty about your flirting with women as you do about forgetting to run? Do you put as more thought into godliness than you do into exercise? (I Timothy 4:7) I am not saying stop exercising. Exercise is good. But keep it in perspective. Make sure you are known for your pursuit of holiness more than your pursuit of the perfect body.

Twelfth, our culture is obsessed with physical appearances. We spend billions each year on beauty and health, promoting items such as tanning, implants, hair dyes, gym memberships, organic food, etc.   The newspapers, magazines, billboards, commercials, and movies all have an agenda. They are not neutral observers, but preachers for a materialistic, Godless world, where what matters is being beautiful. Remember this any time you are tempted to belly up to the bar and drink what the world is pouring. We breath in this idea from birth, so it is easy for us to miss it in our thinking. How often do we judge those around based on whether or not they are lean and attractive? How do we feel if an overweight woman walks into church as opposed to a trim man?  Your mind has been affected by the constant focus on the physical in our culture. Be aware of the temptation to judge all things by physical appearance and fight against it.

Cemetary 1

Thirteenth, remember for us pouring out our lives, including our bodies, is what we are here to do. (See Romans 12:1-2 and Matthew 10:38)  How many Christians try to save their bodies instead of pour them out? This point is not so much what you are doing, but why. Why do you eat healthy and exercise? Why do you want to be thin and attractive? Is it so you can pour yourself out for others? Are you spending your life, even when you are trying to be healthy? Or are you just being healthy for selfish reasons? When you are old will you have poured out your body on what was good, children, church, family, and the Kingdom? Or will you have worked hard to be healthy only to find that Like Scrooge in his counting room you sit there in front of the mirror with your fit, healthy body and nothing else. You have saved your body only to lose all that matters. When they lay you in the grave make sure your body is spent.

Fourteenth, our knowledge is partial and limited. I remember an old pastor friend of mine telling me that when he was growing up ice cream was a health food. Ah, the good old days!  The results of research and studies often contradict one another. One week coffee is like heroin. The next week  it might be the cure for Alzheimer’s.  One week eggs are a great heart attack risk. The next week they are the key to your good health.  Back and forth we go. This is not a call to ignore science or refuse to do research. But it is a call to be cautious. Our academies are driven by an agenda just like anyone else. Science departments are godless and driven by evolution. Research is driven by money and the government. (For example, I remember in college finding out that a company that sells car seats was trying to up the minimum age for being in a car seat.)  Health food gurus are neo-pagans who believe that the Earth is our mother. We can learn from these groups, but only with a healthy dose of skepticism . Their research may be true. It may not be. And it will probably take decades to find out.  If it is true it will probably come with strings attached or fine print at the bottom of the page. We should stay away from strong, dogmatic statements based on the latest research. We should also stay away from making others feel guilty based on the latest research.

The Lord's Supper 2

 

Last, but certainly not least, your view of the Lord’s Supper says a lot about your view of food. Is the Supper a banquet, where we feed upon the body and blood of Christ? Or is it a place where we do penance, where we hang our heads in sorrow?  A low, somber view of the Lord’s Supper can lead to a low view of the created world. This is a huge topic, but a brief word will have to do.  The only place outside the Gospels where the Lord’s Supper is explicitly mentioned is I Corinthians 11. There the picture is not one of somberness, but of so much food and drink people were getting drunk. Paul does not tell them to tone it down. But rather he tells them to wait on each other. The Lord’s Supper is a feast. (c.f. I Cor. 5:8) Once we see that, then I Timothy 4:1-5 makes perfect sense and the whole world becomes our banqueting table.<>контент для апроверить на вирусы онлайн

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By In Culture, Wisdom

Food and Holiness: Part II

Before I begin my second post on food I wanted to make a note about how we eat in my household. My wife grinds our own wheat. We still eat some white flour, but we also eat a lot of wheat. We go in with some friends and buy, raise, and butcher our own chickens. We joined a CSA this summer where we bought locally grown vegetables. We eat tons of grains, beans, and other whole foods.  We grow a small amount of vegetables each year. The amount of processed food in our diet is low. Soda is a special treat, not a normal part of our diet.  I think most people would consider us healthy eaters.  However, none of this is an indicator of personal righteousness. That is the main point of these posts.

This is the continuation of an article that began here.  I will have one more post tomorrow.

Sixth, what you refuse to eat does not make you more holy than someone else. You are not more holy because you refuse to eat white sugar or white flour or buy organic. Paul makes this point in Colossians 2:20-23.  Men love to draw unbiblical lines of holiness to separate themselves from others. Paul says these false lines make us look holy and feel holy, but in end they are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. Paul tells us where true holiness comes in Colossians 3, especially verses 5, 8, 12-13. If we worried more about those things mentioned in Colossians 3, sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, and less about what type of flour we are eating or how much fat is in our food we would probably be more holy.

Seventh, it is a doctrine of demons to encourage abstaining from certain foods because you think they are sinful. I Timothy 4:1-5 are clear on this particular point. Teachers were saying you were unholy if ate certain food and got married. Paul denounces these men and calls them the voice of demons. This passage is emphatic and strong. Nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving. If someone doesn’t want to eat meat that is fine. But if they don’t eat meat because they think it is evil they are teaching false doctrine. All things can be eaten, provided they are sanctified by the Word and prayer.

Body Temple 3

 

Eighth, a lot of Christians use “the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” argument from I Corinthians 6:19 to argue for healthy living. However, we must remember that Paul is talking about having sex with a prostitute. So if you think drinking soda, smoking cigarettes, or refusing to exercise is “defiling the temple” then you are saying that these are the equivalent of sleeping with a prostitute. Is that really what you want to say? If not, then temper your language. There may be some downstream application of this verse to our physical well-being, but we should be careful how we use it. This is of the most misused verses in the Bible.

Ninth, to refuse fellowship with another brother over food is a perversion of the Gospel. To divide over organic vs. inorganic, natural vs. processed, meat vs. veggies, hormone free vs. hormones, exercise vs. non-exercise, white vs. wheat, etc. is to deny Christ who has made us one body in the Spirit. We lean towards self-righteousness, which means we lean towards false lines of holiness where we are on the holy side. Food is one of the ways Satan tempts us to look down on other believers. I know food is not usually a barrier between churches, but it is often a barrier between Christians. This denial of fellowship is rarely explicit. We don’t put on our front doors “No short, bald, fat guys allowed.”  But with our attitudes, who we like to hang out with, how we talk about fat people, and our treatment of men and women like this we make it clear that thin, healthy people are preferred.  Again, I know it can go the other way with fat people looking down on thin. But in our culture that is not the primary temptation.

Tenth, this one will make some people mad, but here goes. Many of the current food fads in Christendom are promoted by women. I am not sure if it has always been the case, but it is now. Most of the best-selling “Christian” exercise books and “Christian” eating books come from women. In my experience as a pastor, this has been the case as well. Certain women gravitate towards strange, unbiblical views on food.  Pastors and husbands need to teach the women in their flocks and homes a Biblical perspective on food, health, and exercise.

To Be Continued…

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By In Culture, Wisdom

Food and Holiness: Part I

Here at Kuyperian we are trying to take every thought captive to Christ. This includes economics, politics and naturally food. Food? Yes, food. Food is a source of great anxiety for our culture. What should we eat, how much should we eat, when should we eat, and where should we eat are all questions we ask. Every week it seems there is new study telling us about the evils of this food or that food. How should we think as Christians when it comes to food? Below is my brief attempt at putting up some guardrails on a road where many are currently driving over the cliff. A couple of notes before I begin:

First, I know there are Christians who flaunt their freedom and eat like pigs because they are “free in Christ.” I know it is possible for the fat person to look down on the thin. However, in the community I live in, our culture, and the Christian world at large that is not the major issue. The bigger issue is holiness by how we eat, dieting, or exercise. That is what I address primarily in these posts. That does not mean I think being a glutton is fine. It just means that the temptation in our culture leans the other way.

Second, I am not saying what we eat is irrelevant. But I am saying it does not matter as much as our culture tells us it does.

Third, each person has to make choices about how they eat and what they eat. I understand this. However, too often our choices become a source of holiness for us and a way of dividing between Christians. I am not saying we should not think about what we eat. I am saying this has very little bearing on our own righteousness and holiness and should not be a source of division in the Body of Christ.

Fourth, there is a lot more that could be said. I do not address feasting, hospitality, drinking good beer (or bad beer) or even how important the simple act of eating together can be.  Perhaps in the future I will address some of these.

With those qualifications out of the way, here are my points. I will post more tomorrow.

Pig Roast 2First, the Old Testament laws about food have been done away with. It is hard to understand what else Acts 10 can mean, especially 10:28. Any Christian who tells you, “Don’t eat pork or shellfish because the Bible forbids it” has failed to understand the New Covenant and is leading you back to the shadows of the Old Covenant. I have heard this from parishioners, from pastors, in conferences, etc. This idea dies a hard death.

Second, the Old Testament food laws were not about health.  This idea gets a lot of mileage in our health obsessed culture despite it not being true. It makes men sound holy for being healthy. However, God never uses health language when giving the laws. He tells them to do this because they are to be holy, separate from the nations. (Leviticus 22:26) The OT dietary laws are not a manual on healthy eating. They were a reminder to the Old Testament saints that they are to be separate from the nations. In the New Covenant those OT dietary laws are broken down as God is making one new man out of two. (Ephesians 2:14-18)

Third, two of the major food sins in Scripture are gluttony and drunkenness. We understand drunkenness.  But we think gluttony equals being fat or eating too much. However, having an extra piece of pie does not qualify as gluttony, just as having two beers does not qualify as drunkenness. Having some extra pounds on you does not make you a glutton. Gluttony, like drunkenness, is not hard to spot when we know what we are looking for.  Primary verses on gluttony are Deuteronomy 21:20 and Proverbs 23:19-21. The picture here is not of someone who overeats and is overweight, but of someone who leads a riotous, drunken life and squanders their money and time. (c.f. Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34) Gluttony is linked with a particular way of living, especially of wasting resources, sloth, poverty, and often theft.  (Mark Horne does a great job explaining gluttony in this article.)   My point is simple. Gluttony is a sin, but gluttony is not what most Christians think it is.

Fourth, natural food is not necessarily better than processed food. I understand that a lot of processed food today has been stripped of its nutrient value. However, it is important to not overreact. Nature is fallen just like man. The wheat has felt the effects of sin just like we have.  God put us here to take dominion.  Just because greedy men tear down what God has created does not mean we should just take nature as it is. We were made by God to take up the things in the world and transform them for our good and for his glory. This means we should be trying to make the wheat better, the cows fatter, and the apples bigger.

Buy Local

Fifth, where your food comes from does not matter that much. As Americans we have been taught that it is our duty to make sure our food does not come from a tainted source such as a corporate chicken farm or an overseas processing plant. But in I Corinthians 8:8 Paul says it is not a sin to eat meat offered to idols. If it is not a sin to eat meat that has been put on an altar, chanted over, and offered up to the gods, then it is not a sin to eat non-organic chickens, produce harvested by underpaid workers, and beef filled with hormones from the packing plant in Iowa. This is an argument from the greater to the lesser. Sometimes this argument is focused around buying locally. We should buy from a local farmer instead of from a corporate farm in California. Other times people cry out that justice demands that we make sure our food comes from a place where the workers are treated rightly.  Whatever the argument, Paul’s point in I Corinthians 8:8 effectively blunts it.  You can decide not to buy food from a certain place, but don’t make it a sin to when someone else does.

To Be Continued…

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By In Theology, Wisdom

Witness-Bearing & Prosecuting God’s Case (Trusting God & Reasoning about Him)

paul mars hillBy Mark Horne

As Christians we all want to see non-Christians convert to faith in Christ by the grace of God. Even more, we probably want to be instrumental in such a conversion–for that would be a special blessing. But let’s be honest: we all hope that such an opportunity will be a peaceful encounter between us and someone who has never heard and/or understood the Gospel. We would like to see someone receive the Good News from us and immediately respond with joy, repenting and believing.

Well, it is fine for us to hope for a chance to share the Gospel without having to deal with conflict and confrontation, but that does not usually happen. No one has ever knocked on my door because an angel of heaven told him to come to my address and hear an important message from God. In real life people don’t often ask about the Gospel, and when they begin to get the gist of the message, they usually try to change the subject. The reason for this should be obvious; the good news of the Gospel is an offer of forgiveness–an offer which presupposes that all people are sinners against their Creator and deserving of His wrath.

Witnessing for Christ inevitably involves some level confrontation. While a Christian must do all he can to speak peacefully with unbelievers, trying to entirely evade the fact that there is a conflict involved will probably mute his message.

Defense & Offense

Confronted with the claims of the Gospel, people typically respond to our message by saying that it is not true or that it is an interesting hypothesis which MIGHT be true. It is at this second point that I personally am usually most tempted to compromise the claims of Christ. Perhaps you are too. Not wanting to give offense, we can easily be derailed from offering “a ready defense.” How does this happen?

In my experience, a person who is sharing the Gospel will almost invariably want to “prove” to the non-Christian that Christianity is true. “Let us reason together,” he might say to the unbeliever. “I don’t want you to accept the Gospel on ‘blind faith’.” And then he will go on to present arguments and evidences which he thinks, if his friend will consider them, will lead him to the conclusion that God exists.

While it is true that people should reason in order to believe the Gospel, and that our faith is not supposed to be blind, defending Christianity in this way involves a fatal compromise. It treats the person as if he is a “neutral” observer who has the right to evaluate the claims of Christ for himself and decide whether or not they are worthy of acceptance. This simply will not do. According to the Gospel, people are creatures who ought to submit to their Creator in ALL of their thinking, and are sinners who are ANYTHING but neutral regarding the true God.

A cursory study of Biblical terminology will reveal that “bearing witness” for Christ has judicial implications. We are bringing an accusation against the world. It is the creature and sinner who must be cleared before God’s judgment seat, not Jesus who stands awaiting the judgment of any mere man.

Without Excuse

But does this mean that the Christian faith is irrational–that it is to be believed without evidence? Far from it. All people everywhere are already confronted with evidence that God exists. They may say that they are unsure of God’s existence, but in fact they are surrounded by God’s personal testimony. God never “left himself without witness” to anybody (Acts 14.17). Each person without exception is especially confronted with the revelation of the true God in his own person. God

made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

“In him we live and move and have our being”

as even some of your own poets have said,

“For we are indeed his offspring.”

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. (Acts 17:26-29, ESV)

Every single fact in human experience undeniably shows forth the face of God. And all unbelievers without exception are suppressing this fact in this experience. They do this, not only by disbelieving the Bible, but by denying His general revelation (in nature and history) and coming up with rationalizations to justify themselves–rationalizations that we know as false philosophies and false religions—“the art and imagination of man.” Instead of admitting that God is personally present with them, they insist that reality is ultimately impersonal. The only “god” they will accept is a finite being in the same impersonal surroundings. Or else they insist that “God” is a word to cover over the ultimately impersonal nature of reality.

By arguing as if an unbeliever is legitimately ignorant of God, by treating him as a neutral seeker of truth, we can deny the real situation and undercut the Gospel. For, if a person can be legitimately ignorant of God, then he cannot be sinning against Him. The Gospel is unnecessary. A person has an excuse for unbelief. Indeed, we are implicitly agreeing that reality is not a personal revelation of God, but an impersonal environment.

But if God is self-evident, and if the Bible is recognizable as the voice of the true God, then the Gospel makes sense. The fact that seemingly sincere people deny that it is true also makes sense. The Bible explains that people practice self-deception. Sinners don’t ultimately need new evidence to be persuaded of God’s existence. That need may arise because, as part of the process of suppressing the truth, there is disinformation that has been from generation to generation. But ultimately, people need a new ethical orientation so that they will stop suppressing the evidence they have and “seek God.”

They need a new heart.

A More Excellent Way

Does all this mean we cannot argue with unbelievers in any constructive way? Not at all! It only means we have to argue in a way that does not compromise the Gospel. We must argue in a way that does not undermine the universally evident truth of God’s existence and the sinful disposition of people to deny the His personal revelation in nature and history and in Scripture. Much more could be written about the various more specific ways we are tempted into such compromise, and the various ways we can avoid it. For the moment, consider a brief general explanation of how we might defend the Faith without compromising.

I’ve already mentioned that, as witnesses for Christ, we are in a courtroom situation. We are pressing charges against sinners who need to seek clemency before it is too late. As everyone knows from watching fictional courtroom dramas or even real court cases, the primary objective of a defense lawyer is to present a plausible reinterpretation of the prosecution’s evidence. Sometimes this involves some key piece of new evidence, but usually both parties have an agreement at the outset about the evidence at hand for the case. One’s conclusion mainly hinges on how one interprets the mutually-acknowledged evidence. This non-Christian reinterpretation results in untrue “worldviews”–the false philosophies and religions I mentioned above.

As witnesses for our Lord, we must attempt to show unbelievers that their supporting false beliefs are insufficient and incoherent. An impersonal world, after all, is ultimately unknowable. By showing that only the Christian teaching of God, creation, and human destiny makes any sense at all, we will press home to the non-Christian that he is evading the God Who has surrounded him with testimony to His own existence.

Ambassadors of Peace

As we do this, it is important we never be unnecessarily combative. A person raised in an unbelieving environment is different from someone who walked away from knowledge of a Gospel. We do need to account for the fact that many people are not self-consciously aware of where they are going or why when they walk away from God in daily life. The fact that all people are sinning in how they evade knowledge of God does not mean they are all self-conscious enemies. Depending on who we are talking to, we can function as helpful counselors rather than debate gladiators.

While we need to not support ultimate neutrality when we make our intellectual case for Christianity, we also need to not treat people as self-conscious rebels. The deep mystery of self-deception is that one is somehow both the deceiver and the deceived. In many cases the “deceiver” has been helped by years of deceptions from an unbelieving culture. So nothing in what I am saying above is intended to justify a hostile style of witnessing as necessary to faithfully defending the Gospel.

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