Culture and Christianity III
Question #1: I believe that Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 11:14 that a man should not have long hair because it makes him look effeminate and also violates the order of creation. I debated this with a member of my church who has his hair the length to his shoulders. He argued where in the bible does it say how long or short is considered sinful? I couldn't find it and was wondering if you could help me on this.
Response #1: The Greek word in 1st Corinthians 11:14 is komao (κομάω), a verb which means "to have long hair". We get the word "comet" from it, because for the Greeks a "comet" (κομήτης) was a falling star with a tail which they imagined was the long hair of the god or goddess streaming out behind as he/she rushed across the sky. The Spartans were described in terms of this verb, and their men had longer than shoulder length hair. So I would say based not only upon this but also upon the usage in Greek generally and also the context of the chapter that long hair means visibly long hair and that short hair means visibly short hair. Scripture provides no precise measurements because they are unnecessary. If a person's hair is long enough that any normal person looking at him/her would answer "yes" to the question "does this person have long hair?", then I think there is little argument that the person's hair is long. If the answer on the other hand is near unanimously "no", then the person's hair is not long. If there is some serious disagreement, the very least we can say is that the person is flirting with the biblical standard (a little too short for a woman, a little too long for a man). But the real question is not what we may think, but what God thinks. Therefore this is a question that is best kept between a person and their God. I have absolutely no doubt that if a person is abusing this standard, they are doing so from questionable motivations, and on some level they must feel uncomfortable about it – assuming they are really trying to follow Jesus. If they are, then the best thing to do is to give them their privacy. It may be that they have not yet reached a place of spiritual maturity sufficient to make this change. We are all imperfect and the Christian life consists of many such "fine-tuning" experiences as we seek to please Jesus in all things. If they are not truly following Christ, then no hair-cut long or short is going to make much of a difference.
In the One who gave up everything that we might have eternal life, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I have friends who drink in moderation. They told me that Jesus drank real wine. Is this true? They gave me this link to prove it.
This link seems to prove that Jesus didn't drink wine and God disapproves of it. My friends tell me that only abuse and addiction are wrong, but I believe that it's best to stay away from wine altogether. What if someone is prone to alcoholism because their mother and father are alcoholics. They take one sip and they are on their way to becoming alcoholics too. This is why I think it's best to stay away from alcohol and wine. What do you think?
Here is how I translate an applicable passage in Proverbs:
Scripture is quite clear about the fact that alcohol can be abused. However, drinking wine at least was a standard feature of life in the ancient world, and neither Israel nor the world of the New Testament were any different. Drunkenness is clearly a sin, but drinking alcohol is not. However it is – as the passage above relates – a very bad idea to drink for entertainment, and for some people it is a horrible idea to drink at all (because they cannot exercise restraint). Clearly, our Lord was never intoxicated; however I don't think there is any question but that our Lord drank wine: 1) the communion ceremony He institutes uses wine (Matt.26; Mk.14; Lk.22; 1Cor.11:23ff. – wine, not water, represents the "blood" of the covenant); 2) at the wedding in Cana He turned water into wine so that the celebrants would have enough wine to drink (Jn.2); and 3) He says of Himself The Son of Man came "eating and drinking" (Matt.11:19) in contrast to John the baptist who was ascetic in this regard.
But as the thrust of your question suggests, this doesn't mean that we should drink. There are great advantages to being a teetotaler – and greater safety given all the concerns you list. However, the Bible doesn't give those of us who do choose to refrain permission to reprove those who use alcohol responsibly.
Please see the links:
In our Lord,
I heard a bible teacher say that all fermented wine is prohibited in the Bible. He was saying that do not look at wine when it's moving (can't remember the verse) refers to fermentation, and that Jesus never drank fermented wine but grape juice. He said that anyone who drinks fermented wine is sinning. He also stated that he's studied all the passages where the word wine is used in the OT and NT and that he can prove that the Bible clearly condemns drinking fermented wine. Is this true?
Whenever it says they drink wine in the Bible, they are drinking wine (not grape juice). Wine, by definition, has an alcoholic content. That is not just English usage, but also Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. Where the Bible says wine, it means wine – wine with alcoholic content (there is no other kind).
Grape juice ferments naturally. I am no oenologist, but my understanding is that grapes have a natural yeast that adheres to their skins (different types of yeast in different geographical areas). Nowadays, vintners kill off the natural yeast so that they can use their own for a more predictable result. But in antiquity, there was no way to do this (no access to sulfur dioxide). As a result "new wine" or "must" (Greek tryx, τρύξ, Hebrew tiyrosh, תירוש) began fermenting naturally within six hours after pressing the grapes into juice, and there was no to stop the process thereafter. We avoid this today if we want grape juice without alcohol by pasteurizing the "must" right after squeezing the grapes. But in antiquity, the only way a person could ever even have had grape juice which was not fermented was to have a swig right out of the vat and right after pressing. Fermentation occurs naturally and continues until all of the yeast is used up / dies off, resulting in a by volume content of at most 15% alcohol. They did water down their wine in antiquity very often (this was the Greek practice, at any rate), but even watered down, there was alcohol present.
In short, there is no Greek or Hebrew word for "grape juice" meaning "non-alcoholic juice" – that idea / concept of readily available non-alcoholic grape juice was unknown for lack of pasteurization and modern methods of killing the yeast. As a Nazarite, Samson had to drink water – he was not even allowed to eat/drink anything that had anything to do with the grape, and no doubt for just this reason.
As to the verse about looking at wine when it is "moving", you are referring to Proverbs 23:31:
Note that the wine has already been poured here and is about to be consumed (that is, we are not talking about any process of fermentation: this wine is ready for consumption and the fermentation process was long ago completed). Clearly, the reference in "sparkling" is to the appearance of wine ("do not gaze on it"): many connoisseurs rhapsodize about the color of wine (as well as its "bouquet", etc.), so that this is a well known "attractive feature" of wine which may seduce a person. This teaching was given to Solomon and he passes it along to us: do not let wine seduce you with any of its delights, including its lovely appearance. The actually Hebrew words here have nothing to do with "movement". "Sparkles" is, when rendered a bit too literally, "gives its eye" where the literal word for "eye" often has the meaning of how something looks to the eye = appearance. But nothing in this verse has anything to do with the fermentation process or lack thereof. The wine in the cup in the context is already wine = already fermented.
As I have no doubt said before, I have no problem with a Christian deciding to refrain from alcohol. That is often an excellent choice – as long as they make that decision on their own without any outside pressure. In fact, it's a great idea to stay away from something that provides no great positive benefit but which can cause serious problems in some people. However, as with all such matters, the attitude behind the decision is all important. For if I give something up in order to boast about it, or if I give something up because I am worried about what other people think, not only do I receive no benefit for doing so but I am also damaging myself spiritually for acting in a hypocritical and/or cowardly way (by the way, this is not a brief for drinking either: my advice to any teetotaler would be to stay as you are; cf. 1Cor.7:17-20).
As to the point that there is nothing wrong with a Christian partaking of alcohol in moderation, apart from drunkenness, and in circumstances where weak believers are not damaged by the behavior, the Bible leaves us in no doubt. Would Jesus have turned water into wine if it were a sin to drink wine? Would He have drunk wine Himself (which He most certainly did)? Would He have looked forward in anticipation to the time when He and the disciples would be "drinking it new in the kingdom of God"? Would Paul have recommended that Timothy give up his unusual practice of drinking water only? Finally, while the culture of the Old and New Testaments is replete with the drinking of wine (a very healthy thing in those days as a little wine mixed with untreated water having a high bacterial content acted as a purifier), there is no biblical prohibition against drinking wine anywhere, except in the case of the Nazarites. But of course the Nazarites are the exception that prove the rule: if no one drank wine, then why would it be so emphatically prohibited in their case? And there is this: "and after that (i.e., the successful completion of his vows) the Nazarite may drink wine." (Num.6:20).
I can certainly understand how someone who appreciates the dangers of alcohol and who has first-hand or up-close experience of the damage it can do would want to spare people, especially fellow Christians, from such troubles. But incorrectly teaching what the Bible actually says is entirely the wrong way to go about this.
For more on this, please see the following links:
I forwarded your reply and he thinks that wine drinking, even a little is sin. He wrote:
This bothers me because I know people who drink wine in moderation, but never get drunk. It's responses like this that makes them feel guilty and as their sinning. What's wrong with his response?
I'm not sure what more to say since this email is completely non-responsive to my previous points, except to reply that this person's non-responsiveness demonstrates clearly that he has no answer for anything I had to say. Let me note in particular that his prior claim about the biblical vocabulary not referring to wine has been reduced to one instance where a synonymous phrase is used. As noted before, there was no way in antiquity for "the fruit of the vine" not to be alcoholic; there was no such thing as "grape juice" because they lacked the means to prevent fermentation. In the Bible, "wine" means wine, a fermented, alcoholic drink:
The tradition in Israel was to drink wine, and wine was an integral part of all Jewish festivals. For our Lord to have abstained from wine would have been very unusual and would certainly have demanded comment from Him – we have no such comment. What we have instead is a biblical record of Him drinking wine, making water into wine, and commanding the remembrance of Himself through the ritual of communion which made use of the wine which was the normal beverage for the Passover.
No one is condoning the sin of drunkenness, certainly not our Lord. I for one dislike the taste of wine intensely and would be happy enough if the Bible were to say that partaking of it were forbidden. But that is not the case. Attempting to manipulate the scriptures to advance a personal agenda is the worst sort of spiritual compromise, because once a person compromises on the truth, any other sort of compromise becomes potentially possible. "The fruit of the vine" means wine (it's called a periphrasis), and your correspondent is unable to provide any passage in the Bible or secular evidence to show a parallel where this phrase does not mean wine. Wine was and is the Passover beverage, and wine with its color and potency is a sanctified analogy to the Blood of Christ (as the passages which deal with the communion ritual make clear). Nowhere in scripture do we find any indication that steps should be taken to remove or avoid the alcohol in wine where communion is mentioned (or in the prior Jewish festivals either).
Finally, I commend you once again for your excellent spiritual "radar". I do believe that the true purpose of these "one-issue evangelists" is in most cases the laying of a burden of guilt upon other Christians. That is because the first step in manipulating someone else, the first step in gaining control over someone else, is to make that person feel guilty, and to have that guilt connected with the manipulator's judgment. That way, the only person who can direct you, the only person who can absolve you, and the only person who "has the truth" will be the manipulator. It is a very small step from there to holing up in a compound somewhere – and what you'll risk drinking then is the Kool-Aid.
In Jesus our Lord who is the only truth.
I am doing my very best using scripture to try to prove to my friend who teaches Bible study that smoking pot is a sin according to the Bible. He says that it's not because it's a natural herb that God put on the planet so it's not sorcery. He also said that if it was, then smoking cigarettes are a sin, and eating cheeseburgers because they damage the temple of the Holy Ghost (our body). I told him that it's a sin because it's against the law and we should obey the law according to the book of Romans, but then he says what if the law says that gay marriage is ok? and that's a sin, and they have legalized it in some states. And the list goes on and on. How can I prove to him that smoking pot is definitely and irrefutably a sin according to the scripture, and how it damages his testimony?
Your comment is dead on and puts the matter to rest: no matter what we may think about recreational drug use in general or particular, a Christian has no business doing something that is illegal. We should be perfect in our behavior; of course we can't be perfect, and in terms of what society requires we are still likely to make mistakes. But this is very different from a civil code violation like littering or jay-walking or parking in a loading zone – not that we should do any of these things either and of course we would be ashamed and have nothing to say if we were cited for them. Smoking marijuana is a federal crime. The fact that it is rarely enforced in some places doesn't change that. It is a terrible witness for a believer to flout the federal penal code. To take an example, we can debate all we want about whether or not Christians should drink, but in the 1920's during prohibition there was no debate: it was illegal. Peter and Paul go to great lengths to defend the authority of the Roman state, even though they both suffered terrible abuse at its hands. The times and cases where a Christian is justified in opposing state authority are rare and very clearly defined: only when and if the state attempts to stop us from doing something we are required to do (as in ministering the Word of God) or attempts to make us do something we are forbidden to do (as in worshiping an idol). Otherwise, if it is just a question of personal likes and dislikes, we are required to respect authority, even if we think it is misguided. So even if we feel that laws prohibiting marijuana possession and use are "silly", that does not excuse our violation of them – for conscience sake (even if we feel there is zero chance of being caught or punished, we still shouldn't do it). Your friend's example of gay marriage would only apply to this discussion if the state made it mandatory for Christians.
Recreational drug use was largely unheard of in the ancient world except where connected to idolatry (there are some examples but they are rare). We may feel that "this doesn't apply to us today", but I think it is no accident that the devil used drugs in tandem with his religious cults in the past, and I would not be at all surprised if we see that same pattern in the establishment of his world anti-Christian religion during the coming Tribulation (in fact, of course, it is hard to find a cult today with demon connections where they don't use drugs). So I am not at all confident that a believer can safely use any type of behavior modifying drug with spiritual impunity. Based upon the Bible we can certainly draw a distinction between drugs (which have only two uses therein: legitimate medicinal use, and use as an adjunct to idolatry and witchcraft) and alcohol. Alcohol was certainly used in the Bible by believers, and the restrictions on its use are clear (i.e., no drunkenness, no over-attachment: e.g., Tit.2:3). I am not a scientist nor a medical doctor nor a psychologist, but it seems to me that this distinction between a legitimate, healthy use and an illegitimate over-use, one by the way which it is hard enough for some people to maintain even with alcohol which has been a known quantity for millennia, is impossible to maintain with drugs; moreover, my understanding is that they tend to be fat rather than water soluble so that they stay in the system indefinitely at least in trace amounts and can build up over time. So while overdoing it with alcohol may cause great regret the morning after (and of course can ruin a person's health and etc. if they don't learn the lesson), drugs are more complicated – they can change a person. That is something so incredibly dangerous that it should not even be contemplated by any Christian who is trying to change for the better, not for the worse.
And I think your bottom line is great. If we are addicted to some illegal activity and spend our time and energy justifying it, we have fatally corrupted our testimony and witness. Not only that – rationalization like the sort you report is extremely deleterious to faith. If we are intent on sinning, it is far better to sin and admit we've sinned so that we may confess it and find out from the discipline we receive that we would have been so much better off not sinning in the first place. But if we refuse even to admit we are sinning, if we justify our sin and claim it is not sin, that will sour our relationship with Jesus Christ very quickly. For in doing so, we destroy our consciences and "we make Him a liar" for the sake of our own sinful desires (1Jn.1:10). Such self-justifying behavior is far, far worse than the sin itself, and will eat away at faith like gangrene until faith itself dies and apostasy results.
In hopes of better things for your friend in the mercy of Jesus Christ,
Do you think it's impossible to lead one's children to be "better" than you are? Is it probable that they'll be the same or lower than you? (spiritually speaking). I've seen some kids turn out way more spiritual than their parents. I've also seen other kids whose parents have "done everything right" that rebel.
Like a good spouse, children are a gift from God. How we raise children depends on us; how they respond depends on them. In my observation of things, God knows exactly what He is doing in putting which child with which set of parents. I would say that if it God's will for a person to marry, they should marry (if not, not); and that if it God's will for a couple to have children, then they should have children (and if not, not). Determining God's will is something every believer has to do continually through the help of the Spirit and continuing spiritual growth through the reading and teaching of scriptures. But if marriage and a family are God's will for someone, as if more often than not the case, there is a reasonable expectation of blessing – but we have to be realistic as well. We are not perfect, so nothing in our lives will turn out perfect either. Adam and Eve had Seth and Abel – they also had Cain.
Also, how children "turn out" is something one should not judge before the time. We live in difficult times, and more troubling ones are soon to follow, so that we have to accept that the harsh environment around us will have its influences, at least temporarily. A child who is rebellious at 16 may be a blessing at 36. One who seems straight-laced at 18 may turn out to be a disappointment at 28. All we can do as parents is to do what is right from day one, and trust God to sort it out. Scripture (and life experience) are abundantly clear that while spouses and children are gifts and blessings, marriage and families may bring heartache, tribulation, and life complications, and are potential distractions from our main purpose here in the world of growing closer to the Lord spiritually and helping others to do the same through our gifts and ministries.
Life being what it is, most of us will choose to take the bitter with the sweet rather than opting to avoid both. In this whole area of life there are no guarantees, in my view because 1) they are optional (i.e., we have used our free will to go down roads that didn't absolutely have to be traveled), and 2) other people's free wills are involved too. No matter how much we love our spouse, he/she is not us, and that means differences in the way things are perceived (to say the least!); our options and choices are all now influenced and limited; and our children also have their own free will; that will be obvious before they even begin to talk. We may be able to control them for a while, and we may be able to influence them to some degree, but they are their own people, and we have no idea ahead of time what sort of choices they will make. This is true no matter how they are raised. I think it is unquestionably true that raising them "right", that is, in a godly way (which for me would mean encouraging them to love the Word), helps a great deal. But there are no guarantees. We have trust the Lord that if we are following His will to the best of our ability, that He will work things out in just the right way in the end. Complete avoidance of emotional pain in such things, however, is a completely unrealistic expectation.
I commend to you the example of Hannah, who deeply desired a child and patiently trusted in the Lord for this gift with all her heart and soul; while there was emotional pain as she waited, her righteous patience was rewarded in the end, and abundantly so.
Please also see the links:
In the Lord who is working everything out together for good for us who love Him, our Savior Jesus Christ.
Thank you for the good teaching that you have done. I want to study more of the lessons you have on line. My question has to do with humor. I read your comments in "What does the Bible say about Humor?"and had a few questions. Is being factious a sin? Sometimes I use this in conversation but never in a negative or crude way only, to make a point. Looking forward to hearing from you.
Always good to hear from you – and thank you for your encouraging comments.
As to your question, I personally use humor of a sanctified sort very often in my secular teaching. Without some entertainment, students tend to lose interest and fall asleep pretty quickly! Most of the scriptural references mentioned in the posted e-mail response you mention, "What does the Bible say about Humor?", are directed at off-color or out-right obscene remarks. Acting like a fool or an idiot also seems comes in for scriptural sanction (a quick look at the words "fool" and "foolish" in any concordance will give some idea of this). What precisely this means is of course open to some interpretation, but an extreme sort of foolish behavior seems to be meant rather than an offhand humorous remark that is not to be taken seriously. I would throw in as out of bounds anything that in any way makes "fun" at someone else's expense. All of the above seems to me to be "common (spiritual) sense". That is, even without these passages we would be able to figure out what sort of behavior is out of line when it comes to laughter, and what is not.
As I say in the e-mail, humor "with an edge" is probably one of the outside "poles of application" we must avoid here. That is how Paul uses the word eutrapelia (εὐτραπελία) in the context of Ephesians 5:4, whether that "edge" is sexual, scatological, highly irreverent, or behaviorally bizarre. As in everything else, a certain amount of moderation between extremes is almost always the best way to proceed. Between sour, dour, humorless, holier-than-thou hyper-seriousness on the one hand, and flighty, silly, tastelessness on the other, one finds a range of behaviors that are not sinful and at the same time suited to our individual personalities. Treading too near the extremes on either side (including the entirely humorless one) is a good way to get into trouble.
It seems to me that one can be mildly facetious in a sanctified way. The subject matter and the audience and the circumstances generally always have to be taken into account (in whatever we do), but from what you have shared, I would not personally be inclined to find any fault with your approach. Of course all these sorts of issues are between us and the Lord, and the Spirit is very effective at working with our consciences to correct any questionable behavior whenever we are truly willing to listen (as well as to give us confidence when we are in fact not in the wrong). I think it is a mark of a willingness to follow the Lord in the correct way and a healthy approach to spiritual growth and your Christian walk that you are asking yourself these kinds of questions. It never hurts to keep examining ourselves based upon what the scriptures tell us. Indeed, that is precisely what we are called upon to do. After all, no matter how far we may get in our Christian lives, no matter how far we advance spiritually or how well we respond to the mandate for sanctification, there will always be room for improvement.
In the One who died that we might have eternal life, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Dear Dr. Lunginbill,
Firstly I would like to thank you for your continued hard work and pray that the Lord continues to bless you and your ministry. As for my question, I'm currently witnessing to a friend and the topic came up about music, specifically Christian Rock. From my experiences I have learned that music is very influential and that it effects how you feel. We were talking about Christian rock, Christian rap and any other music that tries to add Christian on the front of it. I told him that I totally disagree with it because it is simply adding something secular onto something Godly and in my opinion the two don't mix. Scripture says that our God is a jealous God and he doesn't share. I tell him that it is a deceptive ploy from the devil. His argument is that it is a means for the lost to find Christ through the music and that its all about the lyrics. No matter what title you put on it, it sounds like rock or rap to me. I even hear that they have Christian metal bands! Unbelievable. Your guidance in this matter would be greatly appreciated. God Bless.
Thank you for your e-mail and for kind words. I have written some about this subject already and will give you some links below, but first a few brief comments here. First of all, I share your point of view entirely. However, I am always a bit reluctant to "throw the baby out with the bath water", because one never knows exactly whom God is using and exactly how and exactly why. But I feel about contemporary Christian music pretty much the way I feel about the Roman Catholic church: I am not willing to say dogmatically that no R.C.'s could possibly be saved or that the entire organization is bereft of any redeeming quality whatsoever (because I am not omniscient, after all, and judging is God's province, not mine), yet I do make what I feel is a very prudent application in having nothing whatsoever to do with them on a spiritual level and in counseling others when asked to make the same application – merely for reasons of spiritual safety.
Your friend has a point in emphasizing the lyrics, although even in ancient times the hypnotic effects of the music itself apart from its words were well recognized, along with the truth that some types of music are more detrimental or more captivating in their effects than others. This seems to have escaped us in the modern world where we are "so smart" that we are "invulnerable" to emotional influences coming from images or music or rhetoric (and the fact that we refuse to recognize our vulnerability only makes us that much more vulnerable). But lyrics are indeed the more important thing for the most part – and they are the biggest problem in my view. Here is why: words set to music are far more influential than the spoken or written word (just think, you can remember the lyrics to songs you hate far easier than you can remember the text of Psalms you love which are not set to music). For all the more reason, therefore, unless they are composed only of direct quotes from the Bible, these lyrics would have to be theologically perfect in order not to be throwing their hearers some real spiritual "curve balls" (precisely because their influence will be greater than many pages of carefully written Bible studies).
The problem is, of course, that the people who write lyrics to contemporary Christian music have even less training and interest in orthodox theology than the pastors of the mega-churches they attend. If they get something right, it is almost by accident, and I have heard enough to tell you for certain that a huge percentage of the sentiments these lyrics contain are, if not outright "wrong", almost always seriously "off" when it comes to the expression of biblical truth. The latter is really worse than the former. If someone influential tells you an outright lie, like, "Jesus doesn't exist", you may be shocked, but you don't buy it. If they tell you a somewhat more sophisticated lie, like, "Jesus is the Son of God, but not really quite on the same level with the Father", you may not buy it, but it is more likely to enter into you heart like a worm and eat at your faith precisely because it came from an otherwise trusted source, someone you to whom you were willing to give a hearing.
If we give music a hearing, it will influence us emotionally, and a big part of that influence is to let the "content" creep in. If that content is not perfect, we are shooting ourselves in the foot, so to speak, and unnecessarily so. Often the problem will not be a "lie" or an outright "incorrect" statement, but more an inappropriate or misleading emphasis, a nudge down a wrong path rather than an outright sign. That is the real reason that I am always left cringing when I hear this stuff, because I can see how a whole generation of young Christians is having its spiritual perspective warped if not outright curdled. When you take into consideration that in the vacuum of good, sound, orthodox Bible teaching we are presently experiencing, so that there is often little in the hearts of these folk to contend with the crooked messages they receive in this manner, it doesn't take a genius to see that the result of listening to bad theology presented in an attractive and influential way is going to be more harm than good.
We all have to make our own applications on this sort of thing. I have given you my perspective above. My desire is for the maximum spiritual growth of all who truly do want to draw closer to Jesus Christ through His truth. I am for anything that helps, but opposed in principal to anything that distracts. Emotions are fine – when they respond to the truth. When they are ginned up by things that are not dead on true, they can leave a person addicted to the source of the stimulus without providing any genuine growth, and that does no one any good.
Here are those links I mentioned:
Best wishes in your fight for the truth of the Word of God!
In Jesus' Name.