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Culture and Christianity V:

Temporal Authority vs. Biblical Application

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Question #1: 

Hello Dr,

I hope all is well with you. I am currently in a bible study group, we are reading from " The Holiness of God" By R.C. Sproul. There is something I feel lacking , I don't know what it is, it is probably just me not relating well to this study, or it may be the way the group is clinically evaluating the bible like a piece of English Literature instead of Spiritually. I know R. C. Sproul is well respected but I decided to do a little research on him. I found out that he is a moderate preterist and I do not believe in this view at all, as I know you would probably not agree also on this. He has also endorsed a few books that are not true to the Bible's teaching, one written by a James Dobson in 1994 called ' When God Doesn't Make Sense', were Dobson quotes '''some of us need to forgive God for those heartaches that are charged to his account." Sproul also believes that we need the bible for Salvation but then quotes that the Bible is not enough to get us by in life. This I really disagree on. In light of all this his book The Holiness of God, we are studying from keeps strictly to the bible regardless of my feelings about it. I am sure you know much more about R.C. Sproul then me and with this in mind do you think it is safe to continue with his study and just be a little cautious. I would really appreciate your feedback on this, as I appear to be ruffling feathers again when everyone else is happy with the study. In Jesus I trust for everything.

Response #1:  

I have heard of but have never spent any serious time considering Sproul senior's work. But then I left Calvinism behind long ago. I do know of Dobson. If I am not mistaken, he is more of a political activist than a theologian (so I wouldn't be at all surprised to find much of his doctrine "off"). One of the things that turned me sour on traditional Protestantism and also its somewhat more conservative cousin, Evangelicalism, was something akin to what you are reporting here. I found it was possible to listen to sermons, panels, read books and papers, see and hear nothing that contradicted the Word of God outright, and yet have the feeling afterward of having wasted my time entirely.

As I got deeper into the scriptures, found a good source of teaching, then, after many years of preparation and study, began to develop this ministry, the reason for my unease became more apparent. Most of the things I read along these lines (not that I have read the book you ask about) tend to be completely superficial. They strike glancing blows regarding obvious truths, get deep in the weeds of personal reflection, stories and anecdotes, and never get down to anything really deep from the standpoint of biblical truth you can understand, believe, and "sink your teeth into".

When one considers how much truth there is in the Bible, that has always amazed me. I suppose it shouldn't. After all, it takes quite a commitment to language study and to truly mastering the Bible, its content, theology and culture, even to get to the point where a person who genuinely has a teaching gift can begin to uncover, organize, and set forth the truth of scripture in any kind of a comprehensive and helpful way. The problem with writing massive amounts of books that never quite get to any truly meaningful point is that engenders that same sort of superficial approach in the Christians who read them. It engenders "philosophical consideration" (so prevalent in our age of Laodicea; see the link), when what Christians need is solid meat.

No truth of scripture is useful until it is correctly explained so as to be completely understood; and at that point, it is still useless to believers who hear it if they reserve judgment and refuse to believe it. Spiritual growth is accomplished by hearing the truth, believing the truth, and then applying the truth in our daily lives. Reading a thousand books may not bring a person an inch closer to God – depending upon what is in them and what the person does with the information. Positive people should seek out positive sources and not waste their time on things of which the best that may be said of them is that they are not obviously wrong. We have a very limited amount of time here on earth and the best advice is to make use of it as effectively as we can since the consequences are eternal.

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:15-16 KJV

Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.
Colossians 4:5 KJV

The human race is a complete and perfect whole, like the spectrum of light. But just as only a very small part of the spectrum is visible, so also only a very small part of the complete number of human beings will be seen to have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ when the few years of human history come to an end. In the same way, in that part of the spectrum which comprises believers, rather than having an equal distribution along the range, the evidence as I see it points more to a pyramidal sort of distribution. That is to say, while there are twelve gates to and therefore twelve sections of the New Jerusalem (see the link), the twelfth or bottom section is very likely going to be populated by a vastly greater number of believers than the first or top section. That all of this is predestined does not mean that our reward is not entirely a matter of what we chose, are choosing, and will choose in this life. Quite to the contrary, it was impossible for God not to know precisely what each of us would choose day by day, and it is those choices which are making the eternal distinctions one day to be revealed – and experienced for all eternity (see the link: "God's Plan to Save You").

So my bottom line on all this is that our time is the most precious resource we have. And while no one is ever going to become 100% efficient in the use of it for God in responding to the Father and His beloved Son our dear Lord Jesus in an absolutely perfect way, we ought at least to make a habit, a policy, of doing things "the right way", and tightening up our game day by day. As I always counsel everyone who has any contact with this ministry, for maximum spiritual growth, seek out a good, reliable source of Bible teaching, one that will actually feed you what you need to grow. Once you have found it, stick with it unless and until you find something better, as long as it continues to be a pure and sanctified source. This ministry was put together with that principle in mind – not to sell books or gain some huge following or get famous or any other such thing. Ichthys is certainly not the "one and only" place where a Christian can get fed and grow, but it is one such place. The important thing is to find that sort of place; ideally one with which you are entirely comfortable. And the flip-side of this basic principle of spiritual growth is, once you've found it, to avoid things that are just going to waste your time, or instill doubt, or compromise any sense of authority (remember: you have to believe it for it to do you any good).

There are a modest number other ministries out there, on-line and in-person, where a person can truly grow past a kindergarten level. Unfortunately, there are a plethora of lukewarm ministries in which the best a person will be able to do is remain static – and a whole host of deceptive pseudo-ministries as well. A Christian who is genuinely committed to growing up in Jesus Christ and serving Him effectively in this life for His glory, the building up of His Church, and their own personal eternal reward, will, if determined in their searching, find exactly what they need. May God lead you to just the right the place and may you win the three crowns.

In the service of the One who died that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him, our dear Lord Jesus.

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Hello Dr,

Thank you for your reply. I do rely on "ichthys"'and a few other online ministries for my Spiritual Growth, and believe that these sites have helped me to discern when something seems cleverly written about the bible can also seem disconnected and lacking. This is why I wrote to you about my concern in the first place. I live in a small community but there are a few churches. There is not one church I believe that is really growing Spiritually. But I cannot really disconnect from my Christian friends and the only reason I go to church is for fellowship and communion and worship together with other Christians, but rely more to my own home study and online for Bible growth. There are a tiny handful of us that not being happy with the churches may form a small fellowship. We are waiting on God for this. I actually go to two churches alternating between weeks. I don't see a building or a denomination as anything to do with God, but only the assembling of Christians together for God. I decided to go to a bible study a few weeks ago after being asked by a church member because they really needed more people to attend. It is this bible study I have written about to you. Having read your reply I can now say that yes you are very true that I am wasting my time,. You summed it up correctly by saying that although these studies sound perfectly in line with the bible they are in fact very superficial, and nothing to sink your teeth into and yes I always go away feeling hollow and undernourished. But I don't think I can get through to the others in the bible study, they will question me over a great Theologian that has written lots of clever books and he would know more then me they will say. I will continue to aim for those three Crowns.

In Jesus I Love

Response #2: 

You're most welcome. This experience of ours is very common among those who want to learn what the Bible really says and means. It is also very difficult for Christians who genuinely are trying to grow spiritually to find others of a like mind nowadays. I don't think that's a function of your community's size, either. I get similar emails from Christians all the time who live in major metropolitan areas who still have great trouble finding anything truly good. Homogenization has really set in here in the land of Laodicea. Generally speaking, when a group is large enough to form and become functional, it already contains a majority who are more committed to what has become the "modern local church" than they are to learning the truth. There are a few exceptions out there, but for the most part they prove the rule. It sounds to me as if you have done everything you can to search out any such place in your area, and are also doing whatever you can to grow closer to Jesus through the Word of truth, in spite of all such challenges – and I certainly commend you for it. I am very encouraged by your testimony, and am extremely happy to hear that this ministry is proving to be of some help in your spiritual advance.

Please do feel free to write me back any time.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I have enjoyed your site and am excited to read the numerous additions since my last visit. Do you mind sharing your thoughts on classical Christian education? I have a child about to enter kindergarten and the issue of school choice has now come to the forefront. More specifically, how would you assess (1) a Christian school and (2) a classical education model? Thanks for the advice,

Response #3:  

Very good to make your acquaintance. On the issue of the Classics model, I admit to being in favor of it in a highly prejudicial way. As a Greek and Latin teacher at U of L by day, I can't say enough good things about the value of learning these languages. I frequently have English majors tell me that they never really understood English as a language until they had taken Greek/Latin. In my opinion, in addition to providing a better mastery of English in all forms (speaking, reading, writing, spelling, analysis), careful study of these languages also benefits a person's thinking processes (as well as exposing the student to excellent Classical exemplars).

How far these advantages accrue to a private versus public education is, again in my view only, pretty much a matter of the specific alternatives we are discussing. I have former students and colleagues involved in all manner of private schooling here with Classical models. Of course, one has to weigh all the factors. My stepson had a very good education in public school in Louisville, and I also came up entirely through the public school system – in Chicago. For me, it was not an enjoyable time either in K-8 or high school, but I think I probably benefited greatly from exposure to the "real world" (and, in any case, there were not the options available at the time that exist today). And then there is the expense. If money were no issue, I might lean to the private experience for my (hypothetical) kids today; but I am not completely sure. Ideally, they would/could get Latin in public school. Louisville is fortunate to have Latin being taught in the traditional school model from a fairly early age, and the Louisville Male high school Latin program is one of the best in the country.

Finally, there is home-schooling. It's not something I used to think about in a positive way, but then times have changed. Some of the best students I have had here at the university were home schooled, and I know a good number of Christians who are home-schooling their children and who seem to very happy with the results – it does represent a much bigger commitment on the part of the parents, however, especially if the job is going to be done right. One of the reasons parents today are doing more home-schooling or are more apt to send their children to a private school unquestionably has to do with the decrease in professionalism in many of our nations' school systems, coupled with an increase in overt, negative cultural and political influence (things that were pretty rare when I was young). And there is also the point that the peer pressure to be led into all sorts of harmful behaviors is starting unbelievably early and is much more pronounced than it was in my day. One hopes that this is less so in a private school, but that would depend in no small part upon the students and the school.

These are very clearly personal decisions (rather than biblical mandates). There are advantages and disadvantages to all these options when viewed in the abstract. Often, however, practical realities are the key concerns. If I cannot afford a private school, then that option is out. If neither I nor my wife can stay home, then home-schooling is out. If the local public school to which my child is assigned is dangerous or otherwise disastrous, then I will have to find another way. Parenting is a demanding task, but as in all things God honors a loving, responsible approach. He is certainly able to see to our children's welfare and safety in all things, even if we are imperfect in our approach.

The one thing I am not necessarily convinced of is the necessity of Christian schooling for its own sake. Following Jesus is a personal decision, and God has never allowed a desire to know Him through His Son to go unsatisfied – especially for the children of those who believe. Sending a child to a Christian school does not release us from our obligation as parents to be role models of faith and spiritual growth, and our example here will be of far more import than any school could ever be. To the extent that we send a child to a Christian school and think "problem solved", to that extent we would be far better served by sending them to a public school and staying plugged into their spiritual growth in a more hands-on way.

May God grant you the wisdom to make the right decision.

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob Luginbill

Question #4: 

Hi Doc!

I wanted to know if Christianity and psychology are compatible, or if psychology is of the devil. A friend of mine is trying to get off of pain meds that he's addicted to among other problems such as relationship problems. He even refers to his doctor as his "shrink." I told him that God has given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) and that the bible is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Essentially, all the help and instruction we need to help us overcome struggles or guidance in life is found in scripture, not from some shrink. He told me that God can use shrinks to help us. It just seems to me that this is a sign that he is either an immature believer, or not even saved. He goes to church every Sunday, sings in the choir, but he lives with his girlfriend (not married), is addicted to methadone and pot (he says he's trying to quit), and has problems with lust. I'm worried that he may not be saved even though he says he loves the Lord and has a relationship with him. Do you think it is ok for him to see a shrink? Thanks in advance!

Response #4:  

I think your point of view on psychology is very good. Christians should find the Lord and His provisions sufficient, and much of the theory underpinning modern, secular psychology is drivel (at least from the biblical point of view). There are, however, many Christian psychology programs (my old seminary had a school of Christian psychology attached to it). Scripture outlines all manner of spiritual gifts, one of which is "helps" (1Cor.12:28). I think it is clear that from time to time there are brothers and sisters who do need the encouragement, help, and the counsel of others. Not every member of the Body is completely self-sufficient at all times in this regard (in fact, or course, all of us need each other for some things at some times at least). Pastors have certain skills (or should have) and a gift of teaching (else they ought not to be in ministry), but that does not automatically qualify them to delve into the personal problems of each of their parishioners. Indeed, I would argue that comforting the other members of the Body is something best done by other members, and there will always be some Christians who are particularly gifted in that regard.

That does not mean, of course, that if a Christian is gifted at intervention in and providing counseling help for other people that they ought to get a psychology degree (Christian or otherwise) and enter into formal practice – any more than Christians who are gifted at interpreting and teaching the Bible ought to become ordained pastors in established denominations. Both are "developments" that many see as progress but which I see as the formalization of practices which may not be (and often are in fact not) for the best. As with many things in the church-visible of our day, weak teaching and the secularizing and formalizing of the gift of "helps" et al. are signs of the spiritual degeneration of our Church era of Laodicea (see the link). That is my position in general terms.

When it comes to individual cases, however, I am always very reluctant to weigh in with criticism absent some detailed personal investigation. I have no doubt that there are therapists (Christian and otherwise) who do provide a useful service for some people who would otherwise not receive the help they need. This may be due to the person in question being a poor Christian or it may be due to the state of the Church at present being a poor provider of the needed help (or possibly both). But while, for example, I am very happy to be providing what I feel is a substantive and doctrinal teaching ministry over the internet and would not in a million years take on a pastorate in an old-line denomination, I rejoice for every bit of true teaching that takes place in any church (even if it would not be sufficient for me personally nor something I would be able to recommend):

"What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice" (Phil.1:18 KJV).

I feel the same way about psychology and counseling, Christian or otherwise. I would prefer that every believer was advancing spiritually and able to draw most of their encouragement directly from the Word and from the truth they are taking in from a solid Bible-study source, and, in particularly trying times, that there would be mature believers available within their fellowship to give needed encouragement and sound biblical advice – without at the same time being busy-bodies, legalistic or domineering. Given what I have seen in many churches, this last mandate is very difficult for most to fulfill. It takes a very mature Christian who has achieved a high-level of personal spiritual growth and who has the appropriate gifts to be able to do the job right. No doubt that has something to do with the process having become formalized into "psychology", even in many Christian circles, but to the extent that help is genuinely needed and genuine help is given where otherwise it would not have been, to that extent I rejoice.

All Christians should be professional in their Christianity and maintain a high level of professionalism in the exercise of their individual gifts in the ministries to which Christ has called them. It is a shame that a formalized and secularized process has apparently been felt necessary by many for this to be achieved, but of course it was not always the case. There were no such therapists during the days of the apostles, but there were broken hearts and traumatized spirits needing encouragement, guidance and support. My guess is that the Body took care of itself in most such cases in those times, just the way God intended it to be. So I am not saying that it is wrong for a Christian to become a psychiatrist/psychologist, nor for a Christian to use one. But it does seem to me that this was/is not God's "first best scenario".

I think the case of your friend provides a perfect illustration. For those Christians who are marginal – at least as far as can be gleaned from their behavior – extra special care is necessary because 1) what they need is not only guidance but frank talk, and 2) it would take a very mature, very experienced, and specially gifted Christian not to soft-soap the guidance on the one hand or be negatively affected by the contact on the other. Since such believers are relatively rare in the Church today (i.e., the lukewarm nature of our Church era means that there are not many mature Christians around at all, let alone ones with experience in such things and in the proper application of the gifts that go with them), the best a person in such a strait may be able to do is to find a good therapist. At least that way what they receive may well be professional and objective. Of course it all boils down to cases and depends upon the quality of the individual consulted. In a perfect world, such things would be unnecessary. The reality with which we are presently faced, however, means that there is a role for such things, even if you and I find them uncomfortable, unnecessary, and somewhat dangerous (and rightly so).

I have written about this topic elsewhere. Please see the link: Christians and Psychology

Hope this is of some help!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

What do you think of this translation?

"I could turn this into an article but why bore you? I am a Greek speaking American. My wife was raised in Greece and spent 17 years there. So we decided, let's look up Romans 13:

Greek Version

ΠΡΟΣ ΡΩΜΑΙΟΥΣ 13
πασα ψυχη εξουσιαις υπερεχουσαις υποτασσεσθω ου γαρ εστιν εξουσια ει μη απο θεου αι δε ουσαι εξουσιαι υπο του θεου τεταγμεναι εισιν

Translation (WORD FOR WORD)

Every single soul of ruling, dominating (or) submissive, they do not have substance of ruling if they are not from God and under God.

English Translation of the Greek:

Every governing soul including those in highest command or lowest command have no authority if they are NOT ruling as fair and just as God.

This is according to the GREEK text, which is the ORIGINAL TEXT!"

Do you agree that even if 'rulers' are not apparently submissive to God, that we are to still be submissive to them? Sort of like the roll of military men who do atrocities yet use the excuse, "we were only doing what we were told"? Are we to obey orders from any we are submissive to regardless of what they may ask us to do, including authorities we may work for, parents, husbands, etc. As for political authorities, if they are doing something illegal according to law, do we have the right to question such authorities and bring accusation against them?

In Christ,

Response #5: 

Good to hear from you. The translation this person gives of the Greek is very flawed. To give just the first example, "every governing soul" is grammatically impossible. The subject, pasa psyche ("every person") cannot be connected with the "powers" which are "in authority" as this translation tries to do. That is because they are different in case (nominative versus dative) – and different in number too (singular versus plural). The Bible was written in the first century; Modern Greek dates to 15th c. or thereabouts. Because of the Turkish conquest, Greek underwent very significant changes (i.e., it ceased to written down and taught in school under the Ottoman oppression). It is true that it is "the same language", and also true that ancient Greek is far closer to Modern Greek than Old English is to Modern English, despite the fact that the gap in the first case between the two is twice as long. Nevertheless, Modern Greek is significantly changed and very much simplified (especially in regard to things like "case"). However, it is a common phenomenon that Modern Greek speakers feel they "understand" ancient Greek perfectly because it looks so close to their language and many of the words are the same or similar in spelling (absent case endings). I have had to deal with this false confidence many times in the case of Modern Greek speakers who have taken my ancient Greek classes. Except in rare cases, the non-Greek speakers generally overtake the Modern Greek speakers in their ability to translate about the time they start becoming comfortable with the alphabet.

Two quick examples of this are as follows. First, I had a Modern Greek speaking student who was assigned a project on Sophocles and brought me a text of a play he intended to use. I did a double take at the oddness of the page before me but then I realized that it was a Modern Greek translation of Sophocles. He swore very emphatically and with offense that I was mistaken. Later, he realized I was right. It seems that just as we can write English in an archaizing fashion (waxing Shakespearian, for example), so they have an archaic register in Modern Greek. The fact that this very intelligent student couldn't tell the difference between this and actual ancient Greek speaks volumes. The second example comes from the experience of the TLG project (the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae) based in Irvine California with whom I had the privilege of working when I was doing my doctoral program at UCI. This project has put (nearly) all of ancient Greek on the computer (over 100 million words), a Herculean task of data entry. Since Greek is written in a different alphabet from that of English and is polytonic (i.e., has accents and other diacritical marks), the project directors knew that the process of transcription would be time-consuming and very expensive. For that reason, they did a pilot project to determine where the most cost-efficient data entry people could be found. Counter-intuitively, they discovered that the best place with the lowest error rate was South Korea, but the worst place with the highest error rate was Athens, Greece. It turned out that this was because Korean has an entirely different alphabet from English and Greek (the English alphabet comes from the Greek indirectly, of course, and has many letters which look nearly identical to ours). Having no idea what any sign meant, the keypunch operators merely typed in the correct characters one by one. In Greece, however, much about these ancient texts seemed familiar to the operators, so that sometimes subconsciously (supplying what looked similar in Modern Greek) and sometimes consciously (correcting what they knew had to be a mistake) they produced an extremely high error rate. This is all a very long way of saying that while knowledge of Modern Greek is a wonderful thing, no one who knows the facts would mistake this for or equate this with any particular ability in ancient Greek.

Here is how I translate the passage:

Let every person be subject to [all] superior authorities. For no authority exists which has not [been established] by God. And those that exist are [in turn] subject to God. Therefore whoever opposes [established] authority has taken a stand against God's [ordered] arrangement, and those who have done so will receive judgment upon themselves. For rulers do not exist to discourage good deeds through the fear they inspire, but rather evil ones. So do you wish to have no fear of the authorities? Then do what is good, and you will have praise from them. For they are ministering to God on your behalf for your [own] good. But if you do evil, beware, for they have not been invested with the power of punishment (lit., "the sword") for nothing. For they are ministering to God in the severe vengeance [they bring down] upon those who do evil. Therefore it is necessary to be subject [to authority] not only because of this severity, but also for conscience' sake.
Romans 13:1-5
 

And here is what Peter says in a passage which mirrors what Paul says in Romans 13:

Submit yourselves to every established human [authority] for the Lord's sake, whether to a king, as being sovereign, or to [other] executives, as being sent through Him for the purpose of reproving evil doers but for praising those who do good. For this is the will of God, namely, for you to muzzle the ignorance of foolish men by doing good, as free men, yet not using your freedom as a cloak for evil but as servants of God. Give respect to everyone, love the brotherhood [of believers], fear God, honor the king.
1st Peter 2:13-17

As I often say when this question comes up, the apostles made these very strong statements not in an environment of completely beneficent government, but at a time when the Roman authorities were officially hostile to Christianity. Paul was beaten and abused many time, both men were imprisoned, and, if tradition is correct, both were executed by Rome – for no wrong-doing on their part at all. Yet they both command us by the Spirit to submit to established authority.

What this means requires some discussion. It most certainly does not mean that we are to do things that are wrong if ordered to do so by anyone. It does mean, however, that before we stand up and oppose established authority in any non-legal way, we had better make very sure of our grounds. Notice that Paul, for example, made full use of his legal rights as a Roman citizen, and brought it to the attention of the authorities more than once when these rights were or were about to be violated (e.g., his demand that the Philippian magistrates conduct him and Silas out of the prison; his alerting of the centurion in the prison at Jerusalem that he was about to illegally flog a citizen, and his appeal to Caesar). I think the main point of these passages is to correct a very common and very incorrect supposition on the part of many Christians throughout the ages that because we belong to God the state has no authority over us whatsoever. That is certainly true in a spiritual sense, but we do not relinquish our temporal responsibilities when we become Christians ("render unto Caesar what is Caesar's"). To the contrary, we now are answerable to the Lord for carrying them out effectively.

We live in a democracy and a free society. There are many things which it is permissible for us to do and yet not violate these verses you ask about. However, while all things are possible, not all things are profitable. In my considered opinion, the more involved we become in political activity of any kind, even though it is our right to challenge our government in all sorts of legal ways, the more we will adversely affect our spirituality. For the more we look to temporal solutions, the less likely we are to rely on God for the spiritual solutions only He can provide. There will certainly be times when we cannot reasonably avoid such things (i.e., if we are wrongly accused, we will have to defend ourselves), but, as a rule of thumb, politics and Christianity don't mix in my view. As to parents, the command to obey them is repeated many times in scripture and not just by application here (this applies as I have often said to children actually living under their parents' roofs, although our obligation to provide respect will never lapse). The rules on marriage are also quite clear in this regard and also repeated often enough that we don't need to rely on this passage to establish the wife's duty to respect her husband and the husband's duty to love his wife. Scripture does not bind us to do wrong; it binds us to do right. When circumstances arise that bring these two principles into conflict, we have to apply all of scripture and also utilize our spiritual common sense in the power of the Spirit. We are to honor our parents; we are not to aid them in bank-robbery. Wives are to honor their husbands; they are not required to direct physical or emotional abuse on their children at the husband's behest. Citizens are required to honor the constituted authorities; they are not required to actively participate in murdering other citizens. In each of these situations of abuse, the authoritative party has relinquished its authority, at the very least in respect to the sinful, criminal or evil activity they are enjoining or perpetrating. When it comes to personal suffering at the hands of those in authority over us, the standard for action in opposition is much higher (as pointed out above; without knowing the story ahead of time, we might have been surprised that the apostles did not counsel taking up arms against the state); there does sometimes come a point when at the very least separation from rogue authority is not only authorized but salutary. Actively opposing established authority in non-legal ways, however, especially if they involve violence, is something that scripture never explicitly authorizes as far as I am aware.

Hope this helps with your question. Here are some links related to the subject if you want to pursue it further:

Political Action versus Biblical Christianity

History, War and Politics

Christianity and Politics

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Hello Brother Bob,

I am back with another question: > Do you think God still punishes the nations in this , the Church age? Since He poured His wrath out on Christ on the cross, as punishment for the sins of the world, and those who reject Christ store up His wrath on themselves for judgement day, it would seem these are signs such as Matt. 24:7-8. I can not think of anything in the Gospels that refers to God punishment since Old Testament writings. As always, eagerly waiting to hear what God has to say through you.

Response #6:  

Good to hear from you. The short answer to your question is "as much as He ever did . . . more or less". That is to say, divine punishment on a national level, whether of a minor nature or even to the point of obliterating a nation from the face of the earth, is something that the Lord has always done from time to time, and will no doubt continue to do until Jesus is installed as King at the Second Advent; at that point, Jesus will conduct all such discipline personally and in an obvious way.

If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain.
Zechariah 14:17 NIV

The separation of the people of the world into discrete nations of different languages was, after all, a divinely instituted policy designed to prevent "one world" religious and political dominance that would allow Satan an easy time enlisting everyone into his machinations as in the case of the tower of Babel and also antichrist's one-world government (see the links). Thus nationalism is an important part of the divine plan to encourage freedom and make the opportunity of salvation available to all mankind:

(24) The God who made the world and everything in it, He is Lord of heaven and earth. He does not dwell in man-made temples, (25) nor is he waited on by human hands, as if He needed anything from us. He is the One who gives us all life and breath and everything else. (26) From one man he created all the nations of mankind – that they should come to inhabit the whole face of the earth. He fixed and determined the specific times and extent of their habitations, (27) to the end that they should seek out this God, that they might go in search of Him and so might find Him – for His is not far off from any one of us.
Acts 17:24-27

That everything that happens in this world happens only according to God's overall master-plan, therefore, is clear (see the link: "God's Plan to Save You"). Naturally, we cannot know exactly why God does what He does in everything that happens in our own lives – how much less well are we able to judge these things when the object of blessing or cursing is an entire nation? So it is always good to keep the principle in mind but without judging or gloating (in case we are so inclined).

When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?
Amos 3:6 NIV

It may be that disasters are punitive. That is usually the assumption people make. However, we know that Job's friends were roundly criticized by the Lord for making that same assumption – in this case false – about godly Job. Similarly, God's blessing of a nation may not necessarily be a sign of its godliness or a measure of any pleasure He has with it.

After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, "The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness." No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you.
Deuteronomy 9:4 NIV

The judgments of the nations to which you are most likely referring are found in Isaiah 14-21 and Jeremiah 46-49 which, while they did have a contemporary and relatively near term fulfillment, also and preeminently have a future focus as a kind of short-hand for the coalition of nations arrayed against Israel at Armageddon (see the link: in CT 1: section IV.2.b, "Biblical Sources for the End Times: the Old Testament").

(15) The day of the Lord is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head. (16) Just as you drank on my holy hill, so all the nations will drink continually; they will drink and drink and be as if they had never been. (17) But on Mount Zion will be deliverance; it will be holy, and the house of Jacob will possess its inheritance.
Obadiah 1:15-17 NIV

It is to the above context that I would refer the passage you ask about, Matthew chapter 24. Better translated, verse seven says "a nation will rise against a nation – even a kingdom against a kingdom". In other words, this is not a general statement on the part of our Lord but a very specific prediction. This verse refers to the great conflict in the first half of the Tribulation between the forces of antichrist and the forces of the three nation/power-center coalition centered in the Middle East, a conflict which will dominate the events of those three and a half years and lead directly to the beast's control of the world (all this is written up in detail in part 3B of Coming Tribulation: "Antichrist and his Kingdom").

On an individual level, there is of course a difference of overwhelming importance after the cross: now, Christ has actually died for all the sins of the world. However, even before the cross, God dealt with human beings "on credit", so to speak, forgiving sin in the anticipation of the Sacrifice to come (cf. 2Sam.12:13).

(25) God made Him a means of atonement [achieved] by His blood [and claimed] through faith, to give proof of His justice in leaving unpunished in divine forbearance [all] previously committed sins, (26) so as to prove His justice in the present, namely, so that He would be [shown to be] just [in this] and [justified] in justifying the one who has faith in Jesus.
Romans 3:25-26

The New Testament is very much focused upon the individual Christian's walk, written with the confines of a nation (Rome) that was in no way set apart by God (in contrast to the Old Testament's focus upon the nation of Israel), and that no doubt is the reason for the change in emphasis you note: there was no Israel to be punished for not following God; no gentile nations to be punished for harrying Israel.

I don't find any New Testament scripture that indicates to me that the "ground rules" have changed in other respects; to wit, whatever happens is not happening independent of God's sovereign authority, and I think we do have to take into consideration that there is probably some message behind any significant national disaster or blessing.

If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.
Jeremiah 18:7-10 NIV

As believers in Jesus Christ, we should be very careful about assigning or affirming any specific cause to horrific disasters (or incredible blessings). The message may in many respect be more of a test, demonstrating what a people (as well as individual people) really think about God and His perfect standards, as well as about His one way to salvation, Jesus Christ. Extraordinary catastrophes (as well as extraordinary blessings) have a way of bringing out the true character in nations and individuals alike.  Please also see the following link:

Do recent catastrophes have a divine origin?

In anticipation of our Lord's return on the other side of many catastrophes (and blessings) to come,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

I'm a minister in a Baptist Church. I have a problem when a Pastor wants you to address them as Reverend. What is your opinion on a minister wanting to be called Reverend. Thank you & Your teaching has been very helpful to me.

Response #7:  

Good to make your acquaintance. Thank you for your encouraging remarks. I am always very pleased to hear when these materials have been helpful to my brothers and sisters in Jesus.

As to your question, I too am somewhat put off by the term (I would shudder to have it applied to myself). The word is, of course, a Latin gerundive. In the same way that a dividend is something that "ought to be divided" and a memorandum is something that "ought to remembered", so a reverend is someone who "ought to be revered" – at least etymologically. If a person thinks that they "ought to be revered", I have a problem with that; if, on they other hand, they merely mean "ought to be treated with a measure of respect as a minister of the Lord out of respect for the Lord not the person", that seems reasonable. As with all such matters, it is what is in the heart of the person who applies the title and in the heart of the person who receives the appellation that counts (and that may be difficult to discern at times). We are told "give honor to those to whom honor is due" (Rom.13:6), and also that "pastors are worth of double honor" (1Tim.5:17). However, we are not to worship anyone but God (cf. Rev.19:10; 22:9). So, again, if a pastor is just using a traditional title and does not have his ego wound up in it excessively, there may be no problem with the practice; on the other hand, if a pastor is seeking to exalt his status and allowing his congregation to think more of him than they should and for the wrong reasons, that is a problem.

To return briefly to the 1st Timothy passage, those pastors worthy of "double honor" are especially the ones "who labor in the Word and in teaching". I think this sums it up. A pastor gains the respect, the loyalty, and the godly admiration of his congregation through diligent service to it, feeding them effectively with the good, solid nutrition of the Word of God which enables them to grow up spiritually and stand up to the trials and tribulations of this life to the glory of God. If that results in him being honored in a godly way, then it really doesn't matter what he is called (whereas all the fancy titles in the world will not make up for failing to do the hard work of teaching the Bible to which we pastor-teachers have been called).

Best wishes for your continued effective service on behalf of the Body of Jesus Christ,

In Him,

Bob Luginbill

Question #8:  

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

I continue to thank the Lord for your work and ministry on the web because I have been richly blessed by it. Things have been up and down for me but I know that it is all for a reason. We had a meeting at my work about respect and the lead speaker said that we should respect all people regardless, and the reason for doing so was, "just because they're a person, we should respect them for just being a person". He further said that "people shouldn't have to earn respect, but that people should just respect others for being a person." I disagreed but didn't speak out. What if that person hates you and speaks evil of you for no reason? There are two people at my office that despise me for no reason (and I mean that literally; I've never done them any wrong as God is my witness). Sometimes they speak about me but not at me, and they do so loudly in an attempt to accuse me. They will say things like I should be respect them when all the while they speak evil of me. They will make fun of me by repeating words that I said in a childish voice over and over again. And the words that I said were nothing to make fun of. They do this every time they see me and giggle over it. Both of them also give me mean looks every time they cross my path. I've done them no wrong. Is it a racial thing, or some bias that they have that I am not aware of? Because I cannot figure out why they behave this way to me. So it doesn't make sense for me to respect them just because they're people when they despise me and poke fun at me daily for no reason. Please pray for them, that God would grant them repentance and humble them so they may see themselves in God's mirror of righteousness. Should I respect all people just because they're a person? Thank you for taking the time to read this and minister to me.

God Bless you and your ministry,

Response #8: 

You are very welcome. Sorry to hear that relationships at work continue to be a problem for you. It sounds more like high school than a professional work environment. I guess some people never grow up. It is really difficult not to be pulled down to the level of childish behavior in situations like this, especially when the people manage to "get your goat", so to speak. Nevertheless, Christians do "pack the gear" to endure all things with the help of the Spirit and with responsiveness to the truth. That doesn't mean the situation is fair or that the biblical response of turning the other cheek is fun or easy – or even that we are going to get it right the first time or even every time. It does mean that we can take great solace and encouragement from knowing that we belong to the Lord and that we are His representatives. As He told us, speaking of "name calling", "It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!" (Matt.10:25 NIV).

As far as respect goes, well, true respect is an evaluation of the heart. Treating someone "with respect" may be a mere outward show. Christians are commanded to treat everyone with genuine love, and that is the real standard. It is not easy to look to the best interests of those who are reviling and abusing us, but it is what we are commanded to do. That does not mean that we have to enjoy being abused or that we have to make it easy for others to abuse us. It does mean that we ought to recognize that we are all the Lord's creations and that He wants all of us to be saved. I don't know about you, but I did some pretty awful things in the past. I would hate to think that if I had mistreated another Christian in the process, that this would end up ruining my chances for spiritual growth – or eternal life. Clearly, most will not respond to the Lord. But how do we know that our example of long-suffering and love will not reach the heart of someone who may be hostile to us now? Possibly even someone of whom we least imagine it possible. Only God knows what the results of our response to Him will be. But we all know very well what our behavior ought to be in the meantime:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more [than others]? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Matthew 5:33-38 KJV

This does not mean that we are getting a raw deal (though it may feel that way). For, after all, every cup of cold water offered in the Lord's Name will not fail to receive its reward in eternity. We are all foot-soldiers in the Lord's army. He is the One who assigns us our objectives. Ours is not to dispute His orders or to get upset about the particular fight we are involved in. Human nature being what it is, it is probable that 99% of Christians wish 99% of the time that they had a different assignment (at least to some degree). But the Lord is deploying us where He wants, and, unlike the army, we can be sure that His dispositions are absolutely perfect. We are in the right place, if we are following Him. Question is, are we responding to the tests and tasks He gives in the right way? It's not easy. That is why so few are doing it the right way. But if we advance following Him and His Spirit, we will not fail to please Him and earn great rewards, even if things are unpleasant for us here on earth (as they usually are to one degree or another).

Keep looking to the goal and running the race with eyes on Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Hi Bob,

Thanks so much for writing back so soon! I know you were out of town on family matters and I hope things went well. And you definitely left a meaty portion for us – thank you! I noticed that but also saw that it had been about three weeks since you'd posted so was worried a bit. Have you thought about how to keep the website up – and all of your powerful material – in case something were to happen to you? I hope nothing does, of course – we need you here – and I am telling the Lord that right now! But I do think that the Tribulation is coming, and people will begin to flock to sites like yours once they start to interpret the signs.

I will keep you in my prayers!

Response #9:  

Thanks for this. Yes, things are well. And your words ring true. Yet while most corporations have a "succession planning" unit, I am a unit of one but I belong to the biggest and best corporation of them all, the corpus or "Body" of Jesus Christ. I am so leery of what happens to denominations (even second generation churches), that I have always resisted anything of this sort myself. I am hoping that if I do meet that inaccurate bus driver before I planned to, there are enough folks out there who have downloaded the archives; that way, if there is any demand for the stuff, it could be disseminated. Aristotle's works came within one single copy of being lost in antiquity but he's still around; how much more would that be true of something God wants around (assuming in the case of these materials He would want it around).

Thanks as always for your prayers!

Yours in the Lord we love so much, our Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Hello sir,

How are you doing? Sir, what is the correct translation of Exodus 22:2-3 ?

In Him,

Response #10:  

Very good to hear from you! I am very encouraged to see that you are still deep in the scriptures in spite of all that has happened. I continue to keep you in my prayers daily, for your health and prosperity, and for the salvation of your family.

As to the verses you ask about, I very much like the New American Standard translation:

If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account. But if the sun has risen on him, there will be bloodguiltiness on his account. He shall surely make restitution; if he owns nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.
Exodus 22:2-3 NASB

The gist of the meaning here is that the killing of a thief who invades one's home by night is not murder or manslaughter, no doubt because one cannot be expected to make such fine distinction that it is "only a theft" in the middle of the night; also, because people tend to be home at night, home invasion by night has the presupposition of the intention to use violence, with the result that no mercy or consideration should be expected.

Please do let me know if this is missing the point of your question.

Very pleased to hear from you!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:  

Dear Professor,

Even though I've not sent any translated articles yet, I wanted to let you know that I'm working on it. I'm making some necessary preparations and I'm hoping to start translating soon.

In the meantime, I wanted to ask you a question on what the Bible says about sexuality in marriage. I don't feel easy asking this, I looked for some resources on this specific topic on your website, but didn't locate any. I'm familiar with RC church policy on it, but even there the opinions often vary. What forms of sexual expressions are and are not allowed by the Bible? What does Bible say about contraception within marriage? Should all married couples strive to have children? How about married people, who don't want to have children?

In Christ,

Response #11: 

You are quite right that there is nothing specific about these subjects on the site. Scripture has very little to say about such things – which makes the fact that these topics (in conjunction with other marriage and family issues) take up over fifty percent of preaching et al. in contemporary American evangelical churches pretty amazing. Not so amazing, really, since this is what people are (understandably) interested in. It is natural to be interested. However, a church's job is to tell people "the whole truth and counsel of God" rather than to cater almost exclusively to their particular interests.

On sexual expression, I would say that whatever couples agree to, whatever is not specifically prohibited by the Bible, and whatever does not offend the conscience of either party would be legitimate. I find no other ground rules in scripture on this issue other than the text of the Word, the work of the Spirit in guiding us, and the rule of love in dealing with one's spouse.

On contraception, the first thing I would note is that whatever types we may be discussing and whatever else it may involve, contraception is not murder because life begins at birth not at conception (see the link: "Life Begins at Birth"). If a couple for whatever reason decides to avoid conception, any method is, in my opinion, much the same as any other from a spiritual viewpoint. That would be true of the "rhythm" method as well, for, in all such cases, conception is being avoided. Clearly, by contraception I am not including abortion or infanticide. See the previous link and consider this caveat included where the doctrine of life at birth is taught in SR 3:

This is not at all to imply that for this reason (i.e., the gift of the human spirit at birth being the cause of human life) the fetus has no worth in God's eyes. Quite to the contrary, the unborn are highly valued in scripture (Ex.21:22; Job 10:8-12; Ps.139:13-16; Is.44:24; 49:4-5). Further we may note that in the Bible children are considered a great blessing (cf. 1Sam.2:1-11 and Lk.1:46-55), with infertility seen as a curse (Hos.9:14; cf. Gen.38; Lev.20:20-21; 1Sam.1:11), and pregnancy as a blessing and occasionally even a means of vindication (cf. Num.5:11-31 and Lk.1:25). Whereas, on the other hand, the sacrifice of children is an abomination (Lev.18:21; Deut.12:31; 18:10; Ps.106:37-38).

One of the reasons why this subject area is not found in scripture is that the entire mind-set of people in biblical times (at least those in Israel who are the predominant focus of the Bible) was contrary to our modern views of such things. The idea that people would "not want to have children" would have been seen as bizarre and incomprehensible. Having children was perhaps the most important thing for people in the world of the Bible, and infertility the greatest curse. We have modern science to thank for the idea that we can "turn it on and turn it off" at our own pleasure, and that attitude has, frankly, been the cause of many woes. I believe that I am correct in stating that more than one couple has deferred childbirth only to have terrible problems later when it seemed convenient for them to "turn it back on". Moreover, scripture is perfectly clear about the fact that children are a blessing from God (e.g., Ps.127:3-5), and that is certainly how the godly see things in scripture.

Please understand that I not arguing for a position that birth control is a sin because God commanded Adam and Eve to "be fruitful and multiply". What I am saying is that all choices should be weighed in the light of scripture and from the perspective that God is the One who is in control of our lives. Whenever we make use of technology to do things that have historically been the province of God alone, we need to be very careful and very humble in so doing. There is certainly a time for making use of modern means and modern technological methods; in doing so, however, we should always appreciate that God is capable of doing anything regardless of our scientific prowess. As in medicine where, in my view, Christians should make use of it but realize that God is the One who is doing the healing (and not be afraid of death to the point of giving into fear so as to indulge in therapies which are beyond anything that makes any reasonable sense), so in all such issues we do have to face the fact that we live in the world as it is. As long as our faith is in God and not in ourselves or our technological means, and as long as our consciences are clear that what we are making use of is just another means God has provided, then we do well. To the extent that we are convicted of trusting in worldly things instead of in our Lord, then we need to reexamine our approach. On the one hand we ought not let misplaced guilt stop us from making use of all the legitimate means that have fallen to our lot by the grace of God; on the other hand we must never assume that we or our science are in any kind of control – for only God is in control.

Before the American Revolution, inoculation for smallpox was illegal in New England – because it was felt that such a procedure interfered with God's will expressed in disease (ridiculous). However, many of those who fought and defied this ban were or became deists – deifying reason and science over the true God and His Son our only Savior Jesus Christ (tragic). True Christians can certainly find the proper, biblical middle ground here, making use of reasonable technological means without investing said means with any power over their faith whatsoever: God remains in control whether we are using an ax or laser to do our cutting or using a pencil or a computer to do our writing.

As you can see, both of these areas are concerned with very personal matters which involve the application of truth to particular situations by individual believers, situations where only the persons directly involved can really know the details and be trusted to weigh them correctly. And while there are some things that may always be right and other things which may always be wrong (based upon what the Bible does say), for most such issues it is a question of conscience and personal application of the truth. As Paul tells us, it may be that those who are spiritually less mature about such things and whose consciences are "weak" will be offended and caused to stumble should they "eat meat", whereas those who are more mature may have no problem because they accept meat (and even meat sacrificed to idols) for what it is: a provision of God. The mature brother must not offend the weaker one and the weaker one must not be allowed to bully the more mature into hypocritical conduct (Rom.14:1-23; 1Cor.8:1-13; Col.2:16).

Where scripture is not specific, let your conscience, empowered by the Holy Spirit, be your guide, walking in love towards all others involved. In this way you will never stumble.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12: 

Dear Professor,

Please do take offence or by annoyed by the fact that I would like to ask you one more question regarding human sexuality. As you pointed yourself, a lot of teaching refers to these areas despite the scarcity of passages on this topic in the Bible. Moreover, having spent all my life in the RC church I'm now going through a stage where I need to question and very thoroughly reassess all the elements of my Christianity, as a lot of things I took for granted were true, turned out not to be.

I would like to ask your opinion on the nature of Onan's sin. The reason I'm asking is that a lot of RC church understanding of sexuality is based on this one instance. In this plethora of views and interpretations currently in circulation, I would like to know your view on this sin. The RC interpretation is that, apart from the spiritual wrongdoing and evil intension, Onan's sin was spilling his semen. Now the circumstances of Onan's disobedience are very clearly defined and the reasons for him being put to death are unambiguous, and that's why I came to question RC policy on the matter - God did not all of a sudden strike from above to terminate a man for spilling his semen, but rather disciplined a person who didn't fulfil his will. The much discussed spillage of semen could thus could thus be an act of no moral value attached to it, and hence shouldn't determine the nature of sexuality in marriage. Please correct me if my reasoning is wrong in this matter.

Response #12:  

Dear Friend,

On Onan, your assessment of the passage is precisely correct. Clearly, it takes a good deal of "reading in" to the passage to come up with the alternative interpretations often advanced. Many groups, not just the R.C. church, are happy to do so in order provide a cover of biblical authority for what they wish to teach. This passage in Genesis 38, in my view, deals with a unique and never again repeated situation, and thus cannot be used to build new doctrine about the biblical perspective on sexual relationships within a marriage – or anything else beyond the obvious fact that when God tells you to do something you had better do it and do it His way.
 

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