Barmy Super-Christians And Codswallop

Is it just me or does the Christian faith ever seem a bit complex and confusing? One of the greatest pitfalls that I see young Christians facing while attempting to adhere to “Christian standards” is that no two Christians maintain the same standards to be relevant. Every group of Christians that we run across holds to a set of moral standards, none of them are completely consistent with each other, and all of them sneer at either the stringency or the leniency of all the others. I think that it’s important that we as Christians periodically take a step back to examine our moral codes of ethics, comparing them against true biblical doctrine to see if they, in fact, hold water. It may be that If we are unwilling to do so, we risk forming our own sets of extra-biblical rules, attempting to base them on the Bible, and confusing the people around us who are watching to see if there is any relevancy to our claims.  Now understand that I am in no way against maintaining personal convictions which may be extra-biblical. The danger emerges when the Bible is referenced as a source for such personal preferences when these preferences are simply not based on biblical doctrine. In Matthew 15:9 Jesus called this activity, “Teaching as their doctrine the precepts of men”. The indication here is that extra-biblical rules being regarded as biblical doctrine even bothered Jesus, and according to Christian beliefs, He was God. Perhaps we should consider this seriously. I’m going to list some examples, not in effort to put anyone off or to make all of my readers, friends, and family angry. But instead to… Well, just for fun. Examples are bullet-pointed bellow.

  • “I don’t smoke because of my Christian faith. After all, my body is a temple of God, and I will not defile it. Hey, I’m feelin’ a Quarter Pounder, some greasy fries and a bucket of Coke! I’m already 40 pounds overweight, but who cares, let’s go!”

If this is you then really what you are concerned with is maintaining a “Christian” image. You base your moral animadversion against tobacco products on the Biblical idea that our bodies are a temple of The Lord and thus we must keep them healthy. Then you, at least to some degree (admit it), condemn people around you for smoking while you don’t condemn (or at least not to the same degree) others around you who are indulging in another unhealthy practice. The Bible says absolutely nothing against tobacco products specifically. What it does talk about is the importance of not defiling our bodies which are indeed His temple. Christians have rightly considered unhealthy habits to be one source of defilement. The problem emerges when Christians regard one unhealthy habit as somehow being worse, according to God’s standards, than another unhealthy habit.

  • “I am a woman who does not wear makeup because of my Christian faith. After all, the Bible mentions Ol’ Jezebel and her face painting and that’s condemnation enough for me.”

I think that there was more to Jezebel’s evil ways than “face painting”. This one is really funny to me because, in the story of Jezebel, the Bible never says anything against makeup. It simply mentions that she was wearing it. To say that the Bible’s mentioning Jezebel’s face painting is an indication of the sinful nature of painting one’s face is a little like saying that partaking of The Lord’s Supper is a sin because the Bible mentions that Judas did so. And he was a bad one.

  • “I give my pastor complete authority over what spouse I choose, what car I drive, what clothes I wear, how I spend my money, etc., because of my Christian faith.”

Really? Either explain the biblical basis for this or stop looking down your noses at everybody else who disregards what you consider to be a super Christian example, and labels it “legalistic horse crap”. Mmmm, a little harsh, huh? I’ll tone it down. I promise.

  • “I don’t drink because of my Christian faith.”

Did Jesus drink?

“Yes.”

This should end the discussion, but I’m aware that it simply never does.

  • “I believe that the Bible is the only acceptable work of literature because of my Christian faith; therefore, I only read the Bible rather than cluttering my mind with the simple opinions of others.”

Obviously, if you’re reading this, then you’re not one of these people. Nevertheless, remember that many books of the Bible were not initially written to be part of the Bible; they were added later. I believe that God knew as they were being written that these books would be used in His Bible, but the authors most likely didn’t know. Consider that, even though the books were not necessarily written to be part of the Bible, they were still written. And why do we write books? We write them because we expect people to read them. Thus we deduce that even the writers behind the Bible itself wrote and most likely read outside of the specific books of the Bible. Again, what did they know?

  • “I am a stay at home mom because of my Christian faith”.

What about the proverbs 31 woman? The proverbs 31 woman is one who does the following: Selects wool and flax and works with eager hands: She brings her food from afar: She gets up while it is dark and provides food for her family and servant girls: She buys a field and out of earnings plants a vineyard:  Her arms are strong for tasks, her trading is profitable.

Kind of hard to do all of that from the house don’t you think?

“Well, I didn’t say I was a Proverbs 31 woman. I said I was a Christian woman! And my faith compels me to stay at home.”

Now we’re getting somewhere! If this is a personal rule that you’ve set for yourself, great! Really. But regarding this personal rule as biblical doctrine which is set in stone spawns confusion for young Christians who are watching you closely, and are having a hard time finding any such standard in the Bible itself.

These were just a few examples that I could quickly think of. If I were to really think about it, I’m sure the list of examples would be endless (e.g., I only study out of the King James text: Hymns are the only form of worship songs approved by God: Wearing a ball cap in church is an abomination: Girls can’t wear pants: No PDA: No birth control: No dating: No coffee in the sanctuary: God likes darn better than damn: All truth can be found in the scriptures, etc.)

At this point, I can assume that many of you may be asking yourselves, “Wouldn’t it be better, if we are going to err on one side or the other, to err on the side of too legalistic rather than too lenient?” I used to work with a guy who believed this to be true. And perhaps I should admit that I do as well, but only if the erring is unintentional. It may be that while trying to interpret modesty for herself, a woman will err unintentionally to one side or the other, and erring toward a little too modest is probably better than erring toward a little too immodest. I could think of other for instances, but the point is that the woman’s erring, whether to one direction or the other is unintentional. She has not discovered for herself what may be the biblical standard for modesty and decided to turn it up a notch or two. Instead, she is simply on the path of discovery. Perhaps soon she will develop a better balance in this area. I think we lose balance when we read our Bibles and discover what it says about how we should dress, eat, speak, learn etc., and we determine that it is our Christian duty, in a sense, to outperform the Bible. Then we begin to intentionally develop a legalistic standard of living that transcends the example given by the Saints and even Christ!

TheDinkerson

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Raising Children From a Beginner’s Perspective

Stephanie and I have chosen to raise our children with high, but not unattainably high standards. Some of these standards might seem somewhat parochial, according to modern logic; nevertheless, we actually expect our children to adhere to them. Don’t misunderstand, when I say we expect them to adhere to our standards, I certainly don’t expect this to be accomplished without the occasional hiccup. Instead, our intention is to not lower the standards that we’ve set for our children simply because they fall short of achieving them a time or two. To lower the standards to something more achievable would not give our kids an accurate perspective of the “real world”. Lowering standards or changing rules to suit the needs of the rule breakers is not a common practice in the everyday life of a grown up, yet parents so often seem dead set on providing such conveniences for their children. Notice that no matter how many times we are caught speeding through a particular area, it seems the powers that be never even consider raising the speed limits to help compensate for our inability to adhere to the existing ones. If we arrive late for work a few days back to back, the boss never calls us into their office to discuss changing the time to something that would be better suited to our needs. Instead we are expected, even after failing once or twice, to eventually conform and live up to whatever standards are put before us. In this same way, should Stephanie and I some day catch our son Alek stealing, rest assured that our response will not be to lower our standards because, through his falling short of our standards, Alek has proven his inability to achieve them. Nor will our response be to keep our high standards, but determine that Alek is simply not capable of living up to our expectation of moral behavior. The appropriate response, should we find that Alek has been stealing or falling short of any standard that we might place for him, will be to sit him down and explain to him that he has done wrong, but that his wrongdoing does not make him a bad person; instead, his behavior has created a condition by which he must make right his wrong and leave it at that. He mustn’t dwell on his wrong doing and consider ways to steal the next time and not get caught, or consider ways to excuse it and perceive it as right. Instead he must own his wrong, believe that it was wrong, and turn his focus from the atrocity and back to the standard, which is still exactly where it was, unmoved. It seems that a Rousseauian influence has crept into many homes around the globe. When I say Rousseauian, I’m speaking of a modern philosophy edicting new standards of sexual liberty, neglect of discipline, compassion for rebellion, and a general acceptance that a fourteen year old is growing and maturing and therefore should be regarded as a fellow adult by her parents. All of these are considered by modernists to be important freedoms for an evolving generation of species, but really they are nothing more than examples of poor parental leadership. Leadership is one thing that is no longer held to a high standard because in a world where modernism rules, there is no existing standard to which one may hold leadership accountable. An obvious and surely overused example would be Bill Clinton. Upon hearing the news of his promiscuities, most of the world recoiled a bit and maybe even threw up a bit in our mouths. Then someone blurted the question, “What did he do that was so different from what any of us has done or at least been tempted to do at some point?” This question would only be valid if it held true that, when we are tempted to engage in an activity that was previously perceived as immoral, the activity suddenly becomes permissible, or justified once we grow comfortable enough with it. The president committed adultery while inhabiting the respected position of our nation’s leader, and then lied to us about his affair. It’s time we stop making excuses for our leadership and ourselves, and realize that the fact that a particular sin may have at some time been on our own plate doesn’t excuse or justify the sin or the sinner. Immorality does not find salvation in numbers or with familiarity. Now, remember that the president’s actions are still forgivable, only not justifiable. (More on the subject of forgiveness vs. justification in a  following paragraph)

I recently watched the Ron Howard film “Parenthood”. There are lots of great things I could say about the film, but in an effort to stay on course, I’ll only describe one scenario that pertains to the heart of this essay. In a compelling scene set in the nineties, an aged Woodstock flower child is depicted trying to figure out how to be a single mom of two rebellious teenagers. At one point in the film she manages to break into her thirteen year old son’s padlocked bedroom where she discovers the boy’s stash of violent, sadomasochistic porn. She becomes concerned for her son’s well being, and thus turns to her daughter’s nymphomaniac teen husband, Todd Higgins, for advice. Todd decides that it would be best to discuss the issue directly with the boy, and in the next scene we see Todd emerging from the boy’s bedroom to rest the worried mother assured that the boy is in no immediate psychiatric danger. He informs her that he put the boy at ease by letting him know that masturbating to porn is, “Just what little dudes do”. It comes as no surprise that we see the same thing happening in Hollywood that we see from our leadership in the White House. That is, condoning misbehavior rather than correcting it; “Hey, I did it when I was young so it can’t be that bad”. I have been tempted to use that same mentality with my own children. I have even been heard saying, “Alek will probably get into a lot of fights growing up. That is, after all, just what little dudes do.” When I said those words, I was really just attempting to trivialize my own shortcomings. By saying that fighting is just what boys do, I was excusing myself from any guilt of my immorality. Rather than dealing with the reality that I should have avoided fighting while growing up and accepting the fact that my sin has brought on many consequences and much heartache, I chose to excuse it by saying that not only did I fight, but so will Alek. Had I kept up that attitude, I would have been predisposing my child to a particular immoral behavior from my past that I was unwilling to deal with and seek forgiveness for. Here’s a challenge for all of us, no more making excuses for our shortcomings. Whether our sins involve lust, pornography, stealing, overeating, overspending, violence, dishonesty or any one of millions of other examples, let’s view them for what they are, own them, repent of them and continue striving for the standard, that of biblical morality. If we as parents are willing to do that, then will be assisting ourselves in coaching our children around the land mines that we trotted through at their age rather than sitting by and watching them make the same mistakes that we did, all the while excusing their immoral behavior as something that is “just what kids do.”

 

Christians have a slightly different way of wording their condonance of other’s sins. Often times Christians, in their theological ineptitude, will refer to justification as “forgiveness”, and they explain it away by saying that we should not judge (C. S. Lewis effectively communicates the distinction between justification and forgiveness in his short essay titled “Forgiveness”). This new doctrine of not making an animadversion on immorality, even if it kills us, is only an attempt to excuse our own equally unjustifiable behavior. Funny, I don’t remember Samuel in the Bible ever saying to Saul, when Saul disobeyed the Lord’s command and spared the king, “Who am I to judge you Saul? Heck, I might of done the same thing if I were you”. Instead, Samuel chopped the king’s head off and told Saul that his sin would have consequences that would affect entire generations. Then there was Nathan who told David that Bathsheba was just hot, and it would be difficult for any man not to commit adultery with her, and the murder that ensued was simply a byproduct of man’s gradual evolution and praescindere from his animalistic, territorial instincts. Obviously that was not how the story went. Christians, let’s read the Old Testament, and learn how God expects his people to function in society. Now that we have grown quite adept at justifying the misbehavior of our nation’s leaders and Hollywood’s finest, why stop there? This is where we come back to the subject of our children, yours and mine. Modernists claim that we are evolving. They also claim that the evolutionary process consistently yields improvements to the evolving species. Yet these same modernists allege that with each new and improved generation, our children become increasingly less likely to make good, sound, moral choices. Should our response to this obvious paradox be to lower the standards for our children in hopes that their more evolved generation could more easily achieve a standard that is less rigid? This seems an absurd notion, but I can’t tell you how many of my students have told me that their parents have informed them that they are incapable of making good choices when it comes to sex, given them condoms and told them to hope for the best. These students wonder aloud why their parents have so little faith in them. Of course, I’ve never told them that this may be their parents’ way of excusing their own shortcomings. There is a tendency to reason that if we as parents were unable to make good choices in the area of our sexuality, whether in thought or in action, then certainly our children will be as hopeless as we were. Only, we were not hopeless. The Lord promises to provide a way out of every misguiding temptation. That we may have failed to notice the exit door doesn’t doom our children, thank God, to being so blind as we were.

How might things change for our children if we were willing to own up to the fact that our breaking the law was inexcusable, our adultery was immoral, and our overindulgence was damaging? What would happen if we stopped making excuses for our misbehavior and began discouraging our children from making the same mistakes we made. Think about it, do you really expect your children to not smoke? Probably so if you don’t smoke: probably not if you do. Consider this, your willingness to observe your own trespasses against moral standards could be the very thing needed to break the generational pattern of a particular behavior. Our view of our own moral behavior affects our expectations of our children’s moral behavior, and our expectation of their moral behavior is the influence that molds that behavior either closer to, or further from the biblical standard of morality.

Nathan Gray