Category Archives: Being Intellectually Virtuous

The Little Redheaded Girl and Relativism: Senator Portman and Same Sex Attractions

AP120523044556Below is a large portion of the text from the article, GOP senator reverses gay-marriage stance after son comes out, (Yahoo News: The Ticket, March 15, 2013).

A prominent conservative senator said on Thursday that he now supports gay marriage.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, told reporters from the Columbus Dispatch and other Ohio newspapers that his change of heart on the hot-button issue came two years after his son, Will, told him and his wife that he is gay.

“It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that’s of a Dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have—to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years,” Portman said.

In an interview with CNN, Portman said his son, then a freshman at Yale University, told him “that he was gay, and that it was not a choice, and that it’s just part of who he is, and that he’d been that way for as long as he could remember….”

He also told CNN that he sought guidance from former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter Mary is gay.

Portman said Cheney’s advice to him was simple: “Follow your heart.”

This report of Senator Portman’s reasoning on same sex marriage is so simplistic, it is almost unbelievable that we are entrusting this man to make decisions for our country. First, if his basis for a “new perspective” on a national issue with moral implications only considers a limited personal experience – Portman’s marriage – and a positive value judgment on it, then he is admitting that he cannot separate biased personal feelings from political decision-making. Yet he also is admitting that he has no objective basis for making decisions of this type or magnitude.

Second, if Portman believes his son has been “that way” since childhood, he is not able to discern the difference between the confused, private urgings of a child and the moral choices of an adult who chooses to participate in homosexual behavior. Yes, many members of the homosexual community claim to have had same-sex urgings for as long as they can remember – for almost as long as I have been African American – and that not by any choice of their own. However, I would hope a man who is responsible for participating in our democracy’s lawmaking would consider that if his son had spoken of his “way” to his parents when he a child, then he might have been able to help his son distinguish between immature confusion about primary age infatuation and what it means to be “gay.” Certainly Portman does not think his son desired to participate in acts of intercourse at the age of four. Instead, if the son had expressed his feelings and thoughts to dad at that age, and if the thoughts had been toward a four year old girl, Senator Portman probably would have thought, “That’s cute, son,” and not, “Son that’s a gross thought for someone your age!” He might have communicated to his son that it is natural to look at “the Little Red-Headed Girl,” as did Charlie Brown. But he would not have communicated, “Well son, it’s not too early for us to talk about safe sex.”

safe_image.phpThird, are we to believe that one with Senator Portman’s stewardship makes decisions by following his heart alone, and that he sees this as wisdom? I will give the senator the benefit of the doubt: What Senator Portman means is that he should follow his heart once he is past his initial feelings of shock (and maybe even some feelings of disappointment, rejection, embarrassment, and anger). Otherwise he would have made a very impulsive, possibly regrettable, decision. I hope, however, that he would follow his mind also, before he makes a policy decision based on emotional and/or physical urgings alone. But it seems that the senator is going to follow in the train of his son, rather than lead our country intelligently, and with prudence.

I guess I should be grateful that Senator Portman’s son does not want to give military aid to North Korea or marry a warthog.

Related Resource: Relativism: Feet Planted Firmly in Mid-Air

The Most Widely Misunderstood and Misrepresented Supreme Court Opinion of All Time

From Justin Taylor’s blog: The Most Widely Misunderstood and Misrepresented Supreme Court Opinion of All Time.

Francis Beckwith, author of the important and learned Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007), writes:

It is no exaggeration to say that no U.S. Supreme Court opinion has been more misunderstood and has had its arguments more misrepresented in the public square than Roe v. Wade (1973). There seems to be a widespread perception that Roe was a moderate opinion that does not support abortion on demand, i.e., unrestricted abortion for all nine months for virtually any reason. . . .

In order to fully grasp the reasoning of Roe, its paucity as a piece of constitutional jurisprudence, and the current state of abortion law, this article looks at three different but interrelated topics: (1) what the Court actually concluded in Roe; (2) the Court’s reasoning in Roe; and (3) how subsequent Court opinions, including Casey v. Planned Parenthood, have shaped the jurisprudence of abortion law.

You can read online the whole analysis: “The Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade, and Abortion Law.”

For shorter summaries of the serious flaws in the legal reasoning, see Beckwith’s blog posts on (1) The Court’s Failure to Address the Question of the Unborn’s Moral Status, and (2)The Court’s Two Unwarranted Stipulations.

The President’s Expression of Christian Hope

Obama-speaks-at-Newtown-vigil-2-on-stage-jpg“Thank you, Governor. To all the families, first responders, to the community of Newtown, clergy, guests, scripture tells us, ‘Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly, we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all, so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven not built by human hands.’”

(Text of President Obama’s Speech at Newtown, Connecticut memorial service, December 16, 2012, quoting 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1 (NIV [2011]).

I have been an outspoken critic of the apparent disconnect between President Obama’s professed Christian belief and his actions as President. The President has given his support to same-sex marriage, which clearly violates Scripture’s prohibitions against homosexuality and disregards the Divinely established institution of heterosexual marriage. Arguably he is the most pro-choice President in modern history, showing no regard for the sacredness of the lives of the unborn or the Sixth Commandment’s, “You shall not murder.” Moreover, he rarely participates in a public worship service unless it is related to a national event.

However, last night, during his speech in Newtown, Connecticut, the President did something different: He maintained his Presidential responsibility to comfort the country in a time of national tragedy while also expressing a Christian vision of hope. Three things stood out.

First, President Obama opened his speech quoting Paul’s hope of the “eternal weight of glory” eclipsing the suffering of this life. This is different than quoting The Golden Rule while hollowing out the rest of the teachings of Christ. By referencing the 2 Corinthians passage, the President offered an apostolic view of suffering and hope as the means by which he is making sense of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. To suggest that the deaths of more than a score of 6 – 7 year olds at the hands of a deranged gunman poses “a momentary and light affliction” for their parents, that community, or the nation, is a view that is uniquely Christian. To anyone else, such belief should seem ludicrous at best and completely insensitive at worst.

Second, the President litters much of his speech with references to Christian concepts of depravity and redemption. Consider this paragraph:

“As a community, you’ve inspired us, Newtown. In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you’ve looked out for each other. You’ve cared for one another. And you’ve loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered, and with time and God’s grace, that love will see you through.”

Inserting “God’s grace” proclaims to the Newtown citizens that human effort alone is not sufficient to provide the strength necessary to return to a sense of normalcy in the future. The President returns to this idea later in the speech:

“We know our time on this Earth is fleeting. We know that we will each have our share of pleasure and pain, that even after we chase after some earthly goal, whether it’s wealth or power or fame or just simple comfort, we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped. We know that, no matter how good our intentions, we’ll all stumble sometimes in some way.

We’ll make mistakes, we’ll experience hardships and even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.”

The allusions to Romans 3:23 and James 3:2 also are unmistakable as we “fall short” and “all stumble” while trying to discern “God’s heavenly plans.” Later in the speech, in this sovereign plan, the President says God also “calls [the slain children] home.” Rather than grasping for the ubiquitous “rest in a better place” rhetoric, President Obama pulls his understanding of death from Christian themes.

Third, the President directly quoted Jesus as a historical figure. What he did not say is important: He did not say, “The Bible says that Jesus said,” possibly suggesting Jesus is a literary figure of the Christian textual tradition. Instead, he said “‘Let the little children come to me,’ Jesus said, ‘and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven,’” drawing upon Matthew 19:14. For our Comforter in Chief, the slaughtered children landed in the arms of Christ.

In spite of making one mention of “all the world’s religions,” the President left no option of eternal hope or life after death through any other religious schemes or houses of worship. He risked offending every Muslim, Jew, and atheist. Yet he provided powerful words of comfort for the entire listening audience – and he did so by looking to heaven through Christ.

I recognize that the rest of the speech is typical, full of the common condolences the American people have come to expect and respect in the wake of national tragedies. I also know that these remarks might not reflect a full working of the Gospel in the heart and mind of President Obama. Yet itis a good start, and a welcomed sign of Christian-like convictions. I only pray and hope that this will be a sign of the influence of Christ in all that the President will do the next four years.

May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ bring the great comfort of heaven to the families and community of Newtown, Connecticut who lost their loves ones during last’s week’s tragic and senseless act of violence.

 

 

The 2013 Calvin Reading Group

Reblogging, from Lumbering Brown:  The 2013 Calvin Reading Group.

November 16, 2012 by Aaron

I spoke on the phone yesterday with Bliss Spillar IV, with whom previously I had only limited but encouraging interaction with over Twitter and Facebook. He’s the kind of man you only have to talk to once to know he has great enthusiasm for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and a love for the people in his community. He is a self-professed “Jack of all Trades and Master of Few”, assistant to the lead pastor at Portico Churchblogger, as well as theActs29 Network coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic region. And pertaining to this post, he is the organizer of the upcoming 2013 Calvin Reading Group. Bliss was both grateful and surprised to have discovered that his webpage, which is dedicated to this reading group, was featured among the link list (“Right Now“, Nov. 14th) on the Gospel Coalition. I was too. It’s great that this reading group is getting some exposure, and I hope to proliferate that exposure by blogging about it.

I spoke with Bliss because he had accidentally been kicked out of his own Facebook group. He subsequently made me an admin so I could allow him back in. Feeling like I should at least talk to the brother, I obtained his number and gave him a ring. My involvement now is only as an administrator on the group’s Facebook page. However, I plan to be participating in our future, online Google hangouts (facilitated by Bliss), and chronicling the group’s progression here on my blog.

As any one of the three people who read Lumbering Brown, or anyone who knows me otherwise would attest to, I am the most milquetoast and understated advocate of Reformed theology (summarily referred to as Calvinism). Irony intended. On January 1st, I will be joining the growing flock of Christians who desire community, interaction, accountability and mutual-edification, as we endeavor to read through one of the greatest and most influential pieces of literature in the history of Christian theology: John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.

For anyone new to the Reformed tradition, anyone for or against Calvinism, anyone who has been Reformed all of their lives, or anyone simply curious, I encourage you to join. Make sure you check out Bliss’ blog for details.

A Helpful Resource (so I hear):

Greg Forster is interviewed by Justin Taylor about his book, “The Joy of Calvinism.” Admittedly, I haven’t read the book. But it is sitting on one of our shelves, dog-eared from both my wife’s reading and the one person to whom she had lent it. I’ve heard nothing but good about it.

I will post other resources from my own bookshelf in the months to come.

Deepening the Next Generation: The New Macedonia Baptist Church Family Conference 2012

The New Macedonia Baptist Church in Northeast Washington, DC, kindly invited me to lead a workshop at their Family Conference 2012 entitled, “Big Truths for Little Kids—Preparing the Next Generation to Advance the Kingdom of God.” In the workshop I speak on the benefit of using historic catechisms in order to discuss the truths of Scriptures with our children daily. I wish that I could convince all Christian parents to do such. Part of the intent of the historic catechisms is to train families in the faith so that children will continue in the practice of the faith as part of their daily lives. This would be repeated over and over again in successive generations.

I gave examples of how to utilize the catechism from Starr Meade’s, Training Heats, Teaching Minds (P&R). I have found this work extremely beneficial in bringing my own children along in the faith, or, as our church covenant says, “[educating] religiously our children.” As noted in the class, once we do the daily reading of the catechism, the devotional help by Meade, and the reading of the Scriptures, my children ask all of the questions. Much of what I do is facilitate a discussion about the truth. As a parent, you do not need to know all Biblical and theological things in order to lead your children to deepen in their faith. You simply need grace from Christ to pray and be faithful.

This year the Redmonds’ used the Heidelberg Catechism for the first time, after many years of using the Westminster Shorter Catechism. We almost have finished the entire Heidleberg. I also would recommend it for daily family times centered around the word of God.

If you need more argument for the importance of daily teaching of our children the truths of the faith, I would recommend J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett’s, Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old Fashioned Way (Baker). If your real fear in training your children is that you do not know enough Bible and theology to answer potential questions from them (and your real problem is not that you simply do not wish to make the effort to faithfully meet with your family responsibly – cf. Dt. 4:9; 6:1-9; 11:19; Psalm 78:1-8; Eph. 6:4; 2 Tim. 3:15), I would recommend too Packer’s, Growing in Christ, Concise Theology, 18 Words, and the Knowing God Devotional Journal. You could make each of these works part of your own daily, personal Bible study for all of 2013. You would greatly increase in your knowledge of God in Christ, and your joy in him, by giving only fifteen minutes a day to such an endeavor. Your family and your church will benefit greatly from your growth too. I would recommend these works also for those who have no children to raise, but simply wish to grow more in the faith.

Misunderstanding Calvinism? A Very Lively (and Sometimes Ugly) Facebook Exchange

Recently there was a very lively exchange on my Facebook page about Calvinism. I will reproduce the conversation for you here, removing unrelated comments:

ME: Just completed my first church meeting at my new church home! Even my Presbyterian and CHBC friends would have been impressed. I only have seen as much love in a church meeting at Reformation Alive Baptist Church.

FB Friend1: Hm-m, I’ve never seen love at a reformed church; only coldness and pride.

FBF1: But since Calvinists deny that Jesus died for most people, then I can see why I haven’t found love at a Reformed church.

FBF2: That’s interesting. I go to a Reformed church and it is one of the most loving and caring places I’ve been in. I think it’s kind of cold and prideful to judge a church based on past experiences.

ME: (FBF1), may I apologize for my cold brethren? Calvinists should be the holiest, happiest, most humble, and most grateful people in the world. A simple reading of Tit. 3:1-8 should lead any Calvinist to the greatest humility. If you are ever in DC, come experience loads of love at New Canaan Baptist Church. I have been blessed by real love at this church.

FBF1: LOL. They sure do pride themselves on their humility…and everything else. :) That’s their downfall. “He who exalts himself will be humbled.” Indeed. :)

ME: (FBF1), not “they,” but “some.” :-)

FBF1: All 5 pt. Calvinists and “all’ means “all” like Jesus being the Savior of ALL men. ;) 1 Tim. 4:10. :)

ME: (FBF1), that’s funny! But not all Calvinists are proud; not one believer is as meek as Jesus.

FBF1: Sorry, Eric, but any group of people who disagrees with God that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world are ruled by pride because they think they know better than God does.

FBF1: So stay away from the Reformed church. What they’re showing you is not real love any more than any cult shows true love even though the cult members see it as love.

ME: (FBF1), that would be pride! But I have met many, many humble and loving Calvinists. I am sorry you have met proud Calvinists.

FBF1: Eric, they are preaching a false gospel. Since they deny that Jesus died for most people, they can’t even preach repentance or salvation! And since they don’t know who Jesus DID die for then they can’t preach repentance to ANYONE without lying to most people. But that’s what heresy does; it backfires on the heretics the most. So just stick to the bible, Eric. You seem like a great guy and I don’t want to see you brainwashed. take care. :)

FBF3: (FBF1), Calvinists neither deny that Jesus is the Savior of all, nor do they deny that he is especially the Savior of all who believe (1 Tim. 4:10). Calvinists understand that everyone’s salvation depends on God’s kindness, philanthropy, mercy and grace, not on works of righteousness which we have done (Titus 3:3-7). This divine initiative kills our pride, so that our boast is in God alone, and we walk humbly with God and others.

ME: Thanks, (FBF1), for your loving concern for me! I am grateful. I will try not to get brainwashed. I will stay open to views and opinions of others with discernment but not rigidity. I am glad Jesus died for us. I will stay aware of the sort of Calvinist you mentioned. May the Lord grant you a chance to run into one who loves people with the love of Christ. Blessings!

FBF4: (FBF1), what ‘Calvinists’ have YOU been in contact with? What you describe is a strawman (at least in terms of theology and evangelism). I’ve been Reformed for a bit o’ 12 years now and I’ve met arrogant Calvinists, arrogant and argumentative non-Calvinists who seek out Calvinists to argue with, as well as humble folk who only seek to know and do what the scriptures say we are to do and believe.

FBF1: Let’s see, CH Spurgeon, AW Pink, John Piper, John MacArthur, and every other 5 pt. Calvinist who denies that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. I’ve already blocked hundreds of them on FB. :)

FBF1: But like all cults, Calvinists love their false teachers because their teachers are the one[s] who gave them that false gospel because the bible says the opposite. :) But actually, it’s not a “gospel” at all that they preach because the word “gospel” means good news. And it’s definitely NOT good news to claim that Jesus didn’t love most people. :)

FBF4: Yet, you have Eric, Mark Dever, Justin Taylor and others on your friends list. LOL. Have a nice night (FBF1). Methinks you’re kidding around. LOL

FBF5: (FBF1), your rant should have ended with Prof. Redmond’s 1st or 2nd Response… now you are becoming a stumbling block and offending people…. aside from the issue of doctrine.

FBF6: Wow!! Read the dialogue and still I’m taken back a few steps. 5 point Calvinism I guess you gave in on that fifth point? If that’s what I’m taking from the dialogue.

FBF7: “He who is spiritual” is the one who seeks his brother’s repentance. He who is angry has their own plank to repent of… I suppose the shock of some at Limited Atonement causes many to bristle up. However, to be unloving and to call people names and at the same time to call a whole group of people unloving, generalizing them, is inconsistent. Hatred in the heart is murder (FBF1). Smug smiley faces don’t help either. Truthfully, everyone limits the atonement except for Universalists, either in its intent or in its application. I don’t know if or where (FBF1) may have gone to seminary, but pray for her, that she would see the truth and that the love of God would bring her to love her fellow man. (FBF1), I forgive you. You obviously don’t understand what Calvinists believe.

FBF1: (FBF4), I have MANY on my friend list to witness to.:) Calvinists and other false teachers need to hear the truth from SOMEONE! So as usual, a Calvinist has made a false judgment. :)

FBF1: I’m becoming a stumbling block to false teachers, (FBF5). So far not ONE person besides me has discussed what Scripture says about what Calvinists believe because most people don’t care if they blaspheme God; they’re just out to defend themselves, not Scripture. Like the Pharisees, one of the mottos of Calvinists is; “Let’s defend ourselves, not Scripture.” :) And you guys are only confirming that. :)

FBF8: (FBF1) — sister (assuming you are a sister in Christ), this is one of the most unloving, wrongly aggressive, fight-picking series of comments I’ve ever read on FB. I would encourage you to repent of this ungodly insistence on being “right” on a matter that sincere, Bible-believing Christians have disagreed on for the last 1,60 years. I would think this is one of the very things you would accuse Calvinists of.

FBF1: Well, since it’s not a sin to correct and rebuke people who blaspheme God, (FBF8) (2 Tim. 3:16), I have nothing to repent for. :) The people who should repent are the ones who could care less about what Scripture says but only seek flattery and praise. That would be the ones on here who are angry that I exposed the heresy of Calvinism. But at least I haven’t called them snakes and a brood of vipers yet like Jesus called the Pharisees, but I probably will if I listen to them defend their blasphemy any longer. So I’ll bow out from this thread now. Good day. :)

FBF5: The thing about it was that I did not see Prof. Redmond claim the attributes you prescribed to a Calvinist, so why defend something he does not endorse. I’m not a Calvinist so I’m not speaking on it. I’m purely speaking on your approach, which isn’t helping anyone on this post. As you can see they have rejected your words; might I say it is probably because they are w/o salt.

FBF9: Its interesting that this post was about a man rejoicing in the unity that he experienced in a church meeting, which is a sign of the presence on the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the comment stream is a sign that there will always be opposition even when there’s unity.

FBF1 de-friended me on Facebook immediately after the exchange.

Calvinism often takes a bad rap, and sometimes it is deserved. The theology is God-honoring, but we, the ardent supporters, sometime display that we all are sinful people when we are arguing for Calvinism’s precious truths. How grateful, therefore, I am for Kenneth Stewarts’, Ten Myths About Calvinism. (Kenneth graciously signed a copy for me while I was visiting Covenant College this past week.) Ken addresses several of the concerns that contribute to wrongful ideas about Calvinism. Earlier this year I noted how helpful is Greg Forster’s, The Joy of Calvinism, in this same vein.

I think it is important to give a fair hearing to positions we oppose by reading primarily literature by those holding the opposing view(s). If you have been wounded by a Calvinistic congregation, a self-proclaiming Calvinist, or the way in which Calvinist theology has been taught, I would encourage you to read about the richness of this tradition from its own writers. Then evaluate it on its own merits, and on whether or not your experience is reflective of what Calvinism actually teaches. Please also forgive my fellow Calvinists and me where we have erred in our treatment of you and others. I am sorry for our lack of love on some occasions.

Listed below are several other works I have found helpful for explaining Calvinism (but not Calvinists):

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God

Charity and Its Fruits

For Calvinism

Whosoever He Wills

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Killing Calvinism

Here is a helpful way to whether Calvinism teaches what Scripture teaches:

1. Year 1: Read through the whole of Scripture over the course of a year, while working with a solid devotional on Scripture, and working through a confession like the Westminster or Westminster Shorter.

2. Year 2: Follow that year by working through the whole of Scripture for another year, while also working with a solid devotional on Scripture, and work through Calvin’s Institutes (with a reading plan, and some encouragement).

3. Year 3: Take a third year to work through the whole of Scripture for another year, while working with a solid devotional on Scripture, rereading the Institutes, and working through one book of the Bible utilizing one of Calvin’s commentaries (like Psalms or Acts). I would suggest you work through a book from which your Pastor is preaching that year so that you do not feel overwhelmed by too much study.

Posts Related to African American Culture for my Friends at Covenant College

This week I had the joy of speaking on, “The Advancing Gospel and Cultural Conflicts,” for Covenant College’s Global Gospel Advancement Week. Covenant is an outstanding school. I am grateful for their invitation, hospitality, and an overall gracious visit.

The links below are to some blog posts and other articles reflective of my attempts to interact with culture – African American culture in particular – as a Christian, as I mentioned before my Friday morning talk. For members of the Covenant community who are looking for my book that makes an attempt at cultural apologetics and evangelism toward the skepticisms of African American men, please click on the book cover in the right margin, or the “Where Are All the Brothers?” tab at the top of the page. Also, my social media contact links are listed.

Covenant, may your tribe increase! Thank you for a great week.

On Culture

No Rights on Maryland Question 6

Julian Bond is Wrong on Same Sex Marriage

Atheism Behind the Black Church Veil

Reaching Men: Culture, Church, and the Gospel

Obama, Gay Marriage, and the Black Church Vote

The President’s Church Dilemma

The Gray Matter of African American Syncretism: Giving Honor to the King of Pop

How Can Any Christian African American Vote for Obama? Throwing the Race Card on an All Black Table

Living Soli Deo Gloria Under Obama

Review of John: St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary (Reformation Trust), by R. C. Sproul, Themelios 35.2:302-304 (See the last two paragraphs.)

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No Rights on Maryland Question 6

Question 6 may be the most important issue in the upcoming Maryland election. Its passage would be the first victory on referendum for same sex marriage in the country. An electorate’s support of the legislation would mean a swell in the tide against traditional marriage for our nation. All other institutions in Maryland would be radically harmed too, for the family affects all structures in society.

In an effort to help to the passage of Question 6 find more success this season than the hometown baseball team, Julian Bond has stepped in as designated hitter. The well-known activist is playing Civil Rights Leader-in-Chief on the issue, framing the question as just another of the many rights issues to which he has given his whole life to fighting. While there are moral problems associated with framing same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue, it is not immoral for a rights activist to side with a platform generically framed as a rights issue.

It is hypocritical, however, for a member of the clergy to side with such an issue, because this issue conflicts with the tenants of the Christian faith. The role of the cleric is to follow sacred Scripture, regardless of how disparate its teachings are with societal norms. Differing with societal norms is the nature of sacred Scripture, as it beholds the norms of what Augustine termed, “The City of God.”

Historically, the one called to proclaim the word of the Lord often found himself in jeopardy by being at odds with the general population and heads of states. The Hebrew prophets Moses and Jeremiah were among those who preached against oppression and other moral evils at the threat of their lives. The evangelist John the Baptist lost his head for not looking the other way at King Herod’s adulterous act. Many other preachers have encountered imprisonment, even martyrdom, for preaching the truth when society at large needed a moral corrective. The Twenty First Century preacher’s task has not changed, even when most of society has sought to broaden the definition of marriage beyond Scripture’s “male and female.”

In recent TV commercials, Maryland pastors Delman Coates and Donté Hickman indicate that their support for Question 6 concerns the equal and fair treatment of all by the State. “I wouldn’t want someone denying my rights based on their religious views, [therefore] I shouldn’t deny others’ based on mine,” these ministers say. They also erroneously propose that Question 6 is about “protecting religious freedom.”

The men and women who make up the General Assembly have religious views that contribute to their decision-making processes. The current prevailing view on Question 6 is that government and religion should remain in separate spheres. In general, religion should have no contribution to public policy, and religious views are simply value-based judgments. Those holding this view do not take into consideration the grounding of many Christian beliefs in historical facts, and that Christianity’s arguments for truth have held up to intellectual and academic scrutiny for many centuries prior to the signing of the first law in Maryland until now. The moral codes of the church are therefore being dismissed and denied by Maryland officials based on the majority’s preference to keep religion away from the legislative conclusions of the General Assembly.

By Hickman and Coates’ reasoning, this is not fair to Marylanders. Support of Question 6 undermines any religious freedom supposedly protected by this law. In voicing their support of this Question, the two clergymen saw off the moral and civil branches on which we all sit.

Moreover, contemporary society has no need for members of the clergy to sanction popular opinion. A plethora of professional pundits, bloggers, comedians, scholars, and politicians fulfill that role. Rather, the City of Man needs members of the clergy to be the voice of God within a culture. If the public square is not the appropriate place to discuss moral matters from a religiously exclusivist perspective, and the parish pulpit continues to acquiesce to this postmodern philosophy, soon there will be no place to voice an alternate moral view. Thoughtful Marylanders, and all Americans, should see how this too would be neither fair nor right.

Related post: Julian Bond is Wrong on Same-Sex Marriage and Two Ads Marylanders Need to Watch

Related resource: D. A. Carson, The Intolerance of Tolerance (Crossway).

Atheism Behind the Veil

The Gospel Coalition graciously posted my article on the growth of atheism within the African American community. The original title was “Atheism Behind the Veil,” of which you might recognize the reference to The Souls of Black Folk. The published title was an editorial choice.

________________________________

ERIC REDMOND|10:00 PM CT

Atheists Behind the Black Church Veil

Statistics on the religious beliefs of African Americans are part of Western cultural literacy. Many are familiar with the findings that reveal African Americans to be among the most religious ethnic group in America, largely holding a particular Christian expression of belief. In 2009, the Barna Group found that “blacks were the group most likely to be born again Christians (59 percent, compared to a national average of 46 percent) and were the ethnic segment most likely to consider themselves to be Christian (92 percent did so, versus 85 percent nationally).”

Mark Hatcher at an anniversary event for African Americans for Humanism in Washington.

Similarly, in 2011, Barna examined 15 years of religious beliefs among Americans and found that African Americans are “the segment that possesses beliefs most likely to align with those taught in the Bible.” Specifically, African Americans were more likely than other segments to say that they believe that God is “the all-knowing, all-powerful, and perfect Creator of the universe who still rules the world today,” and were the most likely to engage in church-centric activities, and to read the Bible other than at church events during a typical week. According to Barna’s research, African Americans are only half as likely as either whites or Hispanics to be unchurched. Therefore, the announcement of the report justifiably noted, “From the earliest days of America’s history, a deep-rooted spirituality has been one of the hallmarks of the black population in the country. . . [and] the passage of time has not diminished the importance of faith in the lives of African Americans.

Growing Atheism

It might seem anomalous to turn from the pages of that report to find that there is a growing atheistic movement within the African American community. Local chapters of organized African American atheistic groups are appearing in major American cities. There are vocal activists for this atheism, including comedians and journalists. Rice University professor of humanities and religious studies Anthony Pinn and Harvard University professor of African and African American studies and of philosophy Tommie Shelby also lend their intellectual muscle to the movement through their writings.

Although equal to its white counterpart in its denial of the possibility of and need for a Divine Being, African American atheism differs in its object of attack from “The New Atheism.” Whereas Richard Dawkins positions science against Christian belief and the late Christopher Hitchens attacked Christians’ claim of God being “good,” African American atheism directs its “no-Creator” tirade at the character of the black church and history of African Americans.

The popular discussion has two primary foci. The first is to suggest that many within the African American community have participated in the Christian faith because “going to church” is a cultural expression of this community. To go against this expression in ages past would have brought the sort of ostracism previously experienced by African American homosexuals. African American atheists tend to employ the “coming out of the closet” language when speaking of sharing their humanist conversion experiences with their family members.

The second focus is the black church itself—or its iniquities. While the church plays a prominent role in the lives of African Americans, the community shows signs of disaster in almost all other social indicators, including education, wealth and poverty, unemployment, marriage, and crime. Thus, the evangelists of African American atheism can point to an apparent absence of divine power among the black church’s ardent followers, and thus an absence of a deity.

In contrast, the academic discussion attacks long-held scholarly and popular consensus concerning the place of the church in the success of the African American community. Accurately, the African American atheists demonstrate that many people of prominence in the African American community (from its inception in antebellum period to the present) gave deference to the church for utilitarian purposes—for the sake of the liberation and empowerment of a people given to religion. The images we have of the civil rights movement anchoring itself in fiery worship services and community gatherings in churches local to the nearest protest march mask the quiet internal compromises many of the non-religious made for the sake of uniting with the massive cause for justice.

Pefect Conditions

Just as many discover this anti-Christian organism, it already has evolved into a fully grown system fighting for its place alongside of the church in the lives of African Americans and American society. Observably, a few factors within the African American community have created the perfect conditions for its appearance. Heterosexual marriage is on the decline; as Joy Jones recognized, some African Americans even view marriage as a white institution.  Single African American women are asking whether the church is contributing to their singleness and loneliness, due to the church’s high standards for sexual purity and low numbers of single African American men. Following the majority culture, homosexuality is accepted as a family member within the African American community, with many church leaders acting as advocates. Finally, the internet gives African American atheism a powerful communication tool for unifying the movement and preaching its platform.

The non-believers behind W. E. B. Du Bois’s veil are correct on one part of their historical analysis: Atheistic tares have grown in the fields home to the Negro spirituals and gospel music, the SCLC, the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., and the founding of many historically black colleges and universities. Yet the inference they draw from this reality is incorrect. The historical presence of atheists of color does not invalidate the black church’s role as the uniting force in the survival of the African American community.

While some sought the resources of the church for political gain or “the greater good” of an oppressed people, this is not true for the majority. Many members of today’s black church attend because their parents, who introduced them to Christ and the church, are believers—believers themselves who are the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren of slaves and freedmen who went to church because they believed in a God who would free them from slavery just as he freed the children of Israel from Egypt. My grandfather, great-grandfathers, and great-great grandfathers, all humble, land-owning (but not well-to-do) farmers, had no ambitions or motives for being churchgoers other than to please Christ, their faithful Lord. The same could be said for the faith of millions of African Americans who preached, prayed, sang, and gave their monies so that their children might follow in the faith as free members in the land of the free.

The African American community, at large, however, still presents a huge mission field ripe for the gospel. The statistics on attendance can be misleading: Attendance should not be equated with conversion, spiritual maturity, biblical literacy, or theological knowledge. Believers should pray for God’s mercy upon unbelievers inside and outside of the black church’s pews. If the Lord is merciful to us, maybe the atheists, too, will be converted.

 

Eric C. Redmond is the author of Where Are All the Brothers? Straight Answers to Men’s Questions About the Church (Crossway). He is executive pastoral assistant and Bible professor in residence at New Canaan Baptist Church in Washington, DC.

Two Ads Marylanders Need to Watch and Then Act to Defeat Questions 6 and 7

Maryland voters need to go to the voter’s booth to defeat Questions 6 and 7. As a citizen, I hope to defeat all attempts to redefine marriage, and all attempts to harm Maryland families and the economy by expanding gambling in the state. I am grateful for the ads pushing for the defeat of these two questions.

It saddens me that there are members of the clergy in Maryland who are voicing support for the redefinition of marriage when such redefinition stands in contrast to Scripture. Let’s be clear on what we see in Scripture: Paul and the church push for the welcoming of people of all ethnicities–of all races as the church expands across Asia and Europe (Acts 11:17-18; Gal. 3:28; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 2:19; 3:6). These same believers stood against all forms of homosexuality as that same church – that church open to the inclusion of all races – expanded throughout the world (1 Tim. 1:10). To the early church and its leaders, showing preference to a race goes against the work of Christ in the atonement; Christ died so that people of any race could be accepted in him without the need to change their ethnic or racial identity. Thus, race is not an issue of sin. Yet the work of Christ to cleanse his bride demands that one be separated from homosexual activity as those justified and sanctified in Christ (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Homosexuality is sin, and no member of the clergy who names Christ as Lord should vote in favor of giving rights that affirm such sinfulness.

Ad against Question 6

 

Ad against Question 7