Every person experiences feelings of guilt over sinful actions and choices, and every person responds to those feelings in some way. The Bible explains that a Christian response to guilt over sinful actions ought to be rooted in faith and repentance. Faith is trust in the promise of grace in Jesus the Christ as an all-sufficient Savior. Repentance is the other side of the coin of faith and is the change of mind turning from sin and toward Christ. In other words, I have been completely wrong, and the gospel of Jesus Christ is completely right and my only hope. There is an initial act of faith and repentance at the moment of conversion, but, after that, the process of faith and repentance constitutes a daily discipline—the Christian’s lifestyle—and a path to joy thereafter according to Psalm 32.
The applications below arose from a study of Psalm 32 (You can read Psalm 32 here). Consider the ways we often attempt to avoid gospel repentance and the pattern of genuine gospel repentance.5 Vain Responses to Guilt that Avoid Gospel Repentance
Blaming others, circumstances, and God for causing your actions. There is always an external reality that made your actions virtually inevitable.
Explaining your actions away by assuring yourself that you are better than many others.
Numbing yourself to your actions by medicating with something external to you: drugs, alcohol, achievement, power, success, etc.
Tear others down in an attempt to make you feel better about yourself and your actions.
Attempting to atone for your actions by self-harm or feeling really, really bad and counting yourself worthless.
Acknowledge your sinful actions specifically and daily.
It is not enough to go to God with broad generalizations about our sin. Our repentance should be specific, biblically named, and personally owned. Doing so eschews the perfunctory and ritualistic in favor of personal and experiential. Repentance is to be a daily lifestyle for the Christian that constantly brings an awareness of the centrality of the cross and resurrection of Christ to our daily lives.
Run to God for safety.
Everyone offers some sort of repentance. The Pharisee pledges to do better and clear his good name, but true gospel repentance provides the only genuine safety. A pattern of daily lifestyle gospel repentance removes shame, strengthens fellowship, and is the way the Christian experiences God on a daily basis.
Choose daily spiritual growth over empty praise.
Flattery is praise detached from reality and it is spiritual cotton candy. A steady diet of cotton candy leads to being malnourished and unhealthy. Settling for the flattery of others or self-flattery in the place of gospel repentance is toxic and deadly. If there is a God (and there is!), and if you are not him (and you’re not!), then your daily expectation ought to be a pattern of conviction and repentance that leads to growth. Seeing our sin will only produce self-pity if it surprises us because we think too highly of ourselves.
Be honest about your sin and about the gospel.
Stop grading your sin and the gospel on a curve, thinking that your sin is bad, but not that bad (in comparison to others), and that the gospel is necessary, but not your only hope. Honesty about the reality and horror of our sin may leave some in despair, but, if that happens, it is because they are not being honest about the gospel. The truth is that our sin is worse than we know, but the gospel is more sufficient than we have ever realized. Biblical honesty and gospel repentance means thinking all the way out from the bad news of gut-level awareness and confession of our sin to a celebratory awareness of the good news that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).
David Prince is the Pastor of Preaching and Vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, KY and Assistant Professor of Christian Preaching at Southern Seminary. This post originally appeared at Prince on Preaching.______________________
- Join us for the Expositors Summit October 27-29, 2015. The Expositors Summit is designed to instruct and equip preachers and students for the glorious task of expository ministry.
- Join us for D3 Youth Conference 2015 as we learn what it means to trust God and walk by faith. At D3 you will hear from God’s Word as you participate in one of three tracks: leadership, worldview, or missions.
- Find more info on the May 2 Counsel the Word event at Southern with a Confident Parenting theme.
Dear Dr Craig,
I was born in Turkey and simply followed the traditions and became a Muslim. I have always been hungry for knowledge and understanding. So I started to research Islam with the hope that I could have a closer/stronger connection with God. But unfortunately I realized that the Prophet Mohammed stands between God and me. This was my first disappointment. I also found out certain things that put me off so much from Islam, and in fact, from all the other religions. I then became and atheist because I believed it was intellectual, logical and rational. After I studied Mathematical Physics (and understood the true meaning of science, rationality and logic) at university, I realized that atheism was not for me either.
My question is about Jesus. I am not a Christian but feeling very close to Jesus since the first day I came to know him. I don't understand him dying for our sins. What does that mean? No Christian has given me a satisfactory answer and I can't think of an answer myself. I am ready to die, today, for my mother but that's not what Jesus did (I assume?).
What does it mean to "die for someone else's sins"? ...
There have been two subtle but significant developments in our society in recent years in our response to people and ideas. The first is a growing inability to distinguish between ideas and the people who espouse them. Rather, debates about the merits of a particular position in public discussion quickly moves to discussions of the persons who espouse those positions. One potential reason is the growing confusion, aided by public education, about objective facts. If there are no objective truths, then ideas are not truly distinct from persons but are instead vitally connected to the person or community that holds to a position—that is what subjective truths are.
The second development concerns how we react to ideas/persons. Some ideas/persons are viewed as valuable and praiseworthy. We want to celebrate these ideas/persons, setting them forth as models for others to embrace. Other ideas/persons are recognized as being different from a position we might hold but are still seen as good positions. We may not celebrate or promote them, but we can certainly affirm the person/idea. It’s not for you, but it’s still good. But what if we encounter a bad idea/person? Our response in these situations is to reject them. We point out that there is no place in a modern society—in this day and age—for people/ideas like that. We shake our heads in disdain. “How could someone still think that?” “Shocked that this could still happen today.” We don’t want to allow these wrong ideas/people in society. This new development means that if you hold a position deemed wrong by society, people now work to exclude you from society.
Perhaps you might notice that a reaction that has historically marked Western society is missing from the previous paragraph: tolerance. People still talk about tolerance, but their understanding of tolerance is indistinguishable from the response of affirmation mentioned earlier. Today, tolerance means to accept or approve different opinions.
Historically, though, tolerance included disapproving something. In fact, the very term implied that something was disagreeable or abhorrent. (E.g., if I invited you to an opera and you replied “I guess I could tolerate it,” I wouldn’t conclude that you would enjoy it.) If you didn’t think an idea was wrong you couldn’t tolerate it. Tolerance meant you disagreed—even strongly—with something but you would not use coercion to suppress the idea or the person who held the idea. Though you may find the idea completely foolish, you think a healthy society must not stamp out all ideas you believe to be wrong. As the saying often (improperly) attributed to Voltaire goes: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
But today we no longer seem to have the option to agree to disagree—we either have to agree or reject. People can’t be wrong, unless they are so wrong they must be rejected. What are some of the negative consequences of this approach?
No Basis for Evaluating Ideas. Even under the historic understanding of tolerance there were limitations to what might be tolerated. Some ideas should be rejected, or at least never promoted or acted upon (e.g., genocide). But how do we decide which ideas should be rejected? Since our society largely rejects objective truth, what is the standard for determining whether an idea is acceptable or not? Currently, it seems that popular opinion has become the standard. Once an idea is no longer held by the majority, it should no longer be allowed in society (and woe to those who do not change their stance quickly enough!)
Another potential candidate for evaluation seems to be people’s feelings. Positions are considered wrong if they offend someone. It doesn’t matter whether or not something is true (because how could anything be true), it only matters whether or not it bothers someone (except, of course, WASPs. Since they already enjoy the privilege of a favored status it is no problem to offend them).
Condemns People Rather than Ideas. When we are able to distinguish ideas from people we can reject ideas without rejecting the person. For example, two people might disagree about whether or not the minimum wage should be raised without claiming the other either hates the poor or wants to promote sloth. But today disagreements quickly move from evaluation of ideas to labels of the opponent. People who disagree on an issue are now labeled as bigots, intolerant, narrow-minded, judgmental, etc. Now the merits of particular positions can be conveniently ignored since the person who espouses the view is seen as unloving.
Trivializes Everything. This new approach trivializes issues in one of two ways. We could add a fourth category to the responses of celebration, affirmation, and rejection—indifference. It’s ok to be wrong on a position that doesn’t matter. So, while you might think that cats are better than dogs, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t care that you are wrong since it’s not an important issue. Thus, in order for differing opinions to be allowed in this society, the opinion must be about insignificant matters.
But if there is no objective truth, does anything really matter? That’s why I can affirm your position if it is different from mine. I don’t have to see it as wrong, because nothing is wrong. Which means nothing is right. Which means nothing should really matter. (As a side note, perhaps one of the reasons people are so virulent in their rejection of “wrong” ideas/people is they are trying to convince themselves that something matters, even though their worldview does not allow anything to matter).
Harms Every Position. Because contrary opinions are so quickly stamped out in our society, people are dissuaded from offering an idea or an opinion that might not fit with the current status quo. In On Liberty, John Stuart Mill points to a significant benefit of tolerance (and conversely, the significant danger of suppressing contrary opinions).
The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion, is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.
It Promotes Intolerance. Since we have lost the ability to believe people should be allowed to be wrong, we no longer have a real category for tolerance. That means that those who are wrong are threats to society and should be punished. Unfortunately, we don’t need government to enact that punishment. We now have social media mobs that can destroy people who transgress the court of popular opinion. We have become skilled at stamping out diverse opinions in the name of diversity.
Leads to Totalitarianism. Since there is no objective standard to evaluate things, those with power are able to set the standards. The position with the most backing gets to stomp out the other positions. Unfortunately, that rarely stops with the positions with which you currently disagree. As George Orwell said in his proposed preface to Animal Farm: “If you encourage totalitarian methods, the time may come when they will be used against you instead of for you. Make a habit of imprisoning Fascists without trial, and perhaps the process won’t stop at Fascists.” Or make a habit of destroying those who are “wrong” and perhaps the process won’t stop with those who are currently considered “wrong.”
... When you think of unbelievers you know, I imagine you see some of them as more ‘open’ to the gospel than others. Whether we realize it or not, we often profile people as to their potential for faith. Appearances, careers, affiliations, social habits – these and other factors lead us to make assumptions about people. Zaccheus stands as one of those unlikely converts whose conversion represents the amazing love and mercy of our Lord ...
Christian parents must take special care in making wise decisions for their families. Whether we like it or not, our children are targeted as prime consumers in the media market. Without parental guidance, they are especially vulnerable, not only because they generally lack discernment but also because they are being exposed to media more than any previous generation. Parents need to be aware of the threats media can pose, and alertly stand guard. Dads and moms should set the tone in the home and uphold a godly standard for their kids. The effort parents make in this regard will not go unrewarded (cf. Prov. 22:6).
Be a good example. Parents must set an example that is worthy to be followed. Wise choices must be made, and self-control must be employed. The sobering fact is that our children will emulate what they see in us. They learn as much by what we tell them, as they do by how we live. If we are always watching television, even if it is relatively good television, what message does that send to our kids? If we skip church to watch the game; if we justify dirty movies by “fast forwarding the bad parts;” if we laugh at the sensual or irreverent sitcom jokes— what lesson does it teach our children? No matter what we say, we will not convince them that Jesus Christ is our highest love if the way we spend our free time suggests otherwise.
Stand guard. Parents must watch over their family with vigilance. They need to know (and be in control of) the influences to which their children are being exposed. Ignorance is no excuse. If there are headphones on a child’s head, the parents should know what’s on the MP3 player. If there is an internet connection in a child’s room, the parents should know what websites are being visited. If there is a television in the bedroom closet, the parents should know what shows are being watched. (For that matter, parents should seriously think through the potential temptations and risks involved before allowing their children to have private access to any media device, especially televisions, cell phones, or internet-capable computers.)
Media must be muted in our homes so that the noise doesn’t drown out the voice of God. If we are not careful to shield ourselves, we will be overtaken by the deluge, and more significantly, so will our children. As their spiritual (and legal) guardians, we must be proactive in the struggle against the assault of entertainment. Parents are called by God to be the prime influencers of their children. They must not surrender that role to a corded box that sits in the living room.
Stimulate spirituality. Your evenings at home are prime time, not for watching television but for investing in your family. If you spend that time watching TV, instead of spending time with your kids, you are neglecting your God-given responsibilities as a parent. Consider two things—among many others—that you trade for a few fleeting moments of relaxation and entertainment: a deep relationship with your children, and gospel opportunities to lead them to Christ.
If you spend time with your kids, investing in them, learning about them, showering love upon them, and playing with them, they will want to turn off the television. When your children are all grown and gone from the house and you think back on the years you spent with them as a parent, what things will you regret? I’ve never met anyone who wishes they had watched more TV and spent less time investing in relationships.
Parents (especially fathers) need to take an active role in the spiritual development of their children. Youth pastors and other spiritual influences can be helpful supplements. But the primary spiritual responsibility for raising up godly children rests in the home. As God commanded Israelite parents 3,500 years ago, “You shall teach [God’s statutes] to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:7). If we are to fully counter the effects of media, we must diligently teach our children the truth about God, sin, and salvation.
As an aside, here are five practical questions that parents should consider in creating a strategy for their own families.
- Honestly assess your media consumption. List the TV shows you watch regularly. From the biblical standards you’ve learned in this chapter, do you need to make some changes? Are you exposing yourself to corrupting influences?
- Understand your responsibility to redeem the time and use it wisely for God’s glory. Are you spending too much time watching TV, surfing the web, or participating in other media-driven activities (like video games)?
- Consider what you want to make of your life in light of Christ’s call for faithfulness to Him (Matt. 25:23). Are you abusing your “freedom in Christ” for your own leisure and pleasure (Gal. 5:13)? Or are you exerting yourself in service to the Lord?
- Compare your media intake with your intake of God’s Word. Are you more devoted to your own entertainment and amusement than you are to God’s precious Word? What plan of action will you take to address this?
- Honestly assess the example you demonstrate to your kids. Do you need to make any changes or improvements? Will you sit down with your family, admit your failure in this area, and set up a new plan of action? Remember that your responsibility as a parent is to provide spiritual leadership and guidance for your children in the home.
Setting A Higher Standard
Our culture yearns for recreation and rest. The entertainment industry feeds us the notion that we all deserve a little R&R, and then happily presents us with many options. You work hard all day, so you deserve a little time in front of the television to unwind. Right? Yet God’s Word sets a more exacting standard for those who claim to follow Jesus Christ. We are called to live our lives exerting all of our energy for Christ, to spend and be spent, to fight the good fight of faith, to clamor after something far more worthy and infinitely more fulfilling than anything this world has to offer. We are to live for the glory of Christ!
If we do, not only will our homes be bastions of godliness in a wicked world, the sacrifices we make for His sake will be abundantly rewarded in heaven. We would do well to join with Jonathan Edwards in being “resolved, that I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.” Why would we spend our lives being amused by the dim hue of the television, when we could be breathlessly enraptured in the blazing brilliance of Christ’s glory? Let us keep our eyes on Christ, the Author and Perfecter of the faith. In so doing, we will have little appetite for the fading illusions of this passing world.
Kurt Gebhards is the pastor of preaching and leadership at Harvest Bible Chapel in Hickory, North Carolina.
Taken from Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong. Copyright © 2009 by Grace Community Church. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 97402. www.harvesthousepublishers.com. Used by Permission.________________________
- Join us for D3 Youth Conference 2015 as we learn what it means to trust God and walk by faith. At D3 you will hear from God’s Word as you participate in one of three tracks: leadership, worldview, or missions.
- Find more info on the May 2 Counsel the Word event at Southern with a Confident Parenting theme.
... Teenagers need to be coached, not controlled, to help the growth towards adulthood responsibility develop. Coaches may still insist on how the “play” is executed so this is not a call for the abandonment of rules; but good coaches do more of teaching others how to do the work and do not take over the game itself. How sad it is for me as a college professor to watch a student who is unsure of how to make decisions for themselves, to take care of themselves in healthy, emotionally balanced and spiritually growing ways. Parents of teenagers need to think of the tasks that will enable a teen to live responsibly and healthy after leaving the comforts of a parent’s home ...
Uno de los pasajes más conocidos en la Biblia se encuentra en Mateo 28:16-20. Este pasaje es comúnmente conocido como “La Gran Comisión.” Jesús nos ordena hacer discípulos entre todas las naciones. La palabra discípulo significa aprendiz o seguidor. A inicios de la era de iglesia, se les llamó “cristianos” a los seguidores de Jesús (Hechos 11:26). Por lo tanto, discípulo de Cristo o cristiano pueden considerarse como sinónimos.
by Joshua Crutchfield
With the firestorm underway in Indiana and much of the United States regarding religious liberty and the outcry of discrimination, I find it necessary to point out the obvious. After watching the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s president, Russell Moore, succinctly present the logical reasons for such unfortunately necessary bills that protect our religious liberty, it became quite apparent that the Christian community has been demonized as a people who would like the ability to indulge prejudice behaviors as opposed to extending neighborly concern.
Whether this stereotype forced upon the church is accurate or not, it is not one that the media and others seem to be concerned with. Now with the irrational behavior of our country, driven by unstable emotions, the distinction of moral obligation and moral approval needs to be stated.
It has been said that with the religious liberty bills that are passing, people of the LGBT community may not receive fair treatment when in need of medical attention, food, or other various services. While there is always the possibility for people of any community to mistreat, the church is called to love her neighbors, regardless of skin color or sexual behavior. If a person is in need of clothing, the church does not ask what the person’s sexual preference is; the church is obligated by the command to love one’s neighbor by clothing that person. Likewise, a doctor that affirms faith in Jesus is not to turn away a person who is sick, ill, or undergoing some form of ailment. He is to tend to the needs of that individual, because that person is made in the image of God, and the doctor has the responsibility to act neighborly. Christians are to represent Christ within the world by routinely showing loving concern and care for those around them.
This is not to say that many who identify themselves as the “church” do not fail in treating others with care and concern for whatever reason, be it skin color, sexual behaviors, or bitterness that grew out of some childhood rearing. Such actions are not to be associated with biblical Christianity, but the reality that man is sinful to the core. It is unfortunate that such actions bring stains upon the church, but Christ is our example. He Himself said that He did not come to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45), and such is the example for the church. Regardless if the person is a Samaritan, African American, Hispanic, Asian, a Republican, Democrat, Muslim, Christian, or Homosexual, the church received the command to love her neighbor and extend care and concern as Christ has exemplified.
Understanding that the church has a moral obligation to care for her neighbor, it now must be stated why business owners, who happen to be followers of Jesus, should have the right to refuse service to those whose behavior conflict with their conscience. In recent days we have seen Christian photographers, bakers, and flower shop owners sued due to their refusal for providing and rendering service to homosexuals, who were intending to get married. At this point, those who have been sued have also been presented with the reality that their religious liberty and Christian conscience cannot coexist within the business world. One can either be a Christian, or a business owner, but one cannot be both, or at least be both at the same time. Furthermore, people who attempt to refuse services to those in the LGBT community are marked as people of hate, bigots, and intolerant of others liberties. Yet, should such refusals be understood in this light? Are the Christian photographers, bakers, and flower shop owners failing to love their neighbor? The world would say yes, but Jesus would say otherwise.
While it is true that Christians should care for the needs of others due to the command to love one’s neighbor, it is also true that Christians should hold fast to convictions that affirm truth and right behavior because of the command to love one’s neighbor. For the photographer, baker, or flower shop owner to render services for something like a homosexual wedding, would be to not only sin against the conscience of that individual, but would also be an action that affirms the improper behavior of the other, thus failing to love one’s neighbor.
The refusal to render services for such reason is not a matter of bigotry, but of love. It is not loving for one to endorse the behavior or action of another, knowing that that behavior or action is wrong. It is not loving to encourage such behavior by providing services that render such action possible or understood as agreeable. Those who have taken this kind of stance, that is to refuse services that would approve of sinful behavior, have been wrongly characterized as a people who are discriminating others. Yet, their actions are not discriminatory, but practical love for their neighbor. However, such refusals are not limited exclusively to those who practice homosexuality, but to any who refuse to adhere to moral truths.
Of course, I do not expect people outside the church to understand this kind of love or care, but I do hope that those who claim to be a part of the church would recognize the responsibility to love and care for all people regardless of what they look like, believe, or practice. The mandate to love one’s neighbor did not come with stipulations. However, the mandate to love does not also mean a mandate to agree, accept, or comply with actions or lifestyles that stand on the outside of what God has called just or right. As followers of Jesus, we will naturally stand in conflict with our world, as it stands in conflict with our God. Even still, we speak truth in love, love our enemies, and stay faithful to the God who is faithful.
In the West, most Protestants are at least somewhat familiar with Roman Catholicism. Many of us have Roman Catholic friends, neighbors, and even family members. And many believers have been saved out of Roman Catholicism. Much less familiar to most westerners is the other main branch of non-Protestant Christianity—Eastern Orthodoxy.
Many differences exist between Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. Some of these are more significant than others, and many of these ostensible differences belie an underlying similarity between the two church traditions. I’d like to briefly discuss three areas in which Eastern Orthodoxy differs somewhat from Roman Catholicism while reflecting a common disagreement with evangelical Protestantism. These areas have to do with the Lord’s Supper, the use of images or icons, and religious authority.
1. When one walks into an Eastern Orthodox church, one of the first things a non-Orthodox person will notice is a large screen or iconostasis at the front of the nave or auditorium. This often beautiful structure is not merely decorative. It serves an important purpose within the Orthodox system by marking off the boundary between the common area and the sanctuary. Whereas the Roman Catholic mass is usually celebrated in full view of the congregants, Orthodox priests pray over the elements on the altar which is located in the sanctuary behind the iconostasis and therefore set apart from the congregants. The sanctuary is sometimes compared to the “Holy of Holies” in the Jewish Temple. Another difference between the Roman Catholic practice and that of the Orthodox has to do with the reception of the elements themselves. Whereas Roman Catholic laity may only partake of the bread, in the Orthodox service congregants partake of both elements (wine and bread).
On the other hand, both Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches view the Lord’s Supper as a Eucharist, a sacrament, and a sacrifice. In general, the Orthodox are less interested in precise theological theories, and so they do not usually use the term transubstantiation. However, for all intents and purposes the Orthodox Church holds to a form of transubstantiation. They see the elements of the Eucharist as becoming the real body and blood of Christ, and they see it as having sacramental value in the sense of providing reconciliation or healing (Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church, new ed., 283–85; John McGuckin, The Orthodox Church, 291). In both church traditions, the Eucharist is not simply a memorial or even an ordinance involving the spiritual presence of Christ. It is a means by which one enters into the sacrifice of Christ in some (rather mysterious) way.
2. Another thing one is quickly struck with when walking into an Orthodox church is the pervasive presence and use of icons. In some cases, the beauty of such icons is awe-inspiring, and in fact, that seems to be the point.
However, the icons in an Orthodox church are usually quite different from those found in Roman Catholic churches. Whereas Catholic churches often include statues and carved or otherwise 3-dimensionally shaped crucifixes, within the Orthodox tradition religious imagery is carefully controlled and for the most part is produced on a flat surface using paint or something similar.
As in Roman Catholicism, within Orthodoxy icons are viewed as means that can assist people in their worship. Both traditions make use of images or icons as aids to worship. And so, church goers in both traditions often venerate and pray to images of Jesus as well the apostles and other saints. Both church traditions also make use of relics for similar purposes.
As a side note, with just a little background outsiders can learn to distinguish between a Roman Catholic church and an Orthodox church based on the appearance of the interior of the building by looking for an iconostasis and/or altar and by noting the kind of artwork or icons used in worship. One can also frequently distinguish between the two based on what is heard. In Orthodox churches singing (or chanting) usually takes the place of organ or other instrumental music.
3. Less obvious perhaps to the casual observer is another difference between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy centering around the question of religious authority. Within the Roman Catholic Church, Scripture and tradition are held up as twin sources of revelation or authority (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation 9–10). While certainly recognizing the authority of tradition, the Orthodox Church views the relationship between Scripture and tradition somewhat differently. Consider, for example, the following explanation of religious authority in Orthodoxy:
The fundamental bulwarks of the Orthodox faith are: the lives of the Spirit-filled elect, the Holy Scriptures, the ancient traditions manifested in the sacred liturgy and the church’s ritual practices, the creeds and professions (ektheseis) of the ecumenical councils, the great patristic writings defending the faith against heretical positions, the church’s ever-deepening collection of prayers that have had universal adoption and enduring spiritual efficacy and, by extension, the wider body of the spiritual and ascetical writings of the saints of times past and present, the important writings of hierarchs at various critical moments in the more recent past which have identified the correct response that ought to be undertaken against new conditions and movements prevailing after the patristic period (McGuckin, The Orthodox Church, 100).
In the midst of that one, rather long sentence the reader could easily miss the fact that the Orthodox Church looks to the Scriptures for religious authority. However, within Orthodoxy Scripture is just one of many religious authorities. Or perhaps it would be better to say that tradition is the real source of religious authority within Orthodoxy, and Scripture is viewed as one part of that tradition. McGuckin further explains the relationship between Scripture and tradition this way: “The Scriptures stand as far greater in moment, and richness, than any writing of the saints. But there is not a profound difference in order, and not a dissonance of quality, for it is the same Spirit who inspires his saints in each generation, and inspires in them the same mind of the self-same Lord…. Scripture, for the Orthodox, is one of the purest manifestations of tradition. It is constitutively within sacred tradition, not apart from it” (McGuckin, The Orthodox Church, 101). So within Orthodoxy, Scripture is inspired, but it is inspired in the same sense that the writings of many saints are inspired. Like Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy rejects the full sufficiency of Scripture and necessarily reduces the actual authority of Scripture by making it one of several sources of religious truth. And like Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy regards the Church as the authoritative interpreter of Scripture (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation 2.10; Ware, The Orthodox Church, 199–200).
Although Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy are different in a number of ways—some superficial and some substantial, they both set up human priests (and saints) as intermediaries between God and humans. They both encourage the use of images as aids to worship and prayer. And both see their respective Churches as fulfilling the role of authoritative interpreter of Scripture. More anecdotally, they both seem to encourage a great deal of religious ritualism and activity but very little actual study of the Bible.
Hi Dr. Craig!
I consider myself to be a Christian layman, as I am not formally trained in philosophy (I am a computer science major). However, I have been reading content on your website for about three months now and have read Reasonable Faith, On Guard, Contending With Christianity's Critics, Is God a Moral Monster, and I am currently working through Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview ...
Led along the edge of a Libyan beach by Islamic State militants, 21 Egyptian Christians wearing the orange jumpsuits of prisoners received the white robes of martyrs. A gruesome video released in mid-February depicted their captors forcing the men to the ground and beheading them with swift, simultaneous strokes of the blade.
The mass execution sparked international outrage, military retaliation from the Egyptian government, and mournful reflection throughout Christendom.
The fear which had ever so subtly crept into the evangelical conscience when ISIS declared itself a caliphate less than a year earlier now reached an alarming crescendo: Is this how the world will end?THE LAST HOUR
In late February, The Atlantic published the article “What ISIS Really Wants,” an in-depth look at the goals and aims of the Islamic group and an indictment on the Obama administration for not taking seriously the jihadists’ religious claims. Graeme Wood, contributing editor for The Atlantic, describes ISIS as an Islamic group reviving the violent origins of its religion in an attempt to usher in the apocalypse, or what Muslims call the “last hour.”
ISIS is a Sunni jihadist group that declared itself a caliphate — an Islamic state led by a religious and political leader — in June 2014 after taking control of large portions of Iraq and Syria, a territory now larger than many nations. In March, the group also accepted the pledge of Nigerian-based Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group which captured international headlines with the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in April 2014.
The escalation of violence since ISIS rose to prominence is due in part to the rejection from many Muslims. ISIS adheres to a fundamentalist Islamic practice known as takfir, which punishes apostates — Muslims and Christians who do not accept their totalitarian rule — through means of crucifixion, stoning, beheading, or enslavement.
“We are horrified at the inhuman acts of ISIS,” writes Michael Youssef in his recent book, Jesus, Jihad and Peace. “If ISIS and other Islamist groups get their way, they will bring these horrors [to the United States]. They won’t stop at gobbling up Iraq and Syria or the entire Middle East or Europe and Africa. Their goal is to establish a global caliphate.”
Youssef is founding pastor of The Church of the Apostles in Atlanta, Georgia, and president of Leading the Way, a worldwide broadcast ministry to spread the gospel of Jesus in Muslim-majority countries. In an interview with Towers, Youssef said that all Muslims, whether Sunni or Shiite, believe that the chaos arising from the quest to establish a global caliphate will bring about the Mahdi, a messianic figure who will “rule and dominate the world.”
“The interesting characteristic about this Mahdi is that he is going to rule from Jerusalem and people are going to be coming to him from all over the world to pay homage and literally worship him,” Youssef said, elaborating on a claim he made in his book that the Mahdi is “indistinguishable” from the Antichrist in Christian teaching. “With all of the chaotic experiences that we are seeing — from beheading that is so brutal and so savage, the crucifying of babies and so forth — in their mind, this is their way of speeding up the return of the Mahdi.”
Because Islam contains non-canonical texts with eschatological teachings, many Muslims disagree over the precise order of end times events and who exactly is involved. Yet Islam has its own version of the Antichrist, known as the Dajjal, and many Muslims believe that Jesus will return and defeat this end-times villain.
Muhammad Ramadan Almoutem, the imam at The Muslim Community Center of Louisville, fled Syria three years ago before the protests turned violent. A self-described moderate Sunni Muslim, Almoutem denounced ISIS as a “twisted” representation of Islam, but he expressed belief in some of the traditional Islamic beliefs about the last hour, including the major signs of the Mahdi, the Dajjal, and the return of Jesus.
“The most important thing that Muslims believe about the last hour is that Jesus will come back to this world as a Muslim, not as a Christian, and he will spread justice,” Almoutem said in an interview with Towers.
J. Scott Bridger, director of the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam at Southern Seminary, said that Muslims, despite their own disagreements, share a universal belief in the return of Jesus to restore order and judge Christians for worshiping him.
“The traditional Muslim interpretation of the Quran is that Jesus was not crucified and did not die,” Bridger said, “and that Jesus will eventually return and will die when he returns.”
The biblical second coming of Jesus, Bridger said, is a “doorway” for Christians to enter into conversation with Muslims and connect this eschatological hope to the grand narrative of Scripture, establishing the gospel as the only context in which his return makes sense.THE KINGDOM AND THE CALIPHATE
PercentageWhereas the gospel is the only true context of Jesus’ return, it also provides the solution to Islam’s eschatological pursuit of a caliphate.
The quest for many Muslims to establish a caliphate indicates a “realized eschatology,” Bridger said. “It’s very utopian in nature. There’s a sense in which they believe they can achieve their understanding of justice, righteousness, purity, and holiness in the here and now if they’re able to establish political hegemony and implement Shariah law.”
A caliphate is a fusion of religious and political spheres built on the top-down enforcement of Shariah law, a legal system based on the Quran that governs all aspects of Muslim life.
Moderate Muslims like Almoutem, however, no longer seek to implement a totalitarian structure and claim instead to prefer democratic freedom.
“We don’t believe in forcing people, we believe in freedom — this is one of the main objectives of our religion,” said Almoutem, who described the Prophet Muhammad as a “businessman” who spread Islam through persuasion and not force.
This version of Islam is at odds with a history scholars say demonstrates the religion — whose name means “submission” — has spread through violent conquest.
“The spread of Islam in the Middle Ages took place primarily through military conquest, not voluntary conversions,” Youssef writes in his new book. “The history of Islam is one of massacres, enslavement, torture, and brutality.”
Jihad, or “struggle,” usually refers to the duty of Muslims to struggle against all who do not follow Allah.
According to Bridger, the word’s meaning in the Quran and its development in the religion’s history supports its militaristic connotation.
“You cannot walk away from the Quran with a purely spiritual or pacifist understanding of jihad or how to establish Islam in society,” Bridger said. “As Islam has progressed, it’s clearly been through violence.”
Nevertheless, the role of the caliphate in Islamic ideology reflects a pursuit for social justice. Islamic states seek to provide free healthcare, universal employment, and an interest-free economy on the basis of Shariah law. In these societies, poverty and hunger are said to be eliminated.
While Muslims regard this as the historical model for a caliphate, Bridger says conflicts between religious and political spheres in previous caliphates do not support this theory.
“When you start to dig, I don’t think this ever existed in history,” Bridger said. “It’s a myth.”
The quest for global domination remains a priority for many Muslims in both the Sunni and Shiite sects to usher in the last hour. The source of the sectarian divide originated over a disagreement concerning the rightful successor to the Prophet Muhammad and resulted in two distinct lines of leadership. Sunni Muslims believe in eight legitimate caliphates to date — ISIS dismisses the Ottoman Empire and views itself as the eighth. Shiite Muslims, comprising 10 percent of Muslims in the world, seek to establish imamates, which are divinely appointed as opposed to the political roots of a caliphate. Many Shiites await the return of their 12th imam, Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Mahdi, who they claim went into hiding in the 9th century and will reappear with Christ.
As Islam wages war with itself over the pursuit of utopian justice, Christians can seize an opportunity to proclaim the gospel of God’s kingdom.
“Their hopes and aspirations for justice and peace — establishing righteousness and holiness on the earth — I think are right, though the means through which they are seeking to accomplish this are fundamentally misguided,” Bridger said. “They just need to see that Jesus is the hope, his kingdom that he is bringing is the hope and when he comes, he will establish all that they are aspiring to and hoping for. In the meantime, how you achieve holiness and righteous living is not through the implementation of some ethical system from the top down but it is the cultivation of a life in the Spirit and community in the church.”
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has been outspoken against ISIS and other militant Muslims for their persecution of Christians abroad. In an interview with Towers, he likewise noted the contrast of kingdom and caliphate as a vision of hope for Muslims.
“The kingdom of God is ultimately a global rule as well, but it advances in a different way: not with the sword of steel but with the sword of the Spirit. It advances not through coercion but through persuasion,” Moore said. “The rule itself is not a display of raw sovereignty, but is instead the sort of kingship Jesus displays, that breaks bread at the table and washes feet. Our vision of the final end is of a servant-king who says, ‘I have not called you subjects, I have called you friends.’ That’s a very different vision than one of just blind submission to power.”
The hope of Christian eschatology, therefore, is not challenged by the advance of Islam in the world but rather sees an opportunity for obedience to the Great Commission.
“The advance of Islam ought not to be troubling to any Christian in an eschatological sense. It ought to be troubling to us in a missiological sense, but it ought not to prompt fear that somehow the church is collapsing,” Moore said. “We ought to be concerned in terms of being propelled to the nations, but we shouldn’t be fearful or hopeless.”THE GREAT COMMISSION
As ISIS executes Christians on a daily basis and destroys historic Christian churches in its militant conquests, Christians have questioned whether to pray for judgment or salvation. The answer, Moore said, is both.
“Paul was a militant persecutor of the church who ended up being the missionary force that brought the gospel to the rest of us,” Moore said. “So we ought to pray that God would be able to change hearts, but we also ought to pray for Romans 13 justice to be done so that this needless suffering doesn’t continue.”
After traveling to the Middle East twice in the past year, Bridger described seeing Muslims profess faith in Christ and demonstrate a renewed receptivity to the gospel.
“I’ve seen a new openness among many Muslims on that side of the world to examine the claims of Christ, read the Bible, and listen to what Christians have to say,” Bridger said, describing how the claims of ISIS as a faithful representation of Islam has caused many Muslims to question their faith.
“Our response as Christians should always be, ‘How do we engage Muslims with the gospel?’ Regardless of what’s going on in certain parts of the world, we still have an obligation to prepare ourselves and others for the Great Commission.”
According to Youssef, the Great Commission is actually the source of and solution to the crisis Christians face with global jihad. A lack of obedience to the missionary call, Youssef said, resulted in the spread of Islam.
“The church needs to repent from apathy and needs to take the commission of our Lord seriously and take the gospel to the very core of the mission world,” said Youssef, who is also a research fellow for the Jenkins Center. “Historically, every time that the church of Jesus Christ is weak, Islam grows. Every time the church of Jesus Christ departs from biblical orthodoxy and the authority of Scripture, Islam expands. It happened in the 7th century, it happened in the 15th century, and it’s happening now.”
Even if some Christians are not called to spread the gospel to Muslims overseas, opportunity abounds in the United States. In Louisville, ministries like Refuge and Highview Baptist Church’s ESL classes can connect Christians to Muslims in the local community. Searching on websites like the North American Mission Board’s PeopleGroups.Info displays the distribution of Muslim communities and mosques in specific neighborhoods.
Bridger recommends that Christians seek resources from places like the Jenkins Center, which provides seminars and workshops for churches, before engaging in gospel conversations with Muslims. It is important to recognize that most Muslims in America are not jihadists, he said, yet Christians must be aware of religious and cultural barriers. Practicing hospitality, learning about their diverse cultural backgrounds, and building relationships are all essential components to sharing the gospel.
A Christian view of the future also shapes faith in the present, especially obedience to the Great Commission. As believers long for the return of Jesus Christ to establish his kingdom in the new heavens and new earth, they ought also to persuade others to place their faith in him. In Revelation 5:9-10, the Apostle John sees a vision of a people from every, tribe, tongue, and nation worshiping King Jesus. This eschatological hope can shape Christian witness to Muslims in the present, as believers devote their time and energy to proclaiming the kingdom of Jesus to those who long for a Mahdi to rule a global caliphate.
May we even see a jihadist trade his executioner’s blade for a plowshare.
S. Craig Sanders is the editor of Towers. You can follow him on Twitter @stepcraig.__________________________
- Southern Seminary’s Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam opened in February 2013 and is named after donors Bill and Connie Jenkins. For more information about the Jenkins Center and upcoming events, visit jenkins.sbts.edu or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow the center on Twitter, @SBTSonIslam.
- Are you interested in pursuing your seminary education? Did you know Southern has a fully online M.Div.? There are a variety of options available through Southern Seminary’s Global Campus.
- Subscribe to The Briefing from R. Albert Mohler Jr. for daily worldview analysis and cultural conversations about the most recent news and headlines.
Being a man, I have trouble with most emotions (when I am aware of them in myself or others). Often, my response to emotions is to think about the experience, but that tends to pin feelings down rather than give deeper expression to them. I’ve learned by trial and error to trust feelings by giving them my attention and expressing them momentarily as I sense them. I was able to practice this recently when faced with the loss of Bob Saucy ...
This week the Gospel Coalition’s annual meeting features a panel discussion with panelists who reject the Gospel. On the face of things this seems to be out of step with TGC’s founding principles, which exalt commitment to the Gospel as the singularly non-negotiable feature of belonging to the TGC “alliance.” To be a TGC “ally,” one must be a “born-again Christian with whom I can go a long way down the road.”
But as Bethany Jenkins notes in her apology for the TGC’s decision to include panelists who are hostile to the Gospel, there exists a cause broader than the Gospel in which an unbeliever may serve as a “co-belligerent,” or “a person who may not have any sufficient basis for taking the right position, but takes the right position on a single issue.” And because of this isolated virtue, “I can join with him without any danger as long as I realize that he is not an ally and all we’re talking about is a single issue.”
Jenkins evinces sympathy for her position by noting that as “individual Christians” we labor with co-belligerents all the time “in our work outside the church and home”—the common/civil sphere, or the realm of “common grace.” And, irrespective of whether one agrees with her in using the term “common grace,” we must agree with the substance of her observation. As fellow image-bearers, believers and unbelievers must work together in our pursuit of God’s revealed mission for collective humanity: the dominion mandate. And when rogue humans or groups of humans rebel against God’s natural/civil structures (attacking the sanctity of human life, denying human dignity/solidarity, corrupting marriage/family, distorting justice, etc.), we as collective humanity must do what we can to suppress this rebellion. The substance of our “alliance” in such cases is not the Gospel, but the imago dei. And I would argue with the greatest of energy that as individual believers, we must be the very best humans, citizens, and neighbors that we possibly can be, irrespective of whether we live among fellow-Christians or pagans. I cannot be more earnest in this statement.
Jenkins makes a colossal leap, however, when she argues from individual co-belligerence to ecclesiastical co-belligerence: “The church, too, can work with co-belligerents who are committed—knowingly or not—to certain kingdom purposes.” Even though we “radically disagree,” she continues, we can work together “against a common enemy,” which she identifies as those who seek to thwart of “the common good and human flourishing.” And it is the destruction of this enemy that divulges the heart of the newest evangelical experiment. The Gospel exists not merely to establish regenerate communities alien to and paradoxical with our fallen world, but to domesticate fallen culture and establish “eschatological signposts ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ of the coming kingdom.” And to that end it may and must court co-belligerents from unbelieving culture.
This is precisely the same path that the new evangelicalism took last century. Its ecclesiastical mission included the Gospel, certainly, but its goal was the realization of a particular vision of the kingdom that could accommodate social action and cultivate the cultural/societal goodwill enjoyed by the modernist (and by-and-large postmillennial) church of even earlier vintage. And I think it is reasonable to wonder whether what we have today is really a gospel coalition, or whether instead it is a coalition utilizing the Gospel as one of several measures in the service of realized eschatology.
Ladies, how did you learn to ride a bike? Brush your teeth? Tie your shoes? Shave your legs? Apply make-up? Drive a car? Your answer to most of these questions, if not all, is someone taught you. From potty training, to writing papers, to planning for a wedding, we learn important lessons from someone else. As a Christian, one of your biggest priorities in life should be finding out what the Bible says a Christian woman should act like. Do you know? Have you asked? Are you positioning yourself to be a humble learner?
Matthew 28:19-20 references the term “disciple.” The English word “disciple” that we have in our Bibles comes from the Latin root word with a basic meaning of “learner” or “pupil”. As Christians, the word automatically has meaning for us because we are all disciples of Jesus. Our Savior wants us to be taught to observe all that he has commanded. As a learner and follower of Jesus, we are to be committed to his Word and all the instructions he gives in how to better learn his Word and live it out.
So how do we engage in discipleship on a macro level? Sunday morning sermons teach us how to think and live. We are being discipled every Sunday morning by listening to the sermon. Also, books we read disciple us in different areas of sanctification. Conferences we attend teach us about specific topics.
Titus 2 gives us much insight into how we are discipled at the micro level. The apostle Paul writes to his disciple, Titus. Paul gives Titus some encouragement and helps him think through how to establish godly leaders and other believers in the church. Then Titus 2 details for us what relationships within the body of Christ should look like practically. It even gives a specific list (though not exhaustive) of what the older women are to teach the younger women in the church as disciples of Christ. As older women in our churches model godly living and interact with us at various times, they are teaching us what godliness looks like in action.
Many of you have probably experienced the macro and micro level of discipleship in some form or fashion. But I would like to take it a step further and propose another helpful aspect of discipleship. Personal discipleship is the intimate level where you can get very personal and specific. Personal discipleship is the process where a more mature Christian (either in age, knowledge and/or experience) instructs a less mature Christian in knowing and obeying the Word of God. We can take all the passages we have discussed so far and add some very practical ones to those. Philippians 4:9 points out four components to good discipleship: learn, receive, hear and see. But it doesn’t stop with those four components. What should we do with what we have learned, received, heard and seen? Practice it ourselves. We have to do something with what we learn.
One thing in ministry that my husband, Eric, and I love doing is premarital counseling. Young couples don’t get married and easily figure out the complexities of marriage on their own. Imagine what a bumpy road it would be if you didn’t read any books about marriage or ask any advice from older married couples. Some of you might even have that testimony to tell. We have met with many married couples that had no premarital counseling or bad premarital counseling and they suffer the consequences in their marriage. As we have learned from other strong believers that have built their marriages on the principles of Scripture, we have sought to pass that onto other younger couples. Our hope is it will strengthen their marriage and they will pass those lessons onto others. I think churches would look amazingly different if people were honest and asked the difficult questions about marriage from other godly couples. But therein lays two huge elements to discipleship: honesty and humility.
If you are interested in growing as a disciple of Christ, here are a three suggestions to get you started based on Titus 2:3-4:
1. Christian content. How well do you know the Word? Do you know God’s character well? Do you know how to study your Bible? What books are you reading? Are they theologically solid? How are your prayers informed by Scripture? 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Your goal here is to strive to learn godly content from another godly women.
2. Christian character. Christian character traits are abundant throughout the Scriptures. We have to remember to be careful not to separate these first two categories. A pastor’s wife that I learn from based on her writing is Carolyn Mahaney. She says, “The world does not judge us by our theology; the world judges us by our behavior.” Titus 1:1 states this very thing, “The knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness.” We can’t have one without the other. James even challenges us to be doers of the Word and not just hearers. The plea for paying careful attention to our character is all throughout Scripture. Have you given someone permission to speak into your life? Have you asked someone to tell you the sin they see in your life? Do you have someone who loves you enough to tell you the gracious truth? Ladies, we want real friends like that!
3. Christian life. This encompasses our families, homes, churches and friends. Colossians 1:10 calls this our walk. “Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Notice that it not only speaks to our walk but also references our knowledge again as well. Again, how we respond to life’s challenges comes from our knowledge of God, His Word, and His character. To say it another way: right doctrine should lead to right behavior.
Have you ever noticed that the table of contents in books for Christian women are almost all the same? They almost all have a chapter on intimacy, homemaking, submission, kindness, raising children. That is because there is no new sin. It’s all the same things we have been struggling with for thousands of years. The Word is just as helpful in our thinking and actions as it was back in the days of the apostles. The big question is, are we willing to admit we sin, ask for help, and purpose to change with the help of the Holy Spirit? If so, it is likely part of God’s provision to bring about that change is other women in your local church. Now, go and find them.
Danelle Bancroft lives in Indianapolis with her husband and three boys. She has enjoyed ministering to women, young and old, for years as she has been greatly impacted by the investment of other women in her life. Her passion is to teach women how to flourish in friendships, relationships, and their calling as women committed to the Lordship of Christ and the sufficiency of His Word.____________________________
- Join us for D3 Youth Conference 2015 as we learn what it means to trust God and walk by faith. At D3 you will hear from God’s Word as you participate in one of three tracks: leadership, worldview, or missions.
- Find more info on the May 2 Counsel the Word event at Southern with a Confident Parenting theme.
“Paul’s fourth missionary journey? I thought he went on three missionary journeys!” Yes, according to Acts, Paul embarked on three missionary journeys. Then he was imprisoned in Palestine for a couple years, transported under guard via ship to Rome (a journey that included a shipwreck on Malta), and spent a couple more years under house arrest in Rome. End of story? No. That is where the book of Acts ends, but it is not the end of the story. There are enough biblical and historical hints floating around to allow us to reconstruct some of what happened next. As a result of such a reconstruction, perhaps we ought to start talking about Paul’s fourth missionary journey ...
“Geologist claims Jesus was married… and had a SON: Expert says he has proof son of God was buried in 'family tomb' along with wife Mary and his brother” screams the headline. The sensational headline, along with the release date on Easter weekend, should be our first warning to take the announcement with a grain of salt.
To understand what these claims are, we need to go back to a (widely discredited) documentary, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” released by documentarist Simcha Jacobovichi in 2007.
If you notice the header of this blog, you will see a tab marked “Journal,” which if selected will take you to the web page for our seminary journal. Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal began in 1996 and is published annually in the fall of the year. At the web page you will find the table of contents for all the back issues as well as free pdfs for all articles prior to 2013.
Here are links to a few of the articles from 2004–2006 that you may find of interest:
Firstly, thank you for all that you do for the Kingdom. Your work has been a great encouragement to me since I came to faith in Christ a few years ago.
Recently, in the March issue of the popular philosophy journal 'Think', Raphael Lataster attacks your argument from Jesus' resurrection as circular. The article is titled: "A PHILOSOPHICAL AND HISTORICAL ANALYSIS OF WILLIAM LANE CRAIG'S RESURRECTION OF JESUS ARGUMENT" ...
It might seem as though traditional Christians are the only people who are being challenged by the sexual revolution occurring in the West. But other religious traditions are being forced to address this shift as well. A recent article highlights the experience of three Mormons who “discover” they are transgender but want to remain in the LDS church.
Traditionally the LDS church has opposed a transgender position—excommunicating those who choose to have sex reassignment surgery and arguing that gender is eternal. However, the LDS church is now having to deal with the growing emphasis and acceptance of transgender in the broader culture.
The Mormon church will be forced to address this matter because of the emphasis they place on marriage and families. The Mormon church teaches that people can have eternal families—if they are married in the temple—and then have their children sealed to them for eternity. Also, faithful Mormons can continue to progress after death in the celestial kingdom and eventually attain godhood. Once they attain godhood, they can then have spiritual children that will populate their own planet (just like they believe Heavenly Father did—he was once a man who progressed to godhood and populated earth with his spirit children). So Mormons will need to consider whether or not transgender people can get eternally married and continue to work towards this goal.
But the Mormon church may not have the tools at its disposal to maintain their traditional position. Two aspects of Mormon belief are utilized by these transgender Mormons mentioned in the article to support their belief that they can be transgender and remain Mormon. The first is the emphasis on personal experience and ongoing revelation. Mormons often point to a “burning” they experience as they read the Book of Mormon that lets them know it is true. Utilizing the same test of spiritual experience Grace Moore discovered that Heavenly Father approved of “his” being a boy even though “his” body was female:
That night, Grace Moore knelt in prayer, asking God, “Am I your son?” He says he got a powerful spiritual affirmation that he was, indeed, a boy and that “it was going to be OK.”
Another key Mormon doctrine is the pre-existence of human souls. Mormons teach that each person was a spirit child in heaven who was then sent to earth to inhabit a body and “progress.” But Sara Jade Woodhouse thinks it is possible for one of these eternal souls to end up in the wrong body:
Sara Jade Woodhouse believes the LDS family proclamation is correct: Gender is eternal. It’s just that nature sometimes matches the bodies incorrectly, she says.
“Since nature may surprise us and not follow that formula—we know that some people are born with ambiguous genitalia or with both—it is absolutely possible for a perfect feminine soul to end up in a male body and vice versa.”
How will Mormons respond to the pressure that this sexual revolution is bringing against them? Twice in the past the church has responded to cultural pressure by receiving new revelation from God that wiped out previous revelation. When Utah was trying to attain statehood in 1890, the LDS leaders discovered that God no longer sanctioned polygamy. The LDS church also received revelation in 1978 that those of African descent were no longer to be denied entry to priesthood and to the temple. When you recognize the history of the Mormon church receiving new revelation from their god, Heavenly Father, in order to survive within a given culture, it should not be surprising to find the LDS church announcing in the not too distant future a new commandment/revelation that accommodates the LGBTQ community.
Dr. Bob Saucy was a skilled teacher, beloved colleague, and friend. He greatly influenced my own theology and path in life. Having studied under him at Talbot, I have known him for many years. He was a tremendous man of God and truly a "Distinguished Professor." He will be sorely missed at Talbot by students, alumni, staff, and faculty.