Are Christians environmentalists?
Think of all the Christians your know. Are they environmentalists? I'm guessing they are not. The reality is "no," not all Christians are environmentalists. Should they be? The answer is probably "yes," but it depends on what we mean when we say "environmentalist."
When God created the world in Genesis 1, He calls His creation "very good." Then He commands the man to fill the earth and "subdue it" which means to rule it or take care of it. It does not mean to exploit it, abuse it, waste it, or destroy it. It does not mean our rulership replaces God's rulership.
Man's rulership over the earth is an extension of God's rulership. We rule with Him, and we rule for Him. If the earth is good--the plants, the atmosphere, the oceans--if it is all very good, and if our job is to take care of it with and for God, then it is our privilege to protect and grow the earth. But in that rulership is also the authority to use these resources to improve our quality of life. God does not consider the plants to be the same ontological value as "living things" (namely, animals and human beings). It's not a crime to cut down a tree to build a home. In fact, God provides Adam and Eve with animal skins for clothing. So "environmentalist" can't be taken to an extreme where the earth is somehow just as valuable as human life. It is a tool to be used, but not wastefully or exploitatively.
Where we can use our resources to increase our quality of life, we should do so, but certainly not if it comes at the expense of the quality of life of others (such as severe pollution).
Should we have compassion for animals, even though they don't have souls?
Compassion has nothing to do with the presence of a soul.
It has everything to do with understanding suffering. Human beings are
not the only ones that suffer, and human beings are not the only ones that need
to be saved from their cursed state.
Romans 8:20-21 indicates that God has compassion on the earth, recognizing its brokenness and planning on bringing it to renewal. We should share in God's grief over suffering and eagerness to restore.
& WOMEN'S ROLES
How can one be a feminist yet follow the role of God for their gender?
One cannot. One cannot come to God with an agenda to make Him fit their own preferred suppositions. If someone comes to God looking to be a feminist and then seeing how He can fit that, then feminism is actually her god (or goddess, more appropriately).
The right way is to come to God in COMPLETE SURRENDER. His instruction, then, will be the only direction that's taken. There will be parts where we'll see how Jesus was totally revolutionary and liberating for women, as He elevated their status and expressed their value and treasured their service alongside men as believers in the Church. But there are also parts where we recognize that God has made a distinct difference between men and women--not only physically, but mentally and emotionally (which is what the Bible calls "spiritually!"). Their roles are different, their callings are different, and--while their values are equal--their functions are not the same.
1 Corinthians 11, Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, 1 Timothy 2, 1 Peter 3...these are just some of the many places where we see God's expectations for men and women. They are both equal in value (Galatians 3:28), but totally different in function. This will challenge a feminist's presuppositions intensely. It will upset them and conflict directly with many of their main values solely due to the fact that the feminist agenda is not built upon biblical truth (though some try feebly to fit the Bible in to substantiate their agenda). When it comes down to it, this will determine who's will a woman is truly seeking to be done: God's, or woman's.
Now, aside from the firm tone, there's also an aspect of sensitivity that I want to recognize: women have endured a lot of hardship historically, and they continue to deal with much of it still today.
First, I want to encourage our sisters in Christ to trust God's instruction and know that He wouldn't lead you in a manner that will leave you fruitless and unfulfilled. His plan for women is designed specifically to bring out the best in you. This will take time and patience and obedience, as with any matters of godliness, but it will bring you to maturity and wisdom and understanding of God and yourself.
Second, I want to assure you that the cure to women's hardship is NOT cured by having women behave and function like men. If there's an inequality in our society, and if men have the upper hand, the cure is to redeem the dignity and virtue of femininity and womanhood, not to abandon it. Women are built to be women, and I desperately hope they would be proud to be who they are--not proud to be indistinguishable from their male counterparts.
What is the Bible's stance on the role of women in our society today?
The Bible's stance on the role of women is often misunderstood, even when written down clearly, because the nature of the material begs so many follow-up questions to every assertion that's made. I'll be categorical in my response, but this only a tiny fraction of what could be said.
1) EQUAL VALUE. Men and women were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Both are infinitely valuable because of divine signature that's present in every human being's soul.
2) EQUAL HEIRS. Men and women are both participants in the kingdom of God by the same basis of the gospel: the response of repentance and obedience to Christ. Nothing about gender makes any influence on one's entrance into God's people (Galatians 3:26-29).
3) DIFFERENT ROLES. The instruction on how to treat a spouse is different to husbands than it is to wives. The way God wants men treat women is different than the way women treat men (Ephesians 5:22-30).
4) DIFFERENT CONSTITUTION. Men are to take care of women more tenderly than they would other men. This is because they are the weaker vessel, whether it mean on a physical or personal scale, or both (1 Peter 3:7).
5) DIFFERENT FUNCTION. Here is where the most controversy erupts. The passages about women that beg our attention are 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 and 1 Timothy 2:9-15. Churches have concluded on different specific boundaries on how to apply the principles of those passages, but the clear message is that men are expected to fulfill the role of leadership in the context of the local church. Some say only men can be pastors, some say that applies only to pastors who lead adult congregations, and some say that it applies only to senior pastors (a position that doesn't actually exist in the Bible, though that doesn't mean there wasn't a single figurehead that led the local church).
Whether or not a woman stays home to work or goes out to work, I don't think that changes her priority to fulfill her duty as a wife and mother. In the same way, I don't think it matters whether or not the husband works at home or out in an office or field--the location isn't important. It's whether or not he pulls his weight as a husband and father.
The "perfect woman" is really described in Proverbs 31. She is a working woman, but not at the cost of her family. Raising her children is of absolute importance. In today's context, much of child-raising happens outside the home: kids go to school for hours on end, or after-school sport programs and things. This frees up the mother to focus on other things during that time (though taking care of a home is a ton of work!). Also, a lot of stuff happens much faster today than it did back then. If a mom needed to talk to someone or buy supplies for home, she'd have to walk to that person's village or browse through the marketplace. In our day, a cell phone and internet access can take care of those things instantly. I think that enables some moms to work and still be moms.
Biblically speaking, men weren't excused from housework. Men helped kill the animal that was going to be eaten, so he was involved in meal preparation. Men fed the animals, put them away at night, so he was involved in chores and cleaning. Men are part of the family too, which means they need to do more than just one job (their occupation) and think the rest of the responsibilities are for the housewife. And wives aren't men, as we see in all those passages mentioned above. They shouldn't think their contribution to the family is the same as the man's in function.
There's a ton more to say about the issue, but because there are so many particular questions and follow-up questions, I think the best bet would be to ask your pastor in person. Bring up the specific passages and ask how that applies to society today. Be prepared for disappointment, however, because many pastors haven't thought this issue through. It's not a topic that comes up in our sermons very often (since the trend is to be politically correct, not doctrinally firm).
Whatever you do, make sure you don't make a conclusion first and then see if the Bible agrees with you. We should never tell God what to say, or check if He's right or wrong. Come with a clean slate, see what God says, make sure you understand it in its proper context, identify the timeless principle, see how it would apply to our situation today, and then trust it even if it seems so backward to what you've heard growing up. God has a way of instructing us to live backward, and somehow it's way better than the counterfeit life we're taught in our politics, philosophies, and humanities. Chances are, if you're following God properly, the world won't agree or understand it, and you'll have to wrestle with the issue for a long time. :)
What are your thoughts on the biblical role of women in the modern world--especially since our generation of women are becoming so career-focused? Should women be sacrificing their family/mother duties in exchange for their careers and financial security?
I think the role of women in the modern world is both liberating and
enslaving. I'm glad that there is a
much greater value and respect for women in our day and age that no longer
subjugates them as second class citizens as if they were property or animals.
The opportunity for women to receive education and pursue professional career is
a great blessing in the maturation of our social understanding.
Our liberation of women, however, has come with great cost. The role of women has been equated with men not only in value, but also in function. There is now an expectation for women to perform just like men do. Movies, for instance, will depict warrior women and much attention and effort will be given to proving that the woman is just as competent (usually more so) than other men. The value is equating the sexes is not in homogenizing their functionality, but to equally honor their distinctiveness. No woman should sacrifice her role in the family (whether as daughter, sister, or mother) for the sake of individual and/or professional pursuit. In the same way, no man should forsake his role either (as son, brother, or husband). The way we operate in our modern society should be expressions of our place in our spiritual community, which God has specifically ordained as starting in the nuclear family--hence, the fifth commandment in Exodus 20. Jobs, professions, careers--if any of these ever supplant our role as children, siblings, or parents, and if any of these ever retard or damage our pursuit of faith and godliness, then they are false gods and idols to which we are bowing, and such values have no place in the kingdom of God that calls us to abandon the promotion of self as we embrace the service to the King.
What is your take on women as pastors?
Men and women are equal in value to God, beginning from creation in
Genesis 1:26-27. This equality in value, however, is not the same as equality in
function. Passages like 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 and 1 Timothy 2:9-15 help us
understand that there is a difference in the function of each sex, particularly
with application to the subject of women becoming pastors.
Men and women were called to different roles. This is most clearly understood in Ephesians 5:22-33 and 1 Peter 3:1-7, where husbands and wives are given distinct responsibilities solely on the basis that he is the husband and she is the wife. That should be a big indicator to us that our function does not indicate our worth, our ability, or our right. Many people often irresponsibly jump to the conclusion that if the man is in authority and the woman is in submission, the man is better and the woman is inferior. That's not the case, especially when the role of leadership and submission are biblically understood.
In terms of women pastors, then, there is the affirmation that biblical leadership is male. Some churches apply this by only hiring male pastors. Some hire men and women, but only ordain men as reverends, and others still have only male pastors in the teaching position, with women in counseling or other non-pulpit ministries. All of these are applications of the complementarian perspective on men and women, of which I hold adamantly because the Bible is so absolutely clear on the issue.
On the other side of the theological spectrum, some churches (who are caught up in political correctness and cultural values over clear biblical instruction) make no distinction between men and women at all, saying those instructions in 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2 were restricted to the specific audience and culture of the apostle Paul's time. Or some churches may make no distinction between men and women pastors except in the role of the senior pastor, which would be restricted to male. Both of these views are from the liberal egalitarian perspective, of which I strongly warn against.
We as the Church need to keep the main thing as the main thing. God's Word is supremely authoritative, and no amount of culture or politics can dispute, nullify, or correct the timeless principles within it. While those principles may have different visible applications throughout the ages and societies that encounter the gospel, never will people have the authority to outdate God's intention and our spiritual design.
How does the Bible define masculinity and femininity? Should cultural expectations shape our views of what it means to be a man or woman?
Check out the last sermon in that series.
How do you feel about the overturning of Prop 8 (which prohibited legalizing gay marriage)?
I think Christ was very direct when speaking about our stand on faith versus our stand on anything else, including politics or relationships or entertainment or whatever. Jesus said plainly, "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. but whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:32-34). Jesus was definitively drawing boundaries between people who worship him truly, and those who only worship him with cheap talk. You cannot believe in Jesus without believing in what he stands for. You cannot say Jesus is your Lord if you do not believe what he says is authoritative and true.
Now Jesus never bothered to be politically correct. Quite the opposite. Jesus challenged the government of his time because of its corruption and moral and spiritual deviation. He never stopped to say, "Well, even though what I'm saying is true, I don't want to push it on these Israelites. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion." What made a sinless, righteous man like Jesus the target of religious assassination was the fact that he actively and fearlessly and relentlessly spoke out against politics that tolerated or endorsed sin.
In our society, the Church needs to bring meaning back to "In God we trust." The Church needs to remind our country that we're "one nation, under God." God was never meant to worship or submit to culture. Culture is meant to worship and submit to God. So whether the stance be on war, abortion, homosexuality, death penalty, or whatever else, it's not the place of America to decide it's laws and then expect God to follow them. The Church's goal, then, should be to bring America back to following God's values. This should be done peacefully, legally, and lovingly--not punitively or maliciously or with a heart of judgment or condemnation. The powers we have to bring this to effect is our right to vote and assemble and demonstrate godly values to our neighbors. That's exactly what I hope for and expect the Church to do.
My opinion on those who separate their private faith from their public vote? I think they misunderstand what worship means, as they give God only part of their lives--not all.
If God loves everyone, why does He not approve of gays? If the purpose was to have children, can't they just adopt?
God's love for people shouldn't be mistaken as God's love for their
practices. Though God loves murderers, prostitutes, drunkards, robbers, and
liars, He does not love murder, prostitution, drunkenness, robbing, and lying.
God loves homosexuals, but that doesn't mean God loves homosexuality. He loves the sinner, and He hates the sin. And we're called to do exactly the same.
Parenting, by God's design, was to function in the union of marriage between a husband and a wife--namely, one man and one woman. Homosexual marriage would violate that instruction, and having children (by adoption or any other means) would only further violate the design God gave for people. His design for us isn't arbitrary; it is meant to lead us to our greater, eternal fulfillment. There is a promise of satisfaction in Him if we actually repent of our own lordship and trust the instruction He's given us.
Do you believe people can be born homosexual?
No. So far, our scientific research doesn't indicate such a conclusion.
Previous studies were taken from limited population samplings (like prison
inmates, for example).
If homosexuality were genetic, it would basically need to be a dominant gene in order to be passed on. After all, two homosexuals cannot reproduce with one another, so each would have to procreate with a heterosexual, and the homosexual gene would have to be passed on. If it were recessive, the genetic heritage could be proven: have two homosexuals (one male, one female) have a child together. If homosexuality is genetic, that child would only receive homosexual alleles from each parent, meaning that child is destined genetically to be homosexual by his genetic composition. This has been proven not to be the case.
I'm not saying that homosexuality is completely independent of genetics though. Our personalities and preferences are certainly based off certain predispositions in our genes, but that doesn't mean they're defined by them. One can be genetically more inclined to be active or energetic or angry or fearful, but experience and decision play important roles in further developing or inhibiting those dispositions.
Being gay is not something that someone simply can't help but do. It's part of a system of values and actions that they adopt--a system that is alien to God's clear direction in the Bible. If you start with an agenda for homosexual rights, then the Bible becomes an offensive source of oppression. If you start with a trust in God, then homosexuality is a deviant and unholy manifestation of sin (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:21-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
While homosexual behavior is a sin, is being a homosexual a sin?
Sin is an action. Sinfulness is a condition.
Murder is an action. Being a murderer is a condition.
Homosexual activity is a sinful action. Being homosexual is a sinful
Whether or not you believe homosexuality is genetic is irrelevant. We're all born sinful, and we're all called to repent of it. The purpose of man is to be like God, not man--that is, to be more than the way he is born.
How can you explain to a homosexual that they are sinning against God?
When I speak to an unbeliever who struggles with greed, anger, lust, or
any other particular sin, I rarely start the conversation with "what you're
doing is sin." If that person doesn't believe in God, then the word "sin"
doesn't have any meaning. The same is true of the homosexual. Telling him that
his sexual preference is sinful is meaningless if he doesn't truly believe that
God is real. And it still doesn't mean anything if the guy doesn't submit to
Jesus as Lord.
The conversation needs to start with the reality of God. Then you can talk about sin. You can't start with "you're sinning," and then expect them to say, "Oh, well, is there a God that exists that can do something about that?" Get to the point where God is acknowledged. Then move on to God's holiness and righteous judgment against sin. Then talk about how the penalty for it is paid by the work of Christ on the cross. Then show him how obedience to God's design and will for us is meant for our greater and eternal fulfillment--not to ruin our happiness.
How can we convince homosexual people that what they're doing is unhealthy to their future, their kids, and themselves?
Honestly, who cares if it's unhealthy? Your job as a believer is not to
go around rebuking people for being unhealthy. If someone is eating a bacon
cheeseburger, you're not obligated to go tell him it's unhealthy for his kids
You do not start a conversation with, "Being gay is a sin." A conversation that starts with that is one of condemnation and communicates the opposite of reaching out to invite someone into salvation. It sounds like your pushing out to condemn someone to damnation.
Your job is to be a light. You show the love and grace and power of God to everyone around you. You reach out to people with love for them. You don't hide or mask your disdain for sin, because your love for them is intended to bring them closer to God--not just you. But in every conversation about sin, you lay down the amazing truth of Christ's atoning work for the forgiveness of sins, and the free offer of that salvation and satisfaction and fulfillment to anyone who trusts God to lead his life.
What are we going to do about North Korea? When will God save them and punish the evildoers?
Really, I don't know. His timing is His alone. Right now the best we can
do is continue to send missionaries there. In Scripture, decades and sometimes
centuries went by before God displaced a wicked nation. Sometimes a wicked
nation was used by God to punish another nation--such as the Babylonians that
were used to conquer Israel because of Israel's idolatry and unfaithfulness. The
prophetic book of Habakkuk is about the Babylonians (super wicked) who would be
used to punish Israel.
But during those times, God also mentions how the wicked nations will be punished for their crimes. No one will get away with it when judgment comes. To us on earth, it can feel like North Korea isn't getting what it deserves for the atrocities that nation commits or the freedom it oppresses, but what we fail to solve politically here on earth, God will judge and punish when all is said and done.
Our job: make every effort we can to rectify the situation here. Our hope is to have God's will done on earth just like it is done in heaven. If God would be displeased with North Korea's actions and seeks to set things right, then we should too. Pray for their salvation, contribute to the cause of justice, and encourage the people around you to do the same (without judging them or condemning them for not knowing or caring as much as you do!). Your example of godly concern and care should be what inspires your neighbor to follow suit. While different people are given different convictions (some might care about North Korea, others about human trafficking, other about battered wives, etc.), we must remember that these convictions are good things when handled rightly, and part of handling them rightly is understanding that others need to be gently informed and encouraged to support--not guilt-tripped into following.
In the Old Testament, cities of refuge were established in order to protect those that committed accidental killings. Today, manslaughter is punishable by law. How should this subject be approached?
I don't really see any real discrepancy between how our legal system
treats manslaughter today versus the law set up in the Old Testament. In both
cases, the punishment is a lesser degree than that which was given for murder.
Cities of refuge were not pleasant safe havens. The perpetrator was still permanently removed from his community and livelihood. It was, in a sense, a jail. It only ensured that the perpetrator was not KILLED for his action, since that punishment didn't fit the crime of accidental killing. Those who stayed at cities of refuge couldn't ever leave until the current high priest died, which meant they were sentenced there for years.
Looking at how it was done in the Old Testament, I think that the way manslaughter is treated today is done in the same spirit: it recognizes the difference in degree and yet still provides consequence, even for accidental killing.
Why is abortion unjust but capital punishment just?
A criminal that incurs the death penalty has committed a crime that has:
1) proven himself a danger to his neighbor
2) taken a human life with malicious intent
3) irreparably damaged the lives of the deceased's loved ones
4) and forfeited his right to life by ignoring another's.
What crime did the unborn baby commit that deserves that he die? Our reasons are usually these:
1) Mom doesn't want him.
2) Mom feels like she can't afford him.
3) Mom wasn't planning on having kids under the given circumstances.
4) Dad didn't stick around.
5) Parents don't want to deal with the baby's sickness.
6) Baby was the result of rape, not love.
Killing a human life for the above reasons is murder. You know it, because if you killed an adult for any of those reasons, murder is exactly what you'd be charged with. It means the baby's parents are murderers. If someone has to die out of the family, it's the parents that are the criminals for their murderous intent/actions, not the child. The baby shouldn’t have to pay with his life under any circumstances to provide some convenience for an unready parent under.
How do we "care for widows" in a modern day context?
Widows were the outsiders of society in Jesus' time. Men worked to make money and women stayed home and handled domestic needs--after all, without refrigerators, microwaves, cars, stoves, and other modern conveniences, every simple household chore was a lot more work. If husbands died, their widows were left without any means of financial support. They were had less privileges than men. Being a poor woman who had no work and no hope for marriage (marrying widows was extremely rare), they were the marginalized lesser citizens of the day.
When the church says to take care of widows and orphans and the poor, it's a way of saying, "Take care of the people that the world has given up on. Love the unloveable." That's why Jesus says, "Whatever you do for the least of these, you do to me" (Matthew 25:40). Today, the same is true. Take care of the people the world has given up on, and love the unloveable. That could mean the student who sits alone during lunch at school with no one who wants to talk to him. It could mean offering friendship to someone who is making trouble in class for attention, even because he's emotionally unstable. It could mean giving to the homeless, visiting the elderly, or spending time with the sick or crippled. All of these are ways that you can love someone who the world would turn away from. The times have changed, but the call has not.
See http://www.californiality.com/2011/09/home-bible-study-illegal-without-permit.html. In situations such as these, are we supposed to submit to the government?
Yes. The Fromms did the best thing they could: they paid the fines, appealed the courts, garnered support, and eventually got the city to revise its code on religious gatherings. They held fast to their commitment to God, and they didn't disrespect the system of government that functions authoritatively underneath God but above themselves. Because they didn't just ignore the law or defy it, but they used legal means to properly fight the injustice, they solved not only their own problem, but they forged a solution that will continue in effect for the rest of the city from now on.
LIFE BEFORE BIRTH
What happens to babies and people without the ability to make choices (brain dead or otherwise) when they die? If they absolutely had no way of knowing the gospel, what will happen to them after they die? Where will they be or go?
Keep in mind the
1) The Bible does not provide a clear, definitive answer on the issue.
2) There are godly believers on both sides of the question who either think that babies (as well as those without the proper mental capabilities to understand the gospel) go to heaven or hell. There is not a single agreement on the issue, and both sides present compelling arguments.
3) Regardless of which side is correct, the end result is always that our righteous and loving God upholds His righteous will without compromising His love or goodness.
My understanding of the matter is that babies go to heaven. Here is my reasoning:
1) While a baby is born sinful by nature--meaning he is inclined toward sinning--he has not yet actually committed any sin. Sin is a wrongful intent of the heart, which babies have not yet formed. And men are judged by their deeds (Revelation 20:12b), which babies have not yet done. The action is never separated from the motive, so we can't legitimately say that because a baby cries, he's being selfish. That logic is poor. Else, it would be just for us to punish a baby for crying.
2) King David demonstrated a very special example of how we are to understand babies who die. In 2 Samuel, his baby is dying and so he fasts and mourns. But when the baby finally passes away, he washes his face and begins to eat. The servants wonder why he is no longer mourning, and his answer is, "I will go to him, but he will not return to me." He knew he couldn't bring his son back from the dead, but he had a firm conviction that he would see him after he himself died. David, of course, was God's anointed one to spiritually lead Israel--he was certainly going to be in heaven, where he expected to see his son.
3) Jesus showed a specific, tender, and protective attitude toward children. He says in Matthew 18:3 that we should be like them! That, of course, is not a remark to say that all children are saved, but it certainly does point us toward a certain positive regard that Jesus has for children.
4) Small remarks by persons like Job in Job 3:16 seem to say that dying as an infant is better than living in suffering. If we were to take those remarks as though they were literal declarations instead only expressions of exasperation, then it would have us seeing that a stillborn child is not in hell, since hell is worse than any suffering on earth.
Those four reasons (given in order of strongest to weakest) are enough of a testimony to make a strong case for the salvation of babies (which I believe includes those who do not have the mental capacity to understand the gospel). I still affirm that all men are born fallen and sinful in nature from the moment of conception, but the salvation of babies is still the same gospel of salvation by grace--not works--that God dispenses to those whom He sovereignly decides to have mercy on. The babies did not earn their salvation; but they also did not earn their condemnation, and so God lavished on them the riches of His kingdom out of the goodness of His will.
One final note that cements this argument is that of Revelation 5:9. The 24 elders in heaven worship God saying He has saved people from every tribe, language, and people and nation. Since the gospel didn't reach every tribe, language, people, and nation, how is it possible that people were saved? I think it is true that God saved those unborn children.
Is all birth control sinful?
Abortifacient birth control is sin, as a human embryo--though not fully
developed--is still a human being.
All other forms of birth control---IN MY OPINION---are within our freedom to exercise, given that no one is harmed or killed and the couple is able to responsibly afford the means. There is nothing that violates any biblical value by exercising birth control, assuming both spouses are in agreement and are honoring God with their decision.
The argument against contraceptives often platform off Genesis 38:8-9,
where Onan refuses his cultural obligation to propogate his late brother's
progeny and instead spills his semen on the ground when laying with his
The sin here is not the spilling of the semen, but the refusal to carry out his familial duty. That issue is not about contraception--it is about responsibility to your family name.
Other arguments against contraception are equally weak, plying on the accusation that use of contraceptives is equivalent to "playing God." The problem with that is that the expression "playing God" has no real defined boundaries and is altogether foreign from biblical instruction. The Bible actually speaks to us of Christian freedom to worship God as singles, as spouses, or as spouses with children. 1 Corinthians 7 even permits spouses to abstain from sexual intimacy (which of course is the most effective contraceptive), as long as that too is an act of worship. Remaining single instead of getting married (also a very effective method of contraception) was also highly encouraged (1 Cor 7:8)! This was to allow one to remain focused on worship and service without being weighed down with familial obligations.
Now, is abstinence in marriage an act of playing God? Is remaining single an act of playing God? In both cases, the answer is "No." Both can be done with the right intent to worship God and serve His people, and both can be done selfishly or angrily or fearfully. What matters is the motive.
Should Christians be against stem-cell research even though it
sounds like it has the potential to save the world from cancer, aids, spinal
cord injuries, etc.? It sounds so good, but why is it considered so bad
Should Christians be against stem-cell research even though it sounds like it has the potential to save the world from cancer, aids, spinal cord injuries, etc.? It sounds so good, but why is it considered so bad for Christians?
I suppose it depends. Researching stem cells is not inherently wrong--there's nothing holy about stem cells. The problem arises from the way stem cells are harvested. Fertilized human embryos are farmed and grown until they develop a mesodermal stem cell layer. The stem cells are taken out from the embryo for experimentation, and the embryo is then discarded and dies because it is not able to develop and survive after the extraction.
Two fundamental values have to be in place in order to properly maintain a Christian worldview on the matter:
First, every human being begins at the moment of conception. That means that every embryo is a human being. A sperm or egg is not a human being, but when the two are brought together and fertilization occurs, that is a living human person with a soul. Any procedure that harvests their parts (stem cells) and kills them in that process is no different than experimenting on living human adults and killing them off in the name of medical science. It is murder, no matter how young the child is. In fact, in Exodus 21:22-25, unborn children are protected by God explicitly.
Second, prolonging life on this earth is secondary to the real saving
that human lives need. Cancer, AIDS, and spinal cord injuries last only as long
as a person is on earth. Their destiny in heaven or hell is a future they will
experience for eternity. And moreso, we should never hold that the murder of
unborn babies is justified to prolong the life of unhealthy adults.
Medical advancements are a definite priority for us. We want to enrich life and undo the tragedies that harm us. But this should never replace the first and greater rescue mission to save the souls of every nation. And bringing about good should never be done by performing evil.
To gain some perspective: imagine you (or your wife) are pregnant. If someone accidentally hits you with their car and causes a miscarriage, would you only expect that person to pay for your medical expenses? Would you hold him responsible for the death of your unborn child? If so, you understand the humanity of a developing embryo. It would be a double standard and logical contradiction to treat your developing child as human, but those in the laboratory as just a developing pile of spare parts.
Until science can discover a way to safely harvest and/or grow stem cells without causing harm to a human child, there is no moral justification that can overlook the murder that takes place in today's methods of stem cell research.
If a government forced Christianity or Christian values on its population, would that be a good or bad thing for believers?
A government that forces Christian faith upon its population does not understand Christianity. The gospel is not something that can be imposed upon someone externally for their salvation. It would only become a system of laws and behavioral codes, but not worship in spirit and truth.
One cannot force someone to love God. One cannot force someone to trust in the death and resurrection of Christ. Any government that intends to force such values does not understand them to begin with. This would then be a bad thing for believers if they have to inform people that while they think they're Christian (because they're following governmental policy), they're in fact not unless they've placed their trust and obedience in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We have this problem already in America, as many are accustomed to going to church and calling themselves Christian, when in fact they are unrepentant. It is harder to bring the good news of salvation to someone who believes they already have it (by way of misunderstanding) and become numb to it than to someone who has never encountered that truth before.
To feign belief is hypocrisy. Jesus repeatedly refers to hypocrisy with the utmost disdain and hostility. Matthew 23 is a great example.
If a government forced Christian policies (the biblical positions on issues like the death penalty, abortion, homosexuality, etc.) then that would be a good thing in the sense that certain sins are outlawed on a legal level. We strive, as Christians, to have God's kingdom come here on earth as it is in heaven--to see His will done in our society as it should be done under God's rule. For this reason, Christians would stand against other sins as well (such as child molestation, domestic violence, substance abuse, etc. regardless of what the political climate of our nation tells us)--we strive for a society that upholds godly values, to prevent sin among believers and unbelievers alike.
The remaining mission is still to offer the message of salvation to the world. That is the ultimate goal.
Is it justified to rule by fear or force (like, "if you don't obey, you'll die")?
Of course. Rulership functions without an element of fear/force. Our whole law enforcement system is set up to punish crime. Nobody gets a reward each day for every law they didn't break. We obey the law to avoid punishment. That's actually the basic purpose of law. Galatians 3:19 says that God instituted His law with Israel because of man's sin.
Law (which entails punishment, therefore, fear/force) is necessary for good rulership. It's not the only ingredient, but it certainly is a necessary one. If a ruler rules only by fear/force, then he's not the best ruler he can be.
Which presidential candidate should a Christian vote for in the upcoming election?
If you can vote for God to rule America, do it. If you cannot, choose the candidate who would best rule as God would.
Let His kingdom come, and let His will be done on earth and in America as His will is done in heaven.
I don't know much about politics, but I heard that Romney is Mormon and that Obama supports gay marriage. Which candidate would best rule as God would?
The better approach would be to learn the politics of Romney and Obama and use your own discernment (rather than mine) to decide where your vote would be best placed as an act of worship. Voting for the guy I tell you to would be a serious abuse of our great country's freedom for each of its citizens to exercise their own political position, not someone else's. Using my opinion as a starting point (even if you don't intend to fully agree with me blindly) still only guarantees that you won't look at the issue objectively; you'll only look at it in comparison to my position.
As much as I have an opinion on who to vote for, I also know that it's better for people to follow God's instruction rather than mine. The more you look into His Word, the more His will becomes obvious to you (Romans 12:1-2). Then when you look at political candidates, it becomes easier to discern where their ideas are consistent with biblical principles or where they are not.
It's going to take effort and responsibility to figure out who to vote for. Look for the way to choose the right candidate, not the easiest or fastest way to make a decision. Sometimes the latter becomes far more enticing than the former.