Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Bible and Tattoos

Bible passages commonly used against tattoos:

  • Leviticus 19:28
    You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
    19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Common arguments against Leviticus 19:28:

  • The context is within the Old Testament law, and we are no longer under the Old Testament law.
  • The passage was written during a time period when demon/idol worship was synonymous with markings/tattoos on the body.
  • Demon/idol worship is not synonymous with tattoos in America.
  • I am getting a Bible verse tattoo.

Common arguments against 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:

  • That passage is about fornication, not tattoos.
  • My tattoo is going to be a Bible verse.

Defense of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:

  • Your body is not your own.
  • The Biblical principle that your body should never be treated as your own parallels quite well for the Christian contemplating a tattoo.
  • Tattooing your body could even be viewed as selfish in light of this passage.
    Both your body and your spirit are purchased by Christ.
  • Deciding to permanently mark your body with a tattoo seems contradictory to the Biblical principle that your body does not belong to you, but to Christ.

    **However, this defense is not air-tight nor is it explicitly stated in the Scriptures in reference to tattoos or body markings. But it can be healthily applied to the decision making process.

Principles commonly used against tattoos:

Principles commonly used for tattoos:

  • My tattoo opens up/will open up witnessing opportunities.
  • My tattoo is/will be a Bible verse, it is a form of ministry.
  • Nobody will be able to see it, it is for me.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Should Christians Always Tip?

I feel like the "Why Christians don't tip" topic warrants a response.

A little google research came up with some unsettling finds.

Debra Fieguth wrote a good article entitled "Are You A Cheap Christian?" This witty joke bares with it a cold reminder that our Christian testimony is very important:
"What's the difference between Christians and canoes? Canoes tip. Ouch. That hurts, but unfortunately it reflects a widely believed notion that Christians are miserly when it comes to leaving a gratuity for waiters, hairdressers, taxi drivers and others in the service industry."

Her article isn't concrete and full of statistics, but it shows a stunning trend that I think most of us can admit is true. How many people, excluding Biggz because we already heard his story about the Crowder concert crowd... but how many people do you know that have complained about Christians being the worst tippers? Every person I've known to work in the food industry has told me this in one way or another. "Sunday is the worst crowd." "Christians always leave small tips or just stupid tracts." I've heard these staple statements in over abundance.

Well what should our response be?

I think some basic principles should be applied:

1. Only eat out if you can afford to tip well
This is pretty simple folks. If you go out to eat and claim you "don't really have the cash" to tip well, then you have no business eating out to begin with. (Proverbs 21:20)

2. Don't leave a tract as your means of a testimony, let your candor and tip speak for you
Shoddy evangelism happens enough without small tips or the lack thereof combined with a tract adding to the long list of "don't you hate it when Christians" list. If you want to share your faith, by all means, share it. But don't go leaving a tract as your smarmy way of "spreading the good news" when all you are going to do is ruin the receiving server's night and give them a false representation of what a Christian should be. (1 John 3:17-19)

3. If you do leave a tract, hand it to them personally, and be sure your tip and candor aren't sending a mixed signal
Really think it through before you decide to give a tract to someone if you aren't going to sit down and actually take the time to have a conversation with them. If God gives you a peace about it and you feel it is something you should do, then do it. But don't treat your server in a rude manner and leave a tract under your plate instead of a tip while scooting quickly out the door. Match your tract witness with your personal witness as a means of protecting the name of Christ. (James 2:15-17)

4. Don't use poor service as an excuse to not tip
Since when do we, as Christians, respond to people only in love when we see fit? How many times does Jesus reprimand this type of mindset? Eye for an eye? Isn't that essentially what we are saying when we use a server's poor service as an excuse to be unkind and unloving? We are to be different! (Matthew 5:38-49)

5. Think of tipping as a cultural custom with the mindset of a missionary in a foreign land
How much time and study is dedicated to not offending foreign cultures by being sensitive to their customs? We take such a tender approach to missions, but treat our homeland like backyard baseball in the sense that we think we write the rules. It would be quite offensive for a missionary to know of a custom and to ardently ignore and refuse to follow it. Not only would it be offensive, but it would ruin his witness and limit his effectiveness as a minister of the gospel (Proverbs 18:19). Such a parallel should humble any Christian who refuses to tip graciously.

6. If you are in a situation where you aren't sure what to tip, asking isn't impolite
If it is your first time in a cab or a hotel where tipping is customary, just ask what normal tip size is. Most people won't hesitate to give an honest and humble answer. I was getting my hair cut at a local salon and I just asked "what do people normally tip?" She said five dollars and I politely gave her seven. Now, don't think I'm proudfully bragging on myself, because I'm not. I'm giving an example of how easy it is to avoid offending someone when you are ignorant to the customary tipping total. She saw I was making sure I didn't offend her by not tipping, but she also saw I was willing to give more than the average. (Matthew 5:38-42)

The love of Christ far exceeds just telling people that God loves them. We should love them with kindness and generosity that is against the grain of every day society. Jesus didn't hand out tracts, He loved on people and served them. What a glorious testimony of Christ's love to generously give over and above what's expected in instances like tipping.

If you have anything to add or Scripture passages that touch on this subject, please contribute!

2 Corinthians 9:11
You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

This site was really helpful for Scriptures on everything from Debt, to Saving, to Budgeting... enjoy.

Election, Predestination, Limited Atonement

John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
Romans 3:10-11 10 As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.
Philippians 1:29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him

This pretty much lays the foundation for inability apart from God's drawing. Now we have to see where drawing is explicitly connected to election...
Acts 13:48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
Ephesians 1:11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will
Ephesians 1:4-5 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will

I could exhaust this part of the email, but it is pretty obvious predestination and election exists. However, if you want more references I can give you more.

Now, since God has chosen and knows who His children are before they are even born, Christ would only die and pay for the sins of those that would reap from the benefit of such a payment. Christ dying for people in hell or going to hell is a mockery of His atoning work. Sins being paid for twice is both contradicting to Scripture and is dismantling to eternal security. Christ did not just make salvation possible for every person that will ever live, but He secured the salvation of many peoples who were chosen by God before the foundation of the world. Scriptures for this "limited atonement" are scarce, but once the foundation of election has been set, logic leads us to only one conclusive end. Here are some passages:

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
This makes more sense when further in the passage Jesus says...
John 10 25-29 25 Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all

The key here is that "sheep" isn't just used for followers of God prior to Christ's death (ie: Disciples), but it also includes all that are "given" to Jesus by the Father. Then we have to remember He "lays down his life for the sheep". This is pretty air tight if you ask me. Not only does it show Christ dying only for His sheep, but it also shows that people weren't believing because they weren't chosen or "given" to Jesus by the Father.

John 17:9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.
Here Christ is praying for the chosen people that He is going to die for. In light of the passage in John 10 using the same wording "given me" and "given them to me", we can clearly see Jesus is praying for His sheep and isn't concerned with the entire world. Again, why pray or die for people that Jesus knows are not His chosen people?

Now, for John 3:16, you need verse 17 to see my point...
John 3:16-17 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Now you have to decide how you want the word "world" to be understood. If you think Christ died for every one that will ever live, then you have to replace the word "world" with that. Once you get to verse 17, the universalism springs forth.

John 3:16-17 16 For God so loved everyone that will ever live that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into everyone that will ever live to condemn everyone that will ever live, but to save everyone that will ever live through him.

Obviously you aren't a universalist. So John 3:16 no longer works for proving that Christ died for everyone. And yes! anyone that believes will be saved! But that phrase doesn't negate other passages that clearly show God chooses who will believe and who will not. We have to interpret Scripture with Scripture. So the passages I've used explain that what Jesus meant by "whoever believes" is more about eternal security than anything.

If you have any questions or want to know what other passages mean in light of these, just ask. Remember, I hated Calvinism and set out to disprove it. So I know what a lot of your objections or staple verses might be and I will be able to hopefully satisfy your questions or explain what certain verses mean.

Why I study theology

First let me start by saying if you have a problem with certain passages of the Bible, and think they don't apply to you, stop reading this now. And if you only read the Bible to use it as a moral compass and don't like passages that bring about deep theological meanings and implications, turn back now. And if you don't want to be challenged to take your faith seriously to the point of groaning study and diligence, hit that little X up in the corner.

Now with that word of caution out of the way I am going to give a defense as to why every Christian should study theology and doctrine. Agnosticism within the Christian faith is a growing problem, and the men and women of God's church need to kick it into high gear instead of sliding into neutral. For those of you who aren't familiar with Agnosticism, I will provide a definition:

"the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable"

Now one might say, how can a Christian be Agnostic? Well, to put it quite simply, they don't believe in the extensive study of God (theology) nor do they think systems of belief (doctrine) are worth anything because it is all "probably unknowable". The key issue here is that most Christians are not Agnostic by choice, but they have been influenced into apathetic and lazy mindsets about the Bible by fellow Christians. Preachers that don't take stances on deep theological issues because "we will never know in this life who is right and who is wrong", are doing a poor job of sheparding the flock.

Let us look to the Scriptures...

In Titus we have Paul's charge to Titus and the people of the church. Much to the Agnostic Christian's surprise, Paul places a lot of emphasis on sound doctrine and refuting those who teach false doctrine:

(Paul is addressing the leaders or "overseers", but this still applies to a Christian's duty to study and defend the faith)
Titus 1:9
9He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

The reason this applies to all Christians to know the message and the doctrine so that they can "refute those who oppose it", is because it says "the trustworthy message as it has been taught". The words "been taught" are crucial. If you are a Christian and you have "been taught" the "trustworthy message" of the gospel, your duty far exceeds simply sharing the gospel with the people around you. The wording also leads us to see the urgency and seriousness of Paul's charge. "Hold firmly" bears with it a high level of importance, and is followed by what should be done as a result: "encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it." Now let us go further into the text...

The words following verse 9 are also important. They say "For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers". This tells us that enemies of the truth of God's Word were in an abundance; ie: see the word "many". If you live in America, just look around you; enemies of God's Word are slowly becoming the majority. What does Paul say we should do about it? Verse 11 says "They must be silenced," Why? "because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain." It doesn't take a psychologist or a social analyst to see the rampant deconstruction and crumbling structure within the home of our Western culture...

From divorce rates, to rebellious children, to husbands that look at porn, to wives that cheat; we can see the results of what Paul warned us about. Houses have been ruined by things being taught that shouldn't be taught. Things like this quote I just read by Donald Miller, "At the end of the day, when I am lying in bed and I know the chances of any of our theology being exactly right are a million to one, I need to know that God has things figured out, that if my math is wrong we are still going to be okay. And wonder is that feeling we get when we let go of our silly answers, our mapped out rules that we want God to follow. I don't think there is any better worship than wonder" What he says is quite comforting to anyone who sees study of theology as a wasted effort. However, those of us that pursue a deeper understanding by sharpening our swords through the diligent study of theology and doctrine, are quite insulted and prone to scoff at such "we are still okay, nobody knows who is right, lets all just be happy" ideology. Silly answers?! Mapped out rules that we want God to follow?! Since I have rently read his book, "Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality", I'm quite sure the point he is trying to make. Biblical theology matters very little to Donald Miller judging from his book. He focuses on loving people and serving those that are around us. At times his book removes the importance of study while elevating making people feel good. Well, I hate to disrupt the fluffy feel good message but... We are at war. The culture war over abortion, gay rights, and evolution has become so heated in the public square that Christians need to firmly stand their ground. The study of theology and doctrine is the only way to properly equip ourselves for the defense of God's Word. Donald Miller's, dare I say, belittling of theological systems and doctrinal systems flies in the face of the seriousness of Paul's charge to Titus.

The Agnosticism that is being spread within the Church is probably the single greatest reason people don't take their Christian faith seriously. Yet the Agnostic Christians have the nerve to mock those who study theology with generalizations about "over intellectualizing the Bible" or "being too logical" or "having to place God inside a box". Were the Apostalic Fathers fools who over intellectualized the Bible? Or were they bold men of God that defended their faith against early pagan philosophy and heresy by studying sound theology and doctrine? They didn't do it as a reaction to the pagans, they did it because it was their duty. They saw plainly the urgent necessity for solid biblical doctrine, theology, and philosophy; and equipped themselves accordingly.

In the book Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey, she talks about how Christians in America privatize their faith and neglect applying/bringing it to their secular jobs or environments. At the very core of this problem lies the poisonous venom of Agnosticism. People that shrug their shoulders and say "there is no way to know who is right" probably don't stand up for their Christian beliefs in their workplace. How can we assume this? Quite simply by observing that if among Christian circles they lack the motivation to study and defend sound doctrine, what reason would they have to defend any faith at all in a non-Christian environment? Wouldn't they also be hesitant due to the fact that they probably would do a shoddy job defending their faith due to their lack of study? We can easily deduct from this simple observation that most if not all people who look at the Christian faith with such apathy will not going to defend their faith when it is challenged. I am not, however, discrediting or taking away from Christians who are young in their faith that share Christ with everyone they meet. I am addressing those that refuse to study theology and doctrine as some strange form of intellectual rebellion.

So what are we dealing with here? Simply put: An infection in the church. The Agnostic secular worldview has breached the walls of our crumbling defenses and has now set up camp behind the pulpit. I've heard such criticisms as "what God must think when His children sit around and debate and discuss rather than win souls". Unfair and non-conclusive assertions about God's disposition toward study and defense of sound doctrine come from the apathetic privatized Christianity that Agnosticism has created.

Here is the reality check:

We are the future leaders of the church. That sentence alone should inspire you or scare you. I am scared for the future of the church because more people ascribe to this Agnostic approach to Christianity every day. However, I am also inspired to take my studies here at College more seriously than I have in the past. Hopefully some of you are inspired and motivated by this refreshing look at our duty as Christians to study. "But where do I start?" Start with your Pastor, I don't think I'm being presumptuous to say that he probably graduated from a Bible College (unless your pastor is Joel Osteen, the college drop out.) Ask him for books or studies that he would recommend. "But how do I study?" If you have any formal education, studying the Bible shouldn't prove to be too difficult if you start small. Find a book that is a study on a specific book of the Bible and go through it with your spouse, friend, boy/girlfriend, fiancé, or be really bold, and *gasp* do it on your own! "But why?" I'll answer this with another passage of Scripture...

2 Timothy 2:15
Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Some translations don't say "study", some say "strive" or "be diligent". So before you assume that is the crux of the passage and think it is therefore nullified by different translations, I direct you to the last part of the verse. "Rightly dividing the word of truth"; it is our aim, our mark, and our duty. God's Word is not simply a morning devotional for daily inspiration(not mocking, but it is definitely more than just those two things). It is the very Words of God, it is God breathed, it is the only way to truly know God; and we should take very serious the charge to study it, defend it, and know it.

In closing, don't take this entry as an assault or an attack if you think that is what I'm setting out to do. You will be wonderfully surprised at how rewarding and refreshing it is to study the Bible on a doctrinal and theological level.