Luther: Marriage is Hard Work

December 19, 2007

Reading Martin Luther’s biography today, I came across this (pp. 275-76):

“There is no estate to which the Devil is so opposed as to marriage. The clergy have not wanted to be bothered with work and worry. They have been afraid of a nagging wife, disobedient children, difficult relatives, or the dying of a pig or cow. They want to lie abed until the sun shines through the window. Our ancestors knew this and would say, “Dear child, be a priest or a nun and have a good time.” I have heard married people say to monks, “You have it easy, but when we get up we do not know where to find our bread.” Marriage is a heavy cross because so many couples quarrel. It is the grace of God when they agree. The Holy Spirit declares there are three wonders: when brothers agree, when neighbors love each another, and when a man and a wife are at one. When I see a pair like that, I am as glad as if I were in a garden of roses. It is rare.”

Having been deeply involved in counseling a couple that is struggling badly with marriage, this quote rings all to true. Any time we get along, it is nothing less than the grace of God. Our sinful hearts are otherwise so badly inclined toward quarreling, due to selfishness and sin.

Marriage is hard work, but the rewards for the effort are sweeter than anything on earth. There’s nothing like being happy with one’s spouse and enjoying the fulfillment of a unified spirit. By the grace of God, may love abound in our hearts.

——

On a related point:

Luther makes a good polemic against the mentality that possesses many young men and women today. They delay marriage into their late 20’s or even late 30’s. Why is this? One prominent reason is simply selfishness. They want to either perpetuate the lazy dependence on parents for as long as possible, so instead of having the normal drives of ambition to do something productive with their lives and get a job, they’d rather piddle the hours away playing Halo 3 in their parent’s basement, while running up their mom and dad’s cable, phone and gasoline bills.

Or, others want to work and build a career and spend their money on toys and fun without the financial drain that having a spouse can create. This is a selfish motive which Luther scolds.

Marriage is a gift from God and young people need to get it together and start a family sooner rather than later. Delaying it is often merely a perpetuation of adolescence.

Granted, not all marriage delays are due to selfishness or overly high expectations for a mate, but unless God has called them to singleness, young adults should live with an expectant eye for a potential mate.

I pray my daughters don’t have to wait into their late 20’s to marry because there are too few young men who have grown up enough to take adulthood and husbanding seriously. I’m praying for those boys even now.

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Replies to 21 Questions Answered About the Mormon Faith

December 18, 2007

Because of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign raising all kinds of questions about the Mormon faith, the Mormon church has issued “21 Questions Answered About Mormon Faith,” which, in my opinion, do a fine job of carefully avoiding any clear answers of the real questions people are asking about the oddities of Mormonism.

I’m not going to reply to all 21 questions, instead I’ll only highlight a few of the more significant ones from the document.

Q:Why do some call the Church a cult?

A: For the most part, this seems to stem from a lack of understanding about the Church and its core doctrines and beliefs. Under those circumstances it is too easy to label a religion, or other organization that is not well-known, with an inflammatory term like, “cult.” Famed scholar of religion Martin Marty has said, a cult means a church you don’t personally happen to like. We don’t believe any organization should be subjected to a label that has come to be as pejorative as that one.

Actually, the reason Christians consider Mormonism a cult is not because we don’t like them, but precisely because we do understand it’s core doctrines and beliefs and find them to be in contradiction to 2,000 years of Christian orthodoxy. This is why evangelical Christians consider Mormonism a cult. While the term “cult” has been used by various groups in various ways in history, the modern usage of the term has arisen out of evangelical debates against groups which hold to views that evangelical Christians view as heretical – that is, that they believe things that are in contradiction to the fundamental tenants of Christianity. Christians believe that Mormonism is guilty of exactly that. Mormons clearly don’t like being called a cult, but to imply that the reason Christians consider them such is because we simply don’t like them, is to misrepresent the real reasons. For more on this issue, see Al Mohler’s debate with Mormon author Orson Scott Card here. (recommended reading, but listed in reverse order on the page.)

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God?
Q: Does the church believe in the divinity of Jesus?
Q: Does the church believe that God is a physical being?

A: Mormons believe Jesus Christ is literally the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer, who died for the sins of humankind, and rose from the dead on the third day with an immortal body. God, the Father, also has an immortal body.

All 3 questions receive this same stock answer. In saying that Jesus is “literally” the Son of God, they seem to be implying that Jesus is to be considered the offspring of God, not the eternally existing second person of the Trinity, who is the same in essence and in attributes with the Father and the Holy Spirit. In fact, Mormons are not not even monotheistic. They would be considered polytheistic – they believe in many gods, among whom are Jehovah and Christ, along with many others. They happen to also believe that Lucifer and Jesus were both born as the offspring of God, thus spirit brothers, although only Jesus became flesh. Their concept of God also includes some kind of “immortal” body, something the most ancient creeds of Christians have repudiated as heresy. So, their view of God and Christ are not in harmony with orthodox Christian teaching.

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe its followers can become “gods and goddesses” after death?

A: We believe that the apostle Peter’s biblical reference to partaking of the divine nature and the apostle Paul’s reference to being “joint heirs with Christ” reflect the intent that children of God should strive to emulate their Heavenly Father in every way. Throughout the eternities, Mormons believe, they will reverence and worship God the Father and Jesus Christ. The goal is not to equal them, or to achieve parity with them, but to imitate and someday acquire their perfect goodness, love and other divine attributes.

So, the answer is, “Yes, we do believe that followers can become ‘gods and goddesses’.” The Scripture texts they appeal to in order to support this heretical doctrine are used in complete disregard to standard, well-known, widely-accepted rules of interpretation of Scripture. This again reveals their heretical doctrine of the nature of God, and additionally of the nature of man. Christians believe that when a person believes on Christ for salvation from sin, that the Holy Spirit indwells each believer, giving them a new heart with new inclinations toward righteousness. Christians do not believe that people can become a god in any way, shape, or form. This is another reason they are considered a cult, namely, because they reject the Christian doctrines of God, man, and salvation. The above statement also reveals their approach to salvation: emulating God. That’s another way of saying that your works save you, or at least make you eligible for god status.

Q: Can someone who may never marry in life have eternal marriage?

A: God will not withhold blessings from any of his children who may not have the opportunity to marry in this life.

Mormons believe that marriage is experienced in the eternal state, something Jesus clearly contradicts in Matthew 22:29-30 – “Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.””

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe Jesus appeared in North America after his crucifixion and resurrection?

A: The appearance of Jesus in the Western hemisphere shortly after his resurrection is described in the Book of Mormon. Mormons believe that when Christ told his disciples in the Bible He had other “sheep” who should receive his message he was referring to those people in the Western Hemisphere.

Christians flatly reject this claim as heretical. Furthermore, Jesus’ reference to “other sheep” in John 10 was to Gentiles, not merely to people in the Western Hemisphere. To interpret it the way Mormons have done is to run against the clearest and simplest of hermenutical principles that take into account the immediate context of Jesus’ words.

Q: If so, when did this happen? And under what circumstances?

A: The appearance of Jesus in the Western hemisphere shortly after his resurrection is described in the Book of Mormon. Mormons believe that when Christ told his disciples in the Bible He had other “sheep” who should receive his message he was referring to those people in the Western Hemisphere.

Again, Christians reject this claim. Paul summarizes Christ’s post-resurrection appearances in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, where no mention of North American appearances are made: “He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”

Q: What are or were the “Golden Plates”?

A: The Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith from records made on plates of gold, similar to metal plates that have been found in other ancient cultures. It contained a history of peoples in the Western Hemisphere including an appearance by the Savior to them. As such the Book of Mormon is considered a second testimony of Jesus Christ.

This is yet another reason Christians consider Mormonism a cult. They do not hold to the 66 books of the Bible as the completed canon of Scripture, but include the Book of Mormon as another “testament” of Jesus. This is to again ignore nearly 2,000 years of accepted church doctrine regarding the nature of the canon, and to elevate a text to the status of inspired Scripture which no other group on earth accepts as divinely inspired, apart from them – an important test of canonicity used by Christians from the earliest centuries.

There are many other ways in which Christians differ from Mormons, but these examples serve to demonstrate the essential reasons why Christians consider them a cult. They are not in doctrinal agreement with the rest of the confessing church on the most fundamental points of doctrine. They are not merely a sect of the church who differ in only minor but non-essential ways, but are in fact a cult that teaches what Christians consider to be egregious heresies – heresies that strike at the very nature of God and Jesus Christ, the nature of man, and the way of salvation.

I know from my experience that many Mormons are nice people and wonderful citizens with whom I could find much in common. Mitt Romney may even make a great president, regardless of his Mormon faith. Christians and Mormons may agree on many things, but despite the efforts being made today to minimize the differences, may it be made abundantly clear that we do not share a common faith – the faith once delivered to the apostles and the prophets of Holy Scripture.


Homeschoolers Need Humility

December 18, 2007

Let me begin by telling you upfront that we are a homeschooling family. Before we had children – in fact, before we were married – Amanda and I decided that we would homeschool our children. We’ve been at it for a while now with four kids, the oldest of which is 13.

We had several motives for making this decision, but our primary reason was that we wanted to have maximum influence on shaping the character of our children. We wanted to have more of an influence over the shaping of their hearts and character than their peers would have.

Our concern here was not that we were afraid of teachers or of the other kids (a defensive posture of protectionism), but that we simply wanted to be the primary influencers over their hearts and minds. We felt very keenly the responsibility to personally train our children in the ways of Christ.

So, our primary concern has always been about shaping our children’s hearts. Yet, we’ve tried to be careful not to overprotect our children in an anti-social bubble, something we think many homeschool families tend to do. I am a pastor, so it is easy for our kids to have a lot of interaction with other people, and we have frequently discussed how thankful we are for that for our children. We are grateful for the opportunities that they have to associate and befriend others who are not exactly like us in every detailed belief and practice – although, admittedly, some might consider our congregation to be fairly homogeneous.

The truth is, though, with their involvement with extracurricular activities like band, orchestra and baseball, our children have experienced plenty of non-homogeneous people (they even get this within our extended family!). We honestly believe that this is good for them, as we have had a good number of discussions about how to love and graciously treat others who are not exactly like us, which are precisely the kind of character-shaping moments in life that we are glad the Lord provides for both our kids and us.

It seems as if homeschooling itself is a breeding-ground for pride. Parents have such a vested interest in the outcome of their children, have invested so much time, money, and effort to try to give their children the best educational experience they can possibly give, and often the effect is to begin thinking you’re doing an exceptional job.One reason this effect takes root is that homeschooling parents have a terrible time resisting the temptation to constantly compare their children with everyone else’s. This is because some homeschool parents think that their kids are a direct reflection on themselves – the ones who have trained them. So, if your kids appear to be behind the others, it reflects badly on you. This in turn would make you feel inferior, as if you are not doing a good job. Yet it is never difficult for parents to find someone else’s kids that they deem inferior than their own, at least in some way or another. So, in reality, this comparison game actually breeds a sense of superiority.

This is how pride begins. The pride over how highly you think of your own kids, and at a deeper level, at how proud you are of yourself for having done such a superior job with your kids than those other parents.

One of the ways that this manifests itself is in how often homeschool parents expect special treatment of their children by others. As a pastor, I cannot tell you how many times either my wife or I have had to deal with a homeschool parent that thinks their child is advanced beyond their peers, so much so that they want their child placed in the Sunday School class or AWANA club above what their age would normally dictate. They believe that their child is smarter or more mature, or possess some other sort of subjective qualitative measurement that the parent believes is clearly obvious to everyone.

When in fact, what is often most obvious is the unabashed arrogance of these parents expecting favored treatment of their apparently normal child, sometimes coupled with the haughty attitude of their child, which is often produced by the parent’s frequent pride-fostering comments to the child in the name of encouragement.

Another way I’ve seen this overestimation of children coupled with expectation for special treatment manifest itself is in settings where these same homeschool parents place their children in a class or on a team or in a band/orchestra. Often, these parents who already have an overinflated view of their child’s abilities and capabilities perceive that the teacher or coach is not progressing their child along fast enough or isn’t teaching the material well enough, so they threaten to pull out of the group if the teacher or coach continues to lead the group. This amounts to just one more way of seeking to manipulate others so as to ensure that their own estimation of their child remains a high one. If their child isn’t doing as well as the parent thinks they should, it must be the teacher’s or coach’s fault. In reality, it is just one more way these parents act out their pride.

In addition, these parents rarely listen to any criticism or blame regarding their children. Even when given news that their children have misbehaved, these parents are more quick to try to find out how another person might be to blame than they are to believe the report (even when coming from a trustworthy source like an adult), and in the process are not quick to correct or discipline their own child. Their estimation of their own child is so high, that they have difficulty believing that they could have actually done something intentionally wrong. This is the pride of refusing to believe that their child really is a depraved sinner, and who falls short of perfection, or even near-perfection.

In my experience, parents like these rarely take self-doubt or self-criticism as the first step. Instead, they seek out others to blame and expect special treatment, because somehow they struggle believing that their child is capable of performing badly due to their own faults or natural limitations.

All of this boils down to character issues with the parents. In fact, the tendency toward a critical spirit, the foolish comparing of oneself and one’s kids with others, the demanding of special treatment, etc. all boil down to pride.

Homeschoolers are a group that needs to learn humility better, to question themselves first, to stop comparing themselves and their kids with the performance of others, to esteem others better than themselves, to stop expecting preferential treatment, and to be more quick to believe that their child is not so above average after all. Even if they are, in fact, prodigies, parents of prodigies should still seek humility in this, both in themselves and in their child. This is basic Christianity in action. This is to bear the image of Christ. Too much of homeschooling is terribly un-Christ like in this way.


New Mars Hill Audio Journal: Volume 88

December 10, 2007

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Volume 88 of the Mars Hill Audio Journal is now available! In case you are unfamiliar with it, it is “a bi-monthly audio magazine of contemporary culture and Christian conviction.” Think of it as Christian NPR.

Download a free edition here. Download free bonus tracks here. They also offer a great podcast called Audition. The host is Ken Myers, who is also the author of All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes, which I’m (still!) currently reading with great pleasure (albeit slowly).

This is what is on this new edition:

  • Diana Pavlac Glyer, on how the members of The Inklings (C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, etc.) influenced each other’s thinking and writing.
  • Michael J. Lewis, on what the Body Worlds exhibits assembled by Günther von Hagens reveal about our attitudes toward human nature.
  • Steve Talbott, on how the aims of education are distracted by technology.
  • Darryl Tippins, on why we sing
  • Everett Ferguson, on the place of music in the Early Church
  • Alexander Lingas, on the tradition of music in the Eastern churches
  • Calvin Stapert, on the nature of meaning in music
  • Diana Pavlac Glyer, on Owen Barfield
  • Michael J. Lewis, on the meaning of the body in Western art

As I’ve said before, this is an absolutely indispensable subscription for me. I never fail to be stretched in my thinking and understanding of the issues discussed. The fact is, I could write paragraph after paragraph of how much Mars Hill has enriched my life. It has been sheer pleasure to listen in on the conversations Ken has with his guests and be drawn in to a world of thoughts, ideas, and issues that I would otherwise have never thought about, much less though about well or Christianly, all for only $30 a year. I hope you’ll check them out. (This is a non-paid advertisement!)


First Official Prince Caspian Trailer

December 5, 2007

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See it at NarniaWeb. It looks really good.

It opens in theaters May 16, 2008.

(HT: Tim Challies)