A Great Man Is Gone

buckley.jpg

William F. Buckley, Jr. was a man of immense interest to me. I find myself more sorrowful for his recent passing than I expected I would, and it has been certainly more than I have felt for anyone else’s death, among those I never knew personally.

His political genius is renown, his influence is immeasurable, and his contribution to American culture and politics is enormous – reasons enough to pay attention to him. While each of those qualities of Mr. Buckley have evoked a great deal of admiration, respect, and sheer gratitude for him from me, there is yet another characteristic of Mr. Buckley that has drawn me to him more than nearly any other: his speech. That’s right, the way he talks.

Both his inimitable pattern of speech and the very things he said can hold me mezmerized for hours. It is for this very reason I have at times spent hours combing the web for audio and video clips of Mr. Buckley being interviewed or giving a speech. I just enjoy hearing him speak. So much so that when I was ready to buy his book, Miles Gone By, which was a bit of an autobiography, I opted for the audiobook when I found out he had read it, unabridged, himself. Sheer aural pleasure!

His mind was absolutely brilliant, a fertile landscape of ideas and acumen in which there seemed to be no horizon. And his vocabulary and wit famously matched the immensity of his mind. But it was his frequent use of long or obscure English words that make reading and listening to him almost irresistible.

The New York Times wrote:

Mr. Buckley’s vocabulary, sparkling with phrases from distant eras and described in newspaper and magazine profiles as sesquipedalian (characterized by the use of long words), became the stuff of legend.

Yes, and the stuff of learning for a curious mind like mine. He has played a part in fertilizing my own love for learning in general, and of words in particular. He has done more to give my dictionary an eager workout than any other.

It is a thorough delight to watch, listen to, or for that matter, read him, which I often do while trying to imagine hearing the way he would say what I’m reading, which I must admit, is half the reason I read his columns.

He was eloquent, funny, mischievous, gracious, and entirely affable. He was an interesting man with few rivals – certainly no social boor or intellectual bore. Ocean sailor, piano and harpsichord player, television debater, Alpine skier, U.N. delegate, mayoral candidate, and author of over 50 books (including novels) and enough articles to fill another 50, all make him a fascinating figure. I wish I had had the pleasure of meeting him.

William F. Buckley, Jr. will be missed. I, for one, already do.

Why Christians Trust The Bible

If you’ve ever struggled with that issue, I hope you’ll take the time to listen to the talk John Piper gave at the recent Resurgence Conference in Seattle.  You can listen here or download the mp3 here. As is typical of him, Piper is very thoughtful and free from the superficial kind of answers you sometimes get from those addressing issues like these.

Piper’s notes are also available at this link: Why I Trust the Scriptures. Within these notes are embedded a ton of links to further resources for investigation.

If this is an issue you have questions about, this is a great place to begin getting some intelligent answers.

High Quality Bibles

When I became a Christian, I immediately began to have a reverence for the Bible. My attitude for the Bible was not just reverence for the message of God itself, but also respect for the Bible as an object. Because the Bible is the printed record of God’s Word, I have, since my conversion to Christ, sought to treat my copy of the Scriptures with special care.

This respect for the physical copy of Holy Scripture led me early on to want a nice, quality, well-designed copy for myself, which I could read and study for years to come. So, within a year of coming to Christ, my father told me to pick a new Bible for myself, and he’d buy it.

So, when I was 15 years old, I started doing research on what I wanted to get. I knew I wanted a black wide margin KJV with no study notes or red letters. And most of all, I wanted a quality leather cover that would last me for many years. And I found all of the details I wanted in a Cambridge Wide Margin in Berkshire leather – thick Berkshire leather.

That was 1986, and more than 20 years later, I still have and still regularly use that Bible. It was my preaching and reading Bible for most of those 2 decades. Although I have had to reattach the cover 3 or 4 times over the years, the cover itself is still amazingly tough. So good is this cover that this Bible will never see another. In fact, it’s at the rebinder’s shop right now getting it reattached, I suspect for the last time it will ever need it.

My love for quality Bibles has not subsided, in fact it has grown more intense. As nit-picky as I ever was, I have now become even more so when it comes to a Bible purchase. As a pastor, the Bible is my life, so to speak. It is my main tool for ministry that I use every day. Because I do, I am no longer happy with just any Bible, or with just a few Bibles. Like a mechanic, I want good quality tools that will last a long time, and I want a bunch of them.

The problem is that you have to hunt the far reaches of the earth to find really high quality Bibles, and when you find them, you usually have to pay a premium for them. But I’m OK with that. I don’t mind doing the searching, and I don’t mind saving up for a purchase I know I’ll be happy with for a very long time, especially when it comes to a copy of Scripture.

Unfortunate is the fact that you have to search so hard for high quality Bibles. Bible publishers today have not been very prone to offer editions with high quality leather covers and sewn bindings. As time passes, the “leather” covers have gotten thinner and stiffer, and the bindings have gone from sewn to glue. And most of what they market and sell only comes in these inferior bindings.

I’ve got a few of these lesser-quality Bibles, but usually it’s because someone has given it to me, or there’s something else unique about it like it’s study notes or it’s format. But, to be honest, I tend to use them a lot less. In fact, you’ll never see me carrying one. They live on my shelf until they’re needed.

I like to hold a quality Bible in my hands, to smell and feel the supple leather on the palms of my hands, and enjoy the way it lies flat in my hand, due to the limpness of the cover and spine. I like to hold a Bible that is a pleasure to hold.

To me, it is a matter of pleasure and respect for a book that is much more than a mere book. It is a quality-crafted, carefully adorned pleasure to both body and soul. In this way, it becomes an object of beauty and delight in more way than one. And I think that’s the way it ought to be. At least, that’s the way I want it to be.

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I’ve shared a picture and comments on my humble collection and a review of my Greek New Testament I had rebound in calfskin over at my friend Mark Bertrand’s Bible Design and Binding blog. Mark’s in-depth reviews and photos have begun to rally a nice little community of people who share the same passion for high quality Bibles. You’ll also find there information on where to find the best Bibles as well as the best rebinders.

A Little Theological and Philosophical Humor

2 videos to make you smile today.

First, for you users out there of Wayne Grudem’s behemoth volume, Systematic Theology, you’ll appreciate this “Grease” style video done by some Brits.

Why this man is thematic, he’s charismatic, he’s systematic,
Why he’s Wayne Grudem! (Wayne Grudem)
He did not author Scripture but provides a clearer picture – Oh Yeah!
(Keep reading whoa keep reading)
Wayne may not be Jesus but he writes mean exegesis- Oh Yeah!
(I’ll buy a copy, I’ll kill to buy a copy)
You put it on the flo-or and it props open your door,
Or if you need to sit- you can climb on top of it – With Wayne Grudem
Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go
Go Wayne Grudem with your intellectual writing style,
(Wayne Grudem go Wayne Grudem)
Go Wayne Grudem you make ha-rd doctrines less of a trial
(Wayne Grudem go Wayne Grudem)
You are extreme, but God’s supreme, oh Wayne Grudem
Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go
(There are) many heresies which we-e now clearly see- Oh yeah!
(oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
Despite him being bald, hundred-thousand copies sold – Oh yeah!
(oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
His six appendice-es leave you praying on your knees.
Although he’s not inerrant he’s a heresy deterrent – Wayne Grudem
Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go
Go Wayne Grudem with your intellectual writing style,
(Wayne Grudem go Wayne Grudem)
Go Wayne Grudem you make ha-rd doctrines less of a trial
(Wayne Grudem go Wayne Grudem)
You are extreme, but God’s supreme, oh Wayne Grudem
Go Wayne Grudem with your intellectual writing style,
(Wayne Grudem go Wayne Grudem)
Go Wayne Grudem you make ha-rd doctrines less of a trial
(Wayne Grudem go Wayne Grudem)
You are extreme, but God’s supreme, oh Wayne Grudem
Grudem, grudem, grudem, grudem
Grudem, grudem, grudem, grudem yeah!

(HT: thebluefish)

—————————————————————–

For those of you who’ve had seminary training or have studied any philosophy, this Monty Python clip is tops.

(HT: Chris Ross)

Luther: Marriage is Hard Work

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.

Replies to 21 Questions Answered About the Mormon Faith

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

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.

What Are You Learning?

If I were to ask you, “What have you been reading lately that you learned from?” what would be your answer?

Note, the question is NOT: “What have you been reading lately that was edifying?” BUT RATHER: “What has challenged you and taught you?”

Leave your answer in the comments.

(Thanks to Tyler Cowan for the idea)

Are We Jesus’ Only Hope?

jesus-hope.png

I saw this ad today and was stunned at first and then I figured it out. But figuring it out didn’t make me any less queasy about the ad.

The little boy’s name is Jesus. I assume he’s from a Hispanic heritage, where Jesus is a common name. The ad is for Children International, a humanitarian organization whose mission is to reduce poverty among children. A worthy cause, no doubt. And a worthy little boy, no doubt.

But, in my opinion, the wording of the ad is bordering on the blasphemous. The not-so-subtle implication is that Jesus Christ needs us, and that without us, He has no hope. That is the initial way I think the ad is supposed to catch the reader. It goes for either the shock value, or for the emotional, sentimental-compassion-for-Jesus appeal, or for the guilt factor.

Either way, the implied message is that since Jesus is in such desperate need, that we need to sponsor Him. We can come to God’s rescue. We can have the satisfaction of knowing that we have rescued God from sure peril. If we don’t come to His rescue, He’ll continue to suffer.

Yet, I suppose we could take this yet another way, namely, that the subtle message here is banking on the passage in Matthew 25 where Jesus said “as much as you’ve done it to the least of these, you’ve done it unto Me,” and therefore Jesus, in this case, could be taken as being represented in this little boy – one whom we should help because it would be helping Jesus by extension.

But even if we take it that way, it doesn’t remove the implication that Jesus Christ is in dire need of our help, and that we’re therefore His only hope.

I realize that the body of Christ (Christians) are one of the key MEANS through which Christ accomplishes His sovereign work on the earth, including through our obedient love, charitable giving, and justice-seeking, but to imply that we are Jesus’ only hope is to WAY underestimate Jesus Christ and to WAY overestimate us, including our resources and abilities – and that’s putting it lightly.

Everything we are and everything we have come from Him to begin with. God does not NEED us in the slightest. We need Him more than we can comprehend.

Paul says in Acts 17:24-25:

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;

God says in Isaiah 46:3-4:

Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
Who have been upheld by Me from birth,
Who have been carried from the womb:
Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.

I don’t want to make more of this little ad than is warranted, because without a doubt, I think little children like the boy in the ad surely deserve our help. Yet I didn’t want to fail to pass along my impressions of what I think was clearly meant to be implied in the ad (even if the implications were only meant to be the initial hook, and then to be quickly bypassed for the correct meaning of “Jesus.” In other words, I think we are meant to initially think the ad refers to Jesus Christ, and then afterward to figure out that it refers to a little boy – otherwise they would have used another child’s name altogether. But they didn’t, and that’s the point.).

The reason I take issue with this approach is because I think that this is exactly how too many people do, in fact, perceive God. That’s why the ad works. We think too highly of ourselves and too lowly of God. We make God out to be like ourselves – we humanize Him. And we make ourselves out to be like little gods – we deify ourselves.

We commit the colossal error God pinpoints in Psalm 50:21:

“You thought that I was altogether like you.”

Should Husbands Beat Their Wives?

According to Saudi author and cleric Muhammad Al-‘Arifi, the answer is: Yes, as long as the beating is light and not on the face. Here’s the transcript of the translation of the remarks he made on Saudi TV.

“Admonish them – once, twice, three times, four times, ten times,” he advised. “If this doesn’t help, refuse to share their beds.”

And if that doesn’t work?

“Beat them,” one of his three young advisees responded.

“That’s right,” Al-‘Arifi said.

Although he went on to explain that they shouldn’t beat them on the face:

“Beating in the face is forbidden, even when it comes to animals,” he explained. “Even if you want your camel or donkey to start walking, you are not allowed to beat it in the face. If this is true for animals, it is all the more true when it comes to humans. So beatings should be light and not in the face.”

“He must beat her where it will not leave marks. He should not beat her on the hand… He should beat her in some places where it will not cause any damage. He should not beat her like he would beat an animal or a child — slapping them right and left.”

Watch him for yourself at MEMRITV. News story here.

Surprising?

Well, wouldn’t the teachings of Islam justify his remarks?

Muhammad was asked about this subject: “What rights does the woman have with the man?” He replied, “He should feed her if he eats, clothe her when he dresses, avoid disfiguring her or beating her excessively or abandoning her except at home.” (hadith 7.62.77)

So, it appears to me that Al-‘Arifi has a basis in Islamic teaching that justify his counsel to Muslim married men.

This approach to animals and women also seems consistent with references like these that speak of the inferiority of women:

“Muhammad asked some women, ‘Isn’t the witness of a woman equal to half of that of a man?’ The woman said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘This is because of the deficiency of the woman’s mind.’” (hadith 3.826)

Speaking to a group of women, Muhammad said, “I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you.” (hadith 2.541)

I’m curious to know what Muslims make of this, especially Muslim women.

In Christianity, men are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it (Eph. 5). That’s sacrificial, unconditional love, not angry, violent, manipulative attempts to control. Physical violence is prohibited (1 Tim. 3). Withholding sex (as the cleric also suggests is an appropriate tool against one’s wife) is considered defrauding one’s spouse, since each spouse’s body belongs to the other (1 Cor. 7).

Marriage in Christianity is a picture of the covenant love Christ has for His people (Eph. 5). We are to treat each other with the same grace He’s treated us in saving us from the just punishment of our own sins. If we loved like that, we wouldn’t even think about resorting to physical violence.

In fact, all those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of their sins are all equal in God’s sight – male, female, rich, poor, etc.. There is no superiority or inferiority according to gender, race, class, etc., since all who are born from above are equally God’s sons and daughters by faith.

Gal. 3:26-29 – “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

That’s the difference that the Gospel of Jesus Christ makes in a marriage.

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