Hitler’s Children: The Sins of the fathers

‘The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’                                                               -Numbers 14:18

 

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I have always been interested in history and have read quite a lot on World War II.  For some reason other another, perhaps because the war happened years before my birth, I had never given much thought about any one who would be related to the Nazi leaders being alive today.  That was until the  other day when on netflix, I stumbled across a documentary entitled “Hitler’s Children.” The documentary focuses on five descendants of some of Hitler’s closest accomplices.  This film is emotionally gripping in so many ways.   As I watched it I could not help but be moved as these people struggled with the desire to love their parents or grandparents as is natural for anyone and the hatred of all that these same parents, grandparents, and uncles had done.   One such lady,Monika Hertwig,  tells about when a viewing of “Schindler’s List”  she came to the complete realization of the monstrosity of her father, Amon Goeth.  She had a panic attack while in the theater and felt like she was going to die if it got any worse.

While watching the film, I could not help but think about several themes from the Bible.    God’s Word has a way of dealing with the intense needs of our world.  There are two themes in particular that I want to pull out from the Bible that kept flooding into my mind as I watched this documentary

1.  The first theme I thought of was how we are all under the shame of our ancestors and share in this guilt.  In the beginning, when our first ancestors began a cosmic rebellion to their Creator’s authority and sovereignty by disobeying His command, they began a projection of guilt and sin that carries on to this day.  They believed a lie and this lie gave root and bore fruit in all the sin and shame that fills our world.   We are all born in this sin.   Psalm 51:5 states that we all come into the world as sinners: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.”  The horrors of the Nazi atrocities did not just begin in the 20th century but they were born all those years earlier in the garden when Adam and Eve decided that they knew better than God what was right and what was wrong.   The sins of our father Adam then are replayed and repaid through out all generations.   Alas that anyone would claim not fair that they should share in this guilt, Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned.”    It is not as if you or I had been the one in the garden we would have done in any better.   We would have then done the same thing.    We are guilty.   God is just, Numbers 14:18.     I think this is part of the reason we recoil so much at the Nazis.   We watch as a whole nation of people are sucked into an evil philosophy and wonder how they could have allowed themselves to become that way.  The truth is that if not for the grace and restraining power of God, our hearts in our natural state are capable of doing unspeakable horror.

2.  Watching this documentary, I also could not help but be reminded that while we are effected by the sin of others and we do have real guilt in our sin,  the good news is God has made a way to remove that shame and guilt.  We are not our parents.   We do not have to bare the shame of Adam.   We do not have to continue the path of destruction that came before us.    One particular scene in film that moved me was when the grandson of Rudolf Hoess traveled to the concentration camp where his grandfather had been commander.   While there you could see the pain on this grandson’s face and the shame he carried.   He was invited to speak to some young Jewish teenagers who were also taking a tour through the camp.  They were curious why he was there and some were bothered by his presence.   It was an elderly man, a Jewish survivor of the camp, who changed the entire scene.  He walked up to the grandson of the man who had tortured him and shook his hand.   This holocaust survivor looked him in the face and said to him, “You didn’t do it.  It was not you who did this.”    There was a certain relief that filled this descendent of the Nazi.   You could see in the weight lifted right off of him.     This scene from the documentary while emotional is a small picture of something more grand.

“Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”                                      – Ezekial 18:19-20

What Ezekiel wrote in the above passage gives a sense of relief.  The guilt of our ancestors does not have to carry on with us.   The children do not have to remain in punishment for the sins of their fathers.  If only they will live in righteousness.    But that is the problem isn’t it.   The above passage only gives hope to those who live in righteousness.   But we know this, that we are not righteous.  It brings us no hope.    However there was one who did live righteously.   His name is Jesus.   He lived without sin.  He did not deserve death but instead should never have suffered.   However, for our sake, Jesus was made to be the unrighteous.   Jesus took upon himself the same shame, guilt, and sin that pervades our world.   He took it upon himself so that we may be forgiven.   “ For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:22

Jesus did that for us and he calls us to repent of our sins and to put our complete trust in Him.   He did it out of love for the unlovable.   One day for those who have been saved, who repent and put their faith in Christ,  we will stand in front of the Father and when we think of the sin and shame that we deserve He will say to us,”You did not do it.”    He will say that because the sin we committed was placed on Jesus and in its place we carry the righteousness of Christ.   The cycle of guilt and shame has been broken.   The guilt of the fathers and sins of the sons of those saved by Christ are no more.

 

As I finished the film, I prayed for these five people that they may find the beauty of the gospel.

” For my father and my mother have forsaken me,but the Lord will take me in.” –  Psalm 27:10

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blessed Assurance

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What if a church member came up to you  and shared that they were doubting their salvation or were wanting to be assured that they were saved?  Other than scripture, one tool that I would use would be to walk through what the 2nd London Baptist Confession has to say about assurance. Using this tool, I would begin and end by pointing to the gospel as the only message that has the power to save and give assurance.

Following along the format of the 2nd London Baptist Confession which you can read in full here , I would first let this person know that assurance is a real and true thing. We can have assurance of our salvation and that it is a good thing to have. Article 1 on the chapter of assurance in the Confession states: “. . .yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.”
Knowing this, I would then try to probe with questions to see if the person is able to articulate the gospel. Jesus is the one that saves and therefore we must place our complete trust in what He did on the cross, in his resurrection, and what He does in us. The gospel is the foundation of assurance. There can be no assurance where the person has not experienced the life changing power of the gospel.

Secondly, I would point out that there are basically three ways that God gives us assurance. The primary way is by staying focused on the object of our faith. This once again comes back to the Gospel. We do not save ourselves; salvation is the work of God. This means that we can be assured because God has promised salvation to those who have repented and put their trust in Jesus. The second means of assurance is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Bible says that “the Holy Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the Children of God.(Romans 8:16)” The Holy Spirit does this by convicting us of sin and moving us to good works. We also have the internal witness that our faith is truly in Christ. The third means is related to the second in that the Spirit moves us to bear fruit(Galatians 5:22-23). We should examine our lives and be able to see where we have been changed by Christ. Do we desire righteousness more than sin? Are we growing in maturity and in the love of Christ for the things that Christ loves? Our works do not save us but they are the result of salvation. If we do not see these fruits than that may be cause for concern.

Thirdly, I would point out that we may at times lose not our salvation but our assurance. Grievous sin in our life can cause the Spirit of assurance to leave us. Christians will not remain in sin but we can fall into it at times. Sin can cause our hearts to lose the assurance we once had. We should repent and turn from this sin(Psalm 51:12). Sometimes, however, God may withhold assurance to cause us to seek after Him. He does not do this out of spite but out of love so as to motivate us to thirst for Him. God however will never leave us completely alone. And with much diligence and searching, God rewards us with the object of our search, Himself.
Assurance then should be sought after and cherished. Jesus must be the focus of our faith. He is the one we trust in, not a prayer that we have prayed or a walk down an aisle. We can only have assurance of salvation if we have truly repented and placed our faith in Jesus.  Then we can be assured:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

 

How to become a Christian? The Gospel in Four Words

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The Gospel can be stated using four words: God, Man, Jesus, Response. Let me unpack each of those words briefly and you will understand the Gospel and how to become a Christian.

God: It all begins with God. The Bible in its first verse (Genesis 1:1) says that “In the beginning, God created. . .” God is the author of life and creator of everything we see. He is not only creator but owner of everything. Job 41:11b says” Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.” Because God is creator and owner, He determines the purpose of everything and everyone. God is also Holy and commands us to be Holy. Leviticus 19:2 God created us to be Holy and to live in relationship with Him. The word “Holy” has a lot of meaning but it essentially means that we are to be pure and free from evil. This leads us to the second of the four words.
Man: Mankind was created by God and thus are His. God revealed to Man how they should obey him. God’s commands can be summarized in two commands: Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself. People however since the creation have not obeyed. Beginning with Adam and Eve people have rejected God’s ownership and commands. The Bible says that we have all sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Sin is disobedience to God. Sin also separates us from God. Isaiah 59:2 says “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” Since God is the source of life and all that is good; separation from him leads to destruction and evil. The Bible says what we earn with our sin is death. (Romans 6:23). If you look around at the world or watch the news you can see the effects of sin everywhere. But the effects of sin don’t only affect our life in this world, Sin also will be judged by God. Just as everyone will die, they also will be judged after death. (Hebrews 9:27). Everyone has sinned and has lived in rebellion against God. This punishment is a terrifying thing because God is a just and holy God who cannot and will not allow sin to go unpunished. God however also loves, which leads us to the next of the four words.
Jesus: God loves us and thus wanted to make a way to both punish sin and forgive us. God decided to take the punishment sin upon himself in our place by sending His Son, Jesus to live and die on the cross (John 3:16, Romans 5:8) Jesus was born, God in the flesh. He obeyed God’s law and lived a Holy life free from sin. Yet ,He chose to take our sin and punishment upon himself and die. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that God made Jesus to be sin even though he did not sin, so that we might become righteous. He did this as 1st Peter 3:18 says by suffering in our place so that we might be forgiven by God. The prophet Isaiah prophesized that this would take place years before Jesus would come. Isaiah said “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Jesus however not only died but defeated death by rising from dead. Jesus did this so that we might have a right relationship with God and this demands a response.
Response: Our response to the good news that Jesus died for our sins is to turn from our sins and to put our faith in Jesus. Romans 10:9 says it this way, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” We realize the evil in our hearts and the rebellion that we have against God’s commands. We then throw ourselves at His mercy and accept the gift of salvation that is offered in Jesus. Becoming a Christian is not about trying to do more good things but is about trusting in what Jesus has already done in our place. We respond to the Gospel by faith. This is not a blind faith but a trust in the reliability of Jesus. We can trust Jesus because he loves us and because he did rise from the dead. When we trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, God places on us the righteousness that Jesus earned and removes the guilt and shame of our rebellion and sin. One of Jesus’s followers, Paul wrote that when someone trusts in Jesus, they become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). They are forgiven and will have eternal life. Jesus said in John 5:24. “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
How does one become a Christian? Admit that you are a sinner deserving of judgment. Believe in your heart in what Jesus did on the cross. Confess and make Jesus Lord of your life.

If you have responded to the Gospel today, send me a message and I would love to follow-up with you.

Is the OT God immoral?

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A friend of mine and I were having a discussion about the existence of God on facebook.  And we came to the issue of the moral argument for God.    Without posting our entire discussion I will post a  comment of mine followed by his response.

My Facebook post:  I have to also say something to my friend’s denial of the moral argument. Facebook friend stated “As for the Objective Moral Values and Duties, there is no such thing as objective moral values. There are only subjective moral values. If they were objective, they would be universal to every man, woman, and child on the planet. They are not. Therefore, false.”There are several problems with your critique. First of all you misunderstand what Objective means. To say that there are objective moral values is to say that something is right or wrong independently of whether anybody believes it to be so. It is to say this morality is universally binding on everyone whether they believe it or not. And if you argue that there are no such things then you must then be arguing for subjectivity. But there are objective morals. I can give you one. It is wrong no matter who you are or where you live whether you believe it or not to sexually abuse a 2 year old. This is objectively wrong and evil. If you are going to deny objective morality then you have to be open to the possibility that somewhere sexually molesting a 2 year old might be right. Ultimately you would have no grounds for objecting to anyone who would molest a 2 year old other than to say that it is wrong for you but it might be right for them.. No reasonable person would accept this. The reasonable man knows in his heart that there are objective morals even if he may not know all of them.

Now here is his response:

Ok, I’ve thought about it for awhile, and I will now try to present my argument. First of all, I want to say that I would love if not only child rape, but all rape was universally immoral. Unfortunately, not only in our culture in the USA, but all around the world, rape of women is somewhat acceptable. In the USA, we have a ridiculously high rate of blaming the victim or not even believing the victim. In other parts of the world, the victim is completely blamed and often times put to death. Now if morals are objective and created by God, then what is God’s (not Jesus in the New Testament) stance on rape? Here is Deuteronomy 21:10-14,”When you go out to war against your enemies and the LORD, your God, delivers them into your hand, so that you take captives, if you see a comely woman among the captives and become so enamored of her that you wish to have her as wife, you may take her home to your house. But before she may live there, she must shave her head and pare her nails and lay aside her captive’s garb. After she has mourned her father and mother for a full month, you may have relations with her, and you shall be her husband and she shall be your wife. However, if later on you lose your liking for her, you shall give her her freedom, if she wishes it; but you shall not sell her or enslave her, since she was married to you under compulsion.” While one can argue that this constitutes a marriage by God, it is still rape, and it is ordered by God. This isn’t even the worst part. There are Bible verses that claim God tells Israeli soldiers when they conquer places to throw babies off the city walls. How is that moral? This may be the Old Testament, but Christians still claim this is the inspired and perfect Word of God. Well, at one point in history, your God condoned and ordered both rape and child murder. These are not moral values you have now, and these are not moral values I have. They are your Objective Moral Values and Duties, though, since they are God’s Word and Law. Isn’t that where you said Objective Morals come from? I can’t accept the morals of a god that orders baby murder.

Because his question is a good one, I want to give it a fair response.  Therefore this blog post will serve as that response.

I want to begin by first restating what I mean by objective morals. Objectivity means that it does not depend on human opinion or knowledge. It is simply valid and binding, regardless of human opinion. This means that the objective morals are not dependent upon public opinion or popularity. We also need to be careful to understand what “objective “ does not mean. One of my favorite Christian thinkers William Lane Craig describes objectivity as opposed to absolute:

“The reason I think it preferable to talk about objective moral values and duties rather than absolute moral values and duties can best be seen by considering their opposites. The opposite of “objective” is “subjective.” The opposite of “absolute” is “relative.” Now very little reflection is needed to see that “relative” does not mean “subjective.” Just because one’s moral duties are relative to one’s circumstances doesn’t in any way imply that they are subjective, that there is not an objectively right or wrong thing to do in such a situation.”

He goes on to say :

“Absolute” means “regardless of the circumstances.” “Relative” means “varying with the circumstances.” We can agree, for example, that it is not absolutely wrong to kill another person. In some circumstances killing another person may be morally justified and even obligatory. To affirm that one’s moral duty varies with the circumstances is not to say that we have no objective moral duties to fulfill.

This distinction is important to remember for the moral argument as evidence for God.

Now having said that I want to get into your objection. If I may summarize your objection I think you are saying (correct me if I am wrong) that if there are objective morals then it seems contradictory for God to be commanding the destruction of a people or nation. You would say that God himself is being immoral here. Now the first and easiest way to dismiss your argument would be to say that if you don’t believe in objective morality than you have no real case for saying that God commits an immoral act. Since morality is subjective, you have no real grounds to object to anything. Which is why in my post above I pointed out that you do not have grounds to say that child molestation is wrong.  In a way your question betrays your spoken belief in subjective morality.

However, I think it would be fairer to you to say that your objection about God commanding certain things is that they may seem to go against objective morality. It would seem to be an internal contradiction to Christianity and thus based upon the coherence theory of truth,  Christianity doesn’t hold up.  This is where I want to devote the rest of my time.

I will not be addressing specifically your issue of rape and the legal code for punishment and protection of women. Instead I will just give you a link to a source that I think deals well with that issue.  The link to that article gives a fair  look at the issue from both a Christian and Jewish perspective. However, while i will not be addressing that issue specifically, what I have to say will still cover it in principle.

This leads us to what I believe to be the core of your argument. It has been called the Moral Monster argument and is often used by the likes of Richard Dawkins.  We need build a solid foundation to work with when dealing with this issue. Therefore, I want to go through the Old Testament and pull out some things we can learn from it about God. This section of my argument will also address the idea that the OT God is different from the NT God. I know you didn’t bring up that objection but I might as well kill a couple of birds with one stone.

The first thing we learn from the Old Testament is that God is the creator and lawgiver.  It is because God created everything that He has the right to do with His creation as He pleases and to command of it what He pleases. At first glance that could be a scary thing especially if God is this moral monster as Dawkins likes to accuse him of being. However,  we learn from the Old Testament  that the commands of God issue from Him as a reflection on his character. What does the character of God look like from the Old Testament?

Well, the OT points out that God is good. His goodness causes Him to create good things.  In the much maligned first book of the Bible, God says of his creation, Gen. 1:31, “that it is good.” God’s creation not only showcases his awesome power but it also showcases his love for people. Psalm 8 says it like this :

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

I don’t know about you but I find it pretty amazing that the God who created the entire universe of unimaginable scope and measure still thinks of mankind as a special creation. He gives us dominion over His creation. Because of his love for us, he gave mankind such an awesome responsibility. The OT continues on describing the love of God. Here are just a handful of the verses that speak of God’s love:


The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. (Ex 34:6-7) “Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him,” declares the LORD. (Jer 31:20)

I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul. (Jer 32:40-41)

The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” (Hos 3:1)

The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made.
(Ps 145:14-17)

He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets prisoners free,
the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the alien
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
(Ps 146:7-9)

In particular, God’s love and concern for people who are disadvantaged is frequently mentioned throughout the OT. The law contained several rules for treating orphans, widows and foreigners fairly and providing for their needs (e.g. Dt 24:10-22).

But you, O God, do see trouble and grief;
you consider it to take it in hand.
The victim commits himself to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless…
You hear, O LORD , the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.
(Ps 10:14, 17-18)

Craig says, “You can’t read the Old Testament prophets without a sense of God’s profound care for the poor, the oppressed, the down-trodden, the orphaned, and so on. God demands just laws and just rulers.”

God is love but there is also another aspect of God. He is just. In fact, his love demands that he be just. He must punish evil. But even in his justice he is merciful. We see in the OT that He literally pleads with people to repent of their unjust ways that He might not judge them. “As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ez. 33.11).

The story of Jonah is a story of God’s mercy upon a wicked and evil people. God sent Jonah to warn the people of Nineveh that He would punish their evil ways. Jonah didn’t want to go because He knew if the people repented God would spare them.

God’s judgement is anything but whimsical or arbitrary. When God announces to Abraham his intention to destroy Sodom, God is willing to spare the cities for the sake of righteous people.

“Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it?Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18.25).


One last verse will suffice to showcase God’s patience and desire to withhold judgment. This verse comes four hundred years before the verses that you pointed out regarding God’s commands to Israel to wipe-out the Canaanites.

“Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. . . . And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites [one of the Canaanite clans] is not yet complete” (Gen. 15. 13, 16).

This verse shows that God was patient with the people of Canaan and that He would not let Abraham destroy them because of his patience. But the verse also projects forward to a day when the sin or iniquity of these people would be so full that God would punish them.

To summarize all of the above, God as creator is loving, merciful, patient, and just.

This justice then is at the root of the question at hand. Gregory Koukl says this :”Those who are quick to object that God isn’t doing enough about evil in the world (“A good God wouldn’t let that happen”) are often equally quick to complain when God puts his foot down (“A loving God would never send anyone to Hell”).”

In the end of time, God will settle the ultimate judgment.  God often judges people and nations here on earth in the present and in the past. God uses several means to carry out this temporal judgement:

  1. He uses natural disasters and other natural means. In the OT we have the flood, the plagues on Egypt,  horde of locusts, famines and ect.
  2. God uses people.  In particular, he gives government the responsibility to punish evil here on earth. God may use people who act righteously but he also uses people who act out of evil intents. God used the Assyrians and the Persian kings to punish the people of Israel. These kings were pagan and evil and often acted out of evil motives yet God uses them to seek punishment on the people of Israel for idolatry. God also promises to punish the Assyrians and Persians for their evil motives.

There is one other foundation that we must look at before we finally put all this together into an answer. That is the fact that every person born is sinful. This means we are all deserving of punishment. The fact that any person is given another breath of life is because of the absolute mercy of God. William Lane Craig says this “since God is the highest Good, we have a moral obligation to love and worship Him, and He would be evil if He did not care whether people fulfill their moral obligations or not.” This means that when we refuse to worship him or obey him we are rejecting the highest good.  A  just God, a good God would care about that.
Now  lets  put all that together and see where we stand. God is loving, good, merciful, patient, and just. People are sinful deserving of punishment. God passes over a lot of suffering but his patience does not last forever. He then will punish people. He warns people. He gives them time and then he punishes those who did not heed the warning. This is what happened with  the Canaanites. In fact we see this pattern again and again in the OT.  Robin Schumaker describes the pattern :

1. God declares an annihilation form of judgment to stamp out a cancer.

2 .The judgments are for public recognition of extreme sin.

3.  Judgment is preceded by warning and/or long periods of exposure to the truth and time to repent.

4.  Any and all ‘innocent’ adults are given a way of escape with their families; sometimes all given a way to avoid judgment via repentance or leaving a particular region. It should also be noted that expulsion from a land was the most common judgment, not extermination. This pattern goes all the way back to the ejection of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden (cf. Gen. 3:24).

5.  Someone is almost always saved (redeemed) from the evil culture.

6.  The judgment of God falls.

What do we know about the Canaanites. They were evil. They would often attack the rear of the Israelite’s caravan where the poor, sick, eldery and children were located . Deut. 25:17-19  These same nations and tribes were rampant with child sacrifice to pagan idols, homosexuality, prostitution as a religion, bestiality, theft, and murder. God put up with this for 400 years before finally commanding the Israelites to wipe them off the map and out of the land. But before this God told the people to warn the local tribes and nations of this judgment.

So this brings us right up to your objection. Is God being objectively immoral in commanding the slaughter of a group of people including their children? The answer is firmly no. I have explained that God has the right to do with his creation as he wishes. God also is loving and merciful and patient. God also gives a warning of judgment and time to repent. God then acts upon his judgment.
Schumaker further addresses this aspect in regard to the children :

“First, the typical Israeli rules of engagement included a warning and declaration period of the coming, impeding war. Women, children, the elderly, and others who wished could easily flee far ahead of the fully announced military attack. Only those who (or whose parents) stubbornly remained would face war and its outcome.Second, in the case of Amalek, it has already been shown that the entire culture had been corrupted by the sin of the adults. From the perspective of eternity, there was no hope for any child who was left behind. Scripture implies that young children who die go to be with the Lord (cf. 2 Sam. 12:23), so while some children may have been killed in war, they were ultimately saved by God from becoming what their parents were.Last, socially and physically, the fate of children throughout history has always rested with their parents, whether they were in good hands (in the case of Noah) or bad (Amalek). The actions of the parents were the final determinant in the temporal/earthly well-being of the children.”

I feel the weight of your objection in this matter and I would agree that if any human were to command the slaughter of a group of people then that human would be wrong.  We even have a phrase that we say when people do this thing.  We say that “they are playing God.”   They are playing God because ultimately life and death are God’s prerogative.   No human has the perfect knowledge or wisdom of God, so if the Israelites acted apart from a divine command then they would be wrong.

But God does have perfect knowledge.  Traditionally we have divided this knowledge into categories.   God has a perfect knowledge of the present.  This means that he knows ever minute detail with complete understanding of its cause and purpose.   God knows all of the facts in the present condition.  But God’s knowledge doesn’t stop with the present.  It goes backwards into history but also forward. This is often called God’s foreknowledge.  This means God knows everything that will come to pass exactly as it will come to pass.   A third category is what we call middle knowledge.  This is a knowledge of all possible worlds and all possible outcomes.  This means God knows every possible outcome of every possible decision or action in the universe.   God’s present knowledge, fore knowledge, and middle knowledge means that God has a complete picture of all things.    It is this knowledge along with a perfect wisdom that understands what to do with the knowledge that gives God the ability and the right to determine life and death.  It gives God the right to issue forth the command to the Israelites to kill the people of Canaan.

Now I have tried to address your objection. I think that far from being a problem for the idea of objective morality, God’s judgment is just and underlines not only the existence of objective morality but the seriousness of it too.

I lastly want to put this into the larger context of the Bible and to explain why these stories are in the Bible.  I think this will ultimately give a small glimpse of another reason why God would issue this command then and why it would not be appropriate today.   Christians often described how the Bible came together as “progressive revelation“.  This means that unlike Muslims which believe the Koran was revealed at once, the Bible was written over a period of years by many different authors.   I think this characteristic alone speaks volumes for how awesome the Bible is.  One of the last great presidents of Princeton, Charles Hodge described progressive revelation this way, ” What at first is only obscurely intimated is gradually unfolded in subsequent parts of the sacred volume, until the truth is revealed in its fulness.”    This means that God revealed his truth to humans through the course of history leading up the time of Jesus in which the revelation would reach its completion.   God did this because Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection are really the focal point of history and the entire Bible.

God revealed this truth first to Adam and Eve in only a small way after they sinned.    This occurred in Gen 3:15 and is called the protoevangelium.  This verse reveals that one day the child of woman would one day destroy the serpent.   When Adam and Eve sinned, God put into motion the plan to redeem mankind from its sin.   The Bible would then progressively reveal the unfolding of this plan.   God would make promises to Noah and then Abraham.   Theses promises would foretell of a day when a messiah would come from the offspring of Abraham to save the people from their sins.   This leads us up to the nation of Israel.   The nation of Israel was to be the nation and people group that Jesus would come from.  God intended for these people to remain separate and to be committed to Him.  Thus many of the Old Testament laws are set up to maintain this distinction from the other pagan nations.   This explains the dietary and ceremonial requirements of the Israelites.   This also explains why the Bible has legal code meant for the nation of Israel including the verses protecting conquered women from rape that you posted about above.   Finally because it is because of God’s promise and commitment to send Jesus to be the savior for the entire world that God strictly commands exact obedience to the Israelites.  It is to preserve his promise and commitment.  This is another reason on top of the one mentioned above for why God would command the Israelites to remove from Canaan the pagan people there.   God knew that those people would either try to destroy the Israelites(and they did try) or that they would bring the people of Israel to accept sinful and evil practices.  Ultimately it is for the sake of our salvation that God worked in the way that He did.

I am aware however that his answer may not be satisfactory for you. I will add this objection is not a problem for me because I trust that character of God. I know that his judgments are just and good. I also know that ultimately I am just a creation lacking the perfect knowledge or wisdom of God. Therefor there are decisions of God that I may not like but I know that as his word says that all things work to good for those who trust him. This trust I think is completely founded in evidence.  I also think that the Cosmological argument along with the fine tuning argument, the moral argument, the ontological argument, the evidence for the resurrection, and the evidence from the lives of Christians throughout history including my own are more than enough to prove the existence of God and to give me basis for my faith.

The following sources also may provide a little more help with this issue:

Rational Christianity

Carm
Reasonable Faith.org
The Blaze

Is God Immoral for Killing Children

Is Yahweh a Moral Monster

You will also notice that throughout the blog post I have included links to give articles and other sources that also provide valuable insight.

Jesus Never Ducked the Truth (Thoughts on Duck Dynasty and Mark Driscoll)

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As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say. Luke 11:53-54

  People often think of Jesus as a mild-mannered man not wanting to offend anyone.   Luke in chapter 11 tells  a different story.   Jesus had been invited to dine at the home of a pharisee.  The pharisees were the leading religious and political figures of the Jewish day.     An invite to a pharisee’s house was as Joe Biden might say a “big deal.” Jesus wasted no time getting to the point during his visit.  He poignantly called out the pharisee and his guests for their sins.  His honest words rang like insults in the ears of his hearers.  “Fools, white washed tombs,  hypocrites, and brood of vipers” where some of the words that Jesus had for the pharisees and scribes.  Today we might say Jesus was a bit uncouth.   He was frank and to the point.   It’s hard to imagine how you might feel if your invited dinner guest begin to compare you to a murderer before the food had even had a chance to settle in your stomach.   Talk about indigestion.  Yet Jesus loved these people.  It was his love for them and their followers that motivated him to call out their sin.   

And then as Jesus left that dinner party, the pharisees plotted their revenge.  They were constantly on look out waiting for the opportune time when Jesus would slip up and say something.   They were like a rookie journalist hoping to make his big break by catching Jesus with a hot mic saying something under his breath.    Jesus was wise to their game though.   Yet, He would still answer their questions with the truth.   I imagine that every time that Jesus answered one of their questions in a way they didn’t expect, it would leave them jaw-dropped and infuriated.  He continued to call  sinners to repent while lovingly warning them of hell.   The pharisees eventually had enough and  conspired to kill Jesus.  

So if the pharisees treated Jesus this way, how shall his followers expect to be treated.   Jesus explained what to expect in John 15:18-25

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’

It’s simple, if the world hated Jesus then they will hate his followers.   The way they treated Jesus is the way they will treat us.  This has been evident throughout the history of Christianity.   From its struggle  under the Roman rule to present day in places like Syria and China, Christians have been and are still persecuted for their faith.

In America where I write from, Christians have enjoyed a great amount of freedom.   However, it does seem like that freedom is under attack.   Which brings us back around to the first passage.   The pharisees watched and waited for Jesus to slip up.  They also asked him questions hoping to provoke an answer.  Two recent cases provide excellent examples of Luke 11:53,54.    

The news explodes yesterday that after an interview and profile in GQ magazine, Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame was going to be suspended from the hit show.    What was his crime?   When asked about his opinion on homosexuality, he gave it.   Some of have said that his response was a bit uncouth while GLAAD cried that he was offensive and hateful.   Phil Robertson paraphrased from the Bible while listing what he thought were sins. This included homosexuality, adultery, bestiality, and drunkenness.  A&E, the television network that Duck Dynasty airs on, under pressure from gay organizations put out a statement saying they were going to suspend Phil from the show indefinitely.   Then came the media storm.  Everyone and their brother has an opinion on the situation.  There have been several good posts from some leading Christian thinkers on the situation.  Dr. Albert Mohler of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in a blog piece entitled “You Have Been Warned”, came to the conclusion:

So the controversy over Duck Dynasty sends a clear signal to anyone who has anything to risk in public life: Say nothing about the sinfulness of homosexual acts or risk sure and certain destruction by the revolutionaries of the new morality. You have been warned.

Anyone who had watched the show or knows anything about the Robertson family knows that they are conservative Christians.  It should have been no shock to anyone that Phil Robertson would think that homosexuality is wrong.  And yet here we are.   It is sad that in America with its rich history influenced and shaped by great Christian thinkers like John Locke, Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield, that paraphrasing the Bible would be considered a public offense.   To be fair A&E has every right to broadcast who they want or to not broadcast who they want.   However, the day may be coming that speaking out against homosexuality will be considered a hate crime.

Returning to the scripture, its easy to see how the world when it is confronted with Christians living a godly life will not like it.   Just as the pharisees plotted against Jesus for speaking out against sin, the world will do the same to us.   You can also be sure that the world will be waiting and watching for Phil Robertson and family to slip up. 

Which brings us to another lesser known but still widely blogged about story.  A pastor that I have often enjoyed hearing preach through podcasts and the like, Mark Driscoll was caught in a “scandal.”   Driscoll is pastor of Mars Hill church in Seattle.  He is also a popular author and speaker somewhat controversial for his uncouth style and directness. (I personally appreciate his directness and willingness to tackle tough questions)   He went on a radio show back in November expecting to discuss his newest book.   While on the radio, the host accused Mark of plagiarism.  The blogosphere exploded when more accusations of plagiarism followed after the radio show.    Because of Mark’s bold stance against homosexuality, feminism, and biblical manhood, it seems like many came out of the woodwork to attack him.  After a month-long investigation into plagiarism by Tyndale House Publishing, they released a statement.   The initial accusation by the radio host was considered unfounded as Driscoll had properly cited in his book the source of his argument.   However, it was found that an internal publication for Mars Hill had mistakenly left out a citation in some sermon notes.   Mark also released a statement publicly apologizing for the mistake and promising to correct it.  In reality, the whole thing was blown way out of proportion.   I appreciated Mark’s willingness to own up to a mistake but this was not the big scandal that some were making it out to be.   Instead it looked to be as if some were once again looking for Driscoll to trip up and fall.

Both stories are slightly different with different lessons to learn.   In one, Driscoll did make a mistake.  I think his story serves as a warning that when Christians speak boldly upon anything, there will be plenty of others looking to take them down.   It means that Christians have to live above reproach.   We also like Driscoll  must be willing to own up to mistakes and work to correct them.  Christians are not perfect and nor will they be until Christ’s return.   Christians  need to be willing to accept apologies and to give grace especially over innocent mistakes. We need to be graceful to fellow Christians when they fall.  We also need to be willing to show that same grace and mercy to everyone around us.

The Duck Dynasty story goes to show that ultimately it is not the fact that Christians are imperfect that the culture finds offensive but it is the message of Christianity that they can not stand.   The world doesn’t need for someone to make mistakes to try to destroy them.  This culture is increasingly becoming offended by the Bible message.   While the verdict is out on whether Duck Dynasty will continue as a show with or without Phil, the time is coming and is here when anyone who speaks out about sin will be considered a bigot and hateful.   The world will be waiting like the Pharisees waited for Jesus to say something offensive.   Like Jesus, we must not be afraid to speak the uncouth and politically-incorrect truth.  In a culture where the only sin is to say that there is sin, the Christian message is going to be offensive.  Christians in America will have to learn to live with courage, speaking the truth in love

 

Jesus, Philemon, and Illegal Immigration

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Yesterday evening Democrats in the U.S. Senate pushed through a budget bill to the disappointment of some Republicans.  The bill according to The Daily Caller included a loophole that would allow illegal immigrants to acquire welfare benefits. The bill also imposes cuts on retired military members’ pensions.   Sen. Jeff Session(Alabama Republican) along with other Republicans were unsuccessful in offering  amendments to the legislation that would have used money saved from closing the illegal immigrant welfare loophole to keep from cutting military retirees’ pay.   It seems to border on treasonous to put welfare benefits for illegal immigrants above keeping the promises made to people who have served this country honorably.  That said, this bill is just a microcosm of the larger illegal immigration debate.

How should Christians view the debate?  Should Christians be pushing for the current immigration reform bill going through congress that offers amnesty.    What does the Bible have to say in regard to this?   The Old Testament is filled with verses written to the people of Israel teaching them to treat immigrants well.  In Exodus 22:21 it says “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”   Deut. 10:19 says “Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”  What does the word “Sojourner” and how does it apply to the current situation?

Jame Hoffmeier in his book “The Immigration Crisis: Immigrants, Aliens, and the Bible”  provides  an understanding of the word, Sojourner.  The word is used for “a person who entered Israel and followed legal procedures to obtain recognized standing as a resident alien.”    There actually is another Hebrew word used to refer to people who did not have legal recognition.  The bible would describe these people as “foreigners.”    Understanding the difference in terms will lead to a better understanding of what the Bible has to say.

Hoffmeier comes the conclusion that

“Illegal immigrants should not expect these same privileges(of citizens or legal immigrants) from the state who laws they disregard by virtue of their undocumented status.  The bible clearly distinguishes between the status of a legal alien and a foreigner, and one consequence is that there really is a difference between the legal standing of a present-day documented alien and an illegal immigrant.” (pg 156-57)

This confusion among terms has often been a problem for those calling for Amnesty.  Dr. Russell Moore, a former dean of my seminary and current president of ERLC, has been one such person pushing for illegal immigrants to receive amnesty.  In one of his blog posts , he wrote that, “our Lord Jesus himself was a so-called ‘illegal immigrant.'”   Well certainly if it is the case that Jesus was an illegal immigrant than we must give some credence to the idea that our immigration laws need to be changed to allow for amnesty.    The problem with this statement by Moore and others is that it fails to distinguish between legal and  illegal immigration

It also fails on another point.  When Moore refers to Jesus as an illegal immigrant he is referring to when Joseph and Mary fled the region of Judea when Jesus was an infant.  Mark Tooley in writing for the American Spectator explains:

“(W)hich Egyptian immigration laws did Mary and Joseph violate when they fled there to protect the Baby Jesus from a murderous King Herod? Neither Scripture nor non-canonical sources reveal any such violations. Joseph, Mary and Jesus remained in Egypt until Herod was dead, when they settled in Nazareth. They were essentially temporary religious refugees who fled persecution.  Besides, if both ancient Judaea and ancient Egypt were under the Roman Empire, was moving from one to the other an act of “immigration,” much less “illegal”?”

Thus  Jesus was far from being an illegal immigrant.   Pointing to the fact that Jesus moved from one region of the Roman Empire to another does not equate to the act of illegal immigration today.

There is an area of the Bible which may have more to say about this rather than trying to paint illegal immigration into the  Christmas narrative.  The Epistle to Philemon is a letter from Paul written on the behalf of a fugitive slave or bond-servant, Onesimus.  Paul had met Onesimus possibly in Colossae and had shared the Gospel with him.  Onesimus accepted Christ as his savior and had become a useful brother to Paul.   Paul however sent Onesimus back to Philemon.    Paul wrote Philemon to encourage him to receive Onesimus as a Christian brother and to forgive him for any offense that his abandoning Philemon had caused.  Paul even offered to pay for any expense that Philemon may need.   Without getting into the issue of slavery and all that it entails (It may make for a good blog at another time, however.  Doug Wilson in his book Black and Tan does an excellent job trying to discuss the issue of American slavery and the Civil war though it is not without controversy.), the Epistle to Philemon provides an excellent biblical case study for our understanding of the Christian response to illegal immigration.

While Onesimus was not an illegal immigrant, his status as a runaway slave would put him in a similar situation. We notice from this letter that there are several things that Paul does.  First of all, he shared the Gospel with Onesimus.  Paul did not treat this man with any less dignity or respect than any other person.  He cared for him deeply because he shared the love of Jesus with him.  Paul considered him a Christian.   Christians when they come into contact with immigrants, illegal or otherwise, need to remember this.  ( My wife is a legal immigrant and so it is especially important to me that we get this correct.)   Christian love and charity is to be shown to everyone.

Yet Paul’s love for Onesimus did not excuse the situation.  Onesimus had wronged someone and was illegally away from where he was committed to be.  Paul then sends Onesimus back to Philemon.   There are a lot of questions as to the exact nature of the slave situation for Onesimus but we can imagine that for Onesimus it would probably have been financially and politically better to be with Paul than to go back.  Yet, Paul sends Onesimus back.  ( There does seem to be some intent by Paul for Philemon to receive Onesimus not as a bond-servant any longer.  Phil 1:15-16 “(O)r this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservantbut more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.”)

This passage fits in with teaching of Romans 13 that calls for Christians to be obedient to the rightful authorities.  It also gives good reason for illegal immigrants who have been converted to return to their home countries willingly.   This is a hard teaching but yet is in full accord with the Bible.  It would also be just then for the government to enforce its immigration laws.   There are great many reasons why this should be the case.  For one, it would be unjust to those who immigrated legally to give amnesty to those who did mot.
Lastly, from the book of Philemon we notice that Paul did not just sent Onesimus back empty-handed.  Paul was willing to pay for any expenses that Onesimus might need.   Christians should be willing to help illegal immigrants return to their home country.   Christian charity can help provide resources that an illegal immigrant might be lacking in order to help them return safely.    Christians in the home countries of the illegal immigrants must be willing to receive their brothers and sisters back with open arms.  They may also push for political reforms in their own governments.

To borrow a phrase that I don’t really like, the “Socially Just” thing to do for  Christians is to obey immigration laws.  They should not call for rewarding those who have broken them.  Christians should obey the laws of the land if they have been rightfully put in place.  There may be times when Christians must disobey laws in order to obey God but the immigration laws as they are do not rise to this standing.

To summarize, arguments that try to squeeze illegal immigration into the Christmas narrative are uncalled for.   The Bible encourages Christians to obey the rightful authorities.  When one becomes a Christian, their faith pushes them to repentance.   This repentance will entail that Christians who have broken immigration laws will attempt to obey them.   Christians have no moral duty to push for the breaking of immigration laws.  Christians do have the duty to treat all people with dignity and to share the gospel with everyone they may come in contact with.   The case for amnesty and rewarding those who have broken our laws is not one required from scripture.

Love your gay neighbor!

Jesus called us to love God and to love our neighbor.  These are the summation of God’s commands for us.  Yet putting them to practice can be difficult.    This can be particularly tough because our neighbors are sinners often involved with sinful lifestyles.  How do we love our neighbor without condoning his sin?  How do we love a homosexual while at the same time standing strong on the biblical view against homosexuality?  These are tough questions that have been answered in a host of ways.   A recent article by Brandon Ambrosing  in the Atlanta, “Being Against Gay Marriage Doesn’t Make You a Homophobe,”  contains some valuable insight.  The author is a gay man who argues that one can oppose gay marriage for religious or secular reasons and still not be a bigot.   He goes on to write:

To me, recognizing the distinction between opposing gay marriage and opposing gay people is a natural outgrowth of an internal distinction: When it comes to my identity, I take care not to reduce myself to my sexual orientation. Sure, it’s a huge part of who I am, but I see myself to be larger than my sexual expression: I contain my gayness; it doesn’t contain me. If it’s true that my gayness is not the most fundamental aspect of my identity as Brandon, then it seems to me that someone could ideologically disapprove of my sexual expression while simultaneously loving and affirming my larger identity.

I find this  quote to be particularly useful.   The old adage, “love the sinner-hate the sin” seems appropriate here.   Ambrosing is saying that homosexuals are more than the expression of their sexuality.  His conclusion is that someone may disapprove of his homosexuality and yet still love him.   Ambrosing probably doesn’t recognize it but his argument finds support in the Bible.

It may be helpful to break it down a little further to see what the Bible teaches on the doctrine of man.  The doctrine of man teaches that God is the creator of every person and that humans have a sinful nature because of the fall.  Understanding these two points will help us determine how we can be obedient to all of Christ’s commandments.

First,  we must understand that God is the creator of all humans.  Genesis 1:26-27  says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’ … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”   What does it mean to be be made in the image of God.   It does not mean that man is made to physically resemble God.  God is spirit and therefore man can not physically resemble God.   It also does not mean that men are gods.   Answers in Genesis(AIG) along with other Christian thinkers through time have thought of this image as a bestowing upon man some of the divine attributes.  Prof. J. Rendle-Short of AIG writes

The main impact of the image is that God endues man with some of his divine attributes, thereby separating and making him different from the beasts. What are these special Godlike qualities which man is permitted to share? I shall mention six: language, creativity, love, holiness, immortality and freedom.

Others have offered a different take on this.   They have postulated that the image of God means that man is to be God’s representative on earth.  Thus man is to be a reflective image of God for the world.   This places the emphasis on man’s responsibilities.    John Piper after surveying the different views comes to the most honest conclusion, that the text does not give a complete answer to the question.   Piper does offer this definition: The imago Dei is that in man which constitutes him as he-whom-God-loves.

Never the less, the most important thing for our discussion is that man is the creation of God described as the image of God.   This bestows a great amount of dignity upon human life.   Later in Genesis this is codified when God tells Noah “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.”   Murder is wrong because it destroys what God created in his own image.

God also bestows people with gifts and talents.   He does this to his good pleasure.   This concept is called  common grace.  Common Grace is what allows people of all races and genders to be able to accomplish a lot of good things.   It is often through the lives of non-believers that God works to bring about human flourishing.  In Genesis, the sinful descendents of Cain are the ones who are described inventing animal husbandry and music among other things. Gays, Muslims, Hindus, and atheists can and have contributed to many genuinely good things.     People have a unique value and dignity because they are creations of a loving and giving God.   Going back to the Atlantic article, this allows us to be able to love and affirm the larger identify of all people because they are created in God’s image.

The second thing that must also be  simultaneously understood is that humans are fallen sinful creatures.   We all are born with a sinful nature inherited from our first parents Adam and Eve.   This means that while non-believers may accomplish genuinely good things they operate from sinful motives and a sinful nature.  People do sinful things that are an affront to the image they were created to be.  Mankind is in rebellion against its Creator.  If it were not for God’s common grace then man would never be able to accomplish anything good.  The fact that mankind has not already destroyed itself is a testament to God’s goodness.  Because men have sinful natures they are in need of a new nature.  They are in need of savior who will take the punishment of their sin and give them a heart that will allow them to complete their purpose as the image of God.   The Bible teaches that everyone must repent of their sin and turn to God.

This full understanding of human nature will have a massive impact in how we love.   Without this understanding as a foundation and desire to follow the Bible, there is no way for someone to be able to accurately define what love is.   (This understanding of human nature will also have an impact on our view of government and economics which I have written on here and here)

Some Christians have been and may still be guilty of having an imbalanced view of mankind.   The danger lies in putting too much emphasis on either point.   When their view becomes out of balance the Christian will no longer be able to love  another person as God would have us to.   They will end up with something they may call love but is not love at all.

One problem that Christians have had is to put too much focus on the sinful nature of humans.  This has led many to have a very dim view of others.   It can lead to self-righteousness and a judgmental heart.  When we begin to see others as only sinners we will then begin to see them as enemies.  Other people begin to become nothing more than obstacles to overcome.     We then become in danger of finding nothing worth of love in others.   It is easy to see how this imbalance can lead to hate instead of love.

The other side of the coin leads to the same place.   When we neglect to realize that others are sinners in need of a savior we neglect to truly love them.  We begin to idolize others or worse we begin to celebrate their sin.   We can also take an approach that is blind to the harm that sin causes others.  We remain hands off and neglect to call others to repentance in Christ.   By staying quite, we can become complicit in not only allowing but encouraging others to continue to sin.  Sin is evil and will lead to the destruction of those we are called to love.   I can think of nothing more hateful then to stand by quietly while watching others destroy themselves.    This is often called love but it is nothing more than hatred.

A proper balance between the two important points will help us to love our neighbors.    Love will push us to speak out against the destructive power of sin while at the same time being able to truly find value in those same people.   We can as Brandon Ambrosing wrote be able to disapprove of homosexuality without being homophobes.   We can acknowledge where our unbelieving friends and acquaintances do good things and affirm their identity as a creation of God.   Acknowledging that we all made in the image of God, will allow us to truly love each other because we will by loving God’s creation be loving God.    By doing this we will be obedient to the two most important commandments.