This is Apologetics: an Argument from Science

What is apologetics?

Is Christian faith the enemy of science? This is a common objection to biblical Christianity, but is there any weight to it?

If Christianity’s teaching about man and nature is true, then our senses are designed by our Creator to correspond to the world around us, and scientific inquiry is possible. If not, then there is no corresponding design and we have no reason to trust our sensory intake, and therefore no reason to trust in science.

Christian faith is not the enemy of science. On the contrary, science actually needs the Christian message to be true for its own survival. If you want to believe in science, you must presuppose the Christian faith. Yet the Christian faith doesn’t end with the creation narrative in Genesis. It is revealed in 66 books (together called the Bible) with one central message. And the urgent call of the Christian faith is this:

“…having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has set a day when he is going to judge the world in righteousness by the man he has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead” (Paul the Apostle, Acts 17:30-31).

That judge, and the only Savior and Lord, is Jesus. By believing in science but rejecting Jesus, you are actually sinning against the Creator who gave you life–and a lifetime of sinning against God earns the “wages” of an eternity of death. The Creator’s gift for sinners, however, is that he sent his into the world he created, to take the death his people had earned in their place.

Science is an incredible gift from God, yet it is a gift that points beyond itself to the God revealed in the Bible. We have all sinned against him, and we all must get to the point where we turn from our sin and trust ourselves to his Son. Repent and trust in him today, and your Creator will give you new life that lasts forever.

^This is apologetics.

Further study:

How Elijah Points to Jesus: Further Reflections on 1 Kings 18

Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching at Park Community Church from 1 Kings 18 on the story of an ancient prophet of Yahweh’s confrontation with the pagan prophets of a false god. It was the latest installment of our “Great Stories” series.

This story, in which the wild man Elijah calls down the fire of the Lord, slaughters the treasonous Baal prophets and launches a revival in the nation of Israel, has always fascinated me. I even adapted it into a short story in my junior-year English class at Glenbard East High School (looking back, there was probably something close to plagiarism going on there, in how closely I followed the biblical narrative).

Over the years, I have become borderline obsessed with the idea that every story in the Tanakh (AKA the Hebrew Scriptures, AKA the Old Testament) points forward to Jesus Christ and the New Covenant in some way. Of course I did not invent this idea; it is as old as the Bible itself. Nevertheless, this Christocentric approach to Scripture study now has me asking about every OT story, in a way that I never did as a high schooler or for years afterward, the question, “How does this point to Jesus?”

Until I wrote this sermon (here’s the transcript), I had never really studied 1 Kings 18 with that question in mind. So it was a real joy to do so. Here’s what I came up with.

  1. Elijah proclaims repentance to Israel – Much like the later “Elijah” (John the Baptist) would do, he prepares the hearts of Israel for an encounter with the Lord. For Elijah, it was the Yahweh who would show His power on Mount Carmel. For John the Baptist, it was Yahweh-in-the-flesh, the man Christ Jesus, who saved His people on Mount Calvary.
  2. Elijah preached that God’s people should follow Him alone – Jesus too warned against trying to serve two masters (Matthew 6:24) and insisted that, “No one who “puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
  3. Elijah offered a sacrifice, and God accepted it – The Lord vindicated His servant Elijah by sending a bolt out of the blue and burning up his sacrifice. Nine centuries later, He accepted a far greater sacrifice for sin and vindicated His Son, by raising Him from the dead.
  4. Elijah’s altar of twelve stones expressed a desire for God’s people to be unified – God’s people (which meant the 12 tribes of Israel in Elijah’s day) were meant to be together, not split up into multiple kingdoms (which they were at that time). In Christ, people from every ethnicity, culture and kingdom are united (Galatians 3:28).
  5. Elijah’s revival was temporary, showing the need for a greater revival – Under the Old Covenant, Israel’s returns to God (as in 1 Kings 18) never involved the whole nation, and they were temporary, because most of their hearts did not change. This story accentuates the need for the New Covenant in Christ’s blood, in which all God’s elect people will know Him, and they will serve Him with new hearts forever.

It is amazing to set back and think about the privileged place in history in which we live. The promises of the Old Testament are fulfilled in Christ, and we can see in hi-def what OT believers saw only in types and shadows. From Genesis to Malachi, the Hebrew Scriptures are all about the Messiah to come. Starting next month, we will launch our new series, all about what it means to live together as followers of said Messiah, as the church.

What other ways do you see the “great story” of Elijah on Mount Carmel pointing to the greatest story ever, i.e. the Gospel? Feel free to share any insights in the comments.

Some Further Reflections on Joseph’s Story

Over the last several weeks at Park Community Church, we have been hearing the stories from the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) that point to the greatest story of all–God’s plan to redeem His people through Jesus Christ. As the most recent “episode” of the “Great Stories” series at the Forest Glen church, we heard a message from Pastor Steve Coble on the story of Joseph from the book of Genesis, chapters 37 – 50.

Here are a few of my takeaways from the message:

1. Every evil and tragic thing that happened in Joseph’s life was not only used by God, but actually intended by God for Joseph’s eventual good. God did not merely “use” the trouble and tragedy in Joseph’s life, as though He was working out a Plan B. Rather, it turns out He actually had a plan from the beginning that superseded all the evil intentions of the “villains” in the story.

Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. The wife of Potiphar, Joseph’s master, falsely accused him of sexual assault. In prison, Joseph was forgotten and left to rot, by someone he had helped. And yet every single one of these seeming misfortunes was a stepping stone toward Joseph’s final promotion (to second in command of the whole kingdom!) and reconciliation with his family.

Even the famine that struck the region worked out for good, as it brought Joseph’s brothers and father to him. God’s sovereign plan often has, worked into it, evil people doing evil things. He does this in order to show that He is in complete, sovereign control. His creatures will freely choose to do wrong, but God is greater than our plans.

He is totally good, and He is in total control. The same is true in your life today. If you love God and have been called according to His purpose, then God is working all things in your life together for good–to make you more like Jesus and unite you to Him as His brother or sister (Romans 8:28-30).

2. Joseph’s story had implications that stretched far beyond his own lifetime. Joseph himself became a pattern of the Messiah who would come–namely Jesus. Jesus was betrayed by his own people into the hands of evil men, falsely accused, and punished as an innocent man. And like Joseph (though infinitely more significantly) Jesus was vindicated–raised from the dead!–and promoted to the most exalted position in the kingdom.

The story of Joseph and his brothers is one chapter in the grand story God wrote in history, leading to the conclusion in which Jesus Christ rescues His people from calamity and establishes his righteous reign. In fact, Jesus is reigning now, and possesses “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Right now you may be on the wrong side of His reign–not yet submitted to Him–but you can be reconciled to God, just as Joseph’s brothers were reconciled to him, by admitting you are a sinner and repenting to God, trusting in Jesus as Savior and King.

3. I can stop worrying, and so can you. Joseph’s story, and the Gospel to which it points, powerfully conveys that God has a good plan, He is in control of our circumstances in order to bring about that plan, and His plan is good for us. If God can bring His Son back from the dead (and He did), and if God has promised everlasting life to those who trust in Jesus (and He has), and if He will be with us always (and He will), then what is there to worry about?

I tend to worry about my children–that I will fail them as a father. No doubt Joseph’s father, Israel (the name God gave to Jacob and where the nation of Israel gets its name), felt like a failure on that day that his sons reported that Joseph had been killed. But God was in control, working out His plan. Israel saw the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (cf. Psalm 27:13), and he realized the truth: God is able to use the worst tragedies to bring about redemption and rescue.

Joseph’s story is a great story, and it doesn’t end with Him. It continues on to the Messiah and through Messiah to his people. Are you one of His people? Trust in Him!

How Did Jesus Argue?

Jesus was a master of apologetics (what John Frame calls “the theological discipline that defends the truth of the Christian message). Of course, He is the Master of everything, so it makes sense that He would defend truth in a masterful way. In the New Testament, there are many examples of Jesus engaging with His opponents in apologetical discussions. A brilliant example of this is found in Mark 3:22-30:

The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul in Him!” and, “He drives out demons by the ruler of the demons!”

So He summoned them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rebels against himself and is divided, he cannot stand but is finished!

“On the other hand, no one can enter a strong man’s house and rob his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he will rob his house. I assure you: People will be forgiven for all sins[b] and whatever blasphemies they may blaspheme. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

In this encounter with his perennial opponents, Jesus is engaging in presuppositional apologetics. He begins with a claim of theirs–it happens to be common ground they both agree with–that a demon has been cast out of someone.
Then Jesus hits them with a one-two punch. First He goes on offense: “Answer a fool according to his foolishness, or he’ll become wise in his own eyes” (Prov. 26:4). Then He plays defense: “Don’t answer a fool according to his foolishness or you’ll be like him yourself” (Prov. 26:4).

(vv. 23-26) Offense

Jesus goes on the offense against their argument. Jesus steps into their worldview for the sake of argument and shows them that their reasoning is self-refuting and therefore necessarily false.
His argument:
  1. If I were possessed by Beelzeboul, then I would be working for Satan’s kingdom.
  2. If I am casting out demons, then I am working against Satan’s kingdom.
  3. If I am casting out demons by Beelzeboul, then I would be working for and against Satan’s kingdom.
That is logically incoherent and self-refuting. It is necessarily false. (Side note: this shows that the scribes could not actually believe this in any kind of rational way. Jesus is betraying their heart commitments. They couldn’t really believe that Jesus was working for Satan, but because they refused to believe in Him, they were forced to accept an obvious, irrational falsehood. This is what inevitably happens to all non-biblical world views.)
I suppose they could have argued back, “Well then Satan is obviously stupidly working against himself!” But this is refuted by considering that their whole argument was based on the craftiness of Satan’s strategy. So is Satan being crafty or stupid? Jesus implicitly says (as one commentator has pointed out), “Satan is evil, but he is not stupid.” This would have been accepted by all.

(v. 27) Defense

Jesus defends the truth. Jesus refuses to accept their presupposition (that He is not the divine Messiah), and demonstrates that the only possible correct view is that He is more powerful than Satan. The only one more powerful than Satan is God. The scribes believed this. Therefore Jesus is forcing them, by their own worldview, to admit that He is God. Of course, this entails that they owe Him their allegiance and faith. But the only way around that is to deny what they already claim to believe. Look at their options:
  1. They could argue that a demon was not really cast out–but the exorcism was so obvious that this would turn them into radically skeptic anti-supernaturalists–not even an option in that culture, and surely this would disqualify them from being scribes!
  2. They could argue that a mere man could possibly cast out demons without God’s approval and power–but this too would force them to abandon their pretense of a biblical worldview, disqualifying them from being scribes.
  3. They could admit that Jesus actually is the Messiah sent from God, operating in God’s power, and actually is God (because He’s claimed divine attributes and clearly has God’s approval for doing so), and is casting out demons by God’s power and authority.
What they cannot argue is that Jesus was casting out demons by the “ruler of the demons.” Jesus has brilliantly taken that option away from them and masterfully backed them into an inescapable corner.
It’s interesting that, after Jesus speaks, we don’t hear from the scribes again in this exchange. After all, what could they say? Their argument and lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God has been destroyed, and their thoughts have been taken captive to obey Christ, the Master Apologist.

Application for us

When we face challenges in spiritual conversations we may (must!) follow the Lord’s example.
  1. Go on the offense. Demonstrate that our conversation partner “can’t get there from here.” Their worldview doesn’t lead them to where they want to go, and in fact it refutes itself.
  2. Defend the truth. Show that the biblical teaching is the only possible way to get there.
For example, a man who says God can’t exist because evil exists, has no way of accounting for a meaningful definition of evil according to his worldview. However, the Bible not only accounts for evil but also provides a solution for it in the Gospel, which they have an obligation to hear and obey (believe).
In this passage, Jesus teaches important truth about His identity as the God-Man Messiah, also on blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, but He also gives us a template for handling challenges and objections in spiritual conversations.

¿Es el Cristianismo exclusivo? (Primera Parte)

Note: I originally wrote this article in English with the title, “Is Christianity Exclusive?,” for my previous blog. You can read it in English here. Thanks to Antonio Salgado for translating it into Spanish. biblia-1140x760

El cristianismo ha sido llamado religión más exclusivo del mundo. Después de todo, se presenta una visión de Dios y el reino de Dios, que está completamente centrada y enfocada en un solo requisito. Otras religiones ofrecen un sistema de normas y prácticas religiosas que puede seguir, para adherirse a las creencias y formas de vida para que pueda llevar a cabo. La idea es que, a medida que tratan su más difícil de hacer lo mejor, Dios (o Alá, o Jehová, o quien sea) podrá ver tu corazón y, tal vez, llenar los vacíos en su obediencia defectuosa e imperfecta. Hay un gran número de sistemas de fe que ofrecen esto. Los métodos y los requisitos varían, pero la esencia general es el mismo: hacer lo mejor para obedecer, y lo más probable es ponerse en No podemos garantizarlo, pero las probabilidades son mayores que la media..

No es así con el cristianismo (o, como los primeros seguidores lo llamaron, “El Camino”). Hay uno, único, inalterable e inflexible exigencia de estar en “buena con Dios” según la Biblia (la Biblia es la fuente de las creencias cristianas – a diferencia de otros sistemas de fe seudocristianas, como el catolicismo romano, que tiene un gran cuerpo de tradición de la iglesia que se mantiene en pie de igualdad con la Biblia). Sólo hay un requisito de una persona debe cumplir con el fin de ser perdonados de sus pecados y se transfiere desde el estado de “bajo la ira” a la condición de que este requisito es “justificado.”: Jesús tiene que salvar.

Eh? ¿Por qué me hacen parecer que el requisito es algo que Jesus hace, en lugar de algo que tengo que hacer? La razón es porque eso es lo que la Biblia enseña. Contrariamente a lo que cada otra religión enseña (que yo sepa, y yo soy un estudiante de la filosofía religiosa, por lo que vale la pena), en el cristianismo no hay nada que puede hacer – en absoluto – para merecer el favor de Dios. Cuando se trata de la salvación, no se puede hacer absolutamente nada para ganarla. Todo totalmente, totalmente, descansa por completo en la obra de Jesucristo para salvarte. Él vivió la vida perfectamente obediente que nadie pudo. Sin embargo, él murió como un asesino, cuando los pecadores como nosotros merecemos castigo. Hizo un cambio cósmico, salvando efectivamente a todo aquel que cree en Él. Solo aquellos que creen esto, se arrepientan de sus pecados (porque quién no, después de ver lo mucho que Dios los ama en sacrificar a su propio Hijo?), Y la confianza en la obra terminada de Jesús será salvado.

Debido a esto, el cristianismo es exclusivo. Toda paisaje espiritual y religiosa del mundo está plagado de falsas puertas que conducen a callejones sin salida, y Jesús es la única puerta que conduce al reino de Dios. Entrar a través de él, el autoproclamado “puerta estrecha” (Mateo 7:13), y serás salvo. Salvado del reino de la oscuridad, del pecado, de la destrucción, de la adicción, la delincuencia, de rebelión contra Dios, de vivir su vida fuera de la gracia y la bondad de Dios. Guardado en el reino de Dios, lleno de perdón y la misericordia, la bondad, el propósito y el placer. Y Jesús es la única manera de entrar. Punto. La Escritura no puede ser más claro en esto.

Es por eso que los primeros cristianos fueron llamados “seguidores del Camino.” El “camino” no es un sistema; el Camino es una Persona. Él es un ser humano, que también es Dios encarnado. Dos naturalezas (una humano, una divina), un hombre, un puente perfecto entre Dios y la humanidad. Jesús es la persona perfecta para cerrar la brecha de otro modo infranqueable entre la gente pecadora y el Dios Santo y perfecto. Así que el cristianismo es exclusivo. Cualquier cristiano que es honesto estará de acuerdo con eso.

Pero el reino de Dios es también sorprendentemente, inclusivo. Voy a explicar por qué en la segunda parte de este artículo.

Serving with Hope in God’s Household (A Sermon Skeleton of Titus 2:9-15)

Titus 2:9-15 (Author’s Translation)

9 Slaves are to be subjugated to their own masters in all things, to be acceptable, not contradicting, 10 not embezzling, rather demonstrating all good faithfulness, in order that they may adorn the doctrine—that of our savior God—in all things. 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people, 12 educating us in order that, denying ungodliness and wordly lusts, we may live in the present age, soberly and righteously and piously, 13 looking forward to the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself on behalf of us, in order that he may redeem us from all lawlessness and cleanse for himself a particular people—zealous for good works. 15 Speak these things and exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

Outline of major and minor points

  1. (9-10) Slaves are to be subjugated to their own masters in all things (This applies to all employees, servants, etc.)
    1. What submission looks like: Slaves are to be
      1. (be) Acceptable
      2. Not (be) contradicting
      3. Not (be) embezzling
      4. Rather (be) demonstrating all good faithfulness
        1. Why slaves choose to live this way: (Demonstrating) in order that they may adorn the doctrine—that of our Savior God—in all things
  2. (11-14) For the grace of God has appeared!
    1. God’s grace has appeared, bringing salvation to all people
    2. God’s grace has appeared, educating us
      1. The goal of studying at “Grace Academy”: The grace of God educates us in order that… we may live in the present age
        1. (live) denying ungodliness and worldly lusts
        2. (live) soberly
        3. and (live) righteously
        4. and (live) godly
        5. (live) looking forward to the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ
          1. He gave himself on behalf of us
            1. He gave himself in order that he may…
              1. He gave himself to redeem us from all lawlessness
              2. And He gave Himself to cleanse for himself a particular people zealous for good works
  3. (15) Preach it!
    1. Speak these things
    2. And exhort and rebuke with all authority.
    3. Let no one disregard you.

Notes

Slaves, servants and employees are to live and work in an honest way. In doing this, they give the Gospel a good reputation—just look how their lives have been changed by it!

In fact, God’s grace has appeared not just to slaves but to all kinds of people. These are the people Jesus died to “purchase” for Himself. What incredible grace—he came particularly for you!

Focus on the grace you have received, and look forward to the glorious hope we have that Jesus Christ will appear again in glory. With your eyes set on that hope, live in a way that gives your God and Savior a good reputation.

Overcoming Objections: Christianity Is False Because It Has No Priestly System

The Egyptians did it.

The Jews definitely did it.

Babylonians? Yep. They did it too.

Same goes for the Greeks and Romans.

Even the Aztecs, Incas and Mayans did it.

What do all these ancient civilizations have in common? They all had their own religious systems. And those religious systems all involved sacrifices. And those sacrifices were offered by priests. This fact led to one of the early objections to Christianity as a fledgling religious system.

Every religious system in history, from the dawn of civilization until the dawn of Christianity, has always had some kind of priestly sacrificial system. While these cultures’ religions differed on who the divine was and how to best appease it, they all agreed that the Divine did need to be appeased. And the way to appease the divine was universally understood to be by blood sacrifice, performed by a priestly class, carried out in temples. The priest acted as the mediator between God and man.

Enter Christianity: no priests,  no temples, no blood sacrifices. To ancient minds, this made no sense. It was well known that the Divine wrath over human wickedness needed to be propitiated (satisfied). Without priests offering blood sacrifice, it would have been argued, there was no way to propitiate divine wrath. Therefore, any religious worshipers lacking in the priest department must also have been lacking in the brains department. Christianity didn’t satisfy the universal human need for sacrifice. Christianity wasn’t true, because it had no mediator between God and humanity. Every religion worth its salt has a priestly system. Hey Christians, where are all your priests?

To overcome this ancient objection, let’s turn to the Bible, to the book of Hebrews. This book is a sort of sermon-letter hybrid, written to second-generation Christians of ethnic Jewish descent. At this time, Christianity was in the process of breaking away from Judaism, but it was still seen as a Jewish sect.

The above argument seems to have been lodged against the Hebrew Christians in an attempt to discredit their fledgling faith and convince them to return to the more “sensible” Jewish religion. After all, they were ethnically Jewish, and the religion their parents left had sacrifices ordained by God Himself. Come on, Christians, get your acts together. Get back to the true religion–the one with the priests!

In fact, one commentator points out that Jews and Gentiles alike found it difficult to believe the Christian message, because of the lack of a visible priestly system.

So the author of Hebrews writes to address this objection and reassure his Christian audience. 

He writes in Hebrews 4:14, “Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession” (ESV, emphasis added).

Their confession was their public declaration that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, send by God as the prophet, priest and king over heaven and earth. The author says that the Hebrew Christians should hold fast to this belief, because not only do they have a high priest, but they have a better high priest than the Jewish religion they left.

Christians have a great high priest, but you won’t see Him ascending the steps of a stone temple to offer daily sacrifices.

Christians do have a priest, but you don’t have to go to Jerusalem to meet with Him. In fact, you don’t even have to go to your local cathedral.

Christians do have a priest, but you don’t have to bring him sacrifices to offer, because He provided the sacrifice. And His Sacrifice was so sufficient, that one was all He needed.

What was the sacrifice offered by this high priest? He offered Himself.

Then, after Jesus died for sinners, He resurrected. Over the next forty days he appeared to over five hundred eyewitnesses, and then He ascended (the author says he “passed through the heavens” to God’s own throne room. Jesus did not go to a manmade temple, but to the place that all those temples were symbols of. There he sits at the Father’s right hand, where He always lives to mediate between God’s people and God Himself.

Jesus Christ is the perfect priest. Who better to mediate between humanity and divinity than the One who embodies both?

So the objection that Christianity has no mediator falls flat. We have a priest who satisfies God’s wrath over sin, because He paid it Himself. Now He is the “great high priest” whose work is finished.

Beware any religious teacher who tells you that you need a merely human priest to make you right with God. Think about that: if (merely) human priests could fully satisfy our debt, then why did they have to keep making all those sacrifices, year after year, for millennia?

All those priests who came before could not make an eternal effect; they were shadows of the real thing. Jesus is the real thing. He is the priest we need. You and I can trust Him to pay our debt of sin and reconcile us to God. His shed blood (grace alone) can wash away your sin, if you will turn your heart away from your sin (repent) and come to Him (by faith alone) as your priest.

How about you? Who are you trusting to make you right with God? Who is your priest? Don’t let it be anyone other than the one who “passed through the Heavens” for you.

A Tale of Two Sauls

1 Samuel 18:10-11; 19:1
1000 B. C.
Saul, the first king of Israel, abused his authority and viciously pursued and tried to destroy David, who would become the ancestor of the Messiah. God intervened, Saul’s plan was later vanquished, and he was killed in battle.

Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-6
Fast forward a thousand years:
Saul, an Israeli religious scholar (Pharisee), abused his authority and viciously pursued and tried to destroy the fledgling church, the movement begun by the Messiah, the descendant of David. God intervened, Saul’s plan was vanquished, and Saul became Paul–the world’s greatest missionary and apostle of the faith he had tried to destroy.

God’s plan to usher in His kingdom through His Messiah, Jesus Christ, cannot be stopped by mere mortals. You and I must end up like one of the two Sauls–either destroyed while shaking our fist at the King, or humbled and transformed by repentance and faith in the King.

In Matthew 4:17, the the Messiah says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” How will you answer His command?

Meanwhile…

…elsewhere in the Grace Pointe Plainfield blogosphere, parents were discipling their children! Check out Dan Painter’s latest: Re:start.

What Does the Bible Say About “50 Shades of Grey?”

By now, you know that “50 Shades of Grey” is going to be arriving in theaters. What do we make of this?

I, for one, have been encouraged by how the Reformed and Evangelical worlds has responded to this film’s release. For two high-quality pieces, click here and here.

For all I could say (and have said) about this film, I am going to turn things over to the biblical author (and half-brother* of Jesus Christ), Jude. His short letter (only 25 verses) has a surprising amount to say about our entertainment choices.

Jude, the self-described “servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James” (1:1), writes to “those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ” (1:1). In other words, if you are a Christian, Jude is writing to you.

He kicks off his work with an exhortation for Christians to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (1:3). The fact that we need to contend, indicates that there will be something to contend against. There will be false ideas creeping into the Church, against which faith-filled men and women will need to wage ideological warfare. The sexual ethic promoted and celebrated by “50 Shades of Grey” is one of those false ideas.

How does Jude address the message of this movie? He warns us against those who would “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (1:4). As believers, we are free. Completely free. And that freedom means that we no longer have to sin. Sin used to hold us in bondage, but Christ killed our sin when He died on the cross. But it is a perversion of Christian freedom to say that we may now go and pursue the “50 Shades” kind of sensuality–a sensuality which rebels against the God-given parameters for sexuality. Sex is a gift from God, designed to be enjoyed between one husband and one wife, within the secure and blessed context of marriage.  To take sexuality out of this context and distort it the way “50 Shades of Grey” does is to “defile the flesh” and “reject authority” (1:8).

Is this legalism?

Saying that Christians should not watch this movie is not legalism, any more than warning your child not to play with a steak knife is legalism. The knife is dangerous. So is sexual perversion. It is dangerous in this life, and perilous for the next one.

Jude warns us against the coming judgment of those who distort the truth of God’s freedom, and twist it into something profane: the Lord Jesus will return, “to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way…” (1:15).

What Christian Grey does to women in this story is ungodly. It is dehumanizing and destructive. It is a distortion of God’s beautiful gift. And Christ will not let it go ultimately unpunished. But of course, Christian Grey is a fictional character. The real judgment for sin will come upon those who celebrate, indulge in, and imitate his behaviors.

Jude exhorts us to hate “even the garment stained by the flesh” (1:23), that is, to avoid even the accoutrements of our sinful culture. Jude would warn us against even watching the “50 Shades of Grey” trailer and allowing ourselves to be enticed by it. Jude would make it clear that Christians who ignore biblical teachings on sexual holiness are “scoffers, following their own ungodly passions” (1:18).

For my part, I have been plenty guilty of letting the wrong kind of messages into my mind via the entertainment I feed my eyes. The way forward? Repentance, trust in Christ’s atoning death for my sin, and re-commitment to God’s way. Speaking of God’s way….

Two ways to live

There are really only two ways to live: the way of death and the way of life.

The way of death is what “50 Shades of Grey” promotes. Imagine an entire society in which this movie’s model was the norm for male-female relationships. On second thought, don’t imagine it. It makes the stomach turn.

The way of life is God’s way, promoted by the Bible. Yes, it’s old-fashioned. But get the images of Stepford wives and “Mad Men” husbands out of your head. It’s not 1950s old fashioned; it’s as old as the creation itself. The Lord created men and women to live together in marriage as equals, serving one another with complementary but equally valuable roles. A society built on this kind of ethic is one in which life is cherished, in which husbands may thrive as self-sacrificing leaders to their families, where wives may thrive as their essential, supportive companions, in which children can grow safely under the protection of parents who are partners in love and service.

The entertainment of the world is often enticing. It is tempting. If we are not careful, we are liable to slip into it without even noticing. The sin nature is slippery like that. Yet for the Christian who wants to live a godly life, Jude offers this sin-proof solution: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (1:20-21).

And lest we start to think we are oh-so-much-better than those carnal Christians who give into temptation (as if we ourselves would never do such a thing!), Jude tells us to, “have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” There is no room for pride here. The answer to sin is not self-righteousness but humble hope, remembering that apart from the preserving grace of God, we perish.

Build yourself up in your faith. Pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourself in God’s love. Wait for the mercy of Jesus. Believe in God’s promise of something vastly better than what the world offers. And help others to resist sin and cling to the Lord–without falling into sin yourself. This post is my humble attempt to do that.

 

*Because Jesus had no earthly father, any other children born to Joseph and Mary besides Him would naturally be the Lord’s half-brothers and half-sisters.