SALT

In Matthew 5:13 Jesus proclaims, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” Most people are familiar with this idea, “salt of the earth”, which persists to our own day; but what did Jesus mean by it? If you ask the average person, he might say something about how Christians should behave. Jesus’ audience, however, was comprised of Hebrews living under the Mosaic law, and it is hard to imagine that Jesus was praising them for their righteousness. Indeed, He then also tells them, “unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees [the religious leaders of the people to whom He spoke], you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” If their righteousness needed to improve, how could they be the salt of the earth? Might it be that Jesus is saying to His Hebrew audience that they were meant to be salt to the world? God had chosen them above all other peoples and given them His law. They were to be set apart, Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 26:18-19. By this setting apart and their following of God’s law, they would have served as an example that would show forth the glory of God to the nations around. They would be that salt. Obviously, they had not lived up to that expectation, but the Messiah had come to tell them that there was hope in the kingdom.

It is interesting that Jesus uses such a common thing as salt as the metaphor. You are salt. Why salt? What is so important about salt? Aside from a reference to the Salt Sea, the first time we are exposed to salt is in the account of Sodom and Gomorrah when Lot’s wife looks back and turns to a pillar of salt. It is interesting to ponder why she turned into a pillar of salt. Why not a pillar of stone? Jews believe that Lot asked his wife for salt for the guests and she was angered because the city law prohibited guests. When she went around the town asking for some salt, everyone came to know Lot had guests. Typical of the addition of the Rabbis. It is believed that Sodom is in the area of the current Numeria just southeast of the Dead/Salt Sea. At first, I thought that rainfall would melt the pillar of salt; however, the annual rainfall in the area is less than 50mm. Mark Kurlansky in his book, A World History of Salt (I actually read this book, and it is interesting) says, “The first century Roman, Pliny the Elder, writing of rock salt mining in Egypt, mentioned houses built of salt.” These facts would mean that the pillar would dissolve very slowly and stand as a monument for a long time. Indeed, the new testament tells us to “Remember Lot’s wife.” Luke 17:32.

Mark Kurlansky explains, “salt is so common, so easy to obtain, and so inexpensive that we have forgotten that from the beginning of civilization until about 100 years ago, salt was one of the most sought-after commodities in human history.” How true. We are so divorced from history that we don’t even realize that nations grew up around salt production, the survival of countries and industries depended upon salt, that battles were waged around salt. Salt is absolutely necessary for human health. We now understand that it aids in water retention, digestion, cellular metabolism, and muscle contraction.

From early times, societies have evaporated sea water and mined underground to obtain salt. Because of its properties of preservation, it became integral to the fishing industry among others. The Phoenicians (see Nehemiah 13:16) caught bluefin tuna off their coast and established saltworks to support fishing (Kurlansky p45). Later fishing boats carried their own salt to preserve fish for transportation.  Meats have been immersed in salt to preserve them. Think salted hams. Because of its integral nature to so many aspects of life, governments have hoarded it, taxed it, and established power with it. The Hanseatic league formed in part to ensure the needs, including salt, of the herring trade (Kurlansky p140). Today, our thought of salt is that it seasons our food. Long ago Job asked in Job 6:6 “Can flavorless food be eaten without salt?”

The importance of salt is even reflected in our language. “It was precisely during the Roman Empire that soldiers were paid with sacks of salt, whence our term ‘salary’,” saltworks.us. “A soldier’s salary was cut if he ‘was not worth his salt,’ a phrase that came into being because the Greeks and Romans often bought slaves with salt,” Time. Romans salted their greens which led to the word “salad”. From this root word in various countries, we have the English words, “salsa”, “sauce”, “sausage”, and even “salvation” among many other words. One interesting side fact is that in DaVinci’s painting of the Last Supper, Judas can be identified as the one who has spilled the salt cellar in front of him. Even for the superstitious today, it is bad luck to spill the salt.

Salt is shown as important in the Bible. Ezekiel, in speaking of God’s finding of the infant Israel in slavery says, “As for your nativity, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut (still acting in idolatry as your Hittite and Amorite parents), nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not rubbed with salt nor wrapped in swaddling cloths.” It was a necessary ingredient in sacrifices, Leviticus 2:13 “And every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt.” Second Chronicles 13:5 tells us, “Should you not know that the LORD God of Israel gave the dominion over Israel to David forever, to him and his sons, by a covenant of salt?” This incident is recorded in 2 Samuel 7, albeit without the salt.

What was a covenant of salt? Certainly, the idea expressed had to do with the properties of salt; and there may be more than one property in view. Yet, Jesus asked what would happen if the salt lost its flavor. Can salt lose its flavor? Apparently, there are three main ways this statement by Jesus can be understood. None of these ways actually involve the salt itself losing its flavor. First, He might be speaking hypothetically, “If the salt were to lose its flavor.” Second, if a person’s taste buds were to malfunction, he would not be able to taste the flavor of the salt. Third, and most relevant to Jesus’ listeners is that throughout history and including the salt that came from the Dead Sea, salt has always been produced with varying degrees of purity. Depending on the process, the salt could be mixed with various impure elements that might overpower the salt. Additionally, if the salt were to dissolve, the only thing left would be the impure elements. The point is not that the covenant would be nullified under such a circumstance but that salt is incorruptible. How else could salt be obtained from underground mining? After possibly thousands of years, a vein of usable salt is discovered that somehow, in the time one person possesses it, loses its flavor?

So we come to the application of the idea of salt to a person. It is no wonder that Jesus used it as a metaphor to describe the character of those Hebrews, and by extension, to us now. Salt is integral to human survival, useful for preservation, maintains its flavor, and offers seasoning. What could be more necessary to the life of a human than the gospel? What preserves, what endures, what gives meaning to life? The gospel. The Christian, then, is to be a solid citizen of the kingdom of heaven in every aspect of his life as he carries the truth to those who need it in a way that is akin to the necessity of salt in our world. The next time you reach for your salt, think about its importance and its likeness to the gospel and to those who possess it in earthen vessels. Think, too, that Jesus expects you to be as sound as salt. Now you may understand why Paul said in Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”

REFLECTION

If you have enjoyed reading articles on this website (thank you and all glory to God), you will have noticed an absence on my part for several months. This essay may be a bit more personal than most; so if you are not interested in such things, you may not want to read the next several paragraphs.

On August 29th, the 56th anniversary of my parent’s marriage, my father passed away. I can now empathize with those who have suffered such loss. My father was awake early in the morning, so he and my mother got to acknowledge their anniversary. He had obeyed the gospel, and he lived to be 90 years old. As someone said to me, “No matter how long we have them, it is still a loss.” I had been expecting the call for years, not because he had any life-threatening illness; but just because he was tired.

I have had my experiences with the death of others: two friends by suicide in high school and college. A college friend who left his family behind way too young from a mysterious illness. A grandmother and grandfather. Even so, the loss of a parent is different, closer, a deeper ache. And I realize that the ache not only will never go away but will be triggered by anything and everything that reminded me of him. There is an almost tangible feeling of loss.

The whole thing made me reflect on the fact that death is a consequence of sin. All of this was brought about by the sin of Adam. His decision to eat of the fruit of which God had told him not to eat brought about not only spiritual death (separation) but also physical decay and death which is why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “our outward man is perishing.” His counterpoint to that perishing is “yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” Even though we suffer so, those who are obedient and faithful have a hope. Revelation 21:4. No more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.

Pondering on the fact that death is a result of sin and that my father’s death has brought such sorrow makes me wonder what it would be like if all sin caused us this type of pain and anguish. Either we would learn to live a righteous life fairly quickly or our time on this earth would be pure torture. What if every time I sinned, I felt this ache? Theoretical, right? Not really. Should we not mourn over our sin? James 4:8-9.

It has been difficult for me to regain focus, and I am not even sure I have gotten back to it fully. I am hoping this writing will be a start because my father’s death also made me think about my life. What am I doing with it. Am I redeeming the time, Ephesians 5:16-17? Am I a true servant of my God and Heavenly Father?

It is my goal to strive toward living as a true Christian, not merely putting on a facade. What do I need to do to live in that manner? Let me offer three thoughts:

1) COMPLETE faith in God. Sometimes we look at those who call themselves Christians but have not been obedient to the gospel and see what looks like an incredible faith in God’s ability to work in their lives. Because however, we believe more is required of us in obedience, we shy away from their display of faith. As a result, we sometimes don’t have the faith we should have. God cares deeply about us, Luke 12:7, and wants to do good for us, Matthew 7:11. And He is able to do more than we even can imagine, Ephesians 3:20.

Sometimes I feel like a lackluster Christian. Sure, I have accomplished more than I ever thought I could with His help; and God may see me as better than I see myself. As I think of it, have I lost faith in God? If so, the problem is obvious. But no, I have not. Or I wonder if I have lost faith in myself. If I have, my faith is misplaced. I cannot and do not operate on my own but with the help of God, Philippians 4:13. The question, then, is, and what I want to achieve is complete faith in God. Trusting Him COMPLETELY for strength and guidance in all I do. Ask yourself, “Do I trust God COMPLETELY?”

2) COMPLETE dedication to God – We talk about dedication all the time and then we can’t make it to worship or studies. We really aren’t making much effort in improving in knowledge or trying to help the lost. Where is the dedication? Well, what is dedication? In my view, dedication is putting my wants (maybe even needs at times) aside for the needs of serving God in the kingdom. Sure, some will say, I have to provide for my family and bring up my children properly, etc. All those things are true, but I remember the days when I worked a secular job. I remember putting aside time that I might have spent in other ways to talk to people with whom I worked. I made a conscious decision to teach people whatever the cost; and I believed God watched over me and protected me in those efforts. The more we serve God, the more He helps us to serve Him.

Dedication is not a part-time thing; it is an all the time thing. We always should be ready to serve God in whatever opportunity He provides for us. Some of us are so busy living our own lives our own way that we wouldn’t notice an open door from God even if it said in neon letters, “Treasure in Heaven!” We are no more even looking for a way to serve.

The Macedonians had FIRST given themselves to God, 2 Corinthians 8:5. FIRST! What was left of themselves to give God? Nothing; they had already given themselves first and foremost. Ask yourself, “Have I given myself to God FIRST and FOREMOST?”

3) COMPLETE acceptance of His will – Things will not always go my way. Loved ones don’t live forever. Kids grow up and marry and move away. Difficulties abound in this life. Trouble will be with us as long as we live, Matthew 6:34. Sometimes, I do not understand why things have to be the way they are. Why did God choose this particular way of doing something? Why did He mandate that immersion in water is the process whereby our sins are cleansed by the blood of Christ? I may understand some aspects of that question, but God’s ways are not my ways, Isaiah 55:9.

Am I willing to receive the answer to my prayers that the Lord wants to give me, or must it be my way? He knows what is best for me; do I believe it? Ask yourself, “Do I COMPLETELY accept God’s will for me?”

Life is not easy. There have been many times that I have agreed with Job in 3:11, “Why did I not die at birth? Why did I not perish when I came from the womb?” (and how does my life compare with Job’s experience?) and Solomon when he says in Ecclesiastes 7:1, “And the day of death (is better than) than the day of one’s birth.” Sometimes the sorrow is so great. What we must remember, however, is that there is a hope for us in the end. But we must live a true life not a hypocritical one in serving God. We must have COMPLETE faith in Him, COMPLETE dedication to Him, and COMPLETE acceptance of His will.

SADLY, WHITNEY KAY BACON IS WRONG AND SO ARE ALL THOSE WHO PROMOTE THE HOMOSEXUAL LIFESTYLE.

Certainly, the homosexual lifestyle has its apologists. If you have not watched the video of Matthew Vines, who took time off from college to find what the Bible really says about homosexuality, you should. The video can be found here. My guess is that if you are like me, you will see a tremendous amount of pain within Matthew. That pain is expressed in a sad longing for acceptance, certainly from others but also within himself. There is a conflict within him that tugs at the heart. Another person to express similar views about the Bible in an effort to teach Christians that they are wrong in their understanding of the Bible is Whitney Kay Bacon. Her article can be found here. I have reproduced the article in full below with my comments. I suppose you will find the same pain and the same sadness and the same conflict. This time, though, it is expressed more as anger; but it is no less heart-rending.

 

So Gay Marriage Biblically Offends You? Then You Should Read This…

“I want to start by saying that I am a Christian. I always have been and always will be… and I’m also a gay woman who is happily married to a beautiful British Woman named Megan. Since the recent Supreme Court ruling of legalizing same-sex marriages in the United States, I have seen the ugly and the uglier come out in people I never expected. Having moved to live with my wife in the UK, I find myself in awe at the complete and utter ignorance that has been clogging up my news feed and other social media outlets in the past few days from my so-called American friends back in the South. It’s important to state that I’m not generalizing all, as I’ve also seen a positive response from those Christian in the South; even including support from an amazing pastor. However, it saddens me that amongst the many rainbow-colored pictures on my feed, there is also a great deal of hatred.”

[Here, again, is that moniker, “gay Christian”. Since I know she does not mean to say that she is a happy Christian, then she means she is a homosexual Christian. As I have written before, this term is an oxymoron. It would be no different for one to say I am a murdering Christian or an adulterous Christian. Just because one says he is something does not make it so. I could say I am a Japanese Samurai; but if you saw me, you would know that is not true anymore than Rachel Dolezal is black. If homosexuality is a sinful behavior, as the Bible teaches, then a Christian cannot be one who lives in sin, any sin, Romans 6:2.

It is sad, however, that people express an ugliness to homosexuals that they would not express to those in adultery; not that anyone should express ugliness. My guess is, however, that ugliness may mean ugliness or it may just mean disagreement. There is no excuse for approaching one in sin with anything but love. Love, however, demands we teach truth.

If the pastor to whom she refers is teaching her that continuing in her lifestyle is pleasing to God, he is neither helping nor loving. sl]

 

“What I don’t understand is quite simply, this: why does gay marriage bother people so much? If you are making an unnecessary palava because you’re offended by gay marriage then you seriously need to look at your own life and educate yourselves a bit. If the sole reason you feel that gay marriage is wrong because it’s a sin, and the Bible tells you this is wrong, then I sure as hell hope you don’t have bacon with your eggs or indulge in shrimp. Oh, or better yet, do you have any tattoos? Ever been drunk, told a white lie or been divorced? Yep, whoops. Those are all sins, too. And all sins are equal, right? I don’t see anyone going off the handle because of any of these ‘sins’ and I most certainly don’t see protests or hurtful propaganda against those. Just because you disagree with something — and we all have the right to do so — it is an absolute disgrace to treat the LGBT community the way you do. What if we treated all sins in this way? Bacon eaters would be doomed.”

[Anyone who says they do not understand why the issue of “homosexual marriage”, another oxymoron, bothers people has not tried to listen to the other side of the argument. We certainly understand why the homosexual community is so bothered by conservative Christian views. This attempt is merely to dismiss the idea that there could be any legitimate arguments against homosexual marriage.

The overall idea in this paragraph is that everybody sins, therefore you sin, therefore you have no right to make a judgment of anyone else. This is pop Christianity at its best and based on Matthew 7:1 in total ignorance of John 7:24. In addition and as with Matthew Vines, there is a failure to understand the difference between the old and new covenants/testaments. Peter’s vision in Acts 10 proves that the old dietary laws had been done away with Jesus’ death on the cross. Drinking and lying are sins and the Christian may not live in them. Such is not to say that he will never commit a sin, but those sins must be repented of not continued in. Being unscripturally divorced and remarried is a sin that does accord with the homosexual lifestyle in that it involves one who continues to live in his sin and does not repent of it. sl]

 

“Therefore, if gay marriage or ‘homosexuality’ doesn’t affect you personally in the way you live your life in any way, why do you feel the need to even get involved? Why worry about something that is, frankly, none of your business? For instance, I’m not divorced, but many people I know are, and I’m not going to judge them. We shouldn’t judge anyone for the way they live their life. If you don’t agree with gay marriage, then don’t have a gay wedding. Simple.”

[Why is this argument, that homosexual acceptance must affect me personally for me to be concerned about it, even considered a valid one? I suppose that means that we should only let those who have experienced murder to protest murder, those who have been stolen from to protest theft, and those women who have been raped to protest rape. Sadly, the same argument is not used when it comes to the father of children who are about to be aborted/murdered. But since I am not a woman, I must be silent about abortion. At any rate, the whole debate does affect me personally. First, I am being forced to accept it against my religious views. Second, children I know will be taught in public school that this lifestyle is acceptable. Third, marriage as we know it in this country will be destroyed. Fourth, more immorality will follow. Fifth, I believe this moral problem is what will destroy America. So, yes, it does affect me personally, and no one has a right to tell me it does not.

Again, we are called to make righteous judgments, John 7:24, in order to help those who are lost in sin. Jesus made judgments, the apostles made judgments, their disciples made judgments, we must make judgments. Jesus said we could know false teachers “by their fruits”, a judgment, Matthew 7:16.

“If you don’t agree with gay marriage, then don’t have a gay wedding.” But be forced to support them, service them, and praise them, to give up any religious convictions you have, or face the consequences. sl]

 

“I know what you must be thinking. If the LGBT community can protest and stand up for their rights, then why can’t Christians? They have every right to stand up for what they believe in also… To a degree, yes. Christianity and gay rights will always butt-heads. Luckily, we have the Equality Act 2010 in the UK, where we’ve seen it in the favor of gay rights; e.g. where a gay couple were wrongly turned away from a B&B due to the owners Christian views, to in favor of Christianity; e.g. the nurse who was wrongly fired for telling her lesbian colleague she’s committing a sin. I don’t expect the battles to ever fully cease, but choose your battles wisely. Is this really worth your time? Could your time not be better spent with showing kindness and acceptance — isn’t that what being a Christian is truly about, rather than showing hatred? It is not your duty to judge and tell others how to live theirs to ensure your angelic conscious is clear. However, it does change the lives of the LGBT community and gives us freedom and the same rights as anyone else. This means that now my wife and I, if we ever decide to move back to the U.S., can do this freely and can move to any state. Your hatred towards this is unjust and unfair and don’t even try to the quote the Bible at me; you may want to actually read it first.”

[Admittedly, this is a political point, but how can I possibly have the right to stand up for my rights… to a degree? How could the UK have an Equality Act in favor of “gay rights”? Inherent illogic. So the choice we, as Christians, have to make is should we stand for our rights and show hatred or should we just be accepting. The implication is that the right and moral thing to do is to accept the homosexual agenda. We must show love, but even Jesus told the woman caught in adultery in John 8, “Go and sin no more”. In as loving a way as I possibly can, I would say the same to the homosexual even if the same happened to me that happened to Paul in Galatians 4:16.

The ones who are trying to tell others how to live their lives are the homosexuals who are forcing us to accept. I do not care what you do in your bedroom; that is your decision to make. I am bound by God to try to teach people the truth of the gospel, that Jesus died for our sins.

I say this with as much humility as I can, “Whitney, please study your Bible. If you need help, I would be glad to help you understand it if you have an open heart to it.” I do not know all the Bible teaches, but I do know what it teaches about homosexuality. sl]

 

“To all of the haters, how would you feel if your rights were completely stripped from you because you had a divorce or because you had a baby out of wedlock, for instance? How would you like someone judging and telling you that you’re going to hell because of this?”

[Again, haters here are any that do not agree that homosexuality should be held in high regard. It used to be that there was shame and stigma attached to divorce and out-of-wedlock birth. Certainly, no sexual immorality of any kind is acceptable to God. Having a baby out-of-wedlock is a sin that may be repented of. Being unscripturally divorced and remarried, if corrected, may be repented of. Living a homosexual lifestyle, if corrected, may be repented of.

It is not my job to condemn someone to hell. God is the sole judge, Hebrews 12:23. All I am tasked to do is teach what God says. It is not I who condemns homosexuality, but God. God says that if you live in that sin, you will not see heaven. sl]

 

“As a Christian, I wholeheartedly believe that God does not make mistakes and he would not have accidentally made millions of people (and animals) gay by chance. We are all who we are for a reason and no one should ever make you feel bad for that. If anything, my relationship with God is better than ever, and I know that I am definitely not going to hell or that my lifestyle is wrong. It’s important for people to know that you can be a Christian and gay. You do not have to choose one or the other. We need more people like Christian singer Vicky Beeching, who came out as a lesbian last year, to look up to as role models.”

[The argument that there is a “gay gene” or that homosexuals are such because they cannot choose to live otherwise has been debunked. There is no “gay gene”. Don’t believe me; believe Dr. Francis Collins. See the article here.

We all have our struggles with temptation and sin and God does expect us to look to him for strength to resist and not to give in. If I want to steal my neighbor’s car, should I just do it because I was made to steal?

Whitney is convinced that she is right and bound for heaven. God did not put His truth directly into our minds. He gave us the ability to hear it and reason about it and accept or reject it. The Bible teaches clearly that one CANNOT be Christian and homosexual.

If Vicky Beeching had made a strong statement against homosexuality, would she be a role model? sl]

 

“So, my dear fellow Christians, from one Christian to another, please mind your own business and PLEASE make sure that your hands are clean before you point your finger at me and my community. Amen.”

[Where is the passage of scripture that tells Christians to mind their own business? If all Christians through the ages minded their own business, Christianity would have died out. Should we also stop standing against murder and rape and robbery? We must stand up for truth and speak it to those who are lost. What they do with it is up to them. God will judge each of us for what we do and what we teach.

Also, where is the passage of scripture that tells us that we cannot speak as Christians until we are sinlessly perfect? In fact, where is the passage that says we will ever be sinlessly perfect?

Christians are only reacting. This teaching is being forced on the society, and we must not waiver in standing for truth, albeit, in a way that shows that we want every sinner’s soul to be saved. Christians never seek unity by sacrificing truth. That is what this is all about. sl]

 

WHAT CONGREGATIONAL AUTONOMY IS NOT

When we speak of congregational autonomy, we are using a term that is not strictly scriptural; however, the concept expressed by the term is scriptural. A congregation is a local assembly of the saints in pursuit of serving God. We know that such groups are authorized scripturally by the fact that they exist in the scriptures, 1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1, etc. We also know that these groups are authorized because we see the functions of such groups in the scriptures: elderships, 1 Peter 5:2; teaching responsibilities, Titus 2; care for widows, 1 Timothy 5:16; joint encouragement, Hebrews 10:24-25; marking, 1 Corinthians 5:13, among other functions.

Autonomy is a word that we generally do not hear. The word “signifies the power or right of self government.” This definition would mean that a local congregation has the right of self government within the limits of authority previously established by God and revealed in His word, Matthew 16:19, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.” Peter, therefore, had no right to allow women to serve as elders in a congregation; and neither do any of us today, 1 Timothy 3:2.

All of the foregoing means that each and every congregation is free to conduct its work in whatever way it sees fit with Christ as its only head and within the limits of God’s word. No congregation has the power or right to oversee or dictate the actions of another congregation. Such does not preclude the Christians in one congregation from recognizing the sin of another congregation, https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/360-may-one-judge-other-churches .

In fact, we do see congregations having interactions. Jesus dictated seven letters to seven congregations within the book of Revelation which means that the congregation at Smyrna knew what was going on in Ephesus, etc. Colossians 4:16 tells us, “Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.” Also, Colossians 4:15, “Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea.” Paul notes in 1Corinthians 16:19 that, “The churches of Asia greet you (the Corinthians).” Even today, we allow guest preachers to come and preach for our congregations, we hold gospel meetings to which the Christians of other congregations are invited, and we often inform other groups of needs for prayer or support.

Realizing that knowledge of the workings of other congregations and certain interactions are permitted, we turn our attention to a concept that, to me, seems 180 degrees out of phase with God’s will in scripture. Wayne Jackson expresses it as, “Autonomy was never meant to be a shield for apostasy,” though I am not sure he had the idea I am addressing here in mind. I suppose he is addressing more the idea of a congregation’s slide into sin. The reality is that any sin on the part of an individual or group of individuals is wrong. It may not be that a congregation is sliding into apostasy but it may be engaging in a sin that needs to be corrected. If Christians from another congregation have knowledge of that sin, are they forbidden because of congregational autonomy from trying to reach those Christians with the truth about the matter?

Some I have known seem to be making this claim when Christians leave one congregation in an unscriptural manner and for unscriptural reasons and decide to land in their congregation. It may be that the receiving congregation contacts the leaving congregation to find out what the situation is or it may not. Either way, the decision is made to allow the Christians who left to come and worship there, maybe even join themselves to the new congregation. I believe this situation cannot be justified scripturally and certainly not on the basis of congregational autonomy.

Let me illustrate my point this way. In 1 Corinthians 5:1, a man has his father’s wife. Paul has written to the Corinthians to purge this man from among them. He is, after all, unrepentant. The Corinthians respond as Paul has encouraged them; the man is put out from among them. If it were feasible, the man might decide to visit the few saints in Athens or maybe those in Berea. Would those groups be right to admit him to their number? Would it be proper to use congregational autonomy to protest that they were right even though the Corinthians (and Paul) tell them that he must be put out? Or did he only have to be put out of the Corinthian congregation? In essence, using congregational autonomy is exactly the action we take when we admit those in sin into our number after they have left another congregation. Our forceful argument that congregational autonomy allows us to admit sinners from other congregations into our number does not change the fact that the action is unscriptural.

If we believe in and want to obey Colossians 3:17 (which I have heard too many Christians ignore) regarding this issue of leaving and receiving, then we will need to prove the practice by scripture. Too many Christians simply accept the status quo as within God’s will and make vain, defensive pronouncements rather than opening their hearts and minds to the word. Remember, when a congregation accepts Christians who are in sin (i.e. out of a right relationship/fellowship with God), they are allowing him to continue in his sin. God’s will is that he be confronted by his sin so that he will come to himself and be reconciled to God (see the account of the prodigal son, Luke 15:11ff). The congregation, therefore, merely enables the Christian to fall deeper into sin. Sad indeed, when men decide to do things their own way rather than God’s.

 

POLITICS OF PERSECUTION

In April, Hillary Clinton spoke at the Women In The World conference. From that conference came the following quote which has since become infamous: “Yes, we’ve cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth, and laws don’t count for much if they’re not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice — not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”

In all fairness, the site from which I pulled the quote makes the case that the quote is in the context of improving all sorts of health care issues for women and that Hillary’s support for abortion is well known. (http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-04-24/what-happens-when-hillary-clinton-talks-reproductive-health-on-the-trail) I believe the article is written by a supporter, if not of Hillary, at least of the liberal agenda including abortion. Such makes what the writer says true as far as it goes; but when she tries to make it seem as if Mrs. Clinton’s statement had nothing to do with abortion in America, she reveals naiveté at best and willing ignorance at worst.

Mrs. Clinton’s rhetoric has always been chilling; but here we have a statement, under the guise of improving health care for women around the world, that is nothing more than a campaign promise to her supporters here and a veiled threat to conservatives who may have to live under a more-liberal-than-Obama presidency, her’s or someone else’s.

Now this is not an article about politics itself or Hillary Clinton. It is, instead, an article about the threat she has made which is merely the next step in the chain of events that has led us to eat our own offspring. As with the homosexual agenda, which is not merely to gain the ability to be “married” but to force all conservative and religious conservative people to revel in the beauty of homosexual sexual relationships and all that they bring, the abortion agenda advancers will not be satisfied until they force us all to celebrate their ability to murder the unborn, no different than the Israelites’ sacrifice of their own children in the fire to Molech, Jeremiah 32:35.

Referring to abortion as “reproductive rights” remains a satisfying euphemism only to supporters (as does the term “abortion” itself) and to the manifestly ignorant. This language is nothing if not deceptive. Though 2 Peter 2:3 is referring to false prophets among Christians, such speech certainly would be expected from the ungodly as well. Notice how Mrs. Clinton equates abortion with “rights” and “laws”. To whom else could she be directing this statement?

What is so disconcerting, here, are these words, “And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” Put aside the context of the remarks for one moment, and it is not hard to see the specter of renewed persecution washing over the United States under another ungodly presidency. Mrs. Clinton is telling those of us who consider ourselves Christians that we had better get used to the idea that she will use the full force of the law to make us stop obeying God rather than men, Acts 5:29.

With the ever-increasing lawlessness in America, rioting and racism but also sexual immorality and atheism; it seems to me that those who are trying to get everyone else to hate the Christians are not going to face a lot of resistance. Paul tells Timothy in 2Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” That persecution is coming unless a major sea change is enacted in this country. What this means for Christians is that we are going to face still more open and aggressive action to force acceptance of sin. The questions for all of us: are we ready and are we doing all we can to strengthen ourselves and teach those around us the gospel?

Some may ignore Mrs. Clinton’s statement. Some may dismiss it as the typical rhetoric of liberals, but when was the last time that a serious candidate for the presidency of the United States actually made a direct threat to quash the religious beliefs of Christianity upon which this country was founded and flourished when they clash with the religious beliefs of the new humanist/atheist/socialist government of this country? I cannot remember any. As a conservative asked not long ago, “How did we get to this point?” Maybe I’ll have opportunity to address that point in the future.

A LOGICAL FALLACY

The point has been made here before that it is hard to swallow when those who do not believe the Bible want to tell those of us who study it what it says and what it means. Such an act is akin to my telling my mechanic how to service my car when I wouldn’t know what to say. I take it to him for a reason. (Don’t misunderstand; I do not mean we should merely take in everything we are told by someone who supposedly does understand the scripture. Remember, the Bereans searched the scriptures to see if Paul was teaching truth, Acts 17:11.)

There is another bothersome thing that some atheists do: express personal incredulity. They say, “I cannot believe such a thing; therefore, it cannot be true.” They protest certain aspects of the Bible as unbelievable and expect such to persuade us that these things are not actually proof of God but reasons against his existence. Why after all should we not be persuaded? If they can’t believe it, how could we?

For instance, they posit, how could Noah possibly have gotten all those animals on the ark? It is not possible. I cannot believe such a thing; therefore, it did not happen. Ergo, no God. Implicit in the assertion is that anyone who can believe these things is foolish. And with this sort of reasoning, there is plenty within the pages of scripture to question. A staff turning into a snake? Ridiculous. Baalam’s donkey spoke? Silliness. Satan in the form of a serpent. Absurd. And this is supposed to be proof that there is no God.

This idea finds expression also in the desire for “reasonable” explanations. There must be natural causes for the parting of the Red Sea. An underground earthquake, they say. It is a relative of the idea that I won’t believe what I cannot see. There must be tangible proof. The problem with the idea of proof is it is relative. What serves as proof to one can be merely dismissed by another. Jesus performed miracles in front of witnesses that many dismissed. What if archaeologists found Noah’s ark? Certainly, such a discovery would be headline news, but would that event cause people to bow the knee to God?

What is not accounted for, often, is their misinterpretation. A while back, I purchased a book at the Dollar Store (for a dollar … much overpriced) called Divinity Of Doubt by Vincent Bugliosi. I thought I would consider argumentation from the other side. He is a prosecutor who is held in esteem for his thinking. Indeed, the jacket of the book says, “Theists will be left reeling by the commanding nature of Bugliosi’s extraordinary arguments against them.” Right. I’ve read about ten not necessarily consecutive pages of the book and already found glaring and serious errors. Errors which atheists/agnostics make because they do not understand the Bible. For instance, he adopts the personal incredulity logical flaw in calling Jonah’s three days and nights in the belly of the fish, Samson’s killing of 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey, and Jesus’ statement to his apostles that if they had faith as a mustard seed they could move a mountain as absurdities. In effect, he says, I cannot believe these things; therefore, they are absurd. And if they are absurd to me, they should be to you as well. See, proof. This reasoning is not proof of anything.

Bugliosi also considers “locusts with the faces of men but the hair of women, whose wings roared like an army of chariots (Revelation 9:7-9)” as absurd. He lumps this “absurdity” in with those he cited above. The problem is that he is obviously ignorant of the fact that these locusts are figurative symbols meant to convey a particular meaning. John even tells us up front that such is the case, Revelation 1:1. They are not literal entities. I assume that Bugliosi is familiar with the pre-millennial fallacy and so expects these locusts to appear at some point in our future. He completely misunderstands any true meaning; and so to him it appears absurd.

(I fail to see this supposed intelligence of Bugliosi. He is so completely off the mark in his “understanding” of the Bible that it really is laughable. And I do not just mean that because I am a believer. I say that because his arguments are not new or good. He argues that God allows us to die; therefore He must be evil. The old suffering argument. “So when we lose our loved ones and cry out in unbearable anguish, one being and one being only is responsible, and that’s God.” Do you see the ignorance and selfishness? It’s not our fault; it’s God’s. Even though the Bible tells us that death is a result of the sin of man, Romans 5:12. It was never God’s will.)

If there is an all-powerful God who created this universe, would he not be capable of making donkey’s talk, parting the Red Sea, empowering Samson to kill 1,000 Philistines, and raising Jesus from the dead? Are those things not an indication of what we would expect in an all-powerful God. Christians have no problem with the concept that God can do anything God wills to do. Why would anyone who cannot believe such things expect us to be persuaded by such reasoning? It is the very essence of what the Pharisees said to Jesus which he called blaspheming the Holy Spirit, attributing the power of God to Satan. These non-believers are denying the power of God.

Whenever someone protests how unbelievable the miraculous acts of God in the Bible are and tries to persuade you that their personal inability to believe should be proof of the absurdity of believing the Bible, recognize this logical fallacy for what it is. It is not proof, it is opinion disguised as proof and meant to make you feel inferior so as to cause you doubt. If you believe in God, you know He can do these things no matter what anyone else tries to tell you. If they do not believe God can do these things, that is their choice. It is only logical; however, that their disbelief is not proof.

AN ATTEMPT TO CLARIFY REGARDING LEAVING

Others have told me that my teaching on leaving a congregation has been confusing, so my hope is to clear the air so that this issue will begin to be taken seriously here in the northeast. In future, I would like to take opportunity to speak of related issues such as the assembly, marking, and congregational autonomy.

First of all, while it is possible that I have not taught clearly on the matter, I have never said directly or implied that one could never leave a congregation to which he is joined. There is no such command or direct statement in the scriptures, which in-and-of-itself, does not prove anything. We do not look for the absence of a direct statement to prove a practice. On the contrary, there are examples of authorized reasons one may leave a congregation; therefore, we would not expect a statement saying one could never leave.

The first point leads me to the second. Since we as Christians put ourselves forth as people who live by the Bible in the way that we understand it, we must have authority for all things that we do and say, Colossians 3:17. Anyone who refuses to give authority for his actions is operating against authority. Leaving a congregation is no different, though some treat it differently (maybe indifferently is the better word). We must have Biblical authority for leaving a congregation. In general, we do have such authority. The concern, however, is not that the practice is generally allowed but is about the specific “reasons” for and manner of our leaving.

Another preacher suggested to me that by concentrating on the leaving I may be obscuring the real problems, such as dishonesty. While this point may be true, I have said that the leaving is a symptom of a deeper problem. Read the other material I have on this site.

Interestingly, something becomes evident to me if I take the leaving out of the equation. Is it wrong to have unresolved aught against a brother? Is it wrong to lie? Is it wrong to harbor bitterness? Is it wrong to hate a brother? Is it wrong to revile or slander? Is it wrong to bear false witness? Rhetorically, yes. Who would not agree? Are these things not just wrong but also sin? If we don’t know that answer, we are either new Christians or those the writer speaks of in Hebrews 5:12-14. Of course these things are all sinful and must be repented of and reconciled. What happens, though, is that if I frame the same questions in terms of someone who has left under those conditions, others are reluctant to call it sin. Is it sin if someone leaves a congregation because they have unresolved aught against a brother (Matthew 18:15-17), if they have lied (Ephesians 4:25), if they have harbored bitterness (Ephesians 4:31), if they hate a brother (1 John 4:20), if they have reviled (1 Corinthians 5:11), or if they have borne false witness (Matthew 15:19)? Why would the answer suddenly be different? One may say, then, that the real sin is not the leaving but the original unrepented-of sin. Even by saying so, we must acknowledge that the leaving that resulted from the sin is also, then, sinful.

Someone’s leaving is always prompted by a reason. It is not as if a person would leave for no reason. That reason is always subject to authority. Often, in the situations we face, the announcement of leaving is the first real indication we have of a problem. The email tells us that something is missing in the spirituality of the leaver. So the leaving becomes tied to the reasons for it, if they can ever be truly found out.  It is the nature of these situations that the problems manifest themselves in someone’s leaving.

Either way we want to think about it, with or without the leaving, one who leaves because he has committed any of the sins above is not leaving with the authority of the scriptures. Many people to whom I have spoken have not committed to this point, though they offer no contrary scriptural backup. We continue not only tacitly to condone this practice generally but also to facilitate it by accepting those into our congregations who have not repented of such sin in the congregation from which they came.

So, in the end:

1) A Christian is joined/bonded to a congregation. Acts 9:26

2) Said Christian may possibly leave that congregation. Acts 20:1

3) He must, however, have scriptural authority for his reason to leave. Colossians 3:17

4) Any unresolved sin cannot justify his leaving. Matthew 18:15-17

5) Though he changes location, his sin remains. Hebrews 10:26-7

6) To be right with God, he must resolve the sin and reconcile. 1 John 1:9

7) He must deal with any scriptural obligations – false teaching or sin in the camp before he leaves. 2 Thessalonians 2:15, Titus     1:9, 1 Corinthians 5:4-5

8) He must be honest with his brethren as to his reasons for leaving. Ephesians 4:25

9) He must be concerned for the well-being of the congregation as a result of his leaving. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, Hebrews 10:24-5

Why should any of these points be contested? Let’s make sure that what we believe about this issue is in harmony with God’s will. Many with whom I have spoken hold views that are not in harmony and are without authority. If you, dear reader, do not understand or do not agree with something I have said here or elsewhere on this site in regards to leaving, please contact me. Show me my scriptural errors or ask questions. I would be happy to provide scriptural answers.  Resolve the issue in your own mind according to God’s will and not man’s traditions or default teachings, Matthew 15:9.

 

POLYGAMY

Because the definition of marriage is being altered in our country to accommodate the homosexual agenda, we know that other forms of “marriage” are soon going to rear their ugly heads. Once marriage no longer means one man and one woman for life, it will mean whatever our society chooses. This argument alone is sufficient to justify our disgust at the situation in which we find ourselves in 21st century America. Marriage is not between a man and his sheep, two men, two women, multiple men with multiple women (polyamory), a woman with multiple husbands (polyandry), or one man with multiple wives (polygyny). Any marriage that involves more than one man and one woman is polygamy, the current criminal term for which is bigamy.

Recently, I had a someone tell me that he believed polygamy was acceptable to God. When I responded that marriage was originated as one man and one woman and that polygamy is sin, he countered that David and Solomon had multiple wives and that God could not condone sin. To this last, I responded with the verse that I had almost subconsciously been trained to use in such a situation, Acts 17:30, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked (or winked at), but now commands all men everywhere to repent”. The sense I had of this verse is that there was a time when God gave a tacit nod to sin in the lives of His people. The fellow responded that the passage is talking about idolatry. Indeed, upon re-reading the passage, I find he is right.

Remember where Paul is, the people he is addressing, and that he is overlooking temples built to honor the gods of Greece. He is telling them that God does not dwell in temples made with hands and the divine nature is not gold or silver or stone shaped by a man. While an argument could be made that verse thirty includes all the sin of man, the immediate context is of idolatry. Even in context, does this verse mean that God tacitly allowed His people to worship idols? To the contrary, God forbade His people from worshipping idols (Exodus 20:3, Deuteronomy 6:14, Jeremiah 25:6) and all the attendant actions that went along with their idol worship (Jeremiah 32:35). He did not stop them from worshipping idols, but He never winked at their doing it, either. It is this very idolatry that caused the people to be taken into captivity. Under no circumstances could we say that God temporarily overlooked idolatry as sin.

Did God then wink at or temporarily excuse David’s and Solomon’s polygamy? Did it matter to God? First, understand that polygamy is all over the pages of the Old Testament from Lamech in Genesis 4:19 to Joash in 2 Chronicles 24:3. Second, though, strictly speaking, multiple wives would also be considered adultery; there was a sense in which the marrying of multiple women was different than the taking of another man’s wife. David was directly punished for his taking of Bathsheba but not for his many wives. Making the matter seemingly more difficult is God’s statement to David regarding his sin with Bathsheba of 2 Samuel 12:8 that God may have given David more wives if he wanted them. Earlier God had spoken in Deuteronomy 17:17 of the king that His people would later want “Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away”. The instruction and result are both clear and fulfilled in Solomon. God never wanted multiple wives for anyone. See Malachi 2:14-15 where God speaks through the prophet of “the wife” not “the wives”.

Instead of directly punishing those who took multiple wives, God may have allowed the consequences of this action to be their own punishment as Romans 1:27 says. For example, we know that Solomon’s wives turned his heart from God, 1 Kings 11:4 and Nehemiah 13:26. We are also reminded that although the consequences came to David as a result of other sin, his sons of multiple wives rebelled against him and each other. Absalom slept with his father, David’s, concubines, 2 Samuel 16:21-22.

It may be that we can understand God’s reaction to man’s sin of polygamy in the Old Testament in the same way that we understand man’s sin of divorce as explained by Jesus in Matthew 19:8, it was permitted “because of the hardness of your hearts”. If God were to merit out the punishment, He would have had no people through whom to bring the Messiah. As it was, they had to be chastised in Babylon for their idolatry. In addition, since the Old Testament was written for our learning, we can certainly see the effects of polygamy as realized in the lives of David and Solomon.

The answer to the question really lies in what God’s will always was and is for us today as Christians. In the beginning, God created a man and a woman for that man. He not only did not create a man for Adam but He also did not create two women for him. Some attempt to say that Jesus approved of polygamy; and therefore, we should as well. This idea is mistaken for the simple reason that Jesus was a Jew who lived under the law. He was subject to it. Similarly to homosexuality, if God’s will prohibited polygamy; then Jesus taught and upheld that prohibition. Another way of stating the same thought is that if God defined marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman, then Jesus taught and confirmed that definition. To do otherwise would mean that Jesus violated the law and would not be the sinless lamb that would take away the sins of the world.

Jesus even reiterates God’s universal definition of marriage in the discussion of Matthew 19:1-9. We see no examples of Christians in the New Testament who do have multiple spouses. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:2 that each man should have his own wife and woman her own husband. In the same way that God’s original definition of marriage eliminates all other forms, so does Paul’s language here (and in Ephesians 5:33) eliminate the possibility of multiple spouses. Elders and deacons are to have one wife, 1 Timothy 3:2, 1 Timothy 3:12, Titus 1:6.

While it may be true that God does not directly say in the New Covenant that polygamy is forbidden, neither does He directly say that bestiality is forbidden. Would those who support the former also support the latter? It is sad that some who profess to be Christ’s are so confused about God’s definition of marriage. Understanding God’s will in the matter is not really that hard if we have the heart to let His word guide us. Clearly, the only God-ordained definition of marriage is that of one man and one woman for life, barring adultery, Matthew 19:9.

LESSONS FROM OUR DOG, TARA

My family and I lost our twelve year old golden retriever, Tara, this past week. Like any dog, she could not speak; but upon reflection, I realize there is a lot we can learn from her.

Tara was a big dog in a small house. She was almost always underfoot. If she wasn’t underfoot, she was begging food. She always had to go out at the worst times. There were things she did that just seemed annoying. All-in-all, though, those things pale now in comparison to what she was. And if more people were like her, the world would be a better place.

She loved everyone always, Matthew 5:44; Acts 10:34, truly and without hypocrisy, Romans 12:9; 1 Peter 1:22. At times, brethren have trouble loving each other at all, much less without hypocrisy. As we know, love means nothing unless put into actions. Tara knew that instinctively. She always wanted to see whoever came to the door. In fact, she just had to greet them. And for a short time once they were in the house, she had to be with them. She loved being with people. Wherever in the house the family was, she had to be, too. In fact, she always had to lay on her bed in front of my dresser even when I was trying to get into it. I am reminded of those early Christians who truly just had to to be with each other, Acts 2:46. Surely there were times when Tara did not want to get up and greet someone, but she did. She did not make excuses, Luke 14:18, Ephesians 4:16 (We can’t Hebrews 10:24 if we make excuses not to come together). The encouragement she gave just by greeting us when we came home sometimes was just what was needed, Romans 14:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

Tara also was not at all phased by her having to submit and be wholly dependent on us for all her needs, James 1:17; James 4:7. Often, we say we submit to God, then invent our own ways of interpreting His word. We might be willing to submit ourselves to God but then do not submit to each other, Ephesians 5:21. With submission comes willing humility, Titus 3:2. Tara was perfectly content to lay on the floor at our feet.

As I look at the things that were seemingly so bothersome about Tara while she was here, I realize that I would gladly put up with those things again if she were here. Was I just picking at her, after all? Galatians 5:15 puts me in mind of those who are continually looking for fault in others, who do not assume the best even of their own brethren. No matter if we lost patience with Tara, she always seemed to forgive us, Colossians 3:13. If only we all had that ability to be so forgiving, Matthew 6:15.

We realize that we took Tara for granted, as we often do with our brethren and families. Paul used the illustration of the body to tell us that we are not just those with “like precious faith” but that we are part of each other, 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, joined to each other, Acts 9:26. And if you have ever lost one who was dear to you, you know it is like losing a part of your own body. Do we feel that way about our brethren? People who are just like us. They are striving to do the will of God to the best of their ability as human beings. We all fall short at times and need encouragement and patience from others, 1 Thessalonians 5:14.

As we suffer the loss of what feels like a part of our own body, we realize that this deep ache is a direct result of the sin in the world (see sermon on this site by Jeff Smelser entitled “The Decay of Sin”, 2009). Death is a consequence of the action of sin, Romans 5:12. Were there no sin, there would be no death. Do we equate this feeling of pain in loss with our attitude toward sin? Can we imagine that our sins have caused such pain as this to our Father in heaven? If we wish the pain of loss would go away, do we also strive to put away the sin that causes pain to others in this life and to God, sin that caused Jesus to go to the cross? How can we who are dead to sin live any longer in it? Romans 6:2.

I also believe that as we mourn loss in our lives, God mourns with us. How else would Paul say in Romans 12:15, “…weep with those who weep”? Our Lord feels our pain. He cares for us. Were it not for this care, He would not have formulated before the foundation of the world a way for our reconciliation to Him. And as we miss our Tara, we long for the joy of heaven, Romans 8:22-3.

We may not see our beloved pet again, but we look forward to the time when all of God’s singers get home, when we see our lost loved ones again with our Father and our Saviour, when we can rejoice that we have run the race (1 Corinthians 9:24-5) and received the crown of life that our Father has for each one of us who is obedient, James 1:12. As the memory of Tara encourages my family, I want to encourage you as Paul did in Philippians 3:12, “Press on”.

 

NEW MOVIE “EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS”

On the heels of the abysmal and unscriptural Noah comes a new movie from famed director Ridley Scott, Exodus: Gods and Kings which opens on December 12th. It has a budget of $140MM after tax credits from Spain.

The movie has not been without its controversy. Right off the bat, those involved have been criticized for casting white actors in the roles to which director Ridley Scott has replied, “I say, get a life”. (He also said that this movie will be “expletive-deleted huge”. That doesn’t bode well.) It amazes me that people are urging boycotts of the movie because of the white actors, but those same people probably couldn’t care less about the accuracy of the movie. I would go a step further and lodge a protest that the film is in English rather than Arabic and that it is shot in Spain rather than in Egypt.

An article in Variety by Scott Foundas speaks of Ridley Scott’s fascination with Moses as “a nonbeliever like himself who only gradually comes to accept the circumstances of his birth and prophesied destiny, and even then finds himself actively questioning God’s plans and his own role in them”. Scott was an atheist (may now be agnostic), as was Aronofsky, director of the Noah movie. Why would we expect atheists and agnostics to make a faithful Bible movie? For the life of me, after Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush, I do not see any evidence of Moses’ questioning God’s plans.

Foundas states, “So there is something incongruous about the image of Scott, dressed in a plain black T-shirt and khaki trousers, calmly sipping coffee at the London hotel on a recent Sunday morning, the day even God (another prominent character in Exodus) found fit for a little R&R”. Hmmm. God is just another “prominent character”? And He rested on Sunday? Is the author saying Scott is like God? What is really incongruous is that the director of a movie about the Exodus is sitting in a London hotel on a Sunday morning rather than in a congregation of the Lord’s people.

Christian Bale plays Moses. I cannot wrap my head around that one. Batman plays Moses. (Shades of that raspy “I’m Moses” play in my head.) He was very self-deprecating as the choice to play Moses and then said that he “did some research and just found it to be too fascinating to pass it up”. Research? Does that mean at some point that he actually read Exodus? Evidently not. Such a statement does not bode well. Actually, his research was “the Torah, the Koran, and Jonathan Kirsch’s life of Moses” [Moses: A Life]. Look up the description of that work on Amazon, and you’ll understand Bale’s remarks when he said, “I think the man [Moses] was likely schizophrenic and was one of the most barbaric individuals that I ever read about in my life”. Shades of Noah.

Also from the article, the movie is “a serious-minded moral drama that renders Moses’ journey in more complex emotional and psychological terms (and arguably more in line with the actual biblical version of Moses) than any prior screen version of the tale”. Didn’t we hear something similar about the most recent depiction of Noah? Further, ‘Butwhere [Mel] Gibson’s film [The Passion] was a story of Christian martyrdom made by a true believer for a like-minded public, Exodus attempts something riskier and more ambitious: to render, in the most plausible historical terms possible, the life of a man who occupies a vaunted place in each of the world’s three major religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam”. I worry about that term, “plausible”. To whom? Why, to the makers of the movie of course. I imagine the creative team sitting around a table tossing out ideas. “Well, then God parts the Red Sea”, someone says. Another replies, “No, that is just not plausible. We’ll have to come up with some other idea. Check the scientific research and see what they say could have caused the parting”. I’m not too far out. “For the most celebrated episode of Exodus lore [?] — Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea — Scott imagined a kind of uber-tsunami, inspired by actual evidence of a massive underwater earthquake off the coast of Italy circa 3000 BC”. It may be that God did use an underwater earthquake to accomplish the parting; however, there is a fundamental problem with the assumption that the one who spoke this creation into existence needs an earthquake to part a sea.

It is, after all, the accuracy of the thing that we care about. Noah was a casualty of its own disastrous re-write of the Biblical narrative. Scott seems to have a similar idea in making a “big movie” with lots of effects. Has he re-written Biblical narrative as well?

The Pharaoh in Scott’s movie, is as in previous depictions, Ramses, though the Bible does not tell us who the Pharaoh was. Evidence suggests it may have been Ramses, but it may also have been Thutmose II or Thutmose III.

Pharaoh’s sister, in the movie, had found both Moses and his sister and reared them but not as brother and sister. Moses’ return to Egypt is as a freedom fighter who blows up granaries and burns ships, but God wants the exodus of the Israelites accomplished faster and so takes matters into His own hands. Moses, though, is not happy with God’s ways of going about it.

There is ‘the addition, at Scott’s suggestion, of Malak (the Hebrew word for angel or messenger), a young boy (played by 11-year-old British actor Isaac Andrews) in whose form God appears to Moses — a bold and potentially controversial decision that allowed the director to avoid depicting the Almighty as “voices from the rocks with thunderous clouds and lightning”‘. Again, hmmm. I understand dramatic license, but is it more dramatic to have God’s voice booming from amidst clouds and lightning or in the form of an 11 year old boy? The Israelites thought it was the former, I’m sure, Exodus 20:18-19. Forbes’ reviewer also praises the choice and says, “Andrews plays God as a p****d-off, impatient, and petulant child”. I assume they think they nailed that one. The dramatic license in this movie, if removed, it seems, could make another movie.

Looking at the trailers, Bale looks more like a Roman gladiator than an Egyptian and more like a freedom fighter than a prophet of God. There is an awful lot of swordplay, even from Moses after he visits Pharaoh. The movie feels like Gladiator meets the Pharaoh, possibly because that film was also from Ridley Scott.

Many reviewers have noted that the effort is to craft a religious blockbuster, thereby capturing two audiences. (This is, in fact, the “reason” offered for the “racist” casting as no big money doners would finance a big-budget movie with no-name foreign actors.) As with Noah, therefore, Christians have no reason to expect a reverent treatment of the material. Sadly, Scott is saying that he wants to do a film about King David and his reign. I suggest the Rock for the lead role and that we all just stay home. If you go to see Exodus: Gods And Kings and find it to be a horrible alteration of the Biblical narrative, don’t blame me. You have had plenty of warning.