How the Old Testament could stop the spread of Ebola

If we followed the Old Testament commands, the world would soon be nearly free of Ebola.

These commands are:
  1. Don’t eat bats, pigs, rats, selfish, etc.
  2. Don’t eat, or even touch animals that died of natural causes
  3. If an unclean animal (rat, mouse, bat, lizard, frog, etc.) – dead or alive – falls into your food, you must throw the food out. If it falls into a cooking pot, you must smash, wash, or sterilise the pot with fire (depending on whether the animal is dead, what kind of pot, etc.)
  4. Quarantine people with obvious, contagious diseases (such as leprosy – perhaps we could include ebola here, but that is an admitted interpretive addition)
  5. Do not touch dead people
  6. If you are in some way obligated to touch dead animals, feces, mould, or any number of other “dirty” (unclean) things, you are “ceremonially unclean until evening.” What that means is that you must: a) wash yourself immediately, b) avoid public areas, c) not touch anyone else (if they are touched, they too become unclean, and must wash and quarantine themselves until sunset) d) not touch any household items (utensils, beds, chairs, etc.): if touched, they too must be cleaned. Touching dead people makes one especially unclean, and must be avoided at all costs especially by priests (cultural leaders).
Of course, internet atheists are always delighted to read the Old Testament and mock at the commandments that they see as strange or irrelevant. But consider the following facts about ebola:
  1. Although there are outbreaks in humans, scientists believe the ebola virus stays alive in African bat populations
  2. Bats are brought close to humans by pig farms, as fruit-bats eat the pig feed at night, and may spread the disease to pigs
  3. Some tribes eat bats, contracting the disease directly (especially if they touch or eat bats found dead of natural causes – aka ebola)
  4. Ebola is not contagious until symptoms of high fever and vomiting appear
  5. Many African tribes gather around their sick, and practice communal care
  6. Many African tribes also mourn their dead communally, often touching, kissing, and wailing over their dearly departed
  7. The most effective defence against Ebola is still the simple bar of soap, water and a towel. When going to new cultures – be it in Africa, South America, or Oceana – missionaries and health-care workers often bring as one of their first and most life-saving message the simple rule: “Wash your hands before you eat.” Yes, that is common sense to us in our post-Christian society: but it is not common sense to the world. What could clean hands possibly have to do with a sick tummy? The two are so far apart!

 

As I said – the internet atheists may mock. But one doesn’t have to be too “bright” to put these two lists together, and to realise that if one avoided all unclean animals (especially bats, pigs, clams, etc.) they would rule out not only ebola but also limit contact with cholera, the bubonic plague, and the common cold. Sterilisation and germs were only discovered by Louis Pasteur in the late nineteenth century – and for years the scientific community mocked and derided his claims that tiny little germs, too small to see, caused sickness. But almost 3,000 years before, God revealed the basic principles for how to deal with and contain germs in His Law. Far from outdated, these are the very principles that the World Health Organisation and others are rushing to share with West Africa.
So is the Old Testament really so outdated? Or is it infused with surprising insights and medical advice which is millennia ahead of it’s time?

Teachers: the line-drawers of Christianity

The teachers are the “line drawers” of Christianity. Line-drawing is a stuffy, boring, black-and-white business: few people liked their systematic theology classes. But like moles in a field, us teachers go to our work. We cannot help it! And lines are important! If there were no lines, there would be no structure or form for the others to color in.

Of all the lines the theologians draw, the most important may be the line between “essential” and “nonessential” doctrine in their own minds. This perhaps the most difficult line to draw, because a teacher will be passionate about all truth, not just the essentials. However, this line is also the most essential.

This is a decision to draw with a firm line around christianity, and a dotted line throughout. This is not an admission that some doctrines are less important (an idea few teachers can tolerate!) All truth is important: but not all errors exclude one from the family of God.

A failure to make this differentiation will turn their a teacher’s ministry of building the church into a ministry of crippling her. Instead of giving her roots, he will cut her in pieces: and the more acute their reasoning and exegetical skill, the more deeply the lines will cut, and the more painful, long-term and live-stealing will be the divisions caused.

See also:

Essential and Non-Essential Theology: Who Decides Which Is Which?

 

What Comes First – Doctrine or Life? (A response to “Beyond Foundationalism” and “Velvet Elvis”)

 

Modernity and the Roots of Classical Liberalism

Original Sin in Genesis 3-4

In Genesis 3, in the perfection of the Garden, we see Satan coming in bodily form to tempt Adam and Eve. In Genesis 4, after the fall, we see that God warns Cain, “Beware! Sin is crouching at the door, and it’s desire is for you – but you must master it.” Now, sin is physically inside of Cain as an evil force seeking to gain control. This reality of the indwelling presence of sin is the doctrine of Original Sin. Biblically, there were only three people who ever lived without a sin nature: Adam, Eve, and Jesus. And it was only to these people that Satan appeared to temp them bodily. The rest of us have no such need. From the youngest age, we have a traitor within. Long before we could understand words, we know already how to be selfish, cruel and evil. But we know also that these things are wrong, and there is a part of us that wishes to do good – this is the remnant of the Image of God which still lives in us. God does not promise to deliver us from this tension: rather, the tension may grow stronger. As we enter into His family, and His Spirit enters into us and begins rebuilding the shattered Image of God within us – remaking us into the person we were made to be, from the inside out – the actual presence of sin in our hearts aught to decrease, but our awareness of it and our hatred of it to increase all the more. God does not promise us a this-worldly deliverance from this struggle, but rather gives us arms with which to fight it, and promises that “in the temptation, I will give you a way of escape.” (1 Cor. 10:13).

Trading my sorrows?

I don’t like critiquing Music publicly. It’s far, far too dangerous.

These days in the blogosphere it is open season on churches & pastors big and small, Christian culture, missionaries & missions, theologies (or theology itself), and pretty much anything else that a previous generation would have considered sacred or worthy of respect. The Bible, and even God can even be questioned or mocked so long as one assumes the correct demeanour of “a skeptic seeking understanding” or assumes the title “relevant evangelist.” But…lift an eyebrow towards Christian pop culture and WHAMMO! The hammer drops.

Suddenly, one finds themselves on the inside of a four-walled cell (also known as a pigeon-hole) with the letters emblazoned outside: “Danger! 1970’s King-James only Fundamentalist!! Handle with care!”

I used to have a controversial blog, with lots of discussion and anger and controversy. It was fun. But nowadays I just want to serve my work with my own hands and lead a quiet life, as I have been commanded.

And so I would invite you to think, question and reason calmly together with me as I seek to honour the God of the Bible over the sacred cows of our day.

Specifically, I would like to discuss the words of the song, “I’m Trading my Sorrows.”

I grew up with that song, but it has been a long time since I sang it. You know how it goes – as a kid you just mouth along to the words and mostly are interested in what the bassist or drummer is doing. But this line caught me, “He’s under my feat, he’s under my feat…Satan is under my feet.” Especially when it was repeated ad infinitum, (often with foot-stomping motions) I started asking myself, “Is that Biblical? IS Satan under my feet? I know Jesus has defeated him, but where does it say he is under my feet?” Call me legalistic, but I started humming the bridge.

The more I pondered, the more my humming rebellion broke out of the bridge, and into the choruses and verses. “Something this song just doesn’t sound right to me.” I thought to myself. “Are we really called to lay down all the hardships of life, and take up the joy of the Lord? Is this what we are called to do?”

Now, after five weeks on the mission field I just came back from an opening ceremony where this song figured prominently. Not only was I not singing (or even humming) along, my arms were crossed. The earth herself trembled under the fury of my silent rebellion, way back there in the back right corner of the packed auditorium.

But this time, I had more than theological reasons to dislike this song. Today, this song was salt in the festering wounds on the sores I have gained on my back, carrying the cross Jesus put there these past two years. I couldn’t help but ask, “What kind of life/deal/plan of salvation is this song offering? It’s not the package I seem to be signed up for!”

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I’m trading my sickness, I’m trading my pain…

Since coming here, in obedience to the call of God, we have been hit with no less than three bugs in under a month. First our baby got Rosella – a long drawn out affair with a five day fever, two day rash and non-stop clingy “I-refuse-to-sleep” mayhem. These all-natural parents were setting a personal record by dousing down the maximum allowable amounts of baby tylenol…and then finally even interspacing baby tylenol with baby Advil. Then the oldest got a 36 hour flu, and we were washing sheets and wiping up vomit. Then I got what is affectionately known as “runny tummy” and now my wife has it, but for her it is just one big, full-body joint ache. Of course disease can happen anywhere, but it doesn’t take a medical doctor to say that our bodies are not used to the viruses and bacteria here: our moving to a radically new environment and climate means our bodies have some adjusting to do. And yes, there will be some sickness, and some pain involved in that.

I’m trading my sorrows…

A pause. Head down. Where do I start? Shall I start with every day, when I log into Facebook and see all my friends staying close, together, in the land I love? Having babies and letting their kids forge life-long friendships as I was able to experience? Shall I talk about the depression that our oldest went through on our first move? (Apparently, a medical/psychological anomaly, because kids that young aren’t supposed to get depressions) Shall I tell of the tears spilled on school books, on grocer receipts, on phone calls, on bills? This one is too personal for me. I must move on.

I’m trading my shame…

At home, in my element, I was a chameleon. I fit. Nobody noticed me. Now, the entire world behind me, and the entire world before me sees this foreigner among them. Our lives are open to the judgement of many and the scorn of a few. It happens often that I feel ashamed of who I am and what I am trying to do for my king.

I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord.

…and what is this joy? I have the peace of Christ in me, and I can testify that when we pray desperately for help, He is there with us. But I’m not quite sure I’m able to sing along with the old Hymn, “…it was there by faith I received my sight and now I am happy all the day.” No, I’m not happy all the day. I’m not happy as I write this. I just drove through town, and was foolish enough to do as others and pull over in traffic to buy veggies from a roadside stand. I was halfway through the order when I got mobbed by vendors and beggars, all trying to get my money, all yelling things and pushing veggies or themselves into my car. I got out of there and got the veggies I ordered (I think) for kind of a good price (I hope). I am now wide eyed, frazzled, fazed and foggy. Not really especially “joyful” right now. This life is hard – one would need to be on drugs, or act like they were, to be happy all the time in this real world of serving God.

I say yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord…(etc. etc. etc.) amen
.

Well, who wouldn’t say yes to that? A life of no sickness, no pain? A life of no sorrows, and no shame? Sign me up, please! You can find me on the first plane out of here, and back to my cozy home town and country where I belong, where nobody judges me, where I have free healthcare and a sanitary environment.

But that is not what Jesus has called me to.

First He said, “Follow me.” So I did. Then He said, “Pick up your cross and follow me.” So I did. And it hurt. And just so we were clear He said, “Whosoever puts their hand to the plough and looks back is not worthy of me.” And so I didn’t. Well, at least I try not to look back.

And He is good. And His mercies really are new every morning. And I can testify with honesty that no matter how hard this life is, I’d really rather be in a hard place with Jesus than in a good place without Him. He is all the world to me. But here’s the deal: it’s hard! So why do we tell our children that following Jesus will be easy? Even, that this is what He is calling them to?

What is a cross? It is shame. It is a cause of pain. It is sickness, it is death. Do we call our children to lay these things down? If so, we are standing in opposition to the call of Christ.

Jesus came to give us life, and life more abundantly. But then He added the little caveat: unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it cannot truly live. Those who gain their lives will lose them: but those who lose their lives for Christ’s sake will find them.

Why is there such a high rate of attrition on the mission field and in the ministry? We used to send out missionaries with their luggage stored in coffins, with sober words and services bordering on funerals: we did not expect to see them again, and we usually didn’t. Now we send out missionaries with promises of adventure, wholesome family times, fun and cultural experiences. And it’s just not like that over here.

Did you know that they had missionaries in the Bible? Of course you do. Peter was the first one, then there was Andrew, Thomas, and the most famous of all was Paul. They called their ministry the ministry of apostleship. (Small “a”…as apposed to The Apostles, of whom there were only 12) An apostle went were there was no church, or only very young churches, to plant a new work. Listen to how Paul describes what it is like to be an apostle:
…For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honour. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now…by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things. (2 Cor 5 & 6)

A fellow missionary recently told Anne Jisca an Arabic saying: “Some days are honey, some days are onions.” She told me she has really been meditating on that saying. It so fits our reality here! Also, interestingly, Anne Jisca has made a “miracle-mend” caught syrup (hey, it really works well, folks!) whose main two ingredients are onions and honey.

I want to make it clear that I don’t have any particular problem with singing the song “I’m trading my sorrows.” I also mean no disrespect towards those who sang it today, as I myself have sung and lead it many many times. The song has some truth to it – as no doubt will become clear as people draw verses from Matthew and from Isaiah and post them in the comments below.

The song isn’t pure heresy. However, what it is is pure honey. It is in need of a bit of a rewrite. Would it be possible to incorporate some of the verses above? Something like:

“I’m taking my hunger, I’m taking my needs…
“I’m taking my weakness, I’m taking infermity…
“I’m taking my persecutions, I’m taking my shame…
“I’m taking them up, for the glory of His name!”

Another thing. The song aught to be sung in a minor key. Perhaps D minor. In the colour of purple. With the taste of onions and honey.

Because that is the savour of a life following after the crucified Lord.

Post-script:

When I wrote this I was not able to
get online to read the actual lyrics.

To be fair to Darrel Evan, the line “he’s under my feet” seem to be a regional variation of the song, that he didn’t write.

He also has a very good bridge (which wasn’t sung during the opening ceremony) which goes like this:

I am pressed but not crushed
Persecuted not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
I am blessed beyond the curse
For His promise will endure
That His joy’s gonna be my strength

Though the sorrow may last for the night
His joy comes with the morning

…and so I stand corrected. It seems that Evans wrote some onions in along with the honey after all. I still think the song should be dropped to d minor: but now I’m just being nit picky! :-)

The one thing you should NOT say about ISIS and Christianity

I find it very troubling when people respond to the ISIS massacres by saying, “All religions are evil,” or “Religion only leads to violence.” It’s as though they are thinking like this…

1) ISIS is committing atrocities in the name of their religion
2) Therefore all Muslims are evil
3) Islam is a religion, therefore all religions are evil
4) Christianity is also a religion, therefore it is evil
5) Therefore, THE PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANITY PROVES THAT CHRISTIANITY IS AN EVIL RELIGION.
You may laugh and say, “Who would think this way?” But it’s the reality – whenever persecution of our brothers and sisters heats up on one side of the ocean, ideological persecution and “Christianity causes violence” comments increase on the other side.
I know these sorts of comments are very politically correct to make, but please consider that making them is very hurtful for those who are mourning the real atrocities committed against our religion in Iraq and other places.
Please be kind with your words and informed in your comments.
Thank you.

“Can You Tolerate Me?” Said the Conservative to the Homosexual

On the issue of homosexuality, we must remember that it is not Christianity that has changed to believe something radical, unreasonable or outrageous. Rather, it is our society which has moved suddenly and dramatically to affirm and approve something which as little as forty years ago was defined as “unhealthy” by secular clinical journals. On this issue, Christianity used to be a red rose among a field of poppies. In so short of time, the poppies were replaced by lilies and we are a sudden abnormality by resistance to change.

As society teeters along, pushed on by the opinions of rock stars and popularity of competing philosophical systems, conflict has always been inevitable with those who have anything like roots.

And Christianity has roots. We believe not only in a God who “is,” but a God who “speaks.” And because He has spoken, there is a tremendous amount of stability to our beliefs. We do not base our morality on what the philosophers and scholars say, but on what we believe to be the unchanging record of what God has said.
Like the tide coming in and going out, society seems continually at odds with Christianity over one point or another.
So long as Christianity stays true to her values, she will never be able to find total peace with a society based on the changing ideas of her leading thinkers, poets and advocates.
This issue is often cast as one of intolerance – and of course one can always find examples of Christians who seem cruel or insensitive towards Homosexuals. (Let us pause for a moment to note the passing of Fred Phelps). But usually, the stories center around Christians who simply “are” and who believe what they always have, and who are being attacked by a society which has changed and can no longer find space for them. This issue really is one of tolerance. But from where I am sitting, it really seems to me that the question is really, “Will society find it in it’s heart to tolerate a segment of society which does not agree with them?”
We were here first, we have not changed. And further, we cannot change. To ask a monotheistic religion to change on such a point is to demonstrate complete ignorance for how our religion works, or else to call into question how deeply we believe in our God. What is Christianity if we do not believe the Bible to be God’s Word, is more important than the competing and conflicting voices of our society?
In brief, the demand for Christian institutions to become “open and accepting” towards the LGBT community is in essence a demand for us to reject or cripple our religion. It is a demand which is unreasonable, which is impossible for a conservative to accommodate. When it is accompanied by social, legal or financial pressure – as it often is – it is nothing other than religious persecution.
“Persecution” is a big and potentially loaded word. But follow my logic and read what I have written here slowly. I do not simply have a martyr complex. This is a topic upon which Christianity cannot bend. To try to force a religion to bend on a central doctrine by some form of external pressure is the very essence of religious persecution. Therefore, demanding that Christians change or hide their views regarding traditional marriage could be called nothing less than religious persecution.

Essential and Non-Essential Theology: Who Decides Which Is Which?

The question, then, is not so much, “Will Christianity tolerate homosexuality?” Just about even Christian I know tolerates Christianity. As with the topic of fornication, most Christians I know have no problem tolerating homosexuals. They say simply, “They believe differently than we do,” and they get on with their lives. Christianity is surrounded by people – virtually every person in our society – who either practiced fornication before marriage, currently looks at pornography, or engages in what Christians would call “lustful thoughts” on a regular basis. All of these people – all of them – know that what they are doing is no acceptable to the Christian faith. They also, by the way, know that eating beef is not acceptable to the Hindu faith. And drinking alcohol is not acceptable to the Muslim faith. And that working on Saturdays is forbidden for Jews.

And yet, shockingly, life goes on. People in our society are surprisingly tolerant. Most people in our society are quite well aware that at most of the religions of the world disagree with his or her lifestyle. Most people are just fine with that. Why should they care that others think they are going to Hell, or going to be reincarnated, because of their actions? They are not part of those religions, they get by with life the best they know how. This is (North) America, and we live and let live over here.

We do, at least, on every topic except for Homosexuality.
On homosexuality, it seems, it is not enough for Christians to keep
And that is all that we ask of you, our dear culture.
You are already so very gifted at toleration. You can tolerate every form of religion. You can tolerate every vice and evil practice in print and video. You who revel in songs and stories of liberty, rebellion, and escape from the norm. You can tolerate diversity, divergence, deformity and decadence. But can you tolerate me, the Christian who is trying his best to serve a Holy God?

My dear homosexual friend, can you find it in yourself to tolerate me, the conservative Christian who believes differently than you?

RELATED POSTS:

How the Persecution Will Arrive in an (Overly) Tolerant Culture

Driscoll on Homosexuality

What Do Homosexuality, Women in the Church & Home, Fornication, Divorce & Remarriage, Emergent & Hell All Have In Common?

The Campolos on Homosexuality

Reflections on the Interview, where Jennifer Knapp “Comes out of the closet”

Sin Lists and Why We (Should) Love Them

The “Homosexuality Issue” as a Litmus-Test of Orthodoxy

Does Love Still Exist in the World?

For a French assignment, I was given the project of answering the question, “Does love still exist in the world?” Here is my English version of my response.

***

It is my belief that true love does exist in the world.

I am not speaking about desire, admiration, friendship or lust. Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lays down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) True love is desiring the best for another person, even at the cost of one’s own self. This sort of love exists first and foremost as parents loving their children. Jesus said that even though we are evil, we know how to give good gifts to our children. (Mat. 7:11, Luke 11:13) We love because we are meeting God’s image (Gen. 1:27), and He loves us (John 3:16). Whether we know it or not, we love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).
This is also why God sent John the Baptist to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and children back their fathers. If love does not exist in families, it does not exist at all, and a culture is under God’s curse and is doomed (Malachi 4:6).
Every person has the capacity to love, but there are at least three ways that love may die. Sin is a violation of love (Luke 10:26-27), and repeated sins can cause the heart to become seared and unable to love (1 Tim. 4:2). Secondly, very lawless and difficult times may make love grow cold (Mat. 24:12). Finally, the spiritual battle between God and Satan can destroy love in the home. As Jesus said, “all men will hate you… Even mothers will turn against their children, and children will deliver their parents up to death” (Mat. 10:21).
Although love may die through the harshness and sins of life, every time a child is born their parents are reminded of the love that God has for all his children. And there is a new chance to discover what love means.
But most of all, I believe that love exists in the world because God is in this world. He works through his children in the church. It is true that true love exists outside of the church, because non-Christians are made in God’s image just as much as Christians are. It is also true that Christians may have cold hearts, and many who call themselves Christians are false brethren.
However, it is through his work redeeming souls and healing hearts that God’s kingdom continues to make progress in this world.
The most perfect place where I can witness love is in the unconditional manner in which Jesus loves me, gives Himself for me and forgives me over and over. I hope that through me love may exist in the world around me.