John Piper answers the question: “How should teenagers handle relationships with the opposite sex?”
To Talitha, my daughter, I say, “Through high school, keep it at groups. And then when the guy shows up, tell him to call me”—that’s one way to manage it—”and we’ll talk about what it should look like.”
If you have no idea what this is about, click here: Why We’re Hiring Gay Christians in Same-Sex Marriages
A few thoughts:
First, it’s absurd to think that a ministry can defer theology to the church. As soon as you begin talking about ministry or mission, take off your sandals you’re on theological holy ground. Those are weighty theological concepts that cannot be defined otherwise. As soon as one asks the point of the mission, only a theological answer will do.
Second, it’s also absurd to say that the adjustment in policy makes no affirmation of the same-sex lifestyle. Of course it does. It’s a public declaration that unrepentant homosexuality is not a disqualification for Christian service. Paul would have said it’s a disqualification for the kingdom of God. Stearns doesn’t even make it a disqualification for his ministry, and make no mistake, his statement is a theological one.
Third, it’s a gospel issue. Minimizing sin minimizes the cross. World Vision has just made the world a darker place, where more unrepentant “Christians” will be affirmed though they remain enemies of God. Wherever the call for repentance is ignored under a guise of love and acceptance, the gospel is weakened. When World Vision okays the homosexual lifestyle, they sling mud on the cross, denying it’s ability to save, transform, redeem, and reconcile.
Acts 5:1-2 “But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only part of if and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
How easy it is to cloak our sin in religious veneer!
Here are two people aggressively self-promoting, vying for prominence, seeking to exalt themselves, unwittingly attempting to deceive God and steal his glory. And what does it look like? Two married congregants selling their property and giving money to the church.
O how careful we must be not to pursue religious achievement for human applause! It’s frightening to remember that our self-seeking rebellion can be dressed up like lavish generosity.
It’s no wonder that “great fear came upon the whole church” (vs. 11).
Great thinkers in the past have divided biblical faith into three categories which are helpful for us to determine what it means to really believe: noticia, assensus, and fiducia. This is helpful– especially in light of James 2, which indicates that there is a kind of faith that cannot save.
Noticia refers to the idea of “knowing”. This is knowledge of the right doctrine. This is understanding the right truths. If an unbeliever visits a church long enough, and begins reading his Bible, he may get the facts right but not believe it. I’ve known atheists and agnostics who understand Christian doctrine better than some Christians I’ve known. Obviously, this kind of knowledge doesn’t save you.
Assensus refers to the idea of “agreeing”. This is agreeing with the right doctrine. It means assenting to the truth of Scripture. This would be the kind of belief that agrees with the gospel but isn’t actually changed by it. James would call this kind of faith “dead” (James 2:14). A person could have all the right content (noticia) and agree with all the right facts (assensus) and yet still be unsaved– for true faith always results in real life change.
Fidutia refers to personal confidence and trust. This is the idea of “trusting”. This is not only knowing the right doctrine and agreeing that it’s true, but personally responding to the gospel by turning from known sin, taking a posture of surrender and submission to Christ, and believing with confidence that all God’s promises are yours in Christ. This kind of faith results in life-change, where the believer constantly strives to put Christ on the throne of his life.
Where do you stand?
Is your “faith” simply knowing all the right doctrine?
Is your “faith” agreeing to the truths of the gospel?
If your faith is merely knowing and agreeing, it’s time for you to take another step, because only a fidutia kind of faith saves. Personally trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord, surrender to him as your master, turn from your sin, pursue righteousness, and believe that his work on the cross has delivered you from the power and penalty of sin.
“We should not expect a great number to begin with, nor should we desire it. The best work is always done with a few. Better to give a year or so to one or two people who learn what it means to conquer for Christ than to spend a lifetime with a congregation just keeping the program going.”
Robert Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism
Romans 5:12 is one of the harder passages of Scripture to understand. It comes in a context where Paul is describing justification by faith and reconciliation to God. Then, drawing parallels between Adam and Christ, he makes this statement:
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…”
The main question revolves around the final clause of the sentence: “because all sinned.” The question is this: how is Paul describing our relationship with Adam? What does Adam’s first sin have to do with our current sinfulness? Here are a few possible views:
- Arminian view. This is the view that we didn’t sin in Adam, but rather simply inherited Adam’s corrupted nature. This view would say that because of Adam’s sin we’re all born with a defect that makes us prone to sin, though we are not actually guilty because of Adam’s sin. In this view, the “because all sinned” in verse 5:12 means that all sinned because we were made corrupt, not because we actually sinned in Adam.
- Federal headship view. This is the view that when Adam was the representative head of the human race, and when he sinned, we were all represented in his sin. Like a commander in chief who declares that his country is going to war and the citizens have no choice but to be represented by him, so when Adam chose to go into sin, he made all humanity sinners by representing them.
- Augustinian view. This view states that all humanity was actually in Adam when he sinned, and thus sinned with him. In the same way that Levi while in the loins of Abraham was said to have paid tithes to Melchizidek, so we, in the loins of Adam, actually participated in his sin.
From my perspective, the Federal headship view makes the most sense. Adam, the federal head representing humanity, sinned and thus made all humanity guilty. I would also include the aspect of the Arminian view that emphasizes the transference of the corrupt nature. Thus, all sinned in Adam because they were represented by him, and all sinned because Adam passed on the pollution of his sin to his children.
There is a legal guilt that puts every sinner in the same standing with God as one condemned. As sinners by nature and by choice, we are all under the same condemnation. Thus, there is a sense in which every sin has the same ultimate judgment: condemnation.
But there are enough passages to prove that not all sins are equal before God. Our first hint is the Mosaic law, where some sins are punishable by death and other sins only require cleansing. Some sins are described as being unintentional and others are high-handed, and the high-handed ones merit a more serious punishment. This is compelling, but the clearer evidence comes straight from the mouth of Christ.
In Luke 12:47-48 there are differing degrees of punishment. For the “servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will” there will be a “severe beating.” On the other hand, “the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating.” In other words, though the deed be the same, the punishment is more serious for the one who had more knowledge. Those who know more will be judged more strictly, which is exactly the point James makes about teachers: “Those who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).
Matthew 11:20-24 describes the fate of Chorazin and Bethsaida, cities that rejected the message of Christ. In verse 24, Jesus says, “But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” In other words, the sin of Chorazin and Bethsaida was worse than the sin of Sodom because the former were privileged to witness “mighty works” (v. 21), whereas Sodom had no such opportunity.
Matt. 23:15 describes Pharisees who travel across land and sea to make a single proselyte. His evaluation is that when they do that “they make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” The only clear understanding of this statement is that the Pharisee’s proselytes are more an offense to God than themselves. Their sin is worse.
But, after saying this, we must understand that there are not degrees of separation from God. All sin makes us equally damnable, equally condemned, equally separated, and equally in need of salvation. There are none who are “closer to God” in their natural, unregenerate state. All have sinned; all need salvation.
So we must say in short, the answer is no. Not all sins are equal before God. All sin, big and small, separates us from God and earns our eternal condemnation. And yet all sin, big and small, is forgivable faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross. There is no sin so small that it doesn’t earn us hell; there is no sin so big that it can’t be forgiven.
Historically, theologians have had a lot of confusion regarding the image of God. Since Scripture doesn’t ever define it in certain terms, those interested in the study have tried to understanding it by piecing together the passages in Scripture that discuss it. Throughout the years, there have been three main ways to look at the image of God.
The image of God is defined Substantially. This is the idea that every human is a person like God; with similar traits and qualities. In the same way a son bears the image of his father, so we bear the image of our Creator. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Gen. 1:26). We are persons that bear resemblance to God.
The image of God is defined Relationally. Tied into the passages that speak of the image of God is the idea of male and female. In other words, integral to understanding the imago dei is understanding that humans were made to be in relationship. “So God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1:27). The image of God is displayed in plurality–male and female. Though it is true that individual males and a females bear the image of God, this passage shows us that the image of God is more fully displayed in two genders rather than one. To be in the image of God means being in relationship.
The image of God is defined Functionally. The first command given to Adam and Eve after God’s declaration of their image-bearing duty is to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…” (Gen. 1:28). God, the great King of all things mediates his rule through his image bearers. Image bearers play out their roles of authority and thus reflect the glory of the Creator. As Adam and Eve were to play out their roles as vice-regents over creation, they would effectively image God. In this way, there is a functional aspect of the image of God.
How should we understand the doctrine of the imago dei?
It is best to say the image of God exists in man substantially, and manifests itself in relational and functional ways. In this understanding we don’t deny the relational and functional aspects of our likeness to God, but we say that they flow from the spring of our substantial likeness to God. We are relational because God is relational. We function like God because we are like God.
It’s been said this way: “The image of God involves both structural and functional aspects. In our structure [or substance] as human beings we possess the image of God. This structural capacity should lead to proper functioning in the realms of relationships and ruling and subduing the creation.”
There are other implications. If we understand the image of God to be primarily relational or primary functional, then we are defining the image of God in terms of what people do rather than what people are. This would mean that those who aren’t able to act relationally or functionally (unborn babies, mentally handicapped, elderly), they either lack the image of God or they bear the image of God in a lesser degree. But it seems that God created all humans in his image–that the mere fact of being a human person means one bears the image of God. Thus, we hold all human life in high esteem not because of certain functions they can do but because of the fact that they bear God’s image.
So when we’re speaking of the image of God in man, we’re speaking of the ways in which man is made like God (substantial aspect), and the ways in which humans act out this likeness: relationships of male and female (relational aspect), and their ruling and reigning over creation (functional aspect).
I hadn’t heard anything about the Gosnell trial until yesterday. When I caught up with it, and learned about the dude and what he’d been doing, I was sickened. And what’s even more sad is that the major media outlets aren’t making a peep about it. Here are the numbers:
Instead of writing my own piece about the horrors that have been going on, I’ll just link to all the articles I’ve seen floating around. This is an outrage, and people need to know about it.
Here’s an article from the Atlantic: Why Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s Trial Should Be a Front Page Story.
Here’s Trevin Wax’s blog on the Gospel Coalition website: 8 Reasons for the Media Blackout on Kermit Gosnell.
Russell Moore wrote a piece called Kermit Gosnell and the Gospel.
Joe Carter writes 9 Things You Should Know about the Gosnell Infanticide and Murder Trial.