© Charles A. Clough 2020
Charles A. Clough
Divine Institution Series
Lesson #02 – Divine Institutions #1, #2, and #3
Personal Responsibility, Marriage, and Family
12 July 2020
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
This series I chose because when Mike left and wanted me to fill in for three weeks I was trying to think of a short three-week set of talks that would fortify our foundation in the Word of God. I thought about the social turmoil, the global pandemic we have out of China and the kind of characteristic in our culture at the moment—been brewing for some time; but it’s a kind of situation where as believers we are going to be involved in conversations—hopefully, with neighbors and skeptics. I think one of the issues that is coming up almost in every area of our society is whether or not God’s design that we know from the Scriptures—God’s design for society is set or whether it’s a social construct like our college kids allege.
One of the slides I showed last time was this “four-layer cake.”
If this is confusing, in your mind’s eye think of an iceberg. Most of the iceberg is under water [shown as the red dotted line on the slide]. Ask the people who were on the Titanic. It’s not the visible part of the iceberg that’s the danger. It’s the submarine part of the iceberg that’s the danger. And that’s the vast bulk—the massive ice is mostly under water. That’s the thing that does damage.
The problem is our society today has largely been influenced by Ivy League schools who have taught—I guess it goes probably back 50 years; but the proof of this kind of teaching is very obvious today. That is you cannot have substantive discussions that go down below the surface conversation. Everything has to be confined to a tweet or some sort of short reject, some knee-jerk reaction.
If you think about it, if we were missionaries in a third-world land, how far would our evangelism go if we couldn’t have substantive conversations? The gospel can’t go forward if we’re all at the trivial level. So that’s why this [dotted] red line that I’ve drawn on this particular chart actually shows. Here is the four-layer chart. Underneath the [red dotted line the] layers are sequenced. If you want to think of this, think of a simple kind of argument that goes on over and over today about abortion.
People say, “I’m for abortion.”
“I’m against it.”
That’s fine. That’s just a statement; but it doesn’t get into any substantive issue. The issue is whether it is right or wrong. But if we’re going to get into right and wrong, we’ve got to go into the area of justice and ethics—what is right or what is not right. If we get into the area of ethics, we get into what’s the foundation. Who is your source of ethics? There are various sources of ethics we all get affected with.
As I pointed out last week, our country was founded by men and women who were very literate in literature and influenced by the Bible. There was no question in their mind where ethics come from. It comes out of the Word of God and the Judeo-Christian idea that there is a transcendent Creator over all and He sets a universal standard. Universal standards don’t change with time. Two plus two was four back in 1000 BC and two plus two is four in computer programs today. That’s an example of truth that’s true. So ethics require some sort of base on how do you know it’s true. But that in turn requires a worldview on what is the nature of reality.
One of the encounters that Ravi Zacharias had on one of his—I’m sure he’s had this same encounter 20,000 times. It was involving a student who was complaining about the fact that there was so much evil in the world and because there is so much evil in the world, God doesn’t exist. A good God couldn’t exist with this.
So as he usually did, Ravi Zacharias asked him then, “How do you judge things to be evil but by a standard? The question I’m asking you is—what is your standard by which you are evaluating whether something is good or evil?”
Because if there’s not a standard, there can’t be any evil. Think about it. It’s not being sarcastic. If there’s no standard to judge between good and evil, then evil doesn’t exist. The very fact that you are claiming something to be evil says that you are using a standard on which you’re determining that such and such is evil.
If the standard doesn’t exist, all he can say is, “I’m disturbed; I’m upset.” But that’s not talking about evil. That’s talking about your inner psychology. When we talk about evil, we’re talking about something that exists beyond your personal feelings and my personal feelings.
So, this is the dilemma. How do you reach any kind of an in-depth conversation? Ravi Zacharias—one of the things—follow me—as he did in his training … he always said philosophy had limitations. Everybody grants that.
One of the aspects of thinking in depth and philosophically is it defuses questions. Highly emotional questions can be defused by asking thought-provoking questions. Not to ridicule—not to put yourself over the person, but simply to open the conversation. What do you think? The question is an invitation. It’s an invitation to respond rather than an affirmation that you’re sitting there with thoughts not coming from your mind. It’s coming out of the person making the affirmation.
So, we spent some time last week because the 4th of July was near and it’s the 4th of July weekend; I thought it useful to remind us because a lot of our young people have never been trained in American history well enough to know and to recognize that our country was founded by people who all of them weren’t Christians. They all had sin natures. But the point was they were well read in the literature. The point was that they had a view of human nature that was imported out of the pages of Scripture.
Now what do I mean by human nature? There are only two views. Either you view that everyone is good and perfectible and so society can lift us all up or taking the Fathers of our country going back to the Word of God. We believe everybody has value because we’re all made in God’s image.
But there’s another question here. Has something happened to human nature such that it is what the Founding Fathers—not the Founding Fathers but many of the church theologians referred to as depravity, as original sin? There are a number of words to label it. We are all afflicted with a nature that is predisposed toward evil. Now either you believe that, or you have to believe in the perfectibility of man. So, you’ve got two views.
Now those two views lead to some political issues—political consequences. That’s what we try to do in this chart.
This is why there are certain checks and balances built into the government that was constructed by people who believed that human nature was depraved. They did not want to trust—as the French did in 1789—disasters. They don’t want to take power and concentrate it into government leaders because they too are afflicted with the same problem everyone else has. So it’s dangerous to concentrate power into the hands of a few. That’s why they set up the executive, judicial, and legislative branches.
By the way, Isaiah mentioned that 1,000 years before. It was the way God set up the kingdom. There were prophets, there were priests, and there were kings. The kings could not, no matter how powerful they were, the kings were never permitted to go into the Holy of Holies or the Temple. Now they tried to and they desecrated the Temple trying to do it. But they were also disciplined for doing it. It was off limits to power.
In other words, there were limits on power. Now that kind of seems obvious; but it’s that restraint on power that came from the view of human nature, that human nature has a problem. And if you believe in the perfectibility, it also affects your political thinking. You will think that government can be trusted. You think that all you need to do is educate and reform and we can improve society.
So, it’s one way or the other. What this series on Divine Institutions is doing is simply saying that there are structures that cannot be violated without severe consequences.
I read some of this to you last week; but one of the college kids that went to Towson sent me—gave me this book from one of the courses. Now I am going to read you some of the titles. This is what is being taught at Towson. Now I’m sure it’s taught on many, many other campuses. But here again, listen to the titles. These are essays in the textbook in this class on sociology. These are the topics.
1. Constructing Race. (A society constructs race? Or did God set up man?)
2. How Jews Became White Folk. (I thought Jews were Semites—not sons of Japheth, but they’re sons of Shem. The Bible tells us that.)
3. The Social Construction of Sexuality. (In other words, it’s not innate. It’s socially constructed.)
4. The Invention of Heterosexuality.
5. Deconstructing the Underclass.
6. Domination and subordination, and so forth.
You get the drift that in sociology the teaching basically is that the society gives us our characteristics.
We taught last time the first Divine Institution comes out of Genesis.
Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Then of all the acts of creation, there was one unique action. We, by the way notice the noun, the subject of the sentence. What is the subject of the sentence—singular or plural? We will construct. We will create in Our image. Plural pronoun—Our image. Do you know what that says? Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were involved in the act of creating man. Jesus Christ is God incarnate, the Son of God. The Son of God was in the Garden of Eden. The Son of God was involved in the act of creation. In all of the creation there is only one creature—only one creature—that is made in God’s image. This is us—human beings.
That marks us off, as Mortimer J. Adler, one of the editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica, gave his University of Chicago lectures years ago was laughed at by the academics; but the title of his lecture series, profound lecture series—he went through 2,000 years of referencing and covered every issue, every aspect of the issue. The title of his lectures was The Difference of Man and the Difference It Makes. The Difference of Man and the Difference It Makes.
The point is that God says that I have created. It’s a powerful picture in Genesis 2 of God kneeling down into the clay of the Garden; and He’s building the first human body.
It was a church father Tertullian, as I mentioned last week, who said when he read Genesis 2 he said, “Here’s what I thought, that here we the Creator-God creating a body that He knows He will incarnate Himself in. He’s looking down the corridors of time, thousands of years. ‘I have to incarnate Myself. I have to come down. I have to condescend and enter into My creation and I need a vehicle.’ ”
We are the vehicle. We are made with this characteristic. It doesn’t come from society. It comes from God’s direct creation.
People forget that the father of evolution, Charles Darwin, wrote a famous book Origin of the Species. But people don’t look at the fine print because the fine print of this title has been taken out of most library books. You never see what Darwin followed up in the title of his book. The title of his book is Origin of the Species 1859. But notice what he put in here. This is what he meant by the origin of the species. The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life.
Now if you cite this, the well-educated person will challenge you because they will tell you, “Well in this title, r-a-c-e wasn’t talking about races in humanity. It was talking about species of animals.”
Well, let’s see if that’s really correct by looking at the second book that Darwin wrote years later, The Descent of Man. This was a book dedicated not to animals, but to deal with the issue of where did people come from. Where did man come from? Now inside this book, here is what he said.
“At some future period, the civilized races of man will most certainly exterminate and replace the savage races all over the world.”
Now who is the author of racism? Thinking through the evolutionary viewpoint, racism is very natural. But from a Christian point of view it isn’t because there is only one race that God made. We all have genes of Adam and Eve. So we’re not individual races. There is ethnicity, yes. But there are no such things as multiple races.
Every time I get one of these questionnaires, you know you get one every once in a while from the bank or from the census bureau or something, Remember there is a little question to check off what race you are—Afro American, Asian, or other. Next time you get one of those, select “other” and put “human.” Let’s see what their response would be. The point however is that value is inherent in our creation. People can be treated wrongly, yes.
The Nazis came in and the only way they psychologically could deal with the massacre of the Jews—and by the way not just Jews. It was handicapped people also. They are just human debris. Get rid of them. Burn them up. And while they were doing this, obviously they too were people also made in God’s image. So, what’s in their minds? Conscience.
Well, how do they deal with conscience when every morning you go in and gas more Jews—thousands a day? You go through this. You have to come back with something bothering you. So, the way they dealt therapeutically with themselves in this horrible situation is they would go home and listen to Beethoven and Mozart. This was a way they had of making themselves think that everything’s okay—and other things to teach themselves, try to compensate with what the conscience was telling them.
They tried to turn the Jews into less that a human being. So, when they transported the Jewish people up to Auschwitz and into the concentration camps to kill them, they didn’t choose passenger cars. They chose cattle cars. That way it reinforced the idea that these are animals. So, therefore, we put them in cattle cars to take them to Auschwitz.
The reason they had to do this kind of stuff was they had to cope with their own conscience that no matter what they did, their conscience bothered them. So, they had to deprecate the idea that these people can be human beings. They had to be subhuman.
Now if that’s a foreign argument, think of one of the arguments today for abortion—that the fetus is only random tissue in the woman’s uterus. In other words, the fetus has to be in order for us to salve our conscience about what goes on in an abortion surgery, what we have to do is assuage ourselves. We have to convince ourselves first that the little fetus in there is not really human
So, watch this. You’ll observe this. In fact, we all know it from our old sin nature. When we know we are doing something wrong, we always try to have an excuse to make ourselves feel good. It’s not like it’s a process we’re not familiar with. But that’s what goes on.
So, we come now to the essence of the first Divine Institution, which is individual responsibility. Here again we get involved in—is individual responsibility before my Creator and Judge who holds me responsible for my decisions? That’s one view. That’s the worldview of the Bible. That’s the worldview that’s subtly put into our conscience that I and you are responsible to our Creator independently of government, independently of society. It’s before our Creator. Is it that view or is it something else? Well, if it’s something else I’ve got to change to something else. As the Nazis did with the Jews, I have to reduce myself to something other than a creature made in God’s image.
So here are some possibilities.
One is that man is a victim, that we are not really responsible. We are victims of our situation. We need an excuse for our conscience. There were the traditional nature forces. This is one ancient kind of thing. This has the gods, goddesses. It’s known by different names in the world—karma, fatalism, horoscopes, all of that comes out of the idea. Horoscopes is that the cosmos is controlling my life—not God, not a sovereign God, but my responsibility by the moon and the stars and their configuration are affecting me. Or karma, that in my next reincarnation I’ll be higher or lower based on how I live my life. Then in the modern view it’s horoscopes, genes, and the economy. In one sense sociology does this. That it’s making us almost like we’re passive victims to our social pressures. That’s one idea.
Then in Christian circles where God’s sovereignty is strengthened, it is taught out of biblical proportion. Here we have deterministic election and predestination, which also turns man into a puppet. Now good Calvinists don’t do that, but sloppy ones do.
I’ll tell you what this does. It kills your prayer life. One of the things this does it wipes out—why pray? If it’s all predetermined, it’s going to happen anyway, so what difference do my prayers make? On the other hand, besides making me a victim, now I’m passive to forces outside myself.
This is another slide which we showed before: that I am an independent thinker. I create my own standards. The problem with this is it bothers our conscience also because what does Paul tell us in Romans 1?
Is there anything as a real honest atheist? Do you remember the movie God is Not Dead 1? Remember the last scene in the film where that student who had been in conflict with his professor, the professor went after him and after him and after him with all the cosmological arguments and finally there was that neat scene. The lecture hall is empty. The student is picking up his books from his presentation, and the professor is sitting up there three or four rows up.
The student looks over at him and says, “Professor, why is it that you hate God so deeply?”
Then the professor let the cat out of the bag. “I’ll tell you why I hate God—because my mother was dying of cancer and I prayed and He didn’t answer.”
“Oh, so you don’t have a really scientific problem, do you? Your problem is that you’re angry with God. You created a fig leaf of cosmological ideas and all the rest of it to cover up your nakedness before God.”
So, I wanted to show an example of Exodus 32 because I want to encourage us in our praying to pray interactively. God is sovereign, yes. But we haven’t got a clue to how a sovereign, personal, triune God can control history without making us into robots. The problem is, if we were to control history that is the way we would do it. That’s a creature visualizing how a creature would do it. But God isn’t one of us. He is infinitely more complex, infinitely more omniscient than we are.
There’s one passage in the Bible—there are several passages in it. But let’s look at this one. This is the conversation that happened on the top of Mt. Sinai. It happened right after Moses was up at Sinai for a while. The people were raising cane down below. Aaron had made a statue. They had already gone into idolatry. I mean good grief, it was only a few days since they’d seen God talk. So, they’re already out of it. Now watch what God does. Watch the conversation that goes on here. It is very instructive about us and our individual responsibility before God. It’s not wiped out because God is in control.
Exodus 32:9, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen these people and indeed it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.’ ”
Now those of you who know your Bible, what’s wrong with that statement? He’s making a proposal that’s impossible, isn’t He? What tribe was supposed to bring forth the ultimate Messiah? The tribe of Judah, out of Abraham. But what tribe was Moses? He’s a Levite. He doesn’t fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant.
Now notice in the language what goes on here. See where God says, “I have seen this people. Let Me alone.” This is a conversation. To have this conversation we have to say—this is called condescension—a theological term that He comes down to our level. He’s bargaining with Moses. He’s saying, “I’ve got a proposal for you Moses.” You see why does God make an absurdity? What is He doing to propose such a profound impossibility to Moses, because He’s going to violate His own Word? But notice, “Let Me alone” in his rhetoric to Moses. Moses is not going to let Him alone. Moses is going to come right back to Him. So, I want to show what Moses says; and then we’ll reflect on the conversation. What’s going on here?
“Moses pleaded with the Lord and said,”—notice he makes two proposals. He’s not leaving God alone. He’s going to make this proposal and proposal #2. Look at first proposal he comes to God with. He says—“Why should the Egyptians speak and say He brought them out to harm them and kill them from the face of the earth. Turn from Your fierce wrath.”
In the context if you have your device or something you look at the context, what’s going on here. I’ve just exerted pieces of it. You’ll see that it’s God’s honor. Moses appeals to God’s honor. We call that a doxological counterproposal.
“Lord, I want you to be glorified. I don’t want Your name to be shamed.”
This is a legitimate prayer request. When you see things wrong or you ask for guidance, we have a right to come before the Lord and say, “Lord, show me how to glorify Your name.” Because ultimately in history it is God’s glory that is the driver of all history.
Think about it. It’s not redemption. Angels can’t be redeemed. Saints in eternity have nothing from which to be redeemed. So, redemption is not the overall view of history. It’s doxology. It’s God’s glory that’s at stake. That’s his first point.
His second point back to God again we have the right to use this in our praying.
He says, “Remember Abraham and Isaac and Israel to whom You swore by Your own self.”
You know what that is? Holding God to His Word. Every time you claim a promise, you’re holding God to His Word. God wants us—see this is an adult-level conversation that God is having with Moses. It’s not just a child. It’s an adult and He expects us to enter into hard conversations with Him; and He’s not going to fall apart because we are angry with Him. But we are coming to Him.
There are psalms and you’ll see this as you read various psalms. But one of the psalms that Asaph composed in the Word of God, he is lamenting the fact that the Temple is desecrated.
“We put all this work into this Temple and look what happened to it. It’s in wreckage. Now get Your hands out of your cloak and walk through this and see it like I have to see it.”
Can you imagine you praying something like that in the average church prayer meeting, telling God to get his hands out of his garment and walk around and see what’s going on? But it seems like God isn’t insulted by that. He is encouraging Moses to do this.
He’s triggering something because when you look at it quickly—or comprehensively—you’ll notice. Who is Moses? Moses is a Levite. What’s the function of Levites in Israel? To pray. To make intercession. So what God is doing in that first sentence, He’s coming to Moses with an impossibility just to aggravate Moses to get going as a Levite to make intercession.
But is this fatalism? God says, “Let Me alone.” “Okay. I’ll let you alone.” That’s not prayer life. That’s not a prayer full of interaction. So that’s Divine Institution #1 which we covered. The idea is in Divine Institution #1 you and I are responsible for our interaction with God. Prayer is one of the centers of that interaction—ultimately as responsibility before God. We have lesser responsibilities for the state, for other situations; but our responsibility for God takes priority.
All right. We go into the second Divine Institution that’s also under attack today and that is the Divine Institution of marriage. Again, it goes back to Genesis. Where are we going every time we get into these sociological discussions? Look at the track. Look at the logical line of reasoning here. We’re going back to Genesis because that’s the report. That’s the narrative of how God created us.
This is why you need to be confident in the Genesis text. If you have doubts and people do, in the past when I was a young Christian, I had lots of doubts. Go ahead to the Institute for Creation Research, Answers in Genesis and a whole bunch of good creation material on the Internet. Read it until you personally have confidence. You may not have all the answers. No creationist does. But we have that inner confidence that the Word of God is true. You see through the fallacy of deep time and the long ages and so on. I don’t have time to go into that. But the point is you see these Divine Institutions, that are structured there from the moment of creation.
So we have the first Divine Institution. We have the second one. In Genesis 2 God spends quite a bit of text in that chapter describing how He created the first woman. The first woman is created out from Adam. Now why do you suppose is that? Why couldn’t he have created Adam and Eve? But He creates the woman out of Adam and that gets back to theological reasons. It gets back to why a woman and a woman alone could bring the Savior into the world.
It gets back into the fact that God holds the entire human race responsible for the decision of Adam and not the decision of Eve. There are all kinds of reasons for this. This is not a casual text. There is the whole thing about it.
So, the first woman is made out of man and then the first marriage occurs in the Garden of Eden. And what you learn about that is in terms of our present arguments going on, binary sexuality is biblical and no other kind is. God created two genders—not 15. He created men. He created women. It is biologically obvious. For anybody married more than three weeks it’s also psychologically obvious that men and women think differently. And that’s good because the woman in Proverbs, she is the incarnation of wisdom. Very interesting. There is a theme there. Lady wisdom—it’s sort of a literary metaphor and illustration there.
Lady wisdom says, “I was with God when He created the world.”
What? There is something about the woman as the locus of wisdom that is necessary. And it works both ways. Women can destroy and women can edify and build up. They are powerful.
They used to have a saying years ago. They don’t use it now because it isn’t politically correct to say this. The hand that rocks the cradle does what? Rules the world. Mothers have a powerful influence on history.
But the point we’re making from Genesis 2 is that marriage first occurred in Genesis 2 and do you know what that does, because today those who want to get involved in all kinds of alternative lifestyles are saying, “Well, there are only a few verses in the Bible that deal with homosexuality.”
No! Every verse in the Bible that deals with marriage deals with that, because God defined it in Genesis 2. So, every passage that deals with marriage in any way, shape, or form is asserting binary sexuality. That’s not to say there aren’t wrong things that can be done. There are lots of other things besides just homosexuality. We can’t say homosexuality is the worst of all violations against marriage. But it’s one of them.
So, we have to summarize and say this. What are the purposes that God had for setting up marriage in history? One obviously is procreation, to fill the earth. That’s why this idea of Thomas Malthus was the first guy who did this back in the 1800s arguing that the food supply only increases arithmetically, and the population is increasing geometrically. There is going to be, you know, death en masse because we are going to overpopulate the earth. Try driving out in the Midwest and tell me it’s overpopulated.
The problem isn’t overpopulation. The problem is in countries where you have high concentrations of populations you have to have an infrastructure that works right. Hong Kong has one of the highest population densities in the world. And, they don’t have mass starvation in Hong Kong. They will, of course, when the Communist Chinese take over; but under capitalism they flourished. So over population is being asserted with climate change and all the rest of it. Forget it.
For society to survive you have to have 2.1 children per marriage—2.1. In many areas of our country it is down to 1.8 and below. Millennials are postponing marriage. The result is the birthrate is falling away. I tell you what happens because I have a Japanese daughter-in-law. Japan is having a severe crisis now. There are too many adults and not enough young people. The young people that exist aren’t getting married and having children. What does that do to the welfare situation? So, God has designed us to be fruitful and multiply, fill and manage the earth. So that’s number 1.
Number 2 the purpose of marriage as Paul explains in his Epistles—sanctification. You are taking two people made in God’s image who are fallen beings living east of Eden and bringing them as close as possible, in the closest personal relationship. You talk about friction. Every marriage gets messy. And why does it get messy at times? Because we have sin natures. They clash and so marriage has that aspect. What does God want us to do with the mess? He wants us to grow out of it and conquer it spiritually. So Divine Institution #2—sanctification.
The third and more important one is the cosmic effect of marriage. In the cosmic effect of marriage, you have marriage used as an illustration of God’s relationship with us. Think of this, what do you read in the Book of Revelation about Christ and His body? What is ready for the coming wedding? The bride of Christ. How do we understand that if we don’t participate in marriage? We don’t understand what that means. In Israel it was considered the wife of Yahweh. Now again if you don’t have the experience in marriage, you don’t have a clue what that’s about. That’s why you have to be careful when you see Divine Institutions, they have cosmic ramifications. It’s not just a sociological tidbit. It involves the very purpose of the universe.
I want to make a comment here too about the point of the purpose of marriage of having children and family and so on. We’ll get into that in the family thing. I wanted to show you a diagram. I am working with a Singaporean couple; and we’re creating a Framework series that can be downloaded in PDF format. It won’t cost [the ministry] to print it. It’s in color. But nevertheless, this is a diagram the artist did for me when I said, “We’ve got to somehow signify that Divine Institutions are rooted into the very nature of us. They are not sociological additions to a neutral something.”
She got together and she did this. She has these cute cartoon things; and here’s Divine Institutions. But notice what she says—patterns of normal behavior built into human nature. She even has the wife pregnant. What she’s trying to show here is that this is not a sociological thing. This is part and parcel of Divine Institutions—part and parcel of man’s nature.
And then down below in another place she was saying—the thing today, the big argument is these institutions are manmade. They are not God’s creations. They are mere traditions and traditions can be changed. When we have discussions, one thing maybe you can do to help a person that may be confused about this is to simply say we both are operating out of different worldviews.
“Let me explain why I am saying what I am doing and why I hold my position. I want you to explain a little bit more of where you get your ideas from.”
See you bring the conversation down to some sort of substantive area where you can discuss something that’s worthwhile. Now if we do that, we’re bringing it down to these areas. To summarize real quick Divine Institution #2 is built on the Genesis 2 narrative that the entire thing exists from there out.
What about people who now complain that they have a sexual orientation different than binary? There are several responses. This gets into a big, hairy discussion. Let me give you two areas of Scripture that talk to us.
One is in 1 Corinthians 6:9–11. Why is that an important verse? Because Paul wrote to the Corinthian church. Now if there was ever a church that looked like it came out of California, it was Corinth. They had all kinds of problems going on in Corinth. One of the problems was homosexuality. Come on! That’s not new. It’s been going on for thousands of years. So, Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:9–11 lists the background of some of the believers in that Corinthian church. Guess what the background of some of them was. Homosexuals. So what does he say?
“You were then and now you’re in Christ. You have been sanctified.”
Sexual orientation is another orientation. We all have inclinations and orientations from our sin nature. Some people are kleptomaniacs by nature. They have an orientation toward theft. Or, they have an orientation toward violence. We’ve seen plenty of that in the streets. So, what are we going to do?
If you are going to assert the purity of a particular orientation, how do you defend that against someone else who says, “Well, I have an orientation; and it’s to beat you up.”
“Well, I have an orientation to violate women?”
Or, “I have an orientation to steal property.”
“Well, that’s wrong.”
Why is that wrong, but your orientation isn’t? See what happens. The conversation gets back down. It’s unavoidable. You’ve got to deal with ethics where it comes from.
So the other one is Romans 1:18ff. Those are the two key Bible passages—1 Corinthians 6 and Romans 1:18ff. Paul in there points out something. It was this truth that he points out.
Rosario Butterfield was a leading lesbian advocate at Syracuse University, who got her PhD in Queer Studies. She knows that field as an expert and she taught openly and supported six gay groups on Syracuse University campus as the faculty advisor. Then Promise Keepers came to Syracuse—all men. She had to write some editorial against all these men that gathered together. Just like we did years ago down in the mall. So somehow it’s wrong for all men to get together.
She wrote a stinging op-ed.
Then, of course, she says, “I got my hate mail, but I also got my fan mail, except I got one letter and I couldn’t put in my fan mail; and I couldn’t put in my hate mail.”
Do you know who wrote the letter? A pastor. You know what he did? He started raising questions.
He said, “It’s interesting to see what you said in your op-ed. I noticed that you said something about the Christian faith. I see on the faculty you’re a professor of literature at Syracuse University.
“So, could I have a proposal for you? Could I start a class on the Scriptures at Syracuse University? It would be an elective. Nobody would be compelled to come. I’d like to have you discuss it with me. My wife invites you over to supper.”
Now he didn’t understand the dynamic here. But it turns out in the lesbian community they are very protective of each other and hospitality is very high on their plain. So, for this pastor and his wife to say, “Come on over for supper,”—it spoke to her heart. It struck her that here’s somebody who cares enough for me to hear me out. So, they invited her over. They never mentioned the gospel at first. They were talking about literature. They were talking about the op-ed and talking about different things. She knows darn well that this guy doesn’t go along with her lesbianism. But he never confronts her with it. They develop a friendship.
She’s writing a book on the religion on the right and how bad it is. She thinks this is a literary opportunity for me to understand how these fundamentalist people think. But all the time the Holy Spirit was working in her heart through the Word of God. That woman, an educated woman, did what few people have ever done. It took her two years to come to Christ.
The way she describes it is, “The Bible kept growing inside me.”
I thought that was a neat testimony. “The Bible kept growing inside me until it took me over.” Do you know how it happened? She had one of those yellow pads, legal-sized pads. She went through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation twice—every single book writing notes on her response, and her questions. Have you ever heard of an unbeliever reading from the Bible two times thoroughly from Genesis to Revelation? There are Christians that haven’t done that yet. Here’s this woman doing this. She became a Christian. Long story short, she’s written several books; and she’s lectured at university campuses. Here’s what she says about sexual orientation.
She says, “This whole idea of heterosexuality and homosexuality didn’t exist before 1889”—something like that. Those two words didn’t exist. Those are new words. The only word that existed prior to 1889—whatever the date is in her book—it was sodomy. But, that’s a physical thing. That’s not necessarily homosexual. Sodomy was mentioned as an act; but it’s the romantic theory of the 19th century—you know, Walden Pond, a feel for nature kind of thing. All of a sudden it’s my feelings that I use to determine whether something is true or false. Do I feel it’s good or do I feel it’s bad? Not whether it’s objectively bad or objectively good.
Out of that came Sigmund Freud. We all know Sigmund Freud was one of the founders of psychoanalysis. Sigmund Freud was an atheist Jew that hated Jesus Christ. Sigmund Freud wanted to destroy the Christian faith and was quite up front about it. He needed to destroy the faith and the way he as a psychiatrist decided he could do it was to destroy the idea of the soul. The human soul was something that existed into eternity. He cut it off!
He said, “The essence of us as human beings is our sexual orientation.”
He had to find some anchor to explain what’s going on. It was Sigmund Freud that chose sexual orientation.
What Dr. Butterfield says is it has taken 100 years for an idea to percolate out. Remember what we’ve said over and over again. Ideas have consequences. And it’s taken this long for this idea to percolate. But it’s all Freudian.
So next time some exalted academic talks down to you, just look at him or her and say, “You know I don’t believe in Freud. I believe in Jesus Christ.”
They’ve probably never heard of their connection with Freud; but here’s a brilliant woman in her book. Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ is the title if you ever want to get it, by Rosario Butterfield.
Marriage is built on Divine Institution#1. Obviously going into marriage, man and woman were both individually responsible before God for our thoughts and for our behavior. So, the second Divine Institution, marriage, is rooted in the first Divine Institution.
Now we come to the third one. The third Divine Institution is family. The family is a basic social instrument for society. Again, like the cartoonist gave in this new series that we are going to have came up with this.
Here are the Divine Institutions structured on top of each other. The family depends upon marriage working out. Marriage working out depends on individuals exercising their responsibility—it’s quite clear. So, if we believe in Divine Institution #1 and Divine Institution #2, what’s the purpose of marriage and the family? Well, the Bible tells us that. In fact, the origin of the law codes of the West goes back to the Ten Commandments.
I’ve asked this question time and time again before Christian groups and the only people that raise their hands and say yes are people that have been to a Christian school. But my question is this—can you remember in your lifetime growing up between the time you were in kindergarten till the time you were in the 12th grade (K to 12), can any of you remember one time where any teacher either in the classroom or outside the classroom ever mentioned the giving of the Ten Commandments as a real act in history? By real act I mean if you had a tape recorder, you could have taped God speaking in Hebrew.
Yet what is the foundation of Western law? The Ten Commandments. Now isn’t this ironic! Here we have the foundation of law; and it’s never discussed in the school system apart from Christian teachers that bring it up. So that shows you a little bit. Here’s why. The Ten Commandments have a structure to them. There are five traditionally the five toward God and five toward man. But I am looking at something else here.
This is called a chiasm. In the ancient world they didn’t have font sizes like we have in word processors. So, the only way they could emphasize a subject, instead of increasing the font or putting it in bold, is they used a chiasm. Let me show you the chiasm here.
In Deuteronomy God alone is worthy of worship and service. That’s where you have “You shall put no other gods before Me. You won’t make any counterfeit idols to impugn My character.” Think of the tenth commandment. What’s the tenth commandment? “Thou shalt not covet.” Self is not worthy of worship and service. What is coveting? Worshipping ourselves.
So, you see the first and second commandments are directed toward God as a proper source of and service. The tenth commandment looks the other direction and says, “Thou shalt not covet.” I look to something else other than God to supply my need. So, there’s a parallel between the first and second commandment and the tenth commandment.
Then God says, “You will not take My name in vain.” So, accuracy in language—God wants us to be accurate in language; and what does the ninth commandment say? “Thou shall not commit perjury. Thou shall not lie.” So, the third commandment deals with our language about God and the ninth commandment deals with our language about each other and so on.
Then we come down further. “We shall work six days and rest the seventh.”
One of my boys I used to kid that he would rest six days and work one day. The point is that there is a rest that is there. Do you know what that rest was for? It was for your health. But it was also to be able to trust the Lord to provide for your needs. So, there was this break. You couldn’t do any work on that 7th day. It was just a time of resting, trusting the Lord to provide.
Then we have property. “Thou shalt not steal.” What does labor generate that no government can, by the way? Wealth. Wealth comes from only one source—it’s called work. Work and labor create value and wealth. The 8th commandment is “thou shalt not steal” because that’s taking someone else’s work away from them. You’re stealing from their life. So, there is the protection.
Now look what happens. We come down to the next one and it talks about “Thou shall honor thy father and thy mother.” It talks about you shall honor your parents. That’s the family. Here we have marriage. “Thou shall not commit adultery.”
Then in the middle there’s no parallel. It disappears. “Thou shall not kill.” That’s how the ancients would construct a text; and they all point to that commandment. Life is valuable. “You shall not kill.” But in order to protect life, what is needed to protect life? You need honesty before God as the Creator. You need integrity of language or you can’t have a business. Can anybody run a business with a contract violations, with dishonest words? It destroys any business. What do you need then before you can run a business? Integrity of language. You can’t have accounting cook the books. There has to be integrity of language. Then we have labor and we have business.
What is labor and business? It creates the economic base.
What the next thing up? Divine Institution #3, family. Every family is a small business. You need some source of economic resources to have a family. And then finally the family produces a child.
So again, we want to think about what the Bible tells us the parent’s function is. Here’s one. Again we’re fighting society. We’re fighting government policy. Every single time we turn around, because watch this text. Here are Moses’ instructions.
He says, “These words I command you today shall be in your heart.”
I hear you. “It shall be in your heart.” Question: how did the Word get in my heart? That’s the next clause.
He will address the parents. “You will teach them diligently to your children.”
How do I teach them to my children?
“You will talk in terms to them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, we you lie down and when you rise up.”
That’s just not talking about Bible study 24/7. What he’s talking about is as you encounter this in life, you’ll encounter something else in life, you frame it in light of scriptural truth. That’s what he’s talking about, so it grows on the child.
Here’s the instruction. Now notice the instruction is given to whom? The government? Or, the parents?
Last week our President, I think, made an executive order expanding charter schools and he had to fight nail and tooth to that. Why? Because if you want to control a nation all you have to do is control the education system.
The Soviet Communists knew that. The Chinese Communists know that. And every Marxist-inclined person knows that. You’ve got to control society; and it’s got to be controlled by the curriculum taught to the children.
Therefore, it’s up to parents to choose. Parents need the freedom to determine where their kid gets educated. Parents can’t do all the educating. They are too busy trying to run a marriage and a family. But at least you should have the freedom to decide. It’s your children. The state didn’t create kids. You created the kids. You have the right to determine the kind of education they are going to have. Now, of course, you are at odds with the state again. He goes into this.
I want to make one comment about what I call second-order parenting. There are couples, who for one reason or another, can’t have children. Fine. And there are grandparents that their children’s children are around. What I call second -order parenting is people who work, they can be grandparents helping out—the people who help at Awana. When you’re working in Awana with all those young people you are being in one sense a parent. You’re not taking over the parents’ function but on the one hand you are helping and you’re being a second-order parent. So, it doesn’t mean necessarily you have your own children. But, you have a ministry to children. This is the idea that Divine Institution #3 is very important.
Here’s another verse. This is a catastrophe that happened in Joel’s day. Locusts came in. It was a divine judgment. It was an absolute disaster. It was far worse that our pandemic here with COVID-19. Notice what he says, and I mention this because of all this taking down statutes and so forth that’s going on today. I want you to think about this. Here’s a prophet; and he’s telling the parents something about a disaster. It could be a bad thing in the country and so on. This is a natural disaster.
He says, “Has anything happened in your days?”
Why did he ask that question? Because it’s so bad. He’s never seen anything like this. This is a unique thing. And kids, it’s an attack on their whole security. This is something that’s unprecedented and they need somebody to come alongside them and tell them this is a significant event.
I told one of my granddaughters when fussing about not going to school and this and that and the other thing, “You know what you ought to do? You ought to make a journal because someday you’re going to be a mother and you’re going to have daughters—you’re going to have little boys and girls—you want to sit down with them when you hear them fussing about something and say, ‘Hey, here’s what is was like when I was your age’ ”—boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.
Some of us who are of age know and have heard stories of parents during the depression. They talk about money shortness and so on and if you talk to somebody that’s lived through the depression, they’ll tell you—you don’t know what it’s like. You don’t know what it’s like to have food lines blocks long because no one had jobs. Bank accounts were destroyed. So, it’s a way of putting an overpowering event into perspective.
Here’s what Joel says. “Has anything like this happened in your day or in the days of your fathers? Tell your children about it. Let your children tell their children and their children tell another generation. You teach them history and the reason you teach them history is so they have wisdom.” This idea, and it shows you the total lack of history, where they’re tearing down the monuments of abolitionists because they are so stupid they don’t know one from the other.
“Christopher Columbus was bad.” Yeah, he had problems. But you know what he did? He opened up the western hemisphere. And so every one of these guys had an issue. But “they” also have an issue. It’s called a sin nature. So, don’t get high and mighty and think you are so good that you can turn around and dictate to these people.
There’s a video on the web that at last tells the story of what happened at Fort McHenry and why Francis Scott Key wrote The Star Spangled Banner. When you go there there’s a historian telling this same story. Do you know why? It wasn’t worship of the flag. It was a recognition of who was holding that flag up and why. Because the British admiral who brought the power of the British navy into Baltimore Harbor decided that in 1812 he would crush the colonies and he made an issue of Fort McHenry.
He said “The issue is I will destroy that. I will remove Fort McHenry from the face of the earth.”
Francis Scott Key said, “You can’t do that. There are women and children in that fort. That’s not a real military fort.”
He says, “That’s all right. I’m giving them an out. All they have to do to stop my destruction of their fort is to take that flag down that you guys so passionately look at.”
They didn’t want to do that. They kept that flag up. But in the morning when Patrick Henry looked out at the boat, the flagpole was at about a 45-degree angle.
And he says, “You know who held that flag up? The bodies of men all-night who would go to that flagpole and hold it up. The incoming was hitting the flag.
The British fleet focused on that flag. These guys would die one after the other, one after another saying, “I don’t care how many people die, I’m going to hold that flag up,” and they did. When Francis Scott Key came back to Fort McHenry, he saw the dead bodies. Their wives and kids saw their dads die.
So, next time you see somebody getting on their knee as The Star Spangled Banner is being played, just remember they had a lot more courage as men who held up an ideal than these clowns. So much for Divine Institution #3.
In conclusion today I want to honor—God tells us to honor our parents. But there’s a bigger thing I said about the Fort McHenry thing.
It’s honoring fathers who have gone before us—and their moms, too. It was the women who sewed that big flag up so they had it in the morning. Enormous flag. So, the idea here is in our history what Joel is getting at—in our history we have to honor those who have made possible the blessings that we have. We owe it to honor the fathers of the past and where we have people originating our country and helped bring it together. They had their faults. We’re not sugar coating the fact that many of them were involved in the slave trade—not the trade so much but they had slaves.
But so did the rest of the world. It was something in the culture. Just like 100 years from now, our kids will look back on us (if the Lord doesn’t come) and say, “Well why didn’t you see this? Why didn’t you see that? We’re going to take your memory away. And we’re going to take your pictures away.” It’s the same self-righteousness. Every generation has a sin nature. Every generation has its faults.
I selected for our closing a hymn one that’s in the hymnbook, #573. We can’t sing it [due to COVID restrictions]; but we have something from YouTube to follow along. I want to give you a little background.
It’s called God of Our Fathers. It was composed in 1876 on the 100th anniversary of the Constitution. It’s a hymn that was built on good theology commemorating the issues that led to the founding of this country. As you listen to this and watch the lyrics, I tried to get something where you could see the lyrics come down. Here’s the way to think about this, because some hymns are repetitive. This one isn’t that way; and it progresses theologically.
God of Our Fathers
It starts out. Notice it’s God of our Fathers. It’s not directly honoring our fathers as us such, is it? It’s honoring the God who led the fathers. So, it’s theocentric. God is the standard, not what the fathers necessarily came up with. It’s “God of our fathers, Whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies …”
Think about what that is saying.
“God of our fathers, Whose almighty hand leads forth in beauty all the starry band.”
What is he talking about? The cosmos. See the heavy theology in there? This is the God of creation. He’s not saying it that way, but that’s the assertion.
“Whose almighty hand”—omniscient.
“Leads forth in beauty all the starry band”
It’s not just raw omnipotent power. It has a beauty to it. It has an effulgence to it. It says:
“Leads forth in beauty all the starry band. Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies.”
Then later there in that first stanza:
“Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.”
That’s the response of the fathers. They knew the God of omniscience. They knew the God of history. When you know that, your grateful songs come almost spontaneously in response.
Something else to notice is this hymn. Notice the role of men and women in singing. This is sung antiphonally—by the way, like Exodus 15 where they have the men sing and then the women sing and then the men sing and so on. The first stanza is talking about God as the power. God is, of course, the Creator of the cosmos. This is a full choir.
Then when it starts talking about God’s love divine—“He’s my guardian …. Thy Word is our law.” It’s role playing. It’s the women singing the second stanza because they’re the ones who teach. “Thy Word is our Law.” They’re the one who want protection. They’re the ones that want a guardian.
Then in the third stanza the men come back. Now it’s not the women singing; it’s the men singing. That’s where you talk about alarms and pestilence. It’s true religion. Both men and women finally in the 4th stanza you have “toilsome way … from night to day,” which is giving of hope that history starts out in darkness and winds up in light.
The Jewish day, by the way, doesn’t start at midnight. The Jewish day starts at sundown. It starts in darkness and becomes light. That’s because God wants us to think that way—from darkness to light.”