"I love you, so go to hell!"
Thursday, February 23, 2006
How can a loving God send a good, decent person to hell?

This question is based on a premise that must be addressed before it can be answered:
  • In order for a person to be called good, there must be a moral law by which good and evil are measured.
But you can't stop there:
  • If there is a moral law, there must be a moral lawgiver
  • If there is a moral lawgiver, then that lawgiver gets to define the rules for morality.
Our ability to assess our own or another's morality is perverted, for our hearts are deceitfully wicked [Jer 17:9, Ezekiel 33:13, Isaiah 64:6]. We have to defer to the lawgiver. If God is the lawgiver, then what are the rules He established for defining who is good and who is evil? In Matthew 7:22-24, Jesus explains that a relationship with God is necessary to be called good: "And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." The rules for a relationship with God are simple:

1. Admit that you are guilty of sin and deserve to die [John 3:16]
2. Accept that Jesus paid your sin debt by dying in your place[Hebrews 2:9]
3. Abandon your old, sinful life. [ 2 Timothy 2:19]
4. Allow His Word to guide your new life [Romans 8:1]

How can a loving God send anyone to hell? You can look at it this way: If you do not want a relationship with God while you are on earth, it would be cruel and unloving for God to insist you spend eternity in His presence. But in deference to your will and honoring your wishes, He gives you what you desire: eternal separation from Him--in hell [2 Peter 3:9, Matt 25:41].

Now that's an act of love!

posted by K. Geffert | 6:11 PM | 40 comments links to this post
The Peacemaker and The Warmonger
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
The myth of peace on Earth

The President has been derided for being both too religious and not religious enough, even, unbelievably, when it comes to the conflict in Iraq. War is an action of government, not of private citizens. And as head of state, the President has the right to declare war (with the approval of Congress) without regard to his personal belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ. I find it ironic that those who insist there must be a separation of church and state, also find it convenient to accuse the President of not exercising his personal Christian beliefs in the conduct of government!

But suppose it was granted by all that the President's actions were inseparable from his faith. Would he be violating the principles of Jesus' teachings if he was not a "peacemaker," but declared war on another nation? No, and the premise that Jesus was a pacifist, against all conflict, is in error.

  • Jesus never, ever, taught "peace on earth" apart from His Kingdom.
  • Jesus said that His peace is not the peace of the world [John 14:27]. It is peace between God and man [Romans 5:1].
  • Jesus said His message would be divisive--even inciting violence, but not unifying and peaceful [Matthew 10:33-35].
  • Jesus used illustrations of war when He taught His followers [Luke 14:31]
  • Jesus said there would be many more wars to come [Matthew 24 and others]
Finally, consider this: Jesus said there would be no real peace on earth until He returns to establish His kingdom and reign with His saints. Jesus is the ultimate peacemaker. But before He reigns, He will be a militarist king, leading the mightiest army ever, into a battle so devastating, that blood will flow like rivers and the earth as we know it will be destroyed [Revelation 19].

Jesus is the ultimate warmonger!

posted by K. Geffert | 7:51 PM | 16 comments links to this post
Christians and the Death Penalty: Are We Hypocrites?
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Lynn Holt, the senior partner in CBS' Monday night drama, Family Law, has been asked to fight for clemency on behalf of a young man who's been sentenced to death for killing high school students in a shooting rampage. The convicted murderer shows no remorse and relishes discussing the last desperate moments of his victims' short lives. Lynn believes his crimes are unforgivable but she doesn't believe he should be executed. She meets with her partners to announce the firm will take the case. They ask why. She responds:
"I was raised a Christian. I remember Jesus talking about forgiving your enemies and not judging others. I don't recall the part where he said we should gas people and inject them with poison. I could have just skimmed, but somehow I thought we were supposed to leave retribution to His Dad. So I get a little peeved when all the good Christians get together with the so-called liberal politicians I helped elect and suggest that we should butcher people. It makes me feel like one of us is a hypocrite."1

Her dialogue is met with guilty silence. Her partners, some of them self-described Christians, do not refute the implication that a Christian who believes in God's love for the unlovable while condoning the God-given right for a civil government to execute a guilty criminal, is a pious fraud.

I strongly disagree with Lynn's (mis)understanding of the scriptures. She probably did "just skim," for she has missed the whole point. While Jesus addressed the individual's attitude towards others, He never condemned capital punishment for the guilty--and He had ample opportunity. In fact, He willingly submitted to his own unjust execution. Later, the apostle Paul would say, "if I have committed a crime deserving of the death penalty then I will not fight it. But I have not and so I appeal to Caesar. (Acts 25: 11)" In Romans 13: 1-5, Paul states that government officials are ordained of God and empowered to execute the guilty: "For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. (Romans 13:4)"

The prerogative of capital punishment was established in Genesis 9:6, developed in the Mosaic law and reaffirmed in the New Testament. God is a perfectly holy God who demands perfect justice. Every human being--past, present, and future--has been sentenced to eternal death. There is no clemency; the sentence must be served. For the believing Christian, the penalty has already been paid in full and we are free because of God's grace and sacrificial love.

Officially, the Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (see refernces below) as well as other major denominations, affirm that Christ did not abolish the death sentence. Capital punishment is an act carried out by civil government, not by private citizens. It is motivated not by malice or hatred, but by justice. Church members are not obligated to support capital punishment, but those who do are not in violation of the spirit of Christ's teachings.

Lynn, like so many believers and nonbelievers alike, is confused about Jesus' command to "Judge not lest ye be judged." The world appeals to that statement by saying that nobody ever has the right to say that anything they do is wrong. For a judge in a courtroom to declare an accused person guilty of a crime is not judgmental. For a Christian to recognize sinful behavior in another Christian or non-Christian as sinful is not judgmental. When Jesus was confronted with the adulterous woman, He didn't say she wasn't guilty. He did not endorse or encourage Her sin, but gently corrected her and told her to sin no more.

As for Lynn's statement that Jesus said we are to forgive our enemies, we must remember that forgiveness is always conditioned upon repentance. Judges do not grant clemancy to the guilty, but may show mercy to the truly repentant. God is not obligated to forgive the unrepentant sinner. What Jesus said was that we are required to love (which, by the way is an action, not a feeling) our enemies, as God has love us. Once an enemy seeks forgiveness, they are not longer our enemy.

A final note: the dialogue in the February 19, 2001 episode of Family Law is pure fiction. The character and storyline were created by Hollywood script writers for our entertainment. But that script reflects a grievous misrepresentation of the teachings of Christ. Although I agree with the state's right to implement capital punishment, my point is to defend the integrity of scripture. The Bible exhorts us to be mature in our understanding and if Christians are going to make an impact in our culture, we have to come to the depth of understanding that provides maturity for leadership.

1. Episode 46. Clemency.

2. Catholic Encyclopedia: Capital Punishment.

3. LCMS FAQ-Death Penalty.

posted by K. Geffert | 10:07 AM | 26 comments links to this post
Jesus and politics: Which party?
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Should political platforms matter to Christians?

During a recent Sunday's after-service coffee hour, a friend said to me,
"You know, Jesus would be a Democrat."

My friend, not a Republican, knows I am a Republican, so it was obvious he was itchin' for a fight. "Not when abortion is on the platform," I replied. When that didn't seem to phase him, I took the bait: "Why do you think Jesus would be a Democrat?" His answer:
"He'd be against Big Business."

I admit, I didn't see that one coming. Usually, the rationale is the Democratic party's allegedly superior social values and compassion for the less fortunate. Would Jesus really consider the offense of Big Business to be worse than the promotion of mothers killing their unborn children for the sake of convenience? Just to make sure I wasn't missing something, I checked the scriptures to see if there were clues as to where Jesus would stand on these issues. It's a no-brainer when it comes to murder/abortion, but I had to dig pretty deep for examples of His opinion of the evils of Big Business. I found two possible examples, but even these are questionable.

1. The local bankers lost revenue when Jesus expelled them from the Temple during Passover--high season for currency-exchange. There was a real need for exchanging foreign coins engraved with idols, and for travelers to conveniently purchase their sacrifical animals on-site. However, since He called them robbers and thieves, there must have been a pervasive climate of extortion and fraud within God's holy Temple.

2. The local pork industry hit bottom, so to speak, when Jesus expelled demons from two men and allowed the demons to possess a nearby herd of swine, causing the pigs to fling themselves over a cliff and into the sea. Interestingly, the whole town expelled Jesus for ruining their hog business, an enterprise which happened to be forbidden under Judaic law.

Yes, the bad apples of Big Business and the above examples have law-breaking and corruption in common. But Jesus didn't make a distinction between incorporated sin and individual sin. He condemned all sin, whereever it is found.

No one knows to what extent a contemporary, U.S.-born Jesus would be involved in the political process. He certainly supports government, for not only did He and His followers pay taxes, but He, as God, established government. If one really wants to put Jesus in a political category, I would press for Social Conservative, as defined by The Center for Media and Democracy's SourceWatch: "One who favors social policies based on a particular reading of Judeo-Christian values, generally in favor of public prayer and the right to own guns [Ed. note: Jesus' disciples owned swords], and opposed to abortion rights, same-sex marriage and the teaching of evolution in public schools." But a Democrat? James Gannon, retired journalist and ex-Democrat, puts it this way:
"I began voting for Republican presidential candidates, and thinking of myself as Republican, only after it became abundantly clear that people with my views on abortion, prayer in school and other moral issues were no longer considered welcome in the Democratic Party... We didn't feel so much that we had abandoned the Democratic Party as it had abandoned us. "
-quote from USA Today "Confessions of a White Christian Republican"

The moral issues this ex-Deomocrat says are not welcome in the Democratic party are the very values Jesus espoused. I don't think I need to say anything more.

posted by K. Geffert | 8:12 PM | 15 comments links to this post
God and Religion: Wrong on the fundamentals
Does it matter what you believe?

At dinner with friends not long ago, I overheard one say to another,
"I believe God created different religions, like Islam and Buddhism, so that people from different cultures could know God from their unique viewpoint."

The other friend nodded in agreement, as if the opinion made sense. I was too stunned to challenge that incredible statement. These friends were fellow Christians. How could they be so wrong on the fundamentals? Before I could decide how to respond, the subject changed and the opportunity was lost.

On the surface, perhaps missing the chance to respond was a good thing. The viewpoint that all religions/roads point to God is so seriously rooted in error, my challenge would not have been dispatched with gentleness.

To wit: By making/agreeing with that statement,

1. My friends call Jesus a liar. Jesus stated emphatically [John 14:6]that He was the only way to God, that no person can get to God unless he or she follows Jesus. Men and women who follow Jesus Christ are called "Christians"--not Muslims, not Buddhists.

2. My friends make a mockery of Jesus' sacrificial death. If there were other ways to become acceptable to God (Koran: Make war on the infidels, Buddha: find your karma) Christ's death and resurrection served no reasonable purpose.[Hebrews 9:22, Romans 5:8-9]

3. My friends must now address the different religions' inherent problems of exclusion and contradiction. For example, Buddhists deny there is a God. So why would God establish a religion that denies His own existence?

4. My friends misstate God's reason for creating man. God wants relationship, not religion. Religion is man's effort to fill the void created when man rejected a relationship with God.

Any response grounded in scripture would most certainly be considered harsh and intolerant. Definitely not politically correct. The world's point of view--that it matters not what you believe, only that you are sincere in your beliefs--is warm and fuzzy and politically correct. Nevertheless, as Christians we are commanded to reconcile our beliefs to God's point of view, not the world's.

posted by K. Geffert | 8:05 PM | 19 comments links to this post
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