Pastor's Blog

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Day, which seems to have become a day for people to bemoan the fact that we have so far to go in the battle against racism. I cannot participate in that sort of nonsense because I don’t believe that Dr. King’s dream is slipping away. If anything, his dream has, in large part, come to pass.

 

As a society, we don’t embrace or defend racism. We abhor it. Racism is about race – about hating people or thinking they are inferior just because of their skin color, believing that their skin color indicates some sort of biological inferiority that they will simply never get beyond because the inferiority is part of their biological makeup. How many people in our society believe that? It used to be a common assumption, especially in the southern states. There used to be laws supporting it and enforcing it. Are they still on the books – or have they been eradicated?

 

How many people are still publicly saying things like "People with black skin are inferior"? People used to say it – used to be PROUD to say it. Entire sections of the country used to believe it! Try saying it in the public square now. You’ll be shamed and dressed down – even by white people. Our society doesn’t stand for racism. Racist statements raise the public ire.

 

Dr. King talked about being denied housing or hotel rooms because of skin color. We’re not talking about being denied because of poverty or inability to pay a mortgage. We’re talking about someone saying: “That guy is black. I’m not renting him a room.” Our society used to do this all the time; we don’t stand for it any longer.

 

There are no longer rest rooms or water fountains with signs that say “Whites Only” any more. There are no restaurants where blacks are forced to enter at the back door and eat in the kitchen rather than the dining room. All of these practices used to be commonplace.

 

There are no longer lynchings where a group of whites looks for a random black to torture and kill – just because he’s black.

 

There is no one seriously arguing that blacks shouldn’t have the right to vote, and there are not white officers of the law standing around preventing blacks from voting. That used to happen often. If it happened today, it would be front page news and those officers would be hauled in front of a judge and would probably be dismissed from their jobs.

 

Segregation, which Dr. King railed against, has been overcome. The races work together, go to school together, eat together, play together, and marry and have children together.

Black culture has powerfully influenced American fashion, music, films, fashion, sports, and even our everyday language, fo shizzle. I’m down with most of that, yo. Young kids look up to black athletes, black musicians, and other black celebrities. We don’t bar blacks from achievement. There are prominent black lawyers, doctors, professors, judges, Senators, congressman.

 

We have a black President.

 

The majority of Americans hold to and live by Dr. King's perspective and morals proposed in his great “I Have a Dream Speech”.

 

We are not perfect – and no society ever will be. If we compare our society to some unattainably perfect ideal that NO ONE will ever achieve, we have no choice but to bemoan our failure. But compare us to what has actually existed in the real world, what other societies have achieved throughout history, and it’s pretty clear that we have achieved something that very few societies are able to do when it comes to racial divides. Racist philosophy is unwelcome in the United States of America and we’ve all but wiped out all of the major racist practices that used to dominate large blocks of the American population.

 

You know what’s really amazing to me? The laundry list of praises above is now considered evidence that I am a narrow-minded racist, blind to social injustice.


Complain about America if that makes you feel better.

 

I’m celebrating a dream that has, in large part, come to pass!

People often say “I like your preaching, even if I don’t agree with you all of the time.” Typically I respond, “So where don’t you agree with me?” Quite often the answer is “Your view of the end times”.

 

My perspective on the end times is pretty simple. Christ said that when the law was fulfilled it would pass away (Matthew 5.18) and He also said that He had come to fulfill the law (Matthew 5.17). It seems abundantly clear that the whole message of the New Testament is that Christ successfully fulfilled the Law. The Law with its temple rituals, Levitical priesthood, Sabbath observance, and kosher law requirements was the “old” testament (or covenant). Christ fulfilled it and instituted a “new” testament (or covenant) that doesn’t involve following the Mosaic regulations, which were temporary and served the purpose of pointing forward to the Christ who was coming but Who has come. Now that Christ has arrived there is no need for the Mosaic regulations (Colossians 2.16-17). The old distinction between Jew and Gentile is done away – not as a temporary measure but as the way things should be. The law that distinguished the Jews has been abolished because it has been fulfilled (Ephesians 2.11-18).

 

This is the argument of the book of Hebrews – that Christ has replaced Moses (Hebrews 3.1-6) and the old order of things found in the Mosaic law – the temple, the Levitical priesthood, the animal sacrifices (Hebrews 6-10). The ritual practices of Leviticus are done away for good. Christ has come with the “new covenant” so there is no longer need for the old. Animal sacrifices were pictures that pointed forward to the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus offered Himself once for all a single sacrifice for sins, forever doing away of the need for animal sacrifices – or Levitical priests or an altar or a temple – ever again. There is no need and no reason to ever go back to these Jewish things; Christ is all we need. Any system of thought regarding the end times that says Christ must be replaced by these things or must be added to these things goes against the clear teaching of the New Testament.

 

That is the basis of my entire perspective on the end times and that is why I long ago abandoned the system of thought taught in many conservative churches called “dispensationalism”, recently popularized in the “Left Behind” books and movies. This theological system claims that God has two programs and two peoples – Israel and the church. When Israel rejected Jesus as the Messiah, God put the “Israel program” on hold and instituted a second “program” (“the Church”). When the “Church program” is completed, all of the Christians will be “raptured” (removed) and God will go back to the old covenant and the Mosaic law. The temple will be rebuilt and the Levitical priesthood restored. The true faith will once again involve circumcision, Sabbath observance, kosher laws, and animal sacrifices. Gentiles who want to follow God will have to become Jews, observe Leviticus, and offer animal sacrifices in the temple at Jerusalem. You will need Christ AND Moses to be a faithful follower of the Lord.


I do not see how any Christian could affirm that God’s plan for the future involves replacing the blood of Christ with the blood of bulls and goats! Any system that teaches the restoration of the Old Covenant opposes the teaching of the New Testament and is out of bounds and off the mark as far as I am concerned.

And that’s my perspective on the end times.

 

Do you still disagree with me?

 

[We did not publish the audio of the sermon from August 24, 2014.  This is the second of two articles reproducing the essence of the sermon.]

 

In the previous article (“Do Christians Follow Moses?”) I demonstrated that God often seems more interested in curbing evil and its effects than He does in eliminating it altogether.  God’s laws very often legislate for incremental improvements – moving from greater evils to lesser ones.  Rather than absolutely prohibiting divorce, Deuteronomy 24 permits it and regulates it to protect vulnerable women.  The approach might not be perfect, but it is still “good” (Romans 7.12). 


Many people are unable to accept the idea that tolerance for a certain level of wrongdoing is a “good”.  The popular notion seems to be that things are not “good” unless they are “perfect”.  So we launch crusades to eradicate injustices, insisting that we won’t rest until there is no more hate, no more bullying, no more racism, and no more inequality.  This sounds very noble, but doesn’t always lead to good ends.  Sometimes it can lead to tyrannical oppressions of liberty.  We’ve seen it happen repeatedly in our society. 

 

We want to eradicate violence in our schools so we have zero tolerance policies for guns and weapons – and authorities pounce on children who have squirt guns or who pretend that a stick is a rifle or their finger is a pistol.  These little criminals get carted off to the principal’s office for an intervention.  Parents are called, the police may be contacted, and some sort of counseling or sensitivity training is suggested or required. 

 

Likewise, we have seen cases of zero tolerance for sexual harassment in which a little six year old boy who innocently kisses a female classmate is pounced upon by the authorities for his “harassment”.  The child doesn’t even know what sex is yet!  But people wring their hands and ask:  “What would drive a little boy to do such a horrid thing as kiss a girl without her consent???  What is going on in that home that would make him even think of kissing a little girl???  What else would inflame him like this at the age of six???”

 

These are just a few examples.  It is no longer enough to deal with destructive evil.  We now have to attack potential evil or even perceived evil – no matter how innocent the behavior or the perpetrator of the behavior – because that demonstrates how serious we are about getting rid of injustice.  Curbing it is not enough.  We must crusade for its eradication – every last vestige of it.  If we allow evil it to remain life cannot be good.    And if that means sending the police in and scaring (should I have written “scarring”?) a child for pretending his finger is a gun or for innocently kissing a classmate, then so be it.  Better safe than sorry.

For all of the complaints that we hear about Christian churches being pharisaical, this seems to me to be a legalism at LEAST on a par with (if not worse than) just about anything that fundamentalist churches have cooked up in the past century.

 

Yes – evil and injustice need to be dealt with and curbed.  This seems to be precisely the way God deals with the fallen world.  That’s about as much as you can do, and that’s about as good as it is going to get, at least on a societal level.  Not even God’s laws worked demanded the complete eradication of evil.  Eradication of evil requires someone given the power to eradicate it – and that much power in anyone’s hands is itself an evil injustice.  Utopian pipe dreams, when worked out in real life, become the most ugly and oppressive dystopias.  Haven’t we learned that from history yet?

 

“Better safe than sorry” may sound good, but like any proverb, it is applicable only in certain circumstances or to a certain extent.  If it’s your life’s motto, you are going to end up choking liberty and freedom because real liberty involves risks.  Some people are afraid of that and prefer a world that is made ever more secure by powers outside of themselves.  But a place in which there is excessive security and little liberty is called a “prison”.

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