Sin Is Not a Sitcom

Recently, Jesse Johnson and Stephen Altrogge have written about Decision 2012, and both of them have referenced Psalm 2:4, which says, “He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.” This verse speaks of God’s response to the kings of the earth and its rulers who unite to rebel against God’s authority. Both writers have specifically picked up on the term laugh. Johnson wrote, “The nations may rage and the people may plot an evil thing, but God still reigns. In fact, he must look with amusement at our attempts to overthrow his rule.” Altrogge entitled his article “God Is Laughing Especially Hard Today,” and concluded with this thought: “As the politicians plot and rage, God chuckles. They can’t stop God. They can’t stop his plan. Jesus has already been elected, and in the end, every knee will bow before him, regardless of political party. Today, vote, pray, then laugh along with God.” While I’m sure that I would have more in common than not with both Johnson and Altrogge, their articles are troubling because they seem to portray the rebellion of humanity against God as a laughing matter, something amusing, almost as if it were a sitcom. Was this the Psalmist’s intent? It seems unlikely. The problem with this idea of God “chuckling” and being amused is borne out in three ways.

First, Psalm 2:4 uses a common Hebrew poetic device called parallelism in which the second line interprets the first. In Psalm 2:4, the lines read:

He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.

The parallelism demonstrates two things. First, the one who sits in heaven is the true ruler of the earth since he is adonai, the Lord. Second, and more importantly for our purposes, the term ‘laughs’ is parallel to the term ‘scoffs’ and therefore has the same nuance. The term scoff basically means ‘to deride’ or ‘to show contempt toward.’ The parallelism thus indicates that God is not amused or chuckling at ungodly kings and rulers. Rather, He holds them in contempt. He finds them detestable. His laughter is not the laughter of amusement; it is the laughter of contempt. God is not chuckling; He is disdaining the wicked.

Second, the Hebrew concept of laughter, like our English concept, has more than one nuance. In Proverbs 31:25, Scripture says, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.” The word translated “smiles” is the same word translated “laughs” in Ps 2:4. The meaning in Prov 31:25 is that the godly woman is not worried about the future. She is not concerned about it because she has a plan for it and is prepared to execute that plan. She does not find the future funny. Rather, the contrast is with the person who is wringing her hands about the future because she has no plan for a crisis. This concept fits much better with Ps 2:4 than any indication of frivolity or joviality. The one who sits in heaven laughs at the rulers not because He finds them amusing, but because He is not concerned about their plans and their plots. The Lord has a plan, and He will execute it despite their attempts to thwart Him. The Psalmist thus conveys that when the rulers take their stand against God’s rule, God is not worried, stressed, or anxious. He can laugh in the face of apparent danger because it poses no threat to Him. He can deride and treat the rulers of the earth with contempt without fear of being defeated or mocked because His plans will prevail.

Finally, the context of the Psalm leaves no doubt about how God feels about evil. The very next verse does not speak to God’s amusement but to His wrath. “Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury.” Are we to make of this that God is bi-polar, one moment bent over laughing especially hard, and then the next moment flaring up in a fit of rage? May it never be! It is God’s wrath that permeates the first section of Psalm 2 as well as that which brings the Psalm to a close. God’s wrath through the mediation of the Son is close to being kindled (Ps 2:12). When the New Testament quotes this Psalm, it indicates it was fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Christ. The rulers of the earth took counsel to put to death God’s Messiah. Was God looking on in amusement as His beloved Son was being beaten beyond recognition and nailed to a cross? Was God laughing especially hard when He forsook His one and only Son as Jesus bore the sins of the world? It’s unthinkable! God was full of fury, as all of the miraculous signs surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion bear out (death, darkness, earthquake, splitting rocks, torn veil). The context of this Psalm will not allow us to find God chuckling or enjoying something amusing. Simply put, God neither chuckles at the sin of the wicked nor looks on in amusement at humanity’s rebellion. He is full of wrath toward it and pours out His judgment on it.

While I appreciate my brothers in Christ reminding us that elections are not a cause for us to sink into unmitigated worry or have anxiety attacks, it is equally important that we understand God is not amused by America’s rebellion. Sin is not a sitcom.

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Decision 2012: Handling the Emotional Fallout

If, like me, you’re a follower of Jesus, chances are good you’ve spent most of today experiencing a wide gamut of emotions, most of them complex and at times contradictory. As I’ve read through my wife’s Facebook news feed and my Twitter timeline, I’ve seen Christians express their emotions in a wide variety of ways, all of which I think I’ve experienced. But I’ve also seen a disturbing trend amongst these various responses: oversimplification. The oversimplification usually looks one of two ways. Either it boils down to, “Jesus is still the King, so everything will be all right,” or, “Barack Obama is still the president, so we have to honor him because of his office and teach our children to honor those in authority.” I don’t take issue with either of those statements. I agree with them, actually. But what troubles me is how passive they are in light of the complexity of emotions we should be feeling. If we look at what Scripture says, today we should feel multiple emotions. Here are a few examples:

Deep sorrow. In Psalm 119:136, the Psalmist lamented, “My eyes shed streams of water, because they do not keep Your law.” The fact that our country voted for a man who favors murdering babies on demand, suppresses religious freedom, and supports homosexuality should move us to deep sorrow. That sorrow should be deepened by the passing of gay “marriage” laws in four states and legalized drug abuse in two others. To overcome this sorrow with a cliche is not spiritual; it’s shallow and self-centered. It’s akin to Hezekiah taking comfort that life would be fine for him even though God’s horrible judgment would come on his children. Don’t numb yourself to the wickedness we witnessed our nation choose yesterday. God isn’t numb to it, and you shouldn’t be either.

Torment. In 2 Peter 2:8, Peter tells his readers that Lot was tormented day after day by the lawless deeds of the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah. Note that: day after day. The idea of “torment” in this verse is being in severe distress or harassed. In legal parlance, the word indicated torture. Lot felt horrified and oppressed by the unrighteousness of his neighbors on a daily basis. Lot obviously knew God was king and ultimately would overrule men’s wickedness, but that knowledge did not lessen the distress he felt every single day because of the sin he saw all around him. As Christians, if we are not distressed every day by the evils around us, we need to start paying attention. If we dismiss these lawless deeds as what need not trouble us, we might examine ourselves to see if we really love the law of God in our own hearts.

Determination. Greco-Roman culture was no better than ours, and in many cases was worse, but Paul did not allow that to discourage him or to allow his readers to feel resigned. He told the Philippians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling to show themselves to be lights in the midst of a perverted world (Phil 2:12-16). Far from being discouraged, the Philippians were to use the wickedness around them as motivation to hold fast to God’s Word and never give up. If you feel resigned that this is the new normal, and America (and the world) is too far gone, you need to renew your determination to be a light in a dark world, knowing that God is still at work.

Submission. Yes, Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-15 mean that we submit to governing authorities inasmuch as their laws do not violate God’s Law. Even when our rulers are wicked men and women, we are still called to submit. Even when their lawless deeds torment us, we still must submit within the bounds of God’s Law.

Self-Control. God laid down this principle in Exodus 22:28: “You shall not curse God, nor curse a ruler of your people.” Paul shows the abiding nature of this command in Acts 23:5 when he is being tried by a self-righteous, hypocritical high priest. No matter how evil the governing authorities are, we must not curse them. They will give an account to God for their deeds, including how they govern and rule those under their authority. As a caveat, this also does not mean we ignore their wickedness or pretend they are honorable and upright. John the Baptist was not timid when he confronted Herod’s sin. Calling sin what it is must not be confused with cursing a governing authority. Our speech must be under the control of the Spirit, who leads us always to speak the truth in love.

Prayerfulness. The Apostle Paul commanded believers to pray for their rulers (1 Tim 2:2) so that Christians may live dignified, peaceful lives that model godliness to a watching world. Such conditions evidently conform to God’s desire to save sinners. We are to pray for our enemies, even for those who torment us with their wickedness, especially when they are in positions of political power.

Hope. Romans 8:18-25 reminds us that the creation is subjected to futility in this present age, but that it won’t always be this way. In the midst of any sufferings in this life, we should be hopeful because Jesus has been raised from the dead and someday will raise us up to His glorious, immortal life. Even creation itself will be set free from its futility and be made new. We have a glorious hope that transcends politics, elections, and every earthly institution. We need to wait eagerly for it with perseverance.

As Christians, it is right for us to feel all of these emotions at the same time. The Christian life is not meant to be a simple, one-dimensional, happy-clappy experience. God uses all of these feelings to refine us into the image of Christ for His glory and our good. When we jettison one or more of these feelings because they are uncomfortable or, perhaps, because they seem unspiritual because of poor understanding of Scripture, we short-circuit our own sanctification. God wants us to hate sin and persevere in hope. God wants us to weep over lawlessness and keep our speech about evil rulers in check. God wants us to grieve over sin and pray for sinners.

The Christian life is complex and profound; when we simplify away the complexity, we become shallow and defined by cliches that never really satisfy our deepest longings for Christ. But when we let the tension within us remain, it drives us to Christ. In His presence we find a peace that surpasses any cliche and, indeed, all human comprehension.

How to Respond to “Pro-Choice” Arguments

In a helpful blog article today, Scott Klusendorf discusses how pro-choice advocates try to win the abortion argument by changing the fundamental question from an issue of morality to an issue of personal preference. He also gives some helpful tactics for getting the argument back on track. Klusendorf mentions Greg Koukl in his article. Koukl has written a powerful book on apologetics that every Christian needs to read. Check out Klusendorf’s article, and then get Koukl’s book. Arm yourself to defend the truth in a culture whose foundations are built on the shifting sands of personal preferences.

Why I Voted for Mitt Romney: Judicial Appointments

In his book Politics according to the Bible (just $4.99 on Kindle and highly recommended), Wayne Grudem argues that the most important issue facing the United States today is the appointment of judges, especially judges to the Supreme Court of the United States. While I said in a previous post that abortion is the most important issue facing our nation today, I also agree with Grudem because the only way abortion will become illegal in the United States is if justices are appointed to the Supreme Court who will overturn Roe v. Wade and send the question of abortion back to the states and elected representatives.

When considering the appointment of justices, President Obama’s record is clear. He has appointed two SCOTUS justices during his first term in office: Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Fortunately, these two appointees replaced justices with a liberal view of judicial activism, so nothing was gained by way of continuing the undermining of our democracy through activist judges. With the likelihood of one or more SCOTUS justices retiring over the next four years, the stakes are high in this election. The United States simply cannot withstand any more Obama appointees if it is to be recognizable as the historic democracy founded on the original Constitution.

Gov. Mitt Romney takes a more conservative approach and would appoint justices that would favor an originalist approach to the Constitution. The positions of Obama and Romney have been contrasted by Bill Mears. Mr. Mears also reminds Americans of the stakes in this presidential election, noting that it is possible that the next president would appoint three SCOTUS justices. He wisely points out that we will remember the justices long after we have forgotten the president who appointed them. While SCOTUS appointments might not be high on everyone’s list of election priorities, they should be. Whether you vote for Romney or Obama will have far-reaching implications for possibly decades beyond this election cycle. Romney supports judges who interpret the Constitution as it was originally intended. Obama will appoint more judges who will force a liberal agenda on the nation and bypass the Constitutionally appointed means of making laws. The choice couldn’t be more clear, which is why I voted for Mitt Romney.

Let’s really get real about abortions

In his column this morning, David Frum talked about getting “real” about abortions. The goal of his column is to shift the discussion about the legality of abortion to how to minimize abortion by providing support, especially financial support, to pregnant women so that they feel financially secure enough to bring the baby to term. Frum raises a significant issue that too often conservatives overlook and ignore when discussing abortion, and I thank him for raising it. His ideas deserve thoughtful reflection and response. Here are a few thoughts from a pro-life, conservative viewpoint.

I absolutely agree that a major part of the pro-life platform must be providing support, financial and otherwise, to pregnant women who are unable to pay for the medical expenses of having a child. I know firsthand how overwhelming these expenses can be as my last child cost over $4,000 in medical bills for the prenatal care, sonograms, delivery, and hospital use. And that was after insurance covered their portion. Moreover, my child was healthy and we only were in the hospital for 24 hours. I can only begin to wonder how much more expensive it would have been had he had medical problems at birth or during prenatal care.

But here’s the thing: Pro-life groups are leaders in providing financial, spiritual, and moral support for pregnant mothers in distress. Take an adoption agency in Birmingham, AL, as an example. Lifeline Children’s Services includes a “Maternity Village” where pregnant mothers in distress can live and receive support and training during their pregnancy. This is provided to the mothers as a free service. The village is supported by donors and adoptive families. My wife and I adopted a little girl from Lifeline, and a portion of our adoption fees went to support the maternity village. The primary problem is not that pro-life groups are unwilling to provide this support; it’s that the government refuses to provide adequate support for such services, choosing to fund pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood instead. Imagine what a difference it would make in the lives of mothers and their babies if all the federal money given to Planned Parenthood went to pro-life groups that provided prenatal support to pregnant women in distress! Imagine how many more maternity villages could be built and how many fewer babies would be brutally murdered inside their mother’s wombs. While Frum is right, he’s also wrong. If he is serious about what he says, he needs to join the crusade against Planned Parenthood and their radical pro-abortion stance, and begin to write opinion columns urging the government to pour all of that money into maternity villages around the country run by pro-life groups.

Lastly, Mr. Frum is intellectually inconsistent in his position. If he thinks abortion is acceptable, then why bother providing any support at all to pregnant mothers unable to afford a baby? If abortion is not morally wrong, then on what grounds does he argue that anyone’s money should be used to prevent it? The idea that we ought to work and donate to reduce the number of abortions is nonsense unless abortion is morally wrong. If it’s not wrong, if it’s just a “woman’s healthcare decision,” if it’s just related to what “a woman chooses to do with her body,” then we don’t need to have the conversation about reducing abortions. But deep down, Mr. Frum knows that abortion is indefensible and morally egregious. He tries to take the high road by showing concern for pregnant women in distress, but when he does so, he undermines his entire position on abortion.

Let’s really get real about abortions, Mr. Frum. They’re morally wrong and should be illegal. And the government should come alongside pro-life groups to help women make the right choice instead of supporting pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood.