I do not read a lot of books that make me nauseous—full out sick to my stomach. But this one did. I’ll have to grant that I have an unusually weak stomach (something that often delights my wife as we watch movies together and I have to turn away from the screen while anything medical takes place), but still, this book is disgusting. Yet in saying this, I do not mean to suggest it is a bad book. Far from it.

Sex & Violence in the Bible is a survey of explicit content in God’s Word. It is just over 200 pages of examining those parts of the Bible that we so often pass over and so rarely hear from the pulpit. While such a book could so easily prove base and puerile, Joseph W. Smith wrote this one for noble purposes and with a deep desire honor God. What caught my eye and convinced me to read it was Carl Trueman’s little blurb on the cover in which he describes the work as “A needed antidote to the crudity of the schoolboy culture.” Indeed.

The book is divided into three parts. In the first part Smith examines what the Bible says about sex and sexuality, from the good and beautiful to the dark and ugly. He looks at the laws and regulations that guarded sexuality, he looks at the many euphemisms used to describe sex and sexual body parts, and he looks at biblical stories where sexuality was badly misused in adultery, prostitution, voyeurism, homosexuality, and the like. The very fact that the Old Testament contains prohibitions against sex with animals shows that there is no point too low in depraved man’s descent into base and animalistic behavior. This whole section proves it again and again.

In the second part Smith turns to violence. I read most of this part in a single extended reading and it was here that my stomach began to turn. The biblical descriptions of violence are blessedly spread out through the Bible, but here they are compacted into only 80 or 90 pages. It makes for a grueling glimpse into human depravity as the Bible describes beatings and attacks, disemboweling and beheading, cannibalism and rape (which Smith includes in the section on violence rather than sexuality). There is no sin, no violence, that is beyond the capacity of human beings who have turned their backs on their Creator.

The final section, much shorter than the others, turns to “any unclean thing”—other blunt and unsavory material. Here Smith examines specifically the discharges, illnesses and diseases that could render a person unclean in that Old Testament context.

All-in-all, it makes for a reading experience that is both awful and fascinating. Smith closes his book with a call to ponder the fact that all Scripture—not just some, but all—is profitable for teaching, as Paul insists in 2 Timothy 3:16. At the same time we are to fill our minds with whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, and so on. The call here is to fill our minds with God’s Word. The blunt reality is that all of this sex, gore and otherwise unsavory material is right there in the Word of God. So aren’t these, too, things worth pondering? If these, too, are God’s words, then why do we so often pass over them, almost as if they ended up in the Bible by mistake?

As Smith makes clear, the Bible’s “approach to indecent matters is not that of a twenty-first-century schoolboy, nor is it that of a nineteenth-century Victorian housewife.” It deals bluntly with real people in the real world. It is surprisingly discreet and sweet in many of its descriptions of God’s design for sex and sexuality, and then so harsh in its descriptions of what happens outside of God’s design. “The Bible … wants to make sin seem as bad—as repulsive, disgusting, and abhorrent—as it really is. Sadly, there is often no other way to do this than by using repulsive, disgusting, and abhorrent language.” Sin’s badness is discussed frankly and, at times, graphically, because this is how God means to bring home its pure depravity.

As Christians living in a world marred by human sin and depravity, by sexual sin and violence and even sexual violence, we have in Scripture descriptions of all of these. God has given us these accounts to equip us for real life in the real world. We overlook or ignore them at our own peril. Leland Ryken’s endorsement says it well: “This book serves the very useful purpose of showing us exactly how much sex and violence there is in the Bible, as well as the precise nature of the references to the human body. If the concentration of examples makes for uncomfortable reading, it is nonetheless important that we confront the subject. We need to know what kind of book the Bible is, and additionally we can assume that the references to sex and violence in the Bible tell us something that God wants us to know.”

by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland — usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will “accidentally” swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following except was written by Dan back in July 2011. The world's view of love is “an all-encompassing matrix of deception…God's view is very different.”

As usual, the comments are closed.

You don't need me to tell you that “love” is an important word, both in our culture and in the Bible. The problem is that English Bibles and American English speakers use that same word, “love,” but with very different cargoes. In the immortal words of Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

I can't speak for other cultures, but in America, “loving” people don't judge and they don't ever say “no”… which is to say they don't say that certain things are wrong, or shouldn't be done.

“Loving” people are against murder (except of the unborn), sexual violence (unless consensual), theft (unless warranted), tyranny (unless by their political party), oppression (unless of the views they oppose), and wealth (unless possessed by themselves or their celebrities). “Loving” people disapprove of people who disapprove of people. Well, certain people. Disapproval of homosexual behavior, for instance, is wrong because it is hateful; disapproval of disapproval of homosexual behavior is right because it is loving.

It is a reflection of the world's view of itself, which is framed in an all-encompassing matrix of deception (Jer. 17:9). The world is our great-great-grandparents' real firstborn. The world is the invisible bastard child born to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, long before Cain uttered his first cry. The world was begotten by the embrace of the foundational lie “You shall be as gods.” This became the central motto. Anything, then, that affirms my godhood (over against God's godhood) is good and loving. Anything that challenges that view is bad and hateful.

It can't surprise us that God's view of love is very different. While the world's view rests on sheer and unbridled autonomy, God's rests on the truth of His Lordship. Love is at the center of both ethical systems: in the world, the autonomous self is the center. In reality, God Himself is the center. The two could not be more polar opposites or more mutually exclusive. The ramifications are countless.

Therefore, in American culture if not in others, “love” has come to mean “unconditional approval of what the world accepts.”

By contrast, in the Bible “love” means something like commitment to pursue God's glory and others' good, as defined by God. That definition needs work, but I think it's a good start.

So it is that the real world, as created and ruled by God, is structured with love for God as primary, and love for fellow-man as derivative and secondary (Matt. 22:37-40). The fantasy-world, ruled over by the prince of lies, finds this ethical system offensive and repugnant… and immoral. Ironic, no?

You see, the thought that anything or anyone (even God; particularly God) could take precedence over our (or anyone's) yearnings and passions and dreams… terrible! Terrible!

Ah, but that is where we have the eternal parting of the ways. If God is not God, then indeed it is a monstrous, hateful thing to try to deny anyone his desires; and chaos necessarily results.

But if God is God? If Jesus is true? Then what could be more loving than to turn someone (anyone) from damning, destructive ways to the saving and liberating knowledge of the true and living God?

“Love wins,” indeed.

Defined God's way.

Answering a Skeptic

Repent CoexistQ: Isn’t God racist, violent, and a tyrant because He told the Israelites to annihilate the Canaanites?

A: Actually the biblical account of what God did to the Canaanites teaches the complete opposite.

First you have to understand God created man-kind, therefore He owns them and has the authority to do with them as He wants. If you were to paint a beautiful picture and then destroy it. Isn’t that your business? No one can accuse you of wrong doing.

Secondly, God’s patience and love is shown that while the Canaanites has sinned against God in horrific ways, child sacrifice, idolatry, sexual sins and murder He gave them centuries to repent and turn from their evil ways. But they choose to live in rebellion to God.

Lastly, it shows that God loves justice and will not allow evil to go un-punished. Remember, the Canaanites had done wicked thing like burning newborn babies to their false god Molach. God used Israel to bring justice to the land and point the remaining people to a right relationship with God that would lead to forgiveness of sin and eternal life.

So you see, the reason we think there is an injustice done here is because we know if God were to execute justice we would be destroyed just like the Canaanites. But God’s patience has allowed us to live this long waiting for you to repent and place your faith in Jesus Christ. Don’t wait.

Bibliographical note:

I am indebted to Charlie H. Campbell for much of the material in this post. I adapted the material for instructional use. – B.R.



The post Answering a Skeptic: Part 1 appeared first on Hearts For The Lost.

Designer Babies

The headline says it all: “The Dawn of the Designer Babies.” Scientists have developed a new technology meant to eliminate genetic abnormalities in newborns. They do this by combining the DNA of three people instead of only two. The procedure has been successfully tested in monkeys and now the FDA is considering whether the trial should expand to humans. At first the procedure would be available only to women who are likely to pass on debilitating genetic diseases to their children. After that? Well, we can only imagine.

The history of technology shows that we would far rather ask the “can we?” questions than the “should we?” questions. We are more interested in ability than morality. Lest we get cocky, we ought to admit that this is true in the small picture as much as the big picture, in the living room as much as the laboratory. Our relationship to technology is such that on some level we tacitly believe technology’s gifts to us must be good. We believe this when the new social network or the new cell phone comes along and we believe this when the new experimental procedure comes along.

According to Fox, this new “experimental technique, if approved for use, would allow a woman to give birth to a baby who inherits her normal nucleus DNA but not her defective mitochondrial DNA.” In order “to accomplish this, researchers would remove the nucleus DNA from a healthy female donor’s eggs and replace it with the nucleus DNA of the prospective mother. After fertilization, the resulting child would inherit the mother’s nucleus DNA — which contains most inherited traits like eye color and height — but the donor’s healthy mitochondrial DNA.”

On a pragmatic level, this makes all kinds of sense. It promises to further eliminate diseases and abnormalities, goals that are well within our God-given mandate of filling this earth and exercising dominion over it. On an ethical and spiritual level it is troubling. The slippery slope implications are especially disquieting because this same technology could be used to craft custom-built, designer children, a specific combination of traits according to the parent’s specifications. Once we allow designer children, we will not be far from expecting designer children. Once we can eliminate genetic abnormalities, it will not be long before we should eliminate genetic abnormalities, where it is considered downright cruel not to eliminate them. When this happens, the disabled and those who brought them into the world will be further marginalized. We could discuss the implications all day long.

But I want to make narrower observations. It never ceases to amaze me how the world breaks down when people will not look to the Bible in order to gain God’s perspective on matters like these. The Bible assures us we are so marred by sin and so full of ourselves, that in order to know ourselves, in order to know God, and in order to know how to live in this world, we must gain God’s perspective through his Word. When we read and believe and obey and trust the Bible, our outlook is absolutely transformed. We are given God’s eyes to see this world.

This is exactly the case when it comes to designer babies, because here’s the thing: The Bible tells that we already have designer babies, children custom-crafted by an all-good and all-knowing God. This is true if our babies are exactly the way we had wished and imagined and it is true if our babies are the very opposite of what we had wished and imagined. It is true if our babies are healthy and “normal” and it is true if our babies are unhealthy and severely disabled. They are all designer children.

We see this in John 9. There Jesus and his disciples pass by a man who has been blind since birth—a genetic abnormality, perhaps—and they ask, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replied “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Jesus turns right away from the cause of the blindness to the purpose behind the blindness: the works of God. The glory of God. God. That is why this man was born this way: God. Piper says it well:

When there is a defective chromosome or some genetic irregularity in the sperm that is about to fertilize an egg, God can simply say no. He commands the winds. He commands the waves. He commands the sperm and the genetic makeup of the egg. If God foresees and permits a conception that he knows will produce blindness, he has reasons for this permission. And those reasons are his purposes. His designs. His plans. God never has met a child from whom he had no plan. There are no accidents in God’s mind or hands.

God does not display himself and his glory only through normalcy, but also through abnormality. God does not display himself only through ability, but also through inability and disability. God does not display himself only through strength, but also through weakness.

We do well to end suffering when we are able to. We do well to cure disease and eliminate curable pain. But we dare not step into God’s place as those who will design babies according to our plan rather than his. We dare not trust our goodness ahead of his goodness, our wisdom ahead of his wisdom. Sometimes God’s good and wise plans involve something we would not choose and would never design, such as a child with a severe genetic abnormality. But when we trust a good and wise God, we rejoice that the works of God might be displayed in all of these.

I am in the unique and enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books and I like to provide regular roundups of some of the best and brightest of the bunch. Of all the books I have received recently, here are the ones that appear most noteworthy.

Life in ChristLife in Christ: Becoming and Being a Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ by Jeremy Walker. “‘To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be in a position of privilege and blessing beyond anything the world might offer,’ begins author Jeremy Walker. Life in Christ explores the unsearchable riches of the Christian pilgrimage and traces its trajectory, highlighting key elements in the believer’s experience. Do you wrestle with assurance? Have you grasped the engagement demanded in Christian living? Do you find the way wearying at times? Do you struggle with your Christian identity? Walker provides instruction for Christians to assess their own standing and progress in the faith—exhorting and equipping and always pointing them ahead to the hope of the glory of Christ. Along the way, he encourages God’s people to live a life to the praise of His glory as he examines some of the basic truths that establish and direct a true child of God.” (Amazon)




MatthewMatthew: All Authority in Heaven and on Earth by Douglas Sean O’Donnell. “Jesus is King. Standing as a central theme of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ kingly authority has profound implications for our lives today—changing the way we view the world, interact with others, and respond to blessings and hardships. In this reader-friendly commentary, seasoned pastor Doug O’Donnell leads us through the first book of the New Testament, highlighting key themes and offering contemporary illustrations for preaching. Drawing on years of pastoral experience, O’Donnell helps us to see how Matthew’s various emphases—including Jesus’ messianic titles, fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, teaching on the kingdom of heaven, and present and future role as judge—all relate to Christ’s kingship over all of creation. Full of biblical insights aimed at both pastors and laypeople, this volume ultimately highlights Matthew’s call to all people to worship and obey Jesus, our humble King and gracious Savior.” (Amazon)




The Gospel at WorkThe Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs by Sebastian Traeger & Greg D. Gilbert. “Find God’s vision for your job. Reclaim God’s vision for your life. Many Christians fall victim to one of two main problems when it comes to work: either they are idle in their work, or they have made an idol of it. Both of these mindsets are deadly misunderstandings of how God intends for us to think about our employment. In The Gospel at Work, Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert unpack the powerful ways in which the gospel can transform how we do what we do, releasing us from the cultural pressures of both an all-consuming devotion and a punch-in, punch-out mentality–in order to find the freedom of a work ethic rooted in serving Christ. You’ll find answers to some of the tough questions that Christians in the workplace often ask: What factors should matter most in choosing a job? What gospel principles should shape my thinking about how to treat my boss, my co-workers, and my employees? Is full-time Christian work more valuable than my job? Is it okay to be motivated by money? How do you prioritize—or balance—work, family and church responsibilities? Solidly grounded in the gospel, The Gospel at Work confronts both our idleness at work and our idolatry of work with a challenge of its own–to remember that whom we work for is infinitely more important than what we do.” (Amazon)

Gods Solutions to Lifes ProblemsGod’s Solutions to Life’s Problems: Radical Change by the Power of God by Wayne & Joshua Mack. “We live in a world cursed by sin. Because of this, everyone encounters serious problems in their lives, but Christians must deal with unique challenges as well. In God’s Solutions to Life’s Problems, the Macks argue that we are not doomed to a life of failure. Instead of making excuses, we can accept God’s diagnosis of our condition and work to change it. With discipline and dedication to God’s Word and to prayer, we can flee temptation and break free of the patterns of sin in our lives.” (Amazon)






What Is Biblical TheologyWhat Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns by James M. Hamilton Jr. “How Do You Read the Bible? The Bible recounts a single story—one that began at creation, encompasses our lives today, and will continue till Christ’s return and beyond. In What Is Biblical Theology?, Jim Hamilton introduces us to this narrative, helping us understand the worldview of the biblical writers so that we can read the Old and New Testaments as those authors intended. Tracing the key patterns, symbols, and themes that bind the Bible together, this book will help you understand Scripture’s unified message and find your place in the great story of redemption.” (Amazon)

And how about you? Are there some new and notable books that you’ve added to your reading list? Is there anything I’m missing?

Thirty-five years ago this month I began serving my first church as pastor. The Rock Prairie Baptist Church in College Station, Texas took a major risk on a senior Texas A&M student by issuing me a call to be their pastor. It was my happy privilege to serve them for nearly two years before being called to the Spring Valley Baptist Church in Dallas. I am currently in my twenty-eighth year of serving Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida.

As I recently reflected on the last thirty-five years I wrote down some lessons learned and convictions I’ve come to or continued to hold. Here are thirty-five of them.

  1. Long-term perspective helps you to endure and to think wisely about immediate problems.
  2. The kingdom of God does not—and will not—skip a beat when I am sidelined.
  3. The church is more important than I thought when I started.
  4. Some of my words and actions to which I am most oblivious can be hurtful to people.
  5. Pastoral ministry is indeed, as John Newton puts it, “a bitter full of sweet” and “a sorrow full of joy.”
  6. Christians are the greatest people in the world.
  7. Christians are capable of the most wicked actions in the world.
  8. My greatest challenge at the beginning of my ministry continues to be dealing with my own heart.
  9. An excellent wife is the greatest earthly gift I have, and she is more excellent than I ever could have imagined.
  10. True friends are rare and invaluable.
  11. Some of the most outwardly religious people can be the biggest hypocrites.
  12. It is nearly impossible for a man who marries poorly to make it in the ministry.
  13. Some of the most humble, unassuming saints provide the greatest encouragement to pastors.
  14. Some of the most effective pastoral ministry I have ever had has come through my presence more than my words.
  15. Some words I have spoken incidentally have ministered God’s grace more powerfully than others over which I labored and prepared for hours.
  16. Preaching really is a divinely ordained, foolish activity.
  17. Every conversion to Christ is a miracle of grace involving intricate acts and provisions that have been divinely orchestrated.
  18. Having the right books is far more important than have many books.
  19. God’s grace has shined brightest through the suffering of His people.
  20. Justification by faith is a bottomless well of grace.
  21. The complete humanity and spotless righteousness of Jesus has become more amazing to me.
  22. There is no easy way to do a hard task and ministry is full of hard tasks.
  23. The propitiatory work of Jesus on the cross amazes me more and more.
  24. The relationship of God’s law to His gospel has implications for every biblical doctrine.
  25. Some of the greatest pastors are men who live, serve and die in relative obscurity.
  26. Incremental progress is real progress and should not be dismissed.
  27. God is far more patient than I could have ever imagined.
  28. Forgiveness is one of the sweetest graces both in its giving and receiving.
  29. Though I’ve stayed in one place a long time, I have served at least 4 different churches during that time and my people have had at least that many different pastors in the same man.
  30. Wherever you see a long pastorate you can be sure there is an abundance of grace in the congregation.
  31. Godly widows and widowers are worthy heroes.
  32. The advance of the gospel and the spread of God’s kingdom is a testimony to power of His grace.
  33. Raising children is one of the greatest privileges and challenges in human experience.
  34. Having adult children is a greater joy and blessing than I ever imagined it would be.
  35. Grandchildren rock!