Saturday, December 29, 2012

WHY DO THE INNOCENT SUFFER?

In graduate studies at New College Berkeley, I took a course on Job from the Bible scholar Francis I. Andersen. He let two assignments determine our grade. At the outset was a short essay about the suffering of the innocent. The final was to be a fully developed argument defending our personal response to this question, “Did the Lord answer Job?” With his permission I wrote an interpretive summary in drama called The Lord Answered Job, which so impressed him that he mentioned it in that year’s commencement address. Recently I put the drama on my website to be read or performed by anyone interested.

I had been reading Job on the day of the Connecticut massacre. That tragedy gave the question “Why do the innocent suffer?” a fresh context. My initial answer for Dr. Andersen’s class has not changed: God makes the best possible choice, to intervene or not to intervene, by thoroughly evaluating the direct and indirect effects resulting from the infinitesimally complex interplay of the following elements:
  • Every single person involved or in any way touched by the incident in question.
  • The impact of every past prayer, present choice, or future action of these individuals on all others with whom they are connected now or will be later.
  • His omniscient decision to keep the world existing as it is until an ultimately unfavorable balance of evil over good makes prolonging its potential history unjustifiable.
  • Each direct or indirect effect that the aftermath of the earthly incident in question will have on the environment and inhabitants of the afterlife.
  • Any other interactive elements that God would need take into consideration for His decision. (If others come to mind, please mention them to me in a comment.)
“No man is an island, entire of itself,” wrote John Donne, “every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. . . . any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

The film classic It’s a Wonderful Life was based on this idea—how one person’s life and actions crucially affect everyone and everything around them. More recently the book Five People You Meet in Heaven—also made into a movie—expounded this same theme. Somehow, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28).

When Abraham asked God, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25), he already knew the answer. We may not see how the intertwined relationships of people, or the ongoing effects of their choices, relate to specific tragedies. But when the innocent suffer, we can be sure that God chose the best of all possible bad choices. Yes, BAD CHOICES!

In an environment where people can behave selfishly, an array of bad possibilities are all God has to choose from, unless He decides to cancel free will. Since He won’t do that, all His decisions must deal with the reality of a fallen race living in a world groaning with earthquake and storm under the curse of human sin. Instead of abandoning this sinful mess, God employs His love and wisdom to make, from among all the bad alternatives, exactly the right long-term selection in every situation.

But God did not hang aloof from this knot of interwoven human suffering. The Incarnation is His ultimate answer to our questions about His allowance of suffering. God knows exactly how it feels to be an innocent human being suffering cruelty at the hands of insane powers and fanatical injustice. His divinity diminished none of the pain that cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?(Mark 15:34). His pain did not dim the divine love behind His prayer for the persecutors who mocked Him, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34).

As far as the suffering of the innocent or the injustice of some of our own pains, God is patient with our doubts about the rightness of His choosing to let them happen. After we reach the afterlife, He has an eternity to explain His reasons. But it might absorb a few eons of our heavenly bliss for God to unravel for our finite understanding what was obvious to Him in the fragment of a nanosecond. He could start with the closest and end with most distant contingencies related to the event in question, showing us one-by-one the weight of each in the cosmic balance of good over evil. When the last interconnected item is measured, we will invariably sigh that long interjection of acknowledgment that C. S. Lewis said would be one of the most familiar utterances heard in Heaven: “Oh-h-h. . . .”

Over the years, I’ve had many why questions I wanted to ask God someday. But as I grow older, they become fewer—not because they’ve decreased in number, but because I’ve increased in trust that the God of all the earth will do right. And if there remains any pains, any open wounds, any vestiges of grief, any tearful sorrows, He has already promised to wipe them out so thoroughly that they will hurt us no more (Revelation 21:4). Beyond the astronomically long explanation we might receive for our questions and doubts, such an ultimate and absolute comfort for affliction is as much as can be provided by God’s perfect love and wisdom, given the reality of unalterably interrelated human choices and actions in a fallen world.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

BEYOND SAME-SEX ATTRACTION

The condition of same-sex attraction (SSA) is not synonymous with the campaign of gay activism. In fact, gay politics has been notoriously unkind to those whose perplexity with SSA causes them to pray for a transformation that would bring opposite-sex attraction. I'm writing this both to validate those hoping God will answer such prayers and to invalidate the arrogant dogmatism of those trying to discourage them.

Gay activists, following a plan documented as far back as the 1970s, have infused their agenda into almost every agency of social influence. Yet true science still thwarts their attempt to make SSA a new “norm.” Atypical examples extracted from nature to authenticate homosexuality are not norms of the natural order, but rarities. Political leverage alone turns them into mandates for redefining human sexuality.

Profiting from its momentum in destabilizing the ancient, trans-cultural concept of marriage, gay activists are now working to eliminate the social vocabulary that differentiates gender into “male” and “female.” This makes science the next logical target for political deconstruction, since this terminology is categorically scientific. As far as gay logistics, science has always created obstacles. It categorizes homosexual behavior itself as psycho-social in origin, not biologically natural. Science defines sexuality in mammals only in terms of complementary sexes. As far as sexual union, it doesn't occur except from joining the reproductive components of opposite, not identical, genders.

No, nature won’t march to the beat of a fictional drum, even to placate power politics. Lesbian couples still get pregnant the physiologically correct way: by uterine implantation of a female egg fertilized by a male sperm. Indeed, SSA may initiate an interpersonal bond between those of the same gender. Using the genitals to express that relationship can even bring mutual orgasmic pleasure. But the absence of real sexual union forbids true science from calling such intercourse sexual, just as all traditional cultures refuse to acknowledge such a union as a sexual marriage. The body’s biology and history's collective cultural wisdom are not tricked by modern emotional or political semantics.

Despite the above arguments, it may soon become a political hate crime to call persons “male” or “female.” But isnt hate also a motive in the obliteration of scientific terms for gender distinction? Perhaps hate is too harsh a word. Anger might be more accurate. Wheres the anger about SSA really coming from? Obviously many are disgruntled by the gay agenda. But what about those who are experiencing SSA?

How upsetting it must be for someone with SSA to live in a body whose every cell ceaselessly exclaims, “I am physically a male!” or “I am physically a female!” The irritation has led some to try smothering the loud voice of their visible anatomy with hormones and reconstructive surgery. But from cradle to grave, nothing can stifle the cry of gender-identity embedded in DNA. Without exception, the same genes that determine the development of a persons sexually distinct body parts reside in every single cell of the body.

The truth is that there definitely is hope for change, hope for healing. Why? Because God’s grace is still amazing! But the steps to hope and grace are also logical and understandable. One of those healed through the Pastoral Care Ministries seminars (now Ministries of Pastoral Care) started by Leanne Payne was Mario Bergner, who wrote Setting Love in Order: Hope and Healing for the Homosexual. He and several other PCM speakers, whose talks are available on CD, formerly had SSA and are cogently articulate in leading others out of it.

The emotional pain of this conflict between brain and body is understandable, for the unity of body and soul is a measure of psychological well-being. But the body’s incessant contention that the brain’s SSA is biologically incongruent with ones physical sex cannot be silenced by politics. Even if the meaning of gender becomes as thoroughly altered as the original concept of the word gay, political redefinition can bring no true bio-psychical peace. Distorting gender distinction to soothe intrapersonal pain is as cruel as calling the body’s discord with SSA gaiety to make the brain laugh. For those wishing their SSA could be banished, neither is helpful nor humorous.

The cruelest aspect of gay activism’s power, however, is in how effectively it blocks those who wrestle with this internal anguish from seeking a reversal of SSA. At all costs, testimonies of real change through therapy, either human or divine, must be suppressed. A new normal will not survive, if there’s legitimate hope for healing. Those who claim it must be portrayed as impostors. Those who proclaim it must be labelled as perpetrators of homophobic hateAll is lost if dreams of therapeutic reintegration with his or her gendered body can really come true for the person with SSA.To maintain its credibility, the gay political platform must mentally barricade any exit the gay lifestyle. Once gay, always gay, to your dying day! Fortunately, such dogmatic slogans are just noisy smoke billowing from a feverish fear of the truth.

God wants us all to be whole spiritually, psychologically, and physically. For now, bodily healing is temporary and limited—becoming ultimate only in future resurrection. But God provides for wholeness of spirit and soul during this life. When SSA leads to sins of sexual immorality, He offers forgiveness. But in itself, SSA is not a sin. It’s merely one of the many human conditions that need the divine healing which God's grace brings into our fallen world. The problem has never been God’s inability to save and heal, but always our reluctance or resistance to come to Him.

People with SSA need to know they have a choice. Yes, they can choose to trust in gay politics to make them “feel better” with new meanings for words like marriage or gender. Or they can put their faith in the hope offered by Jesus Christ, the Savior and Healer, Who asks everyone of us the same question: “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

GRATIFICATION, GRATITUDE AND THANKSGIVING

For our survival, the Creator designed us with certain thirsts and hungers that cause pain unless they are satisfied. Ravenous infants will escalate their fussiness to high-pitched screaming, if parents ignore their need to eat. As we grow up, this need for personal gratification reaches beyond physical appetite to psychological and spiritual longings. Indeed pain may result from these human desires, as Buddhism teaches, but life is sustained not by denying them, but by fulfilling them in the right way.

Part of that right way is for gratification to produce gratitude. The sensation of quenching thirst is a personal experience. Feeling grateful to the person who handed us the glass of water is a relational experience. The capacity for both these feelings were built into us by God to keep us alive and to keep us in love.
Gratitude is basic to the survival of loving relationships. But it cannot remain just a frame of mind. For it to be authentic, it must be authentically expressed. The attitude of gratitude must become the action of thanksgiving. Giving thanks releases the real power in gratitude, for it communicates an atmosphere of communion and community. It draws people together.

Saying “thank you” is the fulfillment of feeling thankful. Hearing someone say it is even more important, because our need for being appreciated is also divinely built-in. In fact, learning that others are grateful for who we are and what we do is very gratifying. This is why mutual thanksgiving is so important in life both for creating a pleasant social environment and for sustaining personal satisfaction.

This is why those who are gratified with many good things in life are never fulfilled unless they become grateful to the Giver of all good gifts. Thanksgiving to other people is the basis of relational health, but thanksgiving to our Maker is the bottom line in religious devotion. Never forget that God is a Person, and we are persons only because we are created in His image. The real reason we find expressed gratitude gratifying is because God does. It’s part of human happiness because it’s part of what makes Heaven heavenly.

Friday, October 26, 2012

“YOU MEAN. . .MEN ACT LIKE BABIES?”

I know God has patience with Christian teachers who support or promote a worldly, sex-obsessed view of female breasts, because He did with me. I used to parrot the “moral majority” by defiling my Gospel preaching with a message that unwittingly portrayed women and their breasts as sex objects. This cultural idolatry pervades the American church. God has already passed judgment on this pornographic view of the body by turning over our nation to the scourge of porn addiction that inevitably results from it.

Blind to how culture shapes thinking, many Christians teach that men are compelled by the sin nature to lust at the sight of women’s bodies, especially their breasts. If this doctrine was true, it would eliminate from fallen humanity all societies where breasts are customarily naked in public. This ridiculous falsehood is further exposed by the response to it from these cultures themselves.

Carolyn Latteier, the author of Breasts, The Women’s Perspective on an American Obsession, wrote that “we do have a peculiar obsession with breasts in this culture. A lot of people think it’s just the human nature to be fascinated with breasts, but in many cultures breasts aren't sexual at all. I interviewed a young anthropologist working with women in Mali, a country in Africa where women go around with bare breasts. They’re always feeding their babies. And when she told them that in our culture men are fascinated with breasts, there was an instant of shock. The women burst out laughing. They laughed so hard, they fell on the floor. They said, “You mean, men act like babies?

This false theology may sound funny to them, but to me it’s emasculating. As a man who has helped tens of thousands of women nurse their newborns, I’ve never lost any male appreciation for the beauty of breasts or for the part they play in God’s awesome design of femininity. Yet, even at the outset of my nursing career, I realized I wasn’t reacting to them in the lustful way I’d been taught to expect! My culture had fed me a lie, and that deception came most consistently from the same lips that preached the Christian Gospel.

The bottom line is “we’ve acted like babies!”—not in a ludicrous way that made bare-breasted women in Mali laugh—but with such utter immaturity that we should be shedding tears. How could we, who claim to honor the Creator, so decadently degrade His anatomical wisdom and artistic design in the female breast? How could we—by social and religious precept—lead generation after generation of children to turn their natural, wholesome attraction to breasts into a lifelong perverted obsession? This ungodly behavior calls for repentance!

Immodesty isn’t the occasionally naked breast but the exploited one, strategically hidden or partially revealed by social custom. The habit of making breasts visible only for sexual activity socially defines them as avenues of sexual enticement. More modesty is shown when they’re laid bare for nursing on a crowded subway, exposed for modeling in an art class, or uncovered for sunning on a clothing optional beach. Treating unclad body parts realistically and respectfully is always modest. But when clothing is unnaturally trusted as a moral prevention for lust, then immodesty infects a whole culture, as it has ours. Our mistaken morality wraps the body up in a fantasy that tempts sinners and saints alike. I believe God abhors it.

Did you grow up with our culture’s pornographic view of breasts. Your only hope of expelling it from your mind and heart is by learning to see breasts the way their Designer does. His view is the truth, and only the truth will set you free.

(This article was originally written for the MCAG Blog. For further reading, see “Teaching God’s Design for Breasts—A Message about the ‘Visible Breast’ for Christian Leaders,” and “The Pornographic View of the Body.”)

Monday, October 22, 2012

THE SUPERSTITIOUS FAITH OF EVOLUTIONISM

I just finished an exceptional book, Anatomy of Movement, written by a French dancer-turned-physiotherapist. Its pages helped me visualize that dimension of the musculoskeletal system most often skimmed over by anatomy books: the dynamics of movement. This intelligent woman’s review of virtually every aspect of human mobility inspired my praise for the awesome craftsmanship of our Creator. How sad that she herself repeatedly attributed this marvelous interplay of bone, joint, ligament and muscle to an evolutionary series of cosmic accidents.

I’m not criticizing her any more than I would a parrot for mimicking its master. A powerful educational oligarchy groomed her to speak only the language of its sacred dogma, or to suffer political and academic shame. She’s a smart lady, but a victim of religious superstition.

Let’s be realistic. Darwinian evolutionism is not and can never become science. It’s merely a philosophy based on faith in presumptively interpreted archaeological data. Evolutionists freely exploit their position in the scientific community or their tenure among the academic elite to claim “science” as the basis of their beliefs. This not only deceives the gullible minds of a modern world, but prostitutes real science by trivializing the scientific method.

Evolutionists know that their belief system depends on a large array of unproven hypotheses. Not one of their proposed “guesses” are capable of ever qualifying as a legitimate scientific theory. In any discussion of orthodox science, intelligent evolutionists are obliged to confess this. Yet that fact doesn’t stop their bold preaching from textbook pulpits that evolution “developed this” anatomical marvel or “created that” physiological mechanism. Why can’t they just be honest and say they proclaim Evolution as Creator—or get really honest and admit they believe that Chance or Accident is God?

When evolutionistic faith sees similarities in the anatomical and physiological data of life on Earth, it claims that an infinitesimally long series of reproductive accidents brought forth all this biological diversity from a single ancestral cell. Theistic faith looks at these similarities and deems them compositions by the same Divine Artist. Evolutionists have called such belief in an invisible personal Deity “superstition.” But a small group of heretics have arisen from among them to challenge the academic status quo with the very same accusation. These disobedient scientists are using their brains and seeing Intelligent Design (ID).

A media well-catechized to parrot Darwinian faith has done much to slander ID scientists. But the obvious won’t go away, and that’s why these critically-thinking rebels dared to break from the pack in the first place. They saw the gross superstition in imagining that time and chance could produce the trillions of intricate complexities that comprise biological life on our planet.

Keep rolling a thousand mindless dice for a billion years. What are the odds of them all coming up “snake eyes”? Even if they finally did, what you’ve got is not the whole eyeball, folks, but just the retina. Yes, and that little bit of realism is not something evolutionists like to discuss. The enormous stretch of the imagination for the accidental production of the whole human body becomes hilariously preposterous. One biochemist converted to faith in ID when he realized that the statistical possibility for a linear series of necessary accidents to evolve the hemoglobin molecule would be one chance out of the number of atoms in the known universe.

The ID scientist is like an astronaut who lands on a planet and finds a strange but beautifully crafted vehicle resting on a plain not far from a dormant volcano. He tells his fellow astronaut that there must be intelligent inhabitants. The evolutionist is like the first one’s partner. After examining a nearby lava bed and finding the vehicle composed of the same volcanic material, he calls the first astronaut superstitious and says that the volcano must have spat that thing out. When the first questions the chances of that happening, the second dodges by saying, “Well, I don’t see any intelligent inhabitants around . . .do you?”

It’s way past time for atheistic evolutionists to give up their “scientific” hoax and confess their hypocrisy. Academic pushers of evolutionism have been calling theistic believers in a Creator “superstitious” long before ID scientists ever came on the scene. Yet all along these atheists knew they couldn’t offer a single example from the real world that illustrates how Nature's elaborate complexity could have arisen by chance from simplicity. Meanwhile, theistsand now ID scientistshave at arm's reach millions of human designs in everyday life that illustrate how an Intelligent Mind stands behind the fine-tuned sophistication of anatomical structure and physiological process actually involved in biological life.

People, wake up. Isn’t it obvious by now which group of believers has been religiously bowing its knee to Superstition?

(For my own testimony about leaving evolutionism when I discovered it took too much faith to accept, read “Journey to the Center of My Heart.”)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

GOD’S INTERACTION WITH HUMAN WILLS

Triune Deity enjoys perpetual fellowship. Other concepts of God are lonely ones. The Trinity has no essential need for personal relationship beyond Their eternal Society of Three. Yet Scripture reveals that God desires to interact with the world He created, especially with faith decisions made by the world of humanity (John 3:16).

The Bible never bothers explaining any theological problems raised by its descriptions of this divine desire or by its expectation of true responsiveness between divine and human wills that make this desire genuine. Some forms of theology actually reduce the freedom of human choice—and God’s interaction with it—to an illusion. God’s Word, they reason, reports these mutually free dealings as authentic only to accommodate our limited understanding of His omniscience and sovereignty.

Such theological reasoning about God is human-unfriendly. The Bible, on the other hand, is not. In fact, Scripture often depicts God legitimately interested in how we respond to His directives, to His Presence, to His Person. If the biblical revelation is accurate, then God has sovereignly chosen to let human decisions inform His omniscience, and human actions in time move His will in eternity. Otherwise, biblical narratives of God’s activity seem as fictitious as fables or as illusory as the maya of Hinduism.

For instance, was God merely play-acting when, after having “formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky,” He “brought them to the man to see what he would name them”? Genesis 2:19 says that “whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.” God made but did not name any creatures. He let man name them. This verse literally shows God desiring to learn those names. Later, not only does He use them Himself whenever talking about animals, but He also adopted at least two for His own incarnate identity: “Lamb of God” (John 1:29) and “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5). Man invented those names. God responded to their invention in time by incorporating them into His own eternal vocabulary and by later naming Himself with a couple of them. That thought is something to chew on.

There’s an even greater biblical example of God identifying Himself with a human response to Him. Coming to Jacob in a dream, God announced, “I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me.” (Genesis 31:13a). He was referring back to the time when Jacob did those things in response to His self-revelation (Genesis 28:10-22). Jacob renamed the location where it happened from “Luz” to “Bethel,” he performed a ritual anointing to consecrate a stone, and he made a solemn vow to the Lord. God told him to do none of these things. They were all Jacob’s own ideas. Yet God adopted Jacob’s creative responses to Him, making them into part of His own identity. The Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, will forever be “the God of Bethel.” He sovereignly chose it as one of His titles for eternity, because of his interaction with human faith in time. He may have done exactly the same thing with many of your own faith encounters with Him. How human-friendly that is!

Another report of God’s reaction to our response to Him is given in Malachi 3:16 (ESV), “Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.” This verse is amazing! It shows that an eternally omniscient God is listening in on our conversations in time, because He’s concerned about what we have to say to each other about Him. He’s so excited about our discussion that he makes sure it gets it eternally recorded!

God certainly needs no notebook to jot down our devotional conversations to jog His memory. They probably were not written to remind Him, but to educate us. Some of us have a stubborn theology that undermines the authenticity of His open-ended interactions with humans. He wants it known in eternity that He did not determine our responses—He danced with them. His earthly interactions with us were all real, not just contrived accommodations for the frailty of our fallen and depraved human minds.

During His heavenly review of our lives and of the many unworthy trusts we held sacred, God may have to point out to many this human-unfriendly belief adamantly held and taught about His dealings with humans. This “book of remembrance” mentioned by Malachi will forever condemn the shame of such a theological allegiance.

When we live in a world where its Creator treats our decisions and actions with as much integrity as He expects us to treat His own, we live in a human-friendly world. In the midst of the trials and troubles brought about by human sin, faith in such a God makes the journey not just tolerable but joyous.

Monday, August 6, 2012

THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST’S ATONEMENT

It may interest, anger, befuddle or flabbergast you, but there’s no one specific view of Christ’s atonement that fully explains the spiritual transaction in history and in eternity that transpired at the Cross of Calvary. It remains as mysterious as the doctrines of the Trinity or the Incarnation.

Those interested can survey the various theories of the Atonement on the Web. My purpose here is not to recount them, but to decry how so many Bible teachers haughtily assume theirs to be the right one: “How dare anyone question the legal-penal substitution theory? Doesn’t it undergird all our evangelical preaching?” A better question is, “How could the church even use the word atonement to describe what happened on the Cross?” Most theologians readily admit that it’s a major misappropriation of terminology in Christian thinking, but also that it's a term we're stuck with.

In the Old Testament usage of the Hebrew word atonement (kaphar, “to cover over”) is a concept of hiding sin’s guilt by covering it with the blood of animal sacrifices. Ecclesiastic prudery insists that God clothed the first sinners with animal skins to approve or accommodate the very first independent idea and action of their sin nature: a felt need to hide their bodies. A view more in keeping with His gracious character is that God was providing His delinquent image-bearers either physically—with warmth and protection in a fallen world—or spiritually—with the first recorded kaphar, an atonement or covering for their sin.

Not only is the concept of atonement etymologically absent from the New Testament, but a new idea is introduced. We first hear it from the lips of John the Baptist upon seeing Jesus at the Jordan: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus came to take away sins, not to cover over them, which was all that animal sacrifices could do. These sacrificial repetitions, year after year, only reminded sinners that personal guilt was put away from sight not taken away (Hebrews 10:4-5). Jesus accomplished the latter.

But how did the transaction at the Cross work? Was it a debt repayment, a redemptive trade-off, a substituted punishment, an absorption of divine wrath? A narrow focus on the Cross alone, in conjunction with certain Scriptures, might elevate any of these motifs to the exclusion of others. But there is a larger picture, one that weaves the Cross and the Resurrection into one solid and inseparable tapestry of redemption. That is the ransom or restoration theory of the Atonement.

In Gustaf AulĂ©n’s book, Christus Victor, I learned that this understanding of the Atonement dominated Christian thought for the first millennium of Church history. C. S. Lewis employed it as the basis for his allegorical representation of the death of Christ in Aslan’s death for “the traitor” and subsequent resurrection in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. When I first read Christus Victor, I was inspired to write the following poem with the same title, as an attempt to capture this idea of strategic ransom:


            CHRISTUS VICTOR

Drawn into a web of darkness,
Duped and drugged with sin's seduction,
Down we drank the Devil's lie
And were lost within the starkness
Of a wasteland of destruction,
Damned and doomed, condemned to die.

Love Almighty, Love Creator,
Love, Who breathed His image in us,
Love, the awesome Trinity,
Planned to foil the Fabricator,
Planned to plunder hell and win us
By strategic mystery.

God descended and invaded
Human flesh and limitation,
Preaching Heaven's Reign begun,
Waging war where sin pervaded,
Buying reconciliation,
Tasting death for everyone.

Had they known the power hidden
In the Lion's crucifixion,
Hell would not have killed the Son.
Now the human race is bidden
To depart from self-addiction
Through the victory Jesus won.

Christus Victor!  God descended
To fulfil the Law's postponement.
Slain, He slew the death we died!
Christ is risen!  God ascended!
Sinners, purchased by atonement,
Rise with Christ, the Crucified!

Christ Triumphant!  Christus Victor!
Captives freed by hell's disruption
Soar like eagles taking wing!
Ransomed by the Liberator,
Slaves to sin and death's corruption
Gain new life in Christ the King!
            -- David L. Hatton, 11/21/95

Because of its heavy dependence on a realistic view of the Incarnation, this atonement theory has quietly influenced the development of my theological thinking. Yet, in general, I forgot my initial excitement in discovering it . . . until recently, when I saw the video clip of Brian Zahnd giving, “The Gospel in Chairs.” I encourage you to watch it, maybe more than one time. If it doesn’t immediately blow your mind, then ask yourself, “Does how I view and preach the Cross accurately represent the heart of the Heavenly Father who ‘so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son’?” You may find yourself reaching back to the minds and helpful illustrations of our early Christian ancestors for a balanced view of this mystery.

It’s important to approach unfathomable mysteries in the Christian faith with deep reverence and godly humility. Glib confidence and sometimes outright cockiness in Christians mouthing their beliefs may not only be a turn-off for the prospective convert, but a point of great future embarrassment, or even tears of regret, in the presence of our risen, conquering King, Christus Victor.

Friday, July 20, 2012

SEX IS CENTRAL TO GOD’S SALVATION PLAN

Evangelical pulpiteers can shout louder than ever about sexual morality, but most are still reluctant to frankly address the physical aspects of human sexuality, even at a time when society desperately needs to hear a Christian voice. Why this characteristic shyness about sex? Believers have no biblical warrant for it. Such a squeamish attitude certainly didn’t come from our Maker. Neither in Scripture nor in orthodox Christian theology is there even a shred of support for our long history of embarrassment about the body’s sexual nature. In fact, a careful review of the Bible itself—done in the fear of God and not in the fear of tradition—will actually show that our reasons for avoiding the anatomy of gender and its physiological purposes in sexuality are not only unscriptural but may have heretical roots.

Why not boldness rather than bashfulness in our approach to sex? Christians, of all people, should be so open about the physical wonders of human gender and reproduction that it makes the world’s treatment of these subjects seem prudish in comparison. We owed it to the Designer of the human body to have developed such expertise and excellence in the realm of sex education that secular authorities would resort to us for in-depth informational and audio-visual teaching materials, rather than vice versa. In this crucial area of stewardship, the church has not only failed our Lord but left a promiscuous modern society to flounder in a more diabolical degree of sexual confusion than history has ever known.

Why didn’t we take our cue from God’s Word in this area? The very first words God uses to state how humans reflects His image are not the commonly assumed aspects of personality (ie., reason, emotion, volition, etc.), but physical gender! (Re-read Genesis 1:27, and if you don’t say “Ouch!” you’re in theological denial!) Yes, He did equip us rationally for the task of governing creation, but His very first command to us in Genesis 1:28 was what? To reproduce!

If God’s very first words about His purpose for humans—that is, procreativity from sexual union between complementary genders—aren’t sufficient to gain our attention, maybe we’ll listen to His last words. There’s someone who joins the Holy Spirit in the last few sentences of Scripture (Revelation 22:17) to invite sinners to salvation? It’s “the Bride,” the Church, the corporate “wife of the Lamb.” The present symbolism of gender and sexual union ultimately find fulfillment in our spiritual union with Christ the Bridegroom. But until then, God has placed marriage as the Bible’s bookends for the redemption story, and right in the middle of it all is an erotic drama portraying just how sensually passionate He means for His symbolism to be (Song of Songs)! If both temporal and eternal marriage have such centrality in God’s mind, where have our minds been? When it comes to dealing with the fleshly dust from which God fashioned sexual body parts and their physical union, it’s obvious that our minds have been in the gutter.

Far from honoring the human body and it’s gender distinctions as sacred ground, we’ve religiously depicted them as avenues of temptation and lust. Our confident legalisms and manmade scruples to insure purity and morality have basically pornified the body! By redefining our physical forms and our sex organs as obscenities, we’ve paved the way for pornographers to defile that which was meant to be part of our Trinitarian Maker’s Self-portrait. With a prudish brush we’ve painted a lewd image of the sexuality through which God intended to proclaim His message of redemption. If this theological error is not sin, then missing the mark has lost its meaning!

Sexuality wasn’t created as an end in itself. It was intended, first, to image the Trinity’s unity in divine love and cosmic creativity through marital love and human procreativity. The sexuality of our complementary genders was meant to prophetically display the future one-flesh union we will enjoy with the incarnate Son of God, our Bridegroom. Why have we neglected or ignored these aspects of God’s emphasis on sexuality in Scripture? Perhaps they would have been more easily recognized, if Christian minds had not been culturally mesmerized through early Gnostic influences that heretically despised the material world and the physical body. But just as heretical, and even more blinding, has been the Protestant church’s wholesale religious embrace of the false standards of Victorian prudery.

It’s way past time for Christian repentance in this area. The need for reformation in the church’s view and treatment of the body’s gender and sexuality has never been greater nor more urgent. Embarrassing as it may be for Christian leaders to confess to bowing down for so long before the idol of cultural Victorianism—difficult as it may be for the average believer’s mind to be purged of the rituals of such idolatry—we can still return to the healing Word of God. The truth in Scripture about our bodies and their gendered sexuality has the power to set the church free from an unholy prudery and to equip saints with the transforming message our sex-obsessed, gender-confused, marriage-deforming world needs to hear.

[For an even more thorough critique of our failure to deal properly with the human body and its sexuality, I challenge you to read my doctrinal paper on this subject: “Incarnational Truth about Humanity’s Sexual Nature (Doing Body-friendly Theology Free from Gnostic Prudery).”]

Saturday, June 23, 2012

HEALTH OUTSIDE THE BOX

A belief that our Creator is also our Sustainer has implications for bodily life sometimes overlooked by an incarnationally weak theology. In spite of abundant Scriptures about God’s practical concern for humanity's physical needs, evangelicals often succumb to Gnosticism’s heretical emphasis on spiritual life alone. One result of this theological error is a disregard for God's gracious care for our bodily health through nature.

When illness confronts believers, this lack of faith in natural remedies often leads Christians to entrust their ailments to the latest TV drug advertisement. They doubt that creation itself might offer them any help. In fact, this trend of unbelief tends to consecrate the medical industry as God's chosen gatekeeper of healing grace. But here’s a logical question: Did all prior generations miss out on the Creator’s grace? Did God have to wait for the development of modern medicine so that He could really meet human health needs?

As an RN, I work with modern therapies and appreciate today’s advances in technology. I also witness how pride of knowledge blinds some medical people from seeing and thinking outside their box. God does work inside the walls of their box, even more than they know. But, in keeping with His character, He infused into creation itself, from the very beginning, much that supports the health and healing of humanity.

Many of today’s alternative healthcare modalities were first discovered by the trial and error of our ancient ancestors. Therapies that didn't really help were often associated with practitioners seeking fame or wealth, which are the same motivations in much of the business of medicine today. The ones that did work well still do. They were always natural and free, and still are.

I’m not calling for an exodus of believers from medical care, but I’d like to see God’s people theologically emancipated from the slave market of drug companies. I’m urging Christians to put a proper view of their Provider into practice when it comes to health, and that means being open to what He has already provided for health maintenance in His creation.

God built human bodies to heal themselves. So, the effectiveness of any natural healthcare method is in how it supports or enhances that process. The book that helped me to start thinking “outside the box” was Return to Nature by Aldoph Just. He wrote of sun, air, mud, and cold water bathing, as well as massage therapy, natural diet, and loose clothing. My further study found most of his ideas validated by the research of modern times. I will mention three areas.

One is sunbathing. In his amazing book Sunlight, Dr. Zane R. Kime reports a myriad of natural health benefits gained from judiciously exposing skin to the sun. Because of Just’s book, I’d already started full-body sunbathing in the seclusion of our backyard. Dr. Kime’s research motivated me to stick with it. As my skin tanned, I stopped getting so many colds and sore throats. Vitamin D was strengthening my immune system. I felt as if the sun’s rays were charging my body’s battery. It’s an awesome sensation, and it’s free.

Another is skin contact with the earth. The testimonies reported by Just seemed honest, but my scientific mind had trouble accepting them until recently, when my wife started reading me the book Earthing (get the book, or at least Google “earthing” or “grounding”). We electrically ground our houses, but synthetic-soled shoes usually keep us from grounding ourselves. Rarely do we go barefoot on grass or moist soil. Yet electron-hungry free-radicals in our bodies can steal electrons from healthy tissues causing an array of chronic inflammations. The earth is an endless source of electrons that quench the activity of free-radicals faster than eating anti-oxidant-rich foods or supplements. Lately each morning, I try to ground my whole body on a wet sheet as I sunbathe. It’s starting to alleviate the arthritic pain I’ve been having in my elbow. Try this free therapy yourself. It can’t hurt, and it may help!

Then there’s wearing loose or minimal clothing. The bare-skinned air-and-light baths suggested by Just were coupled with a call for wearing non-restrictive clothing to improve circulation and get more air to the skin. Dress can be toxic to health, as women who wore the once fashionable corset so painfully learned. But the brazier—the remaining vestige of the corset—continues the toxicity. The authors of Dressed to Kill – The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras show how this restrictive belt around female chests congests circulation and slows the lymphatic system’s natural work of carrying away toxins and wasted material from breast tissue. It's a setup for cancer. Removing the bra allows lymph to flow naturally and perform its tissue-cleansing work, just as God designed it to do. This book's research is in the “no-brainer” category, but why does our culture brainlessly ignore it? Is it that we’re brain-washed by a medical mindset to think of treating disease with drugs rather than with prevention?

These are just examples of an abundance of natural practices built into creation that can help us stay healthy. If they don’t motivate you to do your own research, as I've done, listing more of them won't help. My purpose is to get you to be honest with your theology. If you believe in a good and gracious God Who cares about your body, as well as your soul and spirit, then start putting your faith into practice. Cease to be a skeptic about finding His grace for health and healing in the natural world that He created. Educate yourself in the alternatives.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

THE VISIBLE BREAST CONTROVERSY

When my wife showed me the cover of TIME Magazine (5\21\2012) with a lactation consultant exposing her breast to nurse her 3-year old son, I saw it as an opportunity to preach on one of my favorite American controversies: the visible breast.



Such an “in your face” photo! TIME surely knew it would have “shock value” for marketing, despite their stated purpose of celebrating Dr. Bill Sears, the champion of maternal attachment. Online articles about it popped up everywhere, followed by public comments of prudish criticism, perverted congratulations, and sometimes practical commendation, like mine. Bravo for TIME, but especially for courageous Jamie Lynne Grumet, who showed the American public what God created breasts for!



“Teaching God’s Design for Breasts” was an art class assignment that depicts one of my routine tasks: helping topless mothers get their newborns latched on by skin-to-skin nursing. I also intended this self-portrait to SHOCK, but only so it could HEAL. This normal, non-sexual part of my job stands in stark contrast to the way society exploits women's breasts. That many women themselves see their breasts as sexualized objects indicates the degree to which this perception of women's bodies controls our culture.

I grew up with America’s sexualized view of breasts. Later, I pledged religious allegiance to exactly the same view under a new name: prudery. My experience as an RN, especially in teaching moms to breastfeed, cured me of both. I feel privileged and liberated to participate in the reality of God's primary purpose for women's breasts. For a small window of hospital time, I watch first-time moms experience that freedom, too, as they learn the truth about breasts. I encourage them to remember that truth and freedom as they reenter a culture that treats their breasts as sexual commodities. Assertive breastfeeding moms have a unique opportunity to force our society to face its immaturity. By openly nursing their infants and toddlers, they can teach the next generation of American citizens to see breasts wholesomely, as normal parts of the female anatomy and as beautiful organs divinely designed with the potential of nurturing babies.

America’s sex-obsessed focus on breasts is seen by some world cultures as ludicrous. I think of it as toxic. Our cultural prudery promotes a pornographic view of the human body, and we need both spiritual and educational reformation. Everyone’s feelings and reactions to breasts and breastfeeding have been culturally learned. Through my work and my research, I’ve learned body acceptance, thus breast acceptance. If prudish and perverted views were merely harmless opinions, I’d let this issue go. But they're not. Both treat women as sex targets, and both dishonor the Designer of breasts. So, till I die or the Lord returns, I'll keep denouncing this great American obsession and keep telling nursing moms to openly demonstrate to our dysfunctional and immature culture what women’s breasts are really for.

(There’s more about this issue in my essay: “Teaching God's Design for BREASTS - A Message about ‘the Visible Breast’ for Christian Leaders.”)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

THE PROBLEM WITH HELL

Christians who think about what they believe have usually thought about the problem of “Hell.” Why does a loving Creator allow such a place? Some try dancing theological circles around the doctrine of Hell revealed in Scripture. But Hell will not go away, and for a very good reason.

In my journey of faith, I’ve many times been helped by the writings of C. S. Lewis. While reading The Problem of Pain, I made a giant step in understanding Hell. Later, in his book The Great Divorce, I found these words that many will recognize:

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”

Before ever seeing that popular quote, I heard a sermon on the “love of God” which downplayed the reality of “hell.” During the message, I thought about how the words of Deuteronomy 4:24, “For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God,” related to 1 John 1:5 and 1 John 4:8, where John says, “God is love,” and “God is light.” I got this sudden insight on Hell: God, as Light and Love, reveals the truth and is so passionately jealous of its integrity that He consumes the darkness of lies. Our God of fiery Love is also the God of consuming Light. Hell is not the result of His absence, but an effect of His ongoing presence. Love and Light are omnipresent.

Later, when studying the doctrine of Hell in graduate school, these previous meditations congealed into the following poem that describes God from two opposite perspectives:

HEAVEN AND HELL

“Consuming Fire, Eternal Light,
 Who shines Your grace to heal our sight;
 Life-giving Flame and Loving Blaze,
 Our open hands to You we raise,
 Secure within Your purging gaze,
 With joy we praise: we sing our praise!”

“Unquenching Heat, Infernal Light,
 That fries our souls, disrupts our night;
 Tormenting Blast and Burning Fate,
 Our fists we raise in stern debate,
 Enraged beneath your scorching Weight,
 In pain we hate: we scream our hate!”
 
— David L. Hatton, 3/8/1983
(in Poems Between Heaven & Hell © 1991 by David L. Hatton)

As C. S. Lewis explains, Hell is God’s last mercy to the unrepentant sinner. The perpetual pain of Hell is Love’s endless commitment to teach the truth to free moral agents who forever choose to ignore or deny it. Ignorant skeptics may zealously hate the concept of Hell. But in His own perfect hatred for it, God confronted the realistic results of humanity's misuse of free-will with the only remedy that could maintain human freedom: His personal incarnation, death, and resurrection in Christ. At His own expense, God offers us an escape from the self-made choices which brought Hell into existence and make it such a hellish place.

So, the familiar question stands: “Where will you spend eternity?” The Gospel of Jesus Christ lays the ultimate responsibility on each human soul for individually determining the answer.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

IS YOUR HUMANITY HUMAN-FRIENDLY?

In human self-understanding, what makes sense philosophically, religiously, or relationally, is always human-friendly. In fact, if it’s not, it’s probably a deception. By human-friendly, I mean in sync with our human nature as created by God. No matter how clever it sounds, any belief that conflicts with our basic humanness, or contradicts our corporate experience of being human, is never of divine origin. It might even be demonic.

Bottom-line, we are creatures of body and spirit. We are not bodies with a spirit or spirits in a body—not two separate dimensions of personal being somehow pasted together. We are body-spirit beings: an intrinsically interpenetrating amalgamation of both. It’s our human nature in this life (Genesis 2:7). It’s our future destiny in resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).

Some may exalt the materialistic view of humanity preached dogmatically by scientism, but no one really laughs or loves or lives that way. Our minds and souls are spiritual entities, not merely chemical processes of matter. Others may adopt a pantheistic monism, where “all is one,” and try to imagine that any perceived variation in personal choices, emotional feelings, and bodily experiences is nothing more than maya, an illusion. Again, none can conscientiously hold such a belief and at the same time act authentically in satisfying hunger, working a job, creating art, enjoying a friend, seeking comfort, fleeing pain, grieving loss, or crying for justice. Life as maya is definitely not human-friendly. Nor is Gnosticism, that ancient, but lately re-popularized philosophical system that divides body and spirit. Denigrating the material world as evil baggage, and positing ultimate value in spiritual existence alone, creates a Jekyll-Hyde split personality in human self-perception. Such dualistic thinking treats our physical embodiment as a nightmare. But in real life, if we listen to our heart of hearts, all of us feel quite at home in human flesh.

At root, all these beliefs are foreign to what we—as body-spirit beings—know personally. None are friendly to gut-level humanness. None arise from within natural human experience. All are foreign, imposed from without, philosophically, religiously, superstitiously, but often eloquently. To gain greater credibility, modern proponents of these creeds may offer alternative interpretations of the Bible to support their ideas. Don’t be fooled. From Genesis to Revelation, the Scriptures are incarnational.

Christ’s Incarnation is the reason I look to human-friendliness as the ultimate standard for evaluating any belief system about humanity. That our Maker became a true Human is central to the Christian faith. It’s the best news the human race could ever receive.

Let the many prospects of God’s Human Incarnation become your meditation. Contemplate deeply its significance for the fulfillment of humanity’s holiest dreams and highest destiny. One by one, you’ll abandon every human-unfriendly belief you ever held. You’ll find that Truth is a Person, as you embrace Jesus Christ, the resurrected God-Man. You’ll discover the ultimate condition for human self-acceptance, as our loving, personal Creator embraces you.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

MY REWARDING DOUBTS ABOUT THE TRINITY

A couple years out of Bible College, for a short time, I questioned the doctrine of the Trinity. My doubts led me into an intense study to see if Jesus and the Holy were ever called Yahweh (Jehovah) in the Bible. If so, then the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit would all three be the great “I AM” of Exodus 3:14, as well as the “US” of the Godhead Who said, “Let us make man in our image...” (Genesis 1:26). It could not logically be otherwise, if Yahweh is God.

My investigation was extremely complicated. Following Jewish tradition, most translations of the Old Testament (OT) substitute “LORD” for Yahweh, but spell it “Lord,” if the Hebrew word adonai, (a lord or ruler) is used as a name for God. However, when the New Testament (NT) quotes the OT, both Yahweh and adonai become only the Greek word kurios (a lord or ruler). To find if Jesus and the Holy Spirit are ever called Yahweh, the NT must attribute the name kurios to them in the context of a quote from the OT, AND the kurios referred to in the quote must, in the original Hebrew text, be God’s name Yahweh, not adonai, which could mean only a ruler.

There were no personal computers at this time, so my research depended on many hours of wading through the pages of Strong’s Concordance. But at last, in Romans 10:9-13, I had my first success! There, Jesus is called kurios (“Lord”), and the significance of that title is directly explained by a quote from Joel 2:32, where the NT translation kurios means Yahweh (“LORD”) in the original language. This proved the deity of Jesus. I was totally thrilled!

But what about the Holy Spirit? It took less time for a similar thrill! In 2 Corinthians 3:12-18, the Holy Spirit is called kurios (“Lord”) not once but twice (vs. 17-18). But which kurios is Paul talking about, Yahweh or adonai, a ruling lord? The passage refers to the OT story about Moses removing his veil upon entering the presence of “the LORD.” In 2 Corinthians, it's kurios; in Exodus 34:34 it's Yahweh. No adonai anywhere in the context. This completed my study and forever confirmed my faith in the Christian doctrine of the Trinitarian nature of God.

I admit, it was a complicated study, and perhaps hard to follow. But after doing this research, I realized I could have saved myself the trouble. In Matthew 28:19, where Jesus instructs the disciples to baptize converts, He says to do so “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” All three have one name. The Father is fully Yahweh, the Son is fully Yahweh, the Spirit is fully Yahweh. God is a Trinity. I wrote up my findings into a tract called, “WATCH OUT! Are You Truly Jehovah’s Witness?” It was published by Gospel Outreach of Northern California, back in the heyday of the Jesus’ People Movement.

Many years later, I thought of another argument to support a Trinitarian theology. It’s based in logical reasoning, less complicated and easier to explain. In a later blog, I hope to share it and another very interesting one that I’ve thought about recently. I may even mention a third.

Monday, February 27, 2012

ART IS A TEACHER

Art is not just a skill but a teacher. When I began art courses in 2006, I started seeing things differently. I noticed shapes and arrangements, colors and tones, lines and curves, schemes and designs, everywhere around me.

One night in the hospital, I caught myself staring at the typical row of skin creases around one of my patient’s armpits where her pectoralis inserted beneath the deltoid. I was suddenly fascinated and wanted to capture on paper an area of the body I’d seen for decades without noticing or appreciating its uniqueness. The same was true for other parts of the naked anatomy, but especially the structures of the face: eyebrows, noses, lips, jawbone angles, ears, hair; all were more interesting now. Art had given me renewed vision, awakening my eyes to see more of what I'd been looking at without really seeing.

Because my mind is steeped in theology and logic, it was easy to see another dimension where art is a teacher. In meditating on humanity’s bent toward creativity, I saw how artists, even in their most innovative moments, are essentially imitators. All human art is an imitation of the artistry within creation. Even the abstract artist selects and recombines the same lines and forms and colors, even the randomness, which have always been resident in nature. This teaches us something about God and something about ourselves.

After I’d been taking art classes for a few years, I wrote this poem:

ARTIST

Paint clouds that really rain
And noisy, running streams,
Or birds that can take flight
And sing beyond your dreams,
Or sculpt a lovely nude
That wakes to your embrace . . .
If not, then praise the Artist
Who made the human race.

— David L. Hatton, 10-20-2009

Today, in thinking more about the theological lessons of art, I finished another similar poem:

DESIGNERS

We’re designed to be designers
By the Maker of the skies.
When they copy nudes and nature,
Artists often plagiarize.
Praise the Artist of creation,
When you render earthly art.
Our designs are mere reflections
Of the great Designer’s heart.

— David L. Hatton, 12- 27-2012

Human artists and their compositions provide a powerful, extra-biblical proof that we are made in the image of the Original Artist.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

INTRODUCING MY BLOG

I like to learn, but I must teach. Discoveries delight the mind, but sharing them fulfills the heart. When I gain new perspectives on God, His Word, creation, or our place in it, I feel compelled to express them. This usually comes through prophetic prose or poetic verse, but occasionally in the form of visual artwork. This blog is my way of passing along those insights and inspirations to those interested. Avoiding a topical or chronological order, I hope to pattern my blog after my own stream of consciousness: a spontaneous, serendipitous interweaving of thoughts.

In introducing my blog, let me first break apart and explain the wording of my name for it: "PastorDavidRN's DANCE with NAKED TRUTH." Its long title is an important description.

My parents named me “David,” which means “beloved.” I’ve always appreciated that about my name. Knowing its literal Hebrew meaning helped me grow up with gratitude. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt thankful for being “beloved,” not just by my parents, but by God.

I really am a pastor, an ordained minister in The Wesleyan Church. Since 1996, I’ve been serving a small retirement community church sponsored by Faith Legacy Church. Many of the sermons I've preached there can be listened to on my "Sermons" webpage linked above. Some of the insights I hope to share in this blog came during this pastoral ministry to seniors.

I really am a nurse, too. After getting my RN in 1981, I worked the ER for almost a decade. Then in 1991, I cross-trained to OB and have helped thousands of mothers give birth and nurse their babies. This job is still my main source of income. Meditating on the physical realities of life made so dynamically obvious in nursing has shaped much of my thinking about our humanity.

Dancing is a meaningful metaphor. Life rarely marches in a straight line. It spins and whirls, jumps and twirls. And we rarely dance alone. The dance floor of life is relational. I first used this figure of speech in my talk called, “The Dance of the Sexes.” All humans are in a dance, because we are made in the image of a Trinity of Individuals Who have danced together forever.

Nakedness is another metaphor with rich meaning. Its reputation today, however, is smothered by prudish fear and sullied with pornographic filth. Hopefully, from time to time, I will offer an array of historical, cultural, theological, and psycho-social insights on nakedness that will help restore its human-friendly significance.

Truth is foundational for true love. Without it, love becomes wishful sentimentality, at best, and addictive fantasy, at worst. Jesus said “the truth” can liberate those enslaved to sin (John 8:31-36). We get the phrase “the naked truth” from an ancient fable that beautifully illustrates the nature of truth: “While Truth was bathing in a river, Falsehood stole her clothes, and rather than wear the rags Falsehood left behind, Truth went about thereafter naked and unadorned.” I wrote a poem about this fable to expand upon its concepts.

Insights are epiphanies, realizations of truth that are usually sudden and unbidden. Since they seem to come more frequently with age, I believe most of them arise from the workings of human reason. But they can also be God-given revelations, and if that divine source is suspected, they must always be checked against God’s Word, His authoritative revelation to us. Part of the reason I’m starting this blog is that I seem to have so many of them. If they touch on Christian doctrine, I won’t be sharing them unless I can show their relationship to Scripture.

Inspirations are much like insights, but to me they serve as ignition points for creative expression. I have been writing poetry since early childhood. My love for proverbs, epigrams, and aphorisms has made me a collector of quotes and lured me into the challenging task of whittling ideas down to short, pithy and catchy sentences. Since 2006, I’ve begun to fulfill my dream doing of artwork. Some of all these areas of inspiration will appear on the blog.

God is my King. My life and my thoughts revolve around Him. If I hear Him doubted, my reason goes into gear to prove Him. If I hear Him maligned, my thoughts line up in ranks to defend Him. My goal is to love Him more. So, I can’t help but bring God into this blog. In a very real sense, He is its Lord and the motivation behind it.

Creation is everything else—all reality other than God. I have many insights and inspirations both about the handiwork of God and about His creative will in the continuity of  human creativity. But there is one place where God and creation personally meet: the Incarnation. If you find my blog heavy on the implications of that doctrine, it’s because it has captivated the bulk of my thinking for years, and I will never tire of its riches in contemplation nor exhaust its depths by writing about the God-Man Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

So, welcome to my blogmy dance with “the naked truth”—as it tries to offer my insights and inspirations concerning God and creation.