The Paradox of Freedom and the Christian

The history of the American experiment is making it less possible for Christians to live ignorant of the moral condition of our societal context. The Rev. Bart Day from the Office of National Mission of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, put it this way in his public response concerning the Planned Parenthood atrocities that are coming to light:

Today let us confess life with renewed vigor — to our friends over supper, through letters to the editor of our local paper, by writing our congressmen, in tweets and emails to Planned Parenthood, on our Facebook pages.

Let us pray that our Lord would bring an end to abortion altogether and that He would stop the horrible sale of infant bodies.

And let us pray that He would forgive us, renew us and bolster us to make a good confession in season and out of season: one that is always, no matter what, for life.

As I reflected on the news of the last couple of days while watching Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner’s acceptance speech after receiving the Arthur Ashe Award on the ESPY’s, my mind reeled trying to process the current zeitgeist of America. Then through the darkness, there shined a bright ray of commonality between it all. I do not just mean a commonality between Jenner and Planned Parenthood, but a commonality that traces back to the beginning of time – the idolatry of freedom.

God told Adam and Eve that they are free to eat of any tree in the Garden of Eden except the one that was in the middle. And placing freedom above divine mandate –  fearing, loving, and trusting freedom above God, if you will – they fell into sin as did the whole creation with them. So why are we surprised when the same ideas are expressed within a creation that is afflicted with the same sickness.

Throughout the entire abortion debate, pro-choice advocates cast their arguments in light of freedom. Whenever one opposes abortion, that person opposes the freedom of a woman to do with her body as she wishes. Is there anything that is more “anti-American” than opposing freedom? Whenever one speaks out against homosexuality, transgenderism, promiscuity, fornication, co-habitation, adultery, or anything else the Bible would call sin or a result of sin, that person is opposes the freedom of a person to be happy, love who they love, be true to themselves, etc. Is there anything more hateful than limiting someone’s freedom?

The hard answer to all of these questions is the fact that we are not called to be free or American (in this sense of the word). We are called to be God’s. Our freedom ends where it conflicts with the Word of God. Freedom is not all that it is cracked up to be. Freedom to ourselves means freedom from all that would confine us. Freedom to ourselves means freedom from God, and it does not take long for a Scripturally-minded Christian to see how scary of a place that is. If you want to see what freedom from God looks like, take a look at Christ on the cross. This is where God turns His back on His Son because of the sin of the world that He bears. It is where He turns His back on the one who bears our sins. All of them. It is in submission to God’s Law that we find repentance. It is in repentance that we find forgiveness. All of us. So to deify and laud those who celebrate freedom to themselves above obedience to God, is succumbing to Satan’s old tricks.

We cannot ignore this anymore. We cannot live as if we are of the world. We are not. We are of God. Let us find comfort, courage and peace in His blessings. His Word. His Sacrament. These are for you. Forgiveness and strength are found when we gather, we pray, we praise, and we give thanks. In this forgiveness there is true freedom. Freedom to be the people of God.


The Anatomy of an Argument: Somewhere in the Middle

I remember, clear as day, the time my mother gave me a most treasured piece of advice. I came home from school full of perplexity due to an argument that involved two of my friends.

They were fighting over…

they were fighting about…

yeah, I do not remember the substance of their argument anymore but I do remember that it was an argument in which both sides made valid arguments, but neither one seemed to be completely right either. In a class of 20, the class had quickly drawn sides. I enjoyed the company of both of my friends so I was hesitant to follow in line. I explained everything to my mother. As she listened, she was the picture of concern and interest. When I was finished and about to burst into tears, she calmly looked at me and smiled. She gave me a hug and said, “Patrick, whenever there is an argument that does not seem easily won, you can count on one thing: the truth is probably found in the middle somewhere.”

The truth is probably found in the middle somewhere.

Over the years, I have heard accounts in which parents have given their children similar advice. However, this seems to be an understanding that is in short supply in the world. Lutheran theology is a theology that is all about tensions and paradoxes. The chief of these tensions is the teaching that we are simultaneously sinner and saint. We are rotten, vile, miserable sinners that cannot save ourselves nor deserve to be saved. At the same time, we are forgiven because of the blood of Christ. This forgiveness is given to us via God’s Word and Sacraments – His Means of Grace. We are made COMPLETELY holy by the blood of Christ. We are granted salvation through faith because of the work and love of Christ. We have so much to offer the world in terms of comfort and hope. Yet, when the opportunity comes up, there are many times when we do not allow the tension to persist.

We do not allow the truth to persist in the middle somewhere.

Most often, I see this when a certain argument pops up. It occurs over and over again. Every time it pops up, I see it take the same shape. The argument goes like this:

  1. Some neo-evangelical, emergent-type accuses the historical church/organized religion of being a bunch of hypocrites.
  2. In doing so, they call for an exodus from the hypocritical mass, and a return to “actual Christianity”.
  3. Those that are partial to the historical church/organized religion take offense.
  4. In doing so, they give lip-service to the fact that the church is full of sinners because it is where sinners need to be. They establish why the neo-evangelcial, emergent type is just as much of a sinner as those in the church. Then, they will proceed to logically dismantle any attempt of argument or rebuttal.

And so it goes. Neither side ever admitting defeat. Neither side acquiescing points. The argument goes on… and on… and on… and on… and on. Many times this debate also occurs via social media, blog posts, etc. which is never conducive to settling debates or engendering conversation. I would argue that there might be merits worth admitting from both sides which might help hold the tension of sinner/saint while providing an opportunity to show the love of Christ and proclaim the forgiveness that He gives to make saints out of sinners. What if, instead of worrying about winning a debate, getting likes on Facebook, getting views on YouTube, or anything else… what if we worried about proclaiming the comfort that comes from forgiveness first? What if we sought to “win our brother over” instead of beat him into intellectual submission?

CAVEAT:I am not arguing against apologetics. I am not arguing against defending the faith. There is a time and a place for standing our ground. There is a time and a place for satire, snarkiness, and subtle theological jabs. However, it is not ALWAYS the time for those things. This is true for all arguments and debates.

Perhaps those who attack the church for being full of hypocrites have a point. The church is full of hypocrites. What if those of us in the organizational church admitted the truth of this? What if we asked for forgiveness where we have erred? What if we looked for reconciliation first, instead of rushing straight to righteous indignation? We can always complain about the tenor of arguments, but what can we do to change that tenor? What if we started the conversation with forgiveness? How would this change things? The other guy is not always the problem. Sometimes, we are the problem. Sometimes both parties are at fault. Sometimes the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Again, I am not arguing against orthodox theology. I am not arguing that there are not times to stand up and defend the truth of Scripture. However, just because we might be right, we don’t have to be jerks about it. Gentleness and respect, people. 1 Peter 3:15 kind of stuff. But more on that later.

What say you?

Manic Monday: A Humble Apology

So things have been absolutely crazy for me over the past two weeks and will continue to be crazy for another three weeks. I am still in the middle of my “Re-defining Culture” blogs. I am making sure that they are worth posting. However, they are coming about slower than I would like and then you deserve. So as my humble apology, please accept the following video. This is one of the greatest apologetic videos that I have ever seen. It is a movie that documents an ongoing conversation between the late Christopher Hitchens and a Christian apologist/pastor named Douglas Wilson. While Wilson is a Calvinist and I have some problems with his theology, he puts forth an excellent case against Hitchens. The two respect each other and even appear to have a friendship. If you don’t feel like watching the whole hour and a half. I highly suggest you watch some of it and make sure you catch the end statements of Hitchens.