“I don’t worship that kind of God,” and other Genocidal Musings


“I don’t worship that kind of God.”

It’s a common statement thrown about nowadays for a variety of ethical reasons. Usually, it’s said by someone who is offended at an event in Scripture, or someone’s interpretation of it, and they simply can’t imagine the all-loving God they know condoning, or directly causing, harm to others in some truly visceral ways. It’s a great topic for reflection, study, and prayer. After all, we must openly confront that the Bible writes of God condoning genocide, eliminating entire cities, asking fathers to kill sons, and a flood that supposedly kills almost everyone just 7 chapters into the whole thing. It’s a difficult task that some Christians don’t wrestle with at all because either A. Ignorance is bliss, B. It’d be too difficult to reformulate their image of God from the one they learned in Sunday School or C. They don’t struggle with it because they don’t question whether God is good, or not.

I must admit that I fall into the 3rd category…but not as proudly as you might imagine. I don’t believe doubt is really that bad of a thing. Actually, I think it can really be a thing that sharpens, draws, and leads us towards a better understanding of who God is. The fact I never second guessed the ethical ramifications of a God who behaves as He reportedly does in the Bible has left me with a flat and narrow picture of who He is. The only reason I explore these questions now is only because others do. Without the other voices within evangelicalism questioning what kind of God we serve, I would never have thought to consider Him as deeply as I do, today.

But if I’m honest, I’ll still tell you that the goodness of God is not something I struggle with.

When I read about God ordering the genocide of the Canaanites, I’m really not that disturbed. This isn’t due to a callous, or surface, reading of the text, either.

My understanding is and has been this: “If God is, by His very nature, good, then everything He does is unquestionably good.” If you were to take the adjective “good” and replace it with whatever adjective you apply to Him, then what you’re left with is trying to discover what “good” is. In trying to understand what things like “good,” “just,” and “love” are, I hope to know Him more.

To claim to know those things (goodness, justice, and love) is a claim to know exactly who God is. Make no mistake: God has revealed Himself and continues to do so. But to those who say “I don’t want to worship that kind of God who…” I’m left with the impression that they worship someone who thinks and looks like them. I could be completely off, mind you. Telling the difference between someone who has fashioned a god in their image and those who have actually adopted the language of God isn’t exactly a speciality of mine.

What I hope for that, when Jesus returns, we’ll be able to recognize Him. I don’t want to be like the leaders who opposed Him because they had fashioned an image of God that didn’t line up with what they were seeing. I pray that for the Church, as well.


Gary Cass, Islamophoia, and the Need to Change


Have you ever had a moment of intense anger because someone, somewhere, said something really stupid and hateful? Only to track back and realize that you’re not all that different from them? Or, at the very least, were once like them?

I had that moment yesterday.

Gary Cass is a semi-known, politically active preacher in the United States. The list of issues he tackles range from abortion, traditional marriage, Christian education in schools, christian liberty, and ensuring christians are legally defended when they feel persecuted. In other words he’s a typical, evangelical, right winger with a heavy emphasis on Christendom.

(Christendom is the notion that Christian ideas; values; and even the religion itself, should be at the forefront of each state. It’s adherents believe that the separation of church and state is a farce and should work in tandem to bring Christ’s Kingdom, on Earth.)

My feelings about Cass are less than favorable to say the least. He’s “that” guy. You know…the one whose picture you hold up to 1 Corinthians 13:1 and say to yourself “Yep. He’s THAT guy.” To which he would reply with something like, “I am speaking the truth; and the truth is loving!” Causing my forehead to burn with the intensity of a thousand suns as I face palm eternally.

One of those moments happened yesterday when I read a post from Gary Cass featured on CharismaNews (since retracted). In it, he declared himself a proud Islamophobe. Calling upon the history of extremists abroad, he lists only three possible solutions: 1. Convert, 2. Deport, 3. or Kill. But according to Cass:

“The only thing that is biblical and that 1400 years of history has shown to work is overwhelming Christian just war and overwhelming self defense. Christian Generals Charles Martel in 732 and Jon Sobieski in 1672 defeated Islamic Turks and their attempts to take the West. Who will God raise up to save us this time? Will God even intervene or turn us over to the Muslims for turning against Him?”

He continues:

This is not irrational, but the loving thing we must do for our children and neighbors. First trust in God, then obtain a gun(s), learn to shoot, teach your kids the Christian doctrines of just war and self defense, create small cells of family and friends that you can rely on if some thing catastrophic happens and civil society suddenly melts down.

He’s wrong, of course, and for several reasons; but this post isn’t about Gary Cass. There will be lots of blogs written about the man and I’ve really nothing of value to add in that department. Rather, this is about turning his words back to those who obviously disagree with him:

What have we done, as Christians, to love Muslims?

Sometimes I wonder when the “us versus them” mentality will finally catch up with me. I’m so prone to shield myself from what I don’t understand; and I know I am not alone. The reason I know this is because my comfort, in relation to Muslims, isn’t that I trust God: it’s that I am surrounded by people who similarly do not trust, understand, or love Muslims.

But there are so many people I don’t understand…so many people I don’t love. How are we so different from the Gary Cass’ of the world? Of course few are as bombastic as he. Nor do many of us aspire to see Muslims forcefully converted at the barrel of a gun. But do we know the way forward with our Muslim neighbors? I’m not sure I do; especially as I sit here in the comfort of student housing of a seminary. What I do know is this: I must change. My heart must soften or it will find itself in a state all too similar to Gary Cass’.

Self-Love, Fear, Justice, and Bob Jones University


When we love ourselves, fear rules.
When fear consumes us, secrets loom.
When secrets exist, justice is withheld.
Where has justice gone?

It’s been reported that Bob Jones University, a heavily insulated university in South Carolina, fired an organization that was hired to investigate claims of sexual abuse at the school on the eve of a public report being filed, after 13 months of study. According to the school, they grew concerned about how the organization was pursuing their objectives.

The bolded expression is indicative that the school was probably more uncomfortable with the organizations findings then the actual method they were using. The organization, GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), released a statement about their unexpected termination, “At the heart of the struggle is a fear that is rooted in the need to self-protect. All such ‘fears’ are usually masked by a rationale that the reporting of such abuse may ‘damage the reputation of Christ.’”

We all feel the pressure to hide and/or lie, when confronted with wrongdoing. Seized by the possible consequences, we do what we can to protect ourselves, and sometimes others we love, from our (or their) actions. In this case, it would seem BJU believes its mission is so closely aligned with Christ that, were any damage done to its reputation, the name of Christ would be damaged with it.

The truth is that, this line of reasoning, is what allows injustice to persist; causing the name of God to be mocked.

It is entirely unacceptable.

Micah 6:8 reads, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

When we consider ourselves above God, and others, we will find ourselves in opposition to His work. It is in that moment we discover just how far disjointed we are from Him; and how much damage we’ve already done, in His name.

A Written Definition of Love


In saying that “self-love” is the opposite to “love” we have, in part, already defined the word; but not any more than saying it is an adjective, noun, and verb. Gathering the descriptions has allowed us to know what elements should be in place when a definition is given. Now that we’ve done most of the leg work, lets open up to Romans 12:9-13:

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”

Below, I’ve divided the passage up in smaller parts. Doing so allows us to slow down and examine Paul’s words in a more “hands on” fashion. The summary for each broken down passage will be in bold. This is an interpretive step taken in order to help us write our a definition. I’ve added a bit of commentary to show why I’ve made the interpretation the way I have.


Love is divinely justified  

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”

When we hold on to what is good, we will hate what is evil. In a sense, there is a kind of indignation that rises when we see indifference and injustice. How we move forward in our justifications should be defined by love; of which we are inching ever closer to an actual definition.

Love is affection loyalty

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; preference to one another in honor;”

What we see here is the antithesis to the “love yourself to better love others” perspective. In seeking other’s interests above our own desires, we see a familial kind of love that is marked by an affectionate devotion. When people honor our needs before their own, the need to prefer ourselves diminishes.

Love cures apathy

“Not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;”

In apathy, the appetite to serve others is minimal. We cannot take a day off in our devotion to one another. There is no room for us to “check out” mentally or spiritually. Doing so invites laziness and other self-serving habits.

Love is enduring

“rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,”

My pastor has a saying that goes along the lines of, “if you aren’t in a storm right now, you either just got out of one or are heading directly into it.” Tough times are a reality of the world we’ve helped build (see: screwed up), but when we serve the Lord we can rejoice in His accomplishments and promised return. We persevere because He did. We pray because Jesus did. To love is to do these things continuously.

Love meets needs

“contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality”

We can persevere because all of our needs will be met. God uses us, the Church, to provide where others lack. This isn’t a heavily coded message: love is definitely a verb.


To form the definition of the word, I’ll now take my bolded summaries to make a complete thought:

Love is a divinely justified, affectionate loyalty that continually feels for, and meets the needs of, others. 

All of the elements in this particular passage lead us to a definition that emphasizes justice, feeling, loyalty, and service to others. The big idea is that love is wholly, other focused. Its justice component means that love doesn’t make you a pushover, or a “yes man.” The affection of love includes our feelings, but its loyalty also eliminates its dependency on them.

Tomorrow, I’ll post about different ways to apply the definition that’s been developed. Both in a theological sense, and in a practical one.

The Opposite of Love is not Indifference


A seemingly mild-mannered British professor walked in on a conversation me and Holly were having on the definition of love. Using a process called Via negativa, we were trying to discern what the it’s exact opposite was in order to better understand.

Via negativa is a practice in theology that you may have seen implemented by C.S. Lewis in his answer to the problem of evil when he claims that evil only exists where good is not (basically, you discover what something is by surmising what it isn’t).

Having both decided that “hate” wasn’t it because it actually required an individual to love in the first place, the general consensus between Holly and I seemed to be that “apathy” was the true opposite of love. It is here that my professor, overhearing our agreement, asked what we were up to and offered an objection.

“Love is a cause [as opposed to an effect, or result],” he said assuredly, “which means its opposite must be one as well. I don’t see how apathy is anything more than a result of self-love.

I knew he was right the second he said it, yet I was slow to agree. Surely apathy was the cause of our sin! All we needed was a passion for Jesus to empower us for right living! At the very least, we needed to will ourselves and do what we knew was right simply because God said so. More self control and discipline was required.

Then it suddenly donned on me why I refused to faced the reality of my professor’s words: If self-love is the opposite of love, that would mean I didn’t love God.

I had submitted to His call to missions, studied theology, and even preached the gospel; yet didn’t really love God. I liked things about Him. That whole forgiveness thing is kind of nice. The reason for my obedience, up to that point, was due to feeling no other choice. I felt shackled and burdened by God; having never understand the transformation from slave to son as Paul outlined in Galatians 4:1-7

I’m relating all of this, before getting into the Biblical definition of love, for this reason: theology has many different starting points.

Most assume that theology is when you pick up a Bible, or some old text from Church history, and make observations about God. The truth is that objectivity doesn’t exist in the Bible. When we read it, we take our experiences with us. This is essential to understand for two reasons: 1. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the men who wrote scripture is the same Holy Spirit that inspires us, and 2. God is the true interpreter of scripture and, therefore, all experiences must go through Him, first.

This does not diminish the Bible’s place in theology. All theology should be held up to scripture. This is exactly what we’ll do next time when we examine the word “love,” in the Bible, in light of my assertion that “self-love” is the antithesis of “love.”

What is Love (Jesus, don’t Hurt me)


Name an album, in English, that doesn’t use the word “love.”

I’ll wait.

For as often as we use the word, getting a proper definition for “love” is something of a challenge. More times than not, the answer will be something to the effect of, “love is…just like…love,” or, “love is an overwhelming feeling of…feelings.” This can be a problem for Christians since so much of the Bible (arguably all of it) is dedicated to that very concept.

The Christian definition of love typically centers on three principles:

  •  1 Corinthians 13 (love is patient, kind, etc.): In this sense, love is an attribute. To be patient, kind, good, faithful, etc., is a part of assuming the character of Christ. As we become more like Christ, we become more loving (more on this in point 3).
  •  Luv is a verb (classic 90’s nostalgia reference, Luke 10:27): Are you d-d-down with the DC Talk? I can’t speak for everyone, but they aren’t alone in the sentiment that love is action oriented.
  • Jesus is love (plenty of bumper stickers and coffee cups to remind you, just in case you forgot, 1 John 4:8): Love as a proper noun might be jarring to non-Christians, but people have been chanting this for years. In combination with the aforementioned 1 Corinthians 13, we begin to apply all the adjectives to God and look for the evidence of that love in His work.

Love as an adjective, verb, and noun are all Biblically founded, and will help us in our application. Yet, if you pay close attention, all we’ve really done is describe what love is without ever really defining it. The problem with that is we’ve never truly escaped the circular logic of “Jesus is love.”

Yes, he is the essence, author, and example of love; but without an actual, working definition of the word all we’re left with is a hollow image of the Triune God; one that isn’t knowable, or relatable. In defining love, our thoughts about God can profoundly impact the dynamic of our relationship with Him.

Before we do this, however, let me say that I don’t wish to abandon the descriptions of love I mentioned before. Those sentiments are useful reminders of how God is both imminent and transcendent. He reveals Himself in ways that allow us to know love and who He is; yet this also sets God apart from anything else we’ve ever known.

What I do not care for is God becoming subject to our conclusions and definitions. If we know God is love, then it is He who truly defines it by nature of His…well…nature. If the definition doesn’t fit with what we know of His character as revealed in the Bible than it is our definition that needs changed.

With this understanding in place, we can try to navigate a way to a scriptural, Christ-centered definition of love that is both affective and applicable.

Next time, though.

We’ll continue the conversation in the next blog. I hope you’ll join me on this journey of discovery.

Apologetics is not Evangelism



The prevailing nature of apologetics within evangelicalism is intellectual in nature, and this is no accident. The loudest opponents of Christianity use scientific, historical, and philosophical disciplines to debate the existence of God and the claims of Jesus. It’s only natural that Christians answer these challenges by using the same tools their opponents do. This isn’t a bad thing, of course. These areas of studies can sharpen the Church’s understanding of the God we worship. They help explain why Christianity celebrates certain traditions, and shuns others. Academics can even inform our daily Bible reading. But there isn’t a single area of study, including theology, that will convince a person to trust Jesus.

Intellectual acknowledgement of Christ, or other historical and philosophical truths in the Bible, does not equal, or bring about, faith.

Dr. Richard D. Land (President of Southern Evangelical Seminary), writes in the Christian Post: “I fervently believe apologetics is the way we will spell Christian evangelism, missions, and discipleship in the 21st century.¹”

Norm Geisler adds, “[apologetics is] simply to defend the faith, and thereby destroy arguments and every proud obstacle against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:5). It is opening the door, clearing the rubble, and getting rid of the hurdles so that people can come to Christ.²”

The problem with Geisler’s quote about getting rid of hurdles to Christ is that he assumes people’s objections to Christ are primarily philosophical or scientific. While it may be the stated reason by many an atheist, the cause of unbelief is brought to the fore in Hebrews 3:12-19; most notable in verses 18 and 19, when the author writes: “And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.”

It’s interesting that Geisler would use 2 Corinthians 10:5 when, in the verse before it, Paul says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds (ESV).”

Again, I will reiterate that apologetics is a good thing that is both effective and has Biblical precedence (Acts 22:1, 1 Corinthians 9:3, 1 Peter 3:15). To equate apologetics with evangelism, however, is to put undue weight on the skill of the apologist, away from the actual transformative power of the Holy Spirit.

Apologetics is only a small fragment of how we should preach the gospel. If obedience to Christ is the mark of someone who believes (both in word and action) than wouldn’t our lives be the best evangelistic tool we have?

What does this entail? Let’s start with what Jesus tells a young man what the greatest commandments are, in Matthew 22:36-40.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

So what is love then? In tomorrow’s blog, we’ll start a journey that seeks to, theologically, define love in a way that allows us to understand what it means to be obedient and how to better evangelize.

1. http://www.christianpost.com/news/christian-apologetics-the-evangelistic-wave-of-the-future-107624/

2. ibid