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Marc Roby: We are continuing our break from studying theology to look at some current topics of great importance from a Christian perspective. Last week we showed that critical theory challenges cultural norms because it views them as part of an oppressive power structure. This anti-Christian theory has taken over our university system and our public K-12 system as well. It must be opposed by Christians. Dr. Spencer, what do you want to cover today?

Dr. Spencer: I want to begin by highlighting the seriousness of the problem. In Mark 3:25 Christ said that “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” Now this is a self-evidently true statement, but it gets at the root of the issue with neo-Marxist ideologies of all flavors. Their purpose is to divide and conquer. They seek to destroy this country from within.

Marc Roby: Surely that can’t be true of all the people who support these different ideologies.

Dr. Spencer: Oh, no, it isn’t. Most of the people who join with these different movements or espouse their views do so innocently enough, they have come to believe that the ideas are good for one reason or another, often because the stated goals deliberately hide the real purpose. But in each of the movements there are some number of individuals, typically those driving and guiding the movements, who are very conscious of what they are doing. They literally want to destroy this country.  

Marc Roby: That probably sounds like a right-wing conspiracy theory to many.

Dr. Spencer: I’m sure it does, but there is no need for a conspiracy theory. As I have been laboring to show in these podcasts, you can read things these people published or said publicly and you can trace their connections to each other and see what they’ve done and why they’ve done it. Whether or not it meets the standard of being a “conspiracy” is another matter. 

But that is also why I pointed out that most of the people who accept or promote these neo-Marxist ideologies in one way or another are not doing so from bad motives. They simply don’t know the true motivations behind the movement. Take, for example, the Black Lives Matter movement, which we will talk about in detail in a later session. They chose that name for a good reason. Who is going to deny the truth of the statement that black lives matter?

Marc Roby: No one that I want to associate with.

Dr. Spencer: And that is why they chose that name. Only a wicked person would deny it. But the Black Lives Matter organization is very different from their name. It is not focused on saving or improving black lives as I will clearly show later. It is a Marxist organization whose real fundamental goal is the destruction of this country in order to create the conditions necessary for communism to come in and to move us closer to a world-wide utopia. And that is what you are supporting if you have a Black Lives Matter T-shirt or lawn sign.

Marc Roby: I look forward to that discussion. 

Dr. Spencer: And so do I, but we have a little more background to cover first. I just wanted to emphasize what is at stake here. Remember back in Session 165 when we were discussing the voluntary socialist experiment of Robert Owen, called New Harmony? I mentioned that Marx and Engels had nothing but contempt for the idea that communism could be brought about by peaceful means. True communism requires that the entire world become communist, it can’t be just be one country. No truly communist nation, or group, is ever going to peacefully coexist with other forms of government, their theory demands that the whole world become communist before it is possible to reach heaven on earth. So they will always be working for the destruction of other forms of government. We need to understand that as individuals and as a nation or we are going to be taken advantage of and, eventually, destroyed because of our own naivete.  

Marc Roby: That’s a very strong statement.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it is. But remember that in the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels wrote that “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. … Workingmen of all countries, unite!” 

Marc Roby: Yes, I see your point about how dangerous this is. Although it does appear that not all communists disdain to conceal their views, the real motives behind much of what they are doing in this country are not openly stated.

Dr. Spencer: That’s true, although they don’t work too hard to hide them. You just have to look and you can find them. We have seen that a number of people have realized that capitalist societies like ours have become too successful for the working class to want revolution. Therefore, Marxists needed to find a way to weaken our country, and others like it, in order to create a situation in which revolution is possible. 

Marc Roby: And that is why we spent the last two sessions discussing Antonio Gramsci, Herbert Marcuse and critical theory, the theory that virtually every aspect of our culture is a part of a huge system of oppression. That theory is being used in our school systems and elsewhere to divide our country and create that revolutionary situation.

Dr. Spencer: That’s exactly right. And we are seeing the bitter fruit of that movement right now with the riots that have been plaguing many of our major cities night after night for months. 

Marc Roby: And we see it in the calls to abolish or radically reduce the police and the burning of police buildings and other symbols of authority.

Dr. Spencer: Very true. In Session 168 I noted that Gramsci was the first to publish the realization that capitalism is too successful. Working class people are able to achieve a comfortable lifestyle and don’t see the need for revolution. Gramsci called this giving them a “false consciousness.” And we noted that Marcuse built on Gramsci’s ideas. Let me quote from Marcuse’s most famous work, a book called One-Dimensional Man, which was published in 1964.

Marcuse wrote that “The people recognize themselves in their commodities; they find their soul in their automobile, hi-fi set, split-level home, kitchen equipment. The very mechanism which ties the individual to his society has changed, and social control is anchored in the new needs which it has produced.” He then went on to write that “The products indoctrinate and manipulate; they promote a false consciousness which is immune against its falsehood.”

Marc Roby: That explains the phrase “false consciousness”, he is referring to the false idea that someone could become fully satisfied in life as a result of material prosperity.

Dr. Spencer: And, in a way, we would agree with this. To be materially comfortable and to think that is all that is important is to completely miss the true purpose of life. Christ himself said, in Luke 10:42, that there is only one thing needful, and he wasn’t speaking about material prosperity, he was speaking about our salvation. 

Marc Roby: Jesus also told us in the Sermon on the Mount, as we read in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Dr. Spencer: And those verses make the same point. So, we would agree with Marcuse and others that material prosperity alone cannot fully satisfy man’s needs, not even in this life. But, strangely, Marcuse should have been happy with a comfortable life if he was a truly consistent materialist. I mean, what else could really matter? You live, you die, and that’s the end of it. But we know, because God has told us, that man is not just a physical animal, he has a spirit as well. And everyone, even an avowed materialist like Marcuse, has a sense that there is more to life than the physical. That is why many novels, short stories and plays have been written in the last century about how a person can lose his or her soul by being completely consumed with material prosperity.

Marc Roby: It is certainly a common theme. Especially since the industrial revolution.

Dr. Spencer: And I personally think the reason is that society has been so successful at supplying everyone’s physical needs that people have more leisure time and are less consumed with the task of providing for their material needs. And from the perspective of a Marxist, who wants to bring about revolution, that is a problem. Marcuse wrote the following about the capitalist way of life, “It is a good way of life – much better than before – and as a good way of life, it militates against qualitative change. Thus emerges a pattern of one-dimensional thought and behavior in which ideas, aspirations, and objectives that, by their content, transcend the established universe of discourse and action are either repelled or reduced to terms of this universe.”

Marc Roby: In other words, successful people get lulled into a comfortable life that prevents them from thinking about more important things. Which is exactly what Jesus Christ warned about.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. But Marcuse saw an opportunity to attack cultures that are materially successful. He wrote in the concluding chapter of One-Dimensional Man that “The totalitarian tendencies of the one-dimensional society render the traditional ways and means of protest ineffective – perhaps even dangerous because they preserve the illusion of popular sovereignty. … However, underneath the conservative popular base is the substratum of the outcasts and outsiders, the exploited and persecuted of other races and other colors, the unemployed and the unemployable. … their opposition is revolutionary even if their consciousness is not.”

Marc Roby: Ah! So this is where the idea of needing to raise their consciousness comes from.

Dr. Spencer: Precisely. According to Marcuse, you need to take those people who are not doing well in society, and there will always be some, strip them of the idea that they are capable of working hard, living honest lives and moving up in that society, and get them to see themselves as an oppressed class. They must be convinced that they are victims. And society itself is the oppressor, so society needs to be changed. Mike Gonzales does a good job of describing this whole process in his book The Plot to Change America.

Marc Roby: That all starts to bring many of the problems we see in our country today clearly into focus. The Marxist idea of class conflict, along with neo-Marxist ideologies of race have generated an almost endless list of groups who are supposedly oppressed and in need of liberation.

Dr. Spencer: And it isn’t just in terms of race relations or work environments. The whole sexual revolution is part of this plan to destroy America as well and has generated an almost endless list of supposedly oppressed groups needing to be liberated, the LGBTQIA and on and on. 

In a second very influential work published in 1955, entitled Eros and Civilization, Marcuse argues, essentially, that sex in virtually any form should be freely used for pleasure. He concedes that this would be a reversal of what we normally think of as civilized culture, but he views it as a move forward, not backward. He wrote, “It would still be a reversal of the process of civilization, a subversion of culture – but after culture had done its work and created the mankind and the world that could be free.” He explains further, and his basic idea is that once civilization has reached the point of easily supplying our material needs, man should be freed from the constraints imposed upon him and be totally free sexually.

Marc Roby: Which is, yet again, an attack on biblical morality. God created sex and he defines the proper role of sex in human life. It is meant to be something shared only between a husband and a wife. It is the glue in a marriage and also brings about families. So this idea of total sexual freedom is really an attack on the biblical family structure, which is the core of our civilization.

Dr. Spencer: And Marcuse knew that he was attacking the family. In that same work he wrote that this change in sexual mores “would lead to a disintegration of the institutions in which the interpersonal relations have been organized, particularly the monogamic and patriarchal family.”

Marc Roby: Which disintegration, I assume, he viewed as a good thing.

Dr. Spencer: He did. He viewed anything that would help destroy our culture and country as good. And his student, Angela Davis, wrote in 2018 that “Marcuse’s ideas can be as valuable today as they were 50 years ago.” 

Marc Roby: And, of course, 50 years before she wrote that was 1968. The late 60’s were a time of violent student protests all over this country.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, they were. And those protests had a lot to do with the destruction of our universities. Those protests brought about the creation of a number of so-called ethnic studies departments in the universities and the creation of a number of new faculty positions to fill them. In general, these departments are really nothing more than a platform for activism. There is precious little, if any, meaningful scholarly activity in these departments. And whatever worthy scholarly activity there may be, could have already been accommodated in other, existing, programs like history, language, philosophy and so on. And these ethnic studies departments, once created, needed to make sure they had enough students, so they often pushed to have some sort of diversity requirement added to the general education requirements, which meant that all students typically had to take one or more of these courses.

Students can now get college credit, a minor and even bachelors and graduate degrees in things like Queer studies, Chicana/Chicano studies, African American and African Studies and Sexuality Studies.

Marc Roby: And what does one do with a degree in Queer studies for example?

Dr. Spencer: Well, not much useful. I’m pretty sure it isn’t going to land you a well-paying job or make a well-rounded citizen. As I said, these programs are really all about activism and trying to change, or I should really say destroy, our culture. There are college courses, for example, on pornography. Students literally get college credit for watching, or they would contend, studying pornography.

Marc Roby: That is outrageous. And all of this has made its way down into our K-12 curricula as well.

Dr. Spencer: Not in quite as blatant a form, but yes. In Thomas Sowell’s eye-opening book Inside American Education he carefully explains how our K-12 schools have been taken over by these neo-Marxist, or as they are sometimes called, cultural Marxist ideologies. In the K-12 schools they take on a psychological form, rather than an ideological form. 

Marc Roby: Now, who is Thomas Sowell?

Dr. Spencer: He is an American economist who is currently a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He has spent many years seriously looking into our nation’s educational system and has written a number of intelligent, well-researched articles and books on the subject.

Marc Roby: And what did you mean when you said that these neo-Marxist ideologies show up in the K-12 schools in a psychological, rather than an ideological form?

Dr. Spencer: I mean that the schools focus on changing the attitudes and beliefs of our children. Chapter Three of Sowell’s book is called Classroom Brainwashing. It begins with the following statement: “A variety of courses and programs, under an even wider variety of names, have been set up in schools across the country to change the values, behavior, and beliefs of American youngsters from what they have been taught by their families, their churches, or the social groups in which they have grown up.” 

He goes on to explain how tactics that are  mild versions of the brain-washing techniques developed in China under Mao are used in these courses. I don’t want to spend much time on this, interested listeners are encouraged to read his book, but as just one simple example, it is common in grade schools to give assignments where the students are asked to write about family problems and other personal issues and to not tell their parents about the assignment, which produces a feeling of isolation in the student and makes him more susceptible to the teacher’s ideas, even if they contradict what he is being taught at home.

Marc Roby: That’s frightening, and an obvious attempt to undermine the family.

Dr. Spencer: It is. There has been a real shift in our schools away from the idea of educating students by providing them with basic skills like reading, writing, mathematics and science, and to focus instead on indoctrination. The results are astonishing. For example, Sowell wrote, “the results of an international study of 13-year-olds … found that Koreans ranked first in mathematics and Americans last. When asked if they thought they were ‘good at mathematics,’ only 23 percent of the Korean youngsters said ‘yes’—compared to 68 percent of American 13-year-olds.” So we are creating young people who are confident, but wrong.

And look at the currently popular NY Times 1619 project. It is an ideological pack of lies about our country’s founding that is being adopted by a number of public schools. I could quote all kinds of results that are very depressing, but I don’t think there is much point. Anyone who is really interested can find the data easily. Sowell’s book is a good place to start. But I would like to read one more statement to show that this problem has been growing for a long time.

Marc Roby: Alright, what statement is that?

Dr. Spencer: I want to quote from the famous 1983 report of the U.S. National Commission on Excellence in Education, entitled A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. In that report they said, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves.”

Marc Roby: Wow. That’s an amazingly strong statement.

Dr. Spencer: And it led to a nation-wide movement to reform our schools. But, unfortunately, that reform movement was led by the very people we have been talking about. People like Bill Ayers, one of the founders of the 1960’s violent revolutionary group called the Weather Underground, which was responsible for numerous bombings in this country and is famous for declaring war on “AmeriKKKa” – spelled with three capital K’s – in 1969. He is a graduate of the Columbia University Teachers College that we noted before as the center of the critical theory movement. He is a retired professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and formerly held the titles of Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar. 

As just one indication of his wide influence, if you look at a Teachers College Press catalog from 2019-2020, you will find some of his books for sale and you will also see that he is the editor of “The Teaching for Social Justice Series” of books.

Marc Roby: That’s incredible.

Dr. Spencer: If you look through that catalogue you will be shocked. Let me just quickly give three examples. You can buy a book entitled Same as It Never Was: Notes on a Teacher’s Return to the Classroom and we read that “this book invites readers into an award-winning teacher’s classroom as he struggles to teach toward equity and justice.” We can also get a book called Letting Go of Literary Whiteness and we are told the book will “challenge us to develop racial literacy in our students through the teaching of literature.” And finally, we all need a copy of Race, Justice, and Activism in Literacy Instruction, which “includes examples of student activism from across the United States”.

Marc Roby: Now that is truly shocking. I’m willing to bet that most of our listeners thought K-12 education was mostly about reading, writing, math, science, history and so on. Not about teaching equity and justice, racial literacy or student activism.

Dr. Spencer: I certainly hope you’re right. But the fact that our schools are failing at teaching our children reading, history, math, science and so on, as noted by the 1983 report A Nation at Risk is far from the worst part of the story. Remember that the report said that if this had been the activity of an unfriendly foreign power we might have considered it an act of war?

Marc Roby: Yes, I remember that statement.

Dr. Spencer: And remember that Bill Ayer’s group, the Weather Underground, declared war on America? 

Marc Roby: Yes.

Dr. Spencer: Well, he and a lot of others, like Angela Davis, have followed through on that declaration of war by their long march through the institutions. The worst part of the failure of our public schools is the indoctrination that takes place instead of education. 

Sowell gives a number of examples in his book of how the schools teach our children to hate the United States of America and to hate the Judeo-Christian values on which our nation was built. As just one example, so-called sex education curricula are used to push LGBTQ values. And this problem is dramatically worse now than it was when he published Inside American Education in 1993. Any student who is bold enough to disagree with these modern views and espouse a Christian view of sex and marriage is in for a very rough time in our public schools.

Marc Roby: That’s a sad statement. But I’ve seen enough examples to know that it is true.

Dr. Spencer: And I encourage all Christian parents, in fact all parents, who have children in the public-school system to be extremely vigilant. Find out what is being taught. I think you’ll be shocked. But be prepared to have dig a bit, these programs use deceptive names and really don’t want parents to know what is being taught. The parents are often viewed as the enemy.

Marc Roby: That is again very sad.

Dr. Spencer: Very sad indeed. But the anti-Christian bias in our schools is not new. We don’t have time to go through the whole history, but in our next session I will begin with a very brief and selected sketch of that history because it will be useful to make one final point before we move on to examine the modern problems that are, in large measure, a result of this war on America. 

Marc Roby: Very well, I look forward to that. And now, let me remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We would love to hear from you.

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[Download PDF Transcript]

You’re listening to What Does the Word Say, a series of podcasts on biblical theology produced by Grace and Glory Media, and I’m Dr. Spencer. Our usual host Marc Roby is not with me today because we are both obeying the stay-at-home order issued as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. We are also taking a break from our continuing series on systematic theology and instead, I am going to present a short meditation on the Scriptures to encourage all of us in this troubling time.

As I noted in Session 143 on The Proper Christian Response to the Corona Virus Pandemic, as Christians we should not be anxious about anything. We know that our God is sovereign over all the affairs of man and he has promised us, as we read in Romans 8:28, that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”[1]. Therefore, we can face trials with great confidence. In fact, as Christians we can rejoice even when we are experiencing troubles.

Now you might be thinking, “He’s gone too far this time, how on earth can I rejoice when the stock market crash has taken away a third of my retirement savings?” Or “How can I rejoice now that I’ve lost my job?” Or “How can I rejoice while I’m afraid of getting Covid-19?” You might be thinking that to rejoice in times like these is simply irrational. But that is not what the Bible tells us, so let’s take a look.

First, let me say that I am not saying we rejoice in the fact that we are experiencing trouble. But we can rejoice even when we experience trouble because we know that God is completely in control and therefore, the trouble cannot destroy us. Also, we know that God’s grace will be sufficient for us as we go through the trouble and we know that God can bring good out of it.

In Romans Chapter 4 the apostle Paul makes the argument that Abraham was justified by faith. He had faith to trust God’s promises even when he couldn’t see how things could possibly work out. If we go back to Genesis Chapter 17, we see that God had promised Abraham the he and his wife Sarah would have a son even though Abraham was 99 years old and Sarah was 89. We read in Genesis 17:19, “your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.” Now think about that promise from a human perspective, sometime in the next year Abraham and Sarah were to have a child, when he would be 100 and she would be 90 years old. That is impossible based on normal human experience. And yet, Abraham believed God.

Now, this is the episode Paul was referring to when he wrote in Romans 4:20-22 that Abraham “did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’”

Brothers and sisters, it glorifies God when we trust his promises. Note that Abraham was strengthened in his faith. How was his faith strengthened? He thought back on all that God had done for him already and he reasoned about the nature of God. God is the omnipotent Creator of all things. God cannot lie. God cannot change. As Abraham meditated on these truths, his faith was strengthened and he gave glory to God. True faith is based on facts, not wishful thinking or nebulous feelings. As the Rev. P.G. Mathew put it in his commentary, “Faith is not self-delusion, positive thinking, or repetition of a mantra. Faith proclaims, ‘I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me’ (Phil 4:13, author’s paraphrase).”[2]

God had spoken to Abraham personally. But what about us? Mathew notes, “Unlike Abraham, we meet God today in his word. Therefore, the more we read and meditate on the Scriptures, the stronger we will grow in God.”[3] And so that is what we are doing today. We are looking into God’s Word and meditating on it in order to increase our faith so that we can stand in this trial and glorify our great God.

And note that Paul said Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. It doesn’t say that Abraham truly was righteous in himself, although he no doubt was by human standards, but no one is righteous in God’s sight as we are told in Romans 3:10. Nevertheless, Abraham’s faith caused him to be counted righteous in God’s sight, in other words, he was declared justified.

And then, based on these historical facts from the Old Testament, Paul wrote, in Romans 5:1-5, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

Now, there is a lot in these five verses, but for our purposes today I just want to point out three things. First, we have peace with God. The biggest problem of every human being is that we are born sinners under the wrath of God. And so, having peace with God means that our greatest need has been met. That alone should give us the ability to rejoice even in times of trouble. No eternal harm can come to a soul that is at peace with God. But you must be sure that you are at peace with God, so make your calling and election sure or this promise does not apply to you.

Secondly, we know our eternal destiny is to be glorified and spend eternity with God. When we consider that eternity never ends, and that our eternal destiny is guaranteed to be glorious, we can see, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17, that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” When we compare anything that might happen to us in this life with eternal glory in the presence of God, it will be seen to truly be light and momentary.

And third, we see that suffering can be useful. Suffering produces perseverance, which could also be translated as endurance, or patience. In other words, we become less focused on our immediate pleasure and more cognizant of eternal realities and the things that are really important. We can go through momentary troubles knowing that there is a good result to be obtained if we go through them properly and profit from them. And then Paul tells us that perseverance produces character, which could also be translated as proof of character.[4] If we display this perseverance or patience in suffering, it is proof that our character is being formed in a godly way. And this, in turn, produces hope Paul tells us.

Mathew points out that “In modern usage, the word ‘hope’ is full of contingencies and doubts. It usually connotes ‘hope so.’ In the New Testament, however, hope signifies absolute certainty. It is faith oriented to the future based on the promise of the good, almighty, God, who does not change his mind.”[5] Mathew also says that “In our natural thought, we would expect that sufferings would destroy our hope of being glorified. But tribulations, in fact, strengthen our hope by weaning us from focusing on ourselves and the world, and turning us to God. Tribulations make us heaven-focused.”[6]

And so, we can see based on this passage in Romans, that the Bible tells us to rejoice even when we are suffering. We don’t ask to suffer of course. We don’t pretend to enjoy suffering. We don’t minimize or tell others who are suffering that it isn’t real. No, we have an intelligent, compassionate understanding of suffering. It is part and parcel of living in a sinful world. But good can come out of it. If a person is not born again, suffering can be used by God to turn that person away from reliance on and infatuation with this world and to turn him to Christ in saving faith instead. And God can use suffering in the lives of his children to purify us, as gold is refined in the fire.

But, I must note that whenever we suffer any kind of trial, be it personal or corporate like this current pandemic, we should always cry out to God to show us our sins so that we can repent of them. God undoubtedly has multiple purposes he is accomplishing through this trial and we can, and should, be praying that a great revival would be one of them. But we must also recognize that one of the purposes is almost surely to punish this wicked world for turning away from God. Just consider a couple of facts about our own country to show that God cannot be pleased with us.

First, according to the CDC, the leading cause of death in the United States in 2017, the most recent year for which I could find data, is heart disease. It was responsible for 647,457 deaths.[7] But, according to the Wall Street Journal, there were about 862,320 abortions in that year.[8] The number isn’t exact because those in favor of abortions don’t want you to know how many there are, and so some are not reported and the number was almost certainly higher. But it is clear that there were far more abortions than there were people who died of heart disease, so the terrible truth is that Abortion is the leading cause of death in the United States of America.

My second example would be the LGBTQ movement. We have gay pride days, gay pride month and so on. But the Bible is abundantly clear that homosexuality is a sin. The prophet Isaiah prophesied to the Jewish people at a time of prosperity and he spoke about the coming judgment. In Isaiah 3:8-9 we read, “Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling; their words and deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence. The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves.” Does that not sound like the United States of America today?

Therefore, trouble like this should cause all of God’s children to cry out for forgiveness; forgiveness for our own sins and for those of our country. That is the first thing we should do. But then we also need to learn from Abraham and strengthen our faith by meditating on God’s Word. It has been said, and quite rightly, that when we stare at our problems, they can look too large to handle, but when we look at God and realize his awesome power and goodness, our problems shrink down to size.

And so, let me close today by taking a quick look at Psalm 42 to encourage us all. This psalm is very relevant to our situation as Christians today, living in the midst of this Covid-19 pandemic. Many of us live in places where we have been ordered to stay at home. As a result, we are not able to gather with our brothers and sisters in our local churches on Sunday mornings. And Psalm 42 was written at a time when the psalmist was not able to go the temple to worship.

Now, some scholars think that Psalms 42 and 43 were originally one psalm and were then separated, perhaps for some liturgical purpose. The two psalms can certainly be read as one and the refrain in Verses 5 and 11 of Psalm 42 is repeated in the last verse of Psalm 43, so these scholars may be right. But whether or not they were originally one psalm is not important for what I want to say today. Let me read just the first five verses for now:

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and (my God)[9].

There are a number of things we should notice from these verses, but for today I have time to make only three quick points. First, as I said, the psalmist was, like many of us, unable to go to his normal place of worship. Notice that he says “I used to go with the multitude … to the house of God”. As a result of his inability to go worship publicly with the saints, he cries out, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”

And that leads to an obvious question we should ask ourselves; “Do I thirst for God?” And I want us all to be very thoughtful and careful in answering that question. Think about a time when you have been extremely thirsty. When you’re really thirsty it is hard to think of anything else. It absolutely dominates your thoughts and you have an unshakable desire to go get something to drink. It is a very powerful thing. And notice that the psalmist doesn’t say his thirst is for going to be with his friends, or to hear the music, or to hear an encouraging word from the pulpit. He says his thirst is for God. Charles Spurgeon wrote that “When it is natural for us to long for God as for an animal to thirst, it is well with our souls, however painful our feelings.”[10]

And so we should all seriously examine our own thoughts on this matter. Do we really thirst for the living God? If we do, then let me remind us that he is present with us. We should go to church when we can and it should be a great delight to do so, but we don’t have to go to a particular building to meet with God. At the end of the Great Commission, in Matthew 28:20, Jesus told us, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” We can meet with him in our own homes. Come to him in prayer and meditate on his Word. He is present and he knows your trouble.

The second thing I will note is that the world mocks us. The psalmist said “My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’” After a recent shooting event in this country I remember there was a huge uproar against a public official who said he was praying for the victims. People were saying all sorts of stupid and downright blasphemous things about prayer not being helpful and God not being able to prevent the shooting or not being good because he didn’t. It will always be the case that unbelievers will mock true Christians. But our response must be to pray and to be obedient to God’s will.

The third thing I want us to look at, and the thought with which I want to leave us all, is Verse 5, where the psalmist preaches to himself, saying “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” We must put our hope in God and praise him in all circumstances. He is our Savior and our God. If we hold on to those truths, we can and will rejoice even in times of great trouble such as we our experiencing now. As Paul said in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” We have a great and awesome God and as a friend of mine has been saying lately, the most important statistic of all about this pandemic is that God is 100% sovereign.

So, brothers and sisters, we must repent of our own sins and cry out for mercy for this wicked country. Meditate on the Word of God and be strengthened in your faith. Seek to know what God would have you learn through this trial. We serve a mighty God and he is able to bring about all that he has promised. And remember that you can send your questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. And we will do our very best to respond. So, may God bless you in the coming week.

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] P.G. Mathew, Romans: The Gospel Freedom (Volume 1), Grace and Glory Ministries, 2011, pg. 221

[3] Ibid, pg. 220

[4] See Ibid, pg. 267

[5] Ibid, pg. 255

[6] Ibid, pg. 268

[7] Data from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm

[8] See U.S. Abortion Rate Drops to Lowest Level Since 1973, WSJ, Jennifer Calfas, Sept. 18, 2019 (https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-abortion-rate-drops-to-lowest-level-since-1973-11568827339)

[9] In our Bibles these two words are really the beginning of Verse 6.

[10] C. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Hendrickson Publishers, 2016, Vol. 1, pg. 271

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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by continuing to examine biblical anthropology. In our last session we noted that God determines what is and is not sin. He is the ultimate authority. But we also noted that he commands us to obey all legitimate delegated authorities so long as they do not tell us to sin or overstep the bounds of their delegated authority.

Now, Dr. Spencer, you mentioned last time that the laws and rules of different countries, states, churches and families can change, and yet still be proper. What about God’s laws? Do they ever change?

Dr. Spencer: Well, they have changed, so the answer is yes. The clearest example of that is the ceremonial laws given to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. They were, for example, commanded to perform a number of different animal sacrifices, but all of those sacrifices and ceremonial laws were abrogated when Christ came.

In Hebrews 7:11-12 we are told that “If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come—one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.” [1]

Marc Roby: And for those listeners who may not know, the Levitical priesthood was responsible for performing the sacrifices and other aspects of the ceremonial law in the Old Testament and the priest who is in the order of Melchizedek refers to Jesus Christ.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. And in the book of Hebrews we are told that the purpose of the Old Testament ceremonial laws was to point toward the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus Christ. Once he came, the animal sacrifices served no further purpose. As a result, they are not only not required anymore, but it would be sinful to offer an animal sacrifice now. But, and this is a critically important point, in changing those laws, God did not change.

Marc Roby: I suspect some of our listeners may have a hard time understanding how you can say that God didn’t change when he changed his laws.

Dr. Spencer: Let me give an earthly example. When my children were young, they had to go to bed at a certain time. But when they got older, that rule changed. By the time they graduated from high school it was pretty much up to them what time they went to bed. I didn’t change over those years – at least not in reference to this rule – but they certainly did. When they were young the rule served to teach them authority and to teach them the need for a disciplined life. And, of course, young children need more sleep as well. But, by the time they were graduating from high school, they understood the tradeoffs. They knew that if they stayed up late studying it would reach a point of diminishing returns and they would be more tired in the morning, so they had to decide for themselves when to stop.

Marc Roby: That’s an interesting example since the apostle Paul also uses the analogy of a child growing up and coming out from under the rule of a guardian in Galatians 3 and 4.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that’s an important point. We discussed that passage very briefly in Session 91. And I still don’t want to go into it in detail because it isn’t of critical importance to anthropology. But what is critically important, is that God has not changed. He does not change. He did change some of the laws given to his people as our circumstances changed, most notably with the first coming of Jesus Christ, but the laws that are based on his nature, as summarized in the Ten Commandments, will never change. So, for example, it will always be wrong to commit murder, or adultery or to lie or steal.

Marc Roby: Now, what about homosexuality? That is a very divisive topic today, even among many professing Christians.

Dr. Spencer: And I think the answer to that question is absolutely clear. In Leviticus 18:22 God commands, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” This doesn’t have anything to do with the ceremonial law, or with the laws of a particular government, this is a statement about morality. God says that homosexuality is detestable to him. It is completely wrong to think that God has changed his view in any way on this topic.

Marc Roby: I know that there are professing Christians who will say that command is a part of the Old Testament and that if you say we have to obey that, you must also want us to obey laws like Deuteronomy 21:21, which says that a stubborn and rebellious son should be stoned to death.

Dr. Spencer: I’ve heard comments like that, and to be honest they are just ridiculous. First of all, in Deuteronomy 21 Moses was speaking to the people to remind them of the laws of God and prepare them for the difficult task of crossing the Jordon and conquering the promised land. This particular command dealt with a son who had a long-standing pattern of rebellious behavior – he is clearly an adult and is described as a profligate and a drunkard. So, we first have to realize this isn’t speaking about a little disobedience. This is speaking about a young man who is habitually disobedient and unrepentant, a disgrace to his family and a burden to his community. Such behavior is still deplorable and is clearly serious sin.

God hated this behavior then and he hates it now, he has not changed. The punishment was appropriate at that time, in those extreme circumstances and in that theocratic society. Such behavior could simply not be tolerated. But there is nothing in the Bible that would indicate the punishment specified is part of a perpetually applicable legal standard. So, the prescribed punishment changed, but God did not change, nor did he change his mind about what is sin.

Marc Roby: And, at the risk of straying further off topic, it is worth noting that this is not the only instance where the punishment for a crime has changed.

Dr. Spencer: No, it definitely is not. In the Old Testament, the punishment for adultery is death. But in Matthew 5:32 Christ changed that law. He said, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” John Murray pointed out that this verse implicitly reduced the penalty for adultery, it is no longer to be punished by death, although it does make divorce an allowable option for the offended spouse.[2]

Marc Roby: That also clearly illustrates the authority of Jesus Christ! But getting back to the topic of homosexuality, the New Testament is just as clear that this behavior is sinful.

Dr. Spencer: It absolutely is. In Chapter One of the book of Romans, the apostle Paul tells us that everyone really knows that God exists. He has made himself known through creation so that people are without excuse, but people suppress this truth. And he then tells us in Verse 24, that because of this, “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.”

And he goes on, in Verses 26-27, to say that “Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.”

Marc Roby: Yes, that is pretty clear. And Paul also condemns homosexuality elsewhere. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 he wrote that “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Dr. Spencer: And in 1 Timothy 1:9-10 we read that “the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine”. And I have quoted from the ESV because it is a more literal translation of the passage.

Marc Roby: Yes, and that is, again, quite clear. But I know that there are some pastors and theologians who try to defend the idea that it is acceptable to be a Christian and a homosexual at the same time. How would you respond to them?

Dr. Spencer: I wouldn’t. There really is no rational way that a person can believe the Bible to be the infallible word of God and still believe that homosexuality is not a sin. I’ve read some of the arguments and they are so bad that you don’t have to be a theologian to see that they blatantly distort or dismiss the word of God.

If any of our listeners are unsure about the biblical stance on this issue, I would challenge them to first decide whether or not they think the Bible is truly the infallible word of God. If they don’t believe that, then none of my arguments would carry weight anyway, and I would seriously challenge them to make their calling and election sure. If they do believe the Bible to be the infallible word of God, then they should read the passages we’ve just quoted and pray for the Holy Spirit to guide their thinking. It is not a difficult issue, although I understand it can be an emotional issue if it involves someone you love, or if you yourself struggle with same-sex attraction yourself.

Marc Roby: What would you say to any listeners for whom this is a personal issue?

Dr. Spencer: I would say that if it is serious struggle, you should get counsel from a godly Bible-believing church. Don’t try to find one that says it is OK – you can easily find such a place, but it is neither godly nor Bible-believing, and it can’t help you. And then pray for the Holy Spirit to give you the power to conquer this sin. Reject the nonsense that is put forward by the proponents of the LGBTQ agenda.

Marc Roby: Such as?

Dr. Spencer: Such as the idea that homosexuality is not a choice. The idea that homosexual behavior is entirely determined by genetics is patently absurd. The same groups say that your gender identity is not set by your genetics, but then on the other hand they try to say that homosexuals are simply made that way. Those ideas are not only contradictory, they are both nonsense.

If being homosexual was entirely determined by genetics, then there wouldn’t be any examples of people who were able to leave homosexuality and enter into normal heterosexual lifestyles. But there are many such examples. I think there is some similarity here to alcoholism.

Marc Roby: That doesn’t seem obvious at first thought, what similarity are you referring to?

Dr. Spencer: Well, it is often stated that there is a genetic predisposition for people to become alcoholics. Now I don’t know if that is true, but let’s assume – for the sake of argument – that it is. It would not logically follow that being an alcoholic is a good thing. I can’t imagine anyone saying to an alcoholic, “Don’t worry about it, that’s just how God made you, so go ahead and drink yourself to death.”

Marc Roby: I can’t imagine anyone saying that either.

Dr. Spencer: So, my point is that even if there is some genetic predisposition to a certain behavior, that in no way means that behavior is healthy or good. And, as I noted before, it is completely unreasonable to believe that sexual behavior, or alcoholism for that matter, is entirely determined by genetics.

Marc Roby: The LGBTQ community has rather successfully been able to claim this is a civil rights issue, similar to granting blacks the right to vote, or to sit anywhere on a city bus.

Dr. Spencer: That is very unfortunate and we should oppose that notion at every possible turn. Back in 2008, when California was getting ready to vote on Proposition 208, which banned same-sex marriage, I remember a black pastor from Southern California speaking about the idea that homosexuality was the same kind of civil rights issue that blacks faced in the south in the 1950’s. His comment was wonderful. He simply said, “I have a number of former homosexuals in my congregation, I don’t have a single former black person.”

Marc Roby: Yes, that statement makes an important point very clearly.

Dr. Spencer: I think it is very important for Christians to take a stand on this issue, but I also don’t want to make it out to be more important than it really is. Homosexuality isn’t the worst possible sin; it is just one sin among many. In fact, without a doubt, heterosexual sin is far more common. So, as Christians we don’t single out homosexual sin for special condemnation.

I think the only reason homosexuality has become such a hot-button issue is that there is a small segment of our society pushing very hard to normalize this behavior. We have gay pride days, gay pride month and so on. If we had adultery pride days, or thieves pride days, those sins would be talked about more too.

Marc Roby: And, of course, many people, including many professing Christians, support this push.

Dr. Spencer: I think there are a number of reasons why they support it, so it worth taking a few minutes to discuss this in the hopes that we can call a Christian brother or sister back to obedience to the word of God.

The first reason some people support this agenda is that they have believed the lies about homosexuality being genetically determined. But as we’ve noted, those really don’t make sense. And I think a second major reason people support it, if only passively, is simple fear of being attacked. The LGBTQ community has become so rabid in their attacks that to oppose them publicly is to open yourself to really vicious opposition. We saw that in California after Proposition 8 passed. If you are any kind of a public personality, they will accuse you of being filled with hate, of being stupid and ignorant and will shout you down at every opportunity. And if you run a business, they will do everything in their power to shut you down.

Marc Roby: We have certainly seen that in the recent case of Jack Phillips[3] and many others.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, we have. Christians are no longer treated as citizens deserving of equal protection under the law in this country, which is astounding. A homosexual who runs a print shop can refuse to print flyers for a church function that he disagrees with, but a Christian print shop, florist or baker cannot refuse to do special work for an event he disagrees with. That is an amazing and very troubling turn of events in this country.

Marc Roby: And the judgments against these people usually include some kind of so-called “sensitivity training”.

Dr. Spencer: And that trend is truly amazing and disturbing to me. We aren’t sending people away to prison camps for years, but this is, nonetheless, a very mild form of a re-education camp. It is a government-sponsored attempt to force us to think the same way. To force a particular ideology on all people. That is downright Orwellian and about as un-American as anything I can think of, and yet we see it happening all over.

But, getting back to homosexuality, I don’t want to spend more time on it. Far from being a sign of hate or homophobia, the truth is that telling any sinner, whether homosexual or otherwise, about the forgiveness available in Jesus Christ is the most loving thing you can do for him or her.

Marc Roby: And that forgiveness requires that the person be told their behavior is a violation of God’s law and the he or she must repent of it, forsake it, and then trust in Christ for salvation.

Dr. Spencer: That is the only hope for anyone. God provides grace to his children to overcome their sins.

The real issue, no matter what sin we talk about, is rebellion. People rebel against the God-given norms of conduct. That is the real issue and homosexuality is just one manifestation of that rebellion. At its core, all sin is prideful rebellion against God. He created us and he has told us how we should live. That includes the functional roles assigned to men and women, husbands and wives, parents and children, citizens and the state and so on.

Marc Roby: Very well, are we done then with defining sin?

Dr. Spencer: We are, and so we are ready to get back to talking about total depravity again, which I put off last time.

Marc Roby: And I look forward to that, but it will have to wait until next time. For now, let me remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org, and we’ll do our best to answer.

 

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] John Murray, The Principles of Conduct, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1957, pg.119

[3] For a brief synopsis, see The Ongoing Persecution of a Christian Baker, By the editors of the Wall Street Journal, June 12, 2019 (https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/06/masterpiece-cakeshops-jack-phillips-persecution/)

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