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Question #1:  Hi Doc! Do psychology and Christianity mix? A brother in Christ had wrote me this on the subject:

"My contention is that psychology has no place in the life of a Christian individual or in the Church as a whole. The mind is intangible and therefore not an object. Any study of the mind is therefore subjective. I had to study psychology for my criminal justice degree, and not one thing in all those books ever pointed anyone to Christ; only by looking to self can man be healed according to psychology.

"Christian psychology" is paradoxical because Christianity, by definition, is trusting fully in Christ and following his word; psychology, on the other hand, is the study of the soul (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychology) outside of God's word, and is therefore counterintuitive to how the Bible tells us to live our lives for the sake of our souls. Also, notice on Wikipedia, an editable encyclopedia, there is no subheading for Christian psychology. As much as "Christian psychology" is being pushed in our churches, you'd think that Dr. Dobson or someone would have edited in a heading about "Christian psychology."

Do you agree with this?

Response #1:  I'm not fond of psychology or psychiatry (an understatement), but as a means of therapy I would not be so quick to throw the baby out with the bath-water (even if there is a large amount of bath-water). I have known quite a lot of people who have been "helped" through this means. Mind you, in my view they would have been better off having achieved a measure of spiritual growth so as to have been able to rely on the truth of the Word instead. But that is a little bit like telling an alcoholic he/she never should have started drinking – if you want the person to be helped, the person has to be dealt with in the state that he/she is in. So while I never recommend it and feel very uncomfortable about it, I try to steer clear of an attitude of complete prior condemnation of it.

What I do feel comfortable about condemning is the use of "pop-psychology" in the pulpit. I find it ironic that while many like your friend are quick to condemn believers for resorting to professional psychologists and psychiatrists, the entire content of the sermons now being preached in most churches is almost entirely made up of just such "pop-psychology". If pastors want believers to be self-reliant, the only way to lead them to that place is to teach them the Bible substantively. Truth believed and digested, applied to the life and tested in times of trouble, is the only thing that can sustain in tribulation and make a believer self-sufficient – because in reality they have learned to be reliant upon the Lord instead of themselves.

In our all-sufficient Lord Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #2:  Here's another point of view I got on this:

"Psychology did not originate from man trying to diagnose the human condition apart from God. I don't believe that Christianity had to go hand-in-hand with psychology. It can, but it doesn't have to. Should we be against science? should we be against the study of memory, personality and neurological disorders (which do exist)?"

Do you agree?

Response #2:  Well, I certainly would not deign to consider myself worthy to weigh in on the origins of clinical psychology. All "science" at its best is trying to figure out God's material universe. To the extent that it buys into false theories in the process of going about this task (e.g., rejecting ab initio the truth of divine creation et al.), then it will be flawed. It is also important to remember that all science is imperfect and incomplete, constantly in flux as researches are ever trying to improve their descriptive models. The difficulty faced by psychology/psychiatry is that one is dealing primarily with something that can never be discerned directly and empirically except through its effects (i.e., the human spirit), and something that will almost certainly not be but very imperfectly understood prior to Christ's return (i.e., the human brain), and something that can never be understood properly until its essential nature is accepted (i.e., the human mind and the fact that this is the combination of the spirit and the physical body).

However, we Christians are blessed to have the very "mind of Christ" (1Cor.2:12-16), that is, the truth of the entire Word of God available to us all, and the illuminating ministry of Holy Spirit whereby the truth to which we listen will, when believed, become real to us, not just "knowledge" (gnosis) but "usable knowledge (epignosis) – precisely because we do believe it (e.g., Col.1:9-10; 2:2; 3:10). Since "all the treasuries of knowledge" are contained in the thinking of our Lord (Col.2:10; cf. Is.33:6), and since we have total access to these truths through the Bible, the teaching ministries our Lord provides, and the ministry of the Spirit whereby it is all made real and usable for us, it is hard to see how anyone with a few years of secular theory and clinical training could ever hope to compete God's perfect system – but we have to believe it, and we have to use it.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

I have just watched a movie called, "Zeitgeist", and found it ironically, through a discussion forum on different topics of religion..."is the bible real", etc.

I have been reading your Ichthys site for months now and use it for my personal study, therefore I almost need to know your thoughts on the first third of the movie on religion, where they state that the whole of the stories of the Bible, were plagiarized from stories from Egypt and the like, well before the time that the Bible was written, and that it was later, created to control the people. Essentially, all of it's a lie. For me, it is the Bible. With all of my heart, I have believed it's word, believed in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and the Father, who created all. Please help me in this. Not only will this be of a help to me, but others who read and depend on your site and it's wealth of information.

In Christ,

Response #3: 

I barely know where to begin. I could just as easily say that "Zeitgiest is a piece of atheistic anti-Christian propaganda bearing no relationship to reality whatsoever and made up out of whole cloth". From what little I have learned about the movie (I cannot claim to have had the fortitude to sit through it all), I would be correct. But if I were incorrect to any degree, that is to say, if its writers had indeed actually researched one or two things or were actually right about one or two things, it would be difficult for them to defend against a charge as broad as the one I have just laid down. This is the same problem any apologist for Christianity and the Bible faces when people say something like "it was made up".

Apologetics is really not my forte (see this link to the site, C.A.R.M., for some very good material on this) and the part of the Basics series which will deal with the canon of the scriptures directly is several years out in terms of my current production schedule. However, a few preliminary observations are worth making here – and I would be happy to help you address specific points. That is really the way to cut through this sort of nonsense in my view, that is, by getting specific. If someone says "the Bible is made up", my question to them would be "which part?". If they name a part, even something miraculous, my response is, "well, I believe it, plenty of other intelligent people believe it, and how is it that you know that it didn't happen?" This cuts to the quick of the issue. If the person does believe in God, then they have to admit that God can do anything, that nothing is impossible for Him, including everything in the Bible and everything about the Bible. If they don't believe in God, there is no point having the conversation in the first place. Ultimately, Christianity is about faith. God tells us the truth, but the truth cannot be verified by human empiricism. Now it cannot be dis-proved either, so that all those who wish to take issue with the scripture are placing more faith in human reason and skepticism than they would need to place in God in order to be saved. This is especially a point against them which will be used in their trial of condemnation before the Great White Throne, because, indeed, God has made the fact of His existence clear to all human beings:

God's wrath is about to be revealed from heaven upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness - on men who suppress the truth [about God] in their unrighteousness. For that which can be known about God [from everyday experience] is obvious to them, because God has made it obvious. His nature, though invisible, is nevertheless plainly apparent, and has been since His foundation of the world, for it may be clearly inferred from this creation of His - [this is true of] both His eternal power and His divinity - so that they are without any excuse: they knew about God, but they neither honored Him as God nor thanked Him. Instead, they gave themselves over to [the] vanity [of this world] in their speculations, and their senseless hearts were filled with darkness. Claiming to be wise, they became foolish, for they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for images and likenesses of corruptible men, of birds and beasts and reptiles (i.e., idolatry).
Romans 1:18-23

And it is also clear from scripture that everyone comes to the point of recognizing the existence of God and their need for a Savior in their lives – although most go on to reject Him anyway (Eccl.3:10-11). So, not being a particularly adept or patient apologist, I generally like to confront the issue head-on in the case of those who are not really interested in the Lord anyway.

For those who are Christians and wavering, generally this is a case of the evil one probing and striking at obvious areas of doubt. The truth of scripture, because of its inspired nature and therefore its ultimate truth must be taken on faith, is always a good place to start. If the devil can detach us from the truth of the Word of God, then we are left with no sure harbor in a world filled with nothing but lies. But it is good to consider that listening to unnamed voices in a movie such as this and investing them with authority which they have neither earned nor deserve is the very definition of foolish. Satan told Eve through the serpent that eating of the tree of knowing good and evil would not kill her, and she was swayed by his false testimony even though she had been told the exact opposite by Adam and by the Lord – the two she had every reason to trust (and she had no reason to trust the serpent). So we human beings are always gullibly buying into lies from questionable sources when they arrogate unearned authority to themselves and throw doubts upon legitimate sources we know and ought to trust. This is often a case of familiarity breeding contempt: we see the warts of those whose reliability we have proven (or think we do, though often there is much more there that we don't know about which has contributed to their faithfulness and reliability), whereas we have an all too human tendency to immediately trust people who sound convincing though we really know nothing at all about them (a fact which explains both the divorce rate and the success of con men in this country). This is something deeply set in the arrogant sin nature of mankind too, because, our sin nature seems to sense, if truth can be overthrown, then nothing will be left to oppose every arrogant desire. Certainly the devil knows this (see the link: "Satan's three lies").

The Bible did not come from nowhere. It came from somewhere. It purports to be the Word of God, given by divine inspiration to prophets appointed and chosen by God. Many millions have believed this truth over some three thousand plus years now, and this book uniquely among all the books ever written has been carefully and accurately preserved – not by accident. The movie you mention isn't much more than a year old.

The Bible tells us or gives us information about the men who wrote it, and from its books we can see the reasons and the purposes for its writing. These are never self-centered but always focused on godly, good and true ends for the benefit of the readers. We have no idea who is behind this movie or what they want besides to destroy our faith.

The Bible is positive and shows the way to God, the way to live our lives, gives us hope of eternal life, a true hope without doubt. This movie only seeks to destroy hope.

The Bible tells us about God's great love for the world and about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf, about the washing away of all of our sins on the cross through our Savior's death for us, and shows us how to respond to that love through love of of Him and of others – it give us the good news. This movie is mean-spirited in the extreme.

The Bible has changed countless lives for the good. It is doubtful whether this movie will have much effect in God's plan for the world at all – and whatever effect it does have will be all to the bad.

Finally, the Bible doesn't really need apologists – only readers. Anyone who is truly seeking God and actually reads what it has to say, in spite of the fact that there is much that requires study to understand, will nonetheless hear, see, and feel its power in a unique and life-changing way – an experience that no other book or work of art or literature could ever hope to reproduce, and certainly not this movie.

As our Lord told us, it is necessary that stumbling blocks crop up, but woe to those through whom they come. These sorts of tests are necessary to refine the faith of the faithful. By confronting them we are reminded of the evil of the world and of the power and importance of the real truth. On the other hand, any and all who are not solid in their faith are forced to decide just who and what they will believe in order that what is lukewarm may become either hot or cold.

As I say, I have not seen the entire movie nor do I plan to, but I will address one "myth" it attempts to refute in order to make my overall point. It is true that there are plenty of systems of mythology out there, current and historical. But let us assume, for a second, that there really was, for example, a world-wide flood that occurred exactly in the manner that is related in Genesis. If that it so, and I certainly believe it, we are blessed to have this precise account from God given through His prophet Moses. The fact that there are Babylonian mythologies that talk about similar-sounding floods should not surprise us, and certainly should not upset our faith. Would there not be some memories and stories handed down verbally of such a cataclysmic event? And in the absence of divine inspiration and divine superintendence, and especially in a milieu of paganism, it should also not be surprising if, instead of the accurate account we receive from the Bible, these myths came to be elaborated in all sorts of colorful ways. Indeed, if the world flood is a true story (and it is), it would be very unusual if there were not some secular tradition of it kicking around in antiquity. I am hard pressed to imagine any other scenario, assuming the truth of Genesis 7 et al., where we would not have the account we have from the Bible and other accounts that were similar in some respects in the pagan tradition of the region. But it is a pure logical fallacy to assume that since there is literature from Babylonia that talks about the flood, that for that reason the flood in the Bible is "just a story", or that it was taken from this other literature. What is the real proof of that? There is no proof of that beyond the similarity. So to believe this lie, one first has to invest pagan Babylonian literature with more authority and put more faith into than into the Bible. In order to buy into this lie, therefore, one first has to harbor some serious doubts about God's Word and God's authority, that is, one must have some serious seeds of rebellion in one's heart first in order to be swayed by such obviously flawed logic. Eve didn't have all the answers, but her ignorance did not make God a liar – it only made her susceptible to the Liar.

Inevitably, such treatments as this movie always must come up with some sort of ridiculous explanation or set of explanations to explain away the book of books we hold in our hands. This is hard to do in the case of Christians who have experienced its power and who have seen and tasted that God is good, who have experienced His grace in their lives first-hand. Inevitably, such treatments as this move devolve into conspiracy theories, and I understand that this one is no exception, that it segues into blaming the current U.S. administration for 9/11. This seems to me to be quite telling. I am only guessing here, but my guess would be the particular brand of unbelievers who penned this drivel equate Christianity with Republicanism and figure that by harming or destroying the one they will be harming or destroying the other and so furthering their cause. In fact, true Christianity, in my view at least, has nothing to do with politics, but I think that by tipping their hand and showing that they have a political agenda as their main objective the makers of this movie do all doubters a great service. For it should be obvious that, in addition to knowing nothing about the Bible and true Christianity, they really don't care about the Bible or Christianity at all, only their personal political objectives. The little I read about it on-line reflects what you have said in your e-mail, to wit, the assaults are logically flawed and nonsensical in the extreme but rhetorically effective (for those who don't know any better at least) – just the sort of thing we have become accustomed to the in the atheistic and divisive political climate in which we live.

Please see also the following link:

How can we know the Bible is true?

Keep fighting that good fight of faith!

In Him who is the very Word of God, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

 There is talk of a "Harry Potter" amusement theme park. Is this bad for children, and is this a form of sorcery? What does the bible say about things like this? Not sure if it would be wrong to take your kids to such a theme park. What do you think?

Response #4: 

This is a touchy subject. So many people out there are "wild" for these books and probably for that very reason at the same time hostile to any sort of criticism about them. In response to the content, which even the most ardent defenders would have to admit portrays magic in a positive light, one most often hears "they're just stories" and "you need to be able to distinguish between fiction and reality". Certainly, both of these things are true. However, neither defense I would imagine would suffice for these folks if it were a question of their pre-school children being exposed to certain ghastly horror/slasher books and films. Clearly, the fact that these are works of fictions rather than manifestos or actual books of incantations or real witches or the overt and actual practice of magic, all of which things are definitively prohibited by the Word of God (Ex.22:18; Lev.19:31; 20:6; 20:27; Deut.18:10-14; Gal.5:20; cf. 2Ki.9:22; 21:6; 1Chron.10:13; 2Chron.33:6; Is.8:19; 47:9-12; Nah.3:4; Mal.3:5; Acts 8:9-11; 13:6-8; 19:19; Rev.9:21; 18:23; 21:9; 22:15; and see the links: "Witchcraft" and "Religion and the Occult", does not entirely end the discussion. Clearly, there is line of influence, a line of blending fiction and reality, which can be crossed only with peril. The problem is, the line is often left somewhat indistinct in the minds of some, and it is fair to say that what will not unduly influence some people at all will have a profound influence on others. It is virtually impossible in the society in which we live to completely isolate ourselves from "cultural influences", and with every passing day the forms and varieties of entertainment multiply in number even as they increase in volume and popularity. Short of becoming cenobite monks or Amish, just by living in this society we are going to be exposed to these influences to some degree. To use your question as an example, even if a person in this country has never read a Harry Potter book or sat down to see a Harry Potter movie, it would be very unusual even so for that person not to know about these works of fiction and, in terms of the story line, that "Harry is a wizard who uses magic for good rather than evil". To me, this proposition is troubling enough to wish to stay clear. But I certainly cannot say that I have never exposed myself to fictional works of art of one sort or another whose premises have not been equally false and spiritually problematic. The one thing it is possible to say on the positive side of this equation (if one must look for a silver lining) is that this culture is so thoroughly saturated with and so continually bombarded by cultural nonsense of this sort that I would say that the average American is jaded to it and to some degree inoculated to undue influence from it. That is probably true even (and maybe especially of) our kids who get a constant diet of multi-media from the cradle on.

All culture, all art, is essentially a mimicking of reality – that is the source of the pleasure it produces. Therefore all cultural entertainments are to a certain degree escapes from reality. Since as Christians what we really want to do is to see with the eyes of faith better and better each day the true spiritual realities that lie behind this world of dust, cultural amusements are always leading us in the wrong direction at least to some degree (Matt.6:22-23; 7:3-5; 13:15-16; Lk.6:41-42; 11:34; Jn.12:40; Rom.11:8-10). For to the extent that anything "lies" about reality and we give it attention and are thus influenced by it (even to a small degree), to that extent we make the goal we seek and the battle we fight of growing closer to truth more rather than less difficult (if only by distracting ourselves). It is hard to be perfect in this, as I say, and I certainly wouldn't dream of setting myself up as a paragon of cultural abstinence. That I most certainly am not. But it is always good to appreciate the truth for what it is.

In my way of thinking, since this is the devil's world, we can expect choices like this to keep confronting us and our loved ones no matter what until our Lord returns. We can't stop these stumbling blocks from coming into the world, nor should we try (e.g., much of what I know about Harry Potter comes as a result of opposition to it getting out into the media, stoking the flames). Also, I think the devil is very clever at using such issues where there is relatively less at stake precisely in order to make those who appreciate such dangers look foolish or square or inconsistent, so that their positive influence will be reduced when weightier, more important issues come to the fore. That is to say, Satan, though a poor strategist (he picked a fight to the death with God!), is a master tactician: he loves to get us to expend all our ammo fighting for relatively pointless objectives, then seizes the key high-ground once we are weak.

Personally, it would not be my choice to take anyone I loved to such a place as you mention or in any other way communicate a message to that I approved of magic in any form. However, as I may have mentioned, I am not perfect, and I surely have done the equivalent on numerous occasions with greater or less awareness of what I was doing (not that that is any sort of an excuse!). These are judgment calls which in the aggregate do not admit of perfect solutions or perfect approaches. It has long been my policy to choose carefully the mountains I fight for, not being willing to expend precious capital on non-essential issues. On the one hand, I would not wish to give the impression that I approve of anything which does not fully comport with divine standards; on the other hand I am realistic enough to recognize my own imperfections and the ubiquitous nature of cultural activities in the society in which we live, and not to delude myself into thinking that I can provide a perfect example (or that trying to do so and trying to get others to follow suit would be anything but disastrous in the end). It would be enough for me for all who take any kind of lead from my words and deeds to understand where I stand on what the Bible has to say about such things, and to be able to have some confidence that my behavior follows my principles in a reasonable way.

Books and movies that portray witchcraft as effective, desirable, good, or without spiritual consequence are lying, as all cultural mimesis lies. This particular lie is perhaps bigger than some and more dangerous than others, because anything "magical" is only a stone's throw away from the occult. So while I am unwilling to condemn my fellow believers who take some pleasure in these things, I am also unable to recommend the Harry Potter franchise, and I would hope that those Christians who in their Christian freedom allow themselves and their loved ones to indulge in these works would, at the very least, remind themselves and their loved ones that in this particular case the line between fiction and reality needs to be very brightly and distinctly drawn – especially in the case of their children. Even if one loves Harry, when it comes to sorcery, literal emulation to any degree is out of the question for all who seek God.

In the One who is the only Truth, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Thanks for your knowledgeable reply. I got a second opinion and wanted to know what you thought about it. A brother in Christ had sent me this and made me think:

"The Bible teaches that if we entertain something in our imagination, we are just as guilty of doing that sin ourselves - such as lusting makes us guilty of adultery in our hearts, hating our brother in our hearts makes us guilty of murder."

28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Romans 1:28-32 KJV

What are your thoughts on this? Thanks in advance!

Response #5: 

Well I would definitely agree that to be perfect we would never entertain a negative or sinful thought. That is pretty hard to do. Of course, it is certainly true that indulging in fictional accounts which portray or glorify sinful activities is completely unhelpful for someone who wants to improve in this area. As I say, although it is a mandate we ought to pursue, it is in practice impossible to be perfect, and the fact that even believers continue to sin after salvation is a biblical position (please see this link in the second half of the e-mail posting: 1st John 5:20 and Romans 6:23). The Bible actually does have something to say about efforts that go to extremes in attempting to avoid all contact with evil in the world. Paul tells us that we cannot avoid evil people, for instance, but of course should avoid being evil ourselves and not tolerate evil in our fellow believers (Rom.16:17;1Cor.5:9-13; 2Thes.3:6; 3:14-15). That surely is not the same as the question of whether, how, and to what degree to avoid deliberately exposing ourselves to cultural activities that are going to "war against" our spirituality at least to some extent. As I say, since that is a matter of degrees, there will be cases and places where good Christians will differ in their applications. It is always better to be consistent and as "perfect" as possible in theory, but on the other hand it is also very important to avoid developing a legalistic attitude about such things. Extremism when it comes to the application of truth to the gray areas of life is dangerous because it often leads to legalism which in practice cannot help but be selective (i.e., black and white: doing magic; gray: reading Harry Potter; even grayer: associating with people who read Harry Potter). To my mind, nothing could be worse for a person's spirituality than to be hickory-hard about some things (which may be relatively innocuous in comparison to all of the gross and obvious evil in the world), even to the point of judging others about it, but then to treat other areas of our own imperfection by a different standard. That is the very definition of hypocrisy, and legalism always engenders hypocrisy (case in point: the Pharisees). Here is something I have written about what scripture has to say on this (from Bible Basics 3B: Hamartiology):

The principle of distinguishing between correct biblical standards in the heart and the complications that sometimes arise when applying them to real life is illuminated by Solomon in Ecclesiastes 7:16-17. In addition to telling us not to be overly wicked and foolish, this passage also tells us not to be either over-righteous or over-wise. For while the former behavior causes an early death (as we would well expect wickedness and foolishness to do), the latter causes a person to "ruin himself".
 

Do not be overly righteous, and do not be overly wise - why should you ruin yourself? Do not be overly wicked and do not be a fool - why should you die before your time? The best thing for you [to do] is to lay firm hold on the former (i.e., wisdom and righteousness), while not completely releasing your hand from the latter, for the man who fears God will escape both [extremes]. Ecclesiastes 7:16-18
 

Far from encouraging, allowing, or rationalizing sin, these verses underscore the fact that the conscience is the repository of absolute standards of right and wrong. In life, however, there are many subtleties which make absolute behavior problematic, since many of life's choices may be less than 100% right or 100% wrong. Indeed, even if we do possess a "good conscience", it is sometimes difficult to know for certain that we are being absolutely honest in the evaluation of our own motivations, the one area where things should be clearer to us than anywhere else (cf. 1Cor.4:4-5). The same is equally true when it comes to our interpretation of events outside of ourselves, as in the case of the "weak" and "strong" believers cited by Paul (Rom.14:1-23; 1Cor.8:1-13; 10:23-33). Both the weak who judge and the strong who indulge are "right" in an abstract, absolute sense, yet "wrong" in the way they are applying their standards to life. This is also the main point of the verses from Ecclesiastes quoted above. Extremism either in the implementation of an overly legalistic interpretation of what constitutes right and wrong on the one hand, or an overly permissive attitude when it comes to heeding the conscience on the other are equally destructive courses of action (so that one should be careful not to "grab hold" of one or the other to such an extreme degree).
 

To return to the passage you quote here, Romans 1 is of course talking about unbelievers who have gone far down the path not only of rejecting God but also of rejecting the basic truths of essential law by which the universe He has constructed operates. The final underlined phrase, "but have pleasure in them that do them.", illustrates one of the major difficulties of the KJV version, namely, what it meant when written is often misleading to modern English speakers. What it says is, in early 17th century English, is indeed not far off from the Greek text. What it may seem to mean today, however, may well be misleading. I have translated this verse "men who though they had full knowledge of God's righteous decree, namely, that those who do such things are worthy of death, not only did [such] things themselves, but even commended those who made it their practice [to do them].". So while it is true that an application of this passage might well be "the wages of sin is death", that is something we know; we know also that "without sanctification, no one will see the Lord" (Heb.12:14). Believers cannot give in to a life of sin without serious consequences, divine discipline, and, if allowed to go to far, even apostasy or the "sin unto death". But that is a far cry from questionable applications which may or may not even be sinful. Such activities may be unhelpful, of course. As it says, "all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable" (1Cor.6:12; 10:23). But that is up to the individual believer to decide based upon a variety of factors, personal spiritual growth being key among them (cf. Rom.14).

It is an open question as to whether reading a Harry Potter book is a sin (and part of the answer to that question has to be based upon the spiritual status of the believer in question and what they think about the issue beforehand since, "everything that is not of faith is sin": Rom.14:23). It is another question whether or not it is a good idea to do, regardless of whether or not it is a sin. And it is a further question still as to what our attitude should be towards those who indulge. My assessment is that it is good to stay away from such things to the extent possible (or at least be careful to maintain a strong mental detachment), very good to be careful to keep them from having any significant influence on you if and when you do indulge, but absolutely essential not to get caught up in the devil's game of assigning to such cultural trivialities more spiritual import than they deserve, especially not to the point of judging other believers who don't see things the same way we may. For in the latter case we may find that while we may succeed in removing a mote, in the process we stand to be judged ourselves for the beam that remains in our own eye.

In the Name of the One who died for all of our sins, whether we are ignorant or cognizant of them, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.


Question #6:

 Hi Bob!

What is your thought about the words Jesus Freaks? I have noticed a very popular term used among some people, which is the word freak in conjunction with Jesus as very offensive. It seems more to me a slang word that does not sound edifying or tasteful. I just don't see those who have been saved by the grace of God thru faith in Jesus Christ as freaks. What do you think about this? and should Christians feel ok to be called Jesus freaks?


Response #6:
 

I certainly would not describe myself with this term. It's originally a sixties thing (which means it was really more of a seventies thing). But I suppose there were some people who in adopting this term and the counter-culture accouterment that went with it did manage to reach some hippies for Christ. I think most of that is lost today and so it's probably an unnecessary term. This is another one of those "application issues". On the one hand, as it says in Titus: "In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned" (Tit.2:7b-8a); on the other hand, it says in 1st Corinthians "I have become all things to all men in order that by all means I may save some" (1Cor.9:22). To the extent that such self-adopted labels compromise the former principle, I am against them; to the extent that they promote the latter, I am for them. Since in my own case and experience, this question about which you ask is more a case of the former than the latter, I don't use it myself. However, in spite of my skepticism I have to leave the door open a crack in the case of others for whom it may be providing an opportunity for evangelism.

As far as this being a "name" that others call us, well, Christians are always being abused by the world (true Christians, anyway). I think if we are being called "freaks" when we are genuinely walking with Jesus and serving Him, then that is something in which we can rejoice. As our Lord said, "Happy are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matt.5:11-12).

In the One for whom we gladly bear any reproach, because He bore our sins in His body on the cross, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.


Question #7:

Bob,

As always, thanks for the email and I'll look forward to reading your links. Have you ever considered writing a book? You certainly have the skills to do so and the knowledge to back it up. Your initial message that I saw about life and death and the emphasis on not trying to build a kingdom here on Earth, rather, to reserve a spot in Heaven was well taken by me. If I recall, the Bible mentions something about this (probably many things but this one stuck to me). It says something like life is very fragile and could end in a second, perhaps it starts off saying "what is life"? I don't remember the verse but I certainly recall the message and what it meant. It motivates me to get involved in ministry myself.

God Bless,


Response #7:
 

Thanks for your good words, especially for your testimony in support of the consolation of the Spirit (2Cor.1:3-7). As to "life", perhaps you are thinking of Luke 12:22-34? If not, no matter. This is a theme of scripture which permeates the Bible. One of the things that has come to resonate with me more and more over the years is the fact that when a person really becomes attuned to scripture and it begins to sink deep down into the heart, the Old Testament, Jesus' own words, and the epistles all "dove-tail" perfectly, so that the truth of the Bible once distilled becomes revealed as a single perfect whole, like a beautiful diamond shining forth the light in each of its perfect facets.

Of course I can't say where you have been called to served the Church of Christ. But I can say that I agree wholeheartedly with your desire to do so and your application, namely, to grow and prepare first. One of the problems people often have is a lack of commitment to learning about the Bible (through reading it and seeking out good teaching) even while they substitute for this lack by getting involved prematurely in works. Even if the ministries they commit to are good, without a solid foundation of faith and truth these will inevitably be limited.

As to books, this is a question that comes up all the time. I could find a publisher for these studies, but I am reluctant to surrender any of the rights, and I am even more reluctant to have a price put on them. Even if I published them myself in a formal way, standard book distribution would mean that people would still have to pay for them. For more on the rationale about books please see:

A Question about Books

In our Lord Jesus for whom nothing is impossible.

Bob L.

 

Question #8:

Good afternoon,

I have researched this question and have still not found my answer. Why does the Hispanic culture freely name their children Jesus, but this name is not chosen among American Christians for their children? Does this question have a specific answer that can be found in referenced or publish literature?

Thank you in advance for any answers you may provide and may the lord bless you!


Response #8:
 

According to the website "Popular Baby Names", in 2003, the name "Jesus" was not only in the top 100, but actually number 67 on the list (so just barely in the top two thirds). I would not be surprised to learn that a majority of the parents choosing this name were of Hispanic origin. However, a search of on-line white pages reveals individuals with non-Hispanic surnames who bear the first name "Jesus". Still, your observation does appear to be generally true. My experience with naming patterns suggests to me that there are both traditional and trend factors at work. Three of the greatest poets of western civilization have names that were once incredibly popular, but today what parent would ever seriously consider naming a child "Homer, Virgil, or Horace"? Likewise the names "Britanny", "Heather", and "Tifanny" came out of virtually nowhere a couple of decades ago to replace standards like "Alice" and "Mildred" in their popularity. I think that the real issue is as you seem to suggest more that in our country the name "Jesus" had traditionally not been given out of respect and reverence for the deity of the Son of God, and perhaps also out of the idea – one with which I also happen to agree – that such a name is beyond the capacity of anyone to live up to. But different cultures see things in different ways, and I would imagine that choosing the name "Jesus" as frequently as this occurs in Hispanic cultures is more a mark of respect than otherwise. It might also interest you to know that in Greek and Hebrew, the original languages of scripture, there is no difference whatsoever between the names Joshua and Jesus (i.e., they are one and the same name). However, the Latin, Spanish, and English tradition is to spell the names differently in order to distinguish between the two. Honestly, naming a child "Jesus" is not something that I would personally ever even consider, but I can't see any scriptural reason not to do so on the pure merits of the action itself. As with all actions of this sort which are neither encouraged nor precluded by the scriptures, one has to look at the heart and the motivations of the person or persons taking the action, and that is a case by case thing. The mere fact that the practice of using this name is so very common in Hispanic culture by itself seems to me to mitigate the significance of adopting it for a child, whereas in traditional anglo-American circles the fact that it would be so unusual would seem to me to heighten the significance of so doing. I am not personally aware of anything written on this subject, but there very well may be. I would suggest contacting the Spanish department or section of your local university. They ought to be able to give you some more particular guidance as to the cultural aspects and origins of this practice.

Hope this is of some help to you.

In our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill


Question #9:

Hi Bob,

Your stuff is in depth and seems well researched. It is plain to see your secular education and your formal Christian education shows through as well. Most of your stuff however, is linked in such a way as to require a reader to read it all in order to get your full views. I like and respect that writing technique, but confess I do not have time to read your entire site at this time, so I will ask a few quick questions directly...

1. What are your views on the teaching of "the rapture", meaning are you a "pre", "mid", or "post" "tribber"? (I am clear on the scriptural arguments of all three groups, so I don't require them. but I would like to know which group you place yourself in).

2. What do you believe about Christian support of the governments actions in the middle east today? I would like to know what your beliefs are on the current Christian world view on things such as "The New World order", the "War on Terror", and where a Christian should draw the line when it comes to "supporting your leaders"?

3. What do you believe about the Christian's relationship to the world, specifically, the political realm, investing and wealth, and importantly, are you seeing any dangerous trends developing in modern Christian teaching?

Feel free to give me the straight to the point, "blunt", for lack of a better term, version of these answers. As you can imagine, I don't need essays, but I'd like to get a clearer perspective on what your relationship with modern teaching trends in the church.


Response #9:
 

I'm happy to reply, and also to keep it short and sweet as you obviously have time constraints (though do feel free to ask for more details if you wish).

1) Post-trib -- it's fundamental to the research and mission of this ministry.

2) I don't believe in politics . . . period. In my view, a nation receives the leadership / political and economic consequences of its spiritual and moral status. If Christians want better circumstances, growing in the Word of God and ministering it effectively is really the only effective way to work towards that end, personally and collectively.

3) Christians are responsible to pray for their countries and leaders; they are responsible to obey the law in an upright way. But I don't see active participation in "democratic" activities as required (and in my view they are potentially detrimental because of the distraction they pose to the true issues of spiritual growth and ministry). I do not hold with the "prosperity gospel". In my reading of the Bible, many more outstanding believers have been poor and severely tested rather than rich and comfortable, especially since the cross. The distractions to spirituality posed by exceptional wealth, power, fame, possessions, pleasures, even when technically legitimate, should be obvious for anyone with a smattering of biblical education. I don't look down on any brother or sister who has these things the world prizes so highly, but I do believe it is a huge mistake for believers to set their hearts on them, as if they could possibly make them happy apart from God, or as if a frantic quest for these things will fail to damage that primary relationship. The biggest danger to the Church today is the lack of orthodox, substantive Bible teaching. If a pastor/teacher really is digging deep into the Word and doing so in significant volume and detail, then it will be very easy for anyone who wishes to spend the time to find out whether his teaching is essentially on the mark or not (the necessity of at least small disagreements of a non-critical nature notwithstanding). But what we see coming from most pulpits today is uniformly insubstantial, and generally also either 1) mostly entertainment; 2) pop-psychology; and even 3) so far removed from anything scripture even suggests that it comes close to falling into the technical category of heresy. In my reading of the scriptures, this is a part of the trend prophesied to precede the end, so it should come as no surprise even if it does produce sadness. But for this very reason it is all the more important for Christians who do understand the times in which we live and the critical need for sound, solid and deep Bible teaching, not only about eschatology but about the entire range of biblical doctrines, to make spiritual growth through the Word of God and the ministration thereof the number one priority in their lives.

In any case, as I say above, I'm happy to go into as much detail as you would like on any of these topics (most of which are, as you observe, treated in some depth at Ichthys).

In Jesus,

Bob L.


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