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Archive for the ‘Bible Questions’ Category

Woman with the Issue of Blood

Reference Matthew 9:18-22, Mark 5:22-34, Leviticus 15:19-33

One day Jesus was walking by Capernaum, near the Sea of Galilee, with an official of the synagogue who had stopped Him and begged for His help with his very sick daughter.  As was typically the case, Jesus, now famous in this region for His miracles, was thronged by the crowds who followed Him everywhere.  Like any celebrity, they pressed in, longing to get a closer look, to hear His words or to touch Him.

The passage is clear that this is his “little daughter” – this is not his adult child.  This is not a woman.  She is a child.  His little daughter who hasn’t even had a chance to be a woman yet.

He specifically asks Jesus to “lay hands on her” – to touch his little girl and make her well so she can live.  Jesus follows the man toward the little dying child.

Here, we have presented to us one of the most pathetic characters of the gospels.  She is introduced as “a woman who had a discharge of blood for twelve years.”

Almost certainly, this means that at some point, she had started her menstrual cycle, but it had never stopped.  In our day, that would be terribly inconvenient.  In her day, it meant much more.

The Levitical laws prescribed that a woman was ceremonially unclean during the bleeding period of her cycle for seven days. During this time, anyone who touched her or any surface she sat or lied on was also unclean.

Keep in mind that the original intent of “unclean” did not connect to sin or morally impurity – far from it.   There is a lot that could be talked about here, but ceremonial uncleanness was a way of setting something apart from other things. In the Jewish world, blood was considered the very element of life.  Life was in the blood.  To bleed would normally mean something bad, so bleeding was treated with a serious attitude.

This would mean that this woman was not only facing the consequences of losing this blood, but the restrictions with being ceremonially unclean.  To make matters worse, in the time of Jesus, Rabbinical and Pharisaical teaching had added other restrictions and a much worse attitude onto women in this phase of their cycle.

Likely she could not handle money, tools, food or anything else that was not also unclean.

Now, consider the application.  For most women in child-bearing years, this mean that for seven days each month, they were unable to prepare food, handle money, touch tools or surfaces in the home… so essentially this became a one week vacation from normal responsibilities each month!

Further consideration – these people generally lived in relatively small communities within communities.  Often, women in the same community begin to experience their period at similar times!  So, beyond even a vacation – leaving fathers and grandparents with the responsibilities of the home and older children – it was a time when women of childbearing years would gather.

Some say that many Jewish communities would have had a special tent just outside of the village where these women stayed for these seven days.  Imagine the teaching, gossip, comfort and friendships lived out as most of the woman from the ages of early teens to menopause gathered together in an overlapping seven days.  This was a brilliant move on God’s part to offer rest, training and fellowship for these women and to create a system in which husbands and other family members would appreciate what the woman brought to the family.

No wonder that, when combined with the Jewish yearning to have children, a girl’s first period was likely celebrated!

However, this beautiful system sometimes broke down.  It had broken in the case of this particular woman.

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But instead a stance taken against girls going to college.

Here is the “logic” of the article.

  1. Men prefer debt free virgins without tattoos.
  2. College is where debt, sex and tattoos happen.
  3. Therefore girls shouldn’t go to college.

This logic is obviously filled with error.  Even if some men prefer these traits, and even if a woman wants to attract a man like that…

Don’t debt, tattoos and sex happen outside of college campuses?

Are less-well educated woman LESS likely to have sex or get a tattoo or to have a payday loan at 200% interest?  I happen to know, firsthand, that there are, and have been, debt free virgins who went to college (some for a LOOOONG time) and who didn’t even get a tattoo (and I am not just talking about myself – see photo)

I would love to see some research on this, or on what percentage of men (even “godly” men) prefer in regard to these traits, or on how many other traits (kindness, friendliness, able to maintain a deep conversation, beauty, leadership skill, adventurousness, and education level and GODLINESS) are MORE important to men (even godly men) than these other three traits.

Naturally, no such research is involved in this article. I am dubious it would support her claims, especially in relation to other traits.

So, I think the seeming purpose of the article can be negated, no matter what it really was.

But what about the scriptural side of things – does the Bible (or God and therefore men who follow God) prefer these traits based on the Bible?

Of course, there are many passages in which “obedience” is required by God. So, as in the case of premarital sex, God would certainly “prefer” that we all obey his teaching to wait until a covenant marriage to embrace sex!  Beyond that, check out those links above.

The article itself is very short on scripture, though.

Mrs. Alexander references (in parenthesis in the midst of the other person’s thoughts) only 2 verses:

Ephesians 6:4 in reference to girls “not having read the Bible with their fathers:”

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

And I Cor 14:35 in reference to their not having a husband to explain the Bible to them:

“If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” (I know there is a lot to digest in that one verse and I am not going to attempt to examine it here, perhaps at another time, but suffice it to say, for now, that this was about propriety, not about a wife not being smart enough to understand the Bible).

But in fact, the only verse from the Bible directly cited at all in the original articles is I Peter 3:4

“… but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

This entire thought in this passage is an admonition to women to find their beauty in their character rather than their appearance.  The passage says:

“3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

The follow-up article sports quite a few more verses (mostly in other people’s posts she cites) that take a hard-line literal interpretation and application attitude about the passages, no matter what section or book of the Bible, and yet the lovely woman covering her post is wearing gold jewelry.  Something specifically mentioned in the only passage she references in her original article.   I am not intending to be “snarky.”  I am pointing out that everyone interprets the Bible when they apply it (which they should properly)

Regardless, that First Peter passage is not applicable to virginity, debt nor tattoos.

Part 3 (and most important)

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Response to Men Prefer Debt Free Virgins without Tattoos

A few days ago, an article by one Lori Alexander hit Facebook with a storm and for the life of me, I cannot figure out why.

  • I think the inflammatory title helped. I think this is the main effective tool for creating attention.
  • I think the attractive young woman as the cover photo helped.
  • It could be how simplistic and short the article is (I could learn from that) and therefore something of a straw-man and easy to stack with other ugly Christian stereotypes.
  • I think mostly, this is due to people who disagree with the tenets of the article (or at least those indicated in the title) sharing and commenting on it.

It is actually just a copied note from “One woman (who) wrote me some more reasons that she thought of why women shouldn’t go to college” with the author’s comments and not really an article at all.

However, in the follow up (and re-titling of to “Godly Men Prefer Debt Free Virgins without Tattoos”) the article, Alexander claims to have gotten more than 90,000 posts on her article.  In this follow up, she mostly reposts some of the positive comments she has gotten in the midst of the others most of which, as she admits “hate it.”

Responding to people

Sadly, many women (and men) have responded in a way that is the strange hypocrisy of modern liberal feminism… because they disagree with her message, they attack her as a woman under the control of men.

This is a thinking person, married 38 years, who runs her own website and just managed to get more hits and comments on one article than I have with all of mine combined over a decade.

I think it is foolish and wrong (and possible sexist) to dismiss her just because she is a woman with an opinion I don’t agree with.

I respect her ability to create and hold and verbalize an opinion in more than a meme and a post on Social Media – something many others do not seem capable of.

So, in an effort to treat her and her article with dignity, I will respond:

When reading the introduction, I assumed that this woman (she claims to be 60 years old) was seeking to impress upon young women the importance of what she thinks is making wise (debt and tattoos) and moral (sex before marriage) decisions.

I assumed that she was using the motivation that “men prefer” women who have made these decisions.

I am not going to comment on those actual decisions here.  I already have articles published about what I believe the biblical perspective is on Tattoos and premarital sex.

A friend has posted more than one article on debt that I think are good ones – check them out.

As one friend of mine posted in response to the article “But wouldn’t both men and women prefer to marry debt-free virgins?”(maybe not sure about tattoos) – at least not “bad tattoos”).   Given the complete lack of any kind of statistics or even a survey in the article, I don’t feel the need to approach the question of accuracy for a question like this.

Anytime we talk about preferences, there are always going to be some people who prefer almost any trait.  If the implication was to be that ALL men do, then clearly this is patently wrong.

In her response, Alexander says that she should have entitled it “Godly men…”

It felt to me that in her follow up  article, she is actually now making these preferences a test for whether or not a man is godly.  (eg. If he prefers a girl with a tattoo, he must NOT be godly.).

As I will make clear at the end of this article, a godly man could certainly prefer a woman with or without any or all of these three things!

This was clearly not the meaning in the first article, which turns out NOT to be what I thought it would be – an attempt to motivate young women to wise or moral behavior…

But instead a stance taken against girls going to college.  Part 2

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So,

Actual Final Words

Again, in this case, I am not arguing against pacifism at the “personal conviction” level.  Of course, any human might determine that it is wrong for them to engage in almost kind of activity; examples might include sex, gambling, drinking alcohol, smoking, reading certain books, etc – that may be completely permitted (or at least not condemned) scripturally, but that a Christian might decide to refrain from for personal conviction…

Or even things that are otherwise considered to be blessings biblically, like marriage, can be eschewed based on personal conviction – consider the Apostle Paul and Jesus both in that regard.

Naturally, it is likely that violence is another of these. Anyone who believes that they, personally, should not engage in anything violent, is probably able to justify that decision scripturally.  As I mentioned, someday, I may see if I can make an argument against that, but this is not that time.

Pacifism proclaimed as morally right for everyone, or even any certain population (Christians in this era) is a different matter.  My conclusion at this point is that it must be attached to a more ultimate standard.  For the Christian, that standard is the will of God as revealed in Holy Scripture.  I do not see that the Christian pacifist is able to bear the burdens I have listed in these articles scripturally, in order to call for all Christ-followers to be completely non-violent.

That being said, I want to ask for blessings on those in Christian history who have been willing to push back against cultures defined by their violence!   Blessing on those who refused for fight for and swear to other gods.  Thank God for Christians who have pushed against the gates of Hell when it meant pushing against the cultural norms.

Thanks to Christians who have been willing to die for peace.  I mean to honor them by engaging with these passages with a sincere heart.  I pray that I am interpreting these passages in a way that honors Jesus Christ whose they are.  I am well aware that I could be wrong about this.  I don’t think so, obviously, but as always, I rely on God’s Spirit to enlighten us to Truth and on the Grace of God to restore whatever I do mess up here.

 

I appreciate your feedback, positive or negative.

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Working Towards Final Words

Matt 5:39-42

39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

The ethic of scripture is one of the willingness to suffer for what is right.

The model is Jesus and of scripture in general is one of patience, longsuffering, and gentleness.

Let’s look at gentleness a little.

I have thought for many years that gentleness is best defined as “to use the least force necessary.”

Imagine a nurse setting a bone.

To use too much force is brutal and unnecessarily painful.  You may damage this person.

To use too little force is weak and cruel.  You may cripple this person.

We correctly understand God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as gentle.

He is willing to create pain in us if it is what we need. He disciplines.  He prunes.  He casts down.

In the same way, causing pain in others is a part of doing good in their lives and in the lives of others (even a fool can learn from the punishment of the scoffer (Prov 19:25, 21:11)).

In this passage, is Jesus intending to indicate that the ONLY way Christians can respond to any form of aggression is with non-violence, no matter what the action is?

Does He intend to say that a father should allow his daughter to be raped?  Does He intend to say that we should he offer his other daughter too?  Does that pattern apply to every behavior?

Or (as I think is the case) is He referencing the more specific behaviors that He lists here?  Is this passage about having no boundaries with others about their abuse of us or is He talking about us going generously above and beyond the normal bounds that what is required?

The law requires you to do what is legally required, but also to be more generous than that.   I cannot see how He mean to teach us that it is always wrong to cause harm in response to the condition or behavior of another.

Again, being gentle is exceptional in any culture. Being sacrificial is always exceptional. Helping others, even if it is through a painful process.  Can Christians be in roles that create pain or discomfort?

Can Christians be surgeons?  They definitely harm to protect.  Can Christians be parents?  The child will feel mistreated in the parent’s efforts to grow them.  Can a Christian be a policeman?  Can a Christian be a soldier?  Obviously creating harm cannot be the ethical line, so is there one?

Can someone who may take life follow the Christian ethic? Fortunately, a powerful Christian leader taught a little bit on that.

In Luke 3, crowds and then a tax collector and then a soldier ask John The Baptist about how to live an ethical life.  John answers the soldier:

Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”(Luke 3:14)

John has a perfect opportunity here to make it clear that it is unethical to be a soldier.  But he doesn’t.  Instead, John tells them to make ethical corrections within their career as soldiers.  He points them to unrighteous behavior that a soldier could commit.

It would be wrong for a soldier to extort money.  Why didn’t John say “Don’t be a soldier.” or even “Yeah, don’t commit violence.”?

Don’t reference that John would have been intimidated.  John wasn’t afraid to say what he believed was right; it got him killed.  Why not tell these soldiers?

What is a culture like when, by definition, there are no Christian police officers – not even ones that have a Christian ethic at all? What happens to a culture when soldiers, security guards, and others who might have to cause harm and take life, are not allowed to have an ethic that sees life as treasure & something to be honored?

I want anyone with the authority to take life – judges, police, soldiers, senators, presidents, or who just have regular decisions about life and death, to be Christ followers and God fearers!

There is also an ugly version of hypocrisy here, in my opinion.

I grew up in the 1980’s and tape-burning events were pretty popular.  About once a year, a youth group in town, or a camp would host an event in which a speaker would encourage us to get the inappropriate music out of our collections. For some speakers, it was anything with a drum or rhythm (not kidding).  However, when students were inspired to follow through, there was sometimes a time for burning the items.  What I also remember is that some kids decided that the money invested was too much to lose, so they sold the tapes.

They decided that it was wrong to have and listen to these songs, but then sold them to other people.

I think that is similar to the hypocrisy of the pacifist view. In this case, I am not talking about those who say pacifism is merely their own personal conviction, but those who say that all Christians should be.

It reminds me of the liberal gun-control activists who hire armed security guards to defend them… this is extreme hypocrisy.

It is not right to ask others to sin in an effort to keep you from sinning.  If you do not think any violence can be right or if you think that it is morally wrong to kill, then you had better not call the police when someone breaks into your house.

You had better not hide behind anyone else’s gun.

In a speech in 1945, entitled “Notes on Nationalism,” George Orwell said that a thought that pacifists cannot accept even in their own thoughts is that  “Those who abjure violence can do so only because others are committing violence on their behalf…”

Final part next – actual final words

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Continuing to Engage with the Biblical Arguments for Pacifism

Don’t fear death

This argument, based on Matt 10:28 (“do not fear those who kill the body…”), says that Christians should not defend themselves because of what Jesus teaches here about us not “fearing death.”

Here in the midst of Jesus’ instructions to His Apostles before He sends them out, I think it is clear that Jesus is talking about the fear of persecution and wellness, not random violence or personal assault. Examine the verses immediately preceding:

24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. 26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.

It is an exaggeration to say that to seek to avoid death is the same as “to trust in violence more than God.”  This is not the same thing.  I can choose to not fear death but still try to keep my cholesterol down, wear my seatbelt, etc.  I can not fear death and still harm someone trying to harm me or a loved one.

In fact, I have never had to do it, but I am guessing that when a police officer or a soldier charge toward gunfire, they are choosing to “not fear death” as they race to potentially take the life of another.

Persecution

I already take the stance that it is probably an error and could be sinful for a Christian to resist or fight back to avoid persecution.  There are too many places where Jesus seems to be instructing Christians to accept persecution as normal and will even be rewarded, for us think that fighting back against persecution is the appropriate choice.  (2 Cor 4:8-12, I Peter 4:12-16, John 15:18-21, Matt 5:12, Mark 13:9, I Cor 4:12, and most poignantly, John 18:36-37).

Side note.  Taking a quick glance at John 18:36 shows Jesus claiming that if His Kingdom was of this world, Jesus says that HIS followers would have been fighting if it were a kingdom of this world.  It sounds like maybe the principle of people fighting for their earthly kingdoms might be appropriate.  I have never seen this connected to the question of Christians being soldiers, but I think it might apply.

There are many passages that indicate that even though our citizenship is in heaven, that we are also part of an earthly government (Romans 13, I Peter 2:13-17).

The example of Jesus

In the examples of the gospels and in I Peter 2:21, Jesus does not fight back when He is being executed and that is an example for us.   This is often used as an argument against violence.  I agree that in the case of direct persecution, especially by the governing authorities, it is probably wrong for the Christian to fight back.

However, keep in mind that following this example would also mean not speaking up in court to defend ourselves against persecution.   He didn’t just not destroy everyone in those situations, but He kept His mouth closed (except to get Himself convicted).

I have not found that example encouraged anywhere so far.

The 1 Peter passage actually says that Jesus was leaving us an example:

 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.  I Peter 2:21-23

However, the emphasis here seems to be on suffering, especially persecution – not really about when or where or how fighting back would make sense in a general sense.  The passage has built through enduring sorrow, even while suffering unjustly.

Part VI

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The Arguments

So, we examine the passages used to defend Christian Pacifism.

So, let me make clear, I am not at all saying that killing is always right (even in times of war, execution or self defense), but am just making the case that it CAN be right.  I am not going to try to make the case that modern followers of Jesus are RESPONSIBLE to be willing to be violent.  Maybe someday I will try and see if that case can be made.

For now, I am only going to defend the ethic that honest, devoted followers of Christ ARE NOT required to AVOID violence at any cost.

We must be very careful when we look at scripture in these conversations.  Agenda driven people often handle passages poorly or in such a way that defends their views.  I pray that I do not do this… I will strive not to do this, but have been saddened to run into multiple places where words are redefined or scripture referenced as saying thing that it does not say.  In many of the books and articles I have read on this topic I run into passages that I have to think the author knows are not appropriate or at least not used appropriately.

These are some of the most common arguments made:

Loving enemies

Matt 22:34-40 – “love your neighbor”

Matt 5:44-45 – “love your enemies”

Luke 6:35-36 – “love your enemies”

These passages are about loving people – neighbors and enemies.  The presumption here is that violence would never be appropriate with people we love. This is patently absurd.  I could easily be forced to tackle a child who is about to step in front of a car… if my child became a murderer, might I have to kill him to prevent him from killing his own mother or younger sibling?  I imagine this has actually happened before to someone.

I would love my son the entire time.

I also think I could potentially be doing it in the Name of Jesus Christ.  I think I could protect a child by killing a predator in the Name of Jesus.

I consider this, in fact, the ultimate question of all Christian ethics.  Can I do this thing in the Name of Jesus Christ (Col 3:17).  Most behaviors can certainly be done in NOT in the Name of Jesus Christ (including killing or harming) but I also think that most behaviors can be done in the Name of Jesus Christ.

False dichotomies

“Do not return evil for evil” (I Peter 3:9, Rom 12:17, I Thess 5:15)…but is violence evil – at least necessarily evil?   That is the exact case that the pacifist must make!  It is not presumed.

It is circular argument for the pacifist to cite these passages and say that we should never be violent because violence is evil and this passage says not to be evil…

The passage in Romans 12:17 continues, by the way…

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Isn’t it fair to say that God was overcoming evil with goodwhen He sends in His people to destroy the evil Canaanite culture?

This is the same argument as above.  It is still the pacifist who has to make the case that violence cannotbe good and that violence is evil.  It seems like there would be many examples of evil being overcome with good being somewhat violent  – or at least feeling that way to the evil!

What about the vengeance wording (like Rom 12:19)?

In another example of this, I assume that vengeance could be overcoming evil with good, since it is God who avenges (Rom 12:19, Heb 10:30, Dt 32:35), and He overcomes evil with good.  The problem apparently isn’t that vengeance is morally wrong (or God wouldn’t avenge); the problem is that humans lack the insight to know the right way to go about it.   So, again, this isn’t a command against evil, but specifically against revenge.

Whether violence is evil is the exact burden that the pacifist must carry across the finish line.  They cannot start with that assumption and then apply scripture that way.

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