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August 3, 2005

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Higher 'Christian' standards (re: "12 Kinds of People")

READER QUESTION:
Do you agree categories 3-6 are saved (especially 5 & 6)? The author seems to believe that once saved, an individual remains saved even though his transgressions and backsliding conduct is worse than that of someone never exposed to Christ who will not be saved. It seems to me that once saved the standard of conduct required to remain saved ought to be higher (not lower) than that of those who have never been saved and so are damned. Personally, I doubt that backsliders were ever really saved, for if they experience Christ as you have, they would not backslide. If they have not, they have not been saved in the first place. I think the author is in error. A backslider should be measured by the same or higher standard as one never saved, for he has an even better understanding of and reason for Christian conduct.

VW ANSWER:
Yes, I have gotten these kinds of comments on other occasions....

Indeed, the standard for the saved 'ought' to be "higher". That is what we proclaim on a regular basis, one of the reasons for the existence of this ministry, to exhort those claiming the name of Christ, TO -LIVE- LIKE IT. But the reader should keep in mind that the "12 kinds of people" piece is a categorization of all the various states of anybody who is living, whatever their individual percentages to the whole might be. If 5 was not a true Believer, Jesus would not have told the story of the prodigal son. If 6 was not a true Believer, Paul and John would not have spoken of the "sin unto death". John uses the term "brother"...that's a 'saved' person. Paul was writing to Corinth, whom he called "my brethren".

Let me give two real-life illustrations of these two...

5) My uncle, whom I've spoken of a few years ago in a similar context. He was officially the "black sheep" of the family. There were three brothers: my dad and another uncle went into the ministry. The uncle divorced his wife, abandoned his children, did not provide alimony for child support (back in the 50s & 60s when there were not the welfare systems to help such abandoned), in order to chase some tail to Nevada for a quickie divorce and wedding; tried to pretend to continue being a pastor, until the elders in one church caught wind of his past, and sent them packing with a week's notice. My own father, on the mission field, an affair which, when I finally learned of it towards the end of his life, and confronted him about it, he tried to deny it. Both of these went to their graves not having ever fully confessed their sins...and to this day, as a result, I wonder about their salvation.

The younger uncle, on the other hand, although he also went to the same Bible school the other two had gone to, which I also attended out of high school, lived a life of open debauchery (there was no pretense of righteousness with him, like with the other two; he was actually the most 'honest' of the three). He lived out of the back of his truck a lot, and his favorite 'cologne' was oil and grease mixed with field dirt, his favorite breath mint was chaw-tobacco, and his favorite mouth wash...beer. He would spend his spare time in town at the taverns, and when he was ready to leave for his night-on-the-town, his mother (my grandmother) would sometimes remind him to be sure he was wearing "clean underwear". Thus, you know 'what' he was doing. And, he came home with a black eye one time, after he had been hitting on somebody else's girlfriend/wife. Eventually he got married, and near the end of his life, he developed heart problems requiring open heart surgery to replace a valve. After he was back home from having been plugged up to various machines, his -life- was changed. As Zacchaeus told Jesus how he would right all the wrongs of his past life, so did my uncle....from the way he carried on business to the occasion where, in transit from the hospital to his home on the farm, he stopped by our apartment....and when he needed to lie down to rest, and was offered our bed to rest on....he refused, making a point of expressing, "That's -your- (my wife's and my) bed". He would not lie down on 'our' bed, even with great urging from us (because it's just -a- 'bed'), but insisted on using the living room couch; going to great lengths in making it clear, his life change, even though his healing/ailing heart could likely have benefited from the bed. After he had been home long enough to make things right, and for the world to see the change, his condition then worsened, and the Lord took him.

Which of the three went to Heaven when they died? The other two (the preachers) I'm not sure of. But the so-called "black sheep", the one whose life had consisted of debauchery...I truly believe the Lord got his 'attention' on that hospital bed, and he did as the prodigal son....he returned....and his heart was manifest in his changed life.

Even during his life of debauchery, there -was-, however, a 'spark' that was evident by the "witness" of the Spirit. (Rom8:16) But most people seeing him would have considered him to be lower than the low of the world. Most of the world's people, the unsaved, were 'better' people than he was. But he was, nevertheless...saved. I believe he was both 5 & 6. He returned to the Lord, like the prodigal. But his death was also at the 'prime' of his life....thus, I believe he also had sinned the sin-unto-death. But, God did not take him 'suddenly' in total unrepentant judgment, but put him in the hospital first, so he could repent; and he arrived in Heaven confessed/forgiven.

6) Years ago I was in a church where the pastor was a Godly Scriptural doctrinal teacher. Likely a better teacher than any of the professors I had had at Bible school. But the church was full of both carnal Believers as well a pretend [c]hristians. Nobody criticized his preaching/teaching directly (due to their smitten consciences at hearing God's Word), but they found all sorts of other things by which to stir up quite a ruckus, and eventually, after some of these church members were also calling his home with threats against his family, and such things, they politicked him out. During the course of these politics, one of the church's elders, a ringleader in the dissent, said to this pastor's face words to the effect, "You are not a true man of God!" Within a week he was dead, of unexpected heart failure. Nobody in the congregation ever voiced the connection (that I heard of), but at the time in my heart, when I heard the news of his death, I -knew- it was God's judgment for having cursed God's anointed. (sorta like Nabal with David)

Yes....I think it is evident that -most- of those who claim to be [C]hristians, but are living like the world, are from 7 & 8; they are not truly saved. And of those who truly are saved, a higher percentage would also be in 3 & 4. But the fact that 5 & 6 -do- exist is Scriptural. And examples in real life also bear them out.

But also, indeed, there are the 11's....the ones who are saved, and then draw back; either through purposeful 'rejection' of God, or due to carnality and eventually their hearts' desire towards God -follows- their behavior; the opposite of Pr16:9. But the 5 & 6s -do- exist, albeit in smaller numbers, compared to the rest.

One of the reasons the Scriptures have been written as they have is (precisely) BECAUSE these various states of backsliding exist, where God pleads with the backsliding sinner to "turn, turn....for why will you die...O house of Israel" (Ezk33:11) The term "house of Israel" indicates those belonging to God. And Israel's record is written for us (the Church) as "examples" so that we should not live in the same kind of debauchery and idolatry that they did. (1Co10:6-11) And notice how Paul warns against (#11)... "Therefore let him who thinks he is firmly established take heed that he not fall." (vs12)

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Embryonic Stem Cells

READER QUESTION:
If you have any insight on Pres. Bush's articulated position on stem cell research, I would appreciate it -- If a fertilized human egg is an embryo and therefore a human life, then why does Pres. Bush care to which stem cell line it belongs? I do not understand the distinctions drawn by Pres. Bush (1) between fertilized eggs of stem cell lines created before a date he has previously designated and any other fertilized egg (like the 250,000 currently stored at fertility clinics in the U.S. which will otherwise be destroyed if not used in research -- is there a moral preference for destroying fertilized eggs rather than using them for therapeutic research?) and (2) permitting private funds and state taxpayers (California has authorized $3 billion for stem cell research) to research stem cells, while prohibiting U.S. government funding of stem cell research. It seems to me that if Pres. Bush really believes a fertilized egg is an embryo deserving government protection, then no act of using them for research should be permissible, whether on (1) stem cell lines existing before a designed date or (2) funded by the U.S. government or anyone else. I would think a federal murder statue punishing researchers and abortionists would be the solution, not a partial limitation on U.S government funding. I suspect you agree that no stem cell research ought to be permitted on fertilized eggs, but do you understand the distinctions Pres Bush is drawing between (1) stem cell lines existing before a designed date or (2) funded by the U.S. government?

VW ANSWER:
On this one, I share (totally) in this person's frustration about Bush. The kind of prioritizing/sorting that Bush does in his mind is kinda like the pharisaical hypocrisy Jesus spoke of regarding swearing... on the temple, or the 'gold' of the temple...or the altar, or the 'sacrifice' on the altar. It -all- belongs to God. (Mt23)

I'm also frustrated with Frist's recent flip-flop, returning from a 'moral' perspective to his (as the media has labeled it) medical background, back to 'science'. (Apparently, calling it 'science' makes the murders amoral and alright!)

The whole area of 'embryonic' stem cell research is totally bogus. Even as the news is coming out about Frist's flip-flop, last night's news was telling about a breakthrough in 'adult' stem cell progress, where they have gotten blood vessels to propagate in legs where there had been diminished blood supply. Illustrating how research on a person's -own- stem cells has not yet been exhausted, and actually might be a 'better' source. So why are they messing around with embryos?

And also in Gary Bauer's mailing yesterday, this paragraph:

    "Some supporters of this research are cynically making the absurd claim that it is pro-life to kill these cells, these earliest forms of human life, in order to help the living. It is a false choice. Embryonic stem cell research is nothing short of medical cannibalism. We are literally destroying our next generation in order to save ourselves. That is not the mark of a compassionate society."
How many parents, if they needed a questionable procedure, would suggest to the doctor: Here, try it on my 3-year old daughter, first, to see how it works. That's what embryonic stem cell research is. Those embryos -are- little children. It is how the psalmist recognized it...which is in God's Word:

"For You have possessed my inward parts; You covered me in my motherís womb... My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my embryo, and in Your book I was enrolled, and all my days had been preordained, when as yet there was nothing." (~Ps139:13-16)

How much clearer can it be!

I mean....this 'debate' is really a -short- one; it is really NOT a debate, because the issue is so clear-cut and obvious. There really should be NO debating it. Those embryos are little 'people' they are hacking into, just as surely as if they were to take a person, strap them down, and start cutting, hacking, sucking, inserting, taking a part from one place and reattaching it somewhere else, maybe take some animal parts and stir it into the mix. Same thing, exactly. Whether those 'cells' were created 10 years ago, or yesterday, it makes not-a-difference. They are all 'people'. In the above example, do you wish to strap down a 90-year old to start chopping away, or a 2-year old? Same argument. It is something a society should not even question. Such an 'option' shouldn't even be entering the mind! End-of-discussion!

And this is also why I believe so-called 'fertility' treatments are wrong. Sure, it helps a couple conceive....but the process also includes 'extra' embryos, which when the desired results are achieved, those 'extras' get 'discarded'. They THROW AWAY... -PEOPLE-. How does that differ from the various "ethnic cleansings" that many despots have engaged in throughout history?

Only difference, we cannot hear the screams, so we can pretend it's not true. At the end of guns and swords the blood, gore and suffering is obvious. In the womb the scream is "silent" as they are vacuumed/sucked apart, limb from limb. At the embryonic stage, what are the screams of those going to God's judgment due to having been hatched from unsaved parents?

Does 'that' answer the question sufficiently, even if somewhat bluntly and gruesomely....

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