The tXc staff discuss the key doctrine of imago dei as well as what it means to be an image bearer of God and loving your neighbor.
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Those in the newspaper business do what it takes to sell papers, even if that means claiming that the God of the Bible is “transgender,” like the pagan gods of old. Such is the theory of a New York Times article by Rabbi Mark Sameth, “Is God Transgender?” (Aug 12, 2016).
Sameth claims that the Hebrew Bible, “when read in its original language, offers a highly elastic view of gender….In Genesis 3:12, Eve is referred to as ‘he.’ In Genesis 9:21, after the flood, Noah repairs to ‘her’ tent. Genesis 1:27 refers to Adam as ‘them.’”
These minor textual oddities are easily explained by Hebrew experts like Robert Gagnon and Michael Brown. In addition, many languages do not employ gender signifiers in a sexual manner. In French, for instance, a car and a bottle are feminine, yet no one accuses the French of gender fluidity, a culture known for its expression—vive la différence.
Sameth’s thesis becomes even more speculative concerning the name of God. He employs a deeply imaginative argument, speculating that the name YHWH, “Yahweh,” could have been read backwards, spelling “He/She.” Gagnon shows that biblical scholars are generally in agreement that YHWH is derived from the third-person singular of the verb “to be” (hayah), meaning either “he is” or “he will be.” Michael Brown, a Hebrew scholar, argues that “there is not a stitch of evidence to support this.” He adds: “…of the more than 6,000 times that the name YHWH occurs, it never occurs with a feminine adjective or verbal form.”
According to Gagnon, there is “No historical evidence that supports Sameth’s reading—only his own sex ideology.” Sameth’s “sex ideology” is his attempt to justify the actions of a male cousin, among the first in America to undergo sex-reassignment surgery.
But his motivation is more than sentimental: It is theological. While he is “saddened whenever religious arguments are brought in to defend social prejudices,” he does not hesitate to use the “social” example of his cousin to justify his own religious arguments. He maintains that
in the ancient world, well-expressed gender fluidity was the mark of a civilized person. Such a person was considered more “godlike.” In Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, the gods were thought of as gender-fluid, and human beings were considered reflections of the gods.
He then speculates that “the Israelites took the transgender trope from their surrounding cultures and wove it into their own sacred scripture.” Here Sameth defends his theological commitment to polytheistic interfaith and to his “god-within” theology rather than to his own Scriptures, the Old Testament, which are full of warnings against imitating the sexual practices of the nations. Leviticus 18:22 states: “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.” In Deuteronomy 22:5 God commands that: “A woman must not put on man’s apparel, nor shall a man wear woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is abhorrent to the LORD your God.” These are sexual abominations, about which the Leviticus text states: “Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled…And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you” (Lev. 18:23–28).
Rabbi Sameth’s theology is definitely open to “these ways.” In his synagogue he leads Jewish meditation and is open to other spiritual teachings, “Jews, non-Jews, Buddhists, non-Buddhists, Juddhists, non-Juddhists!” His openness to various genders reflects his openness to various pagan religions. Poly-sexualism is an embodiment of polytheism.
Who would have thought that this ancient idolatry would mark a civilized 21st century citizenry and religion of the modern West? As Michael Brown rightly says: “[Sameth’s] attempt to use the Hebrew Scriptures to support transgender activism is utterly misguided, fatally flawed, and unworthy of serious consideration.”
The Bible nowhere presents God as a sexual being. Sexuality is a human characteristic, designed by God for procreation but also as an embodiment of the differences knit into the created order (land/sea; human/animal; light/dark; male/female, etc.). Just as God is a transcendent Creator, distinct from creation, so creation also reflects distinction—supremely seen in the male/female distinction.
We are again faced with only two options: worship of creation or worship of the Creator, who is blessed forever. The former is the Oneist Lie, the latter is the Twoist Truth (Romans 1:25). I doubt you could sell newspapers today with that line from the Apostle Paul, but at the end of history, God’s salvation picture of male and female will find its fulfillment as the Bride of Christ forever delights in the inexhaustible love of her heavenly husband. Vive la différence!
A few weeks ago Rush Limbaugh announced that the fastest growing crime in the West is identity theft. It is true that we hear a lot about illegal hacking in the news cycle, as individuals, businesses and even nations have their deepest secrets exposed. But the real crime is the theft of the source of human dignity, namely, the Creator. The removal of God from cultural consciousness, eliminates the true source of human identity. According to a recent study, 91% of adults agree that “the best way to find yourself is by looking within yourself” and 86% say that “to be fulfilled in life, you should pursue the things you desire the most.”” The radicals smell imminent victory. Progressive professor Mark Tushnet, of Harvard Law School declares: “The culture wars are over; they lost, we won….taking a hard line (“You lost, live with it”) is better than trying to accommodate the losers.” There will be no accommodations or exceptions.
In once “Christian” Scotland an evangelical youth group from Texas offered a free concert in a shopping center. National newspapers compared this to Nazi or ISIS indoctrination. In these conditions, we are losing the Christian identity of our Western culture but we are also losing our individual identity.
In these new conditions, liberated from God, people believe they can create their own identity—males who think they are female and females who believe they are males, or a 58-year old husband and father who now is sure he is a six-year-old girl. True human identity now depends on how we individually define ourselves sexually. And just recently Hugh Hefner, creator of Playboy, confirms this, declaring the victory of the sexual revolution that he helped begin in the 1960s.
At truthxchange we have often focused on the rise of homosexuality and the presumed right of same-sex attracted people, some within the church, to self-identify as “gay” and to practice homosexual sex legally, thereby denying the image of God as male and female. (See our conference, October 7-9, 2016). However, this is not the only problem. One of the major causes of identity loss is the massive fixation on pornography—even in the Church!
The statistics for Christian men between 18 and 30 years old are particularly striking: 77 percent look at pornography at least monthly; 36 percent view pornography on a daily basis; 32 percent admit being addicted to pornography (and another 12 percent think they may be). In 2016, the Barna Research Group discovered that nearly 40% of “practicing Christians who actively seek out porn” feel comfortable with how much porn they use. Only “1/3 of practicing Christian porn users” say they “feel a sense of guilt when they use porn.” In the culture at large the results on teenage sexting are equally disconcerting for the rising generation. “Teens and young adults [are] coming of age in a culture…that encourages and rewards the pornographic impulse.” The rising new identity is pornographic.
A sensitive article evaluating the Barna report makes some valid points:
- Pornography isn’t going away anytime soon;
- Our moral trajectory is convoluted. “Teens and young adults surveyed said it was worse to not recycle (56%) than to look at pornography (32%)”;
- Porn destroys sex and marriage. “[P]eople’s perspective on the purpose of sex is moving away from “an expression of intimacy between two people who love each other” and toward “self-expression and personal fulfillment…”;
- Deception is deadly. Barna found that “if you use porn often, you’re more likely to feel okay about it.”
If porn destroys marriages, what will happen to the general moral tenor of our society? The young people of today will become the public officials of tomorrow, brainwashed into serving their desires and fantasies and unable to make sound judgments.
The Bride of Christ must be above reproach. She must offer wise and serious marital counseling for those caught up in this perversion, and intentionally teach her children from their earliest age to avoid this satanic trap.
Things have changed. The “Four Spiritual Laws” or “Evangelism Explosion” no longer work for many. People are losing their identity. They long for human rights and personal dignity, but these things only come from God the Creator, whom they reject. The Gospel is still the answer, which they unknowingly long to hear. The God who created us in His image restores our fallen identity by the death of His Son, who stood in our place to bear our sin and has become, by grace, our new identity.
 The Barna Research Group’s 2016 survey, The Porn Phenomenon.
 Laurie Higgins, “Harvard Law Professor to Conservatives: You’re Losers, Live With It,” BarbWire, (June 30, 2016).
 See a very useful article on this report by Gareth Kell: http://theaquilareport.com/12-observations-after-reading-the-porn-phenomenon/.
 A 2014 survey, Proven Men Ministries. http://www.charismanews.com/us/45671-shocker-study-shows-most-christian-men-are-into-porn
Why would anyone except a professional organist take the magazine The American Organist? A friend gave me a recent issue of this highly specialized publication. The stunning picture on the front cover got my attention. The foreground features a glorious pipe organ with five key boards, endless foot pedals and a hundred stops. In the background is the grandiose nave and the vaulted ceiling of the historic Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago.
To me, the church organ is a symbol of high Western Christian culture, made famous by the soaring oratorios of Johann Sebastian Bach and the stirring grandeur of George Frederic Handel’s Messiah. Incidentally, on the portal over the St. George’s Church in Eisenach, Germany, where Bach was baptized, is the inscription of the hymn of the Reformation: “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott”—“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”—one of Luther’s striking contributions to Western Christian music, and wonderfully sung accompanied by an organ. Indeed, in the same issue, a long article on “Luther’s Theology of Music” declares with conviction that Luther believed music was a gift from God, the ultimate Artist and Musician. This full front-page color picture of a massive church organ, in its own way, places us in touch with the heart of Western Christianity.
Strangely juxtaposed on the previous page, before the article on Luther, is an interview with a “gay” church organist and director of church music at a Presbyterian church in Portland, one Marshall Cuffe, who is photographed in a sexually-provocative picture as a performing “gay drag queen.” He is pleased that “a lot of church members attend my shows,” and he helpfully adds that he was inspired by another drag-queen organist’s “high-heeled organ shoes.”
What does the juxtaposition of these two articles in The American Organist tell us? No judgment is given because, apparently, no judgment is appropriate. Moral pushback would be immoral bigotry and hate. Once again, shocked readers are intimidated into silence, as the LGBTQ movement continues to establish its “ethical” system as normative for once-Christian Western culture. There is nothing in Western history that explains this deviance. The magazine speaks of “God’s view of music” but can no longer speak of God’s view of sexuality. Today the all-important notion of self-defining personal liberty has become the ultimate moral value, silencing all other opinions, on pain of punishment. This is the contemporary inviolable “right,” as Justice Kennedy, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey said—“the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” This is the new meaning of the Constitution, the new declaration of independence—independence from our Creator, the true source of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Opposing that pure source is fraught with peril.
Indeed it seems like nothing will stop this movement, if the four-day conference Equality Forum for LGBTQ issues is any indication. Held in conjunction with the Democratic National Convention in late July 2016, the pan-sexual Equality Forum enthusiastically developed a plan for the total integration and normalization of perverse sexual practice in American. It traced a fourfold goal:
- passing the draconian Equality Act that will punish all forms of “discrimination”;
- engaging in a program of litigation to deny religious freedom and to promote unlimited sexual indulgence;
- defeating state and local laws that have sought to defend marriage;
- partnering with Black Lives Matter to create an unstoppable pseudo social justice movement.
As German president Merkel just said about Islamic terrorism, “taboos of civilization are being broken.”
The attempt by rebellious creatures to create their own reality will ultimately fail, of course. For fallible, limited, ignorant creatures to define their own identity is an act of unthinkable foolishness and hubris that can only end in utter failure. Alas, our surviving gothic cathedrals and organs now utter pagan heresies and cannot revive the hearts of men. We need a mighty fortress back in our lives—the presence and knowledge of Almighty God, whose pre-existing Being gave us all life, meaning and dignity. This spiritual fortress may still be evoked by the stirring sounds of a cathedral pipe organ, but is truly built only on the foundation found in the pages of Holy Scripture and in the truth of the Gospel. As Luther said so well at the time of the Reformation:
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle!
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