The Bible carries any number of warning about how people will reject or deny God’s word. We have an example in the book of Jeremiah (36) where King Jehoiakim cut up and burned a letter from the prophet Jeremiah. We have an example in the Book of Acts where the apostles are called before the Jewish authorities and commanded not to speak in the name of Jesus any more. We also have from the apostle Paul in the letter of 2 Timothy a warning that people will not always listen to sound doctrine.
4:3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
And Jesus even warned us that if people dared to persecute him – their teacher and leader, they would surely be bold enough to persecute them, – his students. This is being carried out around the world on a daily basis causing Christians suffering and even costing some their lives. There’s nothing new under the sun in this regard.
Since the United States came on the scene, the Western world has been increasingly tolerant of various forms of religion. Our founding fathers were intent on that and it has been picked up and carried on to other Western countries. Because we don’t have to really, seriously suffer for our faith people often mock us when we say “There’s a war on Christmas”, “There’s a war to keep God out of schools and government”, we even see a certain form of persecution when people say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” I will grant you that this is not the same type of persecution Christians face around the world, but it is still an important type of persecution as well. This is because the United States is the center of worldwide Christianity. Just to give you one idea of how important it is, the Roman Catholic Church comprises about 24% of the U.S. population. It is the largest, single denomination we have here. But it is only about 6/100ths of a percent of the Catholic population worldwide. Nevertheless, it supplies 60% of the money to the Catholic church worldwide. When you look at other Christian-related numbers, such as missionary outreach, you still find the United States at the top of the list. America is the greatest single power in worldwide Christianity today, which is why the type of persecution we face here is particularly troublesome. It is aimed and designed to undermine Christianity and if it were to be successful, it would have a devastating impact on the world. There is no place to fill the vacuum that the United States would leave if its population were to turn away from God.
We have to measure the battles we have to fight in the context we have to fight them. We have succeeded in virtually eliminating physical religious persecution in our country. That is quite commendable. But what that has left us with is an intellectual battleground. We don’t force people to belong to a particular church – as was the case in Europe. That was the type of situation the Pilgrims fled. The question is not “which church do you belong to” anymore; it has become “do you belong to a church”?
The opposition to God has not gone away just because we have learned to live at peace with others of different religions. It still goes on. The Bible tells us we are in a spiritual warfare and the same spirit that hated the church in the 1st century still hates it in the 21st century. But the topography of the battlefield has shifted in our time. It has become common to subtly attack and undermine our morality, traditions, and religion by trying to expunge it, defame it, mock it, ridicule it in order to turn people away from Christianity.
Removing prayers from school – in fact, almost all religious education from school so that we can only teach the Bible as literature and just barely teach it then – was rightly seen as an attack on religion. Taking down manger scenes, removing crosses from memorials, removing the Ten Commandments from courthouses, suing to take “In God We Trust” off our money are all part of the cumulative goal of removing God from public life.
Politically correct language is just another attempt to do the same thing. When the movement to substitute “Happy Holidays” for “Merry Christmas” began it outraged people. In fact, saying “Happy Holidays” was seen as a term that branded you as one of the Christ-haters or secular-sellouts. It was a backlash of the common people to do less business with such places and it has been effective enough that companies began to revert their policies on this. Politically correct speech is an attempt to control the population by forcing us to use only “approved speech”. That means that someone has to set the standard for what is “approved speech”. The dominant force here seems to be social pressure from various special interest groups.
Since December 19th we have been engaged in a battle against Christianity waged by special interest groups and done on the terms of politically correct speech. On Friday, the A&E channel surrendered and restored Phil Robertson to his Duck Dynasty program. I don’t know how closely you followed this, but I know you couldn’t have missed it entirely. Some people have downplayed this. They look at other things going on in the government and around the world and can’t get excited about a duck hunter getting kicked off a TV show. But they’re wrong. In case you didn’t follow it, I want to outline a few points about it and explain to you why this was such a big deal and why you should care very, very deeply about it.
I’ve been watching the Duck Dynasty show since February of this year and I think it is one of the best shows on TV. I like it because I know guys like this. I like it because it is clean, funny, and these are God-fearing people who want to use the show as a platform for good family values and talking about Jesus. It is this last reason that I knew something like this was going to happen. You can’t be famous and preach or even speak to people about God without expecting a backlash. And I knew that, eventually, the self-appointed Politically Correct Police were going to jump on them for their faith.
Since the GQ magazine interview was made public, we have been treated to a glorious display of biblical ignorance, political correctness, and cultural collision. Phil Robertson managed to start what has been called a “controversy” by simply answering a question: What is sin?
What is sin?
You might think that is a reasonable question. After all, if you believe in sin and want to avoid being punished for sin, you should want to know what sin is and how to avoid it. In fact, you can do a quick evaluation on yourself by measuring your response to the question “what is sin”? If you thought it was a good question, you’re normal. If you got a little uncomfortable – perhaps fearing that your sin might become the point of discussion – you’re normal.
The subject of sin should make us all a little uncomfortable. The Bible is clear that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” This is a basic doctrine of Christianity. So our Christian life should not be about glorifying ourselves for how righteous we have become, but it should be about glorifying the God who made us righteous and helping others to come into that same relationship with God. But worldly people don’t want to hear such things. When you put anything ahead of God, you have expressed a love for worldly things and not for the ways of God.
1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father[d] is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
John gives us a threefold description of worldly sins: Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. When you encounter people who are sold out to one or more of these sins then you can expect backlash. People who are deeply involved with sin don’t want to hear about it. These people have a reaction like Dracula to a cross in the old movies. This is exactly the reaction we’ve seen from people recently. Any of us in the business of religion should know this. Phil Robertson knew this. He permitted the UK Daily Mail exclusive access to his Bible study group this past Sunday. He told them: “I have made hundreds and hundreds of speeches and you can pick them apart and the center has always been Jesus Christ. Do many people get up and walk out? Yeah, all the time, do I hold it against them? No. Anybody can get up and stop listening. We are all just humans on this planet.” Then he added: “Jesus Christ was the most perfect being to ever walk this planet and he was persecuted and nailed to the cross, so please don’t be surprised when we get a little static.”
This is simple, biblical truth.
Some Silly Sayings
But some people have said silly and even disturbing things these past few days. We find some people have been genuinely undereducated about the Bible, others have a willful ignorance of Scripture, others know just enough to make themselves dangerous, and others are in open rebellion against the Bible. Piers Morgan of CNN is a well-educated man, ostensibly a Christian, but he has demonstrated he knows (or cares) next to nothing about the Bible. His comments have been very disturbing. He pulled up a video of a sermon Phil Robertson gave in 2010 and he deemed what Phil had to say as “racist, homophobic bigotry.” He said he doesn’t think the First Amendment should apply to “vile bigots” like Phil. What Piers didn’t recognize was that the clip he had was nothing more than Phil Robertson reading from the Bible. It was a colossal blunder that showed Piers Morgan really knows nothing of substance about the Bible. The words he claimed were so vile were nothing more than words of from Romans 1. Those were not Phil’s own words, they were words from God and Piers Morgan condemned them as hateful because he did not like what they said. It wasn’t politically correct. So Piers Morgan wants to rewrite the Bible and rewrite the Constitution to prevent a man from reading from the Bible. That is very, very disturbing.
Interestingly enough, I had a former student of mine at Johnson University who now works at Carson Newman post the same segment of video of Phil that Morgan had criticized. He then wrote, “WTF did I just hear?” So I wrote back, “You heard a man reading from Romans 1.” He wrote back, “[I]f that were true, and it’s not, Christianity would be dead in a generation. Thankfully it’s just a poor misreading of an ancient text.” Now here is a man who has had the benefit of a Bible College education who simply wants to rewrite 2,000 years of church doctrine because it suits him. He wants to dismiss what he doesn’t like by blaming the messenger. I’m reminded of the words of Thomas Sowell: “Much of the social history of the Western world, over the past three decades, has been a history of replacing what worked with what sounded good.” To these men and others like them, the Bible doesn’t sound good because it is not politically correct. It doesn’t approve of their pet social issues. Again from the UK Daily Mail, Phil Robertson said this to his Bible study class last week: “I am just reading what was written over 2000 years ago. Those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom. All I did was quote from the scriptures, but they just didn’t know it. Whether I said it, or they read it, what’s the difference? The sins are the same, humans haven’t changed. If you give them the bad news, they’ll start kicking and screaming. But you love them more than you fear them, so you tell them.”
I really like that. It sums up the motivation of evangelism so well: “You love them more than you fear them, so you tell them.” But this is such a foreign concept to so many people that they just don’t understand. To borrow an idea from David Wheeler’s sermons earlier this year, we look like aliens to them. We have a genuine collision of cultures happening. The culture that calls people to forgiveness, righteousness, and sanctification clashes with the culture that is sinful, rebellious, and stubborn. Even some good, decent people don’t quite understand it.
Bill O’Reilly is a nice man. He has a popular show on Fox News Channel, but whenever I hear him comment on the Bible I want to claw my face off. Among the several silly things he said that reveal him as one who knows a little but not enough about the Bible was this: “Mr. Robertson, I believe, made a mistake by the condemnation line. It’s not about the Bible, or believing, or not believing in the Bible. It’s singling out a group, it could be any group, and saying to that group, ‘Hey, … you are not worthy in the eyes of the Lord, or in the eyes of God. You are not worthy because of who you are.’ So once you get that personal, once you get down and into that kind of a realm, problems arise.” Then turning to his guest, Laura Ingraham, he asked: “Do you think Robertson made a mistake in the condemnation line? See, that’s where I think he made his mistake. Right up to there, he was OK. But once he went in and said you are not going to go to heaven.” To her credit, Ingraham showed a good grasp of the Bible and of evangelical culture and she told him his thinking was wrong.
I don’t know what Bible Bill O’Reilly is reading that doesn’t have condemnation in it, but it’s not the real Bible! Maybe it is the expurgated version. But the real Bible has lots of threats of condemnation in it!
Then, finally, the big issue on the table was addressed. O’Reilly stated that the decision to suspend Robertson was designed “to marginalize a Christian who has a big platform.” Ingraham replied, “They want him to shut up. It’s the new blacklist. If you don’t submit to their worldview, they will try to destroy you.” O’Reilly said, “There is no doubt about that.”
This is what Politically Correct language is designed to do – SHUT UP PEOPLE WHO DISAGREE WITH YOU. In this case, they want to shut up the Bible and anyone who dares to remind people of what the Bible actually says.
During the week I was also directed to a page called Rage Against the Minivan where a woman who is a family therapist spouted some of the same foolish, politically correct talk others had before her. What was disturbing to me about that is it came to me, again, by a former student who had gotten it from a university professor’s page. The professor (not a Bible professor) had originally approved of the article as the most balanced presentation he’d seen on the topic. There was nothing particularly balanced about it. It had several errors in thinking and about the Bible as well. I was sorry to see it was written by a fairly-well educated woman and that it was recommended by a professor. I was glad, however, to see another professor offering some correction on the matter.
Later I was directed to a commentary by a Youth Minister who was upset that homosexual teens commit suicide about three times more than other teens. He said that if he had to choose between being theologically correct and morally right, he would choose being morally right every time. When I read that I was sorry to see that his thinking was still so immature. It is possible to be theologically correct and morally right at the same time. In fact, if you are morally right you are also theologically correct. Morality comes from God. It comes from good theology.
There was also a couple of GLAAD representatives who called Phil “unchristian” for his comments. News Director, Ross Murray, wrote: “GQ Magazine’s profile of Phil Robertson included some of the vilest and most extreme statements uttered against LGBT people in a mainstream publication.” GLAAD spokesperson, Wilson Cruz, said “Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe.” Both of these men are at best “wrong” and at worst “liars”. But their organization was the primary source of politically correct speech censorship out there. They were instrumental in causing A&E to drop Phil and for Cracker Barrel to pull some of the Duck Dynasty merchandise. Fortunately, the outcry was such that Cracker Barrel reversed its decision the next day and now A&E has done the same.
So many of these people made mistakes because they don’t know the Bible well enough or because they want the Bible to be different than it is. God forbid that Piers Morgan ever rewrites the Bible or the Constitution because you wouldn’t recognize either one of them when he got through with them.
This was all clearly an attempt to tell Christians to SHUT UP AND GO AWAY. Don’t remind us of Christian doctrine. We don’t like it! It is a good thing that this was not allowed to stand, but it can still have a chilling effect on others who might not dare speak out in fear of persecution. Phil Robertson did not need money or fame when the Duck Dynasty show started. He already had both. His family convinced him to do the show by telling him it would give him more opportunity to do what he wanted to do – preach about Jesus. And that is exactly what he is doing and so are the rest of the family members.
I was surprised to see Albert Mohler, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president, speculate that Phil probably didn’t sleep well that first night when he was suspended from the TV show. That simply shows how Mohler doesn’t really understand Phil. Phil quit making duck calls years ago. He is now a preacher and evangelist. He expects the sinful world to rebel against the Biblical message. His own words about “a little static” tell you that he was not surprised this happened and that he didn’t lose a minute of sleep over it. That is part and parcel of proclaiming the Gospel. As I mentioned at the beginning, the apostles were told to sit down and shut up by the Jewish authorities. They respectfully declined to do so.
Listen to what Phil had to say about himself: “I myself am a product of the ’60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior. My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together. However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”
If you want to take only one thing away from this sermon today, jot down “love God and love each other.” People in the world don’t think that is possible. They think that if you tell them they are sinners that you’re a “hater” of some sort. The truth of the matter is that you are a “lover” of their soul.
Another Politically Correct term that is used to try to discredit someone is to call them a “fundamentalist”. Because the term “fundamentalist” is supposed to imply that you are a “simpleton” you’re “non-sophisticated”, you can’t see the “gray” areas of life – everything is black and white; you’re probably uneducated and certainly not worth listening to on matters of social concern.
So Phil Robertson and his family are called “fundamentalists”. But this, again, shows us how little people who make that charge know about the Bible. It is the fundamental belief of all of Christianity that homosexuality is a sin (as it is in Islam and Judaism). That belief is not an odd or new belief. It did not come from some nutty religious leader in some obscure sect. You can’t blame it on a Jim Jones, or a David Koresh, or a Marshall Applewhite. In fact, you can’t even claim it is a doctrine developed by ignorant people or even by a conspiracy group with the Catholic church. No, this doctrine came directly from the Bible and it has been established Church doctrine for 2,000 years. It has been discussed and affirmed by the brightest minds in theology over the centuries. The doctrine itself is fundamental to Christianity – so much so – that whether you’re a backwoods Louisianian or a upper Manhattan Anglican it is the doctrine of your faith. But this is how the PC Police have tried to turn the language against Christians.
If we were talking about a sports team and we said “that coach is a fundamentalist” we would think that was a good thing. It meant the quarterback knew how to set up in the pocket, the basketball players knew how to shoot free throws, the hockey players knew how to keep their stick on the ice. Knowing the fundamentals to whatever you are doing is essential to your success. And it is no different with our religious doctrines.
One of the most universal comments even commentators friendly to Phil have made is to call his language “coarse” or “crude”. Unlike these, I contend that Phil Robertson’s comments were simple, straight, and to the point – just what you want from a backwoods man – and just what you should expect. They were not rude, crude, or coarse. The reactions of some of these commentators has not simply been to smack down politically correct speech as an abhorrent Stalinistic tactic to shut Christians up, but to agree to a softer form of Politically Correct tone. They don’t like the way Phil talked about sex. They wouldn’t have said it that way. Albert Mohler even tries to invoke the apostle Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and Romans as he says Phil’s mild use of medical terminology was “crude” and unnecessary. After all, if Paul didn’t have to use those terms, then Phil shouldn’t either. But Mohler and others overlook the fact that we are 2,000 years separated from Paul and that some things need to be said in our day that were not necessary to say in Paul’s day. Phil was not vulgar, he did not use slang or even euphemisms to discuss sexual organs. He used strict medical terminology and yet so many of these people found that “too rough” for their tastes!
Most of these people are simply genteel and don’t prefer to discuss sexuality as part of polite chatter. Andrea Tantaros openly wished we could just not talk about sex at all – and I wish we could, too, but the homosexual activists and the sexual libertarian activists see to it every day that it is a topic always in front of us.
The language that Phil used was deeply disturbing to the homosexual activists because it shattered their public image. Phil dared to vaguely describe what takes place during male homosexual intercourse. We’re not supposed to talk about that. Instead we’re to listen to the PR talk the homosexual activists approve of about “love” and “equality”. The subject of anal intercourse is too graphic for public dialogue, but we’ll quietly ignore and condone it if we talk about “love” or “equality”. The homosexual activists can’t stand for the public to be reminded of the deviancy that homosexual intercourse requires. It’s not good for the cause. And for this reason, we need to be reminding people of the deviant nature of homosexuality and other sins as well. To allow sin to be cleaned up and normalized in our public dialogue is to shirk the Christian duty of reminding people about the vile nature of sinful acts. Christian speech could be a little more frank than it is and Phil is a good example of that approach. It is a bit of an awakening that our culture seems to need today.
The Wrong Venue
A number of people have criticized Phil for interviewing with GQ magazine because it is not a venue that would be friendly to him. I can’t imagine that he didn’t already know that. Anyone can preach to the choir. It’s easy to do. They’re convinced you’re right before you start. Besides, Jesus went to where the sinners were and told them what they needed to hear. If opening up to GQ wasn’t enough, Phil did it again by granting the UK Daily Mail exclusive access to his Bible study class last week. Again, this was not a particularly friendly organization he let in the door. But Phil is a preacher and he’s not one to avoid speaking truth in love to those who need to hear it.
We live in a world where many of the secular and barely-religious people don’t even realize anybody thinks that there are sexual sins at all! It’s jolly good for Phil to remind them of it. We do them no service by treating it lightly, glossing it over, or failing to discuss it from our pulpits.
Few preachers get this much national attention. Phil has opened a dialogue that will not soon go away. And it is a biblical message that people need to hear. People commit sins and there is forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Oddly enough, there is a segment of the world that wants to hear what the Bible has to say. Phil said, “We are a bunch of rednecks from Louisiana, but I am not uneducated, I have a degree from Louisiana Tech. ‘But this week I have been called an ignoramus. This week I have been asked, ‘Is this the first time you have brought up sin?’ I said, ‘Are you kidding? I have been traveling to and fro spreading this message.’” ‘Then he [was asked], “Well do you invite yourself to go and get your Bible and tell people what you are now sharing with us?” I said, ‘No they are inviting me.’”
That is essentially the same thing his son, Willie has said. There is a hunger for the Words of God in places of business. Willie frequently encounters very rich people who know they are missing something in their lives. They want to hear what he has to say.
Sin can be a touchy subject. But what’s more is that the definition of sin that Phil gave included heterosexual sins as well as non-sexual sins. Many of the commentators were too unaware of the Bible to recognize this. His comments included fornication and adultery as well as bestiality. These are all sins that the Bible condemns. These are all sins that the Bible says will not allow a person to “inherit the kingdom of God.” Let me translate that for you, “go to heaven”. These are sins that keep you out of heaven. My apologies to Bill O’Reilly if the condemnation is too much for him. Phil was paraphrasing from 1 Corinthians 6
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
You might call that The Louisiana Paraphrase. Or perhaps The Verse Heard ‘Round the World. It is very close to a quotation.
The NIV puts it this way:
1 Cor. 6:9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a]10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
The category of “wrongdoers” is a broad category. It includes anything and everything that God would consider sin. After that we get just a brief breakdown of some of the types of sin in what is called a “vice list”. It’s not an all-inclusive list of sins, but just a few examples to make the point.
The “sexually immoral” is a broad category for all types of sexual sin, primarily heterosexual sin and it includes bestiality.
The “idolaters” are any pagan group regardless of sexual conduct.
The “adulterers” is a heterosexual group.
“Thieves” is a non-sexual group. The “greedy”, the “drunkards”, the “slanderers” the “swindlers” – all of these are people who will not “inherit the kingdom of God” and it has nothing to do with their sexual practice.
If you got nothing else out of this sermon, I hope you understand the importance of resisting the self-appointed Politically Correct Police. If we allow American Christianity to be shut up or or shut down, the whole world will suffer. We are up against an insidious enemy on an intellectual battlefield. The hearts and minds of millions of people here and around the world are at stake. It is a much more serious battle than people often think. It is more serious than taking Christ out of Christmas. It is about taking Christ out of the country. The world needs to hear the message of the Bible. It needs to know that there is such a thing as “sin” and that God has provided a remedy for it.
Some have called Phil Robertson “unchristian” which is absurd. The idea that it is unchristian to speak of sin when asked about what sin is, is simply bizarre. Being more charitable, Albert Mohler wrote, “Phil Robertson would have served the cause of Christ more faithfully if some of those comments had not rushed out.” I completely disagree. We are now having an open and frank discussion about homosexuality that we were not having before. The perverse nature of homosexual acts is being brought to public attention, the homosexual activist community is being exposed for its hateful bigotry, intolerance, and Stalinistic tactics, and the Bible’s teaching on sin is being talked about in places it would not normally have been talked about. It has been wall-to-wall on cable news shows. It has been the topic of sustained discussion on radio talk shows. It has been in print and all over the Internet. Phil spoke of love and forgiveness while his opponents hurled the only hateful and vitriolic speech that has been heard today. Phil Robertson did the cause of Christ a tremendous service by saying what needs to be said and what needs to be heard in his simple, southern, backwoods style.
Phil Robertson has hit a nerve and people are confused as to why. I’ll tell you why. Because the people who watch Duck Dynasty are largely like the Robertson family. They go to church, they read their Bibles, they go to work, and they’re connected to the land through hunting, fishing, and agriculture. And they know when they’re core values are attacked.
The world can do what it wants. It can redefine marriage, it can legalize prostitution, it can call homosexuality normal, it can tell us abortion isn’t murder, but in the end God wins. Every time. It doesn’t matter how many times and how many ways you try to discredit or rewrite the Bible, what God has said is sin is still sin and will be sin into eternity.
The Bible has a lot of warnings about condemnation, but the verse that Phil Robertson quoted from to define sin has one more verse following it. It is a verse of hope for all the wrongdoers:
11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
There is hope. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of God when your time ends. And you don’t have to be. If you need a plan of action for the week,here’s one:
Step 1: Love God and love each other.
Step 2: Expect static.
Step 3: Repeat Step 1.