Every so often, I get comments or emails showing me I’m not accurately communicating what I mean to some of my readers. Addressing this by email is effective, but inefficient. Addressing it in the comments usually ends up in arguments. A couple of times I have resorted to making a clarifying post. A post is a better option, but then the same thing comes up again a few months later.
Suddenly it was clear to me; I need a “What I Believe” page. I will add to it as needed, and point to it when questions arise. This is a far better way to deal with this, and it should avoid claims I’m changing what I am saying. The post below will be my starting place. Feel free to ask questions or ask what I think about something in the comments; this will help me find other things I need to add. I may add some references, but that will take time. I also reserve the right to change my mind as I continue to grow and learn. If I make significant changes, I will cross out what was there, and add my new thinking. I won’t do this for simple clarifications that are not changes of what I believe.
First a couple of thoughts on reasons for confusion:
We all see through our own filters – what we value, our past, our theology, and so on. If I’m wearing a blue shirt and you are wearing yellow tinted glasses, you’ll perceive me to be wearing a green shirt. Nothing I say will change what you perceive, and as long as you are unaware of your tinted glasses, you will wonder what’s wrong with me for saying I am wearing a blue shirt. Of course, I have filters too, so maybe I think my blue shirt is green, and again you wonder what’s wrong with me.
We all use words differently. Dictionary definitions are all well and good, but they may not match how an individual uses a word. My father used “a couple” to mean “two or three”. He did this because it was common in his family growing up. I understood that when he said, “a couple”, he meant two or three, but when my mother said “a couple” she always meant two. I used to use couple as he did, but I realised it was confusing to most folks so I worked to change. My bride tells me it’s now very rare I do this. I’m aware I have “unconventional” meanings for other words, and I try to avoid using those words here to mean anything other than what most would understand. This is particularly tricky since people around the world read this blog, and for some English is a second or third language.
Language is fluid, and where one grows up, where one lives, and how old we are all changes the meanings we have for words. Before I moved to Washington, I would have been confused if someone asked, “Where is your rig” because no one used that term for a vehicle in Austin. Here it’s common, and I have adjusted – first to understanding what it means, and eventually even using it myself. Another example would be “thongs”: when I was a kid that was a common and acceptable word for flip-flops. Then there’s an eighty something British friend I have who still refers to cats by a word we associate with the female genitals. It’s rather funny to hear her call out loudly in her lovely accent “Where is the pussy?”
What I Believe
- We are all sinners. On our own merit, we would all end in hell, but Jesus died for our sins and rose again, defeating death. By accepting His sacrifice and confessing Him as Lord, we gain have eternal life.
- Why someone does something never frees them from guilt, consequences, or the need to repent; however, understanding why someone does something can show ways to help them change.
- We are always to look at ourselves first – to remove the log from our eye before we attempt to remove the speck from the eye of another.
- We are to prefer others – especially our spouse.
- God’s forgiveness and grace to us can be limited by our unwillingness to offer the same to other people.
Men & Women
- God made men and women co-heirs, equal in worth and value.
- God gave men and women different abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. These vary some from person to person, but many things fall along gender lines to a greater or lesser extent.
- Neither men nor women are inherently better or worse.
- Neither men nor women are inherently godlier. I do believe women are more open to spiritual things (see “Nones” on the Rise), both those of God and counterfeits. This means women as a whole are more likely to be spiritually involved and connected to something. [NOTE: Some recent studies bring this into question, more study needed.]
- Women, as a whole, have more of their brain devoted to communication than men do. Women also have more of their brain devoted to empathy. This makes relationship more important to women as a whole. This doesn’t make them better at relationship, especially cross gender relationship.
- Women are more likely to bring up relationship problems, and more likely to press for the problems to be resolved. (Need to add a reference from Gottman here.)
- God created us with a need to have a spouse. Some have the “gift of celibacy” and don’t need a spouse, but they are the minority.
- Marriage is a covenant, not a contract. Most in the West have no idea what covenant really is, and this cripples our ability to understand marriage as God intended it.
- God places great importance on marriage. Many in the church today neither understand nor live this.
- God’s plan for marriage is one man and one woman, married for life.
- While God hates divorce, there are a few allowances for it. Sexual sin allows divorce and remarriage. Abandonment allows for divorce, and depending on how you read it may or may not allow for remarriage.
- In the Old Testament God made allowances due to the hardness of men’s hearts. This is why divorce for any cause and multiples wives were allowed.
- God made husbands servant leaders, with Jesus as our example. Men lead for the benefit of their wives, not for their own benefit.
- Leadership always carries a heavier responsibility and price than following.
- God didn’t create women with significantly less sexual interest than men.
- Men and women’s sexuality are different. Women have a greater sexual capacity than men do, but they are much more easily distracted or put off sex. Most men can separate sex and emotion, while most women cannot.
- Life begins when egg and sperm join. This means it’s acceptable to prevent egg and sperm from joining, while preventing a fertilised egg from implanting is murder. [NOTE: I base this on what I see as the only logical point for life to start from a scientific standpoint – I can’t back it with scripture. While I don’t agree with those who believe life begins when a fertilise egg implants, I can’t make an iron clad scriptural case they are wrong. Once implanted, aborting the foetus is murder – period.]
- I think masturbation in marriage should be limited, and only done if the spouse is unavailable, unable, or unwilling. However, I can’t find any way to make masturbation sin without doing harm to the integrity of God’s Word, and if it’s not sin I’m not qualified to say it is wrong.
- I see all porn use to be a violation of the marriage covenant.
- I find nothing in the Bible preventing a couple from engaging in manual or oral sex.
- I have health concerns about anal sex, but can’t find a prohibition in the Bible.
- Sexual refusal, meaning often refusing to have sex without a compelling reason (pain, illness, total exhaustion), is contrary to scripture and thus sin.
- Church as we practice it has very little similarity to what was practised in the first century. This doesn’t make what we do evil or wrong, but it does make it tricky to apply what the Bible says about church to what most Westerners think when they hear the word “church”.
- Our family is our first “mission field”. If we don’t have our marriage in good shape, we are prohibited from any form of ministry.
- The church is supposed to be “in each other’s business”. Accountability and discipling are not optional according to the Bible.
- I have lived long enough to see things I lived through become “history” and I know much of what is said is skewed, while some is flat-out wrong (by accident or intentional lies). Because of this, I assume much of what I’m told about “how things use to be” is less than accurate. When people talk about how things use to be, or “The good old days” they are usually describing an idealised version that may not have much to do with reality.
- In the past, Christians used the Bible to defend slavery and the crusades. “Good Christians” in the past were convinced the world was flat, or that the sun revolved around the earth, and they managed to twist scriptures to “prove” such things. The fact something was commonly accepted by Christians in the past does not mean it was or is correct.