My Response to Tony Miano: “God Hates Divorce in the Church”

What do you do when you’ve made a grave mistake? You look around, and you assess the situation, you try to determine the best course of action, and then, of course, you double and triple down on your current mistake. Most people will chuckle and say, you know what, I’ve done that. We’ve all done it.

Tony Miano is currently doing that by choosing to double down on his mistake of moving to Davenport, IA, and aligning himself with Grace Fellowship Church. I have to believe that somewhere in the corner of his mind, he is contemplating whether he has made the biggest mistake of his life. However, blinded by his pride and inability to admit his mistake.

After all, how many people do you cut out of your life to deny reality? A lot, apparently. I’m talking about some of his closest friends, former elders, and countless others who have been in his life for a long time. The close to a dozen now families left GFC after his arrival that continue to testify against the issues and abuses they experienced under GFC elders’ leadership and primarily the pastor Mike Reid. I’m one of them.

I’ll make the disclaimer again it brings me no joy to write this article, but I feel compelled since Tony felt compelled to write a backhanded slap, passive-aggressive essay at those who have left and worked to expose the issues. Tony is well-known for his passive-aggressive nature and even wrote a post about those that are passive-aggressive. Tony was passive-aggressive when we left GFC. He posted this the day after we left, insinuating we had stabbed them in the back.

I think they call this projecting. Instead of defending yourself, you project what you do onto others. It’s a very creative technique utilized by those engaged in gaslighting, and generally with a narcissistic tendency. I’m not accusing Tony of being a narcissist. I like Tony, and I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent with him, but when I sat down with Tony for a couple of hours after we left GFC, he wanted to articulate to me that he had left churches in the wrong way, and he urged me not to go in the wrong way. He assumed I was leaving in the wrong way. First of all, he had no idea what we had been through, but that’s for another day and covered in previous articles. I recognize these “attacks” have probably felt somewhat relentless. That’s the goal. They need to shake Tony out of his slumber and alert those that know him best to ask him to wake up.

I’m writing to show that Tony, in his own words, is often his own worst enemy. In an attempt to defend himself, he condemns himself. I’m not saying Tony isn’t an intelligent man or a gifted man. He is far beyond me in many of his abilities, but like all of us, he has blind spots, and rather than admit that he continues to double down and talk down by making accusations against those of us that have seen enough not to want to take it anymore.

In Tony’s most recent article, he compares God hating divorce from Malachi 2 to improperly leaving a church. I’ve linked the article here. I’ve also copied below this article in its entirety for the eventual reality that Tony will probably take it down after this article comes out. 

I will highlight two critical errors Tony has made in this comparison. The first thing to point out is Tony has adopted, from Mike Reid, there are only (3) ways to leave a church. We have heard this before from Mike Reid on the Remnant Radio Podcast, which has disappeared. I’ve highlighted that here in my blog post. For a moment, we will consider this an accurate statement, as Tony has provided some scriptural proof texts.

If this is true, I’ve argued this before, and recently my good friend Todd Pearson pointed this out on his podcast, Tony is a hypocrite. Tony left Grace Community Church in California outside of these parameters. He may argue he had “mutual consent,” but I know for sure that is not true. His elders had deep concerns about GFC. Those concerns have come to fruition as the “ministry” has received more unwanted attention. 

Furthermore, Tony cites the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 26, paragraph 13. Although it claims the 1689 is their confession, I may briefly add that GFC only uses what they approve of from the confession. I’ve made those points before. Paragraph 13 is an essential part of Chapter 26, but it doesn’t stop there. Paragraph 15 tells us the remedy for this offense.

Paragraph 15. In cases of difficulties or differences, either in point of doctrine or administration, wherein either the churches in general are concerned, or any one church, in their peace, union, and edification; or any member or members of any church are injured, in or by any proceedings in censures not agreeable to truth and order: it is according to the mind of Christ, that many churches holding communion together, do, by their messengers, meet to consider, and give their advice in or about that matter in difference, to be reported to all the churches concerned;29 howbeit these messengers assembled, are not intrusted with any church-power properly so-called; or with any jurisdiction over the churches themselves, to exercise any censures either over any churches or persons; or to impose their determination on the churches or officers. (Acts 15:2,4,6,22,23,25) (2 Cor. 1:24; 1 John 4:1)

On at least three separate occasions, I made this offer. One of which I posted in the blog linked above. As I pointed out, the problem with this which churches would help remedy the situation. It was tried before by Sycamore Baptist Church, but they were accused of sin. The elders of GFC try and stack the deck and overwhelm anyone that would dare stand against them, but these are things Tony Miano does not know about because he hasn’t been there long enough, and he hasn’t had conversations with the other side. I would encourage him to contact the elders of Sycamore and ask about it.

How did Tony leave his former churches? In my discussion with Tony, he admitted that he had poorly left before, and because of the lessons he “learned,” I shouldn’t do the same leaving GFC. He never did mention to me that day at Starbucks how he left Grace Community Church (GCC). If it was by the standard, he claims in his article. I believe he failed. He says this:

 After a comprehensive look at the New Testament, one will not find a laundry list of reasons for leaving a local church. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find more than three: being sent out by the church (church planting, missions, mutual agreement–including for reasons not always missional, etc), excommunication, or death.

Being Sent: Acts 9:23-25, 30; 11:19, 25; 13:2; 15:22-29; Phill 2:19, 25, 28; Titus 3:12

Excommunication: Matthew 15:18-17; Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11

Death: Acts 5: 1-11; 1 Corinthians 15:6, 20; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-16

If an American Evangelical Confession of Faith existed, it would likely significantly add to the biblical list of three.

I will say I agree with Tony on his point that people far too quickly depart a church. We have a complete agreement in this area, but what I’d like to ask Tony is being faithful members of a church (GFC) for nine years, being a Deacon for four years, always in good standing with the leadership, demonstrate to him that we left for the reasons he has stated? Or is it possible there was more to the story? Is it possible that the other families left had similar experiences that had caused them to say, “enough is enough?”

Does he know how I went to Mike and presented what I could best articulate at the time as the reasons for our concerns? Does Tony realize my concern was for my family’s spiritual health and well-being, and I attempted to convey the issues of legalism and authoritarianism to Mike Reid in hopes he would work to help change the course of direction? No, Tony didn’t realize nor would he hear those things, because, for him, he had found “paradise.” 

The second issue I would like to bring up is the poor exegesis involved in Tony trying to connect Malachi 2:16. I will quote the NKJV since I know that is the translation GFC utilizes.

“For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the Lord of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” (Malachi 2:16).

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received is for those who don’t read Greek or Hebrew to check multiple translations. The value in doing so can provide tremendous insights into the word of God. I appreciate several translations of this verse, but I’ll show the Lexham English Septuagint. The LES provides a very practical, literal translation to give a better understanding.

16 But if, while hating, you dismiss your wife,” says the Lord God of Israel, “you will conceal the wrongdoing of your thoughts,” says the Lord Almighty. “So observe yourselves, and never desert your wife.” [1]

I believe Tony should be embarrassed at attempting to make this comparison. We shouldn’t use the Scriptures to our advantage to make a point that we desperately want to make, then find a verse, twist it, bend it and distort it to make a point that scripture never intended nor never meant. While we can find verses to make an application, I’d argue you would have to struggle to apply what Tony is trying to do in this article. I’m going to try and give Tony the benefit of the doubt. He says this:

With that kind of closeness, because of the inherent sinfulness of all involved, there will be difficult times. When those difficult times come in a local assembly of believers the wrong response, just as in a biological family, is to divorce or otherwise abandon the family. God hates divorce between a husband and wife. I think He also hates divorce within the context of the local church.

What Tony may forget is that we were a part of that church for nine years, I’ve made that point before. I’ve heard Mike Reid quote Malachi 16 more times than I can count. He was firmly against divorce. I’m glad he was, but I also believe he has a severe misunderstanding of this verse, and now Tony is doing the same to this verse and not considering the context of Chapter 2, specifically. 

Before I get into the topic of divorce, we need to look at this in context. The argument in Chapter 2 is that the priests have been unfaithful to the Lord in dealing with the people.

So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the Lord of hosts. My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. (Mal 2:4-7).

If we want to connect the dots between divorce and the church, here is the starting point. The priests had the job of protecting, ministering, and watching out for the children of Israel’s spiritual welfare. They are messengers of the LORD of hosts. We can draw this parallel between New Testament elders and pastors because they also are charged with protecting, ministering, and watching out for Christ’s sheep. But what if they don’t do that?

But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.” (Mal 2:8-9).

God does indeed make a comparison between the husband and wife relationship. He also compares the Priest and the children of Israel, but this does not play in Tony’s favor.

13 And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. (Mal 2:13-15).

Here is where this goes wrong. These priests were showing disdain and hatred for their wives and the people of God. Remember what the LES said?

16 But if, while hating, you dismiss your wife,” says the Lord God of Israel, “you will conceal the wrongdoing of your thoughts,” (Mal 2:16a)

The context of Malachi 2:16 is faithless ministers that hate their wives and desire to divorce them. God is giving this warning directly to them. In reality, if Tony wants to make this connection, he should acknowledge the faithless minister that is doing damage to the congregation. I believe this is the most egregious part of the misdiagnosis of the passage.

However, if we look at the actual divorce concept, is there ever any circumstance in which divorce is permissible? I think Tony should ask Mike. I know the answer to the question.

Barbara Roberts writing an academic paper on Malachi 2:16 from domestic abuse angle, asks some legitimate questions.

So if an abused woman finds herself in a situation where Malachi 2:16 is being used to deter her from divorcing her husband, she can point out that the verse does not apply to her situation and her ‘instructor’ is in error, at the least.

She goes on:

If Malachi says God hates divorce, this places Malachi in opposition to Moses, who condoned disciplinary divorce for cases of abuse or neglect (Deut 21:10-14). It also sets Malacchi against Ezra, who required divorce of foreign wives when the continuation of the Jewish nation was in jeopardy. And it begs the question: If Malachi says that God hates (all) divorce, why did Jesus not quote Malachi when the Pharisees claimed that Deuteronomy 24 approved of divorce?

Where we can connect here, using Tony’s logic, how long is it required of abused church members to sit under the authoritarian leadership of rogue pastor’s that use the word of God to club people into submission? Do we have a right to divorce them? Or should we stay and enjoy the beatings? Perhaps try explaining that to the victimized wives that continue to relive these nightmares by a “well-intended pastor.” 

Barbara Roberts is primarily dealing with how modern translations render this wrong, and she says this:

God is addressing abusive men: You men! Shallach! Let go! Release! Give up! The parallels with Exodus are obvious: You, Pharaoh, should let go of the people you are oppressing! Release your slaves. You, Mr. Abuser, should let your wife go free! Release her from your cruelty! Give up your power and control over her!

Emphasizing the importance of the instruction, God followed it with “says the Lord, the God of Israel” – a two-fold appellation for God which is used nowhere else in Malachi. Perhaps God anticipated the abusive priests and abusive husband would retort with harsh words (cf. Mal 3:13a) so he hit them between the eyeballs with his command before they had a chance to answer back.

Those who insist on construing God as the one who hates and reading shallach as infinitive construct need to ask themselves how much their translation is consistent with reality. Is it consistent with the heart and character of God? Is it consistent with dynamics of abuse where men abuse their wives?

While I have some empathy for Tony in his ignorance, he has no idea the level of hurt many, and dare I say most, have in their experience with GFC, Mike Reid, and the elders. He can’t comprehend why they wanted to get out. For one, his treatment is different. I tried to explain that to him, but he didn’t understand, and I’m sure he still doesn’t. People feel abused, and they didn’t want to take it anymore.

If Tony ever cares to be honest with himself and those that are part of the “Kangaroo Court” (quote by Tony about us “criticizing” GFC), he is free to reach out to me anytime, and I’ll gladly explain many things to him. He and Mike Reid have a standing offer to come on the Apologetics Live Podcast and explain their side of things.

Given Tony’s behavior thus far, and what I’ve seen in the past, blocking anyone that dissents, or dares question him, unfriend, avoid, don’t answer; eventually this goes away, attitude, that won’t solve the problem he finds himself. The evidence is overwhelming, but yet the love is still there, and it’s real. Nobody desires to hurt Tony or Mike Reid or GFC. I personally, and most I know, want to see repentance and reconciliation. Again, I will give Tony the benefit of the doubt that he doesn’t realize how much GFC has caused hurt and pain. The more he supports it, the worse it gets for him. I hope he will recognize that and heed this advice.

When you are in a deep hole, stop digging. 


Here is Tony’s article titled: Something to Think About: God Hates Divorce in the Church

Divorce in the church is a serious problem, but not likely in the sense that first comes to mind. God hates divorce–in marriage and in the church.

Closer than Siblings

At the end of our Sunday evening meetings, our church family has the opportunity to corporately share their praises and thankfulness to the Lord. Last night a young couple announced their engagement. We knew it was coming soon, but that didn’t dampen our joy.

Then, like we do every Sunday night, we all enjoyed dinner and fellowship together.

Scripture tells us that the early church had “all things in common.” It was not merely a cultural distinctive or a sign of the times. The early church was a blueprint and a picture of what today’s church should look like.

The relationships inside a local assembly of believers should be as close, loving, affectionate, supportive, and strong as the healthy relationships between any loving group of biological siblings. Because of the common bond of Christ, relationships among Christians should be even stronger than relationships with unsaved, biological family members.

God Hates Divorce in the Church

With that kind of closeness, because of the inherent sinfulness of all involved, there will be difficult times. When those difficult times come in a local assembly of believers the wrong response, just as in a biological family, is to divorce or otherwise abandon the family. God hates divorce between a husband and wife. I think He also hates divorce within the context of the local church.

For too many professing Christians, the local church is something they *do*, someplace they *go*, and not who they *are.* Their commitment is only as deep as the temporal benefits they derive from *attending* the church. They will *quit* a church for reasons they would never dream of quitting their biological family.

The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith (the confession to which my church subscribes), in Chapter 26, Paragraph 13, states the following:

“No church members, upon any offence [sic] taken by them, having performed their duty required of them towards the person they are offended at, ought to disturb any church-order, or absent themselves from the assemblies of the church, or administration of any ordinances, upon the account of such offence [sic] at any of their fellow members, but to wait upon Christ, in the further proceeding of the church” (Matthew 18:15-17; Ephesians 4:2-3).

The leading cause of divorce in and from the local church is likely “personal offense.” Someone did something or said something, or didn’t do something or say something, and a personal offense was taken. Instead of doing the sometimes heavy lifting of reconciling with those who have hurt us or with those we have hurt, some people will choose to leave the church. Considering the sinful flesh in which every presently-bound-to-earth Christian dwells, remaining offended is easier than reconciliation.

But God never promised us easy, brethren.

Reasons People Divorce Churches

After a comprehensive look at the New Testament, one will not find a laundry list of reasons for leaving a local church. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find more than three: being sent out by the church (church planting, missions, mutual agreement–including for reasons not always missional, etc), excommunication, or death.

If an American Evangelical Confession of Faith existed, it would likely significantly add to the biblical list of three. Such a confession of faith might include the following justifiable reasons for divorcing a local assembly:

  • Style or type of music
  • Style or type of teaching
  • Length of sermons (too long or too short)
  • Dissatisfied with Children’s Ministry
  • Dissatisfied with Youth Ministry
  • Dissatisfied with Young Adult Ministry
  • The church doesn’t have Children’s, Youth, or Young Adult ministries
  • Too much emphasis on certain secondary theological issues
  • Not enough emphasis on certain secondary theological issues
  • Too many homeschoolers
  • Not enough homeschoolers
  • Too political
  • Not political enough
  • Too patriotic
  • Not patriotic enough
  • Too much personal accountability
  • Not enough personal accountability
  • Conflict with people in the church
  • Want a church closer to home
  • Not enough people who look like me
  • Not enough people who think like me
  • Not enough people who act like me
  • Too much emphasis on evangelism
  • Not enough emphasis on evangelism
  • Doesn’t have an abortuary ministry
  • Has an abortuary ministry
  • Pastors won’t support my self-anointed call to open-air preach
  • Pastors won’t let me/support me (fill in the blank)

Of course, the above is NOT an exhaustive list. Isn’t that sad?

The reasons listed above are some of the actual reasons people have given for leaving churches. Sadly, some of them have been my own.

The Church is not Built with a Revolving Door

God did not create the human family with a revolving door through which family members can simply come and go, join and quit, marry and divorce as they please. Neither did God create the Church, comprised of local assemblies, with a revolving door.

What if a visitor walks into your church building this Sunday, strides up to the pulpit, and announces he is now a member of the church? Would he be considered a member? Would he be given all of the rights and privileges of membership?

Of course not.

Yet many professing Christians, particularly in America and the wider western civilization, think they can quit a church, divorce a church family whenever they want for whatever reason they deem sufficient. Most would never assume the autonomy or authority to make themselves a member of a local assembly. But most would assert the autonomy and authority to divorce a local assembly.

I understand what I just suggested is counter-intuitive to what is acceptable and practiced in western church culture. I understand it is counter-intuitive to the American Evangelical way of thinking–a way of thinking (whether or not American Christians will admit it) that gives autonomy, independence, and even authority to the individual when it comes to leaving or divorcing a local church. While what I’ve put forward in this article might be counter-intuitive to some, it is not unbiblical.

Something to think about.

In the meantime, love your church family.

[1] Rick Brannan et al., eds., The Lexham English Septuagint (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), Mal 2:16.

The Morning After…Part Deux

Well it’s finally over…  I’m sure you are relieved as I am.  I wanted to share a couple brief thoughts.  I normally post on Tuesday and Friday but today thought it was worth wrapping up the election season with a brief note.

God has appointed Barack Obama Joe Biden or Donald Trump as our 45th or 46th President. Not sure if he remains 45 if Trump or 46th?  But whatever, it’s a mess, but this post still holds true, 8 years later. Weird I can’t believe I’m still blogging.

Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

Man is still sinful

Romans 3:10-12 As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.  They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”

Christ is on His Throne

Revelation 4:2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.  And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.

Pray for those in authority – not just your party of choice

1 Timothy 2:1-2 Therefore I exhort first of all that those supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.

Today is a new day

Today if you are follower of Jesus Christ you have an opportunity to tell someone what Christ as done in your life.  If the topic of politics comes up ask them if they know Christ as Lord and why did He come to earth?  That will get the conversation going.



What in the world is naturalism?

Naturalism is the belief that the material universe is all that exists in the universe. You must be able to see it, touch it, or observe it to be real—several other “isms” flow out of naturalism.

Materialism – the belief nothing exists but matter, even mental cognition.

Empiricism – knowledge is limited to our senses.

Determinism – man, is merely a machine and cannot make real choices (free-will).

Relativism – ethics are relative to the person and or culture.

Nihilism – life is meaningless because if life is formed by accident with no intention behind it, there is no reason to believe humanity has a purpose.

Putting On Our Thinking Caps

How did the world come into existence, and where did life come? If we explore this idea and have a meaningful conversation about it, we must boil it down to the two most prominent worldviews. Naturalism is probably the most predominant worldview today. As stated above, we can only know the world around us by observing the natural world.

Naturalism denies the supernatural.

Charles Darwin gave naturalism legs when he theorized that a process of natural selection or evolution was the explanation for the vast difference in life. Given enough time and a single cell of life, everything could evolve into what we have in our world today. Hummingbirds, Orca whales, giraffes, and humans are all a product of a primordial soup, of sorts, that eventually spawned life as we know it. It seems plausible enough for most people to say, “well, yeah, that makes sense,” but does it make sense?

I am simplifying the discussion, not disrespecting Darwin or the reader, but to try and boil it down to the most basic assumptions made in theory.

However, we need to back up. We have made assumptions that single cell life is readily accessible or easily reproduced or made. That is not the case. Science has many answers, but it often has as many questions as answers, and in fact, personal experience shows that often when people throw the word “science” around, they do not know what they mean by science. To define our terms, the science I am talking about is observable. Form a hypothesis, run tests, and record the results. Do this repeatedly until conclusions support the hypothesis.

If this is our starting point, where have we ever observed life formed from non-life?  Life does not come from non-life.

Stephen Hawking said, “because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.” [1] That is a big statement.

In a natural world, we have to either start with an eternal universe or a created universe. The second law of thermodynamics rules out an eternal universe. In short, it states, “the total amount of useable energy in any isolated system never increases” in other words, just like your car will always wear out, so will the universe. It cannot regenerate itself. It is always in decay. That means there is a time limit to the universe.

I’ll come back to the law of gravity in a moment because if we truly have a “nothing” universe, how do we account for the law of gravity? Our second option is to have a created universe, and this requires something that sets the whole thing into motion. Enter stage left, the Big Bang Theory.

Oxford Chemist Peter Atkins claims, “By chance, there was a fluctuation, and set of points, emerging from nothing and taking their existence from the pattern they formed, defined a time. The chance formation of a pattern resulted in the emergence of time from coalesced opposites, its emergence from nothing. From absolute nothing, absolutely without intervention, there came into being rudimentary existence.”[2]

By chance

The chance formation

Emergence from nothing

From absolute nothing

Without intervention

Rudimentary existence

Does this sound scientific? It sounds like someone that knows a bunch of big words put them together and made something up.

Jeffrey D. Johnson argues, “Unless you believe in magic without a magician, the engineering marvel of the simplest cell could not have evolved from non-living matter. For life to begin, the simple cell had to spontaneously appear with all its necessary parts, thrown together in the proper place, creating the semantic information needed for the living cell to reproduce itself.” [3]

Johnson quotes Darwin, “To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd to the highest possible degree.”[4]

World-renowned chemist James M. Tour asks the real question, “Does anyone understand the chemical details behind macroevolution? If so, I would like to sit with that person and be taught, so I invite them to meet with me.”[5]

If Hawkings and Atkins sound absurd, which I believe they do, Darwin and Tour have no idea how this is possible, then what is the alternative? Do we believe naturalism just because we have been taught it in the school system or because most scientists say Big Bang Cosmology is true? Evolution (macro) is true? Is there a reason behind our disbelief in the supernatural?

In this short video clip Christopher Hitchens argues that the warm feeling he gets through doing a good deed, giving blood, is something that evolution has given him for his sake and everybody else’s.

Do not allow that statement to sneak past. How did evolution give this to us? Evolution is impersonal. It cares not for anything other than eliminating the weak and perpetuating itself. There is no feeling in naturalism. How did feelings evolve? They are immaterial. As an example, how do you know your spouse loves you or that you love your spouse? You can’t see love. You can’t touch love. You can’t put it in a bottle and sell it? It is an immaterial thing.

He says it does not require a divine spark or any programming, but it begs the question, why would you give blood? It does not benefit you.  It only helps those weaker. If “survival of the fittest” is real, giving blood or doing good to your neighbor has no benefit. Hitchens also introduces sin into the conversation, although he does not realize it. He discusses sociopaths and psychopaths. In a natural world, sociopaths and psychopaths are only living out their natural order; they happen to be more aggressive about it, but who can possibly say they are wrong?

The Only Other Alternative

The only other possibility is a supernatural world, created and directed by an intelligent being. Within this framework, there are a couple of possibilities, such as the “god” of deism. Deism is an impersonal god that created the universe and has no further contact with the creation. The god of deism allows the world to play itself out.  That is depressing, and it does not describe the God of Christianity. The God that describes himself as being the One and Only God. The beginning and the end, the God that controls all things and spoke all things into existence.

If we boil it down to the two possibilities described here, let us be honest about something. They both involve faith. Darwin, Atkins, Hawkings, nor Hitchens have answers. Science doesn’t have the answer. Science has failed to produce life from non-life. Naturalism depends on faith, and it’s not even a good guess faith. It is blind faith.

Christianity provides answers to incredibly complex problems. It explains how life began, why life began, how evil entered the world, where consciousness comes from, and a purpose to our existence. For example, when Hitchens argues you do not need a “god” to do good things, he is right. Where he is fatally wrong is that he just cannot justify why you would do good, or what’s wrong with doing evil.

Where did this innate sense of right and wrong come from? Why do people do good to other people for no apparent reason?

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).

The very opening line of the Bible tells us there was a beginning point for measuring time. There is also an all-powerful being, God, that created all things, and as we journey through the creation story, we will find that God created humanity different from the plants and all the animals.

then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature (Genesis 2:7).

God breathed life into Adam, and he created man in the image of God. Man is not only physical, but man is also spiritual. Man has a body, and man has a soul. Man also has a conscience, dictating right from wrong.

Paul writes this in Romans about why people know right from wrong.

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus (Romans 2:14-16).

Even before Moses received the law on tablets of stone, God had written it upon their hearts. Have you ever noticed the shame a young toddler feels when they lie to their parents? Of course, they are not very creative in their lies. It is easy to catch them, but we become more complex and more industrious in our deceit as we grow. The conscience begins to deaden. The callouses form upon the tender part of our inner being, and we lie without remorse.

God’s law tenderizes that callous. Naturalism has no explanation for the conscience. It has no explanation for those laws of gravity that Hawkings discussed. The immaterial does not produce laws of gravity, laws of logic, and laws of math. We see how he had to sneak over to the other side, borrow a little of this and a little of that from the Christian worldview to support his theory, and Hitchens does the very same thing. They know these things exist; they cannot account for them. I’ve argued this many times with some brilliant people, and this goes right past them. They either ignorantly reject this, or they miss the point.

Is it willful ignorance? I do not know, but we must consider it is the effect sin has on human consciousness. The Bible says man suppresses the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). He desires to reject authority, go his way, and avoid responding to the God he denies. They would instead embrace absurdity, then surrender to God.

The supernatural aspect of the Bible relies on written and eye-witness testimony, not to mention the fulfillment of prophetic events and human experience. My good friends Donnell and Connell explain that it is easy to deny it if you throw out all the evidence of super-naturalism.

There is so much more to be said, but I will address some more topics, such as free-will in my next article.


[1] Johnson, Jeffrey D. The Absurdity of Unbelief: a Worldview Apologetic of the Christian Faith. (Free Grace Press, 2016), 131.

[2] Ibid 132

[3] Ibid 147

[4] Ibid 149

[5] Ibid 150

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 1:1.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 2:7.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 2:14–16.

The Problem of Evil

I recently came across a Facebook post which showed a starving child looking for food in a field, and a vulture standing ready for what looked inevitable. It is truly heartbreaking and devastating to think of such a situation. Having children of my own, I cannot bear to think of them starving to death, or the tortures of a place like Auschwitz. Evil is indeed real. It is in this world, and from the Christian perspective, how do we look at it?

I’m a street evangelist and a Christian apologist (not formally). I certainly have my fair share of discussions with those that believe this disproves the existence of God. In most cases, this gives full liberty to the “atheist” to debunk the idea that a good and loving God would allow this sort of thing to happen in the world, and undoubtedly, they have a point that challenges us all.

Scottish Philosopher, Davide Hume, said this: “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is impotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Whence evil?” Hume presents a challenging argument, and while the topic is diverse, I will provide a defense for this argument. There are many theories of why evil exists and “whence” evil came.

Scripture provides lots of clues, but it also provides some absolutes. Primarily, it unequivocally states the goodness, righteousness, and moral perfection of God.

You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? Habakkuk 1:13

Secondly, the Scriptures teach that God is not the author of evil.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. James 1:13

It is difficult for the human mind to comprehend a Sovereign God that hates evil and ordains evil for His purposes. God has created all things. We know God created all things good (Genesis 1:25), and with Adam and Eve, all things were very good (Genesis 1:31). We also know that sin entered the world. Since God is the creator of all things, and He has purposed all things according to the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11), then God had a purpose for His decree which allowed evil to enter into creation.

The London Baptist Confession of Faith 3.1 says this:

From all eternity God decreed all that should happen in time, and this He did freely and unalterably, consulting only His own wise and holy will. Yet in so doing He does not become in any sense the author of sin, nor does He share responsibility for sin with sinners. Neither, by reason of His decree, is the will of any creature whom He has made violated; nor is the free working of second causes put aside; rather is it established. In all matters the divine wisdom appears, as also does God’s power and faithfulness in effecting that which He has purposed.

The writers of the confession worded this carefully. Man is not coerced but freely sins by his desire (James 1:14).  

What do we say to the “atheist” who argues along the lines of Hume? On the surface, this seems a formative argument and can stump many a well-intended Christian.

Greg Bahnsen answered it well: “Philosophically speaking, the problem of evil turns out to be, therefore, a problem for the unbeliever himself. In order to use the argument from evil against the Christian worldview, he must first be able to show that his judgments about the existence of evil are meaningful – which is precisely what his unbelieving worldview is unable to do.”

In other words, how can the “atheist” justify moral or immoral behavior? The “atheist” argues what is right and what is wrong, but what is his basis? If he is true to his belief system, there is no God, then what is the standard of right and wrong? According to atheistic, Darwinian evolution, the process of survival of the fittest is merely working itself out. What is wrong with the murder of 11 million in the Holocaust? What is wrong with the starving child in Sudan? Why is rape wrong?

Cornelius Van Til called this “borrowed capital.” Our “atheistic” friends must borrow from the Christian worldview for morality to claim God is immoral. In the “atheistic” worldview, morality is an impossibility. Morality only comes through a moral being, not chunks of rock.

Would I ask my “atheist” friends to provide the alternative to the problem of evil? Herein lies a great difficulty for them. If evil exists, then it exists in people. We believe evil exists; therefore, it exists in people, but which kind of people? All people or just some people? If we begin to corner our “atheistic” friend about the evil in his own life, then we get to the crux of the problem.  Evil resides in us all.

The difference between me, a Christian, and an unbeliever are that I rejoice someday evil will be judged. ALL EVIL. The evil acts committed in secret will be punished, even those in the dark recesses of the mind. Hitler did not escape punishment via suicide, and neither will any of us.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:10

For those that reject Christ, this will be an awful day. The Bible teaches that evil exists; it teaches that God is a good and just God that hates evil. God will ultimately punish all evil and all those that commit evil, which is in all of us. The answer is that Christ saves us from our evil selves.

Rather than pointing to evil acts and saying, “see God does not exist,” turn to Him and live. Abandon a life of sin and evil rebellion, and surrender at the cross of Christ, where the greatest act of evil was ever committed. The murder of an innocent man. That innocent man willingly laid down His life (John 10:18), that we might live.

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2

The Lord stands ready to heal and ready to forgive. Please do not reject so great a salvation shaking your fist at the God you know exists.

A special thank you to Dr. Brian Borgman for his excellent teaching on the Problem of Evil. I have linked his sermons here, here, here, and here.

Note: I have quotes around atheist, or atheistic, because the Bible teaches all have a revelation of God through creation and providence, but suppress the truth in their unrighteousness (Romans 1:18-23).


Gentle Parenting?

What in the world is gentle, or grace-based parenting? Let me begin by saying, As a 54 year-old father of four, I’m still trying to learn, and this is an area that my wife and I desire to transform, as we grow in grace.

We are not parenting “experts,” nor have we ever claimed to be, even though I know some that think they are. We were indoctrinated into a system of child-rearing that we have come to see as damaging and debilitating. It produces short-term results, but at the long-term cost of what? That is still to be determined.

As we began to learn the meaning of the word grace, we have begun to see the freedom in Christ, and His grace toward rebels like us. The real question remains, if He extends such unmerited favor toward us, and directs us in Him, why did we decide we needed to beat the sin out of our children?  

I wrote a Facebook post recently based on something I saw that bears repeating. The originator of this post is someone named Sarah Ockwell-Smith. I do not know her. She said this.

Compliant and obedient children seem great in childhood, but all of those years of obeying, not being allowed to ‘answer back’ to get their point across and eventually being too scared to confide in you, for fear of reprimand, does not make for an emotionally healthy adult.

Disagreements, debates, and healthy conflict may be harder on us as parents – but it makes for a much more positive future for our children.

The picture on this blog was posted by her as well, and I think it tells such a heartbreaking story. As a child, I was spanked more than a few times. I cannot declaratively say it hurt me in the long run, and this is not an article to condemn all use of the rod in discipline. My mom and dad were loving and careful parents. There were healthy boundaries in our home growing up. Healthy boundaries are reasonable, there is a clear difference between right and wrong, and obeying your parents, this is a good and godly thing to do. It is a command in the Ten Commandments and the New Testament.

Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right (Ephesians 6:1).

We expect our children to obey and to honor us. The Ephesians passage continues that it is the first commandment with a promise, that it may go well with you, and you may live long in the land, verse 2 through 3. No issues so far, we do not allow our children to run wild, we do our best to show them love, and to keep control over them, so they are not without boundaries. The more important focus of this article is the next verse.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

I’ve become convinced this is the key to appropriate parenting. I love the Proverbs, and I believe they are critical in gaining God’s wisdom. Grace-based parenting hinges on this verse. What I’ve often seen is that authoritarian based legalistic systems teach the rod with severity. They believe the will of a child must be broken, because they are guilty sinners in the eyes of a Holy God. Teaching them first to obey, must come with strictness and harshness. They wouldn’t say it must be harsh because they would recognize the verse says not to provoke to anger, but it has no other way to be interpreted by the child except harshness.

John Calvin has a well-balanced commentary on this verse:

Parents, in their turn, are exhorted not to irritate their children with immoderate harshness. This would excite hatred, and would lead them to throw off the yoke altogether. Accordingly, in Colossians he adds, ‘lest they be discouraged’ (Col 3:21).

When we as parents react in harshness, in anger, in frustration, when we are quick to pull out the rod, this carries the immediate effect of provocation. The outflow of discipline in our children is a provocation. Matthew Henry is my favorite Bible Commentator. He has offered balanced, orthodox commentary that has survived hundreds of years for a good reason.

His commentary is concise, but illustrates my desire:

Though God has given you power, you must not abuse that power, remembering that your children are, in a particular manner, pieces of yourselves, and therefore ought to be governed with great tenderness and love. Be not impatient with them, use no unreasonable severities and lay no rigid injunctions upon them. When you caution them, when you counsel them, when you reprove them, do it in such a manner as not to provoke them to wrath. In all such cases deal prudently and wisely with them, endeavouring to convince their judgments and to work upon their reason.

Calvin also affirms this treatment of children:

Kind and liberal treatment keeps children in reverence for their parents, and increases readiness and cheerfulness of their obedience, while a hard and unkind severtity rouses them to obstinancy, and destroys their dutifulness.

Calvin does offer a warning, that we are not too permissive, and this is the balance that must be fought for,

But on the other hand, lest there should be too much indulgence, as sometimes happens, he tightens the rein as it were, and adds, in the discipline and correction of the Lord. For God does not want parents to be so fond towards their children that they corrupt them by sparing them. Let their kindness be tempered, so as to keep them in the discipline of the Lord, and correct them also when they go astray.

I believe there is an ugly downside to the demand for obedience that comes out of most fundamentalist type groups. The children become aware and trained that obedience is better than beatings. They become conformists and have no way of coping with what their little minds cannot reason through. Instead, we need to seek balance.

I found some deep conviction in a sermon by Pastor Don Green, and I post it here that you might see the high demands of the first-time obedience crowd. I realize as 1689, Reformed Baptist, this probably puts me at odds with many of them, but that is okay.

I hope to come to a balanced position on the topic, which yields excellent long-term results in our parenting, and yours as well. I don’t want our kids to be unruly, I don’t want to withhold discipline so they will “like” me, but I also want them to know how much we love them and desire the best way to parent them.