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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

God is one: On a Unitarian and Trinitarian debate

Debate: Unitarianism vs Trinitarianism


This article is not about debates. It is not a refutation of a debate. It is an address of a single aspect of the discussion concerning deity. Debates are a great platform for grandstanding. I do not care to attend debates. I have never participated in one and I have no desire to do so. They can do little or nothing to enlighten the saints who are of the faith that is in Christ Jesus. Worse still, too often the saints are treated to a carnal spectacle between the presenters. The tactics of single word isolation in the original Hebrew and Greek languages are flashed before the audience; each presenter positing alternately what the word means and what it could otherwise possibly mean also. Of course, there is an abundance of verses, which like their word components, are isolated and listed for what they do not say as much as for what they do not say about God.


When it comes to the trinity, a word for which I have no desire, use or need, much is heard in debates about history and the Council of Nicaea in 325 by Emperor Constantine to whom many ascribe the doctrine of what is called trinitarianism. Also, there is the back and forth about terms not found in the Bible; often noted about Trinitarian/Trinitarianism, but the same holds true of Unitarian/Unitarianism. There are the copious references to scholars and last but not least there is that point where the presenters wear thin and the veiled, subtle and sometimes slip-of-the-tongue barbs come into the debate near the end of the debate. These are my general observations concerning debates but I will say that Danny Dixon and Marc Taylor were, as the script of the debate seems to indicate, respectful as brothers in Christ.


Invariably, after the debate is over the single unanswered question in the minds of the saints is: what does it mean to say God is one and still speak of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit?


This is the question which neither Unitarians nor Trinitarians have been able to address in an open, clear and understandable manner for the enlightenment of the saints.


Basically, the conclusion is that Jesus was a very nice man, sent from God with great power, it is alright that worship was directed to him and that he never reproved those who said or did anything directed to him in the manner of praise and worship. If the saints were to receive such an enlightenment from those debates maybe their speech would convey their confident conviction concerning the Father, Son and Holy Spirit especially as Christians are confronted more and more by purportedly Unitarian Muslims. The purpose of this article is to address what, both Unitarians and Trinitarians have wittingly or unwittingly circumspectly avoided.


things debaters share in common


Danny Dixon (Unitarian) and Marc Taylor (Trinitarian), those are their own self-descriptive terms, share much more in common than the familiar formal and informal tactics of what is called debate. I encourage readers to take the time and read the fifty five page transcript of the debate. More importantly, they share their theological views, though not their respective conclusions necessarily, in common with Jews, Christians and Muslims. Read the Dixon/Taylor debate here.


What, you may ask, could these two brothers in Christ possibly have in common between each other as veritable Unitarian/Trinitarian opponents on one hand and Jews, Christians and Muslims on the other hand?


There are other points in common, but really, only one which matters because it is the fundamental root of the problem. It is the quantification with numeric values of one, two or three of the deity who declares himself as being one. One individual argues for God as the quantitative value of one. The other argues for God as the quantitative value of one, but . . . three. It is significant and telling that what Moses pronounced to Israel in the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4 is summed up for the enlightenment of the saints in this manner by both men in their only reference to the Shema in the debate.


by Dixon, “Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear O Israel, Jehovah our God, Jehovah is one. ”Did he really mean it, or was Jesus speaking with his fingers crossed behind his back since the divine joke was that in fact he was Jehovah.”


by Taylor: “When Christ quotes Deuteronomy 6:4 in Mark 12:29 it is not at all conclusive that the word for "one" refers to an absolute one for the Hebrew and Greek words for one can be used to represent a "unified one" (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5).


Arguably, the Shema is the single most important and vital passage of the Tanakh (Old Testament) for its pronouncement on the descriptive nature of God. Yet, the above comments by both men are a fair reflection of what is a common misunderstanding about God by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Every one of these different groups cite or quote the Shema, but every one of them holds the same quantitative interpretation of deity as Dixon and Taylor.


I will not lay out any argument from the Hebrew language. I will not present what various reputed scholars have said on the subject of deity. Certainly, this article, as it is probably apparent already, is not a scholarly work in no small part because of the absence of language arguments and scholars’ views. Yes, I value scholarly work. It is just that too often it takes on the consistency of muddle for those who listen in on debates. Yes, there are a number of verses (for example, those with reference to Jesus as a man) throughout the Bible some of which were instruments for engagement between Dixon and Taylor. Although I am prepared to respond to those verses they will not be a part of this article. Those responses may be a part of a further discussion to this article. Do not mistake my decision as avoidance or timidness because I do not address and respond to the familiar and anticipated questions which stem from this verse and that verse. However, the truth of the matter is that much of what is thrown into debates is for their filler effect and nothing more. What I prefer to present is what any reader of the Tanakh and the new covenant (New Testament) can read and examine in the English language for themselves and make their own judgment on these matters. It is my hope that the saints would be built up,encouraged and enlightened.


what God sought to impress on Israel


God sought to impress something on Israel for all time when He spoke through his servant Moses in Deuteronomy 6:4,5; the Shema. There are various words and phrases which appear before and after the Shema. Here are a few of those words and phrases:


the commandment, the statutes and the judgments . . . to teach . . . to keep . . . you should listen . . . Hear, oh Israel . . . These words . . . talk of them . . . bind as a sign . . . You shall write them . . .


All of these words and phrases are about the words God was saying to Moses in that moment. Since Deuteronomy is a second telling of the law to Israel those words and phrases are as much about what God had said (past) already. These were things which Israel was to learn and keep as of that day. (present) Israel was to teach these things to their children going forward. (future) Their children were to learn, keep and teach these things to impress to their children; generation after generation.


the divine revelation of the will of God is one


This is what Israel was to understand from that moment going forward. Israel was to understand that the revelation of the will of God was one in unity and harmony as is God. Israel was to understand that 1) everything that God said was to be obeyed, 2) everything that Moses said that God said was to be obeyed, 3) everything that the prophets said God said was to be obeyed, 4) everything that Jesus said was from the Father said was to be obeyed, 5) everything that the apostles said was from the Holy Spirit was to be obeyed, and 6) everything that the saints in Christ read from the written word as what God said was to be obeyed. There is no variation. There is no discrepancy. What God said is no less the authoritative commandment of God after he spoke it, when it was repeated, before it was written, after it was written, before it was printed, after it was printed and when the reading of his commandments is heard by listeners. The saints in Christ are living in a time when many among them, as in the days of ancient Israel, so desperately and frantically seek after something, surely, anything that is flashier than words.


There is complete, total harmony and oneness from beginning to end from God himself, from Moses, from the prophets, from Jesus, from the apostles and the saints. This is the unity, oneness, true nature, characteristic and description of God who is one; not a quantitative, numeric value; as is his word so too is the Father, with the Son, with the Holy Spirit.


a plurality


There is plural word form in the Shema. It is acknowledged by Jews and Christians alike. There is no denying that the plural form is present in the text. Of course, this is where Christians interject Father, Son and Holy Spirit into the passage. The awareness and response by the Jews to that plural form is aptly stated by Rabbi Goldmark in The Human Jesus; “We just ignore it.”


Amazing. This, from a teacher of Israel? A much earlier Psalms text on the Jewish awareness of that nagging plurality was quoted by Jesus for his listeners. Even before that quotation by Jesus he was quizzed by a scribe. It was a no-brainer affirmation from Jesus on the Shema. It was also the opportune moment for the scribe to parrot in the presence of the Sadducees and Pharisees what was theologically safe. (Mark 12)


Jesus answered,"The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD;
30 AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.'
31 "The second is this, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these."


The scribe’s response to Jesus:


The scribe said to Him, "Right, Teacher; You have truly  stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM;
33 AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE'S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."


Mark, the writer of the gospel, notes this reaction from Jesus to the scribe’s safe response:


When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God."


Clearly, there is nothing contradictory, wrong or otherwise unsound in the scribe’s reiteration of Jesus’ words. Is there a reasonable understanding as to why Mark notes that Jesus saw that the scribe answered Jesus intelligently, or in other versions, wisely if not for the fact that it was a theologically safe and nonthreatening response to Jesus in the presence of the Sadducees?


However, Jesus did not let things be. He proceeded to quote Psalm 110 with its nagging plural references which baffled the Jewish scribes. These references, between The Lord and my lord, are explained neither by the Hebrew language or upper or lower case spellings nor are they explained through the obscure insertion of titles or names such as Father or Yahweh. (Those explanations are as feeble as what some takeaway from Jesus’ quotation of the Shema, namely, that it was his endorsement, to use their word choice, of the Shema.)


THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, "SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I PUT YOUR ENEMIES BENEATH YOUR FEET."'


Nobody answered Jesus’ question. Jesus did not state anything new. It was an ancient message of the prophets who, like Moses, revealed the will of God to Israel. Furthermore, Jesus did not offer an explanation, but instead posited another question for them and left it for them and for us to ponder that plurality. I will leave it for the reader to ponder that plurality.


Ephesians: Father, Son, Holy Spirit: role and relationship


As much as there is no denial by Jews and Christians on the plurality of the Shema there are other instances in which God refers to himself in the plural form even as He is referred to in plural. There is no denial that Jesus spoke of the deity of the Father. I prefer to leave aside Jesus’ own reference to himself as being equal with the Father and the implications of deity for himself. Similarly, I prefer to leave aside the claims of the Holy Spirit as deity. This is not a capitulation or avoidance, but it is a matter which is better to be pondered, for the time being, and for the reader to come to his/her own realization and understanding of deity. We ought not be surprised that the saints in Christ struggle to understand God.


If the disciples who walked, talked and lived with Jesus struggled to understand who it was that was in their midst; today, we ought not marvel that the saints struggle to understand the Jesus in the written word of God and the Holy Spirit who remains just as non visible today as in the first century.


Those same disciples, and later the apostle Paul too, all went on become witnesses of Jesus in their proclamation of his gospel. All were indwelt and guided by the same Holy Spirit whom they received from the Father. Their words, like those of Moses and the prophets, were one in unity and agreement with everything Jesus said and what the Spirit received from Jesus to reveal to them.


It was the apostle Paul who bore testimony through his inspired writing in his letter to the saints in Christ at Ephesus concerning the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Paul not only specifies these entities in chapter one, but he reveals 1) what was the role of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and thus, 2) the relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit towards his creation; man to be specific.


It was not the Son or the Holy Spirit, but the Father who PURPOSED his will before the foundation of the world to redeem an elect people.


It was not the Father or the Holy Spirit, but the Son who FULFILLED the will of the Father through his own death in order that he might redeem the elect by his blood having been forgiven of their sins.


It was not the Father or the Son, but the Holy Spirit who SEALED the redeemed of the Father as purchased by the Son.


These words of Paul were not conjured up by him but they were from antiquity; since before the foundation of the world _ before God EVEN SPOKE THEM before the foundation of the world. These are words by which Paul explained the specific roles and relationship of each divine entity towards the redeemed. Contrary to the serious misunderstanding by Muslims, Jews and some Christians God is not a man. This mistaken notion is found neither in the scriptures nor is it the teaching of Christians. God TOOK ON the form of a man. It is just as much a serious mistaken notion of the saints to think that they understand the divine transcendent God when they speak of him in terms of person or persons. Although the scriptures present God through the use of anthropomorphisms these were primarily for the Jews and for the saints in Christ to help understand and relate to God who is spirit through the use of human terms. The use of these anthropomorphism by God himself in a human-form vessel named Jesus reveals that he was quite comfortable to extend the reference to himself as a man (John 8:40) in the face of the defiant and arrogant Jews who touted with a purportedly Unitarian fervor to Jesus, we have one Father: God.


the prophet Isaiah


As I stated earlier there is tendency to blithely throw titles (such as Father) and names (such as Yahweh) or prophet into passages where none of these appear in the text. This practice is true of Dixon and Taylor as it is of many other saints on a number of different discussion topics. This is an exercise question on deity to which I will not offer an answer. It is not that I do not have an answer, but rather it is that I will trust in the written word of God and in the reader to make the discovery and reach the realization for themselves and to rejoice in it. I know a proposition without answers is contrary to the clincher question so often heard from exhausted minds in their search to understand deity: why didn’t God just say . . .?


1  According to the scriptures whom did Isaiah see in Isaiah 6?
2  According to the scriptures whom did Isaiah see in John 12?


conclusion


The question of deity by Unitarians and Trinitarians for those whom they purport to enlighten the saints remains unanswered. What is offered as an answer is obscured, muddled and lost in the tactics of debate.

So much of what is presented as sound findings from the scriptures is to pitch one passage or verse against another. This is an indication of a serious misunderstanding of the total, complete harmony of the revelation of the will of God from God himself, to Moses, to the prophets, to Jesus, to the apostles and to the saints in Christ. It is this harmony and unity which makes Father, Son and Holy Spirit one. 

We, the saints in Christ and as Jesus likened us, are one with the Father and Son when we are one in harmony just as the Father and Jesus are one. (John 17:11) Had the Jews understood and accepted and not ignored what they did not understand concerning the meaning of the Shema which became a part of their daily lives they would not have been so quick to crucify Jesus, the Son of God. The expedient death of Jesus as unwittingly prophesied by Caiaphas (John 18:13) represented the Jewish participation in something which they adamantly asserted as being a vile abomination to God and the Jews themselves. This is a convenient forgetfulness of history involving the virtual human sacrifice at Moriah of Isaac and later the actual sacrifice of the entire firstborn of Egypt. No, that is not, as some might be quick to charge, anti-Semitic. It is a matter of history. peace to all.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Image of Racism

the image of racism

Racists, despite their false bravado, live a lie which grovels in fear. Note that I refer to racists as individuals or groups and not in the formless, disembodied barroom, coffeehouse, sports field or classroom topic of racism. It is the image touted by some who themselves are not given to talk much less think about those things they boast arrogantly. I am compelled speak, as much as I am embarrassed and ashamed to admit it, on racism because of the act of racism which resulted in the murder of the saints in Christ in Charleston South Carolina. I do not speak because they are my brothers and sisters in Christ who were murdered. Rather, this is what I, to say nothing about anyone else, ought to do anytime I am truly moved in my heart by such acts. Even more than waiting for the next and latest act of racial violence I ought to be able to respond in the affirmative to the question which comes up at times such as in Charleston: Do we Americans engage in talk about racism? Even more, I as a Christian, need to initiate and engage in the discussion in the times in between those abominable acts of racial violence. Do not think you have acted or spoken against racism simply by keeping quiet and thereby thinking all can and should assume you are not racist.

Still, more than a merely venting, re-hashing and wringing my hands dry of the crime or seizing the opportune moment to alleviate or ameliorate myself as being more non racist than a racist; I am compelled to strip racism of its sham of a disguise. Contrary to the accepted delusion of racism’s perpetrators and victims racism is not about the color of a human being’s skin. There are other delusional responses and descriptive terms given to acts of racial violence purportedly as solutions to the problem of racism. These include gun control, hate crime, accident and these responses come from Christians, Democrats and Republicans all of whom claim to speak from the perspective of a faith professed in Jesus and the knowledge and practice of the teaching of Jesus as Lord and Savior. Mostly however, these covert responses are muffled, subdued and suppressed in deference to the overt response which is with the weight of legislative law. (I would venture to say that racists, even those who who would claim to be disciples of Jesus, but have become entangled in their own deception, have their own favorable spin on those terms to suit and justify their message of hate.)

a difficult statement

In so doing they have become as ignorant as is the racist as to how far they have wandered from the message of Jesus which are their life.

Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, "This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?"
61 But Jesus,conscious  that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, "Does this cause you to stumble?
62"What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?
63 "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.
64 "But there are some of you who do not believe."
(the gospel according to John 6

Those who heard this message from Jesus turned around and walked away and ceased to follow Jesus. Anyone who claims to be a disciple of Jesus yet embraces the hatred of racism deceives himself/herself.

a social definition

Racism, as it is defined by our society, is the breeding, harboring, fostering and acting out of disdain and contempt towards an individual or group who are ethnically different than another individual or group. Purportedly, this is the reason by which, however warped, the racist can justify his hatred and disdain. But this is a bigger lie than it is a farce; the farce being that racism towards others is love for one’s own family and country; the lie because racism is not about or primarily about the obvious, overt skin color of another person.

The truth is the racist would just as soon turn on one of his own with no less hatred and disdain and even murder; not because of the color of their skin, but because of difference of belief. This may resonate as familiar with some as this is the common belief and practice in ISIS, but also per the Quran instruction for Muslims who are not associated with ISIS necessarily.

Do not be ignorant because any notion of carrying out violence in the name of Jesus is that individual’s own lie and fear and it is not from Jesus and the apostles and the saints in Christ.

racism: a problem in America, in this world

America has a problem of racism. We hear in the media that no one is safe from those who, in different and varying degrees, think, speak and act or otherwise urge, encourage and cheer others to acts of racism. This hardly makes America unique among other countries. None of this should sound as new or alarming to the saints in Christ because unlike the fear-filled liar who killed those nine saints in Christ in Charleston the saints in Christ do not have a country anymore than the kingdom of Jesus is of this world. Yes, I am mindful that there is no small number of Christians who are not racist and teach and speak against racism, but who share the belief with that racist in Charleston that America is their country to keep and to defend. However, this was the response of Jesus to the Governor Pontius Pilate who stood to judge to Jesus concerning Pilate’s mistaken notions about a tract of land for Jesus himself and his disciples. (Pilate literally wash his hands as a public display to exempt himself from judging Jesus.)

Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm."
(the gospel according to John 18)

the image of fear

The reality is that the response to racism, for the most part, is a game; an exercise in deception. Among politicians the response to racism is gun control. Christians, mostly following the lead of politicians, respond to racism as a hate crime. Yes, the saints are to be commended for the prompt forgiveness. It is this love and forgiveness by Christians which is what makes Charleston a display showcase for Muslims and others who know not Jesus as Lord and Savior.

The reason by which Christians are able to live and talk love and forgiveness through the good and evil in this world is precisely because we have no delusions about life or _ death. As I stated earlier, despite the false bravado of racism, racists live in the grip of the fear of death. This is true of all those who would sooner take a life than to do as Jesus did and lay down their own life. Yes. This is a difficult statement and there have always been and there will always be those who walk away from it. It is easy to shield one’s actions, racist and non-racist alike, of fear as being for one’s country and for others, but the truth that there is only one in the moment of truth who makes the determination whether to take a life or give a life. It is no more a decision than a condemnation for me to make of a believer or nonbeliever, a racist or non-racist, it is a reality.

Cain: a murderer

The Bible account in the book of Genesis relates the first murder of Abel by his brother Cain. (Genesis 4) Ostensibly, Cain murdered his brother because God was pleased with Abel’s sacrifice but He rejected the sacrifice of Cain. When God asked Cain Why are you angry? it was not because God didn’t know. Rather, it was to prompt Cain to examine the source of his anger. It is the same question for the racist, Why are you angry? God never played into Cain’s wallowing in anger anymore than He does with the racist. The admonishment for Cain is the same as for the racist:

If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.

Cain, like his racist brothers and sisters, succumbed to the desire of sin and thereby Cain and racists alike remain in the grip of the fear of death.

This is the lie which grovels in fear; the image of the sin whose desire is to be racist.

However, this is the deliverance from the one who had (past tense) the power of death.

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
(Hebrews 2:14; 15)

conclusion

Image in American society has become a cheap commodity. It is easily traded for what is superficial and temporal. Racism continues to be embraced as truth when in fact it is the false bravado of a lie. The lie is that there is no more love in the preservation of country than the preservation of one’s loved ones. It is all about one’s own skin. Racism has nothing to do with skin color. This is not to diminish or nullify the act of racism in Charleston. However, it is call to examine closely our understanding of misplaced responses towards a solution to racism. Racists ally themselves with those who, for the moment, happen to think (a dubious use of the term) and act alike. The moment there is a change in difference of thought a country and loved become as easy to discard as a human life. This was the way of Cain. This is the way of the racist.

Here is the call of Jesus to racists and all sinners who do not believe:

"If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot * be My disciple.
27 "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot * be My disciple.
(Luke 14:26-27)

Yes. You are your brother’s keeper because the image of God in which He created male and female is no more physical than it is skin color. The image of God is love.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Gender Change and The Image of Male and Female

Jeopardy answer clue: The image of male and female.


what I wanna be


This is a brief article on the subject of image. Specifically, it is an invitation to discuss or to ponder the current embrace and practice involving the change of gender image. The embrace and practice of gender change, as it is purported, is counseled and prescribed in school, church and home. It is counseled not as a solution necessarily for those souls afflicted and sometimes ravished either physically by others or psychologically and emotionally by their own self-image  because of the gender of their birth. Image change is driven by mainstream media especially when a well known celebrity like Bruce Jenner declares his own decision to undergo the physically outward and inward emotional, psychological behavior change of image. Jenner recently left the male gender with which he was born for the female gender he has embraced for himself.


While this discussion topic may upset or even stir or provoke some to anger there is no condemnation or castigation here. What I would like to bring out is the questionable integrity and honesty of the therapeutic and cultural responses given to those who face their own struggles concerning their image. This change of image is real and practically attainable for a few. However, the reality is one which eludes many others. This makes them neither poor nor victims. However, they are the ones for whom a real resolution is not only readily and practically attainable but it is the imperative option for their own peace and joy in life. The very limited economic resources at their disposal position them with the luxury of being able to take the time, if only they would, to understand image in general and their own personal image. The attainability of that peace and joy in gender is not found in the surgeon’s scalpel, anymore than weight loss is found in pills. It is found in an understanding of their own which is within their reach.


showcase examples


There is a track record of mistaken notions offered in our schools, churches and by parents as solutions or makeshift arrangements some of which were plainly wrong. Some have fostered or enabled behaviors detrimental to the individual. Still others were inconsistent and downright hypocritical with tenets of love and happiness by those who counseled, promoted and urged image change. Some of these mistaken notions include sex education programs; that social experiment in education which quickly deviated from its core to include sex techniques and sexual behavior. Although I was in grade school long before the drive to remove prayer from schools rolled through school campuses the track marks of these two, sex education and prayer, are showcase examples of an education curriculum and policies gone awry. My reason for citing these is not for any moral reasons, but rather to point out what these have produced in terms of school age pregnancies and the erosion in the emotional and mental well-being of students such that shootings have become a way of life _ and death, on school campuses whose focus on education and knowledge was lost long ago. The message from the church concerning image is often as poor and founded on mistaken notions which do nothing to enlighten and lift up those who struggle with a biblical understanding of image. Of course, the culture catch-phrase is for "everyone to just be happy." Often parents, wittingly or unwittingly, are parties to image change with either school or church, or worse yet and as a show of their detachment and lack of awareness, neither one.


You might think the above as showcase examples are laughable. Yet, we ought not think the approval of suicide as an improbable reality which would ever be encouraged and taught in school and church alike. Do not expect these things to be taught overtly at the beginning, but the message is in our society already. As Americans become more open to assisted suicide one cannot rule out the day when the likelihood of allowing and encouraging students who choose to do so to commit suicide, after all as goes the default, weak and amoral cultural response, it is their choice. Suicide was the option exercised by the 1999 Columbine students but only after they had murdered several of their peers. The suicide mold has been cast. It is neither new nor is it a stretch to mention it in the context of the discussion on image.


Anyone who can see and acknowledge this current upsurge should not rule out the real probability of change in the therapist’s counsel involving gender image. It would not be a leap to include the encouragement of those whom they counsel and encourage along with their embrace of gender change as well as to encourage suicide as just another choice option. It is not a stretch especially when one ponders the previously mentioned sex education and prayer.


no hope, no love


Here is the inconsistency, falsehood and hypocrisy behind the purported counselors' message of love for those who struggle with their gender image and those who struggle with suicide, namely, that there is no hope to cope. Suicide is as readily available and easy to embrace as to alter one’s image.


Thus far, thanks be to God and his grace, the option of suicide, particularly of our youth, has not yet come to be prescribed in the same manner as image change. What has love, as Tina Turner fired off, got to do with it? The bottom line is that the deceptive message of the counselors is devoid of love because there is no hope and in the absence of hope whatever option, whether suicide or gender change, are equally suitable and acceptable alternative responses to life’s struggles. Jesus said,


The thief comes only  to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.


Today, men, women, boys and girls and children as young as three and four years old are ushered and rushed along in their expressed desire for a new gender image by schools, churches, friends and family. This is what they can expect the moment they declare they have always felt or have recently come to realize they are at heart a gender other than that into which they were born. Too often in these instances even the therapeutic counseling is waived as unnecessary. It is akin to what is too often heard in crime investigations by the police. The instant the police receive a confession, never mind the tactics by which that confession is often obtained from the suspect, any further investigation is deemed unnecessary and is abandoned. How many times has the public learned afterwards about how the police ignored and refused an further investigation of the crime as unnecessary because they had a confession. It is the same as that moment when an individual, regardless of age, states he wants to be a she or she wants to be a he.


It used to be when a child was asked what did he or she wanted to be their answer might have been a profession or vocation perhaps similar to that of their parents. Even then, as those children grew up and earned their livelihood in those professions it was something which they did, not something which they had become. (More on this later*.) Their performance in their respective fields was only a partial picture of the overall meaning and fulfillment of their lives.


Genesis: in the beginning there was . . . image


Regardless whether or not one believes or accepts the scriptures in Genesis 1 and 2 there is a significant point of reference to examine on the subject of image. It is significant because it involves the beginning of life, or image at the time of birth. Whatever one might think or decide to do to change their image the fact stands that they were born with a particular image.


Notice that this image as it is mentioned in the scriptures has nothing to do with the masculine or feminine gender.


the image of male and female


The first reference in the account of creation in the scriptures about any attribute of man is significant. It ought at least be a matter of curiosity for the nonbeliever. There is a prior introduction of the male and female in chapter one with the flesh and bone reference spoken by Adam when his eyes first saw Eve. Yet, it is the testimony of God when the scripture declares that God,


created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him;male and female He created them

which speaks even to our present times.


Specifically, and despite the modern presumption and primary obsession of image as involves the outward physical appearance, this is not what is implied by the passage. Any inference drawn from the passage which involves a physical aspect cannot be reconciled or harmonized with the passage because whatever that image of God which man shares with God, the differences in male and female anatomy such as some of the more overt breasts and genitalia make it evident that the image of which God spoke is not primarily a physical one.


homosexuality and gender image: different and alike


In this respect image as it involves gender is similar to homosexuality in that it too is a matter-of-fact contradiction of one’s own birth; a birth, regardless of one’s beliefs, which is as undeniable as one’s gender at the time of birth. One, whether male or female, was neither conceived nor born as the result of the sexual union of male and male anymore than one was conceived or born as the result of the female and female sexual union.


Despite the claims of joy of coming out into public openness, as homosexuals once were given to saying when they declared their sexual preference, likes, choice, etc., the honesty and love are quite arguably questionable. How you might ask? It is because of the unwillingness or inability to express the convictions of their decision which cannot be coherently or comprehensively conveyed through teaching. The only resort of any attempt to explain and teach one’s decision or life-choice is existentialism. The homosexual experience is only similar to that of the existentialist; it is not existential because like the existentialist's experience it is limited to the one time experience and cannot be expressed nor repeated. It is different in that the sexual acts which typify homosexuality are repeatable and though there is some semblance of explanation it is of no significance or consequence because it is rooted in the carnal, sexual pleasures of homosexuality and is limited to self experience and a significant other who is equally unable to express coherently an experience of carnal satisfaction. In other words, anyone who wants to understand it must experience it. Explanation and teaching outside of that relationship to anyone else is as inept as it is unnecessary. More bluntly and as is heard; it's nobody's business.

the new birth

The new birth of faith in Jesus is unlike that experience. It can be coherently explained. The decision which resulted in the transformation of one's life is one which is displayed day after day. It is not a obscure mystery which cannot be understood. It is not, unlike the claim of LGBT advocates, something which the believer could not help and just allow to happen because they were just born that way. It is a transformation which began with the realization and acceptance of that believer's own sin and the decision to put their faith and trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior.


the purpose of image


It is a popular practice for people to post online images to represent themselves which are not necessarily true; a photo of a female or an adult does not necessarily follow that the person is female or an adult. Whether for security reasons or humorous reasons some people disguise their gender or location. (Trolls are not in discussion here.) Of course, this online altering of one’s online virtual image did not begin with the world wide web. It is not limited to the internet. People have been encouraged to alter or change their actual image so as to obscure their identity through behavior, particularly if they feel threatened or they do not feel happy with themselves. It is only until recently that the practice of altering one’s physical image has been embraced by some people as a solution to struggles with which they are not able to cope.

Does image serve a purpose other than a mere visible appearance? While an image is a representation and not the actual thing or the person it represents it’s use is intended to be true. It is not intended to deceive or mislead. One of the purposes of image, such as a photograph, is to widen the awareness of the actual person beyond the limited capabilities of the person because they can only be at one place at a time.


Generally, images are imprinted on money currencies. These images serve to remind the citizens of that nation and inform others who reside or travel in that country of those things which the people of that country cherish and value as part of their origins and history. Some of those images are pronouncements of faith and unity. Some images may have vague or obscure origins and meanings such as a fish with Greek letter characters, (ichthus, from the Greek ikhthýs (ἰχθύς, "fish" [fyi: Each one of five Greek letters form a Christian theological acrostic message: ησοῦς (Jesus) Χριστός, (Christ) Θεοῦ (of God) Υἱός, (son) Σωτήρ (savior)]) but often there are prominent images which are as undeniable as they are readily identifiable, for example, the images of George Washington or Benjamin Franklin.


People sometimes carry with them or keep photographs and other images in their home. Those images may be of themselves, such as in a driver licence, or photographs and paintings of family and friends. The purpose of images is that they be discernible even by strangers who have no knowledge of the people in those images even when the original which is represented by the image has become lost and forgotten.


the consequences of a lost image


The Genesis Bible account concerning Cain, who murdered his brother Abel, reveals the antiquity behind the current trend to embrace the alteration of one’s image. Here is a very brief account concerning the fading and fast eroding image of Cain in what is the first private one-on-one therapeutic counseling session between God and Cain. The erosion of Cain’s image probably began even before Cain became upset because God had accepted Abel’s sacrifice but God had rejected Cain’s sacrifice. The displeasure was evident in his face. God counseled Cain on the matter which was troubling Cain. The record does not reflect anything spoken by Cain. This was God’s counsel for Cain:


If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.


Clearly, God’s counseling was not accepted by Cain. Yes, the counseling session, from a human standpoint, was a failure. Subsequently, Cain rose up and murdered his brother Abel when they were out in the field. What followed immediately afterwards was that the reticent Cain was confronted by God. Cain’s reticence gave way momentarily to a flash of denial, anger and sarcasm in response to God’s question, Where is your brother?


I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?


Here, then, is Cain’s reaction to God’s punishment of Cain:


Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is too great to bear! 14"Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me."


Here is God’s response to Cain’s outcry:


But the LORD said to him, "Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over." Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.


How does the account of Cain pertain or relate to the importance of image and the alteration of image? How did Cain get to the point where he lost his own image?


First, notice the distortion, despair and fear. God did not drive Cain away anywhere. Second, there is a two-fold anxiety which gripped Cain. a) He was sure that God’s face would be hidden from Cain (a mistaken notion of Cain’s own imagination) and not that Cain would hide, but that b) Cain would not be able to see God. 3) He feared being killed. Nothing of what Cain imagined and expected in the aftermath of the murder of his brother Abel is anything unknown or different than what people imagine or experience for themselves today. Cain's image of himself was a reflection of what he 1) never understood, 2) understood but forgot, or 3) understood, remembered, but rejected. What was it that Cain rejected?


conclusion: love


The Jeopardy game clue; The image of male and female. Answer: Who is God? What then is the image of God in which he created the male and female? What was the image which Adam, Eve, Abel and Cain shared? It is most certainly not a physical characteristic. It is what Adam and Eve, the male and female shared with each other and which was what made them in the image of God. It is love. Clearly, this love was so faded and eroded in Cain's heart that he was able to bring himself and allow himself to murder his brother Abel.


Love is the image of God in which God created the male and the female.


Certainly, there are various other attributes which define or which enable one to understand and know God, but love is foremost. Although love is not mentioned and does not appear in the Genesis creation passage it was the love of God by which God was able to punish Adam and Eve as well as Cain later not with ruthlessness nor mercilessness. The entirety of the revelation of the will of God as is presented in the scriptures is the love of God towards man, namely, to redeem or to free man from the bondage of sin and all manner of deception by which mankind and his image which mankind shares in common with God has been marred and damaged.


The first appearance of the word love in the scriptures in Genesis 22 is as likely to be warped, distorted and misunderstood as the love which it portends in John 3:16. What Jesus fulfilled when he came into the world goes back to what I mentioned earlier* in the section entitled, no hope, no love. Here is how the apostle Paul stated it in II Corinthians 5:21.


He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf,so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.


When a disciple of Jesus looks into the mirror he/she may look no more like righteousness than Jesus looked like sin, but that is what he/she has become because of what Jesus was made. Clearly, this is the radical transformation, re-invigoration of image lost, not a physical image, but the image of love which is God (I John 4:16) and which male and female share with him. It is an image easily overlooked and even dismissed when our focus is upon ourselves in our outward physical bodies and not on Jesus and the love of God. This is why Jesus made it clear that if your love and concern is more about one's love of parents, brothers and sisters and even one's own life than you can not be his disciple.

Be of good cheer. Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in Jesus.