Thursday, September 27, 2007

Does God Save Sinners?

I was up late last night.

I was up early this morning.

I didn't need to be, but I was.

Why? Because of some nagging and disturbing thoughts. I mean, I just read an article that had damned me to hell. I was damned by some really holy people. These people have a ministry centered around joy and freedom in their holiness before God (scroll down to "The Christian Walk"). They believe that holiness is the "norm" of the Christian life. Because that is not exactly the case for me, I'm not a "true" believer, and am therefore still in need of salvation.

That all pretty well lines up with Scripture, especially if you're looking for that. But to tell me I'm not really a Christian? That I'm still damned if I don't become one? That I am outside the grace of God until I "turn or burn"? ...Holy crap! (oh, I guess I just showed my damned state there too) That's enough to keep anyone with any sense of moral responsibility and a desire for Christ-likeness up.

Now, I wasn't up because I was questioning my salvation. "I know whom I have believed" [2 Timothy 1:12] and that "he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion" [Philippians 1:6]. I was up because something was very, very wrong with the statements of these very, very holy people.

Besides the nuisance of them disregarding everything I say as null simply because I am not of the mind of God, there is a deeper issue. The issue is with a fundamental question of Salvation: Does God save sinners?

If you followed the link above, you would see that they clearly do believe this. So why do I ask this question? Because they have made their answer beg another question: Does God save sinners so they no longer sin and no longer need saving, or does He "merely" save sinners?

I believe that God "merely" saves sinners. I also believe that the fruit of following Christ will be a more righteous life, but I am fairly confident that I will remain a sinner until the day that I die. If this is not the case, awesome; but, I'm not holding my breath or questioning God's redeeming work in my life.

From what I can tell of others (NGJ, my sister, and, it seems, Mormons) tend to hold to the other idea: You get saved and then you are on your own. Now would anyone actually claim this as true? I doubt it. But the fact remains: They are willing to tell me (in writing) that after being saved, I'd better be holy or I'm obviously still under the damning wrath of God. Hmm... but maybe that's not what they are saying at all. Perhaps I'm getting in the way and twisting what they would actually claim.

It could be that they would merely say that I have not "fully matured" in my walk with God. Perhaps they just think I'm stuck in the basics and haven't moved on to the life God has offered me. Maybe they wouldn't say I'm headed to Hell, exactly, more that I'm not exactly headed to Heaven either. Even so, the question remains: Does God save sinners?


I just read a follow-up e-mail from my sister who assured me that her husband has found that he is dead to sin (porn, in particular, as that was what sparked this whole thing). That's awesome. I encourage everyone to break free from sin. I would welcome the state of "dead to sin", and even mentally ascent to it's reality. How that becomes reality for me, I'm unsure. My sister says that I need to listen to this series by Michael Pearl, so I'll see what I can do about that. Believe me, if it changes my life, I'll let you know.

For now, tonight, as I head off to bed, I must admit that I am still a sinner. I am still in desperate need of God's grace and salvation. And that is why I am so thankful that He saves sinners.

What would a life "dead to sin" be like, look like? I guess I'm not close enough to my sister to know. ...I admit it: That was mean. But I'll leave it there for now for two reasons: 1. I said it in part because I believe that a "true" Christian life would be Christ-like and therefore draw sinners to find what He is all about, and 2. It could be my fault (and so a reflection on my state not hers), in that if I am still too worldly I don't see the things of God... but that doesn't jive well with point 1. ...Bother, I am confused. And so, confused, hurt, and very aware of my own short-comings, I throw myself on the grace of God and bid you all "adieu" (quite literally: into the hands of God).

~Luke Holzmann

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

No Greater Harm

Edit: It has come to my attention that Michael (not Debi) wrote this article. The original letter was address to Debi, and I mistakenly assumed. My apologies. Please make note of this error as you read my post. However, since they are "one" there is much difference between the two.

My sister sent me an article. She said that she and her husband "really like" it and thought it would be a good resource for the book I'm writing. I really like it when people send me material to consider. It pushes me to think and re-evaluate my ideas. However, the ideas presented in this article are on par with the statements I felt the need to rebut in my "Flirting with Sexual Jerks" post, and so I feel the need to respond.

This article comes from a "ministry" named "No Greater Joy". My wife has read another of Debi's works and really liked it. So, I guess this goes to show that one must be very careful when representing Christ because, obviously, we all get it wrong from time to time. That being said, I pray that I will share "the mind of Christ" [1 Corinthians 2:16] and not spread more harm.

Please feel free to read the entire article before wading into my tirade.

Good. Moving on.

I will overlook the issues with the original note for now. The biggest problem I have with it is that the husband is not (according to him) looking at porn. So, why does everyone treat him as if he is? Oh sure, his TV use seems high, but the reason he's sleeping in his shop is probably because he isn't "getting any" (her words: "join myself to him") so why in the world would he want to sleep in the same bed? In short, she is not helping the situation; in fact, she is perpetuating the problem and driving her husband to porn.


Well, the basic problem of pornography is not sex, or sex drive, or anything like that. Rather, it is linked to your relationships. If your relationship with your wife is cruddy, then why would you go to her for sex or anything at all for that matter? You wouldn't. And if she is demonizing you as a "porno-freak" and "pervert" then there is no way you'd go near her. I'm reminded of the passage: "God's kindness leads you toward repentance" [Romans 2:4]. Grace and mercy are much more effective at brining people to Christ, probably because that is what He was all about.

Debi talks about "husbands [who] are secretly following porn queens". Sure, there are certain girls (Camilla Belle is my current obsession) whom I "follow", but "porn queens"? I don't think my issues with porn are that different from other Christian guys. I know that many guys who have abandoned themselves to porn may latch on to certain "porn queens"... but, that doesn't fit with my experience. I don't like porn queens. I'm not interested in porn queens. I never have been. There is one "babe" whom I think is beautiful, but that's about as far as that goes (that being the header of my book's blog).

"At one large meeting of several thousand 'Christian' men, over 50% of those present confessed to having 'used pornography' in the previous seven days." The fact that she puts "Christian" in quotes shows her damnation of these men. I am sick of people who claim that because you sin you are not saved. That kind of thinking runs counter to the Good News (and it really is good news) that we are sinners saved by Grace alone. Do we then have license to do whatever we want? Of course not, but that doesn't change that fact that at its heart Christianity is about sinners. Romans 6 talks a lot about no longer being slaves to sin, but by becoming "slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." When we turn our lives over to God holiness is the result, not the aim. We get there by a proper understanding of God's love for us, and this process is life-long.

"If you isolate yourself in a room and indulge in pornography, you are not sick; you are evil." As I know, and I throw myself on God's grace. ...I'm sure that if you took a moment to consider your life, motives, and thoughts, you'd come to the same conclusion.

"You are part of a disgusting group of perverts, all piled onto the same image together. And somewhere there is a sexually dysfunctional editor enjoying the extent of his erotic powers." Now I like what Jason said once: How is liking girls perverted? Beyond this, from what I know of porn producers (granted, I only know one) they are doing what they can do make a buck, not reveling in their "erotic powers".

"You are not oversexed. You are not even sexed. You are alone." And here Debi gets as close as she is going to in the article to the truth about pornography: It's not about sex. Unfortunately, she disregards the fact she just pointed out and says that pornography is about sex. It's not about sex. It's about a lack in relationships. It's about being/feeling alone.

"Adam fell, but you are falling even further. You are plunging your soul into eternal destruction, moving as far away from God as you can get." This statement is ludicrous. How does she even begin to rationalize depths of "falleness"? It's about as binary as you can get. In fact, we start out damned and then have the option of being saved by God's grace... there isn't any plunging involved at all. Dead in sin, or alive in Christ [Romans 8]. Odd; why does this article make me feel like I have to go back to the "Roman Road to Salvation"? I see that my Blog Title is well chosen: There isn't much greater harm than messing up the Gospel.

"You justify your addiction"... no I don't. Porn is a problem. It's bad, destructive and not good. But how about offering a solution and talking about what's really going on instead of just liberally handing out "Get Into Hell Free" cards?

"You are having communion with the devil – bowing in worship of the flesh. You are a disciple of evil." Ouch. I wouldn't go that far, unless you want to apply that brand to every sin... which you don't, or you would have said something like: "You also are a disciple of evil who desperately needs God's grace too." Hmm... let me say that: Debi (and my sister, and you who are reading this): You also are a disciple of evil who desperately needs God's grace too.

"You have taken the downhill slide into Hell, and there is absolutely nothing to stop you except your willingness to apply the brakes." Again: Lunacy. Sin is always an issue of will, and we need God's grace and power to intervene. My desire to be good does nothing for me. C.S. Lewis in "The Screwtape Letters" demonstrated this well. Do we have a part to play? Absolutely. Repentance is an act we do. But to get off the path to Hell requires God's intervention. As with most things on this subject, Debi resorts to sensationalistic verbiage to try to make her statements more meaningful.

"There comes a point when any attempt at a normal relationship is nothing more than assisted masturbation. Your world grows ever smaller until you are alone with your semen. You stink of self. You do not deserve a woman." This is very true, but why? Because pornography is at heart about relationships, not sex. So, relationships are damaged by porn, and porn is reinforced by bad relationships. As for "deserving" of a companion... who would dare to say they "deserve" a spouse? If you dare, you have serious pride issues and a completely unrealistic view of self. The only way we "deserve" anything is as adopted children of God, which would make Him get the glory, not you.

"Don’t tell me that pornography is a substitute for a good woman." I wouldn't dream of it. Pornography is not about substituting sex, it's about substituting relationships in the "male" way. Read Dr. Sax's "Why Gender Matters". And then consider the actions taken in the letter that spawned the article. Again, telling your husband you won't have sex with him because he looks at porn will just push him toward pornography (thankfully, Debi does not condone this). If you refuse to have a relationship with him, he will gladly find that relationship somewhere else.

"[T]he drive for pornography is a cultivated, perverted passion that has nothing to do with love and marriage." I agree it has nothing to do with love and marriage, but it wasn't something that I cultivated. It is a twisting of perfection via my fallen human state, but "perverted passion"? If by "perverted" you mean "not ideal"... okay, but "perverted" has many negative connotations that I think are merely here for sensationalism (the line "If sodomy is sin, pornography is its 'significant other' " would indicate that I'm right).

"The children of godly parents are protected from unclean spirits by being under their moral umbrella. But when a father gives his mind over to wicked lusts, he removes the hedge of protection around his family and invites impure devils into his home. ...Any prayers you pray for their safety are negated the moment you open the pages of a pornographic book or glare at an electronic image." ...I agree that there are spiritual strongholds and physical locations of demonic activity. I even agree that engaging in certain sins opens the door evil spirits. However, the protection we have is from God, not our "moral umbrella". Where is Christ's Blood in this woman's writing? The lack of Christ indicates to me that she has lost sight of salvation and is now resting on "personal holiness"... may I never get there: Son of David have mercy on me and my family!

"If you think you can indulge in pornography and still be a Christian, you are blindly hoping against the clear statements of Scripture. ...You are dangling your soul and the souls of your children over the fires of eternal damnation." While it is true that sin is what we need saving from through Christ's Blood, I would challenge everyone to read Galatians 5:22-26: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." I fear that there is much conceit and a significant lack of "fruit" from the article. And so I would suggest that we all "continue to work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling" [Philippians 2:12].

"I have not been as hard on you as God will be in the day of judgment." That is up to God and my relationship with Christ. It has little to do with my sin, and nothing to do with you. But here, for the first time, Debi begins to talk sense. She starts to mention turning our lives over to Christ. That's good.

"I have done you a service by increasing your guilt... The good news is that Jesus Christ ...died the death you should die. If you repent toward God, God will remove the guilt and free you from sin’s power." I think guilt is entirely Satanic, which is why God removes it. So, I think it is sinful to go about "increasing" the guilt of others. And, while the rest of what Debi says is true, it ultimately lacks the point: "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" [Romans 5:8. She also does not delve into the much more important detail of how God frees us from sin's power, what it means to be a "new creation", and how we walk blamelessly. She just assumes that you automatically do so. This is not at all the case, and, since I buy into Inaugurated Eschatology, it won't be fully here on earth.

"Your children, your wife, and your God are waiting." If God is waiting, you're toast. God isn't waiting; He's very much active. He didn't just send Christ to die and now is sitting back waiting to see who responds.

"How do you joyfully participate in your nuptial duties when you know that you are simply a receptacle for the eroticism stirred up by his vice? I have to admit that it stretches the limits of my faith to tell you that your duty remains the same." I find that sad. If Debi understood pornography (it's not rooted in sex), then she would tell wives to seek ever closer relationships with their husbands, not merely keep doing their "duty".

"You can wrestle with it for years and never get any relief, but once you learn your lessons in faith and trust, God can work the miracle of deliverance." I believe this is also true for those who struggle with pornography.

"God can and will work to defend you and the children if you will truly commit it all to him and perform your duties cheerfully." I don't know how Debi feels she can say this. This is clearly not true, and the "hope" she can offer women who are not defended by God is that they were not "truly" committed to Him.

"[Tell your kids that] you are grieved that [your husband] is going to hell for the lack of Christ in his life." Well, she damned me. Impressive. If my salvation is bound to my holiness, I'm damned. If my salvation rests in Christ then I have hope. I prefer to live with hope. I am still curious about what Debi has to say about her own sin....

"Cantankerous wives can provoke their husbands to all kinds of anger and bitterness" and porn use. "But let me be clear, a lousy wife – a lousy sex partner – is not responsible for a husband turning to pornography." Responsible? No, we are responsible for our sin. But that does not change the fact that a bad relationship fuels porn.

"Finally, there is hope. Put it in God’s hands and wait patiently. Others have seen the victory. You can too." Finally. Wish she had painted a picture for how guys can do this with the damning sin--heh, all sin is damning [Romans 6:23]--of pornography.

Do I have the answer to porn? No, but I'm working on it. And a posture toward God, even mired in sin, is something that Debi never considered. Let me assure you: God can make the foulest clean.

May He turn His face toward you.

~Luke Holzmann

Sunday, September 23, 2007

What Makes Boys Cry?

aka: Love, "Love", and Love Acts

I watch a lot of movies. Currently, I get through at least five a week, often more. I also watch just about anything, so I've seen some pretty odd, lame, terrible, disgusting, and disturbing flicks.

But I just watched "Boys Don't Cry" which reminded me a lot of "Monster", both of which I would not recommend. I first heard about "Boys Don't Cry" on the radio way back in 1999 when it came out. It dropped off the radar for me until I heard about it again while I was watching "This Film is Not Yet Rated". So I checked it out.

It's a story about courage, or love, or hate, or something; possibly all three. A girl passing as a guy who loves girls, finds a true love and gets knocked off for it. Similar to "Monster" in that there's true girl-on-girl love that ultimately ends in death. The fact that there is much more going on--theft, murder, jail time, other loves, lots of drinking, drugs, and many other things that scream "white trash"--is really not the point of these movies. These films are about finding yourself, love, and a way to live (or die) for who you are. ...I guess. It's "Brokeback Mountain" with a little more meaning.

Maybe it's the fact that "Monster" and "Boy's Don't Cry" are based on reality. Maybe it's because of the chapter on homosexuality in "Why Gender Matters". Maybe it's because I've known quite a few homosexuals myself. Maybe it's just because I'm odd. But whatever the reason, I feel like I need to respond to these movies and entertain the questions they raise in my mind.

As the song asks, "What is love?" Oh sure, we all know it's far more than a feeling. We may even understand that it is a verb. But what does that mean? How does one love someone who has determined (for whatever horrible reasons) to be unlovable?

"But wait a minute, Luke," someone may counter, "these girls found love with a very special female soul-mate." I guess I have to at least nod in that direction. But the love they found... it doesn't feel like love. Sure, it was love making. It seems like it felt very meaningful. And even Dr. Sax in "Why Gender Matters" points out that intimacy is very different for girls and boys, which further blurs this line and definition of love. But still, it feels like escapism. The only way these girls could function in the world was to (ideally) run off with their lover girl and be happy. Mean ol' Society (or Fate, or whatever) stepped in and decimated their hopes, dreams, and futures. So what should we have done instead?

We know that we should not have murdered "Brandon". We know these girls were just seeking love. We know that the "love acts" they did with girls made them feel like a million bucks. But what acts of love should I have done if I had been there? If we don't want these kinds of terrible events to repeat themselves, then give me a suggest for what I can do to help.

What bothers me most about these stories is that no one, especially the filmmakers, has a suggestion for what we should do. There's a sense of rage, frustration, and a demand for the "truth" of these stories, but absolutely no action, no hope, no redemption.

What makes this boy cry is that I don't have a suggestion either. If people go down these devastating paths, for whatever the reason, there is nothing I can do. That is so not my world, my experience, my reality that I can't fathom what I'd suggest or say to them if they came to me. Worse still, because I am not in their world, there is no way they would come to me.

This isn't about environment, per se, but it is about the life we choose and the hope we have. Again, someone might suggest that these girls did not have a lot of choices in life, and that may be true. But at least 50% of the blame rests on their shoulders: The refused to seek help (or accept help, like in the scene in "Monster" where the guy offers her a ride, money, and anything else she needs; she responds by putting a bullet in his head). The other 50% of the blame clearly rests on our shoulders because we are not visible enough as an obvious place of rest. We have not been helpful enough.

And that's what's so totally mind-blowing about Christ: People knew He was the guy to go to. How did He do it? I pray that one day my pursuit of Christ-likeness will lead me to the answer. Until then, if you have any ideas, let me know.

~Luke Holzmann

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Faggots, Thongs, and Britches

I was reading "Saint Frances of Assisi" by Chesterton and he said something about being the "fag-end of the faggot" and it got me thinking. Nothing concrete, see, but just a whirring in my mind. This man spells the phenomenon of the perception of a specific spectrum of light "colour", so we should take what he writes with a hand on the dictionary. There are other words, like faggot, that have been, well, shifted over the years. "Thong" used to mean "sandal" and now means "a clothless panty". "Gay" used to mean "happy" and now means "lame", which used to mean "crippled" and now means "less than ideal" which is my current working definition of "sucks". "Sucks" used to be a verb for the force used to draw a fluid along a pipe. This shifted to a specific fluid down a pipe-like fixture. Now it's a general word, much like every other four letter word out there, which means just about whatever you want it to mean. And this brings me, in my "free association" mind scramble, to a discussion of Meaning and Language. More specifically: How are Language and Meaning connected?

Those who ascribe to the "Muted Group Theory" of communication--which states that because English was developed by white males it has consistently oppressed the minorities and women, and which is the only theory I remember from my college class on the subject of theories of communication because it was so totally bunk--would likely say that Meaning is defined by Language and it must have taken a radical visionary to give voice to the homosexual community by giving them a less "socially-stigmatized" word by which to define themselves, which has inevitably lead us to today's inane definition of "gay".

Others would say that Language is merely a mode of transmitting Meaning, and Meaning can be had even if the words are garbled, like a scene where a character spouts out "Why that f-ing f-er f-ed my f-ed-up f-ing f-, so now I'm f-ing going to f- him up". Surprisingly, this makes sense.

Perhaps this ultimately goes back to audience. Depending on when and where you are in the world, a faggot is either a stick or on par with a racial slur. And while this is very important to us as communicators, it is equally essential when we are listeners. We must be careful to filter everything we read and hear through the context from which the speaker is speaking. Otherwise the Bible is unclear, the Constitution meaningless, and our laws inert.

So what do we mean by a "cubit"? What are "britches"? And how would we know if we were the very "fag-end of the faggot"?

Often, we must look to the past to understand it. Looking back with "20/20 Hindsight" often gives us the wrong impression because our world is not their world, our words not theirs, and we have a tendency to be rather stuck-up about our perception. Likely, to find more meaning and truth we need more humility.

Humility does not say that we are wrong, but it allows for the possibility. Humility lets us be assertive and certain while at the same time cautious and correctable. We can learn if we are humble, and we have much to learn from the past. It may be a good idea to not only read Chesterton, but also "The Dictionary of Disagreeable English" to lay a fun, albeit "la-di-da" (what?), foundation to our understanding of the world we now experience from the lessons of the past.

So, please, keep your britches on and your eyes open because whether your thongs are worn on your feet or between your butt-cheeks, we could all use more humility so as not to end our lives with an epitaph that states: Here lies the fag end of the faggot, may he burn forever.

~Luke Holzmann