Wednesday, August 31, 2005

On Feminine Modesty and Masculine Lust

A rather delicate issue here, I think, and not least because I have as much a problem with lust as the next guy. I once read somewhere the following quote, paraphrased due to inadequate memory on my part: "I've read that the average guy thinks about sex every 30 seconds. When I read that, I thought what a preposterous figure. I can go for a whole two minutes without thinking about sex." It is especially distasteful for a man to tell a woman that she is dressing immodestly. At least, it's distasteful to the woman. Why is that?

Well, in the spirit of Einstein, let me conduct a thought experiment. Let us suppose a woman named Cheryl (I have no particular woman in mind here, and the name, though common, is fictitious in this case) attends church, and to use Douglas Wilson's phrase, is almost wearing clothes. Now suppose Frank (along with every other guy at church, I might add!) notices that Cheryl is barely dressed. So after church, he buttonholes her in some corner of the building (if she even has buttonholes...) and tries to tell her she is immodestly dressed. What will her reaction be? Naturally, she would be shocked that Frank would be even thinking about the way she was dressed! Her reaction is extreme anger; perhaps she is frightened because she thinks Frank is stalking her; the furthest thing from her mind is that perhaps her clothes really were immodest. The world has conditioned her to think these things. Apparently, Frank is supposed to resist the temptation to lust even if a parade of naked women were to pass him by. The notion that she is doing something wrong would never occur to her.

Now, let me make one thing clear. Frank is supposed to resist the temptation to lust even if a parade of naked women were to pass him by. The Bible is unequivocal on this point. (Perhaps this is one reason Cheryl is angered, and justly so. But my whole point in writing this little piece is to try to communicate a way for you ladies to help your brothers in Christ in this matter.) However, I have my doubts about his abilities to do so. While Frank's lust is certainly a sin, and therefore certainly not attributable to God, it is equally certain that God gave Frank his desires. The desires themselves are not sin, it is how Frank handles them that can be a sin, or not. In my experience, the temptation to lust is one of the most difficult for men to conquer, even with God's help. Nevertheless, God has promised that no man, including Frank, is ever tempted beyond what he can bear. If Frank truly rests in Christ, he can conquer his lust. And he can have forgiveness for past offenses. Certainly, his lust is not her sin.

BUT: this is the typical red herring that Cheryl will throw at Frank after Frank confronts her. I call it a red herring, because Frank's lust really does not have that much to do with what Frank just told Cheryl. In fact, we could even suppose for the sake of argument that Frank, with the help of the Holy Spirit, has resisted the temptation to lust (this is not unheard of, despite what some may think). In that case, Frank's lust is truly irrelevant, because it is nonexistent. Frank is telling Cheryl about her problem. And he is telling her that her problem is her dressing immodestly. Is this a problem? Well, what saith the Scriptures?

Matthew 18:5-7 says, in the ESV, "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!"

This passage says that whoever causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better for them if they had never been born. I believe that in the context of this passage, which states that all believers must humble themselves like "this little child", it is perfectly acceptable to extend this verse to include anyone who causes any believer to sin. So if you cause any believer to sin, it would be better if you drowned. Woe to you!

The next question is this: is dressing immodestly a temptation to sin? Pardon me for asking it. If you ask this question, and you really don't know the answer, you are, with all due respect, a woman. No man would answer this question in any other way than to say, "Yes!"

The final question is this: if Jesus pronounced a woe on the person who "provided" the temptation, is it safe to say that this person sinned in providing the temptation? In a courtroom, the lawyers would object to this question: asked and answered. It is a sin to provide a temptation to sin.

The logic here is inescapable. Dressing immodestly is a temptation to sin. Jesus has pronounced a woe on those who tempt. Therefore, tempting is a sin. Therefore, since Christians are saved by grace from their sins and to good works, it follows that no Christian should tempt another to sin. Therefore, ladies should dress modestly.

Ah, but you ladies are going to object, saying that you didn't know that the way you dressed was provocative. Excuse me for being blunt, but you lie. I used to think that for women who dressed provocatively, there were only two possibilities: either they didn't know what their clothes did to guys, or they did know and that was the intended effect. I no longer think these are the two possibilities. I have ruled out the first. I believe, deep down, that every woman knows what her clothing does to guys. In any case, ignorance of the law is no excuse. It never has been since the creation of the world. Why? Because God has given every human being a conscience, such that there really is no ignorance.

You have no excuse whatsoever. You must dress modestly. You may be thinking to yourself that actually, you do dress modestly. Are you sure? If you dress according to the world's fashions, then assuredly you do not dress modestly. What is modest? I have thought up a rule, which I think good. Please note, and this is very important: this is an extra-biblical rule. It is a man-made rule, and as such is not absolute. The last thing I want is a bunch of Pharisaical women running around, slavishly obeying my rule, and condemning others for not obeying it. I have seen modest outfits that don't strictly follow this rule (though not many!). But I can safely say that I have never seen an immodest outfit that followed this rule. That said, here's the rule: neck to knees, and not too tight. That's it: neck to knees and not too tight. By that I mean that everything is covered such that you can't see it, front and back, from your neck to your knees, and none of said covering is tight. I did not say it had to be baggy, but it just can't be tight. Something else I should mention, is that you may dress this way, and think you are modest, but in certain bodily positions, this rule is suspended. You can probably imagine what I mean here. In that case, you haven't followed the rule.

I think that if you obey this rule, you will do well. You will be following the Bible's command not to make your brothers stumble in this way. In addition, I would add that if a brother comes up to you and has the courage to tell you he thinks you are dressing immodestly, do not be uptight and offended. That can only damage relationships. Believe me, I know! Instead, take it gratefully, for the kisses of an enemy are deceitful, but faithful are the wounds of a friend. No guy in his senses would tell you such a thing unless he believed it.

Suppose you have dressed immodestly in the past, and my dismal epistle here is enough to convict you of that fact. What now? Can you change? Can you be forgiven? Of course. It's all in the grace of God. You need God's grace to be forgiven for tempting the brothers in the past, and you need God's grace to change your dress to be modest. And, I might add, you need ingenuity in avoiding worldly fashions! Pray that God will give you what you require. Our God will abundantly pardon, so throw yourself on Him and rest on Him alone for all your needs.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Christianity and the Martial Arts

I practice Tae Kwon Do, and being a Christian, I believe everything should be taken captive to Christ. So there's no area in my life that doesn't need to be submitted to the will of Christ. How does Tae Kwon Do fit into that? I believe it fits very well.

Every Tae Kwon Do class we say a creed. Creeds are important, because they tell you something about a group. My school's creed is as follows:

We shall discipline our minds and our bodies to develop our skills to their fullest potential. We shall use our skills only in self-defense and to protect our families and communities. Skills, wisdom, and goodness are our ultimate commitment.

The first sentence I can interpret as loving God with my mind and my body. At least, I can interpret it that way if the skills I'm learning are ones that the Bible approves. More on that later. The second sentence also seems as though it is compatible with Scriptural standards. Self-defense was clearly allowed in the Old Testament. See the section on cities of refuge. Actually, the concept of cities of refuge seems a bit extreme until you realize that people of that day took vengeance very seriously. Later on, God said that, "Vengeance is mine. I will repay." It's interesting to note that God seems to have allowed personal vengeance in certain cases, but certainly not in the case of self-defense. The third sentence, while it may have a pre-occupation with skills (already mentioned in the first sentence), also seems quite unobjectionable. So much for the creed.

Now let me wax lyrical on what you learn in Tae Kwon Do. You learn how to defend yourself, you learn technique, sparring, etc. What many people tend to think, not without reason, is that martial arts are all about Eastern mysticism. I would agree if you're talking about internal martial arts. You see, there are internal and external martial arts. Internal arts tend to have slower movements in the forms, they tend to be circular moves as well, and focus a great deal on meditation and relaxation. External arts focus on power in striking, they tend to have linear movements, and focus on the physical reasons for doing what they do. Examples of internal arts are Kung Fu, Shing-I, Aikido, Tai Chi, and many of the Chinese arts. Examples of external arts are Judo, Karate, Tae Kwon Do, and most of the Japanese and Korean arts. In my experience in Tae Kwon Do, it's all about physics. There is a bio-mechanical reason, usually quite ordinary once you hear it, for everything that we do. So unless you plan on throwing physics away as unbiblical, you can't throw out external martial arts. At least, this is the way most external arts are practiced. You should check with a school you're interested in and see how they teach.

Internal arts I would stay away from. They are dangerous to the Christian. The search for "chi", or energy, inside of you does not tend to have the Holy Spirit in mind. And what I know of the Holy Spirit does not track with the particular kind of meditation that the internal arts typically have you do. And so I say, beware the internal arts!

The external arts have many benefits, and so I would highly recommend them. Some of those benefits include physical fitness, humble confidence, self-defense, beauty (especially in the forms), meeting new people, and an appreciation of true excellence. Try it out!

Love in Christ,

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Philippians 4:8

Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

There are two things I should like to point out about this verse. The first is that the verse does not say, "Whatever you think is true, whatever you think is honorable, ..., whatever you think is lovely, ..., think about these things." So apparently, this verse assumes there are such things as truth, beauty, and goodness, whether anyone acknowledges it or not. Suppose there was no truth, no honor, no justice, no purity, no loveliness, nothing commendable, no excellence, nothing worthy of praise. Well darn. I guess this verse doesn't mean anything. And if we have assumed that the Bible means something, or even more, that it is the Word of God (which is what I believe), then this conclusion is nonsense. Therefore there are such things as truth, beauty, and goodness, independent of the observer.

In quantum mechanics, of which I like to say I know a little, there's a strange little idea which says if you measure a system, you change it. On the microscopic scale, that is true simply because if you want to "see" something, you have to bounce something else of roughly the same size off the something and observe where it goes. It's much like bouncing a ping-pong ball off a bowling ball in order to determine where the bowling ball is, or where it's going. That sounds like a strange way of measuring something, but that's all you can do at the microscopic level. Actually, that's all you do with normal things, only it's light that bounces off the object and enters your eye. All quantum mechanics says is that the light you see, which affects you, also affects the thing off of which it bounced.

But don't let quantum mechanics fool you into thinking that everything is relative, even beauty. Philippians 4:8 says otherwise. That verse says some things have beauty no matter who recognizes it, or even if no one recognizes it.

That's the first thing I wanted to point out about this verse. The second thing I wanted to point out is that the Greek word for "think" is logizesthe. For you people who know a little Greek, that's spelled: lambda, omicron, gamma, iota, zeta, epsilon, sigma, theta, epsilon. This word means to think deeply about. It does not mean to bleep on over. So you're having girlfriend or boyfriend problems. If you're serious about this person, you're going to logizesthe about the problems and try to solve them, not give it a moment or two. Similarly, if you're in a hurry, maybe in-between classes, or you're rushing to a meeting, and you have to grab lunch very quickly, you're not going to logizesthe about your lunch choice. You might give it a moment or two, if that. You're simply going to grab whatever's fast.

I point this out, because this verse would be meaningless if the things we're supposed to logizesthe about were not worth it. This verse does not indicate that we should logizesthe about our hurried lunch choice. There's nothing particularly noteworthy about such a lunch choice anyway. So now the truth comes out, and I must confess, I have had an agenda all along. I'm zooming in on the word "lovely" or "beautiful". Apparently, this verse tells us that if something is beautiful, we should logizesthe about it. So let's do that for a little bit.

Surely this verse is beautiful, so I have no problem applying this verse to itself.

What things are worth this logizesthe kind of thinking? I happen to be something of a musician, so let me apply this to music. And let me take two extremes: a single note versus the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth Piano Concerto (my absolute favorite piece of music). Our single note can surely be beautiful. It can be played well, and in tune, with good tone. But I have a sinking feeling that it will not stand up to logizesthe. I could give it a few minutes if I really stretched it. What about the Piano Concerto? If you are ever bored, then sometime try the following experiment. Listen to the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth Piano Concerto end-on-end for a whole day. I've had friends who have done this with other, similar pieces. What was the result? They liked it better at the end than at the beginning! A piece like the Piano Concerto is rather like Dr. Who's spaceship, bigger on the inside than the outside. You can keep opening up new worlds, one inside another. It seems to me that the Piano Concerto, then, will stand up to logizesthe, whereas our single note will not.

What is the difference? What makes one work of art the kind of beauty that stands up to logizesthe, and another work of art fail utterly at it? I believe the answer is complexity. In the middle ages (unjustly termed the Dark Ages), people tried to come up with theories of beauty and aesthetics. One theory, which I heard through Dr. R. C. Sproul, was that beauty consists of three aspects: form, harmony, and complexity. The first two are ones which, while I agree with them, I will spend no time on right now. But that complexity aspect is one people tend to get up in arms over. Simple is beautiful, so we say. But I just spent considerable effort trying to show you that simple will not stand up to logizesthe.

So what is this verse saying? Shall we never consider anything simple? What about ugly things? I believe this verse says we should spend a majority of our time on the beautiful things. And if, as I believe, the beautiful especially includes the complex, then we should spend more time on the complex than on the simple.

Ah, but you say that the complex is harder to understand, and requires more work. Sure. But I think it's worth it. This modern world is highly anti-intellectual. Americans don't want to think hard about anything. Why is that? I think that this is because of the theological liberalism that came over from Europe in the late 1800's and early 1900's. We had pastors who were not highly trained, so we sent them over to places like Germany. They came back educated, and also without their faith. The fundamentalists fought back the liberalism, but at the price of their own minds. They thought the solution to educated apostasy (apostasy is lack of faith) was uneducated faith. But the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. So when you go to church, you must emphatically not check your brains at the door. Don't be lazy. And don't be afraid of the great works like Beethoven's Fifth Piano Concerto. It will reward you according to what you put into it.

Love in Christ,
Adrian C. Keister

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The Meaning of Life

Some people find meaning in poetry, some in music, some in movies, some in money, some in relationships. Some people never open their eyes to see the world as it really is. Some refuse to believe that truth exists, and they can know it. Some people believe they can do everything on their own strength; they can bootstrap their way into anything. Such people will eventually despair, because there is no meaning in their life. They have declared it themselves, and they will create their own meaning. But it has all been done before, and there is nothing new under the sun.

Many of the descriptions above do not apply to me; if that were my own doing, I would have something to boast about, but it is not. My eyes are open a little bit, but I didn't open them. There is truth in this world, and I can know it; but it must be shown to me. I can do everything, but not on my strength. I may eventually despair, but I would have no logical reason for it.

I am a sinner saved by grace through faith. And this is not my own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that I may not boast.

I recently rewatched Spiderman 2, and the train scene struck me as an interesting metaphor. Suppose I was in the runaway train, and Spiderman stopped it from going over the edge. I certainly was not Spiderman, and I did not save the train from going over the edge. In fact, because of the extra momentum my body contributed, I was trying to make the train go over the edge. If now Spiderman saved the train, can I boast about it? If I was telling others about it, could I boast that I saved myself in that train? Not honestly. That is something about what faith is like. Even my decision to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior is a decision I could never have made on my own. God gave me the strength even to embrace Him. So there's no boasting. Only rejoicing that I am alive.

Even more so, there is no lording it over those who have not been saved. Again, my salvation is not my own doing, so what right have I to lord it over those who are not saved?

But this message I am writing is offensive. It's very un-American. The American way is to do-it-yourself. If you can't push your way through, it must not be worth doing. This gospel that God offers looks suspicious, because there's nothing you do. God gives you everything. You think to yourself, there must be a string attached. Somewhere in the fine print, there's a catch. Well, you're right and you're wrong. But being something of a logician, I'll hasten to add that you're not right and wrong about the same thing.

You're wrong in that there's no catch right away. God offers you salvation freely; there's really nothing you need do. The catch is later. If God has saved you, then you belong to Him, body and soul. You are not your own, you are bought with a price. Therefore you are not free to do whatever you want. You have a new master now. This, too, is un-American. Americans have flirted with individualism so much, they have made it an idol, and have therefore lost whatever value they even had in it to begin with. There is a hierarchy, and you are not at the top. You must submit to God; you must obey Him.

Jesus once said that, "If you love me, you will obey My commandments." This means that loving God implies obeying God. Obeying God means obeying His commandments. What is the greatest commandment? To love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your strength, and with all your soul. Therefore, we can say that if we obey God, we must be loving God.

Ha! In logic, if A implies B, and B implies A, then A and B are logically equivalent. They are pretty much the same thing. So loving God and obeying God are the same thing. Don't come to me and tell me you love God if you're not obeying Him. I never said that obeying God will make Him love you. He already does that, no thanks to you. Na, obeying God means you love God.

I dare you. I dare you to throw away your idols of drink, and sex, and ambition. I dare you to accept the free gift of God's grace. It's not an easy life, the Christian life. There will be trials and difficulties. But the rewards will be far greater than you can possibly imagine. You may think, like Han Solo in Episode IV, that, "I don't know. I can imagine quite a bit." Excuse me, but you can't imagine the rewards offered you, much like in C. S. Lewis's Weight of Glory when he states, "We are like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." You think you know what pleasure is? You think God is the great cosmic kill-joy? Think again. There are pleasures at God's right hand beyond the wildest imaginations of man.

Love in Christ,
Adrian C. Keister

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