Category Archives: Contemporary Issues

Do natural disasters signal the end of the world as we know it?

Natural disasters are not unique to our time. Terrible losses of life and destruction from many natural disasters and epidemics have occurred for millennia.[1] So no one can say for certain that such events mark the end of this “present age.”[2]

Jesus’ disciples once asked Him what would “signal” His return and the end of the world as we know it.[3] In his reply, Jesus cautioned them not to assume that natural catastrophes such as famines or earthquakes or even man-made cataclysms such as wars meant the end of the age was just around the corner. Instead, He told His followers to view such catastrophic events as “the first of the birth pains, with more to come.”[4]

Jesus’ caution is as applicable for us today as it was for His first disciples. Every generation since the time of Jesus has had to deal with disasters of all types and scales. But there is no way for us to know when a recent disaster might signal the end of the world as we know it. Jesus Himself told His followers that only God knows for certain “the day or hour” when Christ will return.[5]

Natural disasters do show us that the earth is not the way it’s supposed to be. It is groaning and longing for the day when Jesus returns and all of creation will be renewed.[6]

[1] Earthquakes: Antioch, Syria, ad 525, 250,000 killed; Aleppo, Syria, 1138, 230,000 killed; Shaanxi Province, China, 1556, 830,000 killed.

Famines: “Great Famine” of Europe, ad 1315–17, millions died; Indian famine of 1896–1902, millions died; Chinese famine under Chairman Mao, 1958–61, 20-40 million died.

[2] In Jesus day, Jewish teachers, (including Jesus Himself) divided history into two ages; the “present age” and the “age to come”—the good news of God’s Kingdom coming to earth as it is in heaven that Jesus preached.  Many who read the New Testament believe that these two ages began to overlap when Jesus rose from the dead, and that the “present age” will come to an end and the “age to come” will come in its fullness when Jesus returns to our present earth. Others believe that the “age to come” will not begin until this “present age” ends at the time of Christ’s return.

[3] Matthew 24:3

[4] Matthew 24:4–8

[5] Matthew 24:26

[6] Romans 8:19–21; Revelation 21:1–5

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Is it wrong to marry someone of a different ethnicity?

Some have tried to use Bible passages like Deuteronomy 23:3[1] and 2 Corinthians 6:14[2] to make a case that people should marry only within certain cultural and racial confines like skin color or nationality. But when these verses are examined in light of their broader biblical context, their case falls short.

While it’s true that passages like Deuteronomy 23:3 prohibited Israelites from marrying individuals outside of the Jewish community, the Bible is full of exceptions to this rule. Joseph married an Egyptian woman.[3] Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute,[4] and Ruth, a Moabite widow,[5] both married into the tribe of Israel and became ancestors of King David and Jesus. And Uriah, the first husband of King Solomon’s mother Bathsheba, was a Hittite.

But the most interesting biblical example of cross-cultural marriage in the Bible is found in Numbers 12. In this account, Moses’ sister Miriam is struck with leprosy for criticizing Moses because he married a dark-skinned foreigner.

“While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman…The Lord was very angry with them, and he departed. As the cloud moved from above the Tabernacle, there stood Miriam, her skin as white as snow from leprosy.” [6]

While the Bible does not condemn what is commonly called interracial marriage, some contexts and cultures make it more difficult than others. Some have even suggested that it should be avoided because of the cultural pressures and potential rejection it invites on couples and their children. Yet the Bible does not address this issue. There are times and places where these concerns might be well considered, but the idea of setting up artificial barriers based on skin color or other ethnic differences is not what ultimately brings the most glory and honor to God.

So, is it wrong to marry someone from another ethnicity? No; neither the Bible nor the spirit of Christ places any such constraints on people who love and care for one another.

[1] No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, even down to the tenth generation (NIV).

[2] Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (NIV)

[3] (Genesis 41:44–52)

[4] (Joshua 2&6; Matthew 1:5)

[5] (Ruth 1–4; Matthew 1:5)

[6] Tyndale House Publishers. (2007). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (3rd ed.) (Nu 12:1 & 9–10). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

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Should Christians be tolerant?

Let’s be honest about the emotional reaction some of us have towards the concept of tolerance as a principle. If there were ever a buzzword for our culture, tolerance is it, and many of those who uphold this principle are often doing so in ways that are synonymous with an anything-goes belief system. And if compromise and a wishy-washy belief system is what we mean by tolerance, then we can certainly understand why a Christian would not want to be labeled as tolerant. But in a strict sense, tolerance has nothing to do with compromise. It is simply the ability to allow for views different than our own.

So, should Christians be tolerant? Well, that depends. If tolerance means compromising our belief in the message of Jesus Christ, the story of the Bible, or historic Christianity to avoid conflict with others, then no. But if tolerance means that we strive to live unwavering in our convictions and at the same time love others unconditionally, then yes. In this sense tolerance would look a lot like embracing prostitutes, tax collectors, drunks, and other sinners like ourselves. It would look a lot like emptying ourselves of our spiritual pride, looking beyond people’s actions, and seeing them as people who matter to God. It would look a lot like submitting ourselves to the will of God and laying down our lives for those who desperately need His mercy and forgiveness.

In other words, it would look a lot like Jesus.

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Can we prove God exists?

That depends on what we mean when we say prove. If we mean “is it possible to present solid, compelling, and logical reasons to believe in the existence of God,” then the answer is yes. But if we mean “can God’s existence be demonstrated beyond all possible doubt,” then the answer is no.

A “no” answer should not cause those who believe in God to panic. Those who deny God’s existence cannot prove their position, either.

Some things are just beyond our ability to prove, and yet we accept them as true. I cannot prove that my wife loves me, but I’m pretty sure she does. I can’t prove that a breathtaking sunset is beautiful, but I know that it is. I can’t prove that torturing and murdering another human being is evil, but it is.

All of us deeply believe in things that can neither be proven or disproven, including the existence of God. And yet we find ourselves as certain about them as we are about the wind that blows in our faces.

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Can domestic abuse be non-physical?

Yes, it certainly can. Often, verbal or other types of non-physical abuse are not considered abuse. However, consider this brief definition: Domestic or intimate partner violence/abuse is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors by an adult — male or female — including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion used against current or former intimate partners.

Domestic abuse can take many forms and they all should be taken seriously. Here are some examples of abuse that are not necessarily physical:

Verbal abuse involves belittling, demeaning, or threatening speech that is meant to manipulate or coerce one’s partner or spouse. Verbal abuse often carries the threat of physical violence, but not always.

Sexual abuse includes coerced sex through threats or intimidation or through physical force, forcing unwanted sexual acts, forcing sex in front of others, and forcing sex with others. But it can also be accomplished by withholding sex and intimacy as a means of control.

Psychological abuse can involve isolation from others (including family and friends), excessive jealousy, control of activities, verbal aggression, intimidation through destruction of property, harassment or stalking, threats of violence, constant belittling and humiliation, threats of physical violence or harm, creating a situation of total economic dependency, and financial enslavement.

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