Should we treat animals humanely? I say no.

humane The word humane in the English comes from the Latin adjective hūmānus which has as its linguistic root homo (a noun).  And the Latin word homo means human being.  Hence in biology humans as a species are indentified as homo sapiens, literally humans with wisdom.

Therefore, while most modern dictionaries will define humane as being compassionate or something like that, etymologically it means to treat something as a human.  In fact, the first humane societies were formed to rescue humans and not animals.  Only in the last 150 years or so has the word become more and more associated with animals than humans.

We as Christians are not therefore to treat animals humanely.  Why? Because they are not humans.   So how do we treat them?  We treat them as creatures of God given to live under the dominion of humanity.

Genesis 1:26  Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."

Does that means that we are free to abuse them?  Far from it.  We are to treasure everything that God has made.  Does it mean that we should not be rescuing them from peril?  Again, not at all.  We value all life.  Does it mean that we cannot mourn the loss of animals that have served as pets in our home?  Of course not.

But it does mean that we understand that they are given to live under the dominion of humans and are ultimately created for the good of humanity like all of creation.

So, yes, we can do things to animals that we would not do to humans.  We can hunt them.  We can control their population levels.  We can eat them. 

Genesis 9:3  Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.

So should we treat animals humanely?  Well I suppose it depends on your definition of humane.  Should we treat them as well as is possible while still understanding their proper place in creation?  Yes.

 But should we treat them like humans?  No.  They are not.  To suggest this is to buy into the overall lie of evolution which seeks to declare that there is no real distinction between humanity and the rest of creation. 

Most of you reading this (at least my “regular” readers) do not accept the idea that there is a lack distinction between humans and the rest of creation.  But I fear all of us while denying the premise are buying into the conclusions that those who do not believe in such distinction are making.  

Many speak about their pets in a way that affords them a near human status.  They believe that an animals can provide them the kind of companionship formerly reserved for humans.  They call their animals their children.  I understand that we can get really attached to pets and often the talk is just hyperbole.  But we must keep clear and make clear that no animal can truly be for us what God intends only other humans to be for us.

Others have taken up vegetarianism (nothing wrong with that generally – except the lack of steak) not for health reasons but because they believe it is improper to butcher animals to eat them.  They suggest animals have right similar to humans and yet do not recognize they are buying into the evolutionary premise that there is no real distinction between the two. Again, we must remain firm that there is nothing wrong with humans eating other creatures.  One may choose not to eat them for several reasons but it is improper to suggest that we may not due to some bill of rights they possess that looks strangely like the one only humans possess.

Love your animal.  Eat your animal.  Just don’t think your animal is human.  Don’t in that sense treat them humanely, like a human.  Treat them as they are, creatures of God given to live under the dominion of humanity.

Posted by Philip Hoppe on March 17th, 2014 under Theology and PracticeTags: ,  • 5 Comments

The World is Round, People…or is it?

imageWhile on stage to accept her second Oscar, Cate Blanchett made an impassioned plea for making more feature length films with female characters at their center.  She said that the film “Blue Jasmine” for which she won the Oscar was the proof that such movies were craved by moviegoers.  At the end of her monologue she quipped, “The world is round, people!” 

I have no real dog in the fight she was trying to turn the spotlight on.  I don’t watch enough films to even know if the lack of female centered films is a real issue.  It may well be.  But what struck me was that quip of hers, “The world is round, people!”

Even though most every scholar that researches how people think will tell you we are in a period of thought called post-modernism in which completely contradictory ideas can carelessly bounce off one another without any resulting big bang, statements like Cate’s prove the opposite.

Her little quip sounded very familiar to me.  It was a way of saying, “This is settled everyone.  Move on.”  In her mind, the idea that women are just as able to draw people to a movie is as obvious and decided as the fact that the world is round.  If you don’t agree with he on this, you are a flat-earther.

As I said, I have no opinion on the question at hand but my guess is that many would not consider it a settled issue.   Her very impassioned speech itself suggest that it is not really settled.

debateThere are many things which our supposedly uber-tolerant world no longer will tolerate.  They are settled issues in the mind of most of the culture.  They are obviously not really settled, but the proponents are putting on Oscar worthy performances suggesting that they are.  Here are three such issues.

  1. The world was created through evolution over many, many years.
  2. Women must pursue a career outside the home to be both happy and successful.
  3. Homosexuality is natural and moral.

What the proponents of these views are doing is quite smart rhetorically.  By claiming the debate is over, they gain two things advantageous for themselves and their positions.  One, they no longer have to engage in debates which might expose weaknesses in their positions.  And secondly, they get to quip, “The world is round, people!” at those who do not agree.   They can easily mock their opponents by suggesting that if you don’t agree with their position, you are a flat-earther.

This tactic is meant to silence detractors by making them look and feel like fools for holding a position other than the one presented as the settled truth.  And we must admit that the tactic often works.  It is hard to go to the  science museum and not be silenced by the repetition of the mantra, “Millions of years ago.”  Women who have chosen to dedicate themselves to managing the home and raising children are silenced by the looks and mocking comments made by those women chasing this dream or that.  Young Christians are pressured into silence because every group and program on their college campus threatens them with pleas for quiet tolerance when it comes to homosexuality. 

imageIf we are honest, all of us who do not believe that these are settled issues in our culture are often silent because we fear what the mockery that comes with speaking out.  But cannot be silent.  We need not be vitriolic when we speak but we must speak the truth.  We must with gentleness an respect make clear that the debate is not over. 

When Bill Nye debated Ken Ham recently many in the scientific community were quite upset even before the debate began.  You know why?  They felt that just by agreeing to the debate he gave the impression  that the whole topic was debatable.  Years of pretending it was all settled were thrown into doubt.

We have to continue to keep these conversations going.  While we will never win the culture battles by clever and eloquent words, we can be the means by which God’s all-powerful word goes forth and accomplishes that for which he sent it.  And that should be reason enough for us to refuse to be silenced by this hardball tactic that is becoming quite common.

Posted by Philip Hoppe on March 4th, 2014 under News Clippings, Theology and PracticeTags: , , , , ,  • No Comments

Everything is not quite awesome: The Lego Movie

emmetYesterday, I took the kids to the Lego movie.  My Facebook feed has been filled with praise of the movie from all sorts of friends.  It is of course cool to see a childhood fantasy land of little bricks come to life on the big screen. And no doubt, it is a feel good movie with a nice mix of humor, action, and even a love story for those looking for such a thing in their kid’s movie.

But after I watched the whole movie, I was a little surprised at the love this movie had received from so many of my Christian friends. 

I had heard from many that besides the full on nostalgia this movie delivered that it also took aim at the overregulation that progressive politicians usually favor.  I was told that it was a plea for freedom, a please against regulation, a plea to let master builders build.  And no doubt, having heard all of that, I certainly saw some of that especially early on in the film.

However, by the end of the movie, I couldn’t help but think the point was something else.  The move begins and end with talk of the big guy upstairs.  And by the end of the movie, the big guy from upstairs (who happens to look like Ron Burgundy) has an epiphany of sorts.  He decides that he has been wrong to want everything in his world just the way he ordered it originally.  He concludes that he should just be happy with whatever humanity does with his creation.  He removes the glue that makes everything so uniform.   Now everybody can just do whatever they want.  Even girls, so long kept away from expressing their own creativity, can go to work creating the world the way they like.

Add to that the fact that Emmet, the movie’s main hero, learns at the climax of the story arch that believing you are special because of some prophetic word  spoken by some sage yields nothing.  After all, such words are just myths made up by well meaning old people.  Instead, you are special if you just believe you are special.  Believe in yourself and all is well.

Sorry friends that ate up this movie but I saw the same themes I see in about every kid’s movie I go to lately.  Here they are:

  • Authority is bad.  It makes everything boringly the same and holds people down.
  • Anything word that comes to you from outside of you is just a myth.  Even if the myth tellers are well-meaning, it is better to be free of the myth.
  • You are special regardless of what choices you make.  Just believe in yourself and all will be well.  Don’t let anyone tell you differently.  Do whatever you want.

Sorry friends, everything is not quite awesome.

Posted by Philip Hoppe on February 17th, 2014 under Movie ReviewsTags: , , , , ,  • 4 Comments

The Scripture Your Pastor Doubts

priestIt is an awesome Word of God which was uttered long ago by the great prophet Isaiah:

“So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

It is a Word that should provide a firm foundation underneath the feet of every pastor sent to preach the word of God. And yet it is a word that your pastor doubts many days. Why? Well, because many times his day is filled with dealing with and thinking about those who seem to not be phased even for a second by the word he speaks to them. He desperately wants to believe this promise of God and yet Satan uses what his eyes see and what his ears hear to cause him to doubt it.

He preaches and teaches about the things of God with every bit of energy he can muster and yet he goes home from church on Sunday wondering whether anyone really listened or cared.

He makes visits to people who are living in obvious contradiction to the ways of God and seems to accomplish nothing more than making another enemy for himself.

He offers the sacraments as faithfully as he knows how and yet sees even regular members treat them as inconveniences rather than gifts of God.

He seeks to lead the sheep and yet fears that if he looked over his shoulder he would see no one walking behind.

He looks out at the mess all around them and the mess inside of himself and asks of God, "Is this really what you sought to accomplish with your Word?”

I write this not to make you feel sorry for your pastor. I write it so that you might know how Satan tempts your pastor to doubt the very Word he is called to speak. I write it to encourage you to let your pastor know when the Word of God is bearing fruit in your life. If the Word he has been sent to deliver has led you to repent of a sin you long held precious, let your pastor know. If the preaching of the Gospel has cleared your conscience of a guilt that long lived there, let your pastor know. If some word of wisdom he has related to you from the Scriptures has helped you to live out your life in a more abundant or peace-filled way, let your pastor know. He needs to know these things in order to be bolstered in his faith in the power of the Word he has been called to speak.

Here’s the truth. God’s word does accomplish the thing for which it was sent. However, your pastor often deals daily with situations where this truth is not apparent to the eye or to the ear. And Satan uses each one of those situations to seek to shut your pastor’s mouth.  \As those who depend on the Word that your pastor speaks to you in the name and in the stead of Jesus, don’t let Satan’s word be the only word. Share with your pastor the fruit that God’s word has brought forth in your life. It may be just the word that God needs him to hear most.

Posted by Philip Hoppe on January 14th, 2014 under Theology and PracticeTags: , , , ,  • 1 Comment

Instant Outrage: Thrivent Edition

mad-smiley-mdWe live in an age when one piece of information can spark a fire across the globe.  In our Lutheran circles, we have just seen this.  Someone noticed that one of the local chapters of Thrivent had approved a Planned Parenthood organization as a possible recipient of Thrivent Choice dollars.  That revelation was placed onto the internet.

Soon, the accusations were flying at the speed of a Facebook share or Twitter retweet across the internet.  Within hours, the average person’s impression was that the next Thrivent event in your community would be a Thrivent Kills event complete with a abortion clinic on wheels.  This despite the fact that not even one dollar had been funneled through the program to Planned Parenthood.

Some talked of cancelling policies and others spoke about using their pastoral authority to urge others to do the same.  I am sure some actually did make policy changes in the last 24 hours.

Don’t get my wrong.  The thought of my dollars funding abortions is stomach churning.  And I think everyone was no doubt justified in contacting Thrivent to inquire about this and make clear their displeasure with it.    But maybe our tone should have been more “Did you know?” rather than “How dare you!”  After all, most of the people contacted surely had no culpability in this at all.

Surely it is not proper to impugn the whole organization before the facts of the case are really known.  All of the conspiracies contrived and the certainies spoken without knowledge were not helpful.  Statements like, “Of course, Thrivent (meaning at the top levels) knew what was going on with this” are simply not possible to make with integrity before further information is available.

Today Thrivent took action just 12 hours or so after I saw everything blow up on Facebook.  Here is their statement.  Granted the situation is not fully resolved and some will be equally outraged that pro-life groups have been temporarily suspended while a review happens.  But let’s not jump to conclusions.  I suspect this was done in an attempt to not have a similar outcry from other members so that the review can happen without the distractions of replying to every email and blog post.

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Here is what I say:  let’s give them some time to review everything and then when they make a final decision, we can all make our decisions about how we want to proceed in partnership with Thrivent.  It is of course possible that that outcome will means that Lutheran congregations and individuals will need to make choices as the Word of God and their consciences direct them. But let’s wait and see what the final outcome is.

As people of God, we must be careful not to harm the reputation of our neighbor by spreading rumors, gossip, and conspiracy theories. We should be concerned for life and speak out for it.  But we must not do so in a way in which our speech becomes tainted with rumor and gossip.  If you allow that, our whole speech can be cast into question and our neighbor will suffer harm. 

Are my hands clean?  No, I suppose not.  I used the uproar to throw out some ideas about insurance in general I thought worthy of discussion.  But in doing so, I may well have added to the instant outrage. 

We must be careful how we act in this world of viral sharing.  A reputation is always just a click or two away from being destroyed.

Posted by Philip Hoppe on December 20th, 2013 under News Clippings, Theology and PracticeTags: , , , ,  • 6 Comments

Thrivent and Planned Parenthood

thLutheran Facebook feeds are buzzing right now as a link listing Planned Parenthood as an organization to which members can direct their Choice dollars is shared over and over again.

And some people are crying out (at least in their heads), “See I told you that if Thrivent allowed non-Lutheran members, everything would go downhill from there.  And now Thrivent is supporting the murder of innocents.  If only we would have remained pure as Lutherans.  I will tell you this:  AAL would never have allowed this.”

But what if the truth is something that would possibly condemn more of us than just those liberals non-Lutherans we welcomed a while back.  What if the problem with Thrivent goes much farther back than this link that is lighting up my Facebook feed?

The LCMS used to be staunchly against insurance because of the scriptural assertions that God’s people  were to rely on God’s promise to provide daily bread. We were not to be the farmer tearing down one barn to build a bigger one to make sure that life was secure for years to come. We were to gather daily what God provided just like the Israelites did with the manna in the wilderness.

At some point, we stop letting these admonitions guide us because smooth talking salesmen told us that loving your family meant making sure that you could provide for every need they would have in their life even if tragedy came and you were suddenly gone.  The stories of widows abandoned by their thoughtless husband’s soon followed.  Guilt and fear came together to sell policy after policy

Years later somebody asserted the same about babies in the womb. Loving that baby meant welcoming them only if you can assure that you could provide a middle class lifestyle for them throughout their life.  If not, abortion was the truly loving act saving them from poverty.  Guilt and fear came together to commit murder after murder.

You see when we start disregarding one principle from the word of God, it is so easy to disregard another.  If we can purchase insurance without even questioning whether it is appropriate as God’s people when only decades ago everyone agreed that it was inherently sinful, can we really demand purity when it comes to one or two Thrivent members who say they just want to support women’s health organizations seeking to help out impoverished girls, even if they think that includes the right to abortion.

I guess what I am saying is that years ago if you would have told anyone that Lutherans churches were buying vacuums for the schoolhouse and carpet for the mother’s room with money from an insurance company, the outrage would have been similar.

There is a slippery slope here indeed, but it didn’t start with allowing non-Lutherans to join or even merging with Lutheran Brotherhood.  You have to look much further up the hill.

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Note:  I have written this post from the perspective of one side of my brain so to speak.  I own life insurance policies, from Thrivent no less.  But it has for some time been a question in my mind whether such policies really give evidence that I as God’s child truly trust him to provide daily for my needs.  I hope this post will engender discussion about this question which for so long now has been considered a stupid question even to ask. 

Posted by Philip Hoppe on December 18th, 2013 under Theology and PracticeTags: , , , , ,  • 24 Comments

Facebook “Friends”

friendsI have almost 900 of them.  Much to the chagrin of my wife, many of these “friends”  I really have no idea who they are.  Unless you are obviously dressed like a harlot and looking to drum up business on your smutty website, I okay every friend request.  Then again, that is how I operate in real life also, happy to strike up a conversation with whoever says hi.

But here is the truth, I have never made a real friend on Facebook.  And I suggest that for most people that is also true.  There is not to demean Facebook as a way to communicate.  I have found it a good way to keep up with family, old friends, and fellow pastors.  But it is not a way to make real friends.  And quite frankly, real friends are much more important that whatever we call what we have with people that we only have ever known on Facebook.

True friendship involves flesh to flesh interaction.  It involves sharing the same space.  It means trading words from lip to ear and looks from face to eye.  It is about the slap on the back, the hug, or the manly refusal of any such embrace.

One of the many things to reflect upon as we near Christmas is that flesh to flesh interaction is critical.  It is so critical that God took on flesh himself. He did so that he might be our real friend by laying down his life for us.

We need to think about what Facebook is and what it can accomplish.  But we also must realize its limits.   Real friends are made in real life where real flesh interacts.   If we forget this, we will soon be connected with everyone and friends with no one.  And that will be miserable indeed.

We who celebrate the incarnation should be intentional about creating opportunities for real flesh interaction.  What ideas do you have for creating more opportunities for this kind of thing in your life? 

Posted by Philip Hoppe on December 17th, 2013 under Theology and PracticeTags: , , , ,  • No Comments

Sine Scriptura

thinking_brain_image_01_vector_182603Lutheran clergy love to spar with one another and at times that sparring can turn into spearing.  And with the advent of social media, these epic wars now take place in an arena full of spectators.  I will leave it to others (including this fine piece by Pr. Joshua Scheer) to help us think about how we ought to engage one another especially as onlookers in the social media stands look on. 

But one thing I have noticed in most of the recent argumentation is a surprising lack of scriptural reference.  There seems to almost be an aversion to argumentation that rests on scripture alone.  Sometimes I think this is where the intellectualism built into Confessional Lutheranism turns from blessing into curse.   Wisdom is left behind in favor of cerebral swagger.

Many arguments seem to simply be an exercise in proving the size of one’s brain or the extent of their reading prowess .  Authors travel skillfully through the philosophical distinctions undergirding much of our systematic theology.  They quote the Confessions, Lutheran heavyweights, and patristic sources with ease.  But about what the scriptures say, they are almost silent.

It is as if simple references the scriptures would be considered infantile.  Anybody can do that.  Anymore within this sometime bizarre land of Confessional Lutheranism, use the scriptures extensively and you will get you accused of being a Biblicist, Pietist, and who knows what else.

As far as edification, I often find myself more edified by a faithful laymen who knows the scriptures well than all this pontification I read regularly on the interwebs.  It seems to me that often the elite talking heads of the system which boasts a motto of sola scriptura do much of their work sine scriptura.

And yes, I just used Latin in an argument against intellectual pride.  I am aware of the irony.  This post is not just written against them out there but against me as well.  May we all boast of the written Word that reveals to us the Incarnate Word.

Posted by Philip Hoppe on December 13th, 2013 under Theology and PracticeTags: , , , , ,  • 2 Comments

Did Jesus say anything about homosexuality?

What-Jesus-Said-About-Gay-PeopleIt is a common assertion in our day.  Jesus himself, the center of our faith, never said one negative word about homosexuality.  Oh, Paul railed against it.  Levitical law makes clear that it is not to be practiced among the people of God.  But not Jesus.  He was that uber-tolerant modern man who made sure not to offend anyone.

So is it true?  Did Jesus say anything about homosexuality?  Well let me ask you a question, “Who do you believe Jesus to be?”  If you take him to be just another man spitting out pearls of wisdom that each man and woman should feel free to wear for an evening, I suppose you might be able to suggest that in the most literal wooden sense Jesus never said anything about homosexuality.  I mean if you search just the red words in your bible, you will not see Jesus set forth a political platform position on the issue of our day, gay marriage.

But if you think of Jesus as something more than a man able to shell out something of the quality of Jerry Springer’s final thoughts, then you have a problem.  If you confess him to be the eternal Son begotten of the Father, then he has spoken.  Because his words then are not just the ones spot printed in red.  If he is God then the Levitical law is written by his hand.  Paul’s words are his also.  No word of prophecy ever came about from a man only, but the Sprit carried men along in order than they might speak and write down the words of God, the words of the Spirit, the words of Jesus.

The statement that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality rests of two assumption which cannot rest within the teaching of the faith.  You must deny both that Jesus is God and that the Scriptures are the word of God.  And if you are willing to make both of those moves, I am not sure you care what Jesus said anyways. 

If an atheist wants to tell me Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality, I will work within their worldview and show them first what Jesus did say about marriage and sexuality.  I will show them that everything he personally said about marriage was all firmly rooted in Genesis one and two.  I will be careful to explain that Jesus was not just against homosexuality but every expression of sexuality that does not find its proper place between the longing stares of husband and wife.

But if you claim to believe in Jesus, I have no patience for this rhetoric.  You cannot deny Jesus’ nature in order to morph him into a you-shaped idol.  Trust me, I have tried my hand at similar efforts and found them useless and sinful.  We must deal with Jesus as he is, as he has revealed himself in the totality of Scriptures.  Has Jesus spoken?  Of course he has.  In many and various ways.

Posted by Philip Hoppe on November 25th, 2013 under Sexuality, Theology and PracticeTags: , , ,  • 14 Comments

Football as Idol

footballIf you want to know what we value in a culture, ask this question:  What do we insist be done properly?  That answer will reveal what a culture truly values.

I just watched the preachers of the football religion discuss as length the minutia of football rules and the need to assure they are followed perfectly even it means hiring more officials, having more instant replay, and even creating a centralized mecca of all things football which can be reached anytime for a final ruling. 

But when it comes to Church and the teaching of the faith, who cares.  Everybody can do what is right in their eyes.  No instant replay of one’s life conducted by a pastor in private confession is needed.  A church’s creed and confession to guard us from stepping out of bounds is rejected outright.  Centralized power is thought of with great fear and trepidation.

I like football.  But I am growing weary of the way it is idolized.  I am becoming more and more ambivalent towards it.  It is a game, not a God.

Posted by Philip Hoppe on November 24th, 2013 under Theology and PracticeTags: , , , , ,  • No Comments

 

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