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Letter: Let's talk about God and religion

Pastor Eckstein, pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church in Jamestown, responds to a recent column about religion by Tony Bender.

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I am responding to Tony Bender's recent column “ Losing My Religion .” I thank Tony for sharing his views about God and religion. Tony is concerned about Christians forcing their beliefs on others in areas such as abortion, LGBTQ issues, and prayer in public school.

First, most Christians do not want the United States to become a Christian theocracy. We can’t force people to believe God’s word or to trust in God’s son as their savior. Only the Holy Spirit can change a person’s heart. However, there are certain moral absolutes that people of all religions (or no religion) can agree on based on reason and science.

For example, the issue of abortion (like slavery in our past) is not merely a religious issue but a human rights issue. That is why even many atheists are pro-life. See www.secularprolife.org for arguments based on reason and science for why the lives of developing human beings in the womb should be protected by law.

As for LGBTQ issues, Christians condemn violence against people in this community and do not want them to face discrimination for things like employment or housing. Even though many Christians believe same-sex behavior (as well as heterosexual behavior outside of marriage) is condemned by God’s word, we still want to love such people and speak God’s truth to them. See my booklet “A Biblical Response to Homosexuality” (Concordia Publishing House).

However, many Christians and even non-Christians are opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage because for all of human history marriage has been understood as an institution for one man and one woman. The reason marriage has always been for two people (with the very rare exceptions of polygamy) is that there are two sexes – male and female. When we ignore this paradigm for marriage there is then no reason to limit marriage to two people – which is why some are now arguing for the legalization of polyamorous (group) marriage. The reason for traditional marriage is that this is the place where children are conceived and become part of a family where they are loved and cared for by their mother and father. One does not have to be a Christian to see the benefit in this. See the book “What is Marriage?” by Robert George for a secular defense of traditional marriage. Even though we still need to solve problems associated with traditional marriage (such as irresponsible parents and the high divorce rate), changing the definition of marriage only makes things worse – especially for children.

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Concerning organized prayer in public schools, Bender may be surprised to know that I and many Christians are opposed to this. We should not force non-Christians to participate in Christian prayer nor should we force Christians to participate in non-Christian prayer. For those who want prayer in school, parents can always send their children to a religious private school or home school.

Regarding Bender's questions about contradictions he sees in the Bible, I would be happy to visit with him in person, listen to his questions and answer them as best I can. The fact is that there are very good answers for what people see as contradictions in the Bible. See the book “Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions” by William Arndt.

Sadly, many people have issues with the Bible simply because they don’t like what God teaches. We are tempted to make up a “god” that thinks the way we do. This is what the Bible calls idolatry and what is condemned in the First Commandment. The good news is that God sent his own Son to save us from our sin against him. (See 1st John 1:7 – 2:2)

Finally, for Bender and others who have sincere questions about the Bible and Christianity, I recommend the following books:

  • “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be An Atheist” by Norman Geisler
  • “Why Does God Allow Evil?” by Clay Jones “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel
  • “The Christian Faith” by Robert Kolb

Tom Eckstein is the pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church in Jamestown, N.D.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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