In 2012, I was asked by YLE TV in Finland to participate in a documentary series they were doing called "The Norden." As an American, my role was to observe and comment on how the Nordic people relate to faith and religion. The Nordic nations- Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden- are perhaps the most secular nations on the face of the earth. As a Southern Baptist pastor from Georgia, I was just what they were looking for. As such, I was determined to be as straight forward as possible. I didn't want anything nuanced to come out of my mouth. I was given the opportunity to give a clear, biblical understanding on controversial topics in a part of the world that prides itself on being beyond the need for God. Challenge accepted. My particular episode aired in November of 2014 and it became a big success for YLE TV. The producer told me that the sheer numbers that the series received on Youtube was unprecedented in Finland and that my particular episode was YLE's official nomination for the international documentary category for the Emmy Awards. The episode even gained some traction in the United States. Progressive sites such as RawStory and Alternet ran stories with headlines such as, "Georgia Pastor has his Mind Blown by European Atheists." Additionally, my episode was the subject of a popular atheist talk show and it became the most viewed video on an atheist YouTube site with over 1.5 million views. As you can imagine, I received a lot of correspondence. All I can say is "Wow!" (you will understand if you watch the video). I learned that if you cross the line and comment on topics such as same sex marriage or evolution, you better be prepared for an onslaught.
My purpose for this post is to comment on a couple of issues that were raised in the episode. First, I spoke with a Danish priest on the subject of same sex marriage. Denmark has a state church, so the priests are state employees subject to the dictates of Parliament. Therefore, if Parliament says to perform same sex marriages in the church, the state employed priests must oblige. Obviously, I have a huge problem with that. There are three institutions ordained by God: family, government and the church. Here we have the government overriding the church redefining the family. This is a big infringement. The priests in the episode, however, had no issue with same sex marriage. That is another problem. A clear reading of Scripture leaves no doubt that same sex marriage is not biblical. However, one question that was continually posed to me was "Then why do you eat shrimp and wear clothes of mixed fabric?" On the surface, that sounds like an odd combination, but let me explain. In the Old Testament, the Jews were told not to eat shell fish nor to wear clothing of mixed fabric (Leviticus 11:10; 19:19). The prohibition against homosexual behavior is also given in the book of Leviticus. Therefore, some have conjectured, if you say that homosexuality is wrong, why do you eat shrimp or wear polyester?
The answer is quite simple. Those commands regarding clothing and diet were part of what is called the Old Testament ceremonial law. This law was designed to keep the Jews separated from the surrounding Gentile nations. After Jesus came, the law was fulfilled and there was no longer a need for Jews and Gentiles to be separate. Read Acts 10:9-16 and you can see how Jewish Christians were told that the ceremonial law was over. The command against homosexual behavior, however, is repeated in the New Testament. It is part of the moral law. Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9 clearly state that homosexual behavior is not approved by God.
The Bible is not a hate book. It is a book that tells us how to be reconciled to God. This reconciliation involves repentance and faith. We don't do any favors when we are confusing on moral issues. Forgiveness is great, but you need to know that there is a need for repentance. I wanted to be unambiguous on what the clear teaching of Scripture says and for that I received a lot of negative feedback.
The next issue I would like to address is evolution. This topic came up when I was debating Leif, the secular humanist in Sweden. He asked me what came before God in time and I told him that by faith I believe that God is eternal. I believe this just like he believes in evolution by faith.
Christians take by faith that God created the heavens and the earth (Hebrews 11:3). I admit that. However, it does not make me an enemy of science. That is one of the ploys that evolutionists use against creationists. It needs to be stated that creationists do make a distinction between empirical science and historical (forensic) science. Empirical science involves activities that are observable and repeatable. However, historical science involves events that cannot be observed nor repeated. Therefore, assumptions and conjectures must be made to explain past events. Often times, these conjectures and assumptions are based upon one's worldview.
Creationists base their view of historical science on Scripture while evolutionists base their view on Darwin's theory. You can be a Creationist and also be very scientific and a leader in your field. Take, for instance, former presidential candidate and current HUD secretary, Dr. Ben Carson. Dr. Carson use to be the head of pediatric neurosurgery at the famed Johns Hopkins Hospital. This guy would separate twins conjoined at the head. He literally is the smartest guy in the room and he is a Creationist. Mike Pence, the Vice President of the United States, is also a Creationist. You see, being a Creationist does not mean you check your brain at the door. It simply means that you believe God created the heavens and the earth and science is the pursuit of finding out how God makes it work.
As I close, let me say that as an American I am grateful for the freedoms that we enjoy. I am also mindful that these freedoms did not come easy. Our rights are not given to us by government. Instead they are given to us by our Creator. Remember these words penned over two hundred and forty years ago. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (Declaration of Independence 1776).
You can view "The Norden" here.