A Baptist Voices Debate: The Culture Clash – Cultural Engagement and the Story of Lot and Sodom

A Discussion between Rastis and Dave Miller

The Debate Topic

Is Lot an example of moral compromise and its ill effects, or is he a model of cultural engagement? That is what we will be debating today. In a post at sbcIMPACT, Rastis argued that traditional viewpoints regarding the interpretation of the Lot story miss some key biblical elements. He sees Lot in a more positive and exemplary light than the traditional viewpoint. Dave Miller will be arguing the traditional version of Lot’s story – that Lot made some serious mistakes that cost him his family and any chance he had at moral influence.

The real focus of this debate is cultural engagement. How do Christians in American and in nations around the world deal with the cultures in which they live? Do we confront cultures or do we try to adapt to them? The discussion of Lot is meant not so much as an exercise in historical theology, but as a template for a discussion of how we as Christians should live in this world.

Both Rastis and Dave are regular contributors at sbcIMPACT. Dave also contributes here at SBC Voices. Rastis writes under that pseudonym because he is in the process of entering a ministry where his identity must remain secure as he engages a culture hostile to the gospel.

Rastis’ Post:  Lot Entered the City to Serve the Lord

I remember the first time I watched The Village. It was terrifying. Not so much because it was actually scary, but because it reminded me of a church I used to attend. The gist behind The Village is that there is a colony of people who have removed themselves from society in an attempt to keep themselves pure from the evil cities. What keeps people in line and in the confines of this small pseudo wilderness? They are afraid of the unnamable creatures which occasionally haunt the village. This was my church. We separated ourselves from the world (some would go as far as not driving on I-10 through Houston in order to avoid billboards—FYI, there is no way to drive through Houston without I-10) in hopes that we might retain personal holiness.

Enters Lot… He was the favorite whipping boy for evangelists, seminars, and youth camp speakers. After all, he typified everything that we were against. He left the “holiness” of the farm for the pleasures of the city, becoming a cosmopolitan man, the first metrosexual. He persisted in his sin in spite of angelic warnings. The city corrupted his ability to lead his family spiritually evidenced by his wife adopting his urban values, he offered his daughters to the angry mob, and, finally, committed incest. So went their bombastic crucifixion of Lot.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that it is unbiblical. Sure, the story goes something like that. But the traditional way of casting Lot in the story tells more about us and our view of the world than it does about Lot’s. Scripture explicitly states that Lot was a righteous man who was vexed by the urban sensuality (2 Pet 2:7). I studied twelve commentaries on the Genesis passage and few referenced the 2 Peter passage. The few who referenced it, did so in a dismissive way as though Peter was referencing something other than the account in Genesis. I am indebted to Ray Bakke’s Theology as Big as the City for pointing me in the right direction concerning Lot.

In addition to Peter’s declaration concerning Lot, I believe that the context of Genesis 18-19 provides insight into Lot’s true character. The accounts of Abraham in 18 and Lot in 19 are almost perfect parallels. While not contained in Gen 18-19, the most important link between Lot and Abraham is the fact that Lot left Ur, a center of Moon worship, with Abraham (Josh 24:2) to follow the true God.

Both men demonstrated great hospitality.

  • In 18, Abraham is visited by three men. He demonstrated great hospitality.
  • Likewise, Lot implored the two visitors to stay at his house rather than sleep in the square. They acted as if they would not heed his advice. Lot “pressed them strongly” and they complied. That is Middle-Eastern hospitality for you; you refuse three times, and then do it anyway. Implicit in this hospitality is food (19:3) and protection, which he provided in a misguided attempt to ward off the mob (19:7-8). While offering his daughters to a sexually perverted mob was wrong, his actions demonstrated his concern and dedication to uphold his hospitality.

Both men acted as intercessors.

  • When Abraham learned of the destruction to come upon the cities of the valley he acted as an intercessor.
  • When Lot learned of the destruction to come upon the cities of the valley he too acted as an intercessor. He begged for one of the cities in the valley to be given to him as a residence and not destroyed (19:20). The angels granted his request. In addition to this, he interceded on behalf of his guests (19:7-8) and was common fixture in the gates of the city (19:1).

Both men received sons.

  • The three visitors clarified the earlier promises of a “great nation” through the promise of a son.
  • At the end of 19, Lot receives two sons. While many blame Lot for the incest, it is not as bad as it sounds. First, Lot was drunk when it happened. Second, the law had not been given yet. It is important to note, that this was not pedophilia, as it was at the behest of the women and they were of marriageable, childbearing age. Finally, and most importantly, Lot’s daughters were acting in faith. It is hard to read Genesis through puritan eyes. There is just a lot of weird sexuality in Genesis: Lamech’s polygamy, the whole “sons of God” and “daughters of men” thing, Lot’s incest, and finally Tamar, who just “gets around.” That is not to mention the animosity between Sarah and Hagar, and Rachael and Leah. These examples can only be understood in light of the promise of a deliverer in Gen 3:15. All of these women acted in faith thinking that the deliverer would come in their lifetime. While that expectation went unrealized, many of these women are in the line of Christ.

Chapters 18-19 are parallel even in these details. The nations from both of Lots sons are in the lineage as well. One became the father of the Moabites (Ruth/Boaz-Obed-Jesse-David) and the other became the father of the Ammonites (Solomon sired a son with an Ammonite). If you are still bent on saying it was sin, then it only goes to show that moving to the suburbs and isolating ourselves (e.g. the cave) from those worldly city dwellers (e.g. the inhabitants of Sodom) does not really protect us from sin!

When one views the account of Lot in comparison to Abraham, it becomes clear that Lot is not a simpleton wandering about Vanity Fair. Nevertheless, Waltke points out a great irony between the two accounts: “Lot tries to be a blessing but instead appears as a buffoon. He fails as a host, as a citizen, as a husband and as a father. He wants to protect his guests but needs to be protected by them; he tries to save his family, and they think he is joking. His salvation depends on God’s mercy” (Genesis, 270).

What, then, was he doing in the city? The same thing we ought.

The more wicked a place is, the more it should consume our thoughts. Both Abraham and Lot wished to save the city. Abraham interceded on behalf of the whole city, not just for Lot and his family. Had it not been for the whole town rising up against the two visitors perhaps God would have spared the city. Jeremiah 5:1 says it only takes one person to save a city. This was also true in Lot’s case, albeit, not with Sodom itself. There were actually five cities slated for destruction (Gen 14:2). While neither Abraham nor Lot saved Sodom, Lot did save Zoar.

There is more to intercession than prayer. There is a need for presence and proclamation. As it relates to presence, we should run to the city rather than away from it. Lot did love the city, on this we agree. But he loved the city for the sake of justice rather than “worldliness”. Lot was found in the city gates (19:1). When he confronted the would be assailants, they were quick to remind him that he was an outsider—they were appalled that he was acting like a judge over them (19:9). We should be the salt and the light to the darkest places. There is always a relationship between the presence of the godly and the preservation of the community.

Lot had more impetus to go than we do—especially those of us who think our primary purpose is holiness. One who adopts the ways and philosophies of the world is certainly washed out, but no more washed out than the one who lives in the suburbs or in the country isolated in an enclave of safety and material comfort. Our desire to live where it is safe, small, and segregated puts us harrowingly close to being guilty of Sodom’s true sin. We always characterize Sodom over the homosexual issue. Since that isn’t really a struggle for most of us, we can feel relieved that we are not near God’s judgment. However, a quick glance at Ezekiel 16:49-50 reveals that we commit the same sin for which Sodom was judged (“pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy”) Those who lived in The Village learned the hard way that in spite of their separation from the evil cities, sin is ever present within the camp. The idea that one can avoid sin based on proximity is little more than Christianized humanism. The Bible says that sin comes from within.

What then are we to say about facing the danger of going to the city? The answer is found in Lot’s story. Peter used him as an example to demonstrate God’s faithfulness. 2 Peter 2:7-10 makes the point that God is able to separate between the righteous and unrighteous. While the whole earth should tremble before him, “if he rescued righteous Lot… then, the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials.”

Lot wasn’t afraid to go to the “evil cities.” He wasn’t afraid of what other good people would think of him for going there. He stood in the gates and interceded. I hope to be an urban missionary like Lot when I grow up!

Rastis blogs regularly at http://offtheshire.blogspot.com and www.sbcimpact.net

Dave Miller’s Post:  Righteous Lot Lost Everything by Compromise

It’s not easy getting older these days. I grew up in a era when church was predictable and comfortable. You sang hymns from the hymnbook, stood for the offering, listened to the special music, then sat through the message, after which we sang several verses of “Just As I Am” and headed home. Men wore a suit, women wore dresses (and, in my early days, some simply horrific hats).

Now, everything has changed. Young whippersnappers think nothing about showing up at church in blue jeans, t-shirts and sandals – and those are the preachers! The piano and organ have morphed into guitars, drums and keyboards. In many churches you can take your coffee right in the sanctuary with you. Coffee, in “God’s House”? Grandpa Pratt is rolling over in his grave.

But I could adjust to all this if you young bucks didn’t keep on trying to change our comfortable and well-known interpretations of scripture. I have known all my life exactly what “lukewarm” meant in Revelation 3. But while visiting my son at Christmas (well, my grandson – but the son was there, too) he told me that they have come up with a whole new meaning for lukewarm. DON”T MESS WITH LAODICEA, you guys! Is it fair to try to teach new tricks to us old dogs?

When I read Rastis’ post at sbcIMPACT on Lot, I had one of those moments of shock. I have heard sermons on Lot all my life and preached them often. We all knew exactly what the story of Lot was about. He “pitched his tents” toward Sodom, then was found living in Sodom, then was in the city gate – he had become part of the life of Sodom. Lot forgot the lesson that any good Christian needs to hear. We are to be “in the world but not of the world.” Lot lost his family, his wife and his home because he did not stand strong for God and against the evils of the culture in which he lived.

And then Rastis showed up, with his new-fangled interpretations. As I understand his point of view, Lot is a model for cultural engagement.  Of course, 2 Peter 2:7 describes Lot as a righteous man, which seems to nullify some of the traditional teachings on the life of Lot.

I was intrigued by Rastis’ views and suggested this debate so that we could explore them in more detail. But I am not ready to abandon the traditional viewpoint yet either. It is possible (probable?) that some of the traditional interpretations have held things that are not clearly taught in scripture, and perhaps presented a skewed view of the life of Lot. But I also believe there are some real problems in making Lot into a hero of cultural engagement.

I would make the following points about the life of Lot.

1) Lot was a righteous man, but that does not mean that all his actions were right.

2 Peter 2:6-10 says, “… if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.”

If it were not for this verse, I would have few qualms about condemning the worldliness of Lot. But a writer, under the Spirit’s inspiration, identifies him as righteous – a righteous man who was distressed at the sin, the sensuality, the vile wickedness of the culture in which he lived. His soul was tormented by the immorality he saw all around him.

No doubt that this gives some insight into the life of Lot. But the fact that he was a righteous man does not mean that everything he did was righteous. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul talks about believers and how we build on the foundation of Christ. Some use the right materials to build with. Others use flammable materials and their works are burned up in the judgment. They lose all reward even if they themselves are saved “as one escaping the fire.”

Perhaps Lot was just such a man. He was a righteous man who was genuinely concerned with the spiritual and moral climate of his city. But that does not mean that the actions he took in addressing those concerns were the proper ones.

2) Despair at the evil of the culture is not enough – we must engage effectively.

I know a lot of Christians who spend a lot of time complaining about the evil in our culture. Lot is a good example of the fact that complaining, being upset, even tormented by cultural evil is not enough.

We have to take the proper steps; do the right things in response. I am convinced (at this point) that Lot, while his heart might have been in the right place, did not respond properly to the culture. He made bad choices, even if his heart was right, and the consequences were disastrous.

3) There is an uncomfortable drift towards involvement in a wicked culture.

I know that the progression of Lot toward Sodom may preach better than is warranted by the text. However, there is something there that bothers me. Lot chose (Genesis 13:11) to head to the area of Sodom when he and Abraham made the split. Nothing wrong with that. It was a fertile area at that time (pre-sulphur and brimstone). Some time later, in Genesis 14:11, he is found living in Sodom. But then, in Genesis 19:1, we see the coup-de-grace. He is now “sitting in the gate.” That term indicates that he was deeply involved in the life of the city. He was part of the leadership. He was on the inside.

Was he able to get to that place of honor without compromise? It is hard to imagine. The story reveals the forceful and unrepentant perversion of the men of Sodom. They don’t seem like the kind of men who would take well to a “voice of conscience” in their midst.

I believe that Christians should be part of their communities. I pastored a small town church for four years. If I had it to do over again, I would attend sporting events and join the rescue squad; be more a part of the community. I think it is good (in spite of my words of introduction) that the church fit itself into the culture in which in exists. In our casual, contemporary society a church should not insist on ties and coats and organ-accompanied hymns. But we need to be careful about being so immersed in society that we lose our ability to confront it. We can be culturally relevant without being biblically compromised.

4) The consequences of Lot’s life seem to indicate a problem.

In both Leviticus 27 and Deuteronomy 28, Moses defines the evidence of God’s blessings and marks of God’s discipline on the disobedient. It seems clear to me (though obviously these laws were written later) that Lot’s life gives evidence of the life of disobedience and the discipline of God.

When Abraham bargained with God, he stopped at 10 righteous men. He must have assumed that Lot would have guided his wife, two daughters and their husbands onto the right paths. That meant all he had to have done was impacted 4 more people and Sodom was safe. But he did not impact a single person.

In fact, he lost even his own family. Most telling is verse 14. His sons-in-law thought he was jesting when he told them to leave. This hardly seems to be a reaction to someone who had moral authority.

His wife looked back at Sodom. She was so invested in the wicked city that she could not bear to leave.

And we all know the story of Lot’s daughters. They were not exactly women of virture and grace. They would make the women on reality TV in America blush!

Lot lived his life in Sodom and had an impact on absolutely no one! Not one person. Jesus told us that the kingdom is like a mustard seed. Our little faith brings a great harvest. Can this be the fruit of a life who engaged his wicked culture properly? I do not think so.

The Debate Commences

Well, let the debate begin. I am willing to learn and grow. Maybe this young whippersnapper named Rastis can shake my traditional ways and teach this old dog some new tricks.

I will remind all who read this that the whole point of these debates is to deal with difficult issues with open debate in a godly way. State your opinions clearly, but in a way that honors Christ.

Comments

  1. says

    Just getting in the comments stream. I am on my way home from out of state today, so my responses will be slow. I will answer everything as soon as I can.

  2. David Miller says

    Rastis, here’s my initial response to all you said.

    I think your admonitions in your last several paragraphs are well-written and well-taken. I agree whole-heartedly,

    I’m just not sure that Lot is the right one to use illustrate them. Perhaps he had good motives for entering the city, but I think that he may have bought into the system and lost his effectiveness.

    • says

      btw, I enjoyed your very thoughtful post on the CAMEL the other day. I didn’t comment (fearful I wouldn’t have time to respond to whatever followed!), but having used a very modified version of CAMEL in a South Asia context, I think you did a good job clearing some of the fog about it and pointing out its weaknesses as well.

      • says

        It’s okay. Compliments just swell my ego. Ask Tim Rogers. He says I’m arrogant.

        I think we’ve given Rastis lots of ammo for his responses when he gets back from his trip.

      • says

        Thank you. I hope it changes the tone of the debate and helps foster an atmosphere of dialogue among the brethren.

        • says

          change the tone of the debate…well, hope does spring eternal! it was a really good article though. I probably won’t get around to answering your other questions of me til Monday. super busy today and Sunday is going to be even thicker.

  3. says

    Very interesting debate. I liked both writers and their sense of humor and civility in this debate. Great job to both!

    The whole subject reminds me of a viral video I saw once where a “cool” youth pastor struggles with pronunciation while trying to describe Lot “pitching his tent” toward Sodom. If you haven’t seen someone turn beat read in a while, check it out!

    Rastis makes an important point overall that is often missed in preaching on this sermon. (I grew up in an IFB-type Christian school, so I heard more than one chapel message on Lot…per semester!) We often wind up blaming the tragic events of Lot’s life (see the paragraph below on these*) on his location and not his decisions. Thus Peter can cite him as evidence of a righteous person living in the midst of the ungodly. It’s clear from the story that Lot, even at the worst (offering his daughters to be gang-raped), is still portrayed as at least a step above his neighbors in Sodom. The “intercession” he provides appears primarily as interceding on his own behalf (unlike Abraham’s vigorous pleading for others); the small city of Zoar exists to save his own hide, it appears. But even prayers of self-preservation to the true God are a step above paganism.

    But where Rastis comes short in his argument is when he goes to motive. Now of course, this isn’t a court room–going to motive is where real exegesis often must take place (the facts of events are usually straightforward–people must decide what went through the character’s mind before, during, and after said event through careful reading.) He seems to assume that Lot is “in the city, for the city” as my church planter friends often say of their own work. It seems more apparent, especially taking into account Lot’s “intercession” to save his own skin (he doesn’t even bother interceding for Sodom, something Abraham did), that Lot is “in the city, for Lot.” The fact that he lived near and eventually in Sodom is not sinful. The fact that he went where it was prosperous and easy and left Abraham to the tough spot might have been (depending on motive). The story (as Rastis points out) is not against cities. The suburbs today may provide the type of ease and materialism and sinful pleasure-seeking of ancient Sodom for many just as easily. Unlike today’s cities, safety and security and comfort were the draw to Sodom. We must be careful to identify Lot’s failures as deeper and more diverse than simply living in a neighborhood with homosexuals.

    Dave Miller, your opening few paragraphs were really enjoyable. Btw, there’s a new-fangled interpretation of the building materials in 1 Corinthians 3 you should hear sometime.

    *Tragic events: let’s remember that losing one’s wife to spontaneous salinization and fathering one’s own grandchildren are less than “ideal”, certainly not viewed as the reward of the righteous. The statement about all the illicit activity in Genesis being an attempt to make Genesis 3:15 happen just doesn’t cut the mustard (and don’t tell any high schoolers about that theory either!). The fact that two of Israel’s enemies, Moab and Ammon, are created through drunken incest is not meant to make us think “Wow, God is prospering Lot” but rather “The people blocking us from the promised land have 12 toes and funny eyes.” The Ruth story later actually works dramatically because of how “negative” the origins of Moab are, as opposed to a “positive” or “neutral” theory.)

      • says

        Josh said, “We often wind up blaming the tragic events of Lot’s life (see the paragraph below on these*) on his location and not his decisions. Thus Peter can cite him as evidence of a righteous person living in the midst of the ungodly.”

        Well-taken point, Josh. It was not Lot’s decision to go into Sodom that was the problem. That was, perhaps, a noble act like Rastis maintains. But it is his decisions I call into question.

        Is there still some value in an old cliche? “In the world not of the world.”

        I think (though he can speak for himself when he gets home) that Rastis’ chief argument is with the use of this passage as a “stay out of Sodom” instruction. But I still tend to believe that while Lot may have done well when he went into Sodom, he should most definitely not allowed as much of Sodom to get into him and his family.

        Wouldn’t that be the constant challenge of the evangelist engaging culture?

        • says

          I wouldn’t call “in the world/not of it” a cliche. It’s from Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in John 17.

          As far as a “stay out of Sodom” text, I think most here would agree on it being misused that way too often. Perhaps, rather instead of “stay out of Sodom” we should say, “Keep Sodom out of you!” and then define Sodom as more than just sexual sins (though certainly not less.)

    • says

      Lot did intercede for the visitors and for Zoar, though the latter was probably for selfish reasons. True, he did not intercede for the whole city, but he did not have the birds eye view which Abraham had. He only learned about its demise once it was too late.

      Concerning Gen 3:15, that is the bedrock passage for many commentators who try to explain all of the weird sexuality in Genesis. Why was bareness stigmatic? The women believed the promise of the coming deliverer and sought to bring him in quickly. Why does Tamar sleep with a whole bunch of men God kills them for not participating? The promise. Why does she make it into the lineage? Perhaps God is rewarding her faith.

      The girls thought the end of the world had occurred. It was a pre-law time. I don’t think their decision to sleep with their father was ideal, I have trouble calling it sin since the laws on incest had not yet been given.

    • says

      If we throw out the time honored explanation of Gen 3:15 and pre-law caveats, then questions such as “where did Cain get his wife?” become morally troubling.

      • says

        Rastis,
        (I hope the thread-hijacking down below doesn’t cause everyone to give up on this interesting conversation!)

        Maybe I haven’t looked in the right places (I hadn’t come across it in several OT and Pentateuch courses at college and seminary level and couldn’t find anything in Waltke’s large OT Theology about these women claiming the proto-euangelion promise of Gen. 3:15 for their actions). It is strange that in the case of Tamar and Lot’s daughters that none of them claims the desire for the serpent-destroying Seed of the woman to appear as their hope for their actions (The girls are only worried about their father’s line. Tamar doesn’t really give a reason.)

        I would argue (and I think this is where most of the commentators I’ve found do) that the hand of God was working behind the scenes in the stories for good and to fulfill the promise in very unlikely (and even overcoming shameful) circumstances. But it was God’s intention to do so, not the daughters or Tamar’s from what we find in the text.

        The pre-law argument obviously is important for explaining the near-family marriages necessary in these times. Yet, don’t forget that there is a theology of marriage and sex that goes back to Genesis 2 (Jesus himself went here when questioned). I don’t think any Israelite pre-law would think the incest brought to poor drunken Lot by his daughters was “ideal” or a different kind of “leaving father and mother and cleaving to wife”. If Noah’s son Ham could bring a curse on his own offspring by uncovering his father’s nakedness earlier in Genesis, I don’t think Lot’s daughters are off the hook either.

        Without the need to justify them by use of Gen. 3:15, the reasons for these “desperate” attempts at offspring can be explained by several reasons. Children (mainly sons) were social security, homeland security, and eternal security in the ANE. They worked the fields (or hunted or herded) for aging parents, they were helpful for defending one’s livelihood and keeping property from going to strangers after death, and with the limited revelation of the afterlife, many felt that a life lived on through offspring was the true immortality.

        To turn the Gen. 3:15 issue on its head, let’s imagine another scenario. Some brothers believe God’s promise of blessing to Abraham (and the nations) in Gen. 12. Knowing this, they decide to bless Egypt by sending their little brother down there via some slave-trading Ishmaelites. It was pre-law, so the commands against selling one’s brother weren’t in play yet obviously. We should now preach sermons about the first great mission-sending center–Joseph’s 11 brothers!! Obviously, we know that their motives were not such. The motives were evil. Simply because God did actually end up doing all those things I listed above (in that positive light) through their actions doesn’t mean we go back and ascribe God’s good motives to them as well. That’s how I would treat the issue of Lot’s daughters and the ultimate role of that one Moabitess later on.

        Enough with the daughters, I do agree that Lot himself deserves some of the character-reclamation though you argued for. I just think that preaching him as exemplar par excellence for urban engagement would be bad for missionaries and urban centers both! It’d be like preaching Jonah as the great missionary example for all! (Step 1: avoid it. Step 2: go reluctantly and half-heartedly. Step 3: Criticize God for your success…) Are there missiological principles there still in Jonah w/o affirming every action as exemplary? o yea. You argue well for not throwing Lot’s entire life (the baby) out with the bathwater (the negative judgment of God on his town, his wife, and his daughters’ wickedness). I think I would just want to make sure we’re not sipping bathwater while drying off the baby either!

        • says

          I don’t want to argue that the law in no way applied. However, Lot aside, if we condemn any and all incest, then we condemn many who married within the family. I don’t think as many commentators try to bring in 3:15 to explain a lot of that as much as apologists do. In all honesty, I have never heard any of them make that argument for lot specifically. I was the one who drew from their explanations. I applied arguments that they used to address criticisms of Adam’s children to the situation with Lot. That said, Geisler, Sailhammer, and others have made the case both for a pre-law exemption with Incest and with 3:15 serving as a benchmark [albeit, not with Lot].
          That said, it is interesting that many of the early fathers saw not only Lot, but also the daughters as innocent. I don’t Irenaeus was moralizing stories. He was actually attempting to do hermeneutics. His point was that we should not falsely accuse saints of old by more modern standards–particularly when the scriptures do not.

          Your last line bro… that was awesome. I am going to shamelessly quote you without credit on that one one day!

  4. David Miller says

    Josh – saw that video. It was hilarious. Some day I’m going to write a post for discussion – share the most embarrassing thing you have said in the pulpit. True stories only. should be good for a laugh.

    As regards the new interpretation of the building materials, I can hardly wait. I think we always have to be open to new interpretations of scriptures, and not to be closed off.

    On the other hand, I am put in mind of something my seminary professor said many years ago (Dr. Barbieri at Dallas). “If you come up with an interpretation that no one studying scripture in 2000 years has come up with, what are the chances you are right and everyone else who ever studied the Bible is wrong?”

    My honest complaint (hidden in the light words I opened with) is that it seems to me that some in the modern evangelical world approach scripture with the assumptions that those who came before them knew nothing of proper hermeneutics. (By the way, I am not laying this charge at Rastis’ feet – not at all).

    We old fogeys have to be willing to examine new perspectives.
    The young whippersnappers need to respect the hermeneutics of their crusty elders.

    One more thing. What Rastis said in his last 4 paragraphs (starting with “There is more to intercession than prayer” is powerful. I hope it is not missed being buried in the middle of a lengthy debate post.

    Whether we think Lot is a model of engagement or compromise, my spirit bears witness with the power of his words in those paragraphs.

    • says

      A guy at Dallas said that? What if something was never taught for say…1800 years of church history? (if you catch what I’m saying, bravo! If not, don’t worry about it–it would distract from the main topic too much!)

      The 1 Corinthians 3 passage about wood, hay, stubble, gold, etc. has usually (at least in circles I know) been taught as, “You either are producing faithful works in temporary categories of “wood, hay, stubble” or eternal quality-“Gold, etc.” However, it seems better that Paul is drawing an illusion to actual building construction of his day. Each person will be judged for how they build the Body, The Temple, aka the church. All the building ingredients are necessary (even the less flashy ones–something the Corinthians had a problem with.). “Judged by fire” on the “day” is an illusion to the building inspection done by “fire” as in a torch on the inspection “day.” It deals more with corporate unity than individual sincerity. (My professor at MBTS, Dr. Tomlinson, is currently slated for the 1 Cor. notes in the forthcoming HCSB study bible. The notes (if still there) will provide more textual reasoning for this idea than I am able to give here.

      • says

        Now its on! Matt and I keep threatening to have a debate on eschatology, but I am a master-procrastinator. Looks like you might want to join in on that one!

        Two notes on your “bravo” comment (not to be too serious in response to a joke)

        1) I did not say newer interpretations are never correct, just that we should give respect to the work of Bible exposition over the last 2000 years.

        2) Those of us who remain delusional in our eschatology (note subtle dig at Matt) would maintain that while the pretrib system was not developed earlier, church history is replete with two key components of pretrib eschatology – the premillennial return of Christ and imminence.

        Enough of that for now.

        • says

          I think Matt will have more than enough to soundly defeat you when/if you guys finally do that one, so no need for me to step in! though having served in a predominately pre-trib church, I’m used to be a neutral referee if you need one!

      • says

        And as to the building materials thing, I remain a little skeptical, though interested.

        It seems remarkably clear that Paul is distinguishing between two types of people – those who will receive reward and those who will suffer loss.

        Again, count me skeptical but interested.

        • says

          No, the reward/loss thing is still there. It’s just those contributing to the party spirit (the main topic of 1-3) and disunity will be found lacking on inspection. I’d have to either post a longer explanation elsewhere though to do it more justice. Consider it a fun topic of inquiry waiting for a rainy day!

  5. says

    Rastis, I am going to open the “debate” section with some questions directed at your post. I expect you to come back at me with questions as well. Because of the format of the comment stream here, I am going to set out each question in a different comment. That way you and others can make separate comments about each subject.

    1) Do you not engage in the same “eisigesis” you accuse traditional interpreters of? I will freely admit that we have perhaps engaged in overinterpretation with the “near Sodom-in Sodom-in the gates of Sodom” progressions and other such things, which you flatly called “unbiblical” – a “bombastic crucifixion.” But in essence, are we not both taking the evidence of the narrative and spinning it a certain way. The question is not who is handling the text, but whose interpretation of the text is more accurate to the evidence we have.

    • says

      I do not believe my position is eisigetical. I just believe the Bible ;)
      Seriously, I am trying to interpret scripture with scripture not scripture with how I feel towards my culture. Peter saw Lot’s righteousness–as did early Rabbis–and I believe there is coherence with his view and Genesis.

      In terms of “bombastic crucifixion” that is regarding the style and tone of the many camp evangelists who used him–one burnt down a GI Joe with a blow torch while preaching… You cant make this stuff up.

      I agree that we are both looking at the same facts through different eyes. I simply assert that a “Christ against culture” view does not adequately represent the text by overlooking that which does not conform its presuppositions about culture. When I listen to those who take the modern-Traditional position they tend to describe the movements and actions in more generic terms. They assume the agreement of the audience as to its meaning and then they go of on some offending part of culture–which is typically their real reason for introducing that text in the first place.

      Peter’s view of Lot, on the other hand, is neither convenient and culturally comfortable nor is it safe. Why would someone actually want to take their children to the modern Sodoms of the world [San Francisco, NYC, New Orleans Las Vegas, or just the "bad part of town" in your local city]. We prefer to live where it is safe and the people are like us. The very existence of suburbs betrays our inner racism and materialism. If we take Peter’s view seriously, we might be led to think that we should move into the “Ghetto” despite well intended warnings from friends and family. In reality we have done the opposite. “White-Flight” has killed many formerly thriving churches which are now in “transitional” neighborhoods. I do not necessarily think that all of what I have just said is the direct application of Gen 18-19. I think we have been theologizing in the wrong direction for our own comfort and we need to make some changes–changes I believe are consistent with various texts when not viewed through the eyes of safety and comfort.

  6. says

    Questions for Rastis, continued:

    2) Does Lot’s righteousness, testified to by Peter, mean that all his actions were right, that he was a model of cultural engagement? Is it not possible that he was a righteous man who had a genuine disdain for the evil of the culture but went about dealing with it the wrong way?

  7. says

    Questions for Rastis, continued:

    3) Do not the uniformly horrific consequences of Lot’s years in Sodom militate against the idea that he engaged culture appropriately? Sodom had more of an effect on him than he had on Sodom, right? He did not, in all those years, reach a single person. On the other hand, he lost his wife to Sodom, his daughters to its values. His sons-in-law ridiculed him when he told them of the coming judgment. This is a tenuous foundation on which to build a teaching on cultural engagement, is it not?

    • says

      This is another strong point…

      If Lot is an example of cultural engagement then it appears that he is a really, really bad example. He lost his whole family to the culture and there is no sign of “fruit.”

      • says

        This is a tough one – sort of a balancing act. We don’t want to be pragmatists who judge righteousness by outcomes. On the other hand, there seems to be a biblical assumption that righteousness bears fruit – and that fruit is almost wholly absent in Lot’s life.

    • says

      “Do not the uniformly horrific consequences of Lot’s years in Sodom militate against the idea that he engaged culture appropriately?”
      Does the horrific consequences and ineffectiveness of Noah suggested that he failed?

      “He did not, in all those years, reach a single person.” Many missionaries go years without visible fruit. We need to be careful in measuring success in numbers.

      “On the other hand, he lost his wife to Sodom, his daughters to its values. His sons-in-law ridiculed him when he told them of the coming judgment.”
      While I have disagreed with some of those statements elsewhere, lets take it as a whole at face value as true for the sake of argument. I know of many who have ventured into the city, in spite of warnings, and their children have “become” pagans. They got involved in drugs, sex and various other sins. Could that have been avoided by not going into the city? I know even more people who live in the suburbs whose children get into the same sins. Those who manage to escape the “big sins” and retain their “faith” are typically myopic and materialistic much like the sodomites [Inhabitants of Sodom, just to be clear]. The answer for us lies not in geography and culture but in Christ. Some people are going to walk away from everything that their parents raised them in. While their may be obvious external causes, such as running in the wrong crowd, we must never be duped into thinking that they would have avoided this sin, or any sin for that matter, by simply relocating.

  8. says

    Questions for Rastis, concluded (for now, at least)

    4) Josh brought up a very good point above. Abraham interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot interceded for himself. Yes, both were hospitable. But I do not see the comparison between them as intercessors. Abraham sought the glory of God. Lot sought a place for himself to live. Perhaps this shows that Lot, though righteous, had become self-centered and indulgent. He’d lost that kingdom edge.

    Maybe, as you assert, Lot entered the city with the best of motives. But do you not think it is a reasonable explanation of the facts to say that somewhere along the line, however he entered the city, he lost his passion for God somewhere?

    • says

      Lot did intercede for the two visitors and for the city of Zoar–the latter through fear no doubt. Perhaps if he had been given the same up front warning Abraham received or had the roles been reversed, the story would have played out differently. But that is pure speculation. The point is that he did intercede on behalf of others even when there was potential and probable harm for himself on the line.

      When compared to Abraham, in broad strokes, he is quite similar. When compared to Sodom, even down to the minute details of Eze 16, he is a polar opposite.

      In order to entertain your last paragraph, I would need textual support, beyond the assertion that everything just went down hill in general, to suggest that his zeal was lax. If anything, it was his willingness to show hospitality, with all of its import, to strangers that started the chain reaction which both saved his life, the life of his daughters, the lives of the “Zoarites,” and destroyed the other four cities of the valley.

  9. says

    I don’t see Lot entering Sodom to serve the Lord. He was found righteous enough for God to save from destruction, but I see no evidence that he was there as a missionary. Abraham believed the Lord and it was counted to him as righteousness. He is described as being a person of faith. Abraham left his home country, believed in God’s promise, was willing to sacrifice Isaac, etc. Lot’s prosperity was a direct result of Abraham’s generosity. When given the choice, he chose to settle in the Jordan Valley, where the land was well watered and favored. I fail to see that Lot was doing anything to affect the culture of Sodom other than enjoying it. I’m not trying to assassinate his character or crucify the guy; I just don’t see him as a cultural warrior.

    • says

      Lets look at this line by line. I start yours with a —

      –Abraham believed the Lord and it was counted to him as righteousness.
      So did Lot. Had he not believed the angelic warning, he would have been roasted along with everyone else.

      –He is described as being a person of faith.
      So is lot in 2 Peter.

      –Abraham left his home country, believed in God’s promise,
      Lot left with him. IMO, this is the biggest indication that Lot was righteous since they formerly lived among the moon worshiping capital.

      –was willing to sacrifice Isaac,
      Lot was willing to sacrifice his daughters. Like Abraham, God did not require that he follow through and he and his daughters were rescued.

      –Lot’s prosperity was a direct result of Abraham’s generosity.
      Absolutely! I contend that it is impossible to understand Lot’s righteousness without understanding how he is connected to Abraham.

      –When given the choice, he chose to settle in the Jordan Valley, where the land was well watered and favored.
      God blessed him with land that was irrigated. He is not the only one who received the promise of land…

      These are all great reasons to see Lot’s righteousness.
      ;)

  10. says

    Let me first say thank you to sbcvoices for the opportunity to talk about all of this on their blog.

    Second, you guys have given me a lot of rope–I feel like a kid on Christmas–lets see where we can go!

    Third, Dave the Venerable, is playing the kind older gentleman card, so until I can figure out if he is being Regan-esque or if he is claiming it as a handicap I will proceed with caution. …though if he has some inside information, we would love for him to share his experiences waiting tables at the Last Supper with the rest of the class. ;)

    And now back to the debate…

  11. says

    I will first address the common arguments you all make in common with David. Then I will look at his post, answer his questions, and ask some of my own. If I overlook any of the points you guys have made, feel free to put it back to me and I will go at it again.

    1. I agree that not everything that Lot did was righteous. As someone said, we could expand that list beyond Lot to include everyone in the Bible. The fact that not everything he did was righteous does not detract from Peter’s declaration. How then are we to understand that declaration? Was Peter out on a limb? Did he receive new revelation not contained in the original story? Was he possibly interpreting Gen 18-19 for us?

    2. To those who point to Lot’s bad decisions: can you be more specific? This is the problem with how the traditional position handles the text. there is an obvious problem in Sodom. The proponent of the trad. view simply needs to reference something vague and the shove it under the rug of how evil we all agree that Sodom was. But since we are discussing the nuts and bolts, lets look at the specifics. If he made bad decisions, what are they and or what basis to we call them wrong?

    3. There seems to be a general assumption that since things turned out so poorly, that there must have been something wrong with lot [motive, decision, etc]. This misunderstanding stems from the fact that we often assume that the only way in which God works in this world is positive. Sometimes the message is salvation, but sometimes the message of salvation is damnation. Do we question Jeremiah who was sent on a fools errand by God? How about Noah who completely failed to convince anyone outside his family to come aboard the ark?

    4. Someone remarked about how evil Lot’s descendants were. This is true. In my comparison of Lot and Abraham, it is clear that the major difference between them would be that the covenant is through Abraham. Lot has benefited from his connection to Abraham and the covenant but in a limited sense. It is true that Lot’s descendants were a thorn in Israel’s side. Here too, the two men are alike. Lot is not the only one with an illegitimate child. Of the three children, whose indiscretion had more devastating results? How many moabites and ammonites have continually harassed the world? Ishmael’s descendants, by comparison….

    5. I do not really want to set lot up as an archetype of any sort. There is a general slant in SBC life which is against the urban world. As the world is coming up on 60% urbanization, the status of world missions is contingent upon taking the gospel to the people. Since people are in cities…. The fact is that we need to change our paradigm to be urban focused. This will only happen as we go back to a number of texts which we use to satisfy our comfort and need for cultural isolation.

    Next I will offer a critique of David’s post and then ask some questions and answer his.

    • says

      As to Point 1 – the use of the OT in the NT is a minefield. I think that Peter interpretation of Lot was safeguarded by inspiration. But honestly, would anyone even have this discussion if it were not for Peter’s affirmation that he was righteous?

      There is precious little in the OT story that casts a positive light on him.

    • says

      Point 2: I could well turn that around. Other than welcome the travelers into his home, is there any evidence of a good choice.

      Is there any textual basis, then, to affirm that Lot entered the city of Sodom with noble, “evangelistic” purposes (I know I’m using a NT construct). You hold him up as a model of cultural engagement, but is there any evidence that he was, in fact, engaging the culture?

      As to bad choices, I will admit there is nothing specific, as is the case with his good choices. I think we read it in by absolute compromise in the life of his family.

    • says

      Point 3) Yes, I believe the utter destruction of Lot’s family is evidence of his compromise.

      In Deuteronomy 28:32, the giving over of sons and daughters to a foreign nation is a sign of God’s judgment, discipline on sin. I know that is written after the Lot story, but could it not be a more eternal principle? “Train up a child in the way he should go…” I know that is no ironclad guarantee. But we know people by their fruits and the fruit of Lot’s life is uniformly bad.

      There is nothing to commend his righteousness in evidence in the OT passage. Therefore I see him as a righteous man with compromised beliefs.

    • says

      It seems to me that in some sense we are both looking at the evidence interpreting it different ways. It seems to me that you are using (perhaps from my perspective – overusing) the Peter statement. I am using the “fruit” argument to interpret his life. Both of us are making deductions from the same information that leads us in different directions.

      I will reiterate this: I agree with your points about the need to engage the cities. I just am not sure that the Lot story is the best place to hang your hat for that teaching.

  12. says

    Point 2: I could well turn that around. Other than welcome the travelers into his home, is there any evidence of a good choice.

    Is there any textual basis, then, to affirm that Lot entered the city of Sodom with noble, “evangelistic” purposes (I know I’m using a NT construct). You hold him up as a model of cultural engagement, but is there any evidence that he was, in fact, engaging the culture?

    As to bad choices, I will admit there is nothing specific, as is the case with his good choices. I think we read it in by absolute compromise in the life of his family.

    • says

      Here is the list I see of his good/engagement
      1.The hospitality is a big one.
      2. we see Lot at the gate which was the people’s court.
      3. We see him intercede between the angry mob. This could have cost him his daughters–which he wrongfully offered–and his own life–which is what they threatened. In a town which operates on a kind of “old west” system of justice, he really put his neck out for his guests–and all of that was before he knew their real identity, he did it for “the least of these.”
      4. He saved Zoar through bargaining with the angel. His motives may have been fear driven, but he saved a city none the less.
      5. He managed to raise two virgin daughters in a sordid culture.
      6. He remained “unspotted” from the world. When we look at the passage in Eze about the ultimate reasons Sodom was destroyed, it is clear that he was not guilty of any of those.

      In one of your earlier comments you say that you agree with my real premise but think Lot is a bad choice. Lets play with that for a minute. Look at the list above and compare it not to our culture but to our churches. [there are exceptions to the following list of course]
      1. hospitality is all but a lost art. I forget the exact statistic, but the vast majority of international “strangers” never have a meal in an American home!
      2. We rarely occupy positions of influence as we have typically bought into the secular lie that we should avoid these.
      3. We typically intercede when it is convenient and sage. We rarely even intercede for the unborn any more [my generation is even worse.]!
      4. We avoid cities if we can help it and prefer the comfort and security of small towns and suburbs.
      5. I am not even touching that one…
      6. this one is the scariest in just how close we are. We are definitely characterized by prosperous ease and little concern for the poor and needy.

      If anything, we should worry less about Lot or the state of our culture, and look more at our own values. I think we have more in common with Sodom than Lot ever did!

      I tend to have trouble accepting an argument that says Lot was in the wrong for being compromised when we cannot point out any specific compromises other than the general state of being in “absolute compromise”… Perhaps we need to have a more coherent model which takes into account how things went so badly when the only thing we see is that text only shows his good decisions and not his bad.

      • says

        You said, “2. We rarely occupy positions of influence as we have typically bought into the secular lie that we should avoid these.” I wonder if that is true. “Christians” hold many positions of power and influence in America.

        My fear is that perhaps we are seeking positions of influence and involvement in the culture sometimes when we should be standing in confrontation, though not in isolation.

        • says

          I think the problem is that the few “Christians” in positions of influence do not see them self as advancing or working for the Kingdom [the same could be said of many churches...].

          I don’t think influence is bad and I don’t think it stands in the way of confrontation. For instance, if we had more kingdom minded individuals in influential places in 1973, we might not be still fighting Roe/Wade. In circles where holiness and separation are given priority over engagement and mission, there is a decided bias against Christians serving in secular positions for redemptive purposes.

        • says

          I do not see that fear of Christians holding places of power in the world. I tend to see the other side of that – Christians more interested in worldly power than in the building of the kingdom.

          I agree completely that there is a blessing that comes when a person in power uses that power for redemptive purposes. But I think too often they lose their eternal focus.

          We have seen that with people going to Washington. They go their with passionate hearts to clean up the government. A decade later, they are being investigated for abuse of power. The world has a seductive effect. Our sinful nature draws us to power, money and pleasure and away from our passion for Christ.

          I do not say that to advocate withdrawal. Much the opposite. I am saying that whoever engages culture is walking to the front lines and needs to be wary to be in the world but to be of Christ.

  13. says

    My Response to the Traditional position:
    In many regards, my entire position is a response to the traditional position. But I will address some of the specific claims that David makes.

    I first want to make it clear that I do not think that all who hold to the Trad. position are bombastic. That was a word to describe particular camp preachers who would argue for strict separation from the world on the basis of Lot. I heard a sermon just last Sunday which was very gentle.

    Concerning the claim that this is a new interpretation: This is indeed an old position. Early rabbinic teaching affirms that Lot was indeed righteous–This position is held without influence from the NT. Additionally, I hold that Peter was indeed interpreting this text. Thus, I look to the original context optimistically to see what he saw. I think we should bend our understanding to fit Gen 18-19 with Peter’s interpretation, rather than bend our understanding of Gen 18-19 to fit our cultural paradigms. In using this text to affirm some kind of separation or “danger in proximity” many have gone after the wrong victim. As Peter’s interpretation, it is Sodom, and not Lot, who was evil. We have faith that God is able to save the righteous and damn the wicked. Those who hang Lot out to dry typically overlook this point.

    1) Your affirmation of Peter in point one is incongruent with your other points. You do what the majority of modern commentators have done: “Yes peter says this, but what can we do with that?!” If we are to take Peter seriously, then we either have to affirm that he was looking back to Genesis, or we have to affirm that he is receiving something entirely apart from any other biblical discussion of Lot. I think while we affirm that he is guided by the Holy Spirit, the later option has some problems with it.

    2) I agree completely that angst and vexation is not enough. My generation is the worst about this. There are countless “cause” groups in facebooks which go through Christians my age in waves. We are notorious for a high degree of conscience and a low degree of commitment. This is our shame.

    Nevertheless, we cannot simply be vague in asserting that Lot made bad choices, and then simply revert back to talking about how evil Sodom was or how bad things turned out. That is question begging.

    Another reason to identify specific wrong decisions is that when we look at the majority of typical answers to that question, we find that Lot is not as guilty as we first assumed. For instance, when I held the modern-traditional position, one of the evidences I used was the incest. The problem is that I was holding him to the law which had not been given, and the text in Genesis clears him of culpability three different ways [It places all the blame on the girls plot, affirms they got him drunk, and asserts that he had no knowledge]. If he is not complicity, then I cannot use that as evidence against him.

    3) This one is curious to me and is the real heart of the matter our differing approaches. In reality there is a more foundational issue in interpreting this text than the narrative itself. As reader, we approach the text through certain cultural lenses. For those who take a “Christ against culture” position, this text is full of justification for living a separationist lifestyle in the here and now. What I have done in my position is not so much a reinterpretation [I agree that we are looking at the same pieces of information and are simply differing in our understanding of their implications and significance] as it is to simply get rid of my former separationist glasses and look at the text through a different cultural presupposition. To those who are generally dissatisfied with modern culture and are suffering from “future shock” this story makes them feel justified in their position and discontent. It is easy to use Lot improperly because there are few who will run to the aid of an incestuous man [Even though one of the disciples did...]. I referenced earlier that I heard my pastor preach on Lot recently. Not to stereotype, but… he has been in the ministry for over 70 years. He has seen a lot of changes in both the culture and the church. He longs for the days when “picture shows” were cleaner [actually quote]. Viewing Lot as a washed out compromised Christian is culturally convenient for Him.

    For instance, you say: “Was he able to get to that place of honor without compromise? It is hard to imagine.”
    It is highly speculative to assume that since he was in the gate he achieved this through compromise. Nothing in the text would suggest this. To the contrary, the text suggests that he lived in opposition to the current of Sodom [He wanted to protect the visitors from what he knew would be their demise if they stayed in the town square, and he defended them against the whole town even to the potential detriment of his daughters and his own life].

    You go on to say: “The story reveals the forceful and unrepentant perversion of the men of Sodom. They don’t seem like the kind of men who would take well to a “voice of conscience” in their midst.”

    Is Lot responsible for their level of repentance? I agree with your last line; it is textually substantiated that they did not appreciate him butting his nose into their business. That, however, does not reflect on Lot as an individual.

    This brings us to your fourth point concerning the Lots success and results.

    4) I agree that God blesses those who obey him. But we must be careful here. God is notorious for sending people to speak a message to a people who he promises will not listen. While all of God’s actions are morally good, from a human perspective, they are both beneficial and detrimental. We need to be careful in assuming that God’s word not returning “void” means that people’s only response will be faith and repentance. If this were true we would need to reexamine, Moses, Noah, Jeremiah and others. God is just; sometimes he simply needs a voice to call them to repentance one last time before he destroys them. While I agreed in the first point that not everything Lot did was good simply because he was considered righteous, I think that many in your camp think the reverse: if something turned out bad in the end, then everything that person did was bad [hence the reason you have trouble seeing good in Lot sans Peter]. That second statement does not follow from the first. If it did, we could no longer look to the faith of David, Abraham, Noah, Peter, and others.

    I do see that Lot was indeed supremely blessed by God in his dealings with Sodom. 1) in some way, he was a beneficiary of the covenant with Abraham. Abraham and his house had a special place. 2) God did not have to save any from Sodom. He agreed to 10 and made no promises to rescue people. Yet, because of Lot’s righteous actions regarding the visitors, He and his family was offered rescue. His sons-in-law refused and his wife looked back, but they were offered the same rescue. 3) Chapter 19 is not the first time that God’s providence shined on Lot. It was a few chapters prior where he was rescued from captivity. 4) as a beneficiary of the covenant, he was given a large irrigated piece of land [land is blessing] 5) he was provided an alternate city for refuge—even though it was originally slated for similar destruction 6) he received two son’s who were part of the blessing to all mankind [at least in the sense that they are part of the lineage of Christ]. We often cannot see all that through all the homosexuality and incest and are all too quick to write him off as a failure.

    In terms of Abraham’s bargaining with God for 10, I truly believe that God would have spared the city for the sake of Lot alone. At least, that is, until the town uprising happened. I believed that changed everything. [I believe this because it only took Lot and his three daughters and no more to save the city of Zoar].

    As to the accusation that Lot lost his family:
    I think we need to define who we think Lot is really responsible for in regards to his family. His sons-in-law did not listen, true enough. But is that Lot’s fault? The preacher Sunday used a similar line to what you say “In fact, he lost even his own family. Most telling is verse 14. His sons-in-law thought he was jesting when he told them to leave. This hardly seems to be a reaction to someone who had moral authority.” At first I was really taken back by this. What a great point! Surely if he was seen as a guru or judge they would have taken him seriously. Since they did not, these roles must have been “out of character” for him. But then I got to thinking about it… Imagine for a moment the climate of Sodom. It was a violent version of Mardi Gras, only no one went home when it was over. Imagine now, being sent by God to warn people of impending doom. What will their reactions be when you walk into the bar in the French quarter and declare to your future sons-in-law that party time was over because angels told you that God was about to destroy the city? They would probably laugh. But isn’t that exactly what the pre-flood folks did to Noah as well?

    What about his daughters? In addition to the hospitality and protection he offered the visitors, the Rabbis teach that it is Lot’s daughters who are the real proof of his righteousness. In a sexually violent city like Sodom, Lot managed to raise to maturity two virgin daughters!

    Again, I want to be careful not to set lot up as a model anywhere beyond the point of the passage in Peter [that we have the freedom to go into dark places on the faith that God will rescue us if it gets too bad]. That said, we need to change the trajectory of our convention to include going to dark urban places. In order to do this we need to look at many passages through different eyes. We need not reject modern culture in favor of the culture of the 50’s for it too had many problems and diverse sins. Preachers in the 50’s who longed for the good old days of the 20’s probably used this passage to justify their disenchantment with the “modern” generation. We need to not be idealistic to think that a different cultural setting would yield better morality, families, churches, etc. Contrary to humanism and behaviorism, we do not believe that our sin is culture bound. Thus, our environment need not perplex us. Utopian separationist mindsets will yield the same sins which unwitting cultural acceptance will. Our redemption is in Christ. We need to re-theologize a model of incarnational ministry which takes seriously “to the pure, all things are pure.” Our hope is in the Spirit, not the flesh!

    • says

      As to point 1 – My point about Peter’s comment is that it seems to stand in contradiction to what you see about Lot elsewhere, not that it is a “problem” that needs to be dealt with.

    • says

      Here’s my issue, sir.

      I would agree that God often sends people into situations in which there is little or no response from the people. But when you lose your wife and children to that sinful culture, that would be evidence of a problem.

      I think that the “bargain” of Abraham juxtaposed to the absolute absense of righteousness in the community and in Lot’s family may be evidence intended to tell us that while Lot may not have be unsaved, he also is not an example of effective cultural engagement.

      • says

        What about Hosea? I obviously wouldn’t want to set him up as a model–or Lot, but at times God sends the saints of “fools errands” for his ultimate purposes. If Lot did not loose his daughters, as the early fathers contend he didn’t, then it is untenable to argue that he was some how in the wrong on the basis of something that didn’t happen.

        So I guess a question for you would be do you agree with Irenaeus and others who do not find the daughters guilty? If the answer is “no,” then you cannot continue arguing that he lost his family. If the answer is “yes” then my question is on what basis are you disagreeing with them? On what basis would you call it sin?

        • says

          No, I think I would have to stick with the idea that the actions of the daughters were perverse and a product of their Sodomite values.

          1) Just because God uses something for his purposes does not mean that he approves of that which he uses. For instance, in Habakkuk, God tells the prophet that he is raising up Babylon to judge sinful Judah. He then tells the prophet that he will judge Babylon for what they would do. Did God use Babylon for his purposes? Yes. Did that absolve the Babylonians of their sin? No. I would think the same thing is true here. Lot’s daughters committed horrible evil. Yet God used it.

          2) I do not think that incest (parent/child) only became a sin under the law. We had a lengthy discussion on the law in my last post. I believe there is an eternal law built on the character and nature of God. It was revealed in the OT law, then fully revealed in Christ.

          There was an issue in the Noah story about the kids seeing their father naked. It may not be apples to apples, but there seemed to be some sense even then of the inappropriateness of any parent/child contact.

          3) Why is this story included in the Bible? While authors wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit, we can also usually discern a human reason for what was written. Genesis is the story of origins, of beginnings. Many of the stories seem to be included to tell how Israel’s enemies came to be – generally in ungodly ways.

          The general purpose of this story seems to be to explain the shameful origins of the Moabites and Ammonites.

          No, I cannot see this as anything but a shameful episode and a perversion of the ways of God.

  14. says

    Rastis, I hope we might keep this discussion going. I am enjoying it. But I may have to be a little less involved for the next 24 hours or so because I have this little preaching gig thing to do.

    However, I would like to open up another can 0f worms, and maybe let you take the lead on this one – I will come back later to show you your errors, okay?

    You said in one of your comments above: “I simply assert that a “Christ against culture” view does not adequately represent the text by overlooking that which does not conform its presuppositions about culture.”

    Could you expand on that one? The Bible seems to be uniformly negative about “culture” – “the god of this age” and such. What are you trying to say about culture?

    Is culture morally neutral or sinful?

    Scripture presents us as aliens and strangers in a world hostile to our Christ. By the way, I believe American culture is as pagan as others. But how do we balance cultural engagement with the general sinfulness of the world system?

    Do you even accept my premises of the general sinfulness of culture?

    • says

      Ok, here is my view on culture in a nutshell:
      For those who may not be familiar, the “Christ against culture” position comes from Neibuhr’s “Christ and Culture.” In his book he lays out five different ways in which Christ can relate to culture and discusses the ins and outs of each position along with the major figures that have held them throughout church history. Part of the problem with cultural views is that one is easily tempted to hold to just one of the five views. To simplify the discussion, lets just say that there are three views. The first two are essentially the same, they are “all in” or “all out.” They both have problems. Neither position is really sustainable in the real world. One leads you to the brothel and the other to the desert to stand on a pole. There is an obvious tension in the text concerning these two positions. Contra the all in position, one thinks of the “love not the world” texts. Contra the all out position, one thinks of Col 2:20-23.

      The third position, and the balance, is an incarnational approach. It is because of the incarnation that I am uncomfortable with the position that all of culture is evil. It is also why I am uncomfortable with the position that all of culture is good.

      Part of the typical haze in these discussions is due to the fact that all parties hold presuppositions and have biases and rarely if ever clearly define their terms. Thus there is a lot of reading into the opponents views. When we talk about culture we typically think of things like clothes, food, and language. But culture extends to politics, family structure, rites of passage, views of history, and concepts of time, space, truth, communication and learning. To compound matters further, at the heart of any culture is worldview [Theology, metaphysics, ethics, anthropology, and epistemology]. To take the laundry list of categories described in the previous three sentences and give it a simple yes or no is obviously overly simplistic. Just look at one of the issues: theology. In the Islamic context how do we approach their theology? We can’t just give it a “yes” or we would be supporting a view where God does not have a son. We can’t simply say “no” either. Their theology is monotheistic; do we really want to change that? In just those two questions we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of that question. Now look at the laundry list. Each of these issues must be examined.

      To keep this short and simple, I propose three categories with three responses. In every culture you have positive, neutral, and negative elements. Our response in biblically evaluating these elements is receive, redeem, and reject. In American culture, we have various views on marriage, some good some bad. Since this is a biblical category, we want to redeem this. We don’t want to affirm no fault divorce and we don’t want to reject faithful monogamy. Things like marriage and language are neutral [they are what you make of them. We can use words to bless and words to curse] and so we redeem them. We have various modes of transportation. Since they are both amoral and productive we receive these as positive. We do not need to ask if there is a “Christian” and “non-Christian” car out there. We also have fornication. As this is definitely not positive and we do not receive it, neither is it neutral so as to be redeemed [there is no “how to fornicate God’s way”] and thus we reject it as negative.

      The incarnation fits this model. Much of culture Jesus simply received. He spoke the local tongue, ate the local food, and wore the local clothes. He accepted a level of culture which we as Baptists would probably be uncomfortable with. He hung out with the wrong crowd, with untouchables, unclean persons, Samaritans, tax collectors, and Pharisees. These were the people who “smoke cuss drink and chew.” At the same time, he did not simply receive everything in culture. He spoke prophetically and called people to repentance. From what were they supposed to repent? The Aramaic language? The honor shame culture? Monogamy? Food? Jesus left most of the culture intact. Typically he disagreed the most with those who wanted simply to legislate the cultural climate [ie. The Pharisees] and hide in isolation. We must never forget that the son of man came eating and drinking. We must also never forget that he calls all men to repentance. We must believe both of these and balance them logically.

      I used to hold a very separationist mindset. It was actually the study of missions which drew me out to understand my own culture here. We would study missionaries who would have a local haircut, local clothes, local architecture, local language, etc. We hailed them as a great missionary. If someone did the same thing here [like all those liberal southern baptists--in our world, they were all liberal...] we would just call them worldly. This didn’t fit together in my head and God started changing me. What I had chalked up to “holiness” was simply pride, fear, and walking by sight in the flesh.

      • says

        I would agree on the incarnational mindset. However, I do not think this requires a neutral view of culture. Incarnation means our physical presence in the world. Jesus told us that the world hated him and will hate us. Jesus consistently confronted the powers that be and the culture in which he lived.

        Boiled down, Rastis, I agree with your admonition to engage culture, to be incarnational, but I think we might be in disagreement about the nature of that culture.

        • says

          I don’t think that culture is only neutral, there is negative and positive as well. Jesus opposed the powers that be [were], but I doubt he griped about how contemporary and “worldly” the music at the temple was, or about those “liberal” hellenized Jews dressing like all the Greek kids at school. What we typically react to in culture is not the big issues but the cultural minutia which bugs us the most [for me it is flip flops on guys...].

          At great risk of derailing the entire thread like last time… Jesus did stand against much of culture while much he overlooked. Alcohol? He didn’t seem to care–at least not as much as we do. We let alcohol dictate who our friends are and where we can go while at the same time ignoring problems such as human trafficking and child prostitution. FF Bruce wrote much about this disconnect in evangelical life in his “The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism”

          Just to be clear, I do affirm that there is much that is negative and the Bible speaks prophetically against this. However, we often overlook the fact that much of culture is neutral and even positive.

          • says

            So I can understand what you are saying, what in our culture is “good” or positive?

            If you define that, I may understand where I agree and disagree better. I think you and I may be (as I mentioned above) focusing on different things a little.

        • says

          I agree with your comment about culture – dress and such. When I say culture, though, I am talking about more than just fashion, technology, entertainment, etc. I’m talking about mindset.

          Satan has seeded this world down with his lies and there seems to be a general acceptance of that which is false. That is why we need incarnational ministry – confronting Satan’s lies with the truth.

          I think definition of terms may be important here. When I speak of culture, I think I am really speaking of mindset, of the pattern of thought and exchange of ideas. That is what I think in general has been tainted by Satan’s lies.

          I enjoy movies. But I am concerned about Christians who just enjoy movies without realizing that much of what they are watching is based on values and suppositions contrary to biblical truth.

          • says

            RE 71: See comment 68. I can give you more if necessary. Let me know.

            What you are talking about is worldview, which is part of culture. So lets look at worldview. I agree that worldviews have been corrupted, though there is still some neutral and even positive stuff there. The fall affects everything, but does not affect everything completely. For instance, we are all sinners now, and our justice system is broken, but in his mercy, God has allowed us to retain the idea of justice.

            Lets look at the Greek worldview-particularly Plato. There is much about Plato that is in the good category, even biblical at points. So much of his stuff was good that many in the early church were duped into thinking that he had some special dispensation from God. For instance, he believed in absolutes of truth, goodness, beauty, justice, etc. Much, however was neutral and negative. Platonic dualism is the root of many early church christological heresies. Platonic dualism is actually to blame for separationist Christ against culture views… So there is much to reject in the platonic worldview. So what if we were to talk to Plato? Do we just throw out everything he thinks as rubbish? We obviously cannot accept everything he thinks as true and right and good. I would personally engage him, make points of contact where possible to bridge to a fuller (read biblical) understanding of reality.

            All worldviews are like that. Like culture, worldviews need to fall under the positive-neutral-negative triage and be received-redeemed-rejected accordingly.

          • says

            I have been think about this one for a day or so. I think more than reacting to false worldviews, it is people who are held in darkness which bother me most. Since I think that there are positive/neutral/negative aspects to all of culture and worldview, I am somewhat optimistic even about worldviews which we would consider to be false as a whole. I believe that in God’s grace and man’s fallen intellect, there are many aspects of a false worldview which are internally inconsistent and valuable for “bridging.” I recently had lunch with a friend who believes that homosexuality is valid since he considers himself to be an evolutionary agnostic/atheist. I could bring the “wrath of God” and thump him with a Bible. But he was already well aware of what the Bible said. Instead, I took his own worldview and showed him how he was believing and living things which were inconsistent with his philosophical presuppositions. He already knew the Bible condemned him, now he has to face his own worldview condemning him.

            I talked with a lady on a plane once. She realized the conversation was about to get religious and so she cut me off at the pass with “I just don’t believe there are any absolutes.” While I believe this woman’s worlview to in general be false, there are caveats, back doors if you will, which allow the gospel in on certain basis. While her worldview did not value absolutes, and thus the Bible, it did value philosophers. Rather than completely throwing out her system, I used part of it as a bridge. I asked her if I could talk about Plato. She was very interested, if not shocked. I drew out on a napkin how Plato believed in absolutes. At the end of the “lesson” she admitted “I guess there are absolutes.” My next question: “can I talk to you about the Bible.”

            When our approach is simply to look at the whole culture or just the whole worldview, call it false, and throw it away, we lose many valuable means of reaching people through their own system. Reaching them through caveats in their system (Don Richardson calls them redemptive analogies) makes the gospel indigenous rather than foreign.

            Anyway, I dont know if any of that actually touches on the debate, so I guess it is for free.

      • says

        I think the “in/not of” model is really another way of saying the “incarnational” model. (After all, John 17 is where both the “incarnational” Great Commission -“as the Father has sent Me, so I am sending You, ” and “in/Not of” (verses 14-17) originate).)

        • says

          Rastis: The piece about a Muslim at Columbia U in NYC and the NYTimes Maureen Dowd gets to where the SBC will have to make a decision soon whether or not to dialogue in such matters.
          Are the Caner brothers the poster child for the SBC?
          Or Joe Blackmon for that matter.
          Seems to me, you Rastis, may be on a different path than the two examples just named.
          I wonder; how would you engage the discussion Mr. Moghul has raised here:

          http://www.religiondispatches.org/blog/mediaculture/2348/islam%2C_meet_maureen_dowd/

          • says

            You know, Stephen, if you want to blog on your own ideas, get your own blog and write there. When you come to someone else’s blog, it is rude to continue to talk about things that do not relate and things that have nothing to do with the topic.

            Troll elsewhere.

          • says

            A reminder of the set up of this blog. Quoting you or Rastis here:

            The real focus of this debate is cultural engagement. How do Christians in American and in nations around the world deal with the cultures in which they live?

            My link goes to the heart of that question around the world in one of the key problems of our time.
            My reading of your exchange with Rastis so far is he, like David Rogers as SBCimpact, may be open to more ecumenical strategies than you and Joe Blackmon, as an example.
            And then there is the template of Parham and Common Word.
            I don’t think you have a problem with trolling; it’s a matter of Hospitality and the degrees extended along the Christian spectrum.
            I would be interested to see what Rastis and Tom Parker think on this aspect of the discussion, hopefully in reference to the rd link above.

          • says

            Stephen, that comment came close to be germane, so I will respond to it.

            I think, perhaps, the problem may rest in your perception of what we believe. In reality, David Rogers and I have to work to find things we disagree on. And Rastis and I, (if you’d read the posts and the comments) are in virtual agreement on most points, with the exception of the fact that he sees Lot in a more positive light than I do.

            Stephen, you do not come to blogs to engage in the discussion, but to hijack it toward your ideas and links. That is simply a fact. 90% of your comments reference other people and articles that interest you but have nothing to do with the post.

            You have your own blog on which you can write your own ideas. When you come to other people’s blogs, you should at least give them the respect of writing on topics in some way related to what they are writing about.

            If you would read my articles at either of these sites, you would find that I regularly and courteously engage people who disagree with me. The problem I have with you is that you do not engage the subject matter in any way.

          • says

            Dave:
            Again, as to cultural engagement following the Erskine SC story I came across this discussion which Blogs on the Baptist right come back to again and again.
            It is central to what over 20 years I have come to be convinced is at the heart of your concerns, going back to early 80’s when I got hold of a tape by Adrian Rogers on Secular Humanism; on one occasion he preached within a few miles of me at West Rome BC where Jerry Vines was pastor at the time.

            http://www.tnr.com/article/books/seeing-and-believing

            At my invitation best of my knowledge, James Willingham and Gene Scarborough have enlivened the discussion here.

            No hijacking intended, not even close to what many of my friends think Pressler and Patterson were up to in the 80’s; I had a final thought but it escapes me at the moment.
            May come back to it later.
            Thanks for your response.
            Again, would like to see what Rastis thinks are the limits to your invitation to discuss cultural engagement.

          • says

            “Again, would like to see what Rastis thinks are the limits to your invitation to discuss cultural engagement.”

            Seeing as my most recent post was hijacked into a “how thick was the carpet in Patterson’s office?” discussion, not very far ;)

            Regarding being different: I hope the SBC can get past its canerian understanding of Islam and how to engage Muslims. There are many IMB guys who are doing things differently [myself included] but are not at much liberty to speak out on better ways of doing stuff. We all look at what happened to Greeson and keep it in the community. We have too many people who no nothing of Islam critiquing missionaries and calling them heretics and trying to get them fired. That is not an atmosphere which fosters innovation and dialogue even within our own ranks.

            All of that said, I would really like to stick to the topic of Lot here. I welcome new information that relates to Lot, the early church father’s position on Lot, and even different paradigms for looking at culture–but make the case yourself and we will discuss it.

            BTW, I have a part two planned to follow up my previous camel post.

  15. says

    Well way to put preaching in front of blogging… Am I going to make it as an illustration: “The dangers of open-mindedness: exhibit A-Rastis”?

    I think this caveat is worth while, especially since I stated it is foundational to the differences in how we are looking at the text.

    Just to raise the stakes: I would add to my original assertion that not only is the Christ against culture view inadequate to explain Lot, it is both unrealistic and biblically untenable as a model for daily life.

    I don’t think you hold this view David-unless there is something I don’t know about you. It would be the view of the Amish and the IFBC I grew up in.

    Here are the quick answers to your two questions and I will have to formulate my view more later:
    Is culture morally neutral or sinful? Yes. It actually isn’t that simple. Parts are neutral, parts are sinful.
    Do you even accept my premises of the general sinfulness of culture? nope; what fun would that be?

  16. says

    Just to stir the original pot…
    I have been looking back through the church fathers to see if my view has ever been held by sane persons. Indeed it has!

    In one of the early volumes, Irenaeus argued that Lot was indeed righteous and that we need to be careful not to malign the saints of old. The chapter title reads as follows:
    “Chapter XXXI.—We Should Not Hastily Impute as Crimes to the Men of Old Time Those Actions Which the Scripture Has Not Condemned, But Should Rather Seek in Them Types of Things to Come: an Example of This in the Incest Committed by Lot.”

    He argues specifically concerning Lot’s daughters: “2. Thus, after their simplicity and innocence, did these daughters [of Lot] so speak, imagining that all mankind had perished, even as the Sodomites had done, and that the anger of God had come down upon the whole earth. Wherefore also they are to be held excusable, since they supposed that they only, along with their father, were left for the preservation of the human race; and for this reason it was that they deceived their father.” This is from the Early Church Fathers, it is Irenaeus in his “Against Heresies” written around 180 ad [1.1.7.1.4.32]

    Clement, in his “First Epistle to the Corinthians” is quick to note that on account of his hospitality and righteousness Lot was rescued from Sodom. His wife on the other hand, Clement argues, is an example of the results of double-mindedness.
    ECF 1.1.1.1.0.11

    Origen too [though I quote him at my peril] ran to the aid of Lot and his daughters. He sets up three categories: good, bad and indifferent, calling the incest indifferent. He believed that in spite of how evil their descendants were, that the scriptures neither condemn nor condone the daughters. ECF 1.4.3.6.4.44

    There are dozens of references to the story throughout the church fathers series. They typically take a cosmic view of the story. They see Abraham and Lot in unison providing hospitality for God. They see that God judges the wickedness of Sodom, which should serve as a warning to the wicked, but saved righteous Lot which should serve as an admonishment to the saints. Most overlooked all other aspects of the story. Few were concerned with any of the details we are arguing about here; they assume he is righteous and don’t nit-pick the story [one even used it to argue for justification by faith and not works!]. The majority of occurrences factored into discussions concerning either the incarnation [oddly enough...] or the need for the world to repent as Sodom is the archetype for God’s wrath.

    In addition to the support of the rabbis and peter, I submit into evidence the early church fathers as supporting the view that Lot is the hero of the story and not a washed out, compromised, backslidden, knave. My position is truly not a new one, but an old one long forgotten by evangelicals from few generations ago who demonized rook and painted ladies, bloomers, and bobbed hair. It seems that “future shock” influenced their reading and we are the beneficiaries.

    • says

      don’t forget the Epistle of Barnabus’s reasoning for why the hare was an unclean animal!! (if you haven’t hit that one in your Patristics reading, do so soon! I haven’t worked forward to Iraneus yet myself.)

      I think a few of the Fathers at times fell into the “Sunday School lesson” mode of evaluating people’s lives. Either the person is a hero or a villain, which means either all is defensible or all is rejected. I see that in the Iraneaus quote especially. Clement does a better job by identifying specifically what Lot modeled by mentioning his hospitality–one of the biggest virtues of the early Christians!

  17. says

    Rasits you ought to update your Christ Against Culture thinking with strong and earnest look at the work of Pulitzer’s Marilynne Robinson; and Anglicans NT Wright.
    Glad you are exploring things, but this ain’t the only rodeo in town you know.
    Lot to be learned out there past the certainties of DAvid Brumbelow.

    • says

      In what way does Wright move the discussion past Neibuhr?

      I am sure that I have no clue what David Brumbelow has to do with any of this…

  18. says

    Rastis:
    I hope you continue to explore these notions.
    I don’t mean this as an elitist or a smart donkey, but you will have to do the requisite reading on your own if you are gonna hold out as something of an authority on these matters.
    Barry Hankins Uneasy in Babylon explored the SBC leadership of Land and Mohler several years ago on these questions.
    NT Wright’s two latest books are prominently displayed at a Barnes and Noble near you.
    Order a copy of http://www.differentbookscommonword.com as you engage ecumenical dialogue between Muslims and Baptists, and there is a grand fellow at the Baptist University in Beirut you can consult; he endorses the DVD linked above.
    Good luck.

    • says

      I don’t really seek to be an expert on culture. I just blab about life the way I see it. This tends to bring controversy. I resonate Dave’s request to make your assertion relevant to the discussion. As I am about to leave for the field, I am not really stacking up on books right now–i already have over 30 in storage, it depresses me just to think about it. Not saying I wont read it, it will just be a few years However, as it relates to the here and now in the blog world, if they have something to say, join the conversation.

  19. says

    Germane is in the eye of the beholder, in this instance brother Dave.
    How much more germane could you be than Barry Hankins Uneasy in Babylon which I’m sure, you as a SWBTS proff, if I have the right person, is well versed in.
    On a side note and pardon me for possibly pushing the germane button, DRBrumbelow has a civil exchange with Lottie Moon at Ed Winters Just Words blog today.
    I hope you and I can get along as well as DRB and Winters.

  20. says

    Rastis, we’ve had a lot of debate, but I would ask you one question. I begged off yesterday for preaching duties. Today I have a migraine that is sending me to bed.

    But my fundamental problem with your theory, as I understand it, it presenting Lot as a model of cultural engagement. That seems like a point looking for a text.

    We will probably remain with a slightly different view of Lot’s righteousness, though I see your points and think they have value (even if I’m not willing to abandon the “faith of my fathers” just quite yet).

    We agree on the need for incarnational ministry, even if we don’t see eye to eye perhaps on the nature of culture. I am guessing if we boiled it down, our views aren’t that far apart on this one.

    And I have read your “positive points” in relation to Lot’s work in Sodom.

    Here’s my question. Do you believe that Lot entered Sodom for “missional” purposes?

    Are you asserting that this was his “purpose” in entering the city?

    My meds are kicking in and I plan to spend the next few hours drooling on my pillow, so you can devastate me with your wisdom until I sober up.

    Go for it.

    • says

      “But my fundamental problem with your theory, as I understand it, it presenting Lot as a model of cultural engagement. That seems like a point looking for a text.”
      I am actually trying not to do that. I don’t view him as a “model”. He reacted the best he could with what he was given. I think there are several texts we, as we seek to align ourselves with the ways in which the world is going (urban), need to understand in a new light. We need to look at Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Esther, Ezra/Nehemiah, and Paul. We can use these and others to re-theologize in a way that helps us see the truly urban nature that has long been forgotten in a culture which idealizes–and idolizes–life with elbowroom.

      “(even if I’m not willing to abandon the “faith of my fathers” just quite yet).”
      Get some older fathers ;)

      “I am guessing if we boiled it down, our views aren’t that far apart on this one.”
      I would assume so

      “Here’s my question. Do you believe that Lot entered Sodom for “missional” purposes? Are you asserting that this was his “purpose” in entering the city”

      That is really a question about his motive. I can speculate but I don’t think the text really tells us. It tells us the “what” more than the “why”
      So here is my speculation: I would imagine that he is a lot like us. He wanted a place to live that was comfortable. Cites provide amenities to their occupants. Ancient cities were no different. I think his reason for being there was simply practical and utilitarian. That said, I think that this area was somehow under Abraham’s “dominion,” and as the main human participant in the covenant, Abraham took great concern for this area. He was confident to split the land with Lot; this shows some sense of ownership. When the kings took Lot prisoner, Abraham was quick to step in and restore not only Lot, but also the kings of the valley. When Abraham interceded, he did so not only for Lot, but for the whole city–the whole city would have benefited by the presence of a few righteous people.

      In the end, I do not look to his motives, but his actions. I am grateful for Peter who helps me to understand what I had previously overlooked. I would have trouble saying that he saw himself as a “sent out one” and that was his original purpose. However, he seemed to adopt the mentality of “bloom where you are planted.” Once in Sodom, through the course of his daily life he became a voice, a judge. As much as I want to see more missionaries on the field, I want to see EVERY believer bloom where they are planted for the kingdom. The problem is that we have bought the secular lie and we view church and the field as God’s work and overlook our job and sphere of influence as a valid means of standing in the gap. That is exactly what lot did. Whether or not he went their for that purpose, I really can’t say [and I do think it was a utilitarian move on his part], but that is exactly what he did once he got there!

      • says

        Again, (and I’m wondering if we are coming to the point of wandering in circles on some of this) I am in agreement with your conclusions and admonitions in this comment. I just am not sure that I agree with your interp of the facts of Lot’s life.

        • says

          Hey,
          I have to head out on the road. I will get back with you later today on this. I am really enjoying the discussion.

    • says

      Please stay on topic. If you have something that is actually relevant to our discussion, then say what it is and how it relates. don’t just throw links or drop authors’ names; state the relevant ideas and how they pertain to the discussion.

  21. says

    Josh:
    As I understand this topic it is about culture clashes.
    There is an earthquake of a culture clash going on right now in Due West South Carolina that weaves through many topics that are dear to this board, Inerrancy, 8 day Creation, Intelligient Design, Challenging professors, and church related institutions.
    I thought maybe I was doing this discussion a servive with this heads up.
    I am interested to see what others think, Jim Willingham and Scarborough and the like