Larry Farlow

Commentary on Theology & Culture


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Men on A Train

Men on A TrainBy now you’ve heard of the courageous actions of three American men who prevented a massacre on a French train. As the story has unfolded, we also learned about two French men who risked their lives in the initial stages of the attack and were wounded trying to stop the gunman. The most complete coverage I’ve seen of the series of events can be read here.

The three Americans have become a cause celebre in France and were given the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Legion of Honor. Why such accolades? Certainly because people realize the carnage that was avoided. But, I think there’s more to it than that. This has struck a chord because these men acted like men and masculinity is in short supply these days, at least in the public arena.

Sadly we have example after example today of men who don’t act like men. Men do what these men did, they use their God-given strength and courage to stand in the gap for those in danger. They defend the weak against the strong. They do not drive their wives or girlfriends to the abortion clinic to have their baby murdered. They do not use their strength to loot stores and businesses or abuse women and children. They do not set up accounts on Ashley Madison. They do not fling their masculinity in God’s face like a spoiled child who didn’t receive the gift he wanted at Christmas and declare themselves to be women (and while we’re on that subject let’s be clear, if you want to see courage, look at these men, not at Bruce Jenner).

Of course, I cannot speak to the character of these men in all aspects of their lives because I don’t know them. But I do know that in this moment, they acted like men and many people are alive today because they did.


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But We Do More than Kill Babies!

Cecile Richards, Gauleiter of Planned Parenthood, has taken, of late, to listing all the things they do besides murdering children. On Wednesday her organization tweeted:

PP nonsense

Ok, let’s give credit where it’s due. They do indeed provide sex education. We know that ’cause we got that on video too. Here’s a Planned Parenthood official explaining the finer points of S&M and bondage to a 15 year old girl and suggesting that she (a minor) and her boyfriend visit a local sex shop.

(Warning: Graphic and sexually explicit content)

And what about providing birth control? Lest we short-change them further, I must admit they are also helpful to pimps seeking to obtain birth control and abortions for their underage prostitutes.

So, yes, Cecile, we do realize you do things other than just kill babies.


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If Cecil Was An Unborn Baby

If Cecil was an unborn babyPerhaps you’ve heard of the American dentist who killed a lion in Africa named Cecil. It’s been one of the biggest stories on the internet and in social media over the last several days. Providentially, it has been trending at the same time as the uproar over the latest Planned Parenthood video, shedding light on the mentality and priorities of our culture.

While conservatives are calling on congress to defund Planned Parenthood, where Cecil is concerned animal rights activists are calling for everything from running the hunter out of business to the death of his children. You know, the usual responses of the tolerant, “love wins” side of the political spectrum.

Here are a few examples from the comments section in one article:

I’d like to see lions feast on him.

This guy is a menace and should be hunted down.

This story makes me angry and I would like to shoot this beast of a man then behead him for a trophy.

Rot in hell!! Hope his business shuts down.

I hope he dies a painful death

What an absolute pig!

I HOPE HE DIES.

I hope this fool ends up working as a ditch digger to make ends meet AFTER he gets out of Zimbabwe prison! You pathetic man…so ashamed you are from America. Wife, divorce him. Kids, denounce him.

I don’t even want this guy, Walter Palmer, to die. I want him to suffer the most, harshest and scientifically-proven way of experiencing pain (physical and mental) for as long as possible. I would hate for him to merely suffer enormously but then find out that he could have suffered even more through some other, more advanced method. I’m talking on the level of pain receptors, neurons, axons and dendrites type stuff here. He needs to be in very serious pain.

I hate him and everything he stands for. How dare he!

I hope he and his family die.

i hope to god a million times that this piece of garbage drops dead. or is killed

pull all of his teeth out, one by one, pull off all fingernails and toenails. confiscate all ‘trophies’ and give them a burial. chain him in a dark dungeon for the rest of his life. we need some real justice here.

Naaah, let go shoot his family. Don’t see any harm in that.

Hope he gets cancer and his stupid false teeth fall out.

What an unbelievable horrible human being. Maybe he should be hunted, skinned and beheaded.

YOU EVIL S.O.B. YOU DESERVE EVERYTHING THAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO YOU. I HOPE SOMEONE HUNTS YOUR CHILDREN THE SAME WAY.

And these were not outliers, they were typical of the hundreds and hundred of comments, many of them also receiving 10, 20, 30 even 60 “thumbs up” as well. All this over the death of one lion. To put this in perspective, Planned Parenthood kills one human child every 97 seconds. Most of them don’t have names, they don’t have a world-wide fan base or people donning sackcloth and ashes as they hysterically vent their hatred at the killers, they are simply tossed in the trash or, as we’ve seen recently, sold for parts.

If Cecil was an unborn baby, you’d never have heard of him.

It’s a damn shame we live in a culture where a man who kills an animal is forced into hiding by a mob with pitchforks and torches but an organization responsible for the murder of 300,000 children each year operates openly and without shame.


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Warning: Political Correctness May be Hazardous to Your Health

Warning: Political Correctness may be hazardous to your healthRecently in suburban Atlanta, a real estate agent was attacked by someone while showing them a property. While this occasionally happens, there’s a twist to this story:

“What she did notice about the suspect was he was a male wearing women’s clothing and a woman’s wig,” said Cpl. Michelle Pihera with the Gwinnett County Police Department.

Ten years ago, a real estate agent arriving for a showing to find a man dressed in women’s clothing and a wig would likely not have gone through with the showing and perhaps even called the police. It’s clear the woman in this case was uncomfortable because she would not enter the house with the person. But why didn’t she simply leave without showing the house when faced with what any reasonable person would consider a red flag?  Ever hear of a bakery called “Sweet Cakes by Melissa?”  I suspect the agent did not believe canceling the showing was an option because she was afraid of being accused of bigotry. I can see the headlines now: “Local real estate agent accused of discrimination after refusing to show house to transgender woman.” This is where we are as a culture. You will accept, no, celebrate, that man in a dress who walks into the women’s restroom or the women’s locker room at your health club else you are a transphobic bigot.

Now that a very small minority of homosexual activists has succeeded in hijacking our culture to the land of alternate reality with regard to marriage, an even smaller minority of “transgenders” is seeking to take us further inland. People are so afraid of crossing these gender confused storm troopers that recently a college newspaper included a disclaimer when saying menstruation is a woman’s issue lest they offend “men” who menstruate or “women” who don’t. And Breitbart’s Ben Shapiro was recently threatened with bodily harm for refusing to play along with Bob Tur’s fantasy that he’s a woman.

I predict we’ll see more instances like this. People wanting to be tolerant or who are afraid of running afoul of the diversity police will ignore the warning bell in their head and end up in a dangerous situation. The danger is particularly acute for women (real ones) since the nature of the “transgender” dynamic is that men posing as women now have unchallenged access to venues previously limited to women only.

We need a return to sanity in the public square. We need people to stand up and say with regard to the “transgender” movement that we will not subordinate common sense, basic modesty and public safety to the confused feelings of a tiny subset of society.


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What Are Rights?

bill of rightsWe live in a rights obsessed culture. At every turn someone is claiming they have a right to something. Unfortunately people rarely think about what it means to have a right. Most of the time “I have a right to” is interchangeable with “I want.”

Rights come in two flavors – positive and negative. Much of what is demanded today are positive rights. Positive rights are the right TO HAVE something, the right to a job, to health care, to a certain vendor for your wedding flowers, etc.

On the other side are negative rights. Negative rights are the right NOT TO HAVE something (mostly not to have something done to you by the government.) Among these are the right to freedom of speech, religion, the press, etc. In the case of negative rights, the government in enjoined FROM doing something. With positive rights, the government is enjoined TO do something. The rights guaranteed by the Constitution, the one’s our Founders labeled “inalienable,” are all negative rights.

What is that? Why does the Constitution not list the right to a job or to a place to live or to food to eat? After all, those things are pretty important, right?

It has to do with how rights are enforced.

In the case of negative rights, enforcement places no burden on the citizenry. If government fails to provide these rights, such as in attempting to censor the media, the courts get involved to rule on the constitutionality of the action. If it is determined the action violated someone’s rights, all that needs to happen is for the government to stop doing what they were doing. In other words, to leave people alone.

With positive rights it’s different.  If I have a right TO something, say a job, then someone else has an obligation to provide one for me. Since government creates no capital, they must either force someone in the private sector to hire me or hire me themselves using money appropriated from the private sector via taxes. Positive rights for one group always encumber another group with obligations.  Bottom line, enforcement of positive rights requires government to use force against one part of the citizenry on behalf of another part.

Positive rights are therefore often at odds with negative ones. For example, I cannot have freedom of speech at the same time someone else has the freedom to never be offended. The two are mutually exclusive. Which is why guarantees of positive rights are not among those in the Bill of Rights. We have, from God, certain inalienable rights. But among them is not the right to never be disagreed with or the right to the fruit of someone else’s labor.

When negative rights are respected and enforced, individual flourishing increases and government dependence decreases. But with a decrease in government dependence comes a decrease in government power, which goes a long way toward explaining the emphasis on positive rights so prevalent today.

In order to return our culture to health, we must recover the understanding of positive versus negative rights and restore negative rights to their place of honor.


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What is the Mark of the Beast?

Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666. – Revelation 13:16-18

What is the Mark of the Beast?

“The Number of the Beast is 666” by William Blake

This passage has caused much speculation among Christians through the years. People are keen to know who the beast is and what it means to take his mark. The two questions have to be answered simultaneously because what you believe about the beast determines what you believe about his mark and vice versa.

Two things must be remembered about Revelation to properly understand it:

  • Revelation was written to people in the first century as a warning and an encouragement. Therefore, what is written had meaning for them in that day and not just for people in some far distant future time (Rev. 1:1).
  • Revelation is written in apocalyptic style meaning it is highly symbolic. We must be careful when reading it not to do so as if it is the newspaper or an historical narrative.

If Revelation was written as a warning and an encouragement to the first century church and to the church throughout history, then the beast and his mark must be something relevant to both groups. I believe the beast is a specific person in ancient history, a persecutor of the church, perhaps a Roman emperor. However, in warning the church about this person, John also warns future Christians about those who govern the same way. There may also be a final manifestation of this type of ruler before the return of Christ who is worse than all those before him. So he could be a specific person in the future as well.

However, our concern needs to be identifying the characteristics of the ruler described rather than identifying an individual by name. Kim Riddlebarger in his book “The Man of Sin” says:

It is more important to understand what the number means than to identify the individual to whom it is referring.”

Several characteristics of the beast are mentioned in the extended passage but I want to concentrate on those associated with his mark.

The mark is required to engage in commerce. In other words, this ruler requires people to have the mark in order to make a living, buy food, etc. The mark is equivalent to the ruler’s name. So the ability to buy and sell is related to the person’s support for and acknowledgment of the ruler. The mark is to be placed on either the hand or the forehead. This last point is especially interesting.

Why the hand or the forehead?

Think back to God’s instructions concerning His law after freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt:

You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. – Deuteronomy 6:8

The Lord’s commands were to be with the people of God always. They were the guide for their actions (hands) and thoughts (foreheads). Their ultimate allegiance in all things was to God. So in describing the locations of the mark, John reveals it is usurpation of God that the beast seeks – the desire to be worshiped and to be the source of ultimate authority.

I believe the beast is any government or ruler who sets themselves up as God and demands ultimate allegiance. Nazi Germany was a manifestation of the beast as are the communist governments in places like China and North Korea. The beast has risen and fallen many times throughout the history of the world and will continue to do so until Christ returns.

His mark is not necessarily physical, not a tattoo or a computer chip or a bar code. It is something more sinister. We take the mark when we acquiesce to the state’s demand to be worshiped, when we remove Christ from His throne and replace Him with a golden statue of the state. This is why first century Christians refused to worship Caesar even under penalty of death – because to do so was to dishonor the Lord and abandon the faith.

Those claiming to be followers of Christ in the United States have by and large not had to make this choice. But, recent events remind us that the beast is crouching at our door. The day will soon come when he will demand that we choose whom we will serve. My prayer for the American church is that we be given grace and strength from the Holy Spirit to choose as Moses did, “rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.


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Why Read the Bible All the Way Through? – Part II

Context is King

“Old Woman Reading the Bible” by Gerrit Dou

If, as we established in the last post, the Bible is one seamless story it follows that no section stands apart from the others. There are certainly some sections of scripture that can be helpful on their own but even then to properly understand them we must have an idea of their context. There’s a saying in real estate that the three most important things are location, location and location. For scripture, it’s not far off to say the three most important things are context, context and context.

What do we mean by context? Context is knowing where the verse or passage fits in relation to the chapter, where the chapter fits in relation to the book and where the book fits in relation to scripture as a whole.

Christian apologist Greg Koukl goes so far as to say “never read a Bible verse.” Of course he doesn’t mean never read a verse at all but never to read it in isolation. I quoted this statement from Koukl while preaching one time in South America and the translator didn’t want to translate it until I explained that I was not discouraging people from reading their Bibles but from reading just a verse apart from the context in which it’s found.

We sometimes forget that every single verse, no, every single word, in the Bible is there because God chose to put it there. Every sentence is set in relation to the sentences around it in just the way God intended. So when we read our favorite passages or verses apart from the text appearing before and after them, we are missing some of what God intends to tell us with that passage.

In their excellent book “How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth” by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stewart, they say this about context:

“This (Literary context) is what most people mean when they talk about reading something in its context. Indeed this is the crucial task in exegesis, and fortunately it is something you can learn to do well without necessarily having to consult the “experts.” Essentially, literary context means first that words only have meaning in sentences, and second that biblical sentences for the most part only have clear meaning in relation to the preceding and succeeding sentences.” (How to Read the Bible for All it’s Worth, p.27)

And nothing helps us with what Fee and Stuart characterize as the crucial task in exegesis more than reading the entirety of God’s word.

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