In light of Black Lives Matter (BLM) and the discussion over the removal of Confederate statues, slavery and its effects remain the talk of the public square. In recent weeks, CNN host Don Lemon has had his say (or two) regarding the national discussion of slavery and the effect racism has left upon our society. I think it’s easy to see how effective slavery was. When one considers how so few care about our national history, but then turn around and label statues “history,” it’s easy to see that it’s not history these individuals care about.
When General Robert E. Lee’s statue was erected in Richmond, Virginia in the 1890s, those responsible (who were likely family members) didn’t care about history. They knew that history was against them, for, just 25 years earlier, those in the South lost the war to the North. The Union won the War. They knew that. Thus, their Confederate statue to Lee’s “greatness” was nothing more than a way to scoff at the North and say, “you may have won the War, but you won’t win our hearts and minds.” It was anything but historical. It was about the morality of it all.
They believed then that a War wouldn’t change hearts and minds. And by building the statue, they proved that the Civil War did nothing on that front. That doesn’t mean that President Abraham Lincoln didn’t have a moral reason for freeing the slaves. He did. But as moral as his decision was, the South didn’t think it a moral issue to free the slaves. For the South, it was financial. They believed that there was nothing immoral about assuming that blacks are inferior to whites. For them, that was as “moral” a thought as believing there is a God.
But Don Lemon’s contribution to this discussion unfortunately accuses God of imperfection. That’s something that I have to confront.
Don Lemon: “Jesus Christ…was not perfect”
“Jesus Christ, if that’s who you believe in, Jesus Christ, admittedly was not perfect when he was here on this earth. So why are we deifying the founders of this country, many of whom owned slaves?” Don Lemon said to fellow CNN member Chris Cuomo regarding Confederate statues.
This isn’t what conservative Christians believe
First, let me say that I take huge issue with his claim that Jesus was not perfect. That’s not what conservative Christians believe. Bible-believing Christians who hold to the Doctrine of Inerrancy, for example, would never say that Jesus was imperfect. Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t “branches” of Christianity that wouldn’t agree with that statement. However, many Christians from these same branches no longer believe in the Nativity (Jesus’ supernatural birth, including immaculate conception), either — so why should we take them as a source of authority for the Christian community?
Scripture says that Jesus was, and is, perfect
Scripture itself testifies to the perfection of God, and particularly, Jesus Christ. In 2 Samuel 22:31 we read that “As for God, His way is perfect: The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” Psalm 18:30 says that “As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew that “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” In case it needs clarification, God is perfect and Jesus, being God Himself, is perfect as God the Father is perfect. You can’t have God be imperfect; if God is imperfect, He is no longer God. God, if He is imperfect, becomes nothing more than mere mortal. And we know that humans are imperfect. Even the most ardent atheist knows this.
His way is perfect (meaning His character and actions are perfect), and He is Himself the essence of perfection. It doesn’t get more obvious than this that God is perfect, without question. The Bible attests to the perfection of God, and Bible-believing Christians should affirm it without hesitation.
If Jesus isn’t perfect, He wouldn’t be worshipped
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: If Jesus isn’t perfect, why are we worshipping Him? If Jesus isn’t perfect, no one would worship Him because only a Being greater than ourselves is worthy of worship. Take the Confederate soldiers and slaveowners, for example: we shouldn’t worship them. On that point, I agree with Don Lemon. These people are mere mortal men; they don’t deserve worship, and the statues built to them are nothing more than the deification of men. These men aren’t God. They died, never came back from the dead, and don’t have the power to raise themselves. They don’t have the power to lay down their lives and take them up again, as Jesus says of Himself (John 10:18).
This is why angels aren’t worthy of worship.
18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. (Colossians 2:18-19, NKJV)
Notice that delighting in “false humility and worship of angels” is “not holding fast to the Head,” that is, Christ, the Head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23). Angels are not God, which tells us that there’s a hierarchy when it comes to angels and God where God is #1 and angels are #2. As magnificent as angels are, they aren’t Deity and thus, aren’t worthy of worship. And Paul says that those who worship angels will be cheated of their reward (Colossians 2:18, see above) — that is, angel worship is apostasy and thus, forfeits eternal life. Yes, you can lose your salvation over angel worship.
In Hebrews 1:6, Paul once again endorses the superiority of God to angels when he writes, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” And the apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 3:22 that “angels and authorities and powers” are now made “subject to Him” after His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.
God, Jesus being the second member of the Triune Godhead, is superior to the angels. The idea of superior rank implies that the angels are subordinate, of a lower rank, unequal to God Himself. While angels are divine beings, they aren’t eternal as God is eternal. And, as I’ve written before, the angels are destructible while only God is indestructible (can’t be destroyed).
The apostle John made the mistake of bowing before an angel. He was corrected:
8 Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.
9 Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” (Revelation 22:8-9, NKJV)
John “fell down to worship before the feet of the angel,” but was quickly told “See that you do not do that…for I am your fellow servant…worship God.” The angel gave the appropriate response. God and God alone is the only One worthy of worship; neither angels nor humanity deserve or merit worship in any way.
As this small study has shown us, God and God alone is worthy of worship. When Scripture tells us that God is worthy of worship and that mortal man and angels are not, it’s clear that there’s a hierarchy. The presence of hierarchy implies rank, superiority/inferiority, that one is greater than another. This inequality explains why Bible-believing Christians worship Jesus, who is God, and they don’t deify men.
I agree with Don Lemon that slaveowners and Confederate soldiers aren’t worthy of worship. They didn’t fight for a noble cause, but a terrible one. There’s nothing noble about enslaving fellow humanity and depriving them of their basic rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And yet, Lemon errs greatly when he places Jesus on the same plane as these human men. Though Jesus walked the earth, He wasn’t just human but also divine. The idea that Jesus is a mere mortal man is not only heresy, but also antichrist (against Christ) because it also denies the death of Christ at Calvary and subsequent resurrection from the dead (1 John 2:22-23).
Don Lemon makes the argument that, since Jesus “wasn’t perfect” (his words), we shouldn’t deify men. I’d dare, say, however, that, since Jesus is perfect (my words), we shouldn’t deify Southern Confederates because they don’t come close to Christ.
Not. Even. Close.