Monthly Archives: August 2008

Another Conversion Story

Atheists often make the argument that your religious beliefs are determined solely by where you live, which is completely untrue. Recently I covered the story of Masab-Joseph Yousef, a Muslim man who converted to Christianity. Yousef is proof that people can throw off the shackles of what they grow up learning in favor of the truth of Christ.

Another conversion story has hit the news, this time an Egyptian Muslim named Maher al-Gohari. The former police officer converted more than 30 years ago, but has now decided to make his profession public. It isn’t illegal in Egypt to convert to Christianity. However, since Muslim law declares that it is unusual to convert to an “older” religion from a “newer” religion, it is nearly impossible for someone to publicly convert to Christianity from Islam.

We pray that God will open up a door for Maher al-Gohari to publicly declare his faith. We also pray that his family will have their eyes opened by Christ, so that they, too, may convert.

Yet another strike against the failed argument that religion is an accident of birth.

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Bondage of the Will III: What it Isn’t

In my previous posts on the bondage of the will, I’ve talked about a moral law that exists and that we all break. I’ve then proven that case using Scripture. But I think it is important to take a moment and define what this does not mean. First, it doesn’t mean that people are as evil as they could be all the time. It also doesn’t mean that people are forced to choose evil. Finally, it doesn’t mean that humans are incapable of doing good. (HT: Reformed Mafia for the list)

One of the major objections that I hear from people who are faced with the Biblical truth that they are sinners is that they are pretty good in comparison to most people. Make no mistake: I’m not saying that everyone is as evil as they could be at all times. I have had many conversations with atheists where they like to remind me about all the charities they donate to, about the children in third-world countries that they sponsor, and all the good they did the last week. I would expect nothing less, because people aren’t as evil as they could be; even Hitler had moments of good behavior, I’m sure.

The only way to truly free our wills from the bondage of sin is to believe in Christ. But, that doesn’t mean that until then, God forces us to choose evil. In fact, we choose evil ourselves because we are, at core, selfish creatures. That goes for believers as well as unbelievers.

Bondage to sin also doesn’t mean that humans are incapable of doing good. Anyone is capable of doing good equally–believer or unbeliever. But, because of our fallen natures, our rebellion against God, and the selfish nature we discussed above, humans tend to choose that which brings them the most pleasure. They tend also to forget about everyone else around them when they do that. It is this self-centered attitude from which springs much of the sin we do.

Why Evangelize?

As a Calvinist and a believer in predestination, many people have asked me, “Why do you evangelize?” The logic being that since God is sovereign in salvation, and has predestined all who will come to him, that there is no need to evangelize since no matter what you do, the job will still get done. That, of course, is wrong thinking.

Calvinism holds these three three things true simultaneously: God is sovereign, man is responsible, and Christians are to witness and pray.

Consider what God says to the Israelites before they go into battle for the Promised Land: “The Lord has given your enemies into your hand.” Now, the Israelites didn’t just sit around after that and say, “Why fight the battle? God has already won it for us!” That’s because God doesn’t make things happen in spite of what we do. That’s fatalism. He makes things happen because of what we do.

For an expanded discussion of these truths, check the excellent Parchment & Pen blog here.

Bondage of the Will II: Scriptural Proof

Read the entire article here.

A copy of Barclay’s Amoy translation, opened t...

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In my last post on the bondage of the human will, I established the existence of a moral law outside of ourselves. Atheists and theists can agree on the presence of such a law, but we cannot agree on its source. The atheist thinks that memes or evolution produces it; the theist believes that God produces it. Either way, we have arrived at the same point: a law exists.

I also established that man, more often than not, transgresses this moral law. It may be something small, such as a little white lie, or it might be huge, like a murder. Mankind isn’t generally good as many churches today teach. Man isn’t sick in sin, he is dead in sin. Man is generally evil.

The Bible deals with this issue in many places. The first good place to look is Romans 1. Paul begins by talking about the pagans living in Rome at the time, and finishes with this description of them:

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Rom 1:28-32)

Paul immediately follows that with this description of the Christians living in Rome:

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?  Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?  But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (Rom 2:1-11, emphasis added)

So whether the reader is a Jew or a Greek, it doesn’t matter, for both are full of unrighteousness. This careful argument builds until its climax at chapter 3, verse 23: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Paul even includes himself as a sinner in chapter 7:

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Rom 7:18-24)

I think that if we are honest with ourselves, we will see the same pattern in our own lives. We wage a war with our mind to do what is right, but our flesh is weak and we give into it and do what is wrong. That’s every last one of us wretched human beings–we are not sick with sin, we are dead in sin. Look at Ephesians 2:1-3:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (emphasis added)

But it isn’t just us; it is all of creation. It goes back to the Fall in Genesis 3. The Fall affected not just man, but all of creation. All of creation groans under the pains of childbirth (Rom 8:22). And the worst part is, according to the book of Proverbs, we don’t see this: “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits” (16:2). This is why so many churches today preach that man is generally good. And what does Proverbs say about people who are wise in their own sight? “There is more hope for a fool than him” (26:12b).

Reaching…

I’ve answered the musings of Mike the Geocreationist before here and here. The latest article on geocreationism.com connects Psalm 104:29 to Genesis 2:7. In Psalm 104, the psalmist says that the animals return to dust when they die. From this verse, Mike reasons that the man in Genesis 2:7 was created indirectly from dust through evolution. Instead of being the direct work of God’s hands in his image, as the plain meaning of the text would indicate, God made men and shaped them through generations of evolution.

Two questions for Mike are: is the dust in Psalm 104:29 the same as the dust in Genesis 2:7? And, if it is, does that mean that man is ontologically the same as the beast? First, let’s address the question of whether the dust is the same in both verses. First, there is no question that the dust is the same dust in both verses. Mike didn’t have to go any further in the Bible than the Genesis account itself. In chapter 2, verse 19, the Bible tells us that God formed the birds and beasts “out of the ground,” same as the man.

At first brush, it appears as though man and beast are ontologically the same (cf. Eccl 3:19-20). But if that were true, then why did God judge that none of the beasts were an adequate mate for Adam? Why did God form a woman from the man himself? This indicates that, ontologically, men and beasts are different and intended to be different.

Bottom line is that the act of creating men and the act of creating beasts is kept separate in the Genesis creation story. Evolution just isn’t in the Bible, no matter how many Scriptures get used. But there’s a more important issue underlying this–that is the Atonement. If Adam isn’t the first man, if Adam had ancestors as Mike indicates, then Adam isn’t the federal head of the human race. It therefore makes no sense that Adam’s sin is imputed to us.

If Adam’s sin isn’t imputed to us, then we don’t need Christ’s Atonement. In a previous post, I made the case that mankind is dead in sin. In a future post, I will make solidify that case using Scripture. This sin is imputed to us by our father, Adam, and is atoned for on the Cross by Christ. If Adam isn’t our first father, if he had fathers before him, then the Atonement makes no sense.

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The Bondage of the Will

Read the entire article here.

Michelangelo's painting of the sin of Adam and...

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It’s obvious from looking at the current state of the world that the human condition is broken. Wars, invasions, suicide bombers using women and children. The mayor of one the largest cities in the country is facing charges ranging from perjury to obstruction of justice–all while his city is crumbling economically around him. What is going on in the world today? Is this all we have to look forward to? More of the same?

Left to our own devices, we humans sin. The effects of sin are all around us, and can be seen daily simply by picking up a newspaper, watching the news on TV, or reading the RSS newsfeeds. Why the propensity to sin?

Mankind simply has it in his heart to sin. God has a perfect plan for our lives, and we can only have it by perfect obedience to his Law. Not the Mosaic Law, mind you, but the Law of God that is written in the hearts of all mankind, that which we instinctively know is right and wrong morally. The Mosaic Law is often points to the standard, but it is far from the standard. We know the standard. Read the rest of this entry

Praise God!

Atheists like to use the argument that where you grow up determines your religious beliefs. But this argument fails in light of the many people that have converted, such as Masab-Joseph Yousef, a son of prominent West Bank MP Sheikh Hassan Yousef. According to an article on CNA, “Praying that his family will “open their eyes to Jesus,” he expressed love for his enemies and claimed Muslims’ conversion to Christianity is the only way to have a chance for peace in the Holy Land.”

It’s great to see stories like this because it proves that religious belief isn’t always just a matter of where you grew up. Atheists love to simplify everything, but often things like religious belief aren’t as simple as they would like it to be. This story, among many others, prove that it is possible to rise above the teaching of your parents, throw off the shackles of false religion, and embrace the truth of Christianity.

Letter to the Editor

In my hometown newspaper, The [Toledo] Blade, a letter to the editor was printed that I thought I’d share, as it echoes my sentiments:

What has happened to this world? Muslim extremists have reached a new low. Young women have taken the place of young men as suicide bombers, murdering other young men and women and their children. What is even more disturbing is the fact that so-called “moderate Muslims” here in Toledo and around the world are silent. No outrage. No cry for this carnage to stop. No demand that their religious leaders take steps to speak out against this senseless and barbaric killing. Just silence. Just more silence.

It is now time for Christians, Jews, Hindus, and yes, Muslims to demand an end to these horrible and brutal murderers who hide behind their misguided and terrible religious fanaticism. Enough.

Rollind W. Romanoff, West Central Ave.

Editorial: George Bush and Double Standards

I tend to stay away from political commentary on this blog, but I couldn’t resist talking about the gross double standards of President George Bush’s latest remark.

President Bush has stated that the Russian attack on the former providence of Georgia is “unacceptable.” Vice-President Dick Cheyney stated that continued attacks will hurt the relationship between the US and Russia. Where do these guys come off?

The United States is continuing an offensive action in Iraq that was condemned by the UN. It was an invasion of a sovereign nation and a severe breech of the typical U.S. diplomacy used with foreign powers. I’m not a political expert here, but it seems like the President has a gross double standard here. He did the same thing to Iraq that Russia is doing now to Georgia, and he has the audacity to condemn the action? One would think that he would stand behind the action if he were consistent in his foreign policy. But I guess not.