Monthly Archives: September 2009
Mark of Proud Atheists has a post entitled “5 Unpopular Questions About God’s Love,” which presents 5 questions that are designed to make theists squirm. Of course, they are misunderstanding things as per usual. Let me try to clear things up a bit.
Why did God create evil? There are so many types of “evil.” I will assume that Mark is talking about moral evil. The verses that are cited (Is 45:7 and Jer 25:29) do not support the idea that God creates moral evil. This is an example of selective use of Bible translations, something that even Christians are guilty of doing (e.g. Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Life). The word that the KJV renders “evil” in these verses actually means “disaster” or “calamity.” I can certainly agree that God creates calamities or disasters, but not moral evil. These verses do not have moral evil in mind.
Why did God cause bears to maul 42 children for poking fun at a man’s baldness? Read the text. Verse 24 says “forty two of them,” which means that there were more than 42. If a mob of over 42 youths were coming at me shouting epitaphs, I’m going to wildly assume that they don’t have my best interests at heart. This was likely the equivalent of a modern street gang, and they were certainly old enough to recognize a prophet of God for what he was–and that means old enough to know better.
Why would Jesus command his followers to hate their families? He doesn’t. This is an example of hyperbole. What Jesus means is that you should love him so much, that everything else looks like hatred in comparison. Look at the same verse rendered in The Message: “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple.”
Why would Jesus bribe his followers to abandon their families? This is a nitpicky question coming from a skeptic who doesn’t believe in eternal life, which is essentially what Jesus is promising his followers in this verse. What he’s really doing here is preparing his followers to lose family over following him, which is a potential cost of discipleship. Look at Muslims who convert–they risk death at the hands of their own family for converting to Christianity. Those people who lose the most stand to gain quite a lot in the hereafter. It isn’t a case of bribery at all. It’s a reward for living a tougher life than others.
Why would a loving God command Moses and others to slaughter children and eviscerate pregnant women? Are skeptics still on this one? I thought I had answered this before. The assumption here is that these are innocent people, but the Bible teaches us the opposite. There are no innocent people. We have all sinned (Rom 3:23; 5:12), and all deserve death (Rom 6:23). Therefore, God, the just and fair judge, is not doing anything wrong by commanding the deaths of these people–they are not innocent!
Interesting post over at Arminian Perspectives, asking whether or not John Calvin was a regenerate Christian. Apparently, one Calvinist commenter to an earlier post said that Calvin was still totally depraved, which is why he dealt with Servetus the way that he did.
This immediately creates a problem for the Calvinist. What is total depravity? This is the state that an unregenerate, non-Christian is in prior to his conversion. This is the state that most people stay in their entire lives. People love their sin, now more than ever. So, is Calvin a non-Christian, or can the Christian be totally depraved?
I don’t believe that a Christian can be totally depraved. Total depravity represents a state of complete spiritual death (Eph 2:1-3; Rom 7:5). Total depravity means that the person is unable to know or respond to the things of God (Eph 4:18). But the believer is a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), dead to sin and alive in Christ (Rom 6:11). As Arminian Perspectives asks, “How can one be dead in sin and dead to sin at the same time?”
So why did Calvin treat Servetus the way that he did? Moreover, why do Christians sin, seemingly at the same rate as non-Christians? Because, though we are a new creation, we are still not glorified or made perfect. Only in our new and glorified bodies will we unable to sin. The Westminster Confession of Faith sums it up:
This corruption of nature, during this life, does remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be, through Christ, pardoned, and mortified; yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin. (VI.5, see 1 Jn 1:8, 10; Rom 7:14, 17-18, 23; Jms 3:2; Prv 20:9; Eccl 7:20)
This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. (XIII.2)
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. (1 Jn 4:1-3, emphasis added)
There is something very subtle that I want everyone to see. Aside from the fact that Rey has to quote established heretics to make his position stick, that is. First, Jesus took on our sinful flesh according to Hebrews 2:14 (yet he remained without sin, Heb 4:15). Logically, he had to receive this flesh from somewhere. So, second, Jesus was born. He did partake of the same things, as the letter to the Hebrews makes plain. The gospels of Matthew and Luke say he was born of a virgin because Romans 5:12 says that it is man that spreads the taint of sin to the child. Third, and most important, note the snippet above from 1 John.
Rey, by saying that Jesus just one day appeared on the scene, is effectively denying that Jesus came in the flesh. According to 1 John 4:1-3, that puts him square in the antichrist camp. Rey has the spirit of an antichrist.
Now, I leave it to Rey to convince us why we should still listen to him, given this information.
Perhaps the most misunderstood member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is not some blind force. The Holy Spirit represents God’s active principal in the world, his guiding hand that works wonders. Not recognizing the work of the Spirit is blasphemy against the Spirit–the Unforgivable Sin.
Three elements must be recognized about the Holy Spirit. The first is his personality. The second, his deity. And the third, his work in each believer.
Personality (Jn 16:7-15)
The Holy Spirit’s ministry is to convict the world of its sin. The Spirit also reveals truth to the people of God. Since Christ is gone to the Father, and the world can see him no more, the Spirit takes Christ’s place here on earth.
Deity (Acts 5:3-4)
Acts 5:3-4 equates the Holy Spirit with God. Since God is one (Deut 6:4), the Holy Spirit must be a separate person of the Trinity. He is distinct from the Father and the Son, and has his own ministry on earth, but is one in essence with Father and Son.
Work in Each Believer
The Holy Spirit has three specific ways he works in each believer. The first is indwelling the person, enabling the new creation to do good works pleasing to God. The second, related to the first, is filling. The third is to empower the believer for Christian life and service.
Baptism and Indwelling (1 Cor 12:13; Rom 8:9)
Baptism represents a death to the things of the world. When we come out of the baptismal pool, we are now awakened to a new life, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, filled with his power, to live a holy life worthy of God.
Filling (Eph 5:18)
The Holy Spirit then fills the believer, and makes him or her able to live the Christian life.
Empower for Christian Life and Service (Eph 3:16; Acts 1:8; Gal 5:22-23)
After indwelling and filling the believer, the Spirit then empowers the believer to live the Christian life. Note that the person’s residual nature is still fallen, and therefore he is not able to live the perfect Christian life. But the Spirit enables him to walk in a like-manner to Christ, and therefore the believer is now free of condemnation from sin.
It boggles the mind how many people remain in their sin even after being baptized with the Spirit. This I believe is the failure of the modern church to convict people of their sin, not a failure of the Holy Spirit.
Nothing like putting something up two years after the fact:
I only put it up because I’m tired of seeing it as draft status, and as it exceeds 4000 words, I was very reluctant to delete it. I worked very hard on it, though I never actually finished it.
For blog superfans, this is my 500th post. I’m very proud that I’ve lasted this long in the difficult ministry of apologetics. But I first give the glory to God for blessing this ministry with a loyal readership and for giving me the gift to write clear and concise prose. I pray he uses this blog to continue to draw his elect to himself. Thanks for those of you that have stayed with me. I hope to do 500 more posts even better than the first 500! By the grace of God, I know it’s possible!
Read the entire article here.
Many moons ago, I promised to look at Scriptural evidence for irresistible grace. Well, obviously, I’ve been busy since then and haven’t had the time to get around to it. But now I’ve had a few free moments, so I thought I’d post on that very topic.
It may be helpful to review my definition of irresistible grace here.
The Golden Chain of Redemption makes an impressive case for irresistible grace by itself. The same people predestined are also called, justified, and glorified. But the writings of John are where one can find the strongest case for irresistible grace.
Consider Jesus’ words in John 6:36: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” Jesus is saying that everyone given to him by the Father comes to him. It is helpful to remember that Jesus later declares “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him . . .” (6:44) and “. . . no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (6:65).
We know that it is the elect that God gives to Jesus, and Jesus says that “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me . . .” (John 6:45; see also 6:36). Combined with the Golden Chain of Redemption, the case for irresistible grace is very good.
This has been the subject of much debate in the comments section. As one pointed out, what is described here can’t be considered “free will” by any definition. After re-reading this post and some personal reflection, I agree with the commenters that this isn’t a very good argument.
I’m leaving this up, however, as a thought experiment. Think of it like this: What if God did decree every last detail of our actions? Would that still make him the author of sin? Since intent appears to be what God judges, then the answer is still no on that principle.
Frequently, we hear the charge leveled against Calvinism and its insistence on meticulous divine sovereignty that makes God the author of sin. The typical argument goes something like this:
- God foreordained all that happens in the world.
- Sin is part of this foreordained world.
- Therefore, God foreordained sin.
- Therefore, God is the author of sin.
Does this argument hold? I don’t think so. Read the rest of this entry
His Preexistence and Deity (Jn 1:13)
“Before the world was created, the Word already existed; he was with God, and he was the same as God.” So begins John’s gospel (1:1, TEV). There was never a time that the Word did not exist; so he is coterminous with the Father and eternally loved by the Father.
John 1:1 is such a simple verse but with profound implications. Jesus is the same as God–it is so difficult to conceive of the easily described yet profoundly misunderstood mystery of the Trinity. Jesus is one in essence with God, yet a separate and distinct person. What does that really mean?
For our purposes here, it can mean only one thing: that Jesus is deity. There is only one deity, and that is God (Deut 6:4). Yet Jesus shares this divine essence, even though he is a distinct person from the Father and the Holy Spirit, who also share the divine essence.
Incarnation by Virgin Birth (Jn 1:14; Mt 1:18-23)
What separates the Word from the other members of the Trinity is the fact that he took on sinful flesh to become like us. Original sin, the sin of Adam, passes to the offspring by way of the father. Jesus had no earthly father; he was born of a virgin who had not yet known the touch of a man. Therefore, he was not tainted by original sin.
Sinless Life (Heb 4:15)
Though Jesus had sinful flesh, he remained in all ways free of the stain of sin. In fact, it is argued by many that it was impossible for him to sin because it would violate his divine nature. Either way, he accomplished a feat that none had done before, nor have any done since: he lived a sinless life. He, who would become the Ultimate Passover Lamb, was without blemish.
Substitutionary Death (2 Cor 5:21)
Of course, this is one of the cornerstones of Christianity. The next section discusses another cornerstone, that of the Resurrection. While Jesus conquered death through the Resurrection, it was important that he suffered death to begin with. Why? To appease God’s wrath for all time.
God’s nature demands that justice be meted out for sin. There are two possible alternatives: either the person who sinned suffers the consequences of his own sin, or a substitute takes the punishment for that person. The entire sacrificial system prefigured this penal substitution that was meted out on the Cross.
Jesus, who had no sin, became sin for us so that we can become righteous before God. He suffers the full penalty so that we don’t have to.
Bodily Resurrection (Lk 24:36-43)
The Resurrection is the cornerstone of Christianity. The apostle Paul wrote that without the Resurrection, we are above all to be most pitied (1 Cor 15:19). We are still in our sins (1 Cor 15:17).
Most of all, the Resurrection is a bodily Resurrection. What is common to the Resurrection appearances is that Jesus appeared bodily to the witnesses. They were able to touch him and he ate with them. He was not a Spirit; he appeared bodily.
Ascension Into Heaven and Present Ministry (Heb 4:14-16)
Jesus is the Great High Priest of our faith; he has lived on earth and was tempted in every way that we were yet remained without sin. He goes alone before the Father on our behalf (1 Tim 2:5). With such a high priest for us, we need no other.
Coming Again (Acts 1:11)
Jesus will return one day to set up a kingdom that will last forever. He will return bodily and visibly, and all creation will bow their knees to their Creator (Phil 2:10).
In my posts on homosexuality, I merely assert that it is a sin without providing theological reasoning for why. Since I have been challenged on that point several times, I will now explain once and for all why I believe that homosexuality is a sin.
There are five passages of Scripture used to directly condemn homosexuality, and three that are used to indirectly condemn it. Let’s consider the direct condemnations first, then move on to the indirect ones.
The first direct condemnation is Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” It doesn’t get much clearer than that. This passage clearly has homosexual behavior in view, and it quite plainly condemns the practice by calling it an abomination.
Some argue that this passage is referring only to temple service. But look at the context — every other sexual prohibition listed in chapter 18 is meant as a universal moral precept. After explaining dozens of prohibitions that are still observed today (even by the most libertine among us), the passage concludes:
So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God. (Lev 18:30)
Clearly, all of the listed prohibitions were meant to be universally binding.
Next, we come to Leviticus 20:13: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” Again, clear as day.
It is important to note that the Levitical laws are part of a larger contract with God and the people of Israel. That contract has been breached by the people of Israel and is therefore no longer in force. Therefore, by bringing this passage up, I am not condoning violence against homosexuals. It is God’s domain to punish sinners, not ours. We should seek to bring them to repentance, not judgment.
Moving on, we find three New Testament passages often used to condemn the practice. First up is Romans 1:26-27:
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another,men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
This passage condemns both gays and lesbians. Paul is here making an appeal to the original created order, one man and one woman, as described in Genesis 1-2. Homosexuality is described in this passage not only as a sin, but as a symptom of a deeper problem within society. The problem is described in verses 21-23 — worshiping creation rather than Creator. In all of the responses to blogs I’ve done on homosexuality, I see this time and time again. “God made me this way and I’m not going to change.” That pride is what Paul has in mind here — we are beholden to what we are instead of looking to what we ought to be.
Paul goes on to describe that the guilty are not just practitioners of homosexuality, but those who condone the practice (see Rom 1:32). That means that American society, becoming ever more tolerant of homosexual practice and allowing gay “marriage,” is under God’s judgment. And, as the letter to the Hebrews points out, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31).
The second passage in the New Testament is 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
First Corinthians 6:18a says to flee sexual immorality. So far, I’ve built a very strong case that homosexuality is just that: sexual immorality. But God promises to deliver us:
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified,you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:11)
The Corinthians that Paul was addressing were Christians; and God cleansed them. This promise is true for us today. God will wash us of our sins in the name of Jesus.
The final passage in the New Testament is 1 Timothy 1:8-11:
Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
Again, this passage speaks for itself. Homosexuality is a clear sin, and those who practice it are unrighteous along with the other people on the list.
The words translated “men who practice homosexuality” in the ESV are actually two Greek words. One literally means “soft” and the other is untranslatable (some think Paul coined it, but it isn’t unique to him).
Objectors say that since we don’t know what these words mean, then we can’t attribute them to homosexuality. Contemporary scholarship, however, does not side with these objectors. “Soft,” we think, refers to the passive partner in homosexuality (the “bottom” in today’s slang) and the other term refers to the active partner (the “top”). By using both terms, Paul meant to indicate both offenders sinned. He was trying to leave no doubt that homosexuality is a sin.
While the direct condemnations of homosexuality should be enough to prove the practice is sinful, it doesn’t convince everyone. So there are three indirect references that are usually mentioned. Let’s take a peek at those.
We’ve all heard “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” In the original created order, God created male and female in his image (Gen 1:26-27; see also Gen 2:24). From this, we can posit that he did so for a reason because God works everything after the counsel of his will (Eph 1:11) and brings everything to a conclusion he has declared (Is 46:10). The most damning direct condmenation, Romans 1:26-27, assumes male and female as the original created order or it would have no force.
The next indirect condemnation is the story of Sodom (Gen 19:1-29). But the question is often raised, “Was the sin of Sodom really homosexuality?” Critics point to Ezekiel 16:49, which seems to suggest that the real sin of Sodom was unkindness to travelers in need. But that sin is mentioned nowhere in the Law, so it is doubtful that God destroyed the city for that reason. Sexual immorality in general is mentioned as the cause of the destruction of the city in Jude 7, but no specific mention of homosexuality.
Therefore, I would seriously caution Christians not use the story of Sodom to condemn homosexuality. That means the pro-homosexual party has batted down one passage out of seven (so far) to make their case. It doesn’t look good, but we still have one more to look at.
The third indirect condemnation comes from Jesus himself.
Well, true. But, in Mark 10:1-12 Jesus confirms that the archetype for marriage is one male and one female, as set forth in Genesis 2:24. Though he never made a direct condemnation of homosexuality, he did follow the Genesis teaching of marriage I set out above and that means that he would say marriage is between a man and a woman. Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.
The overwhelming biblical evidence is on the side of homosexuality being a sin. Only a dismal one proof text out of eight is found wanting. The person who tries to say that homosexuality is no sin has to ignore an awful lot of Scripture to arrive at that conclusion.
Now we have to consider the obvious objection: These passages are talking about lust; what about homosexual love? To which I say: love is always encouraged in both the New and Old Testaments. The Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and might, and to love your neighbor as yourself (Deut 6:5; Lev 19:18).
All references in the so-called “clobber passages” are references to the act of homosexual intercourse, not to homosexual love. Therefore, homosexual love is acceptable to, even encouraged by, God.
It is homosexual sex that is not accepted. Since it is the act of intercourse that consummates a marriage and homosexual persons can’t lawfully do that, homosexual marriage is not acceptable to God.
It requires ignoring much of the Bible’s passages and underlying assumptions to arrive at the conclusion that homosexuality is not a sin. Therefore, we conclude the act of homosexual intercourse is an abomination to God and homosexual “marriage” is not tolerated by him. The weight of the biblical evidence supports this conclusion. Love between a man and another man, or a woman and another woman, is accepted and encouraged. Leave the lust behind, like all other sins.