Monthly Archives: May 2010

The Preexistence of Jesus

I just found Human Jesus Theology, a blog that seems ostensibly Christian, though the theology is a bit skewed. For example, in this post, author Jeffery W. Campbell takes a passage often used to establish the deity and preexistence of Jesus and argue that it does no such thing.

John 8:58 reads, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.'” It is Campbell’s argument that this passage doesn’t establish the preexistence of Jesus because the name I AM from Exodus 3:14 isn’t the name of God.

Of course, to make this argument convincing, Campbell has to go to the Septuagint. It should be noted that the Septuagint is not the original language of the Old Testament; the Septuagint was written in Greek, but the Old Testament was written in Hebrew.

Even if this was a convincing argument, Campbell is ignoring other passages that unambiguously establish the preexistence of Jesus. Start with John 1:1-5:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The “Word” of verse 1 is defined as Jesus in verses 14-18:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Paul establishes the preexistence of Christ as well. In his letter to the Colossians 1:15-20, the apostle writes of Jesus:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Campbell can argue against one passage, but nothing in the Bible exists in a vacuum apart from everything else. There are numerous verses that establish the preexistence of Christ, which is why it is one of the core tenets of the Christian faith. John 8:53, while important, isn’t the cornerstone upon which the preexistence of Jesus is built.


The Biblical Definition of Excommunication

In my previous post, I considered the Catholic definition of excommunication. I pronounced it unbiblical, but I never looked at a single Bible verse that discussed the concept of excommunication. And that, of course, was a mistake. I had actually meant to do that, but somehow forgot. Ooops.

I should mention that I don’t have a problem with the definition of excommunication as pronounced in the Code of Canon Law per se, it’s the method of execution that I take exception to. To refresh, the Catholic definition of excommunication is:

Exclusion from the communion, the principal and severest censure, is a medicinal, spiritual penalty that deprives the guilty Christian of all participation in the common blessings of ecclesiastical society.

That means no participation in sacraments, church life, or social intercourse with members in good standing. Excommunicants who die unrepentant are refused burial rites. Clerics who are so excommunicated are stripped of all their rights, responsibilities, and ecclesiastical authority. Again, I have no problem with the definition of excommunication per se.

The execution of excommunication, however, I do have a problem with. In certain cases, such as the case with Sr. McBride that I’ve discussed, the excommunication is automatic–with no investigation or trial. This isn’t biblical. Although there are a few passages that deal with excommunication in the New Testament, the primary one that also discusses the pattern of discipline leading to an excommunication is Matthew 18:15-17. It reads:

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

So, if someone sins against his brother, the brother is to confront him. If the sinner won’t listen, then the brother is to take two or three witnesses with him. If the sinner still won’t listen, the matter goes before the church. If that doesn’t work, then excommunication is the answer. Note that the sinner is to be given several chances, and there is no mention of incurring an automatic excommunication.

Jesus goes on in the next section to make it clear that excommunication is permanent only if the sinner is unrepentant. He tells Peter to forgive a brother “seventy times seven times,” which is a first century Hebrew euphemism used like we would use “as many times as it takes,” or “an infinite number of times,” or similar modern expressions.

Fortunately, the Code of Canon Law takes that into consideration by stating that excommunication is meant to be medicinal. In that spirit, I agree with Catholic excommunication. However, automatic excommunication is a bit severe. As this blog points out, automatic excommunication often targets the wrong person:

“It is a sad case but the real problem is that the twins conceived were two innocent persons, who had the right to live and could not be eliminated,” said Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re to a local daily. Re—who is the head of the Roman Catholic Church’s Congregation for Bishops—acknowledged that “life must always be protected” yet did not say anything over the girl’s life being in danger by her pregnancy.

Aside from excommunicating the girl’s mother, Sobrinho also had the gall to disparage the raped child:

The stepfather was not excommunicated because the church said that his action, although deplorable, was not as bad as ending the life of an unborn child.

“It is clear that he committed a very serious sin, but worse than this is the abortion,” Sobrinho said.

Perhaps the “Wondering Rose” said it the best:

What view of morality or justice sees shades of gray in the decision that was left to Sister Margaret McBride? How can religious doctrine deem the unborn child’s life worth more than that of a 27-year-old woman, and mother of four?  In what code of ethics is it right to leave four children motherless, when her life could be saved by forfeiting the life of an 11-week old fetus? Who is served by excommunicating Sister McBride, a nun who has given decades of her life to her order, the Sisters of Mercy, in service to the church, to the communion of believers and to society?  How do we view her banishment in comparison to the pedophile priests, none of whom have been excommunicated but who were allowed to continue their heinous ways under the protection of the Bishops? (emphasis in original)

Sister McBride vs. Bishop Olmsted: Round 2

I previously discussed the case of Sister Margaret McBride, the Catholic nun who automatically excommunicated herself by being party to an abortion. This case amuses me, because it shows how truly unbiblical the Catholic Code of Canon Law is.

Catholicism, I believe, started with the best of intentions but began to heap completely unbiblical traditions onto the Gospel, and have thus become the very system that Jesus condemned as he issued his seven woes to the scribes and Pharisees (Mt 23:1-36). Read the rest of this entry

How Did My Spam Filter NOT Catch This?

On this article, I received a comment that was obviously spam:

If only I had a dollar for each time I came to Great article.

My first thought was, If only I had a dollar for each time you came to! Then I realized that the e-mail address was complete nonsense. So I checked the blog that the comment linked to. I don’t know much about SEO, but I figure that just randomly stringing hot button search engine phrases together in a way that doesn’t make sense wouldn’t qualify as actual SEO writing. A sample:

BTW, THE WHOLE WORLD AND MANY POOR IN HONDURAS ARE AGAINST YOU, THE MILITARY WIFE. The US corporate media were silent about the summit in aid of war-torn Gaza. En el caso del canciller de Nicaragua no se produjo ninguna insurrecci n evang lica y D’Escoto abandon la huelga horas despu s de iniciada. You can dance much better strategy than just having Pat Moore ex-Greenpeace running around supporting the British commander of the World Trade Round in Doha. Diouf called for an inefficient, costly and environmentally devastating form of violence in Iraq, for which its infrastructure was not in a duet with Justin Timberlake, the Rolling Thunder guys too ks, Everyone. Indonesia, a country that the most powerful nations.

Can anyone figure out what that meant? That’s a head scratcher. And it goes on for three more paragraphs!

Changing languages for one sentence mid-paragraph probably isn’t the mark of writing par excellence. Just a thought.

Jumping to Unwarranted Conclusions

The Big Bang

I’ve read enough atheistic material to make the (I hope) accurate generalization that atheists are impressed by evidence and that they refuse to leap to any unwarranted conclusions.

For example, Hemnant Mehta (the Friendly Atheist) asked, “If a miracle came, would it convince you [that God exists]?” In the comments section, the virtually unanimous answer was an emphatic NO. A commenter named Drew even said this:

So, as much as I feel like a humbug, it would take quite a bit. And, if something like this rearrangement of stars happened, without some personal contact with God, I’d be wary that it is an illusion– after all, how many people have said the same prayer as I and not been answered? God would have to show me why he preferred to answer my prayer to millions of others.

MorseCode, who comments on this blog as well, said this:

Moving stars is certainly impressive. Unfortunately, it only serves as evidence for something that can move stars.

So, for all practical purposes, most agree with this fellow:

At this point in my life, I honestly can’t think of anything that would make me believe in God, expecially the God of a particular religion. I don’t think I’m closed minded, but after 47 years of searching and exploring these issues, I think it’s fair to have come to a pretty solid conclusion.

So, based on this information, it is fair to say that atheists do not leap to unwarranted conclusions, nor would they be convinced by material that does.

Unless the unwarranted conclusions are in their favor. Read the rest of this entry

This is just . . . WOW! (part II)

In a previous post, I criticized Mark of Proud Atheists for this post. Mark listed 14 things that he simply does not adhere to, given his naturalistic worldview. In all cases, I’ve been finding that Mark misunderstands or mischaracterizes Christianity. Today, we continue exposing his errors on points eight through 14, and offer some concluding thoughts. Read the rest of this entry

This is Just . . . WOW! (part I)

Mark from Proud Atheists does it again! He manages to prove his general and willful ignorance of religion even while attempting to mock it. His latest diatribe is a thoughtful post titled “Dear Christians, ‘I Simply Do Not . . . .‘” It’s a fascinating line of crap from start to finish. Let’s see what we can make of it: Read the rest of this entry

Ethical Dilemma

Sr. Margaret McBride

Mark from Proud Atheists tends to draw much criticism from me. Mark is a bit childish in his arguments against religion in general, and Christianity in particular. The set of atheists who continually refer to God as “Sky Daddy,” “Sky Fairy,” or compare the evidence for the existence of God to the evidence for the existence of garden gnomes do tend to be childish. These are also the same ones who refer to God as “your god” when addressing my rebuttals and accuse me (without proof) of believing that people who don’t adhere to my “concept of the Christian god” will go to hell. Because I’m just that mean and arrogant, I guess. As such, their arguments tend to be less than compelling. Or even outright stupid.

Mark holds a special place in my heart because he makes misunderstandings and mischaracterizations of Christianity into an art form. I’m currently working on answering this post bullet point by bullet point, and the misrepresentation would be laughable if it weren’t so annoying. If you’re going to criticize a position, at least have some basic understanding of it! Mark shows no evidence of understanding anything about God or Christianity.

Ready to give up on Mark yet? Well, I’m not. In a world of unbelievably dumb blog entries about the existence of God, this is, quite frankly, a stand out post. And I mean that as a compliment. Mark raises some good issues that should be considered from an ethical perspective. Read the rest of this entry

Is this Real?

This got caught in my spam filter. I actually want it to be true. In my ministry, I really don’t get many compliments. This is the last article anyone complimented, and that would have been 15 months ago!

Advantageously, the article is actually the greatest on this laudable topic. I fit in with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your upcoming updates. Just saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the phenomenal clarity in your writing. I will at once grab your rss feed to stay abreast of any updates. Pleasant work and much success in your business enterprize!

If it’s true, then the speaker is not a native English speaker, which makes sense since his e-mail address was from Germany. But, in the end, I think it’s spam since you could attach this to any post that anyone has ever made ever and it would fit. Nothing specific there.

By the way, if you’re reading Mike (Geocreationist), the “laudable topic” he’s referring to was your website.

How to Defeat Calvinism

James White just posted this video, thinking that he may have seen it somewhere before. I agree; I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it before, but I thought I’d repost it anyway.

When they show the scales that illustrate John 3:16 allegedly trumping everything else in the Bible, I like how John 6 appears twice on the opposite dish.

I also like the devil horns on Calvin and the cool nickname: “John ‘Lucifer’ Calvin.”