Advertisements

Blog Archives

On the Desire to Erase Hell from Christian Doctrine

God has the right to do WHATEVER He pleases.

If I’ve learned one thing from studying hell, it’s that last line.  And whether or not you end up agreeing with everything I say about hell, you must agree with Psalm 115:3.  Because at the end of the day, our feelings and wants and heartaches and desires are not ultimate — only God is ultimate.  God tells us plainly that His ways and thoughts are infinitely higher than ours (Isa. 55:9).  Expect then, that Scripture will say things that don’t agree with your natural way of thinking.

— Francis Chan, Erasing Hell, p. 17

Advertisements

Question from a Christian About Law and Grace

A member of the Christian Apologetics Alliance recently asked:

Question: In the old testament God outlines an entire list of dos and do nots for the Jews to follow. Among them is dietary regulation (Kosher food=♥).

In the New Testament Christ says,”until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

Does that include dietary restrictions? Paul suggests in 1 Corintians 8, “But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. ” And Christ Himself says, “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’

So my question is thus, if Christ said that not a letter of the law would be removed until heaven and earth disappear and everything is accomplished but says also that what we eat doesn’t necessarily matter because it can’t make us unclean, is he contradicting Himself since in Leviticus 11 God dictates what Israelites were and weren’t suppose to eat?

I’ve heard this objection from 1000 different atheists, worded exactly the way this girl just framed it.  What most people fail to take away from Matthew 5:17-20 is one little snippet in v. 18, which qualifies the otherwise sweeping statement of nothing in the Law will pass away “until all is fulfilled.”  So, what is the fulfillment of the Law?  Christ himself.

Christ fulfilled the righteous requirement of the Law, so that means that we don’t have to.  We now live by faith, not by works of Law.  Which means the short answer to this inquiry is, “No, we’re not held to dietary restrictions.”

The long answer is a matter of context. Read the rest of this entry

Questions Theists Can’t Answer, the Bible

Another question from that old Reddit thread that has questions designed to stump theists:

If the Bible is the word from God, and the word from God is perfect, why does it need interpretations? Why don’t you stone adulters or avoid wearing clothes made from mixed fibers as stated in the Bible? Why don’t you sacrifice animals to your God? 

This is really two questions. First, Why does the word of God need to be interpreted? And second, Why don’t Christians adhere to the Old Testament Laws? Read the rest of this entry

More on PrayerMarket.com

In a previous post, I spoke of a new website called PrayerMarket.com in which users traded prayers for reward money. Basically, I thought the whole idea was reprehensible. I’m not alone; other bloggers who were directly contacted by the site’s founder have pretty much agreed with that sentiment:

The first two are Catholic websites and both used a term that’s new to me, but the concept it describes isn’t. The word is simony: the act of exchanging money for spiritual goods. The origin of the story is Simon the Sorcerer, which is described in Acts 8:9-25. The crux of the sin is found in verses 18-19:

Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

Offering money to obtain the gifts of God, rightfully obtained solely by God’s grace is not a sign of a penitent heart. The apostle Peter told Simon that his heart wasn’t right before God, and commanded the sorcerer to repent (verse 21-22).

Someone suggested Steve Colbert do a story on it. Not a bad suggestion; there is much to be mocked.

John Wilson, founder of the site, has agreed to an interview with me. I will reprint the interview below in Q&A format, with some further comments from me. Read the rest of this entry

Things That Should be Free: PrayerMarket.com

In a previous post, I’ve lamented that there are few resources for Christian churches that are 100% free of charge. Most charge some sort of membership fee, either lifetime or monthly. The ones that are free are, regrettably, extremely limited in quality and quantity of resources.

I think someone ought to open up a website that enables users to download high quality sermon resources for free. The site should subsist entirely on donations and/or PPC advertisement.

I would love to look into the feasibility of something like that, and perhaps trying to collect sermons, sermon series, scripts, videos, and other resources that match or exceed the quality of SermonSpice.com or the Skit Guys, but will be available free of charge to the public.

That’s just a dream. Perhaps it could become reality one day. We shall see!

As a follow up to my rant on resources that ought to be free, I thought I’d examine a few resources that exist out there that ought to be free, but really aren’t. This post fits in with my study theme of the month: prayer!

I’ve recently stumbled on to a site called PrayerMarket.com. It’s exactly what it sounds like. The site buys and sells prayers. That is absolutely reprehensible. The very concept is outright offensive. Read the rest of this entry

Wit and Wisdom of Facebook

For some reason, one of my Facebook friends inspires quite a few blog entries. So I would like to send a shout out to Domonique–thanks for staying my friend even though we don’t work together anymore. I swear I’ve been getting half my material from your posts recently.

The chatter on Domonique’s recent status update gives us some insight as to why many people refuse to bow the knee to our Lord.

I used to work with Domonique, so I’m confident that she’s a Christian and the deeper meaning I’m drawing from this doesn’t apply specifically to her.

I have no idea what Domonique’s friend Taylor’s religious leanings are. There is nothing on her Facebook profile to suggest that she’s a Christian, but nothing that would suggest she isn’t. No Atheist As or links to anti-Christian/anti-Bible propaganda sites.

The conversation is typical for young, single women. Domonique is moaning that all the good men seem to elude her, and Taylor agrees. Taylor also says that even good men lie to their women. Then Domonique makes the following comment:

I know, i wish i could marry jesus.

To which Taylor replies:

Jesus had a big beard. I do not find big beards very attractive. perhaps if he were to shave i would be happy 🙂

I don’t know if the insight I’m about to offer from this applies to Taylor or not. This insight is meant generally, and I’m not directing it to Taylor personally. Taylor, if you’re reading this and I come off as though I’m personally attacking you, please forgive me because that isn’t my intent! But if you see yourself in this as a Christian and can profit from it, then please consider it a gentle rebuke from a brother in Christ.

Taylor’s comment is interesting in that it reflects the typical desire that underlies most attacks on prayer and original sin. Here, Taylor wants Jesus to change something about himself in order to make him more palatable to her.

The reality, for the Christian, is that we (as humans) are repugnant to God. We must realize this as a prerequisite for saving faith. Once that realization is made and we receive Christ in faith, then begins the long process of sanctification: making ourselves more palatable to God. Taylor (and most skeptics that I’ve dealt with) reverse the formula. Reversing the formula is idolatry.

Again, this isn’t meant as a personal attack on Taylor, and if it was perceived as such then I apologize. I only meant to convey an important insight.

For more information on just how repugnant we humans are to God, please see my essay on total depravity.

Wrath of God

A friend from Facebook, for some unknown reason, posted a link to Westboro Baptist Church’s list of press releases. Out of curiosity, I visited it and clicked on their parody section. I was presented with a list of well-known songs that the group has modified, including a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Listening to that song, cleverly re-titled “Imagine the New Heaven” (an obvious reference to Is 65 and Rev 21), I realized something rather chilling. Fred Phelps & Co. represent the opposite extreme of a spectrum of authentic Christianity. Mainstream Christianity sits on the other end.

Let me explain. Mainstream Christianity preaches God’s unending love. The popular preachers emphasize over and over again how God loves all of humanity, and then they carry it to illogical extremes. They equate “love” with “unconditional acceptance” and that makes sin and damnation completely disappear. No need for sanctification, they will preach, because God loves you just as you are!

Believing that God always has the best interest of his people at heart (cf. Rom 8:28), but then completely de-contextualizing a person’s “best interest,” they preach that God will make you wealthy and powerful. God will answer every prayer with a resounding YES if you only believe it’s true.

On the other end is Fred Phelps, who emphasizes the coming wrath and judgment of God to the exclusion of any mercy or grace. Phelps and company commit numerous theological errors besides that one (such as believing the elect are always members of Westboro Baptist Church, shirking the Great Commission, encouraging those around them to sin to bring the coming judgment faster, and everything else that you can classify as hyper-Calvinism), but removing all hope of grace and mercy from God’s character is by far the biggest they make. Read the rest of this entry

Can Atheists be Moral Without God?

A few days back, I promised that I would discuss the answer to a question that has been raging in the atheist-theist dialogue for a long time. It stirs up controversy wherever it goes. The question: Can atheists be moral without God?

The short answer: NO, absolutely, unequivocally, not. It is impossible to be moral without God.

I had best get to the long answer before I get flamed by my atheist readership, which actually amounts to 99% (if not 100%) of my overall readership. First, I must explain an important, and oft overlooked, distinction that will bring this entire question into focus: the difference between ethics and morals.

When he was learning the art of the psychological autopsy, NCIS’s Ducky was asked by Mr. Palmer to explain the difference between ethics and morals. Ducky said something akin to “The ethical man knows he shouldn’t cheat on his wife, while the moral man would not.” In other words, ethics govern solely the behavior of an individual, where morals begin with the heart and proceed out, modifying the behavior as a result.

It is quite possible for a man to watch rape porn, read erotica featuring rape or non-consensual scenes, constantly fantasize about raping women, and even request that his consensual partners fight him, beg him to stop, and cry real tears during sex. He literally views women as objects that exist solely for his enjoyment. What holds this individual back from actually raping a woman is the threat of jail time, the looming possibility of having to register as a sex offender, and the associated shame and loss of status all of that would bring.

This person actually quite ethical. He doesn’t act on his impulses. He obeys the law. By all outward appearances, he’s a fine, upstanding citizen. But his hidden dark side poses a problem with calling him  “moral.”

Ethics are solely concerned with behavior. A person can be ethical and even appear to bear the good fruit associated with the Kingdom of God, but essentially be a “whitewashed tomb full of dead man’s bones.” If you take care to wash only the parts that people can see, while continuing to live a robust life of mental evils, are you really moral?

If my neighbor, the guy with the really hot wife, the awesome job that I could never get in a million years, who paid off his house because he’s a millionaire in his twenties, and owns three fancy sports cars suddenly got divorced, fired from his awesome job, and totaled two of the three sports cars (in one day), how should I react to that?

Externally, if I offered a shoulder to cry on anytime he needed one and offered to help him financially if he needed to pay some debts or bills (no millionaire is completely without debt), and tried to help him get a job; would I still be good if in my mind I kept thinking silently, “I’m so happy! I want to see this S.O.B. fall further into despair. I’m going to nickname him ‘Job.’ May he total the other sports car, too!”

I’m thinking, “NO.”

That example is perfectly within our fallen natures. It isn’t that we can’t do good. We, in our fallen nature, can’t will good. We may do some (relative) good, but privately, we still entertain impure (or even evil) thoughts. Our behavior conforms to the good, but our minds do not.

Contrast this with a Christian, who is a Christian in both word and deed. I hate to say a “true” Christian, so let’s say a “sincere” Christian. Once his faith has been placed in Christ, a transformation occurs. He is a new creation. His inward thoughts are taken captive, to conform even those to Christ. Our carnal minds, after all, aren’t subject to God’s law (nor indeed can be).

Ethics are external. Those are what people see. However, morals work from the inside out. Instead of just doing good, we are good. That’s a far cry from simply acting ethical. Instead of not stealing thousands of dollars from the bank at which I work, the capability of that theft is no longer in my person. That, in a nutshell, is what it means to be conformed to Christ.

That, however, isn’t something that just happens the day of my altar call. It is part of sanctification, which is a life-long process where I work with God to conform both my actions and my thoughts to Christ’s example.

This is hard. But no one ever said Christianity was supposed to be easy.