Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jesus Didn't Say "I am God"-Revised

Our detractor states: "Jesus never claimed to be God-He never actually said "I am God".

On the contrary. Jesus is co-equal with God. This is the consistent teaching of the whole bible, especially the New Testament. Though not every statement is expressed with equal explicitness, every statement bearing on the nature of Christ proves He is full Deity & humanity in one person, without contradiction. The various names and titles of Jesus are unequivocal of his full Deity.

Just a few verses will bear this out.

Micah 5:2, King James Version But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting

Vs. 2b, New American Standard Bible His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity

Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another...

Isaiah 48:11c I will not yield my glory to another.

John 17:5 [Jesus prayed] And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

Psalms 45:6 Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.

Hebrews 1:8 But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom

John 1:1, 14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... [14] The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 5:22-23 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him

Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Psalms 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

Ezekiel 34:31 You my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are people, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign LORD.

John 10:14 I [Jesus] am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.

Hebrews 13:20 ...our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep...

Romans 9:5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

Now that you know Jesus is clearly called God throughout Scripture...what will you do with that knowledge?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A False Interpretation of Matthew 23:37

(v.37) Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Matthew 23:37

Many Arminiansitic interpreters have sought to refute God's unconditional election and sovereign irresistible grace upon his elect, by citing this passage of Scripture. The undemonstrated assumption is that the Jesus is saying that "Jerusalem" resisted his will to come to salvation, even though God wanted this to come to pass. Jesus tried to gather the Jews to himself that he wanted to save, but they "would not". Thus it is supposed to prove that God's will can be resisted by the independent free volition of sinners.

What is often assumed, but often missed is that the words of the text, when allowed to speak for themselves, in no way support this Arminian/synergystic view of God's grace. Look carefully at who Jesus says he wanted to gather. It is "THY CHILDREN" who are the objects of Jesus' gathering effort. Most people read the verse with their own ideas imposed on the text, so they think it means that Jesus wished to gather those he calls Jerusalem, but he does not say that.

The context of Matthew 23 is the judgment of the Jewish leaders who so often opposed Jesus during his ministry. Jesus came to save his people from their sins. He came to gather all that the Father had given him. There is no way that Jesus would or could fail in this effort. After noting the distinction between "Jerusalem" i.e. the Jewish leaders, and "thy children" i.e. the people whom they were to lead, we can see that Jesus was simply rehearsing the wicked leaders' legacy of apostasy and persecution of God's prophets to the nation of Israel.
Earlier in his denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees, he says :v. 31"Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets".

So Jesus was condemning the leaders, and stating that they resisted him when he would have gathered his people.

There is a further idea that has to be seen for what it is here. Lawrence Vance, in his anti-Calvinist book The Other Side of Calvinism, on p. 483 says of this verse "And though he(John Gill) correctly points out that the ones that Christ would have gathered are not the ones who resisted as it is sometimes interpreted by non-Calvinists, the fact remains that someone was able to thwart what Christ desired to accomplish. thus it is evident that men can and do resist the grace of God in various ways." (emphasis mine).

Nobody denies that sinful people are enemies of God, and do not seek God. But this is what Calvinists already believe because of total depravity. Calvinists do not deny that sinners can and do resist God. In fact, that is what we emphatically believe that sinners are expected to do until God regenerates them. But further to this verse, the scribes and Pharisees did resist God as Jesus gathered his elect. Their resistance did not prevent Jesus from saving anyone. All the verse says is that "ye would not". It does not say that Jesus was frustrated in his ministry, that he failed to gather his elect because of his enemies.

What the verse means is that as Jesus wanted to gather his people to Himself, the leaders of the nation opposed him, and thus merited the coming judgment of God on themselves.

As Jesus said in John 6 :37 "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

38For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

39And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day".

Thank God that our salvation is so sure and secure in God's decree that no man can thwart the gathering of ALL of God's people to Christ.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Phil Johnson's Excellent Perspective on Fundamentalism

This mp3 by Phil Johnson, of Grace To You, has some substantive and lucid insights into the American Fundamentalist Movement, and he puts words to why I feel hesitant about some of the more "fringe" elements in an otherwise legitimate position. His criticisms are right on. Historic and biblical fundamentalism and evangelicalism are true positions, while some have gone too far and too shallow.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Proving Jesus From the Quran

Sura 4:171 The Women
O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His apostles. Say not "Trinity" : desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs.

Ya ahla alkitabi lataghloo fee deenikum wala taqooloo AAala Allahiilla alhaqqa innama almaseehu AAeesaibnu maryama rasoolu Allahi wakalimatuhu alqahaila maryama waroohun minhu faaminoo biAllahiwarusulihi wala taqooloo thalathatun intahookhayran lakum innama Allahu ilahun wahidunsubhanahu an yakoona lahu waladun lahu ma fee alssamawatiwama fee al-ardi wakafa biAllahiwakeelan
The Quran refers to Jesus as Surah 4:171 says: "... His word
which He gave unto Mary".

It is common for Christians to use this title to attempt to "prove"the Deity of Christ in this verse of the Muslim text. Of course, this should not be done for the following reasons:

  • Christian integrity demands we deal with context and what the Quran is actually saying.

  • Muslim creed denies the Deity of Jesus as taught in the Bible

  • Muslims consider it idolatry to ascribe a divine partner to God

  • The Deity of Jesus is best exegeted from the Biblical text, not the Quran because the Quran does not reveal this truth in it's pages.

فِي الْبَدْءِ كَانَ الْكَلِمَةُ، وَالْكَلِمَةُ كَانَ عِنْدَ اللهِ. وَكَانَ الْكَلِمَةُ هُوَ اللهُ . John 1:1 in the Arabic bible also calls Jesus the Word. However, what the Word is in the Apostle John's mind is not the "Word" of Muhammed's claim. For the Muslim this "word" is a promise or prophecy from Allah to Mary, as seen in Surah 3:45

"...O Mary! Lo! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of
a word from Him ". Jesus here, is simply a man, born by Allah's divine fiat, his "BE" resulting in his existence.

The Quranic Jesus is best understood in the context of medival Syriac Christianity, and the apocryphal gospels of that region of Arabia.

This article : from James White on the biblical exegesis of John 1 is quite helpful. Christians should develop a solid theology based on the text of the Word of God, the Bible, and then proceed to explain the person of Jesus to their Muslim friends.

This may still cause opposition and questions, but our responsibility as believers is to give an accurate defense (apologia-απολογία 1 Peter 3:15) of the truth of our hope and faith.

May God give us the wisdom to do this and to give an answer to our opponents for God's Honour and Glory in the Gospel.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Dual Authorship & The Nature of Jesus Christ

Dual Authorship refers to the fact that the divinely given Scriptures are a product of both God & men. God's Word is both eternal & temporal. That is God spoke in the ultimate and final sense through secondary means of prophets & apostles. So, for example, in Matthew 1:22 : "Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet..." Also, when Jesus denounced the Pharisees about their traditions, He said:"Full well, ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother....making the word of God of none effect through your tradition". (Matthew 7:9-13). In both places, the Word of God is said to be what a human author spoke or wrote.

Of course, there is a mystery in just how men could write Scripture, and yet it is the God breathed words of the Lord. In 2 Peter 1:21"For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." And when speaking of the prophets who foretold the Gospel, Peter wrote:"...the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of the Christ and the glory that should follow." (1 Peter 1:11-12) Both verses describe that it was a dual authorship that came as the Word of God.

I have been wondering whether we can look to the nature of Christ Himself & His "hypostatic union" to give us a parallel to help us understand dual authorship. Christ is the Word of God who became flesh. He has both the divine nature as the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, who took upon himself human nature, and a body. He became human with no loss of his eternal essence. In fact, Christ had to limit or set aside his "divine prerogatives" and take the form of a servant and human with all human limitations. Yet Christ is the Revealer of the Father, and sinless Son of God.( See Philippians 2:5-11)

Since there is both a divine and human element in the Person of Jesus, and there are both divine and human elements in Scripture, we should not be surprised to see parallels, and perhaps get insight into the inspiration of Scripture. Then again, there are limits here.

For one thing, the "Hypostatic Union", a concept which explains the dual nature/one person of Christ is itself a truth which we apprehend, but do not fully comprehend. It is paradoxical to speak of the two natures being one Person, without confusion of each entity. Just as the threes of the Persons in the Trinity are paradoxical, yet true.

In Dual Authorship, we are trying to understand a process. Whereas in the hypostatic union, we have to deal with essence. We know the Scriptures are divine, but how did they get that way given the human involvement?

Matt Weymeyer gives an exegetical understanding of the problem. This is not exhaustive, but it gives us a good idea of what the words of Scripture mean when speaking of the God/man process of authorship.

"In Matthew 1:22 and 2:15, the preposition hupo is used to express ultimate (or primary) agency, whereas the preposition dia is used to express intermediate (or secondary) agency. The distinction is this: the ultimate agent is the person who is ultimately responsible for the action of the verb, and the intermediate agent is the person who is used by the ultimate agent to carry out that action. In simpler terms, if A is the ultimate agent, B is the intermediate agent, and C is the action of the verb, the idea is that A uses B to perform C.

The implications of this are profound. According to Matthew 1:22 and 2:15, the person who is ultimately responsible for the action of speaking forth the Old Testament prophecies is the Lord Himself, for Matthew refers to the words of prophecy as “what was spoken by [hupo—ultimate agency] the Lord.” In addition, however, these verses also indicate that the Lord used intermediate agents to speak forth these words of prophecy, for Matthew refers to “what was spoken…through [dia—intermediate agency] the prophet.” Put very simply, A (God) used B (the prophets) to perform C (write Scripture)." Matt Weymeyer

I would be very much interested in reader comments and input to these ideas. Let me know what you think!

The Colosseum

The is the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. I made it to Rome, and managed to get a few shots of the awesome Colosseum. Once again, I was impressed with the ancient building. Yet, as a believer in Jesus Christ, my thoughts kept going back to the days of the severe Imperial persecutions of Rome against the Christians.

There I was walking around in the arena where Roman citizens came to watch the bloodbath as ferocious animals ravaged the innocent martyrs of Christ. It is said that Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch was martyred in the amphitheater. The facts about the Colosseum can be found at the link.
My concern is how to look at this thing through the lens of faith. Knowing that it was used for gladiator fights, animal fights, and other pagan entertainments, points to the depravity of Roman civilaization. Further, knowing that Christians were killed there for their faith tells me that that generation of pagans were laying up wrath for the day of wrath. (Romans 2:5)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Messianic Errors of John Hagee

John Hagee is the charismatic preacher, and Christian Zionist, who wrote, In Defense Of Israel (Publisher:Front Line, 2007). Hagee is a Premillenial Dispensationalist, which is the theological underpinning for the modern prophecy movement. However, Hagee goes far beyond what most PDs believe concerning Israel and the Messiah.

In his book, like most DPs,he attempts to build a case for why Christians need to support Israel. Also, like most DPs he claims that God blesses those who bless the Jewish people. However, he goes much further and tries to convince us that the Jewish people cannot be blamed for the death of Jesus, because they never rejected him as The Messiah. IOW, Jesus never came to be the Messiah.

In Chapter 10 of In Defense of Israel, "Answering Christian Critics", he states:"Most evangelicals believe that the Jews rejected Jesus as Messiah and therefore qualify for God's eternal judgment. Replacement theologians have said that "the covenant with Israel was broken because she would not accept Jesus Christ whom God sent.""
Hagee then goes on to ask several questions to refute this statement about the Jewish rejection of Jesus. The main one I want to pick up on is on page 132 of the same chapter: "Did the words of Jesus or his actions convey the message that he wanted to be Messiah?"
After stating that God had a sovereign will for the life of Jesus which included being a "light to the Gentiles", Luke 2:27-32, and dying for sinners, he writes that the Jewish leaders plotted his death, and Jesus refused to be the Messiah, and be Israel's political Saviour. On page 135, he states five major points that he claims need to be understood to see that the Jews did not reject Jesus as Messiah:

1. Jesus had to live to be the Messiah
2. If it was God's will for Jesus to die from the beginning...
3If it was Jesus (sic) intention to be obedient unto death...
4. If there is not one verse of Scripture in the New Testament that says Jesus came to be the Messiah...
5. And if Jesus refused by his words or actions to claim to be the Messiah to the Jews, then how can the Jews be blamed for rejecting what was never offered?
Amazingly, before stating that "there is not one verse of Scripture in the New Testament that says Jesus came to be the Messiah", and " ...Jesus refused by his words or actions to claim to be the Messiah to the Jews", he quotes from the Gospel of Luke, Luke 24:45-46 "Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them,"Thus it is written, THAT THE CHRIST SHOULD SUFFER AND ON THE THIRD DAY RISE FROM THE DEAD....".
This verse, quoted in his own book, on page 135, utterly refutes his claims about the Messianic claims of Jesus. Jesus did not have to only live to BE the Messiah. Jesus himself states that the CHRIST, the Greek rendering of the Hebrew term, had to DIE to fulfil the Scriptures.

When Andrew, one of John the Baptist's disciples who had heard John call Jesus "The Lamb of God" a sacrificial title, and one which even Hagee admits "Every Jewish person who heard John's words knew there was only one thing you could do with a young male lamb:kill it!" p. 134., he recognized Jesus as "The Messiah(which is translated, the Christ). John 1:41.
Is it true that only the Jewish leaders determined to kill Jesus? They did plot and conspire to put him to death. However, the unbelief of the Jewish nation was part of the sovereign plan of God in accomplishing the Crucifixion. John 12:37-40 explains the mass rejection of Christ by the unbelieving Jewish people. This was prophesied centuries before, especially in Isaiah. In John 6:66 we see that the people could not accept the hard truths of Christ. They sought a King who would cause an insurrection against the Roman occupation. Jesus did not commit himself to the people, NOT because he did not intend to be their Messiah, but because AS MESSIAH he demanded a commitment to Himself, by faith.

Hagee's claims are simply biblically false. In so many words, John Hagee is actually denying Jesus as the Christ, or Messiah to Israel. If Jesus did not come to Israel as their Messiah, then the Messiah did not die for anyone. He may not believe that, but that is the logical implication of his bad theology.


John Hagee, In Defense of Israel: The Bible's Mandate For Supporting the Jewish State (Front Line, 2007)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How Did God Work Around Paul's "Free-Will"?

It occurred to me,as I have been reading the Letter of Paul to the Galatians, that God would indeed be doing some interesting things if He had to juggle his sovereign plans with the sovereign will of the Apostle Paul.

Galatians 1:11-17 11For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

So God set apart, or consecrated Paul even before he was born. Paul had a divine mission to preach the Gospel even before his DNA existed! His life had already been mapped out. Look at the personal history of the apostle: he had a glowing career in Judaism, as a Pharisee's Pharisee. Yet even while he was studying Rabbinic theology, God planned to make him a gospel witness.

So, did Paul have a choice here? Is that really fair of God anyway? Can God just take people and predetermine their lives like that? What if Paul had tried to excercise his "free-will" in this matter?

Either God waited to see what Paul would do, then determine to make him an apostle.The problem is, the text says that it was IN ORDER that Paul might preach the Gospel to the Gentiles that God set him apart from before his birth. It doesn't suggest that God had this plan before he was born,and hoped that Paul might respond and be what God wanted him to be.

Paul was already appointed to the task. God revealed Christ to him. It was a supernatural revelation. Apart from that intervention on the Damascus Road in Acts 9, he would have continued to persecute the Church. Of course, Saul's conversion is anything but an invitation by decision evangelistic effort! Christ appeared in blazing, holy light and blinded Saul, and immediately Saul called him LORD. From there on we read that the Lord gave him instructions to do what was already planned.

Nothing in all this about a God who "looks down the corridor of time" to see what men might respond. The response is willed in God's will. Paul's life was as intricately designed as the DNA that God gave him. God purposefully created both.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ecumenical Catholicism & Protestantism or “Let’s Change Theology & History”

An article on the Catholic blog, Pontifications, caught my attention. It’s a few years back, but it’s ideas demand a few comments even today. The article by Fr. Kimel is about the ecumenical Joint Declaration On the Doctrine of Justification, signed by Catholic and Lutheran theologians and wants to believe that all those old spats in centuries past are outmoded and no longer apply. I quote:
“On what grounds do Anglicans maintain separation from the Roman Communion? Are we justified in maintaining this separation? The current dissolution of the Episcopal Church, and of Reformation Christianity in general, requires orthodox Episcopalians to thoughtfully answer these two questions.
Martin Luther broke the unity of the Church because he believed that the gospel itself, expressed in the slogan “justification by faith,” was at stake. This, and this alone, justified schism.
Is it any longer reasonable to justify separation from the Catholic Church because of differences on the doctrine of justification by faith? …”

Whatever the issues that led to the “dissolution” of mainline Protestant denominations, I would say that the ecumenical coziness with Rome is a symptom of the problem. Firstly, Fr. Kimel should look to his Roman Catholic church, and ponder whether it is calling the kettle black to speak of Protestant “dissolution”. Ecumenical compromise is the result of a weary discernment; a spiritual compromise with error. Remember that little thing called “another Gospel”? It was identified by the Apostle Paul because of the grace choking error of legalists in the early church. Their error was not so much pure law (too obvious), but a co-mingling of law and Gospel, so that justification by grace through faith was obscured. I quote further:
“First, the document clearly states that “the mutual condemnations of former times do not apply to the Catholic and Lutheran doctrines of justification as they are presented in the Joint Declaration” (Annex to Common Statement). The Lutheran understanding of justification, as defined by the document, is not considered to be church-dividing by Catholicism; the Catholic understanding of justification, as defined by the document, is not considered to be church-dividing by Lutheranism. In other words, one can hold a “Lutheran” understanding of justification and be a Catholic!”

Miracle of miracles! Lutherans can be bona fide, sola gratia Protestants, and sacerdotal, indulgence and penance Roman Catholics can let bygones be bygones, ‘cause the old disputes about the Gospel in medieval Europe just no longer apply to a more contemporary and inclusive age. IF this is the way it is now, then my Protestant brothers in the Lutheran bodies that have partaken of this error have truly lost their way.

It’s not that the signatories of the Joint Declaration forget the bloody disputes and condemnations of the past. What they want to do is find a common ground on the doctrine of justification that evades the divisions of the past. How do they do this? As stated in the document of the Joint Declaration :
“By appropriating insights of recent biblical studies and drawing on modern investigations of the history of theology and dogma, the post-Vatican II ecumenical dialogue has led to a notable convergence concerning justification, with the result that this Joint Declaration is able to formulate a consensus on basic truths concerning the doctrine of justification. In light of this consensus, the corresponding doctrinal condemnations of the sixteenth century do not apply to today's partner.”
So after 500 years, newer insight has now rendered once damnable heresies null and void. Anybody heard of the Council of Trent???

To be sure, this is not the first document to speak of ecumenical agreement between Lutherans and Roman Catholics. This has been ongoing for decades. But, call me an old fashioned Bible Christian type...WHY would I even want to find agreement with Rome when I know the truth?
I’ll have more to say on this in another post...God willing.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Is God Unfair? Continued...

Previously,I described how modern evangelicalism has an almost allergic reaction to the doctrine of divine unconditional election(UE). People impose an inconsistent "manish" view of God upon the doctrine, and misunderstand God's sense of fairness and justice.

Again we need to take the surgical steel of God's incisive WORD and cut into the heart of this bad theology.

To ask the Pauline question: "IS there unrighteousness with God?". Straight answer-GOD FORBID. Absolutely not! Why, some things just need to be stated. Paul derives his conclusion from Scripture. He quotes a part of Exodus that deals with, interestingly, the Glory of God and His choosing of Israel as a separated people from all other nations.( Exodus 33:13-16) Moses wanted to see YHWH's Glory, and for God to go with Israel to demonstrate his Presence to the world.

God condescends to Moses' request by saying " I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight..." Exodus 33:17. Notice that Moses found grace. God did not owe Moses anything. God determined by his grace to reveal Himself to Moses. He says to Moses further, " I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion".

Paul applies this text to his treatise on God's election of grace in the New Covenant. Romans 9:16 "So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy." Mercy is a divine attribute. God does not owe it to any sinner. Man's will cannot move God to give it. It is NOT OF HIM WHO WILLS. The will is hostile to God, and so we DESERVE the wrath of God. It is not our will, in bondage to the lusts of the carnal nature, but GOD'S WILL that is the basis of mercy.

Paul then takes up the example of Pharoah from Exodus. God's will was to show his power and Name through Pharoah, not to save Pharoah from his sins.

I can still hear the objection that it seems unfair, and unjust of God to harden a sinner's heart, or not to show them mercy. But, if such a person can prove that God owes grace to anyone who has violated His Law, them maybe they have a case. Ultimately, Paul leaves his readers with an illustration. It would be more familiar to his day, than ours, but still we can relate well. He tells us that God is the Potter who has the right to make his vessels for various purposes. Some vessels are for common use. They may be used to hold dirty water and be discarded. Other vessels may be for noble purposes. They may hold precious ointments. The vessels have no say in the Potter's work. He is the Maker and the one who shapes the vessels with his own hands.
Is God unfair? No. We are sinners, and it is fair of God to judge sinners. It is just of God to condemn the wicked. It is loving of God to love unconditionally some out of all who do not deserve, or are owed any electing love. So, like Paul said...who are you to talk back to God?


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Is God Unfair?

Romans 9:14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not. For He says to Moses "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion".

Ever heard the common objection to that dreaded word "ELECTION"? It's not a term you hear in many modern churches. That's because John 3:16 is an overplayed and misunderstood proof text for the common evangelical church today. The common notion is that people have a free will that can make a "decision for Jesus", and that God chose to save everybody, but those who are lost decided to reject God.

What is the concern for such people? They are really concerned for the "fairness" or "equity" of God, and that man's human dignity is preserved. If God did elect sinners to be saved, then others were not chosen, so they missed their "chance" to get the opportunity to be saved. God then seems unjust, and unloving.

Of course, the problem is that such people are misunderstanding the categories of love & justice. The remedy for this is to think about election, love, justice, and human nature from a God centered theology, rather than a human minded philosophy. The fact is that it is God who defines "fairness", justice, equity, freedom, and basically...everything!

I believe that to think clearly on this matter it is important to start with God Himself. Since God is eternal, without beginning, uncaused, and without end, and he is infinite in his being, that all his attributes are limitless. So, for God to be powerful is for God to be ALL-powerful. All power is His by nature. He can do whatever He wants to do. And everything He wants to do is GOOD and JUST and WISE. Therefore, He is the only Sovereign Creator and Lord.
If we follow this consistently, we can deduce that no finite, created thing is independent of God. Our very lifebreath is from God and we are bodies of dust. Our freedom is even circumscribed within the divine will of the Creator. We even derive our essence from the God who is Spirit, and Whose image we bear. God determines our coming and going, whether our plans fail or succeed, if we live or die today, and even if, when and how, and for how long we violate His Law, and transgress Him.
Given that we have no independence from the absolutely almighty and sovereign Lord, how can we think that our choices are independent of Him?
Yes, we are free beings. People have much freedom to sin as they please. Reprobate people do as they please all the time. All of us are sinners by nature, who live by our desire to please SELF. So there is no neutrality here. Even if God granted us the opportunity to make a free choice, we would reject Him since we are "slaves of sin", and since " the carnal mind is enmity against God" Romans 8:8.
God willing,(there I go), I will continue to develop this post as time permits.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Huss, the Proto-Protestant Man of God

I am fascinated by the faith story of John Huss, martyred for his reforming efforts, in particular his repudiation of the Pope and the sale of indulgences. This was a full century or so before Martin Luther's famous 95 Theses made history.

Like the first martyr of the Faith, Stephen, he remained faithful unto death, and even asked God to have mercy on his persecutors. Huss, denied himself, took up his own cross, and followed the Lord Jesus all the way to death by fire. John Huss, it is reported, sang the Psalms at his death. He, no doubt, knew the "joy set before him" as he was enduring so horrible an end of his life.

Though Huss died, the Gospel of Christ, which he preached lived on. The pre-reformation reformer planted the seeds of change that would sweep the western world in the next 100 years from the time he lived. Martin Luther was inspired by his life, the way Huss himself, likewise, had been encouraged by the trials of John Wycliffe before him.

We don't glorify men. Rather, these men understood, that it is the glory of GOD that is worth giving everything for. They paid a price to defend the true Gospel, and to proclaim the life -giving truth of Christ. Yes, grace is free, but we who would live by it, would give everything for it. May we be so blessed as to so live for Christ as to die to the world, and to ourselves, and to be faithful to the Master. AMEN.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Ancient Pantheon (Πάνθειον)

I was privileged to visit Italy this summer to attend a wedding. And while there, I made it to Rome. I got to walk into the ancient Pantheon (Πάνθειον), the pagan temple built by Marcus Agrippa during his 3rd proconsulship in about 27 B.C. I was here, standing where idolotrous Romans practiced their syncretistic religion. The current building seen here dates to a reconstruction dating to Emperor Hadrian's reign c. 125 A.D. Eventually it was used as a Roman Catholic place of worship. Eventually it was used as a Roman Catholic place of worship.
I was impressed by the sight of this standing structure of ancient history as I walked around. I remember touching the large stone pillars feeling like I was touching the past. Nevertheless, I am a Christian in this now-Catholicised Roman temple of "all the gods". And as a Christian I know only one, true God. And in the spirit of the 115th Psalm I can only draw a final thought, "But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases. Their idols are silver & gold, the works of men's hands.They have mouths, but they do not speak;they have ears ,but do not hear...Those who make them are like them, so is everyone who trusts in them." (Psalm 115:3-8)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Infallible Interpretations

Why do so many people have different interpretations of the Bible? Does this mean that "Sola Scriptura" is a false, and misleading position for Christians to embrace? Do we need to allow an infallible man or an infallible authority to proclaim the final interpretation and official teaching of God's Word?

When Christ preaching the Gospel of the kingdom to Israel, He faced numerous factions within the Judaism of his day. The Pharisees, the Sadducees, and others held to different views about different things. No doubt they must have believed that they were interpreting the Word of God soundly, and that others were less reliable. Yet Jesus rejected their teachings as the "traditions of men". It seems there is a difficulty in holding to the highest view of the Word, and yet truly submitting to it's teaching. Human tradition gets in the way.

For those Roman Catholics, and especially for those evangelicals who are considering Catholicism as being biblical, some things need to be remembered. First, the authority is God Himself-period. All authority comes from Him. Second, his Scriptures are God-breathed. The Words of the Bible originate with God with the end result that they are "inspired" Words. Being so, that makes their authority "self-imposing" on the people of God.

The apostles recognized Paul's writings as "wisdom from God" and Scriptures, because they knew that Paul alone could not conceive of the things which he wrote to the churches. The Words of God, not the apostles are inspired. Such spiritual wisdom and power demanded submission and recognition of the inherent authority of God's Word.

This is why no Pope, no Bishop or "Magisterium", no scholar, etc., can be trusted to infallibly interpret the Bible. There is no "infallible" man, but there is an infallible Word of God.

So how then can we know what the Bible says? The one thing to remember is that God is not the author of confusion, and that we must allow the Word to speak for itself. That is, to interpret by context and proper exegesis what God has said. We know what God has said. There are some hard things. However, we should not go beyond Scripture in trying to explain the hard truths.

Nor does Sola Scriptura preclude the use of histories, language references and other sources of knowledge. In the end, we must work by the grace of the Lord, to put to death those sinful human tendencies to insert our pet human traditions into the Word, and to naively assume that we are teaching God's Word.

And to this, I am reminded of those "noble Bereans" who searched their own Scriptures diligently to test what they were being taught. It seems that Paul did not have infallibilty to speak of as an apostle of Christ. Nor did Peter, who we are told was the first Pope. It seems the first "Pope" found some of Paul's writings hard to understand, and that he erred more than once.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Bloodline Myth...Again

Bloodline, follows the elaborate story of legendary relics buried by the medieval Templar Knights, near the end of the Crusades. Allegedly, these include a mummified body, a cup, and an anointing jar, among other things, which supposedly date to the first century Jerusalem.

Spinning a web of intrigue, the story sets out to discover if this is all evidence fits into an alleged marital relationship between Jesus of Nazareth and Mary Magdalene. Utilizing DNA evidence, radiometric dating, and other scientific evidence, supposedly the filmmakers make some controversial discoveries.

How are Christians to respond to these things? It can seem overwhelming to encounter the many theories, legends, and lines of evidence offered as "proof" that Jesus never rose from the dead, that he and Mary were married, and may have had children, etc. Such blasphemies are most plausible for a generation of agnostics and liberals who see no problem disregarding truth, for whatever may support their foregone conclusions about Jesus.

At the root of these theories is a worldview, that allows for a historical revision of the New Testament. Liberal theories work on the premise of an anti-supernatural bias, and man-centered view of history. The Christian worldview operates on Truth,the objective truth of God, eternal and absolute.

Going back to the apostles who knew Jesus, we have eyewitness accounts of Jesus of Nazareth. Unlike the producers of Bloodline, the apostles did not follow clever myths and legends. It is certain that Jesus was crucified, as the Gospels attest, and that he was buried and resurrected bodily from the tomb. There is no "DNA" evidence of Jesus around because he never married, and he certainly never remained in the tomb as a corpse.

A denial of the Person and work of Jesus, is always at the heart of false views of Christ, and it is the final authority, the irrefutable truth of the Word that stands fast and endures after all the ridiculous theories have passed on, only to make way for the next fad in the lucrative anti-Christian entertainment market.