Saturday, December 8, 2018

Does a Command Imply the Natural Ability to Obey?

A common argument I see from Arminians is to cite a biblical command, such as the command to repent in Acts 17:30, and then to assert that the command implies the natural ability to obey the command. In actuality, there is no such logical necessity. Rather, the Arminian assertion includes itself as an unstated premise in the argument, producing a circular argument.

Moreover, the argument is contrary to reason, not the result of it. When Jesus arrived in Bethany at the request of Mary and Martha (John 11:1-44), He had delayed too long, and their brother Lazarus had already died, in fact, days earlier. Yet, what did Jesus do? He called into the tomb, "Lazarus, come out" (verse 43). And, indeed, the revived Lazarus did exactly that. He rose from his grave, and came to Jesus, still in his funeral garments. 

Now, my question, Mr. Arminian, should be an obvious one: Did Jesus's command to Lazarus to rise from death imply that Lazarus had a natural ability to do so? 

Only a madman would say "yes," so the Arminian assertion is demonstrated to be false.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Mormonism: The Devil Made Me Do It

In the Bible, the temptation that Satan made to Adam and Eve is quoted in Genesis 3:5: "God knows that, when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." This doesn't mean "knowing" in the sense of "recognizing," but rather in the sense of "determining." Satan tells the first couple that disobeying God will liberate them from the control of God, so that they can determine good and evil for themselves, apart from the standards of God.

That temptation is a lie (John 8:44). There is no autonomy from God, not even for Satan himself (Job 1:6-12). It should be obvious that Satan cannot give what he himself does not have.

In Mormonism, there is a doctrine that says that Jesus and Satan were brothers in their preexistence. The Father put a challenge to them to carry out His plan of salvation. Satan offered, instead, a plan of universal salvation. The LDS website explains it this way (references are to Mormon scriptures): "It was in this setting that Satan made an unwelcome and arrogant proposal to change Heavenly Father’s plan so that it provided universal salvation for everyone (see Moses 4:1). Before we discuss how he claimed to accomplish this, it is important to note that Satan is referred to in these verses as 'the father of all lies' (Moses 4:4). On another occasion he is called 'a liar from the beginning' (D&C 93:25). We would be absurdly naïve to assume that Satan was telling the truth when he made this exaggerated claim of universal salvation."

According to Mormonism, how is the individual supposed to make the right choice between the Father's plan of salvation and Satan's? Their answer is found in Doctrine and Covenants 9:8: "Behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right."

Do you see any parallels there? While the biblical God commands us to believe on the basis of His word alone, the Mormon God says that each person will be able to decide on the basis of a subjective feeling. Go back to Genesis 3:5 above. Is that not the same thing that Satan offered, falsely, to Adam and Eve?

While Mormons claim that their doctrine is the rejection of Satan's lies, that doctrine is the same as Satan's lies, as recorded in the Bible.

The only hope for the Mormon is to repudiate his autonomous determination of what is right or wrong and to submit to the infallible declaration of truth by the triune God of the Bible.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Self-Refuting Logic of Arminianism

Anti-Calvinists often resort to a circular definition of predestination: God foreknew who would believe, and predestined those people.

However, there is a serious flaw in that argument, even beyond circularity.

If God knew it in advance, then their conversion was predetermined. Predetermined by what? Not by the will of the person, who wasn't born, yet. Not predetermined by God, the Arminian claims. That leaves what other options? Another god? Satan?

The logic of the Arminian cannot avoid predeterminism. It is only GOD's predetermination that the Arminian rejects. Isn't that unbelief?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The One and the Many: Trinity in Unity in the Bible

"They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before Him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, 'What have You to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure You by God, do not torment me.' For He was saying to him, 'Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!' And Jesus asked him, 'What is your name?' He replied, 'My name is Legion, for we are many.'"
- Mark 5:1-9

When I interact with anti-Trinitarians, whether of the Arian or Sabellian varieties, one strategy they all seem to try is to describe the Trinity in this way: "One plus one plus one equals three, so you believe in three gods." For some inconceivable reason, they think this is a very clever argument, even though math has nothing to do with it. Or, if you want to do math, why can't it be one times one times one equals one? Or one cubed is one? If you see what I mean, the argument is nowhere nearly as clever as they think it is. We talk about things as unities in one sense but manifold in a different sense all of the time. Have you heard of the three branches of the one federal government?

Yet, the anti-Trinitarian desperately holds on to this argument. Their answer is, "Well, we do that, but the Bible doesn't."

Really? I guess anti-Trinitarians don't read Mark 5. Notice the interaction between Jesus and the demoniac. Actually the demon in the demoniac. Notice that Mark refers to the demon consistently as "he," not "they." And notice that the demons say "me," not "we," except one time in verse 9. Even in verse 9, the demon says "my name is," not "our names are."

My point is that the Bible certainly does refer to things as one in one sense and manifold in another. In this case, we see one demon also described as a legion, a unit of Roman military consisting of about 6,000 soldiers. If the demon of Mark 5 can be 6,000 demons described as a unity, then why can't the three Persons of the Trinity be one God?

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Watchtower: Jumping Through Hoops for False Doctrine

The Watchtower Society (the corporate name of the Jehovah's Witnesses) claims that the kingdom of God is something that will appear in the future. Their website says, "'This good news of the Kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.' (Matthew 24:14) Once the good news has been fully preached, the Kingdom will come to bring the present wicked system to an end."

Do you see the bait-and-switch in their statement? They quote a verse regarding the preaching of the kingdom, and then apply it to the kingdom itself. Matthew describes a worldwide preaching of the kingdom. While I consider this a reference to the period prior to the Roman sacking of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the point is the same if you apply it to the period before His second advent. The Watchtower then interprets the verse to mean that the Kingdom will not appear until He returns.

However, what did Jesus say about His kingdom? "The kingdom of God has come upon you" (Luke 11:20). He spoke to His audience during His first advent, telling them that they were witnessing the appearance of His kingdom. On another occasion, He told them, "Behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you" (Luke 17:21). Twice, then, Jesus vocally told His First-Century audience that the kingdom had come among them in the presence of His person. This is consistent with the Old Testament prophecy of the coming of the kingdom: "The stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth" (Daniel 2:35; see the entire vision in verses 31-45). The kingdom would start as just a small rock (see Matthew 16:18), and grow until it fills the earth. That is what is happening between the first and second advents. That is why John can refer to Jesus as "the ruler of kings on earth" (Revelation 1:5) at the beginning of that book.

The Watchtower is aware of this weakness in their doctrine, and try to address it: "The Kingdom of heaven was 'with' or 'among' the Pharisees, in that Jesus, the one designated by God to rule as King, was standing before them.​—Luke 1:​32, 33." Here they change what Jesus says, "Kingdom of heaven," to a reference to Himself as coming King! Another example of bait-and-switch!

To my mind, to use such blatant fallacies to support their doctrine demonstrates that the Watchtower Governing Board is well-aware that their doctrine is unbiblical. And that brings up an obvious question for Watchtower members: If your leadership is so clearly aware of the falsity of their doctrines, why do you remain loyal to those doctrines?

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Oneness Refuted by the Words of Jesus

According to the doctrines of Oneness Pentecostalism, when we look at Jesus in the New Testament, God the Father is the deity in heaven, while the Son is the flesh on the earth. The Son did not exist, except in the mind of God, before His incarnation in the conception in Mary's womb.

That assertion is contrary to more biblical texts than I can address in just one blog post. I have cited some of the Old Testament examples of the presence of the Son before (click the "intra-Trinitarian" tag at the bottom).

Here I want to mention a New Testament example: "Now, Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed" (John 17:5). This verse is spoken by Jesus as part of His high-priestly prayer (John 17:1-26).

There are several elements in this verse relevant to the topic of the preexistence of the Son. First, it is Jesus who is speaking, explicitly addressing the Father. That prevents some of the customary Oneness dodges when confronted with Scriptural evidence against their doctrines, such as that it was a vision, or it was spoken erroneously by someone else. Second, He says that He was with the Father, not that He was the Father. That refutes the Oneness claim that Jesus was the Father before the incarnation. Third, it is addressed to the Father at the time it was spoken, refuting the Oneness claim that Jesus is the Father, or that Father and Son are successive manifestations of the Godhead. Jesus is distinct from the Father, and co-existent with Him, at the present time when the verse was spoken. And fourth, He explicitly states that He was with the Father before the Creation, not just before the incarnation. That again refutes the successive nature of manifestations claimed by Oneness. But, more importantly, it demonstrates the preexistence of the Son as a Person, not as a mere idea or prophecy of the Father. Ideas don't have glory, especially not a glory comparable to that of the Father!

This one verse precludes many of the assertions of Oneness Pentecostalism regarding the Son.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Continuing Obligation of the Law of God

Among professing Christians, there is a competition to find ways to twist the second clause of Romans 6:14: "You are not under law but under grace." For some reason, those interpretations never involve the first clause of the sentence. You will hear different versions, such as that the Law was done away in Christ, or that it was only for Jews, not Gentiles. But, in whatever way, such people think that the truly spiritual person despises the biblical Law.

I don't believe any such thing. Nor did the author of Romans, the Apostle Paul.

Consider what he said earlier in that same epistle: "Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them" (Romans 1:28-32). OK, so "they" who? The context is a description of the unrighteousness of unbelievers. And to whom is the passage addressed? While the Church at Rome included Jews, it was predominantly a Gentile church, including members even of the emperor's family (Philippians 4:22). So, Paul is talking to Gentile Christians about unbelievers, and describes horrific sins that are properly subject to capital punishment. According to what? Not according to Roman law. Rather, according to God's law (compare I Timothy 1:8-11).

These verses are contrary to the whole popular evangelical theology of Law, which is properly known as antinomianism. The moral law is still in force, whether for Jew or for Gentile.

The Westminster Confession of Faith (XIX:5) correctly summarizes this: "The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator who gave it. Neither doth Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen, this obligation."