Monday, November 20, 2017

Government Is to Be the Tool of God, Not a Tool Against Him

The Signing of the Mayflower Compact
Conservatives like to talk about the United States as "a Christian nation." And I do not doubt that her original settlers had such a concept for the new land. However, when our current Constitution was adopted in 1787, Article VI, section 3, included this provision: "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." This provision has now been expanded also to apply to state and local government. Therefore, no atheist, Jew, Pagan, Muslim, or any other spiritual reprobate can be barred as such from rule anywhere in the United States.

The problem is with the assumption that government is supposed to be "neutral" when it comes to religion. Even if neutrality were truly possible, that assumption is contrary to Scripture: "He [i. e., God the Father] put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church" (Ephesians 1:22). The Father has given to the Son to rule over all things. There is no exception given there for government. Also, if God commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30), how can it be rational to exclude one collection of men, i. e., government, from that command? We also have the explicit command to kings in Psalm 2:10-12: "Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him." Scripture does not allow us the luxury of believing that one group of men, or one human activity, is exempt from the royal rule of the ascended Jesus Christ.

Scripture is not neutral regarding God's instructions regarding the spiritual qualifications that He has set for governors in a Christian nation: "Look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people" (Exodus 18:21). "The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me: When one rules justly over men, [he must rule] in the fear of God" (II Samuel 23:3). God's standard for any level of governor is that he fear God, be capable, trustworthy, and have integrity. Has that been our experience under our "neutral" government? I wouldn't say so.

The moral disintegration of our country isn't something for which I hold the government responsible. After all, the government is acting consistently with the moral basis it has been given, that of "neutrality." Rather, I hold Christians responsible for disobedience to God and His word. Christians dismiss so many of God's commands with an unthinking, "But that's Old Testament." Ephesians 1:22 is certainly not Old Testament! But, even if it were, where does the Bible say that accountability to God's standards ended with Malachi? Nowhere! It is only the bad theology that assumes the end of God's laws, leaving "neutral "government to become the tool of the anti-Christian. The anti-Christian has no qualms about making religious use of government, and Christians have capitulated to that conquest without any effort at resistance.

Friday, November 17, 2017

What Is Faith?

We have a lot of common sayings on the issue of faith. Two that I sincerely hate are "a leap of faith" and "you just gotta have faith." The first means that we should go through life making hazardous decisions with insufficient information. The second is what we say to people dealing with personal or general catastrophes. Faith in what? Or whom? Well, faith in faith, i. e., the New Age concept that insistent belief creates reality.

In contrast, Theologian John Frame, in his "Apologetics," p. 53, says, "Faith is not mere rational thought, but it is not irrational either. It is not 'belief in the absence of evidence'; rather, it is a trust that rests on sufficient evidence... So faith does not believe despite the absence of evidence; rather, faith honors God's Word as sufficient evidence." In other words, "faith" is not a mental insistence without regard to objective circumstances. Rather, it is a belief in the power of God on the basis of His Word, the Bible. Faith isn't the vacuous stubbornness of popular psychology and New Age religion, but rather has a particular foundation and explicit content.

We see that for example, in Jude 1:3: "Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." Here the brother of Jesus is referring to faith as a body of belief, of doctrine, which was held in common by believers. He is telling us that the content of our faith matters! That is the opposite of what we say in the phrase I quoted above. Paul referred to the same thing in Titus 1:4: "To Titus, my true child in a common faith..." The emphasis here is on content, too, but a content held in common among believers, equivalent to Jude's "that was once for all delivered to the saints." Both inspired writers reject faith as a feeling or as an individual insistence, but rather as something held in common among all true believers, with a specific content of truth.

Luke describes that content in Acts 6:7: "The word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith." The content of the faith is the word of God, i. e., the Bible, and to believe it is to be obedient. Or, to express the converse, not to believe it is to be disobedient.

Therein lies the problem with faith in faith, without content. it assumes, contrary to Scripture, that God honors disobedience as if it were obedience. Again quoting Paul (Ephesians 5:6): "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for ... the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience." Not doing things God's way cannot be the source of assurance that our common encouragements assume, because they bring, not His blessings, but His wrath.

Here is a definition of biblical faith (Westminster Larger Catechism 72): "Question 72: What is justifying faith? Answer: Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assents to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receives and rests upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation."

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Deception of Autonomy in Liberal Theology

The theological left makes its reputation by tearing down traditional theology, the traditional view of Scripture, traditional morality, etc. Liberal theologians make their academic reputations through novelty, and the more vigorously they speak against traditional Christianity, the more "modern" they are considered to be. No matter how academically rigorous, a conservative theologian is not going to get the recognition of prestigious universities (such as Yale or Harvard) or mainstream media.

What is it for which such theologians are the social heroes that they are portrayed to be?

Take your mind back to the earliest stories in the Bible, in particular to the temptation of Adam. There was find Satan making this offer to Eve, if she would be eat the forbidden fruit: "God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5). The temptation of Satan to which Even (and then Adam) capitulated was this offer of autonomy. No longer would their spiritual world center on God and His word, but instead they would determine for themselves their standards of good and evil.

Remember, also, the words of Paul: "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:18-22). Paul is describing the lie hidden in Satan's temptation. Though Adam and Even did eat the forbidden fruit, they did not receive the autonomy that they had been promised. Rather, they found that they were still conscious of God and His Law and their accountability to Him. What had changed is that they were now sinners, and hated that knowledge. Their posterity, which is all of mankind (Jesus excluded), would find this same thorn in our consciences. And, apart from regeneration, it is our nature to hate that knowledge and to suppress it from our awareness.

This is where the liberal theologian comes in. He talks about a god, and maybe a Jesus, something which is recognized by even the hardened unbeliever. But the liberal god has no bible, no Law, no righteousness, no Hell, but only touchy-feely concern for our self-esteem. The natural, fallen man can handle that god. He can get on that theological train because it keeps his conscience quiet, and leaves him with what Satan promised, the ability to decide for himself how to live, how to determine truth, and to be satisfied with a life without God. Or so he imagines.

The problem is that the offer of the liberal theologian is just as much a deception as it was from the mouth of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. And, just as was discovered by Adam and Eve, that deception gives no reward of autonomy, but rather only the judgment of death: "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).

Monday, November 13, 2017

Grace and Faith Do not Justify Antinomianism!

One thing at which Dispensationalism has succeeded is in making modern evangelicalism utterly hostile to God's Law. A phrase everyone seems to have memorized is, "We are under grace, not under law," a corruption of Romans 6:14. I bet you can't remember what the rest of the verse says!

However, one thing I have frequently noticed is that this shibboleth gets drawn out only when something in the Pentateuch disproves something an evangelical says. But, whenever the subject of homosexuality, for example, comes up, that same evangelical will pop out with Leviticus 18:22. And quoted correctly, unlike Romans 6:14!

There are so many problems with this doctrine, called antinomianism. Just logically speaking, it is offensive! The Law is the expression of God's moral nature. His precept for us is to reflect His holiness: "Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. Keep My statutes and do them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you" (Leviticus 20:7-8, quoted in I Peter 1:16). If a person rejects the Law out of hand, is he not rejecting the holiness of God? And with what is he replacing it? Whose holiness will he now imitate?

Also, biblically speaking, the assertion that Romans 6:14 eliminates the Law from the life of the Christian is contrary to what Paul himself tells us elsewhere in the same epistle: "Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law" (Romans 3:31). How can the same man in the same epistle endorse the Law in one verse and repudiate it in another? What does the assertion that he does so say about the view of Scripture of such persons? Or of the God who inspired the Scripture?

Let's look at another comment by Paul regarding the Law: "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" (I Timothy 1:9-11). Ah, here is the solution! The Law is not for those who are now living consistently with our new nature in Christ. It is for those who require an outside limit on their wickedness. Notice that he even includes false doctrine. That's something very few people will consider, a proper role of the state in the suppression of heresy.

Lets look once more at Romans 6:14, but the whole verse, properly quoted: "Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace." Now we can see that Paul's contrast isn't between law and grace, but between grace and bondage to sin. This is exactly what he says in I Timothy, that the Spirit-controlled man has his sin nature shackled on the inside. But the natural man has no such control, and, therefore, requires an external control, the Law of God.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Either Jesus Is God, or God Has Been Deceived!

In two different places, the Prophet Isaiah tells us that God does not share His glory: "I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other" (Isaiah 42:8); "My glory I will not give to another" (Isaiah 48:11). Both statements are clear, bold, and unequivocal.

However, we then have this statement from Jesus (John 17:5): "Now, Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed."

In the Old Testament, "God" (Hebrew, "Elohim") without qualification, as here in Isaiah, usually refers to the Trinity collectively. However, if a person denies that, or denies that it is the case here, then he has even greater difficulty in these passages, because they then become the words of God the Father. We have God's claiming that He does not share His glory. Then we have Jesus's claiming that He has shared, and will share, the glory of God the Father.

That can be nothing less that a claim that He is Himself that God who spoke through Isaiah!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Society Has a Choice: Wickedness or Righteousness

"When a land transgresses, it has many rulers,
     but with a man of understanding and knowledge,
     its stability will long continue.

When the righteous triumph, there is great glory,
     but when the wicked rise, people hide themselves.

When the wicked rise, people hide themselves,     
     but when they perish, the righteous increase."
- Proverbs 28:2, 12, 28 

The Book of Proverbs is the most practical book in the Bible, addressing every area of life, both for the man on the street and for the man in the highest socio-economic strata of society. Here the writer, apparently Solomon, addresses the latter, the leaders of society.

His first comment, verse 2, describes much of what we see in modern America. He says that a society where wickedness becomes commonplace will be plagued with a multiplication of government officials. As our society has moved away from its biblical traditions, have we not seen an expanding swarm of bureaucrats, promulgating more and more laws? Is there not a mindset that says that social order will be restored if we just come up with the right regulations? Of course there is! It is a humanistic mindset which claims that morality is a matter of law, not grace, and even that is the autonomous laws of men, not the sovereign laws of God. It is the plague of tyranny!

The second comment, verse 12, also describes a humanistic society in moral breakdown. As biblical morality has broken down, have we not become a society of fear? We often hear of a golden age when no one had to lock his doors at night, or where no parents had to explain "stranger danger" to our children. People lament the loss of neighborliness, because too many people fear walking the streets of their own neighborhoods, due to gangs. When was the last time a woman felt safe walking down her own street? 

The third comment, verse 28, also describes the fear of peaceful people, sealed in their own homes for fear of the chaos outside. Yet, unlike the other two verses, this one describes a solution: "When they [the wicked] perish, the righteous increase." Note that God, speaking through Solomon, does not advocate a new social program or a new government agency as the solution, but rather says that righteousness will increase as the wicked perish! The wicked do not need self-esteem or social support. Rather, society needs for them to be removed. We have absorbed a humanistic mindset that says that wickedness is a disorder, for which the rest of society is responsible. It isn't! Wickedness is a choice, and violence is its consequence. Humanism, therefore, puts the welfare of the wicked ahead of the welfare of the peaceable members of society. Therefore, until that mindset is changed, we can only anticipate that wickedness will continue to dominate American society.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Godly Men Love God's Sabbath

When talking about the importance of the Sabbath, I have noticed that most Christians will make a dismissive remark about its being ceremonial law. That statement is false, since the Sabbath long preceded the time of Moses (Genesis 2:2-3). Even more, though, it ignores the role the Sabbath played in the rest of the Old Testament. The godly people of Israel valued the Sabbath. In fact, that quality is used in the Old Testament as a distinguishing mark between pious and nominal Israelites.

Before the Babylonian exile, God, speaking through the Prophet Jeremiah, warned the people of Israel, "If you do not listen to me, to keep the Sabbath day holy, and not to bear a burden and enter by the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem and shall not be quenched" (Jeremiah 17:27, but look at the whole passage from 21 to 27). Yet, we know that Judah ignored the warning, and it was fulfilled in the sacking of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586BC.

After the exile, the governor of Israel - appointed by the king of Persia, but God's man - Nehemiah, remembered these words, and tried to start the restoration of Judah on better footing. First, he recognized the pattern of Sabbath desecration: "In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them on the day when they sold food. Tyrians also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of goods and sold them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah, in Jerusalem itself! Then I confronted the nobles of Judah and said to them, 'What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers act in this way, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Now you are bringing more wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath'" (Nehemiah 13:15-18). Both the Jews themselves and the foreigners resident among them were trampling God's day, just as their ancestors had in the time of Jeremiah. They had learned no lessons from their seventy years of exile.

So, he commanded reforms: "As soon as it began to grow dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath. And I stationed some of my servants at the gates, that no load might be brought in on the Sabbath day. Then the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice. But I warned them and said to them, 'Why do you lodge outside the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you.' From that time on they did not come on the Sabbath. Then I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come and guard the gates, to keep the Sabbath day holy. Remember this also in my favor, O my God, and spare me according to the greatness of your steadfast love" (Nehemiah 13:19-22). This passage shows both the binding nature of the Sabbath for the people of God and the responsibility of the civil magistrate to fence the day from abomination.

This is the basis for the Westminster Larger Catechism (question 117): "The sabbath or Lord's day is to be sanctified by an holy resting all the day, not only from such works as are at all times sinful, but even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful; and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to betaken up in works of necessity and mercy) in the public and private exercises of God's worship: and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day." Though the day has been changed from the seventh to the first, the Sabbath principle is just as binding as it was to Jeremiah and Nehemiah.

Governor Nehemiah