Saturday, May 19, 2018

Apostle John versus Oneness

Oneness Pentecostalism holds that Jesus was the Father before the incarnation, the Son during His earthly ministry, and then the Holy Spirit from the ascension to eternity. That is the three modes from which the name "modalism" is derived. In contrast, orthodox Christianity holds that the Father is always the Father, the Son is always the Son, and the Holy Spirit is always the Holy Spirit.

While Scripture demonstrates the falsehood of Oneness theology in many places, there is a new one that I wish to address here: "Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus
The Refuter of Oneness
Christ the Father's Son, in truth and love
" (II John 1:3). I have never seen this addressed as a refutation of modalism, but it seems an obvious implication to me.

John wishes three things for the recipient of his epistle, whether it is a literal woman or a church: Grace, mercy, and peace. From what source? From God the Father. Alone? No, but rather also from Jesus Christ the Son. And notice that he does not mention the Holy Spirit.

This is very problematic for the Oneness believer. This epistle was written about three decades after the ascension. According to the claims of Oneness, only the Holy Spirit is now God, yet John does not seek grace, mercy, and peace from Him. Not only that, but he addresses his prayer to the Father and Jesus simultaneously, while Oneness claims that they do not exist simultaneously. Therefore, John's prayer is to the modes that Oneness says are not available, and avoids addressing the one that Oneness says is available.

All by itself, this one verse of just twenty-three words refutes the manmade modalist doctrine of Oneness Pentecostalism.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

God's Right to Judge

We men, even Christian men, are often uncomfortable with God's justice. There are two reasons for that. The first is that we are mere creatures. That means that we do not have the infinitely-detailed big picture that God sees. There is no shame in that. However, the second is that we are sinners, and, therefore, hate God's pure justice. That should be a cause of shame.

One such case is Zechariah 8:10. God, through His prophet, refers to the judgment that had fallen on the ancestors of His audience: "There was no wage for man or any wage for beast, neither was there any safety from the foe for him who went out or came in, for I set every man against his neighbor." And this is exactly of what they had been warned by God through Moses: "A nation that you have not known shall eat up the fruit of your ground and of all your labors, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually" (Deuteronomy 28:33). If warning is given of a consequence for an action, is it unjust when that consequence is given? If a man warns his child that his toy will be taken away if he hits his brother again, do we not expect it to happen? Of course! But what is the response of the child? Wailing and gnashing of teeth, as if it is a big surprise.

There is a gap of about 800 to 900 years between Deuteronomy and Zechariah. Therefore, not only did Israel have plenty of advanced warning, but also plenty of opportunities to see it applied in their history. See the whole book of Judges for example.

So, how can God's actions be considered unjust? I think we see good reason to dispense with any pretense of ignorance. That leaves us with the other reason, the wickedness of men and our pretended right to judge the morality of God. Isn't that exactly what Satan offered to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:5)?

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Beauty of the Church, the Bride of Christ

The Puritans made great use of the Song of Songs. It saddens me that it has become a neglected book. The literalism that has been popularized by the fundamentalists has turned this book into a sterile, purposeless poem. I have even been told that it should be removed from the canon as "pornographic." I deny that God's word can be either pornographic or useless.

Consider this verse:
"You are altogether beautiful, my love;
     There is no flaw in you."

Those two lines are as beautiful as any line in Shakespeare or Japanese haiku. Yet, I bet that most people reading this have never seen it before.

The Puritans considered the Song to be a poetic description of Christ and His bride, the Church. This verse is the address of the groom to the bride. This is the same one that he first saw as an infant in the blood of her birth (Ezekiel 16:6), in her age of nubility (Ez. 16:8), and finally in her bridal apparel (Ez. 16:10-13). After that, two paths are described, the one of an adulteress (Ez. 16:15-34, Revelation 17), and the other of a faithful bride (Revelation 19:6-9). This isn't a matter of one replacing the other. Rather,  it is the parallel development of a faithful seed and a faithless seed, side by side, as was predicted in the first scriptures (Genesis 3:15).

The Song is about Jesus and His faithful bride. He sees her, not in her nature, but as she is by His grace: "Drink that in, Christian. If ever there were a honeycomb full of virgin honey, it is here. Though in ourselves we are defiled, yet, in the eyes of Jesus, looked on as covered with His righteousness, we are 'absolutely beautiful.' We are as dear to Him as if we had never sinned" (Charles Spurgeon).

The Church is beautiful with the beauty that her divine Groom gives her!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Clerical Collar: Wearing What Pertains to a Man

In today's culture wars, Deuteronomy 22:5 gets quoted often: "A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God." Or, for my use here, the King James Version: "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God." I prefer the KJV here because there is far more that pertains to a man than mere clothing.

One thing that pertains to a man is God's calling to exercise authority in the church (and in the home, but that isn't my subject here): "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve" (I Timothy 2:12-13, see also 3:2 and Titus 1:6). Here it is stated negatively, not what should be done by a man, but what must not be done by a woman. In fact, leadership by women is described as a curse: "My people—infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O My people, your guides mislead you and they have swallowed up the course of your paths" (Isaiah 3:12).

We know from the case of Deborah, for example, that there are times when a woman will be in leadership (Judges, chapters 4 and 5). But such a case is not normative. Rather, it exposes that a society is so degenerate that no men are qualified to lead. Notice what a wimp Deborah's general, Barak, is: "If you will go with me, then I will go [i. e., into battle with the Canaanite King Jabin, verse 2], but if you will not go with me, then I will not go" (Judges 4:8). Here the general of Israel's army, presumably its greatest military leader, is so timid that he will not go into battle unless this woman holds his hand the whole time! is it any wonder, then, that there are no men to lead Israel in her time of need? 

It can certainly be said that America is suffering from a lack of men capable of leadership. One often hears speakers lamenting the "feminization of men." I do not believe, however, that we are approaching the circumstances of Israel in Judges 4. Therefore, Deuteronomy 22:5 is still in force, and female clergy are wearing what pertains to men.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Bible, Truth, and the Myth of Autonomy

In dealing with agnostics or atheists, I, of course, use the Bible as my source of truth. That is what distinguishes me as a Christian. To act otherwise is to be a non-Christian. However, the other person will often respond with a challenge to the effect of, "Prove that the Bible is authoritative." Yet, the atheist, even as he is demanding rational evidence, doesn't recognize the irrational presupposition of his question.

As a Christian, I accept what the Bible says about itself: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (II Timothy 3:16-17). Since the Bible is the word of God, then it carries His truth and His authority. But that isn't the information that the atheist is demanding. He wants evidence that convinces him, from his worldview of autonomy. Therefore, if I answer his question according to his standards, then I am necessarily abandoning my worldview and adopting his. Therefore, as a Christian, I cannot argue that way. Nor do you ever see Jesus or any of the apostles arguing in such a way. They always presuppose the reality of God and the truth and authority of the Bible.

Rather, from the Scriptures, I can demonstrate that the godless worldview of human autonomy is exactly what Satan offered to Adam and Eve in the garden: "The serpent said to the woman, 'You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:4-5, "knowing" meaning "deciding" here). Accepting that premise, Adam rejected the world created for him by God, a world without disease, suffering, or death, and chose instead the world we have. That was an irrational choice.

The atheist repeats, and wants me to repeat, that same irrational choice. That is the implication of his demand that I satisfy his supposed autonomous human will. And, since I reject the choice that Adam made, I cannot answer him the way the atheist demands.

First, we must understand that the atheist's demand is a dishonest one. He knows the truth of God, because it is revealed to him in the creation (Psalm 19:1-4) and in his conscience (Romans 2:15). So, why isn't he a Christian? Because part of that knowledge is that the existence of God and our accountability to Him necessarily mean that men are not autonomous, in spite of Satan's promise in Genesis. Therefore, to maintain the illusion of autonomy, the atheist suppresses his knowledge of God (Romans 1:18-22). That means that, when I explain to him the truth from God's word, I am not addressing someone who does not understand. He simply hates the truth, and is trying to avoid it.

Second, this is not a matter of human persuasion. God promises to prosper His word: "So shall my word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11). If this atheist is one bought by the blood of Jesus, then God will make His word effectual in breaking through his suppression of knowledge, thus bringing him to saving faith. The battle is the Lord's! As Luke says of a particular evangelistic occasion: "When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48).

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Test of Our Commitment: the Doctrine of Reprobation

Most professing Christians would claim that men choose to rebel against God. And, of course, that is true. However, they are appalled by the teaching of Scripture that God has chosen some men to rebel against Him. For example, in Revelation 17, the Apostle John describes someone that he calls the Great Whore and Mystery Babylon. I believe that he is talking about apostate Israel, that portion of the physical descendants of Abraham who reject the biblical faith, especially in regards to the messianic office of Jesus. He also refers to those who will be deceived by, and follow, the Whore. In verse 17, he says of them, "God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled" (Revelation 17:17).

Did you catch that? "God has put it into their hearts." That sentence is undoubtedly contrary to the modern myth that man is completely autonomous, and the purposes of God are contingent on the choices of men to carry them out.

This is reprobation, the reverse side of election. It is the biblical teaching that God has chosen some men to oppose Him, and to be the objects of His justice, both in this world and the next. And men hate that doctrine! Nothing strikes more at the myth of human autonomy! And few doctrines provide a better test of the profession of those who say that they believe that the Bible is the Word of God. If you mean what you say, then you must bow to what it says, no matter how contrary to your preferences. If you don't mind, I won't hold my breath while I wait for that moment.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

For the Trinitarian, Where Is the Spirit?

I have been challenged by Oneness believers regarding the Holy Spirit. If He is also God, they say, then why don't you sing to Him, or pray to Him, as you do to the Father and the Son? They consider that challenge to be quite clever.

It's not, actually.

In the economy of the Trinity, the Son submits to the Father, and the Spirit submits to both the Father and the Son. What does the Son do? He points men to the Father: "No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known" (John 1:18). And what does the Spirit do? He points men to the Son: "But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about Me" (John 15:26).

And that answers the challenge of the Oneness. Why do Christians not pray to, or worship, the Spirit? Because worship is something inspired by the Spirit, and He points men to Jesus, not to Himself: "When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on his own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak" (John 16:13). It is because we worship the Father and the Son that we experience the Spirit.