"For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law."
To my mind, one of the strongest evidences that Man is a special creation of God is morality. We do not talk about morality in animals, because it requires a choice and a value system, which only humans have. Paul talks about that inherent morality in the verse above. Even those who have never seen or heard the Law of God have an inner voice that speaks to them on certain fundamental moral standards.
The first objection that comes to mind is those individuals who commit the most horrific acts, seemingly with no twinge of conscience. Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and John Wayne Gacy come to mind (pictured here, proceeding from bottom to top). What of the pillaging of the Vikings or the predations of cannibals? And in our own time, there seems to be a rising number of amoral individuals who prey on their neighbors like wolves among sheep. Do these not indicate that morality is only learned from the threats of outside punishment?
I thought about that question. It certainly seems to be a strong rebuttal. However, a thought occurred to me: even the most hardened gang member, child molester, or schoolyard bully, while he may have no twinge of conscience for abusing his victim, certainly would claim to be wronged if those actions were perpetrated against him. That indicates that he does have a moral conscience; he merely exempts himself from it. He certainly understands what is moral for everyone else.
A fundamental assumption of secular science is uniformitarianism, i.e., the expectation that the way things work at one point in time will be the same at another point. However, I notice that scientists only apply it when it serves their purposes, and ignore it when it works against them.
The main example that comes to mind is the supposed spontaneous beginning of life. If a random collection of chemicals can spontaneously become capable of self-replication, why can those same chemicals not do so repeatedly? That is, if life arose spontaneously at one place and one point in time, why did it never again do so at another place at another time? Shouldn't it be a continuous process, with new cells popping up every epoch?
If human sapience is the result of evolutionary pressures, have those pressures now ceased? Logically, that must be so, if sapience never developed again. And why just in a particular line of primates? Do those evolutionary pressures not apply to felines or canines or reptiles? In fact, that last creates a real problem for evolution, to my mind. If birds are the remnants of the class of dinosaurs known as raptors, as is the dominant theory, then their advanced forms have been around millions of years longer than have the higher mammals. Why did sapience never develop an ornithoid version?
Here is the issue: the secularist must find a naturalist alternative to Deity. Since that is impossible, he blanks out the holes in his logic and proclaims victory. It reminds me of the little boy playing pirate who vigorously insists that his stick is actually a sabre!
"And he said, 'Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.'"
Presbyterians can honor a little-known figure, Charles Colcock Jones, Sr., of Liberty, Georgia. Born to a plantation family, his spiritual convictions led him to a ten-year career of evangelizing the African slaves on both his own plantation and those of his neighbors. He believed that the spiritual uplifting of blacks would lead to a peaceful end of slavery. At the end of that time in 1848, he became a professor at Columbia Theological Seminary (which actually was in Columbia, SC, during that time). Shortly after his installation there, the family home was destroyed by fire. While the family escaped unharmed, all his material goods were lost, including his pastoral library, acquired over his professional lifetime. Of that loss, he had this to say:
"My mind has been and was calm. It was the hand of the Lord! It was mine to use, not to hold nor keep. He took but what He gave - but what was His own. It all resolved itself into a question of time only. The time was coming when I must be taken from all that was consumed. It pleased God to take all from me and leave me alive." [emphasis in the original]
"David built houses for himself in the city of David. And he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it. Then David said that no one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, for the Lord had chosen them to carry the ark of the Lord and to minister to him forever. And David assembled all Israel at Jerusalem to bring up the ark of the Lord to its place, which he had prepared for it. And David gathered together the sons of Aaron and the Levites..., and said to them, 'You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites. Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it. Because you did not carry it the first time, the Lord our God broke out
against us, because we did not seek Him according to the rule.' So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel. And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord."
- I Chronicles 15:1-15
The background of this passage is a prior attempt by David described in chapter 13 (and the parallel in II Samuel 6) to move the Ark of the Covenant from Kiriath-Jearim to Jerusalem. In that effort, the procedures of the Law for handling the Ark were ignored in the enthusiasm of king and people. As a consequence (verse 10), "the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzza, and He struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark, and he died there before God." This was occasioned by the failure of David to follow the procedures specified by Moses in Exodus 25:12-15 and Numbers 4:15. In a renewed respect for God's holiness, David commands the second effort to proceed "according to the rule."
Paul makes a similar point in II Timothy 2:5: "An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules."
How often have you heard a Christian justify his decisions with sentences that begin with "I feel" or "I think"? Or perhaps the more spiritual form, "I feel led." Rarely are choices made with an explanation that begins with "The Scripture says," or "God has said..." It isn't a matter of the lack of sincerity or enthusiasm, but rather an error of authority. As David discovered to his chagrin, God is not compelled to honor our sincerity. Rather, He honors His word, because He is God and we aren't. As He says in Isaiah 48:11, "My glory I will not give to another."
"On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on Him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and He saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, He asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, 'Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.' And Simon answered, 'Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.' And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.' For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, 'Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.' And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him."
- Luke 5:1-11
This narrative was used by Jonathan Edwards as an analogy for his own ministry. During his long ministry in the church at Northampton, he was discouraged by the lack of spiritual fruit in the congregation. He was like the apostles who toiled all night and took nothing. Then came revival, and he saw many congregants turned into vigorous believers, just as the Lord directed the apostles to a great haul of fish.
I think that we have the same hope today, when biblical spirituality seems at such a low ebb. The faithful fishing now, by the Lord's remnant, will become again a great harvest! And it's not because of our skills as fishermen, just as the fishing skills of the Apostles failed them, but by the divine power of our Head and Redeemer.
"Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, 'Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.' And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: 'Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.' And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus."
On a state visit to the United Kingdom, where the queen was crowned with an oath to uphold the "Protestant Reformed Religion", Pope Benedict XVI has been received by Queen Elizabeth II, the secular head of the Church of England, and by Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual head of that Church. In fact, the Pope was to be honored with the office of Archbishop for a day.
A joint worship service was touted by the website of the Westminster Abbey, the setting of the writing of the Westminster Standards in the 1640's. In those Standards, the Confession of Faith (XXV:6) says of the Pope (generically, not of a particular Pope), "[he] is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalts himself, in the Church, against Christ and all that is called God." According to Westminster Abbey, the service included the Pope, the Archbishop, "together with church leaders from many denominations." This is on top of being officially welcomed by the Queen.
Let us remember that the Church of England broke from the Papacy under Henry VIII. While that king's motives may hardly have been spiritual, England remained a Protestant country, except for a bump under his daughter Mary, to modern times. This breaking away left many martyrs to the revenge of Rome, including Henry's Archbishop, Thomas Cranmer. We still await the repentance of Rome for the murder of such spiritual men (and a few women, too). Yet, the Head of the Church of Rome is received as a head of state and spiritual leader.
"All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and He rules over the nations. "All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before Him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. Posterity shall serve Him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim His righteousness to a people yet unborn, that He has done it."
This Psalm is such a mighty witness to the triumph of Christ through His death and resurrection. It begins with that familiar appeal from the depths of His suffering, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" The Lord quotes that verse in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34. Then the Psalm ends with His Messianic triumph in the conversion of the nations, from the poorest to the richest, and continuing through their generations (which proves that this cannot be a reference to the post-Second Advent era).
"And the Lord said: 'Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, while their hearts are far from Me, and their fear of Me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.'”
- Isaiah 29:13-14
One of the five Solas of the Reformation was Sola Scriptura, the belief that the Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and practice. In contrast, the Church of Rome held to an equal authority for church tradition. The Catholic Encyclopedia states it this way: "Catholics, on the other hand, hold that there may be, that there is, in fact, and that there must of necessity be, certain revealed truths apart from those contained in the Bible; they hold, furthermore, that Jesus Christ has established in fact, and that to adapt the means to the end He should have established, a living organ as much to transmit Scripture and written Revelation as to place revealed truth within reach of everyone always and everywhere." And the First Vatican Council was even plainer: "Moreover, by divine and Catholic faith, everything must be believed that is contained in the written word of God or in tradition, and that is proposed by the Church as a divinely revealed object of belief, either in a solemn decree or in her ordinary, universal teaching.”
But what does the text above say? "Their fear of Me is a commandment taught by men." In Mark 7:6-7, Jesus quotes this text, then adds in verse 8, "You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men." And Paul warns of the attraction of such traditions in Colossians 2:23, "These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion ..."
So, we have the prophet warning against man-made doctrines, quoted and reinforced by our God and Savior Jesus Christ, and repeated by the Apostolic author of much of the New Testament. If the Catholic Church taught that the Bible is wrong, to be corrected by Church teachings (actually the position of Mormons), at least they would have a consistent apologetic. However, when one standard that they acknowledge condemns the other, their error becomes obvious! The Reformers got it right!
"On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And He will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of His people He will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, 'Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, that He might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.' For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain..."
There were a few passages of Scripture that affected me deeply in the early days of my Christian profession, some thirty-odd years ago. For example, my first reading of Ephesians made me a Calvinist. And later, my first readings of the Old Testament Prophets, especially Isaiah, made me a postmillennialist.
Many of these prophetic passages start with this reference to "this mountain." Which mountain? I take it to refer to Mount Zion, the physical location of the Temple, but also a frequent symbol for the Church (see Hebrews 12:22). Related uses of the word can be found in Isaiah 2:2, 11:9, 56:7, Daniel 2:35, Joel 3:17, Obadiah 1:16, Micah 4:1-2, Zephaniah 3:11, and Zechariah 8:3.
In our passage here, Isaiah prophesies a time when God would remove the veil from the nations. This obviously is neither a literal veil over the face, nor the veil of the Temple, though both are biblical uses of the word, since neither fits the context. Compare the uses of the word in successive verses of II Corinthians 3:13-16. Paul begins with the placing of a literal veil over the face of Moses, then changes to the figurative meaning of spiritual blindness. Considering it the same way in Isaiah, we have a promise that a time will come when God will lift the blindness from the hearts of the nations. Not each individual exhaustively, but over the nations as a whole. This is expressed more literally in Isaiah 56:6, referring to "foreigners who join themselves to the Lord," and Micah 4:2, where "many nations" shall come to be taught the word of God.
The promise that the Earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord is a repeated one: Isaiah 11:9 and Habakkuk 2:14. After all, it was the mission that Jesus gave us before Hid ascension (Matthew 28:19-20). One wonders two things; first, why is a repeated promise overlooked by so many? and second, why is such a happy promise rejected and opposed by so many?
"His sons come to honor, and he does not know it; they are brought low, and he perceives it not."
Among Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and some Anglicans, believers are encouraged to pray to saints for their intercession.
However, here in Job, we see that the deceased aren't aware of the conditions of those, even of their kin, who remain in this life. In fact, in the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31), the very inability of the rich man to affect his surviving kin in part of his torment in Hell!
Furthermore, we have the witness of the Apostle John in Revelation 14:13, "that they may rest from their labors." The blessed dead are free from labor. No strain, no burdens, no hardship. Yet saint-praying Christians are encouraged to bring their living burdens to those same departed saints! The Catholic doctrine seeks to bring the saints under the very bondage that God has removed from them in glory!
As I have said before about the adoration of Mary (here and here), saint worship is a form of idolatry, forbidden by the First and Second Commandments. here, we also see that it is an abuse of the departed dead. Let us instead devote ourselves to the purity of strict Protestant worship.
My name is Chris Cole. I have lived in the Charlotte, NC, area for over thirty years, and have been an active Presbyterian during most of that time. I love the Westminster Confession of Faith as a beautiful expression of my own personal beliefs.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I prefer the English Standard Version of the Bible, and all quotations are from the ESV, unless otherwise stated.
I have a number of reviews of Reformed books on Amazon. There is a link to them in the Reformed links below.
"Seeing [that] the Lord of lords, the Lord Jesus, is so ready (never was there king so ready to hear a subject as Jesus is), [even] if thou wert the vilest body that goes, a thief, a harlot, etc., yet if thou wilt say this, 'Lord, remember on me, and give me a part of thy kingdom'; - if thou prayest to him from a penitent heart, with confidence and assurance, I promise unto thee, heaven and earth shall go [fall] together ere thou wantest [lack] thine asking. Seeing [that] our Lord Jesus is so liberal [free-giving], then seek more than enough, more than a kingdom, and thou shalt get more. The only cause why we want [lack] is in us: we have no hearts to seek it." - Rev. Robert Rollock, Scottish Presbyterian minister, about 1590, in a commentary on Luke 23:42-43