Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Inconvenient Holiness of God

"For You are not a God who delights in wickedness;
     evil may not dwell with You.
The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes;
     You hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
     the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man."
- Psalm 5:4-6

Liberal ministers and the average nominal American Christian both love to talk about a loving God. "I believe in a loving God who accepts me as I am," they say. And it is true that love is a core attribute of God. See, for example, John 3:16 and I John 4:16. However, they wax eloquent over the love of God, not because they enjoy praising Him, but rather because it enables them to block from their consciences the other attributes of God, especially His holiness.

Notice what this Psalm tells us. God doesn't delight in wickedness and evil may not dwell with Him. He opposes the boastful, evildoers, liars, the bloodthirsty, and the deceitful. In fact, David even tells us that He hates them!

We find similar words in Habakkuk 1:13, "You are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong..." And in Isaiah 9:17, "[He] has no compassion on their fatherless and widows, for everyone is godless and an evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly."

We find in Psalm 5, Habakkuk, and Isaiah that God isn't constrained by our fleeting standards of sophistication or political correctness. He doesn't allow us to divide Him, receiving the characteristics with which we are comfortable, but excluding those which might make us uncomfortable. David repeats this theme in Psalm 139. In verses 19 and 20, he pleads, "Oh that You would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! They speak against You with malicious intent; Your enemies take Your name in vain!" Then he says of himself in verses 21 and 22, "Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies." David professes hatred for the enemies of God! I suspect that this is a major part of the reason that God refers to David as "a man after My own heart" (I Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22).

Finally, isn't it significant that those who deny or ignore the holiness of God are repeating the very words of Satan, when he tempted Eve, "Did God actually say..." (Genesis 3:1)?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Election Means The REAL God Ain't You!

As I have noted before, I don't believe that the religion of modern America is Christianity, but rather Deism, i. e., the belief that there is a God, but He doesn't take an active role in the world. Americans love our religiosity, as long as it doesn't interfere with our own sovereignty over our lives! Just enough religion to be comfortable, but not enough actually to affect how we live.

The problem is this: the God of the Bible doesn't allow Himself to be boxed in that way. He has a discomfiting habit of insisting that He is God and we aren't.

Consider Psalm 115:3, "Our God is in the heavens; he does all that He pleases." Short but straightforward. As is Psalm 103:19, "The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all." And again in Psalm 135:6, "The LORD does whatever pleases Him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths." The sovereignty of God was a favorite theme of the psalmists.

The Prophet Isaiah chimes in on the theme. Isaiah 14:24 and 27, "The Lord of hosts has sworn: 'As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand... For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?'" For, as the prophet also says in Isaiah 42:8, "I am the LORD; that is my name; My glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols."

And the Prophet Amos gives us God's words in Amos 3:6, "Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?" He declares that God is even sovereign in bringing disaster. Job reinforces this point in Job 2:10. "'Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?' In all this Job did not sin with his lips." The inspired text even reinforces his point by telling us that Job's comment wasn't sinful!

American evangelicalism is sinfully man-centered, especially that portion known as the "Prosperity Gospel." In contrast, the Bible is radically God-centered. I suspect that this is the reason that the bulk of American evangelicalism is losing membership and growing increasingly impotent. God has given the professing Christians what they wanted: their own spiritual sovereignty. And it has destroyed our nation's spiritual heritage.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Reprobation in the Old Testament

Reprobation is the flip side of the doctrine of election. Just as God, out of His free and sovereign grace, has ordained some to mercy, out of His sovereign holiness and justice, He has ordained the rest to perdition for their sins. While many Evangelicals balk at this doctrine, it certainly isn't because of any lack of biblical support for it, especially in the Old Testament!

Consider Deuteronomy 2:30, "Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the LORD your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that He might give him into your hand, as he is this day." God had purposed the destruction of Sihon and his people, so He hardened the king's heart.

And Joshua 11:19-20, "There was not a city that made peace with the people of Israel except the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon. They took them all in battle. For it was the Lord’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the Lord commanded Moses." Here we see the same act of hardening, but over a larger area.

Or the case of the son's of Eli, I Samuel 2:25, "'If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the LORD, who can intercede for him?' But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the LORD to put them to death." Eli tried to warn them about their evil ways, but God had already determined on their destruction, so He hardened their hearts against the words of their father.

Arminians resist the significance of these passages. They hold that God only hardened the hearts after the respective people had already hardened their own hearts, i.e., what is known as "judicial hardening." However, that appears nowhere in these passages, except in the case of the sons of Eli. Rather, the Arminian commits the very error that Paul refutes in Romans 9:21: "Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?" As Creator and Lord, God has a sovereign right to use His creatures as He sees fit. Our only option is to bow our heads and bless the Lord for His justice.