Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Question of Evil: What Is God's Answer?

A common deflection used by secularists is, "If God is real, why is there evil and suffering?" The reason I call it a deflection is because it isn't an honest question (Romans 1:18-19). Rather, it is an effort to silence believers and the nagging voice of conscience.

The usual response is some form of, "Well, God has to give us free will." But there are two fundamental problems with that answer. First is the belief - erroneous though it may be - of the unbeliever that he didn't choose whatever suffering he has known in his life. That belief immediately shuts down his participation in the discussion. Second, and more importantly, is that it isn't biblical! The phrase "free will" appears nowhere in Scripture, and God never promises to honor our imaginations on His behalf.

However, God has condescended to give His answer to the question.

In Job 36:15, we read, "He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ears by affliction." God brings pain into the lives of the elect that they may turn to Him. Sufferings cause us to despise this world and the comforts of sin, and to turn to Him for mercy, relief, and hope.

Once a person reaches that point, then, and only then, he is ready to talk about the Fall, and how it brought disease, death, and futility into our experience (Genesis 3:17-19, Isaiah 24:4-6, Romans 5:12, 8:22). And then we can talk about the solution: "If many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many" (Romans 5:16).

Suffering entered the world through man's sin, but God gives it purpose and meaning in the life of the elect: to turn him to redemption in Jesus Christ. Understanding the source and purpose of evil is the only way to understand the solution!

Friday, February 14, 2014

People are Basically Good, Aren't They?

This is the mantra of American public religion. Yet, it actually reflects a humanist/secularist worldview. It is similar to surveys of drivers in which 90% consider themselves to be in the top 10% in driving skill.

Whether the speaker is a nominal Christian or a professing agnostic or atheist, he is applying an external moral system to himself. He's not a murderer, is he? Or a child molester? But by what standard does he determine that a murderer or child molester are worse than someone else? By the standard of biblical mores that have been absorbed into our culture since the days of the Pilgrims. This is called "precept stealing." In other words, in the process of denying biblical Christianity, he is acknowledging the truth of it. This is a real-world expression of what Paul talks about in Romans 1:18-21, especially verse 18, "men who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." All men know the truth of the Lordship of God and their rebellion against Him. They merely pretend not to know, like the misbehaving child who sticks his fingers in his ears and declares, "La-la-la, I can't hear you."

Unfortunately for this hypothetical person, Scripture continues to be true, whether he listens, or not.

Sin is a violation of God's Law, whether it is doing something which He forbids, such as murder or theft, or it is failing to do something that He requires, such as loving Him with the whole heart, soul, and strength, or our neighbors as ourselves. And, while it true that some sins, such as murder, are worse than others, that doesn't give our speaker any wiggle room for self-comfort, because any violation, major or minor, makes us guilty of the whole Law. This is stated explicitly in James 2:10, "For whoever keeps the whole Law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it." And every sin, whether major or minor, is an offense against the holiness of God, Habakkuk 1:13 (NASB), "Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You cannot look on wickedness with favor." And the consequence of that is that we, every single one of us, is separated from God. Isaiah 59:2, "Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear."

But the wonder of all this is that God did not leave the situation where we do. On His own initiative, He made a way for us to be reconciled with Him. Again, from Isaiah 53:6, "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned - every one - to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." God gave His own Son to assume the judgment that all of His people have earned, and we need but to receive it. Romans 10:9-10, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord  and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."

Whether a person professes to be a Christian or is a professed nonbeliever, the steps are the same: he must understand the bad news of his sin and its consequences before he can claim the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Reformed Confessions and the Catholic Distortion of Sola Scriptura

"The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture... There are some circumstances concerning the worship of God and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word..."

The portion above is from the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter I, section 6.

The Second Helvetic Confession, Chapter II, says (in part), "We do not admit any judge than God Himself, who proclaims by the Holy Scriptures what is true, what is false, what is to be followed, or what is to be avoided." But this comes only after, "We do not permit ourselves, in controversies about religion or matters of faith, to urge our case with only the opinions of the fathers or decrees of councils; much less by received customs, or by the large number of those who share the same opinion, or by prescription of a long time."

The Belgic Confession, Article 7, says, "This Holy Scripture most perfectly contains the whole will of God and... all things are taught in it abundantly, whatsoever is necessary to be believed by people in order to grasp salvation... No one, however much gifted with apostolic dignity, nor likewise any Angel cast down from heaven, as blessed Paul says, is lawfully allowed to teach otherwise than what we have already thoroughly learned long ago in the Holy Scriptures."

The reader may have a question, arising naturally from these extensive quotes, as to why I have presented these extensive quotes, repeating closely-related substance. And the answer is because of what I have seen, mainly on Amazon, in comments regarding books on the Reformation principle of sola scriptura, but also in comments on my own previous posts (click on the tag below), that this doctrine means that Protestants claim to believe only what is explicitly stated in Scripture, resulting in a "me and my bible" mentality.

While I certainly concede that there are people guilty of that attitude, I do not concede the Catholic red herring that it is representative of the successors of the Reformation. To the contrary, Protestants recognize both logical implications of the explicit statements of Scripture and the role of councils and tradition in maturing our understanding of those statements. What divides us from the Church of Rome is that we hold that Scripture alone is infallible, and, therefore, that all such councils and traditions, including our confessions, are inherently subordinate to the authority of Scripture. This separates orthodox Protestants from, on one side, the individualist Christian who claims authority for himself to despise the teachings of the biblical church, and, on the other side, the claims of the Church of Rome to infallibility for itself. Both errors are really opposite sides of the same coin: the rejection of the authority of Scripture as God's Word results in an elevation of the mind of sinful man to a pretense of that authority, the very temptation to Eve from the mouth of Satan (Genesis 3:5).

If you are asking if I equate the blasphemous claims of Rome with Satan, you can rest assured that I most certainly am (Revelation 17:3-4)!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Job 16:18-22, Job Looks to the Intercession of His Redeemer

Christians cite a couple of verses from Job, especially Job 19:25, but I had never noticed this short passage before:

"O earth, cover not my blood,
     and let my cry find no resting place.
Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven,
     and He who testifies for me is on high.
My friends scorn me;
     my eye pours out tears to God,
that He would argue the case of a man with God,
     as a son of man does with his neighbor.
For, when a few years have come,
     I shall go the way from which I shall not return."

In this chapter, Job is berating his friends for their lack of compassion toward him during this time of his distress. He pleads with a personified earth not to block his appeal, as he then appeals to another intercessor, one who is "on high." As I read that, it struck me how exactly this parallels the New Testament description of the priesthood of Christ, especially Hebrews 7:25, "He always lives to make intercession for them [i.e., believers]," and Hebrews 9:24, "For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf."

Especially interesting to me is that Job doesn't profess some vague concept of an intercessor, a mediator with Jehovah, but explicitly addresses that mediator as God (which is why I capitalized those pronouns above), and his representative to God. This is a profession of the Trinity, God face to face with God (John 1:1)!

I admit that Job can be obscure at points. However, we err to pass over it, as I have done, as void of Gospel content. Here it is, and how blessed I am to have had the Holy Spirit open my eyes to it.