Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Supralapsarian Song

A theme song for supralapsarians! Kind of jazzy with nice guitar. It's instrumental only, so I don't know how it is meant to be supralapsarian. But I'll take it!

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Two Sides of the Character of God: Love and Wrath

People - those who are more ignorant of the Scriptures than they will admit - will often claim that there are contradictory images of God in the Bible, one of the loving God we see in Jesus, the other a wrathful God who, for example, told Israel to destroy the societies on Canaan. However, the problem isn't the God that we see in Scripture, but rather the view of God from which they make their judgment.

What these people, whether professing Christians or honest unbelievers, fail to acknowledge is that they are judging God, as He is presented in the Bible, from a humanistic worldview, that is, from an assumption that people are inherently good and deserving of hugs, self-esteem, flowers, and all the other syrupy slogans that have become so common in our society. However, that isn't the view of the Bible.

The worldview of the Bible includes the understanding that humans, from the moment of conception (Ps. 51:5), are wicked (Rom. 3:10-18), sinful (Is. 64:6, Jer. 17:9), and separated from God (Is. 59:2, Hab. 1:13). The Bible says that all men are "dead in trespasses and sins, by nature children of wrath" (Eph. 2:1-3). This is not a syrupy view!

Thus, we are forced to conclude that those who hold to this syrupy worldview are seeking to impose an anti-biblical presupposition onto a Bible that teaches a contrary worldview. Of course this results in conflict!

In contrast, we must view the Bible from its own worldview. Consider Psalm 34:15-16:
"The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
     and His ears toward their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
     to cut off the memory of them from the earth."

In these two verses, an example of Hebrew parallelism, we see God in two distinct fashions: in the first two lines, there is a kind God; in the latter two lines, there is an unkind God, as the two sides of a single coin. Do these two verses confirm the view I described above? I am sure those folks would say so. But that would only be because they avoid considering the other side of the verses, i. e., to whom is God kind or unkind. The first reaction is to the "righteous," an epithet for the people of God, or the Church. The second is to "those who do evil," that is, those who are not His people (Rom. 1:18, 2:8). In other words, these verses - and the rest of Scripture - are far from teaching contradictory views of God. Rather, they reveal one God who responds with justice to different types of people! That is the fundamental error of the humanistic interpretation of scripture, not that there are two kinds of God, but that there are two kinds of people, and His reaction is distinguished by which type of person a particular individual is. God's actions are always consistent with His nature.

For the man who submits to receive God on His terms, not ours, there is this message of kindness (Rom. 3:21-26): "But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins. It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." This passage shows that God's attitude to the particular individual is changeable. How does one move from the class of people under the wrath of God, to the class under His love? Through Jesus Christ alone. If you fear the wrathful God revealed in Scripture, as the unbeliever should, then He calls you to give up your unbelief, receive Him as He is offered in Scripture, and then you will be under His love (John 1:12), no longer under His wrath (Rom. 5:9).

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Atheists Prove the Truth of the Bible

Have you ever cruised through the reviews on Amazon? If you have some time to kill someday, I recommend this informative way to use it. I especially enjoy going through the reviews of the various translations and editions of the bible. Part of my purpose is just to see to see what is available, but it is also instructive to see what people say in the reviews, especially "reviews" from atheists. I put that in quotation marks because their comments consistently demonstrate that they haven't actually read the Bible; they are just using the opportunity to spout off against it.

Which brings me to my topic.

I have also looked at the reviews of the various editions of the Koran and Buddhist/Hindu texts. The absence of atheist comments is glaringly obvious. Why is that?

I haven't read the Buddhist/Hindu texts. I have, however, read the Koran. It describes a vicious deity who commands his followers to do vicious things, such as those we see committed by ISIS in Syria. Since it glorifies demonic behavior, both in deity and in men, I consider it of demonic origin.

In contrast, the atheist ridicule of the Bible usually consists of assertions that there are "contradictions," without naming any. And that is only if the "reviewer" attempts to say anything more than juvenile ridicule. Again, they do neither of these things for the sacred texts of other religions.

Hmmm... ridicule without thoughtful interaction with the text... What could that indicate? I suggest that it indicates, not that they disbelieve the Bible, but rather that they hate it! Why? Because, unlike either the Koran or the eastern mystical texts, the Bible reveals the sin in the hearts of men and reveals judgment against it. Atheists hate the Bible because, in it, they are confronted by their own wickedness and the wrath of God. And they know that these two things are true!

Thus, the very hatred which atheists express against the Bible proves that it is true and that the wrath of God is real. The Bible describes this in Romans 1:18-22: "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. 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."

However, I am glad to say that the Bible also gives the solution in the same book, 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."

My hope is that there is an atheist reading this, who recognizes the futility of his refusal to see God and His righteousness in the world. In the state of unbelief, every person carries the load of conscience, knowing the evil he has done, but with no solution. That's why every unbeliever depends on denial to keep himself going under that load. I know because I have been there. But here I hope that you have seen the solution. You are right to feel that you cannot bear your sin. Only Jesus can do that.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Problem of Evil Is Actually a Problem for the Atheist

There is a standard question that has been going around for hundreds of years, traditionally called "the Problem of Evil." It is stated to this effect: If God is all-good, and all-powerful, why is there evil in the world? If He is all-good, then He would desire to prevent it, and if He is all-powerful, He would be able to do so. Therefore, God must be either not all-good or not all-powerful. And, since those are both necessary attributes of the biblical God, He must disappear in a puff of logical smoke. Or so we are supposed to believe.

I will speak to the origin of evil below. For now, I am going to address the question itself, and why it actually demonstrates the illogic of atheism, not Christianity.

Mr. Atheist, what is evil? You probably answer something to the effect of "whatever hurts people." And I would certainly agree that hurting innocent people is evil. But then, on what basis do you decide that hurting people is evil? A cannibal would be fine with hurting people, because doing so feeds his family. On what basis would you say that he is wrong? Both Stalin and Hitler believed that shedding rivers of blood was good, because (in their minds) doing so benefited a greater number of others. Were they wrong? On what basis do you say so?

Those questions are my rhetorical means of making this point: a materialist worldview has no basis for deciding right and wrong, good and evil. We are, in the atheist universe, just DNA seeking to sustain its existence. What an atheist views as evil derives from his cultural heritage of biblical theism, i. e., Christianity. This is called "precept stealing." Therefore, for the atheist to ask the question with which I started this post is for him to admit - unconsciously, I admit - that Christianity is true. That is why I 
Richard Dawkins
described the question as a problem, not for the Christian, but for the atheist. For the atheist even to ask the question is to concede the argument! As Richard Dawkins, a leading and outspoken atheist, admits (The God Delusion, p. 266): "It is pretty hard to defend absolutist morals on grounds other than religious ones" [emphasis mine]. He is partly correct: It's not just "pretty hard"; it's impossible!

To the Christian who has been befuddled by the question, I will now turn to answering it. The problem is the assumptions that undergird it. It assumes that I, or you, or whoever - i. e., a finite human being - is able to judge what is good, above the ability of the omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God. It assumes that I can know every possible way in which an act can be good, but He cannot. Or, put another way, it assumes that He cannot have a perspective that shows the goodness of His acts in a way that I cannot perceive.

Let me give a hypothetical illustration: imagine a wreck, in which a drunk driver kills a mother and her two children in another car. I am sure that we agree that this would be an awful thing, so how could that be good? Well, what we might not be aware of us is that there was a school bus full of kids the next block away, which would have been hit by the drunk driver, if he hadn't been stopped. When we accuse God of allowing evils in our lives, those are the things we cannot know. What would have happened otherwise, that I cannot foresee? To ask why an all-good God makes the choices He does would require us to have the same omniscience that He has. Why does an all-good and all-powerful God allow evil? To prevent greater evil. It is impossible for us to know any more than that.

The source of evil can be found only in the Bible. Atheists might ask the question, but they cannot answer it. The Bible, however, reveals that God created a world without evil. Yet He also placed a choice before Adam and Eve in that world. They could have eternal life without evil - the condition in which they were created - or they could choose to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and die. We all know the choice that they made: they ate of the fruit and brought disease, futility, hardship, and death, upon themselves and upon their posterity. Mankind chose the kind of world for which the atheist seeks to blame God. That is why there is evil in the world. You can read this in the Bible, in the book of Genesis, the first three chapters.

The wonderful thing is that the story doesn't end there, because Christianity doesn't answer just the question of the origin of evil, but also how it will end. That is another answer that cannot be found in atheism. Through the Gospel, as sinners are converted, change our lives, and then change our world, God is creating a New Heaven and New Earth, where there will be no more evil. This is described in a number of places, but start with Isaiah 65:17-25 and Revelation 21:1-4.

You can find other thoughts I have had on this question here and here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Syncretism: God's Conflict with "Christians" Who Support Abortion

"The Lord said to me: 'Son of man, will you judge Oholah and Oholibah? Declare to them their abominations. For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. With their idols they have committed adultery, and they have even offered up to them for food the children whom they had borne to Me. Moreover, this they have done to Me: they have defiled My sanctuary on the same day and profaned My Sabbaths. For when they had slaughtered their children in sacrifice to their idols, on the same day they came into My sanctuary to profane it.'"
- Ezekiel 23:36-39

In this chapter of Ezekiel, the prophet is using the names Oholah for Israel, the northern kingdom, and Oholibah for Judah, the southern kingdom. The story is an allegory of two sisters. The first becomes an adulterous prostitute, and is duly punished. This refers to the destruction and deportation of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians as punishment for turning to pagan gods and practices, including the sacrifice of their own children. Judah witnessed these events. Yet, instead of serving as a deterrence to her, these experiences only provided the template for her own apostasy and consequent destruction by the Babylonians.

However, notice the things that enrage God the most. He chastises the paganism of the sisters, yet He also mentions that, when they had finished their pagan abominations, they then entered His temple to perform His mandated rituals. This is what enraged Him: the hypocrisy of their paganism on the one hand combined with a pretended exercise of biblical religion on the other. This combination of worldviews is called syncretism. Jehovah, the God of the Bible, is a jealous God (Ex. 34:14, Deut. 6:15). That is, He does not share what belongs to Him (Isaiah 42:8, 48:11). Yet, knowing this, Israel and Judah thought that He would be satisfied with half of their devotion, imagining that they were then free to spread the other half of their devotions to any demon that struck their fancy. Thus, the label of whoredom.

This theme also appears in Psalm 106:36-40:
"They served their idols,
     which became a snare to them.
They sacrificed their sons
     and their daughters to the demons;
they poured out innocent blood,
     the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
     and the land was polluted with blood.
Thus they became unclean by their acts,
     and played the whore in their deeds.
Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against His people,
     and He abhorred His heritage."

I have previously described the connection between abortion and the ancient cult of Molech. I have also talked about the support that liberal clergy have devoted to this human sacrifice (here, here, and here). They promote the sacrifice of children, including His covenant children ("the children whom they had borne to Me" above). Then they perform their ecclesiastical functions the next Sunday. They are committing the very same whoredoms of Israel and Judah all these centuries after. God's words have fallen on deaf ears again.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Mormons Refuted by the Eternality of God

One of the doctrines which most distinguishes Mormons from Christians is their belief that God was once a human being, just as you and I now are, but on another planet, ruled by its own deity. Their General Authority Milton Hunter (The Gospel Through the Ages, 1945, p. 104) wrote, "Mormon prophets have continuously taught the sublime truth that God the Eternal Father was once a mortal man who passed through a school of earth life similar to that through which we are now passing." This is one of the doctrines that the boys on the bicycles do not explain to prospective converts. It is kept until the person has been involved for a while.

In contrast, Christians profess, together with Moses (Psalm 90:2), "Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God." The God of the Bible has always been God, from eternity past, and always will be God, into eternity future.

So, we have a contrast here between an evolutionary view of a god, in opposition to a view of a God who is eternal. Does the Bible say anything else applicable to this question?

In Numbers 23:19, Moses also said, "God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill it?" If God doesn't change His mind, are we to believe that He changes His nature?

In I Samuel 15:29, we read, "The Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for He is not a man." God is not a man (this does not address the incarnation of Christ)! He is not a man now, a Mormon might respond. Okay.

In Malachi 3:6, God speaks for Himself: "I am the Lord , I do not change." We can also look at Isaiah 43:10: "Before Me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after Me." The first prophet tells us that God could never have been anything other that what He now is. The second tells us that there could never have been an earlier deity under whom our God attained His divine status. I have dealt more with the verses in Isaiah here.

I am writing this the way I am, because I have run into too many Mormons who complain when I or anyone else says that they are not Christians. First, this is the height of hypocrisy, since those same boys on bicycles are traveling around telling prospects that all other professing Christians are apostates. Did you catch that? All! Second, I know that most people aren't aware of some of the more-bizarre doctrines of the Mormons, so they are also not aware of how un-Christian they really are. I aim, in part, to educate those folks. I also intend to provide them with the truth, so that they have an answer to give both the boys on bicycles and to their Mormon neighbors (I Peter 3:15).

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful for Prosperity, Yes, but Not That Kind!

This topic seems apropos for Thanksgiving Day:

The Bible says that God enables His people to gather wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18). In fact, that is part of the dominion given to Adam in the Garden (Gen. 1:26-27).  The teachers of the Prosperity Gospel have taken these truths and perverted them into promises of big houses and big cars and big jewelry, even personal jets - at least for them. But I consider that a serious perversion of the teachings of Scripture.

In Proverbs 8:19, we read, "My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver." The speaker here is a personification of Wisdom. Notice the treasure that she promises: something better than gold or silver. Thus, not material wealth. Not to say that material wealth is excluded, of course. But certainly something apart from material wealth. But the next two verses give clarity: the fruit of righteousness and justice, which then leads to "granting an inheritance to those who love me, and filling their treasuries." Notice that she refers to "those who love me," that is, love wisdom. Look at Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10, and especially Psalm 111:10: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!" All three verses share one theme: it is in the fear of the Lord that one attains wisdom. 

The Prosperity teachers mislead their audiences. It isn't material wealth that leads to godliness. It is godliness that leads to fruit, which may or may not include material wealth. It is as if these preachers have suffered temporary blindness every time they pass over the words of the Apostle Paul: "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need" (Philippians 4:11-12). Would anyone say that Paul was spiritually deficient? Yet, he suffered, at times, from hunger and need, but was always content. How different that is from the teachings of the Prosperity Gospel, because it is not gospel at all (Galatians 1:8).

Here is a simple test: if any person, lay or clergy, judges your spiritual health by the wealth that you have, then his agenda is a false gospel, and he is under the judgment of God. And if you follow such a man, especially after having been warned (as I have done here), then you share in his judgment (Jeremiah 23:16-17, and Revelation 18:4).

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Priesthood of Christ Negates All Other Priesthoods (Even Rome's)

The purpose of the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews was to demonstrate the superiority of Christ over the accoutrements of the Mosaic covenant. In chapters 7 and 8, he examines the priestly office of Christ, and compares it to the Mosaic, levitical priesthood. (Just as an aside, this is an internal proof that the epistle must have been written before 70AD, when the destruction of the Temple made that priesthood moot.)

The ways in which Christ's priesthood is superior include His eternality (Heb. 7:3, 17, 24, 28): "He holds His priesthood permanently, because He continues forever." This is contrasted with the string of human priests, due to their mortality (Heb. 7:23). Another way in which He is superior is due to the sufficiency and effectuality of His one-time sacrifice (Heb. 7:27): "He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily..., since He did this once for all when He offered up Himself."

This passage addresses two errors of the Church of Rome; first, that her clergy have a priesthood; and second, that Christ's sacrifice is repeated in the Mass. Both of those heresies undermine both the sufficiency and eternality of the priestly office of Christ, contrary to both the words and the purpose of the Epistle. That is, if Christ as priest is both eternal and sufficient in that office, there is neither need nor allowance for any other priest or sacrifice. That is why a Protestant church has a minister, not a priest, a man who points believers to their only and all-sufficient hope in Jesus Christ, not in any mere man, no matter how glamorous his robes, titles, and claims may be.

Because of the explicit words of Scripture, I commend the words of the Westminster Larger Catechism (Question 44): "Christ executeth the office of a priest in His once offering Himself as a sacrifice without spot to God, to be a reconciliation for the sins of His people, and in making continual intercession for them."

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Some Thoughts on Bible Translations

Discussions about the various bible translations (in English) have left me with some thoughts on the matter. However, let me say up front that I cannot read Greek or Hebrew, nor am I an expert on manuscript history. So, please do not take my remarks as scholarly, but rather as just the opinions of an experienced Christian who knows his Bible.

If someone asks me which Bible translation I would recommend (assuming that he is an adult with commensurate reading comprehension), I usually refer him to one of four translations: the New American Standard Bible, the English Standard Version, the Modern English Version, or the New King James Version. What these four have in common is a commitment to a formal equivalence principle of translation. That is, they seek to translate on a word-for-word basis, within the constraints of comprehensibility. The alternative is dynamic equivalence, a translation on a thought-by-thought basis, that is, what does this verse mean in the source language, and how would we express that thought in the target language (English, in this case). It isn't strictly an either-or consideration, since translations fall along a continuum between the absolutes of translation principle.

My concern with dynamic equivalence is that it relies on the translator to determine the meaning, which would tend to subjectivity, or even paraphrasing. Formal equivalence is, relatively speaking, far more objective, leaving interpretation to the reader. That is what I want, to read the Bible for myself, and interpret according to my knowledge, conscience, and experience. I can then add whatever assistance I need, such as concordances, commentaries, or pastoral input. I have not been pre-fed the interpretation of a translator that may be an unbeliever or a rank heretic. That is because I believe what the Bible says of 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).

Among the translations above, the New American Standard Version (hereafter, "NASB") is usually described as the most literal, that is, with the least interpretation by its translators. I cut my spiritual teeth on the NASB, back in the early eighties. It was my first Bible for several years after my conversion. In its original edition, the NASB still used "thou" and other archaisms in addresses to God. In 1995, the publisher did an extensive revision which updated all of that language. I find it very readable. I also like that it uses capital letters for pronouns that refer to deity, which is a personal peeve of mine. It also uses italics for words not in the original text, used to clarify or smooth something that doesn't work in English. While the NASB can't be called popular, It is being promoted by well-known pastors John MacArthur and Charles Stanley.

The English Standard Version (hereafter, "ESV") is the Bible we use in my church. Such usage is becoming more common as the New International Version implodes as a result of its unpopular 2011 revision. The ESV is slightly less literal than the NASB, but reads more smoothly. What I don't like is the use of small letters when referring to deity, and the lack of indication of inserted words. However, I like its use of footnotes to indicate, where relevant, when "you" is singular or plural in the original. And a very specific advantage is the use of "Jesus," instead of "Lord," in Jude 1:5, following the earliest Greek manuscripts. Even the NASB missed that one!

The Modern English Version is a new translation, having been published in 2013. Most people aren't even aware of its existence. This is the translation that I use for my private reading. It uses capitalized pronouns, but lacks italicization, so it's a mixed bag on those issues. However, it maintains the poetic dignity of the King James Version, just without the archaic language. The New King James is much older, of course, by roughly thirty years, and has all of the same advantages, plus italicization. These two versions are so similar that they are almost interchangeable.

The main difference among these translations is the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts used as their text basis. This is an issue that I don't stress, but some people do. The first two follow the Critical Text, that is, a collection of manuscripts based on the best efforts of scholars to identify transmission errors and reproduce the original autographs. The latter two are translated from the Textus Receptus, a much later class of manuscripts. The reason I don't stress this issue is that the differences between the two classes of manuscript are so tiny that most people don't even notice, and none of those differences affects any biblical doctrine.

Now, having expressed my own opinion, I welcome comments regarding the preferences of others. However, I will warn in advance that I will not post any comments promoting the mystical views that some King James-only folks have. I will not provide space for anyone claiming that the KJV is somehow an inspired translation, and therefore of authority beyond that of the Greek and Hebrew from which it was translated.

Monday, November 9, 2015

ISIS Butchers Inspire Muslims to Convert to Christ

The Sign of New Life for Many Muslims
News is trickling out of Iraq of thousands of Kurdish Muslims converting to Christ, because they have witnessed the brutality of true Islam. This article quotes one Kurdish convert, "I don't like Muhammad any more; I want to become a Christian."

The Shahada, used as an emblem by Saudi Arabia and ISIS
Even more stunning is this article about an ISIS fighter's becoming a Christian after he experienced a dream about Jesus.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Mosaic Covenant: Grace, Not Works

Moses, Reading the Law
There is a common misunderstanding, usually connected to a dispensational view of scripture, that holds that the Mosaic covenant is a religion of works salvation. In fairness, I admit that Paul refers to justification "by the works of the Law," but that reference is to the Pharisaic misuse of the Law (Rom. 9:32), not its proper purpose. Rather, the Law was to serve as a temporary guardian (KJV, "schoolmaster"), until the coming of Christ (Gal. 3:19, 24). The Law - and I am talking here of the ceremonial Law, not the moral - marked that which or who was clean, from that which or who was unclean. It created a hedge around the covenant people that separated them, sanctified them, as distinct from the rest of humanity. Why? That they would be reserved as a conduit through which the Messiah would come, the Savior of the world (John 3:16 and Acts 4:12).

Why did it matter among what nation the Redeemer would be born? That goes back to the original promise of the Gospel, Genesis 3:15: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." This promise was given immediately after the Fall, and especially touched Eve, the first human to give in to the temptations of Satan. It was a balm to her conscience to know that her descendant would also be the means of undoing what she and Adam had done. That is why the lineage of Christ is so carefully recorded. Of course, all mankind is the seed of Eve in a general sense, but His lineage is laid out explicitly, legally (i. e., covenantally) in Matthew 1, and genetically in Luke 3. A record is given of exactly in what way He represented her lineage. In our culture, that isn't considered important, but in theirs it was.

What makes me especially to marvel is that this story is carried all the way to the other end of the Bible. In Revelation 12:1-6, the Apostle John describes a woman who gives birth to a son, and a red dragon who persecutes both her and that son. I believe that the woman represents both Eve personally and the covenant people of Israel federally, and the son is, of course, Jesus Christ (see also Rom. 16:20). John explicitly tells us that the dragon is the serpent from the garden (Rev. 12:9). This is the end of the need for the restriction of the lineage, which is why God does away with the ceremonial law, and opens the Church to the Gentiles, those who had formerly been legally unclean (both aspects are described in the account of Peter's dream in Acts 10:10-29; see also Eph. 2:11-16).

This is why I insist that the Mosaic covenant is not a covenant of works, but is rather a temporary administrative stage of the covenant of grace. It was a necessary preparation for the coming of the full salvation that we have in Jesus Christ. It is not, and never was, an opportunity for the Jews - or anyone else - to earn their way to eternal life through good works. This is clear even in its establishment. The account of the giving of the Ten Commandments is found in Exodus 20:1-17. However, verse 2, the Preamble, says, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." Before giving the shalls and shall-nots, God reminds the people of the redemption that He has already provided them, as the foundation on which the Law was to be built. Justification came before the Law (Rom. 4:10, 14; Gal. 3:17).

Contrary to the teachings of classical dispensationalism, there was never a time  - i. e., after the Fall of Adam - in which any man could be saved by works. In Adam, we all became sinners (Rom. 5:12). We start life as sinners (Psalm 51:5, 58:3). This is the key: sin does not make us sinners; we sin because we are already sinners. It is comparable to a runner in a race who runs facing the wrong way; no matter how fast he runs, he is incapable of winning the race. If that weren't the case, then Jesus would never have needed to come, to suffer, and to die on the cross. As Paul says (Gal. 3:21-22), "if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe."

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

In Eternity, Will Christians Sorrow Over Loved-Ones in Hell?

This is a question that I have been asked by both Seventh-Day Adventists (because they believe in the annihilation of the wicked) and atheists (who don't appear to stop and think that - in their worldview - all their loved ones have simply ceased to exist; is there no sorrow over that?). I expect that Jehovah's Witnesses ask it, too.

The answer to their question is, "No, Christians will not sorrow, whether for this or for any other reason." The Prophet Isaiah prophesied, "The ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (Isaiah 35:10). And the Apostle John agreed (Revelation 21:4): "[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." These are general considerations; there shall be no sorrow, over any matter, in glory.

But specifically on this issue, there will be no sorrow. It is true that, in this life, we sorrow over such things, because we do not yet have the perspective we will have in our glorified state. We still view things according to the values of our fallen state, that is, we look at the situation as sinners. Yet, even now, the scriptures urge us to place the holiness and justice of God ahead of our distorted emotions. In Psalm 9:16, David advises, "The Lord has made Himself known; He has executed judgment; the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands." And in Psalm 51:4, the same writer tells of himself, "Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You may be justified in Your words and blameless in Your judgment." And further, in Psalm 58:10, David realizes, "The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked." Notice that: when we are no longer sinners, in our glorification, we will have the perspective of God, and place His holiness ahead of our creaturely preferences. Logically, who matters more: God? Or your relatives?

David's point, in these Psalms, is that the justice of God's judgment is based on against whom sin is committed. Sin isn't naughtiness, as has become the common view in our society. It is an act of treason against our Creator, He Who made us and has provided the world we live in, the food, air, and water we require for survival, and the human comforts that make our lives enjoyable. To sin against Him after such gifts is wicked enough. However, if you further consider the gift that He has given in His Son, who suffered, bled, and died, how horrific we must now see sin to be. For this, God has said (Psalm 81:11-12), "My people did not listen to My voice; Israel would not submit to Me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels." He has allowed us to pursue the consequences of our own choices and actions. Can there be any injustice in Him now?

The Puritan theologian Thomas Watson said, "The reason why sin committed in a short time is eternally punished is because every sin is committed against an infinite essence, and no less than eternity of punishment can satisfy. Why is treason punished with confiscation and death, but because it is against the king's person, which is sacred; much more that offense which is committed against God's crown and dignity  is of a heinous and infinite nature, and cannot be satisfied with less than eternal punishment."

Yet, we must go further: God has allowed us, not only to pursue our own wicked choices, but also opportunities to awaken and repent of those choices. In Jeremiah 26:3 and 13, He said to Israel, "It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds... Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that He has pronounced against you." And in Revelation 2:21, "I gave her [i. e., Jezebel] time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality." Has He been unfair? Unjust? Clearly, He hasn't. So, how can anyone claim to have been wronged when He finally carries out the judgment which He has, so far, withheld? 

Now, to refer back to the question with which I began: Will Christians sorrow over loved-ones in Hell? No, we won't. Rather, we will rejoice that the holiness of God has been vindicated. In contrast, unbelievers will indeed suffer sorrow in the life to come, not just for their suffering loved-ones, but because of the judgment for their own personal sins. In fact, you will sorrow, not for loved-ones in Hell, but because of antipathy toward loved-ones in Heaven! If such sorrowing is a horror, something to be avoided, then the solution is to repent of your unbelief. Then, not only will you be freed from your condemnation, but you will also have a message of hope for your loved-ones. Rather than picture them in Hell, suffering for their sins, picture them saved from condemnation, never to suffer sorrow again. As John also says (Revelation 14:13, see also Job 3:17), "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. 'Blessed indeed,' says the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labors!'"

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Hypocrisy and True Spiritual Peace

In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus told a deep parable, that of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. In it, we see strikingly different attitudes in their approaches to God, representative of those of people everywhere. The Pharisee prays (verses 11-12), "God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust,
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get." Then He turns to the tax collector, who prays (verse 13), "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" Then the Lord ends the parable with His own inspired synopsis (verse 14): "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

Notice how much longer the prayer of the Pharisee is (see Matthew 6:1-4). He uses thirty-three words in this English version, all of them extolling his virtues. In contrast, the tax collector uses just seven words, begging for God's mercy on his sins. What a contrast! Thirty-three words to stand condemned, but only seven to be justified!

The Pharisee in the story exemplifies something that the Puritan Thomas Watson said: "The wicked may have something which looks like peace, but is not. They may be fearless and stupid, but there is a great difference between a stupified conscience and a pacified conscience. 'When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace.' Luke 11:21. This is the devil's peace. He rocks men in the cradle of security. He cries, 'Peace, peace,' when men are on the precipice of hell. The seeming peace that a sinner has is not from the knowledge of his happiness but from the ignorance of his danger."

This same false, self-deceived spiritual peace is spoken of by the Prophet Jeremiah (Jer.  3:3-5): "The showers have been withheld, and the spring rain has not come; yet you have the forehead of a whore; you refuse to be ashamed. Have you not just now called to Me, 'My father, you are the friend of my youth— will He be angry forever, will He be indignant to the end?' Behold, you have spoken, but you have done all the evil that you could." In a time of apostasy, the Jews spoke loving words to God, yet devoted themselves to their wicked deeds and idolatries, as if God could be deceived. Yet, He wasn't. And the Prophet Isaiah is even more blunt (Is. 57:21): "'There is no peace,' says my God, 'for the wicked.'"

Watson explains what is necessary for true peace between the sinner and his God: "The graft must first be inoculated into the tree before it can receive sap or nourishment from it; so we must first be
A tree prepared for grafting in a new branch.
ingrafted into Christ before we can receive peace from Him." It is only as the believer is connected to Christ by faith that he can experience true peace of conscience. Isaiah also teaches this (Is. 32:17): "The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever." See also Isaiah 9:6-7 and John 16:33. In contrast, the one who depends on his own worthiness is described in Deuteronomy 29:19-20: "The one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, 'I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart,' the Lord will not be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the Lord and His jealousy will smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book will settle upon him, and the Lord will blot out his name from under heaven." That is the fate of the Pharisee in the parable with which I began.

What is righteousness? It is a standard of action and motivation purely consistent with the commands and nature of God. Who meets that standard? No one but Jesus, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). That's why it is His righteousness, not our own, that we need, when we seek to approach God: "[They] who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works" (Romans 9:31-32). What righteousness? "The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe" (Romans 3:22).

Anyone who follows the example of the Pharisee, satisfied with his own goodness to qualify him for eternal life, condemns himself. The one who, like the tax collector, recognizes his own unrighteousness, but looks to that of Christ alone, is justified, and receives both peace with God and peace of conscience.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Pre-Incarnate Sonship of Christ: A Message for Oneness Believers

According to Oneness Pentecostals, the baby in the Bethlehem manger was the revelation of God the Father in the flesh as Son. That is, there is no separate Person of the Son. The Son is the flesh, while the Father is the deity. They challenge orthodox Christians to show where Scripture reveals a pre-existent Son. That is the question I wish to address.

In the Old Testament, I would refer first to Psalm 2:7-9: "The Lord said to Me, 'You are My Son; today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will make the nations Your heritage, and the ends of the earth Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.'" This passage is applied to Christ in Hebrews 1:5. And secondly, II Samuel 7:14: "I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son." This text is also referred to Christ in Hebrews 1:5, though it was originally spoken of Solomon, as a type of Christ.

In the New Testament, we can look at Galatians 4:4: "When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law." Notice that God sent His Son; He didn't come forth as His [own] Son! Thus, not only must the Son have already existed, but there is a distinction between the Father Who sends and the Son Who is sent.

Thus, we can see in just these three places, two in the Old Testament (but cited in the New) and one in the New Testament, that the Sonship of Christ didn't begin at His incarnation, but was an eternal aspect of His existence. This is not an exhaustive list, but suffices to demonstrate that the Oneness view misrepresents the teachings of Scripture.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Predestination: The Simple Contradiction in the Arminian Response

Peter and John Before the Sanhedrin
In Romans 8:29, the Apostle Paul says, "Those whom He foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the firstborn among many brothers." That seems straightforward to me. However, Arminians usually claim that Paul has the order confused, and that it is those who are conformed to Christ that have been foreknown by God, and then predestined. That is, their predestination results from their faith, as foreseen by God. Their faith is not, they insist, the result of His predestination.

I consider it sufficient refutation of that view that it is the opposite of what Paul actually says, a twisting of the Scripture. However, I think it also gets the Arminian into serious trouble elsewhere.

In Acts, chapter 4, the Apostles Peter and John have been summoned before the Sanhedrin. Contrary, perhaps, to common sense, the Apostles tell these Jewish leaders (Acts 4:10-11), "Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by Him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone." Afterward, the Apostles pray (Acts 4:27-28), "Truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place."

Now, the question raised by this passage is this: if predestination is simply God's declaration of what He has foreseen will happen, does the Arminian then suggest that the events described here happened by human will, were foreseen by God, and then predestined by Him? That makes complete nonsense out of the reactions of the Apostles! They express their security in the knowledge that the events, as frightening as they must have been, were in the predetermined will of God, so that there was no danger to them, outside the providence of God.

As a Calvinist, that is the security I derive from the doctrine of predestination for everything in my life. While I certainly have the same emotions as any other man, they are tempered by my foundational belief that everything, as scary as it may seem, is in the purposes of God, in which all things happen for my good (Romans 8:28). If there were events which are truly contingent on the will of men, that is, outside God's determining will, then would I be truly terrified.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

"Progressive" Female Clergy Campaign for Sacrifices to Moloch

A Protest in Support of Planned Parenthood
I am horrified by the recent revelation of several of these stories. I have already written about Episcopal clergy and liberal Presbyterian and United Church of Christ clergy who are campaigning for the right to exterminate unborn children, as described in the Old Testament. Abortion is a modern version of Moloch worship, a prosperity rite, in which people sacrificed their own children by fire. Yet here is another such story, adding United Methodist clergy. These clergypersons are carrying signs claiming to be "pro-faith," and so they are, but not the Christian faith; they represent the lowest form of paganism, child sacrifice!

Note that the clergy mentioned here are female, using, not biblical justifications (because there can be none), but vague gushings of "love" and "reproductive rights," while calling abortion opponents "radical religious right" who "attack women." Perhaps no one has ever told them that the majority of aborted babies is female. Abortion is not just an attack on women, but a massacre of them. Where is the love in that?

Planned Parenthood was founded by the infamous Margaret Sanger, a well-known advocate of eugenics for the improving of the human race. How was abortion designed to improve the race? By exterminating blacks, Southerners, the poor, and Christians. This is the "love" that these clergy are promoting. And when they talk about "reproductive rights," they really mean privileges for rich, "progressive" whites, like themselves. The poor and minorities are the targets of Planned Parenthood, not the beneficiaries.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Prayer to Jesus is Prayer to God

Jesus says something very interesting about Himself in John 5:22-23: "The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him." In theological terms, He is referring to His equality with the Father in the ontological Trinity, much as Paul does in Philippians 2:6. "Ontological" means as they are by nature, as opposed to the "economic" Trinity, which describes the voluntary aspects of the relationship among the Persons of the Trinity. By nature, i. e., ontologically, the three Persons are equal in essence, power, and glory. In their relationship, i. e., economically, the Father rules, while the Son is voluntarily subordinate to Him, and the Spirit is voluntarily subordinate to both. That is why we use the terminology of "First Person," "Second Person," and "Third Person."

The significance of these verses is that Jesus claims the same glory from us, as creatures, that we give the Father. In the trinitarian system, this is both understandable and appropriate. However, consistent with their Arian view of Christ, Jehovah's Witnesses see Him as ontologically inferior to the Father, and, therefore, deny His right to worship. For example, they do not address Him in prayer, but rather address all prayers to "Jehovah God." 

Of course, there is nothing wrong with praying to Jehovah; that is, after all, the name by which He revealed Himself in the Old Testament. However, to claim that there is something wrong with praying to Jesus in antibiblical. In Acts 7:59, we see the Deacon Stephen, as he is being stoned by a Jewish mob, pray out loud, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Furthermore, the last prayer recorded in Scripture, that of the Apostle John in Revelation 22:20, is, "Come, Lord Jesus.

So, the view of the Jehovah's Witness conflicts with both the words He spoke of Himself in John 5:22-23, and with the recorded prayers of the New Testament saints in Acts 7:59 and Rev. 22:20. That is simply because their christology is contrary to Scripture and results in their unbiblical view of prayer.

Finally, I will refer you to Hebrews 1:6, in which the Father is quoted, "When He brings the firstborn into the world, He says, 'Let all God’s angels worship Him.'" It is the commandment of the Father that worship in Heaven be given to the Son. If the Father commands it, how can the Watchtower deny Him what is due?

This passage also undermines Sabellianism, because the Son doesn't say to honor Him instead of the Father, but rather with the Father. If there were no distinction of Persons within the Godhead, as Sabellians teach, then Jesus would be advocating nonsense here.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Do We Understand How Sinful Sin Really Is? The Puritans Did!

The Puritan Thomas Watson, in his Body of Divinity, lists ten ways in which sin is truly sinful:

     1) Incredulity: Our first parents did not believe that what God had spoken was truth (Gen. 2:16-17, 3:4). They believed not that they should die, because they could not be persuaded that such fair fruit had death at the door. Thus, by unbelief they made God a liar. In fact, what was worse was that they believed the devil rather than God.

     2) Unthankfulness: God had enriched Adam with a variety of mercies, stamped His own image on him, made him lord of the world, and given him the fruit of all the trees for food, with just one excepted. Thus, to take from that one tree was high ingratitude.

     3) Discontent: Adam differed little from the angels (Ps. 8:5), had native innocence, and enjoyed the glory of Paradise as his realm. Yet, he had to have more, because his heart could not be satisfied with all that he had.

     4) Pride: he loved the offer of Satan to become like God (Gen. 3:5)!

     5) Disobedience: God had given him his existence and all his subsistence, so it was right to expect his obedience.

     6) Curiosity: Adam sought to meddle with what was not his, though it was to cost him everything.

     7) Wantonness: With the choice of all other trees, Adam had all of his needs filled, but demanded the satisfaction of his lusts as well. Watson is expressing the same truth as in James 1:14-15: "Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death."

     8) Sacrilege: God had reserved this one tree of the garden for Himself, yet Adam deigned to rob Him of what was His alone.

     9) Murder: as the federal head of all his posterity in the covenant of works, Adam represented us in his actions, and chose to bring the curse of death on all of humanity (Rom. 5:12).

     10) Presumption: Adam presumed, contrary to God's warning, that he would not die, regardless of his actions. "Surely," he decided, "God must relent if I choose to do as I wish."

And later in the same book, Watson makes this observation: "The sight of Christ's bleeding body should incense us against sin. Let us not parley with it; let that not be our joy, which made Christ a man of sorrow." This is, again, a precept from James 2:10: "Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it." Whatever sin any person holds onto, thinking it just isn't really so bad, he must think differently if he understands that any sin makes the sinner guilty of breaking the whole law (James 2:11). This especially overthrows the Catholic distinction between "mortal" and "venial" sins. According to James (a book that they otherwise enjoy quoting), and, as repeated by Watson, every sin is mortal (Ezekiel 18:4, Rom. 6:23).

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Perseverance by Grace in the Ministry of Paul

We have all read of Paul's imprisonments. The first, house arrest in Rome for two years, is described at the end of Acts. The second ended with his martyrdom. It is during the first that he wrote what are commonly called his "prison epistles," Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Even before his second imprisonment, Paul was conscious of a time of martyrdom approaching (II Timothy 4:6-8): "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day."
Timothy as a child, learning the Scriptures.
Paul's attitude here is so contrary to the predominant theology of our day, which I label "neo-Pelagianism." According to that theology, there is no security for the believer; he can fall into unbelief at any time, if he ever stops having enough faith. My response is that such a belief turns the Christian life into the same terror against which Martin Luther revolted on October 31, 1517. And it certainly isn't an accurate portrayal of Paul's attitude in this passage.

According to the Arminian, Paul could fall from his faith before his death, and thus lose his salvation. Yet, Paul expresses his secure hope in a successfully-run race, for which he would soon receive the crown of righteousness in glory. Where is his insecurity? He shows none.

Further, a few verses later, Paul tells Reverend Timothy (II Tim. 4:18), "The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom." Not "my strength," not "my faith," not "my holiness." In fact, not "my" anything! Rather, he looks to Jesus to carry him through, just as he described in Philippians 1:6: "I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." That is why I dislike even the phrase "once saved, always saved," because it gives the misimpression that it is the strength of the individual that brings him safely through this life. Rather, I use the historical phrase "perseverance of the saints," because it is God Who carries the believer by means of faith and sanctification until the day of his glorification (Romans 8:30). That is why Paul is secure as he sees death approaching, because he knows he can trust his divine redeemer, Jesus Christ (Deut. 33:27, Psalm 145:20, II Tim. 1:12 NASB, John 10:28).

Since the earliest days of my Christian life, thirty-three years ago, I have never understood why people hate this doctrine. Why do they prefer the terror of believing that they may be saved today, just to lose it tomorrow? Even if it were true - and I thank God that it isn't - such a doctrine would be too horrific for me to hold. What does such a doctrine say about the efficacy of Christ's blood and the ministry of the Holy Spirit?

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception: Was Mary Really Sinless?

The Catholic Church holds as dogma the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Many Christians mistakenly believe that this refers to the sinlessness and virgin birth of Jesus. However, it is actually about the supposed sinless conception and life of Mary. Catholics claim that her sinlessness was
necessary to make her worthy of giving birth to the Lord. The doctrine is claimed to be from "tradition," but was only decreed as official by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854.

Christians should have a huge problem with this doctrine. For one thing, the Bible says that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Jesus alone is exempted through His conception by the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 4:15, II Corinthians 5:21). If Mary escaped a sinful nature, then the Bible's teachings about our need of salvation all tumble like a house of cards.

However, in addition to this general objection, there are also specific biblical references which preclude the Catholic view.

We know, from Luke 2:24, that Mary made the sacrifice of atonement for a new mother (Leviticus 12:2). Specifically, she sacrificed two pigeons, the sacrifice for someone who was too poor to offer a lamb (Lev. 12:8). Mary was unclean, and thus had to atone, neither of which can be consistent with sinlessness.

The problem with the Catholic doctrine isn't simply that it is wrong, but rather because it undermines the office of Christ as Mediator between God and fallen Man. It has also led the Catholic Church actually to change Scripture. In Genesis 3:15, in what is called the Protevangelium, Catholic bibles have replaced "He will bruise your [i. e., the serpent's] head and you will bruise His heel," [emphasis added] with "she will bruise your head, and you will bruise her heel." These versions follow the Vulgate in changing the masculine singular of the Hebrew to the feminine singular in Latin. This has been used to justify giving a mediatorial and redemptive role to Mary alongside that of Christ, in explicit violation of I Timothy 2:5: "there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."

This is how this works: by giving Mary a role of redemptrix and mediatrix next to that of Christ, and then pointing out that Protestants reject any such role, the Church of Rome lays claim to providing a supposedly-superior form of spiritual security. However, since that claim is based on both false and falsified evidence, it is a deception, one that will lead many sincere people on the wide road into Hell (Matthew 7:13). That is why I persist in calling the Roman Catholic Church a cult, and in urging people to abandon her for the sake of their souls (Revelation 18:4).

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

In Honor of the Pope's Visit to the United States

Back in 1987, then-Pope John-Paul II visited the United States, including a stop in neighboring South Carolina. At the time, a co-worker, a professing atheist, said to me, "You must be excited." "Why?" I asked her. "Because of the Pope's visit," she replied. "But I'm not Catholic," I explained, to her blank face. She didn't understand the distinction between Catholics and Protestants. I am saddened to say that my experiences, even with Protestants over the years, has convinced me that few of us understand, either.

Beginning with the nailing of his 95 Theses on the Wittenburg Church door by Martin Luther on October 31, 1517 (so the 500th anniversary is approaching), Protestants have systematized our conflict with Rome in the so-called Five Solas:

Sola Scriptura: that our only infallible standard for spiritual truth is the Holy Bible, in the Old and New Testaments, and what by necessary logical consequence might be based on them.

Soli Deo Gloria: that our salvation and sanctification are for the glory of God alone, not based on any works for which a man might claim credit.

Solus Christus: that our salvation is based on the finished work of Christ alone, in His life, crucifixion, resurrection, and eternal intercession.

Sola Gratia: by grace alone, that is, by God's voluntary condescension, not because of any obligation that we have placed upon Him.

Sola Fide: that it is by faith alone, as the instrumental means, that the works of Christ are imputed to us for our justification.

These Five Solas (Latin for "alone") are the essential points of conflict between the churches of the Reformation and the Church of Rome. She has never changed her denial of these five truths, so our repudiation of her legitimacy must be maintained, for the rest of human history, if need be. Any ecumenical relationship, while she continues in her apostasy from the Gospel, can only carry Protestants into judgment with her. As Jesus Himself says (Revelation 18:4): "Come out of her, My people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues."

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Calling of the Jews, as Described in Jeremiah

In Question 191, the Westminster Larger Catechism asks, "What do we pray for in the second petition [of the Lord's Prayer]?" The answer says, in part, "In the second petition (which is, Thy kingdom come), acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fulness of the Gentiles brought in..." And the Directory for the Publick Worship of God, under the heading of "prayer," directs that prayer be made, among other things, "for the conversion of the Jews, the fulness of the Gentiles..." That is almost a direct quote from the Apostle Paul in Romans 11:25-26: "a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved..." It is these promises on which the catechism answer is based.

Did this concept originate with Paul? Is this a Christian imposition, and to be considered offensive by Jews? I answer no to both questions.

In Jeremiah 31:3-4, we find, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued My faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel!" This promise appears after long passages protesting the apostasy of Israel, which God would judge with the seventy-year exile in Babylon (e. g., Jer. 25:18). The prophet continues in verse 6, "For there shall be a day when watchmen will call in the hill country of Ephraim: 'Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God.'" Verse 9, "With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back..., for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn." And 13-14, "I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance, and My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, declares the Lord.

"Don't these verses refer to the return of Israel after the Exile?" someone may ask. Modern Jews limit it to that application. On the other hand, dispensationalists apply it to the modern State of Israel. The problem for either interpretation is further down the passage.

In verses 18-20, the prophet tells us, "I have heard Ephraim grieving, 'You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined, like an untrained calf; bring me back that I may be restored, for You are the Lord my God. For after I had turned away, I relented, I was ashamed, and I was confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth.' Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he My darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord." This is a description of the repentance of Israel, and return to faithfulness to her God, which certainly has not happened. Ancient Israel continued in apostasy, even rejecting and killing her Messiah, so that God destroyed their nation, city, and temple, in 70AD. And today's State of Israel is overwhelmingly secular. Under her laws, a Jew can be religious, agnostic, atheist, or even Buddhist or New Age. What he cannot be is a follower of Jesus the Messiah.

And in verses 33-34 (part of the same New Covenant passage quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12), God Himself says, "This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put My law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."  This is what Paul talks about, when Israel repents of her apostasy and turns, as a nation, to her Messiah, Jesus Christ. The key is found in Jer. 30:9: "They shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them." The restoration prophesied by Jeremiah isn't geographical or political, but rather a restoration through Jesus, the Davidic king (compare Isaiah 9:6-7 and Jer. 33:14-26). That has, demonstrably, not happened yet.

That same event is described by the Prophet Zechariah (Zech. 12:10): "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on Me, on Him Whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over Him, as one weeps over a firstborn." Their God, Jehovah, promises to send His Holy Spirit to change their hearts, so that they will finally recognize Who Jesus is, and what they did to Him 2,000 years ago. And He shall receive them (Rom. 11:26-27, Isa. 59:20-21): "The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will banish ungodliness from Jacob; and this will be My covenant with them when I take away their sins." Thus, both Old and New Testaments prophecy of a time when the Jews, en masse, will repent of their hardheartedness, and turn to their God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Another Clergyman Comes Out for Molech: Abortion

I wrote recently about some Episcopal Church clergy who were campaigning for the right to kill babies and rip their bodies apart. Now word has come out about United Church of Christ Minister Tom Davis, who has written a book, Sacred Work: Planned Parenthood and Its Clergy Alliances, in which he
claims that pro-abortion clergy teach "a form of humane theology." Yes, readers, Davis claims that a humane view of God requires a clergyman to advocate for the mass murder of unborn children.

Together with David, Presbyterian Church (USA) Minister Andrew Kukla explained on his blog that he loves everything about the organization. He said, "I love Planned Parenthood. I love the people that are Planned Parenthood. I love their ministry [sic]. I love that they live resurrection in a way I only talk about it." Hmmm... the "ministry" and "love" of Planned Parenthood, by which "they live resurrection." Are these men supporting abortion to speed these children on their ways to resurrection? Such doublespeak explains why the memberships of both denominations are imploding before our eyes.

In contrast, as I have also noted recently, true Presbyterians are publicizing the death industry behind the doors of Planned Parenthood.

Davis and Kukla, regardless of their claims or of their media images, are no clergy of Christ. In fact, I cannot accept them even as mere Christians. What they advocate is completely unlike biblical religion, but is actually a revival of the human sacrifices of Molech worship. Condemnations of these practices can be seen in Leviticus 20:3 and 20:5. Yet, the Israelites adopted that same practice, which was part of the apostasy for which God punished them in the Exile (see, for example, Jeremiah 32:34-35).

David, Kukla, and the Episcopal priests, and all who march with them for human sacrifice, in spite of their spiritual-sounding claims, are marching to bring God's judgment on America. As I have also written, God holds us accountable for shedding innocent blood. How many could the Israelites have sacrificed? Hundreds, maybe thousands, yet God destroyed their nation. What will he do for the tens of millions of innocent babies that we have killed, just since 1973?

Are these so-called clergymen accountable for their activities? Of course! In fact they bring upon themselves an even heavier judgment. God tells them, "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness" (James 3:1). Not that I believe that these men and women will be frightened merely by the words of God.

However, they will not be alone in their judgment. Does anyone really believe that the congregations that pay the salaries of these clergypersons can wash their hands of the actions of their clergy? God says to you (Jeremiah 23:16-17), "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, 'It shall be well with you'; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, 'No disaster shall come upon you.'"

I think of something else that God is saying to you: "Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues" (Revelation 18:4). Your money and membership are being used to support these pagan men and their vile activities. No matter how much you might cluck your tongue at them - and I am being generous to assume even that much - your passive support enables them to continue. And, as Jesus said in the Revelation, you will share in their plagues.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

God's Judgment on Manmade Religion

The Prophet Jeremiah gave his prophecies in the time immediately before and immediately after the sacking of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, followed by the subsequent exile of the Jews to Babylon. His sermons before those events were proclamations of God's judgment against Judah, for which these events were His judgment.

Notice the pattern in the quotations below:

Jeremiah 3:17: "They shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart."

Jeremiah 7:24: "They did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward."

Jeremiah 11:8: "They did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart."

Jeremiah 13:10: "This evil people, who refuse to hear My words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them."

Jeremiah 23:17: "They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, 'It shall be well with you'; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, 'No disaster shall come upon you.'"

Do you see what each of these verses says? God doesn't chastise Judah for a lack of religiosity. Rather, He chastises them for religious practices according to the inclinations of their own hearts. Judah even proclaimed her innocence (Jer. 2:35), and pretended not to understand why He was angry with them. God acknowledges that they have continued in their religious activities, but not according to His purposes (Jer. 7:9-11): "Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I Myself have seen it, declares the Lord." Look also at Jer. 7:21-26.

God makes a final effort to call His covenant people to repentance (verses 5-7):  "If you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever." Yet, in the face of His mercy, Judah refuses. Jer. 8:6: "They have not spoken rightly; no man relents of his evil, saying, 'What have I done?' Everyone turns to his own course."

What was the real religious devotion of Judah? (Jer. 9:13-14): "They have forsaken My law that I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice or walked in accord with it, but have stubbornly followed their own hearts..." It is that same error described above: will-worship. They preferred the spiritual exercises that they had invented (or borrowed from their pagan neighbors) over those commanded by God in His word.

This is a description of two times in our own Western history: it was part of the complaints of the Reformers against the Church of Rome that she had polluted Christian worship with pagan images and pageantry not authorized by Scripture, and again in the "seeker-friendly" neopaganism which is spreading in our own time.  Rome has added additional "sacraments" and dogmas, not to mention the superstious praying to angels and saints. She is the exemplar of "following their own hearts." And why is that so bad? Jeremiah answers that question, too (Jer. 17:9): "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick." While Rome pretends to an authority to legislate faith and morals beyond the mandates of Scripture, God says that the reservoir from which she draws is deceitful (which is not to exempt Protestant innovators of the same criticism).

Judah's apostasy here is in violation to the First and Second Commandments of God (Exodus 20:3-4). While Rome attempts to obscure the Second by subsuming it into the First, by doing so she merely demonstrates that her error is no accident, but is willful and deliberate. In my own tradition, it is called the Regulative Principle of Worship, and is explicitly enjoined in the Westminster Larger Catechism, Question 109: "The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God Himself." That is our rejection of the worship in the Church of Rome.

This truth led to an essential warning in the Westminster Confession of Faith (XX:2): "God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to His Word, or beside it in matters of faith on worship. So that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commandments out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience; and the requiring an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also."