Saturday, October 21, 2017

Science Without God Results in an Irrational Universe

Science assumes that things can be understood because they operate according to rules, resulting in predictable and testable outcomes. However, a philosophy of science that excludes God introduces an assumption that some things, at least, and fundamental things, in particular, happen by chance, and are, therefore, neither predictable nor testable.

This results in an atheism (or a theism which assumes that God is not relevant, i. e., deism) that depends for its rational basis on holding two mutually-exclusive presuppositions simultaneously. That is, to use the terminology of logic, it holds "A" and "not-A" together, in violation of the Law of Non-Contradiction. This basic law of logic says simply that a premise and its contrary cannot both be true at the same time.

In contrast, positing God as the origin, not chance, provides the basis of rationality on which science depends. It is the biblical God who testifies that it is "in Him [that] we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). It is His a priori rationality that gives order and comprehensibility to all other things: "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17).

In other words, the logic of science requires, not the exclusion of the concept of God, but rather the assumption of the biblical God. When scientists perform their research or their experiments, they are assuming the very rationality of God, while repudiating it in their conscious statements. In fact, that is the only way that science can function, by acting on principles that it denies, while advocating principles which undermine its very existence.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Astrology: Is Our Destiny in the Stars?

There's a big word that I want to talk about: syncretism. Have you ever heard it? Syncretism is the combination, usually unconscious, of contrasting worldviews. An example is the word that is being bandied about in some quarters, "Chrislam," to refer to a combination of Christianity and Islam. Paul describes syncretism in Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ." The particular form that I want to address is the use of astrology by professing Christians, such as this woman who describes herself as "a Christian astrologer."

Her justification is from Genesis 1:14: "And God said, 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years.'" She says, "I feel that astrology was a tool created by God for us to understand ourselves better and to use as a spiritual tool. I feel that there are many biblical verses that support astrology." Notice her words, "I feel," not once, but twice. That is, her use of this verse (she also mentions Luke 21:25) isn't based on exegesis, an interpretation of the verse using grammar and its historical and biblical context, but rather on her feelings. That is always the start of syncretism, because "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick" (Jeremiah 17:9).

What does exegesis teach us about the role of the stars? Consider the case of Esau and Jacob, the twin sons of Isaac (Genesis 25:19-28). As twins, the two were born under the same planetary and stellar positions, the very things that are supposed to be determinative, according to astrologers. Yet, what do we know about their futures? "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" (Malachi 1:2-3, Romans 9:13), polar opposites. Paul uses these twins, born under the same astronomical circumstances, as a case study (Romans 9:16): "So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." That is, Esau and Jacob don't tell us anything about the planets and stars, but rather about the sovereign grace of God.

And that's the problem with astrology. It posits ultimate sovereignty, not in the hands of a living, just, and loving God, but rather in the paths of stellar objects, though they, too, owe their existence and positions to that God (Genesis 1:14, Job 9:8, Zechariah 12:1). And God has no tolerance for giving His glory to anything or anyone else (Isaiah 42:8, 48:11). In fact, He rejects anyone who tries to do so (Deuteronomy 29:18-20): "Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, 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.’ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike. 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."

Monday, October 16, 2017

Christ, Our Conquering King!

Question 45 of the Westminster Larger Catechism asks, How does Christ execute the office of a king? And answers it this way: "Christ executes the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visibly governs them; in bestowing saving grace upon his elect, rewarding their obedience, and correcting them for their sins, preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings, restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel."

There's a lot there, and I won't even try to address it all.

In Psalm 110:1, the Father gave a promise to the Son as part of the intra-Trinitarian covenant in prehistory: "Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool" (applied to the Son in Hebrews 1:13). The Father had determined to glorify the Son by giving Him visible rule over the creation. History has been the record of the fulfillment of that promise, as the rule of Christ is established over the kingdoms of the world (compare Daniel 2:44-45, Revelation 11:15).

The theme of the royal destiny of the Son is especially described in the second Psalm:
"'As for Me, I have set my King
     on Zion, My holy hill.' 

I will tell of the decree:
     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.' 

     Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
     Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
     Kiss the Son,
lest He be angry, and you perish in the way,
     for His wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in Him."
- Psalm 2:6-12 

What we don't see here is a description of the means of that conquest. There are militaristic expressions, but no mention of armies or weapons. In fact, Scripture denies a spiritual role for weapons of war: "The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds" (II Corinthians 10:4). So, no tanks or nuclear bombs, or even swords or arrows. What then?

Some of Jesus's last words during His earthly ministry are found in the Great Commission: "Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age'" (Matthew 28:18-20). Here, Jesus claims "all authority," that is, the very delegation of royal prerogative we find in Psalm 2. As King, what assignment does He then give His captains, the Apostles (and we after them)? To disciple the nations, part of which is to teach them to obey His Law.

Therefore, the answer to the assignment in Psalm 2 is no military conquest. Nor is it some waving of a divine hand from heaven. This is in spite of the obvious fact that either one would be within the power on omnipotent deity. Rather, the submission of all things to the crown rights of Jesus is through His people, as we proclaim the Gospel and train the nations to live as Christians. Evangelism and missions will conquer the world, because our Savior is already king!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Can There Be a Doctrine of "Evangelical Universalism"?

Paul, Preaching the Gospel on Mars Hill
This is something that I have been running into over the last two years or so. "Evangelical Universalism" is a doctrine held by people who claim to honor Scripture, but believe that all humans, without exception, will eventually be saved.

I admit that I am mystified by any such assertion. More particularly, I see explicit statements in Scripture that preclude such a possibility. I am including statements of judgment against unbelievers. However, the Evangelical Universalists (hereafter, EU's) aren't moved by those statements. Therefore, I am going to take a different tack.

To my mind, the bluntest statement precluding any form of universalism, evangelical or otherwise, is one sentence from Paul (Romans 14:23): "Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." That one sentence leaves no room to suppose that there can be an unconscious means to eternal life. Rather, all such unconscious motivation is itself sin. Rather, what pleases God is only that which arises from faith, which must mean a knowledge and acceptance of His nature, His word, and the rule of life that He has given us in the Bible.

The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (either Paul or a close associate of his) stated it even more forcefully: "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him." He repeats the requirement of faith, but then adds content to that faith. That is, faith, per se, faith in faith, is not meritorious, but rather faith in the proper object!

The EU movement claims a scriptural basis, in their effort to retain their "evangelical" bonafides. Yet, just by these two verses, I think they are completely excluded from making any such claim legitimately.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

"Soul Sleep": Biblical History Says Otherwise

The Seventh-Day Adventists (and some other smaller groups) teach a doctrine of "soul sleep," i. e., the believe that the spirits of the dead are unconscious until the resurrection. The Jehovah's Witnesses - who come from the same Millerite roots - have a similar doctrine, holding that the spirits of the dead are actually annihilated, to be re-created at the resurrection.

Both doctrines are contrary to the orthodox, biblical view that the spirits of the dead are either in heaven (II Corinthians 5:8, Philippians 1:23) or in hell (II Peter 2:9), waiting to be rejoined to their bodies at the resurrection, to face the great judgment.

In addition to those verses, the concept of "soul sleep" runs contrary to the historical events described in Scripture.

In the Old Testament, we have accounts of two men who were whisked away to heaven, without first undergoing physical death. The first was Enoch, of whom we read (Genesis 5:24), "Enoch walked with God, and [then] he was not, for God took him." The other was the Prophet Elijah, of whom we read (II Kings 2:11), "Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." Since neither man died, it cannot be asserted that his spirit went to sleep or was annihilated, can it?

In the New Testament, the Gospel writers (Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-13, Luke 9:28-36, see also II Peter 1:16-18) tell us of the Transfiguration of Jesus, at which His disciples saw Him with Elijah and Moses. If Elijah and Moses are unconscious, or more so if they are annihilated, how could they appear with Jesus?

Moreover, we have the testimony of Jesus to the Sadducees: "As for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not God of the dead, but of the living" (Matthew 22:31-32). The Sadducees had attempted deceptively to talk about life in the resurrection - deceptive because they didn't believe in the resurrection. In response, the Lord rebukes them, because God isn't God in some hypothetical future, but now, to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who had been long dead. They are alive now, He tells the Sadducees, and God is their God now

Soul sleep (or annihilation) is a false doctrine, contrary, not just to the doctrinal assertions of Scripture, but also to the experiences of the saints in Scripture.

Monday, October 9, 2017

How Many Ways of Salvation Are There?

One of the most distinctive teachings of classical dispensationalism is that there have been different means of salvation down through history. Especially my point here is the teaching that Jews were and are saved by obeying the Mosaic law. Most modern dispensationalists have repudiated that teaching, but it is still taught by heretics like John Hagee. In a newspaper interview, Hagee said, "I believe that every Jewish person who lives in the light of the Torah, which is the word of God, has a relationship with God and will come to redemption," and "I'm not trying to convert the Jewish people to the Christian faith."

That is heresy. It is also wicked, because Hagee avoids explaining the Gospel to people who do not know Jesus. Scripture includes strong warnings against that neglect: "If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand" (Ezekiel 3:18). God considers Hagee to be a murderer of eternal souls!

One might ask, and rightly so, where Scripture indicates that Hagee's teaching is heretical. I would refer him to the Epistle to the Romans, where Paul deals at length with the issue of salvation under the Old Testament. However, I will cite just one verse from Acts: "We believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will" (Acts 15:11). The context is the Council of Jerusalem, at which the surviving Apostles and the elders of the Jerusalem-area presbytery met to hear the report of Paul and Barnabas regarding their evangelistic work among the Gentiles. It is Peter's response that we read in verse 11, proclaiming to the council that he expected for himself and his fellow Jews to be saved by the same grace through faith by which the Gentiles were finding salvation.

Scripture does not allow the belief that there is any way of salvation apart from that of Ephesians 2:8-9: "By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." This is the only Gospel message that a biblical Christian can declare, whether to Jews or to Gentiles.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Circularity and Presuppositional Apologetcs

As a Christian, my standard of truth can only be the Bible. That is not a rejection of logic. Rather, logic provides rules for combining information to produce valid results. The Bible provides the infallible truth from which I can then derive logical arguments.

In contrast, most atheists claim logic as their standard of truth (I say most, because there are some atheists who are explicit irrationalists).

The latter accuse me of circular reasoning, in that I start with the Bible as true, and from it develop my belief
in the necessary truth of the triune God, the sinfulness of men, young-earth creation, etc.

However, that accusation is full of unstated premises. First, it fails to consider the circularity of the rationalist's own worldview. Justify the use of logic without using logic in your justification. It's impossible! Second, it ignores the nature of logic, which requires external truths, but then provides rules for putting those truths into valid arguments. What is the source of the atheists external truths? No one says. And the third, the biggest one, is the assumption of autonomy, as I describe next.

The actual difference between the Christian use of logic and that of the atheist is not, therefore, that one is circular while the other is not. That is, in fact, not the case. Rather, the difference is an a priori judgment of authority. The atheist makes himself the authority in the judgment of truth. That is, he assumes the very conclusion that his logic is meant to demonstrate, that he is an autonomous master of fate. That is the destructive, even if unstated, circularity in the argument of the atheist. On that basis, the atheist excludes any evidence that requires his dependence, rather than his independence. Why must we conclude that the world as it is results from chance? Because we start with the exclusion of the possibility that it has a personal plan in its creation and organization.

The believer, however, makes no such a priori exclusion. In not assuming his autonomy, and thus excluding any evidence against it, the Christian can acknowledge the self-revelation of God in the Bible, and see everything as a demonstration of God's existence and providence. He sees that facts do not pop into existence to serve us, but fall into a necessary and good order according to their determination by the triune God, the only rational basis for the relationship between the one and the many.

Thus, the circularity of which the atheist accuses the Christian actually cuts both ways, but the atheist has the additional circularity of defining the evidence to fit his a priori assumption of autonomy.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Assurance Requires a Sound Foundation on God's Sovereignty

Building on a foundation of sand
My greatest objection to Arminianism is not that it is contrary to Scripture. It is, but so are a lot of things. Rather, my foremost objection is to the kind of God that Arminianism presents. The Arminian makes every man, every act of nature, even every animal, to be sovereign. That is, the Arminian believes that things can and do act apart from, or even contrary to, the will of God. Therefore, in the Arminian universe, God is the only entity is who is not sovereign. He is the doddering grandfather of Deism who created the world, set it in motion, and just wrings His hands, hoping that everything works out OK. Such a concept should make the Christian wretch in disgust!

In contrast, the biblical God, the God described by the Calvinist, is a God in charge, on the basis of whom the Christian has a rational hope and assurance, not only in this world, but in eternity, because he knows that they are under the intimate control of God on His throne.

Consider, for example, Jeremiah 23:4: "I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord." This is an unequivocal declaration by God of His intent to protect and prosper His people. There is no hemming and hawing, no hoping, no wishing. Rather, it is a straightforward statement of intent, and the expectation that His intent will succeed.

We see the same sentiment in the New Testament, in the words of Jesus Himself (John 6:39): "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day." Again, take note of the divine certitude. This will happen! Not might, should, would, or could. Jesus is confident, not in men or fate, but rather in His own sovereign decree, to achieve His purpose.

Even apart from the simple truth issue, why would anyone want a God like the God of Arminianism? I don't think I could survive the day with the assurance that I could have on that foundation of sand. I thank God that He is sovereign, and I am not!

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Baptism of Households as God's Plan to Build His Church

One conclusion that I have had from the debate over believers' baptism versus infant baptism is that it is not a matter of the scriptural evidence about baptism. Rather, it is a disagreement over God's aim in salvation. Is it the individual? I think the credobaptist would say yes. However, the paedobaptist would say no.

In the account of the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:16-40), we see this question addressed. When the doors of his jail are thrown open, the jailer, thinking that he would be executed for negligence, asks Paul and Silas, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (verse 30). His concern is about his own eternal welfare. But the answer of Paul and Silas is a little different: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household" (verse 31). They address his question, "You will be saved," but go further, "and your household."

We also see this in the conversion of Lydia, in the same chapter, verses11-15. When she is converted, who gets baptized? "She was baptized, and her household as well" (verse 15). We see again the inclusion, not just of the one professing faith, but of his or her entire family! My pastor calls this "oikobaptism," from the Greek word for house or household.

These accounts show us that God's target for faith isn't just the individual, but families. And that is the dividing line between credobaptists, who tend to have an atomistic view of conversion, that the individual is all that matters, and the paedobaptist, or oikobaptist, who attends to the family.

Baptists will often refer to themselves as "New Testament Christians." And it is that semi-blindness that produces their error. While I have shown above that the atomisitic view is contrary to New Testament teaching, it is essential to note that the New Testament teaching is merely a carry-over from the Old Testament: "The LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live" (Deuteronomy 30:6). God has never had an atomistic view of His plans for the regeneration of the world. And it is the failure to recognize that that leads to the Baptist error of rejecting the continuity between circumcision and baptism, including its application to the children of believers.

When God converts a man or woman, He gives promises that go beyond that individual: "All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children" (Isaiah 53:13). The conversion of the individual is God's plan for then growing His church, because His plan doesn't stop even with the conversion of the family: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20, compare Genesis 1:28). God's missionary plan is to convert individuals first, then our families, and then our nations, and that terraced system is connected by baptism. Therefore, when Baptists deny baptism to the children of believers, they are inserting their manmade doctrine into the longterm strategy of God!

God's Plan, One Step Leads to the Next

Saturday, September 30, 2017

God Has Sabbath Blessings for the Christian!

When I defend the confessional (and scriptural) view of the Sabbath, one of the most-common arguments I get is, "Jesus is our Sabbath. We rest in Him." Yet, when I ask where Scripture says that, I get only dodges, generally of the ad hominem sort. I would know that, if I weren't such a legalist, they say. In my mind, a response like that is actually a concession that the person has no evidence for his claim. Just because, like some children would say.

Yet, I would say there are two very clear scriptures against that view.

The first is Hebrews 4:9: "There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God." In the last (or near-last) book of the New Testament, the writer tells us, not that the Sabbath  has been fulfilled, but rather that it yet awaits the Christian!

The other is Revelation 14:13: "I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' 'Blessed indeed,' says the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!'" When do we achieve the fullness of Sabbath rest? Not two-thousand years ago, in the salvation work of Jesus. Rather, we achieve it when we die in the Lord. That is when the futility and labor of the Curse (Genesis 3:17-19) are done away. Only when Jesus returns will the intermediary step of death no longer be necessary.

I am sympathetic with a desire to dismiss legalism. However, how can obedience to a blessing (Mark 2:27) be legalism? God gives us a day to be free from the drudgery of our daily labor, to focus on joy, peace, and rest with Him: "If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken" (Isaiah 58:13-14). Rather than legalism, I would suggest that my anti-sabbatarian brethren have a sinful inability to enjoy our God!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Biblical Church Government: Presbyterian

Before I start, this post makes number 500. I'll pretend that it is in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

My church derives from Scottish Presbyterians who separated from the Church of Scotland, in part, over the issue of patronage. After the Act of Union of 1703, which abolished the Scottish Parliament, the English Parliament passed a law required the Scots to accept pastors appointed by the local landowners, whether those landowners were members of the church or not. The Church of Scotland submitted to that requirement, contrary to her own constitution. This resulted in three secessions: the Associate Presbytery (also nicknamed the Secession Church) in 1733, the Relief Church in 1761, and finally the Free Church of Scotland in 1843.

What was the principle which these secessionists upheld? That a congregation has a right under God to choose her own officers, including the pastor, contrary to the impositions of Parliament. This continues to be what distinguishes Presbyterians from the episcopal churches, especially the Roman Catholic Church, which appoint their pastors, or move them, according to the whims of their bishops.

On what basis do we Presbyterians insist on this principle?

In Acts 6:1-6, we have the first description of the choice of church officers under the Apostles: "Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, 'It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.' And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them." The situation was a result of the growth of the church, both in numbers and in cultural diversity, resulting in interpersonal conflicts. The Apostles were unable both to attend to these conflicts and to evangelize. Therefore, they called for the church to choose (the Greek word means to choose by a show of hands) seven men, who would then be appointed to the office of deacon.

This pattern wasn't created ex nihilo by the Apostles. Rather, they followed biblical precedent. Moses had a similar difficulty as he led Israel in the Wilderness after the Exodus (Deuteronomy 1:9-18). Under God's instruction, Moses commanded the Israelites to "Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads" (Deuteronomy 1:13). We see the very procedure adopted by the Apostles, as the congregation  elects men from within, who are then appointed to their authority by Moses.

The Apostles demonstrated their passing on of authority through the laying on of hands (Acts 13:3). With the passing of the Apostles, those who had inherited their authority continued the procedure (I Timothy 4:14, II Timothy 1:6). Thus, we have an orderly distribution of authority from Christ, the only head of the church, to the Apostles, and then to the elders and deacons of the church. There is provision neither for rule by individual men or for imposition of leaders, whether by a man or by the state, against the will of the church. This rules out popes, bishops, men of social standing, or of any authority supposedly over the church. This is the origin of the truth expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith XXV:6: "There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ: nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God."

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Unchristian Doctrine of the Prosperity Preachers

Part of what makes the Prosperity Gospel so evil is that its purveyors teach people that Jesus doesn't allow us to suffer. They claim that the Christian should never know hardship or poverty, or the loss of a loved one. When that teaching fails, as all falsehood must, it isn't the prosperity preachers who are held to account. Rather, the Christian in misery is made to feel that his suffering is the result of his own failure of faith. That can only lead to guilt, anger, and even cursing against God.

That certainly wasn't the teaching of Jesus. Luke, the Gentile Physician, records the account of His healing of the daughter of Jairus, an elder in the Jewish synagogue (Luke 8:40-42, 49-56). Jairus pleads with Jesus on behalf of his dying daughter. Surely anyone can empathize with a father's fear and desperation under such circumstances. Yet, Jesus turns away from Jairus to heal the woman with a twelve-year hemorrhage (verses 43-48). That delay proves fatal for Jairus's daughter, as a messenger arrives to inform him of his daughter's death.

Notice how contrary this story is to Prosperity teaching. Here is a man who believes in Jesus and comes to Him for help. Yet, Jesus attends to other things for a time too long for the little girl to hang on. What suffering this must have brought to this father's heart! What we see, though, is that his suffering is not the last word in the story, because Jesus does, indeed, meet his desperate need.

Why the wait? Well, we know that part of Jesus's timing is so that He could address the need of the woman with the hemorrhage. Also, we (and His Palestinian audience) see His power, not just over illness, but over even death itself!

The Apostle Paul also lived with deprivation, even as he was doing the greatest ministerial work that history has known. "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. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:11-13). He testifies that he has had high points and low points, and known both plenty and hunger. Surely this Apostle should have known perpetual prosperity if anyone should. Right? Well, no, not right. The problem with someone who knows no hardship is seen in the last sentence of these words from Paul: "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." How could Paul have learned that dependence on God if he had never experienced need? And that is where the Prosperity Gospel fails. It teaches, not dependence on God, but rather dependence on belief. Belief in belief. And there can be no assurance when ones faith is in the wrong object.

Jairus Pleads With Jesus

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Diagnosis Must Come Before the Prescription: Total Depravity

A memorial to the victims in Sandy Hook, CT
 The Bible says that "all have sinned" (Romans 3:23), and "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). While I can understand why unbelievers reject what God says here, I am bewildered by the reaction of professing Christians, who want to hold on to a basic goodness in men. I would ask such "Christians," Have people ceased to be sinners? Has there been some miraculous transformation in human nature, such that Scripture doesn't apply any more?

I cannot imagine any person - at least, one who seriously describes himself as a Christian - answering either question in the affirmative.

Rather, man's total depravity is taught all through Scripture. That is not teaching that men, or any particular man, are as wicked as we could be - though I admit that I wonder sometimes, such as after the Sandy Hook massacre. Rather, it is the teaching that every faculty, whether physical, mental, or spiritual, of every man is corrupted by the effects of sin.

While I have cited many passages on this issue (use the "total depravity" tag at the bottom), I want to add one that is rarely considered, Titus 3:3: "We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another." A key element in this verse is that Paul uses the past tense. He describes the nature that Christians had before our conversion. And he does not paint a pretty picture, certainly nothing that should be a basis for self-esteem!

What changes a person is not increased self-esteem, or social reform, or any of the other progressive psycho-babble proposals that are so popular these days. Rather, the solution is regeneration, that change of a man's heart by which the Holy Spirit gives him a new nature, not free from sin in this life, but free from the dominion of sin: "I [God] will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes and be careful to obey My rules" (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

The problem with the corrupt Christianity preached by Joel Osteen, Robert Schuller, etc., is that they try to hush up what Scripture says about sin and its consequences. Yet, that attitude is contrary to Scripture, such as Paul's comment to Titus cited above. But the question must then be asked of them, How can a man believe the good news of salvation if he doesn't first hear the bad news of the sinful condition from which he must be saved? Imagine the doctor who tries to convince a patient to undergo surgery if he hasn't first told him of the tumor that threatens his life. What would the reaction of the patient be? I know that I would never submit to surgery without a sufficient cause! In the same way, the unbeliever cannot repent and turn to Christ until he first knows his sinful condition and the eternal death that is its consequence.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

God's Love: The Fly in the Oneness Ointment

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us."
- I John 4:7-8, 16-19

This passage was written by the same Apostle John who gave us the Revelation. Yet, while that book can often be mystifying, I don't think anyone can say that of the portion I quote here. There is one central point, and he makes it eminently clear: It is, and has always been, God's nature to love. Therefore, we, His people, can express love confidently.

Orthodox Christians hold that the love God shows to us is a manifestation of that same nature of love that He had shared so intimately within the Trinity, the Father's loving the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Son's loving the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit's loving the Father and the Son. We have assurance of His love because it is an infinite and eternal love, preceding even our existence.

However, the Sabellian (or Modalist, or Oneness) believes in a monadic deity, a unitary oneness that had no companionship for the unknowable eternity before Genesis 1. He must ask the question, Whom did God love? Since he believes that there was no one else there to be loved, then his answer can only be "no one." And that presents a problem.

We do know from Scripture that it is contrary to God's nature to change: "I the LORD do not change" (Malachi 3:6, compare Numbers 23:19 and I Samuel 15:29). Therefore, since the Sabellian God did not have love in eternity past, then neither could He become loving, since that would have been a change of nature. A God without love would not be a redeemer, a sanctifier, or a merciful Father. Therefore, the Sabellian God cannot be the God of the Bible (John 3:16).

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Ethiopian Eunuch and the Mode of Baptism

On the Desert Road to Gaza
When it comes to the mode of baptism, all Baptists, most (maybe all) Pentecostals, and other groups, claim that it must be by immersion. They often even claim that the Greek word "baptizo" (from which the English word "baptize" is derived) itself means "to immerse." As I have argued before, such as here, that is not the case. I will here offer another proof that "baptizo," in fact cannot mean "to immerse" (at least, in some passages).

Most Christians know the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39). To summarize, God sends an angel to tell Philip to go to a place along the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. There, he sees an Ethiopian riding in a chariot, presumably with a driver, reading the scroll of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). He asks Philip to explain the passage. Philip does so, and the Holy Spirit blesses His word in the conversion of the Ethiopian. Ethiopian Christians claim this event as the origin of Christianity in Ethiopia.

Baptists often point to verses 38 and 39: "And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing." Since the two men went "down into" the water, and then "came out of" the water, the Baptists claim, then Philip must have immersed the eunuch in the water. In fact, pictures based on this story consistently show this supposed scenario. Here is one example.

Is there any desert in this picture?

However, there is a huge problem with this picture. the problem is found in verse 26: "This [area] is desert." Does the picture above show a desert? Obviously not! How likely is it that a desert road will happen to pass a river or pool deep enough to immerse a grown man? Extremely unlikely!

I conclude that this passage cannot be used as Baptists have commonly used it. in fact, I would take it to require the opposite of the claim of the immersionists. It necessarily requires that the baptism here described must have been by either pouring or sprinkling, not by immersion. 

This last image gives a more-likely scenario for the baptism.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

God's War on Idolatry

"On the day after the Passover, the people of Israel went out triumphantly in the sight of all the Egyptians, while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had struck down among them. On their gods also the Lord executed judgments. [And God said to Moses] 'Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you and destroy all their figured stones and destroy all their metal images and demolish all their high places. If you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. And I will do to you as I thought to do to them.'"
- Numbers 33:3-4, 51-52, 55-56

The main focus in the story of the Exodus is God's redemption of His people out of slavery in Egypt. It is a glorious story to every Christian, because it serves as a type of our rescue from slavery to sin by the atoning cross work of Jesus Christ.

However, that is not the whole of the story.

I want to point especially at the words of Numbers 33:4, included above: "On their [i. e., the Egyptians'] gods also the Lord executed judgments." The ten plagues are seen to be on the Egyptian people, yet, somehow, they were also judgments on the deceiving spirits that they considered to be gods.

Jehovah continues in His exhortation to Israel: "Just as you saw Me destroy the gods of Egypt, so shall you do the religion of the Canaanites" (paraphrased from Num. 33:52). This demonstrates that the conquest of the Promised Land by the Israelites was not the capricious, vindictive act portrayed by liberal theologians. Rather, it was an act of judgment, one that was deserved by the Canaanites. Why? Because God is jealous of His divine prerogatives: "You shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God" (Exodus 34:14). Worshiping any god but Jehovah is to steal from Him what is properly His alone, an act of severe treason. That's why the abolition of it is the first of the Ten Commandments. Is the violation of the Prime Directive (to borrow a Star Trek term) not sufficient reason for capital punishment? I don't believe that any person can say that it is not, except as a self-serving effort to protect his own idolatry (Romans 1:18).

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Righteous Judgment: The Judge's Gavel in the Hands of the Chruch

Most Christians understand that God normally works through means. For example, when He heals our illnesses, He usually does so through doctors, medications, surgeries. When He converts an unbeliever, He does so through the means of the Christian who shares the Gospel with that unbeliever. This is not to deny that he also works miraculously, that is, directly, without means. It is merely a belief that miracles are necessarily the exceptions, not our daily experience.

The number one means that God uses in achieving His purposes in this world is His Church. For example, Psalm 149:6-9 describes the role of the Church in applying God's judgment in an unbelieving world:
"Let the high praises of God be in their throats
     and two-edged swords in their hands,
to execute vengeance on the nations
     and punishments on the peoples,
to bind their kings with chains
     and their nobles with fetters of iron,
to execute on them the judgment written! 

     This is honor for all His godly ones."

This is the downside of evangelism. As Paul says, our message is "to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life" (II Corinthians 2:16, compare the words of Jesus in John 9:39). While the Gospel is a source of life to the elect, those who are being made alive by the Spirit, it is a message of death to the reprobate, those who remain in their spiritually-dead state.

Jesus repeats the Psalmists message in Matthew 19:28: "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." The Apostles, who had suffered, and who were to suffer much more, even martyrdom, at the hand of the apostate Jews, were given this comfort, that someday they would sit in judgment on those very persecutors. 

What means will we use in applying that judgment? The Psalmist tells us "two-edged swords," a phrase which is explained in Hebrews 4:12: "The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." We also have the description of Jesus: "In His right hand He held seven stars, from His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and His face was like the sun shining in full strength" (Revelation 1:16). Thus, this judgment will not be by any prejudices of men, but rather by the applying of God's infallible word. And that word was given by Jesus Himself!

We live in an age of syrupy Christianity, a Christianity which must only speak sweetness and light, never the truths of sin and judgment. I call it the Osteenification of the church. But that is not the Christianity or the Church of Scripture. Shall we live by the standards of a self-esteem world? Or shall we apply the truth of God's Word, and warn of the judgment to come?

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Ordo Salutis: Justification Before Repentance

The contrast between Calvinists and Arminians is most visible in our understanding of the ordo salutis (theological terminology for "the order of salvation"). In what order (whether logically or chronologically) do the steps occur when a person is converted. Specifically, I want to address the place of repentance in that order: does justification precede repentance, as Calvinists hold? or does repentance precede justification, as the Arminians insist?

To my mind, there is an obvious logical requirement that justification must precede repentance. And in saying that, I mean logically, not that there will be a time gap between them. My question to the Arminian is, How can a man turn from his sin to a God whom he does not yet know? The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews addresses that same question: "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). If repentance precedes justification, i. e., saving faith, then, by definition, it cannot have merit before God, because He rejects anything that is not of faith! The person must have the assurance by faith that God is now favorably disposed toward him, and will receive him as redeemed in Christ. Therefore, repentance cannot precede that act of grace.

The Old Testament also teaches us this truth.

Through the Prophet Isaiah, God tells us, "I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to Me, for I have redeemed you" (Isaiah 44:22). In the application of Christ's blood, the sins of the elect are blotted out, the meaning of "justification." We have been redeemed. Therefore, He says, return to Him, the definition of "repentance." God Himself makes explicit that repentance is not the basis of justification. Rather, just the opposite, justification must be the basis of repentance!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Counterfeit Tongues Movement

When discussing the issue of tongues, the primary text used by Pentecostals is Acts 2, the account of the coming of the Holy Spirit at the first Feast of Pentecost (the origin of the Pentecostal name) after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They point especially to the first four verses: "When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance." Pentecostals still claim that a first or early sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in every individual is a repetition of this experience. They often describe it as a "prayer language."

But that isn't what you see if you continue in Acts 2.

The passage continues (verses 5-11): "Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God." This is not the description of some unknown gibberish. Rather, those upon whom the Spirit has come are speaking known languages, though they were unknown to the speakers.

The Apostle Paul talks about this same experience in his first epistle to the Corinthian church, especially in chapters 12 and 14.

Paul says this: "There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me" (I Corinthians 14:10-11). As did Luke in Acts, Paul here talks about tongues, again not as random noises, but rather as known (though not by the speaker) foreign languages.

It is on this basis that I have issued a challenge several times to Pentecostals, especially of the Oneness variety, to prove that their "tongues" are real languages, and not merely random animal noises. While I have heard plenty of protestations of offense, I have yet to get even one effort to meet the challenge. Which, I think, proves what I have said elsewhere, that today's tongues movement is a counterfeit version of the original.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

God's Sovereign Grace: His Gift to the Church

In Psalm 148, an anonymous poet exhorts nature and all classes of men to praise Jehovah. I especially want to emphasize the last two verses:
"Let them praise the name of the Lord,
     for His name alone is exalted; 

His majesty is above earth and heaven.
      He has raised up a horn for His people,
praise for all His saints,
for the people of Israel who are near to Him. 

     Praise the Lord!"
     - Psalm 148:13-14

My emphasis is on the line, "He has raised up a horn for His people."  As most of my readers will be aware, "horn" is a Hebrew metaphor for power, or strength. That is, the Psalmist tells us that we have a special reason to praise Jehovah because He has exercised His strength on behalf of His people, the Church. 

The Apostle Paul described the same principle in his literate prose: "We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). It is sad that this verse has been turned into a truism. Every time someone is suffering, we can depend on someone's quoting of the first half of this verse, but rarely the second. It is true that God always brings all experiences to some good purpose. But for whom? The touchy-feely types would have us believe everyone. However, Paul excludes that misrepresentation by limiting the principle to God's chosen people, the elect, those who love Him, i. e., to the Church. He was even more explicit in Ephesians 1:22: "He [the Father] put all things under His [the Son's] feet and gave Him [the Son] as head over all things to the church." That is, the glorified Christ rules over every thing, not just as God, but for the benefit of His church!

This is a big part of why I am a Calvinist. Even without the positive reinforcement, I would acknowledge it as a summary of biblical truth. However, my commitment is strengthened by the additional awareness of the assurance that He rules all things, not just for Himself (though that would be sufficient justification), but also for me!

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Book of Acts: The Record from Jesus to the Apostles

One of the basic rules of biblical hermeneutics, i. e., the proper interpretation of a document, is that a text must be considered according to the type of literature it is. The Bible contains all of the forms of literature that we see in any other context of written communication, such as poetry, narrative, law, etc. And one form of literature cannot be interpreted the same way as another. Poetry communicates in a way that narrative does not, for example.

The Book of Acts is a book of history, covering a period of about thirty years from the resurrection of Christ to the imprisonment of Paul. It is not primarily a book of doctrine, in contrast to the epistles, or a book of eschatology like the book of Revelation. Rather, it is a description of the historical events that happened at a certain time. Therefore, any doctrine that depends inordinately on Acts as its basis is likely to lead in an unorthodox direction. We see this in the Pentecostal movement, especially in its Oneness aberration. Acts is the Word of God, requiring that any doctrine in it must be infallible. However, to put undue emphasis on doctrinal statements in Acts, without vetting it with the rest of Scripture, will always lead to trouble.

What was Luke's purpose in writing Acts? We see where he gave some indications. Look especially at the first two verses (Acts 1:1-2): "In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up, after He had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen." Luke's first book, that which is called by his name, was devoted to the person and direct teachings of Jesus. The second, on the other hand, was dedicated to His leaving and the growth of the new church under the care of His lieutenants, the Twelve Apostles (with Matthias in the place of Judas, and then augmented by His brother James and the converted Paul). So, according to Luke's own words, his intention was to describe a particular historical situation, not to give doctrinal tutoring. And that makes sense, since Luke was the companion of Paul. Paul's ministry was, in part, to develop the theology of the church. Luke, therefore, provides the historical complement to the ministry of Paul.

We immediately see Jesus's carrying out this program in verses 8 and 24 of the same chapter. In Acts 1:8, Jesus gives another version of His Great Commission: "You will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." The rest of the book would be a record of the first steps in the fulfillment of this commission. Verse 24 is the Apostles profession that they understood their offices to be, not an opportunity for power, but rather that same assignment from their Lord. 

We see the continuing development of this post-Jesus church government in chapter 6, where the Apostles this time, not Jesus by direct act, in the appointment of the seven deacons (Acts 6:1-6). The Apostles are now acting in their own authority (under the headship of Christ), a maturing of their sense of responsibility. We see this again in Acts 10:42: "He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead." The Apostles, emboldened by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit (chapter 2), now took a personal responsibility for the ministry assigned to them by Christ, on which the rest of the organized church would be built: "The household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:20).

The logical conclusion from all of this is that Acts is a book of history, a description of events at a particular point in history, and not (speaking in general) a record of how things are supposed always to be. Compare the Old Testament. Only a lunatic would claim that the command given to Israel to conquer Canaan was intended to be normative for the rest of history. Is each generation of believers supposed to go conquer the land that is now Israel? No. In the same way, the tongues and other miraculous signs of Acts were intended for a particular point in the history of the church, that of its passing from a body in the physical presence of Jesus, to a body spiritually headed by Jesus, but organized by men appointed to that end, as evidenced by special abilities given to them, as Luke himself tells us (Acts 14:3): "They remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands" (see also Mark 16:20, II Corinthians 12:12, and Hebrews 2:3-4).

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Is Trump Your Savior?

In every presidential election season since I have been old enough to follow (which would be since Reagan's initial election), I remember so many voices proclaiming that we must "save America" by voting for one candidate, or by voting against another. This was especially apparent in the 2016 election. "The only hope for America is to elect Trump!"

In conscience, I must deny that such a concept is any way biblical.

An anonymous Hebrew poet recorded God's words on this subject in Psalm 146:3-4:
"Put not your trust in princes,
     in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;

     on that very day his plans perish."

There is no salvation in a king or a president? Why? Because he dies and turns to dust just like any other man. On that day, his political plans, as wonderful as they might have been, are buried in the grave with him.

However, that Hebrew poet didn't stop there, as if he saw no hope in the world of men. Rather, he continued, in Ps. 146:5-7,
"Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
     whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
     the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
     who executes justice for the oppressed,

     who gives food to the hungry."

First, notice what he does not say. It is common to say about any problem, "You just have to have faith." Not faith in, but just faith. Faith in faith. No, the Psalmist says. Rather, we must have faith in God, the triune God of the Bible. It isn't faith as such that saves, but rather faith in the proper object, the one true God.

Why is God the only proper hope? Because, unlike human kings - or presidents - He is eternal. Men die, and they and their plans rot into dust. Not so with God. He is eternal, as are His purposes, as is His sovereignty. 

And this isn't simply a practical issue, one of depending on a resource that can sustain that dependency. Rather, for the Christian, this is a matter of faithfulness. How easily we forget the First Commandment: "You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3). "I don't think Trump is God," you are no doubt saying. However, whatever you depend on for salvation is your god, whether you use that word or not. As Jesus Himself said (Matthew 6:24), "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." He speaks of God or money, but it is just as true of God or government. "I, I am the LORD, and besides Me there is no savior" (Isaiah 43:11).

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Jesus Does Not Allow Devotion to His Mother!

In Luke 11:27, the Blessed Physician gives the record of an anonymous woman, who said to Jesus, "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which You nursed!" This is one of the texts that Roman Catholics cite to justify their adoration of Mary.

The problem with that use is that it is possible only if one stops at verse 27. The next verse, Luke 11:28, records the reaction of Jesus to the woman's statement: "But He said, 'Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!'" 

Jesus denies that Mary has a special status on the basis of her having given birth to Him. Rather, He said, spiritual status comes from being a disciple! I will certainly grant that Mary was almost-certainly a disciple of Jesus. However, that makes her equal to every other disciple, not superior. Much less does it earn her special status, with the divine attributes of omnipresence and omniscience, as is implied by Catholic reverence for her.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Oneness Pentecostals, Wrong on the Name of Jesus

Oneness Pentecostals make a lot of bizarre claims. Among them is that baptism is essential for salvation (based on their perverse interpretation of Acts 2:38). And not just any ol' baptism, but specifically immersion in Jesus's name only, absolutely not in the trinitarian formula of Matthew 28:19. This is based on the baptisms in Acts, as well as another perverse interpretation, this time of Acts 4:12: "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." They allow the use of the word "name" to be only a term of address.

If you want to see a Oneness believer turn cross-eyed, ask him this question: When a police officer yells at a criminal to "stop in the name of the law," what name is it? That's because their rigidity regarding the word "name" cannot adapt to any other use of that word.

That rigidity gets them into trouble with other portions of Scripture. For example, when John describes the glorified Christ in Revelation 19:13, he says, "He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which He is called is The Word of God." Not "Jesus." So, has the name by which we must be saved changed? If the Oneness are correct, the answer to that question is of salvific significance! If they are right about he use of "name" in Acts 4:12, then John is now teaching a different Gospel (Galatians 1:9). Or, we might conclude that John is correct, but Luke was teaching a different Gospel!

Either way, Oneness rigidity, used to substantiate their manmade religion, produces chaos in the rest of Scripture. Moreover, since Scripture has only one Author, God (I Timothy 3:16), if the Scriptures are chaotic, then so is God. A capricious God is not the God of the Bible: that is the God of Islam!

And that is, indeed, my conclusion. The god of Oneness is not the God of the Bible, the living and triune God. Their god is the manmade construct of Sabellius, an irrational god, producing irrational followers. That is not Biblical Christianity. It is baptized Islam.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Jesus Doesn't Think that All Men Are Basically Good

It is very American to talk about the goodness in all men. That's part of why biblical Christianity has become increasingly unpopular.

But there are some interesting words from Jesus on the matter: "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" (Luke 11:13).

Jesus addresses goodness in two different ways in this sentence. First, He describes a certain kind of goodness, that is, the giving of good gifts to our children. Second, He also describes us as evil.

In this one statement, Jesus tells us that there is a civil goodness in human beings. However, He also tells us that such goodness is contrary to our natural inclination because we are, in His blunt words, evil! Such civic good is a demonstration of Genesis 1:26: "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness." Adam was created in God's image. And, since God is good (Matthew 5:45), Adam was created good (Genesis 1:31), and this goodness has not been completely eliminated by the Fall.

This goodness is not a form of merit. No one could claim that giving good things to his children earns him a right to God's favor. Rather, it increases our judgment as sinners, because we have an awareness of goodness, yet continue in our sinful rebellion against the very God who is so good to us.

We Americans may enjoy patting each other on the back, boosting our self-esteem. However, the word of Jesus over us is "evil."

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

God's Opposition to Those Who Despise His Word

Isn't it natural for a person to think of rejection of something he has made as equivalent to rejection of him? Think of the child that brings home the clay mug that he has made at school. If his father responds with, "This is garbage!" how crushed that child would be. Or imagine the woman who has invested the day in Thanksgiving dinner, only to have her husband spit it out and pronounce it swill. Would we not expect her to harbor resentment of such treatment?

Yet, we think that the rejection and despising of the things of God is merely being "modern." How could He hold us guilty for such independent thinking?

In Psalm 138:2, King David demonstrates an opposite attitude: "I bow down toward Your holy temple and give thanks to Your name for Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness, for You have exalted above all things Your name and Your word." 

David recognizes the two things that God values most, His reputation and His Word, the Bible. Then, in acknowledgement of God's priorities, David submits to them, and doesn't even put forward his own.

It has been de riguer to treat God as an object of disrespect. Do we not treat Him as Santa Claus, existing to give us baubles? Do we not use His name as a curse? A bunch of curses at that! And is it not scholarly and respectable to express doubts about, and independence from, His word in the Bible?

Yet, David tells us that, in God's priorities, those two things are the most important to Him. And, if our priorities are different from His, what can we expect, except futility, resentment, even judgment?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Persecution in the Providence of God

We hear news stories of the persecution of Christians, such as at the hands of the Islamic State in the Middle East. Our natural reaction is to wonder why God allows such acts of cruelty against those who bear His name (which is separate from the question of whether they are bonafide Christians). And, as with all things, I believe that the answer is that it brings Him glory.

But how?

The Book of Acts gives us a number of accounts of persecution of the earliest Christians, including the Apostles themselves. Acts 8, for example, describes a persecution which broke out immediately upon the murder of Stephen the Deacon: "There arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem" (verse 1). How is that according to the providence of God? The answer is in the rest of the verse: "They were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles."

The persecution in Jerusalem pushed the disciples to spread out from their first home. Consider verse 5: "Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ." This should immediately remind us of the Lukan version of the Great Commission: "You will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). It was the command of Jesus to His disciples that they carry the Gospel in concentric zones away from its first home. And, as is natural, they held back, staying in their comfort zone, as the American saying is. In the providence of God, the persecution in Jerusalem was, at least in part, the way of Jesus to push His church to obey His commission.

One of the things that Jesus told His first disciples was that the Gospel harvest was ripe, but workers in the field were insufficient (Luke 10:2). But, as is the wont of men, the disciples wanted to stay in their comfortable surroundings. It took persecution to send them out in obedience to the Lord of the harvest.

Of course, this isn't the only purpose of God in persecution. However, let it soak in. What is our comfort zone? And what will the Lord do to make it so uncomfortable that we will do the work to which He has called us?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Men Hate Predestination, but Jesus Loved It!

Who sits on the throne? God or Man?
 After Jesus had sent out the seventy-two evangelists, they returned with glowing reports of overthrowing the power of Satan. In response to these reports (Luke 10:21-24), "Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, 'I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was Your gracious will. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.' Then turning to the disciples He said privately, 'Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.'" 

Jesus says something here that most modern Americans, including most professing Evangelicals, hate to hear: God has revealed Himself to some people and hidden Himself from others. That is the experiential definition of predestination, both in election and in reprobation.

The modern American, including the modern Evangelical, reacts with, "That's not fair!" And it's not, but I don't consider that relevant. To the same objection, the Apostle Paul answered (Romans 9:20-21), "Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me like this?' 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?" So, Paul's response is not to describe how predestination is fair, but rather to demonstrate that it is presumptuous to ask the question. How can any man claim the authority to call God to account for His actions?

However, Jesus goes even further than did Paul: "Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit!" Jesus considered the sovereignty of the Father, not to be unfair, but to be wonderful! And if any mere man fails to come to that same conclusion, then the failure is in the man, not in God.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

John's Baptism, Not Christian Baptism

Baptists will often cite the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22) as evidence of immersion as the only acceptable mode of baptism. they claim that "He came up
out of the water" (Matthew 3:16) requires Him to have been under the water. While it can be understood otherwise, that isn't my purpose here. Rather, I deny that the account has any relevance to the debate, because John's baptism was an Old Testament ritual, not Christian baptism.

Turn to another passage about John's baptism, Acts 19:1-7. I won't quote the whole thing here. It is the account of Paul's ministry to a group of people who had been baptized only by John's baptism (whether that refers to John personally, or baptism by his disciples is unclear). The Apostle asks the people whether they had received the Holy Spirit, to which they replied that they had never even heard of the Holy Spirit. Then (verses 4-5), Paul told them, "'John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.' On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." That is, they had not received the Holy Spirit. This does not indicate, in spite of what Pentecostals would claim, that there is a difference between believing and receiving the Spirit. That is false (I Corinthians 12:13). Rather, they hadn't received the Spirit because they had not been fully instructed about Jesus. When Paul had done so, they believed, received the Holy Spirit, and were then baptized again.

There is no record that Paul objected in any way to John's baptism. However, his actions indicate that he did not consider it to be the baptism commanded by Christ (Matthew 28:19). Therefore, it is invalid as a basis for our doctrine of Christian baptism.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Imago Dei: In What Way Did Adam Bear God's Image?

I have had conversations with Mormons in which they have insisted that being made in the image of God means that God has a physical body like us. We are in His image in that He had arms and legs, hair, the whole shebang. Oneness Pentecostals teach something similar, holding that we were made in the image of the body of Jesus. Of course, both are completely unbiblical, because we know that God doesn't have a body (John 4:24 with Luke 24:39). They then insist that there can be no other way in which Adam could have been the image of God.

Of course, that is merely a logical fallacy, a form of circular reasoning, asserting that their interpretation is the only one possible. And that is certainly not the case.

There are several texts that tell us something about the image of God in men.

The first is Ecclesiastes 7:29: "See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes." So, one of the characteristics with which Adam was created was moral uprightness. This aspect of the image was lost in the Fall (see, for example, Romans 5:12-19).

Second, look at Colossians 3:10: "Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator." So now we see knowledge as another aspect of the image of God. And, since it needs renewal, we understand that this aspect of the image, while not completely lost, was at least marred by the Fall.

And third, look at Ephesians 4:24: "Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." This is a more-explicit version of Solomon's words above. However, Paul is talking about re-creation, that is, the restoration of that which Solomon describes as lost. Both refer to righteousness and holiness, a moral nature.

Thus, contrary to the assertion of the Mormons and the Oneness Pentecostals, we see that the image of God in Adam was a moral image, not a physical one. This is further confirmed in Genesis 5:3: "When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth." when Adam and Even had their son Seth, he was not in the image of God, but rather in the image of Adam. What was different? Not his physical appearance. Rather, it was his moral nature, which was not after the image of God, but after that of his sinful father Adam! This again proves that the image of God was no physical image, and, therefore, cannot be claimed to prove that God has a body.