Friday, October 12, 2007

Atheist Opposes Sola Scriptura

An atheist has weighed in on the topic of the current debate (which could be roughly characterized as "Sufficiency of Scripture vs. Insufficiency of Scripture").
Here's the atheist's critique ("Scripture Only is a Myth"). I'd wager (rhetorically speaking, of course) that the atheist has some of the same misconceptions of Sola Scriptura as does my antagonist in the current debate. Any thoughts?


P.S. The present author notes with chagrin that the original post was marred by following the old "i" before "e" rule to phonetic English spelling. Proposed motto for Atheism: "Even our spelling is rebellious." Obviously if one thinks about the etymology ... but anyway ...

A Very Odd Rebuttal

According to the Reformed Covenanter, E. Calvin Beisner wrote:
Original Arminianism affirmed that Christ died as a substitute to pay for the sins of all people. The Federal Visionists will affirm that Christ died to pay the penalty for the sins of all in “the covenant”, including some who will end up in hell. One’s “election” ultimately depends on whether he is “faithful” to “the covenant”, and one can be “justified” and wind up in hell through apostasy. Foreword to G.P. Waters, The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology, Presbyterian and Reformed, p. viii
In response, Doug Wilson wrote:
As I have pointed out elsewhere, this new "Arminianism" holds to God's exhaustive sovereignty over all things, and teaches absolute predestination and maintains that the number of the decretally elect cannot be increased or diminished. If this is Arminianism, then maybe Arminianism is Calvinistic . . . or something. But that is just by the way, a topic for another time.
This is a very odd rebuttal. The accusation is: you teach that Christ's death is partially ineffective, the response is discussion of other issues. What's worse, a Molinist like William Lane Craig would probably be willing to describe his own views as teachings of "absolute predestination and [the position] that the number of the decretally elect cannot be increased or diminished." In other words, it appears that Mr. Wilson either did not read the actual objection, does not understand the historical Calvinism/Arminianism issues, or simply does not take the matter seriously.

Regardless of the explanation, it's very odd.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

If it be True, Praise Be to the Lord

It has been reported that the Muslim mastermind of the failed first attack on the World Trade Center buildings has converted to Christianity (link). The warden seems skeptical of the claimed conversion.

May God show similar mercy to all his enemies, as he apparently has to Mr. Yousef and ourselves. Don't forget that we too were once God's enemies, and it is only by God's grace that we can be called (like Abraham) a friend of God.


'Tis Tradition, Stop vs. Thus the Bible Says

"Orthodox" and I are having a debate that could be roughly characterized as a Sola Scriptura vs. Sola Ecclesia debate (though neither of those terms is in the resolution.)

Should this sort of thing interest you, stop by and read up, here:

Resolved: "It is tradition, look no further" is less workable as applied to the theological content of the Westminster Confession of Faith than "The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it."

(link to debate blog)

Don't Teach Creationism in Science Class

Some of my readers may have a knee-jerk reaction to the title of this post (either pro or con). Both are probably wrong: Creationism should not be taught in science in class, it should be taught in history class. The creation of the world and man should be the first two chapters of any school's history curriculum.

Now, it should be fine to mention the historical fact of Creation in science class, but Science class is not the place for teaching Creationism, or the Fall of Rome, or the colonization of the Americas.

On the other hand, evolutionism should not be taught anywhere: it is a lie. All living things are not the result of common biological descent: much of the variety we see is the result of special creation.

There certainly should be some mention of evolutionism in both science and history class, but that mention should be sharply critical.

Will these proposals be widely adopted? Not in countries where "pluralism" and liberalism have already gained dominance. They can and should, however, be adopted in private and especially home education.

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God!

Praise be to the Word by whom ALL things were made,


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Bad News (if true) for Some Arminians

A few Arminians have staked their view of "free will" on the idea that what separates us from the animals is our ability to make rational choices: to wit that this is the "image of God" referred to in Scripture.

Now, with the enormous caveat that the entire study may be rigged, I present the following interesting article which - if true - would be devastating to that Arminian claim (link).

I'm sticking with my claim that "image of God" is authority, as discussed here (link). If you want to argue about what the image of God is, please direct your comments to the combox of that post, rather than this one - so as to keep things tidy.


Psalm 105 - He Did What?

Some folks who read through the account in Psalm 105 may surprised - especially when they get down to verse 25.

The Psalm starts off with a call to thankfulness and worship, on account of the deeds that God has done, calling them "wondrous works" and "marvelous works."

The first item to be selected is God's choice of Abraham and Jacob. God chose them for many blessings: but the most important blessing was their personal salvation.

Second is the covenant and oath he made with Abraham and Isaac, and which God confirmed to Jacob/Israel: namely the inheritance of the land of Canaan. As we learn more clearly in Romans and Hebrews, this inheritance was pointing toward heaven.

The Psalmist points out that this promise was made when they were very few and that God protected them, even reproving kings for their sakes. And likewise, God called for a famine in the land, but sent Joseph in slavery to Egypt until the time was right and Joseph was freed. Notice again that God takes credit for sending Joseph in slavery to Egypt. Was it a sinful thing to sell Joseph, yes. And yet God takes credit for the act without any moral responsibility for the sinful act of betrayal by Joseph's brethren.

Furthermore, God not only freed Joseph but made him second to the king of Egypt, even over the leaders of Egypt.

When Israel came to Egypt, God caused Israel to prosper until they were stronger than the Egyptians.

In verse 25, some folks who had not fainted at God's claim to have sent Joseph into Egypt will have cardiac arrest: God says that he "turned their heart to hate his people and to deal subtilly with his servants." It was sinful for them to hate his people and to deal treacherously with them, and yet God takes credit, saying that He turned their heart to do that.

Furtheremore, God punished this hatred by sending Moses and Aaron (also chosen by God) by whom he did many miracles, which each were some form of destruction on the Egyptians.

Finally, he brought forth his people from Egypt, taking the Egyptian's gold, and giving all of the people physical strength. And in the end the Egyptians were glad that the people were gone, because they were afraid of them.

God also brought Israel through the wildernness with a cloud and fire to provide shade by day and light by night. God provided quails and bread and water. God remembered his promise to Abraham and brought forth his people from Egyptian bondage with joy and gladness, and gave them Canaan, so that they might obey him.

It is a picture of salvation: God brings forth his elect from spiritual Egypt - from bondage to sin - with joy and gladness, providing them with spiritual nourishment and bringing them into the promised land: heaven at the end.

It is hard to imagine a more Calvinistic psalm.

As the Psalmist concludes; "Praise ye the LORD!"


Monday, October 08, 2007

Response to Pat Condell - With Asides

Pat Condell is an atheist who more or less openly mocks Christianity. Here's an example (link) NOTE BEFORE CLICKING: Blasphemy is used in the video, so don't click if that will cause you to stumble.

Part of the problem, however, is that Pat Condell, as an atheist is unable to distinguish between Christianity and its imitators.

Pat begins by addressing "angry Christians" who have been telling him that they are looking forward to his perishing in hell. If there are Christians who have been saying that, they should be ashamed. Pat is not so much more (if at all more) deserving of hell than we are. It is only by grace that we are saved. Furthermore, God may still save Pat: after all, God saved a far worse persecutor of the church, Saul of Tarsus.

Pat mocks Christians generally as "crazy." It's not surprising. Jesus was similarly insulted by those to whom He preached the gospel of repentance.

Pat suggests that it must be "galling for religious people to see atheists like me going around ... without a shred of guilt or self-loathing ...." Pat seems to have missed the point. Pat does have guilt, though he may not be aware of it. In contrast, Christians do not have guilt, because we have Christ. Furthermore, we reach out to Pat - even when we tell him of his guilt - nor merely to make him realize his sin, but to lead him to the solution to the problem he has: a problem of which he is currently unaware.

It's almost as though Pat is playing with candles on a pile of gunpowder, and then suggesting our calls for him to extinguish the candles is really to spoil his fun or to make him feel nervous.

Pat points out that he is not inclined to pray "or do penance of any kind." It can be seen from that comment that Pat has not really grasped New Testament Christianity, for the New Testament does not call for penance, but repentance.

Then Pat goes off on a claim that if hell does exist, he thinks it is more of place of eternal regret, rather than of eternal torment. Of course, there is no warrant for this claim, though sadly a number of theological liberals have begun to suggest such a thing.

Next, Pat claims that Jesus died for his sins latching hold of errant views on the work of Christ. Pat says he feels "somewhat guilty" that he's not more grateful to Jesus for that, but he says that he wishes that Jesus had asked him before the fact. He says that he now feels as though he is being billed for something that he didn't order.

This atheist's criticism of the "Jesus died for each and every person" misrepresentation is sad, because it could have been avoided by a better presentation of the gospel. Furthermore, the atheist has a good point, which is that the "Jesus died for you" gospel tries to make a person accept Christianity on the basis of an unwanted act.

The atheist points out that if you are a Christian, you are born already in debt. This is true, of course. If you are one of the elect, you are already indebted to Jesus: he has saved you from death by His work on the cross, the least you can do is obey his commandments. Yet it is a debt of gratitude, not a legal debt.

There is a legal debt that all men are born in: namely a debt incurred by sin.

Pat says that the only way you can repay the debt in full is by dying. Pat's not quite right: we can never repay the debt. As to the debt of gratitude, we can simply be grateful eternally. AS to the legal debt, we can only suffer eternally. There is, however, an escape - for if we trust in Christ, we can be confident that He will pay our debt for us.

Pat continues by pointing out that the "Jesus died for you" gospel is like telling a person that they have to pay off a mortgage for a house they already own outright. Although Pat has muddled things a bit, his basic criticism is valid as applied to the "Jesus died for you" gospel. If Jesus already paid the legal debt, then the person no longer owes eternal suffering as the wages of his sin.

Pat continues by asserting that there is no "hard historical evidence that the Jesus of the gospels even existed." In point of fact, however, there are few people of the same generation about whom there is greater hard historical evidence for their existence than the Jesus of the gospels. Pat's claim here borders on the absurd. The gospels themselves are hard historical evidence, after all.

Pat claims that the records we have were written by people who born long after Jesus died. This, however, is clearly mistaken. We do have such records (for example, the testimony of Josephus), but we also have the gospels - written by men who were and interviewed eyewitnesses.

Pat makes an attempted argument from silence as to other (extra-Scriptural) documentation of Jesus' ministry in the secular records of the day. One wonders what writings Pat has in mind? Does Pat suppose that there was a "Jerusalem Daily Tribune" that has been carefully maintained on 1st century microfiche? Where is all this alleged silence evidenced? In point of fact, the argument from silence is bogus. There is not a wealth of contemporary history that all surprisingly omits mention of Jesus, which would be necessary for the argument to carry any force.

Pat mocks Jesus' miracles, claiming that if they were all true, Jesus should have been as famous as Elvis. In point of fact, however, Jesus was famous in his day.

Matthew 9:31 But they, when they were departed, spread abroad his fame in all that country.

Mark 1:28 And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.

Luke 5:15 But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities.

Pat claims all we have are second and third hand accounts that have been doctored. In fact, however, as noted above, we have first hand accounts by eyewitnesses.

1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

Pat also claims that the Word has been edited and translated back and forth so many times that the truth bears no resemblance to itself "if it ever did." Pat's clearly wrong on this again. There are an enormous amount of handwritten copies of the New Testament in essentially unedited form in the original language (and same for the Old), as well as many early and widely various translations into many languages without significant editing. Although there are some (one could even say "many") minor variations in the copies, there can be little serious doubt that the content of the originals is substantially maintained in the collection.

Pat continues by saying that he does not know who we think we are praying to. It's obviously a rhetorical turn, but it's sadly true. Pat does not know God.

Pat suggests that praying to God has not done us much good, and that we should try praying to Elvis and see how that works. Pat's obviously just trying to be funny/inflammatory. The interesting thing, though, is that Pat's somewhat right. Service to God is not particularly rewarding in this life: in fact, because we worship God we get mocked by the likes of Pat. In some parts of the world and some times in history, we can get tortured and killed for worshiping God. Paul says that if we don't consider the afterlife, we are the most miserable of all men.

Furthermore, it should be clear that those who hate God often life good lives and receive many blessings in this life. It's a question that is sometimes addressed in Scripture, simply because it can be discouraging to be following God and seeing no physical benefit for it. Instead, we look forward to a heavenly reward.

After this, Pat suggests that although Jesus is "a storybook character" he still has some wisdom. Pat then calls to mind Jesus' statement that the "kingdom of God is within," and suggests that "angry Christians" don't really believe those words or "turn the other cheek," "forgive trespasses," and "love your enemy." Instead, he suggests that we want punishment, eternal torture, and unimaginable suffering (on this atheist for mocking and blaspheming) for our own satisfaction. Of course, much of these comments are built on the false premises identified above, as well as the misrepresentations of Christianity that are all too common.

The underlying problem, however, is that like certain Roman Catholics (yes, Jonathan, this is the post I had in mind), this atheist views any attempts to present the gospel and warn of eternal damnation as inherently uncharitable. The charge that we are doing so for our own satisfaction is simply a false accusation - or it least it should be: if we bear witness to the truth for reasons of personal antipathy, we should be ashamed.

Then Pat argues that Jesus would not approve of what "people like you [make] of his teachings." Surely, to an extent, that is true. Jesus could not approve of what every person who calls himself a Christian has done with Christ's teachings, for many people have misapplied Christ's teachings. But Pat takes it a step further and suggests that "nobody listened to a word [Jesus] said." Of course, again, this is simply an attempt to be inflammatory. After all, the "keep it to yourself" - "no eternal suffering" - etc. message is what many modern theological liberals teach.

Finally, Pat argues that Jesus consequently wasted his breath and life. If the Arminian position were correct, it would seem to partially validate the atheist's claim, for Jesus would have died in vain for the recalcitrant atheist. But, of course, the Arminian position is mistaken. God sent his son to save "whosoever believeth in Him" i.e. the elect.

Pat signs off the message with "Peace," but there can be no core peace between the atheist and the Christian. We can avoid being at each other's throats - I can buy baked beans from an atheist and hold a pleasant conversation with him. Nevertheless, the gospel is spiritual warfare, and atheism is the spiritual enemy: either Atheism is right or Christianity is right, there is no middle ground (despite the claims of Islam etc. etc.).

Praise be to Our Most High God!


Sunday, October 07, 2007

Murder Update

So, Texas plans to execute just judgment on a man convicted of two capital offenses (two murders, under particularly heinous circumstances - a factor that matters under Texas law). The former governor of Texas, and now president of the U.S. wants to prevent this execution, because he claims it will harm U.S. interests abroad. (source)

This may seem strange. After all the "Black and Whites" gang has less international sympathy than Al Quaeda, yet the president has sent troops abroad to kill members of the latter murderous group.

What's the problem? Texas police apparently failed to assist the criminal by telling him that he could seek the help of the Mexican consulate. The "International Court of Justice" a body with no jurisdiction in the U.S. (and with whose interpretation of the relevant treaty, the president disagrees), has decided that the execution would be improper.

Let us pray that justice will prevail, and that Texas will do what is right.

Let us also pray for this young man who has given strong indication of need for salvation.


Unlocking James, Scripture WAS Fulfilled

James 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

In the midst of misconceptions regarding the justifying role of works in James writing, it is easy to overlook four small words. Note how James says: "the Scripture was fulfilled." It is easy to rush past these words and on to the imputation of righteousness and the calling of Abraham the "Friend of God."

What does James mean that Scripture was fulfilled? James means that Scripture's truth was verified, that Scripture's claim that Abraham was justified by faith and that Abraham was considered God's friend were proved by Abraham's obedience: by the works that Abraham did.

It may seem like a strange claim, for the two Scriptural records of Abraham being God's friend are long after Abraham's life. 2 Chronicles 20:7 and Isaiah 41:8 recall God's friendship toward Abraham.

Even the account in Genesis 15, where it is written:

Genesis 15:6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

was penned by the hand of Moses long after the event.

It is even more strange if we will examine the chronology of Abraham's own life: for the promise mentioned was that God would give Abraham more children than the number of stars Abraham could see in the sky - but Abraham was childless and was asking that God would bless Abraham's favorite slave. Yet it is said at the moment that Abraham believed God: and that it was counted to Abraham for righteousness.

So then, if we are to ask when Abraham was justified before God, we would say then, before Isaac was born. Yet, James refers us not to the moment, but later:

James 2:21-22
21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

In other words you could see Abraham's trust in God demonstrated by the works that Abraham did. A man who did not trust God like this:

Genesis 22:10-18
10And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. 11And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. 14And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen. 15And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, 16And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: 17That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

could not sacrifice his only son.

But in virtue of these promises:

Genesis 15:1-5
1After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. 2And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? 3And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. 4And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. 5And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.

Genesis 17:1-4
1And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. 2And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. 3And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, 4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.

Abraham believed, and his trust in God was confirmed ("perfected") by his obedience.

For Scripture tells us:
Hebrews 11:17-19
17By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

God brought forth Isaac from the dead, 99 year old loins of Abraham, and Abraham trusted God so much that Abraham even believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead - though God had not previously done so in the history of man. Thus, Abraham obeyed - and by obedience demonstrated his faith on account of which righteousness was imputed to him, and he was called God's friend.

This then is what we should learn from those four small words (three in Greek): "επληρωθη η γραφη" (the Scripture was fulfilled), that Abraham's justification was made manifest by His works: not so much so that God might know, for God knows the heart, but that we might know. Thus, Abraham is part of that "great cloud of witnesses" that testify to us of their faith on the pages of Scripture: one of those people who faith in God is demonstrated in acts performed by faith, namely by works.

They are justified by faith, and they are justified by works: the former to God and the latter to us. Justification by faith is judicial, but by works is practical.

Thus James writes:

James 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

And James compares faith that is unaccompanied by works to a corpse:

James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Just as he said before:

James 2:14-17
14What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

James point is that an indemonstrable faith is not faith. Faith is demonstrated in works - a faith of mere assertion ("be warmed and filled") without demonstration ("ye give them not [food and shelter]") is worthless.

Thus, John says the same thing:
1 John 3:14-19
14We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. 15Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. 16Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. 19And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.

And again:
1 John 4:20 - 5:3
20If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also. 5:1Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

Our deeds of love show our heart of love. Hypocrisy is possible: we can pretend to be good while hating our brethren; nevertheless, it is our works that confirm our heart.

The apostles did not invent this principle, though, it is Jesus' own teaching:

Matthew 7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Thus, works justify us in the eyes of man, and Christ's work in which we trust justifies us before God.

Great is Our Lord, and Worthy to be Praised, Let us Praise Him!


Revelation 17:17

Revelation 17:17 For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.

This verse demonstrates that God can put things in peoples hearts so that they do what He wants them to do, without destroying their will: for we see that they do not just give their kingdom unto the beast but agree. And also that God can sinlessly put it in the heart of man to sin: for the beast is an enemy of God:

Revelation 20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

And we say that their union with the beast is not just union together, but union against the Christ:

Revelation 19:19 And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.

Revelation 19:11-13
11And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. 12His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. 13And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

It is by union with the beast that kings will be destroyed, and yet it is God who put it in their heart to agree and give their kingdom to the beast. Will someone ask how God can set them up for destruction and then destroy them? The answer is that God is the Creator: He can do whatever he pleases with his creation. For it is written:

Proverbs 16:4 The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.