Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Was Good to My Reading Schedule

I got:


and



and with my gift cards and cash will buy:


Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Great News of Christmas

Two thousand years ago, the Creator of everything joined His creatures on the planet He created for us. He became one of us, lived in one of the worst times of human history, and then died in the most terrible way imaginable. But He is not dead! He had the power to lay down His life and the power to take it back up again! He rose from the dead and defeated death. He took His Father's wrath for the sins we have committed, and endured the penalty for those sins on the cross of Calvary. Now, if we repent of our sins and trust Jesus for our salvation, we will join our Savior in an everlasting paradise, never to die, but to live for eternity praising the God who loved us so much!

While we reflect on the baby in the manger, Mary and Joseph, the wise men, the shepherds, the star, etc, let us remember that that little baby died from a Roman crucifixion and took our sins on Himself for us.

Praise the Lord Jesus Christ!!!

Final Post on Artificial Birth Control

This will be my final response to Steven on this issue as a main post. I don't want to devote any more of my main blog space to the issue. Any more interactions will have to take place in one of our comboxes.

Steven replies to my contention that the end of sex is union with one's spouse and childbirth:

(i) It is not entirely clear to me that primary end of sex is union with your spouse and a child. I would ask Brennon to show this from scripture; if he can do that, then we can start talking, but until he does so, I see no reason to accept his claim.

I think it's pretty self evident the natural end of sex is childbirth. This will happen if sex is properly performed, or if it is improperly performed in an adulterous relationship sans contraception.

In terms of scriptural support, there is a lot promoting the abundance of children and absolutely none condoning the limiting of children. In Genesis 1:28; 9:1,7; 35:11 we can see that from the very beginning children are the point of the marriage relationship.

In Genesis 38:8-10, the only explicit act of contraception is performed and the man is killed. Now, this passage is iffy in its use against contraception, and I somewhat hesitate to bring it up. I tend to lean against using it, as it is not clear. However, in support for using it, the punishment found in the law for one not giving his brother's wife an offspring is humiliation, not death (Deuteronomy 25:7-10). So, Onan should have been humiliated, not killed. Is it because of his act of contraception along with the explicit disobedience of God that Onan is killed? Almost all exegetes prior to the 1930'a thought so (Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, Calvin, Wesley, etc). Not all today are so sure.

Hosea 9:11 says that the lack of conception is a curse from God, meaning, in my opinion, that those who would avoid conception are placing themselves under that curse.

Psalm 127:3-5, as I have stated, says that an abundance of children is a blessing from God. I think determining for God how many blessings we allow Him to give is sinful.

I also think God's condemnation of homosexuality in scripture is another implicit sign in scripture that it is unnatural to waste the sexual act without the possibility of children. Why would God prohibit the joining of people of the same sex? It is unnatural! Why is it unnatural? One obvious reason is the inability for the couple to procreate.

(ii) But even if it is true that the primary end of sex is union with your spouse and a child, it does not follow that engaging in sex without either one of those ends in mind is sinful. I suppose the primary end of my hands is to use for grabbing things, tearing things apart, working with them, etc. But surely using my hands for other ends, like say walking on them for fun, isn't sinful. Suppose I use my hands to walk on them as part of an act of a circus--I'm a carny, let's say. That is clearly not the primary end my hands were created for. But why suppose that doing something like that is sinful?

I think the hand analogy here is a false analogy. To begin with, the use of one's hands is demonstrably different than the sexual act. Hands can be used for hundreds if not more things. I don't think it's unnatural at all to walk on your hands. It's a different use for them, but there's nothing inherently unnatural about it, and you aren't depriving them of a natural end. The deck was stacked when the only 'natural' uses of the hands were set up by Steven as grabbing, tearing, working with them. I don't think this is the case.

Or, say the primary end of my feet is walking, or running, or whatever. Surely if I use my feet to hold down a piece of paper that would've flown away with the wind otherwise, I am not using my feet for what they were primarily made for. But you'll have a hard time convincing me that that is sinful.

Again, I don't think this is an unnatural use of the feet, and it certainly isn't depriving anything of a natural end. Again, this is a false analogy.

(iii) Partaking in something for "purely selfish reasons" is not obviously wrong, either. Eating oranges because they are my favorite food, or watching the newest Werner Herzog film, or listening to my favorite metal album all involve doing something for purely selfish reasons--just to enjoy it, with no real regard for any other person involved in it--but they are not obviously wrong.

This is actually not Biblical at all. Philippians 2:3 says, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves." We aren't supposed to do anything for selfish reasons, but for the glory of God. Preventing God from blessing us is demonstrably not glorifying Him, as He is glorified in part by blessing His people. Enjoying the blessings of prosperity from God is not selfish, but is glorifying to God if we enjoy it within His guidelines.

(iv) It is just Brennon's opinion that having sex without wanting a child is selfish. But who cares? If scripture teaches something like that, it'd be an interesting point to bring up; but he hasn't shown scripture does teach that, so it is hard to see how it is interesting to the discussion.

I haven't heard a non-selfish reason for practicing BC. It always comes down to what WE think is the best number of children to have. As I said before, the main reasoning behind contraception seems to be about me wanting to have more time, about me wanting more money for myself, and about me not wanting to be inconvenienced.

In response to me pointing out that death is not a blessing he says:

(i) I never said that we seek death. My point was that avoiding death was not a bad thing, despite death being plausibly considered a blessing.

Death cannot be considered a blessing. Death is a curse for sin. What follows death can be a blessing if we are in Christ, but death itself is always a curse.

(ii) It is hardly obvious from the Corinthians text that you cited that Paul's point is what you would have it be. I don't see how Paul's naming death as an enemy in that eschatological context even slightly supports your thesis. How does Paul mean that we are to avoid death? How does what he says support the idea that death is not a blessing, by any plausible definition of the term?

Okay, if you need more Biblical support, death is referred to as a curse in Deuteronomy 30:19. Death is the ultimate curse for the sin of Adam. Death is always negative. Now, the life after death may or may not be a blessing, depending on your standing with Jesus.

Clearly it would be irresponsible behavior on the behalf of the poor family if they bought a large television on credit, trusting that God would provide for it

We can go off on many red herrings and cloud the issue a lot. It seems to me we're just trying to find ways to justify a behavior. We should owe no man anything (Romans 13:8) first of all. Second, it can hardly be said that having children is putting something on credit (aka another false analogy). Third, buying one of those things is a selfish act in the absence of money and in light of having children to provide for.

In summary:

1) I think it is obvious that the natural and God-intended end of sex is the union with your spouse and procreation.
2) I think it is clear that determining what you think is best over and above the will of God is sinful, as it is God who blesses with children.
3) Philippians 2:3 makes it clear we should not be doing things out of selfish reasons.
4) The Bible consistently speaks of death as a curse to avoid.
5) A poor couple trusting and obeying God have God's promise that He will provide for them. Obfuscation and red herrings notwithstanding, I am still convinced by scripture, reason, and history that artificial birth control is a sin that we should avoid.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Reasons I do not Believe in Artificial Birth Control

My fellow blogging friend, Steven, has brought up some reasons he doesn't think that contraception is wrong. I understand that it isn't a popular position these days, and I don't want to give the impression I am looking down on anyone who does use it or think it's okay, and in fact it is a position I have come to only in the last few years. However, I would tell people I think they are wrong and give my reasons. This issue isn't explicitly addressed in scripture as clearly as I'd like, but I do think there are implicit signs in scripture that it is not the natural or intended course set by God, as children are always referred to as a blessing and the more you have the better off you are (Psalm 127:3-5).

I appreciate Steven questioning me. It helps me to define my reasons for all, even myself. I will respond to some of his objections here.

It is not clear to me that to do something such that, if you were not to do it, you would receive a blessing from God is sinful. Suppose children are a blessing from God, as scripture teaches: why is it supposed to follow that if you don't want one, you are sinning?

That's not the only point. Not only is this blocking a blessing from God, but in performing the act and removing the possibility of the whole point of the act, you are acting against the natural reason for which the act was created for. You are not making the intended end of sex, which is union with your spouse and children, the goal of the act. The end of sex in the case where children are actively prevented becomes nothing but pleasure for selfish reasons, in my opinion. If someone doesn't want to have children, there are natural ways to prevent this that wouldn't be morally questionable, most notably abstinence (for a time at least).

I suppose being taken away into heaven would be a blessing; for Christians, to die is gain, as Paul tells us. It is a blessing from God for a Christian to be taken away from earth and to be with Christ. But is it therefore sinful if we do not desire this, for pragmatic concerns or otherwise?

Yes, upon death we will be better off than we are, but this does not mean we seek death, or that death itself is a blessing. Death is an enemy that we are to avoid (1 Corinthians 15:26) and only happens as a result of the sin we have committed. Furthermore, Paul did say that death would bring him into the presence of the Lord, but he would be removed from his intended end on earth, the propagation of the Gospel.

Hopefully that also addresses his next couple of paragraphs.

It also seems to me that if you really think you are sinning by behaving in such a way as to prevent yourself from receiving some blessing of God's

Ah, but as we see, death is not a blessing, but the enemy. We should not attempt to quicken our death because it is the curse for sin in this life, and would remove us from spreading the Gospel and advancing the kingdom of God. God will remove us in His time.

Say you and your wife are exceptionally poor

In this case I think modern Christians have forgotten who provides for them. God will provide what we need if we trust Him. I therefore don't think the "not enough money" argument is very good in light of God's promises. Joseph and Mary were not wealthy, yet God provided for them.

If you have sex with your wife, knowing that there is a high chance she will conceive, and that you will be having a baby in those conditions, it seems to me that is the height of irresponsibility

Which is why there are other natural options that do not require twisting the true and natural purpose of sex; which is union with your spouse in love and children. Preventing the possibility of children seems to be working against God and questioning His provision in your life. Furthermore, is anyone really ever "financially ready" to have children? God will provide.

Final Thoughts:
I think it's important to note, as I have in the past, that up until the 1930's, all of the greatest minds of Christianity believed that contraception was a sin. This doesn't make it necessarily so, but I think it adds weight that needs to be considered. Also, birth control is a progressive idea. It arose because of the degrading of the sanctity of life in the progressive agenda, and the false belief that having children is destroying and overpopulating the planet. Margaret Sanger, the earliest proponent of birth control, was a eugenicist and founded Planned Parenthood which is the largest abortion provider in the nation. The modern church has justified it in other ways.

The main reasoning behind contraception seems to be about me wanting to have more time, about me wanting more money for myself, and about me not wanting to be inconvenienced. I don't think these are adequate reasons to prevent the natural course from being taken. I don't think children are an inconvenience. The ancient Jew and Christian would be incensed at the idea, as they trusted God to provide what they needed.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Importance of the Docrine of Penal Substitution

The doctrine of Penal Substitution states that Christ died on the cross for sinners. He took our place as a substitute and took the punishment that sinners deserve in our place. The Father punished the Son instead of sinners. Since the penalty for sin has been paid, this payment will be applied to those who have faith in Christ. To me personally, this is one of my most cherished and beloved doctrines of the faith (not that I don't love them all) because it articulates what the sufferings of our dear Lord and Savior went through accomplished for us and why He had to suffer them. Other formulations of the atonement seem to leave something out.

Ransom theory and Christus Victor:
The ransom theory states that when Adam and Eve sinned, they effectually sold themselves to Satan. To rescue them, God tricked Satan into crucifying Jesus and thereby bought humanity back from Satan.

Christus victor, which is an updated version of the ransom theory, makes the atonement a liberation from death and sin.

The problem with the ransom theory is that it gives power over God to Satan. It also seems to make God deceptive in tricking Satan. Christus victor on its own has not gone far enough in its explanation and still leaves personal sin unpaid for and the wrath of God unfulfilled, although I think it does become an aspect of penal substitution.

Governmental theory:
This theory contends that

"Jesus was not punished on behalf of the human race. Instead, God publicly demonstrated his displeasure with sin by punishing his own sinless and obedient Son as a propitiation. Because Christ's suffering and death served as a substitute for the punishment humans might have received, God is able to extend forgiveness while maintaining divine order, having demonstrated the seriousness of sin and thus appeasing his wrath."1

This seems to leave no actual direct payment for sin, and doesn't explain exactly what the cross accomplished.

Moral influence theory:
This theory contends that God actually requires no payment for sin, but crucified His son to make Him an example for us to follow. It is supposed to greatly inspire humanity to soften their hearts and be self-sacrificing. This as the sole reason for the crucifixion seems ridiculous to me. Could this influence not have been conveyed without bloodshed? Also, if this theory is the case, how is Christ the only way to the Father? This theory also gives the impression that our own merits somehow garner our salvation.

The strengths of and Biblical support for Penal Substitution:
Some people are offended by the penal substitution formulation of the atonement, contending that it is unjust for someone else to pay for the sins of others. I'm wondering what happened on the cross if Jesus Himself wasn't taking the punishment for our sins. It is not as if Jesus had no say in the matter, but as God, Jesus Himself, out of His love for His creation, was accepting the punishment that humanity required on the cross. He died for our sins. "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him" (Isaiah 53:5) and "it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief" (Isaiah 53:10).

Not only is there a lot of scriptural support for it, but the whole sacrificial system of the Old Testament is a type of what would come in the person of Jesus Christ. It also makes sense of Paul's statement that in the gospel the "righteousness of God is revealed" (Romans 1:17). God remains a righteous and just judge by not dismissing the evil of sin. This problem is clarified in our knowledge of our own judicial systems. We know that a judge that would let a criminal off the hook without payment would be a corrupt judge. But God does not simply dismiss our sins, the punishment is taken on by God Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Oh what great love and mercy our God has for us, even when we don't deserve it!

One offended party I came across on the internet said it would be a crime for the Father to punish Jesus for something He didn't do. To say it's a crime for a willing party to accept the punishment of others out of love for them is poisoning the well. Christ willingly bore our sins and became sin for us so that we may be righteous before God (2 Corinthians 5:21). The curse of sin is removed from those that believe because Christ Himself became the curse of sin for us (Galatians 3:13).

The penal substitution theory also makes sense of the other theories. The ransom and Christus victor theories become applicable within penal substitution because a payment for sin was made, but the payment made was our penalty and it was made to the Father. The moral influence is applicable, but because we should truly be inspired by the price paid for our salvation from our sins and the punishment they required.

Only in the penal substitution formulation of the atonement is sense fully made of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. It truly shows the great love and mercy of our God, and also retains His righteous and just nature. Thank Jesus Christ!!!


1 Theopedia, Governmental theory of atonement, http://www.theopedia.com/Governmental_theory_of_atonement

Saturday, December 12, 2009

No Reason on Naturalism

In a purely naturalistic framework, to talk of rationality would be meaningless. On naturalism our cognitive faculties would be geared for survival, not rationality or truth. Therefore, we would have no reason to think any of our beliefs are true, even the belief in naturalism itself. All of what we perceive to be true would be nothing more than electrical impulses in our brains that would only be guiding us for survival. There would be no basis on which to think anything we perceive is true. This is epistemically incoherent and creates a state that is self-defeating for the naturalist.

However, the theist has good grounds to think that they can ascertain truth reliably. If there is a God who has fashioned our minds to be able to grasp truths, then we can be confident in our ability to do so.

More on this by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Michael Patton on the Essentials and Non Essentials

C. Michael Patton has an interesting and helpful look at his list of the essentials and non-essentials of the Christian faith at his blog Parchment and Pen. I largely agree with him. Check it out at: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2009/12/essentials-and-non-essentials-how-to-choose-you-battles-carefully-chart-included/

Friday, November 27, 2009

Why I Support the Manhattan Declaration

On November 20, representatives from the Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox traditions released a statement affirming their stance on the issues of the sanctity of life and of the God-ordained institution of marriage. I first heard about this on Tony Perkin's weekly radio show about current events where he featured Chuck Colson speaking about the importance of the declaration. I agreed and thought it was an amazing display of unity in stating what Christians should not compromise on in this increasingly secularized culture.

Not surprisingly, however, there are some who are denouncing the declaration and saying, essentially, that the evangelical leaders are selling out or compromising the gospel because of their cooperation with Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. I disagree. I used to think this same way. I used to think Catholics were all unregenerate heretics who needed serious spiritual shaking. However, I no longer believe this. I could not in good conscience become a Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, but I could also not become Presbyterian for the same reason. A cursory reading of church history shows that many doctrinal issues have been disagreed upon by many godly people. The essentials have always been affirmed, but there are secondary issues that do not determine ones salvation.

The church split some 500 years ago especially over the argument of justification and whether it is by faith alone, and whether we are imputed the righteousness of Christ, or if Christ's righteousness is infused into us. At that time I believe Rome was reactionary. They anathematized those who said we are justified by faith alone. However, in recent years we have seen amazing progress in Catholic/Evangelical dialog. The 1994 statement from Evangelicals and Catholics Together (click here) states:

The New Testament makes it clear that the gift of justification is received through faith. "By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). By faith, which is also the gift of God, we repent of our sins and freely adhere to the Gospel, the good news of God’s saving work for us in Christ. By our response of faith to Christ, we enter into the blessings promised by the Gospel. Faith is not merely intellectual assent but an act of the whole person, involving the mind, the will, and the affections, issuing in a changed life. We understand that what we here affirm is in agreement with what the Reformation traditions have meant by justification by faith alone (sola fide).

Also, in November of 2008, Pope Benedict said in a speech from the Vatican, "man is unable to justify himself by his works, but becomes just before God only because God restores us to right relationship by uniting us with Christ. Man obtains this union with Christ by means of faith."1 He continued in this speech to articulate an entirely acceptable, according to my evangelical standards, view of the functions of faith and works in the Christian life. This is especially evident in this statement from the same speech: "The centrality of justification without works, the main object of Paul's preaching, presents no contradiction to faith working through love; on the contrary it requires that our own faith be expressed in a life in accordance with the Spirit."2

Now does this mean I endorse all of Catholic theology? Of course not. I think the Catholic church is very wrong on several aspects of theology, especially in regard to Mary. But do these theological errors pass the line of essential doctrines? I don't think so. I think that there are many godly and regenerate Christian people within the Catholic and Orthodox churches who are wrong in some aspects of their theology, just as I think the same thing about Calvinists. There are Catholics and Orthodox who are not truly saved, just as there are many protestants in the same boat. It's all about their relationship with Jesus. Is the rift that came about 500 years ago healed? No, but it is looking much better than it did. As the popular saying goes: "in essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty; in all things charity."

So, I stand firmly behind all of the signers of this declaration and think it is important to show this kind of unity in a world that is becoming more and more hostile to the people of Christ.

1 There is no Contradiction Between Faith and Works, Pope Asserts, http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=14450

2 Ibid.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ideologically Driven "Science"

The recent revelation of the e-mails between top global warming scientists revealing their suppression and manipulation of data that would challenge the theory of human-caused global warming (click here) has, I think, deeper implications for the scientific community. The scandal brings to light the dirty little secret of "peer-reviewed" science. This method, which so many hold up as the infallible means of discovering truth, has been shown to be susceptible to deception and manipulation. But how!? With scientists reviewing and scrutinizing each others work, there should be no way false conclusions would go unchecked. However, as we see here, ideologies can become so ensconced within the scientific community that they can become a kind of sacred cow, and questioning them makes the skeptic of the "mainstream" scientific conclusion a knuckle dragging doofus. How dare we question the scientific consensus?

When a theory becomes the foregone conclusion among scientists that something is the way they say it is, data can be manipulated, cherry-picked, and misinterpreted (purposely or otherwise) to arrive at the scientist's presupposition. For example, in one case scientists purposely selected three trees that supported their presupposition out of a group of many others.1 This ensured that the data they presented would lead to the conclusion they wanted, and their peers missed or ignored it.

I think you can see the parallels within other areas of science, such as biology, that have accepted a specific explanations and will castigate anyone who questions the status quo. This is evident in the vitriol aimed at those who would promote Intelligent Design as an alternative to neo-Darwinism.

Why does the scientific community become so committed to certain positions? I have a few speculations:
  1. Monetary: The scientists who follow the status quo are the ones who get the grant money. It becomes essential to their livelihood to support the "consensus".
  2. Political: There are those who want to advance a political ideology, and scientific conclusions sometimes fuel political decisions that lead to more government control.
  3. Theological: Some scientists and philosophers are so committed to the belief that there is no God, that they will do anything to advance that idea and bring others into the same line of thought
I think those behind these scams are anything but scientists. They are nothing but ideologues who are more interested in their own interests than in truth. The media is ignoring it because they don't want to threaten what they believe, but they should be out hounding the people who have propagated these lies. I hope this wakes people up and causes them to question these scientists rather than just accepting everything they say because they have the label scientist.

1 Andrew Orlowski, Treemometers: A new scientific scandal, If a peer review fails in the woods..., http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/09/29/yamal_scandal/

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

William Lane Craig on Romans 9

It's nice to see I'm in good company.

Paul's burden, then, in Romans 9 is not to narrow the scope of God's election but to broaden it. He wants to take in all who have faith in Christ Jesus regardless of their ethnicity. Election, then, is first and foremost a corporate notion: God has chosen for Himself a people, a corporate entity, and it is up to us by our response of faith whether or not we choose to be members of that corporate group destined to salvation.

Read the entire article this comes from here: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6675

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Romans 9: Updating my Exegesis

While the Calvinist may be sincere in his interpretation of Romans 9, I believe he has misread this passage because he has missed some of the context needed to correctly interpret the passage. Here is what I believe is the correct interpretation of this passage. First, we need to avoid the mistake that the Calvinist exegete makes here. We need to always keep in mind the context of this passage, especially when it is a hard to understand passage, and avoid proof-texting. And always ask, “What does the text say, and what does the text mean?” Let’s begin at the beginning - verse 1. (Biblical text in blue, my exegesis in normal).

1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,

1-3: Paul is Jewish and He is writing here about his Jewish brethren. We need to keep this important fact in mind, as it is the most important thing to remember in order to properly understand this passage. One good thing to ask ourselves here is why Paul would be so upset over those who are not accepting Christ if they had been predestined that way? Why, if God is glorified through their reprobation, is Paul so distraught? Even to the point he would give his own salvation so they may be saved! Isn’t Paul's main concern the glory of God? I thought God would be glorified in this!? Why would Paul care so much about those God has chosen to reprobate out of His own sovereign decree?

4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.

4-5: This is the context of Romans 9. Paul is writing about people groups. Paul has his hypothetical questioner wonder why all these promises to the Jews, especially the promise of the Messiah, were being ignored by the Jews? Has God somehow failed in His choice of the Jewish people? Paul argues throughout Romans that salvation is based on faith and not by works. When he comes to Romans 9-11, Paul is dealing now with the anticipated Jewish contention that God has rejected His people whom He chose, and even through whom Christ came. We don’t think about it much today because we are so far separated from that line of thinking, but this is the context in which Paul wrote.

6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel

6: Paul addresses the misconception here that the Jews were automatically saved simply because they are Jews, and also the misconception that God somehow failed in choosing them as His people. He states, “But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect (failed in His choice of the Jews). For they are not all Israel who are of Israel.” They are not all Israel (the people of God) simply because they are of Israel (of Jewish descent). It is crucial to see that this is about corporate election! God has predestined that believers as a group (spiritual Israel) would be saved, and non-believers will not. God's election is not about national decent and birthright, as will be shown with the examples of the patriarchs and their children, but about faith in Him.
In the Old Testament, God chose the Jews for a purpose. They were tasked with carrying the Law of God. God was revealing Himself to the world and they were tasked with recording that revelation. They kept the temple sacrifices and the Passover which all pointed to Jesus Christ. They were not saved simply because they were Jews. They were saved the same way as we are, as shown in Genesis 15:6 where Abrahams FAITH was accounted to him as righteousness (Christ’s future sacrifice paid for the salvation of Abraham and all who had faith in God in the Old Testament). Also, people from outside the Jewish nation came to faith in God, and God looked at Christ’s sacrifice instead of their sin.

7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. 9 For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.”

7-9: God chose Isaac to be the heir of Abraham, the heir that would carry on the Jewish race. It wasn’t due to who Isaac was; it was God’s sovereign choice in choosing Isaac to do this, for His own reasons. It wasn’t simply enough to be Abraham’s son, for Ishmael was also his son. Isaac was the child of promise. God supernaturally caused Sarah to give birth to him, and chose him as the specific person to carry on the line of the Jews, even though Ishmael was the firstborn. However, this is not speaking of Isaac being unconditionally elected unto salvation and Ishmael being reprobated. If you remember correctly, God had mercy on Ishmael.

10 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls),

10-11: Here it is essential to know a little cultural context here. Rabbis at this time taught that God had chosen Israel because of the righteousness of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and other ancient Jewish fathers). Paul is refuting that! It wasn’t because of the things they did (because they were chosen before birth); it was because of the sovereign choice of God that He chose them as the ones to carry on the lineage of Israel.

12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”

12-13: Improperly understood, this could have massive repercussions on your interpretation of the rest of the Bible. Is God telling Rebecca while her children were still in the womb that He hates one of them!? God hated a baby!? How does that fit the rest of scripture? First off, Paul is quoting Genesis 25:23. It says, “two NATIONS are in your womb. Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.’” Remember what I've been saying? This is a prophecy about God choosing a nation to reveal Himself through. This is not about the boys themselves. Esau became the father of the Edomites. Jacob was renamed Israel and the nation of Israel descended from him. This is about Israel being a stronger nation than Edom, not about Esau literally serving Jacob. We see later on that Esau never actually served Jacob, they were reconciled, and I think they are both in heaven today. This is also not about individual election unto salvation. It’s about the sovereign choice of God of a nation to reveal Himself through.
But what about, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”? This is from Malachi 1, which was written 1600 years after the passage from Genesis. Let’s examine it. Notice God is speaking to the nation of Israel.
2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the LORD. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage For the jackals of the wilderness.” 4 Even though Edom has said, “We have been impoverished, But we will return and build the desolate places,” Thus says the LORD of hosts: “ They may build, but I will throw down;
This entire passage is also about the nations, not the boys. They would have died over 1400 years prior to this. Paul is using these passages to make his point about corporate election. God chose Israel to bless, not Edom. The boys are simply the figureheads of these nations.
Also, when the words “Love-hate” are used as they are here, hated is being used as an idiom (the Hebrews loved using these). It is used opposite to love to express a lesser degree of love, not literal hatred. You can see a similar usage in Genesis 29:30. Jesus uses the same idiom in Luke 14:26. We’re not actually supposed to hate our parents, but compared to our love for God, the love for our parents is like hate.
So instead of teaching that God hated a baby before he had done anything, this passage actually teaches that God chose specific nations for specific things. That is a huge difference.

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

14-16: What about this? Was God unrighteous when He chose Jacob over Esau? At the same time, is He unrighteous for not choosing Jews on the basis of their heritage? The Jews at this time would have thought so. Esau was the eldest and that meant that the birthright of Isaac was naturally his. But God chose Jacob to be the one to carry on the line of Israel. Paul asserts that of course God is not unrighteous in this decision.
In verse 15 Paul is citing Exodus 33:19. Let’s remember that Paul is a Jewish Rabbi. Jews memorized large portions of the Old Testament. He had an amazing command of knowledge of these ancient texts. Would he rip the text out of context in order to prove a point about individual unconditional election? No! The context here is not about who goes to heaven and who does not. In context, Moses has asked God to show him His glory. God says it is because of His mercy that He has decided to show Himself to Moses, not due to anything Moses did. So Paul’s point is God does not owe us mercy based on what we do (will or run). The basis of God’s choice to save people is not on the people’s conduct, but on His compassion. The “IT” in verse 16 is not individual salvation; the “IT” refers to God’s choice of what to predicate His salvation on: Corporate election. Individual unconditional election has not appeared in this section.

17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.

17-18: Is this speaking of eternal salvation? If it is, it is terrible! Are there people whom God hardened, leaving them nothing they can do about it? Has God chosen them for destruction? Certainly God has the power to do this, but does this sound like the God of the Bible? Ezekiel 33:11 says, “‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.’” 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” And 1 Timothy 2:4 says,“[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” This is what God wants. He wants everyone to be saved because He loves us. But He allows us to reject His call.
Concerning Pharaoh and Moses and God hardening Pharaoh’s heart, we must remember that Pharaoh was never a believer and had already hardened his heart toward God. God in displaying His grace to Pharaoh was the occasion for Pharaoh to harden his heart. Much like we say prison hardens a criminal, we know it is actually the criminal hardening himself; Pharaoh likewise was hardened because of God’s grace. Also the Hebrew word for “harden” is more often translated “to give strength, to fortify.” So in Exodus 14:17, God may have only strengthened the resolve of what the Egyptians had already chosen to do. God never decided to send Pharaoh to hell based on an arbitrary decree. Pharaoh went to hell because of his sins.
So how does this example apply here? God shows mercy to who He wants to show mercy. By sending Moses to pharaoh, God displayed His mercy. By this act, God was the cause of Pharaoh's heart-hardening. God knew pharaoh would harden His heart, and God used this to display His own glory and power in bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. He chose to harden pharaoh to display His glory, but it was based on what He knew pharaoh would do. Likewise, God has chosen to show mercy to those who believe in His Son, and not simply those who are of Jewish descent and do the works of the law.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory

19-23: The hypothetical questioner asks, "why does God still find fault?" To properly read this, we must understand what is being asked here. The question is not, "why Pharaoh or the Jews cannot come to God in faith?"; the question is, "why is fault being found if they are accomplishing the purpose of God?". The hypothetical questioner asks why God is still angry if God's glory is shown when His grace causes someone to harden their heart, why does He still hold those people culpable for their hard hearts? Paul dismisses this silly question. If God wants to save one vessel according to faith and use those who don't have faith to accomplish His purpose in spite of their unbelief, that is His sovereign prerogative. He alludes to another passage in the Old Testament in Jeremiah 18:3-11. The potter is God and the clay is the nation of Israel. What does this passage say about who God destroys?

8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. 9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, 10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.

So, the point seems to be if the nation turns from it's evil, God will spare it. But if it doesn't, God will destroy it. This example shows again that Paul is speaking of corporate election of believers. God has chosen to mold from the same lump (Israel) vessels for common use and those for honorable. Those who have turned from their evil ways in faith to Jesus are the "vessles of mercy", those who have not are the "vessels of wrath".

So as God chose the people of Israel as His people, He has chosen believers (spiritual Israel) as His people that He will save. On the other hand, God prepares those who reject Him for an eternal punishment. The translation of the words, “What if,” is a little misleading. Paul is not asking a hypothetical question. He is making an assertion. Notice that God does not display His wrath hurriedly. He endures the vessels of wrath with much patience. The fact is we were all vessels of wrath at one time, until we came to Jesus by faith.

24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

24: God calls people to be a part of His spiritual kingdom not only from the Jews, but also from the Gentiles. In the early church many were excluding gentiles because they weren’t Jews. The apostles had to deal with this, among many other issues they dealt with.

25 As He says also in Hosea:




“ I will call them My people, who were not My people,
And her beloved, who was not beloved.”
26 “ And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them,


‘ You are not My people,’
There they shall be called sons of the living God.”


27 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel:




“ Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea,
The remnant will be saved.
28 For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness,
Because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth.”


29 And as Isaiah said before:




“ Unless the LORD of Sabaoth[l]had left us a seed,
We would have become like Sodom,
And we would have been made like Gomorrah.”

25-29: Paul quotes the Old Testament to support this point (that He elects those who believe) and to tell what the ramifications of Israel’s rejection of God are.

30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. 33 As it is written:




“ Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense,
And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

30-33: This is the real kicker. Verse 30 is Paul’s summary of all He had just said. Paul starts by saying, "What shall we say then?" which signals he is about to say what the ramifications of all this are. Paul's ultimate point, therefore, is gentiles who have not pursued righteousness, as the Jews had, attained righteousness by FAITH. Whatever else Romans 9 means; there is certainly no reason to read a double predestenarian viewpoint into it, especially in light of verses 30-33.

Friday, November 13, 2009

In Defense of my Moral Argument

Steven writes:

In neither case does it follow. Morals can be subjective and yet not arbitrary--perhaps our moral judgments are a product of our upbringing, psychological states, personal preferences, and so on

I don't think you understand the connotation of arbitrariness. If this is the case, they were arbitrarily formed by our predecessors. They are subjectively determined by people. If you're still having an issue with the definitions of arbitrary and subjective you might appreciate this Thesurus.com entry:

Main Entry: arbitrary
Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: whimsical, chance
Synonyms:
approximate, capricious, discretionary, erratic, fanciful, frivolous, inconsistent, injudicious, irrational, irresponsible, offhand, optional, random, subjective, supercilious, superficial, unaccountable, unreasonable, unscientific, wayward, willful

They're synonyms, Steven. To be arbitrary is to be subjective.

Neither does it follow from the fact that if moral values are not eternal, then they are arbitrary

Yes it does. It means someone has subjectively created them, meaning they are an arbitrary decision of someone, not based in any objective/binding reality.

Suppose moral values change over time, but change for good reason. That's possible.

If they did, they would be arbitrary and subjective.

So it doesn't follow that if they are not eternal, they arbitrary.

Yes it does, since someone would have arbitrarily determined them at some point.

(i) Moral values can be "based in something" and yet not objective--for instance, they can be "based in" our personal preferences and emotions.

And that's why I said, "For morals to be objectively true, they must proceed from something that transcends this world." I am arguing against morals being founded in the individual. That would make them completely arbitrary.

(ii) They can come from another source than an individual's mind, sure, but why do they have to be grounded in a mind to begin with?

You gonna go with Plato and say they exist in some special reality as actual things? They're abstract concepts, like numbers, which originate from the essence of God.

(i) It doesn't follow from the fact that we might have evolved such that we valued different things that therefore there are no objective moral values in a naturalistic universe.

Yes it does. If morals could have been different, then they aren't objective. They are arbitrarily based on how we evolved. Objective morals are true no matter if anyone believes them or not. If the Nazis had won WWII, we might all think what the did was morally good, but we would be wrong.

(ii) Why suppose that, even if we are no different than the rest of the animal world, there are no objective moral values? That doesn't follow.

Because the morals would be arbitrary evolutionary concepts created by us for survival. They would not be based in anything, and there would be no reason that we would be obligated to follow any.

(iii) We are different from the rest of the animal world--we can reason, make value judgments, be aware of moral truths, etc.

On naturalism, we're simply highly developed ape descendants. And how can we be aware of "moral truths" if there aren't any?

(i) That doesn't follow. They could have been formulated for some reason.

And the reason is arbitrary. Arbitrary doesn't mean 'without reason' it means "subject to individual will or judgment without restriction; contingent solely upon one's discretion." Someone could have a completely arbitrary reason for forming moral values.

(ii) Why think that if moral truths change, they have to be "formulated" by some person?

One person, group of people (society). It changes nothing. If they are changing, they are being reformulated.

You're begging the question by assuming that if moral truths exist at all,

No I'm not. I'm telling you why your view makes them arbitrary and subjective. I don't have to assume my view to do this.

(i) Moral values can change for good reasons, or change with the state of the universe, like the mass of the planets change, etc.

Now this is begging the question. Aren't you a philosophy major???

(ii) God could arbitrarily decide some things to be moral--does it follow that they are not objective?

I'll think about that.

I think you may be the only person in the universe who takes "There are no moral values" to be a moral judgment

Do you talk to anyone?

Then you shift the burden of proof by rebutting my, I think, common sense observation that it is not a moral judgment by telling me I need to prove it isn't.

Yes, because it is espousing a moral judgement/philosophy.

There are no moral values, on the other hand, is a description of the state of the universe

It is wrong to kill is a description of the state of the universe. It doesn't mean it is any less a moral value. Claiming a lack of morals is itself espousing a moral position, that there are none.

it makes no evaluative claim

"There are no morals" isn't a claim? It's not evaluating the state of something?

it doesn't predicate a normative quality or property of some subject at all. So it is not a moral judgment.

Ummm...it is predicating a normative quality and property of morals.

The consequent doesn't follow from the antecedent.

If the premises are true, it does. As I have shown your arguments against my premises to be lacking, they still stand.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Modified Version of the Moral Argument

I jotted this argument down in Philosophy class the other day.

1) If objective moral values exist, then God exists.
2) Stating "there are no objective moral values" is itself a moral judgement.
3) It is self-refuting to state that objective moral values don't exist.
4) Therefore, objective moral values do exist.
5) Therefore God exists.

I've never seen the argument constructed like this, but I think it strengthens the argument to add the obvious self-refuting aspect of stating there are no moral values. This claim is impossible because it in and of itself is a moral claim, therefore there is at least that objective moral. But since there is that objective moral, the statement defeats itself. Therefore, following premise one, the conclusion follows that God exists.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Oh that Rob Bell, hee hee

(Thanks to Dale Wayman for this. Hilarious!)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Craig v Ayala and My Thoughts on the "Evidence" for Darwinism

Last night I watched a debate between William Lane Craig and Francisco J. Ayala over the viability of Intelligent Design as a scientific theory (you can find the audio here). I am constantly struck by the logical fallacies and leaps in logic employed by the Darwinist. Ayala presented the normal candidates for his defense of evolution in attacking the viability of Intelligent Design; the peppered moths and the finches. Evolutionists take this observed natural selection, these adaptations and changes within these animals and their offspring, and then leap to common descent without any empirical support. The support put forward, like last night (archaeopteryx), is sparse and unconvincing. The logical leap from this evidence is unwarranted. The Theses of Common Descent and Random Mutation and Natural Selection as the means of evolutionary development stem from enormous extrapolations from very limited evidence. There is an inherent presupposition that underlies the extrapolation. It is, simply stated, a leap of faith. Yet when the ID-er observes high improbability conjoined with an independently given pattern, which in any other case would imply design, we are chastised unmercilessly for believing in a magic fairy or something. Sorry, if I see evidence of design I am justified in following that evidence.

Ayala's main contention came down to theology (he is Roman Catholic). He simply didn't think God would be so cruel to create creatures with imperfections. We have imperfect jaws and imperfect eyes (although the question "why would God create us with a blind spot in our vision?" was answered), and he just doesn't think God would be so shoddy, so therefore God left it up to natural causes. But it doesn't follow that just because something is imperfect, doesn't mean it isn't designed. And, if we follow the Biblical account, it is because of sin that God cursed the creation. He created everything good, but because of our sin everything is not what it was originally.

I do not see enough evidence for the Theses of Common Descent and Random Mutation and Natural Selection as the means of evolutionary development. In fact, the evidence points to a time when there was an explosion of a huge amount of new and different animal kinds which defies the theses of common descent.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Arminianism = Council of Orange

The Council of Orange happened in AD 529 to settle the Augustinian/Pelagian rift in the church. Many Calvinists accuse Arminians as being semi-Pelagians. But semi-Pelagianism was also condemned as heresy at the Council of Orange. Was Arminianism condemned in 529? Ha! Hardly. A reading of Arminius and the Canons of the council shows a nearly identical position, right down to the refutation of a doctrine Calvinists hold to, reprobation and determinism toward evil:

We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema. (http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/history/council.orange.txt)


For direct comparisons between the canons of the council and Arminius' own writings, click here.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Perseverence of the Saints....???

William Birch (click here) and I are doing a tag-team today.

One of the main points of Calvinistic theology is their doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. This is the doctrine in which one who is elect of God cannot lose his or her salvation.1

Calvin said:
"In like manner, in the Gospel of Luke, those in whom the seed of the word is choked before it brings forth fruit, or in whom, from having no depth of earth, it soon withereth away, are said to believe for a time. Such, we doubt not, eagerly receive the word with a kind of relish, and have some feeling of its divine power, so as not only to impose upon men by a false semblance of faith, but even to impose upon themselves. They imagine that the reverence which they give to the word is genuine piety, because they have no idea of any impiety but that which consists in open and avowed contempt. But whatever that assent may be, it by no means penetrates to the heart, so as to have a fixed seat there. Although it sometimes seems to have planted its roots, these have no life in them. The human heart has so many recesses for vanity, so many lurking places for falsehood, is so shrouded by fraud and hypocrisy, that it often deceives itself."2


This being the case, I think it's important to point out the true lack off assurance any Calvinist truly has. If anyone can be fooled about their conversion, no Calvinist can say they ARE elect with certainty. They feel elect, maybe, but they have no idea if Christ died for them or not, since Christ only died for a select few. The irony is most Calvinists tout this as one of their distinctive advantages, they KNOW they are saved; but we can see there is really no grounds for this assurance because they can't be sure their Christian experience isn't the false assurance Calvin described.

R.C. Sproul writes:
"A while back I had one of those moments of acute self-awareness…and suddenly the question hit me, 'R.C., what if you are not one of the redeemed? What if your destiny is not heaven after all, but hell?' Let me tell you that I was flooded in my body with a chill that went from my head to the bottom of my spine. I was terrified… I began to take stock of my life, and I looked at my performance...”3
Am I missing something? What good would introspection do in this case? If you aren't elect, no amount of introspection is going to change that!!! The introspection does nothing in any case. If upon introspection you find you aren't elect, there's nothing you can do to change that.

As an Arminian, however, there is good grounds for assurance. We know that Christ has died for all (1 John 2:2, 2 Peter 3:9, etc.) and by faith we can have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us (Acts 16:31, Romans 3:28, Ephesians 2:8-9). We also know no believer can be separated from the Lord (Romans 8:35-39).4


1 There are some Arminians and other non-Calvinists who hold to this theological distinctive. The reasoning, however, is different in the non-Calvinist versions. While in Calvinism it is necessary when considering unconditional election and limited atonement, in non-Calvinist theology it is seen as simply a promise of God that once a person is saved they cannot lose their salvation.

2 John Calvin, Institutes Book 3 Section 2, http://www.reformed.org/master/index.html?mainframe=/books/institutes/

3 R.C. Sproul, “Assurance of Salvation,” Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries, Inc., 1989, 20. Cited in Dave Hunt, What Love is This

4 However, I do believe one can cease believing and, therefore, is no longer in Christ.

Monday, October 19, 2009

In Memory of Jacobus Arminius


Today is the 400th anniversary of the death of one of the greatest theologians and Christian thinkers in history, Jacobus Arminius (aka Jakob Harmenszoon). He died October 19, 1609 after a fruitful ministry. Unlike other theologians of the time, he spent 2/3 of his ministry in the church as a pastor. He was unquestionably a pastor's pastor.

His early life was tragic. His father most likely died before he was born. As a young man, he enrolled in the University of Marburg under Martin Luther's successor, Philipp Melanchthon. Shortly after beginning, however, his home village was destroyed and his family was killed. "Theodore Aemilius, a clergyman, distinguished for piety and learning, then resided at Utrecht, and, becoming acquainted with the circumstances of the family, he charged himself with the education of the child."1

Later, Arminius attended the college founded by John Calvin, the University of Leiden where he was mentored by Calvin's successor, Theodore Beza. "He remained there six years, occupying the highest place in the estimation of his instructors, and of his fellow students."2 Because of his amazing mind, he was offered a doctorate very quickly, but turned it down because he did not think he was old enough for it at that time.

On August 11, 1588, Arminius was ordained to preach at the Dutch Reformed Church in Amsterdam. For more than a decade, he was the pastor of this church, and it was in this time he abandoned the Calvinistic teachings and adopted the theology which would come to bear his name.
At first, for the sake of peace, he was very guarded in his expressions, and avoided special reference to the subject, but soon, becoming satisfied that such a course was inconsistent with his duty as a professed teacher of religion, he began modestly to testify his dissent from the received errors, especially in his occasional discourses on such passages of Scripture as obviously required an interpretation in accordance with his enlarged views of the Divine economy in the salvation of sinners. This became a settled practice with him in 1590.3
In 1590, he married Elizabeth Real, the daughter of Judge Laurence Jacobson Real, who was famous for promoting Protestantism. They had twelve children, three of whom died as infants.4

Occasionally, he would clash with strongly Calvinistic preachers in the area. When he expounded Romans 7 and then Romans 9, he was met with significant backlash.

In 1602, Francis Junius, Professor of Divinity at Leiden, died. The university immediately sought out Arminius to fill his spot. This was met with considerable opposition from some of his opponents. Nonetheless, he obtained his Doctorate in July of 1603 and immediately "began to discharge the functions of Professor of Divinity."5

To his dismay, Arminius found that his students were deficient in their study of the Bible. All of their attention had been focused on the theological debates of the time instead of their study of the scripture. He immediately tried to reverse this trend and directed his students to devote more time to the study of scripture. This and his views on predestination were cause for many to try to create controversy surrounding him. He did not respond to any attacks until 1608.
[H]e vindicated himself in three different ways; first, in a letter to Hippolytus, a Collibus, Ambassador to the United Provinces from the Elector Palatine; secondly, in an "apology against thirty-one articles, etc," which, though written in 1608, was not published till the following year; and lastly, in his noble "Declaration of Sentiments," delivered on the thirtieth of October, 1608, before the States in a full assembly at the Hague.6
1609 was Arminius' final year before going home to the Lord Jesus. Because of the mounting controversies, he got sick with tuberculosis. He gave his final public disputation on "the vocation of men to salvation."
The excitement caused by some circumstances connected with that disputation, produced a violent paroxysm of his disease, from which he never recovered. He remained in acute physical pain, but with no abatement of his usual cheerfulness, and with entire acquiescence in the will of God, till the nineteenth of October, 1609. On that day, about noon, in the words of Bertius, "with his eyes lifted up to heaven, amidst the earnest prayers of those present, he calmly rendered up his spirit unto God, while each of the spectators exclaimed, ‘0 my soul, let me die the death of the righteous.’"7
1 Wesley Center Online, A Sketch of the Life of James Arminius, http://wesley.nnu.edu/arminianism/Arminius/a.htm, (October 13, 2009)

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 The Expository Times, Vol. 83, No. 2, 64 (1971)

5 http://wesley.nnu.edu/arminianism/Arminius/a.htm

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Do You Believe in Magic?

Is God just a cop out? Do we worship a "magical being up in the sky?" Are we hypocrites for saying the universe just "popping" into existence would be worse than magic when we worship an unseen God? I'm sure you're aware of the rhetorical nature of these questions, and I will explain why.

Magic is logically incoherent things happening for silly reasons. Examples would be a rabbit popping into a hat out of thin air at the behest of a magician. This is a natural impossibility within our universe, which is governed by laws. Since these things are naturally impossible, people must use sleight of hand to make it appear that things are happening that really are not. These things never actually occur. They are tricks!

Another form of 'magic' would be sorcery, the more satanic kind where people call on demons to cause naturally impossible phenomenon to happen. These things don't really fit in to my definition of magic here, since there could be supernatural forces at work for whom it is not impossible to act on the real world in strange ways.

If there is a God His actions also could not be classified as 'magical.' If there is a maximally powerful being it would be completely logically coherent and physically possible for that being to anything that is logically coherent. Creating the universe out of nothing and creating living beings would not be impossible for such a being. It would be completely logically feasible for this being to be able to perform these acts.

However, being coming from non-being and life coming from non-life is logically incoherent and physically impossible based on all the physical laws of this universe, like the law of biogenesis. It would be worse than magic to imagine these things happening uncaused and without purpose. That being the case, if there is no God, not only must the universe have existed for eternity, but life also would have had to exist from eternity. But this is unproven in at least two ways:

1) Because evidence shows otherwise. Big bang cosmology shows a beginning of the universe of which prior to that there was no time or matter.

2) Because an actual infinite number of events (which an infinite universe would contain) is impossible.

The concept of an actual infinite number of past events, which an infinite universe would consist of, leads to philosophically and mathematical absurdities. It is something that cannot exist in reality.

The best way to illustrate this is with some examples. For instance if we had an actual infinite number of objects, we could take some objects from this infinite number. Say we had an infinite number of balls labeled 1, 2, 3, 4, on to infinity. Then say we take all of the even numbered balls; 2, 4, 6, and so on to infinity. So in this case:

infinity - infinity = infinity,

because there are still an infinite number of odd balls. But, if we had the same infinite number of balls and removed all the balls after 3; which would be 4, 5, 6, and so on to infinity, we would have:

infinity - infinity = 3.

This is a logical absurdity. We subtract the same values and end with a different result. Also, if there had to be an infinite amount of time before right now, how did we ever reach "now!?" (Thanks to William Lane Craig (website here) for examples such as these in debates, lectures, and literature to show the logical absurdity of actual infinites).

Hilbert's hotel (click here) further displays the logical absurdity an infinite regress of events is impossible.

The famous mathematician of whom the hotel problem is named after, David Hilbert, said, "The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea."

God's actions cannot be considered as magic. God Himself likewise cannot be considered magic. He can be considered a necessary being. I don't think it's possible for there not to be a God based on the logical contradictions it presents.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Reminders

It's nice to be reminded of things sometimes. As a reminder, Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

That's right. Our sins against God earn us death. Not only that, but it earns us an eternal punishment (John 3:18, Revelation 20:10). But through faith in Jesus of Nazareth, God incarnate (John 1:1-5, 14; Titus 2:13; etc), we have a substitute, a propitiation, for our sins. The sinless One took the sins of humanity on Himself so we might have eternal life (John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 1:21, etc).

It's not hard and it's available for all.

Just a reminder.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rationing in Massachusetts

Interesting...

“You can’t reap these savings without limiting patients’ choices in some way,’’ said Paul Levy, chief executive of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “It’s a huge issue, it’s huge.’’ Dr. James Mongan, president of Partners HealthCare, a Beth Israel Deaconess competitor, agreed that it wouldn’t “work without some restriction on choice.’’

Thursday, October 8, 2009

You Really Want the Government Controlling Your Health Care?

The democrats who are pushing the government controlled universal health care gloat about the success of Medicare. Of course they assume most people like Medicare, however there are people coming out against it lately (ie on Cavuto's show the other day).

One of the many reasons people like myself are uncomfortable with the government controlling health care is the possibility of health care rationing, where the government decides when it is "cost effective" to cover people, and when it is not. Medicare, this supposed "wonderful system," is denying claims at a faster rate than any private insurance company.

Here is a chart comparing Medicare and private insurance companies (from http://biggovernment.com/2009/10/05/ama-endorses-largest-denier-of-health-care-claims/):



Wednesday, October 7, 2009

C. Michael Patton on Textual Criticism of the Bible

C. Michael Patton of Reclaiming the Mind Ministries (click here) has posted a quick and concise guide to textual criticism on his blog (click here). I recommend reading it for a summary understanding of how the Bible has been preserved and translated.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Absurdity of the Atheist Apologist

Atheist apologists are driven to "convert" as many as possible to their point of view I assume by some sort of desire for "truth" or "higher meaning" or pity for the "deluded people of faith." But under atheism nothing matters! This existence has no higher meaning. It is useless. We'll all die and the universe will run out of heat energy, leaving a bunch of dead galaxies that will continue to drift farther and farther apart, and that's it.

The atheist shows the practical impossibility of his worldview. They flounder pathetically for some meaning. They grasp at social responsibilities and abhor oppression. But this gives away their inconsistency. They have to appeal to a "higher meaning" when they believe there is not one. It is their view that leaves no hope for those who suffer injustice and offer no punishment for those who oppress and are never brought to justice. We just die and the litter of a dead universe expands forever.

But the Bible says:

The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth (Revelation 11:18).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Learn About the Life of Jacob Arminius

All month long, my friend William Birch of the Classical Arminian blog (click here) will be posting about the life and experiences of one of one of the most influential, yet undervalued theologians (and one of my favorite theologians) Jacob Arminius, in memory of the 400th year since his death (October 19, 1609). I look forward to it and encourage anyone interested to check it out.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thinking of the Ontological Argument

The ontological argument, formulated in the 12th century by St. Anselm (click here), essentially states that since we can conceive of a perfect all-powerful being, God, He must exist, because nothing greater than God can be conceived. But if we conceive of God and He does not exist, we could conceive of something greater, namely a God who does exist. This hypothesis seems to lead to a logical absurdity: that there both is and is not something that can be imagined that is greater than God.

This can be formulated as such:

(1) God is that than which no greater can be conceived.
(2) If God is that than which no greater can be conceived then there is nothing greater than God that can be imagined.
Therefore:
(3) There is nothing greater than God that can be imagined.
(4) If God does not exist then there is something greater than God that can be imagined.
Therefore:
(5) God exists.1

So since we can't conceive of something greater than God, if He didn't exist we could conceive of something greater than Him. In that case, there is and isn't something that can be conceived that is greater than God. There is because we can conceive of a God who does exist, but at the same time there isn't because it’s impossible to imagine something greater than the greatest thing imaginable. This is a logical absurdity!

Now, my philosophy teacher brought up the concept of a yellow, striped, three-legged, talking cat in Japan and then asserted that it exists. But the problem I find with this is this animal is not something which something greater can be conceived. It isn't perfect or omnipotent. Since the only being that is perfect and all powerful is God, if we start conceiving of other things that have these attributes, they add nothing to the equation since that is what we began conceiving in the first place.

So, to finish, since not believing in a perfect being leads to a logical absurdity, such a being exists and this being is God.

1 http://www.philosophyofreligion.info/theistic-proofs/the-ontological-argument/st-anselms-ontological-argument/

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Refuting Determinism

By definition, if you can find one case of indeterminism then the entire system of strict determinism is false because of the nature of the view. In Jeremiah 32:35 God says, "And they built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin."

Here we have a direct example of God Himself saying He did not cause or order in any way an event to happen.

P1) If strict determinism is true, all events without exception are determined by God.
P2) The Bible presents an example of God not determining an event.
C) Therefore, the Bible refutes strict determinism.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Titanic Argument?

On Ray Comfort's blog (click here), which I visit periodically (because he draws the worst of the antitheists on the internet, and I like to see the arguments they are using), one of the lovely little atheists attacked a Christian's claim that the Bible is extremely historically accurate, proving Christianity to be rooted in history. He said:
So Titanic [film] was 100% true? After all, it did have Molly Brown and Captain Edward J. Smith in it and we know they existed, so by your logic so did Jack and Rose.

Give us a break Ray! So there is something historically accurate in the bible, I knew that, everyone did. But like Molly Brown and Captain Edward J Smith in Titanic, Herod and Pontius Pilate were fictional minor characters.
He apparently thinks this is persuasive, but if we use this "reasoning" against one historical document, we need to use it against all of them. Therefore, no ancient document that we haven't completely verified archaeologically (ie. almost all of them) can be considered accurate. No historical figures can be thought to have actually existed. For example, Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (racist??) mentions the Galapagos Island. But we can't be for sure that anything in the book actually happened. So just because Galapagos is there doesn't mean Darwin did anything there.

Hopefully, you can see the silliness of that argument. As William Lane Craig says, "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." We happen to have good evidence that the fictional events in the Titanic film didn't actually happen. We have the testimony of the writers of the movie saying they weren't based on real events. We have common sense that Hollywood creates stories that are fiction for entertainment. Likewise, we may not have exhaustive archaeological evidence of every single event in the Bible, but we have no evidence to the contrary. In fact, every single archaeological discovery associated with the Bible verifies the Biblical account. Nelson Glueck, the renowned Jewish archaeologist has written: “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference.”

So, another antitheist argument shows to be silly and based on a 1st grade mentality. I hope everyone can see where reason and logic lead...to faith.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11/2001

Never Forget

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Challenge to Atheists With the Cosmological Argument

I just realized that I have drawn the attention of a skeptic's blog, the Skeptical Eye. They seem to be your typical anarchist, against God and government. Thought I'd post the argument I used against one of them on another blog that the author was not able to refute (except to claim things can come into existence uncaused...?).

If it's true that everything that begins to exist has a cause, and the universe began to exist, the universe must have a cause. That cause cannot be material, because matter came into existence with the universe. It must be immaterial. The only things that are immaterial are abstract objects (like numbers), which are causally effete; or a personal consciousness.

So this cause necessarily has to exist separate from the universe (time and space), because those things came into existence with the universe.

Now, either we make the illogical statement that is worse than magic that says everything can come from nothing (which contradicts all logic for centuries), or the universe is eternal, which has been debunked, as Alexander Vilenkin, Professor of Physics and Director of the Institute of Cosmology at Tufts University, says:
It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning (Many Worlds in One [New York: Hill and Wang, 2006], p.176).
The only logical conclusion is the universe has a personal cause. Unless you're okay with relying on magic and not the science antitheists love so much.

I don't think logic is on the side of the antitheist.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Does Arminianism "Depersonalize" the Gospel?

James White claims Arminianism "depersonalizes" the gospel in this video. I will comment on certain parts of it.



As an Arminian, I obviously take umbrage with just about everything White says.

He starts off by poisoning the well saying "Arminianism is a man-centered faith." That is false. Arminians give all the glory to God in salvation. We do think, as 1 John 2:2 states, that Jesus died for all men and wants all to repent, as 2 Peter 3:9 says.

He then claims we think God makes salvation a "possibility." he saves in response to our faith, that does not somehow make it him and us doing the saving. That is a completely unusual use of language. If a doctor performs an operation on me in response to my consent, that does not somehow make it me and the doctor who performed the operation. No, the doctor and the doctor alone performs the operation even though he performs it in response to my consent. Almost no one would dream of saying the patient performed some of the operation, not even .000000000000001%. It was the doctor 100%. God alone saves us. But he does so in response to our faith. He does so by our faith.

God does not "try" to save people. God performed the work of salvation on the cross 2000 years ago. He commands us to have faith to have that gift applied to us. God does save those who believe, as the scripture states.

"Frightening, sad, depersonalize," way to continue poisoning the well.

I'm not an open theist, but I do know that they absolutely do NOT think man is sovereign.

On Romans 8:29-30:

Romans 8: 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Notice, this entire "chain" is based on God's foreknowledge. Just because God foreknows something doesn't mean He has irresistibly decreed it. Those He foreknew He predestined to be like His Son. Not it does not say predestined "TO BE SAVED." No, we are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.

Every other statement is a recall to this statement, to be conformed to the image of His Son. We are then called, justified, and ultimately glorified. The calling comes after the predestination to be conformed to the image of His Son, and the predestination comes after the foreknowledge. What does God foreknow? Who will come to Him in faith, as made clear by the context of the book of Romans.

"God does not give all men all things in this universe..."

What does this have to do with anything?

"God justly condemns some..."

For sins HE determined they would commit.

"The elect is a nameless faceless group."

No, the elect are the ones who, in response to the grace of God, accept Him. Then they are elect IN CHRIST.

"If God knows everything...how can man be free?"

Because God's knowledge is based on events that will happen. Free creatures decide to sin, God knows because they will sin, not because God's foreknowledge causes them to sin.

"how do you bring a charge against nameless faces"

Again, White's poisoning of the well causes him to misrepresent the Arminian position.

"God alone justifies..."

What planet does White think Arminians believe any differently?

"Entire character of the gospel changes..."

He doesn't explain why, but I would say God decreeing sin is pretty much not included in the gospel.

"...return to Catholicism..."

I can't believe it took him 14 minutes to get to this. Ha.

"Arminianism leads to universalism."

This is a logical fallacy known as the slippery slope. It's a nice try from White, but when people remain true to the Biblical teachings of Arminius and Wesley, they don't adopt universalism. We could just as easily say the same about Calvinism leading to Neo-Orthodoxy.

"No grounds for hope..."

White continues with his silly emotional appeal. In Calvinism, for many, there truly is no hope. Some people are created for the express purpose of damnation. In Arminianism there is hope for all.

"If I do this, if I do that, if I remain faithful."

1 Corinthians 15:2
"if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain."

Colossians 1:21-23
"And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard"

"...Then it's you, you, you. God already tried His best...."

What!? First he says it's all about us, and then he brings God into it? He's defeating his own silly argument.

"Dr Craig closer to Catholicism than Calvinism."

If they're more consistent with the Bible than Calvinists, then I'd rather be closer to them.