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/