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Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

Recently I attended a debate on the topic, “Should Christians trust Darwinism?” Representing the Intelligent Design side was probably its most well known defender, Dr. Stephen Meyer.  Representing the Theistic evolution side was Dr. Karl Giberson, who has written extensively on the topic as well.

The debate was very good, each side representing their positions in a capable way.  All in all I think Dr. Meyer won the debate, though that was largely due to his greater charisma and debate experience.

The debate prompted a lot of thought for me.  This topic used to be my big issue and I gobbled down tons of books from all perspectives for a few years.  As worldview comes in so clearly in this topic there tend to be many arguments riddled with cliche terms and arguments that don’t really connect with the target audience. So I really appreciated learning some new things and hearing some new perspectives at this debate.

Here are some thoughts prompted by the debate.

There are massive worldview issues underneath each camp in the creation/evolution debate.  To not deal with these presuppositions is to miss the most important issue in the debate.  I am taking for granted a young earth view of the scriptures as I believe that is the proper interpretation.  The point of this article is not to challenge the presuppositional nature of the debate, but to point out the weaknesses and strengths the various movements have as they have approached the raw data with their theories.

In every field of science there are theories that are debated. The method that is used to determine the acceptance of a particular theory is to ask how much of the raw data we have is explained by this particular theory.  We have multitudes of little facts about our world that need to fit into a theory.  For instance, the fact that we can get in a plane and around the world is deemed to be a strong argument against the flat earth theory.  That theory cannot interpret the raw data we see in a consistent way.  Thus it falls.  In the area of creation/evolution as well, there are theories proposed and each of them have their strengths and weaknesses.

The view of common descent held by neo-darwinism has been around for several hundred years. I could be mistaken, but as I understand it, neo-darwinism began with the finding of the DNA code by Crick and Watson in the 50’s.  This revolutionized evolutionary biology.  But all the same the basic premises of the theory have been around for several hundred years with more or less acceptance within the scholarly fields.  Darwinism has had time to develop a clear cut theory of how things came to be.  The sheer weight of the volumes that have been written applying this theory to the data we see in nature is astounding.

On the other hand the Intelligent Design movement does not have a theory to apply to the data.  There is very little consensus amongst this movement over what actually happened.  What they do share in common is a distrust of the Neo-evolutionary paradigm.  And in that one area they are very strong.  Their critiques of darwinism are, in my humble opinion, shattering.  But, as they have not proposed a theory of their own (amongst other presuppositional reasons) their cries have gone unnoticed and the army of evolutionary scientists just moves on to damage repair.
And then we have the Creationism movement.  They have a theory to propose but have a long, long way to go in working out the kinks and applying this theory to the data.  The modern movement itself is only 60-70 years old and has been plagued with the normal issues new movements face; lack of direction, lack of deep thorough thinking about the relevant data and much infighting.  Because of these issues and presuppositional differences the modern scientific community scoffs at the YEC movement.  We are beginning to see, however, changes in the movement and attempts to be systematic, to work out solid models and to apply those to the data.

I am a young earther.  This is because I think this is the natural reading of many biblical texts.  Yet, I still think the YEC movement is riddled with issues and I disagree with a lot of their “scientific” argumentation. There are many areas we need to work hard on.

As I see it, the darwinist camp has a several hundred year jump on us on working out the kinks and working thru the data.  We are the young David marching on to the field to face off with the huge Goliath.  The giant has been dealt a death blow by the ID crowd and he is teetering.  But there is some fight left in him.  We have a long ways to go.

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The problem of evil is often said to be the strongest argument against Orthodox Christianity.  While this could very well be the case, it is not my intent to delve into that.

The “other” problem of evil is rarely talked about.

Perhaps it is because we are so focused on the god of self.

Perhaps it is because we don’t think very deeply or consistently these days.

Perhaps it is because we in the west have, for the most part, lost sight of proper biblical categories and doctrines.

I suppose it is some combination of the three (among others).

The Scriptures reveal God and His rescue of humanity as a central theme woven throughout the Old and New Testaments.  God is revealed in full trinitarian nature with the incarnation of Christ and the founding of the church.  Christ is shown to be fully human and fully God and to have dwelt with God the Father since before the world was created.  “…O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” John 17:5  We see the perfect unity of the Godhead in the redemption of the church as the members of the Trinity work towards and accomplish salvation together.

The climax of salvation comes with a bloody Savior nailed to a tree, cursed by men and God alike.

Enter the “Other” problem of evil.

How could the good God we see in the scriptures have ordained and brought about the mocking, scourging and crucifixion of His innocent Son?

“For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.”  Acts 4:27, 28

What can we gather from these verses?  That God predetermined and brought about the crucifixion of the spotless lamb through the actions of men.

Hang on, weren’t these sinful actions?

Yes. In a very real way the crucifixion of God incarnate was the deepest, darkest sin in all of history.  We killed our maker.

So God decreed and brought about the monstrous slaughter of a completely innocent person, His own Son.

I don’t think we often realize the full gravity of what God did.  The cross is talked of so much that it becomes familiar and we lose sight of the awesome and terrible nature of what happened.  It is as simple as the following: God is utterly good. God brought about horrible evil.

How is that for a moral conundrum? How can we reconcile these truths?

I am convinced that the only way to do so is to delve back into those old truths that by and large we have lost.  The truths of imputation, the covenant of redemption and federal headship

Imputation: To charge somebody responsible for another’s crime: to bring legal charges against somebody because a person that he or she is responsible for has committed an offense, in this case, Christ charged for our crimes.

Covenant of redemption: This is a term for the decision made by the Triune God in eternity past to come and save a people.

Federal Headship: The doctrine that God as creator and ruler can appoint a human to represent other humans. The others would be effected by this persons actions as he or she is their representative.

As I see it, the only way to reconcile the truths that God is good and He brought about evil are as follows.

Our triune God decided to redeem a bride from among fallen humanity.  God the Son was appointed as the federal head of this bride. He represents them by bearing the imputed penalties for their crimes against Law.  God the Father would bring this penalty down on the Son. God the Holy Spirit would regenerate and guide this bride.

Christ came and walked this earth.  He willingly went to the cross, bearing my sins (which were imputed to Him) and there He bore the full weight of the wrath of almighty God.  God “crushed the shepherd”, as it says in Isaiah.  God could crush the perfect, spotless lamb of God because He bore the sins of His people.  Because He was accounted among the transgressors, by both God and man.

The men who actually drove the nails were used by God, but their motivations were entirely different.  Pontius Pilate and Herod were used by God to bring this to be. They bear their sins. What God the Father did was absolutely pure and there was no crime committed by God in that act.

Unless, of course, we remove these doctrines and deny that God can use evil actions.  Then we are back in the moral conundrum and there is no way out.  The insanity of our day is seen clearly when we throw out the old biblical doctrines and proclaim a loving, gushy teddy bear god but are then left with a god who murdered Jesus.

In closing, I’m aware that there are other doctrines that come into play here, doctrines that I have not touched on.  I’m aware that I skimmed over the ones I did touch on in a shallow way. I believe it was a truthful way though and I hope this blog will produce some helpful thinking and some good dialogue.  Feel free to ask and debate in the comments.

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The prayer of faith

These verses are a good antidote to the self-centered prayers we often slip into. May God be glorified in our prayers!

David M’Intyre, The Hidden Life of Prayer: The Lifeblood of the Christian (original, 1891), chapter 6:

It is a divinely-implanted persuasion, the fruit of much spiritual instruction and discipline. It is vision in a clearer light than that of earth.

The prayer of faith, like some plant rooted in a fruitful soil, draws its virtue from a disposition which has been brought into conformity with the mind of Christ.

  1. It is subject to the Divine will—”This is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us” (1 John 5:14).
  2. It is restrained within the interest of Christ—”Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).
  3. It is instructed in the truth—”If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7).
  4. It is energized by the Spirit—”Able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph. 3:20).
  5. It is interwoven with love and mercy—”And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25).
  6. It is accompanied with obedience—”Whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).
  7. It is so earnest that it will not accept denial—”Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Luke 11:9).
  8. It goes out to look for, and to hasten its answer—”The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working” (James 5:16, RV).

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In this post I will be articulating several things that I think the first 3 commandments to be teaching.  I want to preface this by saying that many of the things I say I know to be foundational biblical truth.  However a few of them I am still working thru and may not be very solid.  Critiques are, as always, desired.  Even more so on this post, as I am learning this and desire to hear the thoughts of the saints.

Exodus 20:1-7

And God spoke all these words, saying:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

“You shall have no other gods before Me.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

The first three of the ten commandments.  When I first heard these, as a young child, the whole list just seemed to be a series of do’s and dont’s.  I did not see the differences that I saw later, between the ones that are directed Godward, the first four, and the ones that are between men, the last six.  But as time went on I learned this.  Later still I learned that there is a greater depth to the concept of the name of God than I previously understood, but that I will articulate further below.

Just today, while mulling over the word, some things began to click together in my head and I want to lay them out here for the saints to be edified if they are correct, but also so that if I am wrong in this, God, via His church, can rein me back in.

What I am going to put forward is that these three commandments  are not just intended to give three do’s and dont’s.  They are intended to establish the boundaries of a worldview.  They are intended to address all of life.

#1  I am God, you shall have no other.

The ten commandments were not just random, because our God is not random.  All that He does He does with purpose originating in the only perfect mind there is.  So, God, in His perfect will chose to start His law with a declaration of His own deity and His exclusive rights to that title.  This command is a proclamation to humanity that God is God.  There is no attempt at any justification of this statement, or any reasoning up to it.  Just a simple declaration of Deity.  God does not at any point thru scripture stoop down and try to prove to fallen man that He is God.  He states it clearly, and His creatures are under obligation to believe and act accordingly.

“You shall have no other gods before me”, is a claim of the exclusive rights of God.  There are no others so you are not to live as if there are.  He alone is God and commands that we are to acknowledge this in our thoughts and lives.

#2 You shall not make an image for worship. Not a likeness of anything in …heaven ….earth… or… water.

This condemns the constructing of any images of any sort to any created thing with the intent of worship.  Idolatry in its most obvious form is here explained and forbidden.  The creating of a physical idol is making outward an internal act of idolatry.  God has already been deposed and a created thing placed on that throne.

Now, of course every act of idolatry outwardly directed toward something outside of the person has its origin in an act of idolatry within the person.  Already the person has exalted Himself in His own mind to sit and judge over God.  He, the person, has determined that God is not to be worshipped as God, thus exalting His own mind to the idolatrous position of being in judgement over God.  Romans 1 is clear that fallen man knows of “His eternal power and Godhead so that they are without excuse”.  Even those within false religions have been clearly shown the truth… but… “because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  They may not necessarily at the present time be conscious of the fact that what we proclaim to them is true.  Still, their idolatry is without excuse.

There is another point to be made out of this command.  God phrases this command in such a way as to make the Creator/creature distinction very clear.  He went thru the list of things in heaven, earth and water to make a point.  Everything here, everything on this earth, everything not God, is NOT to be worshipped.  Why?  Because it is not God.  It is created.  It is distinct and different from its creator and it would be idolatrous for us to worship anything this side of the Creator/creature distinction.

#3 You shall not take God’s name in vain.

Men with far greater wisdom than I have written very well on this command.  I recommend you go and read some of them.  But still, I need to address it as well.

Very often we read this and assume that it merely means we are not to use God’s name as a curse word.  This misses most of the point.

When a Hebrew thought of someone’s name, it was not limited to the vocal or written construct that signified that person.  It identified all that that person was. Their worth, reputation, and honor were all tied up in their name.  Furthermore, there was a sense in which when wrongdoing was done by a member of a particular family or tribe, it brought dishonor on the name of that family or tribe.  If a jew were to commit a terrible crime that would bring dishonor to the name of His tribe and family.  It would entail a deep lack of respect for the dignity of those dishonored.  It was to diminish them in the eyes of others, to pronounce them as unworthy of respect, honor and obedience.

When God says not to take His name in vain, there is nothing there in to indicate that this is speaking of something merely verbal.  It is saying that if we are taking on the name of God, proclaiming we are His servants, we are to behave in a way befitting that claim of allegiance.  We are to honor God, and not take up His name in a trite, or vain manner.  We are to be serious about the fact that we, as followers of the one true God, have taken up His name and His honor in the eyes of the world is in a sense tied to the way that we behave.  We represent Him.  In essence, do not think of God as trivial when you claim to be His, but live according to His ways and thus glorify Him.

 

These three commands seem to me now to be so much more than just a few do’s and dont’s.  They provide the foundation for all of life.

#1 God and God alone is Deity.  Only recognize Him as Divine.

#2 No created being is Deity. You may worship none of them. 

#3 Do not defame the character of this God.  Do not take up His cause lightly.

 

These truths are absolutely foundational.  Bank on them.

I would greatly appreciate feedback, especially from those older and wiser than I.  Am I accurately bringing up the underlying points to these commands?  Am I taking some too far?  Am I not taking some far enough?

God bless!

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This is not a post about an attitude of general criticalness, though it does relate.

This is about our attitude of criticism towards other believers for the “spiritual” things they do.

There are two extremes we can slip into.  On the one hand there are many who are so uncritical that anything they hear or see, they accept as Gospel Truth and as a result are blown about “with every wind of doctrine”.  Then there are those whose minds are like brick walls.  They attack everything and claim to have a monopoly on truth.

Going into personal experience here for a sec, I believe I can see God working on me in this area in the past few years.  I remember how hard I was on other believers in my thoughts in the past.  I remember constantly critiquing them, their prayers, their preaching, their lives.  I thought I could do everything so much better.  A good dose of reality, the reality of my own failure drug me out of a lot of that, though it is and probably always will be a struggle.

And then we can take the young woman whom I am courting as an example for a bit (I pray she will forgive me for this).  A little back, as she recounted it to me, she used to tend much more towards the side of accepting whatever came down the pike without analyzing it carefully.  Since then, she has matured greatly and attempts to think more about what she sees and hears in the light of scripture.

Two types of people can be imagined here.  Mr. Blown-About and Mr. Critical.

Mr. Blown-About will face the challenge of a great lack of growth because he has no focus to grow towards.  As every new thing comes down the pike he latches on and that is everything…. until something newer comes.  This is repeated ad nauseum and Mr. Blown-About is exactly at the same spiritual depth as he was ten years ago.  Shallow.

Mr. Critical will face the same challenge of a lack of growth, but in a different sense then his counterpart.  His critical spirit will not allow him to see when he can learn and grow from something different.  Mr. Critical will stay in stasis because, after all, the old way is the best way and boy, does he know the old way!

Both of these men will not grow.  How can we get around their shortcomings and grow?

I am convinced there is no answer other than that of a firm commitment to God’s Word.  When we dive in the word we find two answers.  First, that in the word there is a sure guide, a solid guide and that all must bow to its teaching.  Thus we will interpret all we hear through the grid of scripture vigilantly.  But second, we will see ourselves as the scriptures see us, as fallible beings that can learn from each other how to better understand that word.  Thus we will seek to find ways to understand scripture better as we listen to and view our fellow brothers and sisters.

There is no sure fountainhead of truth other than scripture and all in our lives must bow to this.  But our understanding of that Word can be faulty and a sense of humility should be present.

So, we must be critical, but humbly critical, not thinking that our ways are the best, but always trying to seek Christ’s ways in His word.  There is not surefire method to this.  Just honest seeking of the truth.

 

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Just a few short remarks to clarify.  What Francis Schaeffer says below is not a comprehensive analysis of what the scripture says to this topic.  Much more could be said.  However it is very clear and to the point and in my opinion quite thought-provoking.
I may write further on this topic but that will have to come later.  Till I see you next, keep glorifying the Lord of glory!

Begin Francis Schaeffer quote:

If every little baby that was ever born anywhere in the world had a tape recorder hung about its neck, and if this tape recorder only recorded the moral judgments with which this child as he grew bound other men, the moral precepts might be much lower than the biblical law, but they would still be moral judgments.

Eventually each person comes to that great moment when he stands before God as judge. Suppose, then, that God simply touched the tape recorder button and each man heard played out in his own words all those statements by which he had bound other men in moral judgment. He could hear it going on for years—thousands and thousands of moral judgments made against other men, not aesthetic judgments, but moral judgments.

Then God would simply say to the man, though he had never head the Bible, now where do you stand in the light of your own moral judgments? The Bible points out . . . that every voice would be stilled. All men would have to acknowledge that they have deliberately done those things which they knew to be wrong. Nobody could deny it.

We sin two kinds of sin. We sin one kind as though we trip off the curb, and it overtakes us by surprise. We sin a second kind of sin when we deliberately set ourselves up to fall. And no one can say he does not sin in the latter sense. Paul’s comment is not just theoretical and abstract, but addressed to the individual—”O man”—any man without the Bible, as well as the man with the Bible.

. . . God is completely just. A man is judged and found wanting on the same basis on which he has tried to bind others.

—Francis Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century, 2d ed. (Crossway, 1985), pp. 49-50.

Consider the principles set forth in Romans 2:

1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? . . .

14 . . . When Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

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God Is Sovereign Over . . .

Seemingly random things:

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. (Proverbs 16:33)

The heart of the most powerful person in the land:

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1)

Our daily lives and plans:

A man’s steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way? (Proverbs 20:24)

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. (Proverbs 19:21)

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. . . . Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)

Salvation:

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Romans 9:15-16)

As many as were appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48)

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)

Life and death:

See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand. (Deuteronomy 32:39)

The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. (1 Samuel 12:6)

Disabilities:

Then the LORD said to [Moses], “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” (Exodus 4:11)

The death of God’s Son:

Jesus, [who was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:23)

For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:27-28)

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief. . . . (Isaiah 53:10)

Evil things:

Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it? (Amos 3:6)

I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things. (Isaiah 45:7)

“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. . . . “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 1:21-22; 2:10)

[God] sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. . . . As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Psalm 105:17; Genesis 50:21)

All things:

[God] works all things according to the counsel of his will. (Ephesians 1:11)

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. (Psalm 115:3)

I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)

All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:35)

This was borrowed from Tim Challies, who borrowed it from our King.

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