If I Were An Atheist, What Would I Believe?

if i were an atheist, what would I believe? 1Religious people are often found describing atheistic stances in ways that seem overwhelmingly uncharitable. They will summarize the atheistic position in a way that no atheist would agree with. It is sort of the cartoon version of the belief. Of course, atheists do the same to Christians, and this happens frequently when people disagree with each other. What I have always tried to do is to represent their views fairly, but also indicate that atheism leads one to certain views that are absurd. But in this article, I would like to approach from a different angle. Rather than laboring to show what atheists should believe, as a consequence of their atheism, I would like to answer the question: if I were an atheist, what would I believe?

if i were an atheist, what would I believe? 2Note well that the question is not, “what do all atheists believe?” because that is sort of like asking, “what do all Danes believe?” So I am not trying to caricature atheism or place a heavy yoke upon the shoulders of atheists. I am not even saying that atheists should believe these things. I am just saying, if I were an atheist, these are the stances that I would take.

I would disassociate myself with the New Atheists. For those of you who do not know, the New Atheists are contemporary atheists who are known for their ardent campaigning against religion. They are those who would be guilty of caricaturing religion, demeaning religious people and accepting the commission of Professor Richard Dawkins at the Atheist Reason Rally, in which he said, “Mock [the religious]. Ridicule them in public.” The New Atheists are the crowd that, in their atheism, has found an outlet for their anger toward religious people and an outlet for asserting the intellectual superiority that they know they have.

To that end, Professor Dawkins has suggested that atheists should style themselves “brights.” The implication is obvious. They are bright, by virtue of rejecting religious dogma. They congratulate themselves when they pose easily answered questions, like Who Created God? This self-aggrandizing behavior is the height of repellent to anyone with respect for people independently of their religious views. If I were an atheist, what would I believe? I would labor to ensure that I distanced myself from the New Atheists.

Of course, as a Christian, I sometimes have to dissolve assumptions that people make about me. When people learn that I am a Christian, they may instantly think that I am a young earth creationist. They may instantly associate me with every Christian they have ever met. If I were an atheist, I would also separate myself from the New Atheist movement, and I would be highly critical of them.

I would believe that the universe is just a brute fact, and came from nothing, by nothing, and for nothing. One of the arguments that I have defended for the existence of God is the Cosmological Argument. The Cosmological Argument suggests that everything that exists requires an explanation of its’ existence. It is unthinkable to hold the position that the universe just popped into being, uncaused, out of nothing. It must have an explanation of its’ existence. As the cause of nature, space, and time, it must be supernatural, spaceless, and timeless. (I offered a fuller treatment of this argument in my article Why Does Anything At All Exist?)rethink_54-2

With regard to this argument, if I were an atheist, what would I believe? As an atheist, I would probably have to deny that premise. I would have to deny that everything needs an explanation of its’ existence. As Bertrand Russell argued, the universe is just a brute fact. It just exists, and that’s all. When faced with the fact that the universe has not always existed, that is, it had an absolute beginning, I would be forced into the position, in the words of the atheist Quintin Smith, “the universe came from nothing, by nothing, and for nothing.” When confronted with the absurdity of that statement, I would comfort myself with the notion that sophisticated academics hold this view. I would underline it with the reality that the human brain was not evolved to grasp deep philosophical truths. It was not evolved to understand the mysteries of the universe. It was evolved to survive.

Now the problem with this view is that it is, essentially, nihilism. If not, then it is just a step or two away from it. If the alternative to belief in the existence of God is that the universe just popped into being, uncaused, out of nothing, then I struggle to see how it is that the atheistic view would be more intellectually satisfying. If I saw a turtle sitting on a fence, I would not be compelled by the idea that it is “just there,” a “brute fact.” I would take no solace in the idea that a sophisticated academic thought that. In short, I would win the debate with the atheist version of myself over the Cosmological Argument for God’s existence.

I would believe that the value that human beings give each other was just a product of human evolution. As human beings evolved, solely for the propagation of DNA, they realized that it would usher their species into longevity if they cooperated with each other. If they developed these communities, worked together, and treated each other nicely, they would flourish and they would survive. With that cooperation came the concept of human value. We value human beings over and against the other members of the animal kingdom, not because we are inherently more valuable, but because we have it ingrained within us to cooperate with our own species. But today, the contemporary man is enlightened. He is aware of his roots. He is aware of why he values his fellow man.evolitio

If I were an atheist, what would I believe? I would be aware of why I value my fellow man. If I were an atheist, I would have preferred to be ignorant of this reality. I would prefer to think that human beings do have value, and just not think about why that is. But I imagine that the atheistic version of myself would scarcely be able to remain in such philosophical ignorance. I would want to know why I value other human beings. I would question these things. But since human morality evolved in precisely the same way as the goat, the sheep, and the chicken, I would be left in despair, and following my beliefs to its’ logical and necessary conclusion, I would become a moral nihilist. I would deny that human beings really had any value at all. But I would live as if they did, and tell myself that I did that for the sake of my sanity.

I would believe that the Bible could not be investigated historically. Often to justify our faith, we apologists will argue that the resurrection of Jesus can be investigated on a historical basis. We can look through the corridors of history and exclaim that there are some things that just cannot be explained naturally. The empty tomb narrative, the burial account of Jesus, the post-mortem appearances of Jesus, and the belief of the disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead, all serve as a good inductive argument that in fact, Jesus had risen from the dead. Since a good historical argument can be made for all of these, there is little that remains that the atheist can say.empty_tomb2

If I were an atheist, what would I believe? How would I escape this? What I might indicate is that a miracle claim is not something that can be investigated historically. What scientists and historians adopt is what is known as methodological naturalism. This is the adoption of a process of investigating the natural world via natural means. We do not invoke the supernatural in our scientific exploration because that would be too unordinary and really, could be invoked anywhere. We might resolve the historical quagmire of the fall of Rome by saying that demons made Rome fall. We might look on any number of historical events and invoke God or demons or some other supernatural shenanigans. While it may be the case, it is just not a very useful resource when examining the natural world. If I were an atheist, what would I believe? I would believe that the Bible was not receptive to this sort of scrutiny.

As a Christian, I think that this is a very heavy argument that has been made. Yet at the same time, that does nothing to answer the data that we have. It seems to suggest that we must answer the evidence within a naturalistic paradigm. But if there is not a naturalistic answer, then none of our answers will make sense. As an atheist, I would have to assume that the disciples hallucinated Jesus. But as I pointed out in my article, Several Reasons The Disciples Did Not Hallucinate Jesus, that just would not work. I think that I would win the debate with the atheist version of myself just by going back to the evidence.

I would deny that the universe was finely tuned for life. Many atheistic scientists have come to believe in some sort of design on the basis of the existence of the anthropic constants. An anthropic constant is something which, if it were altered even a little, then life could not exist. If gravity were altered, planets could not form. There are 122 anthropic constants. This discovery has converted atheists, such as Anthony Flew, to believe in design. It has jettisoned the Intelligent Design movement and has led scientists to say things like, “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggest that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics.” (Fred Hoyle). cosmicfinetuning1

Now, the atheist has may resources on this topic available to him. But it is probably the most convincing argument, in the eyes of the scientist, to believe in God. If I were an atheist, what would I believe? How would I resolve this? There would be a few ideas that I would toy around with. First, I might consider that this universe was just very lucky. But ultimately, I would reject that. That is sort of like saying that there is a pile of a billion white balls, and one black one, and when I reached in to grab one randomly, I pulled out the black ball. I could say that I was just “very lucky,” or I could say that somebody placed the ball in such a way that I would find it. Rather than saying that the fine-tuning was due to chance, as I said, I would deny that the universe was finely tuned for life. I would deny that the anthropic constants exist at all. I would say that in another sector of the universe, different factors could exist to allow for another life form.

If I were to encounter my atheist counterpart, I would indicate to him that these constants are not anthropocentric. The force of gravity, for instance, if it were altered, would prevent planets from being formed. Most scientists that I am aware of affirm the existence of fine-tuning. What he would need to wrestle with was how he was going to interpret the fine-tuning.

I would find the gospel message offensive. If you will permit me, I will preface this a little by explaining the message of the gospel. Human beings are fallen creatures. Humans are criminals in the eyes of God. We have all sinned against him. Since God is good, he must punish those who are guilty. If he were to let a single sin go, he would no longer be a good judge. He would be akin to the corrupt judge who takes bribes and lets the guilty go. But since God is good, he must punish guilty. Since we are all guilty, we all await God’s judgment. But God became a man, Jesus Christ. Jesus was the human image of the invisible God. He lived a life without ever sinning. When he was murdered, all of the wrath of God that we deserve was placed upon him. It pleased the Lord to crush him. Our unrighteousness was put on him so that his righteousness could be put upon us. Three days later, he was raised from the dead. Now we need only put our trust in him for our salvation, and the moment we do that, we will be given the free gift of eternal life.Saved

If I were an atheist, and somebody told me of this, how would I react? If I were an atheist, what would I believe? I suggest that I would be offended. I would say that it was monstrous. I would say that a person is sent to prison, not because they are being punished for their crimes, but so that they can be rehabilitated. The Christian conception of justice seems primitive. It is akin to whipping criminals in the courts. But to the modern mind, we have advanced to the level that we now know that the penal system is only for rehabilitation.

The problem with this is that the penal system is not only for rehabilitation. Criminals do deserve to be punished. Suppose for a moment that there were a man who wanted to rape a child, only once. He wanted to get it out of his system. So he did it, and then he was done. In fact, he felt guilty. He repented of it. He was instantly changed and instantly regretted it. If the penal system is only for rehabilitation, then my atheist counterpart would have to concede that this man should just be instantly released. But that is patently ridiculous. Secondly, I would argue that my atheist counterpart was making moral judgments that he had no right to. He believes that human beings do not have intrinsic moral value, but he lives as if they do. This is radically inconsistent. I think that on this front, I would win the debate with my atheist counterpart.

I would be a mean-spirited, sarcastic and self-aggrandizing. Again I indicate that I am not talking about all atheists. Some atheists really are kind people, charitable people who are humble and easy to talk to. Everybody has different personality demerits. This is a self-analysis. Apart from the grace of God, I would be a mean-spirited, selfish and arrogant individual. I would not indulge in the pursuits of the New Atheists, of being mean to the religious, but I would be a mean person, just because, that is what I am, apart from the grace of God.MjAxMy0yNTI1MWViMTJkYWNiODZk

If I were an atheist, what would I believe? Well, as an atheist, I would not be regenerate, born again by the power of God. If I were not born again, I would have to just follow my genetics where they lead and dance to my DNA. I would see no point to restrain it. As an enlightened atheist, I would know that the reason that I feel the desire to cooperate with people is just for survival. But if I do not care about survival as much as I care about my own personal triumph and happiness, then there would just be nothing to stop me from behaving any way that I want. Of course, I would not rape, murder, or steal. I would do what I want. I have no desire in me to rape, murder, or steal. But I would treat people just as my unrestrained nature tells me to treat them. As Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, “the heart of man is wicked an deceitful above all things.”

If I were an atheist, what would I believe? The reason that I wrote this was, again, not to say that this is what all atheists believe, or what atheists must believe. I wrote this as a thought experiment about what I think that I would believe if I were an atheist. Of course, I am not an atheist. I am a Christian, saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. But if I were not an atheist, this is what I would believe and how I would behave.

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Were The Jews Saved By Works Or By Faith Alone?

were the jews saved by works or faith alone 1?Christians are sometimes found saying that in the Old Testament, we see works, while in the New Testament, we see grace. In this way, the Jews were saved by the works of the Law that they performed. On this view, when Jesus came on the scene, he undid the Law, hence, also undoing the need for works of the Law. So now, a person is saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Of course, I agree that this is the formula for salvation. But the question is, is that the Jews’ formula for salvation? Were the Jews saved by works or by faith alone?

were the jews saved by works or faith alone? 2Now I am not denying that many Jews believed that they were saved by their works. People believe heretical things all of the time. There are contemporary heretics who say that one is saved by works rather than faith alone. So there were certainly sects of Judaism, or perhaps even mainstream orthodoxy, who maintained that one is saved by the works of the Law. With that being the case, the message of Paul must have been quite radical. But the message of Paul was not an adjustment of the message of salvation. The alternation was only that the Messiah had come. God in human flesh came, died on the cross for the sins of the world, and three days later he rose from the dead. But the way that a person is saved remains the same. Were the Jews saved by works or by faith alone? I maintain that they were saved by faith alone.

The Law and the Prophets witness to faith alone. Romans 3:21-22 reads, “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ…” Paul’s task was not to abolish the Law (Romans 3:31) but rather to offer a teaching about it. He was not saying that the Law is being destroyed, and that grace was replacing it. Rather, Paul was expounding upon what the Law already teaches. Paul argues here that the Law and the Prophets were witnesses to the doctrine of faith alone apart from the Law.

At this juncture, the heretic may rejoin, “Where? Where do the Law and the Prophets teach that?” But if Paul says that they teach it, and we regard Paul’s letters as Scripture, then the objection instantly vanishes. Although, in the next section, I will briefly expound upon a few examples of Old Testament saints who taught and were saved by faith alone. But for the Christian who believes in the New Testament, it is enough to indicate what Paul had to say about the Law and the Prophets. Were the Jews saved by works or by faith alone? Paul seems to argue that the Law and the Prophets testify to the doctrine of faith alone.

Abraham and David were saved by faith alone. One proof-text that Paul frequently appealed to was Genesis 15:6, which reads that Abraham “he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” So the moment that Abraham put his trust in the Lord, his faith was credited as righteousness. In Romans 4:2-3, Paul says of Abraham, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.‘ First Paul denies that Abraham was justified by works, and then says that his faith was credited as righteousness.

Paul makes the same exposition of David’s teachings. Paul argues here that David taught the doctrine of faith alone. He writes in Romans 4:6, “just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: ‘BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT.'” First Paul offers his interpretation, that David believed that those of whom David spoke were justified by faith alone (for their faith was credited as righteousness), and then he cites the passage. Were the Jews justified by works or by faith? Both Abraham and David were justified by faith alone and taught that others would be justified by faith alone.

Israel did not attain righteousness, because they sought it as though it were works. In Romans 9:31-32, Paul writes, “Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works.” The reason that orthodoxy strayed off was not that their traditions were wrong. It is not that they did not keep the passover nor that they neglected circumcision. It was not that they fell into idolatry. It was not that they denied the Scripture. Orthodoxy had a long history of falling into idolatry and being corrected. Their sin that kept them from righteousness was not that they kept idols.

What kept Israel from righteousness was that they were pursuing righteousness as though it were works. They were putting their trust in themselves. They were putting their trust in their own ability to keep the Law, so Paul says. But if they pursued righteousness by faith, they would have found it, so Paul argues. Their faith would have been credited as righteousness. Were the Jews saved by works or by faith alone? Paul’s argument seems to be that the Jews tried to be saved by works, but they failed. They needed to pursue righteousness by faith.

Were the Jews saved by works or by faith alone? God has never accepted a salvation of works. Anybody who has ever put their trust in themselves would have fallen short. As Isaiah 64:6 says our works are like filthy rags. The only mechanism for salvation, throughout the history of God’s people, has been grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

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How Abortion Destroys Women’s Rights

abortion womens rights 1One of the signature moves of the pro-choice apologist is to align the choice to have an abortion with women’s rights. So then if somebody is campaigning upon the basis of women’s rights, we expect that they are in favor of abortion. If a politician make the bare statement, “my opponent is opposed to women’s rights,” we have the expectation that the opponent is opposed to the practice and the right to abortion. However, if I were to suggest an alternative, I would say that the philosophy of abortion devastates women’s rights. The freedom of abortion undercuts the foundation on which women’s rights rests. That is how abortion destroys women’s rights.

abortion womens rights 2This issue has become so intertwined with women’s rights that many make the startling claim that a man ought not to speak on the issue of abortion. Since it is an issue of women’s rights, then only women can speak on the issue of abortion. If that were the case, then that very premise would undercut Roe Vs Wade, in which the decision was made by men. Further, it seems sort of like saying a white man cannot speak against racism. Finally, no matter where the argument comes from, the reasoning still needs to be assessed univocally. One cannot say that just because I am a man, that therefore my reasoning is invalid. So then, how abortion destroys women’s rights: let’s get into it.

Human beings have intrinsic moral value. When I say intrinsic moral value, I mean that in and of themselves, human beings have value. This is to be contrasted against extrinsic value, which is to say that under certain conditions, human beings are valuable. Cash has extrinsic value, but not intrinsic value. In and of itself, it is just paper. If I find a suitcase full of cash, then it will be valuable to me. But if I brought that suitcase to a tribe in the Brazilian rainforest, they would thank me for bringing them some paper to build their fire. It is just paper. Its’ value is extrinsic.

But we all recognize that the value that human beings have is different. If I were to run over a squirrel, and keep driving, nobody would be offended. But if I ran over a human being, and kept driving, I would go to prison and all would be morally appalled at my actions. If Adolph Hitler killed a few thousand pigeons, he would be esteemed as a master hunter. But since he killed a few thousand human beings, he is guilty of genocide. As Doctor Bill Craig pointed out, if a lion kills a zebra, it kills it, but it does not murder it. Animals are intrinsically different than human beings. That is why soldiers will routinely from war with PTSD, but scarcely a man from hunting deer. The intrinsic value of human beings is something that we all recognize. How abortion destroys women’s rights? Work with me. I am building a case, so pay attention.

Women’s rights depend upon intrinsic moral value. In nature, whatever is, is right. There is no right. If a mother cat kills its’ young, we do not object that she did not have the right to do that. It is just part of nature. It is what happens. For us to speak of human rights is to speak absurdly. They are just useful fictions. In the words of Michael Ruse, “I appreciate that when someone says, ‘love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless, such references are truly without foundation. Ethics are an aid to survival and reproduction. But any deeper meaning is illusory.”

So when we say that women have rights, what are we really saying? What does it even mean? As humans, we never make the comparison between the animal kingdom and the kingdom of mankind. Natural selection dictates that the male is the dominate member of the species. What right do women have to resist that, anymore than a female goat, a sheep, or a chicken, have the right to resist that? In the absence of intrinsic human value, women do not have any rights, anymore than a pack of kittens has a right, anymore than a goat has a right. Nature is what is right, and nobody can stand in the face of nature and offer correction.

Nonetheless, we all assume this idea of human rights, and it comes solely from a philosophy of theism. Human beings are made in the image of God. Hence, they have intrinsic moral value. We believe in women’s rights because we believe that women have intrinsic moral value. In and of themselves, women are valuable. They are to be loved and adored. They are not to be treated as subjects or slaves of their male partner. They are human beings and as such, they have intrinsic moral value. I believe that as firmly as I believe anything else.

Abortion undercuts intrinsic moral value. We should pose the question of what a woman is doing when she gets an abortion. She is terminating her pregnancy. She is ending the life of the fetus inside of her. However, extensive embryological research of the last few decades has revealed that the fetus is human. A fetus is a human being in the earliest stages of development. It is quite curious to say that a human being is not really a human being just because they are underdeveloped. (Take care, by that reasoning, the next person who is more developed than you, has the right to kill you.)

78% of women who see their ultrasound will reject an abortion. That is because upon seeing the actual image, it is very difficult to maintain that the fetus is not actually human. The other day I watched a very disturbing video of post-abortion procedure. The doctors were handling the severed arms and legs, wrapping them up. They wrapped up a bloody fetus the size of my hand and was identical to a baby. Any honest interpretation of the ultrasound leads one to believe that the fetus is human.

I am surprised to report that at this juncture, the abortionist will agree that the fetus is human. They concede that point. But what they will do is say that because the human fetus is inside of their body, that therefore, they have the right to terminate the pregnancy. It is still their own personal choice because the fetus is dependent upon them.

But wait a moment… is that intrinsic moral value? Intrinsic moral value is the view that in and of themselves, human beings have value. Extrinsic value means that under some conditions, human beings have value. What the abortionist has done is said that under this particular condition, human beings do not have value. But that is extrinsic value. That is not intrinsic moral value. That is how abortion destroys women’s rights.

How abortion destroys women’s rights: Women’s rights are contingent upon intrinsic moral value. If there were no intrinsic moral value in human beings, then there would be no reason to grant a point to women’s rights any more than we do to female goats, sheep, or chickens. Women’s rights presuppose intrinsic human value. It relies upon it. But abortionist philosophy states that under certain conditions, it is acceptable to kill a human beings. That defies intrinsic human value, and necessarily, it defies women’s rights. It defies the right to choose anything. That is how abortion destroy’s women’s rights. Abortion defies intrinsic human value. It cuts its’ own throat.

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Does Romans 2 Teach Salvation By Works?

romans 2 worksDoes Romans 2 teach salvation by works? To preface this question a little, one of the fundamental dividing lines or measuring sticks of a true Christian denomination is their stance on faith and works. If they teach that salvation comes by works in any capacity, then they are not a true Christian church and have distorted the gospel that saves. Any church that teaches that salvation comes by works or faith plus works is apostate. They are putting their trust in themselves and not in Christ. Salvation is either by faith or not at all. Yet some will look at Romans 2 and try to argue that Paul the apostle was teaching that salvation comes by works. romans works 2

I urge you to read the relevant verses. Romans 2:12-14 “For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves…” If one just takes this cluster of verses, the case for salvation by works seems challenging. But context kills heresy. Does Romans 2 teach salvation by works?

Paul is talking about the Torah, and in the very next chapter, he says that we are not justified by the works of the Torah. If I were to make an argument from Romans 3-5, that Paul clearly spells out salvation by faith to the exclusion of works, the heretic would suggest that Paul was delineating between works of the Law and just plain old works (A view that I refuted in my article Does Romans 3-5 Exclude All Works Or Just Works Of The Law?). So then the concession is that Paul is excluding works of the Law. The problem is that this cuts to the heart of their interpretation of Romans 2.

Paul is talking particularly about the works of the Law. He says, “it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.” He is talking about the works of the Law. Yet in the very next chapter, he says, “God is the just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what sort of law? By a law of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” (Romans 3:26-28). Again Paul says that the righteousness of God has been manifested being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus (3:21-22). Does Romans 2 teach salvation by works? According to 3:21-22, the Law itself testifies that a man is justified by faith in Jesus apart from the Law. Even the proponent of works salvation will hastily admit that this does exclude works of the Law. So then where does this leave their interpretation? What is Paul saying?

Those who are justified by faith will do good works. You will notice that in Romans 2:12-14, Paul does not say that the works of the Law is what justifies them. He says that those who do the Law will be justified. That is a very important distinction. If he said that the works of the Law justifies a man, then the works-salvation proponent would have a good argument. But instead, Paul said that those who do the Law will be justified.

Think of it like this. Assume with me for a moment that a man is justified by faith. They put their trust in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, and are saved. If they do that, they will be born again, made a new creature and striving to do righteousness (2nd Corinthians 5:17). So they will do the Law. They will keep the Law. It is not keeping the Law that saves them, but those who are saved will keep the Law. If we say that keeping the Law is what saves us, then we put the cart before the horse. That seems to be the mistake of Israel that Paul pointed out in Romans 9:31-32. He writes, “Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works.” The very error that Paul spells out here is what the modern heretics have plunged into. Does Romans 2 teach salvation by works?

Paul is condemning everyone. Romans 2:1 reads, “Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself, for you who judge practice the same thing.” Note well how wide of a condemnation this is. Paul tells the people that if they are judgmental of another person, they will quickly discover that they will not meet their own standard. He is not talking to a few individuals. He is talking to everyone who judges, according to the text. This leads one to his later principle in Romans 3:9-10, which reads,
“We have charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin, as it is written, ‘there is none righteous, not even one.'” Paul is teaching that nobody can meet the standards of the Law.

That is why most advocates of salvation by works will ignore 2:17-23, in which Paul holds the judger to his own standard. You who say that one shall not steal, do you steal? You who say that you shall not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the Law, do you dishonor God by breaking the Law? The question is rhetorical and the answer is yes. Does Romans 2 teach salvation by works? Everybody has broken the Law. We all fall short. That is why we need a Savior.

Does Romans 2 Teach Salvation By Works? Even the man who believes in salvation by works will be forced to concede that it does not. The man who believes in salvation by works denies salvation by works of the Law. But Romans 2 is specifically talking about works of the Law. If you want to be saved, put your faith in Christ alone, not in yourself. Then you will be a doer of the Law, righteous in the sight of God, justified by faith. For the one who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteous (Romans 4:5). Faith is credited as righteousness. Faith is credited as righteousness. Faith is credited as righteousness.

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Should Christians Draw Pictures Of Muhammad?

draw muhammad 1With the terrorist slayings in France in recent weeks, there has been a storm of controversy, questions about freedom of speech and respect for religion. Moderate Muslims contest that while the slayings should not have happened, westerners still should be respectful of Islam and their Prophet. After all, they argue, the west finds entertainment at the expense of offending Muslims, yet at the same time, is very sensitive about antisemitism. A good conservative Christian, then, will be caught between their Christian faith and conservative ideals. They want to be kind to people, but at the same time, they want to maintain freedom of speech. A Christian might feel compelled to draw Muhammad, just to show that they can draw Muhammad. What is the proper Christian stance? Should Christians draw Muhammad?draw muhammad 2

First of all, I indicate that there are boundaries for freedom of speech. Freedom of speech ends abruptly where hate speech begins. The defining clause within hate speech is that it may incite violence. But that is not to say that people will respond to it, and get angry, as with the depictions of Muhammad. Rather, it is to say that the speech would have to say something like, “Hunt down those Muslims!” That would be hate speech. But if I write an article criticizing Islam, and a Muslim murders me, I am not guilty of hate speech. So the question is, should there be a boundary with drawing Muhammad? Should we be restricted against making fun of Muhammad?

Muhammad murdered people for making fun of him.

Muhammad murdered people for making fun of him.

Just as a brief aside, let me point out that if we made fun of Muhammad when he was alive, he would have us murdered, according to the earliest biography of his life. Okay, so what is the Christian stance? Should Christians draw pictures of Muhammad?

What would drawing pictures of Muhammad accomplish? It would be unconstitutional to restrict against drawings of Muhammad. But, it seems to me that the point of depicting Muhammad is precisely to show that we can depict Muhammad. We have freedom of speech and freedom of expression to depict Muhammad. But are there not better ways to use your liberties? If I draw a picture of Muhammad, the only thing that I have done is offend Muslims, to prove that I am allowed to offend Muslims. But if I write an article like my Was Muhammad A Sexual Deviant? or David Wood’s Who Killed Muhammad? then we render a two-fold effect. We establish our freedom of speech, and we give Muslims something to consider, because, after all, we want them to come to Christ.

If we dig into the Islamic sources and recite facts about Muhammad’s life, then, of course, many will be offended, because there is offensive material in the Islamic sources. But, the reason that they will be offended, is not that we drew some stupid cartoon. It is that we are lights shining in the darkness. We are exposing Satan. We are showing the world who Muhammad was and the core of the religion that he left behind. Should Christians draw pictures of Muhammad? I just do not see a point. There are better ways for us to spend our time than intentionally offending Muslims. We can give them something to think about. In his book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus that is what Nabeel Qureshi explained. He was brought to faith in Christ after forced to wrestle with these difficult questions after being raised a devout Muslim.

We should love our enemies. If all of our freedom is taken away, if we are living under Shari’a Law, if we are forced to pay the jizya, we are still called to love our enemies. Jesus was a Jew living under Roman rule, and nonetheless, he told his countrymen that when the Romans force you to walk one mile, walk two with them (Matthew 5:41). If anyone strikes your left cheek, offer your right (v. 39). He commanded, (v. 43-44) “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

If your purpose is to offend people, then I would have to ask if you are really living up to that. If you are actively trying to love Muslims, then I suspect that you will not draw cartoons of Muhammad. You can talk to them about Muhammad, and some of that material might be offensive. But you add a superfluous stumbling block when that conversation begins in the form of a cartoon. Should Christians draw pictures of Muhammad? I argue that this is not love for your enemies nor love for your neighbor. It is entertainment at the expense of your enemies and neighbors.

What is more likely to help your Muslim friend come to Christ? If your Muslim neighbor asks you what you did today, how will you reply? Will you tell them that you drew a cartoon of his beloved prophet? Or will you tell them that you read the gospel of Mark? Will you tell them that you read something interesting about Muhammad’s life? I suppose I am thinking evangelistically and in a manner that is oriented toward preaching the gospel. That is how Christians should be thinking. When we look at Muslims, I do not think that we should snarl in disgust and mentally accuse them of terrorism. We should not think so much about our differences. We should think, “there is a person who is in desperate need of God’s grace. If not for that grace, I, too, would be a Muslim.” Where then is boasting? It is excluded.

Should Christians draw pictures of Muhammad? As we interact and even debate with our Muslims friends, I suggest that it ought to be with the end of sharing the gospel with them. The Word became flesh. Learn about Jesus’s claims to be God. He died on the cross for their sins, in their place. The unrighteousness of man was put on Christ so that the righteousness of Christ was put on man. Learn about the historical evidence for the crucifixion. He rose again, he defeated death. Learn about the evidence for the resurrection.

Subscribe to David Wood’s YouTube Channel. Read James’ White’s book What Every Christian Needs To Know About The Qur’an. Do something useful with your freedom of speech.

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Does Romans 3-5 Exclude All Works Or Just Works Of The Law?

works of the law 1The book of Romans is the masterpiece of the apostle Paul. He exposits Genesis 15:6 and applies it to the modern Christian, seemingly shattering the distinction between the old and the new covenant. The way that a person is justified before God is by faith, to the exclusion of all works. His teaching is inescapable. However, every group that wants to add works into the plan of salvation will rejoin that Paul is excluding works of the Jewish Law, the Torah. But he is allowing for salvation by works. Is that what Paul is saying? Does Romans 3-5 exclude all works or just works of the Law? works of the law 2

Of course it ought to be pointed out that Paul encouraged that men do good works. He encouraged that men live a righteous lifestyle. He encouraged that we walk in the newness of life (Romans 6:1-8). He urged that if we are baptized by the Holy Spirit, then we are baptized into the death of Christ, and so we are no longer to walk in sin. I utterly admit this. But Paul’s teaching on salvation was that it was by faith, and has always been by faith to the exclusion of works and to the exclusion of water baptism.

We maintain that a man is justified by faith… (Romans 3:28) Faith is credited as righteousness (4:5). When a heretic comes to this text, they usually only respond to the bit about “works of the law,” and rejoin, as I said, that a man is not justified by works of the Law, but by works. But Paul is not merely excluding a salvation of works. He is expounding upon a justification by faith. He writes, “God is the just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:26). If God justifies the one who has faith in Jesus, where does that leave works with respect to salvation? They are already justified by faith. He poses the rhetorical question, “By what sort of law? By a law of works?” If there were any law of works, he would have written it here. He wrote against this sort of law. The sort of law that is a law of works. This categorically refutes all forms of salvation by works. He continues, “No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” Not only does he exclude works of the law, but he also writes that a man is justified by faith.

Paul presses the point further, writing that “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:5). This means that the moment that a person has faith, their faith is credited as righteousness. If salvation comes at a different point, or salvation requires some other work, then it follows by irresistible logic that faith is not credited as righteousness. Does Romans 3-5 exclude all works or just works of the Law? If faith is credited as righteousness, then salvation is to the exclusion of works, works of the Law, water baptism, sacraments, the eucharist, et cetera. Faith is credited as righteousness.

Paul makes a logical argument that applies to all works. He argues in Romans 4:4, “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.” Paul’s argument is that works are meritorious with regard to salvation, hence, the reward for those words would not be a free gift. But the salvation of God is a free gift (Romans 6:23). Thus, we can only throw himself on the mercy of God. But this reasoning would cut just as deeply to every form of salvation by works. Hence, a salvation of works cannot stand against Paul’s reasoning. Does Romans 3-5 exclude all works or just works of the Law? If salvation were by any works, it would no longer be a free gift, according to Paul’s argument.

The Jews were justified by faith. I say again, the way in which anybody has ever been justified before God has been by faith alone to the exclusion of works. The Jews were never justified by works of the Law. Paul writes, “But Israel, pursuing a Law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works.” (Romans 9:31-32). This again seems to break the divide between the old and the new covenant. People have always been justified before God from faith to faith. They strived to be justified by works of the Law, and always fell short. They could not attain righteousness precisely because they sought a righteousness of works, rather than a righteousness of faith. Does Romans 3-5 exclude all works or just works of the Law? God’s justification has always been by faith.

If salvation came by works, why wouldn’t it be works of the Law? If salvation came by works, why would it not be by the works of the Law? Of the Law, Paul writes, “So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” (Romans 7:12). By what works, then? It seems to me that if Paul was teaching that there was an alternative law to follow, he would have been more clear. If he just meant that they can be saved by following their conscience, the mind boggles as I consider that this just leaves us with moral relativism. So God undid the Law of Moses, holy, righteous, and good, just so that men could be saved by following their unguided conscience. Does Romans 3-5 exclude all works or just works of the Law? I find that neither persuasive nor faithful to the text.

Does Romans 3-5 exclude all works or just works of the Law? There is no question in my mind that when Paul was writing, he was writing to the exclusion of all works. Justification by faith ensures that. If a man is justified by faith, that necessarily excludes all works. Paul exposes the demerits of all models of salvation by works, arguing that it gives man something to boast about before God. That is why, Paul says, God’s people are, and always have been, justified by faith. But despite that, the Law is righteous, good, and holy. Yet we are still not justified by it. We are justified by faith. From faith, good works follow.

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Does Romans 6:3-5 Refer To Water Baptism?

does romans 635 refer to water baptism? 1Those who want to take water baptism as a sacrament (a line on a checklist that one must fulfill as a precondition to salvation) will equivocate between the baptism of water, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. A baptism in water symbolizes the Living Water (John 4:14) of the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. So when a person is “born again,” that is not a matter of water baptism, as some will allege, but rather, it is to literally be made anew by the power of God (2nd Corinthians 5:17). Since there are multiple things that a person can be baptized into, some will equivocate between the kinds of baptism. One can be baptized in oil, or in water, or in the Holy Spirit. So then, does Romans 6:3-5 refer to water baptism? I think that would be to use the word baptism equivocally. does romans 635 refer to water baptism? 2

I might indicate first that in Paul’s masterpiece, the book of Romans, he ardently argues for salvation by faith alone to the exclusion of works. God is the just and the justifier of he who has faith in Jesus (3:26). But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness (4:5). He refers to salvation as a free gift (Romans 5:15). Since faith is credited as righteousness, and assuming that faith happens before baptism, it follows that salvation comes to the exclusion of baptism. I scarcely consider the idea that Paul contradicted himself one chapter later.

First a moment to read through the text. Romans 6:3-5: “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection…”

The baptism of the Holy Spirit initiates a person into the body of Christ, In my article, Is Baptism Necessary For Salvation? I pointed out that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is what initiates a person into the body of Christ. Paul writes in First Corinthians 12:13, “We were all baptized by one spirit, into one body… we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” Thus the baptism that initiates a person in the body of Christ is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. If that is the case, it follows that when Paul refers to baptism in a salvific sense, he must be referring to the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Now the one who believes that baptism is a necessary precondition to salvation might recoil that baptism of the Holy Spirit is simultaneous with water baptism. While that may be true in some cases, the overwhelming historical record in the book of Acts indicates time and again that the two baptisms come at different times (Acts 10:47). If the model is that they come at different times, then water baptism is excluded for regeneration. Does Romans 6:3-5 refer to water baptism? It cannot be. Salvation must come to the exclusion of water baptism.

Thus, when we read Romans 6:3-5, we ought to have it in our forefront that water baptism does not initiate a person into the body of Christ. Since the baptism in this passage is highly salvific, it cannot be referring to baptism in water.

The interpretation of water baptism does not align with what Paul is saying. Paul begins this chapter by asking, “what shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” He goes on to contrast a life of sin with baptism. We have been baptized i to Christ Jesus and into his death, for the glory of the Father, and now we walk in the newness of life (v. 4-5). We are no longer slaves to sin. We have been set free from sin. We are made new creatures by the power of God and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. That is the baptism to which Paul is referring. That is precisely the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

If it were referring to water, then it follows that one could have undergone the baptism in Romans 6:3-5 without first receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. A person may be water baptized and not yet receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit is necessary for salvation (John 3:5), then the water in Romans 6:3-5 has the capacity to be a baptism for unbelievers! A person is baptized into Christ Jesus, into his death, walks in the newness of life, but does not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? But that is precisely what this view entails, because there are multiple occurrences in Acts in which the baptism of the Holy Spirit comes at a different time than water baptism.

Further, a person who does not have the Holy Spirit is incapable of walking in the newness of life. First Corinthians 2:14 reads, “the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” Does Romans 6:3-5 refer to water baptism? Since those in Romans 6:3-5 are leaving their life of sin behind, walking in the newness of life, united with Christ, dead to sin, it follows necessarily that these people must have been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit.

There is no water in Romans 6:3-5. There is Living Water. In John 7:38, the Lord said, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'”

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What Does John 1:1 Mean?

what does john 1 1 mean?The gospel of John is perhaps the most important biography of Jesus, with regard to our understanding of who Jesus was. John wrote his prologue (1:1-18) knowing that it was the lens through which one reads the rest of his gospel. One must consider the teachings in the prologue when they read any other passage in the gospel of John. This article is going to zoom in on the first verse, which reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” I am not sure there are many other sentences with as much latitude. There is so much behind it. There is so much that John wanted us to derive from this line. What is it? What does John 1:1 mean?what does john 1 1 mean? 2

The Word Is Eternal. Most notice the parallel between the first few verses of Genesis and the first few verses of the prologue of John. In the beginning, God. Note the parallel. The same era, “the beginning,” and the same character, God. God created the heavens and the earth, parallels “all things were created through him.” But how did God create? Through the spoken word. Genesis 1:3 “Then God said, let there be light.” This comes to life in John, for the Word was in the beginning with God (John 1:2). We see the parallel concepts in darkness and light in the next few verses. This is significant because the beginning was made a parallel to Genesis and John. This means that the beginning that Genesis was referring to is the same beginning that John is referring to.

What does John 1:1 mean? The Word was there in the beginning. The Jehovah’s Witness might reply that the Word was there in the beginning because that was when God created him. But the grammar does not permit that interpretation. The tense of the word “was” demands continues action in the past. Since we are referring to “the beginning,” we are led irrevocably to the conclusion that the Word existed in eternity past. Thus the New Living Translations is vindicated. “In the beginning, the Word already existed.” But this raises a theological question. How could another exist alongside God from eternity past?

The Word Was With God. If I tell you that I am with a friend of mine, the assumption will be that I am face to face with that person. That is what the word translated into with expresses. It literally means face to face with. In fact, Paul used the same word in 1st Corinthians 13:12, which reads, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Since with literally may be translated face to face, it follows that John is expressing that the Word was face to face with God.

It might surprise you to know that this is a point of contention. Since some people want to say that Jesus is the person of the Father, they will deny the plain reading of this verse. Rather than being face to face with the Father, the Oneness Pentecostals will say that Jesus was a plan or a forethought in the mind of God. But the text seems to disconfirm this interpretation. The last line of the John’s prologue seems to deal the death blow to this verse. It reads, “No one has seen God at any time. But the only begotten God, in the bosom of the Father, he has explained him.” (v. 18). What does John 1:1 mean? The same as John 1:18. Jesus is the only begotten God, and he is in the bosom of the Father. It would be a challenge for anybody to maintain that Jesus is the Father if their view is based solely on the text.

The Word Was God. This raises the question about the authority of Scripture. Since this author assumes that the Scripture is true, and John assumed that the Scripture is true, we need to keep another truth in mind as we interpret this passage. There is only one God and there is no one beside him (Isaiah 43:11). The gods of the nations are idols (Psalm 96:5). So if John is saying that the Word is God, we cannot allow our interpretation of that to extend beyond that truth. There is only one God. Yet the Word was God. He could not be a god, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses will render this verse.

But of course, doctrine does not render translations. The words do. So the reason that Jehovah’s Witnesses think that this should be rendered, “and the word was a god,” is that there is no article before the word ‘God,’ while there is one before ‘Word.’ However, I would object to that, the presence of the article only goes to show that the Word is the subject of the sentence. John could have put an article in front of God, the verse could have been rendered, ‘God was the Word.’ Thus rendering God and Word interchangeable, hence, teaching modalism. But John was not teaching modalism. What does John 1:1 mean? He put the article exclusively in front of Word because that was the best way to express that the Word was God. [1]

What does John 1:1 mean? John wrote his gospel about the nature of Jesus Christ. He utterly refutes the various heresies that sprung up throughout the centuries. Whatever Jesus says, we need to interpret it through the lens of this prologue. Jesus already existed when the beginning arrived. He was never created. He was with God the Father, and he was God. In this, we have a powerful case for the trinitarian nature of God. There is one God who is eternally present in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. John 1:1 refutes the view that Jesus is the Father and it refutes the view that the Word is merely a god.

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Bibliography:
[1] White, James, The Forgotten Trinity, Bethany House Publishes, page 54

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Can We Trust The Hadith?

can we trust the hadith?A good Sunni Muslim will affirm two sources of authority for tradition and beliefs. First and primarily, there is the Qur’an. Muslims believe that the Qur’an was literally dictated, word-for-word, by God. As such, it is without any human corruption or burden. It is without human context. It is an eternal book, many Muslims believe that it is eternally existent beside God. Never written. The other source of authority is the hadith literature. The hadith literature is a compilation of teachings and traditions of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam. This article will ignore the question of the Qur’an and focus only on the hadith. So then, can we trust the hadith?can we trust the hadith? 2

I would first indicate that this is not only a challenge that Christians raise. Many Muslims will answer that we cannot trust the hadith. There is not only one hadith. There are several. If a Muslim encounters something that they find challenging in the hadith, they will bring it to their Imam, and their Imam will tell them to discard that hadith. It is untrustwothy. But what about the canonical Islamic hadith? What about Sahih Bukhari, the most important hadith to Islamic tradition? Can we trust the hadith? If we discard this hadith, we discard a good deal of Islamic tradition.

The Chain of Transmission. Since Islam is founded upon a culture that relies heavily on tradition, and respect for elders, and those of noble birth, the chain of transmissions were born. Since the hadith were written so long after Muhammad’s life, the traditions were not from first hand-witnesses. But, the first-hand witnesses told their friend. That friend told someone else, and that someone told another. If each of these people are reliable, then this is a reliable chain of transmission. Thus, we can have an accurate characterization of the deeds of Muhammad in the transmission. If Richard tells Bill, and Bill tells John, and John tells Steve, and Steve tells you, and all of these people are reliable, then you can trust what is transmitted to you. This is how the information in the hadith is passed down through the generations.mashhuwr3

With that in mind, can we trust the hadith? Well, I think that if somebody writes down a chain of transmission, it would raise the second question, how do we know that the chain of transmission is authentic? How do we know that they did not forge it? I could write out a chain of transmission right now, citing reliable Muslims, esteemed in the community, going all the way back to Aisha. Anybody could just write a chain of transmission. But there are no good reasons to think that this chain is not a forgery. Secondly, even if we assume that the chain was utterly authentic, it does not follow that the information passed down was true. Good and reliable people sometimes make mistakes. It is subject to human error. Perhaps Aisha misremembered what Muhammad said. This sort of thing happens all of the time. So then, can we trust the hadith? I am afraid that the manner in which the hadith cites its’ information is not valuable.

The hadith paints a morally inadequate picture of Muhammad. The Qur’an teaches that Muhammad was the ideal man, set apart by God as the exemplar Muslim. If one wants to know how to live as a Muslim, they need to follow Muhammad’s example. However, if we can trust the hadith, we are left with a picture of Muhammad that would make a good western Muslim grimace in disgust. Can we trust the hadith? Not if one wants to follow the example of Muhammad. The hadith paints a picture of Muhammad that is both sexually immoral and suicidal.

After an extended period without receiving revelation, Muhammad attempted to commit suicide (Bukhari 6982). Now, in response, one might argue that this does not instantly discount him a prophet. That is true. Even prophets make mistakes. But it counteracts the doctrine that Muhammad was the ideal man. Muhammad is the example that we need to follow, and he attempted suicide? I think that this should raise an eyebrow of even the most devout Muslim. Secondly, the hadith offers a sexually immoral picture of Muhammad. I made this point (and expounded upon it thoroughly) in my article “Was Muhammad A Sexual Deviant?” I made six points citing the hadith. 1 – Muhammad married and had sex with a girl who still played with dolls. 2 – Muhammad stole wives from other men, sometimes after murdering their husbands. 3 – Muhammad permitted his followers to rape widows and married women. 4 – Muhammad allowed prostitution. 5 – Muhammad took more wives than his own revelation allowed. 6 -Muhammad’s conception of Paradise entails having sex with lots of young virgins.

Can we trust the hadith? Not if we want retain the view that Muhammad was the ideal exemplar of Islam.

The hadith has Muhammad saying things that are plainly false. If Muhammad received his revelation from God, then, of course, he would be without mistakes. As the Messenger of God, then on his authority, we know that what he is saying is true. The problem is that in the hadith, Muhammad says things that are not only false, but embarrassingly false and dangerous.

Muhammad told his followers that if a fly falls into your drink, one need not discard it. Rather, they need only to lift it out and dip the other wing in it. For while one wing of the fly has the disease, the other wing of the fly has the cure of the disease (Bukhari 7:71:673). This may have been beyond investigation in the pre-scientific era, but today, we know that this is mystical nonsense. If a person wants to maintain a proper Islamic view of Muhammad, they cannot believe this hadith. Secondly, Muhammad told his followers that it was safe to drink water from a pond polluted by a dead donkey. The people were complaining that this water had used tampons and dead animals. Muhammad replied, “Verily water is pure and is not defiled by anything.” (Sunan Abu Dawud 67).

Behold, nothing makes water impure.

Behold, nothing makes water impure.

Can we trust the hadith? There may be some historical fact somewhere in the hadith. But absent a rigorous historical investigation (if there is even enough data), we have no idea which hadith to trust. We cannot trust Bukhari as a whole, because it contains statements that are patently false. It paints a picture of Muhammad that contradicts the Qur’an. But if we discard the hadith, especially Bukhari, virtually all sacred Islamic traditions will go with it. Can we trust the hadith? If you want to be a Muslim, you must trust the hadith. Yet, if you want to be intellectually honest with yourself, you must not trust the hadith.

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Was Jesus’ Resurrection Only Spiritual?

was jesus resurrection only spiritual?Some have adopted what is known as the metaphorical approach of interpreting the Bible. That is, rather than looking at certain stories with miraculous overtones as actual history, they look at them as mere metaphors, symbols of what actually happened. Consequently, the resurrection of Jesus (the center of the Christian faith) would be rendered a myth. It was a metaphor for his ascending into Heaven. All Christians will find this view to be abominable, and it is only represented by a few of the radical Jesus Seminar, who are known for liberal theology, the followers of the Baha’i faith, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. But what does the Bible say? Was Jesus’ resurrection only spiritual?jesus spiritual 2

I would point out firstly that this is a central issue. It is not something that brothers in Christ will debate, like creationism, or free will. As Paul recited the four-line oral tradition, calling it, “the gospel… by which, you are saved.” (1st Corinthians 15:1-2), he speaks of Jesus’s death for the sins of the world, his burial, his resurrection and his appearances to many (v. 3-8). Paul tops the argument off as he says, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.” (v. 14). If Christ has not been raised from the dead, the Christian faith is in vain. Those who take this stance are just as those who say that salvation comes by works, or deny the deity of Christ. So then the question becomes, what does the Bible mean when it says that Christ is raised from the dead? Was Jesus’ resurrection only spiritual? Or a physical, and bodily resurrection?

After the resurrection, Jesus tells his disciples that he has a physical body. Luke 24:39: “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” So when Jesus was raised from the dead, he approached his disciples, and at first, they did not recognize him (either because Jesus had died and they were not expecting him, or God simply veiled their eyes). In direct response to the doctrine that he was merely a ghost, or a spirit, Jesus tells them to feel his hands and his feet. Was Jesus’ resurrection only spiritual? He denies that he is a spirit, and the reasoning behind that is that he has a physical body. Thomas

In response to this, the Jehovah’s Witnesses will say that God gave Jesus a different body, in which he appeared to them. But that does not really align with Jesus’s reasoning. He tells his disciples to see “that it is I myself.” By examining his body, the disciples were to come to the conclusion that it really was Jesus in the flesh. If Jesus had a different body, they would not come to that conclusion. They would come to the conclusion that he was somebody else. His claim that “it is I, myself,” would not follow from “see my hands and my feet… touch me and see…” Thus the plain reading of the text seems to prevail.

The tomb of Jesus was empty. When the Jewish Sanhedrin heard that the disciples were proclaiming that Jesus had risen from the dead, why did they not just point to the body of Jesus? By parading his body in the streets, the Christian movement would have instantly died, and the claims that he was risen subsumed in that reality. But instead, the Sanhedrin said that the disciples had stolen Jesus’s body. This response presupposes the empty tomb and aligns with the biblical narrative of the empty tomb (John 20:1-18). But if the resurrection was merely a spiritual resurrection, one would expect the tomb of Jesus to be occupied by Jesus, since he never physically rose. empty_tomb2

Scrambling desperately to explain away the empty tomb, Jehovah’s Witnesses will say God zapped the body of Jesus and disintegrated it or made it disappear. If God did do that, then in fact, it was God who fooled the world into believing that Jesus had risen bodily from the dead. After all, if one has an empty tomb, and disciples declaring that Jesus is risen, then one can hardly be blamed for thinking that the resurrection is physical and bodily. Was Jesus’ resurrection only spiritual? If it is, then it was God who was ultimately responsible for propagating a lie, and deceiving the world into being Christians, when they should have become Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The Jewish belief about the resurrection. Jesus’s resurrection was a picture of the resurrection of all of mankind. He was “the first fruits of those who are asleep,” (1st Corinthians 15:20) and “the firstborn from the dead.” (Colossians 1:18). Jesus rose from the dead just as we will also rise from the dead. But when the Bible offers a picture of the resurrection, it is always a physical resurrection, the dead literally getting up out of their graves. That is the Jewish belief about the resurrection. Was Jesus’ resurrection only spiritual? Since Jesus’s resurrection corresponds to our resurrection, it follows that his resurrection must have been bodily.ezekiel37

Isaiah 26:19: “Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.” Daniel 12:2 “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.” 1st Samuel 2:6 “The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up.” Ezekiel 37:5-6 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”

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Are The Father And The Holy Spirit The Same Person?

are the father and the holy spirit the same person? 1Christians often might be confused about the distinction between God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. After all, does the Bible not refer to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of the Father (Matthew 10:20). It refers to him also as the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9). Now in my article Is Jesus The Holy Spirit? I refuted the modalistic idea that Jesus and the Holy Spirit were the same person. I turn my guns now to the separate question: are the Father and the Holy Spirit the same person? Is the Holy Spirit just the spirit-mode of the Father? What does the Bible say?

father and holy spirit 2I should first point out that the Father himself is a spirit (John 4:24). So we cannot say that the Holy Spirit is just the spiritual version of the Father, because the Father is a spirit himself. But then, perhaps these are just different titles that one applies to the same person. Perhaps in the same way that a man can be a father and a son, so also God is the Father and the Holy Spirit. I will defend the trinitarian position: There is one God who is eternally present in three persons, the Father the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This article will zoom in on the Scripture relevant to the question: are the Father and the Holy Spirit the same person?

The Father will send the Holy Spirit. Suppose a father tells his children, “I will not leave you alone. I will send a babysitter when I go out.” Then the father showed up that night. What will the children think? Where is the babysitter? Then the father tells us, “Oh, I am the babysitter.” We would think that his actions were incoherent. One does not say that they are going to send another, if they are the one who is coming. But that is precisely what Jesus said of the Father.

Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:16-17) He will ask the Father, and the Father will send the Holy Spirit. The modalist is forced to the conclusion that Jesus will ask himself, and then he will send himself. This is clearly and patently incoherent. When Jesus said that the Father will send another, he meant that he will send another. He went on to say, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (v. 26). We see the same theme in Isaiah 48:16, which says, “and now the Lord God has sent me and his Spirit.”

Any attempt to say that the Father is the person of the Holy Spirit will rely on fancy hermeneutical footwork. That interpretation forbids us from reading the plain meaning of the passage. The person who wants to think that the Father is the Holy Spirit must read between the lines of this passage and draw an interpretation that the original disciples never would have.

We have access to the Father through the Holy Spirit. When a person wants to be saved, they must put their trust in Christ for their salvation, in the same way that one will trust in a parachute before they jump out of a helicopter (Ephesians 2:8-9). The second they do that, they are instantly granted the free gift of eternal life (John 3:16) and instantly born again by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5). So the role of the Holy Spirit is regeneration. We are born again through the Holy Spirit.

This is where we find the distinction of persons. Through Christ, we have access in one Spirit, to God the Father (Ephesians 2:18). This raises a distinction beyond duty, because according to the plain reading of the text, we have access to the Father as the Holy Spirit presents us to him. We are welcome into the Father’s house because of the work of the Holy Spirit. Any attempt to make the Father and the Holy Spirit in this context would, again, rely on shunning the text and elevating ones’ own preconceived ideas and traditions above it.

Are the Father and the Holy Spirit the same person? No, just as there is a distinction of persons between Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and Jesus and the Father, so also there is a distinction of person between the Father and the Holy Spirit. If the Father were the Holy Spirit, the text that we have reviewed would not make sense. We have Jesus asking permission of the Father, and then upon receiving that permission, sending the Holy Spirit. If the Father were the Holy Spirit, this event would be reduced to absurdity.

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Is Abortion Okay If The Girl Was Raped?

is abortion okay if the girl was raped? 1Is abortion okay if the girl was raped? One of the more powerful arguments for abortion would be the reality of molestation. Pregnancy is not always of the free choice of the woman, nor does it always come as a product of her choice to have sex. Sometimes, in great trauma, men force themselves on women. Women are raped, and sometimes, when they are raped, they get pregnant. So the argument goes that if abortion is not permitted in this case, she would have to endure a living reminder that she was raped, rather than being free to move on. In this way, if a pro-life advocate and a pro-choice advocate were both to talk to a teenager who was raped, it might often seem that the pro-choice advocate was more sympathetic and loving and compassionate. is abortion okay if the girl was raped? 2

While the pro-choice advocate may have sincerity in their hearts and even while they have the purest of intentions, they are severely misguided. Is abortion okay if the girl was raped? Not at all. I maintain that they are offering a solution comparable to suicide: it may seem easier and it may seem to have a lighter load, but it devalues human life and is built on a foundation of false compassion.

What if the girl made the choice to keep the baby, but changed her mind after birth? Suppose for a moment that this rape victim made the decision to keep her child and to give birth. After the baby emerges, she sees the physical resemblances that it has to her rapist. Every time she looks in the babies’ eyes, she sees the face of her rapist staring up at her. Yet she has already decided to keep the baby. However, if we apply the very same reasoning as the abortionist, we are led inevitably and irrevocably to the practice of infanticide. This girl is forced to have a living reminder of her rapist, and who are we to say otherwise?

Suppose again that the same rape victim is pregnant, she has a few days before she delivers the baby. She changes her mind at this point and decides that she does not want a living reminder of her rape. Is abortion okay if the girl was raped? I think most will say not. But suppose that same baby was born prematurely, eight months early. Twenty-eight days after the birth of the baby, she decides that she does not want a living reminder of her rape. Is abortion okay if the girl was raped? It is the same baby and the same girl and the same time. The only difference is that the baby is outside of the uterus rather than inside of it. It seems to me then, that if we take rape as a vindication for abortion, we are guilty of reductio ad absurdum. Identical reasoning can be applied to the murder of infants or toddlers.

Abortion is a further burden to put on the girl. Imagine that a veteran of war went to a group therapy session, and admitted all of the things that he did in the war. He said that he could not shake the memories. The leading therapist decided to subscribe that he should go and kill somebody else. A civilian. Just walk up to them on the street and choke them out. That will help. Right? Or would it be adding a further burden to his already heavy heart and weary memory?

That is precisely what abortion does to the girl who just wants to shake the memory of her rapist. She has this one trauma to deal with, and in response, we tell a girl that she can commit murder, and this will lighten the load. But later, she will find that her conscience cannot bear the unnecessary burden that we have put on her. Not only have we encouraged her to take the life of another human being, but to take the life of her own child. Who can live with such a reality? Is abortion okay if the girl is raped? To put such a heavy burden on the girl should be far from our thoughts.

Why would we punish the baby for the crime of the father? Something that is important to emphasize is that the fetus is an actual biological human being. I argue that since it is immoral to kill a biological human being, and since the unborn is a biological human being, by irresistible logic, we conclude that it is immoral to kill the unborn. The baby is an actual human being. That is why the illustration of the infant or the toddler is so crucial. We do not commit murder just because that human being happens to be inconvenient to us. That philosophy of life is nothing short of sociopathy. baby-in-womb1

In response to this, the abortionist might raise the arbitrary distinction of a biological human being and a human person. But, one asks, what is the difference? After all, that distinction has been raised to justify homicide on a cataclysmic scale throughout the ages. The Jews were not persons, but were merely human beings, and so the Holocaust commenced. The blacks were not persons, and so slavery found its’ home. This is an arbitrary distinction that is meant only to justify murder. Is abortion okay if the girl is raped? No, that does not make sense, because the baby is still a human being.

Is abortion okay if the girl was raped? This seems to me to be a comparable question to, “is suicide okay if the girl was raped?” Do we encourage suicide, just because we do not want the girl to live with such a thing? After all, it is her body, and so it is her choice. We do not tell people to kill babies when they have something terrible weighing on their conscience. We do not place a greater yoke on the shoulders of rape victims. We do not devalue human beings. That is not progress. That is regression. That is stupidity.

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Is Mark Driscoll A Heretic?

mark-driscollIs Mark Driscoll a heretic? When my 2013 article 5 Popular Christian Teachers To Avoid went viral, there were a number of reactions. Some people wanted to know what I meant by what I said, and whether I condemned them as sinners going to Hell. The answers to that would be that I do not. My message was simply that these are ministries that have propagated false information, and they should be avoided. Another common question was why it was that more people were not included. is mark driscoll a heretic?Among the names, the most common was Mark Driscoll. Is Mark Driscoll a heretic? Is he outside the body of Christ, worthy of our condemnation?

It seems like any popular level teacher, no matter how gentle and godly and humble and loving he is, will receive some sort of backlash. People will always find a reason to condemn them. One could name any popular teacher among Christians and they will be pleased to offer their unsolicited and unrestrained opinion. Perhaps Driscoll has just been thrown under the bus as a popular teacher. Perhaps there is no merit at all to the indictments that people have against him. Is Mark Driscoll a heretic? This question is under consideration.is mark driscoll a heretic? 2

Is Mark Driscoll a heretic? He believes and teaches the true gospel. If I go as far to call somebody a heretic, it is because they have abandoned the faith in some fundamental way. They are not a true Christian and they have not been born again (John 3:3). They have denied the deity of Christ (John 8:24), or denied the incarnation (John 1:14). They have denied that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world (1st John 2:2). They have denied that he rose bodily from the dead (Luke 24:39). They have denied that one is saved by putting their trust in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). That is a heretic. Other issues are secondary. We may disagree, but still are brothers in Christ. As Saint Augustine said, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

Mark Driscoll affirms the gospel. He affirms everything that I said above. So then, I think that with that in mind, we may still have criticisms of him, but these criticisms should be from one brother in Christ to another. We should be careful lest we condemn and attack our own brother. We may be frustrated with him or even think that he should not be teaching. But if that is the case, then we need to remember that he is still a brother in Christ. Beyond that, if you want to say that he is not truly born again, I think that is a hard question for an outside who does not know the man to answer.

Is Mark Driscoll a heretic? Does he mock the Bible? One of the complaints that I have heard of Driscoll is that he mocks the Bible in his books. He ridicules it and ridicules the Lord. In pages 43-44 of his book Vintage Jesus, he explains the first chapter of Mark in a way that seems less than charitable to the person of Jesus. He compares the Lord to “a wingnut who holds billboards… he tells people to shut up… he picks a fight… he breaks into a church… he ignores his mother.” You get the idea. The accusation is that he is not portraying Jesus as the glorious Lord.

However I wonder what Driscoll’s goal in writing this way was. Perhaps he had in mind the old pithy proverb, “what would Jesus do?” People often do not realize how radical of a man Jesus was. So he was communicating that to his audience. Further, his audience is something else to consider. Perhaps some of his fans find that abrasive style of writing to be easier to read and more entertaining than scholarly literature. One might indict Driscoll for this chapter. I could conceive of it. It is not as flattering as I would depict the Lord. But I think it is important to ask the question of what he has to say. Why did he write it like this? Perhaps he was (whether successfully or unsuccessfully) attempting to adhere to the philosophy of ministry of the apostle Paul, namely, “I have become all things to all people so that by all means, I may save some.” (1st Corinthians 9:22). It could just be a method of communicating a truth. Is Mark Driscoll a heretic? I do not think that we can condemn him as one for this reason.

Is Mark Driscoll a heretic? The comments about sex. Driscoll has, admittedly, made some strange comments about the Songs of Solomon, and whether it is okay for people to masturbate. While I think that his intention was to communicate truth, some of the things that he preached over the pulpit, to put it mildly, were very inappropriate. He says of the Songs of Solomon, ‘They will say that it is an allegory between Jesus and his bride the church. Which if true, is weird. Because Jesus is having sex with me and puts his hand up my shirt. And that feels weird. I love Jesus, but not in that way.’ Bad joke, Mark. I am not prone to let Mark off the hook for this. This was a foolish this for somebody in his position to say. There were several other similar remarks. In fact, John MacArthur replied with a three part sermon series called The Rape of Solomon’s Songs.

I say again, I am not letting him off the hook for anything. He made a mistake. But my understanding is that he was ashamed of this sermon. He made a point to wipe it off the internet and does not want anybody to know about it. But he said it (and not only that) and people have the right to know that. Is Mark Driscoll a heretic? No, I do not think that this makes him a heretic. I think this proves that he is a sinner and did not think about what he was going to say as much as he should have.

Is Mark Driscoll a heretic? No, but teachers are judged harshly. James tells us that not many people should become teachers, because teachers are judged harshly (James 3:1). If somebody is going to lead people, they need to be beyond rebuke. They need to be respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money, and I draw your attention to this: And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church. (1st Timothy 3:1-7). Is Mark Driscoll a heretic? No. But he should not be a teacher or a leader in a congregation.

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Does Free Will Solve The Problem Of Evil?

does free will solve the problem of evil? 1Does free will solve the problem of evil? Burdened by the issue of the evil in the world, many Christians will turn to free will. God allows men to make immoral decisions, even when it brings about suffering, because he wanted us to have free will. He wanted us to turn to him freely in love, and in general, he just wanted us to have the gift of libertarian freedom as we inhabit the earth. But since men are free to choose either good or evil, some will inevitably choose to do evil. Thus, evil prevails, and it is permitted for the sake of free will, which is a greater good. This raises the question: does free will solve the problem of evil?does free will solve the problem of evil? 2

Most Christians unthinkingly and blissfully accept the free will theodicy. It has been quite thoroughly propagated among virtually all Christians, save for perhaps Calvinists (who deny that there is free will in a libertarian sense, an issue that this essay will touch on). But with a propagation on such a massive scale, a good among of criticism is chauffeured with it. Ex-Christians already know what to say in response to the challenge of free will. So is it valid? Does free will solve the problem of evil?

Is there free will in Heaven? This problem arises with one of the renderings of the free will theodicy. On this particular version, it is not only that God wants us to have and experience free will, but further, God wants us to have the freedom to choose him over and against evil. This is because he does not want people to turn to him robotically, automatically. He wants people to choose him freely. In fact, love necessitates freedom. There could be no love without freedom. But, the skeptic asks, is there love in Heaven? If so, would that mean that there is free will in Heaven? If so, that would imply that there was evil in Heaven, thus rendering it just as fallen as earth.images-34

I think that this version of the free will theodicy collapses at this. However, the apologist may reply, God wants men to have free will, not because it is a prerequisite of love, but because it is a gift in and of itself. There are certain goods in this world that we could not have in Heaven. We would be so consumed by God’s presence in Heaven that we could not rebel and could not sin. He would literally overpower us. Therefore, there could be no free will in Heaven. Therefore, free will is only for earth. The same could be said of courage and self-sacrifice. These good things could not exist in Heaven. Does free will solve the problem of evil? I think so. God allows evil on earth because he wants us to have courage, and self-sacrifice, and freedom of the will.

Is the free will theodicy available to the Calvinist? A Calvinist is one who believes that God has decided who will be saved from eternity on the basis of the good counsel of his will. The elect will be saved, and the non-elect will be damned. A person is only saved if God draws them to be saved. Jesus only died for the elect. Of course, if this is the case, then a person could not freely choose to be saved. God draws them and they have no choice but to respond to his saving grace. God overpowers their will. So then, could a Calvinist say that God allows evil for the sake of free will?TULIP

Does free will solve the problem of evil? Even for the Calvinist? I think so. Recall what I had to say in the last section. The Calvinist can believe in freedom of the will, even for every decision that a person makes, except for salvation. The Calvinist can believe in libertarian freedom, so long as that libertarian freedom does not extend to the decision of salvation. With that in mind, free will may still be one cause of evil and suffering in the world. God could still want to offer humans the gift of freedom, even if he does not extend it to salvific decisions. Calvinists, then, are welcome to apply this theodicy.

What about natural disasters and brain tumors? It often occurs to people that freedom of the will is not really an all-inclusive theodicy. It does not solve every issue. God could allow men to have free will, and still, there would not have to be natural disasters. Natural disasters probably do not follow as a direct consequence of freedom of the will. But even if that is true, the application of the free will response still perseveres. Moral evil (the evil decisions of men) could be accounted for with free will, even if natural evil (disaster, brain tumors, et cetera) has a different solution.Typhoon Pat

But, does free will solve the problem of evil? Even natural evil? I think that it does. The reason that there is natural evil is precisely because of sin. God created a universe that was custom-made for fallen creatures. It is a fallen world for fallen creatures. Everywhere we turn, we are reminded of our sin and our depravity and our need for God. Everything that we touch screams, “Fallen.” That is why God told Adam, “the ground is cursed because of you.” (Genesis 3:17). So I think that the problem of moral evil and natural evil can find their resolution in freedom of the will.

The free-will theodicy is quite brilliant. I think that we are pretty immune to it because we have heard it so much. But it is a brilliant philosophical point. God wanted us to have good things in this world that we could not have if there was no evil. However, it should also be pointed out that it is not the Bible’s response to evil. It may still be true, but it is established strictly on philosophical grounds.

A central book in the Bible on the problem of evil is the book of Job. Job endures struggle and comes to question God and to assert his own righteousness. Think of Job’s sin like this. Imagine that you had the most beautiful carpet in the world, and it is flipped over. Your friend approaches and can only see the underside of the rug, and they complain, “I thought you said that this rug was beautiful.” You will tell them that because of their limited perspective, they say this. But when the rug flips over, they will see. In exactly the same way, when the rug of this world flips over, we will understand. The question is whether we want to put our trust in the Rugmaker, or question every single thread. Job’s sin was that he multiplied words against God. God is more righteous and loving than we are and he did not put his trust in him. Thus God says, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2). Does free will solve the problem of evil? Yes. But it is not the Bible’s answer.

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Why Does Anything At All Exist?

why does anything exist? 1From the greatest scholars of the today, to the most famed philosophers of old, anybody who has ever observed the natural world has been plagued, or blessed, as it were, by the question, “why does anything at all exist?” This seems to be the reason that most people believe in the existence of a transcendent Creator of the universe. Whether the argument is stylized syllogistically, highly philosophical and technical, or the average man gazing at the head of the sun as it peaks over the horizon, feeling “naturally overwhelmed,” in the words of Richard Dawkins, “almost a desire to worship something.” Men know this problem, even atheists admit it. why does anything at all exist? 2People believe in God’s existence because it is obvious in the existence of the natural world. Any argument that is mounted against God’s existence will always fall short, will never measure up, to the abundance of the natural world around us.

In the words of the apostle Paul, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20). The question that one might pose is this: can this stand as more than an emotional observation? Can the atheists answer the challenge, answer the question, “why does anything at all exist?” I think that the boyhood observation perseveres, toppling down the objections of the intellectual. Why does anything at all exist?romans1-20

I pose this argument, and state the premises thusly (though I will break them down in as simple terms as I know how): 1 – Everything that exists has an explanation of its’ existence, whether in the necessity of its’ own nature, or an external cause. 2 – The universe exists. 3 – The explanation of the universe is not in the necessity of its’ own nature. 4 – Therefore, the universe had an external cause.

Everything that exists has an explanation of its’ existence. What does I mean by that? I will apply a popular illustration so that this point will become apparent. Suppose you were hiking with a friend, and the two of you stumbled across a beach ball in the middle of the trail. That would be quite an unusual sight, so you would rightly pose the question, “Where did this ball come from?” url-44

Your friend is unmoved and indifferent, as they reply, “Don’t worry about it. It’s just there.” Whether your friend knows it or not, he has just made an ontological statement about the ball. It has no explanation. It is just there. Now if you were interested in resolving this philosophical quagmire, you would not accept your friends answer. The ball does not just exist. There is an explanation of the balls’ existence. But expand the ball to the size of a house. It still needs an explanation. Expand it to the size of the earth. It still needs an explanation. Expand it further and finally to the size of the universe. Still, it needs an explanation. The universe must have an explanation.

That explanation is either in the necessity of its’ own nature or an external cause. This is a little technical, but like I said, I will try to break it down as simply as I can. When I say that something exists necessarily, I mean that it must exist. It could not be otherwise. The ball exists because it must exist. Its’ existence is absolutely essential. This is one of the options for the existence of the universe. It may be that the universe must exist. The alternative option is that the universe has an external cause. That is, a cause beyond itself that brought it into being. This alternative would be comparable to how Michelangelo is the cause of the statue of David.davi1

(Note: I have assumed that premise 2 is valid. The universe exists. If anyone wants to argue that the universe does not exist, they will also have to explain why it is that I should bother responding to them, because, as a part of the universe, they do not technically exist, and therefore, they never mounted the objection.)

The explanation of the universe is not in the necessity of its’ own nature. Recall again what I said about necessity. Necessity of existence means that something must exist. This premise states that it is not the case that the universe must exist. The universe is contingent. When I say that, I mean that it depends upon something else for its’ existence. We may know that the universe is contingent, as opposed to necessary, precisely because it has not always existed. The universe is not eternal in the past. It had a beginning a short time ago. This means that it will not do to say that the universe is just there, a brute fact, because it had not always been a brute fact. It had an absolute beginning.

We can be certain of this because an infinite series of events is logically absurd. Mathematicians, such as Doctor David Hilbert, realize that while one can apply the infinite to mathematics, it cannot be transferred into reality, because it leads to logical absurdities, as Doctor Hilbert showed in his paradoxical Hilbert’s Hotel (see left). Consider it like this: If there were an infinite number of days in the past, then that means that it would require an infinite amount of time before reaching today. This means that today would have never arrived. An infinite is literally never-ending. If a never-ending chain of events happened before today, then it follows that today would never have gotten here. This leads one irrevocably to the conclusion that there cannot have been an infinite number of days or events prior to today. The universe cannot be eternal.

This line of thinking carries over into the scientific realm, specifically the law of entropy. Since the universe (or multiverse, if such a thing exists) is one massive closed system, it is subject to the laws of entropy. Entropy states that the usable energy in the universe is depleting, much like the energy of a battery depletes, so also the energy in the universe depletes. When it runs out, the universe will incur what scientists refer to as the heat death of the universe. The universe will die. The question that presses upon us is this: if the universe has existed for an eternity, then why has it not already died? Thus the universe cannot have existed from eternity. As Stephen Hawkins put it, “Almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself had a beginning at the Big Bang.” (Hawking and Roger Penrose, The Nature of Space and Time. The Isaac Newton Institutes Series of Lectures, page 20).

Since the universe had a beginning, it follows that it is not necessary in its’ nature. The universe could conceivable not exist, as it has, and as it will. Thus I repeat my question: why does anything at all exist? What is the explanation of the universe? It is not in the necessity of its’ own nature. Therefore…

The universe had an external cause. This is highly significant, a point that most atheists would not be willing to concede, because the threads of atheism begins to unravel at the idea of a cause of the universe. Consider with me for a moment what the universe is. The universe is all of nature, all of energy, space, matter, and time. Everything that exists. If all of nature, space, and time have a cause, that cause cannot be natural, spacial, or temporal, for the same reason that a man cannot be his own father. The cause of the universe must be supernatural, spaceless, timeless, immaterial, transcending the entire known universe, existing in such a way that the universe is contingent upon him. Therefore, God exists.

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What Does Philippians 2:5-8 Mean?

what does philippians 2_5_8 mean?I usually avoid exegetical articles for the sole reason that they do not attract a lot of attention. Most of my articles are more topical, and like my cohort Evan Minton of CerebralFaith.blogspot.com, I weave in the relevant selected Scriptures throughout. So in today’s article, What Does Philippians 2:5-8 Mean? I am doing something a little different. I am simply looking at the text of this passage, summoning the theological nuances to shine forth so that the Holy Spirit may illuminate this passage for you, and for me.

phil 2_5_8I would first point out that most scholars regard this passage as pre-Pauline. Paul received or learned this hymn from his contemporaries, namely, Peter and James (Galatians 1:18). So the theology that is found in this hymn comes before Paul. We cannot say that Paul invented it or distorted the early Christian teachings (as Muslim apologists will assert). This song came before him. This is highly significant because it means that what we find in this passage represents the beliefs of the earliest Christians. Paul’s views were representative of the rest of the church, and this hymn evidences that. So then, what does Philippians 2:5-8 mean? First, take a look at the passage with me, and also, I will examine verses 10-11.

V. 5-8: Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the phil 2_8form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross… (v. 10-11) so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

“…Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” phil_2The Greek word for “existed” in this verse is ὑπάρχων, and it literally means that this is what he was in his original state. This is what Jesus was from eternity, he existed in the form of God, at the time when the Word was with God (John 1:2). At that time, Jesus existed in the very form of God. The Oneness Theologians will say that Jesus was a forethought or a plan in the mind of God. But this song informs us that Jesus was in the very form of God. That is not to say that God has a physical structure, but rather than Jesus existed in the very nature, he shared the very essence of God. What does Philippians 2:5-8 mean? Jesus was (and remains) God.

Further, as he existed in the very nature of God, the song informs us that he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped. He was God, sharing the very nature of God, and yet did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped. This is a clear distinction between God the Father and Christ Jesus before the world began. Jesus did not regard equality with God the Father a thing to be grasped. The Oneness theologians will guess that when Jesus became a man, then at that point, he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped. But that is not what the text says. It says that although he existed in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped. This clearly preceded the incarnation because at this point, he existed in the very nature and essence of God.

“…but emptied himself, taking on the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men…” There is nothing humbling for a human to be a human. It is humbling for God to become a human. There is nothing embarrassing or humiliating about a human remaining a human. There is nothing that we would have to empty ourselves of. But for Christ Jesus to become a human being is humiliating. Since Jesus Christ did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, he emptied himself.

Since it is the season... (image from ncregister.com)

Since it is the season… (image from ncregister.com)

This word “emptied,” is translated from the Greek, “ἐκένωσεν” or sometimes transliterated, “kenosis.” It is from where we derive the doctrine of kenosis. It literally means that Jesus emptied himself, he was deprived of content. When Jesus became a man, he emptied himself of his divine attributes and his divine will. So rather than being omnipotent, he relied on the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit. He was a human being. He was the human image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). He was the fulness of the trinity, the one and only God (for there is only one God [Deuteronomy 6:4], eternally present in three persons [Hebrews 1:8, Acts 5:3-4, Matthew 28:19]) in human flesh (Colossians 2:9). The consciousness of God the Son was transferred to the flesh of a man.

Lest you think that this is just theological wrangling, I point you back to the text. Jesus was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped. Jesus was both God and with God (John 1:1-2). What does Philippians 2:5-8 mean? It means that earliest Christians sung hymns of the incarnation and the trinity.

“…Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross…” Note how the status of Christ descended. In the beginning of the song, he is God, sharing the very nature of God the Father, in eternal glory. He descends to not grasping the equality that he had. He descends again to the shame of a human being. He paradoxically departs from this eternal and everlasting state of eternal glory and kingship and becomes a man. Then he humbles himself to the lowest possible status of a human being.

Crucifixion is a stain on the soul of humanity. It is the most gruesome form of capital punishment that men have ever enacted. God descended to it and absorbed it. When Jesus was crucified, it pleased God the Father to crush him (Isaiah 53:10), because on that cross, his love was on display. All of God’s wrath that we deserve was poured out upon him. Christ Jesus descended treacherously, diving into the portal from Heaven to crucifixion, leaving his divine rights behind, leaving his power and glory, and becoming a man, obedient to the worst form of torture imaginable. What does Philippians 2:5-8 mean? This verse means that God died the death that you and I deserve (1st John 2:2). Three days later, he rose from the dead. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that those who believe in him shall never perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

“At the name of Jesus Christ, every knee will bow and tongue confess that he is Lord.” Paul is quoting Isaiah 45 and applying it to Jesus. In Isaiah, YHWH says of himself, “to me, every knee will bow, and every tongue will swear allegiance.” Paul takes the words of God and applies them to Jesus. Is it not clear that Paul regards Jesus as God? Paul believed that Jesus was YHWH, the God of the Old Testament.

Isaiah 45:21-23
“Is it not I, YHWH?
And there is no other God besides Me…
…A righteous God and a Savior;
There is none except Me.
Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth;
For I am God, and there is no other.
I have sworn by Myself,
The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness
And will not turn back,
That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.”

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Does God Know The Future?

does god know the future? 1The traditional conception of God among monotheistic faiths is that God is utterly perfect in every way. God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, all-present, all-good, and so on. But some Christians (hereafter referred to as open-theists) wrestle with these attributes and wonder how it is that they fit into their systematic theology. So when they come across God’s absolute knowledge, contrasted against human freedom, they tend to recoil, and take the position that because human beings have libertarian freedom, that therefore, God must not be able to know their future decisions. After all, if God does know their future decisions, then in what sense what would they freely make these decisions? does god know the future? 2But this is more a philosophical question (though I will resolve that tension in this article), when I think it is important to ask the biblical question. What does the Bible reveal to us? Does God know the future?

Before beginning, I ought to indicate that these open-theists, while they deny that God knows the future, they also affirm that God is omniscient. He knows everything. The pointed issue is that, in their minds, the future is just unknowable. It is impossible to know the future. So, God does not know it. In the same way that we might be able to inductively predict, based on the past, what is going to happen in the future, so God also may also make guesses, but he would not be certain, because the future is not something that one can be certain of.

God does not inductively guess – he prophecies. When God makes proclamations, he does not caution that these are just his best guesses, and they might not come to pass. Rather, he boldly claims that these things not only will come to pass, but have come to pass from the very foundations of the world. He “chose us from the foundations of the world… in love, he predestined us to adoption as sons through Christ Jesus to himself.” (Ephesians 1:5-6). God not only knew who was going to be saved, he actively elected them (and for the moment, I ignore the issue of conditional and unconditional election). Thus God knew their future decisions. He knew that they were going to choose to be saved.Prophecy2

Further, God knew the immoral decisions of men from the foundations of the world. Jesus Christ has been slain from the very foundations of the world (1st Peter 1:20). God predestined the crucifixion of Jesus. But God foreknew it from the foundations of the world. He knew that Jesus would be crucified. He knew that the Romans would crucify Jesus. The Romans were sinning, and it was God’s will, because it brought about a greater good – the crucifixion. “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 people of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your purpose predestined to occur.” (Acts 4:27-28).

Often, open-theists will say that God knows only what he is going to do in the future. But the problem is that he is using people in this case. He knew that people would be there, to crucify the Lord of Glory. He also knew that people would choose salvation. I am inclined to add that even if I concede that God merely knew what he was going to do, that is still knowledge of the future. Does God know the future? It seems to me that the concept of prophecy necessitates that.

God predestines the free decisions of men. God often uses evil to bring about his ultimate good. If there were no evil, if we did not live in a fallen world, there could never be things like courage, or self-sacrifice, or freedom of the will. So God will bring about evil so that we can have greater good. He predicted and allowed the evil decisions that men have made. So he says, “I knew that you would deal very treacherously.” (Isaiah 48:8). God knew in advance this decision to deal treacherously.8140987_f520

We see this theme recommenced in Psalm 138:4, which reads, “All the kings of the earth will give thanks to you, O LORD…” God knows the future decision of men to give thanks. In the next chapter, the psalmist continues in praise of God, now zooming in on God’s knowledge of himself. “Before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it all.” (139:4). God knew what the psalmist is going to say before he says it. He goes on to praise God’s attributes; praise him for who he is. He says, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?” (v. 7). He is speaking of God’s omnipresence. In the verse just before, he says, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. It is too high. I cannot attain to it.” Since God knows even the psalmists words before he says them, his knowledge is too high. Does God know the future? While the future is impossible for men to know, and while we cannot attain to it, God can.

Is free will inconsistent with God’s foreknowledge? Let us temporarily concede for a moment that it was. Let us suppose that there was no free will, that God knew everything, and as a consequence of this knowledge, we do not have free will. So what? That does not change what the Bible says. We cannot let our desire for free will change God. I struggle mightily to see how this is anything short of idolatry in the name of the self.

But now, lifting my concession, I indicate that freedom of the will is not inconsistent with foreknowledge. God may have absolute knowledge of what is going to happen tomorrow, and nonetheless, we still have freedom. God’s knowledge could be viewed as sort of like a thermometer. It is always accurate in its’ measurement of the temperature, but it has no causal power over the weather. Does God know the future? Does he, in light of the possibility of human freedom? Well there really is no reason for there to be so much tension between God’s knowledge and human freedom. If there is tension, then God’s knowledge should be the victor, lest we commit idolatry. If you are interested in how the Bible reconciles predestination and human freedom, check out Evan Minton’s treatment of Molinism in his article Molinism And Divine Foreordination.

Does God know the future? God foreknew and predestinated exactly who would be adopted into his family and saved through Christ Jesus. He foreknew and predestined the crucifixion, which had tied within in the wicked decisions of men. He foreknew both good and evil future decisions, and he proved that in his prophecies. He foreknew those decisions in Isaiah 48:8 and Psalm 138:4; 139:4-5. God foreknew all of these future human decisions. But this is not logically inconsistent with freedom of the will.

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Why Are Christians So Mean?

why are christians so mean? 1People with views that oppose Christian doctrine often mount the accusation that Christians are mean-spirited and obnoxious. It is not necessarily so much that these groups are merely disagreeing with each other, but Christians are utterly disagreeable, unable to have a friendly conversation and listen to the beliefs of those with whom they disagree. I have seen Christians who are mean-spirited toward homosexuals, Muslims, liberals, and even other Christians. Pretty much anybody who calls into question one of their beliefs and practices. Rather than intellectually criticizing the doctrine of Islam, Christians treat Muslims, as people, with bigotry. why are christians so mean? 2It seems that rather than sharing the gospel and loving their enemies, Christians are inclined to point the finger, call names, accuse, and incite anger. So then, this raises a critical question that Christians need to deal with. Why are Christians so mean?

They are not born again. They may bear the title Christian and claim to love the gospel, but for them, loving the gospel, or loving their enemies, are empty platitudes. These are ideals, but not something that they are willing to live out. If one tells them to love their enemies, they are either unaware of that verse, or they say, “we are loving our enemies,” as they call another group derogatory names. The issue is that people such as this might not be born again. They might not really have the power of God in their lives.

born-againWhen I say that somebody is born again, I mean that they are made a new creature by the Holy Spirit (2nd Corinthians 5:17). One who is born again makes it their words that, “it is not I who lives, but Christ who lives through me.” (Galatians 2:20). They are justified, adopted into the family of God, and they are being sanctified. They are being made holy (1st Peter 1:15). They are displaying the fruit of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). If a person instead displays “…enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions…” (v. 20) then this could be good evidence that this person has not been born again. Why are Christians so mean? They are not real Christians. They are just as much of a child of Hell as those against whom they are screaming.

They do not understand different people. I am afraid that this is a plague of humanity, not only Christians. People recoil and reflex when they encounter somebody that they just do not understand. That is why when adolescence will encounter a homosexual, they will bully them. That is why a homosexual will walk down the street and be mugged. That is why a New Yorker will be treated with contempt in the south, and vice versa. That is why black men have been treated with bigotry. People see these groups with the slightest divergence and they hate them for it. Whether it is jealousy, projection, insecurity, or whatever underlying psychological issue, people hate those who are different.galatians3_28

Christians are often not immune to this. Those who are not may fall into the category above, that they are not born again. Either way, there is an inclination against those who are different. That is an offshoot of the fallen nature. A lot of people have to deal with this and need to deal with it maturely, striving to overcome it. But instead, Christians indulge in it. They will use their faith to justify bigotry. It is important to point out that there is a difference between the doctrine of Islam and Muslims as people. It is important to point out the difference between the sin and the sinner. While Jesus Christ would speak scorching words against sin, he would have the deepest compassion for sinners. Why are Christians so mean? They are just like the Pharisees, the mean religious folks of old, who would say, “Why is your teacher eating with such sinners?” (Matthew 9:11), Jesus replied (v. 12-13), “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

They cannot handle disagreements about their sacred beliefs. There are some things that people hold so dearly to their heart that they literally identify with them. Christians hold their beliefs about the Bible in such esteem that any time they are challenged or criticized, they just cannot handle it. They cannot handle when anybody disagrees about anything. So just as those in the last category, Christians will recoil and reflex in anger when somebody disagrees.

When people reply, that the Bible is not true, or even start ridiculing the Bible, Christians do not know how to handle it. They are emotionally challenged. That is one reason that I think that apologetics and doctrine are so important. While the Bible is foundational to our beliefs, we need to be engaged with the intellectual element of our beliefs. When we understand why the Bible is true and what the Bible says, we will not feel so insecure about our beliefs. We will be able to listen carefully to what people say and understand why it is not necessarily true. In our culture, it is not enough to only know Bible stories. We need doctrine and apologetics.

Sometimes Christians seem mean when they are merely disagreeing. With so many nasty people claiming to be Christians, spreading bigotry, refusing to following the clear commands of Jesus to love their enemies (Matthew 5:43-48), often, all Christians are mistakenly conflated with them. If I point out a sin, even lovingly, I am conflated with all of the Christians who attack the sinner. If I criticize the doctrine of Islam, I am conflated with those who treat Muslims with bigotry. So my point is that while Christians need to be careful to not treat with bigotry, often when we criticize a view, people will mistake it for bigotry. If I say, “the Bible teaches that same sex-marriage is a sin,” people hear, “I hate homosexuals.” But that is not what I said.

We need to learn to listen to each other. If Christians want to share the gospel, to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19), we need to learn to listen to people. People are different. Everybody has different things that they hold dearly. People are not groups of people. They are individuals who cry over different things. We need to understand people, as individuals. They are not merely a banner for the LGBT movement. They are individuals. Listen to them. They have real issues that they have dealt with and a real past. They have real baggage.

If we want to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48) (not that homosexuals are enemies), we need to listen to them. We need to respond in love and show them to love of Christ. We need to adopt the words of Paul for ourselves, that “Christ came to save sinners, of whom, I am the worst.” (1st Timothy 1:15). Apart from the unmerited mercy and grace of God, we would be heathens who commit moral atrocities on a grand scale that would make homosexuals grimace in disgust of our behavior.

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What Is A Good Analogy For The Trinity?

what is a good analogy for the trinity? 1When we want to explain something, especially complex topics, we often want to appeal to analogies and illustrations as tools to help us illustrate our point. This seems to carry over into theology. Since the doctrine of the trinity is often built up as something so complicated that no mere mortal could ever understand any aspect of, we scramble desperately for a way to relay this divine truth to new Christians. But as we tell them how complicated it is, and how they just need to take it on faith, we are likely to lead our friends astray into confusion. So how can we relay this point? What is a good analogy for the trinity?what is a good analogy for the trinity? 2

I think it should be pointed out that the trinity is not necessarily a mystery. It is not beyond all human comprehension. It may be counter-intuitive, but we can still grasp it. We can still understand what the Bible says. God may be more complicated than a man, or more complicated than what we expect, but we can still understand what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches three truths: 1 – there is one God. 2 – The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each God. 3 – The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct persons. As John 1:18 says, Jesus is “the only begotten God, in the bosom of [God] the Father.” Therefore, there is one God, who is eternally present in three persons. How can we simplify this? How can we reduce it down? What is a good analogy for the trinity?247850

Is the trinity like H20, or a man who is a father, a husband, and a son? As we appeal to these elements of the world that people know and comprehend, we try to render the trinity relatable. We try to fit the trinity into the rational mans’ previously accepted paradigm. So we tell them, “Just as a man can be a father, a son, and a husband, so God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” But that comparison is fatal to the trinity.

A man who is a father, a son, and a husband is not three distinct persons. He does not have three centers of consciousness. These are just three modes that he takes. But God does not take on different modes. That is modalism. So the same with the H20 illustration. For us to draw these comparisons only muddies the water. In attempt to simplify, these comparisons complicate. trinity1

Three in one comparisons. In response to hearing of the doctrine of the trinity, people may pose the question, “but how could God be both three and one?” That is a clear contradiction, so how could that be so? Obviously he is not both three gods and one god, and obviously he is not both three persons and one person. That would be a contradiction. Rather, God is one God, and three persons. God is eternally present in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The mind may still boggle at this notion, at the presentation of three in one. I think it may be permissible at this point out that there are other things in the universe that are three in one. A triangle is one triangle and three sides. That is not to say that a triangle and the trinity are identical, but for the purpose of illustrating that three in one is not always a paradox, the concept of a triangle is a useful tool. So a triangle may not be an analogy to the trinity, but an analogy to the coherence of three in one. Three in one is not an incoherent concept, and when a triangle is used that way, and that way only, it is not wrong.scriptures-trials-and-triumphs

Explain from Scripture. When people hear the doctrine of the trinity, they may be inclined to think that it is a consequence of contradictions opposing views of the authors, and we are trying to reconcile them. That is why it is important to show verses such as John 1:1-2. “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” The Word was both God, and with God. John empowers this point toward the end of his prologue as he calls Jesus (v. 18) “…the only begotten God, in the bosom of the Father…” So we see two distinct persons within the one God.

Another good proof-text would be Isaiah 44:6 (and I went into more detail in my article 3 Reasons Atheists Are Afraid To Read Isaiah) which reads, “So said the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer the Lord of Hosts.” Both times the word Lord are used, they replace the word YHWH, the name of God. So in this verse, there are two who are called YHWH: the Redeemer and the King of Israel. Yet a few verses down, Isaiah plainly states that there is only one God (44:8). The testimony of Scripture is that there is one God who is eternally present in three persons. What is a good analogy for the trinity? Do not worry about analogies. Look to Scripture. dont_over-complicate_being_successful_3

Stop overcomplicating everything. It seems like every time I hear a Christian explaining the doctrine of the trinity, they preface it with a few qualifications about how the trinity can only be understood by faith and that it is beyond all human comprehension and they will never understand it. I think that it is within human capacity to understand what the Bible reveals, or else there would not be any reason for the Bible to reveal it.

If you think it is too complicated to understand, then perhaps you should not be teaching people. Physician, heal yourself. Learn what the trinity is, because there is a succinct and simple definition that is easy to understand. It may be counter-intuitive. It may seem like an illogical model of God (although I argued against this in my article Is The Trinity A Logical Model of God?), but it is not so complicated that no human being can understand it. It is only like that because you are the one explaining it and you are overcomplicating it.

What is a good analogy for the trinity? A worm looks up at a man. We would not expect the worm to instantly understand the man, or the man to be precisely what the worm expects. Yet we look to the heavens and hold expectations of God. God may not be what you expect. There may be no analogy of the trinity that does not break down at some point. But that does not mean that you cannot explain what the Bible reveals. Stop desperately shuffling through fallacious analogies. There is one God who is eternally present in three persons. That is the trinity.

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Does Salvation Come By Faith?

salvation by faith 1Does salvation come by faith? Why is this an issue? Well, present in the majority of the world religions is the idea that if one is a good person, they will merit eternal life with God, and those who are evil must go to Hell. This is the view of most people, a sort of surface understanding of God’s justice. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ did their work for them. Jesus Christ died on the cross, bearing the penalty for the sins of the world (Romans 3:26, 1 John 2:2). salvation by faith 2Three days later he arose, bodily, from the dead. So when we say that salvation comes by faith, we mean that in order to be saved, one must put their trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. If you were preparing to jump out of a helicopter, you would put on a parachute, and trust in that parachute for the jump. In the same way, the moment you put your trust in Jesus, you will be saved and granted the free gift of eternal life. That is what salvation by faith means.

Yet rather than trusting in the atonement of Christ, some Christians decide to trust in themselves. They put their trust in their own good works. They believe that the way the atonement is applied to a person is through their works. But what does the Bible say? Is salvation applied by works? Or does salvation come by faith?

Ephesians 2:8-9 reads: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Salvation is granted to a person by God, through his unmerited favor of God. Despite that one does not deserve it, God offered salvation to them. If this grace were by works, it would cease to be grace, because then, they would be earning God’s favor. But grace literally means unmerited favor. That is why Romans 11:6 says, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.” So salvation must come by faith, to the exclusion of works, lest grace cease to be grace.

In response to this, many will claim that Paul was only talking about works of the Law, not any works. But Paul writes to the exclusion of all works, and we know this because he said that salvation is “not of yourselves.” Further, if salvation came by works, why would it not be by the works of the Law? By what works, then? It seems to me that if Paul was teaching that there was an alternative law to follow, he would have been more clear. If he just meant that they can be saved by following their conscience, the mind boggles as I consider that this just leaves us with moral relativism. So God undid the Law of Moses just so that men could be saved by following their unguided conscience. I find that view neither persuasive nor faithful to the text.

Salvation is a free gift. Suppose I pick up a homeless man on the street. He was holding up a sign that said, “Will work for food.” I tell him not to worry about it and that the food was a free gift from me. Then after we eat, I take him to my house and tell him that he needs to mow the lawn to reconcile his debt. Well, then the meal was no longer a free gift. He is paying for it. He is working for it.

Yet Paul repeatedly refers to salvation as a free gift (Romans 5:15, 16; 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9). Romans 6:23, “The wage of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus.” In affirming that salvation is a free gift, Paul necessarily excludes any form of salvation by works. If it were a free gift, it would not be by works.

Faith is counted as righteousness. When somebody puts their trust in Christ for their salvation, God looks at them and does not see their account of sin. They see the spotless record of Jesus Christ. The unrighteousness of men was put on Christ and his righteousness was put on men. When they are saved, God sees Christ’s righteousness, not their sin. They are dead to sin. Thus Paul says, “Faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:5). The moment a person has faith, their record of insubordination and sin is destroyed, and the righteousness of Jesus Christ is applied to them.

The entire verse reads, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” Paul earlier states that God is the just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26). Verses such as this are significant because the advocate of works cannot say that it is making a distinction between the Law of Moses and works-salvation. Paul plainly says that God justifies those who have faith. “By what sort of law?” he asks (v. 27). At this point, he has the chance to tell us about his law of works. But instead, he says, “By a law of faith.” Further, and critically, rather than denying or negating the Law of Moses, Paul concludes this section by saying, “We establish the law.” Thus Paul is not denying the Law of Moses in favor of a law of works. He establishes the Law of Moses by establishing salvation by faith.

If salvation came by works, everybody would fail. The typical view of salvation by works is that God will forgive your sins if your good works outweigh your evil deeds. But the question is, how many people can really say that? Is it not true that every inkling of mans’ heart is wicked (Genesis 6:5)? The heart is wicked and deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). There is none righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10). If that is the case, if all are wicked, if the very center, the control-tower of man is wicked and deceitful, if there is nobody who is righteous, how could any of these people work to save themselves? Would they not all fail?

Paul walked us through this in Romans 2:17-24. He posed the question to those who would justify themselves by their works: you who say that you ought not commit adultery, do you commit adultery (Romans 2:22)? You who say that you ought not steal, do you steal (v. 22b)? You who boast in the Law, do you dishonor God by breaking the Law (v. 23)? Paul holds men up to their own standard and they realize that they fall short by it.

Consider your own moral standard. You believe that it is wrong to lie. Have you lied? You believe that it is wrong to steal things. Have you stolen anything? You believe that it is wrong to commit adultery, and Jesus said that if you look with lust, you commit adultery in your heart (Matthew 5:28). Have you looked with lust? You fall short of your own moral standard. How much more must you fall short of God’s? You cannot earn your salvation. You have broken every law that God every gave (James 2:10). That is why your works are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

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