Can Goodness Exist If God Does Not Exist?

good without god 1The eye untainted by the contemporary western lights may gaze through the nights’ sky and in the distance, at the right angle and during the right time, may see the red sphere in the lower echelons of space. As our technology has elevated, we gained more perspective of our cosmic neighbor, and fiction writers like CS Lewis created entire civilizations resting upon what we call Mars. But as we learn more, as our rovers traverse the terrain of the planet, we learn that it is a red waste. There is nothing on the planet.

Yet it has been hypothesized that Mars could have been inhabited by life at one point, and the last and desperate residual microorganism may be decaying somewhere, waiting for its’ inevitable death a short time from now. good without god 2But many years ago, Mars may have been much like CS Lewis depicted it. Archeologists lack the training to venture into space to explore the planet, but if they did, we wonder what they might discover. If there was sentient and intelligent life, they met their doom. Thus, intellectual pursuits, careers, family, art, and all of the industries of their civilization, all ended in nothing.

Yet at the same time, there is an aura of a resting satisfaction on the red wasteland. It is not tainted by human beings. It is not infected by evil. But on Mars, there is nobody to speak meaningful about the question and existence of evil. Did these categories exist for the Martians of old? Will they exist for the distant life of tomorrow? Or is morality born with human reason, and hence, die with it as well? I would like to suggest that in a non-theistic universe, there can be no meaningful discussion about the good. Can goodness exist if God does not exist? I suggest that it cannot.good without god 3

The problem of human value. When I say human value, I am speaking in terms of intrinsic human value, and this is to be contrasted against extrinsic value. Intrinsic value means that an object has value in and of itself. Extrinsic value means that an object has value based on how people perceive it. Cash has extrinsic value. We perceive value in cash, and so it becomes valuable. But it is not valuable in and of itself. In and of itself, it is just paper. A family pet has value because of the value that we give it. But animals in other contexts are suitable for hunting and consuming. We do not condemn the hunter who takes game for sport (most of us). We do not condemn the hunter who kills an animal to feed his family (most of us). Animals seem to have value that is merely extrinsic.

good without god 4Yet, it is beyond denial that human beings are themselves, animals. The naturalist maintains that human beings came into being in a manner identical to that of lower animals, that is, by the evolutionary process. When we feel a moral obligation to one another, therefore, it is reducible to an ingrained herd morality that benefits the pack and the betterment of the species and the propagation of DNA. Lower animals display the very same moral obligations to one another. Baboons are known to display even self-sacrificial behavior for one another. We have a moral system that is akin to the moral system of lower animals, and we have deluded ourselves into thinking that our moral system is of greater merit than theirs. But what good reasons are there to think that? Why should I value human beings over and against the lower animals?

Within the Judeo-Christian tradition, there is the doctrine known as imago dei, that is, the image of God. There is something special about human beings as a direct consequence of God’s personal touch or image. We are made in the image of God. Animals are not. As such, human beings have intrinsic moral value, and it is justifiable to treat them as such. good without god 5Can goodness exist without God? Well on scientific materialism, there is no imago dei, and so, there just is no reason to live as though human beings have intrinsic moral value, because human morality is akin to the morality of goats, sheep, and chickens.

Now I hear a response from the scientific materialist. They claim to have a philosophical doctrine similar to the imago dei. They will claim that human beings are moral agents; they have the capacity to grasp moral claims and act within the framework of what is right and what is wrong. Now I agree that human beings are moral agents. However, that is not a basis for their having intrinsic moral value. If it were taken as such, this argument could be reduced to absurdity upon the realization that very young children and the elderly, and the mentally handicapped, are not moral agents. Their minds are either too underdeveloped or decrepit to grasp moral claims and act upon them. We do not condemn a newborn for screaming and crying because he is hungry in the middle of the night. But we would condemn an adult for acting in such a way. The reason for that is that the adult is a moral agent. However, the newborn is not. Still, newborns possess intrinsic human value.

good without god 6Can goodness exist without God? I do not think so. There is no system of morality that can account for intrinsic human value. But in the absence of intrinsic human value, we have no basis for saying that brotherly love is truly virtuous.

Why does the good impose itself upon us? Suppose with me for a moment that there was, somehow, a system of objective morality that existed without God. It is a universal standard of right and wrong that somehow transcends humanity. It is an abstract philosophical form. What good reasons are there for us to bother to follow this moral system? Why should I care about this standard of right and wrong if it is just an impersonal standard? If you were to find a piece of paper written in the middle of nowhere with a list moral precepts inscribed upon it, you would not be compelled to follow it. But if a king gave you a list of moral precepts, then you would be compelled to follow it. Moral commands are only of value if they come from competent authorities. If they come out of nowhere with no latitude, like a list of rules in the middle of nowhere, then for us to bother to follow these moral precepts is arbitrary.

But the problem becomes even worse when we realize that we are aware of this eternal metaethical collection of moral facts. Why are we even aware of it? It has somehow imposed itself upon us. But imagine a possible world in which homosapiens evolved with a completely different collection of moral facts. You shall kill, you shall steal, you shall lie, et cetera. On this possible world, the good did not bother to impose itself upon humanity. They behave in a way that is evil, and they feel fine with that and do not know the difference. Our civilization of Martians would know nothing of our morality or our intrinsic human value. They might hold to an ethical framework that is radically different from our own. In that possible world, the good did not impose itself upon them.

There is a plethora of possible worlds in which the good did not impose itself upon a civilization of sentient lifeforms. The question is, why did the good impose itself upon human beings? Of course, on this system, the good would not impose itself upon anybody, because it is an abstract object, and abstract objects do not impose themselves on anything. Can goodness exist if God does not exist? It seems to me that if God does not exist, then there is just no reason for us to think that a collection of moral facts has any capacity to impose itself upon human beings. So if good exists without God, there is no reason for us to discover it or follow it.

In response to this, I have a suspicion that the atheistic moral realist might compare the good to mathematics. Mathematics does not impose itself upon anybody. People just discover it upon exploring the universe. Likewise, we just discover morality upon exploring the universe. Well, there are a few problems with this. First, it ignores the question of why we should be compelled to follow morality in the first place. Secondly, moral stances can be so much more relative than mathematics that I just do not think that it is comparable. Nobody is campaigning for an alternative answers to 2+2. But our society is filled with defenders of every side of every moral issue. 3 – There is a possible world in which human beings are amoral and have discovered mathematics. There is nothing logically incompatible about that claim. Thus I just do not think that morality is something that we would discover in the same way that we discover mathematics.

But recall the resolution that I offered in the first paragraph of this subsection. We would not be compelled to follow a list of rules that we find in the middle of nowhere. A list of rules would have no capacity to impose itself upon us. But if a king gives us a list of rules, then we would be compelled to follow it. Competent authorities can dictate our moral duties. Can goodness exist if God does not exist? It seems to me that only if God exists can we make sense of the reality of our moral duties. Only if God exists can we make sense of our innate obligation to understand morality.

The good imposes itself upon us because the good is God himself. The good imposes itself upon us because the good loves us and wants us to live holy and righteous lives. The good imposes itself upon us because the good has endowed us with the imago dei, and desires for us to live in brotherly love with one another. Desiring so much for us to see the perfect righteousness of God, the good became a man.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things came into being through him, and apart from him, nothing came into being that has come into being. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness did not comprehend it.” John 1:1-5

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Did The Islamic Jesus Fail?

islamic jesus 1In a labored attempt to appeal to Christians, Muslims will often tell us that they believe in Jesus just as we do. They will tell us that they revere and adore Jesus as a prophet of God. They will tell us that there are two faiths that historically believe in Jesus and believe in what he says, and they are Islam and Christianity. The difference, so they will tell us, is that Christians have distorted the teachings of Jesus through the centuries so that now we worship him as God, we maintain that he died on a cross for the sins of the world and we maintain that his message is relayed in the New Testament. In contrast, the Islamic conception of Jesus maintains that Jesus was one prophet among many. It was his duty to capture fallen Israel and return them to God’s righteous path. The duty of any prophet is to bring people back to God. The question is, if this was the duty of Jesus, how did he fair? Did the Islamic Jesus fail?

islamic jesus 2If we are going to answer this question, we need to consider what success would have looked like. If the Islamic Jesus would have succeeded, his followers and the generation after them would have believed in a message that was compatible with Islam. They would not have believed in the deity of Christ, nor the death and resurrection of Christ. So, did the Islamic Jesus fail? I assess these issues as I ask this question.

His death and resurrection. There is gap between the death of Jesus and the earliest Christian writings of about twenty years, perhaps a little less. We know what Paul believed and we know what the gospels say. They affirm trinitarianism and they affirm the death and resurrection of Christ. They affirm that salvation comes by faith alone. Within a few decades, sayings and deeds were attributed to Jesus which, if Islam is true, Jesus could not have said. The question is whether we can fill that gap. What happened between the time of the death of Christ and the writings of the New Testament?

Well, first of all, I might say that it should not trouble us that the disciples waited so long to put the pen to the page. This was a pre-literature society, and we would not expect them to keep journals or instantly strive to write these things down. That is not how things were recorded in the ancient near east. Rather, there were established oral traditions. Oral traditions were creeds that represented the faith of the people. The Jews did this throughout their history and the disciples continued this tradition.

In Galatians 1:18, Paul indicates that he went to Jerusalem and stayed with the apostle Peter for about two weeks. While he was there, he also saw the apostle James, who was probably the pastor of the church in Jerusalem (as church tradition holds). While there, he was introduced to the oral traditions that the Jewish Christians were receiving. We find these oral traditions weaved into Paul’s letters as they become relevant. Paul did not invent them. He used them. In his letters, he relays the oral traditions and hymns that he has learned from the early Christian communities. In this way, we can fill that twenty year gap by appealing to the traditions that Paul adopted.

There are a few indicators of an oral tradition. When speaking of a sacred tradition, a Jew would say, “I delivered to you what I received.” Then there would follow a rhythmic four line creed. In 1st Corinthians 15, Paul relays one of those oral traditions to us. That oral tradition tells us that Christ died, was buried, was raised from the dead, and appeared to many. Did the Islamic Jesus fail? Well his earliest followers would have maintained a view that is standard Christian theology and is in direct opposition with Islamic tradition.

The trinity. Further, and critically, the Carmen Christi is more telling. In Philippians 2:5-8, Paul cites an earlier tradition that indicates that Jesus is God, existed alongside the Father from eternity until the incarnation (See my article What Does Philippians 2:5-8 Mean?).” As Islam Guide’s article about Jesus” tells us, Jesus did not come to change the basic doctrine of God, but rather to confirm it. The author has in mind the distinction between unitarianism and trinitarianism. But if Jesus came to affirm the unitarian doctrine of God, the mind boggles as we consider his utter failure. The unitarian doctrine of God would not be clarified until six hundred years later, when what Jesus really said came to light, because everybody in the historical context apparently missed it, and the earliest traditions indicate that he taught that he was God, yet distinct from the Father. Did the Islamic Jesus fail?

If Islam is true, then within the same generation of his death, the people of Israel (for the earliest Christians were Jews) instantly forgot his teachings. He made no lasting impression in an Islamic context. The only impression that remains is the stain of distortion. If Islam is true, then Jesus came to set the people straight, and they instantly began to worship him, to attribute false sayings to him, and to say that he died and rose again (a proposition that is historically, completely un-Jewish). Did the Islamic Jesus fail? Obviously. Nobody listened to him and everybody did the opposite of what he told them to do.

Did the Islamic Jesus Fail? Muslims will often say that the purpose of a prophet is to come to a nation and correct them so that they will return to the path of righteousness. The Jews received Jesus. He proclaimed the message of God to them. But alas, that message was utterly lost until, as I said, six hundred years later, in another country, in another language, and relayed by a man without even a first hand source to Jesus. Did the Islamic Jesus fail? We can understand the purpose of a prophet is well enough in Islam. But if Jesus wanted to relay Islamic doctrine to the people of Israel (or at least something close to it), it is very confusing that all that emerged was Christian theology.

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In Defense Of The Moral Argument: A Response To Dan Linford

linford 1Dan Linford recently published an article about the moral argument, stating that it was guilty of the is/ought fallacy. While I was interested in the topic, I did not respond directly to Linford because I was more interested in rendering a general response to the argument. So I did some research on this objection and composed an independent article. Thinking that it was a response directly to him, Linford made a point to take time and respond to my article and demonstrate that despite my objections, the moral argument is guilty of the is/ought fallacy. This is my rebuttal to his rebuttal.

linford 2Just so I do not spend the next three hundred words providing the necessary background information, I suggest reading my article Is The Moral Argument Guilty of The Is/Ought Fallacy? along with Dan’s response, titled In Defense of The Incompatibility of Hume’s Is/Ought Dichotomy and Theistic Metaethical Realism

I raised three objections rescuing the moral argument from the charge of the is/ought fallacy, and I will go through each of them to see how Dan responded.

Which of the premises does this challenge? If I am to say that an argument is guilty of a logical fallacy, I mean that the argument is rendered false by that particular fallacy. Consider the following: 1 – Greek is a language. 2 – Plato is Greek. 3 – Therefore, Plato is a language. Through premise one and two, I am clearly equivocating between two different usages of the word language, in one sense denoting a tongue, and in the other denoting an ethnicity. As such, this argument is rendered false.

In the case of the moral argument, I argue that 1 – If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. 2 – Objective moral values do exist. 3 – Therefore, God exists. The is/ought fallacy, as conceded by Dan, does not challenge either of these premises. It just raises a further question that comes after the fact. It raises the question of how it is that God is related to objective moral values and duties. But strictly speaking, the challenge that Linford raises does not challenge the argument. He even spent a good deal of time challenging premise one in his rebuttal precisely because he knows that the is/ought fallacy does not do anything to the argument. All the objector has done is raise a question that is to be handled after the conclusion of the argument has been established by the premises.

If that is the case, then the case of the opposition instantly collapses. The moral argument succeeds even if we grant the objection because the objection asks a different question.

The objector is conflating moral values with moral duties. I drew this distinction because the is/ought dichotomy is represented by Linford as “the thesis that no statement about what one ought to do can be entailed by a statement about what is the case.” As such, if the theist is grounding their morality in God’s nature, then they are determining how they ought to behave on the basis of who God is. As Linford puts it, we are reducing moral facts to non-moral facts. So I raised this distinction, pointing out that God’s nature establishes what is. His commands to us establish what we ought to do. They are utterly distinct categories.

In response, Linford accused me of rendering God’s commands arbitrary. He means that by separating God’s nature from his commands, God would decide what is good or evil, and that becomes our moral duty despite that it is arbitrary. But I think he is confused about what I am saying. I am not saying that God issues commands that are distinct from his morally perfect character. That would be immoral in itself and could not come from a morally perfect character. God could not issue a moral command that was arbitrary because that would be immoral.

Rather, what I am saying is that the theist is maintaining that God is the ontological foundation for moral values and duties. However, what we are supposed to do come in the form of commands from God. Those are our duties. But, his commands are coming forth from his nature, which is the good. That is not to say that our moral duties are reducible to non-moral fact. Since God’s nature is perfectly righteous, it is a moral fact. In this way, I am not saying that goodness requires further moral facts to explain it, as Linford charged. As he put it, goodness is identical to God.

At this, Linford asks how it is that goodness could exist with no further explanation on theism, but it could not exist likewise on atheism. (That objection seems to depart a little from the question of whether the moral argument is guilty of the is/ought fallacy, but that is fine). I think he misrepresented the theistic position. The theistic position is not that goodness exists with no explanation. As identical to God, goodness exists necessarily, because God exists necessarily. If the atheist wants to posit that their theory of metaethics involves necessary existence, then there might be a parallel, but I have a suspicion that Linford will be hesitant to grant that.

Worthy authorities can give moral duties. If I were to assess a government official’s capacity to issue a moral command, I would not be assessing his moral status. I would be assessing his authority in that situation. Since he is a representative of the federal government, I, as a citizen of the land, would be morally obligated to listen to him. But my decision to accept the official as a worthy authority is a non-moral decision. As such, it does not affect my moral capacity. The reason that I point this out is that Linford seems to be accusing me of circular reasoning. I cannot assess the worth of an authority because then I would be granting that there is an authority beyond them to which I am appealing. But that is not what I am doing. I am saying that by rationally contemplating an authority, we will know if they are competent to offer a moral command.

Suppose a rebellious teenager was told by their parents, “I know what is best for you. Listen to me.” After carefully contemplating who their parents are and what they have gone through in their lives, they decide that they are competent authorities and it is their duty to listen to them, even if they do not understand the moral commands that are being issued to them. In this way, the decision that the teenager has made is a rational decision, not a moral one (even though there are moral consequences).

Further, the reason that I pointed out the issue of worthy authorities is that I was almost conceding the is/ought dichotomy, just in a different way. We do draw an ought from an is. The teenager draws an ought from an is when he decides that on the basis of his parents’ commands, he will act in some way. We derive an ought from an is when we decide that because we see flashing lights behind us, that we will pull over. So an ought is certainly being derived from an is. But it is in a way that is quite distinct from what Linford has in mind.

In Defense of The Moral argument: A Response To Dan Linford There are very sophisticated objections to God’s existence, and Linford is one of the carriers of those objections. Even his articulation of his rebuttal was first rate. But it suffered a few fatal problems. 1 – He conceded that the is/ought dichotomy does not challenge any premise of the moral argument. That seems utterly fatal, since the question that is being dissected is, “is the moral argument guilty of the is/ought fallacy?” 2 – He conflated moral values with moral duties. 3 – He misunderstood the contemplation of worthy authorities as though it were a moral contemplation. For this reasons, I think that the moral argument held the shield firmly against Linford’s arrows.

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My Visit To Saddleback Church

saddleback church 1Having not been in Los Angeles for long, I am non-committal to the churches that I have visited. However, I have attended a few small group meetings, which are quite nice because they offer an outlet to meet and get to know new people who happen to kindred spirits; Christian by faith. Among those small groups that I have attended, one is a subset of Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. This morning was the first day that I had the opportunity to go to Saddleback Church. Although, it was in Los Angeles, which is not the headquarters or main location. It is one part of Saddleback. My visit to Saddleback Church was quite interesting, and you might be intrigued by my review, both the positive and negative aspects of it.

saddleback 2Before I begin my review of my visit to Saddleback Church, I should qualify it by saying that I am not laboring to write a scathing review of this church nor of Rick Warren. I have no intention to smear him or his church. I do not know much about him, and I know that he has the endorsement of John Piper, which is a very good sign, as far as I am concerned. Absent knowledge, I should appeal to those who have knowledge and discernment. Piper is wise enough to offer endorsement only where it is due. With that qualification in mind, I do have a few observation about my visit to Saddleback Church, some praises and some criticisms.

They had very talented musicians and worship leaders. Though there was only about three or four songs, their performance was sublime. The singers were so talented that I was almost inclined to approach them afterwards and tell them that their singing was sublime. But I usually ignore those inclinations because they probably hear that sort of thing all of the time.

The performance of the singers is an important aspect of a church visit. If one visited a church that featured untalented musicians (which I have encountered), people will be less inclined to come back another time and less inclined to hear the gospel. Since they have such talented musicians, it is definitely a mark in their favor. That was my first impression of my visit to Saddleback Church, and first impressions are important.

There was an invitation without the gospel. Rick Warren’s daughter and wife tag-teamed a sermon. They were not there in person. Instead Saddleback Church in Los Angeles plays a recording of the worship service hosted by the main Saddleback church. There was a video of these two women rotating their way through this sermon. They were both excellent public speakers and have clearly mastered the craft.

They should be commended as they were both quite interested in telling the audience that they needed to accept Christ. They both wanted people to know that it is our duty as people to accept the free gift of salvation that God has given to us. Amy (Rick’s daughter) even spoke a little about election, and I had an inkling that there was a bit of theological latitude behind her words. She knew what she was talking about and she understood the gospel.

The question that I would present to Amy, and her mother, Kay and Rick, is why the gospel was not preached. They invited people to accept Christ and to pray a prayer. But they did not preach the gospel. I did not hear that man was sinful and needed a savior. I did not hear that Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead. I did not hear that he died in our place. I did not hear that our sins were nailed to the cross, or that the kingdom of Satan was shut down at the cross. I did not hear that God came in the flesh. I did not hear Paul’s gospel. I heard an invitation to accept Jesus.

Now I am not charging Rick and his wife and daughter with unbelief. They believe the gospel. But Paul said that the gospel is the power of God to those who believe (Romans 1:16). It is the message of the cross that we are to preach. That is the wisdom and the power of God (Colossians 1:18). What I heard was a narrative. Amy told us that God healed her, and that is great. Christianity works for her. But if the gospel is not preached, then all we are doing is sharing a psychological system that helps you to overcome your problems. That is not Christianity. That is Scientology. That is the essence of my visit to Saddleback Church. I heard people who I have no doubt love the Lord, and I do not doubt their salvation. But they did not preach the gospel.

The preaching was very shallow. Amy (daughter of Rick) and Kay (wife of Rick) used selected Scripture to make the point that people needed to accept Jesus. They wanted to relay the point that God knows them and wants them to come into a relationship with him. When they do that, they will be able to put their trust in him, despite all of life’s trials. That is a good and commendable message. That is a message that one would want unbelievers to hear. But they are preaching in one of the largest church on the west coast. They are in a church. It is full of believers and they are giving this invitation to accept Jesus.

The question is why it is that a church full of believers would need spiritual milk. In a stroke of irony, Kay quoted Hebrews 5:12-13, which reads, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.” They were teaching the elementary oracles of God. Why are they not diving deep into Christian truths? Why are they not talking even about the precise details of living a Christian life? Why are they giving a message for unbelievers to a group of believers? My visit to Saddleback Church has molded the expectation that the leadership thinks that their parish are spiritually immature. They need to be told to accept Christ.

My visit to Saddleback Church. Again, I was very impressed with certain aspects of their worship service. I was impressed with the ability of their musicians. I was impressed with the passion that Amy and Kay displayed and with their capacity to relate to the audience and speak in public. But I was not impressed with their content. I was not impressed with their presentation of the gospel, nor was I impressed with the fact that they felt that they had to feed their parish with spiritual milk.

However, these observations should be taken tentatively, because they are just observations. I am not making definitive statements. I am not saying, “Saddleback Church does not preach the gospel,” nor am I saying, “Saddleback Church is composed of the spiritually immature.” I am saying neither. I am saying that these are things that I observed.

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Is The Moral Argument Guilty Of The ‘Is/Ought’ Fallacy?

moral is ought 1It is often said by Christian apologists that the atheist cannot live consistently within the framework of their worldview. They will adhere to their ethical convictions and act as though they really were binding. They will object to the evil in the world and labor to make the world a better place. As such, atheists and non-believers are often good and moral people. That is not contended. The contention of the Christian apologist is rather that atheists have no right to make ethical claims. So the argument goes, if one says that something is right or wrong, moral or immoral, they are making the claim that there is a standard of morality that is beyond themselves. The atheist then would be borrowing from theism. That is the argument. David Hume objected to this that the Christian apologist is deriving an is from an ought. Is the moral argument guilty of the ‘is/ought’ fallacy?

is ought moral 2According to the Texas State Department of Philosophy, “The is-ought fallacy occurs when the assumption is made that because things are a certain way, they should be that way.” So if a church appeals to their tradition, and says, “this is the way that we have always done it, therefore, this is the way we should keep doing it,” the traditionalist is drawing an ought from an is. TSU provided a few examples of their own. “We do not currently regulate the amount of nicotine in an individual cigarette; therefore we need not do this,” and “If nature does not make it, we shouldn’t have it.” In both of these cases, an ought is being drawn from an is.

So the atheist will argue that the theist is drawing an ought from an is in their rendering of the moral argument. For we propose that morality is within God’s nature. God is the Good. As such, we saying that since God is some way, therefore, we should behave in some way. So then, is the moral argument guilty of the ‘is/ought’ fallacy?

Which of the premises does this challenge? In contemporary literature, the moral argument has been defended in the following syllogism. 1 – If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist. 2 – Objective moral value and duties do exist. 3 – Therefore, God exists. The objection that the atheist raises does not seem to challenge either of these premises. It just asks how it is that God is related to moral values and duties. However, the argument does not entail any particular theory about how morality is grounded in God. It merely states that if God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist. As such, even if we were to grant this objection, the argument would still remain undefeated.

Is the moral argument guilty of the ‘is/ought’ fallacy? It seems that even granting the objection, the atheist would still be left unable to ground morality within their worldview. If anyone is to posit any form of moral realism, this argument restricts them to a theistic model of it.

The objector is conflating moral values with moral duties. The objection is that we cannot ground morality in God because we are drawing what we ought to do from who God is. If we were doing that, it would be guilty of the is/ought fallacy. It would akin to my saying that because God is all-powerful, that therefore I should be all-powerful. Since God knows everything, it is therefore my moral duty to know everything. Likewise, since God is good, therefore, I should be good too.

But that is not what we are doing. When the Christian apologist grounds morality in God, they are making a statement about God’s character. God’s character is perfectly righteous. But that is not from where we derive our moral duties. As Doctor Bill Craig pointed out, “God’s nature serves to establish values—goodness and badness—while God’s commands establish moral duties.” God’s nature establishes what is. His commands to us establish what we ought to do. They are utterly distinct categories.

Further, with these categories in mind, we could make a strong argument that moral realism must be grounded in a personal entity rather than an abstract form. Non-theistic models of moral realism fail to account for the moral duties that man has. If I found a piece of paper in the middle of the woods with a set of rules written on it, I would have no compulsion to follow it. But if the monarch offered a set of rules, I would be compelled to follow it because it derives from a personal entity. So, moral duties must be derived from a person.

Does the moral argument commit the ‘is/ought’ fallacy? It seems to me that the objector has failed to recognize the categories of moral value and moral duty.

Worthy authorities can give moral duties. If one of your neighbors claimed your land and said that you need to start paying taxes to them to live there, you would call the police and have them arrested. But if an IRS agent demanded that you pay your taxes, you would recognize their authority as representatives of the federal government and you would submit to them. Likewise if a police officer is pulling you over, you would pull over, recognizing their authority. If a parent tells a child to “come here,” the child will listen, but they will not listen if a random stranger tells them that (hopefully). Children listen to their parents, recognizing them as worthy authorities. We listen to representatives of the government, recognizing their authority.

Similarly, when God offers a moral command to us, we know that it has become our duty, because God is a worthy authority. This is the sort of determination that we make all of the time. We recognize and determine the merit of any given authority figure and determine if we are going to submit to them. This is precisely what we do in the case of God. Is the moral argument guilty of the ‘is/ought’ fallacy? The only option for the objector is to say that we are deriving what we ought to do from the reality of our moral commands. But this seems to be something that we all recognize as perfectly legitimate, since we know the difference between pulling over for a police officer and pulling over for a complete stranger.

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How Could Jesus Be Both God And Man?

jesus god man 1One of the most primitive of the theological quagmires that have arisen in the Christian movement is: how could Jesus be both God and man? This question has come as both a mystery that the theologian would meditate upon or a serious challenge the Christian faith. After all, the Islamic theologian will protest that God could not become a man. God could not be a baby in a manger. God could not suffer death on a cross. How could God reduce himself to such a status? How could Jesus be both God and man? As Christians, we are laboring to answer these questions and understand the intermingling of these two natures. Jesus is both fully God and fully man. He is divine and human.

jesus god man 2This means that every time he acted, he would act as both a human and God. He was not sometimes God and sometimes man. He was always God and always man. He did not switch between roles or modes or persons. He was one person who was both the fulness of God and the fulness of man. People have arisen throughout the last two thousand years to make sense of this reality, but it often resulted in a compromised Christology. They might say that Jesus is not God or that he was not man. However, I do not find such compromises consistent with the biblical data nor are they philosophically necessary. I think that the incarnation, while it is challenging to many people, can be understood. God would not reveal something to us that could not be understood. So then the question is, how could Jesus be both God and man?

God wrote himself into his story. Imagine that I am writing a diverse narrative full of interesting characters. As you are making your way through my story, you notice something interesting. I have written myself into the story. There is a character with my name, and I am speaking as the author of the story, to my characters. I am telling them that I am the author, and my own characters do not believe me. In a way, I am both a character and the author. I both transcend the story and I am in the story. While it is a different dimension, if that word can be applied here, we still have the element in which I am both transcendent of the story and a component of the story. The incarnation may be thought of in that way.

If I have the power to write myself into my own story, is it so unthinkable that God could write himself into his own story? God may be thought of as transcendent. He transcends space and time, and he is beyond space and time. But concurrently, God is also local. God exists right now. God wrote himself into his story. But when he wrote himself into his story, he was limited by the human experience. So we can see Christ enter into temptation. We can see Christ with limited power and knowledge. We can see these because he was fully man. How could Jesus be both God and man? God wrote himself into his story, as a man.

The human image of the invisible God. As a character in my own story, I would be an image or reflection of myself within the story. Likewise, Jesus is the “visible image of the invisible God,” (Colossians 1:15). I tend to render it, “the human image of the invisible God,” which does not compromise the meaning of this verse, but is just a little more specific. Likewise, Hebrews 1:3 says that he is the “radiance of his glory and the exact representation of his being.” These are not titles or awards that could be given to somebody who was not God. This could only make sense if Jesus was God written into his own story.

How could Jesus be both God and man? I do not think that the concept of being the human image of the invisible God is beyond all human comprehension. I think that it makes sense. It makes sense that Jesus would endure temptation, despite that he was God. It would make sense that he could not always perform miracles and often had to rely on the Holy Spirit. It would make sense of his being more filled with the Spirit on certain occasions (Luke 1:4).

When he endured these trials, he was entirely God. God laid down his divine rights for his people. He was equal with the Father, but he did not regard equality with him a thing to be grasped. So he surrendered it. In this way, Jesus did not much more than an author writing himself into his story. That will get us started. But it is as though you wrote the most horrific story and transferred your consciousness into it. God actually descended into his story for his characters.

Are we asking the wrong question? The question “how could Jesus be both God and man?” may be the wrong question. It almost asks of the mechanism. It almost asks what the mechanism by which God could become man was. But if God is all-powerful, he should be able to do anything that is not logically absurd. Since I think I have resolved the logical tension in the above subsections, the question is only whether God is powerful enough to write himself into his own story. But the question of whether an all-powerful being has enough power to perform some activity seems to have an immediate answer. To ask the question is to answer it. Of course God is powerful enough. We are not asking the correct question.

The correct question is, “why would God become a man?” I hinted at it above. God became a man to redeem his people. Suppose a kidnapper were on trial before a judge. A few days before the trial, a family member of the kidnapper came to the judge and offered a bribe in exchange for their relatives’ freedom. If the judge were to accept that bribe, we would think of him as an immoral and a corrupt judge. God is not an immoral or corrupt judge. He must give justice. Since all have sinned (Romans 3:20), we are all like that guilty kidnapper before the judge. Just think of it like this. You think it is wrong to lie, and you have lied. You fall short of even your own moral standard. How much more do you fall short of God’s?

The wrath of God is revealed against all unrighteousness. Therefore, God became a man. God wrote himself into his story. He lived a life void of sin, but he was murdered despite that. When we was murdered, all of the wrath of the Father that we deserve was poured out upon him. He died in our place. He died the death that we deserve. Then he rose from the dead. Now those who put their trust in him will have all of their sin against God wiped away. How could Jesus be both God and man? That is the wrong question. The question is, why would God become a man?

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Is It Okay To Reinterpret Scripture To Accommodate Modern Science?

reinterpret 1Is it okay to reinterpret Scripture to accommodate modern science? Young earth creationists often charge it against old earth creationists that they are just compromising the Bible. They are taking mans’ fallible dating methods and loading them into God’s infallible word, so the argument goes. The old earth creationists are forcing things into the Bible that the Bible does not proclaim. As such, they are abandoning the word of God and trusting more in the scientific credential of men. Young earth creationists lodge these heavy charges against old earth creationists of every breed.

reinterpret 2This is ironic, considering that day-age view of creation takes Genesis 1 literally (and I will allow my friend to provide the biblical framework for thinking that the days in Genesis 1 are long periods of time). Not all old earth creationists do reinterpret the Bible to accommodate science. Some just see a synergy there. But for those who do, the question arises, is this an improper handling of Scripture? Is it okay to reinterpret Scripture to accommodate modern science?

The typical answer that we will hear is that it is not. It would be a compromise to do so, it would be to succumb to man’s fallible dating methods and declare that we trust in man more than we trust in God. I understand these objections, and I deny them.

God has given us two books: the Bible, and nature. If I may put it another way, we may regard nature as the 67th book of the Bible. This is a distinction between what theologians call general revelation and special revelation. General revelation is what God has revealed in the natural world. It is what everybody can see plainly even without the Bible. Special revelation is the word of Scripture. They are both from God, since God created the universe and he wrote the Bible. It would be a grievous error to remove either of these revelations. 516eNHWoinL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

As such, if we find something in nature that contradicts the Bible, if we find some real science or real evidence that contradicts the Bible, the question is what we have misunderstood. If we find that we understand the Bible properly, then we need to take another look at the science. If we find that we understand the science properly, then we need to take another look at the Bible. We need to reinterpret the Bible to accommodate real science. Both the natural world and Scripture are from God, so it would be a mistake to say that one is right and the other is wrong. If we were to say that science is wrong and not valuable, then we are saying that we cannot learn anything about the universe through investigation, which would be patently flawed, considering the success of scientific naturalism and the flourishing of technology in this era.

However, it might be argued that science and Scripture have very few, if any, areas of overlap. There are not many places where science even touches Scripture. Science and Scripture speak two different languages, and they do not intersect. Genesis is a reflection of an ancient way of thinking – it is ancient near eastern cosmology. The author probably never intended for anybody to read it literally. For us to do so is to interpret it anachronistically. Is it okay to reinterpret Scripture to accommodate modern science? When we see science in Scripture, that is just our modern mind reading into the text something that is not there. Perhaps that is not what the author of Genesis wanted.

Nature Is Infallible, Our Biblical Hermeneutics Are Not. Young earth creationists will frame the issue as “man’s fallible dating methods against God’s infallible word.” But I think we might need to rethink that approach to this issue. As I pointed out, we can trust what real science says. By real science, I mean science that accurately reflects the evidence and what the natural world is telling us. Most young earth creationists would agree with that. They would agree that science is important. We need science to understand the mechanisms of the universe. Science cannot yield results that are false. We live in a universe that is rationally intelligible. As such, the natural world is infallible.

In contrast, our biblical hermeneutics are not infallible. The way that we interpret the Bible is not infallible. The Bible is infallible, but the way we interpret it is not infallible. Likewise, the natural world is infallible, but the way that we interpret it is not infallible. But I could pose the same sort of challenge that the young earth creationists, couldn’t I? I could say, “you are holding up your fallible interpretation against God’s infallible universe.” But that would not be offering a univocal standard. In both cases, we are appealing to an interpretation of the data. The data cannot be wrong. Our interpretation of the data can be. Is it okay to reinterpret Scripture to accommodate modern science? In posing this question, I am not saying that the Bible is wrong. The Bible cannot be wrong. Our interpretation of the Bible can be. That is what our young earth creationist friends are missing when they frame the issue in this way.

We need to let nature speak for itself. We should not start with any interpretation of Scripture and force it into modern science. That is non-objective science. So when Answers In Genesis has their scientists agree to a statement of faith that says that the universe is 6000 years old, they will necessarily interpret everything in light of that, and this is something that these trained scientists freely admit. They admit that they interpret everything in light of their presuppositions. They start with the presupposition that the earth is 6000 years old, and force everything to fit into that paradigm. But that is non-objective science. That is not allowing the natural world to speak for itself.

They will lodge the accusation that secular scientists are doing the same thing. They are starting with the presupposition that the earth is billions of years old, and interpreting the data in light of that. But I wonder what would happen if somebody just looked at the science. Would it be possible to come to the conclusion that the earth was 6000 years old? I think that if you look at the scientific record, you have to explain the evidence way to accommodate a young universe. You have to begin explaining things and making a defense. You cannot just read the science. You have to fit everything into your paradigm, and it just does not work. That is not the way that the natural world is meant to be read. Is it okay to reinterpret the Bible to accommodate modern science? I think if you are a committed young earth creationist, you have a duty to reinterpret the Bible so that you can do justice to the natural world.

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The Easter Challenge

easter challenge 1Dan Barker issued the Easter Challenge a few years ago as an indicator of the demerits of the Christians’ Easter tradition. While we use it to commemorate that Christ had risen from the dead, there are serious flaws in the Easter story that many Christians do not realize. This aligns with what is known as the Synoptic Problem. The Synoptic Problem points out the contradictions between Matthew, Mark and Luke. Since they overlap in the events that they record, a good Christian will assume also that they overlap precisely in the accounting of every detail. But they do not. Likewise, the Easter Challenge points out that there are contradictions in the events that the Easter story records.

easter challenge 2So Barker, and other atheists, pose this challenge to Christians. We are to look through the gospels and answer the following questions about the Easter story. What did the women visit the tomb? Who were the women? What was their purpose? Was the tomb open when they arrived? Who was at the tomb when they arrived? Where were the messengers situations? Et cetera. Since the answer is different in each gospel, Barker argues, we have contradictions in the Bible. So the question presses hard upon us: how is it that we can reconcile the Easter Challenge with our faith?

We are asking the wrong questions. This entire discussion presupposes that if the Bible is the word of God, then there would be no errors at all. Both the atheist and the Christian are making this assumption and arguing on that foundation. What good reasons are there to think that? Perhaps God allowed his people to tell the story as they recounted it, even if some of the details were different or even contradictory. A tenable theory of inspiration does not demand inerrancy. There could be errors. If there are, it should not bother Christians. We should not take the position that the entire faith will collapse if one mistake is found in the Bible.51-594pR7ML._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

It would be a mistake for us to forget the human element of the Bible. It would be a mistake for us to think that biblical inspiration is akin to qur’anic inspiration. In Islamic theology, the Qur’an is literally dictated from Heaven. Muhammad was a passive recipient of what God had to say. As such, there can be no errors. But the Bible is different. The Bible is a very human book that was sometimes influenced by culture and even subject to human blunder. That is not to say that it is not inspired of God. It is to say that our conception of inspiration seems like it is a consequence of a modern way of thinking.

In his book Inspiration and Incarnation, Doctor Peter Enns compared the doctrine of inspiration to the incarnation of Jesus. Jesus is both fully God and man. There is an ancient heresy known as docetism that says that Jesus is God, but only had the appearance of a man. He did not die, but only appeared to die. Likewise, argues Enns, would be for us to remove the human element from the Bible. The Bible is God’s word, but he used men, and men make mistakes. 243870_BPG-aniWeb-ad_6_11

Some of Barker’s alleged contradictions are not necessarily contradictions. I am not in the tedious business of going through every single alleged contradiction in the Bible and striving to resolve them. I will put that on the shoulders of anyone who is willing to take it (the only person that I can think of is my friend Evan Minton. You can find his section on contradictions by clicking here). But what I am willing to do is point out that what people commonly think are contradictions may just be different details.

If Mark says that there is one angel at the tomb, and Matthew says that there are two angels at the tomb, I would just point out that two presupposes one. Perhaps Matthew’s source saw two angels and Mark’s source saw one angel. Two presupposes one. If this sounds contrived, let me remind you of what a contradiction is. A contradiction is when these two facts are irreconcilable. If they are reconcilable, then it is not a contradiction. That is not to say that it is not contrived. It is just to say that these two events can be reconciled. That is also not to say that all of the alleged contradictory events are like this. Some are more challenging than two-or-one angels. But it is to say that some of these claims might not have underwent the scrutiny of critical thinking.

Divergent details proves that there was no collaboration. If the disciples were inventing a story, there are a number of things that we could expect. We would expect them to write details that make themselves look good. We would also expect that their stories would align with one another. If you read four different newspaper articles about the same event, you would expect that they were different accounts. You would expect that the details would differ. You would expect this, despite that the story that they are telling is true. People do not tell the same story with the same details.

In fact, the only time that we do see the same story with the same details is either in an incredible coincidence or when the authors are collaborating. If the authors are collaborating, getting together to talk about the story, then the details would align precisely. But since they are different, this seems like an argument against the reasoning that says that the disciples made it up (of course, this would presuppose that the disciples wrote the gospels. This argument would dissolve if it could be shown that people who were incapable of collaborating wrote the gospels. But that is another topic and another debate.)

The Easter Challenge. My main objection to the Easter Challenge is that it sets up a standard that the Bible does not have to reach. It makes the assumption that the Bible cannot differ in background details, and lodges an argument on the basis of that assumption. But I just do not see any compelling reasons to think that this assumption is true. Further, many of the contradictions are just different details, which can serve as an argument against collaboration. I think that the Easter Challenge is a little misguided. However, I do understand that this attack is directly related to fundamentalism. The fundamentalist will declare that there can be no contradictions, and that if you cannot trust one line, then you cannot trust any of it. Of course, that sort of reasoning would refute the ability to trust any document that contains a single error. My fundamentalist brethren have so thoroughly defended the Bible that they have rendered it indefensible on some fronts.

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Did Paul Take Verses Out Of Context?

did paul take verses out of context? 1Christian theologians have a method of interpretation known as the grammatical-historical method. If we want to draw an application from a passage, we need to ensure that we understand it in both the literary context and the historical context. If Paul writes a letter, we need to keep it in the forefront of our minds that we are reading somebody else’s mail. If we read the psalms, we need to keep it in the forefront of our minds that we are reading poetry. So when we draw an application from the text, we need to be very careful lest we remove it from its’ context. But many of us notice that Paul the apostle was not so concerned with this methodology. He seems to violently handle the text in a way that would appall the contemporary theologian. Muslims and atheists have used this is an argument against the authority of Paul. So that raises the question, did Paul take verses out of context?did paul take verses out of context? 2

In Romans 4, Paul is explaining that Christians are saved by faith alone to the exclusion of works or water baptism. The example that he uses is Abraham. He cites Genesis 15:6, which says that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. But in context, this would not be the moment of salvation. Abraham put his faith in God back in Genesis 12:1. Paul took it out of context. In 2nd Corinthians 6:2, Paul took a verse that was explicitly a promise for the release of the Babylonian Captivity and applied it to salvation from sin. It is quite clear that Paul did not use the grammatical-historical method. He had quite a different approach to Scripture. Did Paul take verses out of context? He certainly did.

It was cultural. That is just the nature of ancient writing. It was not viewed as taking it out of context. That is just our modern and scientific minds applying standards to Scripture that just would not exist to the ancient mind. Israelite scholars would routinely re-tell old stories to convey new meanings that applied to what was going on in that day. That is not to say that they were looking for proof-texts and citing old Scripture to find that. That is the last thing that was on their minds, and that is the last thing that was on Paul’s mind when he wrote in this manner. Rather, they were transforming the text to apply to modern circumstances. This is a process known as “inner biblical interpretation.”

Michael Fishbane published a volume on this process known as Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel. When Hosea spoke of Isaac an Esau, that is an example of inner biblical interpretation. The relationship between Isaiah 2:2-4 to Joel 3:10 and Micah 4:1-3 are examples of inner biblical interpretation. The practice of intertextuality does not view each text as one independent of the other. Rather, they are all part of one tradition. As such, it is appropriate to apply the same phrases or even transform them in a way that the original author would not have intended. They are part of the same tradition. They correspond to one another. But that is not to say that they are proof-texting or appealing to Scripture in the same way that we do.

Is Paul taking verses out of context? Yes, he did. But it is because he is using a process that we are just not familiar with. But when an ancient Israelite audience read his work, they would think that it was a normal element of their tradition. We see it is a misinterpretation solely because of our contemporary mindset and the manner in which we interpret the Bible. But considering the principle of intertextuality and inner biblical interpretation, the problem instantly evaporates.

The recipients were familiar with the Scripture. Those to whom Paul was writing were familiar with their Scripture. If he did violently take a verse out of context, among a group of religious scholars, it would have voided his credibility. They would have examined what he was saying and he would have been instantly exposed, if they were using the same standards and criteria that we use today. When Paul quoted Isaiah, they knew that it was referring to the Babylonian Captivity. They knew that it would be out of context if he was applying it to the salvation of the Christian. The problem is when we assume that everybody in the ancient world is operating on the same framework as we are.

Further, Paul even re-worded some of these passages to make his point. In Ephesians 5:14, he quotes Isaiah, writing, “Arise, O sleeper, and Christ will shine on you.” The verse that he is quoting in Isaiah 51:17 reads, “Awake, awake! Rise up, Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes people stagger.” This is clearly Paul’s effort to transform the text and make a new message that the author never intended. Did Paul take verses out of context? Yes, he did. He intended to take it out of context. He intended to convey a new meaning. He intended to dress tradition in Christian robes. He intended to present Christian theology in the language of his ancestors. He did this to because Christ was the fulfillment of the Jewish Scripture and the Jewish tradition. So he relayed that divine truth in the same way his ancestors and culture did: by applying intertextuality. He taught this reality by transforming the text.

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Is The Angel Of The Lord The Second Person Of The Trinity?

angel of the lord 1Non-trinitarians object that the doctrine of the trinity is a post-apostolic phenomenon. It was developed in the latter stages of the development of the early church, but it has no real roots in the beliefs of the apostles, much less the prophets of old. The YHWH of the Old Testament, they will say, was inescapably unitarian. However we do see a certain plurality within the Godhead when we begin talking about this issue of the angel of the Lord. The angel of the Lord is a figure who is identified with YHWH and yet is made distinct from YHWH. So this raises the question: is the angel of the Lord the second person of the trinity? I think he is. I think that the angel of the Lord is Jesus himself, the eternal Son who existed with the Father.

angel of the lord 2Of course, that is not to say that there is more than one God, or than Jesus is a God beside the Father. The trinity states unequivocally that there is only one God. The trinitarian abhors tri-theism as condemnable heresy. The trinitarian maintains that if you think that there are three gods, you have not only denied the trinity, but also, that you have denied the Christian faith. So when the trinitarian answers the question “is the angel of the Lord the second person of the trinity?” we are not saying that there are three gods. We are saying that within the one God, there are three distinct persons. We see evidence of this in this business about the angel of the Lord.

The angel of the Lord is YHWH. Many Christians are trained to make distinctions between angels and God. That would be a distinction on the level of creature and Creator. When John worshipped the an angel in the book of Revelation, the angel rebuked him and assured him that he was just a created being, like him. But in the case of the angel of the Lord, it is different. The title angel is not one that describes his nature as much as it describes his office. Just because he is describes as the angel of the Lord does not mean that he is merely an angel or an archangel. From the way this term is used, it becomes clear that the angel of the Lord is YHWH himself. The angel of the Lord is God.

Exodus 3:2 has to be the clearest example. When Moses encountered the burning bush, the text says, “The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush.” So the Burning Bush is probably the clearest example of an encounter with God. We derive God’s eternal name, YHWH, from verse 14, which reads, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.” He goes on to command Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’”

Thus it seems beyond question that the angel of the Lord is not merely an angel. He is YHWH. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Is the angel of the Lord the second person of the trinity? Well we are beginning to establish that. At this point, we may say that he is God.

The angel of the Lord is distinct from YHWH. That is not to say that the angel of the Lord is not YHWH. It means that there is a second YHWH. We see YHWH making pleas to YHWH. Zechariah 1:12 reads, “Then the angel of the Lord said, ‘O Lord of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?” So we have this character, who we have established as YHWH, making a plea, to YHWH, to have mercy on Jerusalem. Thus, there is a second YHWH.

This is emphasized again in Isaiah 44:6, and I am going to quote the Tanakh just so you know that this translation is not a product of Christian bias. “So said the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer the Lord of Hosts.” Isaiah draws a distinction between YHWH the King of Israel, and YHWH the Redeemer (the word Lord replaced YHWH).

This becomes even more powerful a few chapters later. Isaiah talked about the Holy Spirit in another verse. In Isaiah 48:16, YHWH the Redeemer is talking, and he says, “Now the Lord God has sent me, and his Spirit.” So is the angel of the Lord the second person of the trinity? There certainly seems to be a plurality or a distinction of YHWH’s. We see then that the angel of the Lord is one person of the trinity.

Jesus claims to be the angel of the Lord. We can know that the angel of the Lord is the second person of the trinity because Jesus claimed to be the angel of the Lord. The most famous occurrence of this is in the eighth chapter of John. Jesus is conversing with the Jews and he tells them, “Before Abraham was, I Am.” (John 8:58). This is a clear reference to God’s name back in Exodus 3:14. The Jews knew exactly what he meant. So they picked up their stones to stone him to death (v. 59). Jesus claimed to be the angel of the Lord. He said earlier in the conversation, “Unless you believe that I Am, you will die in your sins.” (v. 24). We see other claims to be the I Am throughout the Bible.

So is the angel of the Lord the second person of the trinity? Since Jesus is the second person of the trinity (John 1:1-2, Matthew 28:19, Hebrews 1:8), and Jesus is the angel of the Lord, it follows that the angel of the Lord is the second person of the trinity. Perhaps keep it in mind now that every time the angel of the Lord is speaking, that is Jesus speaking.

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Should William Lane Craig Debate Other Christians?

william lane craig 1Should William Lane Craig debate other Christians? To preface this a little, William Lane Craig is one of the foremost Christian philosophers in the Unites States today. Known for his debates on secular university campuses with atheist professors, Craig has helped many struggling Christians come into a deeper understanding of why they believe what they believe. He has equipped the Christian to overcome their doubts and really provide good answers to difficult questions. He has gained the respect of many atheist academics and many consider him to be a very rigorous debate opponent.

william lane craig 2However, Doctor Craig has refused to engage in debates with other Christians with whom he might disagree. He has decided to represent what CS Lewis called Mere Christianity, which are the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith that unite us all. He will defend Mere Christianity, but is typically not interested in debating distinct nuances of doctrine. In some sense, I think that we can sympathize with Craig’s position. We do not want to argue with each other when we should be bringing the world to Christ, which is the focus of Doctor Craig’s ministry. However, I disagree with his position. Should William Lane Craig debate other Christians? Yes, I think so.

We could learn a lot from a debate. Doctor Craig has pointed out that students gain a lot from debates as opposed to lectures. In a lecture, the audience may find the arguments persuasive, but they are still left wondering how they opposition would represent their side, and how they would interact with the arguments. So, Craig ventures onto university campuses to debate atheist professors. Well, in exactly the same way, we could gain a lot from a debate between Doctor Craig and other Christian scholars. Craig may be able to provide a defense of his view of various doctrinal positions, but the question is, how do others interact with these views and arguments? We see a great example of his in his debate with the Calvinist scholar Paul Helm.

James White and Michael Brown have both given lectures on their respective views of election and free will. The audience may gain a lot from that, but they gain much more when these men are interacting with one another. Likewise, if Doctor Craig went into the public arena to defend Molinism, or the tenets of Protetantism against the Roman Catholics, we could all gain a lot from these interactions. Should William Lane Craig debate other Christians? If he did, this would add a new flavor to Craig’s ministry, and would add an intellectual pursuit for the follower of Craig. We could all learn more about the Bible that we all believe in.

Craig’s current stance makes light of theology. When Doctor Craig engages with atheist or Muslim professors on university campuses, he is saying something about the importance of Christian apologetics and philosophy of religion. He is declaring that these issues are critical. People need to know that God exists and that he has revealed himself decisively in Jesus Christ. When he takes the task of promoting this reality in the public arena, he is saying that these are important enough for him to engage in such an endeavor. I agree that they are important.

But suppose somebody has a further question that they would pose to Craig. Suppose they ask what it means to be saved. Suppose they ask what Christ did on the cross. Suppose they ask about the trinity. Suppose they ask about the authority of the papacy. Suppose they ask any number of doctrinal questions. Craig will answer them, but it will never be in a debate setting. Doctor Craig affirms that the Bible is central to the Christian faith, the inspired word of God, and sufficient to answer these questions. But when he does not take these central questions of the Christian faith into the debate arena, he is saying that they are not as important. They do not need to be answered to the extent that philosophical questions about God need to be answered.

Should William Lane Craig debate other Christians? A lecture or a Sunday school class will only get so many listeners. A debate will generate much more traffic. By refusing to take these issues into the debate arena, he seems to be saying that theology is just not important enough for him to do that.

Craig challenges positions in other contexts. Consider the atheist professors for a moment who give lectures to their class about the Christian faith. The students accept the professors authority and never see him challenged. So Doctor Craig comes on the scene like some knight in shining armor to the Christian audience, and he displays the strength of the Christian worldview. Well, it seems that we might say that Craig’s refusal to debate could be akin to an atheist professor who refused to debate, because Craig actually challenges other positions.

If you browse, and listen to his Defender’s Class, or listen to his podcast, you will find that he will speak about the nuances of Christian theology. He will speak about Calvinism and offer refutations of it. He will speak about the trinity. He will speak about eschatology. He will speak about water baptism. He speaks authoritatively about these issues. Further, if you listen to his class, often the students disagree, and it turns into a sort of debate, in the class. If Doctor Craig is willing to debate his students, why is he unwilling to debate his fellow Christian scholars? Should William Lane Craig debate other Christians? He is putting his content out there. He should be willing to have it challenged and also to engage the challengers.

People offer to debate him. Recall Craig’s tour in the UK a few years ago, wherein he did a number of debates with atheists at eminent university campuses. During that tour, he was scheduled to debate Richard Dawkins. But Dawkins did not show up. He has always utterly refused to debate Doctor Craig. Yet, at the same time, he has said things like, “I want to have a dialogue with you, and I will win the argument.” He furnishes material about philosophy of religion, and is unwilling to consults experts in the field of philosophy of religion. William Lane Craig has a standing offer to debate Richard Dawkins, and many have conjectured out of cowardice, Richard Dawkins refuses.

Likewise, James White, an eminent American theologian, has a standing offer to debate William Lane Craig on various issues. In a recent tweet, Doctor White told me that he has offered multiple times and that he stands ready. People hear the content that Doctor Craig is putting out there, and they want to challenge him on it. With that in mind, it seems strange that Craig would turn it down. Doctor White is a very intelligent Calvinist and presuppositionalist, and certainly there could be a very productive and engaging conversation between the two of them. Doctor White could be one of Doctor Craig’s most armed opponent, much like Doctor Craig is Richard Dawkins most armed opponent. Should William Lane Craig debate other Christians? Yes. Other Christians see what Craig is putting out and they want a piece of him.

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Do Adam And Eve Disprove Evolution?

adam eve evolution 1People sometimes think that if mankind really did evolve from a single-celled organism, that there would not be room for the God of the Bible. They suggest that the story of Adam and Eve would have been proven false, and in turn, the Bible would go with it. But of course, I am not one to say that natural science has the capacity to prove the Bible false. So I render the question as such: Do Adam and Eve disprove evolution? Since the Bible is the ultimate authority of the Christian, one would ask that question. Natural science has no capacity to disprove any element of the Bible. However, I do think that God created the natural world. As such, we can learn things about it that can lend to a certain interpretation of Scripture. If natural science tells us that the earth is round or that the earth rotates the sun, then we interpret Scripture in light of that reality. But Scripture is still our foundation.

adam eve evolution 2Likewise, when we find a theistic evolutionist, we needn’t think that they are using the Bible as a secondary source (though many do). In fact, Basil the Great seemed to think that there was some sort of connection between birds and fish. He thought that they were related in some way. Augustine thought that God created the world with certain potencies that unfolded through time. These men wrote their treatments of Genesis thousands of years before Darwin. The theistic evolutionist is just one who thinks that Genesis is open to different interpretations, and will read natural science accordingly.

The story of Adam and Eve is one of the stories for which the theistic evolutionist has a bit of explaining to do. So then, do Adam and Eve disprove evolution?

Were Adam And Eve The First Two People? The significant challenge to the theistic evolutionist would be that on evolution, mankind did not originate from a single couple. It did not begin with two people and move on from there. There were not an original two. Rather, in the evolutionary model there were hoards of people that slowly developed from lower primates. Mankind did not start from an original two, but rather, around the world, people everywhere slowly developed until they were fully formed homo-sapiens. If that is the evolutionary model, then the story of Adam and Eve should utterly disprove it. So do Adam and Eve disprove evolution?

I do not think so. Rather, when God created the world, it was “very good,” but not perfect. It was not perfect because it was a tooth and claw world. But with that, there was a manageable ecosystem, and so, God created a world that was very good. However, it was dangerous for homo-sapiens. So, the theistic evolutionist might say, at some point in the evolutionary history of man, God chose to specially create Adam and Eve, from the dust of the ground, and isolate them from the world, putting them in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve are then the first that are created in the image of God, and he bestows that image upon all of humanity after that.

But where does that leave original sin? At this, we might rejoin that if we did not all inherit original sin from Adam and the Fall, then where did it come from? Were we all born perfect? Do we all suffer our own Fall? Do we all have the capacity for perfection? Not at all. The psalmist testifies, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5). Everybody has a fallen nature. So then, God must have created mankind with a fallen nature pre-loaded into them.

This would be because we are all under the Federal Headship of Adam. When Adam fell, God judged the entire human race with him. As 1st Corinthians 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” To that, we might object that it is not really fair for God to judge us for Adam’s sin. But God knew that Adam could properly represent the entire human race, and there is no human being who would have been more righteous than he was. Do Adam and Eve disprove evolution? Does original sin pose a significant problem to the theistic evolutionary model? Not at all. We all have original sin under the Federal Headship of Adam. God created us with this fallen human nature preloaded because he knows that we would fall just as Adam did.

Does that mean that there was death before sin? Of course there was death before sin. Adam ate fruit and the cells died when he chomped into it. There certainly was death. Of this issue, Romans 5:12 clarifies, “Just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Death spread to all men because of sin. Everybody sinned and everybody received the same condemnation under the Federal Headship of Adam: death. Everybody receives the penalty that they rightly deserve.

But what about those who lived before Adam? If human beings evolved, and God chose homo-sapiens at a certain point in their evolutionary history, did those homo-sapiens who lived before Adam die? Yes. But they were not made in the image of God. The image of God began with Adam and Eve. Before Adam and Eve, homo-sapiens were akin to animals. Do Adam and Eve disprove evolution? Well I think that Romans 5:12 maintains even in the face of animal death prior to the Fall. It maintains even upon the knowledge of the death of homo-sapiens, assuming that those homo-sapiens were not made in the image of God.

Do Adam and Eve disprove evolution? I do not think so. In fact, it might even be argued that an evolutionary model makes more sense of Genesis 4 when we ask where Cain got his wife or who all of those people were. But I think that the common problems that people have with an evolutionary model of Genesis are not really problems. Of course, none of this proves that evolution occurred. It just demonstrates that there really is no theological quagmire in the theory of evolution. The Christian is free to follow the evidence where it leads.

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Where Does The Bible Say That The Earth Is 6000 Years Old?

6000 years old 1In a stroke of irony, Christians deny the very evidence that we spent centuries arguing for. We proclaimed over and against the atheists and the Greek philosophers that the universe was not eternal in the past. There was an absolute beginning, God being the transcendent cause. Thus the words, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1). The Christian position was vindicated throughout the 20th century as the Big Bang was proposed and gained credibility, and finally was established as good science. The Big Bang, as Doctor P.C.W. Davies explains, is “literally the coming into being of all physical things from nothing.” It is precisely what the Christians have been looking for. But they deny it. They deny it because it contradicts their commitment to a young earth. So this raises the question of whether this is a biblical commitment. Where does the Bible say that the earth is 6000 years old?

6000 years old 2As a Christian, I believe that the earth is much older. I take Genesis literally, and I believe that the earth is older. But how do I do this? After all, we may trace the genealogy all the way back through the creation week. A few thousand years plus the six day week, right? This would be a typical young earth model. Some have a little big of wiggle room and might concede that the earth 100K years old. But if the scientific record tells a different story, then what are we to do with the biblical data? Is this the story that the Bible tells? Where does the Bible say that the earth is 6000 years old?

Well, it never mentions the age of the earth. There are several approaches that Christians have taken throughout the centuries.

The Day-Age Model The proponent of the day-age model would suggest that the days in Genesis 1 are not 24 hour periods. Rather, they are long but finite periods of time. There are several literal definitions of the word translated into day. One of those definitions is a long but finite period of time. We determine which definition is applied by its’ usage. We see the same thing in the English language. An old geezer may say, “Back in my day…” In this context, the word day is not being used to refer to a 24 hour period. Likewise, the Bible may say, “in the day of the Lord.” But how are the days used in Genesis 1? Are they 24 hour periods or long but finite periods of time? Where does the Bible say that the earth is 6000 years old? Well, if the days in Genesis 1 are 24 hour periods, it will be hard to shake the Bible of a recent creation.

But the proponent of the day-age model will indicate significant evidence for their usage of the word day. First of all, 24 hour days were created during the fourth day (Genesis 1:14). If 24 hour days are created during day four, then obviously the days cannot be 24 hour periods. Secondly, there is no close to the seventh creation day. Hebrews 4 informs us that this is because we are still in the seventh day. If we are still in the seventh day, then obviously, the seventh day is a long but finite period of time. So where does the Bible say that the earth is 6000 years old? It does not. In fact, the day-age advocate would argue that the Bible is very vulnerable to following the scientific evidence where it leads.

The Framework Hypothesis The Framework hypothesis points out that Genesis 1 needs to be understood in its’ proper literary framework. We need to investigate the historical context of the writing of Genesis. When Genesis was written, the Jews were surrounded by Paganism. The Pagans believed that the world was created by an ensemble of deities, one was the god of the water, another a god of the son, gods begetting each other and rivaling one another. In this storm of confusion, the Bible utterly declares monotheism. It declares that God is the Creator of the universe, and that there is only one God.

So when the Bible was written, it was in an era of Paganism. God was telling us that he alone is the Creator. He went through the various elements within the universe and told us that he alone brought them into being. But in this way, since it would just be a metaphor for his creation, the days in Genesis 1 would not be literal days. Genesis 1 would be less of a chronology and more of a statement of monotheism. Where does the Bible say that the earth is 6000 years old? We are still left searching for the first indication of that. We are left instead with the indication that God alone is our Creator.

The Gap Theory Many advocates of the Gap Theory willingly concede that the days in Genesis 1 are 24 hour periods. But, it is still a form of old earth creationism. It denies that the earth is 6000 years old. When they read Genesis 1:1-3, they see a significant gap between these verses. They would argue that there is a good amount of time between verse one and verse three. They argue that the earth was formless and void because something made it that way. God created life on the earth and there was a massive extinction event, thus rendering the earth formless and void.

The Gap Theory draws philosophical support from the nature of God. Since God would not create an earth that is “formless and void,” we are left to conclude that the earth was perfect when God created it. So the argument goes. It would also draw support from Psalm 104:30 which tells us that Holy Spirit “renewed” the face of the earth. Where does the Bible say that the earth is 6000 years old? It does not. Even if the days are 24 hour period, the Gap Theory offers flexibility.

The Genealogy Report When people argue that the earth is 6000 years old, from where did they get that figure? The Bible never says that the earth is 6000 years old. So from where do they get it? What they will do is follow the genealogy reports in the Old Testament and counts the years that are recorded. Upon doing this, they are able to count out 6000 years. After counting the years in the genealogy report, they add 6 days to it and conclude that the earth is only 6000 years old.

However, many young earth creationists deny that model. This is because there is no indication that the genealogy reports are exhaustive. There could have been other people who lived that were not mentioned in the genealogy report. In fact, even if you look at the accounts in Matthew and Luke, you will find that they are different. One has more content than the other. We have to understand the nature of a Jewish genealogy report. Rather than being exhaustive, that is, recording every single individual, it is recording the important individuals in the Jewish families. In this way, there is some room in the Bible for additional years. Some young earth creationists even push the creation back one hundred thousand years. Where does the Bible say that the earth is 6000 years old? It does not. There is no indication whatsoever that the earth is 6000 years old.

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Can Acts Disprove Faith Alone?

can acts disprove faith alone?Often when a good Protestant wants to expound upon soteriology, they will appeal to the letters of Paul. Paul explain his model of salvation within his letters, in Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, et cetera. Most commonly, we will appeal to these to prove the doctrine of faith alone. Salvation comes by putting your trust in Jesus Christ, believing in his death and resurrection unto your salvation. This model of salvation comes to the exclusion of works and water baptism (even though works and baptism come later). In contrast, those who deny the doctrine of faith alone will usually feature the book of Acts in their arguments. They will say that faith is only part of the equation, and one needs to rely upon the entirety of Scripture to render a proper model of salvation. Typically, they will appeal to Acts 2:38 and Acts 22:16 to show that salvation is not by faith alone and that water baptism is included. But is this a good way to approach the topic? Can Acts disprove faith alone?

acts disprove faith alone 2I think that Romans (particularly chapters 3-5) patently teach the doctrine of faith alone. After doing a month-long study of the book of Romans, I furnished material such as my articles “Does Romans 2 Teach Salvation By Works?”, “Does Romans 3-5 Exclude All Works Or Just Works Of The Law?”, “Does Romans 6:3-5 Refer To Water Baptism?”, and “Were The Jews Save By Works Or By Faith Alone?”. If you are interested in my thoughts on whether Romans teaches faith alone, I reference you to these articles. This post is exclusively about the question, “can Acts disprove faith alone?” Does it have that capacity?

Acts is a historical narrative. Both Acts and the gospels are historical narratives. This means that when a character from one of these books is speaking, they talking to a particular person. When Jesus tells Judas, “what you are going to do, do quickly,” we cannot, in any sense, apply that verse to our lives. When the apostles rolled dice to welcome Stephen into the fold, we cannot apply it to our lives. This is a difference between what is prescriptive and what is descriptive. In a historical narrative, everything is descriptive. It is describing a story about what happened. Of course, there is some overlap between these categories. When Jesus said that one must be born again to enter the kingdom of God, one can see clearly that this applies to everyone, because he excludes from the kingdom of God anybody who has not been born again. This is prescriptive. This is a very obvious example.

But there are many cases where it is just not obvious. When the apostles say something to a particular group, how are we to understand the applicability to our lives? Well, God has given us the answer. He used Paul to relay his plan of salvation to his people. The difference between the epistles and the narratives are that the epistles are didactic. The epistles are teachings. Paul is explicitly teaching us about the plan of salvation. If somebody is said in a historical narrative that is unclear, we must interpret that through the lens of the more clear narratives. We must interpret it through the lens of the didactic letters.

The very purpose of the didactic letters is to answer this question. But the purpose of Acts is to teach us about the rise of the early church. The purpose of the gospels is to teach us about Jesus. Neither expound fully upon God’s plan of salvation. While they may touch on salvation, when they do, they have to be interpreted through the lens of the didactic letters. We interpret unclear passages, whose primary purpose is not to teach salvation, through the lens of clear passages, whose explicit purpose is to teach salvation. Can Acts disprove faith alone? No, it does not have that capacity. It is a historical narrative, and when it touches on salvation, it needs to be understood through the lens of those letters whose purpose is to teach on salvation.

So what do we do with those passages in Acts? Acts 2:38 is probably the strongest statement in favor of the view known as baptismal regeneration. Baptismal regeneration states that regeneration, or salvation, occurs at the moment of water baptism. It reads, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” But, Paul’s letters teach that salvation comes by faith alone to the exclusion of water baptism. So what are to do with this verse? Is the Scripture contradicting itself?

What people tend to do at this juncture is to interpret Paul’s letters in light of Acts 2:38. But that is backwards. To interpret Paul’s explicit teachings on salvation in light of Peter’s statement within a historical narrative is backwards. We are to interpret Acts and the gospels in light of the epistles. So upon doing so, scholars have noticed a few interesting things about this verse. 1 – Repent and for the remission of sins are grammatically connected. Repent, and each of you be baptized. So repentance is plural, baptism is singular, and remission of sins is plural. So that would disconnect baptism with the remission of sins. 2 – Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. The word for has a few literal meanings. One would be “unto,” or “leading to,” which is what the baptismal regeneration advocate wants to maintain. The other would be “because of.” Repent and be baptized because of the remission of sins. Since you have received the remission of sins, you should be baptized. While both of these responses are mutually exclusive, both are pretty strong.

What about Acts 22:16? Acts 22:16 reads, “Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” What we see here is that water baptism and the washing away of sins are in different categories. He is saying to do both of these things. Wash away your sins. How? By calling on his name. The baptismal regeneration advocate will usually phrase this improperly, as though it said, “be baptized, washing away your sins.” But that is not what it says. It says, “wash away your sins, calling on his name.”

These are very strong responses to Acts 2:38 and 22:16 and are consistent with the Pauline model of salvation. But if both of these are unconvincing to you, if you really think that Peter is saying that water baptism leads to the remission of sins, I would just point this out. Peter says to do X for the remission of sins. But he does not say that X is necessary for the remission of sins. In this way, water baptism would be a sufficient cause, but not a necessary condition. Salvation would come by faith alone, and many people may have faith at the moment of water baptism. Since Paul’s letters explicitly teach that salvation comes by faith alone to the exclusion of water baptism, we are left with these conclusions. Can Acts disprove faith alone? No, it does not have capacity, nor do these verses raise serious challenges to the doctrine of faith alone.

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What Does Romans 9 Teach About Election?

romans 9 1What does Romans 9 teach about election? Well to preface this question a tad: common in evangelical churches today is the Arminian view of election. This view states God elects people based on their free choice to be saved. That is to say that God chooses to save people because he knew that they would choose to be saved. In this way, salvation is a cooperative effort. This is known as synergism. Man and God are working cooperatively. In contrast, the Calvinist view of election states that God alone brings a person into salvation. God works in the heart of the sinner to turn him to faith and salvation. This is known as monergism. There is no cooperation. It is solely the work of God.

romans 9 2Synergism has pervaded and been popularized throughout post-reformation church history, even in Protestantism and evangelicalism, despite that the Protestant Reformers and the Puritans were staunch Calvinists. Of course, today, there has been something of a resurgence of Calvinism in recent decades. However, people tend to be appalled at the implications of Calvinist theology. It implies that God does not save everybody, even though he could. Since monergism does not require mans’ cooperation, there is nothing to prevent man from salvation, aside from the choice of God. This is typically seen as unthinkable among many Christians.

But the question that is before us is not what is appealing to us, but what the Bible says. One of the key passages is Romans 9. So then, what does Romans 9 teach about election?

The argument that Paul is making is in regard to the election of nations. Paul begins by saying that his heart is torn for his countrymen (v. 2). He would prefer to be cut off from Christ if that meant that the Jews could be restored (v. 3). But, he takes solace in the knowledge that not everyone who is Israel who was descended from Israel (v. 6). That is, Israel includes everybody who is a child of the promise of God. Thus, Paul argues, today’s church is Israel. God is not a tribal warlord over the Jews only. He is the God of the Jews and the Gentiles alike. Believe it or not, this was a radical message to the ear of the Jew. He said that when Isaiah spoke that message, it required great courage (Romans 10:20). It was a radical message.

So then, Paul’s message, receiving much protest from the Jews, was that the election of God was being expanded to include the Gentile nations. Indeed, it always included and was open to the Gentile nations. He offers the example of Jacob and Esau, who were representative of the nations who descended from these individuals (v. 12). The text says that the older would serve the younger. But with regard to the individuals, the older did not serve the younger. It must be referring to the nations. This statement, “the older will serve the younger,” flows logically as a consequence of Paul’s reasoning that “they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel, nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants.” (v. 6-7). Secondly, Paul cites Hosea, which says, “I will call those who were not my people, my people.” This is clearly an election of people, not individuals. What does Romans 9 teach about election? The primary teaching is corporate election.

But, and this is important, nations are made up of individuals. So the election and the implications that Paul speaks of extend to individuals.

Paul extends the election to the individual. While this is, overall, a teaching about the election of the Gentiles, and the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s salvation, the honest exegete cannot ignore the implications for the individual. Paul certainly does not. He brings the election down from plural to singular, as he says, “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” (v. 16). Notice the singular noun, “man.” It does not depend on the man who wills. Yet recall the synergistic view of election. It depends on the cooperation of man to, in his free will, accept the salvation of God. Paul says here that it does not depend on the man who wills, which seems to refute synergism. Paul goes on to write, “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” (v. 18).

This is where the synergist will recoil that it would be immoral for God to do such a thing. But the very fact that the synergist is raising that objection seems to correlate with Paul’s line of reasoning. He anticipated that response. He writes, “You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” (v. 19) which is precisely what the synergist will say. Paul responds, “On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?” (v. 20). What does Romans 9 teach about election? The secondary teaching is individual election. Then until verse 20-23, he repeats this sort of reasoning until verse 24, when he makes his way back to corporate election.

Paul’s argument is that while there is monergistic election, God is not unjust. He is the Creator, and we are the creatures. He is more righteous and more loving than we are. We cannot, as many do, assume to stand in judgment over God and assume to say that he is behaving immorally. He is more loving and more righteous than we are. God is the judge. We are not the judge over God. Whether we hope to retain our free of the will or a conception of election that we are comfortable with, we need to follow the text where it leads. We need to interpret our desires through the text, not the text through our desires. That is why Jesus said, “Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24).

What does Romans 9 teach about election? Paul’s argument is that the Jews and the Gentiles alike are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (v. 31-32). He is explaining that the salvation of God includes the Gentiles. But further, as an aside, as a secondary note, Paul does expound upon the implications of the individual. He seems to teach individual election. He seems to teach monergism and he seems to refute synergism.

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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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