The Pros And Cons of Being A Christian Blogger

The printing press revolutionized the way that we transmit texts. There were monasteries full of scribes, diligently copying the text of the New Testament so that word of God would be preserved. Other books were transmitted in the same way. If you want a copy of something, somebody would have to sit down and actually copy the text from somebody else who copied it. Many individuals did not have access to their own copy of the Bible. The printing press changed that. The Internet provided the next revolution in transmitting text. If you want a copy of something, you only need to login to your computer. If you have thoughts to share, if you have insight, then you can start a blog. Throughout this article, I will outline some of the pros and cons of being a Christian blogger.

I should also point out that many of these points are not necessarily unique to being a Christian. Some of the points that I will raise are relevant to anybody who is considering a blog. But as most of the people in my audience are Christians, I am targeting them in this post. Before beginning my assessment, I want to summarize by saying that I believe that having a blog is a good thing. You should start one, even if you are not sure if you are talented or if you will get many readers. In general, the pros outweigh the cons.

The Pros of Being A Christian Blogger

It provides personal, spiritual opportunities.

Many of us are not paid ministers. Christians often work secular jobs, come home, and just get caught in a cycle. If you read books regularly or if you are always learning more about the Bible, you need to have an outlet for your knowledge. I made this point in an article that I wrote titled Why Does My Life Sometimes Seem So Pointless? Christians are not immune to this feeling. While we know that God gives us a real purpose in life, sometimes the cycles of life make everything feel pointless. We feel unproductive, like we are not contributing anything. Having a blog can help you to overcome that feeling, especially considering that the following sections will demonstrate how you really can make a difference as a blogger.

Second, you will have the opportunity to grow spiritually. I have learned a lot doing research for my blogposts and while writing and editing. It causes me to contemplate the things I have learned and to provide my own unique insight. When I am reading a book, I am more careful than I would be if I did not have a blog because I am looking for something that I could share, hone, or critique. Being a blogger can make you more thoughtful and open to correction because you know that you are responsible for what you share with other people. So, in summary, even if you do not have an audience, or if you are unsure about your abilities, you should start a blog anyway because it will help you to grow.

Change The Culture

When somebody leaves the church, they often recall it in a very negative way. They remember people who were mean, small-minded, unwilling to think or listen, who do not understand the long intellectual tradition of Christian theology and philosophy and generally do not represent the height of Christian intellect. This is the caricature of Christianity that is held among many secular individuals. It is usually drawn from their own experiences of the church. After they leave, they assume that all Christians are just as shallow as the church that they left behind. As a blogger, you can help to shape their image.

You might be thinking, “I cannot change the culture. I am just one person, and my blog would only be one.” Well, that is something like thinking, “My vote does not matter. I am just one person.” If everybody thinks that their vote matters, then their vote will matter. If there is a host of Christians who recognize that their voice will be heard, then their voice will, in fact, be heard. If you start a blog and represent the intellectual tradition of Christianity, then you will help to shape the culture. You will be able to show people that not all Christians are mean, stupid, shallow or dim-witted. Show the nuances of Christian theology that many have overlooked. Demonstrate that there really are good answers to difficult questions.

The Opportunity To Reach Individuals

As you are writing, you will find that there are people who are reading your blog. Even if you do not have a thousand or two thousand people per day, you will still be able to reach some. Sometimes it takes awhile to build your audience. When I started this blog in 2011, I rejoiced to have ten views every day (mostly because I was excited that people were going to it). As time passes, you write more and you market your blog, you will see more traffic. But these are more than statistics. They are people who are reading your blog. There are (broadly) two types of people that the Christian blogger hopes to reach.

First, unbelievers, secular individuals, backslidden Christians and those who are not sure what they think will read your blog and they may be moved by it. The gospel is the power of God (Romans 1:16) and if you share it, then God could use what you have written. If you answer a difficult question, then God could use what you have written to soften their heart so that they may turn to him in repentance. Second, you will be able to reach other Christians to strengthen their faith. When Christians see that there are good answers to difficult questions, then they will be more bold, less doubtful, and it may even prevent apostasy.

The Cons of Being A Christian Blogger

People Do Not Listen

This is one of the frustrations that I have had as a blogger. If I publish something, many people will skim through it, read the headers, the words in bold, maybe a few words of the first and last paragraph, and leave a comment as if they know what I said. These are very easy to distinguish, as they will typically raise an objection that I rebutted in the article as though I did not raise it. It is fine if people do not read my posts. But if you do not read it, there is not much benefit in trying to rebut what I have written. This frustration has been shared by many bloggers.

Even worse, though, many people will only read the title of the post and just respond to that. If I were to title a blogpost something like, “Should Abortion Be Legal?” and then provide a thorough treatise about why I think that abortion is absolutely evil and should be regarded as homicide under the law, people will respond as though I were advocating for abortion. They will read the title, make an assumption, and then respond. When I call them out on it, they will usually not say anything else. Ask any blogger about this. This is one of the main frustrations that we have. People just do not listen.

It Can Become An Excuse For Not Being Evangelistic

If you are a Christian blogger, then the gospel should be central to everything that you write. If you are answering a question about the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the gospel should be central. That is not to say that you have to find some way to tie the gospel into every single post that you write. But that should be the purpose of your blog. However, with that being the case, it can become easy for us to make excuses. We think that in writing these posts, we are fulfilling the Great Commission. That is a mistake.

When Jesus gave the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19), he told his disciples to go and make more disciples, face to face. That is how the gospel is shared and how you reach people. No matter how much I write or how big of a fan of mine somebody is, it will never be as potent as if I knew them in person. Second, there are other aspects the Great Commission that we just cannot complete with a blog. I can share the gospel, but I cannot disciple somebody. I can share principles about discipleship, but I do not know them as individuals or their personal struggles. I also cannot baptize them. If you have a blog, do not overestimate the value of it. It is not a fulfillment of the Great Commission. It is something good, but it is not that.

Everything Has Been Said Before

If you conduct a Google search of the topic about which you are writing, you are likely to find some other articles on that very topic. People have said it before. If you are writing about the Kalam Cosmological Argument, then you are probably going to begin with, “Everything that beings to exist has a cause…” How original. That is not to say that you need to improve upon it. But it is to say that much of your content is not going to be unique. It really depends on what you are writing. If you focus a lot on apologetics, then you are going to produce something that many others have said. That is why this blog focuses on both apologetics and theology. With that though, we still have the same problem.

You can begin to overcome it when you get into the nuances of apologetics and theology. When you investigate the arguments and the counter-arguments and address them in your post, then you will provide something that everybody else is not saying. There are more than enough “Does God Exist?” posts on the Internet. But that does not mean that you cannot write about it. If you want to publish a surface-level article to begin with, then you should do that. But as your blog progresses, know that you will need to traverse that barrier. Go beyond the surface. Write about the objection, the nuances, and the different ways that the argument has been treated.

Changing Your Position Is Not Always Easy

When I started this blog, I was an Arminian by default. I did not really know much about Calvinism. But somebody presented it to me and I said something like, “That’s not correct.” Now, I am a Calvinist. Prior to my becoming a Calvinist, I had a few arguments for Arminian tenants on my blog. Since I was (and remain) a fan of William Lane Craig, I was also a Molinist. It was more difficult for me to become a Calvinist and a determinist precisely because I was publicly a Molinist and an Arminian. If you have a blog, you have a reputation, a brand, and you cannot just shift between different positions, as though you were being thrown to and fro by every wind of doctrine that passes your way.

Think of it like this. If Richard Dawkins were to ever consider becoming a Christian, he would have a significant challenge to overcome. He has spent much of his public career criticizing religion. He wrote a New York Times Best Seller criticizing religion. If he were to become a Christian, he would have to say that he was wrong about almost everything that he has ever said. That is more difficult for people who have an audience. That applies even when you have a small audience. Now, that does not mean that it cannot be done. I wrote a blogpost repudiating my posts about Molinism (letting those older posts stand for research purposes). But it does mean that you have to be more careful. It is not just a matter of how you arrange things in your own mind. It is a matter of what you are teaching people, how you have branded yourself, and whether you want the body of Christ (and secular folks) to think that you are being thrown to and fro by every wind of doctrine.

The Pros And Cons of Being A Christian Blogger

As I said in the beginning, I think that the pros provide enough incentive for you to become a blogger. There are a lot of considerations, and probably more pros and cons that I did not list here, but this is enough to get you started. I recommend becoming a blogger. The only caveat is the issue of maturity. Some people, especially cage stage Calvinists, should not be bloggers (if you are not sure if you are one, see my post How To Tell If You Are A Cage Stage Calvinist) because they cannot conduct themselves properly. But if you are not hostile or mean-spirited, and you want to share the gospel in charity, to answer difficult questions, to express yourself and what you have learned, then you should be a blogger.

Recommended Reading:
The Pros And Cons of Being A Christian Introvert



How To Tell If You Are A Cage Stage Calvinist

There are times that I am ashamed to refer to myself as a Calvinist. Those who know me may remember that when I initially began to ascribe to the doctrines of grace, I did not even want to use the Calvinist label. I only started using it after I realized how inconvenient it was for me to refuse to use it (as people began calling me a Dortian, after the Synod of Dort). Consequently, I reluctantly began referring to myself as a Calvinist. But, the question is, if I think it is true, why the reluctance? Calvinists have a reputation for poor behavior. They are often regarded as mean-spirited, arrogant, accusing, and generally unpleasant. Many recognize that this perception emanates from a loud minority among what we call cage stage Calvinists. In this article, I will provide a few tips about how to tell if you are a cage stage Calvinist.

maninacageFirst, how does one become a cage stage Calvinist, and why does that category even exist? I think that it could exist for a few different reasons. Many Calvinists are not born into the Reformed tradition. They were raised as Arminians and converted when they were presented with the doctrines of grace. Perhaps they were converted when they became Calvinists. Since their faith prior to Calvinism was shallow, carnal, uncritical, not concerned with scriptural authority, et cetera, they assume that everyone else is like that as well. Beyond that, people tend to became arrogant when they feel as though they have found the truth that so many others have missed. These and other factors lead them to behave poorly and exhibit the traits that I listed above. But it can be difficult to discern if you are in the cage stage. So, how can you tell if you are a cage stage Calvinist?

Your ‘Hard Truth’ Is Indistinguishable From Hostility

ccqukdduuae_tqnThere are times when, as Christians, we really do have hard truths to tell, and people do not want to hear it. It is our duty to ensure that we are not compromising the truth just to appeal to people. If we do that, then we will preach something less than the gospel. People may not want to hear that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father. They may not want to hear that God’s wrath abides on the unrighteous. They may not even want to hear that they are sinners. But we still need to be able to tell the hard truth. A cage stage Calvinist will seize upon the concept of a hard truth and justify their behavior based on that concept.

If somebody is guilty of that, then you will find that their hard truths are always indistinguishable from hostility, a lack of charity and a lack of grace. Anybody can say something mean-spirited and then attempt to justify themselves by saying that they are just telling hard truths. I could tell somebody whose loved one died in their sins, “They are in Hell today, burning. Good riddance, that such a sinner has left the earth.” This would be a very mean thing to say. But, when they objected, I could say, “I am just telling you the hard truth.” If your hard truth is indistinguishable from hostility and a lack of love, then you are probably a cage stage Calvinist. Examine yourself.

You Always Have A Hard Truth To Tell

Sometimes there is not a hard truth, and sometimes we do not even need to tell the hard truth. You would not necessarily have to tell somebody that their deceased spouse is in Hell. Similarly, you do not always have to get into arguments. You do not always have to tell people when they are wrong or when their doctrine is in error, especially if they are Arminians and they just say something about free will. You do not always have to engage or tell the “hard truth.” Sometimes it is better to hold back. There can be wisdom in silence (Proverbs 17:27).

But a cage stage Calvinist will always have some hard truth to tell. Christians who are more mature recognize that they do not have to be so aggressive, so defensive, always pounding tables, telling people that they are compromisers or heretics, always telling the hard truth. The hard truth does not always emerge, and it is not always wise to relay it. If you always have a hard truth on your lips, then you are probably a cage stage Calvinist. Take it easy, man.

You Compare Yourself To Jesus Christ To Justify Your Hostility

To be a Christian means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. We are disciples of Jesus. Some have said that it is almost like we are little versions of Jesus going out into the world, interacting with people. But sometimes Christians do not really have a proper image of Jesus. We imagine that he was a soft-spoken man, never raised his voice, had hearts in his eyes and never condemned anybody. If that is your image of Jesus, then it must be quite shocking when you find him saying, “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?” (Matthew 23:33). This (and the other verses like it) are seized upon by cage stage Calvinists in an attempt to justify their sin.

What is the difference? How can we distinguish between what Jesus said and the behavior of a cage stage Calvinist? Well, Jesus was the Son of God and we know that his actions emanated from a pure heart. He was telling a hard truth because it was necessary to tell a hard truth and it was the right thing to do. But that does not justify any instance in which somebody is hostile with another individual. Unlike the Messiah, we are sinful creatures, burdened with arrogance, pride, anger, and hatred. Before we go around shouting hard truths, we need to discern our motives. If you come off as being hateful, do not be surprised if people think that your motives are born out of a hateful heart rather than out of pure intentions.

Of course, there will be times when people think that somebody with pure intentions has a hateful heart. I am not saying that we should use other people to measure ourselves. But to use the fact that Jesus delivered hard truths and was not exactly polite about it as a blanket justification for our lack of grace is unwise. We know that Jesus had pure motives. We do not know if you have pure motives. We know that Jesus was telling the truth. We do not know if you are telling the truth. Examine yourself.

You Are Not Under The Authority of The Elders And The Church

In the last section, I mentioned that we should not use the judgment of other people to measure ourselves. While that is true in the sense in which I was speaking, there is another sense in which we should the judgment of others to measure ourselves. Christians are not lone wolves. There are people who are far wiser than we are. There are people who have been Christians for decades, who have gone through many of the struggles with a prideful and angry heart and have been sanctified by the grace of Christ. These are those to whom we should appeal. That is why a church has elders. Christians should be subject to the elders.

This is not just a good piece of advice. It is a command. Peter said in 1 Peter 5:5, “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders.” Tell the elders how you are behaving in person and even on the Internet. Tell them what you are doing, the things that you are saying, and how people are responding. Tell them that you are always telling the hard truth. If you think that you are doing the right thing, then why should you keep your interactions a secret? If you are not under the authority of the elders or if you are not a member of a Christian church, and you have become furious at this blogpost, then you are in danger of being a cage stage Calvinist.

You Do Not Know The Difference Between Inconsistency And Heresy

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To call somebody a heretic is a heavy charge. It is to say that they are not true Christians because they do not believe one of the immovable tenants of Christianity. If you remove the doctrine of the trinity from Christianity, then you have something less than Christianity. If you remove the resurrection, then our faith is in vain. Such people are in their sins. To call somebody a heretic is to say that they are akin to those who deny the trinity, that they have not believed the gospel and that if they died today, they would be under the wrath of God. But a cage stage Calvinist will use this heavy indictment rather flippantly, carelessly, as though it were an insult.

Typically, it emerges from failing to understand the difference between inconsistency and heresy. A particular view could logically entail heresy if it were followed to its’ conclusion. But, fortunately, adherents to that view do not always follow it to its’ logical conclusion. For example (I am intentionally choosing one related to Calvinism), one might argue that the Arminian view of the atonement logically entails universalism. One might argue that an Arminian anthropology logically entails Pelagianism. But to say that a view logically entails heresy does not make the adherent of the view a heretic. Somebody is a heretic only by confession. If somebody confesses Pelagianism, then they are a heretic. If you have not grasped this crucial distinction, then you might just be a cage stage Calvinist. If you regard Arminians as anathema, then you might just be a cage stage Calvinist.

You Became Furious While Reading This Blogpost

cf2ypzww8aafl9kCage stage Calvinists are guilty of giving Calvinism a very bad reputation. People are not even willing to give us a hearing because so many demonstrate such poor behavior. Calvinists are seen as unloving, unkind and unwilling to examine themselves or recognize their error. No fruitful discussion could ensue with such a person and it is very likely that Arminians would become more combative toward Calvinism than they would otherwise. Many Calvinists recognize this problem as well. Calvinists have become frustrated with the behavior of cage stagers. Those Calvinists will say “Amen!” to a blogpost such as this one.

However, a cage stage Calvinist will become furious while reading this blogpost. They will attempt to justify themselves and their behavior. They will say that there is really nothing wrong with being hostile with Arminians or with heretics and that I need to learn to tell the hard truth. Well, I am telling the hard truth, right now. If you are hostile, arrogant, and angry, if you cannot interact with civility and charity even with those with whom you disagree, grow up or stay silent. You are not helping anyone, not promoting the cause of Christ, and creating unnecessary barriers to the gospel. Either get in a cage, stop talking to people, or learn to conduct yourself.

Recommended Reading:
The Practical Implications of Calvinism by Albert Martin
7 Ways To Tell If An Atheist Is Not Worth Your Time by Richard Bushey (some similar concepts)



Reflections On NT Wright’s View of Justification

31t1kwmdhzl-_sx333_bo1204203200_Dr. NT Wright is an eminent British theologian and historian, widely renowned for his work on the resurrection of Jesus. Wright has completed a massive volume titled The Resurrection of The Son of God in which he defends the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. While Dr. Wright may convoke the applause of evangelicals for this work, there is another area of scholarship that many of us do not find very appealing. Wright has been a critic of the classical Protestant view of justification, suggesting that we have misunderstood what Paul was saying because we have overlooked his main themes. Throughout my reflections on NT Wright’s view of Justification, I will provide a bit of engagement while representing his position as delineated in his book Justification as accurately as I can.

However, I should also note that this is not meant to be a full refutation or “The Case Against Tom Wright.” Dr. Wright is one of the most esteemed New Testament scholars in the world today. For me to think that I could provide a full refutation in a blogpost would be nothing short of delusion of grandeur. Besides that, there is a lot in his book that I agree with. I can say that I, and most Reformed Christians, could probably agree with 70% of what he said. So what are my agreements and disagreements?

Wright’s Use of Terminology

The book Justification was meant to serve as a response to Dr. John Piper, who has been a critic of Wright’s. On page 10, Dr. Wright summarized Piper’s (the Reformed/Protestant) position that justification comes by faith alone. Then he added the commentary, “Absolutely. I agree. There is not a syllable with which I would disagree.” This implies that he would not object even to the use of the word “alone” as many dissidents to Protestant theology do. Wright often declares that he agrees with what the Protestant is saying, but does not think that the standard texts actually support what is being said. In his debate with Dr. James White on Unbelievable, he said something like, “Paul would agree with what you are saying. But he was not saying it there.”

If that is Dr. Wright’s position, then why should I even bother writing a response? He believes the same thing as classical Protestants, but just thinks that passages like Romans 4 do not establish it. So why bother addressing it? While Dr. Wright may say that he believes in justification by faith alone, he really means something different. He can say that he affirms every syllable of that statement, but he does not affirm what Dr. Piper is attempting to relay. I find his use of terminology is be a bit unhelpful. It muddies the water and makes him more difficult to understand (despite all of his effort to be as clear as possible). As an indicator that he is going to take back what he said, he added on page 10 that the Holy Spirit is left out of this formula. That initially tipped me off that he probably does not mean what everyone else means when he says “justification by faith alone” and that inkling was vindicated as I continued reading.

What Is His View of Justification?

So, what may we say in summary of Dr. Wright’s view of justification? If it is not really by faith alone, then what is it? What does he replace justification by faith alone with? Many Reformed thinkers have accused Dr. Wright of replacing soteriology (the study of salvation) with ecclesiology (the study of the church) because his soteriological is essential ecclesiological. Salvation occurs when one becomes a member of the covenant family of God. It is not about the individual coming into a relationship with God. It is about God’s covenantal faithfulness and our entering into it. God made a promise to Abraham and he is faithful to that promise, and we are the fulfillment of it.

Reformed Christians will not find a lot to disagree with here. That is part of what it means to be adopted into God’s family. It is part of the picture, but it is not the entire picture. There is still the issue of our sin, and that is what we really want to talk about. Since God is righteous, he has to deal with sin. That is why Christians believe in imputation and justification by faith alone. So, how does God deal with sin, on Dr. Wright’s model?

I was disappointed to find that Dr. Wright’s so-called New View of Justification is really a model of justification by faithful obedience, or, by works. But it is wrapped in a heavy emphasis on the covenantal element. It is almost as if to say that if you accept his view of the covenant, you are forced to accept his view of how we acquire righteousness, as if they are a package. (Although I should admit that Wright says that he prefers Calvinism to Lutheranism for its’ emphasis on the covenant.) The central prooftext that he appealed to was Romans chapter 2.

Romans 2:1-16

As I alluded to earlier, Dr. Wright spoke of the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation and how it is often left out of Reformed thinking. He hinted to that theme a few more times in the following chapters, asking something like, “How can we resolve Paul’s insistence that there will be a judgment according to our works?” In his chapter on the book of Romans, Dr. Wright treats Romans 2:1-16. He pointed out that the “first mention of justification in the letter states openly and cheerfully that it is the ‘doers of the law who will be justified’ (Romans 2:13).”

Now, one might say, “But perhaps Dr. Wright means the same thing that we do. Perhaps he is referring to something like Lordship Salvation.” That is surely not the case. On page 184, he writes that justification by “works of the Law” is typically regarded as “anathema.” His response? He did not write Romans 2. Paul did. Dr. Wright has in mind the specific nuance that Reformed thinkers regard as anathema. There will be a final judgment of believers that is according to works, and if you lived in faithful obedience to the covenant, you will be given eternal life.

What may we say about Romans 2:13? Well, there are two things that we may say in response (which did not go untouched by Wright). First, it may be said that Paul was setting up a category that he knows that nobody could meet only to present the gospel of grace. Dr. Wright refers to this maneuver as a “mirage,” a “desperate exegesis,” and concludes that we are regarding it as “not a particularly serious part of the book.” But I do not see any reason to think that. Only when people know that they are sick will ask for the cure. This seems to gain support from verses 17:24, in which Paul goes on to ask hypothetical question, “You who preach against stealing, do you steal?” He is helping the audience to recognize that everybody falls short.

What about the second objection to Dr. Wright’s interpretation? This is perhaps one that is more crucial. To say that the “doers of the Law will be justified,” is not to say that their doing the Law is the mechanism that will justify them. It is point out a correlation, not a causation. That seems to be a category error. As Protestants, we believe that justification comes by faith alone, but not a faith that is alone. The doers of the Law will be justified precisely because those who are justified by faith alone will do that Law.

Other Texts About The Guidance of The Spirit

After his treatment of Romans 2, Dr. Wright moves on to other passages that suggest that we can be pleasing to God. He refers to passages such as Romans 12:1, or when Jesus says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” He is attempting to connect this to the final judgment. If we have done good works, if he have served him faithfully, then we will “bring a smile to the Father’s face” (page 187) and be pleasing to God. This is what Dr. Wright meant on page 10 when he said that the Holy Spirit was missing from the equation of Protestant soteriology.

However, again, the treatment of these passages seems to ignore the careful and critical nuances of Protestant theology. After all, there is a sense in which we believe that we are pleasing to God. But what is the basis and the foundation for our pleasing God? It is the imputed righteousness of the Son of God. It is the fact that God has made us new creatures, and now the Holy Spirit is working through us and in us. The Holy Spirit is not missing from our soteriology. He just has a different role than what Dr. Wright is espousing.

Covenantal Theology – The Basis For Our Exegesis

Dr. Wright has some scathing and yet accurate criticisms of evangelical practice and theology. In evangelism, the question that we often ask is, “How can I be saved? How can I get to Heaven?” Then we will point to passages in the Bible that seem to answer this question. Wright indicts us with asking the wrong question. That is not how we should begin an exegesis. This is one insight with which most Christians should take to heart. Understanding the Jewishness of Paul and his insight is critical to understanding Paul. What was he talking about? Why did he refer to Abraham? Paul was concerned with the covenant that God made with his people and how God will be faithful to that covenant. Salvation is about the restoration of the world, when all things will be made new, and we have the opportunity to enjoy that by entering into the covenant of God.

However, there is a critical point that needs to be made. The fact that Paul was talking about God’s covenant with Israel does not mean that there are not implications for individual salvation. A Protestant Christian could accept covenantal theology and still believe in justification by faith alone on the basis of the common proof-texts. These are not mutually exclusive. Understanding the covenant does not immediately drive you to deny justification by faith alone. It would only lead you to answer a follow-up question, namely, “How can I enter into the covenant?” and I think that the answer is “justification by faith alone.” So my point here is that Dr. Wright has valuable insight regarding the covenant, but I do not think that consideration will overrule our exegesis of central passages such as Romans 4:5.

“To the one who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” Romans 4:5

This text is, as Simon Gathercole pointed out, the smoking gun that seems to establish Paul’s view of justification. It tells us how we can enter into the covenant by appealing to Abraham. Abraham was unrighteous and ungodly, a sinner and an idolater when he entered in the covenant. But it was his faith that was credited as righteousness. What does this mean to Protestants? There are two considerations. [1] Faith is credited as righteousness. [2] The ungodly are those who are justified. This seems to wholly undermine the doctrine of a final justification that is according to our works.

On page 220, Dr. Wright provides some thoughts on Romans 4:5. He writes that the “promise that is given,” was that Abraham would have a family. Paul is harking back to the entire narrative, using a few verses to draw our attention to that passage in Genesis 15. In context, the promise is that Abraham would have a family. Paul did not suddenly stop talking about that and move on to “How can I go to Heaven?” argues Wright. Is that correct? Is Wright right? (To borrow an overwhelmingly clever line from the students of the Twitter user and theology professor, Bible Students Say)

First, I do not think that we can ignore the grammar of what Paul said by harking back to Genesis 15. Paul generalized his statement. He said, “to the one who does not work…” seeming to indicate that he is talking about more than just Abraham. Second, that does not remove the focus from the promise that Abraham received. Abraham having a family is not something so quaint as a 21st century man hoping against hope that he will have children. Those who are in Abraham’s family are members of the covenant. Paul is explaining that God has kept his promises and that we may enter into the covenant by faith.

Is Imputation A Form of Legalism?

Dr. Wright raised several arguments against the doctrine of imputation. Those objections have largely gone unscathed in this blogpost (As they warrant a post of their own. Perhaps in the future I will write more about this topic. For now, you may want to read Dr. Thomas L. Schreiner’s brief blogpost on the topic.) One of the objections that he raised on page 232 is that the doctrine of imputation entail that Jesus must have been the ultimate legalist. Jesus kept the Law in our place and now gives the righteousness that he earned to us. Since we shy away from legalism, we should also shy away from “ultimate legalism.”

But I think that this objection misses the point. The reason that we shy away from legalism is precisely that Christ already kept the Law perfectly and that his righteousness has already been given to us. Legalism would entail that an individual was not trusting in the perfect righteousness of the Son of God that has been imputed to us. They were steering their eyes away from the cross and to their own righteousness. That is the difference. We may accept that Christ was the “ultimate legalist,” but I do not know that this terminology is helpful. What we are trying to express, and what we believe that Paul was expressing is that Christ took our place. Our sins were given to him so that his righteousness could be given to us.

Reflections On NT Wright’s View of Justification

This blogpost was over 2000 words, but still there is much that I did not cover. Dr. Wright mounted a lot of powerful arguments in his 250 page hardcover. Some of them were persuasive and others were not. If you want to understand what he believes, read the book. Let him speak for himself in his own words. He has a lot of helpful insight that can assist us in reading the Bible and thinking about these things. But some of his interpretations do not differ much from what we will commonly find in Roman Catholic circles. Either way, this book warrants careful study.

Recommended Reading:
Is Justification By Faith Or By Faith Alone? by Richard Bushey
Examining The New Perspective On Paul by Phil Johnson
Wright Is Wrong On Imputation by Thomas Schreiner



A Few Things To Keep In Mind When Watching NFL Football

revisFootball has become more than just a game for many Americans. It is essential to the atmosphere. When the summer dwindles to a close, cool winds blow and leaves start falling, we will know that NFL football is on the horizon. Holidays and weekends are very much defined by enjoying the games. There are parties replete with food, friends, laughter, shouting, alcohol, and a big screen television to complement your Sunday experience so that you can get the most out of the game. Watching your favorite team develop over the years, acquire new players and strive for excellence has always been one of the highlights of your life. As the new season begins, hopes of the fans of even the worst teams will soar as they think that perhaps this will be the year. With all of that excitement flaring, I would like to humbly point out a few things to keep in mind when watching NFL football.

Before beginning, I recognize that many bloggers will attempt to expand their audience by inflaming emotion, especially anger. Attacking football and telling people that they are wrong for enjoying one of their favorite past times is one way that I could achieve that. But that is not what I am doing. I am not saying that it is wrong. I am a fan as well, and I am speaking to my fellow fans, especially to my brothers in Christ, that we should reflect upon everything that we do and comport ourselves to the mind of Christ.

Is Football Exempt From Scrutiny?

manningI recognize that there is an impulsive reflex to this sort of reflection. Since football is something that you have always enjoyed, and your Sunday is very much dedicated to it, it can be difficult to reflect upon the moral qualities of watching the NFL. There is an impulse to just deny it. If you begin to reflect upon it, then you may come to the unsavory conclusion that you need to surrender your favorite hobby. So you might be inclined to comment on this article in all capital letters about how ridiculous it is and there is nothing wrong with watching football.

If you are that person, then I urge you to remember that this is not a treatise against football. It is merely a few considerations to make. Football may be your favorite sport, but it is not infallible. It did not fall down from Heaven. There is no reason that it should be exempt from scrutiny. If it is somehow exempt in your mind, such that you cannot even think about it or analyze it, then perhaps you should do some self-reflection.

Football Dulls The Mind

madden-25-nfl-week-11-predictionsWhen you step outside, you can feel a light breeze of the cool Autumn air, see the clouds hovering overhead and the sun tucked neatly behind. You can go to work, enjoy the day and be at peace. You can go out with friends, eat dinner and laugh until your sides hurt. With the semblance of peace, it can be easy to forget about the injustices in the world. Many of us want to forget about it because we do not want to think about it. People will intentionally avoid the news and difficult topics. Many Christians have consigned themselves to acceptance. The world is full of evil and there is nothing that we can do about it. We willfully forget that babies are being ripped from their mother’s womb, limb by limb, and then their carcasses are sold on the black market.

The reason that this can happen is that there are so few Christians who are willing to stand up to social injustice. All of the propaganda makes them fearful and even lazy. There are several ways to drown in laziness, to forget about social injustices and look the other way as the doctrine that all are created equal slowly fades into irrelevancy. If you want to look the other way, to forget about the things in the world that matter, sports provides a very powerful outlet. You can consume yourself in the hope that the men bearing your favorite logo will prevail over the men bearing the other logo.

I want to be the first to point out that this is not to say that watching sports automatically means that you are apathetic about social issues. Again, this is not a treatise against football. It is a consideration. I am pointing out one of the traps that people often fall into. It can be very easy to consume yourself in football (Or any hobby, really. Stephen King novels could have the same effect) and forget about the injustices of the world. Do not be so focused on football that you forget that we are living in a culture of death, and your absent-mindedness is allowing it to happen. Do not be a devotee. Football should not be your first love. It should be a hobby, if anything at all.

Football Does Not Really Matter

Tim TebowI appreciate what Tim Tebow said many years ago when he was the quarterback for the Denver Broncos and they actually made the playoffs and made a run for the Super Bowl. He said that he was grateful to God for the platform that he has received the glorify Christ. When he bowed in prayer on the field (later referred to as “Tebowing”), he was signifying to the people that all glory is ultimately due to Christ. I appreciated that. However, I do not appreciate the way that many people regard football, as though it were some precious thing, and the fate of a team impacted the fate of the universe.

Players and teams will pray for victory, all of their fans enjoining them. Thoughtful people begin to reflect on this practice, wondering if it is not arbitrary and almost disrespectful to pray about a football team. Why are you so concerned if the men bearing one logo prevail over the men bearing another logo? What is it about that victory that will affect anything at all? Why should you care who will win anymore than you would care if I defeated somebody in a game of air hockey? You could arbitrarily root for me, but whether I won or lost, it would not really matter.

Similarly, think for a moment about what the ultimate purpose of watching football is. Why are you rooting for a team? What is it that you want to happen? You are hoping that this team will have a favorable record, be counted among the top teams in the league and then compete to win the Super Bowl. But suppose they did. Suppose they made it all the way to the top. What, then? What happens next? Is there really anything at the top? What happens next, anyway? The next cycle will begin, and you will hope that they win the big game again. But why does winning the Super Bowl even matter? Further, why do you care if one particular team wins the Super Bowl over another?

Think for a moment about what you are devoting yourself to and why you care about your team. Is it the players? The coach? So if the players and the coach leave, you will no longer be a fan? For most fans (aside from front-runners) the answer is no. Is it the logo, the uniform? So if they change the logo, then you will no longer be a fan? What is it, exactly? Being a fan of one team is as arbitrary as choosing to root for one stranger over another stranger in a game of air hockey. Fanship and devotion to a football team is arbitrary. In summary, you are holding out for hope that an arbitrarily selected team will win the Super Bowl, which does not matter anyway.

Time Is Too Valuable

NFL: Buffalo Bills at New England PatriotsThe NFL has a few television networks. One of them is called NFL Redzone, in which live highlights from all of the games are broadcasted for over seven hours. After you finish watching Redzone, you might want to watch a couple of the Primetime games. If there are two games on (one at 7 PM ET and the other at 10 PM ET), you can look back on your Sunday and say that you spent a productive 13 hours in front of the television watching the games.

Think for a moment about time throughout the week. You go to work in the morning, then you come home to have dinner, and maybe put the children to bed. You probably have just an hour or two to be productive or to do what you need. There are not many hours in the day, and they are wasted easily on television. When you reflect upon your week or your year, you can say that you never got around to reading that book because you did not have the time. You did not build that shed, do home repairs, or do any number of things that you wanted to because you did not have time.

However, proper time management can help productivity. Just as people manage money so that it does not go to waste, they also manage their time. If you actually spend thirteen hours on Sunday watching football, then you are wasting a lot of time. It seems difficult to allow you to complain that you do not have enough time. All of the time that is wasted on football could have been used in more practical endeavors. It could also have been used in more intellectual endeavors. Read a book on Sunday. Study the Bible. Do something productive. Time is too valuable to waste 13 hours every Sunday.

It Is Really Just About Money

Devotees might be inspired by the love for the game of football espoused by players and coaches. They want to win because they love the game. They strive for excellence because they love to play football. You love football as well. So, why not kick back on Sunday and take in a few games? Well, it should be obvious that there is far more to the NFL than merely a love for the game. Football really comes down to making money. That far exceeds the price that it costs to broadcast the games to billions of people across the world. Roger Goodell’s net worth is 75 million dollars.

Of course, we all know that immense wealth and decadence does not extend only to the top executives of the NFL. It extends to the players, too. Many of these players receive outrageous, multi-million dollar contracts. They often refuse to sign one multi-million dollar contract and hold out for a better one. While football players may work hard and exercise a lot and find themselves under a lot of pressure, do they really need to receive millions of dollars to play a game? Do 20 year old kids really need to be paid millions of dollars? Is that really a pure “love for the game”? Or is it a love of wealth?

Being fans makes us complicit in this system. People who do not deserve and have not earned extreme wealth are given it. This very much reminds me of the so-called dancing man, wherein people across the country donated a total of over $34,000 for a single party. We are very wasteful with our money, and when we support these networks and sponsors, we are only contributing to the waste. Money that could have gone to something productive is instead donated to some 20 year old kid, which he will use to spend on strippers and decadence for a few months until he realizes that he spent all of it.

Is this to advocate for some form of socialism wherein the rich are obligated to share their money with the poor? Not at all. I am not saying that capitalism is a bad system. I am saying that it is being taken advantage of. I am pointing out that the NFL is all about money. It is not about a love for football or something pure and righteous. It is about greed. And by indulging, you are complicit.

Long-Term Brain Damage

“Injuries are just part of the game,” we will tell ourselves. We will see players who hurt their leg or arm and later have trouble walking. Many will play through an injury. Perhaps after they retire, they do not have any cartilage in their knees. These long-term injuries are probably not too severe, and it is the price that players are willing to pay. They are aware that they will probably hurt their leg at some point in their career, and that might even affect them for the rest of their lives. But that does not really matter too much. However, there are other injuries that are far more concerning.

Many of us are already aware as a result of the 2015 film titled Concussion, which narrated the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu as he discovered the brain injury known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Despite that the NFL attempted to systematically cover it up and deny the allegations, the evidence persisted. Repeated blows to the head, as occurring in the NFL, often lead to brain damage. In fact, 40% of former NFL players suffer from brain damage. This often leads to depression, suicidal behavior, drug addiction, dementia, and many more disturbing symptoms.

The injuries that players suffer on the field extend far beyond a sprained ankle or even a torn ACL. Players are at risk for suffering from severe brain damage that will ultimately ruin their lives. Of course, one could suggest that with this new research, players can make an informed decision before signing the contract. It is their choice. But if you offer a 20-year-old millions of dollars and the opportunity to attain celebrity status, he is not going to think about much else. Most young men are not wise enough to weigh the alternatives. Second, there are many cases in which it is appropriate to take the choice away from people, such as the use of narcotics or prostitution. We recognize the damaging impact that it has and therefore have made it illegal. Now, that is not to say that football should be outlawed. It is just to respond to the idea that players are making a choice. Sometimes they should not have that option.

A Few Things To Keep In Mind When Watching NFL Football

I want to emphasize again that this is not a treatment against the NFL. I am not saying that football is evil or even that you ought not watch it. I am saying that it is not as simple as sitting down and enjoying a game. There are many considerations and angles to consider. There is the problem of overconsumption, dulling your mind, forgetting about the outside world and the injustices out there, giving money to an unworthy cause and being complicit in the long-term brain damage of NFL players. Football is certainly entertaining and has firmly established itself as a western tradition and icon. But we should not be naive. We should not allow ourselves to be blissfully ignorant of the different factors.



Why Does My Life Sometimes Seem So Pointless?

8d9801a176cdb6f39a22279f5f0ebf63You woke up this morning to the sound of your alarm clock. After turning it off, you went to the bathroom to take a shower. Then you went to work, came home, went to sleep, and the next day, you did the same thing. Eat, drink, sleep, work. That is your life, and it repeats itself over and over again. As you cycle through this seemingly endless pattern, you will begin to reflect on it. Why are you even bothering? You tell yourself that if you received that promotion at work, then the pattern would be broken and life would no longer be pointless. Then you receive that promotion and it feels good for a passing moment until the next pattern ensues and you begin looking for the next promotion or major life change. Every time you attain one, you are faced more thoroughly with the futility of it all. No matter what you do, everything just seems vain. You may be asking yourself, “Why does my life sometimes seem so pointless?”

I want to begin by pointing out that anybody can have this sort of existential crisis. Anybody can feel as though their existence does not matter. I am not saying this to make you feel better, as if to say, “We are all hopeless together,” because I suspect that this would only make the situation worse. I am pointing this out because this article is not meant to say something to the effect of, “Become religious and this problem will go away. You will always feel that your life has meaning.” Faithful Christians can have an existential crisis. I am not writing this to offer some sort of cheap solution to your feelings. But there are many relevant factors to consider.

Your Philosophy of Life And Value

While I am not trying to offer a cheap solution to the problem of the existential crisis, the way that you view the world will still very much impact how you are feeling about your current situation. Everybody has a worldview, philosophy, and a way that they look at human beings and their place in the world. This is one reason that I cringe when people think that philosophy is relevant only for scholars who are locked away in an Ivory Tower. Your philosophy impacts how you live. One’s personal philosophy can change how they look at the world. That is why secularists and Christians are often on opposite ends of the spectrum of social issues.

Think about it for a moment. If you believe that mankind is made in the image of God, imbued with intrinsic moral worth, that everything that we do is governed by the sovereign hand of God, that there is a purpose for your life, that life does not end at the grave and that when you have an positive impact on your humanity, you are doing a true good, then you will be more inclined to feel like your life has meaning (though, again, not all Christians have that feeling, because feelings are transitory). If you deny all of this, though, then you will be more inclined to feel like everything is hopeless.

Now, this is not an apologetic for Christianity. I am not saying, “Therefore, you should believe that which is more hopeful.” But the way that you look at the world matters. I am sure that very different people are reading this post and I do not know how you look at the world or if you even think about that sort of thing. If you do not contemplate the deep questions of life, then you probably are more prone to feel like everything is meaningless, because there are no answers as to why you are doing anything. Having no position functions as a position. If you are someone who thinks that human beings arose by purely natural processes, that there is no overriding standard of morality, that human beings have the same value as goat, sheep, or chicken, then to ask the question is to answer it. You have feelings of meaninglessness because, in your view, life truly is meaningless.

The life that you are living.

“Ah,” the atheist replies, “But if your life feels meaningless, then you need to do something about it.” There is a sense in which that is true and a sense in which it is not true. Let us first consider the sense in which it is true. Right now, we are talking about the way you feel during an existential crisis. Do you feel as though you are making a difference, and do you feel as though your actions matter? For many (most) people, the answer is that it does not. Perhaps you went to college to get a job so that you could pay the bills and now you are caring for your family. Of course, caring for your family and paying your bills is a good thing. But the deeper question that we are asking is one of meaning and purpose.

If you spend 8-12 hours every day working just for the sake of survival, then you are probably somebody who typed “Why does my life feel so meaningless?” into Google and came across this article. Everything that you do is just an attempt to survive, to continue the endless pattern that you desperately want to escape from. Every moment is an attempt to ensure that you will make it to the next moment. Then, if you succeed as a parent, your children will find their own pattern, be able to pay the bills, survive, and do exactly what you are doing.

This is where the wisdom of the atheist’s reply will be relevant. If you feel as though your life is meaningless, then you should do something about it. Invest your time in something that is worthwhile, that you care about. If you are not sure what you are passionate about, then you should think about that. Consider what is a cause that should be pursued and pursue it. When you have free time, do not just watch television or do something mindless. Read a good book. Start a blog. Do something that makes you feel as though you are making a difference in society. If that seems overwhelming, then start small. Commit to spending an extra hour once a week on a project. That is my initial assessment of the atheist’s reply. There is some wisdom to be gleaned. But there is also a sense in which it is foolish.

The Foolishness of The Reply

We are addressing an existential crisis. You are asking yourself why you exist, what purpose your life has, and how you can escape this dreadful pattern of futility. The advice that you receive is to do something that makes you feel better about your life. But the truth is that this is just an exercise in self-delusion. You are intentionally pretending that your life has meaning, when in fact, it does not. You are intentionally fooling yourself to help you to overcome the emotional feeling of futility. It may help, but it would be something like a quick-fix, an aid that helps you to overcome the symptoms without addressing the disease.

Think about it for a moment. If the entire universe is meaningless, if mankind is just another animal here on earth, lost in cosmos, then for you to feel as though your life has meaning would amount to nothing more than delusion. Even if your good work impacts history or civilization, it does not really matter. Eventually, in the heat death of the universe, the Earth will look something like Mars. All of the campaigns of human history, the pursuits of the intellect, the drive of the activist and the triumphs over evil will be buried deep within the earth amidst the ruins of dead civilizations, on a death planet, floating in a dead universe. That is, without a doubt, truly, a scientifically accurate picture of the world to come.

It does not really matter how you feel. If you feel like your life has meaning, you will still be caught in the same pattern of futility that has plagued you. Taking steps to do something meaningful, to get yourself out of a rut all ultimately end in nothing. That is the foolishness of the atheistic reply. Even if you feel as though your life has meaning, that still does not mitigate the fact that your life truly has no meaning. If there is no meaning in the universe, then where will you go to find it?

Is There Any Hope At All? What Am I Supposed To Do?

There is no hope anywhere in the universe. You would have to transcend the bounds of the universe, to traverse the outer echelons of space, hit the edge of the universe and then plunge a little further to find some hope and then voyage back to earth. Although, the careful reader will note that in the above subsection, I was addressing the atheist’s reply. The atheist who says that we can create meaning for our lives has become an apologist for delusion. In that worldview, there truly is no meaning to life. But that is not the view that I ascribe to. Nonetheless, it is true that all life is doomed to end in the heat death of the universe and there is no hope anywhere in the physical world. You would need to leave the physical world to find hope.

But suppose for a moment that there is something beyond the physical world. Suppose even that there is Someone beyond the physical world. This Someone could see that we are hopeless, and while we cannot transcend the physical to acquire hope, this Someone could enter into the physical and bring it to us. This is what we mean when we say that God became a man. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). In his life, he demonstrated that it is possible to live a fulfilled life by loving your friends and your enemies, by living without sin, in perfect righteousness and obedience, but never in anger toward the Law, as though it were a legalistic cage, but rather out of love for the Father. In his death, he took our sins upon himself, as it is written, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In his resurrection from the death, he provided a model for our resurrection, a true hope of what will come in the future, for his is the first fruit of the resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20).

You may ask, “But how is that any different from the atheist who is an apologist for delusion?” It is different because I am not saying that your feelings will change. I am not saying that you should do something to forget about reality. I am saying that you should meditate upon reality. We are made in the image of God, and his resurrection is our resurrection. That is a true hope for the future. It means that your life is truly significant, that the love that you have for others will not end at the grave, and that the achievements of righteousness will persist after grave. Christ promised to raise those who trust in him to everlasting life (John 6:40) and to make this world new, with no death, disease, sin, suffering, children dying, loved ones leaving – all things will be made new and be given to Christ’s people.

The Pursuit of Happiness

What does it mean to pursue happiness? Everything in this world leaves us feeling empty, cold, and bitter. Every time we tell ourselves that something will make us happy, we realize how empty it was when we finally find it. Whether it was a new job, that big promotion, wealth, fame, losing weight, power, winning the Super Bowl, it all amounts to nothing. When you get to the top, you realize that there is nothing there. We have an immense capacity for joy and we are always looking for things in this world that can fill it and are constantly disappointed when we find that they do not satisfy us. Those who immerse themselves in carnality are often trying to dull the pain of existence. They do not fulfill them. They worsen their condition. There is a sense in which we are each, individually, the bane of our own individual existence, because we try to fill our capacity for joy in sexuality, money, food, relationships, traveling, always sinking deeper and deeper because we realize that nothing can satisfy us in this world. That is why your life feels so meaningless.

What am I saying, then? Give up the pursuit of happiness? Stop trying to be happy? Stop trying to fill this capacity for joy? That is not what I am saying. I am saying that if you want true satisfaction, then you need to yield yourself to the one who created you. Surrender everything, all of your life’s pursuits, to the will of the Creator. There is a reason that Job said “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” (Job 13:15). As it is written, “Whoever believes in him will not be disappointed.” (Romans 10:11).

But telling you to lay yourself down is not about telling you that you cannot dance. It is not about saying that you have to put yourself in a cage. It is about following Christ. In his book Desiring God (which I recommend to anyone reading this), Dr. John Piper recounted a conversation with a woman who posed a challenge. She said, “Sir, don’t you believe that a lady can get to Heaven if he she dances?” Piper replied, “A lady cannot get to Heaven unless she dances.” Life in Christ is about joy, about your cup overflowing. There will be struggles, and as I said, sometimes you might even feel meaninglessness, but for those in Christ, we may meditate upon reality and do something in life that truly matters.

If you would like to read more, check out John Piper’s book Desiring God.



Answering A Few Common Pro-Choice Arguments

abortion-1For people such as myself, abortion represents the depravity of the human heart. It represents the devaluation of human beings. Bioethicists and philosophers will publish rigorous material concluding that human beings really do not have any intrinsic moral worth, that it would be acceptable to slaughter infants. It is quite common in the animal kingdom for mothers to kill their infants, and sometimes killing an infant can be a sacred duty, a moral good, because it increases one’s ability to propagate their DNA. A woman may have maternal and caring instincts for one child, but for another, she will be instinctually driven to slaughter it, and we should just accept this because it is part of nature. As a Christian, I believe that human beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-7) and therefore possess intrinsic moral value. Killing human beings is wrong. So in this article, I will be answering a few popular pro-choice arguments.

abortion-2Before beginning, I should point out the fundamental difference between the way that a pro-lifer will argue this case as opposed to how a pro-choicer will. Since I am pro-life, I am concerned with the intrinsic moral worth of the unborn. Everything that compromises that seems to be secondary because it [1] actually kills human beings and [2] radically degrades the value of human beings, such that it is based on our special circumstances rather than being an inherent feature of who we are. A pro-choicer will often argue that the circumstances that a pregnant woman find herself in will override the need to preserve the life of the unborn. What arguments do they employ to reach that conclusion, and what circumstances do women find themselves in that a pro-choicer believes would warrant an abortion?

abortion-3If we don’t share your religion, why would you impose it on us?
Introducing the case for life, I pointed out that I believe that human beings are made in the image of God. Consequently, I also maintain that we have intrinsic moral worth and that it would be wrong to kill another person. Since the pro-life community is typically composed of Christians, pro-choicers tend to have the impression that this is a debate over religion. We have this religious value and we are insisting that they adopt it. There is some sense in which I understand that objection, because part of the reason that we are motivated to be pro-life is our belief in God’s inerrant word.

abortion-4However, the pro-life argument is not necessarily a religious argument. It may have theological connotations, but one could be pro-life without necessarily being religious. One of the so-called New Atheists, the late Christopher Hitchens, confessed in his debate with Dr. Frank Turek that he was pro-life. So it is true that the Bible informs us that human beings have intrinsic moral worth. But one could arrive at that conclusion apart from the Bible. One could believe that it is wrong to kill another person even if they have never read the Bible. You do not really need to appeal to the Bible to make the case for life. You only need to appeal to the reality of our value as human beings. Therefore this is not a case of imposing religion upon secularists. A secularist could be pro-life, as demonstrated by the Secular Pro-Life blog.

If we don’t share your morals, why would you impose them on us?
This question seems to be a bit ironic. Suppose I do not share the ethical obligation that “I ought not impose my morals onto others.” Are you going to impose that ethical obligation onto me? The only way that this could be a consistent ethical belief is if it were never voiced or argued for. You could personally believe that it is wrong to impose your ethics onto others. But you could never make that argument. So the only way that this argument would be a good one is if I had never heard about it. If you start telling me that it is wrong to impose my morals onto you, then you are imposing your morals onto me. Therefore, the argument is self-defeating because it cannot bear its’ own weight.

Further, while this line may sound compelling at first blush, there are always situations in which we think that it is correct to impose our morals onto other people. We believe in the moral prohibition, “You ought not rape,” and we will impose that ethic onto other people. We share the ethic prohibiting kidnapping, sexual slavery, and much more, and we all recognize that it would be appropriate to impose those morals onto individuals who disagreed. Ethics are more than a matter of opinion or feelings. They are something that can be investigated. We can reason about ethics and come to rational conclusions. Sometimes ethics can be complicated or even unclear, but that does not mean that we cannot reason about it. It is more than an opinion.

If it is in my body, I make the choices.
This is probably one of the most common arguments for the pro-choice position. If the fetus is inside somebody’s body, then it is thought that they can decide whether the fetus lives or dies. They can decide to kill it if they think that is appropriate. First, I want to point out that this position can be reduced to absurdity. There are many times in which the “My body, my choice” principle would not be upheld. If the mother realized that the fetus was a female, but wanted a male, most of us recognize that it would be immoral (and unlawful) for her to get an abortion. If she realized that the fetus was going to be of a particular ethnic group that she found unsavory, it would be both immoral and unlawful for her to have an abortion. Further, many of us recognize that it would be wrong for her to get an abortion the day before she was due. Both of these counter-examples seem to undermine the “My body, my choice” principle.

Second, this principle assumes a model of human value that undermines the principle itself. What do I mean? If the fetus is human, then it does not matter if it is in her body. Human beings have intrinsic moral value (inherent to the individual that stands independently of circumstances or perception). This means that no matter where it is geographically located, it would be wrong to take its’ life. The only recourse would be to deny that human beings truly have intrinsic value. They must have extrinsic value, which is value that is based on circumstances and perception. But the “My body, my choice” principle assumes that human beings have rights extending from their value. But if they have only extrinsic value, which not inherent, then the foundation for their rights are wholly undermined. Perhaps someone could disagree that they have or are worthy of rights. In short, while the “My body, my choice” principle requires a model of intrinsic human value, it logically entails extrinsic moral value. It is literally self-defeating.

Legalized abortion reduces crime and provides a safe outlet for women who need an abortion.
Women will get an abortion even if the law prohibits it. So unless we want to find newborn babies thrown in the trash or see women getting an abortion with a hanger or hard drugs, then we need to allow for abortion as a necessary legal measure. Advocates of this argument will suggest that they do not really like abortion. They are against abortion, but pro-choice. (In my article Can Someone Be Pro-Choice Without Being Pro-Abortion? I replied to this distinction). Some might even call it a necessary evil. There are a few reasons that I do not think that this line of reasoning is compelling.

Legalizing a crime is not a solution to reducing crime. Imagine that a prison was having a drug problem. Some inmates were smuggling drugs into the prison and distributing them. One of the security officers burst into the Warden’s office one morning, offering a brilliant solution, telling him that he knows how to solve all of the drug problems. “We legalize it,” he says. “They won’t be able to spike the drugs anymore. We can give it to them safely. And the crime will go down.” For those of you who actually find the officer’s reasoning compelling, I hastily remind you that we could apply this tactic to any crime. Whether theft, murder, rape – we could drastically reduce the crime by legalizing all of it and finding ways for murderers and rapists to safely carry out their deed.

Somebody might be thinking that this would be a non-solution in the case of murder or rape. You cannot safely murder or rape. It would be inconsiderate the victims. If you are thinking that, then I welcome you to the pro-life cause. That is precisely why we do not think it is compelling to say that one could reduce crime by providing safe and legal abortions. Legalizing murder does not reduce crime.

The Bible never even mentions abortion.
Since most pro-lifers who adamantly oppose abortion and argue for their case are Christians, pro-choicers will often feel compelled to point out that the Bible is silent about the issue of abortion. They will suggest that it actually leaves the issue open, so that even a confessing Christian could decide to be pro-choice. This objection would seem to cut to the core of the pro-life case, because pro-lifers are primarily motivated by their faith in Christ and his word. Well, I would first hark back to my point that the pro-life case is based on the intrinsic moral worth of human beings. As Christians, our foundation for believing that is God’s word. So the fact that the Bible does not explicitly mention abortion is not relevant.

However, the Bible actually does mention abortion. The sixth commandment says, “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13). Now, I know that you might be thinking that this is just too broad. When objectors argue that the Bible never mentions abortion, they mean that it never explicitly mentions abortion. But so what? If we believe in the sanctity of life, then we believe that abortion is murder, which is forbidden by Exodus 20:13.

Exodus 21:22-25 vindicates that pro-choice position.
In Exodus 21:22-25, the punishment for killing an unborn baby is death. Life for life. If the baby is born prematurely, then you will merely have to pay a fine. But if you kill the baby, then you will have to pay with your life. However, some have argued that this Law actually supports abortion. Some older translations render verse 22 as, “And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage… they will be fined.” The translated word is not “prematurely” but “miscarriage.” In this rendering, it would appear to be a vindication of the pro-choice position.

In fact, blogs such as Reverb Press have seized upon this alternate translation to mount this argument without even mentioning the tension. They do not mention that the NIV, NASB, NET, ISV, HCSB, ESV, NLT, and many more popular and scholarly translations all render this “prematurely.” They use a translation that is convenient to make their case. I find it highly implausible that they did not know about about the mainstream rendering. So, why is it that it is the mainstream rendering?

The Hebrew word translated into “miscarry” or “prematurely” does not carry the meaning of a miscarriage as we understand it today. In most Hebrew lexicons, the translated word literally means “to go forth, to come out, to be born.” If you consult the concordance, you will find that this is exactly how it is rendered in the other verses in which it appears, the first being in Genesis 1:12, which says that the earth “brought forth” vegetation. In fact, in no cases will you find that it used to say that a woman miscarried.

But, one might argue, by the same token, it is never used to say “premature.” So why do the mainstream renderings hold this position? The duty of a translator is to accurately represent the propositional content by transmitting the literal words that were communicated. Some translations will say that the baby was “brought forth” and that would be a literal, rough rendering of this word. However, if you want to plainly communicate the propositional content of the word, you would say that the baby was born prematurely. Therefore, this would not be a vindication of the pro-choice position. It is a vindication of the pro-life position. If you would like to read further about this topic, see Stand To Reason’s Article, What Exodus 21:22 Says About Abortion.

Pro-Life ethics are inconsistent with political and social conservatism.
People will say that the pro-life case taken on its’ own may be compelling. But it is part of a larger narrative. It is given within the framework of social conservatism, which comes with elements that seem to compromise the pro-life position. These are stances such as the death penalty for capital offenders, stand your ground laws, gun rights, and more. If you are pro-life about one issue, why would you not be pro-life about all of these other issues? The first response worth noting immediately is that this argument is guilty of the tu quoque fallacy, which is to attempt to vindicate your position by pointing to an inconsistency in your opponent. If a smoker told you about the dangers of cigarettes, and you replied, “You have that problem, too!” you would be guilty of the tu quoque fallacy.

One could technically be pro-life without committing themselves to social conservatism. It could certainly impact how you vote. But compromises have to be made all of the time. But being pro-life is about more than how you vote and the stances that you hold in the privacy of your mind. It is about your action. If you are pro-life, you will support pro-life pregnancy centers such as CareNet by donating to them or volunteering for them. Standing for life is a worthy cause even if it goes against the grain of liberal principles and common opinions.

Second, one could mount a worthy argument that the conservative stances mentioned above are very different situations. Issues such as the death penalty and stand your ground laws are relevant to people who have committed a crime. Even if you would not say that they are worthy of death, you still should recognize that this is a different situation. In fact, that is precisely what you will do when somebody points out the same inconsistency in liberal ethics. If you are pro-life with regard to the death penalty, then why not with regard to abortion? You will say that these are different situations, to which I would respond, “Exactly.”

A man cannot sympathize with the struggles of a woman.
Women who are pregnant and in a difficult situation are often overcome with fear of the future, how they will care for their baby, whether it will lead a good life, et cetera, and all of this will contribute to the decision regarding an abortion. But when they are told by a man that abortion is wrong, they are often indignant. This is because men cannot be in that situation. They cannot get pregnant and so it is thought that they cannot sympathize with their struggles. There are a few problems with this argument.

First, even if it were true that a man cannot feel the emotions of a particular situation, that does not affect the logic of the abortionist philosophy. This argument seems to be saying, “If you felt these emotions, you would compromise your logical position and favor your emotions.” That may be the case, because people often let their emotions misguide them into a bad decision. But that is not an argument. It is certainly not a reason that you should not listen to somebody else. Imagine that you were so overcome with emotions that you could not see that your significant other was being unfaithful to you. You would rely on your friends, who can think more objectively and were not overcome with emotions to guide you. Their opinion would not be invalid just because they are not in your situation.

Second, I do not think it is true that men cannot sympathize with the struggles of a woman just because they have never been in that situation. Anybody can be afraid of what might happen in the future. Anybody can be overwhelmed. Think for example of a woman who dies during childbirth and the man is left alone. He is afraid of the future and the uncertainty. A pregnant woman’s emotions should not be downplayed or neglected. But men can sympathize with them because we have all had similar emotions. It is comparable to sympathizing with a starving child. I have never starved, but I can sympathize and have my heart broken over it. A man can sympathize with a woman and relay a competent ethic, taking her feelings and her situation into consideration.

Will this baby have to live in poverty?
This is one of the primary concerns that struggling, pregnant women have when they consider an abortion. They will not be able to care for their child. He or she will invariably have a bad life. Further, the pregnant woman might already have another child and she is afraid that she will not be able to care for it. Another baby would compromise the well-being of your family. It would have a bad life. It would live in poverty. The woman would fall into poverty, have little time for anything, and would be unable to care for it. Does this situation warrant an abortion? There are a few reasons that I do not think it does.

First, this argument could also be applied to infanticide or even toddlercide. You might realize that your toddler is going to have a bad life. You cannot finish college because you cannot afford it. You can only work minimum wage for forty hours a week. Your son or daughter will never be able to see their parents and will have to be alone most of the time, never to inherit your values because you are not there to instill them. They are going to be hungry, live in a small house with an absent parent. You might argue that it would be better if they were not alive. So, why not just kill them? This is the same argument that is used for abortion. The only recourse would be to use this argument in tandem with others, such as, “My body, my choice,” which is also inconsistent.

Second, there are other options that you would not force you to plummet into poverty. Many women choose to give their babies up for adoption. There are parents lining up to adopt newborn babies. The process is often very long because there are so few babies. In fact, when you go to Planned Parenthood, you might even find a couple who is standing outside offering to adopt your child. Now, you might reply that they would still have a bad life, could end up in foster care or something like that. But saying that a child might have a bad life is not an excuse to kill it. Suppose you decided to carry your baby full term and gave birth. But the day after you gave birth, something horrible happened and you needed to give the baby up for adoption. The idea that your infant might have a bad life is not a justification for infanticide. Comparably, it is also not a justification for abortion.

Answering A Few Common Pro-Choice Arguments
There are many other arguments that I left out of this article that I could have investigated. What about rape or incest? What about the personhood of the unborn? Is the fetus human? What about all of the illustrations and philosophical arguments? I did not dive into those here, but I have elsewhere. I composed this article primarily because pro-choicers and pro-lifers often talk past one another. We emphasize the sanctity of life and they emphasize the sanctity of choice, and we downplay the significance of the arguments that the other side is mounting. In this article, I have strived to represent those arguments as accurately as I can. If you would like to see any other arguments addressed, leave a comment. You can also check out the podcast the pro-life podcast known as The Fetal Position.



Can Someone Be Pro-Choice Without Being Pro-Abortion?

proabortion 1Discussions about abortion are often reduced down to arbitrarily changing the label of the other side so that their stance seems more defeasible. We are not pro-life, we are anti-woman. In fact, if we are for anything, we are for birth. But after birth, we do not really care about the well-being of that child. Accordingly, they will say that we are pro-birth rather than pro-life. By the same token, we will often designate people who are in favor of the option to get an abortion as pro-abortionists. You may even find my usage of this term a few times on this website (though primarily in the plural form because I do not think that the term “pro-choicers” sounds very good). But is this term legitimate? Can someone be pro-choice without being pro-abortion?

proabortion 2This often comes up because many people who are in favor of the right to get an abortion will say that they are personally opposed to abortion, but that they think people should be able to make that choice. Just because you are against abortion, does not mean that you should impose your morals on other people. You may prefer that others choose life, but it is a choice that they need to make, and we cannot make it for them. I think that there are several reasons to think that we should not be taken in by this line of reasoning, and that to be pro-choice truly is to be pro-abortion.

proabortion 3Should Abortion Be Available In Society?
If you are pro-choice, then that means that you are affirm that abortion should be available in our society. It may be a dark consequence of our freedom, but it should be a freedom nonetheless. When you say that you are personally opposed to abortion, but that it should be available, I take that to simply mean that you would not personally desire an abortion, but that others may want one. If that is the case, then you do agree that abortion should be available in a free society of men and women.

proabortion 4But this leads us to the question of what it means to be pro-abortion. I think that if you affirm the proposition, “Abortion should be legal and available to anyone,” then you are pro-abortion. Now, these words can be difficult to define, because there really is no technical definition of what it means to be pro-abortion. Nonetheless, there really does not seem to be any practical difference between a pro-choice stance and a pro-abortion stance. The difference is merely psychological, that you dislike the practice of abortion, but that you will defend it anyway.

Do You Think That Abortion Is A Noble Act?
Our friends who advocate for the pro-choice movement will often mount arguments leading to the conclusion that abortion is a noble cause. It is not a necessary evil, insofar as evil is concerned. It is not the slaying of an actual baby, for the fetus is sub-human. There are several arguments leading to that conclusion, but to examine those arguments closely would be beyond the scope of this article. The reason that I am pointing that out is that another way in which we could define pro-abortion is that you actually think that abortion is a noble act.

If you identify as pro-choice, but reject the term pro-abortion, then it would have to be the case that you do not think that abortion is a noble act. Abortion is a necessary evil, but it is an evil. If that is the case, then you would have to reject the typical argumentation that one would use in defense of the pro-choice cause. The only way that abortion could be a noble act is if you affirm that the fetus is somehow sub-human and that the rights of the mother supersede the rights of the sub-human fetus. But if you affirm that proposition, then how could abortion not be a noble act? It would be an extension of women’s rights. But if you think that abortion is a noble act, then how could you be anything other than pro-abortion?

On the other hand, if you affirm that the fetus is truly human, and to kill it would be homicide, then it seems that you would be left without a defense or an apologetic for the pro-choice position. You would be dangerously vulnerable to all of the critiques of the pro-life movement regarding the sanctity of life. While this could be a way for you to escape the pro-abortion label, it would be radically inconsistent. You would be saying that abortion was not a noble cause, that it was literally the slaying of a human being with intrinsic moral value, but that you affirm it anyway.

Think About Why You Are Personally Against Abortion
If you identify as pro-choice, but not pro-abortion, and that you would never personally want an abortion, think for a moment about the reasons that you have for that. You may not be able to afford to care for a baby. You may have to put it up for adoption. But nonetheless, you could never personally get an abortion. You would never do that. Why is that? For most people who claim to be pro-choice, but not pro-abortion, is that they would not want to take the life of their baby. If that describes you, then the question that you need to ask is why anybody should have the option to take the life of their baby.

You may be thinking that it is wrong to impose your morals upon other people. But think about that for a moment. There are at least two reasons that this is flawed. First, all laws reflect moral positions that are being imposed on us. We have laws against murder. That is a moral prohibition that is being imposed upon other people. If I were to punch somebody in the face, you would tell me, “You can’t do that!” and yet you would be imposing your morals on me. There are many cases in which we recognize that it is acceptable to impose your morals on others.

Second, the prohibition, “You ought not impose your morals onto other people,” is a moral prohibition that you are imposing on other people. You are imposing the ethic that it is wrong to impose ethics. So while it may seem convincing and while it may sound good, this ethic is really self-defeating, because it does exactly what it says one ought not do. This means that the reasons that you have for being personally opposed to abortion should beckon you to be part of the pro-life movement, for the same reason that you would be part of a movement that sought to retain the rights of individuals of ethnic diversity who were being persecuted. We would have no problem imposing our ethic upon their persecutors, and neither should you.

But Women Will Get An Abortion Anyway
If we were to outlaw abortion, women would still continue to get an abortion. But they would do it in unsafe and harmful ways that would probably lead to their death or serious injuries. Abortion should continue to be legal because women will have access to safe abortions. First, that term is something of a misnomer. A safe abortion is like a piece of chewing gum that is made out of iron. If a person is being killed in the process, it is not safe by any means.

Second, to say that people will transgress the law if we establish it as a law is not a reason that we should not establish it as a law. It is a reason that we should enforce the law. People are murdered every day. That does not mean that we should introduce a safe way for murderers to execute their victims. People rob houses every day despite that it is against the law. That does not mean that we should legalize robbery and find safe ways for these individuals to procure treasures of another person. Yes, people break the law. A law does not solve all of our problems. But it needs to be enforced.

Third, the person who uses a hanger to inflict a fatal wound on the fetus would be taking a very drastic measure. That is not some sort of safety blanket that individuals have in mind when they are considering sex outside of the context of marriage, when they are living in poverty. The accessibility of on-demand abortion makes people far more likely to get an abortion because they are relying on it. They will not worry so much about sex outside of marriage because they can just go and get an abortion. It provides a sense of security (ironically) that is not available to the women who is thinking of using a hanger.

Can Someone Be Pro-Choice Without Being Pro-Abortion?
Again, it can be difficult for us to define these words because to be pro-abortion can mean different things to different people. I used two definitions in this article. The first is that they are in favor of abortion being available to society. The second is that they believe that abortion is a noble act. But if you do not think that abortion is a noble act, then you are left vulnerable to the critique of the pro-life cause. Can you really affirm that abortion is murder, but that you are in favor of it anyway? That is what you would be led to say if you reject the pro-abortion label but affirm the pro-choice label.

I recognize that a lot of this comes down to semantics and wordplay, for many people. I am not interested in creating a caricature of anybody’s position. What I am doing is following this to its’ logical conclusion. If you are pro-choice and use the typical pro-choice argumentation, then you are pro-abortion. That is true even if you are pro-choice yet personally opposed to abortion. But if that does describe you, then perhaps you should consider the reasons that you have for being opposed to abortion. If you reflect upon that, it should lead you to the sanctity of human life, which will lead you to the pro-life position.

If you would like to read more, check out my article How Abortion Destroys Women’s Rights



My Pro-Life Convictions Will Always Prevent Me From Being A Liberal

liberal 1I am not a liberal. In fact, I cannot even consider casting my vote for a liberal candidate for any position of leadership. That is not to say that candidates of the Democratic Party are somehow less competent than those of the Republican National Convention. I am certainly not a loyalist to the GOP. However, my pro-life convictions will always prevent me from being a liberal. That is not to advocate for some sort of one-issue model of voting. Being pro-life does not qualify somebody to take political office. But being pro-choice, in my view, can disqualify somebody from receiving my vote. That is the primary reason that I could never cast a vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

liberal 2I regard the pro-life cause as the most important social issue in the United States. It is not akin to other social issues. It is also frightening and extremely discouraging when people think that they can dismiss the pro-life cause and affirm abortion just by reciting their favorite one-liner. Does it never occur to them, just for a second, that all of the rhetoric and talking points could be affirming the slaughter of actual human beings? Is this something that can really be dismissed by pointing out my gender? Can you wave a dismissive hand, saying, “You’re not pro-life, you’re anti-woman” thinking that providing a new label will change the facts?

I am pro-life, and therefore I cannot be a liberal, because this is more than a social issue. Not only does it involve the slaying of what the science of embryology reveals to be biological human beings, but it also fundamentally changes our view of humanity. Not only am I pro-life, but I am also a Christian, which means that I have a very high view of the intrinsic worth of human beings.

What Are We, Really?

liberal 3There are two aspects of what human beings are that need to be considered. First, there is the scientific and material aspect, and second, there is the philosophical and theological question of what we are. Insofar as that first question is concerned, human beings are chunks of matter, much like a table or rock. However, we have certain other traits that distinguish us from inanimate objects. We possess consciousness and the ability to think deeply and ask difficult questions. These questions come from the interworking of the human brain, specifically relevant to the study of neuroscience. It may be said that human beings are very complex chunks of matter. That is beyond dispute.

liberal 4But suppose we were to give the material realm and the scientist full authority to determine what human beings are. Many scientists would reject that authority, but many would not. If we were to adopt metaphysical naturalism, then human beings would be complex chunks of matter, and nothing more. If that were the case, then it would seem difficult to raise any objections to the practice of abortion on moral grounds. But, that would be a two-edged sword, because it would also make it very difficult to raise objections to any moral practice, including misogyny, bigotry, pedophilia, et cetera. There is a sense in which we recognize that we are something more than chunks of matter.

I have already introduced the philosophical question by pointing out the possibility of metaphysical naturalism. But I think that we can all recognize that we truly are something more than merely chunks of matter. We certainly are that, but there is something more. We recognize that our fellow man has intrinsic moral value that cannot be set aside. It would be wrong to commit a crime against another person because they deserve better. The concept of human rights is grounded upon our intrinsic value. If we did not have any intrinsic value, then human rights would sway to and fro, based on the opinion of the collective bodies. That is why we cry out in rage when we see somebody violated. They possess intrinsic moral value, and they deserve better. As a Christian, I believe that people possess intrinsic moral value based on the fact that they were made in the image of God.

What Is The Fetus?

One may respond that while we recognize that biological human beings possess intrinsic moral value, the fetus is not a biological human being. It is just a little fish thing. It is merely a clump of cells. Well, first, arbitrarily changing the title of the fetus to a “clump of cells” does not change the facts of the situation. As I pointed out, you are also a clump of cells. All human beings are clumps of cells. Some are larger than others. But the identification as a clump of cells does not negate the fact that you are a biological human being.

In fact, the identification as a biological human being is generally something that pro-choice advocates are willing to concede. There is really no debate even among scientists. The debate is over, and it has been over for nearly one hundred years. The fetus is human. In his article, Elijah Thompson made this point, quoting the Former Planned Parenthood President, Dr. Alan Guttmacher. Guttmacher said that the zygote was the beginning of the human life. He wrote, “This all seems so simple and evidence that it is difficult to picture a time when it wasn’t part of the common knowledge.” Again, this is simply not a point of contention among scientists in the field. If you would like further support, Life News collected 40 quotes from medical experts, many of whom are not pushing the pro-life agenda, but are just reciting the facts of biology.

Second, the Law of Identity seems to support the pro-life notion that the fetus is human even at the earliest stage of development. The Law of Identity states that A is always equal to A. If you were to see an ultrasound of me, Richard, when I was at the earliest stage of development, you would rightly be able to say, “That is Richard.” I could rightly say, “At one point in my past, I was a fetus in the womb.” But if you accept the premise, “It is wrong to end Richard’s life,” then that premise would apply to every stage in my development.

But you are not considering the circumstances.

This is typically where the pro-choice advocate will direct the conversation at this juncture. They will say that under certain circumstances, it will be acceptable to have an abortion, to take the life of a biological human being. If the woman was not ready to have a baby, if she thought it might have a bad life, if she was afraid, alone, or something like that, then she will be justified in getting an abortion. But all that this line of reasoning has done is to remove the intrinsic moral value that human beings possess. Why is that? It is because intrinsic value is value that one possesses in and of oneself rather than based on external conditions.

Cash, for example, has extrinsic value. It is valuable only because we regard it as valuable. But if you brought it to a tribe in the Brazilian rainforest, they would think that it was suitable only for burning to keep them warm by the fire. In and of itself, cash is just paper. Similarly, if human beings do not possess value in certain circumstances, then they do not possess intrinsic moral value. They possess extrinsic value and it can be disposed at your choosing.

One may be willing to bite the bullet and say, “Yes, that is true, and we just have to deal with it.” But before you do that, consider the campaign of women’s rights. It is predicated upon the premise that all people, men and women alike, are equal. But if human beings do not have intrinsic moral value, then the very premise of women’s rights, or anybody’s rights, will have to be discarded. Nobody has any real rights. Nobody can say that they are truly equal with anybody else. The practice of abortion claims to derive from the campaign of women’s rights. At the same time, though, the philosophy of abortion dictates that under certain circumstances, it is acceptable to kill human beings. That is extrinsic value, while the philosophy of women’s rights is intrinsic value. That would just seem to be an example of having your cake, and eating it too. The problem is that the practice of abortion undermines the very foundation of women’s rights.

Freedom Only Extends So Far

Nobody reading this believes in absolute freedom, in which anybody can do anything that they want. Nobody wants absolute bodily autonomy, to do anything they want with their body. The only sustainable model of human rights is one that comes with limitations, that does not allow you to violate the rights of other people. You are free to do anything that you want, so long as it does not violate another human being. A husband is not free to abuse his wife. His rights end where hers begin. A father is not free to abuse his son. His rights end where the child’s begins. Similarly, a woman is not free to kill her baby. Her rights end where the baby’s begins.

That is why when the issue of bodily autonomy comes up in the context of the abortion debate, they misapplying their freedom. When people say that “it is my body and therefore it is my choice,” they are not making a whole lot of sense. Your rights and your choice only extend so far. They end at the rights of another. With the practice of abortion, people violate those rights. They overstep the boundaries that are set for human rights and violate the rights of another.

If you are inclined to say that if the fetus is inside of your body, then it has no rights, then you have committed the same fallacy as the prior subsection. You are creating extrinsic factors that determine the value of a human being. If you want to maintain a consistent philosophy of abortion, you will need to maintain that human beings have intrinsic moral value which allows you to have rights. But by doing that, you will undermine abortion entirely. So, the idea of a consistent philosophy of abortion is really a misnomer. If you think that human beings have extrinsic value, then you have no basis for saying that you have the right to an abortion. If you think that human beings have intrinsic value, then you have conceded the right to an abortion to the right to life.

A Philosophy With Frightening Potential

With so many people howling, “it is not a person” about a biological human being, one can hardly be blamed for harking back to the other times in history in which human beings were designated as non-persons for some extrinsic factors (such as white skin). We can kill these human beings because they lack some extrinsic property. Without the foundation of intrinsic moral value, it becomes very difficult to say what other atrocities this will lead to. Think for a moment of all of the reasons that people get an abortion. They are afraid that the baby will have a bad life. He will live in poverty. She will be a burden. I’m not ready.

I am not trying to downplay the struggles of my fellow man. But I do think that these are important to point out. Many (if not all) of these reasons could apply equally to infanticide. How can you make the argument for the fetus in the womb, but not a couple of months later after the baby emerges from the womb? What basis is there? Similarly, what intellectual resource could you appeal to that would prevent genocide based on some extrinsic factor that a group of people have in common? There just does not seem to be any stopping power to the philosophy of abortion.

This is not to be taken as a slippery-slope argument. I am not saying that this will inevitably happen. I am saying that this is what the philosophy of abortion entails. There is just no resource to prevent other moral atrocities against human beings. The life of a human being is worth less than the external factors that are relevant to the parents. There are no good reasons that we could not disconnect any of the common justifications for abortion from justification for infanticide.

My Pro-Life Convictions Will Always Prevent Me From Being A Liberal

Why pro-life? Why would that bother you so much that you refuse to vote liberal? It bothers me because it ultimately degrades human beings. It makes us into mere animals with no intrinsic moral value. If that philosophy were truly applied and followed to its’ logical conclusions, then there would be no intellectual guard against devaluing of human beings in other contexts. So when Rachel Held Evans says that she is pro-life but voting for Hillary Clinton, that seems to be the height of inconsistency.

There are, tragically, so many Christians are just apathetic about the pro-life cause. It is just one social issue among many. Gun rights, abortion, immigration. They are all thought to be in the same category. But they are not. The philosophy of abortion undermines the very foundation of human rights. The practice of abortion really does end the life of human beings. I cannot be a liberal because I am adamantly opposed to that practice and that philosophy.



The Case For Animal Death Before The Fall of Man

death 1The creation controversy is very important to people who hold different perspectives for different reasons. As an old earth creationist, I believe that it is important to an effective witness. Young earth creationists believe that it is important because they think that they are the bastion of scriptural authority. Perhaps one of the most significant aspects of this debate is the issue of death before the Fall of man. Typically, old earth creationists hold that God created the earth over 4 billion years ago. Before the creation of man, there was dinosaurs, a flourishing ecosystem, and millennia upon millennia of death. Young earth creationists believe that this strongly compromises the biblical narrative. In this article, I will make the case for animal death before the Fall of man.

death 2I should also point out that this is one area that many young earth creationists take very seriously. Death before the fall is not akin to the interpretation of the days of creation. Some will go so far as to say that the view that animals died before the Fall of man is actual heresy. Others will suggest that it portrays God as being evil. This issue of whether there was or could be death before the Fall is probably one of the most inflamed debates within the creation controversy. So, what are the arguments and counterarguments worth considering?

Was God’s Creation Perfect Or Very Good?
After the creation week, God declared that this creation was very good (Genesis 1:31). Young earth creationists will typically interpret that to mean that the creation was perfect. By implication, there was no animal death. If God overlooked a world containing predation, suffering, disease, thorns and thistles, and said that it was very good, he would be, in the words of Ken Ham, an ogre. Christians who have had discussions with atheists will probably have encountered a form of this objection. Atheists will tell us that there is so much evil and suffering in the world that for God to allow it, he would have to be malicious in his intentions.

death 3In responding to the young earth creationists, the first thing that we might point out is that the same theodicy that we apply in debates with atheists can also be applied here. Perhaps one of the most powerful theodicies is the lack of a logical disconnect between the existence of suffering and death and the existence of a good God. It is possible for God to have morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil and suffering. Similarly, it is possible for God to have morally sufficient reasons for creating a world infused with animal death. To say that this makes God into an ogre would logically lead you to concede this theodicy to the force of atheism. Of course, that is unthinkable, because that is precisely the theodicy that God used in the book of Job (chapters 38-41).

death 4But, the response may come, nonetheless, the text says that the creation was perfect. Well, I do not think that there are any good reasons to think that “very good” means that it is “perfect.” I think that it is possible that God established an ecosystem in which life would flourish and be abundant. Predation is central to a flourishing ecosystem. Some breeds of animals cannot even survive if there are no predators in the environment. Overpopulation and disease become prevalent. In some cases, it is necessary to introduce predators into an environment for the sake of the species that they are hunting. So, when God said that the creation was “very good” that could just be a reference to the flourishing ecosystem.

One could take this argument a step further and point out that there are elements of the creation that indicate that it is imperfect, but still very good. First, the serpent in the Garden of Eden was certainly not perfect. The tree of good and evil was something over which God would say, “This is perfect.” Most profoundly, the capacity to sin was not a manifestation of perfection. There are several exegetical reasons to think that the original creation in Genesis 1 was not a perfect creation. This seems to undercut the implication that there could be no animal death before the Fall.

Will Animals Be Redeemed?
Death was introduced into the world as a consequence of sin. Of death, Romans 5:12 tells us, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 3:23 tells us that the wage of sin is death. The reason that people die is because they sin. Since everybody sins, everybody dies. But the death of man is the not the only punishment for sin. After Adam sinned in Genesis 3:17, God said, “The ground is cursed because of you.” Everything around us reminds us that we are fallen creatures in a fallen world. But if that is the case, does that entail that animal death came as a result of sin?

First, I want to indicate that this concept is foreign to the writings of Paul. In both Romans 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, the context is clearly referring to the death of men, not to animals. Of course, that does not prove that animals did not die as a result of the Fall. But exegetically, we can only infer the death of human beings as a result of sin.

Second, some have taken this a step further. Zachary Lawson has argued that if you think that animals died before the Fall (particularly on the basis of this passage), then it would follow that animals are receptive to redemption in Christ. The parallel that this passage presents is that all die in Adam and are made alive in Christ. If the former applies to animals, then the latter would have to apply to animals as well. Animals would have to be receptive to regeneration. Animals would have to be redeemed by the blood of Christ. This reductio ad absurdum seems to suggest that animals did not die as a result of the Fall. (Of course, one may point out that there will be animals in the New Heaven and New Earth, but that is different from saying that they are made alive in Christ in the sense that Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 are referring to.)

Perhaps God Created A World That Knew We Were Coming
In the drama of human experience, we have to react to situations and base our decisions on what we think the best course of action will be. In a more ideal scenario, we will be prepared for situations that arise. Unfortunately, that is often not the case and we just have to react. God is in the pleasant situation of knowing what will happen in the future. As Christians, we affirm that God has knowledge of all true propositions. Before Adam sinned, God knew that the proposition “Adam sins” would eventually be true. However, unlike us, God does not need to react to the situations that arise and make some sort of probabilistic decision. Everything that comes to pass is built into his decree. For example, when he created Adam and Eve, he did not say, “Oh, they need sustenance. I had better create some plants.” Rather, the food was already available. It was waiting for them. God knew that they were coming.

Similarly, when the great patriarchs of Israel sinned, they recognized God as their Redeemer. God had mercy on them despite that they were not worthy of mercy. This is because he knew that the cross was imminent, that Jesus would die for the sins of his people (Romans 3:21-25). The cross was retroactively effective, paying for the sin even of those who died long before Christ. I think that you are probably beginning to understand this theme. God knew that he was going to send forth his Son, so he did not just obliterate people when they sinned. He knew that Adam would be hungry, so he created food. (I apologize that this is not technical, reformed, deterministic parlance. I know that.) How does this relate to the issue of the fallen creation?

Well, it may be that God knew that sinners were coming into the world, so he created a world that was already fallen. He created a fallen world that was custom-made for fallen creatures. He would not have to wait until they had actually fallen to reactively curse the ground. Of course, then the question arises: why put creatures who are not fallen (Adam and Eve) into a fallen world? The answer is that God isolated them from the fallen world. He put them in the Garden of Eden. Then when they sinned, they were banned, hence being exposed to the real world. I do not see anything at all implausible about this interpretation.

Were They Vegetarians?
Some young earth creationists argue that if man and animals were both vegetarians, then it would follow that there was no death at all in God’s original creation. From there, they will appeal to texts such as Genesis 1:29-30, in which God gave to Adam and Eve every plant for their consumption. Later, in Genesis 3:17-19, the vegetarian diet is reinforced, until after the great deluge. At that point, Noah and his family were permitted to consume animals. But before that point, all human beings were commanded to be vegetarians, and before the Fall, all animals were vegetarians.

What are the problems with this argument? First, consider the first premise. If man and animals were both vegetarians, then there is no death at all. Well, that would only be the case if predation was the only possible way for animals to die. So, possibly, one could have a model of vegetarian animals who died. Admittedly, though, this is not a model that any old earth creationist would accept. Premise two is far more controversial. Were humans and animals truly vegetarians?

It is undeniable that God gave them plants to eat. But that is not to say that they were not permitted to eat animals. This seems to be little more than an argument from silence. If it is not recorded in the text, then God did not say it. It would only serve as an argument if we had some command that said something like, “I give you plants for your consumption, but anything that moves, you shall not touch.” This is just an argument from silence. Similarly, in Genesis 9:3, God says, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.” That is not to say that they were not permitted to eat animals prior to Genesis 9:3. Similarly, in the next verse, God commands that they not consume anything that is still alive. That is not to say that it was acceptable prior to Genesis 9:4. In Genesis 9:5-6, God commands that they not commit murder. But that is not to say that murder was acceptable prior to this utterance. The argument from vegetation is really an argument from silence.

The Parallel Between The New Earth And Eden
When Jesus returns, he will make all things new. The narrative of the Bible is not exclusively about individual salvation, (“How can I be saved?”) but about how God loves the world so much that he redeemed his creation (John 3:16). We are certainly objects of God’s affection, and that is because we are part of his world. Young earth creationists will sometimes argue that when God makes all things new, he will restore everything back to its’ original state. We lost paradise and Christ brought us back. Since there will be no animal death in the New Earth, it follows that there was no animal death in the original creation.

I think there are several reasons to think that while this may be a legitimate parallel, that does not mean that it is a precise, line-by-line parallel. There are several aspects of the New Earth that will differ from the original creation. First, we will not have the capacity to sin. In such close proximity with God, we will be so overwhelmed by his presence and his righteousness, that sin will seem unthinkable. Just as abstaining from all sin may seem unthinkable to us today, committing a single sin will seem unthinkable to us then. Consider that while Jesus was the Second Adam, he was also very different from Adam after he rose from the dead. Yet his resurrection is the first fruit of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:23). We will all rise and be glorified in the same way that Christ was, and we will inhabit the New Earth. This is one radical difference from the original creation. With this in mind, I do not know that we can make the argument that because the New Earth has a particular attribute, that therefore the original creation had that attribute.

The Case For Animal Death Before The Fall of Man
There are a few things that I want to point out as I draw this article to a close. First, I am not advocating for theistic evolution. I do not think that there were humanoids before the Fall who were biologically identical to homosapiens. I am just pointing out that one of the central arguments that young earth creationists will appeal to does not seem to be as robust as they think. Remember, it applies an atheistic objection to God’s moral duties toward us (suggesting that God would be an ogre). It reads animal death into the text of Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, when, as we saw, that interpretation leads to absurdity, and it mounts a host of arguments that I do not think can withstand scrutiny.

Nonetheless, I understand that many people are passionate about this issue. It is something that we should approach with charity and kind-heartedness. If you care to offer a critique, I ask only that you do so by examining what I said and responding to it rather than making accusations of compromise. I could just as easily accuse you of compromising for the sake of traditional values. But I will not do that because that shuts down communication.

If you would like to read more, please see my series The Age of The Earth.



Should The Testimony of Practicing Homosexuals Change Our View?

testimony 1Why do you believe the things that you do? Why do you act in a certain? Why did you marry the person that you did? These are questions with which we are all confronted at some point, and often, we appeal to our own personal narrative. We explain how we have been personally affected. People will often say that they felt a certain way, that they had a certain unquenchable desire that overwhelmed them. Individuals with a proclivity toward homosexuality often appeal to their personal narrative, and it is often a heart-wrenching story. As I pointed out in my article, Christians: Imagine You Were A Homosexual, these personal narratives should alter the way that we approach the topic in the sense that we should allow them to tell their own story without downplaying it. But many people are tempted to go a step further. Is that justifiable? Should the testimony of practicing homosexuals change our view?

testimony 2I ask this question because it is often a testimony that causes people to rethink their position. You knew somebody, perhaps your child or somebody close to you was a homosexual, and their struggles caused you to realize that it was not a sin after all. There is nothing really wrong with it. How can we say that there is something wrong with it when that very message has caused so much pain and turmoil in the life of so many individuals? That is the sort of reasoning that has persuaded so many people. However, while I am sympathetic with the struggles of my fellow man, I remain unconvinced by this line of reasoning.

It Is Purely Emotional
This is an important distinction that is overlooked far too often in our culture. One might even argue that this is from where relativism has been derived. It is not nice to tell people that they are wrong, or that Christ is the only mediator between God and man. It is not nice to tell devotees that the object of their devotion is a false god. Of course, some people (even Christians) make an effort to maliciously tell people hard truths out of pride or just to hurt their feelings. This is undoubtedly wrong. But nonetheless, we need to separate the emotional objection from the intellectual objection. What do I mean?

We may have a very powerful emotion that leads us to have sympathy with individuals. In that pursuit, we could find ourselves justifying their behavior or telling them that they are not really doing anything wrong. But this could easily turn out to be nothing more than coddling. We could just be so overwhelmed with emotion that we are willing to overlook the rational element of an issue. While the intentions to have sympathy is good, that intention is often misused. Just because we might feel sympathy for an individual or have an emotional connection with their testimony should not lead us to change our views of their behavior. It should lead us to find a legitimate outlet for that sympathy, while maintaining the distinction between emotion and intellect.

Everybody Has A Narrative
The problem with basing your beliefs on the testimony of other people is that everybody has a narrative. Anybody can tell you a story of some trial that they went through. Even hateful people have a story. Perhaps they were abused as a child or they never made any friends. Individuals who rape little children were often the victim of a rapist. Individuals who abuse women were often abused as children. This is not to say that homosexuals are akin to these people, but it is to say that everybody has a narrative. Anybody can tell you a story of something bad that happened that will cause you to have sympathy for them. But that does not justify the behavior.

In fact, two people could share a powerful narrative explaining how they came to oppose conclusions about a particular behavior. One concluded that a behavior was wrong and the other decided that they wanted to live in bliss while practicing this behavior. This seems to expose the limitations of a narrative. They can help us to relate to other individuals, but they cannot determine the truth-value of a proposition. We need to appeal to our discernment so that we are not succumbing to every emotional force that pulls us.

Defending Against Objections
Unfortunately, when we engage with friends who are homosexuals or advocate for homosexuality, they are often not willing to engage with the intellectual aspect of what is being said. They will respond with something trivial, like saying, “How can you tell other people how they can live their lives or who they can marry?” and of course, this is a rhetorical question that does not have an answer or even want one. This is because the questioner has based their beliefs about homosexuality on their own experiences or the personal narrative of another individual. This has left the questioner without any rational defense of their position.

The only recourse that remains for them is to try to communicate the powerful emotions that they feel, almost infecting the objector so that they will lay down their objections, ceding them to the power of the emotion. When that fails, the objector is referred to as hateful and a bigot. Since the questioner has based their position on emotion, then the only thing that they can do is use emotionally loaded terms, such as bigot, which essentially shuts down communication. That is one of the central problems with basing your beliefs on a narrative. Since the foundation is emotion, rational discourse will be shunned.

Of course, that is not to say that all advocates of homosexual behavior have nothing rational to say. But it is often heavily-laden in emotion. Now, one might suggest that it is impossible to make a case for a moral proposition without appealing to emotion. But I do not think ethics are that poor of a science. For example, in my article The Biblical Case Against Racism, I argued that skin color is merely an extrinsic property that one possesses, and therefore if human beings are degraded for extrinsic properties, it would follow that they do not possess any intrinsic value. This is a rational argument for a moral proposition and follows a model that we all need to consider when making our case.

What About The Narrative of Homosexuals Who Are No Longer Practicing Homosexuality?
Advocates of homosexual behavior have very negative things to say about so-called ex-homosexuals. They will suggest that those people always come back. They are living a lie and their lives are unfulfilled. They have to change who they are in a fundamental way. This strikes me as exceedingly ironic. While advocates of homosexuality will argue that we need to respect the narrative of homosexuals and allow them to tell their own story, they disrespect the narrative of people who have abandoned that lifestyle and called their entire narrative into question.

This is really because it cuts to the core of their own personal narrative. As Christians, we all individually maintain [1] I am the worst of sinners, worse even than homosexuals (1 Timothy 1:15), [2] the Bible explicitly condemns homosexual behavior as a sin (1 Corinthians 6:9), and [3] Christ can set you and I free from that sin and give us new life. The testimony of the homosexual who is no longer practicing gives credence to [2] and [3].

But, if (at least [3]) is true, then that cuts to the core of the homosexual’s narrative. For central to their narrative is that they cannot change. They cannot alter their behavior and if they did, they would find their abode in a miserable existence. Ironically, they will try to impose their narrative onto other people. Everyone who leaves the homosexual lifestyle must be living a miserable existence. Yet the freedom to tell their own story is precisely what they are trying to maintain. Just as I should not impose my assumptions onto their narrative, they should not impose their narrative onto another person.

The Difference Between Bigotry And Criticism
Earlier, I alluded to the fact that in these dialogues, objectors to homosexuality are often referred to as hateful bigots. This emotionally loaded accusation should raise a few questions for us, primarily, what does it mean to be a bigot? A bigot is somebody who is utterly intolerant of opposing opinions. They are not willing to allow somebody who engages in homosexual behavior into their society. They will shout them down, cover their proverbial mouths and never listen to what they have to say. Now, I will be the first to admit that many Christians truly are guilty of bigotry. But, many who are accused of bigotry are not truly guilty of bigotry.

This is because anybody who objects to homosexual behavior or same sex marriage is hastily referred to as a bigot. But is criticism really bigotry? Being tolerant does not mean that we all agree. It means that we disagree and that we overlook those disagreements in a free society. We can have a debate. We can discuss the merits and demerits of a position, even if it is very close to the heart of an individual. Bigotry would be to refuse to overlook those disagreements and to not allow discussion.

Criticism is not bigotry. A criticism of an idea or a practice is not bigotry. It is also not hateful. It would only be hateful if it were an attack on the individual person, using derogatory names and smearing tactics. Again, I admit that many Christians truly have engaged in bigoted behavior. But it is a mistake to conflate all criticism with bigotry. In fact, if you do that, then you probably do fit the technical definition of what a bigot is. A bigot is not so broad as to include anybody who disagrees with you.

The Problem of Celibacy
This is problem one of the most significant challenges that derives from the testimony of our friends who advocate for homosexual behavior. There was a point that they were confronted with the reality that they will spend their entire lives alone, never to marry, never to have children, never to have a family. Men such as Matthew Vines, the author of God And The Gay Christian will point out that this was one of the most significant challenges that he faced. He knew that he could never love a woman. He knew that if he accepted that homosexual behavior was truly sinful, he would be alone throughout his entire life. This is perhaps one of the more emotionally daunting challenges that comes out of the testimony.

But there are three things that we say by way of response. First, again, we need to isolate emotion and ask what is true rather than how we are feeling about a particular topic. Nothing about this aspect of the testimony changes anything. Second, and critically, the homosexual is not condemned to live a life of celibacy. In his testimony video, filmed at Kennesaw State University a good friend of mine explained how he was once a practicing homosexual and now he is happily engaged to a woman. He struggled with the same fears as many other homosexuals, that he would be alone for his entire life. I once asked him if he ever thought that he would marry a woman, and he basically had the same answer that Matthew Vines did. While it may seem hopeless, if you commit yourself to righteousness, you will eventually meet the right person.

Third, even if you do live a life of celibacy, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Being alone and being lonely are two very different things. Of singleness, Paul the apostle wrote, “I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” (1 Corinthians 7:7). He referred to singleness as a gift rather than as a curse. There is nothing about a life of celibacy that is an intrinsic demerit.

It Is Who I Am
Often in the these testimonies, people will identify homosexuality as an intrinsic property of who they are. For somebody to suggest that they stop practicing homosexuality is essentially to suggest that they change who they are. That may be why it is that they see criticism of homosexuality as a criticism of them as people. We are attacking a fundamental aspect of them as individuals. They are homosexual. That is how they identify themselves. To disconnect from that is to disconnect from themselves.

But are people really defined by the proclivities that they possess? Are they defined by their desires? If somebody has a sweet tooth, they may enjoy eating cheesecake. Despite that, the property “eating cheesecake” is not definition to who you are as a human being. Similarly, if a man or a woman has a desire for multiple sexual partners, that desire is an extrinsic property. It is not part of who they are. It is something that can be altered and the “who” of these individuals will still persist. In the same way, homosexual proclivities and behaviors are not definitional. They are extrinsic properties, and if they are removed, the “who” of these individuals would obtain.

Finally, there is a sense in which we all have to lay ourselves down. That is not unfamiliar to any Christian who has been born again. We yield ourselves, everything we are, to Christ. Jesus said in Matthew 10:39, “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” The apostle Paul wrote, “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives through me.” (Galatians 2:20). The old man is dead. He has been nailed to the cross with Christ. The new arises with the resurrection. His death is our death and his resurrection is our resurrection.

If you would like to read similar content, please check out my other articles about homosexuality.



Free E-Book – The Open Minded Christian: How To Engage Charitably With Fellow Sinners

BookCoverPreviewA few months ago, I published my book onto Amazon and sold it for $4. However, after much consideration, I have decided that I do not want to sell it. I would rather give it away for free. If you are interested in my free e-book – The Open Minded Christian: How To Engage Charitably With Fellow Sinners, then use this link. It will provide the option to download so that you can read it on your Kindle or read it on the browser.

Unfortunately, however, I cannot give away physical copies for free. They are currently available for purchase on Amazon. I think that the total price is somewhere around $10. (Note: as of this writing, I have recently made a few edits to the book. Currently waiting for Amazon to approve the edits. When the approval process is finished, I will share the link here).

What is this book about? Why is it called The Open Minded Christian? Followers of this blog will certainly know that it is not a treatise in liberal theology. It is a book about exercising humility and self-reflection so that you can be a more effective witness. This will also help us to relate with other Christians so that we are not condemning one another for secondary beliefs.

I made the point to outline precisely what heresy is and how we can combat avoid referring to people as heretics when they are not. A heretic is somebody who confesses heresy. They are not somebody who is inconsistent in their theology. Further, a heretic is not anybody with whom you are angry. Throughout this book, I made the point that no matter who we find ourselves engaging with, we should also do it in charity. I believe that anybody who reads this and actively tries to apply the principles therein will find that they are a better witness for Christ, whether in dialogue with believers or with unbelievers.



Is The Oneness Versus Trinity Debate Theological Nitpicking?

nit 1Followers of this blog will know that I have spent a lot of time writing about Oneness Pentecostalism, because, as I pointed out in my article My Conversion From Oneness Pentecostalism To Biblical Christianity, I used to be a Oneness Pentecostal and I think that this issue is very important. However, some Christians have replied to my posts defending the trinity by suggesting that this debate is just theological nitpicking. Trinitarians believe that there is one God who is eternally present in three persons. Oneness Pentecostals believe that there is one God and that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are manifestations of that unipersonal God. We both believe that Jesus is God, so why does it even matter? Is the Oneness versus Trinity debate just theological nitpicking?

nit 2In the name of transparency, I will state at the outset that I do not think that this is a secondary issue. Oneness Pentecostals are not our brethren. They need evangelism because they preach a different gospel and a different Jesus. Those words may be hard to hear and some may accuse me of being overzealous or inflammatory, but that is the hard truth. I wish with all of my heart that I could affirm Oneness Pentecostals as brethren. There are many fine ladies gentlemen who seem to have a sincere heart within the Oneness Pentecostal movement. But I must base my convictions on Scripture and nothing else. (However, I do think that there could be some members of the Oneness Pentecostal church who are saved.) So, why have I taken this position? Why is the Oneness versus Trinity debate more than theological nitpicking?

To Whom Did Jesus Offer Himself As A Sacrifice?
While it may not be the position of the sophisticated scholars within the Oneness Pentecostal church, the average parishioner in a Oneness Pentecostal congregation will ascribe to a view known as patripassianism. This is the view that the Father himself died on the cross of Calvary. The Father was hungry, thirsty, and tempted. The Father endured the passion of the Christ. It might even be said that there was no Father in Heaven and that he was exclusively on earth. As a man, the Father died on the cross.

But this brings us back to one of the most important, central doctrines of the Christian faith. Why did Jesus die on the cross? The apostle Paul tells us that Jesus died as a sacrifice for our sins, dying in our place, taking the punishment that we deserve (Romans 3:21-25). We are criminals in God’s sight, and Jesus stepped in and paid our fine. Now, just as his death was our death, his resurrection is our resurrection. As trinitarians, we maintain that Jesus offered himself up as a sacrifice to the Father. That is why Jesus said, “Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46).

If it was the Father himself who died on the cross, then to whom did Jesus offer himself as a sacrifice? It seems to me that the answer would have to be nobody. It was the Father himself who died on the cross. But Paul tells us that Jesus died to satisfy the wrath of God. Hebrews 10:12 tells us that Jesus offered himself once and for all. If it was the Father who died, then he did not offer himself to anybody, and there was no atonement. Patripassianism therefore seems to undercut the central doctrine of the faith.

Honoring The Son
Perhaps this is why the sophisticated Oneness Pentecostal theologians do not ascribe to patripassianism. They have developed a more nuanced theology. Men such as David Bernard, David Norris, Robert Sabin and Nathaniel Urshan maintain that it was not the Father who died on the cross. The Son did. The Son was the human nature of Jesus. The Father was the divine nature. Of course, as Christians, we believe that Jesus had two natures: one human and one divine. But these theologians have titled the divine nature Father and the human nature Son. From this it follows that it was the Son who died on the cross, not the Father.

There are two problems with this view that I think cut to the core of Christianity. First, consider why it is that the atonement was efficacious. Why was it at all effective? Sometimes atheists will ask how it is that the death of one man could atone for all of the sins of the world. He was just one man, after all. It would be something like if I tried to pay off the national debt by donating one dollar to the federal government. It is just insufficient. However, God as an infinite bank account. If God died on the cross, atoning for our sins, then this problem would be resolved. Jesus Christ is worth so much that his death could atone for our sins. But if it were merely the human nature of Jesus that died, how could we say that our sins were truly atoned for? It would just be the death of a man – a single dollar, paying off the debt of the federal government.

What is the second problem with this view? Well, for us to view the Son as merely a human being does not ascribe the honor to the Son that is due to him. The disciples worshipped the Son in a religious context as a divine figure (Matthew 14:33). For us to refuse to honor the Son is to refuse to honor God. That is why Jesus said in John 5:22-23 that everyone who does not honor the Son in exactly the same way that they honor the Father fails to honor the Father. It would seem then that those who fail to honor the Son fall under the condemnation of 1 John 2:23, which reads, “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.”

Is God A Master of Illusions?
How do we know that the doctrine of the trinity is true? Often, we will appeal to the baptism of the Lord Jesus. When he was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove and we could hear the voice of the Father from Heaven. There seem to clearly be three distinct persons in this image. That seems inescapable. How do Oneness Pentecostals escape it? Typically, they will suggest that since God is omnipresent, he can appear as three persons at the same time, and this is not a problem. They are just different manifestations. They will say the same thing about when Jesus was praying.

Some might be inclined to think that this is an equally valid interpretation, and so neither the prayers nor the baptism of Jesus can be used as an argument for the distinction of persons. I think that is a little misguided. If God were exercising his omnipresence in these instances, then that would just be to say that God was tricking people into believing the trinity. God appeared as three persons. How can anybody truly be blamed for believing in the trinity when God is appearing as three distinct persons? God would have to be a master of illusions and deception. The relationship between the Father and the Son that is portrayed in the prayer life of Jesus would be an utter farce. Jesus would be praying only to himself. That is why this is more than theological nitpicking. As trinitarians, we maintain that we can believe that which God has revealed. God is not putting on a show or tricking us.

They Are Two Different Gods
This is one point that many people may find difficult to grasp. After all, Oneness Pentecostals do believe that Jesus was God. They believe in the incarnation. How can we say that they are different gods? We may disagree about the extrinsic characteristics of God, but it would still be the same God because they believe in the incarnation, right? Well, I do not think that is the case. Oneness Pentecostals may believe in the incarnation, but the one who became incarnate would have to be a different God. A Hindu could believe in the incarnation, that one of the gods because a man and walked the earth as Jesus of Nazareth. But it would be a different god. So, why is Oneness Pentecostalism in the same category?

This is where the doctrine of God becomes important. If the intrinsic (unchanging, necessary) qualities of God are different, then I do not see how we would have the same God. Oneness Pentecostalism holds to a unipersonal conception of God. Trinitarians maintain a tri-personal conception of God. We believe in a God who is eternally present in three persons. Do Oneness Pentecostals believe in that God? If they do not, then I do not see how we can affirm that they believe in the same God.

One might be inclined to suggest that all Christians disagree about something. I might believe in credobaptism over paedobaptism (that is an example, not an affirmation). Would my reasoning entail that I believed in a different God? I do not think so. The debate between credo and paedo does not compromise the intrinsic characteristics of God. They only alter how God relates to the world and the manifestation of his covenants. But the trinitarian God is not the same deity as the unipersonal God.

All of The Corollaries To Oneness Theology
Oneness Theology does not come in a vacuum. If you were preparing to ascribe to Oneness, you would likely merge into a Oneness Pentecostal church. They maintain many beliefs that are in utter contrast to Christian theology and stand opposed to the gospel of grace. You may be able to find some obscure oneness church that does not maintain the corollaries of Oneness Theology, but they would be few and far between. You would most likely find yourself in a Oneness Pentecostal church. What are these corollaries?

Well, first, you would have to be re-baptized into a oneness formula. They believe that to be saved, one must recite the words “In the name of Jesus.” This is because baptism is the mechanism that washes away sins, and the words “in the name of Jesus” is what makes the baptism effective. But even after your sins are washed away by the waters of baptism, you would still not be secure. You would need to go through the baptism of the Holy Spirit with evidence of speaking in tongues.

One could make an argument that this is consistent with a gospel of pure grace, but I do not think that it is. The apostle Paul tells us that justification is by faith alone (Romans 4:5) and that anyone who adds to this gospel is under the curse of God (Galatians 1:8). With this checklist model of salvation, it seems difficult to disassociate Oneness Theology from the condemnation of the Judaizers. (Note: our Lutheran brethren maintain that baptism is necessary for salvation, but that it is an expression of pure monergism and justification by faith alone. They do not fall under the condemnation of the Judaizers.)

Put The Debate Aside – Just Preach The Gospel
That is what people will say in response to articles about Oneness Pentecostalism, especially my series Oneness Pentecostal Heresy. Why focus so much on debates when you could be preaching the gospel to non-believers? The answer is simple. This is not just a minute theological point that we can forget about. I cannot just join arms with a Marcus Rogers and preach the gospel alongside him. As much as I like him and my other Oneness Pentecostal friends, that is not something that I could do in good conscience. To preach Oneness is to preach another God, another Jesus, and another gospel.

Therefore, there is a sense in which by engaging in these debates, we are in fact preaching the gospel to unbelievers. People who openly repudiate the doctrine of the trinity and justification by faith alone are not those who we can partner with to share the gospel with the unbelieving world. They are the unbelieving world. I am sorry to say that. Mr. Rogers and the many passionate individuals like him may be zealous, committed, and kind-hearted, but that does not change the hard reality. By refusing to tell the hard truth, one is refusing to love one’s neighbor.



My Conversion From Oneness Pentecostalism To Biblical Christianity

why 1Recently, I have been publishing articles and podcasts about the topic of Oneness Pentecostalism. In fact, it is one of my favorite topics, even if speaking only as a theological and intellectual pursuit. However, there is a much more personal aspect to the issue of Oneness Pentecostalism that inspires me to write about it. Some of my readers may discern that I was a Oneness Pentecostal many years ago before converting to biblical Christianity. Now, what is Oneness Pentecostalism? You might think that I am referring to the broad charismatic movement, including faithful Pentecostal organizations such as the Assemblies of God. But that is not the case. Oneness Pentecostalism is a distinct sect within Pentecostalism that is known for denying the doctrine of the trinity, denying justification by faith alone, and their belief that all true believers will speak in tongues. Throughout this blogpost, I will relay my conversion from Oneness Pentecostalism to biblical Christianity.

why 2If you would like a more thorough analysis of Oneness Pentecostal teaching, I recommend you listen to my recent podcast episode titled What Is Oneness Pentecostalism? and my series of blogposts titled Oneness Pentecostal Heresy. For the sake of this blogpost, any arguments that I present will be done in brevity. I will not thoroughly analyze points and counterpoints raised by Oneness Pentecostal theologians. I am only relaying some of the important factors of my story.

What Good Reasons Are There To Believe?
As a Oneness Pentecostal, I was often burdened with this question. Why should I believe in the Christian faith? That is not to say that I was struggling with the biblical foundation for Oneness Pentecostalism. I was not. I was struggling with what good reasons there were to believe in that biblical foundation at all. Why should I believe in the Bible? Why should I believe that I am really experiencing the Holy Spirit, as was so often emphasized in the Oneness Pentecostal church? The answers that came back were often unsatisfying and just left more questions.

Christian preachers often argue that the Bible is true on the basis of the resurrection. They might say something like, “Muhammad is dead. Buddha is dead. But Jesus is alive” and that is meant to serve as a foundation for our belief. I think that certainly is true. But that seems to only push the question back another step. I wanted to know what good reasons there were to believe that Jesus really was alive. I sought answers everywhere, including charismatic experiences and speaking in tongues. I hoped that tongues would serve as the evidence for the faith. After all, how could I say that my faith was in vain when I knew a whole new language?

But doubt crept in, because, after all, tongues can be faked. Anyone can speak in tongues, including Pagan religionists. So I began to ask God to “strengthen my faith.” Those were my exact words, several times. I wanted God to give me a greater depth of belief; not necessarily to overcome the doubts by providing some sort of justification for my faith, but to simply strengthen my faith.

Shortly after I started asking for that, a relative of mine brought a book to the Oneness Pentecostal church and placed it on the bookshelf. It was titled I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist by Dr. Frank Turek. This relative of mine did not really have an interest in apologetics, so her purchasing it and bringing it to the church seems uncanny (as I think retroactively). I did not realize it at the time, but when I started reading that book, that was when my conversion from Oneness Pentecostalism began. I regard my finding that book as highly providential.

These Authors Were Trinitarians
As I read through Dr. Turek’s case for Christianity, I was very compelled by his style of writing and the points that he was making. This was very much my introduction into Christian apologetics that eventually developed into this website and podcast that I have started. After reading I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist, I realized that I was not finished yet with apologetics. This was not a topic that I was going to just put away. So I looked up Dr. Turek’s debate with Christopher Hitchens. This led me to the apologetics ministry of Dr. William Lane Craig and several other Christian scholars.

However, as I was watching videos of Dr. Craig, Dr. Turek, and several other apologists, I came to realize that they were trinitarians. For some reason, I had not even thought about whether they believed in the trinity. Yet these seemed like godly men. They did not seem like compromisers or heretics. They seemed like fine Christian gentlemen who labored for the name of Christ. Now, that by itself was not an argument, but it did cause me to think twice. Particularly, about the way that they defined their faith.

The Blatant Misrepresentations
As a Oneness Pentecostal, I was taught several things about the doctrine of the trinity and the way that trinitarian churches practiced their faith. I was taught that the doctrine of the trinity was the view that there are three gods. But as Dr. Craig explained the doctrine of the trinity, it became clear that it was predicated upon strict monotheism. Dr. Craig said that there is one God who is eternally present in three persons, which is the historic doctrine of the trinity. So, why is it that Oneness Pentecostal pastors tell their parish that the trinity is the view that there are three gods? This seems to wholly undermine their credentials as a teacher.

But that blatant misrepresentation was not the only one that I had come to encounter. Oneness Pentecostal pastors also said that other churches taught that one does not need the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is unnecessary. They represented the doctrine of justification by faith alone as though it were just a sinner’s prayer that one recites and then is saved with no repentance. Everywhere I turned, every single time that a Oneness Pentecostal pastor represented the faith of other Christians, they were abjectly misrepresenting it. This experience is not unique to me, as evidenced by the fact that the majority of Oneness Pentecostals that we encounter believe that the trinity is the view that there are three gods.

What does this misrepresentation mean? Obviously, even with all of that being the case, that does not mean that Oneness Pentecostalism is false. Nonetheless, it was very significant to me that the pastors who were respected as teachers seemed to have absolutely no idea what they were talking about. They had no idea if they were correct, had never investigated what trinitarians believed, but preached it over the pulpit as though it were the truth. That was very disquieting.

The Necessity of Tongues And Baptism And Oneness Theology
By this point, I had already immersed myself in Christian apologetics and had even started this blog. However, none of the posts from this period in my life prevailed (I deleted them long ago). I was investigating the issues, but I was still a Oneness Pentecostal at the core. What do I mean? I believed in oneness theology, that baptism “in the name of Jesus” is the biblical model, and that the tongues in the book of Acts generally followed those who received the Holy Spirit. But I began to deny one crucial element of the Oneness Pentecostal faith, namely, that these doctrines were necessary for salvation.

In fact, I began to find it offensive that Oneness Pentecostal pastors would suggest that trinitarians were not true Christians. I thought that I was part of a renaissance of young Oneness Pentecostals who affirmed trinitarians as brethren, and that in the next few generations, Oneness Pentecostals would be regarded as a legitimate Christian denomination by the church at large. While there were many young people who affirmed what I believed, it was still the majority position that trinitarians were not saved.

I recall a sermon about Matthew 7:22f, when Jesus said, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.” The preacher declared that this verse is referring to those Christians believe in the trinity and who do not speak in tongues. If I remember correctly, that sermon marked the last time that I attended a Oneness Pentecostal church as a member.

Amazing Grace
This might seem like a nice story, but up to this point, the keen observer will note that something is missing. I merged into a trinitarian church and learned true doctrine and was henceforth a practicing Christian. That does not seem to be a sufficient end to that story. It lacks the narrative of how I was born again. Shortly after my leaving the Oneness Pentecostal church, I began to reflect on the sin in my life. I realized that I regarded righteousness as something like a legalistic cage that I had to impose on myself. The picture of the natural and carnal man in the Bible really did apply to me. Righteousness was not something that I wanted.

Somebody soon recommended me to read Dr. John Piper’s book Desiring God. Piper suggested that Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of human joy, and that if you do not have joy, then you are not a Christian. We are righteous out of our love for Christ, because our cup is overflowing and we want to share with others. After I finished the book, I listened to a sermon by Dr. John MacArthur, and the topic of that sermon was the cross of Jesus. Contemplating the cross, that Jesus Christ died for the sins of his people and that he offers the free gift of everlasting life to anyone who will believe, the love of God was infused into my heart and I was saved.

It is remarkable to think that I could go from denying the trinity and believing that only Oneness Pentecostals are saved to believing in a gospel of pure grace, a trinitarian salvation at its’ core, and that salvation is a free gift of God, that we are justified solely by faith alone in the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf. Writing this, I am reminded of the words of one of my favorite hymns, Amazing Grace.

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found.
Was blind but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.



Does The Old Testament Favor Oneness Pentecostalism?

oneness 1We start with the Old Testament and read the New Testament in light of that. That is what we often hear from Oneness Pentecostals who are attempting to mount an argument against trinitarian theology. They will say that trinitarians are starting with the New Testament and reading the Old in light of it, and that is an incorrect methodology. If you read the Bible from cover to cover, perhaps the most crucial theme that emerged is that God is inescapably one. When you get to the New Testament, that concept cannot be compromised. It needs to be read in light of the strong affirmation of absolutely oneness in the Old Testament. Are they right? Does the Old Testament favor Oneness Pentecostalism?

oneness 2First, what is Oneness Pentecostalism? Readers of this blog will know that I have written extensively about this topic (see my series Oneness Pentecostal Heresy). Oneness Pentecostalism is a movement that adheres to neo-modalism, denying the doctrine of the trinity. They believe that God is only one person, and that person is Jesus. Jesus has simply manifested himself in different ways. Jesus is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They claim to draw this (perhaps primarily) from the Old Testament, which declares that God is one, and therefore not three.

Isaiah 44:24 – “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself.”
It is worth beginning by pointing out that many Oneness Pentecostals believe that the doctrine of the trinity teaches that there are three gods. There is one sense in which we cannot blame them for that belief. We should blame their teaches who relayed this lie to them. There is another sense, though, in which they are responsible for learning truth on their own. A simple Google search will reveal that the Trinity states that there is one God who is eternally present in three persons. So, passages that declare monotheism actually go to support the first premise of the doctrine of the trinity, namely, there is only one God.

But this argument takes a more robust form when this particular verse is used. The Oneness Pentecostal may grant that the doctrine of the trinity states that there is one God who is eternally present in three persons. At this juncture, they may read Isaiah 44:24 and ask, “Who is speaking?” If one person of the trinity is speaking, then it would follow that the other two persons were not involved in creation. It does seem, though, that there is only one person speaking. To say, “I am the LORD” is to use a singular, personal pronoun. Therefore, they will suggest that there was only one person speaking, and this seems to falsify the doctrine of the trinity.

There are a few things that we may say in response to this. First, consider the scope of this passage. God is responding to the influence of Paganism; the doctrine that there are multiple gods who had a hand in creation. He is saying that he alone created the universe. The doctrine of the trinity is simply not in view. To use it as a falsification of the trinity is to overreach the boundaries of this passage. Second, since the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are all truly God, any of them could rightly say, “I alone am God.” There is a sense in which they are all in each other. In John 14:11, Jesus said, “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me.” In summary, then, whoever is speaking here has a specific scope in mind. He is referring to the being of God over and against Pagan mythology which asserts that there are other gods. That says nothing about the trinitarian doctrine that there is one God who is eternally present in three persons.

Genesis 19:24 – “Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven.”
The early chapters of the book of Genesis chronicle the birth of the Jewish nation, and in particular, the father of the nation, Abraham. Throughout his journey, he hears of a great city several times, and in fact, Lot (one of his kinsmen) and his wife wanted to establish a life for themselves there. But they were evil people who engaged in every manner of sexual crime. So when God approached Abraham in Genesis 18, he told him that he was going to judge them. In Genesis 19:24, we see that judgment take place. God rained brimstone and fire on the wicked city.

However, there is something remarkable about verse 24. In verse 24, there seem to be two YHWHs (the name of God, replaced by LORD in most translations). There is the YHWH on earth, who was standing before Abraham, and the YHWH who was in Heaven, sending fire and brimstone down onto the earth. Of course, Oneness Pentecostals could conjure up an interpretation of this passage. They might say that God manifested himself in different ways (he is omnipresent, after all). But the question is, what good reasons are there to think that? It seems far more plausible and natural to read the text as portraying two YHWHs, because there are two YHWHs right there. The trinitarian model seems to make more sense of this passage than the Oneness Pentecostal model.

The Angel of The Lord
The concept of two YHWHs does not exclusively appear in Genesis 19:24. It appears in this divine figure known as the Angel of the Lord. One might be inclined to think that since his title is “Angel” that he is a created being and not God. However, throughout the Old Testament, the term angel can sometimes refer to the office or the function rather than the ontology. In short, God is sometimes referred to as “the angel of the Lord.”

Perhaps the most obvious example is in Exodus 3, when the Burning Bush appeared to Moses. In verse 2, the text explicitly says that the angel of the Lord appeared appeared to him. Yet this is one of the most central appearances of God in the Bible, where God’s very name, YHWH, was revealed. Further, in Genesis 48:16, Jacob refers to the angel of the Lord as God. In Genesis 16:10, it is the angel of the Lord who will increase the descendants of Abraham. In Joshua 5:13-15, Joshua bows down and worships the angel of the Lord. A strong case can be made that the angel of the Lord is the Lord himself. It may also be said that when the article “the” precedes the angel of the Lord, it is referring to God himself. When “an angel of the Lord” appears, he never behaves like God, receives worship, or claims to be God. But when “the” angel of the Lord is present, then the Lord is present.

What does this mean? Could it just be that “the angel of the Lord” is just one more manifestation of the unipersonal God? I think that there are good reasons to think that is not the case. In Zechariah 1:12, the angel of the Lord spoke with the Lord. He said, “O LORD of hosts, how long will You have no compassion for Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which You have been indignant these seventy years?” Similarly, in Exodus 23:20, God sends the angel of the Lord and commands the Israelites to obey him, giving the angel his name. Since God shares his glory with no one, we may posit that the trinitarian model outstrips the Oneness model on this count.

Seeing The Face of God
According to Exodus 33:20, nobody can see the face of God and live. Since God is unipersonal on Oneness Pentecostalism, there is only one face to be seen, and if you see the face of God, you will not live. This is echoed again in John 1:18. In resolving this problem, John tells us that “the only begotten God, who is at the bosom of the Father, he has explained him.” We can see the face of the Son, and live, but we cannot see the face of the Father and live. Since the Son is the perfect representation of the Father (Hebrews 1:3, John 14:9), it is sufficient for us to see the Son and recognize that we have seen the face of God. However, Oneness Pentecostals believe that the Son is a characteristic of the Incarnation. Before the Incarnation, Jesus was the Father. So it might be said that before the Incarnation, one cannot see the face of Jesus Christ and live.

With that in mind, it seems difficult to reconcile the passages in which prophets do see the face of God and live. In Genesis 32:30, after “wrestling with God,” Jacob said that he has seen the face of God. Moses saw the face of God in Exodus 33:11. The prophet Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord in Isaiah 6. In John 12:41, John specifically identifies the one he saw on the throne as Jesus. How did he see the glory of Jesus and live, if anyone who sees the glory of Jesus will not live? It seems that the trinitarian interpretation is more plausible than the Oneness interpretation, for we can say that anybody who sees the face of the Father will die, but we can behold the glory of the Son.

The Son of Man and The Ancient of Days
People often think that when Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man, he was merely referring to his humanity. When he referred to himself as the Son of God, he was referring to his deity. This is a bit too simplistic of a reading of the New Testament, but it does seem to lend credence to the Oneness position. They will suggest that when Jesus was speaking as a human, he was the Son, and when he was speaking as God, he was speaking as the Father. But when Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man, he was referring to Daniel 7, in which the prophet Daniel had a vision of the eschatological figure known as the Son of Man.

For the sake of argument, I will not mount a case that the Son of Man was God. Since Oneness Pentecostals believe that Jesus was God, I will take it as an assumption that the one who received worship from all people and shared in the glory of God was God himself. What is significant about this passage is that the Son of Man is not the only divine figure in the vision. In Daniel 7:9-10, there is also the Ancient of Days, who is clearly depicted as God. There are two persons who are God and yet they are distinct from one another.

But there are always ways to reinterpret the text. In his book The Oneness of God, David K. Bernard made the interesting observation that in Revelation 1, Jesus is depicted with many of the same characteristics of the Ancient of Days. From this, we may conclude that Jesus is the Ancient of Days. Although, Bernard’s case seems to be overstated. Jesus had several characteristics that the Ancient of Days did not, such as eyes of fire, bronze feet, a voice like the sound of many waters, a seven-pointed star in his hand, a two-edged sword in his mouth, and his face shining with the strength of the sun. In fact, the only characteristic that they shared was wool hair. But suppose for a moment that Jesus had identical characteristics. That would still not establish that Jesus was the Ancient of Days. It would only establish that Jesus is the the exact representation of the Father. They share the same essence. They are both equally God. So, I think that Daniel 7 is plausibly a trinitarian text, given that there are two figures who are both God.

Why Didn’t The Jews Ever Believe This?
There are many more passages that we could have analyzed. The Oneness Pentecostal might point out that the Jews never believed in the trinity on the basis of those texts. Well, the first point that I want to make is that this is not necessarily true. There were Jews who believed that there are two powers in Heaven on the basis of the texts that I have pointed to. The orthodox Jewish scholar Dr. Daniel Boyarin argued on pages 89-11 of his book Border Lines that orthodox Jews regarded the “two powers in Heaven” as heresy only after the Christian concept of the trinity was popularized. It was a response to Christianity. But there were many Jews who believe in something like the trinity.

But let’s concede the point for the sake of argument. Let’s suppose for a moment that no Jew, at any time in history, ever believed that there were two powers in Heaven. Would that be sufficient to deny what these texts are saying? I should not think so. People often have their traditions so thoroughly ingrained in them that they find it difficult to think objectively. The Jews did not believe in the Suffering Servant. They did not think that the Messiah would be crucified and murdered. We have texts, such as Isaiah 53, which seem to clearly indicate that. Why did they not think that? Is the fact that they did not think that a basis for reinterpreting Isaiah 53? If you are going to be consistent, that would have to be your position.

Does The Old Testament Favor Oneness Pentecostalism Over The Trinity?
With all of this mind, I hope it has become clear that even if you start with the Old Testament and interpret the New Testament in light of it, you will still come away with the idea that there are two powers in Heaven. Although, I do not know why anyone would start with the Old Testament. The New Testament provides a wider revelation. There is more data. The Incarnation has happened. Go to the New Testament and you will see the deep relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. You will see the Son sending the Holy Spirit. It is through the lens of the incarnation of Jesus Christ that we can interpret the Old Testament.



Answering A Few Common Oneness Pentecostal Arguments

op 1Oneness Pentecostals are vehement anti-trinitarians who commonly maintain that the doctrine of the trinity states that there are three gods. Of course, this is a mischaracterization. If an individual believes that there are three gods, then they have, in effect, denied the doctrine of the trinity. The doctrine of the trinity states that there is one God who is eternally present in three persons. So, what is Oneness Pentecostalism? While they may be anti-trinitarians, they are committed to the truth that Jesus is God. They accomplish this by adhering to modalism, more commonly referred to as oneness theology. Oneness theology is the doctrine that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not distinct persons. They are manifestations that one God takes on, sometimes simultaneously. What arguments do they use to support this proposition? In this article, I will be answering a few common Oneness Pentecostal arguments.

op 2The reason that I am doing that is because Oneness Pentecostalism is often not understood by trinitarian Christians. They do not know how to deal with the texts that are often cited. If you are interested in learning, I recommend you view my series Oneness Pentecostal Heresy. But I thought that it would be useful to assimilate many of the arguments into one post so that you may have a quick reference. But for a deeper understanding, please view my other posts on this important subject.

Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!”
If you were to ask a Oneness Pentecostal to provide a proof-text for Oneness Theology, it is very likely that first passage that you will hear is Deuteronomy 6:4, which is Israel’s shema, essentially the thesis statement on the paper of the Jews. They could also cite many of the various declarations of monotheism throughout the Old Testament, thus establishing that there is only one God. In doing so, they will think that they have mounted a proper argument against trinitarian theology because they believe that the doctrine of the trinity states that there are three gods. This argument can be deflected simply by explaining that the trinity is strictly monotheistic, claiming that there is one God who is eternally present in three persons.

However, some advocates of Oneness Pentecostalism have responded to this point. In many debates and particularly in his book The Oneness of God, Dr. David K. Bernard argued that the declarations in the Old Testament are so powerful that they dismiss any conception of plurality within the Godhead. But what good reasons are there to think that? In the book of Isaiah, he was targeting polytheists; pagan idolaters. There is not a single case in which the prophets repudiated anything like the doctrine of the trinity, nor is there any case in which rebellious Israel believed it and convoked the wrath of God. It is noticeably absent. Therefore, we may conclude that Deuteronomy 6:4 and the multiple proof-texts for monotheism do not represent a good argument against the trinity.

Matthew 28:19 and Acts 2:38 – “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.”
Matthew 28:19 includes the marching orders for Christians. It is our duty to go into the world, preach the gospel to all nations, make disciples, and baptize those disciples in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is from where most Christians derive their baptismal formula, actually reciting the words, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” However, Oneness Pentecostals think that in reciting those words, they are not obeying the command. This is because in Acts 2:38, we see a manifestation of this command. When Peter obeyed the command of Matthew 28:19, he recited the words, “In the name of Jesus.” From this cross-reference, it will follow that the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is Jesus.

There are three problems with this worth pointing out. First, there are no good reasons to think that obedience to this command necessarily entails that those words are recited. One could be baptized in the name of Jesus without actually reciting the words “In the name of Jesus.” For the Oneness Pentecostal to read a deep concern of baptismal formulas into the text is to retroject their situation onto the apostles. Further, the idiom “in the name of” does not always refer to a reciting of the name. It is an idiom for authority, like if I say “in the name of the king.” This is firmly established in Acts 4:4, which reads, “By what power or what name did you do this?” Power and name are parallel. So there are good reasons to think that the disciples were not concerned with the words that were recited but with the power and authority of the Trinity.

Second, it may be said that the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit is YHWH. There is one God who is eternally present in three persons, and his name is YHWH. It may be that is the name under which we are baptized. Third, it may be that Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the one name under which we are baptized. In Isaiah 9:6, the text says, “His name shall be mighty God, everlasting father, prince of peace, wonderful counselor.” This is his name, despite that Oneness Pentecostals would identify them as titles. It may also be that Father, Son, and Spirit is the name by which we know God.

John 10:30: “I and the Father are one.”
This is an important text for Oneness Pentecostals because it seems to use parlance that they are familiar with. Just as they often say that God is one, Jesus also says that he and the Father are one. They take this to indicate that Jesus is the Father. However, this seems to be far too simplistic of a reading. After all, he did not say, “I am the Father,” in this verse. He said that he and the Father are one. If he and the Father are one, does that necessarily mean that he is the Father?

The question that we need to ask is one what? Trinitarians could easily affirm that they are one God, they share the same essence. They are one in being but distinct in person. Though, this would also be too simplistic of a reading. After all, in John 17:11, the text says that the disciples are one in the same way that Jesus and the Father are one. Unless you are going to say that Jesus only had one disciple, I do not think this can be used as a proof-text for Oneness theology. What does it mean, then? Is this even a good argument that Jesus was God? Well, I think so. Jesus was claiming absolute unity with the Father. He was making claims that no mere human could make. His will is one with the will of the Father.

John 14:18: “I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.”
Since Oneness Pentecostalism maintains that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all different manifestations of the same person, it follows that Jesus is the Holy Spirit. The name of the Holy Spirit is Jesus. This seems to draw support from John 14:18. In speaking of the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus tells them, “I will come to you.” Is this not a clear identification of the Holy Spirit with himself?

Well, this would be to ignore all of the prepositions of this passage. It would be to cherry-pick the verse that fits into one’s doctrine. Throughout the passage, it is clear that Jesus is speaking of someone else. He says in verse 14 that he will ask the Father, and the Father will send the Holy Spirit. If Oneness Pentecostalism is true, how do we avoid the absurd image of Jesus asking himself permission and then sending himself? In verse 17, he refers to the Holy Spirit as “he” and “him.” Is it really coherent to think that in the next verse, he would refer to the Holy Spirit as himself? How is that clear at all? How would anybody understand what he is saying?

So what does this verse mean? Well, in verse 18, Jesus is talking about the resurrection. That is why he went on to say in verses 19 and 20, “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” When they see Jesus raised from the dead, they will realize that he is in the Father and the Father is in him. They will see that because he lives (he was raised from the dead), they too will live (be raised from the dead). This is far, far more plausible than thinking that Jesus switched between “him” and “I.”

John 14:9: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”
During the Last Supper, the disciples were distraught. They had come to love their Messiah over the years. Phillip asked him, “Show us the Father, Lord, and it will be enough for us.” Jesus replied that Phillip should not need to ask this question, because, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” Oneness Pentecostals will argue that Jesus was saying that he is the Father. How can they ask him to “Show us the Father” when he is the Father? However, like John 10:30, this verse also does not record Jesus as saying, “I am the Father.” It merely says, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” What is the best way to understand this verse?

In John 1:18, John wrote, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” Jesus is the only begotten God and he is at the Father’s side, and he explains him. What does it mean that Jesus explains the Father? As Hebrews 1:3 tells us, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…” If we want to know who God is, then we need to look to Jesus Christ. Jesus is a perfect representation of the person of the Father. It is enough for the disciples to see Jesus because they share a divine essence. Jesus and the Father are both God. While this is not a good argument that Jesus is the Father, it is a good argument that Jesus is God.

John 3:5: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
Now I will switch gears from Oneness to their view of water baptism. If you were to join a Oneness Pentecostal church, what would your experience be? Well, first, you need to be baptized with the baptismal formula, “In the name of Jesus.” They will re-baptize you if you were baptized “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Second, you will need to “receive the Holy Spirit with evidence of speaking in tongues.” Both of these are essential ingredients to salvation. Oneness Pentecostals will point to John 3:5 as evidence of that. After all, it says that one must be born of water and Spirit. This is clearly a reference to baptism in water and baptism of the Spirit, right?

Well, there are a number of reasons that I think that interpretation is implausible. John 3:5 does not explicitly say that one must be water baptized before entering the kingdom. It says that one must be “born of water.” But what does it mean to be born of water? In John 4:14, talking to the woman at the well, Jesus said, “…the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” In John 7:38, Jesus referred to “Rivers of living water.” This is a theme throughout the book of John. It does not seem at all implausible that Jesus was referring to living water in John 3:5.

Further, the conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus should not be overlooked. John 3:5 should not be read in a vacuum. Read the entire account. Nicodemus was perplexed by what Jesus said to him. He had never heard anything of being born of water. Jesus asked in verse 11, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?” Nicodemus should have understood as the teacher of Israel. His knowledge of living water from the Old Testament (Jeremiah 2:13, Isaiah 12:3, 58:11, etc) should have informed him. But if Jesus expected him to understand his reference to living water, it follows that he was not teaching the doctrine that water baptism is necessary for salvation. That specific doctrine was foreign to the Old Testament.

Mark 16:17: “These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name… they will speak with new tongues…”
Recall what I said regarding what Oneness Pentecostals believe about being born again. When somebody is born again, they will show the evidence of speaking with new tongues. If they do not do that, then they are probably not saved. One of the key verses to which they will appeal is Mark 16:17, which tells us that those who have believed will speak in tongues. Does this not seem to vindicate Oneness theology? Well, first, most Christians will point out that this verse is part of the long ending of Mark, and therefore it is not Scripture. If we were in the Court of Law, it would be dismissed as evidence. However, the Oneness Pentecostal could grant that it is not really Scripture. But they would simply amend their argument by saying, “But this is clearly what early Christians believed because it is here.” So I am willing to grant the long ending of Mark for the same of argument.

Does the long ending of Mark vindicate the Oneness Pentecostal position about speaking in tongues? I do not think so. Speaking in tongues is listed among several other practices, including casting out demons, resisting a snake bite and healing the sick. There is no grammatical way to disconnect tongues from the rest of the elements of that list. So, if you are going to mount an argument on the basis of Mark 16:17 for the necessity of tongues, you would have to mount an argument for the necessity of resisting a snake bite. Why is snake-handling not a criteria for salvation? Why is drinking poison not a criteria for salvation? How can you use Mark 16:17 to establish tongues as a criteria for salvation without using an absolute double-standard?

The Pattern In The Book of Acts Establishes Our Doctrine
Oneness Pentecostals brand themselves “apostolic.” They will suggest that they are following the model of the earliest apostles. Every time somebody is saved throughout the book of Acts, we will see them speaking in tongues. They are just continuing that long tradition. However, there are only a few places throughout the book of Acts wherein people speak in tongues. They are Acts 2:4, 10:44-46, and 19:6. Significantly, there are two instances in which that pattern is broken. In Acts 4:31 and 8:17, people are filled with the Spirit and tongues are simply not mentioned.

Now, I recognize that this may be vulnerable to the counter-strike that the author simply did not record them speaking in tongues, but they probably still did. That may be the case. But that is not quite the point of the argument that I am making. If you are going to claim that there is a pattern in the book of Acts wherein everybody who is filled with the Spirit also speaks in tongues, you have a problem, because that pattern is broken on two occasions. The burden of proof is on the person making the claim. The Oneness Pentecostal is making the claim that everybody who was filled with the Spirit also spoke in tongues. But that position seems untenable.

There Are Different Kinds of Tongues
When we hear a Oneness Pentecostal claiming that everybody speaks in tongues throughout the Bible, we immediately go to 1 Corinthians 12:29-31, for Paul recognizes that not everybody possesses all of the spiritual gifts, and tongues are listed among them. In response, Oneness Pentecostals will tell us that there are different kinds of tongues. There are tongues for edification (this one is necessary for salvation) and the gift of tongues (this one is not necessary for salvation). Paul was referring to the latter, not the former. Is that the case?

First, that seems to be an ad hoc measure to circumvent the meaning of the text. This interpretation is not an attempt to understand the text. It is an attempt to get around what the text is saying so that their doctrine will prevail. Second, in 1 Corinthians 14:4-5, Paul speaks about tongues for edification. His insight is edifying. In verse 4, he writes that the person who speaks in tongues edifies himself. So, he establishes that he is speaking of tongues for edification. But in verse 5, he says that he wishes everybody spoke in tongues, indicating that everybody does not speak in tongues. This seems to disconfirm the idea that all believers speak in tongues.

Third, how could we recognize tongues for edification as opposed to the gift of tongues? Imagine that you heard two people speaking in tongues. One possessed the gift of tongues and the other possessed tongues for edification. How would you be able to tell the difference? Is there any practical difference at all? Further, how do you know that you do not merely possess the gift of tongues? How do you know that your family members or your friends do not merely possess the gift of tongues? How can tongues function as the sign of salvation if you do not even know the difference between tongues for edification and the gift of tongues?

Answering A Few Common Oneness Pentecostal Arguments
Why did I do this? Well, Oneness Pentecostalism has a lot of subtleties. There are some who are trained very well in Oneness theology and know how to maneuver through the various arguments and counter-arguments. Many trinitarians, unfortunately, have never heard of these arguments before. So I want to provide a resource for understanding Oneness Pentecostalism, some of the arguments that they will use and how to respond to them. I also recommend that you read the series that I linked to at the beginning of this article.

Is there an argument that you would like to see addressed? Leave a comment.



The Shortcoming of Christian Apologetics From An Apologist

apologist 1Men such as Dr. Frank Turek and Dr. William Lane Craig were integral to my coming to believe in Christ. Like many others, I can say that my faith would not be what it is today had I not been exposed to the evidence for the existence of God. Christian apologetics is one of the most important endeavors for the modern Christian. Secular professors actively make an effort to uproot the faith. apologist 2Atheists present themselves as the intelligensia. Men such as Dr. Craig stand as a representation of the fact that it is possible to have reasonable faith. However, after much reflection, I have come to recognize some of the shortcomings of Christian apologetics.

That is not to say that apologetics should be abandoned as a result of these shortcomings. It is to say that it should be refined. Many apologists have significant blindspots because of the way they practice Christian apologetics. If we are going to provide a defense of the Christian faith, it is not sufficient to only provide positive arguments. While these are certainly good arguments, we also need to be prepared to delineate the nuances of Christian theology.

Understand What You Believe

There are two integral aspects to conducting Christian apologetics. First, we have to understand what we believe. Second, we need to be able to understand why we believe it. Many Christian apologists have become so focused on the latter that they have completely overlooked the former. Apologetics ministries are often dedicated to defending doctrines such as “Jesus rose from the dead,” or “God exists” that they overlook other critical points of the faith, such as justification by faith alone, substitutionary atonement, providence, anthropology, et cetera.

Some apologists have even criticized this blog because I often engage in theological discourse, defending the doctrines of grace over and against my Arminian brethren. The reason that I do that is because as a Christian apologist, I am in the business of defending and explaining Christianity. That is not to say that Arminians are not Christians. But it is to say that apologetics is about providing a rational framework for understanding the Christian faith.

The Incoherency Objections

Christian apologists are very good at defending the existence of God. They could recite the Kalam Cosmological Argument and defend the premises against the standard ‘God of the Gaps’ and ‘Who Created God?’ nonsense with little effort. But many of the objections to Christianity are deeper than that. Many people will charge the Christian faith with incoherency. Suppose you were to encounter an atheist who did not believe that the Incarnation of Jesus was a rational concept. They said that God was a necessary being, and a human was a contingent being. Suppose again that they were to raise philosophical objections to the doctrine of Original Sin, the death of Christ for our sins, or how God could be sovereign if man is truly free. Would you be able to answer these questions? Is it not necessary to be able to defend these precepts?

You might think that some of these are side issues and you are more concerned with establishing that Christianity is true. But for example, a powerful enough of an objection to the coherence of the incarnation could drastically reduce the probability of the resurrection from a historical perspective. If the atheist is mounting an argument that Christianity is not true because it is incoherent, as apologists, we need to be able to deal with those objections. If you are interested in further reading about the coherence of the incarnation, I recommend The Logic of God Incarnate by Thomas Norris.

This should also illuminate the point that I made about Calvinism (and determinism, by extension). As a Calvinist, I am not convinced that Arminian models of providence are truly coherent. A non-believer might be able to raise a robust objection to the Arminian models of providence (though admittedly, the atheists who are concerned or know about that will be few and far between). I defend Calvinism and determinism because [1] I believe that they are true and [2] I want to provide as coherent of a model as possible with minimal defeasibility.

The Reliability of The New Testament

Of course, the reliability of Scripture is an area of which many apologists are familiar. It comes into the spotlight more often than objections to the incarnation or objections to divine providence. However, the manner in which it often comes into the spotlight is when the apologist is saying what they are not defending. They are not defending and have no need of defending the reliability of Scripture. They only need to defend the proposition that a few gems of history can be derived from the New Testament. Now, I am not charging the classical apologist with impiety, as I pointed out in my article Is The Minimal Facts Argument Impious?

Instead I am pointing out that the Scripture is central to the Christian faith. From where do we derive all of our doctrine? What is the foundation for our belief? It is obviously the Bible. So, there are two important questions that we need to be able to defend. First, how do you know that the New Testament is generally reliable, in a historical sense? Second, how do you know that the Bible is God’s word? Some will respond to that first question by suggesting that it is not reliable because it is just theological musing, and we have copies of copies of copies, and that they were written decades after the events that they record. These objections are probably softballs for the average apologist.

But what about that second question? How can we defend the proposition, “The Bible is the word of God”? I am afraid that the unwillingness to defend this proposition is why many Calvinists (especially those inclined toward presuppositionalism) have become disillusioned with classical apologists. It is not as though belief in the Bible is something that we can take or leave, that we would expect orthodoxy to emerge in a Christian sect that did not use the Bible. I think that this fundamental and central aspect of the Christian faith has been overlooked. (Note: I tried to answer this question in my article How Do You Know That The Bible Is God’s Word?)

Can We Reduce Christianity To ‘Mere Christianity’?

What is ‘Mere Christianity’? In apologetic discourse, it is a reference to the common unity that all believers in Christ have on the basis of their affirmations of the essential elements of the faith, including the trinity, the resurrection, et cetera. There is a sense in which I can be sympathetic to this form of apologetics. When we are providing a defense of the Christian faith, it might not be necessary to defend all of the theological corollaries. I do not need to take a stance of baptism (paedo/credo) in a discussion with an atheist. But think for a moment about what the point of providing an apologetic is. We are actively trying to lead people to Christ. Therefore, our apologetic should be gospel-oriented.

This leads to the question, what is the gospel? The gospel is the good news that Jesus died for our sins, rose from the dead, and now offers the free gift of eternal life. What are the theological corollaries of the gospel? I would argue that election is one of them (again, not to say that Arminianism lacks the gospel). If I were to defend ‘Mere Christianity,’ defending only the essential elements of the faith, the question that I would ask is whether the gospel is an essential element of the faith. If it is, then it follows that I should orient my apologetics to the gospel.

What do I mean? Well, if I am defending the Kalam Cosmological Argument, I would want to emphasize that I am not defending a bare theism, stripped of Christian implications. I am defending Genesis 1:1, that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The God who created the universe is the God who raised Jesus from the dead and offers eternal life. Consequently, I do not know that it would be appropriate to provide an apologetic that does not have the gospel inextricably linked.

Engaging With Other World Religions

Different people come from different backgrounds. Contrary to the experience that apologists may have on the Internet, it is highly unlikely that you run into an atheist in the real world. You are more likely to run into someone who identifies as a witch. Suppose you were to run into a witch. Do you know what they would say? If you are firmly grounded in Christian theology, you will be able to provide a coherent defense of the faith that highlights the gospel no matter what they say. But a defense of an argument for the existence of God will obviously not suffice, because many people of other world religions already believe in a Creator.

I suspect that you might think that the resurrection is an argument for Christianity, and that is really all that you need. There is a sense in which that is true and a sense in which it is not. Some people might be inclined to ask, “How can I fit the resurrection of Jesus into my theology without committing myself to becoming a Christian?” If you think that nobody would do that, then you have never met a pluralist. The ability to explain why they could not do that does not derive from the historical argument for the resurrection. It derives from a sound understanding of Christian theology.

Why Does All of This Matter?

Before ascending to the Father, Jesus gave what we know today as the Great Commission. He said in Matthew 28:19 that it is our duty to preach the gospel to all of creation, making disciples and baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If you spend most of your time talking with non-believers on the Internet, then perhaps you are not very familiar with some of the potential objections that I have raised or they seem foreign to you. But I think that if you are serious about Christian apologetics, you will apply the advice that I have given here and recognize that theology matters.

“But I Am Not Like That!”

I sincerely hope that in writing this, I did not offend anybody. I am not writing to tell you that you are wrong or that William Lane Craig is wrong. I am not a red-eyed “discernment” blogger who is concerned with bashing other Christians or putting people down. I am writing this because in my experience, many Christian apologists are very capable of defending the existence of God, but not capable of defending the coherence of the Christian faith because they are not theologically minded. That is not to say that you are not saved or that you are being impious. It is to say that these are often regarded as distinct categories when they should not be.

Of course, you may be thinking “I am not like that, and nobody who I know is.” If that is the case, then that is great. But I have spoken with a lot of apologists and I think that it stands true for many of us. If nothing else, perhaps this article will serve as a helpful reminder for those of you who are already thoroughly engaged in theological apologetics. Beyond that, perhaps it will encourage you to help other apologists to expand their defense of the Christian faith.



How To Win A Debate With The Christian Apologist Nextdoor

win 1People leave the Christian faith because they found some deficiency in Christianity that could not be reconciled. Nobody had any good answers to their questions and this led them to conclude that there were no good answers. The Sunday School lessons are shallow, and the only method of providing any defense of the precepts of the church that they have ever encountered is to be told to “have faith.” So, they become atheists. win 2As atheists, they assume that Christianity is pervasively as shallow as they have experienced. Nobody has any answers, and everybody is going around merely telling them to “have faith.” But atheists may be taken aback when they encounter Christian apologists, who are products of the long-standing intellectual history of the church. I would like to help by explaining how to win a debate with the Christian apologist nextdoor.

I will be constructing my advice based on popular atheist answers to questions, including memes and quotes that have committed themselves to the atheist blogosphere and are often represented in dialogue with non-believers. If you want to provide as robust of a critique of Christian apologetics, ensure that you follow in the footsteps of your fellow atheists by taking my advice.

Mock Them And Ridicule Them

Unfortunately, Christian apologists tend to think that they deserve equal respect. They think that both parties should engage in dialogue in a civil and respectful manner. If a Roman Catholic approaches you and tells you that they believe in transubstantiation, wherein the elements of the Mass transform into the body and blood of Jesus, they will think that they can state their belief without enduring mockery. Similarly, if a Calvinist tells you that God has foreordained all things to pass, they somehow expect that you will assess their views in a respectful manner. Do not fall for the convention that we are all too polite to talk about it. Mock them and ridicule them in public.

What does this accomplish? Well, as you enter into this conversation, the apologist will quickly realize that you have the upper-hand. You have ascended to a height of staggering intellect that they could never even fathom. If they were as wise you, they would be an atheist. They will come to realize this as you shower insults on them as the conversation is beginning, and quite frankly, throughout the course of the conversation. Tell them how deluded they are, how they have been suckered, and how they will believe anything that they are told. After all, how could you accept the arguments of somebody as deluded as they are?

Do Not Bother Engaging With Scholarship

Sometimes Christian apologists will summarize arguments and tell you that there are various nuances to this argument that should not be overlooked. They will suggest that you engage with the most rigorous scholarship available and respond to that. Do not listen to them. They are just trying to win a debate with prestigious jargon. If they mount an argument, just say the first thing that comes to mind. If they tell you that you are overlooking a careful and important nuance, then they are clearly not wise enough to understand your response. When they recommend that you read a robust treatment of an argument, dismiss it out of hand.

Let them know that their so-called scholar is truly a hack, has no insight or anything at all to contribute, and he is just as deluded as you are. This is one possibility. Another that you could point out to them is that this scholar is probably just trying to sell books. He is pulling the wool over the apologist’s eyes, trying to fool them into believing an argument so that they will accept the Christian faith, give them money for their books and help them to rise to fame. These responses should be sufficient and allow you to circumvent the challenge to read a robust treatment of an article.

Summarize Their Argument In An Uncharitable Way

If the apologist sends you a 2000 word blogpost that carefully outlines a theodicy (an explanation of why there is evil and suffering in the world), do not let yourself be taken in by big words and philosophical constructions. Just summarize their argument for them, and then attack your summary of the argument. Tell them, “Ah, so you are just saying that God is mysterious. Nothing new here.” Similarly, if they tell you that “God created the universe,” say, “Oh, so magic created the universe? You believe in magic, you idiot?” If they tell you that Jesus died for your sins to satisfy the wrath of God, tell them, “I see. So God died to save you from himself?”

Almost any proposition can be summarized in a way that is far more defeasible than the original proposition. You could even take that very proposition (the first sentence of this paragraph) and summarize it by saying, “Ah, so no statement has any meaning?” It is very easy to do. When you apply this tactic in discourse with Christian apologists, they will quickly realize how foolish their statement was. If you let them summarize their position in their own words, then they will think that they could be capable of having an intelligent conversation, which is unthinkable. They are religious, after all.

The Power of The Original Thesis

Sometimes Christian apologists will offer responses to the things that you say. But just as you should not let them summarize their own position, you should also not give them the courtesy of allowing them to provide a rebuttal of your argument. When you present your original thesis, the apologist needs to know that it is so formidable that all rebuttals are wrong by default. You do not even need to engage with the rebuttal, really. After they present their rebuttal, all you really need to do is to restate your original thesis in different words. If they suggest that they already rebutted your original thesis, say something to the effect of, “Ah, so you have no response?” The conversation should go something like this:

You: Original thesis
Dumb Apologist: Rebuttal
You: Restatement of original thesis in different words
Dumb Apologist: Points out that they responded to that.
You: Ask if they have no answers.
Dumb Apologist: Points out that they already provided one
You: Claim victory

Claiming Victory

Claiming victory after a conversation with an apologist is an integral feature of the interaction. After all, how else will they know that they have been soundly defeated in a debate with an atheist? After you have showered them with insults, summarized their position for them, restated your original thesis several times, it is probable that the apologist would back down out of fear of your intellectual fortitude. When they tell you that they are no longer interested in interacting with you, the only thing for you to do now is to claim victory. Tell them that you won the debate, that they could not provide any evidence and had no answers for your questions. Then tell your friends.

After you are finished announcing your victory, use that victory to fuel your pride for further interactions with apologists. As you defeat more and more Christians in these debates, you will come to realize that you are among the intelligensia. This boost in confidence will serve you very well in future interactions. As time progresses, you will become more insulting and care less about their insight or anything at all that they have to contribute.

Remember That They Always Have The Burden of Proof

Since becoming an atheist, you have learned some of the common parlance, such as burden of proof, which is to say that the person who is making a claim always has the burden of proof. Remember, though, as an atheist, you never have it. The Christian apologist has it by default, no matter what you say or how the conversation is proceeding. For example, if you say, “There is no God,” or “God is a myth,” or “The Bible is a book of lies,” it is the burden of the apologist to disprove those statements.

Of course, in response, the shifty apologist may suggest that all of these are claims that need to be substantiated. Ignore them. They do not know anything about the burden of proof. They are religious, remember? You are an atheist, and you understand far better than they do how these things work. After all, they probably make claims sometimes, right? They surely claim “God exists” sometimes. Demand that they carry that burden.

God of The Gaps

Sometimes the apologist will try to bear the burden of proof by presenting what they believe is evidence for the existence of God. However, remember that every time an apologist presents evidence, they are always, without failure, using God to explain a gap in their understanding of some scientific phenomenon. They are like the people who say that lightning proves the existence of God, because, what else could explain it? They will suggest that the existence of the universe and all of nature is evidence for God. But do not let them fool you. Eventually, we will find a natural explanation for all of nature. Ensure you tell them that.

I want you to be prepared for the deceptive responses that you will receive. The apologist may tell you that these arguments are syllogisms leading to the conclusion that God exists. They are based on what we do know, not on what we do not know. This is where you would employ the tactic of restating the original thesis in different words. They clearly do not understand the God of the Gaps objection. Explain it to them again, using illustrations and insults if you must. Talk to them like they are a fourth grader.

Demand To Know Who Created God

The “who created God?” objection has a variety of different uses. It could be employed as an independent argument or a counter-argument to various lines of evidence that the apologist presents. If they ask “Could something arise from absolutely nothing?” do not answer the question. Similarly, if they ask, “What is the best explanation of the fine-tuning of the universe?” ignore the question. Instead, pose the counter-argument, “If God created everything, who created God? What is God’s explanation?” They will try to provide answers to this question, but if you raise your voice loudly enough, you will not even be able to hear those answers.

However, after raising your voice several times, it may be the case that you do not have the strength to continue doing it, so you may have to endure their answer. They may tell you something like, “If God created time (as this argument proposes), then God is the cause of time. Accordingly, he is timeless.” At this point, it would be appropriate to point out that the apologist needs to provide scientific evidence that God is timeless. Apologists hate being asked for evidence.

Just Use Philosophical Terms

Doubtless, the apologist is trying to fool you. He knows that he is trying to fool you. He just wants you to believe in God, and will go to any means necessary. Do not let him get away with it. Look up some logical fallacies and just start accusing him of them. If you think that the fallacy is appropriately applied, that is even better. But that is not necessary. Say something like, “You are engaging in a false dichotomy.” You will likely see the apologist’s mouth slightly drop and see a stale, unknowing look on his face. He does not know what a false dichotomy is. He is religious, remember?

This tactic can be quite effective in asserting your intellectual superiority and making the apologist think that there is more to these arguments than they originally thought. They will think twice before sharing their propaganda. Further, the best part of this tactic is that it does not actually require you to refute the argument. However, you are not being deceptive, because Christian apologetics are so flimsy that you can probably just assume that they are guilty of every single logical fallacy, and you may as well accuse them of any or all of them. Perhaps you could just list all of the logical fallacies that there are and say that the apologist is guilty of all of them.

How To Win A Debate With The Christian Apologist Nextdoor

It is really not very complicated. There are far more tactics for you to consider, and perhaps in the future I will post some more of them. But these should be sufficient for now and should help you to overcome the majority of the apologetic arguments that you encounter. Remember: be insulting so that they know what they are, restate your original thesis, ask “who created God?” and claim victory.



Can A Universe Emerge From Absolutely Nothing?

nothing 1The perennial debate between believers and non-believers has often focused upon the existence of the universe. When a skeptical person asks the believer why it is that they believe in the existence of God, they will point to the sky, the ocean, the trees, and the wide variety of life. Of course, this would be a simplistic version of the intuition that they are expressing. They are expressing that everything in the universe could not have emerged from nothing. However, oddly, some atheists have suggested that it is possible for some things to emerge out of absolutely nothing. Among those things are universes. They have demanded justification for the position that things cannot come from nothing. Is it true, then? Can a universe emerge from absolutely nothing?

One can understand why they would demand justification for this premise. Many people seem to take it for granted that things do not just appear with absolutely no cause. But it would be quite convenient for the atheist if it were the case that this were a possibility. Atheism would then be able to deflect one of the seminal arguments for the existence of God. We need to be able to provide some justification for thinking that universes cannot emerge from absolutely nothing.

‘Nothing’ Has No Causal Powers

nothing 2When I use the word ‘nothing,’ I mean literally, ‘no thing,’ which is to say that I am referring to the absence of something. If your co-worker was taking a day off, the boss would naturally ask, “Who is going to cover your shift?” If the coworker said, “Nobody,” the boss would be concerned. ‘Nobody’ has no causal powers. They cannot perform the function of the job because ‘nobody’ designates the absence of somebody. Similarly, if I said that “There is nothing to eat,” my stomach would be empty. If I said that there was nothing that could stop the invasion of a particular army, I would be expressing that the military force would go unchallenged. All of this goes to underline the point that ‘nothing’ has no causal powers, because it is the absence of anything at all.

So when atheists tell us that a universe could emerge from absolutely nothing, or attempt to provide accounts of how nothing could have produced the universe, they are expressing an incoherent thought. If ‘nothing’ designates the absence of anything at all, then it follows that there are no causal powers. If there are no causal powers, then it lacks the capacity to produce universes. This should be obvious to all of us. ‘Nothing’ could not produce the universe for the same reason that ‘Nobody’ could cover your shift at work.

The Quantum Vacuum

nothing 3However, I am afraid that some atheists have not quite felt the force of this objection. The popularizer of science, Dr. Lawrence Krauss, has attempted to circumvent this objection by redefining what ‘nothing’ is. He will tell us that there is a difference between what a sophisticated scientist regards as nothing and what the average person regards as nothing. He suggests the quantum vacuum fits into the category of ‘nothing,’ and that universes can emerge from it. However, in doing so, he has applied several descriptions and categories to the quantum vacuum that would render it appropriate to charge him with the simple equivocal fallacy. When he describes the quantum vacuum, he often describes it as “unstable” and “complicated.”

nothing 4But then the question arises: how is it that ‘nothing’ could truly be stable or unstable? How could ‘nothing’ be complicated or simple? The concept of nothing lacks these categories. It is akin to as if I said that there were no equations for me to solve, but that they were very complicated. Feeling the force of this objection, Dr. Krauss wrote in the fourth preface to his book A Universe From Nothing the question that he is answering is not a philosophical question. It is a scientific question. Accordingly, he is not truly speaking about ‘nothing’ in the philosophical sense. He is just redefining his terms so that his area of expertise comports with the debate about the existence of God.

That is why the secular physicist who possesses a doctorate in quantum mechanics, Dr. David Albert, wrote a scathing critique of Krauss’s book. He suggested that quantum fluctuations were not the emergence of something coming out of nothing. They are more like pointed fingers coming forth from a fist. He writes, “Krauss is dead wrong, and his religious and philosophical critics are absolutely right.”

What If Universes Could Come From Nothing?

Suppose for a moment that it were true that things could appear without any cause at all. If that were the case, then our rational expectations for the universe would seem to be unjustified. It would become inexplicable why anything, and everything did not emerge without a cause at all. This point was charmingly made by Dr. William Lane Craig in his debate with Dr. Peter Slezek. He pointed out that nobody is concerned that as they are sitting in this debate, a horse may have appeared uncaused out of nothing in their living room and is currently defecating on the carpet as we speak. Yet if things do just appear, uncaused, out of absolutely nothing, then what resource do we have to deflect this belief? How could the atheist call anybody irrational for holding this belief?

Now, atheists might be inclined to suggest that only quantum particles, on the micro level, will appear, uncaused, out of nothing. Macro objects, such as horses, do not appear out of nothing. But recall what nothing is. ‘Nothing’ has no properties. There is no reason for us to expect that only quantum particles would emerge from absolutely nothing. There is no mechanism within ‘nothing’ that would discriminate against large objects in favor of smaller ones. Accordingly, if we accept the proposition that things appear, uncaused, out of nothing, we are led instantly into absurdity.

A Good Inductive Conclusion

This point may be more probabilistic than the previous points in this thread, but it is still worth nothing. Common experience indicates that things have an explanation. They do not just appear, uncaused, out of absolutely nothing. The entire project of science is predicated upon this premise. Science is the search for causes within the natural world. If we were to establish the premise that things appear without a cause, then the project of science would be wholly undermined. Scientists who searched for causes of natural phenomenon would be engaging in a fruitless endeavor. It may just be that their specimen emerged without a cause. Why does a fish have a particular gill? Perhaps it appeared, uncaused, out of nothing.

But we all recognize that this is not the nature of the world that we live in. The premise that things do not appear, uncaused, out of nothing is constantly verified, and never falsified. Our common experience is sufficient for believing in this idea. In fact, the flourishing of modern technology and the success of scientific naturalism is evidence that it is true that things do not appear without a cause. If they did, then we would live in a radically different world and a literally incoherent and unintelligible universe.

Did God Come Out of Nothing?

I am adding this section for those fans of Richard Dawkins who have managed to read this far. They will suggest that this argument is a case of special pleading. Well, first, I have not mounted an argument. I have only defended the premise that things do not emerge without a cause. Strictly speaking, an atheist could have read this article and agreed with many of my major points. However, some will boastfully comment, without reading the content, demanding to know whether God can come out of nothing. The answer is that God cannot come out of nothing. Theists do not maintain that God is a finite being who emerged at some point in time. (Granted that you could have an eternal universe just as there is an eternal God, but that is not what the evidence suggests).

So, then, who created God? Nobody created God. Within the context of cosmological arguments, we posit that God is the cause of the universe, including time. That means that he would have to be timeless. As an objection to cosmological arguments, the ‘who created God?’ question would be incoherent. You may choose to raise it as an independent question, disconnected from the argument. Then I would ask why it is that God would need a cause and ask what you mean by ‘God’. If we are adopting classical definitions of the existence of God, as found in the Bible and the great confessions of faith, then God is both eternal and metaphysically necessary. Therefore, whether this question is acting as a counter-strike to cosmological arguments or an independent argument, it expresses an incoherency.

Can A Universe Emerge From Absolutely Nothing?

If you are looking for alternative ways to define ‘nothing’ then you are engaging in some debate other than this one. Speaking of ‘nothing’ is just to speak of the absence of something. The absence of something entails the absence of causal powers. In the absence of causal powers, then it necessarily follows that neither universes, nor anything else, could emerge from nothing without a cause. However, the evidence suggests that the universe truly did emerge from nothing. So, what seems more rational: Someone created something out of nothing, or no one created something out of nothing? To ask the question is to answer it.



Can Man Be Free If Determinism Is True?

compatibilism 1The doctrine of freedom of the will is a very important theme in Christian thought. For many, it is the primary method of explaining how there is evil and suffering in the world. However, many have pointed out that there are other core doctrines of the Christian faith that seem to compromise freedom of the will. How could God truly be sovereign over all of our actions if in fact we are free? How could predestination be true if man is free? Can man truly be free if divine determinism is true? Reformed thinkers recognize that freedom of the will is compatible with divine determinism. This is known as the doctrine of compatibilistic freedom, as contrasted against libertarian freedom which is the doctrine that man can make choices free from constraints, such as human nature or God’s decree.

compatibilism 2Those who have wrestled with these issues have felt the force of this objection. It seems counter-intuitive to think that determinism could be compatible with freedom. God has ordained everything that has come to pass. There is not a movement of quantum particle or a leaf falling from a tree that does not fall under God’s jurisdiction. It would then seem that God is controlling our actions. The writing of the words on this page are controlled by God as part of his sovereign plan. But if that is the case, then how could I truly be free in writing the words on this page?

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Review of Ray Comfort’s The Atheist Delusion

comfort 1“I am lying to myself.” That is what an atheist said to Ray Comfort during a moment of clarity when brought to reflect upon his sin and his motivation. This interview occurred during Ray Comfort’s upcoming movie The Atheist Delusion. Throughout this movie, Ray exemplifies how Christian apologetics is done, appealing to what everybody knows is true via simple induction and an appeal to their conscience. Of course, as always, Ray was not satisfied that his interviewees merely accept that God exist. He stirred their conscience and led those in his audience to understand the gospel. Throughout this review of Ray Comfort’s The Atheist Delusion, I will touch on some of highlights of the movie and explain why you should watch it. (It should be noted that since the movie has not been released as of this writing, there are no criticisms to address.)

The Argument From DNA

comfort 2How did the majesty of creation emerge without some sort of intelligent designer? How could that possibly have happened? This has convinced most people of the existence of God throughout the generations. However, with the advent of modern science, this debate has evolved. Atheists of old may have hypothesized that perhaps everything in the natural world arose as a result of natural processes. But they did not have a model for understanding that process, as seemingly provided in the Theory of Evolution. Ray pointed out that the advent of science has given rise to another aspect of the argument for God’s existence, namely, the DNA molecule.

In an effort to elucidate the point that he was making, Ray showed the atheists in his interview a book comparing pictures of natural structures with the structures of engineering. Then he posed the question that has confronted many thinkers throughout the ages. Could this book have occurred by chance, from nothing? The answer is that it obviously could not have. But then, argued Ray, the DNA molecule contains information, it contains a message, and as such, it could only have derived from intelligence. Just as we recognize that the words on the page of a book derived from intelligence, we also recognize that the information that is transmitted in the DNA molecule must have derived from an intelligent designer.

Of course, Ray was not willing to mount this argument without first confronting the objections. There are theories about how the DNA molecule could have evolved over time. He even played his interview with Dr. Lawrence Krauss so that this argument could be stated eloquently. But these theories about the evolution of the DNA molecule can be granted for the sake of argument. The argument is not that DNA must have been created ex nihilo (out of nothing). Rather, the argument is that DNA must have have an intelligent mind behind it. As Dr. Frank Turek pointed out, messages only come from minds.

The God of The Gaps

In one of his interviews, an atheist told Ray that people worship things because they are trying to make sense of things that they do not understand. This is best summarized in what is known as the old God of The Gaps argument. We see natural phenomenon and we do not understand it, and therefore we appeal to God to explain away our lack of understanding. One might suppose that the argument from the DNA molecule would take this form. Well, I suppose that somebody could, hypothetically, mount an argument like that. But that is not the argument that Ray was making. Ray pointed out that we are not explaining what we do not know. We are explaining what we do know.

We know that messages come from minds and that information must come from intelligence. When we look at the natural world, we see plainly that there must have been a Creator. After all, why does anything at all exist? Why are there fingerprints of design? These are inferences based on what we do know. That is not to say that scientific causes are obsolete. It is to say that there are different types of causes. There are mechanical causes and agent causes. There is thermodynamics and then there is Henry Ford. Hypothesizing about the mechanism does not eliminate the need for the agent. Asking about the scientific explanation does not eliminate the need for God.

Why Did The Atheist Say That He Was Lying To Himself?

As Ray was presenting the evidence for the existence of God to the atheists, many of them admitted that it did make sense. However, they said that they were still atheists. They were still willing to believe that the book made itself. They were willing to deny what they could plainly see to maintain their atheism. Ray’s arguments were not designed to convince individuals who truly did not believe in God. They were designed to convince people who know that God exists and were in rebellion to him. As a result of everything that they see plainly, they know that God exists. Then the question becomes, why do they deny what they can see plainly?

Ray suggested that if you accept what you see plainly, then this means that there is someone who created all of humanity, and you are responsible to him. Your life would change. You would have to align your will to that of his. If God exists, then he is the perfect standard of righteousness, such that his will needs to become our will. We need to align our beliefs about abortion, marriage, lust, pornography, lying, and blasphemy, to his beliefs. That thought repulses the natural man (1 Corinthians 2:14). So it does not matter what the intellectual price-tag is. We will pay it. We will say that a book created itself, that the universe popped into being, uncaused, out of nothing, and that human beings are mere animals, responsible only to ourselves.

But when faced with the absurdity of what we believe, it becomes abundantly clear that, as this young man said, “I am lying to myself.” That is why Ray heavily emphasized throughout this movie that his interviewees should not trust their heart. The heart is wicked and deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). It will lead us astray into unrighteousness and sin and rebellion to our Creator.

The Suicidal Man

That is precisely what happened to this man who was confronted with the reality of his worldview. He told himself that he did not have a Creator, and this led him to believe, “I am no good to anybody.” He believed that he did not have any intrinsic moral worth. So Ray pleaded with him, telling him that he was made in the image of God, that it grieved him to hear that he wants to commit suicide. The man replied in utter shock, asking how it is that Ray could care at all about whether a stranger should perish. Ray replied, “I love you because I am a Christian” and he told him that he has been made in the image of God.

The absurdity of the atheistic worldview comes into full view when we realize what it does to mankind. It strips mankind of all intrinsic moral worth. How can you testify that human beings are worth anything, at all, if we arose from the blind processes of nature? But this is not an argument based on wishful thinking. It is inferred based on what we see plainly. We all recognize that human beings do have true value.

This comes into full focus when we contemplate the cross of Jesus Christ. The Creator became a man (John 1:14) and lived with no sin. Then he was murdered. On the cross, he absorbed our punishment (Romans 3:21-26). He died in our place. Our sins were nailed to the cross so that his righteousness could be given to us. Now, his death is our death and his resurrection is our resurrection. That is why Ray cares so much for the suicidal man. He wants to see him accept the promises of God, believe the gospel, and receive the free gift of eternal life (John 3:16).