Can a sincere belief be sincerely wrong?

multiple-choice-test

With so many people in the world and so many different worldviews and conflicting religions, it’s hard for many people to grasp the idea that only a small portion of the population could be “right” about what many would say really matters, the purpose of life and what happens when we die. Nineteeth century poet John Godfrey Saxe wrote a poem titled Blind Men and the Elephant:

It was six men of Indostan,
To learning much inclined, 
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind), 
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind. 

The First approach’d the Elephant, 
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side, 
At once began to bawl: 
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!” 

The Second, feeling of the tusk, 
Cried, -“Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp? 
To me ’tis mighty clear, 
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!” 

The Third approach’d the animal, 
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands, 
Thus boldly up and spake: 
“I see,” -quoth he- “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!” 

The Fourth reached out an eager hand, 
And felt about the knee: 
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” -quoth he,- 
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant 
Is very like a tree!” 

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, 
Said- “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most; 
Deny the fact who can, 
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!” 

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope, 
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope, 
“I see,” -quoth he,- “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!” 
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long, 
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong, 
Though each was partly in the right, 
And all were in the wrong! 

MORAL, 
So, oft in theologic wars 
The disputants, I ween, 
Rail on in utter ignorance 
Of what each other mean; 
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

All the men in this poem are blind men making the best guess they can with the information they are given. Are we like these men? Are the different religions of the world basically men grabbing at different parts of the “Elephant” which they cannot see? All the men in the poem were essentially wrong. But is all of mankind wrong? For those who are sincere seekers of truth yet end up with the wrong answer based solely on the limited information they are given, does eternal damnation await them?

This is an important question for the Christian and the non-Christian. For the Christian because it will effect his evangelism. If he believes he has the only right answer and those who don’t will perish for eternity, then he will be driven to share his faith with others. If he believes we are all just doing the best we can and that his faith may be as valid as other faiths, then he is likely to have a laissez-faire approach when it comes to matters of faith. He probably will not put much stock in Jesus’ command to go into all the world and make disciples of all men. Both Christian and non-Christian will have an attitude that says “You believe whatever you want. As long as you are truly seeking the truth and have a sincere heart, God will not punish.”

Does God hold us accountable if we seek the truth but come to a wrong conclusion? Is there a wrong conclusion? The answer matters. In school we learn at a very young age that there are right and wrong answers. On an assignment, getting one wrong answer will get points taken off. Getting too many wrong answers will get a failing grade. On some tests, some answers could be worth more points than others (like essay questions verses multiple choice questions). The important thing we learn, however, is that THERE IS A RIGHT ANSWER AND THERE IS A WRONG ANSWER. In the realm of belief systems some questions have more value than others. For example, in Christianity some believe that speaking in tongues is one proof of salvation today, while others believe that speaking in tongues is one gift of many that a believer may or may not have, and yet others believe that speaking in tongues was only for the New Testament church. This is what we consider nonessentials. Nonessentials are things we may disagree on but will not get anyone to heaven or condemn anyone to hell. Things of “minor points”.

In the Bible, Jesus tells us in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, the life. No man comes to me unless the Father draws him.” This is a pretty exclusive claim. For someone to believe in the claims of Christ they must believe that Jesus is the one door. The one right answer. Jesus didn’t say He was A way, but THE way. And that no one comes to the Father except through him. He also says that “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” in John 6:44. He repeated this sentiment in John 6:65 “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Jesus also says “I am the door (gate). If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved.” John 10:9

It is to be noted that although many disciples rejected Jesus’ claims immediately after he made them (John 6:66) His disciples took them to be the words of life (John 6:68-69). In the book of Acts 4, Peter said with boldness “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” Paul tells Timothy that “there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Jesus the Messiah.” 1 Timothy 2:5

So with all the claims of Christ to have the sole key to salvation, any other religion that claims otherwise is saying Jesus’ claims are false. That being said, anyone who claims all faiths are basically the same and equally valid fail to see that Jesus is not and cannot be just one valid choice among many. In the multiple choice world of religions, there is only one right answer and it is Jesus the Christ. Jesus didnt just make these claims, He backed them up. In my next blog I will dive into the reasons His claims are valid.

More exclusive claims of Christ: 1 John 2:23, 1 John 5:11-12, Luke 10:16, Luke 12:8-9 , John 3:18, John 3:36, John 8:24, and John 10:7-8b.

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

On Judging

“Judge not.”

“Only God can judge me.”

“Who am I to judge?”

These sayings are often thrown around in our culture. They seem to be used more often than not to say that no one has the right to say that anyone else is wrong for what they do or believe. What’s ironic is that the person saying that you’re wrong for judging is at the same time judging you.

“Judge not” comes from Matthew 7:1, “Judge not that you be not judged.” But, people usually leave off or have never read the next few verses. Verses 1 through 5 specifically speaks of not judging hypocritically. It speaks of having a beam in your own eye while trying to take the speck out of someone else’s eye. Jesus tells us in this chapter to FIRST take the beam out of your own eye then you can help take the speck out of someone else’s eye. To do so, requires an amount of judging. First to judge yourself so you can receive correction, then your judgement will be clear enough to help others.

Now judging is often translated or contextualized as the word “condemn”. In the sense of salvation, we are right to “judge not”. Since only God knows the intentions, thoughts, and heart of a man. (1 Kings 8:39)

However we are told both directly and by example to judge the actions and teachings of others. By judging I mean saying what someone said or did is wrong.

Another definition of judging is to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong. One popular example in scripture is when Paul opposed how Peter was acting towards Jewish verses Gentile believers (Galatians 2:11-14). Also the Bereans in Acts 17 verse 11 judged Paul’s teachings according to the rest of scripture.

Scripture also gives us criteria on how to judge whether a prophet is of God. Jesus said you will know a false prophet by his fruit (Matthew 17:15). Deuteronomy 13 says we will know a false prophet of he comes with signs and wonders but tells you to follow other gods. In Galatians 1:8-9 Paul tells is judging people who are teaching a contrary gospel.

So it is clear that in some instances we are right to judge. There is a such a thing as right and wrong, falsehood and truth. But, people shouldn’t throw stones when living in a glass house. In other words, don’t criticize others when you have a similar weakness. Remember we ALL deserve or have deserved condemnation from God. If He has saved you from a life of sin, then don’t look down on others who haven’t received God’s gift of salvation.  You were once in their shoes (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Some other scripture concerning judging:

Matthew 18:15-20 (on church discipline) If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

John 7:24 Judge not according to appearance but judge with righteous judgement.

Romans 2:21-24 You then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

1 Corinthians 5:3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.

1 Corinthians 15:12-13 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

What is the Gospel?

CHRISTIAN LOSES HIS BURDEN by Wm. Strang, from the book The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, 1894

One of the most commonly heard yet commonly misunderstood words in the Christian community is the word “gospel”. When people hear gospel they may think of a kind of music. Some who hear it think “truth”. Some hear it and equate it to the Bible but aren’t sure exactly what it means.

Then there are those that know that the word gospel means good news. They are correct. But what is it the good news of? Is it a promise of financial prosperity? Is it a promise of physical health? Is it a promise of perpetual happiness? That you’ll never experience pain or sorrow, financial trouble, or sickness? No, that’s not the Gospel of Christ.

To understand the Christian gospel, we must start way back in the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve live in perfect harmony and communion with God. It is also implied that life would be everlasting in this paradise. They witness no shame. They suffer no pain. They experience no death. God in His sovereignty gave Adam and Eve the choice to obey and live forever in perfect communion with Him or to follow their own path. The instructions were clear: Enjoy everything in the garden you desire except for the fruit of that one tree. Of the day you eat of it you will surely die.

Why was the tree put there in the first place? The Bible doesn’t say specifically but I believe it was to give man the choice to obey God or disobey. God chose not to create humans as “robots” or “slaves” that had no will. But He created us as creatures that could choose Him or choose otherwise. However, since only God is good and goodness and life are only found in Him, to choose otherwise, by default, is to choose death.

This was the sin of Adam and Eve. They chose otherwise. The Adversary in the form of a serpent tempted Eve to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree. Eve offered it to her husband Adam who then ate. At that moment sin and death entered the world. Their unveiled communication with God was now wrought with shame and hiddenness.¹ The land that had once freely offered its bounty to them was now cut off from their access. By sweat and hard work was Adam to work the ground and by pain was Eve to bear children. But worst of all was the chasm that was now created between God and man. Man had been kicked out of God’s first temple (the Garden of Eden) because he failed to guard it.

Because Adam is the representation for all of man, and because all of man comes from Adam, this bad news doesn’t just apply to Adam and Eve. We all share in the curse of their disobedience. Now we have a sin nature.

Because of our sin nature, we are prone to sin. We are susceptible to sins enticement and we are slaves to sins power. This is evident because to do wrong is usually easier than to do right. Therefore, all of us sin. And because we all sin we all die. Not only is this death physical, it is spiritual. Since, our spirits are eternal then the death they experience is eternal. The death our spirits experience is unlike the death of our bodies. When our bodies die they can no longer experience what goes on around them.  Spiritual death, on the other hand, is an eternity apart from God in a place the Bible calls hell; where no joy, happiness, love, or peace is found. Jesus calls it a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth and where the worm does not die (Mark 9:44).

This is the bad news that must be understood and accepted before we get to the good news.

“You cannot possibly understand what the Bible says about salvation unless you understand what the Bible says about the thing from which we are saved.”- J. Gresham Machen


The good news is first told in Genesis 3:15. This protoevangelium (or first gospel) says that the serpent will bruise the heel of the Seed of the woman but the Seed will triumph by crushing the serpent’s head. However, the fulfillment of this promise would take some time.

Let’s go back to what happened in the Garden. After man and woman ate the fruit they saw they were naked. So in shame, they covered themselves with fig leaves. However, God sacrificed the first animal to cover man’s shame. In other words man’s works weren’t sufficient to cover his shame. God had to shed blood to do it.

From that moment on, sacrifices of animals without blemish were the only suitable sacrifices for sin (Lev. 17:11, Hebrews 9:22). But even these sacrifices only covered sin for a time. The sacrifice of atonement had to be done once every year by the high priest for all the people of Israel.

These sacrifices were to point to Jesus’ sacrifice. The everlasting sacrifice. Jesus lived a sinless life and was therefore without blemish. He became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross freed us from sin’s power, saved us from sin’s penalty, and rescued us from sin’s presence. He fulfilled the promise God gave to Adam and Eve. Satan bruised the Seed’s heel when Jesus was crucified on the cross. But when Jesus rose from the dead, He defeated the Enemy’s power over man and death was defeated.

By placing our faith in the work of Christ we no longer have to be separated from our Heavenly Father. We now have direct access to talk to the Father as we once did. And we have an advocate to go to God on our behalf (1 John 2:1-2).

We are also given the Holy Spirit who leads us into truth to help us discern right from wrong (John 16:7-11). He will also be our Comforter in times of trouble (John 14:16).

The Gospel also promises us that when we die we will spend an eternity with the Father. Whoever believes in the Lord Jesus will have everlasting life (John 3:16). Not that we will not die a physical death but that in the end we will live in the presence of the King (John 11:25) where we will no longer have to worry about sin, pain, suffering, or death (Revelation 21:4).

None of this can be done on our own. Like Adam and Eve, our works do not cover our sins. They’re insufficient. Only by what God has done as the person of the Son through His sacrifice on the cross can man be reconciled, redeemed, and restored. God, by His grace and mercy, has provided a way out of the trouble we have placed ourselves in. He could have left us up to our own devises but He knew we could not save ourselves. He could choose to wipe us all out at the first sinful thought or the first sinful act we commit. An infinitely righteous and holy God would have every right to.


How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”- Isaiah 52:7

The first four books of the New Testament are called the Gospels. In them they tell the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. After Jesus was born wise men came from the east looking for Him. They asked “where is He who is born king of the Jews?” (Matt. 2:2)

During the last few days of Jesus’ life, He gives us pictures of Him presented as this king: His triumphant entry riding on a donkey, His being presented a robe and crown of thorns, and His being lifted up on the cross. Although the robe, crown, and cross were used to mock and kill our Lord, they were still symbols of who He came to be.

Upon His return, Christ will establish His kingdom upon the earth and restore ALL things as it had been before Adam and Eve sinned.


Therefore, the Gospel does not just declare freedom for man. The Gospel is the good news of the Kingdom of God. Kingdoms of men come and go but the kingdom Jesus sets up will be an everlasting one (Daniel 2:44).

So how can we be sure that we enter into His kingdom? John the Baptist made it clear, “REPENT, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2). Also, ““The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; REPENT and BELIEVE in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15). When we repent we turn from our sins. We change from the path of death in which we were going, to life in Jesus Christ.

Further reading: Matthew 4:17, Acts 2:38-39, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, Ephesians 1:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:15-17

FOOTNOTES:
¹This is pictured in the temple when there was a curtain that separated the Holy of Holies, where the presence of God was, from the rest of the temple and the people. Only the High Priest could enter on the Day of Atonement. But the veil was torn the moment Christ died on the cross (Matthew 27:51)

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

Universalism: All will be made alive?

Teachings_of_Jesus_38_of_40._the_rapture._one_in_the_field._Jan_Luyken_etching._Bowyer_Bible
The Rapture: One in the Field by Philip Medhurst, The Bowyer Bible, 1795

Universalism is the belief that all people will eventually get to heaven. It has gained some popularity lately in some Christian circles. But is this view biblical?

1 Corinthians 15:22 says “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”(ESV)

The historical Christian view on the state of mankind is that because of the sin of Adam, ALL people stand condemned and are in need of the gift of salvation that only comes through the obedience of Jesus Christ. That this gift is effective to ONLY those to accept the free give of salvation, and those who reject the gift will not enter into heaven. This is the opposite of universalism.

Does this verse in 1 Corinthians state otherwise? Does this verse support universalism?

The verse in Greek is “ωϲπερ γαρ εν τω αδαμ παντεϲ απο θνηϲκουϲιν  ‾‾ ουτωϲ και εν τω  χω παντεϲ ζωο ποιηθηϲονται” . The word “παντεϲ“, transliterated pantes, means all.  So what are we to take from this verse? Will all of mankind receive salvation no matter what we do or what we believe?

Does all mean all all of the time?

In a sense, yes. All shall be made alive. But the word all always has a qualification (or quantification). We have the macro (total) “all” verses the micro (some of the total) “all”. If I were to say, “I ate all the grapes”, no one would think that I ate all the grapes that exist in the world (macro). I would have to mean all the grapes that were in the refrigerator or all the grapes I had in the bowl (micro). That not one grape that was in my possession, or domain, was left uneaten. So how does this apply to 1 Corinthians 15:22?

Adam and Eve were the first humans created. All of mankind born after them came from them. Because of their sin, all of mankind has come into the world sinful. We are sinful because of Adam’s sin. This is known in theology as imputation. As BibleStudyTools.com defines imputation “the sin of Adam is imputed to all his descendants, i.e., it is reckoned as theirs, and they are dealt with therefore as guilty.”¹ This applies to all of us. The totality of humankind. In Adam all die…

However, in Christ all shall be made alive.

Notice the words “in Christ”. The Greek word “εν” literally means in. In the Nativity it is used to describe how Mary was with child; literally “in womb was child.” Reality tells that not everyone is “in Christ.” Most people reject Him as their Savior. So the all in the second part of verse 22 is not referring to all people but all who are “in Christ”. As in Adam all (macro) die, so in Christ all (micro) shall be made alive. All who are in Christ are imputed with His righteousness.

For further understanding let’s let scripture interpret scripture by looking at the surrounding context.

1 Corinthians 15:17-23
17. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

18. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

19. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

21. For as by a man [Adam] came death, by a man [Jesus] has come also the resurrection of the dead.

22. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

23. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

24. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.

25. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

“Those who belong to Christ”. That’s who all means in the second part of verse 22. Unless we are in Christ then we are still in sin and we remain His enemies. Therefore, this verse can not be applied to support universalism.

So lastly and of most importance, are you in Christ? Are you still dead in your sins and an enemy of Christ? Or have you placed your trust in Him? Have you received His free gift of salvation?

Further reading: John 5:24-26, Romans 5:12-21, 1 Corinthians 15:45-49

¹A broader definition would be “to charge to one’s account” as in Philemon 18 where Paul asks that Onesimus’ debts be charged to Paul

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

The Doctrine of Adoption

Joseph Kissing His Brother Benjamin by Charles Foster, 1897

2 Corinthians 6:18 “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be my son’s and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.”

In the book of Genesis, Jacob (who’s name was changed to Israel), became the father of 12 sons and a daughter. His 12 sons became the 12 tribes of Israel. They are listed here in order of birth:

  1. Reuben
  2. Simeon
  3. Levi
  4. Judah
  5. Dan
  6. Naphtali
  7. Gad
  8. Asher
  9. Issachar
  10. Zebulun
  11. Josheph
  12. Benjamin

The familiar story of Joseph, Israel’s favorite and unique child (Gen 37:3), tells how he became exhaulted over his brothers and elevated to the highest position in the land under the king. Joseph is an early type and foreshadowing of Christ.

In chapter 41 Joseph has two sons Ephraim and Mennaseh by his Egyptian wife. After Joseph’s family joined him in Egypt, his father Israel, blessed Ephraim and Mannaseh. But he did something peculiar. He didn’t just bless them as his grandchildren. His blessing was bestowed on them as though they were his own sons.

Genesis 48:5-6 And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine. Your offspring whom you beget after them shall be yours; they will be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance.

Notice how Israel spoke Ephraim and Manasseh compared to his first two sons. They will be just as important as the first born sons of Israel. Not only just as important, but Israel claims them as his own children.
In theology we have what is known as the doctrine of adoption. Jesus Christ being the firstborn of God (Colossians 1:15), those who are adopted by God through faith become sons of God or “co-heirs with Christ”.

Romans 8:14-17 “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”

Like Joseph’s children born of foreign land, we Gentiles were also born as foreigners of Israel. But, through Christ we have access to the Father, like Ephraim and Manasseh had through Joseph. As we read in Ephesians 5:1, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.”

John 1:12 says “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of Godeven to those who believe in His name.”

Also read: 1 Chronicles 28:6, Hosea 2:23 (Romans 9:24-26), Romans 9:8, Galatians 3:7, 26, 29; Galatians 4:4-5,  Ephesians 3:26

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

Isaiah Believed the Earth was Flat?

Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld_Bibel_in_Bildern_1860_004
The Fourth Day of Creation (woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld from the 1860 Die Bibel in Bildern)

Isaiah was inspired by God to write the book of Isaiah in the Bible and it is a book that has many prophecies in it, many of which Jesus fulfilled with His life and death which we won’t go into now. Now there are many arguments circulating today that attempt to disprove the Bible. Some have obvious flaws while others may take knowledge about the original language, Biblical history or theology to show their flaws. The Bible claims to be the inspired word of God, written by men which God used to tell us the story of His plan for all mankind. It is without error in its original writings and because of these claims, if they were not true, the Bible would have errors and could be shown to be false. One argument that I have personally come across is that Isaiah believed the earth was flat.

There are at least two verses which have been used to make this claim so lets look at the first verse.

It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.

Isaiah 40:22 (NKJV)

Now the argument used for this verse is that if Isaiah knew the earth was a globe at the time he penned the book of Isaiah, he would have used a word like “globe” or “ball” but he used “circle” which is two dimensional and flat.

Now lets look at the second verse.

He will set up a banner for the nations,
And will assemble the outcasts of Israel,
And gather together the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.
Isaiah 11:12 (NKJV)

The argument used for this verse is that Isaiah didn’t believe the earth was a sphere but that it was a flat square or rectangle with four corners.

For someone to say Isaiah believed the earth was flat based on these verses alone would likely require an eisegesis of the text rather than an exegesis which means the person making the claim is imposing his or her interpretation onto the text instead of drawing out the meaning in accordance with the context.

It is more likely these two arguments are both false and one reason why is that they were both written by Isaiah. Why would the same person write about the earth being a flat square and a flat circle? It is more likely Isaiah didn’t believe the earth was flat at all. When he wrote of the four corners of the earth, Jewish readers would have understood he was speaking about ‘everywhere on the earth’ or ‘from all directions’ which among other things is briefly discussed here http://creation.com/are-biblical-creationists-cornered-a-response-to-dr-jp-moreland.

And the circle of the earth could have meant a sphere. The original word in Hebrew was chuwg which can mean circle, circuit, compass and one translation cites sphere but even if it didn’t, from a distance (like the earth from space) a sphere would be viewed as a circle from all directions so using a word that means circle logically does not negate the earth being a sphere.

So, while there are some seemingly convincing arguments out there that attempt to disprove the Bible, a closer examination will show that the Bible is what it claims to be; the Inspired Word of God!

Also see
http://www.icr.org/article/circle-earth/

Clark Campbell
Theologetics.org

Jonah prophesied and it did not come true?

Jonah
Jonah and the whale (Jonah 2:11) by Matthaeus Merian I (1630)

I was doing some reading in a new book my wife got me which gives background information about every book in the Bible as well as the Apocrypha. Despite a wealth of interesting and be it “sound” information, are some things which I found a little less than accurate. One of these things is that it states there was only one prophecy in Jonah and it didn’t come true.

So lets take a look at this prophecy.

Jonah 3:4 says Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”

Another translation is: On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!”

So what’s the issue? Nineveh was never destroyed because the people repented and turned from their evil ways.

Well, having a prophet of God get a prophecy wrong would essentially mean God misspoke, or at the very least, Jonah did which would mean the Bible was possibly wrong in relaying God’s intent which comes with a whole new set of issues.

Well, it turns out the original word in Hebrew for overthrown is “haphak” and it can also mean “to turn, turn around, to change and transform”.

So amazingly, because of the Hebrew language and God’s Omniscience, God used Jonah in a way I never even realized. The overthrowing of Nineveh by their destruction turned into the transforming of the city by turning from their sin!!!

It’s astounding how this one word “haphak”, and this one prophecy, could mean two seperate options at the same time which were dependent on the reaction of a city to God’s prophet. The more I learn about the God we serve, the more I am amazed and the more I fall in love with His heart for us.

If you too want to learn more about the God of the Bible, email us at Theologetics3.15@gmail.com

-Clark Campbell
Theologetics.org

The Moral Argument for the Existence of God

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ARRIVAL OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN AT THE INN by Gustave Dore, 1885

A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, LETTER FROM BIRMINGHAM JAIL

This true law diffused among all men, is immutable and eternal.” -Cicero, DE LEGIBUS

In a previous blog defending the unborn, I mentioned that saving a life isn’t just an argument from the religious among us. That there are non-religious people who also affirm that abortion is immoral. But what makes something immoral?

The concept of moral subjectivity says that morality is subject, or relative, depending on the person, culture, or time frame. What may be considered morally right for you may not be for me. Or what was considered morally right in the past is not so now.

Absolute morality states morality is the same for all people of all time. It’s not what is considered moral or immoral; it’s that morality is an actual thing that transcends human perceptions.

In this video (at 6 minutes and 30 seconds in) a moral relativist gives this syllogism:
a) If morality is objective, then we would all have the same view of morality.
b) If we all had the same view of morality, then we would never disagree about what is moral.
c) We do disagree about what is moral.
Conclusion) Therefore morality is not objective.

Premise “a” is false. A person can believe 2+2=5 and another believe that it equals 4. One person can believe the earth is flat and another believe it is round. So just because someone has different views doesn’t mean the truth isn’t objective. The same logic can be applied to morality.

The fallacy in premise “a” makes the logic in the rest of the argument fall part. People can and do disagree about what has already proven to be true. Disagreeing about facts doesn’t make the facts any less factual. It doesn’t make truth relative.

You may argue that we cannot compare objective truths like laws of mathematics to something as abstract as morality. But the truth is: morality is just as objective.

Some skeptics argue that God cannot be the standard for morality because of some of His actions in the Bible. What must be noted however is that the skeptic, often a moral relativist, is making a morally objective claim. They claim that the actions of Yahweh are not moral.

But where do they get their standard of morality from? Is it just a matter of individual taste? Is it a matter of societal conditioning? Is it something deeper?

If morality is truly subjective then a person cannot claim that God or anyone else is wrong for what they view as moral or immoral. If I stole your wallet, then you could only say that stealing wallets is wrong for you and that my views are just as valid as yours. But, reality tells a different story. If I stole your wallet, then you would not believe I am wrong, you would know that I am wrong and you would reasonably expect that I should know it is wrong as well. Every fiber of your being would expect that I should know that it is wrong. Therefore, you wouldn’t be indifferent to the theft, you would be angry at the thief. And rightfully so.

In Mere Christianity, chapter 3, C.S. Lewis states there is a difference in the Law of Nature and his Law of Human Nature. The law of nature describes what things do, like a rock falling because of gravity. The Law of Human Nature (or the Moral Law) describes what a person ought to do, regarding ethics and morality. “I am not angry – except perhaps for a moment before I come to my senses – with a man who trips me up by accident; I am angry with a man who tries to trip me up even if he does not succeed. Yet the first has hurt me and the second has not. Sometimes the behavior which I call bad is not inconvenient to me at all, but the very opposite.

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He further states, “If we ask: ‘Why ought I to be unselfish?’ and you reply ‘Because it is good for society’ we may then ask, ‘Why should I care what’s good for society except when it happens to pay me personally?’ and then you will have to say, ‘Because you ought to be unselfish’ – which simply brings us back to where we started. You are saying what is true but you are not getting any further… If a man asks what is the point of behaving decently, it is no good replying, ‘in order to benefit society,’ for trying to benefit society, in other words being unselfish (for ‘society’ after all only means ‘other people’), is one of the things decent behaviour consists in; all you are really saying is that decent behaviour is decent behaviour. You would have said just as much if you had stopped at the statement, ‘Men ought to be unselfish.’ And that is where I do stop. Men ought to be unselfish; ought to be fair. Not that men are unselfish, not that they like being unselfish, but that they ought to be.

Are your feelings the standard? No. There is a standard that you know exists outside of yourself. A standard of how we know we “ought” to act. And others are expected to know this standard also.

“Well, of course. The law of the land and accepted human behavior is the standard. And the law says stealing is wrong,” you may argue. Then, by that same logic, you cannot argue against the Atlantic Slave Trade, the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, or any other historical events once deemed lawful.

“Well, I can argue against those because they were crimes being committed against humanity.” So what you’re now saying is that they were violating a moral standard that transcends cultures, nations, and centuries.

We see that we know morality is a real thing that exists outside of ourselves. It is observed by us and known by us but it is a thing outside of us. It is set by a standard that we know we should behave by.
So what is the standard? Does it change?

18th century philosopher, Immanuel Kant, believed that morality was not subjective but rather objective. That it was an axiom of the metaphysical world. He stated “I ought never to act except in such a way that I could also will that my maxim should become a universal law.” He called this the Categorical Imperative. In other words “Act in a way that all of mankind would benefit if we were to treat each other the same way.” It wouldn’t be ok for everyone to start stealing from each other, so its not ok for one person. Or as Jesus said 1700 years before, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Atheist, Sam Harris said here, “It [the world] needs people like ourselves to admit that there are right and wrong answers to questions of human flourishing, and morality relates to that domain of facts…” He believes that there is an objective morality. What sets him apart from the Christian worldview is what he believes to be the source of this morality.

According to the atheist, humanity is just a higher evolved species in the animal kingdom. But logic tell us that animals do not act in moral or immoral ways. Each animal just does what is best for his own survival. According to naturalistic atheism, morality is just a construct of evolution; making humans the final authority on what constitutes as morals. So, who then decides? The most powerful? The most logical? The richest? History tells us that these qualifications are still flawed standards for morality.

Our position is that objective morality points to the existence of God.

Because there is a moral law, there must be a Moral Law Giver. God is that moral law Giver. He is the standard and has given us the law. And this law is written on our hearts.

In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus said that the whole law is summed up as “You shall love the Lord your GOD with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” The first four of “the law” (the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20) are of the love of God and the last six are of the love for our fellow man.

What’s important to note is that cultures during different periods of time and in other societies have had similar commands or standards for ethical living. Here are some illustrations:

  • “I have not slain men” Confession of the Righteous Soul. Ancient Egypt (against murder)
  • “I saw in Nastrond (Hell) beguilers of others’ wives.” Volospa. Old Norse (against adultery)
  • “I sought no trickery nor swore false oaths.” Beowulf. Anglo Saxon (against lying)
  • “Choose loss rather than shameful gains.” Ancient Greece (against stealing)
  • “Utter not a word by which anyone could be wounded” Law of Manu. Ancient India (against insults)
  • “You will see them take care of…widows, orphans, and old men, never reproaching them.” Native American (showing charity [love])

This is proof of what Paul tells us in the second chapter of Romans; that even people who do not have the Law written, have the law instinctively. “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.” (verse 14)

Moral laws are instilled in us because we are created in the image of God. Like God, we love what is good and hate was is evil. God loves what is good because He is good. Goodness is one of His attributes. There is no goodness aside from God. However because of our sinful, fallen nature we often disagree on what is good and what is evil. But the truth remains, we know there is a standard of goodness that transcends time and culture. This Standard is God.

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

The Shema and The Trinity

moses_speaks_to_israel
MOSES SPEAKS TO ISRAEL, by Henri Felix Emmanuel Phillippoteaux

“The Shema is the central prayer in the Jewish prayer book. It is generally one of the first prayers a Jewish child learns. The Shema defines what it means to be Jewish as it has since the days of Moses:

Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad—“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4).”

http://www.jewishvoice.org/media/publications/articles/yeshua-and-the-shema.html?referrer=http://www.google.com.af/

If the the Shema states that God is one, doesn’t that contradict the Christian doctrine of the Trinity?

If the LORD is One, then how can He be also Three? The word “echad” (the ch is more of a throaty h sound) in the above verse is the Hebrew word for one. But, if we believe God is a Trinity how do we reconcile this apparent contradiction?

Well, in Genesis 2:24 the same word “echad” is used to describe how a husband and wife will become one flesh.

In Genesis 11:6, the tower of Babel narrative describes the people as being one (echad).

Ezra 2:64 the whole assembly is gathered together (echad). But the people in the assembly numbered 42,360. In these verses, echad represents a unified oneness, not a numerical oneness.

Now, I can’t say that echad always represents a unified oneness. Sometimes it can represent a numerical oneness (Ex. Numbers 13:2, Deut.17:6) . So how do we know the difference?

As usual, the answer lies in the context. The word for God in the Shema is plural אֱלֹהִים (‘Elohiym). Just like Genesis 2:24, chapter 11 verse 6, Ezra 2:64, and others not listed here, echad means a compound unity.

You will see the word Eloheinu above and perhaps think that’s different than the plural Elohiym. The only difference is Eloheinu means “Our God” but the root word is still the plural word Elohiym.

Therefore, we see that even before the Trinity was understood as we understand it today, the Hebrews of the Old Testament understood there was a vastness and complexity to the Godhead. The very first word used for God in the Bible (Genesis 1:1) is the plural word Elohiym.

So there is no contradiction. God does not change (Malachi 3:6).

Psalm 102:25-27
“In the beginning You laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.They will perish, but You remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing You will change them and they will be discarded. But You remain the same, and Your years will never end.”

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

Homosexuality from Multiple Perspectives

Destruction of Sodom
The Destruction of the Cities of the Plain (Lot and his daughters running for cover in foreground. Mezzotint with etching, c.1830s.) ~ by James G S Lucas

So the LGBTQ movement is something that is becoming more and more common and personally affects Christians more than ever before, quite clearly because of the acceptance of the movement in mainstream media.

I have recently wrote about the importance of loving everyone regardless of their race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, etc. which can be found HERE but the definition of what that love looks like is very much debated among Christians and everyone else.

As such, I thought it may be helpful for some Christian’s and non-Christians alike for us to outline what we believe at Theologetics.org and why we believe it.

Let’s start by looking at what is at stake. For someone who identifies as being gay or a lesbian, if Christians take a stance against same-sex attraction and these Christians are wrong about it being a sin, the individuals that embrace same-sex attraction will rightly feel ostracized and hurt because what they are identifying as is the same thing many Christians would wrongly be calling a sin. But if Christians stand against homosexuality because it really is something that is wrong, something God condemns, and something that is a hurtful lifestyle, then Christians that lovingly condemn the sin are showing true love to the sinner.

As Christians, it is important for us to realize how deep this goes, many if not all people that embrace same-sex attraction are not just lightly making the decision one day to like the same sex, they had been feeling an attraction for a long time.

Lets take a brief look at the attraction itself. Often it is believed this attraction is something people are born with. While there is not much evidence for that stance, the truth is it really doesn’t matter from a Christian perspective. Some people are born with a disposition for the abuse of alcohol or drugs but that doesn’t make that desire healthy or right. So I would caution Christians or secularists that take a side of the issue using the logic that it is or is not in the genes since the Bible clearly states that we all have sinned and have a sin nature, so genes are not a good measuring stick for this issue or any other for that matter.

So to the Christians reading this I say please be kind, gentle, loving and patient when dealing with this issue as those who are lost need to see Jesus in you more often than hearing about what the Bible says is wrong. Remember, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” Proverbs 15:1

So now, let’s take a quick look at the Bible.

The Bible doesn’t address the issue of homosexuality much but when it does it is clearly condemned as being sin. For the purpose of keeping this blog short I won’t go into the meanings of the verses about homosexuality but for someone that questions what the Bible really says about it being sin, you can find some information on it HERE. Basically there are several ways the Bible is read and how it is read depends on the reader.

In my opinion, the four basic types of Bible readers are:
1. Non-Christians
2. Cultural Christians
3. Non-Fundamentalist Christians
4. Fundamentalist Christians

Non-Christians consider the Bible to be either just another book of many, that it is out-dated or maybe even that it is a bad book. They may believe it has some good ideas or no good ideas but definitely not a book that has any authority over how people should live their lives. As these beliefs are unfounded, it would take at least another separate blog to begin to explain the reasons why but some information about the authority of Scripture can be found as a PDF HERE.

In reality, a Cultural Christian is someone that really follows culture over the Bible regardless if it aligns with the Bible or not. They don’t really read the Bible that often and usually don’t care to either. They may consider themselves a Christian because their parents are Christian, or they were baptized as a child, or something to that effect. A Cultural Christian says one thing and does something else. This is hypocrisy. It is illogical to say you believe something or identify as something but live as though you do not. In reality, many Christians have areas in their lives that they may say they believe what the Bible says but live as though they do not believe it. All who say they follow Christ should examine their hearts in any area of life and truly compare it with what the Bible says regarding that area.

Non-Fundamentalist Christians are among varying denominations and individuals that generally don’t believe in the complete authority of the Bible. They may believe that the Bible is either only partly inspired by God or not at all, or that the inspired word of God has been changed and not to be taken literally today. Similar to Cultural Christians, a Non-Fundamentalist’s belief is also illogical, let me explain.

If I were to believe the Bible is only partially inspired by God, and that some of it are men’s ideas added in, I would have no way of knowing what to really believe is true or not and thus, it would not make sense to put any faith in the Bible at all. The same logic applies if I were to believe the Bible were originally 100% God’s inspired words but that it has since been changed.

Similarly, if I were to believe the Bible was written completely by men, not inspired by God at all, it would have no authority and would just be another book among millions, so calling myself a Christian would really be pointless as all other ideas, religions, and philosophies would have equal merit and truth. (That’s not to say other non-Christian sources of information don not have some truth to them, just that the Bible is the only ancient manuscript that can be shown to be without error in it’s original manuscripts, and divinely inspired with hundreds of fulfilled prophecies. Again, some information about the authority of Scripture can be found as a PDF HERE and other good places to start would be books by Lee Strobel, Ravi Zacharias, C.S. Lewis, and Dan Story)

Which leads to the last type of Bible reader; the Fundamentalist Christian. Fundamentalist Christians believe the Bible is completely inspired by God. They look at context when interpreting the Bible and take it to be literal when the language is not poetic or allegorical. If you claim to be a Christian, this is the most logical way to read the Bible. If you are not a Christian, there are many reasons why you should look into what the Bible really says, specifically about Jesus, and the historical, archeological, theological, and simply logical reasons why the Bible is the inspired Word of God which any of the previously mentioned links and authors are great places to start.

So, if the Bible is completely inspired by God (which the evidence is well in favor of it being so) and the passages that discuss homosexuality are examined in context and taken literally (the most logical way to read and interpret the Bible), homosexuality is clearly found to be a sin. 

Anytime anyone chooses sin, they are saying to God that they want to do things their way instead of God’s way. Anytime we try and do things our way leads to pain, sickness, destruction, and death. Being a sin, homosexuality is destructive to those who practice it and thus, the most loving thing Christians can do is lovingly stand against the sin while being loving and like Christ to those who embrace same-sex attraction. This is our stance. I hope this was helpful for those who read it, at least in understanding where many Christians and Christian organizations are coming from when they say they will not compromise on Scripture when it comes to these specific issues of homosexuality.

By Clark Campbell
Theologetics.org