“…One less god…”?

pantheon
The Pantheon, a temple in Rome dedicated to “every god”, completed in 128 A.D.

There’s a popular quote by atheist Steven F. Roberts that many nonbelievers cite or paraphrase when debating Christians that says, “I contend we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer God than you do.”

The atheist is saying that since we Christians don’t believe in Baal, Zeus, Odin, Vishnu, Quetzalcoatl, or any other god other than the God of the Bible, then we assume the same lack of belief system. They just take it one deity further.

So what’s the difference ?

Well it doesn’t take much to realize that this argument is constructed in a way to throw the believer off guard. Let’s look at the two members of the argument. An atheist and a theist. The word atheist comes from the Greek atheos.  The prefix a meaning “without” and theos meaning “god”. In other words atheism is the belief that there is no god or gods. No Supreme Ruler whatsoever. The atheist’s worldview is completely shrouded and perceived in the material realm. That anything outside it is pure speculation and unprovable (or not proven yet).

However, for the theist (Christian in our case) the material realm is just another dimension of reality. For us there is also the spiritual realm. The spiritual realm is, in fact, the truest reality because it existed first. God is spirit (John 4:24) and He created all that exists (Genesis 1, John 1:3) in the spiritual and material world.

Now let me point out that Christians during the 1st century were called atheists because they rejected the pantheon of greco-roman gods of the surrounding culture. This was also because the Christians of the day had no temple, priest, or sacrifice, as Romans would have recognized. Yet, believers in Christ saw Jesus as the temple. He is the only way to the Holy of Holies. Believers in Christ saw Him as priest because He is the Ultimate High Priest. Believers in Christ saw Jesus as the sacrifice because of the work He accomplished on the cross. He is the sacrificial Lamb of God and no sacrifice is needed after Him. (John 1:29; Hebrews 4:14; 10:10-11, 19-20)

After the resurrection of Jesus and the birth of the Church there was no “physical” representation of their God like the Romans had. The Romans had statues and Caesar.  If you didn’t worship as they worshipped and whom they worshipped then you worshipped nothing. Therefore, the term atheist was applied to early Christians out of ignorance and out of insult.

In the Martyrdom of Polycarp, Polycarp is brought before the Roman governor for trial. The governor has the intention of making Polycarp betray his Christian brethren. Polycarp must say, “Away with the atheists” or else be condemned. He looks around at “the crowd of lawless heathen”(the pagan Romans) and says “Away with the atheists” flipping the name on to his accusers. (Martyrdom of Polycarp 9:2)

But, let’s be reminded. Atheists reject all gods. They reject false gods and the true God, Yahweh. They don’t just reject one more god than Christians. They reject THE God. The only true and living God. Even though God has made Himself plainly evident through His creation, atheists won’t come to the knowledge of the truth. (Romans 19:21)

However…

Atheists might reject the notion of gods as supernatural, ethereal beings, but they still have gods. We all serve something or someone. We all worship something or someone. Whether it be ourselves, pleasure, fortune, fame, other people, hobbies, pets, nature, gods made of wood or gold, or the God of the Bible; something gets our worship whether we choose to accept the notion or not.

This brings us to the first two commandments:

1)You shall have no other gods before Me [Yahweh]
2)You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them. (Exodus 20:3-4a)

If we have broken these commandments, and we all have if God is not who we worship, then we make ourselves idolaters. Anything other than God that gets our worship has become an idol. These are Paul’s words in Philippians 3:18-19

18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.

If this is true of you today, please understand that God wants to be the object of your worship. He knows that anything else that competes for your attention above Him is a false god. He knows that no other god can bring you true joy and fulfillment. Anything else is an imitation and will never come close to the perfect love, holiness, and eternality of God. Don’t be blinded by passion for the things of the world. Things will break. Trends will fade. This world and everything in it will pass away. God and His Word are forever. And don’t place any person above God. Human beings are imperfect and all have fallen far short of God’s glory. But, God is not man that He should lie or change His mind. Nor will He ever leave us or forsake us. So, give your worship to God and to God alone because He alone is worthy.

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

So You Have Gay Friends and Think You Are a Christian?

Jesus and Peter
Treasures of the Bible (Jesus’ Ministry) — Jesus, Walking on the Water, Rescues Peter

A friend of mine recently couldn’t find his youngest boy. He and his wife looked all over their house and once they realized he really wasn’t there, they called the police. This father assumed (and hoped) his son went to a friend’s house without telling them and he planned on yelling at his son and even spanking him on the spot for wandering off when he found him. After an hour of scouring the neighborhood, an hour that felt like an eternity, he finally found him at a neighbor’s house. But in that moment, he couldn’t yell, he couldn’t spank his son like he planned on doing, all he could do was hold him in his arms because he was safe.

He said that he got just a small glimpse of what God feels when one of his lost children is found. That he was shocked that he didn’t react the way he had planned and that his heart was so full of gratitude that the only thing that came out of him was love for his lost son.

Jesus came to this earth to get back what was most precious to God; his lost children.

“his lost children”

But who are his lost children? Who are the ones that are SO precious to God that he would send his only begotten Son to die a horrific death in OUR place just to reconcile us, to save us? Who are the ones that have God’s love, his affection, his heart?

The answer… We ALL are!

Every.

Last.

One of us.

It doesn’t matter what you have done. God loves you. It doesn’t matter what mistakes you have made. God wants you. Not everyone will accept this gift and many will choose to live eternally apart from God and stay lost but regardless, God loves all of us!

So when some in the body of Christ elevate certain sins over others, namely homosexuality, and don’t reach out to those individuals in love because of that sin, they are not only making a mistake but committing sins (plural) themselves.

The sin of hypocrisy. The sin of arrogance. The sin of selfishness…

So if you have gay friends and think you are a Christian, you are truly living like Christ. If you are trying to be a light to those who are lost, you are living the way Christ called all of us to live. We are called to be in the world and not of it. I think the Church focuses on the second half of that verse a little too much sometimes, “not of it.”

Sometimes while trying not to be of the world we forget to be in it.

Don’t get me wrong, we cannot condone sin in any form. Being gay is clearly a sin and should not be celebrated (Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Romans 1:26-28). But those who struggle in that area should be loved, should be befriended and shown that they are important to God. Let them see God in you, not God’s judgment through you, after all, there is not one of us who does not struggle in some area. As I see it, Jesus treated the lost this way, never condoning sin but always loving the sinner. He was the most critical of the religious of His time; the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the religious leaders… Jesus called them “white-washed tombs” (Matthew 23:27) meaning they were hypocrites, self-centered and missing the point of true love. They focused on the law too much and did not love people.

The law is important but it never supersedes God’s love. Love fulfills the law. Like many things in life, you cannot have one or the other, there needs to be a balance of the two. But it seems to me more and more “Christians” in our day are known by the law, not by the love. Again, not to say one replaces the other, just that Jesus was known by His love and I really believe we should too.

So while some celebrate the LGBTQ community and others treat them like they are committing the unforgivable sin, we should open our arms, our hearts, and our homes to EVERYONE in love to show them that they are cherished by us and subsequently, by God. Just maybe that will make the difference in their lives and help open their eyes.

By Clark Campbell
Theologetics.org

 

Go and Make Disciples, Not Just Converts

image
Farewell Discourse from the Maesta by Duccio (1308-1311)

 

At any given Sunday service, youth retreat, children’s church, Christian concert, etc, there is typically what is known in American Christianity as an “altar call.” It is usually an invitation of those who want to make Jesus Christ their personal Lord and Savior and those who already are Christians but want to rededicate their lives to Him. Some attribute the popularity of alter calls to Billy Graham and his popular crusades. While there is no direct biblical reference to alter calls, I cannot speak negatively of them. Many have come to Christ by the way of altar calls.

I want to talk about what happens after the altar call. I think we falter when we see altar calls as a litmus test of how well a ministry or sermon or gathering is going. We like seeing crowds come to the front. We like knowing that (x) amount of people filled out commitment cards. But there is a danger of a false sense of accomplishment here.

How many of these decisions to come forward were caused by family or peer pressure? How many of these decisions to come forward were based on emotions being drawn by the worship leader? What happens after the music stops? Are these conversions genuine? I’m sure millions are. But, who seeks to pour into spiritual growth afterwards?

In what is known as The Great Commission found in Matthew chapter 28, Jesus commands “Go and make disciples of all nations…”  While making converts is vital to the growth of the Church, there has to be a continuous maturing of the believer after that. Otherwise you’re left with large amounts of spiritual infants who, often by no fault of their own, haven’t moved from milk to meat. They were simply a face in a crowd. While the angels were rejoicing at their salvation the elders bragged about the number of hands that were raised.

If a man has been working at a job for 20 years and showed very little knowledge or skill in his work, you might believe something to be very wrong, either with him or the training program. If a man is a Christian for 20 years and can’t name something elementary like the four Gospels and shows very little spiritual fruit, we should be wondering what went wrong. He is spiritually a 20 year old infant.

Wikipedia defines a disciple as a “student”. Merriam Webster defines a disciple as “someone who accepts and helps to spread the teachings of a famous person.” In traditional Chinese, the disciple was a person “who believes in the ideas and principles of someone famous and tries to live the way they do or did.” In the original Greek of Matthew 28, disciple (didaskalos) is a pupil of a master or teacher. The root Latin word that we get disciple from (discipulus) actually means “scholar”.

As we can see the meaning of disciple is far from someone who stays in spiritual infancy. A disciple should be steadily growing in knowledge and holiness. While the Holy Spirit has His part to play, so do other believers. When Jesus called out Lazarus from the dead, he left it up to his family and friends to make sure he didn’t stay in his grave clothes. In other words when we are saved from our spiritually dead selves, it is the responsibility of those who have been waiting and praying over us to help us look like the spiritually awake individuals that we become. This is one reason being an active member of local church is so vital.

I know of many churches that don’t just leave the new believer alone after their conversion. Many send mail, call, or even visit to help ensure the believer is growing. Many churches have discipleship programs where the new believer or even the 20 year old infant can learn to grow in Christ. There are missionaries who don’t just leave the people they find with a new faith but actually ensure the natives they converted learn and grow to become new pastors and teachers. These are the churches and believers that are fulfilling Jesus’ mandate to make disciples.

If you are a new believer or believer who realizes that you haven’t been growing since you got saved, then my advice is to surround yourself with believers who are maturing spiritually. Find a church that encourages Bible reading and group study. And make the time often to study for yourself.

Helping believers grow in knowledge is one of our goals here at Theologetics.org. Every believer must also mature in spiritual fruit. It is our prayer that reading this will cause us to evaluate ourselves and motivate growth in both aspects of your Christian walk.

Applicable verses:
Matthew 28:19
Hosea 4:6
Psalm 1:1-3
2 Peter 1:5-6
2 Peter 3:18
2 Corinthians 13:5
Colossians 1:10
Ephesians 4:15
Galatians 5:22-23
Titus 2:1-8
Hebrews 5:12

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

How to Understand the Bible

william-morris-letter-b
William Morris letter “B”

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth– 1 Timothy 2:15

I’ve heard the same story repeated. I’ve even experienced it myself. A Bible Study is underway and the person leading the study will begin by reading a verse or passage. Then he will ask those attending what that scripture means to them. In a group of 10 you might get 10 different answers. This is especially true with more ambiguous or mysterious passages. You might ask “what’s wrong with that? The Bible speaks to everyone differently depending on where you are in your life.” There is some truth to that. But let me provide another perspective:

You write a letter to a loved one. How much of that letter would you expect them to read? It would be safe to assume that the entire letter is to be read. While certain phrases or sentences may stick out in the persons mind, they are to be taken in context with the rest of the letter. If a sentence seems questionable on its own, usually it is the rest of the letter that will make sense of it. It’s all a part of communication. You want the reader to understand what you meant, not for them to inject their own interpretation.
This is how we should come to scripture.

The Bible is a collection of books and letters written to those identified as God’s people. Hermeneutics is the science of rightly interpreting the Bible.
Scripture in its original form did not consist of chapter and verse divisions. To be honest sometimes I wish it still didn’t. But, with such a large book, chapters and verses are helpful for finding the words you need. However, we fail when we pick out a verse without understanding the surrounding text, or context (with the exception of most of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes). Take a verse like Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge lest you be judged,” which many of us take to mean you should never correct anyone in sin or wrong doing. However, a more thorough reading of chapter 7 will explain that we’re not being told NOT to judge. We’re being told that we shouldn’t judge others before we have judged and corrected our selves first (verses 3-5) on the same matter. Some chapters even begin with the adverb “therefore” meaning “for that reason”. Because of this, we should know what was being said in the previous chapter. This will bring new light to the following chapter. Since most books in the Bible are written as narratives or letters, it would greatly benefit the reader to read the entire book other than just a couple of chapters. This can and will bring the better understanding of each verse read.

In the grander scheme, reading the entire Bible can bring better contextual understanding of each of its included books. In regard to Matthew 7:1 we are told over and over throughout the Bible to judge rightly and to use discernment (judging). Making the common phrase “The Bible says not to judge,” erroneous and at best incomplete.

Literary context is only one step in “rightly dividing the word of God.” Duvall and Hayes in their book GRASPING GOD’S WORD, explain how to get a better understanding of scripture in 5 steps they call “The Interpretive Journey”.

Step 1 is called “Grasping the text in their town”. Basically what would the text in question mean to the original readers. How would they have understood it. This can be difficult if there is no general understanding of who the original audience was or how they viewed the world around them. Is the book written as a historical document, poetry, epistle?

Step 2 is measuring the width of the river to cross. In other words what are the differences between the original audiences and myself? What was their culture, language, and situation? Were they under a different covenant?

Step 3. “Crossing the principlizing bridge.” What is the theological principle this text presents? You come to a verse like “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this” in Deuteronomy 22:5. This isn’t just a commandment forbidding women to wear pants. If we look at the differences in culture as stated in Step 2, we can understand that there were no pants in the culture of the ancient Israelites. So they would have understood it to mean your appearance in general. God made man to be male and woman to be female. The way you present yourself to the world is to either submit to who God made to be or to go against it. Crossdressing could also be a matter of being deceptive.

“Consulting the Biblical map” is Step 4 of the journey. This goes back to using the rest of scripture as context for understanding. Is what I have gathered about this passage in agreement with the rest of scripture? Since God does not contradict Himself nor does He change His mind then if my understanding is contrary to what is explicitly stated elsewhere then it is my understanding that needs to submit to scripture, not the other way around.

The Last step on the journey is “Grasping the text in your own town”. This is where you apply what you have learned in the previous 4 steps to your life and the lives of those around you. How does it apply in my life and culture now?

Biblical exegesis is a process of rightly interpreting. Exegesis is only done through careful and objective study of the text. The opposite of proper exegesis is called eisegesis. Eisegesis is when the reader interprets the text through subjective lenses and makes the scripture mean whatever he wants it to mean.

One way to properly exegete scripture is by studying the original languages it was written in. I’ll give a simple example that many of us have learned in high school. There is a famous scene in Romeo and Juliet where Juliet is seen asking “Romeo, Romeo. Wherefore art though Romeo.” Now in our modern English, that sounds like Juliet is inquiring about the location of her beloved Romeo. But, in the 1500s, when it was written, that phrase would have been understood as “Romeo, Romeo. Why are you Romeo?” Since Romeo and Juliet came from feuding families she was asking why did Romeo have to be Romeo of the family that her family hated. The next line in the poem makes sense of this when she says “Deny thy father…” Therefore, using proper literary and cultural context we gain a better understanding.

Now if we need help understanding a poem written in the same language only a few hundred years ago, how much more so a book written in foreign languages thousands of years ago? Now I’ll use a biblical example to make my point.

In John 21, after Jesus’ resurrection, He asks Peter “Do you love me?” To which Peter responds “Yes Lord; you know that love you.” Jesus asks this question to Peter twice more. And twice more Peter has the same response. Now in the English this may seem like just a conversation about Peter’s love for Jesus, and that would be right. However, the conversation in the original Greek presents Peter answering a somewhat different question than he is being asked. The term love that Jesus is using is the Greek word “agape” meaning an unconditional love. The term for love that Peter uses is the Greek word “phileo” meaning more so a brotherly/friendship type of love. Both still “love” but different verbal expressions and meanings. It is believed that Peter was so ashamed after his 3 denials of Christ that he could not say with confidence that he unconditionally loved his Lord because his zeal turned to fear and he abandoned Jesus.

Back to the scenario being played out in Bible studies around the country. The goal should not be to come away with subjective interpretations of scripture. We can know what the Bible says and what it means when time is taken to properly study it. So to correct this scenario the person leading the study should already have a proper understanding of the text. Yet, he can walk his audience through how he got the understanding of what the original author meant. So, when the time comes to engage the group, they aren’t left with subjective interpretations; they will have an educated understanding of what was meant. What the Author actual meant. The subjective part comes in how each individual with apply it to his or her own life.

Some people ask me how they should begin reading the Bible. It is my personal opinion that starting with the New Testament is the wisest choice. Start at Matthew and read to the end of Revelations. When I began seriously reading the Bible I spent most of my time in the New Testament until I’d read it several times. I suggest the New Testament first because it teaches us what we need to know about salvation and Christian living. Then I say read the Old Testament, Genesis to Malachi. But as you are reading be sure to read each book just like you would a book. Only using chapter and verse divisions as reference points. Write down verses that speak to you (or baffle you) in a notebook for further study. And last but most importantly, always seek the Holy Spirit’s illumination. Reading the Bible without it will lead to confusion, misunderstanding, and misuse.

By Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

What Believing in Evolution Actually Means

Earth
The geocentric model according to the Bible of Martin Luther.

There is no denying it, micro-evolution exists, although the term itself is quite misleading. Micro-evolution is a term that is commonly used to describe adaptation within a species to help them survive. These adaptations never result in a new species, there is not even one piece of observable scientific evidence to suggest otherwise. Adaptations always result in the same or less information within that species DNA code and for macro-evolution to occur would require new information which simply does not happen.

This blog is not meant to be about the absurdities of macro-evolution. There are great resources out there that go in to much detail about micro and macro-evolution from a Biblical standpoint (Mike Riddle and Answers in Genesis are two resources that immediately come to mind but there are many more). This blog is about what it means for a Christian to believe in macro-evolution (which I will simply call evolution from here on out). So it is my hope that if you have read this far, you will find this helpful and not hurtful.

For a Christian to believe in millions of years of evolution means:

1. The authority of scripture is compromised since the writing style of Genesis is “historical narrative” and not poetry:

The normal order for a Hebrew narrative sentence is:
Conjunction–Verb–Subject–Object.

The order in poetic writing is:
Subject–Verb–Object

The style of writing of Genesis 1 is historical, using the waw-consecutive to express consecutive action (waw = and).

http://www.ldolphin.org/genmyth.html

So for example, if I were to choose to believe that the creation account is not really a literal six day event as recorded in Genesis but a figurative allegorical story, that would be similar to me believing Jesus was not really a literal man but a figurative fictional character. It would be one thing if Genesis were written as poetry but the fact is, it was not. If I were to treat it like it is poetry and not literal, what stops me from doing the same thing with the rest of the Bible?

2. To believe in evolution means man wasn’t made distinct from the animals as recorded in Genesis but is an animal.

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.””
Genesis 1:26

“then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”
Genesis 2:7

The Bible teaches that God made us unique, that there was a distinct moment where we were created in God’s image. Not slowly becoming more human, and thus, more like God over millions of years.

3. To believe in evolution means Eve would not have been made as a help-mate for Adam from his rib.

“20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.
22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”
Genesis 2:20-22

Again, the Bible lays it out clearly, man was literally alone and God took part of Adam to provide a suitable mate for him since no creature that already existed was fit to fill that void.

4. To believe in evolution means thorns, disease, and death would have existed before Adam and Eve since fossils (supposedly existing millions of years before Adam and Eve) show thorns, disease, and death; all of which should have only happened after Adam and Eve sinned.

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”
Genesis 1:31

“16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,
17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.””
Genesis 2:16-17

“17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.”
Genesis 3:17-18

Using faulty dating methods, the fossil record is believed to show death and disease existing way before Adam and Eve would have existed. But in Luke 3:23-38 it shows Jesus’s bloodline all the way back to Adam who is portrayed as a literal man. This bloodline places Adam roughly 6,000 years ago. If Adam existed 6,000 years ago but we have fossils supposedly hundreds of thousands to millions of years old that show thorns, disease, and the death of humans and animals, then the Bible would simply be wrong. There is no combining evolution and the Bible, there are logical and scientific ways to show that the Biblical account of creation is the most likely and that the scientific assumptions and dating methods currently used today are false.

5. If humans merely evolved instead of being created the way the Bible says we were, that means God used death to create us and it had nothing to do with Adam and Eve’s sin which seems to negate our need for a savior.

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned–”
Romans 5:12

I know there are Christians out there; sincere, God-fearing, and Jesus-loving Christians, who hold to the belief that God used evolution to create us. Aside from a lack of true evidence, it seems to me that it is a serious compromise of the authority of Scripture to hold such a view. I hope this blog has given food for thought to any Christian with a theistic-evolution viewpoint or any Christian who hasn’t really considered how to reconcile evolution and the Bible. I do not mean to try and condemn anyone, only to point out what seems like the logical conclusions of a theistic-evolution worldview.

By Clark Campbell
Theologetics.org

Why Didn’t God Make Us Perfect Without Sin?

satan-fall-milton
Gustave Doré (engraving); Satan, the Fallen Angel, is flung from Heaven and nears the confines of the Earth on his way to Hell [Paradise Lost, John Milton; 1667]; c. 1866.
God is perfect and God is holy.

So why didn’t God make humans and angels perfect so that they would never sin?

If we can even deduce this, the following are some of the questions I would consider to help us understand why God didn’t make us perfect:

A. Could God have created a perfect being with free will that would never sin?
B. In heaven, will we lose our free will or will it still be possible for us to sin?
C. Why did Lucifer sin in the first place?

D. Why does God allow sin?


A. Could God have created a perfect being with free will that would never sin?

Consider Philippians 2:5-7
“5
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.…”

Now it seems as though even Jesus Himself outlined human equality with God something that cannot be attained and Jesus was man and God! (This concept of Jesus being 100% man and 100% God is confusing but a brief explanation can be found here under Jesus’ Humanity & Eternality)

Also consider that the question “Could God have created a perfect being with free will that would never sin?” seems to cause an issue; If God were to create a perfect being with free will that never sinned, then it is possible He would in one sense have created a being that was equal to God (at least on some level). A being that is perfect without sin would also be holy, so this seems to indicate that He would have just created another God (this is assuming that perfection is all-encompassing).

Now, this thought process implies that what makes God God is His being perfect and holy. This may not be entirely true since God is more than perfect and holy. There is also His eternality, aseity, necessity, and a list of other characteristics you can find here but it is worth thinking about.

Someone may ask, “If it’s true that God wouldn’t make someone perfect to begin with, how is it possible to become perfect in heaven?” Well, the saints (those who accept Christ as Lord and Savior) were not created perfect but have been perfected by the blood of Jesus. A caterpillar does not become a new creature when it transforms into a butterfly. It’s existence doesn’t cease, it is in a sense “perfected”. The Christian does not cease to be one creation and enter into a different existence. It transforms into perfection.

So, it seems that we will possibly be transformed into perfection in heaven but not into perfect beings, at least not perfect like God is perfect so there seems to be a difference.

B. In heaven, will we lose our free will or will it still be possible for us to sin?
&
C. Why did Lucifer sin in the first place?

One would assume that in heaven, we will know God and His perfectness. That we would still possess free will so to speak but we would never want to deny our Creator because of our knowledge and love of Him? This has been the explanation I have always believed but it still seems like it circles back to the question; Why in heaven would Lucifer sin being in what seems like a similar situation?

I personally believe the answer to question B. is no we will not lose our free will but we won’t want to sin. One reason presented to me for why we could possess free will in heaven and never sin is that we will likely know the difference from being in a place where suffering and pain exists to being in a place where it does not (somewhat separated from God’s presence on earth at God’s discretion). Lucifer had no such knowledge. So it is possible Lucifer ignorantly thought he could take God’s place and it subsequently got him and all the angels who took his side thrown out of heaven because of it. But what could have started this “chain reaction” so to speak?

I have written before about my personal thoughts on sin and/or evil possibly being the direct result of God’s absence but I recently read an article by John Piper (Where Did Satan’s First Desire for Evil Come From?) about an idea worth pondering; that basically God’s glory somehow being hidden from Lucifer may explain Lucifer’s initial desire to “be” God. So maybe, while Lucifer didn’t know what we know about the ugliness involved in the separation from God, some degree of separation may have sparked the flame within him. This is not to say that it is absolutely how it happened, it is just a possibility. Why would God do that to begin with you may ask? I will give my explanation in the next section.

D. Why does God allow sin?

God is perfect and God is holy. He created us with the sin plan. Somehow this is better than making us perfect without sin. I believe that the reason why it is better is evident in the Genesis account of God making the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil for Adam and Eve, and even before with Lucifer by possibly hiding His glory from Lucifer so he and all of creation could experience an unforced choice to love God which seems to require free will.

Another article I read by

So, all things considered, it appears that God created humans and angels with the ability to sin (freely deny Him) because He wanted us to be able to love. God did not want robots, after all, so He allowed himself to be hidden just enough that we must choose to believe, follow, and love Him. It is the sad reality that sin separates us from God. God does not want us to be separated from Him but because of the gift of free will which God has given each of us, we can choose to live a life without Him. Because God is holy, He cannot give anyone a “free pass” and let sin go unpunished but the good news is that someone already bore your punishment for you and His name is Jesus! All you need to do is accept His gift and turn from your sin. It is my prayer that you choose to do so right now, because you may not get another chance tomorrow and there is nothing worse than a lack of God for eternity.

By Clark Campbell with input from Derrick Stokes and Paul Grodell
Theologetics.org

Thoughts, Prayers, Amens and Lies

Praying-Child
Jacques Hnizdovsky (1915-1985) Praying Child Notecard

I had a discussion about prayer with a few individuals online that brought up some interesting ideas, this is just part of that conversation. It all started when this statement was made:

Person A “Any of us who tweet or post “prayers” for people in tragedy and do not follow through on them are in sin. Any of us who merely tweet or post “thoughts” going out to people in tragedy are painfully mistaken. And any of us who broadly dismiss the honest prayers for people in tragedy are tragically blind to true power.”

Now this first statement seemed pretty straight forward to me and a rather truthful statement as well but the conversation that ensued brought up some interesting questions about prayer.

Person BJust making the statement “you are in my prayers” requires the conscious thought in reference and affirmation [of] a higher power and if sincere IS in essence ……a prayer

So as I see it, here is the “theory” being presented for lack of a better word;

A Christian’s thought is a prayer.

If someone has a prayer request and you say to them “You are in my prayers”, because you think it, agree with what they are saying, and have a relationship with God, because God knows your thoughts, you in essence just prayed. Let us continue…

Me “Person B, your statement is an interesting one, at first thought I’ll admit it sounded like a cop-out to actually taking the time to say a specific prayer but when I thought about it, I’m wondering if there could be a little something to that statement…

Person A “Not sure that I agree with that person B. Tacitly referring to a higher power and affirming the existence of a higher power is not in essence communicating with that higher power. Prayer is directed to God. Telling someone “you are in my prayers” is directed toward that person. Also, what is the content of this “prayer” when you say “you are in my prayers”? It seems rather vacuous. In other words, when you say “you are in my prayers”, what are you actually praying for or about on behalf of that person?

Person BIf a person is in your thoughts even and you have a personal relationship with God – any conscious thought of that person while thinking of God would be as sincere and direct a petition to God as any plastic prayer one could muster.

One could go to church and pray every prayer in the book standing or kneeling or arms raised….it matters not.

I would say the almighty needs not for you to do that. Your own relationship with God and your conscious and heartfelt sincere thought is enough. …”

Person A “…When you say “my prayers are with you,” there is no specific petition attached to that, and that is directed at the person and not to God. Prayers can be communicated all sorts of ways, but there must actually be a communication, which implies specific content. So, I’m not sure in what sense simply saying it makes it true…

So, what is being presented now is that saying you will pray for someone is not a prayer because prayer is a conversation between you and God, but that conversation has not happened yet when you simply tell someone you will pray for them. A valid point.

Person BDo you believe God knows your intent? God has grasp of your conscience? God is aware of your conscious and subconscious? That God knows exactly what you are thinking?

Person AIf you do not actually pray, did you have intent to pray?

Person BI agree that if you say that (with intent to pray) and never pray- you’re right (right about not praying being a sin). However if you have a conscious contact with God- and you tell someone you will keep them in your prayers- God can take it from there- you just prayed.

MeThe one point that has not been specifically brought up is that the Bible, and Jesus Himself, commands us to pray specific prayers beyond just agreeing with others needs. The agreement is basically the amen part of the prayer. I personally think that person B is onto something if the comment to someone’s request for prayer was “amen” because that implies “I hear your need, I agree with you and stand with you and believe God’s will will be done.” But if someone were to say “I’m praying” since the Bible is clear on what prayer is, that person should actually take the time to say a prayer.

A few more things were said but one last statement stood out to me:

Person BIf God already knows your specific content whether it be verbalized or not- what need there be for an Amen. God already knows you are in agreement. God already knows if you’re NOT in agreement!!

So one last point I would like to make is that by this logic, one could argue that prayer is not needed at all. If God knows all and is all powerful, then who are we to think that making requests to God in prayer will make any difference?

Well, the problem with this line of thinking is that, like I brought up in the conversation, the Bible and Jesus Himself commands us to pray. Prayer is for our benefit not Gods and is specifically defined. Prayer allows us to grow closer to God, and while God is unchanging by nature with His immutability and impassibility, we can change, so the outcome of a situation can change because we pray.

An example of this is in Genesis 6:6

“And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

Did God make a mistake in making men on the earth? Did he change his mind about his creation? If he was grieved in his heart, does that mean he has changing emotions the same way we have changing emotions?

No. No. And no.

The simple answer is that God does not change, we do. God is holy and we are not. When sin enters the picture, God must act, he is unchanging in this way. So the same principle can be applied to prayer. While we cannot change God’s mind, I believe prayer can move God to act in ways we cannot fully understand and no matter what, prayer lets us become more intimate with the one who made us, we can draw closer to him through our prayers. Who wouldn’t want that?

By Clark Campbell with quotes from a random online conversation
Theologetics.org

Option c: The Time-Salvation Paradox

Calvin-and-Arminius
Portraits of John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius

There is one aspect about God and our understanding of Him that I felt compelled to write about. This one area has divided Christians for centuries, and that is the subject of God’s sovereignty in relation to man’s free will.

Now, I know this is a topic which has been perpetually argued, but it is because of this fact that I had felt so passionate about the subject. I would love to end the debate, although I am not that naive to think that the argument I am about to outline could do so but it is my hope that it might possibly provide Christians who take a strong stance for Calvinism or Arminianism a more common ground and that is Option c.

To preface the argument, there are two reasons I think it is so important that Christians (notably Christian apologists) come to some agreement on the subject of God’s will and man’s will.

The first reason, is that when skeptics see how different Christians, churches, and denominations disagree and possibly even argue about God’s omnipotence, it builds a wall instead of providing a door.

The second reason, is that if the subject comes up when witnessing to someone who has doubts about how God’s will and man’s will can be understood, I feel taking a strong stance for Calvinism or Arminianism has the potential to hurt one’s witness, allow me to explain this:

For the Calvinist, “IF” he is wrong about the elect and we do have free will when it comes to choosing Christ, this can cause people to reject Christ when presented this view because they may feel their decision doesn’t matter when really it does (remember this is “IF” the Calvinist is wrong, similar reasoning is used in Pascal’s Wager).

On the other hand, a skeptic may argue against an Arminian’s views stating those views place God in a position of diminished authority, which causes logical inconsistencies with the Christian’s beliefs of God. So what I suggest is the third option which is my argument, so let’s examine Option c and what I like to call the Time-Salvation Paradox.

In my studies and thoughts about salvation, human will, and God’s transcendence, I have realized I was limiting God by thinking that what God has decreed is in the past. For example–when God chose the elect. And as it turns out, this is a very important detail with some surprising consequences. The idea occurred to me one day after reading this passage in the Bible:

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day
is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”
2 Peter 3:8

This is not a verse one typically sees referenced when God’s sovereignty and man’s free will is argued, but stick with me. The one conclusion that I have come to is that the only people who choose God are the ones He elects, but God only elects those who choose Him. This statement alone may not sound logical but the reasoning behind it however, I believe, makes all the difference.

Option-c-

If you take into account the fact that God did choose those He elected before the foundations of the earth, and since God exists outside of time, what has happened with God may not have happened yet with us. To say that it did would mean that God is subject to the same confines and laws of time as we are. Because God is outside of time, what has already happened, (i.e. His choosing the elect) can be said to have not yet happened until we choose God (illustrated in the symbol above).

What I like about this stance is that it focuses on what God can do instead of what God cannot do. Calvinism says that God cannot make man with free will because that would compromise His authority. Arminianism says that God cannot choose people unto salvation because that would compromise His love and justice. Option c says that God can do both of those things, the paradox, if it can even be called that, is understanding how.

Again, God exists outside of our laws of time and space, and thus, outside of our understanding. God’s “time” is not faster or slower than ours, it is nonexistent as He is the creator of it and not bound by it. This is a foundational Christian belief about God, so with that in mind…

A summary of the argument is as follows:

Time-Salvation-Paradox 1.36.13 AM

God is spirit and He is eternal. God exists outside of time.

Man is physical and he is temporal. Man exists inside of time.

Because God exists outside of the laws of time, a moment that has already happened to man could be said to be happening right now with God.

But because man is temporal, a moment that has happened inside of time has already happened and will not happen again with man.

Also, since God exists outside of time, a moment that has not yet happened to man could be said to have already happened with God.

Similarly, consider how God had chosen the elect outside of time before the foundations of the Earth were even set. (Eph 1:4)

Because man is temporal, a moment that has not yet happened inside of time has not yet happened with man. (1 Cor 7:18, 20, 22, & 24)

And because man exists inside of time, man has not yet been chosen inside of time until the moment he chooses God. (1 Tim 6:12 & 1 Pet 5:10)

So it can be demonstrated that people who do not choose God are personally responsible for their choice for eternity, while people who do choose God do so because they were called by God.

This is because everyone has a God given ability to choose God inside of time, while God has chosen the elect outside of time.

So, brothers and sisters, I hope at the very least this argument has brought you another way to look at God’s sovereignty in conjunction with man’s will. Whatever view you feel fits God’s Word and His character best, let it unify us as the Body of Christ. We are not labeled Calvinists, Arminians or a combination of the two; we are Christians, “Little Christs” saved and loved by God. Let our views bring us together for the sole purpose of glorifying God and spreading the Good News. As long as we are doing that, what else could possibly matter?

By Clark Campbell
This blog was written from multiple papers on our List of Theologetics Papers page posted here and here.

What is MOST Important to God?

michelangelo-buonarroti-creation-of-adam
Detail from The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512 of Sistine Chapel ceiling.

To start, let’s define the terms.

Definition of most:
Greatest in amount or degree.

Definition of important:
Strongly effecting the course of events or the nature of things

So with God, what specific thing strongly effects the course of events or the nature of all things in the greatest amount or degree?

To me, three answers seem to stand out; there is love, there is free will, and there is holiness.

John 3:16-18
16 “For God so loved* the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes** in him should not perish but have eternal life.
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned*** already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

*We know love is important to God because He died to redeem us so we might be saved from sin.

**We know free will is important to God because He gives us the opportunity to choose His Son, to choose to spend eternity with Him, and this is evident even from the beginning when God created man and woman in the garden of Eden.

***And we know that holiness is important to God because those who do not choose to believe in Jesus don’t just get a free pass, but condemn themselves to an eternity apart from God.

In contrast, we know it cannot be any of the three by themselves because the others clearly exist, as this is evident throughout all of the Bible.

What does this mean for us?

Well, with all the beliefs in theology, there seems to be 3 levels of importance.

A. Matters of Salvation – How one is saved, the most important. Jesus is God in the flesh. It is only through belief in Him that you can be saved. This is not by works but by faith.

B. Matters of Witnessing – Effecting salvation of others, second most important. Some beliefs can affect your witness to the lost and possibly the salvation of others. Such beliefs include the authority of Scripture, the role of Christians as missionaries, views on God’s sovereignty and man’s free will, etc…

C. All Other Beliefs – The least important. These are the denominational differences that seem to divide believers but are really trivial beliefs; the proper way to baptize, types of acceptable music, religious traditions, etc…

Other theological stances on certain issues may inadvertently lead to violating A or B, for example: condoning homosexuality, gay marriage, or theistic evolution may seem innocent enough but by doing so, one would have to compromise on what Scripture says about those issues and could thus compromise the authority of Scripture leading to that person’s effectiveness in witnessing.

Also, taking something that falls under C too far could effect one’s witness, for example: if believers fight and argue about religious traditions instead of agreeing to disagree and acknowledge that traditions don’t save people, only Jesus does – that can tarnish the view of the Body of Christ for those who observe this division.

So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, because we can deduce that love, free will, and holiness are so important to God, we know that each person is first solely responsible for his/her salvation. After that, we all share a responsibility to present ourselves worthy to be called followers of Christ and to bring the good news to the lost. And lastly, anything else we believe should be laid aside and not cause contention among one another. Let us strive to build each other up and spread the Gospel to all.

For further insight on love click here
For further insight on free will click here and here and here
For further insight on holiness click here

By Clark Campbell
Theologetics.org