Thursday, February 21, 2019

Christian Interaction With The Problem of Evil

  • General Points To Consider When Discussing The Problem Of Evil:
          -This argument is an attempt to judge God according to human standards. In other words, it judges an absolutely perfect God by fallible, subordinate means of moral evaluation. But He is the One who is superior to us (not the other way around). His ways are not our ways. Our thoughts are not His thoughts. As finite creatures, we are not able to fully comprehend the wisdom of God. We are not in a position to challenge His authority. He transcends our intellectual faculties. He is working things out in a manner that is good for those who love Him and glorifies His eternal name.
          -How come God does not instantly resolve all the problems of this word? Well, He certainly could do that. But such does not mean that the human race would necessarily be pleased with His instant solution. He could simply refuse to pardon the iniquity of sinners and cast them into an eternity of hellfire. He could in the twinkling of an eye erase our existence. Nonetheless, we are told in Scripture that God is patient. He is loving. He is merciful. He is slow to anger. God is literally giving everybody an opportunity to repent (Mark 1:15; Acts 17:26-31; 2 Peter 3:9). We simply need to trust in the sacrificial work of His Son Jesus in order to be saved. 
  • A Brief Consideration Of Free Will
          -God allows us to make immoral decisions because He wanted us to have free will. He wanted us to have freedom and thus to lovingly come to Him through the use of our own reason. He did so out of His love for us. He wanted us to choose Him, not be forced to accept His precepts. He made us to be His children, not to function as robots or puppets. If He did the latter, then He would not really love us. We would not truly be unique as persons. We are capable of either doing good or evil. As long as we have free will, evil inevitably remains a possibility. Free will is a grander good. In fact, it is a gift in and of itself. God created us with the intention of having a relationship. The tree of knowledge of good and evil serves as an object lesson. When He restores everything back to its originally perfect order, our sin nature will be removed. We will be so consumed by God's majestic glory and presence that we would never be tempted by sin, which utterly destroys the possibility of any insurrection. Christians will have full knowledge that nothing is lacking. The Devil is the reason that evil exists in the world today.
  • Morally Sufficient Reasons For God's Toleration Of Evil:
          -God may allow evil to exist as a way to test and strengthen our faith. He can use suffering to help us build virtues such as patience, courage, humility, and self-sacrifice (Romans 5:3-5; 1 Peter 4:12-19).
          -It could be to show us that our poor decisions lead to negative consequences that are contrary to His will (what He really wants is goodness--he condemns murder, adultery, theft, etc.). 
          -To teach us how He wants us to live or as a punishment for our evil actions.
          -To prevent people from claiming that their sentence to eternity in hell is unjust on the Day of Judgement.
          -So, the existence of evil is not inherently incompatible with the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful, and infinitely good God. In fact, the problem of evil does not even disprove the existence of a supreme deity.
  • The Problem Of Evil Is A Criticism That Backfires--An Objective Evil Assumes An Objective Good Which Cannot Exist If There Is No God:
          -If objective evil exists, then, by definition, objective good must also exist. If there is an objective good, then there is a standard of morality that exists beyond humanity. It exists beyond nature. It is divine. This universal moral code governs the moral laws of each civilization. This moral law implies that there must be a Moral Law Giver. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Book Of Job And The Problem Of Evil

        Job was regarded as the most righteous man on earth in his day (Job 1:1; 8). Despite him being very obedient to God, He allowed very terrible things to happen to that man (Job ended up getting a bunch of sores and later lost everything that he owned to severe weather, including his family. In the end, however, God blessed Him with much more riches and even another family) as part of a test to prove to the devil that Job was indeed faithful. Eventually, his three closest companions gathered around him to offer comfort by giving possible explanations for all of the mishaps such as maybe committing a wrongful action which was worthy of rebuke or even having a sinful lifestyle. But Job disagreed with the reasons provided because he knew in his heart that they were false. Job was in fact a righteous man in the sight of God. So he began to question and ponder why God would allow him to undergo all the pain that he was made to endure. He complained to God about his predicaments and pointed to the fact that he had done nothing worthy of condemnation (Job 31). Job continually placed his trust in the Lord. In response to the his plea, God reminded Job about the fact that He is infinitely superior to mankind in every way because He is the author of all life. In other words, He answered Job by telling him that he was unable to fully understand how He works and instructed him to firmly place his trust in Him. Now, the story of Job is very much relatable to us in the modern world. God's control over nature and His ultimate purposes are to be trusted no matter where they appear to lead. He is sovereign over all creation. We are not fully capable of comprehending every jot of the Lord's divine plan because our minds are finite, whereas His wisdom knows no bounds. God is working things out in a manner that glorifies Him.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Roman Catholic Doctrine of Purgatory Is Unbiblical

  • Discussion:
         -This article serves as a rebuttal to a Roman Catholic publication defending Purgatory, and provides some historical background information as to how the doctrine came to be in its present form. The first three quotations found in this article are from the post being critiqued.

        "The first mention of Purgatory in the Bible is in 2 Maccabees 12:46: “Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from sin.”

        First of all, this passage does not actually say anything about the Roman Catholic dogma of Purgatory. It is simply the recording of a historical event. The author of the article being critiqued has to superimpose an interpretation on to the apocryphal text. Furthermore, 2 Maccabees 12:39-46 contradicts itself. How could the warriors spoken of in context die in a state of godliness when they were struck down by God because of their idolatry?

        "In Matthew 5:26 and Luke 12:59 Christ is condemning sin and speaks of liberation only after expiation."

        The context of both passages warns against pride and hypocrisy. The context plainly shows that eternal condemnation is in view here. Jesus Christ was addressing the religious leaders of His day. If Matthew 5:26 and Luke 12:59 refers to Purgatory, then we must ask who the judge is? Who is the officer? And what is the prison that Jesus speaks of?

        "Revelation 21:27: “…but nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who does abominable things or tells lies.” The place that is to be entered (the place to which this passage refers) is heaven (read the text around it for context)."

       This verse says nothing about final purification after death. This verse says nothing about us making amends for our own sin. It is clearly speaking of the unsaved people (i.e. those names not written in the Lamb's Book of Life). God can instantly cleanse believers at the moment of physical death, thereby making Purgatory unnecessary.

        So, what is the origin of Purgatory? It certainly cannot be found in either the Old or New Testaments. Proto-versions of the concept can be found in ancient pagan religions. Proto-versions of the concept are found in Greco-Roman writings, especially that of Plato and Virgil. But we never see sacrifices for or the offering of prayers on behalf of the dead being prescribed by the Book of the Law. Consequently, foreign ideas were synchronized with Judaism. But how did the idea of Purgatory make its way into Christianity? According to Loraine Boettner in an article titled Immortality: The Intermediate State:

        "In the early Christian era, following the Apostolic age, the writings of Marcion and the Shepherd of Hermas (second century) set forth the first statement of a doctrine of purgatory, alleging that Christ after His death on the cross went to the underworld and preached to the spirits in prison (I Peter 3:19) and led them in triumph to heaven. Prayers for the dead appear in the early Christian liturgies and imply the doctrine since they suggest that the state of the dead is not yet fixed. Origen, the most learned of the early church fathers (died, 254 A. D.), taught, first, that a purification by fire was to take place after the resurrection, and second, a universal restoration, a purifying fire at the end of the world through which all men and angels were to be restored to favor with God. The priestly conception of the Christian ministry was introduced probably as early as 200 A. D., and with it came the idea that the sacrament of the mass availed for the dead."

        Some Eastern Orthodox sources, including the Ecumenical Patriarchate, consider Purgatory to be among:

        "inter-correlated theories, unwitnessed in the Bible or in the Ancient Church” that are not acceptable within Orthodox doctrine, and hold to a “condition of waiting” as a more apt description of the period after death for those not borne directly to heaven. This waiting condition does not imply purification, which they see as being linked to the idea “there is no hope of repentance or betterment after death.” Prayers for the dead, then, are simply to comfort those in the waiting place."

        The Roman bishop Gregory the Great is believed to have played a key role in the acceptance and development of Purgatory during the Medieval period:

        "Much, however, in Gregory fouls the sweetness of his instruction and his orthodoxy. As indicated, his allegory at time passes the bounds of outrageousness. Medieval interpretation suffered; formalization of his method closed Scripture to the laity. His credulous acceptance of stories of miracles performed by relics of the saints, sometimes of comical proportions and sometimes like the horror gimmicks of a slasher movie, helped create the massive burden of the medieval penitential system. Add to this his acceptance of the intercession of departed saints, his belief in the efficacy of masses for the dead, his anecdotal exposition of a state of purgatory, and his belief in the merits of pious works and a concoction alien to the biblical Gospel emerges. If for centuries Augustine of Hippo was read through the eyes of Gregory, it is no wonder that rediscoveries of the evangelical Augustine created such consternation in the sixteenth century." 

        The idea of indulgences is based on Purgatory, and abuses within the Roman Catholic Church during the sixteenth century led up to the Protestant Reformation. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:

        "While reasserting the place of indulgences in the salvific process, the Council of Trent condemned “all base gain for securing indulgences” in 1563, and Pope Pius V abolished the sale of indulgences in 1567. The system and its underlying theology otherwise remained intact. Exactly 400 years later, in 1967, Pope Paul VI modified it by shifting the stress away from the satisfaction of punishment to the inducement of good works, greatly reducing the number of plenary indulgences and eliminating the numerical system associated for so long with partial indulgences."

        The entire notion of doing good works in order to merit the grace of God runs contrary to Scripture. The sophisticated sacramental system of justification that the Roman Catholic Church imposes on its followers is a perversion of the simple gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. His shed blood is a foundational theme of the New Testament (Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 1:18-21; 6:20; Colossians 1:14; 2:13-14; 1 Peter 1:18-19). With that being said, salvation is a free gift of God (Romans 3:21-26; Ephesians 2:8-9). His grace is unmerited. His grace is not something that we deserve. Jesus is our propitiation. We have peace with God by faith, not works (Romans 5:1-10). The idea that we can make amends for our own sin or for the sins of other people in the sight of God undermines the sufficiency of Christ's atonement sacrifice. To suggest that we must pay the penalty for sin even after it has been pardoned by God diminishes the efficacy of His atonement. That is a terribly inadequate and inconsistent view of forgiveness.

        Annually, thousands of Roman Catholics give money for Masses to be said for their deceased loved ones. Thus, we see how Purgatory makes God a respecter of persons (which contradicts biblical teaching). Wealthier individuals can have more prayers and Masses said and so faster enter into heaven than those who are poorer. It wrongfully portrays God as judging on the basis of external factors rather than the heart. There is a purification process for believers on earth, which is through the blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:12-14). We are "complete" in Him (Colossians 2:10). There is no condemnation for those in Christ (Romans 8:1). This Roman Catholic dogma being critiqued puts people into a state of fear and uncertainty. How long does a person have to wait in Purgatory? How many prayers and Masses need to be said in order to get somebody out of Purgatory? If the Roman Catholic hierarchy is so generous, then how come it does not simply conduct all these Masses for free to get people out of that intermediate state? The doctrine is a travesty of the gospel. Purgatory is contrary to everything that the Bible says about salvation. The tradition is based on creative speculation.

A Quick Refutation Of The Roman Catholic History Argument

  • Discussion:
          -The Roman Catholic Church is known for making claims of possessing the fullness of God given truth, starting with the Lord Jesus Christ allegedly giving the authority of the keys exclusively to the Apostle Peter so as to start an unbroken chain of apostolic successors who preserved inspired tradition for the past 2,000 years. It is oftentimes claimed by apologists of Rome that the church fathers were unanimous in their acceptance of various distinctive Roman Catholic dogmas. Following are a handful of points to keep in mind when confronted with such propaganda:

          1.) Church history is descriptive, not prescriptive, in nature.

          2.) Age does not prove truth. Does Buddhism and Hinduism have more truth than Christianity just because they are older religions?

          3.) Even if we unanimously agreed to accept Papal authority, that would only eliminate doctrinal conflict in a circular, tautological sense. That would still not reveal to us whether we should be in communion with the Roman Bishop (i.e. whether we are right or wrong in our decision making). It still does not build a case for Roman Catholicism.

           4.) Both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches make identical claims of being established directly by the Lord Jesus Christ, but maintain contradictory oral traditions and dispute each other's claims.

           5.) The church fathers sometimes contradicted each other and themselves, which is the underlying reason for us not putting them on par with the authority of divine Scripture. These men, no matter how theologically gifted, were not inspired by God. The writings of these people are not to be treated as a smokescreen against the plain reading of Scripture. Divine revelation exists independently of the writings of so-called church fathers.

           6.) Roman Catholics cannot know with certainty who exactly constitutes the church fathers, which early Christian writings are to be deemed authoritative, and that all of the father's teachings are correct without resorting to circular reasoning. For them, matters are thus because the Church of Rome declared them to be thus.

            7.) If we can freely interpret the volumes of writings produced by the church fathers, the official Roman Catholic catechism, or encyclicals, then how come we cannot also make interpretations of Scripture? Only the cults demand blind submission to an earthly charismatic leader. If Roman Catholic apologists want to consistently apply their method of validating Roman Catholicism via history, then why not take things a step further? That means we start with the inspired writings of the New Testament.
            8.) We do not have every document written by each particular church father on every subject. Neither were we present in the early church to take surveys of what everybody believed. This demonstrates the Roman Catholic claim of unanimous consensus in church history to be vacuous.

Monday, February 18, 2019

God's Free Gift Of Justification

IGNORANCE: Do you think that I am such a fool as to think that God can see no further than I; or that I would come to God in the best of my performances?

CHRISTIAN: Why, how dost thou think in this matter?

IGNORANCE: Why, to be short, I think I must believe in Christ for justification.

CHRISTIAN: How! think thou must believe in Christ, when thou seest not thy need of him! Thou neither seest thy original nor actual infirmities; but hast such an opinion of thyself, and of what thou doest, as plainly renders thee to be one that did never see the necessity of Christ's personal righteousness to justify thee before God. How, then, dost thou say, I believe in Christ?

IGNORANCE: I believe well enough, for all that.

CHRISTIAN: How dost thou believe?

IGNORANCE: I believe that Christ died for sinners; and that I shall be justified before God from the curse, through his gracious acceptance of my obedience to his laws. Or thus, Christ makes my duties, that are religious, acceptable to his Father by virtue of his merits, and so shall I be justified.

CHRISTIAN: Let me give an answer to this confession of thy faith.

1. Thou believest with a fantastical faith; for this faith is nowhere described in the word.

2. Thou believest with a false faith; because it taketh justification from the personal righteousness of Christ, and applies it to thy own.

3. This faith maketh not Christ a justifier of thy person, but of thy actions; and of thy person for thy action's sake, which is false.

4. Therefore this faith is deceitful, even such as will leave thee under wrath in the day of God Almighty: for true justifying faith puts the soul, as sensible of its lost condition by the law, upon flying for refuge unto Christ's righteousness; (which righteousness of his is not an act of grace by which he maketh, for justification, thy obedience accepted with God, but his personal obedience to the law, in doing and suffering for us what that required at our hands;) this righteousness, I say, true faith accepteth; under the skirt of which the soul being shrouded, and by it presented as spotless before God, it is accepted, and acquitted from condemnation.

IGNORANCE: What! would you have us trust to what Christ in his own person has done without us? This conceit would loosen the reins of our lust, and tolerate us to live as we list: for what matter how we live, if we may be justified by Christ's personal righteousness from all, when we believe it?

CHRISTIAN: Ignorance is thy name, and as thy name is, so art thou: even this thy answer demonstrateth what I say. Ignorant thou art of what justifying righteousness is, and as ignorant how to secure thy soul, through the faith of it, from the heavy wrath of God. Yea, thou also art ignorant of the true effects of saving faith in this righteousness of Christ, which is to bow and win over the heart to God in Christ, to love his name, his word, ways, and people, and not as thou ignorantly imaginest....

Now, while I was gazing upon all these things, I turned my head to look back, and saw Ignorance come up to the river side; but he soon got over, and that without half the difficulty which the other two men met with. For it happened that there was then in that place one Vain-Hope, a ferryman, that with his boat helped him over; so he, as the other I saw, did ascend the hill, to come up to the gate; only he came alone, neither did any man meet him with the least encouragement. When he was come up to the gate, he looked up to the writing that was above, and then began to knock, supposing that entrance should have been quickly administered to him; but he was asked by the men that looked over the top of the gate, Whence come you? and what would you have? He answered, I have ate and drank in the presence of the King, and he has taught in our streets. Then they asked him for his certificate, that they might go in and show it to the King: so he fumbled in his bosom for one, and found none. Then said they, Have you none? but the man answered never a word. So they told the King, but he would not come down to see him, but commanded the two shining ones, that conducted Christian and Hopeful to the city, to go out and take Ignorance, and bind him hand and foot, and have him away. Then they took him up, and carried him through the air to the door that I saw in the side of the hill, and put him in there. Then I saw that there was a way to hell, even from the gate of heaven, as well as from the City of Destruction.

John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Evidence For An Early New Testament Canon

"1 Clement, written in AD 95 cites NT texts as equal in authority to those of the OT. Papias of Hieropolis, himself a disciple of John the Apostle, who lived from AD 60 to 120, describes the NT books and their authors, accepting them as having the same authority as the OT books. Other early Church Fathers such as Saint Ignatius of Antioch (martyred in AD 108), Saint Irenaeus of Lyons (AD 130-202), and Tertullian of Carthage (AD 155-240) all quoted from the NT books we have today as equal in authority to the books of the OT Canon. The archeological evidence follows suit with this literary evidence: the Muratorian Fragment (AD 155-200) and what are called the “Anti-Marcionite Prologues” (late second century AD) all attest to a second century church that already had a very good idea as to what was included and what was not included in the canon of Scripture."

How Confession Is Related To Our Salvation

  • Discussion:
          -"that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation." (Romans 10:9-10)

          The connection between believing on Jesus Christ and publicly confessing His name is that both are perfectly consistent with each other. We confess His name by faith. Confession is not a meritorious deed. Confession is not something that we add to faith as a requirement for salvation. It is simply an expression of faith. The baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch illustrates this point well (Acts 8:34-39). Audible confession of Christ's Lordship serves as evidence of a changed heart, as such will certainly bring about persecution (see this article for more details). In context, the Apostle Paul is stressing the simplicity of receiving the righteousness of God. Receiving His forgiveness comes by faith, not by keeping the Law. We are saved because God is gracious. We are to place our trust in the work of His Son Jesus Christ. The object of our faith is Him. And a saving faith comes through the preaching of the gospel (Romans 10:14-17).

Friday, February 15, 2019

How Come People Cannot Be Saved After Death?

  • Discussion:
          -Although the notion of having a second chance for salvation after death may sound plausible, the Scriptures emphatically teach that our fate is sealed at the moment of physical death. Consider this excerpt from the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man:

          "Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us." (Luke 16:22-26)

          It is clear from the cited passage above that there are no additional chances for salvation when the souls of men enter the direct presence of God. Every person will face Him either as Savior or as Judge. We all have an upcoming appointment with Deity. And that day is inescapable. Thus, those who do not trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will be eternally condemned. Hebrews 9:27 and Revelation 20:11-15 also reflect these biblical truths. What needs to be understood is that God does not have to save any of us from our sins. His offers to us eternal life because He is loving and merciful. The better question to ask is not why man cannot be saved after death, but why God ought to save anyone at all? This is simply the way things are. God tells us that we will not have another opportunity to repent after death. So right now is the best time to repent of sin.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A Sermonette On Humility

        What is humility? There is a popular misconception that it means a man believing himself to be intellectually inferior or physically unappealing. But the reality of the matter is that having such low confidence in oneself does not amount to humility at all. That is a falsehood. In fact, continually remaining in such a poor emotional state comes from an addiction to pity. Knowing what humility is and putting that correct understanding into practice is a foundational aspect of having a relationship with God. Knowing what humility is and putting that correct understanding into practice will shape how we regularly conduct ourselves.

        True humility involves people not making themselves the center of attention. It entails people not doing good deeds just to be seen of men, but for the genuine benefit of others. It necessitates people doing good for the sake of goodness, not to bolster one's own ego. It means putting other people before ourselves. It entails that a person not overestimate his or her own abilities. Humility requires self-discipline. Humility requires self-sacrifice. Humility is required in order to be a truly virtuous person. This characteristic de-emphasizes the self (not implying that the individual is unimportant, as one must be able to assist self before he or she can do the same for others).

         Another element worthy of discussion within the context of humility is that we as human beings have a tendency to compare ourselves to other people. If we discover that we have greater talents than somebody else, then we are prone to develop a triumphalistic attitude. We become puffed-up. If we find out that somebody else has greater talents than do we, then our sense of dignity is prone to be injured. We become jealous and angry. Our feelings are hurt. In either result, this notion of people comparing themselves to others is spiritually detrimental. It is rooted in fleshly lusts. It is a hopeless attempt to find a reason to preserve arrogance. But God is perfection. If we truly wish to better ourselves, then we must turn to Him and make great efforts to follow His perfect moral example. We must allow Him to transform our hearts. We should use whatever gifts that God has bestowed upon us in a manner that glorifies His eternal name.

         Having a heart and mind consumed by arrogance is a dangerous thing. If a person does not humbly submit to God, then how can he or she recognize the need of salvation? In remaining prideful, individuals essentially make themselves their own gods. They are essentially saying that God is unnecessary. That is idolatry. Pride is the root of evil. Pride is injurious to relationships with family and friends. Pride is inherently destructive.

College Is Not A Right

"The idea that college in particular should be free is not only absurd and unworkable but incredibly offensive to any self-sufficient adult (a small minority, I admit). I’ve got news for you, my fellow young people, college isn’t a human right. It’s also not a necessity. I pay a mortgage and support a family of four by myself, with no government handouts, and I do it without a college degree. It is possible. If you can’t afford college — and God knows it’s obscenely expensive and not worth the investment for most people — don’t go. Forge your own path. Think for yourself. Do something different with your life. You really want to drive down college costs? That’s how you do it. You can eliminate your own college expenses by simply choosing not to take on any college expenses. Crazy how that works, isn’t it? But that’s not what liberals want to hear. They want to hear about the crusty old socialist genie who will make free stuff appear out of thin air."

Matt Walsh