Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Christian Examination Of The LGBTQ Flag

          Most people are familiar with God's covenantal promise to never again send forth waters from the heavens to cover the land, which was made to Noah after the Genesis flood. It was used as a means of executing judgment on mankind for continually godless behavior. Afterwards, He used a rainbow as a covenant symbol to make the promise to never again cast judgment on the human race in that way (Genesis 6:5-8; 8:20-22; 9:11, 12:9-17). Tragically, however, the LGBTQ community has developed a new method for mocking God's wonderful promise to us through the innovation of a flag that displays only six of the seven colors of the rainbow.

          Having its origin in California by Artist Gilbert Baker, this flag was designed by lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transsexuals to represent their own diverse values through the Gay Pride Movement, which has now been popularized throughout the Western world. What is striking about this flag is that its colors mock that of God's covenantal promise, the rainbow, to man to never again judge man by means of a flood. While God's rainbow has seven different colors, the LGBTQ flag only has six colors of the rainbow. It is missing the color indigo. The number six is the spiritual number for fallen man. Seven is God's number meaning perfection. This can easily be interpreted as mockery of the Divine Creator.

          The foundation of the Gay Pride Movement is self-exaltation. This has manifested itself through wild parades, festivals, clownish apparel, and rainbow imagery on public business signs or logos. Furthermore, the most radical members of the LGBTQ community have literally fought to silence all forms of disagreement, even if objections are established on scientific or philosophical grounds. Dissenters are called haters, bigots, and even accused of having phobias. This, ironically, puts on display the name-caller's own hatred and phobia of traditional morality.

          Gay pride is contrary to everything that the Bible states regarding humility and sexuality. God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble (Psalm 138:6; Proverbs 3:34; James 4:5-8). People who exalt themselves will be humbled (Matthew 23:12). He absolutely detests pride (Proverbs 8:13). Scripture emphatically condemns homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). In fact, we have been told that we shall have to render an account for our deeds committed in this life (Romans 14:12). God's rainbow was meant to serve as a symbol of remembrance, not as a means of pride. He will not tolerate the celebration of sin. Thus, all faithful Christians have been called to speak out against the LGBTQ flag.

Friday, June 23, 2017

A Christian Response To Transgenderism

          In today's society, much debate and perplexity has emerged over some of the most basic aspects of life. Unfortunately, some people have found themselves unable to answer questions about themselves that are foundational such as their gender identity. While the Book of Genesis presents us with the obvious framework of there being only the two genders of male and female, liberal educators, psychiatrists, and politicians believe that it is wrong for parents to be labeling their children as being boys or girls. In other words, it is being suggesting that things are not as they appear to our eyes, which defies basic logic. Thus, these people maintain that our children should be able to choose their own personal gender identities and even receive surgery on their genitalia that corresponds with such. 

          Gender is a biological reality determined by our DNA. The same elementary scientific principle regarding the determination of gender is equally applicable to our skin and hair color. We cannot alter our gender, any more than we can choose to have different skin or hair colors. Furthermore, we know that only two different gender possibilities exist because only two different pairs of genitalia exist. There are only XX (female) and XY (male) genes. God has given us these bodily designs for the sake of human procreation. If transgenderism is to be accepted as normal and valid, then why not also choose to identify as two or three persons? Can a human being cease to be human? Can we identify as an age other than our date of birth? Can we claim that our weight and height do not actually correspond to what is found on a scale or stadiometer? The only thing that medical procedures can do is change the outer appearance of people.

          Any notion of common sense can exist only in an environment in which there is a common morality accepted. Ever since the existence of objective moral truths has been denied, Western culture has degenerated exponentially. Although any amount of conditioning through physical, psychological, or sexual abuse may cause a person to experience confusion regarding his gender, such struggles can be overcome through sufficient encouragement, discipline, and psychological training. We can assume, imagine, or have a desire to be a different gender, but having such mental does not change our internal genetic makeup. Our beliefs do not determine reality. An affirmation of transgenderism is an assault on the nature of truth.

          In 2016, the Obama Administration ordered public school systems to allow members of the opposite sexes to share restrooms, locker rooms, and showers. Since then, other public places such as grocery stores, parks, and universities have adopted the idea of using "transgender" bathrooms. Can anybody not see the inherent moral flaws of this ideology? First of all, any pervert can claim to be any random gender. Secondly, our right to privacy has been violated. Thirdly, the innocence of our children is at an elevated risk of being corrupted. They have no understanding of the real world. And fourthly, it is evil to brainwash people into believing that they can choose to be a different gender only to be enslaved to a lifetime exposure of carcinogenic, toxic hormones. It is wrong to mutilate healthy functioning parts of the body.

          God created man in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). He also called creation "good" (Genesis 1:31), and our natural bodily design is a part of that. Scripture says that God made male and female. The dichotomy between man and woman is a foundational and unchangeable reality. If that is rejected, then any notion of reality becomes an illusion. Things are not as our senses tell us. Identity is fluid and has no fixed meaning. Romans 1:22 says, "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools."

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Are The Religions Of Christianity And Islam Compatible?

  • Introduction:
          -The Islamic religion was established during the seventh century by an Arabian merchant named Muhammad. This man claimed that the angel Gabriel repeatedly visited him for the purpose of giving him divine revelation from God. Hence, Muhammad recorded the words of Allah, the Arabic name for god which is occupied by Muslims, into the sacred religious text known to us as the Koran. He spread his new-found ideological system through brutal conquest, torture, and execution.
  • Contrasting The Christian and Muslim Worldviews:
          -While both religions profess monotheism, Islam denies the biblical concept of the Trinity, which teaches that one God exists in three separate, divine Persons (Matthew 28:19-20; John 10:30 Ephesians 4:4-6). The Koran identifies the Trinity as God the Father, Mary, and Jesus Christ. If the Muslim holy book is divine revelation, then why does it misrepresent Christian doctrine?
          -While Christianity affirms that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, is co-eternal with the Father, the Son of God, was crucified, and resurrected from the grave (John 3:16; 1 Peter 2:24; John 2:19-20; 20:26-28; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8), the religion of Islam flatly denies all of these essential Christian doctrines. Moreover, Islam teaches that Jesus was only a good moral teacher who was subordinate to the Prophet Muhammad. So it appears that the religions of Christianity and Islam are not compatible. We do not worship the same god.
          -While Christianity teaches that the Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity who testifies in favor of Jesus Christ (John 14:26), Islam teaches that He is the angel Gabriel. Also, the Muslim religion calls Muhammad the "helper." It is also interesting to note that Islam affirms the virgin birth.
          -The Koran teaches that man is saved entirely on the basis of good works. Consider, for example, the mandatory completion of the Five Pillars, which are: 1. profession of Islamic faith, 2. daily prayer, 3.) almsgiving, 4. fasting during the month of Ramadan, and 5. making a pilgrimage to Mecca. On the contrary, the Bible teaches that we are saved by God's grace alone through our faith alone (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9). Scripture affirms that we are spiritually bankrupt sinners (Romans 3:23; 5:12). Islam offers adherents no assurance of salvation, which results in them living lives of fear and anxiety. Is a life characterized by such even worth living? 
          -In Christianity, the kingdom of God is for all people who have been saved by the grace of God. It is complete, eternal unity with our divine Creator. However, to Muslims the place of paradise is a place of debauchery, that is, where all worldly desires ranging from sexual pleasure to alcoholic consumption can be fulfilled. It is believed by Muslims that they will receive seventy virgins. Islam denies original sin. So it is difficult to see how Muslims can consistently condemn evil behavior.
  • Countering The Islamic Claim That The Christian Bible Has Been Lost And Corrupted:
          -How can Muslims claim that the Bible has been corrupted when their own holy book admits to the divine inspiration of the Torah (Sura 2:87), the Psalms (Sura 4:163), and the gospel (Sura 3:3-4; 5:46)? According to the Koran, the words of Allah cannot be perverted (Sura 6:34; 6:115; 10:64).
          -It follows that the Muslim claim that the Christian Bible has been lost and corrupted is false. Ironically, the Koran never even makes such a claim. But how can we embrace two sources of divine revelation that contradict each other?
          -If Muslims are going to be consistent with their own argument, then they will have to call Allah a liar. Moreover, it needs to be told who is the culprit for any alleged corruption in the Bible, where, and when this all happened. The text cannot be dismissed just because it conflicts with the Koran.
  • Inconsistencies In Muslim Logic:
          -"In Surah 29:46, the Quran commands Muslims to say to Christians, "We believe in what has been sent down to us and what has been sent down to you, and our God and your God is one, and we are all Muslims to Him." Yet many Muslims say something very different to Christians. They say, "We don't believe in your book, because it's been corrupted and your God is a false god." If Muslims are commanded to say that they believe in what has been revealed to us, why do they instead say that they don't believe in the Bible, the only revelation we have? And if they're commanded to say that our God and their god is one, why do they instead say that our God is a false god?" (Excerpt taken from a tract titled "The Bible God's Word Or Not God's Word The Islamic Dilemma")

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Can God Contradict Himself?

        If God is capable of contradicting Himself, then it follows that He is imperfect. He would be liable to error. He would not be much different than man himself. If God is not infinitely superior to creation in every way, then why should the pagans abandon their polytheistic worldviews and submit to Him? If God is capable of contradicting Himself, then the Judeo-Christian tradition has been built on a shaky philosophical foundation.

        First of all, it is vital to recognize that Scripture teaches God is immutable (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8). His character, will, and promises are unable to be changed. God can act only in a manner that is consistent with His own nature. For example, Scripture tells us that God is unable to lie (Numbers 23:19). Therefore, God is unable to contradict Himself. Does this fact mean that God is somehow not omnipotent and omniscient? Of course not.

        The fact that God cannot contradict Himself is not proof of limitation, but rather, expresses a degree of perfection. This degree of perfection is beyond the human perception of perfection. His qualities far exceed perfection, as He is beyond the scope of all. God has no limitations or boundaries. The human mind cannot fully grasp the character of God because it is finite.

        We are unable to comprehend the fullness of His being and glory. God is perfect. He is the ultimate source of truth and goodness. His ways are righteous. Logical propositions that seem problematic to us are not so in the mind of God. Things that seem incomprehensible to the human mind are not that way to God. He can do anything that accords with His nature.

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Historical Development Of Papal Authority

  • Introduction:
          -Primitive Christian churches were governed by pluralities of bishops, not by an individual head, as is the case with the Roman Catholic hierarchy. It is also important to note that the New Testament uses the terms "elder" and "bishop" interchangeably. The New American Bible Revised Edition has this excerpt on Titus 1:5-9 in regard to the meaning of such terms: "This instruction on the selection and appointment of presbyters, substantially identical with that in 1 Tm 3:1–7 on a bishop, was aimed at strengthening the authority of Titus by apostolic mandate; cf. Ti 2:15. In Ti 1:5, 7 and Acts 20:17, 28, the terms episkopos and presbyteros (“bishop” and “presbyter”) refer to the same persons." The Papal office as such was not established by Jesus Christ in the first century. 
  • Examples Of Early Extra-Biblical Writings That Speak Of Pluralities Of Elders In Congregations Rather Than Being Led By A Single Man Over The Rest: 
          -“And so, elect for yourselves bishops and deacons who are worthy of the Lord, gentle men who are not fond of money, who are true and approved.” (The Didache 15.1)
          -“And so, elect for yourselves bishops and deacons who are worthy of the Lord, gentle men who are not fond of money, who are true and approved.” (1 Clement 42:4)
  • The Benefits Of A Church Having Pluralities Of Elders:
          -The plurality of elders and the autonomy of each assembly was cemented doctrine before the end of the apostolic age. The weakness of the flesh always pursues efficiency, organization, and control in any group. God's plan for the government of the local assembly is nothing short of divine brilliance. It diffuses ambition, curtails pride, and distributes authority among the saints, with elders leading (never ruling) by example only.
  • Surveying The Development Of The Episcopacy In The Second Century:
          -In 150 AD, a difference was made between the offices of elder and bishop. This is when individual congregations started being governed by individual bishops. One bishop began to have authority over the other bishops, like a senior pastor amongst elders. This development was gradual in other churches and is attested to by Ignatius' epistles as first appearing in Asia Minor. 
          -"Caird notes that in the latter half of the first century three events occurred that altered the character of the church: (1) the final break between Christianity and Judaism, (2) the beginning of persecution by Rome, and (3) the death of many who had been principal leaders in the early church. The death of the apostles, the crumbling of the old covenant, outbreaks of persecution, and the prevalence of heresy and false prophecy led to the rise of the monarchical bishop. Caird suggests that the vigor with which Ignatius states his case for the bishop’s role implies that this new development had been “vigorously opposed” by many in the churches. In any case, the rise of the monarchical bishop is best understood as the expedient by which the early church asserted its right to condemn divergent views in the absence of the apostles. Cf. Caird, The Apostolic Age, 141–55 (esp. pp. 141, 151-52)." (Understanding the Church, by Joseph M. Vogl and John H. Fish III, p. 21)
  • Surveying The Development Of The Episcopacy In The Fourth Century:
          -Archbishops, who presided over a group of churches along with their respective assemblies of worship, moved up from the most prominent cities of their time. These men came to be known as the patriarchs. This excerpt from Canon Six of the Council Of Nicea shows that the Roman bishop had jurisdiction only over Rome at this point in time: "The Bishop of Alexandria shall have jurisdiction over Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis. As also the Roman bishop over those subject to Rome. So, too, the Bishop of Antioch and the rest over those who are under them." (cited by Philip Schaff)
  • Surveying The Development Of The Episcopacy In The Mid Fifth To Late Sixth Centuries:
          -We see the five patriarchs, which were Jerusalem (officially recognized as such in the fifth century), Antioch (officially recognized as such in the first century), Rome (officially recognized as such in the first century), Constantinople (officially recognized as such in the fourth century), and Alexandria (officially recognized as such in the first century). Each patriarch governed itself. Though Rome and Constantinople were perceived as having equal authority, the Church of Rome was viewed in highest regard. Constantinople was the leading patriarch of the East. But neither of the two competing patriarchs at the time possessed universal authority over the rest of Christendom.
  • Surveying The Development Of The Episcopacy In The Late Sixth Into The Early Seventh Centuries:
          -There was a major, final struggle between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches for the title of universal bishop. The two most powerful patriarchs fought for jurisdiction over the entire Christian church. Although Constantinople was first to appoint its head as being the universal bishop of Christianity, the Roman bishop Gregory condemned the usage of that title as being characteristic of an anti-Christ. He declared that no man, not even himself, was worthy of possessing such an title! In the end, the Church of Rome prevailed in this battle for supreme authority. Gregory's successor Boniface III reserved it for himself. Thus, we see the historic origin of the Papal office in its current organizational structure.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Sin And Temptation

        Our consciences have been designed by God to sense the dangers of presently existing temptations. They are unavoidable in this life. He has inscribed His moral precepts into our hearts (Romans 2:14-15). God has programmed our minds to perceive the presence of good and evil. Thus, our conscience is the underlying reason we instinctively feel as if temptation, by definition, is wrong. That assumes one's conscience has not been desensitized by sin. 

         Everybody experiences temptations. Moreover, it is important for us to recognize the differences between sin and temptation. For instance, forgiveness is required for debts and trespasses. Temptation requires deliverance (Matthew 6:12-13). Jesus Christ was tempted in the same manner as we are, yet remained unblemished from the stains of sin (Hebrews 4:14-16). That is how He can sympathize with our weaknesses and failures. He was tested and shown to be faithful.

        Temptation can originate from one of three sources: Satan (Ephesians 6:11; 1 Peter 5:8), our surroundings (1 John 2:15), and our own flesh (Romans 7:18). Man has an inherent desire to entertain sinful ideas. While Satan is the ultimate source of all evil, our sinful nature works alongside him to ensnare our souls. The process of spiritual temptation begins with desire, blossoms into temptation which leads to sin, and can then lead up to spiritual death (James 1:14-15). 

         Temptation itself is not sin. After all, even Christ experienced it (Matthew 4:1-11).We know that He lived a sinless live. Temptation becomes sin when we choose to act in accordance to our sinful desires. It makes no difference whether they take place in our minds where such desires are not made manifest to others. They are not hidden from God. Christ was tempted externally, but not internally inclined to act sinfully. He does not have a sin nature.

        Worldly thoughts would include characteristics such as pride, lust, greed, and covetousness. They stem forth from our hearts and defile us (Matthew 15:11). We need to flee from temptation. That is the best thing we can do in such contexts. Temptation revolves around sin. Evil thoughts are sin. Temptation makes us want to act contrary to the commandments of God. What both sin and temptation have in common is that they can ruin our souls.

        All people who die in a state of unbelief will end up eternally condemned in the lake of fire. What we need to do is replace the fruits of the flesh with the fruits of the Spirit. Despite the fact that overcoming temptation can refine our character, we need to do our best to avoid situations that will place us into a state of temptation (Romans 13:13-14). We need to distract ourselves from the sources of temptation by focusing on the promises of God. Only through Him can we have true and lasting joy, hope, peace, and fulfillment.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Notes On The Soul

  • Introduction:
          -The soul is known as the "life-principle" of our being. It is the immaterial entity that keeps the physical body alive. It is the non-physical source of all consciousness. The soul is the immaterial part of the body which forms the basis of human features encompassing our actions, thoughts, ideas, hopes, and dreams. The soul is what makes us who we are. It is the essence of our personalities. The soul exists independently of the physical body because it is immaterial. The soul is therefore a separate entity from the body.
          -The soul involves the human intellect. It comprises our ability to discover truth, logical thinking, thinking up ideas or plans, forming critical opinions, and making connections. The soul involves human emotions, which are connected to thought patterns, feelings, and behaviors. The soul involves the human will. It is our capacity to make choices on our own rather than reacting on the basis of stimuli. It is these factors which distinguish man from the plant and animal kingdom. They cannot be said to have a soul in the sense that we do.
  • On The Origin And Nature Of The Soul:
          -Human souls are breathed directly into our bodies by God (Genesis 2:8). This means that they constitute our spiritual identity. Our bodies were made from the components of this earth. Each soul is created by God through the secondary process of human reproduction.
          -The soul is an immaterial entity. It is non-physical. Thus, the soul cannot be tested by the scientific method because science can only examine the physical realm. The soul transcends that which is physical or material. Scripture says that man has a pneuma or soul.
          -Because our souls are immaterial, it logically follows that they are also immortal. Our souls continue to live on for eternity, even after the moment of physical death. The very essence of our being continues to thrive in the afterlife. God judges the soul.
          -The soul can live without the body, but the body cannot live without the soul. The soul is what holds the organic makeup of the body together. Souls interact with each other in the supernatural realm (Luke 16:19-31). They are living and therefore experience things. 
  • On The Immateriality Of The Soul:
         -We can use our reasoning capacities to mentally categorize things into general categories, rather than only being able to reason with particular objects that we can physically see. The human mind is not limited only to the scope of concrete thinking.
         -Human beings are free in the sense that they have free will. Evidence that man has free will is the ability to be influenced or persuaded. The act of intending points to the immateriality of human consciousness. The soul cannot be verified empirically, but it clearly does exist.
         -"...if life were nothing more than materials, then we'd be able to take all the materials of life-which are the same materials found in dirt-and make a living being. We cannot. There's clearly something beyond materials in life. What materialist can explain why one body is dead and another body is not dead? Both contain the same chemicals. Why is a body alive one minute and dead the next?" (Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, p. 129)