Sunday, September 30, 2018

1 John And Assurance Of Salvation

          "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life." (1 John 5:13)

          The Apostle John spells out his purpose in writing this epistle. It closely mirrors the evangelistic appeal of John 20:30-31 in that Christ leads us to eternal life. John includes various standards to use in evaluating our overall standing before God:  

             *According to 1 John 2:1-6, assurance of salvation is based on whether or not we genuinely know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. False professions of faith do exist.
             *Our life should be characterized with a desire to please God and obey His commandments (1 John 5:2-3). We should continually be striving to grow in sanctification. 
             *If believers do stumble, then Jesus Christ is their advocate before God (1 John 2:1). He can be likened to an attorney who intercedes before a judge in a courtroom on our behalf. 
             *A lack of concern regarding our status with God or consistent failure to make Him top priority in our lives is sufficient reason to doubt having been saved. It indicates a serious need to examine what has gone wrong in our spiritual life. A saved person will seriously try to overcome sin in his life.
             *A person who loves God and loves neighbor as himself can confidently assert being justified before God (1 John 3:16-24). A Christian will love truth and is changed by the Holy Spirit (1 John 4:4-6).

          This is not meant to be viewed as an all or nothing proposition or some sort of a legalistic checklist. Rather, the central point of emphasis here is our current state of heart. Are we striving to approach and worship God on His terms? Are we persistently living in sin? God will not accept our worship if it is based on a lie.

           If a person has doubts regarding his salvation, then he need not at the moment focus on sanctification, but justification. He needs to find the root cause of that doubt by using Scripture and strive diligently to resolve it.

Jehovah's Witnesses And Blood Transfusions

          The Watchtower Society forbids adherents from receiving blood transfusions on the grounds that such a procedure allegedly violates commandments given by God in the Old Testament to not consume blood. Members who proceeded to do so have been expelled from their religious community.

           Blood transfusions were not possible during biblical times because they did not even exist. These procedures were only made possible due to technical advances in medicine and machinery.

          The oral consumption of blood is not the same as intravenously transferring blood from one individual to another who has a matchable blood type. The first process involves digesting so as to nourish the body, whereas the latter involves a substitute to carry on the same bodily functions. Blood transfusions are not meals. 

          The blood itself is not sacred, but the life thereof. Blood transfusions are a voluntary undertaking, not coerced. No sacrificial offering or murder is done in the process. Blood transfusions are done to preserve life. Jesus Christ commended self-sacrifice for the welfare of others (John 15:13).

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Does The Roman Catholic Church Disregard Scripture?

        Following is an excerpt from a Roman Catholic publication titled Familiar Explanation of Christian Doctrine, by Michael Müller:

        "Q. Are the doctrines of the Catholic Church then entirely independent of Scripture?

        A. They are; because she taught her doctrines, and they were believed by the early Christians before the New Testament was written—centuries, indeed, before the Bible was collected into its present form; and she would have done so, in precisely the same manner, had they never been written."

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Omnipresence Of The Jesus Christ

  • Discussion:
          -One aspect of God's nature is that He is omnipresent. That means He is present everywhere at once. He transcends the boundaries of matter, space, and time. He is infinite. Nothing in creation can contain Him in the fullness of His glory. He is bound by nothing. This is revealed plainly throughout the Old Testament:          

          "But will God indeed dwell with mankind on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You; how much less this house which I have built." (2 Chronicles 6:18)

          "Am I a God who is near,” declares the Lord,“And not a God far off? “Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?” declares the Lord. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 23:23-24)

         The various expressions from the Old Testament describing God as omnipresent are equally applicable to Christ in His deity. Consider this passage in the New Testament:

          "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." (Ephesians 1:21-23)

          The church is said to be His body, which can be found across earth. Christ dwells spiritually amongst people of faith. He resides in our hearts.

          One passage from Matthew states that Christ is with us always to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). This strongly implies that He in His divinity is both all-knowing and all-present. Another noteworthy text is cited as follows:

           "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20)

          It is likely that in Matthew 18:20, Matthew alludes to a saying popular amongst Jewish rabbis of his day. The New American Bible Revised Edition has this excerpt:

           "[18:20] For where two or three…midst of them: the presence of Jesus guarantees the efficacy of the prayer. This saying is similar to one attributed to a rabbi executed in A.D. 135 at the time of the second Jewish revolt: “…When two sit and there are between them the words of the Torah, the divine presence (Shekinah) rests upon them” (Pirqê ’Abôt 3, 3)."

            We never see in the four gospels Christ being in many places at the same time in His humanity. Such a statement would be true of Him in His deity. Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. He is fully human and divine, which is known as the doctrine of the hypostatic union.

Friday, September 21, 2018

A Trinitarian Perspective Of John 17

        Jesus Christ petitioned the Father to give Him the glory that they both shared since before the timing of creation (John 17:4-5). God the Son expresses having a relationship with God the Father from eternity past (John 17:24). Notice also how God said in the Old Testament that He would give His glory to no other (Isaiah 42:8). If Jesus is not God, then how could He share that same glory?

        The Son reveals an inextricable unity between Himself and the Father (John 17:11; 20; 22). Both have fellowship with each other. Both are one in essence. If the Father and the Son are one by nature, then does this not imply the latter to be divine? Just as everything belongs to the Father, so everything also belongs to the Son (John 17:10). The Father and the Son are co-equal and co-eternal while having different functions.

        Both share the same divine glory. Jesus oftentimes spoke from a human standpoint, which should not surprise us because He is a composite being. He is fully man and fully God. According to John 17:25-26, Jesus Christ reveals to us the Father. The knowledge and understanding of God transcends our mental faculties by an infinite margin. How could Christ reveal to us the Father if He Himself were not also God?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Is The Roman Catholic Eucharist A Re-Sacrifice Of Christ?

  • Discussion:
          -This article strives to interact with a post published by Roman Catholic apologist Steve Ray at Catholic Answers called Ankerberg Aweigh on the dogma of transubstantiation. Following are quotations from the author followed by a critique of such claims:

          "The Catholic Church does not teach that Christ is "re-sacrificed" on the altar. Why does Ankerberg say that it does? The quotation he uses from the Catholic Encyclopedia does not use anything like"re-sacrifice," yet Ankerberg says it teaches "re-sacrificing." Words are important; smart Catholics will catch on to what he is doing- playing footloose with terminology to suit his own interests."

          The eucharist is called a divine sacrifice (CCC, 1068), and is done repeatedly. We are told that the sacrifice of the Mass and the sacrifice of Jesus are "one in the same sacrifice" (CCC, 1367). The eucharist is believed to be propitiatory (CCC, 1367). It is believed to make atonement for sin (CCC, 1414). So the Roman Catholic distinction between "re-sacrifice" and "re-presentation" is a weak one. The principle of Jesus Christ being offered "once for all" is still violated (Hebrews 10:10-14).

          "Catholics teach that there was only one sacrifice and that the Mass is a re-presentation of that sacrifice, a partaking in and of the one sacrifice-the eating of the Lamb (Ex. 12:11, John 6:52-58)."

           The atonement sacrifices that were performed in the Old Testament pointed to the one perfect, final sacrifice accomplished by Jesus Christ at Calvary (Hebrews 10:1). This is an instance of taking typology way too far. Although we can see many examples of such in Exodus 12 (the bones of the lamb [symbolizes Christ] not being broken), we have no reason to interpret these blood of the covenant passages as being supportive of transubstantiation. They do not say anything about a mysterious conversion of the consecrated elements at the Mass into the literal flesh and blood of Christ.

          "So we have an anomaly: Christ seated at the right hand of the Father, and Christ, the Lamb of God, standing on the altar. In the temporal world, he was slain once-but in heaven, the world outside time, it appears that the sacrifice of Christ is an eternal event. We are even told that he was crucified before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8)."

          The reason for that is to remind us continually of Jesus Christ's atonement. The effects of His work are permanent. Christ does not need to be offered as a sacrifice today. Only He could offer Himself up anyway.

          If the literalistic interpretation of the Last Supper is correct, then does that mean Roman Catholics who partake of the eucharist become living tabernacles? If the consecrated wafer is the body of Christ, then should we not be able to use it in the process of cloning Him? How is eating a man's flesh and drinking his blood communion?

           It should not surprise us when early Christian writers made statements similar to "this is my body" and "this is my blood," since they were alluding to the words spoken by Jesus Christ during the Last Supper. The focus should become what is meant by such language. A person, for example, can point to a country on a map and say, "This is Israel." In that instance, he would not be literally saying the place pointed at on the paper is Israel but that it represents the location. Even if a church father believed in some mystical presence of Christ in the communion elements, that does not demonstrate he believed in transubstantiation. The former notion can be embraced without knowledge of the later.

           This excerpt from Church Historian Philip Schaff's work called History of the Church, Volume II, paragraph 69, is pertinent here:

          "The doctrine concerning the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, not coming into special discussion, remained indefinite and obscure [during the period from 100-325 AD]. The ancient church made more account of the worthy participation of the ordinance than of the logical apprehension of it. She looked upon it as the holiest mystery of Christian worship, and accordingly, celebrated it with the deepest devotion, without inquiring into the mode of Christ’s presence, nor into the relation of the sensible signs to his flesh and blood. It is unhistorical to carry any of the later theories back into this age; although it has been done frequently in the apologetic and polemic discussion of this subject.”

          Robert J. Daly writes in his paper titled Eucharistic Origins: From The New Testament To The Liturgies of the Golden Age:

          "We do not know and cannot reconstruct in precise detail what Jesus did at his "Last Supper." The New Testament itself remembered and interpreted what Jesus did in quite different ways. Attending to these differences undermines the assumption that there is a single line of development that runs from Jesus to the later Eucharist of the Church, and that can be traced back by us toward Jesus. And indeed, if by Eucharist is meant what is now done in the Church, the farther back one goes, for example, to the "Eucharists" of James, Peter, and Jesus, the farther one gets from the Eucharist of the present. Indeed, if an exact reconstruction of what Jesus did at the Last Supper were possible, it would probably look quite different from what Christians now celebrate."

           This excerpt from John D. Hannah, Our Legacy: The History of Christian Doctrine, p. 274, is pertinent here:

          "...they saw the Lord's Supper with a strong degree of realism, though with a spiritualizing tendency. The elements really and truly were the body and blood of Christ, yet not in such a way as to be identical with the historical body of the Savior. Christ's literal body had ascended into heaven, to be brought from heaven only in His return in the last great judgement." 

          This excerpt from the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia online (emphasis added):

           "The Leonine and Gelasian Sacramentaries show us what is practically our present Roman Mass. How did the service change from the one to the other? It is one of the chief difficulties in the history of liturgy. During the last few years, especially, all manner of solutions and combinations have been proposed. We will first note some points that are certain, that may serve as landmarks in an investigation…Justin gives us the fullest Liturgical description of any Father of the first three centuries (Apol. I, lxv, lxvi, quoted and discussed in LITURGY). He describes how the Holy Eucharist was celebrated at Rome in the middle of the second century; his account is the necessary point of departure, one end of a chain whose intermediate links are hidden. We have hardly any knowledge at all of what developments the Roman Rite went through during the third and fourth centuries. This is the mysterious time where conjecture may, and does, run riot. By the fifth century we come back to comparatively firm ground, after a radical change. At this time we have the fragment in Pseudo-Ambrose, “De sacramentis” (about 400. Cf. P.L., XVI, 443), and the letter of Pope Innocent I (401-17) to Decentius of Eugubium (P.L., XX, 553). In these documents we see that the Roman Liturgy is said in Latin and has already become in essence the rite we still use."

           Following is a good observation from J.N. Darby on the substance and accidents Aristotelian philosophy employed in Roman Catholic transubstantiation: 

           "The doctrine of transubstantiation is simply the fruit of the scholastic use of Aristotle in the middle ages. It depends, on the face of it, on the difference of substance and accidents. The substance of bread is changed into the substance of the Lord's body, the accidents of bread remain. Without this theory, the idea could not exist. But this theory of a particular substance and accidents was a mere metaphysical theory, without any real foundation. We have got nowadays to molecules and atoms infinitely minute, which may be called perhaps substance or essential matter; but all this Aristotelian theory of an imaginary substance and accidents in material objects, is a mere groundless fancy. We see different qualities which awaken sensations in us; colour, form, hardness, etc., and the mind recognises there is something there. Of this conviction, which in relation to us creatures I do not dispute, Aristotle and the schoolmen, who were as a rule wholly under his influence, made a distinct but imaginary substratum in which the various qualities were inherent. There was the substance of bread, etc. But this was a mere philosophical notion, a mere theory of the heathen Aristotelian school, adopted by the schoolmen, and has no other foundation whatever. But the whole doctrine of transubstantiation, and even the word, depends on it, cannot exist without it, is the mere expression of it, only bringing in a miracle on the ground of it, as to the Lord's supper."

           An excerpt from Dr. Francis Nigel Lee's Fifty-Five These Against Transubstantiation:

           "Even since A.D. 831, many Roman Catholics still opposed such transubstantiation. So: Ratramnus, Berengarius, John Scotus Eriguena, Rabanus Maurus, Walafrid Strabo, Christian Druthmar, Florus Magister, Eusebius Bruno (Bishop of Angers), Frollant (Bishop of Senlis), and Elfric. Also, according to the famous RC Cardinal Bellarmine in his De Sacramento Eucharistea (111:5 and 4 dII q.6 art. 1,2 and q. 3 art. 1,2 and I:5) - even the celebrated Cardinal Cameracensus said: "Transubstantiation cannot be proved from Holy Writ .... To this Cardinal Roffensis, Cardinal Cajetan and also Scotus all concur." Indeed, the RC scholars Gabriel, Nicolus, Cusanus, Tapper, Hessel and others all present the "Protestant" interpretation of John 6:54. See Dr. P.G. Logan's Ph.D. dissertation The History and Doctrine of Transubstantiation, Sydney, 1994, pp. 84f."

           "Notice the sacrificial language being used. The term "table of the Lord" is a technical term which in the Old Testament always refers to a table of sacrifice. Why would Paul use such blatantly sacrificial terminology if he is trying to deny any association between the Eucharist and sacrifice?"

          The context of this passage is about appropriate conduct and application of discernment in worship services, not having a correct view on the eucharist. The purpose and meaning, not the substance, of the communion elements are being discussed in 1 Corinthians 10-11. The communion that the pagans had with idols was also very real, yet there is no evidence suggesting that their offerings were transubstantiated. Even granting that this text makes mention of the eucharist, that fact in and of itself does not prove the communion elements become the literal body and blood of Christ at the words of consecration by a priest.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Christians Should Not Belong To Sects

"If your church associates with a group of churches that requires exclusive allegiance to itself, you are part of a sect. Despite their boastful claims, sects do not understand the New Testament doctrine of the Church. They are in error. All sects are based on half-truths, faulty reasoning, doctrinal oddities, deceptions, guilt-manipulation, and fear, which are not of the Spirit of truth and liberty. If your church denies you your Spirit-given right and privilege to fellowship with all Christ-loving, bible-loving Christians and churches, you need to obey God rather than man and free yourself and family from these unbiblical chains."

Alexander Strauch, “The Interdependence of Local Churches.” From the book, Understanding the Church, compiled and edited by Joseph M. Vogl and John H. Fish III, p. 206-207

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A Case For The Traditional Authorship Of 2 Peter

  • Defining The Issues:
          -2 Peter has been rather controversial amongst critical scholars in regards to its dating and authorship. It was actually questioned the most heavily out of all the New Testament books in the early church. Many Christians in the conservative realm have been quick to dispute claims of this epistle being second century pseudepigraphical literature. Such claims, if true, would jeopardize the doctrines of biblical inspiration and inerrancy. This article strives to present evidences pointing in favor of the Apostle Peter being the author of the writing in focus. The fact that 2 Peter underwent such scrutiny in the early church and still passed standards of canonicity is an argument for it being genuine. Also, why would a forger produce a letter that speaks out against false teachers? Critics of the Bible are overstating their case here.
  • The Internal Evidence For The Apostle Peter Being The Author Of 2 Peter Is Strong:
          -The author of the epistle claims to have been present in the transfiguration (2 Peter 1:16-18), which was not a major theme of later Christian preaching. Nowhere in context did the author claim to have received additional special revelation from this event. This is perfectly consistent with the Apostle Peter being the author of 2 Peter.
          -The author of this epistle describes Paul in 2 Peter 3:15-16 as being a "beloved brother," as if both were well-acquainted. 
          -The author of the epistle claims in 2 Peter 1:13-16 to have been ready to be martyred for his faith as Jesus Christ solemnly foretold. This is consistent with traditional authorship, since the Apostle Peter would have been an elderly man being held in custody under Roman guards awaiting his death sentence by the Emperor Nero. 
          -The author of 2 Peter claims to be an eyewitness of the risen Lord. The author in 2 Peter 3:1 even claims to have written a previous letter.
  • Addressing The Rejection By Critical Scholars The Internal Evidence Of 2 Peter Being Authentic:
          -"Claims that personal references prove forgery are based purely on prejudice because unless the ink is still wet and the author long dead, it cannot be proved to be false. Charles Bigg says, “As regards what an author says about himself, we can ask only whether…it is possible or impossible. But no document was ever condemned as a forgery upon this ground.”15." (Hampton Keathley IV, "The Authorship of Second Peter")
          -"...At points it seems the critics almost expect Peter’s second epistle to be simply a rehash of the same material so that identical vocabulary and themes would reappear. However, this expectation is certainly unreasonable considering the very different circumstances and purposes behind each epistle. Another difficulty with these types of arguments is seen in the fact that Peter’s writing style is not so easily defined or identified as some other New Testament authors." (e.g. John and Paul)." (Michael J. Kruger, PDF document “The Authenticity of 2 Peter", pages 12-13)
  • Similarities Between 1 Peter And 2 Peter:
          -Both epistles speak of Noah (1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:6) and Old Testament prophecy (1 Peter 1:10–12; 2 Peter 1:20–21).
          -2 Peter contains allusions to Psalms (2 Peter 3:8), Proverbs (2 Peter 2:22) and Isaiah (2 Peter 3:13). Those sources are clearly cited in 1 Peter.
          -It is not unrealistic to believe that Peter wrote this epistle: "...there is good external evidence that it was written in the 1st century by someone like Peter who was a contemporary of the events. The noted archaeologist William F. Albright dated 2 Peter before a.d. 80. The discovery of the Bodmer papyri (P72, ca. a.d. 250) reveals that it was highly respected in Egypt at an early date. The book was cited as authentic by numerous early church fathers, including Origen, Eusebius, Jerome, and Augustine." (Norman Geisler and Thomas A. Howe, When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties, p. 454-455)

Monday, September 10, 2018

Multiculturalism And Moral Relativism

"Once the ideas and insights of an individual or group are disseminated, anyone can employ them. No one culture owns its accomplishments; they belong to everyone. When the knowledge is out there, we can all access it. There is no inexorable link to race or ethnic origin.

For example, even though primarily Western scholars have developed modern physics, it is not inherently Western. If a primitive thinks he can jump off a thousand-foot precipice and fly because the totem told him he can, he will die. His death is not caused by Eurocentric science but by his ignorance of the nature of reality Western scientists articulate.

Having said all of this, we must emphasize that if significant accomplishments have been ignored, we should redress the injustice-not because of the race or ethnicity of the thinker but because of the importance of the ideas.

George Reisman, an economist at Pepperdine University, has made similar observations. He argues that the trends toward "multicultural education" and "diversity" as well as critiques of "Eurocentric" or "Western" values are misguided and ill-informed.

For one thing, these trends imply that all cultures have contributed to human progress and knowledge equally. Reisman argues that this is false, since Western values-whether scientific, philosophical, economic, or moral-have proved to be vastly superior. These societies that have embraced Western values, whether geographically in the Far East or in the West, reveal this.

In addition, Western civilization is open to everyone, since it constitutes a body of knowledge and values that is not linked inexorably to any race, nationality, or region of the globe. For these reasons, Reisman contends that multiculturalism is a new form of racism because it reduces matter of the intellect to a matter of racial or ethnic membership."

Francis J. Beckwith and Gregory Koukl, Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air, p. 94-95

Friday, September 7, 2018

Is There A Bible Contradiction In Numbers 25:9 And 1 Corinthians 10:8?

         One way that critics attempt to discredit the historical reliability of the Bible is by pointing to both Moses and the Apostle Paul giving seemingly different numbers as to the death toll in a plague. It was a result of God's wrath on Israel for rampant sexual immorality with the Moabite women and offering sacrifices to their idols. This took place when the Jews sojourned at Shittim. The two passages being discussed are quoted as follows:

        "Those who died by the plague were 24,000." (Numbers 25:9)

        "Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day." (1 Corinthians 10:8)

        Paul mentioned four separate occasions in which Israel provoked God to anger through the sins of licentiousness and idolatry. The people put Him to the test. The consequence of actions done by such individuals was death. Thus, we see that the apostle was bringing into mind occasions recorded in the Old Testament showing how God detests sin with the intention of exhorting the Church of Corinth to depart from sinful lifestyles.

        The lessons being taught here are of much greater importance than knowing the precise number of Jews who died in the Baal Peor incident. Moreover, it is not true that the two statements on the number of deaths that differ by one thousand are irreconcilable. The Apostle Paul was emphasizing the solemn nature of God and His intolerance of sin. Notice especially the words which follow after he says 23,000 fell in one day:

        "Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:11-14)

        According to John Gill's Exposition of the Bible:

        "...in ( Numbers 25:9 ) the number said to be "twenty and four thousand": and so say all the three Targums on the place F23, and both the Talmuds F24 and others {y}; on the other hand, all the Greek copies of this epistle, and the Oriental versions, agree in the number of twenty and three thousand; so that it does not appear to be any mistake of copies, in either Testament."

        According to Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible:

        "Three and twenty thousand - The Hebrew text in Numbers 25:9, is twenty-four thousand. In order to reconcile these statements, it may be observed that perhaps 23,000 fell directly by the plague, and 1,000 were slain by Phinehas and his companions (Grotius); or it may be that the number was between 23,000 and 24,000, and it might be expressed in round numbers by either - Macknight. At all events, Paul has not exceeded the truth."

        According to the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges:

        "[three and twenty thousand] In Numbers 25:9 we find 24,000. The actual number would no doubt be between the two, so that both here and in the book of Numbers only round numbers are given. “Our Apostle saith not definitely three and twenty thousand perished, but three and twenty thousand at the least.” Lightfoot."

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

What About All The People Who Have Never Heard Of Jesus Christ And The Gospel?

  • Discussion:
          -Whether or not people who never had an opportunity to hear and believe on the gospel for salvation are exempt from the judgement of God is more of an emotional than rational question. It concerns the eternal destiny of every individual. Everyone has to face the reality of death. How this question is answered shapes the way that we preach the gospel to people of different religions.

          God has inscribed His moral laws into our hearts (Romans 2:15). He has manifested Himself plainly through creation (Romans 1:18-20). He is not far from any one of us (Acts 17:26-27). The inability to hear the Gospel is not the problem. Our lack of knowledge is not what condemns us. The real issue is that our sins against God have merited eternal condemnation.

          Even though men like Cornelius feared God prior to receiving the message of the gospel, Scripture still records the Lord directing him to the Apostle Peter so that he could receive the good news of salvation. In addition, God does take into account one's ability to understand His commandments in judgement (John 15:22; Romans 2:12-13). Every person who has a rational mind is culpable.

          If every unbeliever is automatically saved just because of a lack of knowledge regarding the Person of Christ and His atonement, then the gospel that we preach would be needless. The concept of evangelism would be rendered nonsensical. We should be making the greatest effort possible to ensure that everybody gets a chance to hear the gospel. We should be grateful that God has provided even one way for us to be reconciled with Him (John 14:6; Hebrews 4:14-16).

Monday, September 3, 2018

Debunking Catholic Apologist Steve Ray On James 2 And Justification By Faith Alone

  • Discussion:
          -This article strives to further interact with a post published by Roman Catholic apologist Steve Ray at Catholic Answers called Ankerberg Aweigh on the topic of James 2 as it relates to justification. Following are quotations from the author along with a critique:

          "This passage does not sit well with Ankerberg's interpretation. He says that it is always faith that is proven by works, whereas the apostle James seems to say it is the person."

          On the contrary, the context of James 2 is indeed contrasting two different kinds of faith. It centers on a profession that results in good works and another that is dead. One man says that he believes in God while another actually does what He commands. A man is "justified" in the sense of being vindicated or proven righteous.

          "We must take care with this theory, or we'll end up scratching a few verses out of Genesis. Was it men who were testing Abraham's faith? The book of Genesis says God, not men, who was testing Abraham in Genesis 22. Ankerberg writes that James is referring to justification before men, because God can already see the heart (37)."

          God can test our faith to produce obedience. Even though God already knows whether our faith is genuine, Abraham was tested so that future generations could see for themselves that he is worthy of being considered the father of our faith. A faith that saves is one that obeys God. A saving faith is very much alive and active. A faith that is not evidenced by good works is dead. The context of James 2 discusses the inherent features of a saving faith.

          "Another problem with the Fundamentalist interpretation is that there were no men around to be "vindicated" before-this test was strictly between God and Abraham."

          Sure there was. Isaac himself got to witness the greatness of his father Abraham's faith. This incident was also penned down in Scripture by Moses. As a result, multitudes of readers in later centuries could see the greatness of Abraham's faith. He trusted in God to the point at which he would even give up his dearly beloved son.

          "James thinks Abraham was not justified in Genesis 15 or 17, but much later in Genesis 22, when he offered up Isaac. He states, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?" (James 2:21, KJV). And then James is bold enough to say, "So you see, a man is justified by his works, and not by faith alone" (James 2:24)."

          The problem here is that the context of James 2 is not about how one is made right with God, but rather how one demonstrates the reality of his or her faith. Romans 3-5 is the place in Scripture in which the doctrine of justification before God is defined thoroughly. It is the Apostle Paul who speaks of this subject more than any other biblical writer. There is no evidence here for the notion of justification before God being a lengthy, complicated process. According to Hebrews 11:8, Abraham was justified in Genesis 12. Genesis 15:6 is simply the proclamation of Abraham's salvation as a result of his faith and a promise to future generations that they would be saved by the same means.

          "James elaborates what faith is, and its crucial element of obedience (works), as does John in his first epistle. The Catholic vs. Protestant argument, the faith vs. faith and obedience debate, has nothing to do with the discussion Paul was having with the Jewish Christians in Rome and Galatia."

           Scripture contains principles that are applicable to all people, at all places, and at all times. Obviously, the Apostle Paul was unfamiliar with Catholic verses Protestant issues on the nature of salvation. However, he still knew the basic contents of this controversy because he had to address in writing the Judaizers who promoted a faith plus works gospel.

Does Psalm 106:30-31 Refute Justification By Faith Alone?

  • Discussion:
          -Roman Catholic apologists (and others) sometimes appeal to the text of Psalm 106:30-31 as evidence of works being necessary for justification before God. Consider this excerpt from Steve Ray as an example of how this argument is made:

         "...centering on Abraham's faith in Genesis 15:6: "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." Catholics agree with this Scripture, but the same words ("it was reckoned to him as righteousness") are applied to another person in the Old Testament besides Abraham, and the "justification" was there attributed to actions and zealousness, not faith alone. The phrase used in Psalm 106:31 is the same (in both the Hebrew Masoretic text and the Greek Septuagint) as is used in Genesis 15:6. In Psalm 106:30, 31 we read, "Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment: and so the plague was stayed. And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore" (KJV). Evangelicals say his faith justified him, like his father Abraham-but the Psalmist must not have understood the faith alone doctrine, for he attributes the imputation of righteousness to Phinehas' zealousness." 

          The background of this event is recorded in Numbers 25. Israelites were committing fornication with the women of Moab. Consequently, God was provoked to anger and He cast a plague over Israel. Then, Phinehas took a spear and drove it through a couple in the act of fornication. He obtained mercy from God, terminated the plague, and was regarded as being a righteous man due to his desire for righteousness. His deed would be blessed and remembered from generation to generation. The reality of his faith was demonstrated before other men. This is a testimonial of faithfulness, not justification before God. Notice how other Bible translations render this verse:

          "This was counted for him as a righteous deed for all generations to come." (Psalm 106:31, New American Bible Revised Edition)

          "This brought him a reward, an eternal gift." (Psalm 106:31, New English Translation)

          "for this he is the example of uprightness, from age to age for ever." (Psalm 106:31, New Jerusalem Bible)

           Following is an excerpt from the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Psalm 106:31:

           "31. counted … righteousness—"a just and rewardable action." for—or, "unto," to the procuring of righteousness, as in Ro 4:2; 10:4. Here it was a particular act, not faith, nor its object Christ; and what was procured was not justifying righteousness, or what was to be rewarded with eternal life; for no one act of man's can be taken for complete obedience. But it was that which God approved and rewarded with a perpetual priesthood to him and his descendants (Nu 25:13; 1 Ch 6:4, etc.)."

           D.A. Carson writes in regard to Psalm 106:30-31 in his essay titled the Vindication of Justification:

           "...although it is true that one important Old Testament text with the same grammatical construction (in the LXX) establishes a similar sort of equivalence (Ps 106:28), the equivalence in that case is not between faith and righteousness, but between a righteous deed and righteousness (the righteous deed in question is the zealous execution of public sinners by Phinehas, Num 25:7- 13). In other words, in this instance “God’s ‘reckoning’ Phinehas as righteous (see Num 25) is a declarative act, not an equivalent compensation or reward for merit (cf. also Gen 31:15; Ps 32:2).”

           The similarity in sentence structure ("it was reckoned unto him as righteousness") is beside the point because the context of Psalm 106:30-31 is not about how one gets right with God. It would be out of place for Paul to use this passage because he emphasized faith rather than works in being justified before God. Moreover, the passage in Genesis 15 is not the moment of Abraham's justification, but rather is the Lord's promise of salvation to him and posterity through faith. Genesis 15:6 foretells the foundational message of salvation as found in the gospel. That is what makes it relevant to Paul's argument.

          God certainly rewards Christians for their faithfulness to Him. He blesses those who love and serve Him. But we are not justified by works of righteousness (Titus 3:5). We are saved because God is merciful. He saved us in spite of our unrighteousness (Deuteronomy 9:3-6; Ephesians 2:4-9). The gospel requires that one must believe in order to receive justification (John 20:31; Acts 16:29-32; Romans 3:28; Galatians 3:4-9; 2 Timothy 3:15; Revelation 21:6; 22:17). This righteous act of Phineas has nothing to do with him meriting justification in part by good works. Rather, God deemed this man's conduct to be righteous and assured him that the priesthood would not depart from his line.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Myth That All Religions Lead To God

  • Discussion:
          -The belief that all religions worship the same God is rooted in the relativistic nature of our society, which has sadly even influenced many who profess to be Christians. Our culture is saturated with the idea that all belief systems are equally valid. People naturally view themselves as good. This is the end result of man believing that he is the final arbitrator of truth. People who express disagreement with the religions of others may as a result be considered arrogant and bigoted.

          The idea that all religions lead to God is logically indefensible, since they contradict each other at the most basic tenets. Furthermore, the religions of this world do not even claim to serve one god who presides over humanity. Regardless of what belief system that one espouses, he will inevitably be making a truth claim. Intolerance of opposing views is what follows from faithful adherence to any given worldview. Consistency and coherence demand that one make an absolute truth claim. That is simply a part of being human.

          Christianity is unique among the religions of this world in that its message of salvation is one of God's unmerited grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Others teach salvation to be merited in part on the basis of human efforts. Christianity is the only religion which posits a realistic view of our sinful nature. The Judeo-Christian worldview is unique in that its God desires to have a personal relationship with man. Truth is very much a real thing. Something can be either true or false. It cannot be both ways in the same way at the same time.

           The gospel is available to all who call upon the name of the Lord. No one deserves to inherit the kingdom of God, since we have sinned against Him. Christianity is an inclusive religion in the sense that the atonement of Jesus Christ is applied to all who believe on Him for salvation. Christianity is exclusive in that it presents Christ as being the only way to obtaining fellowship with God. 

          If Christianity is true, it follows that every other existing belief system is false. If the religions of the world are right, then it follows that Christianity is false. It cannot be both ways. If Christianity is false, then Christians are the most miserable of all people (1 Corinthians 15:12-20). They have no hope. If there are multiple ways to salvation, then the gospel itself becomes redundant. Thus, we see that this pluralistic reasoning is actually a threat to the Christian faith. No compromise or negotiation is permissible on this matter.