Monday, December 31, 2018

Does Isaiah 53 Teach Penal Substitution?

        "Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. " (Isaiah 53:4-6)

         This text clearly occupies substitutionary language. This passage foretold Christ bearing the sins of man upon Himself. He was offered up in the same manner as an unblemished lamb for our sins (1 Peter 1:18-19). His innocent blood was shed for us (1 Peter 3:18). Our sins are forgiven by His wounds (1 Peter 2:24). The Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:7-8 alludes to the humility of the suffering servant (Isaiah 53:7). The idea of vicarious atonement finds its basis in the sacrifices performed under the Mosaic Law:

         "When he finishes atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall offer the live goat. Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness." (Leviticus 16:20-22)

         Animals paid the price for the sins of people with their own lives. They did nothing to deserve their fate. Thus, animals served as an innocent substitute in the place of men. Though animal sacrifices temporarily held off the judgement of God, the Levitical sacrificial system pointed to the one perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:1-2). Richard L. Mayhue provides this helpful synopsis of Isaiah 53 emphasizing the substitutionary elements contained therein:

         "1. v. 4 - "our griefs He...bore" 2. v. 4 - "our sorrows He carried" 3. v. 5 - "He was pierced... for our transgressions" 4. v. 5 - "He was crushed for our iniquities" 5. v.5 - "by His scourging we are healed" 6. v. 6 - "caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him" 7. v. 8 - "He was cut off...for the transgression of my people" 8. v. 11 - "He will bear their iniquities" 9. v. 12 - "He Himself bore the sin of many"

         The people who betrayed Christ and had Him killed thought He was receiving due punishment for His own actions. They thought God was exacting justice on Him, even though He was really suffering for the sins of those wounding Him. Jesus was treated unjustly by the Jews for their own benefit. He allowed Himself to undergo undeserved pain in order that we not receive due punishment for our own sins against God. While contrary to human expectations, matters went exactly as God intended them to be. The suffering of this humble Servant is a foundational part of God's plan.

         The New English Translation has this footnote on Isaiah 53:5:

         "tn The preposition מִן (min) has a causal sense (translated “because of”) here and in the following clause. tn Heb “the punishment of our peace [was] on him.” שָׁלוֹם (shalom, “peace”) is here a genitive of result, i.e., “punishment that resulted in our peace.”sn Continuing to utilize the imagery of physical illness, the group acknowledges that the servant’s willingness to carry their illnesses (v. 4) resulted in their being healed. Healing is a metaphor for forgiveness here."

         It was because of things we did that Jesus Christ suffered. Our own actions resulted in Him bearing the weight of our sins and their penalty. He did this with the intent of restoring us back into a proper relationship with God. Christ died a criminal's death in order that enmity between mankind and God be resolved. This hostility does not originate from God to us, but us to God. Human nature has a bent of rejecting God.

         The New English Translation has this footnote on Isaiah 53:6:

         "tn Elsewhere the Hiphil of פָגַע (paga’) means “to intercede verbally” (Jer 15:11; 36:25) or “to intervene militarily” (Isa 59:16), but neither nuance fits here. Apparently here the Hiphil is the causative of the normal Qal meaning, “encounter, meet, touch.” The Qal sometimes refers to a hostile encounter or attack; when used in this way the object is normally introduced by the preposition -בְּ (bet, see Josh 2:16; Judg 8:21; 15:12, etc.). Here the causative Hiphil has a double object—the Lord makes “sin” attack “him” (note that the object attacked is introduced by the preposition -בְּ. In their sin the group was like sheep who had wandered from God’s path. They were vulnerable to attack; the guilt of their sin was ready to attack and destroy them. But then the servant stepped in and took the full force of the attack."

         In Isaiah 53:6-7, the imagery of sheep is deployed with a contrasting effect. We are likened to sheep that have strayed from their shepherd. We have stepped out of line and merited for ourselves condemnation by God. The imagery of sheep in this case stresses our rebelliousness to His commandments. Jesus Christ is likened to a sheep that is totally obedient to its master. He obeyed the will of God in every jot and tittle. He was obedient even to the point of death. The imagery of sheep in this case emphasizes the humility and gentleness of Christ.

Friday, December 28, 2018

How Catholic Apologists Deal With The Thief On The Cross

  • Discussion:
          -A blogger named Catholic Nick wrote an article titled The Good Thief and Bad (Protestant) Apologetics, which is a rejoinder to the common citation of Luke 23:39-43 as a proof text for Sola Fide. Following are excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

          "We don’t know his faith background, e.g., if he was ever baptized in the past or if this was his first time meeting Jesus. His prayer “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom” shows he had some knowledge of the Gospel, since no such “kingdom” details are given in this passage."

          There is a possibility that the repentant thief on the cross was either baptized or unbaptized. Although the importance of baptism cannot be minimized, the grace and forgiveness of God is not restricted to this ritual. There is no reason to even mention baptism. In fact, it is doubtful that he would have been baptized if he continued living as a thief, a crime for which he was being punished.

          By the way, a lot of the folks who say that the criminal did not need to be baptized due to being under the Old Covenant would simultaneously argue that Nicodemus needed baptism in order to be justified (John 3:5), who was also under the Old Covenant. That is a glaring logical inconsistency.

          "Terms such as ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ are not used in this passage, so there’s no reason to think ‘faith alone’ is even the focus, just as the Parable of the Pharisee & Tax Collector (Lk 18:9-14) doesn’t use such terms, but rather highlights the virtue of “humility”.

          What good works did the thief on the cross do for salvation? The words “faith” and “belief” do not need to be specifically mentioned. The fact that the thief said what he did demonstrates he had faith in what Jesus proclaimed. He had to have heard some of Christ's teachings to know who He was. While he did have a penitent heart, all that we see from the text of Scripture is him placing his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Humility is not a work, but a state of heart.

          As for the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, Christ was clearly addressing self-righteous individuals. The tax collector humbly believed on God for justification, whereas the Pharisee relied on his own efforts to please Him. The first went home justified, whereas the latter was not. This parable is obviously about justification and the forgiveness of God.

          "In fact, we see a range of virtues being expressed here, including ‘Fear of the Lord’ (23:40; cf Prov 1:7), Repentance (which Jesus distinguishes from belief, see Mark 1:5), Warning Sinners (2 Thess 3:14b), Public Professing (John 10:42; Rom 10:10b), as well as Hope of going to Heaven and certainly Love for Jesus. The thief was even willing to suffer and die for his own sins, not to be freed from them, which means he carried his own cross (Lk 9:23). So this was *far from* faith alone."

          God has not prescribed the various things listed by the author as being requirements for justification. Repentance is not a work, but a change in heart (how can a person be saved if he does not recognize the need of a Savior?). Things such as fear of the Lord take place as a result of our hearts having been changed. These things are inextricably associated with justification. Our obedience should stem forth from a love of God and gratitude for the atonement that He has made on our behalf. It appears that the author is attacking some sort of a watered-down concept of faith.

          "This was a unique situation, it isn’t the norm for how people typically accept the Gospel (see Acts for the norm), and as such it has its limits. For example, Jesus had not yet Resurrected, Ascended, or sent the Holy Spirit yet, so Dismas probably didn’t profess faith in these, whereas these aspects of Jesus’ mission are required for us to profess (Rom 10:9b). Even the command to “baptize all nations” wasn’t even given until *after* Jesus resurrected (Matt 28:19), so pointing to this as an example of ‘not needing baptism’ is kind of moot."

          The "norm" that we observe in the New Testament is people believing on the gospel before getting baptized. If we are capable of adding our own works to the sacrifice of Christ, then He must have died in vain (Galatians 2:16-21).

            "Plus, can we take this one example as an excuse to ‘not really have to’ obey the many teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, including getting baptized, gathering to worship with others, being subject to your pastor, sharing our possessions, etc?"

           Talk about a classic example of a straw man fallacy! If a person gets saved, then his heart will be transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

We Are Back In Rome

"Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1788) said that the following five attributes marked Rome at its end: first, a mounting love of show and luxury (that is, affluence); second, a widening gap between the very rich and the very poor (this could be among countries in the family of nations as well as in a single nation); third, an obsession with sex; fourth, freakishness in the arts, masquerading as originality, and enthusiasms pretending to be creativity; fifth, an increased desire to live off the state. It all sounds so familiar. We have come a long road since our first chapter, and we are back in Rome."

Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live?, p. 227

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

A Problem For Roman Catholic Eucharist Theology

  • Discussion:
           -The Roman Catholic Church maintains that its priests transubstantiate bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. It wholly ceases to be what it originally was. Roman Catholics believe that they literally eat Him at each worship gathering. On the other hand, we are told in the New Testament that God does not dwell in places made by human hands:

           "However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says: ‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is the footstool of My feet; what kind of house will you build for Me?’ says the Lord, ‘Or what place is there for My repose?" (Acts 7:48-49)

           "The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things." (Acts 17:24-25)

          If God in some mysterious way is said to not "dwell" in temples, then it is only fair to infer that He (Christ is God in the flesh) is not "coming down" from His throne in the heavenlies at the command of some priest. Roman Catholic theology does not simply affirm Christ's presence in the bread and wine, but that they actually become His body and blood under unchanged substance and accidents.

          There is no change in the communion elements in the way alleged by Rome. He is simply not made present at the words of consecration by the parish priest. Jesus Christ is omnipresent in His divinity, but it is absurd to claim He is physically consumed in His entirety ("body, blood, soul and divinity") to begin with.

          Christ did not enter a holy place made with human hands. So there is no reason to suppose that He is going to come down from heaven on a daily basis to be a sacrifice for sin. The Catholic priest's act of consecration is null and void. We are told in the New Testament that we are not think of deity as being a material object:

          "Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man." (Acts 17:29)

           Is not the eucharist wafer manna, which is material? Certainly. The bread and wine used in the Mass does not in actuality become Jesus Christ, but an image of Himself. It is but an earthly depiction of the divine. This point is a springboard for a separate objection, namely, Catholics are guilty of idolatry as a result of worshiping the eucharist.

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Spirit Of Christmas Present

"Good Spirit,' he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it:' Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life.'

The kind hand trembled.'

I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone.'

In his agony, he caught the spectral hand. It sought to free itself, but he was strong in his entreaty, and detained it. The Spirit, stronger yet, repulsed him.

Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate aye reversed, he saw an alteration in the Phantom's hood and dress. It shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost."

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens; Stave 4: The Last of the Spirits Pages 10-11

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Orwell And Huxley Revisited

"We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.

But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another — slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New Word. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.

As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Huxley added, “people are controlled by inflicting pain.” in Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us."

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

A Biblical Critique Of The New Apostolic Reformation

           There is a global movement taking place within Christendom known as the New Apostolic Reformation, which maintains that God restored the offices of prophet and apostle so as to fix the problems of humanity. The ideological founder of this group is the charismatic theologian C. Peter Wagner. It is maintained that a consequence of the fall was that man lost his dominion over creation, and that Christ came not only to pay for our sins but also enable Christians to regain possession of the world. The hundreds of unaffiliated, self-governing churches and organizations which comprise this movement have been for a few decades striving to acquire or secure control over every sphere of business, culture, and politics. Members of the New Apostolic Reformation claim that God is giving new revelations to so-called prophets and apostles to aid in the process of establishing the universal sovereignty of the church. 

           The New Apostolic Reformation is purportedly working to bring the kingdom of God to earth. It is also responsible for a large proportion of the church growth in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It has even infiltrated denominations, with the Assemblies of God in Australia being a prime example. In summary, the mission of various "apostolic networks" extends far beyond the preaching of the gospel and making disciples. Succinctly stated, it is claimed that Jesus Christ instituted a "five-fold ministry," which is a neo-charismatic belief that all five offices mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-15 remain operative in contemporary Christianity.

           When considering the verses from Ephesians, it is important to note that the Apostle Paul wrote in the past tense. This is a reference to the apostles and prophets who were alive during the first century. The passage of Scripture being discussed is not suggesting a continuation of the two offices. It is not saying that God is giving or will assign apostles and prophets. They were a part of the church's foundation, with Christ being the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20; 3:5). The apostles and prophets delivered to us divine revelation. Moreover, Scripture speaks of the performance of miracles in the past tense (2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3-4). The apostles and prophets are still edifying believers through their writings, which are self-sufficient (2 Timothy 3:15-17). God has now spoken to believers through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2). The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John the Baptist (Luke 16:16). Hundreds of cults throughout history have made identical claims of receiving divine messages from God.

           Nobody today can rightly claim to be an apostle, as is evidenced by looking at the qualifications necessary for one to obtain such an office. In order to qualify as an apostle, a person would have to be a direct eyewitness to the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:21-23; 1 Corinthians 9:1). In order to qualify as an apostle, a person would have been personally instructed by Christ (Luke 24:45; John 14:26; 16:13-14; Acts 1:2). Paul said he was the last appointed apostle (1 Corinthians 15:8). Therefore, this criterion is impossible to fulfill in modern times. Nobody wields the same authority today. Unlike the ministry of Christ and the twelve apostles, there are no verifiable miraculous accounts giving credence to the self-proclaimed apostles and prophets of this movement. Also, the prophetic utterances given are always vague, subject to reinterpretation. Those who believe in the restoration of the five-fold ministry tend to teach that the so-called prophets and apostles deserve unquestioning acceptance, which is inconsistent with scriptural principles (Acts 17:11-12; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; Galatians 1:8-9). Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and 18:21-22 lays out four guidelines as to how to examine self-proclaimed prophets:

             1.) The utterance does not come to pass (even if someone can perform miracles, that does not necessarily mean he is approved by God).
             2.) The utterance contradicts divine revelation.
             3.) The moral character of the person giving an utterance is inconsistent with office of profession.
             4.) The utterance exalts self, rather than God.

          Surely, this is a problem for the so-called prophets of the New Apostolic Reformation. There are literally no well-documented prophecies and miracles that these people can show us to demonstrate the validity of their ministries. If the Bible is already complete revelation from God, then why would we need prophets in the first place?

           Furthermore, the notion of the church bringing the kingdom of God into this world expressly contradicts biblical teaching. Jesus emphatically stated that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). The Kingdom of God is not a worldly kingdom, but a spiritual kingdom (Luke 17:20-21). His kingdom is not based on diplomatic relations. His kingdom does not require the approval of sinners. It is the Holy Spirit that stimulates conversion of the human heart. Our mission as Christians is to present the gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). What the church needs to be preaching is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. That is the good news of salvation. We must entrust ourselves entirely to the power of God. Our undivided attention belongs to Him. We need not heed to subjective New Age occultism, but the objective standard of Scripture. The New Apostolic Reformation is a significant source of aberrant doctrine. To make matters even worse, this movement has its own horrendously corrupt Passion Translation.

Logical Thinking Is Hindered

"When your mind has been so seared by acceptance of evil that you condone amputation of healthy body parts, it's not surprising that your ability to think logically is hindered. If you start with the premise that radical mutilation of the body is an acceptable practice ... you shouldn't be surprised to find it applied in ways that are different, yet equally disturbing."

Joe Carter, "The Diabolic Logic of Transableism", The Gospel Coalition, 6/5/15.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Answering The Mormon Claim Of Total Apostasy

  • Introduction: 
          -Mormonism: a religious cult that was founded by Joseph Smith in the woods of Palmyra, New York in the year 1821. He claimed that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to him and told him to establish a completely new church. In other words, he had visions that told him to start a new religion.
          -Smith claimed that the "Angel Moroni" gave him some golden "Nephi Plates" so that he could translate them into English. This religious text is known as the Book of Mormon. The three other religious texts use by the Mormons are the King James Version, Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants.
          -The Mormon Church claims that the entire Christian church and the Bible have been totally corrupted. Thus, its alleged purpose is to restore the church back to the original teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles.
  • Examining Claims Of Total Apostasy In Light Of Biblical Teaching:
          -Jesus Christ specifically taught that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church (Matthew 16:18). Paul said that God would be eternally glorified in Christ and His saints (Ephesians 3:21). If the Mormon Church is correct, then God must be a liar. He has always preserved His faithful remnant, but that is not the followers of Joseph Smith. While the apostles spoke of the coming of false teachers, they nowhere spoke of a total apostasy. It is one thing to say that the church became unrecognizably dirty throughout history, but it is another to claim that the church essentially disappeared from the face of the earth.
          -The Words of the Lord are incorruptible. His Word endures forever (Isaiah 40:8; Proverbs 30:5-6; 1 Peter 1:23-25). The Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35). The Word of God has not been lost and forgotten. Divine providence rules out that possibility. Those who present strange doctrine are to be deemed heretics (1 Timothy 1:3-4; 2 John 9-11). Angelic visions are not an acceptable method of drawing attention to oneself (Colossians 2:18).
          -The Apostle Paul in Galatians 1:8-9 wrote a categorical condemnation of any different gospels that could arise in his lifetime or in the future after his death. He even issued an anathema to angels who could theoretically arrive to preach differently from the doctrine originally delivered by the apostles. So, even granting that Joseph Smith had an encounter with the Angel Moroni, Mormonism is a false religion because it preaches a different message of salvation. According to Paul, another gospel is no gospel at all (Galatians 1:6-7). The gospel never needed to be restored because it was never lost to begin with.
  • The Mormon Claim Of Being The Restoration Of Lost Truth Is Unfounded:
          -When did the Christian church go into the state of total apostasy? The New Testament is supported by thousands of different manuscripts. The creed summarizing the gospel message that the Apostle Paul recounted in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 has been dated back to the first century, thereby proving that it has not been lost or altered.
          -Why would Mormons use the Bible at all, since they maintain that the whole of Christianity was lost in the first century and the canon was assembled (along with the King James Version being produced in the seventeenth century) by an allegedly apostate church? Which parts of the Bible have been corrupted?
          -If any of Joseph Smith's claims regarding the alleged total apostasy of Christendom were true, then he should have been able to give an extensive list of all of the original teachings of Jesus Christ, where every denomination had went wrong, provide the date of when Christianity went extinct, and go back to the original teachings of Jesus and the apostles. He should have been able to refer to established facts, writings, history, etc. However, Joseph Smith never took the time to verify any of his claims.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

A Micro-Refutation Of Mormonism

  • Discussion:
          -Joseph Smith claimed to have received divine revelation from God to establish a new sect that possesses the fullness of allegedly lost truth. This encounter is described as a face to face dialogue between a so-called prophet and God the Father and God the Son. Consider the words spoken by the Lord to Moses in the Old Testament:

          "And he said, Please, show me Your glory. Then He said, I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But He said, You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live. And the Lord said, Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:18-23, emphasis added)

           No man in his sinful nature can look into the fullness of God's glory and survive. Also, the New Testament tells us that no man alive on this earth has seen God the Father:

          "No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known." (John 1:18)

          "No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." (1 John 4:12)

          The mere fact that Joseph Smith came out of the woods walking and talking in his flesh testifies to the falseness of his claims. Thus, he is a liar and a deceiver. Joseph Smith received no divine revelation from God. Mormonism is based on utter falsehood.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Is The Watchtower Society Correct In Asserting That Jesus Was Created?

        Following is an excerpt from a Jehovah's Witnesses Watchtower Publication

        "God created Jesus before creating Adam. In fact, God created Jesus and then used him to make everything else, including the angels."

        According to Scripture, God created the universe by Himself. He did not have assistance in doing so from any created being:

        "Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and He who formed you from the womb: I am the Lord, who makes all things, who stretches out the heavens all alone, who spreads abroad the earth by Myself." (Isaiah 44:24)

        "Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?" (Malachi 2:10)

        No created entities worked alongside Him in the process of creation. If Jesus Christ is not God, then He played no role whatsoever in creating the universe. He is not a created being, but the second person of the Triune God. He is co-eternal with God the Father. He is the creator of everything (Colossians 1:16). He is holding all things together. He is preeminent in all things. There are multiple lines of biblical evidence proving that Jesus is God in the flesh.

        Consider, for example, the messianic prophecy of Zechariah 12:10. God spoke of Himself as being "pierced" through the prophet. In the New Testament, Christ was "pierced" in the side while on the cross (John 19:36-37). Revelation 1:7 also alludes to the text from Zechariah. Isaiah 53:5 also prophetically speaks of the Messiah being pierced. An immaterial God cannot be pierced, except if He takes on human flesh. What is very telling is this excerpt from Watchtower literature:

        "From time to time, there have arisen from among the ranks of Jehovah's people those, who, like the original Satan, have adopted an independent, faultfinding attitude...They say that it is sufficient to read the Bible exclusively, either alone or in small groups at home. But, strangely, through such 'Bible reading,' they have reverted right back to the apostate doctrines that commentaries by Christendom's clergy were teaching 100 years ago." (Watchtower, Aug. 15, 1981)

Sunday, December 16, 2018

A Problem For Roman Catholic Mariology

          The Roman Catholic Church teaches as dogma that Mary was conceived immaculately or without the stain of original sin. It also teaches that she was a perpetual virgin. However, an inescapable dilemma arises in the process of embracing both dogmas. Consider the words of the Apostle Paul in regard to physical intimacy in marriage:

       "But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." (1 Corinthians 7:2-5)

         If Mary refused to have marital relations with her husband Joseph, then she would have been guilty of sin. In order to remain consistent, a Catholic would either have to reject the notion of her remaining a virgin for her entire life or her sinlessness. Both cannot be true at the same time.

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Repulsiveness Of Eugenics

Voices haunt the pages of every book. This particular book, however, speaks for the never-born, for those whose questions have never been heard—for those who never existed.

Throughout the first six decades of the twentieth century, hundreds of thousands of Americans and untold numbers of others were not permitted to continue their families by reproducing. Selected because of their ancestry, national origin, race or religion, they were forcibly sterilized, wrongly committed to mental institutions where they died in great numbers, prohibited from marrying, and sometimes even unmarried by state bureaucrats. In America, this battle to wipe out whole ethnic groups was fought not by armies with guns nor by hate sects at the margins. Rather, this pernicious white-gloved war was prosecuted by esteemed professors, elite universities, wealthy industrialists and government officials colluding in a racist, pseudoscientific movement called eugenics. The purpose: create a superior Nordic race.

To perpetuate the campaign, widespread academic fraud combined with almost unlimited corporate philanthropy to establish the biological rationales for persecution. Employing a hazy amalgam of guesswork, gossip, falsified information and polysyllabic academic arrogance, the eugenics movement slowly constructed a national bureaucratic and juridical infrastructure to cleanse America of its “unfit.” Specious intelligence tests, colloquially known as IQ tests, were invented to justify incarceration of a group labeled “feebleminded.” Often the so-called feebleminded were just shy, too good-natured to be taken seriously, or simply spoke the wrong language or were the wrong color. Mandatory sterilization laws were enacted in some twenty-seven states to prevent targeted individuals from reproducing more of their kind. Marriage prohibition laws proliferated throughout the country to stop race mixing. Collusive litigation was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sanctified eugenics and its tactics.

The goal was to immediately sterilize fourteen million people in the United States and millions more worldwide—the “lower tenth”—and then continuously eradicate the remaining lowest tenth until only a pure Nordic super race remained. Ultimately, some 60,000 Americans were coercively sterilized and the total is probably much higher. No one knows how many marriages were thwarted by state felony statutes. Although much of the persecution was simply racism, ethnic hatred and academic elitism, eugenics wore the mantle of respectable science to mask its true character.

The victims of eugenics were poor urban dwellers and rural “white trash” from New England to California, immigrants from across Europe, Blacks, Jews, Mexicans, Native Americans, epileptics, alcoholics, petty criminals, the mentally ill and anyone else who did not resemble the blond and blue-eyed Nordic ideal the eugenics movement glorified. Eugenics contaminated many otherwise worthy social, medical and educational causes from the birth control movement to the development of psychology to urban sanitation. Psychologists persecuted their patients. Teachers stigmatized their students. Charitable associations clamored to send those in need of help to lethal chambers they hoped would be constructed. Immigration assistance bureaus connived to send the most needy to sterilization mills. Leaders of the ophthalmology profession conducted a long and chilling political campaign to round up and coercively sterilize every relative of every American with a vision problem. All of this churned throughout America years before the Third Reich rose in Germany.

Edwin Black, War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Is Your Sin Beyond The Forgiveness Of God?

        There are Christians who feel burdened and disheartened in their journey of faith as a result of previous shortcomings in their lives. There are those people who feel guilty on a constant basis for sins committed in the past, seemingly unable to find comfort in the forgiveness that God provides. There are people who feel hopeless, utterly beyond the point of redemption. Indeed, the fact that we cannot change our past can be a difficult reality to accept. That sometimes haunts the minds of certain people. A basic fact of life is that all decisions have consequences. However, this does not mean that all hope is lost. We must take responsibility for bad choices made rather than make excuses to justify them.

        We do have the present moment in life. We can work to change our future, especially eternity, with God's help and by His grace. No transgression is beyond the power of His forgiveness. The salvation that He gives is complete, and without cost. We simply must ask Him to pardon our iniquity, even though it may be difficult or awkward to do so. We must trust Him at His Word. Our problem is sin, which is rebellion against God who created us. It cannot simply be left unaccounted for. Sinners must either receive forgiveness from God or face judgement. That is the reason Christ came to offer Himself up as an atonement sacrifice. He paid an infinite ransom on our behalf, thereby enabling our redemption. This act in itself demonstrates the unfathomable depths of God's love for us. Consider the words of King David in the Psalms:

         "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust." (Psalm 103:8-14)

         Those words came from a man who was guilty of murder and adultery. To be "slow to anger" means to not speedily express wrath. God gives people time to repent from sin. When God is said to "abound in love," it means His love exists in great quantity and makes itself known in action. If the Lord did not have compassion for sinners, then He would not have spared the Israelites who repeatedly turned against Him. He would not have destroyed David the instant he sinned. God would simply not pardon our iniquity. He is not under obligation to save us. Nobody is deserving of His salvation. The mercy of God has no limits. 

          Jesus Christ came to earth so that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness could live life more abundantly (John 10:10). The kind of life that we experience in Him is a higher quality of life. It is spiritual life that God gives. We must turn not to ourselves, but to Him who resurrects the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9). We must entrust ourselves to Him. If one is still struggling with how God could possibly forgive his sins after reading all this, then he needs to consider the notorious example of the Apostle Paul:

         "I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life." (1 Timothy 1:12-16)

         If Paul, who even had the people of God sentenced to death, could be saved, then so can anybody else who calls upon His name. If God can forgive two murderers (i.e. King David and the Apostle Paul), then He certainly has the power to forgive more. It was that same man who uttered these refreshing words:

         "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)