Saturday, August 31, 2019

Addressing Roman Catholic Apologetics On Acts 10:42-48 As It Relates To Baptismal Regeneration

  • Discussion:
          -A blogger who goes by the name of Catholic Nick recently published an article in which he tries proving that Cornelius is not a valid example to cite in favor of salvation taking place prior to baptism. Following are some of his remarks alongside with a critique:

          "Why would a Gentile Believer who just testified publicly with the Gift of Tongues need to further testify in a far less dramatic Baptismal rite? The Protestant claim is self-refuting here."

          First of all, there is no reason to believe that a person can be baptized with the Holy Spirit prior to conversion. Being filled with the Spirit of God and becoming a Christian are not separated in Scripture (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 12:13).

          Secondly, we participate in the ordinance of baptism because Jesus Christ commanded us to do so.

           Thirdly, the gift of tongues was not meant for everybody in the church and served a purpose according to God's design.

          "Baptism as a mere symbol makes no sense at this point, because it cannot and doesn't prove anything that the Gift of Tongues didn't already prove. The only rational explanation here is that Baptism does do more for salvation and is necessary, and thus the Gentile Believers got Baptized to receive certain saving graces they still needed."

          The ritual of baptism is not a mere symbol. Neither is it optional. Moreover, the text of Acts 10:43-48 says nothing in regard to receiving grace from God through baptism.

           It can be seen clearly from the context of this passage that Cornelius believed and so was saved prior to the moment of his baptism. Having heard the Word, Cornelius received the Spirit prior to being baptized, a sure indication that he believed what he heard.

          "For a Protestant to say they got Baptized as a mere formality just because Jesus said to do it is hardly a good argument, as if Jesus gives us empty commands that don't actually do anything."

          Baptism is not a mere formality. It serves as a reminder of our new identity in Jesus Christ. We are supposed to reflect on our baptism with the intent of building up our faith. Baptism is a picture of dying to sin in order to live for Christ. The fundamental problem with Catholic Nick's argumentation here is that it so grossly misrepresents the doctrine of Sola Fide.

          The Apostle John wrote an epistle for the express purpose of telling us how we can have assurance of eternal life (1 John 5:13). And yet, he nowhere mentions in that context the Eucharist, confession to a priest, baptism, Marian devotion, or any other concept linked to the sacramental system of justification taught by Rome. That point in of itself speaks volumes.

Renowned Yale Computer Science Professor David Gelernter Leaves Darwinism

"Why did Gelernter reject Darwinism? For one thing, he points to the fossils missing from the record. This bothered even Darwin. Why is this a problem? The number of fossils of major animal groups exploded during the Cambrian era. That means we should have lots of fossils of simpler “transitional” creatures in the precambrian period. But we don’t.

“Darwin’s theory predicts that new life forms evolve gradually from old ones in a constantly branching, spreading tree of life,” Gelernter writes. “Those brave new Cambrian creatures must therefore have had Precambrian predecessors, similar but not quite as fancy and sophisticated. They could not have all blown out suddenly, like a bunch of geysers. Each must have had a closely related predecessor, which must have had its own predecessors.”

Some argue that the Precambrian precursor fossils are missing because they were soft-bodied organisms that didn’t survive as fossils. But some Precambrian soft-bodied fossils did survive — they just weren’t the predecessors to the Cambrian fossils.

Gelernter says the incremental development of new species is largely not there. “Most species enter the evolutionary order fully formed and then depart unchanged.” Darwinism can’t explain that.

Perhaps the biggest flaw with Darwinism, he writes, is how hard it would be to randomly make new functional proteins. Darwinian evolution depends a huge number of them. Our understanding of molecular biology developed after Darwin. His theory doesn’t fit well with this new understanding.

Gelernter carefully reviews the evidence, and his article provides a very helpful short guide to the problem. He cites Douglas Axe, a distinguished scientist, who has calculated the chances of hitting a stable protein that performs some useful function, and might therefore be preserved by natural selection, are only 1 in 1077. That’s just one of the many, many proteins needed for any organism.

Gelernter summarizes the evidence. “Immense is so big, and tiny is so small, that neo-Darwinian evolution is — so far — a dead loss. Try to mutate your way from 150 links of gibberish to a working, useful protein and you are guaranteed to fail. Try it with ten mutations, a thousand, a million — you fail. The odds bury you. It can’t be done.”

He has plenty of other problems with Darwinism. The last one he brings up is the (neo-)Darwinian belief that “gene mutations driv[e] macro-evolution.” These can explain changes in existing forms, but not the development of new forms. The mutations are fatal, and the organism dies before it can reproduce. There are no examples of mutations that are not fatal. This Georgia Tech geneticist John F. McDonald calls “the great Darwinian paradox.”

https://stream.org/renowned-yale-computer-science-prof-leaves-darwinism/

Friday, August 30, 2019

Does Colossians 2:8 Condemn Philosophy?

        "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." (Colossians 2:8)

        A number of well-meaning Christians understand these inspired words of the Apostle Paul to be a disapproval of us engaging in philosophy. The problem with this interpretation, however, is that it does not take into account the context in which this verse was written.

        Earlier within the context of his epistle, Paul said that we are to teach and proclaim the gospel in a state of wisdom (Colossians 1:27-28). He emphasizes properly knowing the mystery of God, which is the Person of Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:2-3). Philosophy necessarily involves the acquisition of wisdom.

        There exists good philosophy and bad philosophy, with the former being in accordance with biblical doctrine. In other words, philosophy is not to be developed apart from or against the content of divine revelation. So, what type of philosophy was the Apostle Paul speaking against? Colossians 2:8 give us the answer: "according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ."

        Paul was exhorting the church in Colossae not to be deceived into embracing various customs and practices that were rooted in Jewish and pagan mysticism (Colossians 2:16-23). In so doing, he was very much setting forth a philosophical proposition. The truth of the matter is that there no escaping philosophy. Everybody does it. Consequently, those who oppose philosophy are living by a self-defeating philosophy.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Zechariah 3:1-5 And Imputed Righteousness

       "Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by." (Zechariah 3:1-5)

       In this text, we see Satan laying the charge of Joshua the high priest being unfit for his position. The filthy garments that he wore were representative of sin. Joshua was not qualified to be in a priestly office for that reason. It follows that he could not offer up sacrifices for the people. Thus, no forgiveness of sins could be obtained for the Jews.

       The filthy garments had to be removed from Joshua. God gave to him a set of pure garments so that he could fulfill his position as high priest. This turban had an inscription which read as: "Holy to the Lord" (Exodus 28:36-38). God carried out the work of bestowing new garments on Joshua Himself. He saved the Israelites from complete destruction. God clothed them in His own righteousness.

      The act of God providing a new garment for His people gives us a picture of Him putting away our sin and giving to us a foreign righteousness which is His. This incident shows us how God justifies sinners. Instead of giving to us the eternal punishment that we deserve because of our sins committed against Him, God out of His love for us has chosen to exercise mercy. Jesus Christ cloths us in His righteousness in order that we be reconciled to a holy God and render service that is acceptable to Him.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

More Than Half Of The Arabian World’s Young Adults Want To Leave

"Lack of trust in Islamist governments, spike in non-religious identity are among chief reasons, report finds.

The results of a recent survey in the Arab world show that more than half of the region’s young adults are considering emigrating, and an increasing number of people are identifying as “non-religious.”

The Big BBC News Arabic Survey, a joint assessment by BBC News Arabic and Arab Barometer, a Princeton University-based non-partisan research network, is the largest in-depth survey ever carried out in the region….Fifty-two percent of the respondents aged 18-29 said they were considering emigrating to another country.

The survey indicates that 70% of young Moroccans are thinking about leaving their country and almost half of all the population in Sudan, Jordan and Morocco, and a third of Iraqis, are considering emigrating. “The number itself is alarming and has several components,” Dr. Mohammed Masbah, director of the Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis in Rabat, told The Media Line.

“Politically, there is a lack of confidence in the government as youth believe the government cannot solve their problems,” Masbah said. “Socioeconomically, youth unemployment is high; the belief is it will get worse.”

However, the desire to emigrate has not increased universally across the region. Since 2013, it has decreased in the Palestinian Territories, Algeria, Sudan, Yemen and, most substantially, in Lebanon.

Abdul-Wahab Kayyali, a research associate at Arab Barometer, explained to The Media Line in an email that the yearning to emigrate in Lebanon might have decreased for several reasons. Some estimates put the number of people in the Lebanese diaspora at 15 million to 20 million people compared to the 5 million Lebanese in Lebanon, he noted.

“Many Lebanese are already immigrants, and many of those who want to immigrate have already done so,” he explained.

Economic factors were cited in the survey as the predominant reason for emigration. Conflict and instability that have recently plagued Yemen, Sudan, Algeria, Libya and the Palestinian Territories have increased the rate of economic deterioration."

https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/More-than-half-of-Arab-worlds-young-adults-want-to-leave-survey-593746

Monday, August 26, 2019

The Grand Design: Is God Unnecessary?

"To explain our existence on the planet Earth, Hawking and Mlodinow simply claim that there are many planets so one must have the conditions necessary to support higher life forms. This statement is both naive and unscientific for we have enough information about the requirements necessary for a planet to support higher life forms that we are able to do a rough estimate of the probability of finding even a single planet like the earth. Many of the required parameters can be found in the book Rare Earth by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee....The astrophysicist Hugh Ross has done a rough estimation of the probability of finding a single earth-like planet by chance based on 322 parameters known to be necessary if a planet is to support higher life forms. He has taken correlations and longevity factors into account as well as the fact that there are at least 1022 planets in the visible universe. His order-of-magnitude calculation comes up with a probability of 10-282 for finding one planet capable of supporting higher life forms in the entire visible universe. Hawking and Mlodinow are wrong. Even with a lot of planets we should not expect to find one suitable for our existence purely by chance.

Finally, in regard to the laws of physics that seem to be finely-tuned to allow life to exist, Hawking and Mlodinow appeal to M-theory, the most recent and encompassing string theory. String theory proposes that the fundamental entities that make up our universe are "vibrating strings of energy." M-theory holds a lot of promise as a scientific theory, including the development of a consistent quantum theory of gravity, which has been an elusive goal for about 100 years. M-theory requires that there are 11 dimensions of space-time. M-theory has about 10500 possible configurations, and allows for the possibility that there are many universes. If ours is just one of many universes (a multiverse), with different laws and parameters of physics in every different universe, then just by chance one of the universes would have the laws and parameter falling in the necessary range to be able to support life. We are here because we happen to be in the right universe. There are many problems with proposing M-theory as the solution to the anthropic principle problem. Of course, the first problem is that, as with the no-boundary condition, there is no scientific evidence that M-theory is true, so a belief in M-theory is not based on science at all. Second, there are few, if any, definitive predictions of M-theory. For instance, we don't know if any of the "other" universes would actually be created or just have the potential of being created. When The Grand Design was published there was overwhelming criticism that M-theory would be invoked as the answer to the anthropic principle problem. For instance, in Scientific American, John Horgan wrote, "M-theory, theorists now realize, comes in an almost infinite number of versions, which "predict" an almost infinite number of possible universes. ... Of course, a theory that predicts everything really doesn't predict anything... Hawking is telling us that unconfirmable M-theory plus the anthropic tautology represents the end of that quest. If we believe him, the joke’s on us."1

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of The Grand Design is that the attempts made to support Hawking's and Mlodinow's case are, in many cases, simply unsophisticated, unsupportable, naive, and even fallacious. I believe that in a college class on logic, philosophy, or religion, this book would receive a failing grade. For example, the question is posed, "Are there any exceptions to the laws of physics?" or "Are miracles possible." The answer given is, "…the modern scientists answer to question two [exceptions to the laws of physics]…is…a scientific law is not a scientific law if it holds only when some supernatural being decides not to intervene." This is a clear example of the logical fallacy of "begging the question." Hawking is dismissing miracles outright because they don't fit his preconceived definition of what science is. If this were your answer to the question of miracles in a logic class I guarantee you would get an F.

Consider also the quote from the book mentioned in the first paragraph of this blog, "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing." It doesn't take a rocket scientist, or someone as smart as Stephen Hawking, to realize how ridiculous this statement is. Gravity works within the space-time dimensions of our universe so it is impossible to invoke gravity as the cause of our universe. The physicist Gerald Schroeder wrote, "Therefore if the laws of nature created the universe, these laws must have existed prior to time; that is the laws of nature would be outside of time. What we have then is totally non-physical laws, outside of time, creating a universe. Now that description might sound somewhat familiar. Very much like the biblical concept of God: not physical, outside of time, able to create a universe."2

Many scientists and scholars who read the book The Grand Design were extremely disappointed that the arguments presented were poor and simplistic. In The New York Times, Dwight Garner wrote, "The real news about The Grand Design is how disappointingly tinny and inelegant it is."3 I'm tempted to quote dozens more of the negative reviews to emphasize my point, but I'll let you look them up if you need more persuasion.

Once again, we see that the conclusions most consistent with the known facts from scientific observations and theoretical calculation are that the universe seems to have a transcendent beginning and seems to be designed with humans in mind, two ideas consistent with the teachings about the God of the Bible. This attempt by Hawking and Mlodinow in The Grand Design to circumvent such straightforward conclusions is entirely inadequate, illogical, and invalid. If you are looking for reasons to make God "unnecessary" you will have to look elsewhere."

https://www.michaelgstrauss.com/2017/08/the-grand-design-is-god-unnecessary.html

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Is Penal Substitutionary Theory Unjust? (Further Discussion)

  • Discussion:
          -This post serves as a rebuttal to Roman Catholic apologist De Maria's article where he provides objections to the biblical teaching of penal substitution. His arguments are concisely listed in quotation marks alongside with a critique as follows:

         "Scripture says that God reserves His wrath towards His enemies."

          First of all, it is absolutely biblical to say that God stores up His wrath for those who oppose Him. This can clearly be seen in texts such as Nahum 1:2-10 and Romans 1:18-32. However, the point that needs to be emphasized here is the universal depravity of man.

          There exists a debt of sin (against a God who is holy) that requires payment (Romans 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:56). No man in his fallen condition could possibly fulfill the necessary demands to make restitution. Thus, Jesus Christ took on human flesh so that the debt of sin could be paid off. He is without sin. An infinite debt requires an infinite payment.

          Penal substitutionary theory in a nutshell states that God Himself paid the full debt for offenses committed against Himself. This view on the atonement cannot reasonably be deemed morally repugnant when properly understood. If we are to be saved from the sentence of eternal condemnation, then it is a logical necessity.

          If people honestly want to be treated fairly by God, then that would mean He show us no graciousness and mercy for our sins. Furthermore, those who argue that no court system on earth has ever allowed for substitution in any form for certain cases are mistaken. This source provides a handful of counterexamples:

          "...during the Civil War, a man could substitute for another man to go into active service. Likewise, when someone owes a debt to the authorities, anyone can pay for it. So the concept of substitution is applicable in some settings."

          Substitutes for rapists and murderers in our justice system are not authorized because we already know that such convicts will most likely continue in their folly. When we are in heaven, sin will be completely and permanently erased.

          "In both forms of suffering there is pain and frequently, death. However, I can't find in the suffering of God's wrath, any indication of a resurrection. And that is the difference between the suffering of God's wrath and in suffering as God's children in imitation of Christ."

          Jesus Christ raised the question regarding His position to James and John to stress humility. The disciples would indeed be "drinking of the cup" in the sense of being persecuted for His righteous name's sake. But, the suffering that Christ voluntarily underwent was unique. This source brings into light the following details:

        "In the Old Testament, the image of the cup can symbolize God’s blessing; however, in the majority of instances, the cup represents the Lord’s judgment and wrath on wickedness (Ps. 75:8; Isa. 51:22). Here in Mark 10:38, the cup has negative connotations, which means it represents the cup of divine wrath that Jesus would drink on behalf of His people to save them from their sin."

          "And Penal Substitution is proven a false doctrine which contradicts the Word of God."

          The above statement is just a subjective opinion. Moreover, the Roman Catholic Church has not actually dogmatically defined a specific theory on the atonement of Jesus Christ. Consider this excerpt of an answer to a question regarding Peter Kreeft and Tacelli’s views on penal sustitutionary atonement:

          "I do not think the Church has ever officially accepted some explanations while rejecting others...but I don’t think, properly understood, the Church has ever condemned it.”

          Dr. Robert Stackpole is another example of a Roman Catholic scholar who embraces penal substitutionary atonement:

          "...what I have endeavored to show is that the "multi-dimensional mystery" of Christ's saving work, especially in His Passion and Death, needs to include (but is not limited to) the doctrine of "penal substitution": the doctrine that God in Christ, out of His merciful love for us, took upon Himself, in our place, the penalty due to our sins, so that, as St. Paul wrote: "Hence, now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1)."

Thursday, August 22, 2019

On The Significance Of The Lord's Supper

  • How The Worship Service Is To Be Conducted:
          -The church is to practice open worship gatherings.
          -The worship service is to be performed in an organized and harmonious format.
          -Hymns are sung, prayers and words of praise and thanksgiving (for the bread and cup) are spoken, and a reading of Scripture is done.
  • The Purpose Of The Worship Service:
          -Edification or instruction
          -Fellowship with God and with brethren
  • What Worship Is To Be Centered On:
          -Worship is to have God as its specified object, as the Psalmists of the Old Testament plainly attest. The Psalms contain multiple instances of praise and thanksgiving. True worship points away from the worshiper and toward the Creator.
          -The New Testament narrows in on the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:24-26).
  • The Results Of Authentic Worship:
          -God is glorified, and dwells in the midst of those who sing praises to Him. In true worship, He is given priority above everything else.
          -The love of Christ and unity among brethren remains strong through partaking in communion. Moreover, it is from that ritual that we learn anything of biblical or theological value.
  • Degrees Of Symbolism Employed In The Lord's Supper To Highlight The Significance Of Jesus Christ's Atonement Sacrifice:
          -The wine is representative of the brutal nature of His execution for our sins. The bread is representative of His broken body hanging on the cross.
          -1 Corinthians 10:16-17 conveys the idea of Christians partaking of bread and wine as a means of fellowship amongst each other.
          -John 6 mirrors the language employed during the Lord's Supper for the purpose of communicating salvific truths.
          -The repetition of the communion meal signifies us drawing our strength from Christ.
          -The New Covenant points to the greatest worship being offered up by us as a royal priesthood under the Eternal Kingship of Jesus Christ.
  • On The Greek Term Koinonia:
          -This word literally means fellowship. In various contexts, the word denotes active and friendly association amongst members of a group. Thus, Christians are to steadfastly devote themselves to prayer and breaking of bread. That is what a biblically vibrant and faithful church does by its very nature. Believers also experience koinonia with the Spirit of God (2 Corinthians 13:14).

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Beware the ‘Bright Ones’: Bethel Church’s Big-Screen Debut

"The Bright Ones, a full-length feature film being marketed to families, youth and churches [debuted] in more than 700 select theaters across the United States on April 22. Billed as an “inspirational” film, Bright Ones tells a story of a group of talented, teenage kids from a performing arts school who face an impossible challenge. But behind the seemingly innocuous story lies the dangerous theology of one of the nation’s most controversial churches – Bethel Church in Redding, California. Led by the “apostle” Bill Johnson and the “prophet” Kris Vallotton, Bethel Church is the spearhead of a fast-growing, theologically aberrant movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation.

In a statement, Bethel Music CEO Joel Taylor said, “We truly feel like this film is the fruit of our community’s culture – to see the next generation rising up and leading while being confident in their gifts and identities in Christ is a powerful thing. As with all things we do, we pray that Bright Ones would not only be a reminder of truth, but also be a resource for other churches to foster their own community of ‘bright ones.'”

On the surface, Taylor’s statement sounds very good. After all, what Christian parents wouldn’t want their children to be confident in their gifts and identities in Christ? Yet, the problem is with what Taylor didn’t say. Lurking behind Bethel’s use of the words “gifts” and “identities” is a set of unbiblical teachings that are peculiar to the New Apostolic Reformation.

For example, when most Christians hear the word “gifts,” they may think of any special talent that God gives to an individual. They may also think of a full range of spiritual gifts that are referred to in Scripture, including gifts of serving, teaching, and acting mercifully (Romans 12:6-8). But when Bethel Church refers to “gifts,” typically they’re referring to miraculous gifts, such as prophesying and healing people of sickness and other physical conditions. What’s more, Bethel Church not only teaches that some people today have those miraculous gifts — a teaching held in common with Pentecostal and charismatic churches. Bethel Church teaching goes way beyond historic Pentecostal and charismatic teaching by claiming that the key to acquiring those gifts is through receiving new, authoritative revelation given by modern-day, governing apostles and prophets, like Bethel’s Bill Johnson and Kris Vallotton. These extreme and distinctive teachings represent neither historic Christianity nor historic Pentecostal and charismatic belief.

And, shockingly, Bethel Church teaches that Christians must learn to work greater miracles than Jesus did – as in more spectacular and more awe-inspiring miracles…. According to Bethel leaders, when Christians learn to perform more spectacular miracles there will be a worldwide revival in which a billion people will convert to belief in Christ. In short, this miracle-working army will usher in God’s kingdom. Thus, Christians who do not seek to develop such miraculous gifts and exhibit them in their everyday lives are settling for a “powerless” Christianity. God’s freedom to establish his kingdom on earth has been limited by their unbelief, according to the church’s leaders….In contrast, the Bible teaches that God gives spiritual gifts, including miraculous gifts, to individuals as he alone decides (1 Cor. 12:11). Furthermore, it makes it very clear that not all can have each of these gifts (1 Corinthians 12:29-30).

Yet Bethel Church teaches that miraculous gifts can be “activated” in any person who desires them. In line with this teaching, countless books, curriculums, and workshops – taught by Bethel leaders – offer training to activate the miraculous gifts. In fact, Bethel runs an entire school to train college-age people to work miracles: Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, which has an enrollment of more than 2,500 students from 64 countries. Children are also “activated” into the miraculous gifts at Bethel. In their Sunday School classes, they talk with angels and practice raising the “dead” by wrapping themselves in toilet paper, like mummies. These radical teachings and practices are not what most Christians will have in mind when they take their children to the theater to see Bright Ones."

http://www.spiritoferror.org/2019/04/beware-the-bright-ones-bethel-churchs-big-screen-debut-to-hit-theaters-nationwide-on-april-22/8243

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Jehovah’s Witnesses And John 1:1--New Evidence Advances The Discussion

NEW EVIDENCE

No one doubts the Sahidic Coptic version is among the most important of the early translations of the original Greek New Testament. Most scholars place the Sahidic Coptic translation no later than the fourth century and as early as the second (the same century of our earliest existing Greek manuscript of the New Testament: P52).

As such, the Sahidic Coptic manuscripts comprise a rich deposit of empirical evidence. They tell us what the early Greek texts might have looked like. They tell us how the Copts understood the text at the time of translation. In fact, the Sahidic Coptic translation was primarily intended to proclaim the gospel throughout Egypt where the Copts lived. This, then, was the text some of the earliest Christian missionaries used to first share the gospel in Egypt.

Fortunately, knowledge of this Sahidic Coptic evidence is not new. Unfortunately, popular-level access to legitimate New Testament scholarship on it is new. In fact, 2011 marks the first year a major academic publisher—Oxford University Press—published a work devoted solely to the Sahidic Coptic version’s varying uses of the Coptic word for “god.”

Therefore, the majority of resources available for mass consumption are limited to forums, blogs, and websites. Disappointingly, these sources are not academically peer-reviewed, scrutinized, or published. Thus, we are left wondering: are there other academic options circulating? Do the JWs have the only or best solution?

POSSIBLE ACADEMIC SOLUTIONS

One of three scenarios will help us answer the question of how the Copts were using the indefinite article with “god.” What are the three options?
The Copts intended the indefinite article to indicate a stylistic distinction.
The Copts intended the indefinite article to indicate a grammatical requirement.
The Copts intended the indefinite article to indicate an interpretive distinction.

To reiterate, it is possible to understand each of these five texts in its own particular way, but a solution that accounts for all of the texts is preferable to a solution that accounts for only one. Put another way: one solution is better than five.

Stylistic

The Coptic indefinite article can indicate various stylistic distinctions. For example, in narrative passages, the Coptic indefinite article can indicate the movement of an unknown entity to a known one. The transfiguration is one such instance. In Luke 9:34–35, “a” cloud comes to Jesus, Moses, Elijah, James, John, and Peter. Then, having been introduced already, “the” cloud overshadows them, and they hear a voice from “the” cloud.

Does this solution work for our five passages?

It is tempting to think the indefinite article somehow indicates this stylistic consideration. Two of the five texts— John 1:1c and Acts 28:6—occur within narrative material. Nevertheless, the passages themselves do not fit the pattern at all. In neither passage does “god” have the definite article anywhere. In fact, the one entity in John 1:1 we might expect to go from unknown to known entity (“the word”) has the definite article throughout the passage. Furthermore, as noted, only two of the five texts are narrative. As a result, the stylistic solution fails to solve the mystery.

Grammatical

A grammatical solution would be some grammatical reason requiring the indefinite article in the text. Interestingly, two of our five texts have just that. First Corinthians 8:6 and Ephesians 4:6 have similar constructions, both speaking of “one God.” One of the ways Coptic expresses the numerical idea of “one” is with the indefinite article. Therefore, the indefinite articles are functioning numerically in these two texts.

What about the remaining three verses?

Nothing in our other three passages requires (or really even allows) this numerical idea (“one God”). Grammatical considerations, however, do help us narrow our focus. First, we have removed two of the five texts from consideration. Second, the grammar of the three remaining passages reveals a pattern: the sentences have “god” near the end of the sentence (called the “predicate” position). What looks like the subject shifts to the end of the sentence. Usually, this is done when two things are being equated, such as in the sentence “He is a welder” (so, he = welder). This further supports our contention that the best solution of the indefinite article’s use will be the one that best explains all three texts.

Interpretive

In general, the New Testament text refers to the Christian God when the Greek article appears with the word “god” (that is, such a construction does not merely mean “divine” or “godlike”). We say “in general,” because this does not always hold true. For example, “God” in Romans 8:33 refers to the Christian God, even though it lacks the article in Greek: “It is God who justifies.” Conversely, in Philippians 3:19, “god” has the Greek article, though it does not refer to the Christian God: “their god is the belly.”

But what about Coptic?

Similar circumstances hold true. Usually, Coptic pairs the definite article with noute to refer to the Christian God. Again, however, there are exceptions. Revelation 16:7 has no Coptic article with “God,” while clearly speaking of the Christian God: “Lord God over all.” On the other hand, 2 Corinthians 4:4 is not referring to the Christian God, yet has the definite article: “the god of this age.”

Since references to the Christian God are not universally conducted with the definite article, and since the indefinite article in John 1:1, Acts 28:6, and 2 Thessalonians 2:4 cannot be explained by either stylistic or grammatical means, what is left?

The only viable option is an interpretive distinction. The Copts were distinguishing between the definite, indefinite, and qualitative use of the article.

To flesh this out a little bit more, definite (“the”) and indefinite (“a” or “an”) are categories you are already familiar with. You may be less familiar with the qualitative category, on the other hand. One standard Coptic grammar describes the qualitative nouns as those speaking of an entity by its quality.1 In other words, rather than indicating “the” Christian God (definite) or “a” god (indefinite), the article would indicate “the qualities” of whatever god (or gods) the speaker/author imagined.

How does this category apply to our three texts?

In the case of Acts 28:6 (“they changed their minds and said he was a god”), the local Maltese population does not understand “god” as the Christian God. But neither do they understand their own conception of “god” to be an inferior one. One well-known scholar says the islanders take a more- than-180-degree turn and conclude that Paul is not a “protégé of a god, but a very god.”2 In other words, the indefinite article signifies the qualities of whatever god(s) the population imagined.

On the other hand, 2 Thessalonians 2:4 lacks such contextual clarity: “displaying himself as God.” Even though some modern commentators differ, most agree that Paul means God with a capital G. As shown above, since the Coptic indefinite article does not have to mean indefiniteness (a god), always using the indefinite article as a contextual marker for indefiniteness falls short. Instead, using the indefinite article to indicate a qualitative distinction makes better sense of the passage: “displaying himself as [one who possesses the qualities of] God.” This would satisfy the commentators who think it is God with a capital G and those who think it is God with a little g.

In both Acts 28:6 and 2 Thessalonians 2:4, the most probable understanding of the indefinite article alongside “god” is descriptive/qualitative.

John 1:1c

What about our controversial text, John 1:1c? So far, the best way to understand the Copts’ use of the indefinite article is that they were making an interpretive, qualitative distinction. This distinction was to describe the qualities of whatever god/entity was being referenced by the speaker, author, or both. Thus, the Maltese population in Acts 28:6 were saying Paul possessed the qualities of “a god.” This fits well with how the Copts were probably understanding the text: descriptively. The population was not calling Paul a false god or a lesser divine god. Instead, the population was describing him as one characterized as having the qualities of “god” as they understood the gods.

Likewise, the best understanding of 2 Thessalonians 2:4 is that the author is referring to the qualities of the Christian God, even though the “man of lawlessness” is not the Christian God. As one scholar put it, “It is therefore preferable

to understand the characterization as of someone who is so self-aggrandizing that he vaunts himself against all gods whatsoever, perceived or real.”3 Again, this complements how the Copts probably understood the text: descriptively. The “man of lawlessness” will not exult himself as a false god or a lesser divine god, but as one claiming the qualities of “god” (in this case, the Christian God).

The same category easily applies to John 1:1c. This qualitative/descriptive understanding makes the best sense within the opening of John’s Gospel. The Copts understood John to mean “the Word” possesses the same qualities as the Christian God. If one rejects our arguments above, however, the only other viable interpretation, given the other usages, would suggest the Copts understood “the Word” to be a “god of the pagans” (cf. Acts 28:6) or some “usurper god” (cf. 2 Thess. 2:4). If that is the case, “Houston, we have a problem!” Such an interpretation leaves us with much more difficulty.

First, other passages in the Coptic text explicitly call Jesus “God” with the definite article. We do not even need to leave John’s first chapter! In the same chapter and book, there are clear references to Jesus as God (e.g., John 1:18; 20:28). Or look elsewhere in the New Testament (Titus 2:13; 1 John 5:20). It is improbable the Coptic translators took the author of the Gospel of John to mean Jesus was a “pagan god” or “usurper god” in John 1:1c, and then the Christian God 17 verses later. Yet, even if one still rejects all those passages, the manuscript evidence shows the Copts feeling comfortable ascribing “god” to Jesus—with the definite article!—early in their history. Look at what one of the earliest Coptic manuscripts, labeled P.11710 reads: “Jesus Christ, who is God.”4

Second, other Coptic words were available to express the idea of Jesus being merely divine, godly, or godlike if they desired, but they clearly did not.

Third, the overall context—chapter, book, and New Testament—all decrease the probability of any interpretation other than the qualitative one.

Fourth, other examples of common nouns with Coptic indefinite articles are available to compare. For example, take the word “prophet” in John 4:19: “The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are [one who has the qualities of] a prophet.’” The other two solutions would clash with this example—a pagan/usurper prophet. In contrast, the “interpretive distinction” solution works well.

These four reasons decrease the likelihood that the Copts used the indefinite article to suggest that “the Word” was either a god of the pagans or some usurper god.

https://www.equip.org/article/jehovahs-witnesses-john-11-new-evidence-advances-discussion/

Monday, August 19, 2019

Viewing Hedonism In Light Of Scripture

"As a worldview, hedonism is concerned with the maximizing of pleasure and the minimizing of pain. At various points in history it has expressed itself crassly. We can think, for example, of the orgies and drunkenness in ancient Greece and Rome. Other hedonists, however, have been more thoughtful and have done their best to minimize the “hedonistic paradox.” A basic problem with hedonism is that in striving to achieve pleasure you may actually find what you most want to avoid — pain. If you reach too far in pursuit of pleasure you might fail and be frustrated, which is painful. Paradoxically, in looking to satisfy your own lusts you might just find a world of hurt. The Epicureans of ancient Greece are an example of these thoughtful hedonists. They pursued pleasure, but not “too much” in order to avoid the negative consequences of failure.

Tyranny is the logical end of hedonism. Perhaps I can maximize my pleasure only by maximizing your pain. A hedonistic worldview cannot consistently condemn me, since, after all, I am just seeking my own pleasure. Thoughtful hedonists might say pleasure is found only if no one is harmed, but this is an appeal to an objective idea of pleasure, which hedonism denies. Only the group with the most power can maximize its own pleasure when a transcendent norm does not define pleasure.

In part, Christianity is about the pursuit of pleasure, but this pleasure is one that is defined by a transcendent God. Christ says true pleasure is found in life eternal, which, to hedonism’s disgust, can only be found by those who are willing to endure intense pain for the Lord (Matt. 16:24).

Hedonism tends to say that the only pleasure worth having is sensual in nature. It is ultimately a futile pursuit, as Solomon says in today’s passage [Ecclesiastes 2:1-11]. We are made to have a relationship with an infinite being, and therefore nothing finite can satisfy us permanently. Jesus alone can complete us. As we pursue Him, Christ satisfies us (Matt. 11:30) and will both now, and in eternity, bring us to deeper levels of pleasure in Him."

https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/hedonism/

Is Penal Substitutionary Atonement Cosmic Child Abuse?

        Liberal theologians object to penal substitution on the grounds that no just legal system would ever try an innocent victim in the place of wrenched criminals. It is claimed that the doctrine portrays God as some vengeful and bloodthirsty tyrant who wants to punish His Son for crimes that He never even committed. In other words, a philosophical objection to penal substitution is that this theory of atonement undermines God's love and righteousness.

        First and foremost, it needs to be understood that Jesus Christ, being God in the flesh, took the punishment of sin upon Himself. The Godhead paid off our infinite debt of sin so that we did not have to suffer eternal condemnation. Our problem is that we have sinned against God, who is holy. So He as a result of His love enabled a means of redemption through the shed blood of His Son Jesus Christ.

         Jesus, knowingly and willingly, took on human flesh to make atonement for our sins (John 10:17-18). He died to make reparation for our sins and to bring glory to the Triune God. The members of the Trinity worked together as one to bring about our salvation. So, the claim that penal substitution is cosmic child abuse is a false analogy by its very nature. Our forgiveness came at a great expense: the death of Christ in human flesh. He was raised bodily from the grave to bring about our justification (Romans 5:18-19).

         If God does not punish the ungodly, then He cannot simply be regarded as morally right and fair. He would be compromising His holiness if He left evil to its own device. Sin results in judgement, and there is no reason for God not to do so (Ezekiel 18). If God has love for the ungodly, then it follows that there must also be a way for Him to satisfy His justice. There has to be legitimate grounds on which God can forgive us. Love is not a weakness in God's character. Neither is mercy incompatible with vengeance and judgement. Jesus Christ, being without sin, was qualified in every way to bear the punishment and guilt of sin on our behalf.

Christ Is Reconciling All Things To Himself

[Colossians] 1:20 to reconcile all things to Himself. Christ is the remedy for alienation from God, and eventually all things will be changed and brought into a unity in Him, even though this will involve judgement (1 Cor. 15:24-28).

1:24 Because of the union of believers with Christ, Paul's sufferings for the sake of the church can be called Christ's afflictions as well.

1:25 the stewardship, assignment, office (1 Cor. 4:1).

1:26-27 the mystery. The secret unknown in OT times but known now only by divine revelation of the indwelling of Christ. See note on Eph. 3:3

1:28 Complete. Mature. The word was used by the mystery religions to designate those who had been initiated into the "secrets" of those religions. In Christ all can have wisdom and maturity.

The Ryrie Study Bible [New American Standard Bible], p. 1476

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Comments On The Greek Term Kenosis As Found In Philippians 2:5-11

[Philippians] 2:5-11 This passage on the humility of Christ is the high mark of the epistle. Unlike the informal, conversational style of the rest of the letter, verses 5-11 are highly polished. It is also noteworthy in that they convey in a few verses Paul's conception of the uniqueness of the person and work of Christ. Paul's point is that the disposition, the temper, of church members ought always to be that of Christ's.

2:6 In the form of God. Christ is the same nature and essence as God. to be grasped. The verse may be paraphrased: "Who, though of the same nature as God, did not think this something to be exploited to His own advantage."

2:7 emptied Himself. The kenosis (emptying) of Christ during is incarnation does not mean that He surrendered any attributes of deity, but that He took on the limitations of humanity. This involved a veiling of His preincarnate glory (John 17:5) and the voluntary nonuse of some of His divine prerogatives during the time He was on earth (Matt. 24:36). form. The same word as in verse 6. He was completely God and truly man. To deny either the deity or humanity of Christ requires denying the other.

2:8 a cross. I.e., a cross kind of death, the most despicable.

2:9 Through self-denial and obedience Christ won sovereignty over all peoples and things (v. 10).

The Ryrie Study Bible [New American Standard Bible], p.1469-1470

Friday, August 16, 2019

An Answer For Catholic Answers On Sola Scriptura And 1 Corinthians 4:6

  • Defining The Issues:
          -Roman Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid once wrote an article for Catholic Answers titled Going Beyond in response to a Protestant minister, who apparently claimed in a letter that the text of 1 Corinthians 4:6 "fits the bill" to save the doctrine of Sola Scriptura from "the realm of myth". Mr. Madrid proposed a number of objections against the citation of 1 Corinthians 4:6 as being an argument in defense of Sola Scriptura, all of which will be addressed in this article. If the entailments of Sola Scriptura (perspicuity, material sufficiency, formal sufficiency, and ultimate authority of Scripture) can be demonstrated from Scripture, then Patrick Madrid's position on the placement of biblical authority in the Christian church ("three-legged stool", meaning Scripture has equal authority with Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium) is in utter jeopardy. Without a doubt, 1 Corinthians 4:6 does "fit the bill" for the validation of Sola Scriptura. That passage most certainly weakens the Roman Catholic concept of tradition.
  • Presenting The Case For Sola Scriptura From 1 Corinthians 4:6:
          -The Church of Corinth was starting to obey the commandments of men, rather than the teachings of God as presented through divine Scripture. In other words, many brethren in the congregation to whom this epistle was addressed were guilty of living according to the flesh. The Corinthian Christians were divided into factions over morals, doctrine, and who their rightful leader was (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). Thus, the Apostle Paul wrote (Scripture) to help the people who constituted the Church of Corinth change their ways of living and thinking to conform to the will of God. The inspired author of the epistle desired that they be like minded in Jesus Christ.
          -In the previous context of this epistle, the Apostle Paul figuratively spoke of the apostles as being fellow servants and custodians of the gospel. He did so with the intention of explaining to the Corinthian Christians their designated purpose, preaching the gospel. This was done because the church of Corinth had elevated the status of the apostles and their closest associates to a level which they were not. They were simply human beings, as were the Christians being addressed in the epistle. The people of the first century who advanced the Cause of Christ were instruments used to accomplish God's purpose. While Paul had described himself and his fellow Christian laborers as planting the seeds of spiritual conversion in the minds of the doubting and unbelieving, he gave all the credit and glory to God for success in ministry (1 Corinthians 3:5-15). While the apostles planted, God was causing the growth. It is only by the power of God that the apostles were able to carry out their mission in the efficacious manner as they did. So let us not be puffed-up (as were the Christians at the church of Corinth) with so-called human wisdom (1 Corinthians 3:3-4). Dependency on God leads to true humility, as well as repentance from sin.
          -The Corinthian Christians needed to depend on the wisdom of God, not man. In other words, they needed to learn how to keep their thinking in alignment with God's will as revealed through the Bible. The church of Corinth needed to only use the written Word of God as the standard of judging leaders in the church. Furthermore, the message set forth by Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:6 can definitely be applied to the Christian church as a whole today.
          -Many professing Christians evaluate the quality of authoritative figures in the church by using factors such as humor, how they persuade, how they entertain, how they look, and by their intelligence. These points of consideration, however, are completely unbiblical standards by which we judge the validity of ministry and thus violate the principle set forth by the Apostle Paul in this text. Neither should we elevate ministers to a status that is not scripturally warranted. Furthermore, we have been instructed to formulate every doctrine off the teachings of the Bible. That is precisely of Paul's phrase: "not to think beyond what is written". Scripture is not the only source of authority, but is the ultimate standard of authority by which all things are tested. The Apostle Paul was using Scripture as the means of addressing issues such as pride, selfishness, and worldly wisdom. In other words, 1 Corinthians 4:6 prescriptively assumes the principle of Sola Scriptura as being necessary for the establishment of sound doctrine. It contains a general principle by which we are to observe. Any teaching that is not contained in Scripture did not originate from the Spirit of God.
          -The church of Corinth was beginning to follow unbiblical standards to judge the apostles, and was morally perverted. Thus the church had developed bitter contentions. This is a direct mirror reflection of the church's condition in modern times. But if Christians stay within the boundaries of scriptural revelation, then schisms will not develop because we could not muster enough pride to elevate the reputation of mere human beings to scripturally forbidden levels and follow man made traditions which in reality nullify the commandments of God. Scripture is what keeps our thinking in accordance to God's will. It is the source of doctrinal certitude. It equips the man of God for every good work. Consequently, rightfully practicing Sola Scriptura should produce doctrinal unity in the shining light of the gospel.
  • Is The Phrase "What Is Written" Mentioned In 1 Corinthians 4:6 An Allusion To The Book Of Life?:
          -Roman Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid mentions the fact that some biblical commentators have interpreted the phrase "what is written" as being a reference to the Book of Life (Revelation 20:12). This interpretation is rooted in the point that the four previous verses of the context superficially mention the concept of divine judgment. But connecting the phrase "what is written" with the "Book of Life" is highly problematical, since it would involve the Apostle Paul instructing the Corinthian Christians to not go beyond a book that they never even had access to in the first place. The Book of Life is located by God's throne in His heavenly kingdom. What is even more, is that the only place in Scripture where Paul had ever mentioned the Book of Life was very briefly in Philippians 4:3. In light of all this, it would be most reasonable to identify "what is written" as being a reference to Scripture . Other Bible versions render the phrase in 1 Corinthians 4:6 differently. The King James Version translates it to be, "not to think of men above that which is written." The New American Bible translates the phrase in question to be, "not to go beyond what is written." The New International Version translates it as, "Do not go beyond what is written." The Everyday Bible translates it as, "Follow only what is written in the Scriptures." The New Jerusalem Bible translates it to be, "Nothing beyond what is written." The text of 1 Corinthians 4:6 is quite straightforward in that it is referring to Scripture. It is abundantly clear that the inspired author of the epistle was assuming the principle of Sola Scriptura. On the contrary, the Church of Rome flatly contradicts the scriptural pattern set forth by the apostle in this verse because it elevates the authority of men to unbiblical levels and has throughout history defined the meaning of several dogmas that far transcend the boundaries of written revelation. But why would God want us to go beyond any book inspired by Him, anyway?
  • The Footnotes Of The Roman Catholic New American Bible Identify The Phrase "What Is Written" In 1 Corinthians 4:6 To Be Scripture. So Catholics Cannot Simply Claim That The Text Being Discussed At Hand Is Speaking Of The Book Of Life:
          -"That you may learn from us not to go beyond what is written...It probably means that the Corinthians should avoid the false wisdom of vain speculation, contending themselves with Paul's proclamation of the cross, which is the fulfillment of God's promises in the Old Testament (what is written). Inflated with pride: literally, 'puffed-up,' i.e., arrogant, filled with a sense of self-importance. The term is particularly Pauline, found in the New Testament only in 1 Cor 4, 6. 18-19; 5, 2; 8, 1; 13, 4; Col 2, 18 (ch the related noun at 2 Cor 12, 20). It sometimes occurs in conjunction with the theme of 'boasting,' as in vv 6-7 here."
  • The Author Of The Article At Catholic Answers Claims That Citing 1 Corinthians 4:6 As Biblical Support For Sola Scriptura Would Also Require (Logically Speaking) Rejecting The Inspiration Of Subsequent Canonical Writings Which Comprise The New Testament:
          -It needs to be understood that the Old Testament was sufficient, but not the exhaustive content of divine revelation. In other words, the Old Testament Scriptures are sufficient for the establishment of doctrine. Jesus Christ Himself always appealed to the Scriptures as the final court of authority in spiritual matters. That is in fact the constant pattern recorded in Scripture. In truth, a logical parallel can be formulated to demonstrate the logically absurd nature of this objection to the citation 1 Corinthians 4:6 in favor of Sola Scriptura: "the present pope does not have the authority to infallibly define dogma because there are future successors yet to be elected." The point is that the effectiveness of authority is not determined by its extent. Scripture has always been a sufficient rule of faith. The phrase "what is written" cannot simply be limited to the Old Testament writings, but Scripture in general. If the canon of Scripture is still open, then it follows that more divine revelation will be communicated in writing. It is not as though the apostles did not believe their writings to be divinely authoritative. All Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16). Moreover, Jesus Christ rebuked the so-called "Jewish Magisterium" of His day for its failure to understand the biblical doctrine regarding the resurrection of the dead (Matthew 22:32). Indeed, the Roman Catholic view of authority is identical to that of the Scribes and Pharisees whom Christ had rebuked (Matthew 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13). Contrary to the bold proclamations of Roman Catholic apologists on the issue of Sola Scriptura, the text of 1 Corinthians 4:6 affirms in a straightforward manner the ultimate authority of Scripture: "not to exceed what is written."
  • Evaluating The Roman Catholic Case For Sacred Tradition:
          -Roman Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid objected to 1 Corinthians 4:6 as being supportive of Sola Scriptura on the grounds that the Apostle Paul taught orally to first century Christian churches (1 Corinthians 11:2). However, the underlying problem with this objection is that Sola Scriptura is not a denial of authoritative oral traditions. It is not a denial that the Word of God was once communicated orally. Furthermore, we cannot know which traditions are inspired apart from Scripture. Neither can it be proven that the references to traditions by the apostles were different in substance from what is taught in written revelation. The Bible is sufficient to reveal all the things that we need to know concerning salvation and godliness. Quite frankly, there is no reason for Roman Catholics to conclude the text of 1 Corinthians 4:6 to be obscure when the Apostle Paul mentions tradition. That is simply a false dilemma. All these passages are crystal clear. Interpreting them in a literal sense does not result in a contradiction. These "traditions" are not mysterious or extra-biblical. And we know beyond any shadow of a doubt that the phrase "what is written" is a reference to Scripture. The point of the apostles mentioning tradition was not to substantiate any notion of a twofold partim source of divine revelation, but to distinguish their doctrines from the teachings of apostates who claimed to accurately represent the gospel. We know that the apostles received divine teachings from God, whereas traditions upheld by Roman Catholicism such as the Immaculate Conception (1854 A.D.) and Assumption of Mary (1950 A.D.) are obviously of spurious origin.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

A Simple Rejoinder To The Roman Catholic Marian Interpretation Of Luke 1:28

  • Discussion:
          -Roman Catholics commonly appeal to the text of Luke 1:28 as biblical evidence for their Mariology, which is presented as follows:

          "And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

          In response, it should be pointed out that women in the Old Testament Book of Judges are also referred to as "most blessed":

          "Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent." (Judges 5:24)

          Surely, Roman Catholics would not argue that these women were immaculately conceived and assumed bodily into heaven.

          Obviously, the mere fact that Mary was called "blessed" by the Angel Gabriel is not an acceptable justification for the Roman Catholic Church's teachings concerning her.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Archaeological Discovery Helps Prove Babylonian Conquest Of Israel

The current find is one of the oldest and perhaps the most prominent in its historical significance, as the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem is a major moment in Jewish history.

Archaeologists have unearthed evidence pointing to the validity of the Babylonian Conquest of the Holy City of Jerusalem in 587/586 BCE, as described by the Bible, according to a release published earlier this week.

A team of researchers from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, who have been excavating the hill known as Mount Zion in Jerusalem, say they have discovered arrowheads dating from the period, layers of ash, Iron Age potsherds, as well as a "significant" piece of jewelry - a gold silver tassel or earring - archetypal of the period in question.

"The team believes that the newly-found deposit can be dated to the specific event of the conquest because of the unique mix of artifacts and materials found -- pottery and lamps, side-by-side with evidence of the Babylonian siege represented by burnt wood and ashes, and a number of Scythian-type bronze and iron arrowheads which are typical of that period," the UNC archaeological team wrote in a statement.

The Mount Zion Archaeological Project is co-directed by UNC Charlotte professor of history Shimon Gibson, Rafi Lewis, a senior lecturer at Ashkelon Academic College and a fellow of Haifa University, and James Tabor, UNC Charlotte professor of religious studies. The group has been working in the area for more than a decade and has made numerous significant finds relating to the ancient city's many historical periods.

In July 2019, the archaeologists found evidence concerning the sack of the city during the First Crusade.

The current find is one of the oldest and perhaps the most prominent in its historical significance, as the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem is a major moment in Jewish history. The researchers say that the unique mix of artifacts and materials found, together with the way they were found - covered in layers of ash - solidify both the time period and that there was some type of destructive event that took place at that time.

"Alternative explanations for the artifacts can be eliminated," the researchers claim in their release. "Nobody abandons golden jewelry and nobody has arrowheads in their domestic refuse. Frankly, jewelry is a rare find at conflict sites, because this is exactly the sort of thing that attackers will loot and later melt down.

Gibson explained that the arrowheads are known as "Scythian arrowheads," and have been found at other archaeological conflict sites from the 7th and 6th centuries BCE.

"They were fairly commonplace in this period and are known to be used by the Babylonian warriors," he explained. "Together, this evidence points to the historical conquest of the city by Babylon because the only major destruction we have in Jerusalem for this period is the conquest of 587/586 BCE."

The potsherds help date the discovery further, considering the lamp shards found are typical to the period.

https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Archaeological-discovery-helps-prove-Babylonian-conquest-of-Israel-598543

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Romans 10:9-10 And Public Confession

       "If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved." (Romans 10:9-10)

       What is the relationship between salvation and confession? The connection between believing on Jesus Christ and publicly confessing His name is that both are perfectly consistent with each other. We confess His name by faith. Confession is not a meritorious deed. Confession is not something that we attach to faith as a requirement or prerequisite for salvation. It is not something that completes salvation. Rather, confession is simply an expression of faith. The baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch illustrates this point quite well (Acts 8:34-39).

        Audible confession of Christ's Lordship is evidence of a changed heart, as such will certainly bring about persecution. In context, the Apostle Paul is giving particular emphasis to the simplicity of receiving the righteousness of God. The gospel message is so simple that even children can properly make sense of it. Receiving His forgiveness comes by faith, not by keeping the Law. We are saved because God is gracious. We are to place our trust in the work of His Son Jesus Christ. The object of our faith is Him. The foundation of our hope is Him. And a saving faith comes through the preaching of the gospel (Romans 10:14-17).

        Justification before God is by faith alone, apart from the merit of good works. However, faith and works cannot be totally divorced from each other. If we have a heartfelt faith which results in salvation, then it follows that we will also recognize our need for a Savior. That is brought about through the repentance of sin. A faith that reflects trust in God cannot exist apart from repentance. So there can be no salvation apart from confession. All of this is simply inherent characteristics of a saving faith and the fruit of a regenerate heart. These things are inextricably connected. The Apostle Paul is not hereby placing faith and confession in a sequential or chronological fashion, but resorting to parallelism. The Reformation Study Bible has this useful footnote:

        "10:9, 10 confess . . . believe . . . believes . . . confesses. In the parallelism of v. 10 Paul reverses the order of verbs in v. 9 and thereby indicates that heart-belief and mouth-confession belong together for justification (“righteousness”) and salvation."

Monday, August 12, 2019

Celibacy Advances The Priesthood's Culture Of Compromised Truths

In the 2015 movie "Spotlight," the voice of Richard Sipe (played by Richard Jenkins) says over the speaker phone, “If you really want to understand the crisis, you need to start with the celibacy requirement.” He continues, “That was my first major finding. Only 50% of the [Catholic] clergy are celibate. Now, most of them are having sex with other adults. But the fact remains that this creates a culture of secrecy that tolerates and even protects pedophiles."

Sipe, the former priest and psychologist, who died in August 2018, devoted much of his life to the psychological treatment of priests. He wrote extensively on priestly celibacy. In 1990, he published A Secret World: Sexuality and the Search for Celibacy. He estimated then that at any given time only 50% of priests, monks and bishops are actually celibate. This contributes to a culture of mendacity (lying).

In a 2016 letter to San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy, Sipe wrote:

Sooner or later it will become broadly obvious that there is a systemic connection between the sexual activity by, among and between clerics in positions of authority and control, and the abuse of children. … When men in authority — cardinals, bishops, rectors, abbots, confessors, professors — are having or have had an unacknowledged-secret-active-sex life under the guise of celibacy, an atmosphere of tolerance of behaviors within the system is made operative.

In other words, priests and bishops are not going to expose others because they may be guilty themselves. The recent cases of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Bishop Michael Bransfield of West Virginia prove this point. How could they rise so high and allegedly endure so long in their double lives? Perhaps because people who knew were also compromised by sexual activity.

In our 2016 novel Strange Gods: A Novel About Faith, Murder, Sin and Redemption, which I wrote with Msgr. Jack Myslinski, the character of Msgr. Matthew Ackerman says:

The problem is being celibate. Celibacy turns us all into liars. … The whole thing is built on mendacity. …

Celibacy leaves a wound. Some people kid themselves into thinking it doesn't, but it does. You try to compensate, but you are never really whole. Some priests drown their sorrows in alcohol or pills. A lot of them overeat and get obese. … Some guys travel all the time to escape. Others take secret lovers. Some redecorate the rectory over and over again. That's a classic clerical tradition, decorating. Just look at all the frescoes in the Vatican. It's a kind of retail therapy that has been going on for centuries.

Again, the cases of McCarrick and Bransfield illustrate this "celibacy wound" compensation. Both men decorated lavishly and traveled luxuriously. Both allegedly carried on secret sexual liaisons, evidently trying to heal their "celibacy" wound.

In 1994, I wrote an article about celibacy for The Washington Post following several priest sexual scandals in Washington. I said then:

In light of recent sexual scandals involving priests, I find some skepticism about priestly celibacy. Among skeptics, I get one of two reactions. Some people think priest are liars. Others think we are fools. Some of the time, of course, they are right.

Don't think that this is just an American problem. It is a universal problem as scandals in Poland, Ireland, France, India, Philippines, Kenya, Congo, and Costa Rica, etc. have shown. In Africa, where some of the fiercest defenders of celibacy are to be found, it is widely reported that priests routinely live double lives, keeping "secret" families in homes far from their parishes.

On June 1, The Washington Post reported that Fr. Peter Njogu is publicly leading a breakaway Renewed Universal Catholic Church in Kenya over the issue of celibacy. He is married and has established himself as a bishop of a schismatic church. Twenty priests have followed him along with more than 2,000 Catholics in several congregations. He said in The Post, "They (his followers) are tired of the hypocrisy. Some of our people call us the 'Church of the Future.' " Njogu says that other priests tell him, "The problem with you is that you went public. And I say, 'I am not the problem: I am the solution. Join me.' "

In Latin America I have encountered the same phenomenon. People openly express skepticism about celibacy because they know or suspect that Padre has a secret family. Look at Legionaries of Christ founder Marcial Maciel Degollado, who had not one but two secret families in Mexico.

Celibacy is not essential to holiness. Many saints were married and had children. The Second Vatican Council said there is a universal call to holiness. If celibacy were essential to holiness, then most of the church could not be holy. Sex is an essential part of holiness in the sacrament of matrimony. We say that marriages are "consummated" by a sexual relationship.

Celibacy is not essential to Catholic priesthood. It is only mandated in two of the 24 "autonomous churches" in communion with Rome; the Latin Rite and the Ethiopian Rite. All of the others — the Ukrainian Rite, Syrian Rite, Maronite Rite, Coptic Rite, etc. — allow their priests to marry prior to ordination. Are 22 churches of the East not also holy?

St. Peter was not celibate. Much of the clergy for the first 1,000 years of Christianity were not celibate.

Celibacy was not mandated for diocesan clergy until the first Lateran Council (1123) and reaffirmed by the second Lateran Council (1139). Both of those decrees were brought on by the fact that many clergy, especially in rural areas, had wives or concubines. Often they gave church property to their families. Celibacy then was honored more in the breach than the observance.

At least seven popes were married. Several others had children either before or during their papacies. Pope Julius II, the pope who commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel, fathered three daughters. There was even a father and son pope combination, Pope Hormisdas (514-523) who was father to Pope Silverius, (536-537) who himself fathered an illegitimate daughter.

[...]

Today we have many married priests in the Roman Rite who have come to us from the Anglican or Lutheran traditions. The Washington Archdiocese, like many American dioceses, has several married priests who were first ordained in the Episcopal church and then received into the Roman church. If they can be married, why not others?

https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/priestly-diary/celibacy-advances-priesthoods-culture-compromised-truths

Luke 17:7-10 Is Biblical Support For Justification By Faith Alone

  • For The Professing Christians Who Try To Refute The Doctrine Of Justification By Faith Apart From The Merit Of Works (Sola Fide), They Need To Consider The Text Of Luke 17:7-10:
           -“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” (Luke 17:7-10)

          The Lord Jesus Christ was in this passage speaking in regard to our faith. Christians in fulfilling the process of disciplining do not claim for themselves God's kindness and favor. Believers are simply doing as He had commanded them, independently of whether the quality of their work is that of perfection. It is not by good works that we earn the right to approach God. Rather, such is granted to us through His Son Jesus Christ.

          We are mere servants of God, who will reward us for our holy conduct in this life. All growth that we experience in sanctification is a result of His divine grace. Any and all blessings that we receive are from Him. Our good works have no value in of themselves. Self-righteous or vainglorious thoughts should be absent from our minds in obeying our Master. Our good works cannot contribute to our salvation, nor should they be done just to satisfy inner longings for admiration and approval.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

One Of The Greatest Questions Ever Asked

        "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:36-37)

        We live in a culture that is obsessed with material gain. Many in human civilization waste hordes of time daily on keeping up with the latest fashion trends or vehicle models. Commercials that we hear on the radio and on television oftentimes announce various ways to improve the quality of virtually every facet of our lives. Businesses concentrate on accumulating large masses of wealth. Gullible customers concentrate on getting the best material items possible. This all points to the fact that an inherent part of human nature is a desire to find a source of ultimate fulfillment.

        There is one thing of utmost importance that society has totally overlooked, however. That is the Person of Jesus Christ as proclaimed through the gospel. The vast majority of people in society seem to be utterly oblivious to or unconcerned regarding their sinful condition and need of a Redeemer. This is the underlying reason that should motivate us to preach God's Word to this lost world. Moreover, our Lord Jesus Christ eloquently and with great simplicity made known the futility of striving to reach top dog status according to worldly standards.

        Even if a person became so popular that he or she could instantaneously claim possession of the entire world, that position of earthly supremacy would be worthless in the sight of God. Nothing is more precious than the human soul. Nothing in this life should be considered more important than our eternal destiny, for the things of this world are passing away before our very eyes. We must seek and worship God on His own terms. If people do not repent at the preaching of the gospel, then they will perish for all eternity. Material possessions can always be stolen or destroyed. We cannot take them with us into the supernatural realm. All things created by man rightfully belong to God alone, since He at the beginning of time formed all the particulates which constitute the composition of everything that we can observe. He even gave us the ability to grow in intellect.

        If a person gathers from this lecture that we cannot find enjoyment in the things we do have, then he or she has utterly missed the point of this message. The idea being stressed here is that we are not to allow our material possessions to rule over us. We are not to allow ourselves to become preoccupied with them to the point where they control our lives. In that case, possessions become idols and demons. Our chief focus should be on God who is above. We should thank Him continually for the things that we do have, as He has the power to take everything away just as quickly as He imparted those same gifts to us. We should be rejoicing in Him continually. The material achievements of man are as a small island in comparison to the oceans of eternity. Our hope should rest on the solid foundation of the eternal promises set forth by Jesus Christ.

Immanuel Kant's Critique Of David Hume

It may be said of David Hume that he initiated the attack on pure reason. My own labours in the investigation of this subject were occasioned by his sceptical teaching, for his assault made them necessary. He argued that without experience it is impossible to know the difference between one thing and another; that is, we can know a priori, and, therefore, the notion of a cause is fictitious and illusory, arising only from the habit of observing certain things associated with each in succession of connections.

On such principles we can never come to any conclusion as to causes and effects. We can never predict a consequence from any of the known attributes of things. We can never say of any event that it must necessarily have followed from another; that is, that it must have had an antecedent cause. And we could never lay down a rule derived even from the greatest number of observations. Hence we must trust entirely to blind chance, abolishing all reason, and such a surrender establishes scepticism in an impregnable citadel.

Mathematics escaped Hume, because he considered that its propositions were analytical, proceeding from one determination to another, by reason of identity contained in each. But this is not really so, for, on the contrary, they are synthetical, the results depending ultimately on the assent of observers as witnesses to the universality of propositions. So Hume's empiricism leads to scepticism even in this realm.

My investigations led me to the conclusion that the objects with which we are familiar are by no means things in themselves, but are simply phenomena, connected in a certain way with experience. So that without contradiction they cannot be separated from that connexion. Only by that experience can they be recognized. I was able to prove the objective reality of the concept of cause in regard to objects of experience, and to demonstrate its origin from pure understanding, without experimental or empirical sources.

Thus, I first destroyed the source of scepticism, and then the resulting scepticism itself. And thus was subverted the thorough doubt as to whatever theoretic reason claims to perceive, as well as the claim of Hume that the concept of causality involved something absolutely unthinkable.

The World's Greatest Books (Philosophy and Economics), p. 39-40

Friday, August 9, 2019

A Topical Scripture Cross Reference Study On Integrity And Ethics

  • The Mosaic Law System Operated On The Principle Of Fairness And Truthfulness:
          -"One witness alone shall not stand against someone in regard to any crime or any offense that may have been committed; a charge shall stand only on the testimony of two or three witnesses. If a hostile witness rises against someone to accuse that person of wrongdoing, the two parties in the dispute shall appear in the presence of the Lord, in the presence of the priests and judges in office at that time, and the judges must investigate it thoroughly. If the witness is a false witness and has falsely accused the other, you shall do to the false witness just as that false witness planned to do to the other. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst. The rest shall hear and be afraid, and never again do such an evil thing as this in your midst. Do not show pity. Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, and foot for foot!" (Deuteronomy 19:16-20)
  • Scripture Is Replete With Warnings Against Spewing Off Falsehood:
          -"The false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever utters lies will not escape." (Proverbs 19:5)
          -"A club, sword, or sharp arrow— the one who bears false witness against a neighbor. A bad tooth or an unsteady foot—a trust betrayed in time of trouble. Like the removal of clothes on a cold day, or vinegar on soda, is the one who sings to a troubled heart. If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat, if thirsty, give something to drink." (Proverbs 25:18-21)
          -"Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause, For would you deceive with your lips? Do not say, “I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work." (Proverbs 24:28-29)
  • Scripture Condemns Rejoicing Over Times When Potential Enemies Experience Hardship Or Failure:
          -"Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; Lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him, And He turn away His wrath from him." (Proverbs 24:17-18)
          -"Whoever mocks the poor reviles their Maker; whoever rejoices in their misfortune will not go unpunished." (Proverbs 17:5)
  • Scripture Contains Exhortations For Us To Love Our Enemies:
          -"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48)
          -"Rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” (Romans 12:20)

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Aquinas: There Is No Hope Of Justification, But Only By Faith...We Conclude That A Man Is Justified By Faith Without The Works Of The Law

Here's an interesting Aquinas tidbit from an old discussion list:

Et sie exponit Glossa. Sed Apostolus videtur loqui de moralibus, quia subdit quod lex posita est propter peccata, et haec sunt praecepta moralia. Horum legitimus usus est ut homo non attribuat eis plus quam quod in eis continetur. Data est lex ut cognoscatur peccatum. Roman., vii, 7: Quia nisi lex diceret,non concupisces (quod dicitur in Decalogo) concupiscentiam nesciebam. Non est ergo in eis spec justificationis, sed insola fide. Roman., iii, 28: Arbitramur justificari hominem per fidem sine operibus legis.

"But the Apostle seems to be speaking about morals, because he adds that the law was set forth because of sin, and the law consists of moral precepts. The proper use of these precepts is that man not attribute to them more than what is contained in them. The law was given so that sin might be recognized. As Romans 7:7 says, "Unless the law were saying, 'Do not covet,' (which the Decalogue says), I would not have known about covetousness. In the precepts, therefore, there is no hope (spec=spes?) of justification, but only by faith. As Romans 3:28 says, "We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law."

Thomas Aquinas, "Epistola I Ad Timotheum", "Lectio III" in *Opera Omnia*, Volume 21: *Commentarii in Epistolam Ad Corinthios 1 In Caeteras Omnes Epistolas S. Pauli.* Paris: Apud Ludovicum Vives, Bibliopolam Editorem, 1876, page 456.

https://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2013/01/aquinas-there-is-no-hope-of.html