Monday, September 30, 2019

A Rational Argument For The Existence Of The Human Soul

"In this discussion, many modern scientific thinkers have taken position that consciousness is an illusory faculty created by our neuronal activity. According to this position, our subjective self-awareness is wholly imagined fantasy that has no objective existence:

“Despite our every instinct to the contrary, there is one thing that consciousness is not; some deep entity inside the brain that corresponds to the “self”, some kernel of awareness that runs the show ... after more than a century of looking for it brain researchers have long since concluded that there is no conceivable place for such a self to be located in the physical brain, and that it simply doesn’t exist.” (Journalist Michael Leminick, Time Magazine)

“We feel, most of the time, like we are riding around inside our bodies, as though we are an inner subject that can utilize the body as a kind of object. This last representation is an illusion ... “ (Atheist author Sam Harris)

“The intuitive feeling that we have that there’s an executive “I” that sits in the control room of our brain ... is an illusion.” (Dr. Steven Pinker)

These thinkers all readily acknowledge that our actual experience of reality seems to fly in the face of their description of it — hence Professor Dennett’s “problem of consciousness.” One would think that in order to draw conclusions about the true nature of this problem they would rely on carefully researched evidence and hard facts before informing us that every experience that we have (or will ever have) — from love and morality to the appreciation of beauty and free will — are fictitious. Here are some examples of what the world of science does actually offer on this topic:

“Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious.” (Dr. Jerry Fodor, Professor of philosophy and cognitive science)

“The problem of consciousness tends to embarrass biologists. Taking it to be an aspect of living things, they feel they should know about it and be able to tell physicists about it, whereas they have nothing relevant to say.” (Dr. George Wald, Nobel Prize winning biologist)

“Science’s biggest mystery is the nature of consciousness. It is not that we possess bad or imperfect theories of human awareness; we simply have no such theories at all.” (Dr. Nick Herbert, Physicist)

Based on these honest assessments of the state of scientific knowledge on this topic one might think that these thinkers — who have a priori drawn conclusions on a subject for which they seem to have little to no evidence — would speak in far more humble and guarded tones. No one seriously suggests that protons, quarks or chemical compounds possess innate awareness. Why then do they suggest that the products of these foundational materials will suddenly leap into self-cognizance? Is this a truly rational position to hold? Exactly how many electrons does it take for them to become “aware” of themselves? Cells do not wonder about themselves, molecules have no identity and a machine — no matter how sophisticated — is imbecilic (without its programmer).

If our decision-making faculty was indeed an illusion of the brain it should be impossible to physically affect the brain through our own willful decisions and yet research has demonstrated that the “I” can and does alter brain activity through the agency of free will as described by Canadian neuroscientist Dr. Mario Beauregard:

“Jeffrey Schwartz ... a UCLA neuropsychiatrist, treats obsessive-compulsive disorder — by getting patients to reprogram their brains. Evidence of the mind’s control over the brain is actually captured in these studies. There is such a thing as mind over matter. We do have will power, consciousness, and emotions, and combined with a sense of purpose and meaning, we can effect change.”

Why then should we not consider the possibility — the one that satisfies our deepest, most powerful and intuitive sense — that the “I” that we all experience is the human soul? And that the reason that science has not discovered its whereabouts is not that it doesn’t exist, but rather that it is not part of physical reality as we know it and as such is undetectable and unmeasurable by material means. It is certainly understandable that for those who believe that material reality is the only reality this would be an unwelcome notion. Nonetheless, I submit that in absence of any compelling alternative and with the obviousness of the reality of our self-awareness so manifestly apparent — it is the rational conclusion to draw."

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Titus 2:13, The Granville Sharp Rule, And Evidence For Jesus Christ's Deity

  • The Granville Sharp Rule Does Not Apply To Things, Plurals, Or Proper Names. Daniel B. Wallace Gives These Pertinent Remarks Here:
          -"In native Greek constructions (i.e., not translation Greek), when a single article modifies two substantives connected by kai (thus, article-substantive- kai-substantive), when both substantives are (1) singular (both grammatically and semantically), (2) personal, (3) and common nouns (not proper names or ordinals), they have the same referent."
  • The Following Excerpt Has Been Taken From The Same Source As The Previous One:
          -"...solid linguistic reasons and plenty of phenomenological data were found to support the requirements that Sharp laid down. When substantives meet the requirements of Sharp’s canon, apposition is the result, and inviolably so in the NT. The canon even works outside the twenty-seven books and, hence, ought to be resurrected as a sound principle which has overwhelming validity in all of Greek literature. Consequently, in Titus 2:13 and 2 Pet 1:1 we are compelled to recognize that, on a grammatical level, a heavy burden of proof rests with the one who wishes to deny that “God and Savior” refers to one person, Jesus Christ."
  • Dr. James R. White Provides Similar Clarifications Of The Granville Sharp Rule As Follows:
          -"Basically, Granville Sharp's rule states that when you have two nouns, which are not proper names (such as Cephas, or Paul, or Timothy), which are describing a person, and the two nouns are connected by the word 'and,' and the first noun has the article ('the') while the second does not, both nouns are referring to the same person."
  • Examples Of Granville Sharp Construction Found In The New Testament (Excerpt Taken From James White Of Alpha and Omega Ministries):
          -"Kenneth Wuest in his Expanded Translation brings out the Sharp constructions in a number of other instances. For example, 2 Thessalonians 1:12 reads, “in accordance with the grace of our God, even the Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Timothy 5:21: “I solemnly charge you in the presence of our God, even Jesus Christ,…” and 2 Timothy 4:1: “I solemnly charge you as one who is living in the presence of our God, even Christ Jesus,…” All these demonstrate further examples of Sharp’s rule. Not all examples, of course, deal with the fact of the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 3:2 reads, τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἡμῶν καὶ συνεργὸν, “our brother and fellow-worker,” in reference to Timothy. Philemon 1 contains a similar reference, and Hebrews 3:1 is yet another example. One of the most often repeated examples has to do with the idiom, “God and Father.” Pure Sharp constructions occur at 2 Corinthians 1:3, Ephesians 1:3, Ephesians 5:20, Philippians 4:20, and 1 Thessalonians 3:11. Finally, other examples of Sharp constructions occur at 1 Corinthians 5:10, 7:8, 7:34, Ephesians 5:5, Philippians 2:25, and Colossians 4:7."
  • We Know That The Terms "God" And "Savior" Are Both Applied To Jesus Christ In Titus 2:13 Because The Next Verse Says The Following:
          -"who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds."
          -Christ is the one who gave Himself up on our behalf as a sacrifice on the cross at Calvary. There is no contextual evidence for the "who" reference in Titus 2:14 being plural.
  • This Excerpt From The Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary On Titus 2:13 Is Also Relevant Here:
          -"There is but one Greek article to “God” and “Savior,” which shows that both are predicated of one and the same Being. “Of Him who is at once the great God and our Savior.” Also (2) “appearing” ({epiphaneia}) is never by Paul predicated of God the Father (John 1:18; 1 Timothy 6:16), or even of “His glory” (as Alford explains it): it is invariably applied to Christ‘s coming, to which) (at His first advent, compare 2 Timothy 1:10) the kindred verb “appeared” ({epephanee}), Titus 2:)11, refers (1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 4:8). Also (3) in the context (Titus 2:14) there is no reference to the Father, but to Christ alone; and here there is no occasion for reference to the Father in the exigencies of the context. Also (4) the expression “great God,” as applied to Christ, is in accordance with the context, which refers to the glory of His appearing; just as “the true God” is predicated of Christ, 1 John 5:20. The phrase occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, but often in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 7:21; Deuteronomy 10:17, predicated of Jehovah, who, as their manifested Lord, led the Israelites through the wilderness, doubtless the Second Person in the Trinity. Believers now look for the manifestation of His glory, inasmuch as they shall share in it. Even the Socinian explanation, making “the great God” to be the Father, “our Savior,” the Son, places God and Christ on an equal relation to “the glory” of the future appearing: a fact incompatible with the notion that Christ is not divine; indeed it would be blasphemy so to couple any mere created being with God."

Monday, September 23, 2019

1 Corinthians 10:3-4 Is A Problematic Passage For Roman Catholic Transubstantiation

        "They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ." (1 Corinthians 10:3-4)

        This passage of Scripture relates to Roman Catholic transubstantiation because it affirms that Jesus Christ is our source of spiritual nourishment. He is our spiritual food. He, the substance, is the same substance that is made present by faith at the meal of the New Covenant.

        Transubstantiation does not involve the eating and drinking of Christ in a "spiritual" manner. That language is distinct from the language of Catholic dogma. Transubstantiation takes place when the priest pronounces the bread and wine to be Jesus Christ's actual body and blood (the change is not in the accidents, but substance).

        What matters in Roman Catholic theology is the participation in that physical substance. However, this is contrary to the way that the Scriptures speak concerning the participation of those ancient people in the meal and water during the Exodus. Moreover, Paul stated that Jesus Christ was the Rock (1 Corinthians 10:3-4), yet He never underwent a process of literal petrification. 

         The Israelites "ate" and "drank" Christ, which must be spiritual and not physical. No transubstantiation took place during the Old Testament. We partake of Christ in the same spiritual way that the Jewish people did, which is by faith.

Does Matthew 25:31-46 (Parable Of The Sheep And Goats) Refute Justification By Faith Alone?

         To preface, it should be noted that the context of Matthew 25:31-46 is about the quality of our faithfulness to God. It is not about justification or how one gets right with Him. This passage is about our service to other believers who are in need. Christians in ancient times who traveled in preaching the gospel tended to be starving, dressed poorly, and put into prison.

         Works are not being prescribed as criteria for justification in this passage. Rather, they provide descriptions of who belongs in either one of two categories: sheep or goats. The former group experienced genuine conversion of heart which results in the performance of good works. Members of the latter group simply did not care for the things of God.

         Jesus Christ was addressing matters from a general standpoint, not giving specific ordinances or rituals that we must observe in order to earn God's favor. The Lord points to our works in judgment because they serve as evidence of our obedience to Him. They are the visible expression of our faith in God.

         There is an element of grace alone present in Matthew 25:34 (i.e. "...blessed by My Father..."). The kingdom of heaven was prepared by God as a result of His kindness and mercy. This inheritance was prepared for us long before we were even born (i.e. "before the foundation of the world"). This is clearly not a matter of earning our way into heaven by good works. The concept of justification by faith alone goes hand in hand with grace (Romans 4:16).

         God will certainly reward believers for their good deeds. On the other hand, the reception of eternal life is a free gift that He gives. The works that we do perform in this life are a result of His divine grace. Justification is not by works of righteousness which we have done (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are to place our trust in Christ's work alone for our justification before God.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Examples Of Medieval Expositors Who Used "Faith Alone" In Their Commentaries On Romans

"...a number of Latin commentators echoed the Pauline language of faith alone (sola fide) when commenting on justification in the book of Romans. Examples include Cassiodorus (ca. 485-583),26 Lanfranc of Bec (ca. 1003-1089),27 Bruno of Cologne (1032-1101),28 and Robert of Melun (ca. 1100-1167).29 A survey of these medieval commentators suggests that they limited their understanding of justification primarily to the remission of past sins only.30 Nonetheless, it is significant to note that the Reformers were not the first to use the phrase sola fide in their interpretation of Romans."31

Nathan Busenitz, Long Before Luther, p. 138

Early Church Evidence For Sola Fide

"The fourth-century writer Marius Victorinus (who converted to Christianity around 355), says of Paul's teaching in Galatians: "Therefore righteousness is not from the law; that is, justification and salvation come not from the law but from faith, as is promised."13 Commenting on the book of Ephesians, he says of God's grace, "He did not give back to us what was merited, since we did not receive this by merits but by the grace and goodness of God."14 Later he adds, "The fact that you Ephesians are saved is not something that comes from yourselves. It is the gift of God. It is not from your works, but it is God's grace and God's gift, not from anything you have deserved."15 And again, "Only faith [sola fides] in Christ is salvation for us."16

Nathan Busenitz, Long Before Luther, p. 66

7th Century BC Stamp Bearing Name Of King David's Son Unearthed In Jerusalem

"The less than half-an-inch sealing was uncovered by an Israeli teen volunteer at City of David excavation site.

A minute stamp seal from 2,600 years ago bearing the name of King David’s son was recently found in an excavation site in Jerusalem, the City of David Foundation announced Sunday in a press release.

The seal, believed to be used by the highest ranking ministers in ancient Jerusalem to sign documents, bears the Hebrew name and title, “Adoniyahu by appointment of the house,” (“Asher Al Habayit”) and appears numerous times in the Bible under different kings in each of the ancient kingdoms of Judah and Israel.

The phrase appears for the first time on the list of ministers of King Solomon, the Foundation said.

“This tiny stamp seal has immense meaning to billions of people worldwide,” said Doron Spielman, Vice-President of the City of David Foundation.

The personal signet dates back to the era of Solomon's Temple in the 7th century BCE and “is another link in the long chain of Jewish history in Jerusalem that is being uncovered and preserved at the City of David on a daily basis,” Speilman added.

The name Adoniyahu was given to one of King David's sons as mentioned in the Book of Kings. It is also mentioned as one of the Levites in the days of Jehoshaphat, and finally in the days of Nehemiah as one of the “Heads of, the people…” (Nehemiah 9:16).

Eliyahu Yanai, City of DavidThis unearthed bulla is approximately one-centimeter-wide (less than half an inch), and according to the type of writing that appears on it, dates to the 7th century BC in ancient Jerusalem.

The unearthed seal is approximately one-centimeter-wide (less than half-an-inch), and based on its calligraphy, dates as far back as the Kingdom of Judah during the 7th century BCE. These types of stamps were small pieces of tin used in ancient times to sign documents, and were meant to keep the letters closed en route to their destination, the City of David Foundation said.

The item was discovered as part of excavations that began in 2013 underneath Robinson's Arch at the foundations of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. It was uncovered last month by teenage volunteer Batya Offen."

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Why Bible Translation Is So Important

The Bible is one of the oldest and most popular books of all time. But is it just a book, or is it much more?

We believe that the Bible is God’s Word to us — something that everyone should be able to understand in a language and form that clearly speaks to their hearts. But approximately 2,000 languages* around the world are still waiting for a translation project to begin.

When people finally get Scripture in their own language, lives often change in amazing ways. People are transformed as they discover Jesus Christ and enter into a right relationship with God.

That’s why [groups such as] Wycliffe Bible Translators exists — to help speakers of these remaining languages get the Bible for themselves. And we won’t stop until all people have God’s Word in a language they understand.

The Worldwide Status of Bible Translation:

More than 1,500 languages have access to the New Testament and some portions of Scripture in their language.

More than 650 languages have the complete translated Bible.

At least 7,000 spoken or signed languages* are known to be in use today.

At least 1.5 billion people do not have the full Bible in their language — that’s more people than the entire continent of Africa!

More than 2,500 languages across 170 countries have active translation and linguistic development work happening right now.

Approximately 2,000 languages still need a Bible translation project to begin.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Is Religion A Product Of Evolution?

          "Dow is by no means the first scientist to take a stab at explaining how religion emerged. Theories on the evolution of religion tend toward two camps. One argues that religion is a mental artefact, co-opted from brain functions that evolved for other tasks. Another contends that religion benefited our ancestors. Rather than being a by-product of other brain functions, it is an adaptation in its own right. In this explanation, natural selection slowly purged human populations of the non-religious. “Sometime between 100,000 years ago to the point where writing was invented, maybe about 7000 BC, we begin to have records of people’s supernatural beliefs,” Dow says (

          To preface, the idea of religion evolving over an enormously long timespan is incompatible with the Judeo-Christian worldview. According to Genesis 1-3, religion started with the worship of the true God. However, man rejected God and worship degenerated into the worship of creation. God is Creator, not a product of evolution.

          Secondly, there were no psychologists alive to even observe the behaviors of any alleged hominins.

          Thirdly, no one seems to be discussing how atheism and naturalism evolved.

          If religion developed gradually to meet various emotional or adaptive requirements for continued survival, then what brought about that need?

          If our senses and intuition bring us into contact with reality, then would not religious belief connect us with God who actually exists?

          Even if it could be proven that a few religions were the product of evolution, that would still not prove all religions had the same origin.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Were the Earliest Christians Only Concerned About Oral Tradition?

First, early Christianity was not an oral religion. Sure, traditions of Jesus were transmitted orally, but this is not the same thing. We cannot confuse a medium of transmission with a mentality (or disposition) of early Christian culture. I have argued elsewhere that early Christianity was a religion of textuality, even if most its adherents were illiterate (as were most people in the ancient world). For more, see my Question of Canon, 79-118.

Second, the authors represented in the Apostolic Fathers were obviously literate. Not only were they producing written sources, but they show awareness of (and interact with) other written sources. Indeed, the letter exchanges in early Christianity were rapid and extensive (see such exchanges in Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians as one example).

So, if these authors were quite textually oriented, why should we assume they mainly drew on oral tradition? Of all the people in early Christianity likely to be influenced by written texts, it would’ve been these authors!

Third, by the time these authors wrote in the second century, earlier generations of Christians had already exhibited significant interactions with written texts. For instance, the authors of Matthew and Luke seemed to know Mark (and possibly Q) and interacted with these writings textually. John may have known the texts of the Synoptics. And all of these Gospels interacted with the text of the OT.

So, if first-century Christians interacted often with written texts, then why would we assume Christian writers in the second century only used oral tradition?

Fourth, a number of times the Apostolic Fathers actually mention that they know of written Gospels! As just one example, Papias was Bishop of Hierapolis and wrote around 125AD (see inset picture!). He tell us plainly about the written gospels of Mark and Matthew:

The Elder used to say: Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he [Peter] remembered. . . . Matthew collected the oracles in the Hebrew language, and each interpreted them as best he could.

What’s particularly noteworthy is that Papias received his information directly from “the Elder” who is no doubt “John the Elder” he mentions elsewhere as a follower and disciple of Jesus himself. Thus, although Papias is writing around 125 AD he is actually referring to a much earlier time when he received this tradition, probably around 90AD.

Here, then, is the key point: Papias attests to the fact that at the end of the first century, one of the primary ways Christians were receiving Jesus tradition was through written gospels, two of which were named Matthew and Mark (!). This fact alone should challenge the notion that only oral tradition can/should explain all citations in the Apostolic Fathers.

In sum, there’s little doubt that oral tradition still played a role in the second century and beyond. But, the evidence above suggests that there’s little reason to prefer oral tradition as the default, catch-all explanation for the Gospel tradition in the Apostolic Fathers.

On the contrary, the “bookish” nature of early Christianity, and its deep textual identity, suggests that we should be open to the idea that these authors—at least sometimes—knew and used written Gospel texts.

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Faithfulness Of God In Our Temptations

         "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)

         The Apostle Paul reminds us that God will guide us during times of temptation. We are assured that He will provide a means of escape from temptations to sin. This does not mean that God will make matters easier or more bearable for us, but that He will sustain us. The only way out of our troubles is to go through them.

         A noteworthy point should be extracted from this text: every potential urge to wrong God or neighbor has been experienced by mankind. We are not alone in our sufferings. Others have been where we have been before. Temptation is not unconquerable. Thus, we have reason to be encouraged. God is faithful. He is greater than all of our temptations.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

A Topical Scripture Cross Reference Study On Sanctification

  • Sanctification Involves God Conforming Believers To The Image Of His Son Jesus Christ:
          -"For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Romans 8:28)
          -"This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Ephesians 3:11)
           *It is a part of the eternal plan of God to restore us to a state of perfection after the sin of our first parents. Perhaps we are better off in Christ than Adam and Eve ever would have been had they never sinned and failed to live up to the moral standard that displays His divine splendor. World history is orchestrated in a way that brings glory to God.
  • This Growth In Holiness Is A Consequence Of Being Filled With The Holy Spirit:
          -"to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:22-24)
          -"...Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)
           *We become more like Jesus Christ, not with regard to physical appearance, but moral qualities distinctive to Him. The imagery of clothing is used of us discarding old and rebellious ways. This is done by God's grace. It is accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • The Holy Spirit Works In Us So That We Can Please And Glorify God:
          -"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13)
          -"But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth." (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
            *Both the power of God and human exertion are at work in this process. Sanctification is brought about through faith and its source is the Spirit of God.
  • Believers Gradually Become More Like Christ In Terms Of Character As They Continue Serving The God Who Consecrated Them:
          -"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit." (Galatians 5:22-25)
            *The above characteristics are acquired by us in a state of grace. They do not represent man in his fallen state. No one has power in himself to live out the Christian life. The Holy Spirit enables us to bring forth fruit that is pleasing to God. 
  • The Process Of Sanctification Involves Human Effort:
          -"Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God." (2 Corinthians 7:1)
            *Sanctification by faith alone may sound to some like a valid teaching, but the idea is actually misguided and incorrect. We act out what God works in us. Faith and obedience are included in this aspect of salvation.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Does Leviticus 19:20-22 Support Roman Catholic Confession To A Priest?

  • Discussion:
          -Roman Catholic apologists sometimes appeal to Leviticus 19:20-22 in an effort to give credence to their dogma of confessing "mortal" sins to an ordained ministerial priest. The intention behind this is, obviously, to receive forgiveness from God for commiting such acts. This argument has been put into words by a Catholic source as follows:

          "Leviticus 19:20-22: A man who committed adultery had to bring a guilt offering for himself to the door of the tent of meeting (holy place where the ark of the covenant, which contained God’s true presence was kept). But then it adds “And the priest shall make atonement for him …before the Lord for his sin…and the sin which he has committed shall be forgiven.” (see also Leviticus 5:5-6) The priest could not make atonement if he were not aware of the man's sin. He is acting as a mediator for the repentant sinner."

           It should be noted that this text says nothing regarding auricular confession or priestly absolution. The context nowhere displays an awareness of the distinction made between "venial" and "mortal" sin that is upheld in Roman Catholic theology. Rather, sinners were simply to bring their guilt offerings (which were temporary coverings for sin) for the priest to make atonement. The priests managed the particulars of the Mosaic system. They supervised faithfulness to the Law. The priests presented gifts and animal sacrifices according to God's commandments.

          In offering up sacrifices for the sins of people, priests were to announce the means by which God chose for forgiveness. They were only doing as God had instructed them. This is similar to how Christians under the New Covenant clearly communicate the gospel and proclaim the way that God has chosen to offer forgiveness for our sins (1 Peter 2:5-9). The sacrificial system of the Old Covenant pointed to the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Besides, it is not as though Roman Catholics bring bloody animal sacrifices each time that they go to the confessional.

          There is no evidence in the Old Testament that the Jews were supposed to get their sins absolved by a priest or even confess their specific sins to them. Even if the latter happened, the point remains that Christ abrogated the Levitical priesthood. We now have direct access to God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:19-22). An ordained ministerial priesthood has been cancelled out by His everlasting High Priesthood. While the confession of sin is very much a biblical concept, there is no basis for receiving the forgiveness of God by confessing sins to a mortal man.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Revelation 2:23 And The Deity Of Jesus Christ

        "And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds." (Revelation 2:23)

        It can readily be deduced from this text that Jesus Christ is a divine self. He is the one who rewards people according to their deeds, whether they be good or bad. He is our Judge. We are accountable to God because He is our Creator.

        Furthermore, Christ's right and authority to judge us is rooted in His omniscience. He is divine in the same sense as the Father and Holy Spirit are divine. He is God incarnate. The Lord has fully comprehensive knowledge of everything.

        Jesus Christ searches the hearts and minds of people. He knows everything about us all. There is not a thing hidden from His sight or unknown to Him. 

        Christ in this passage quotes Jeremiah 17:10. God Himself in the verse from the Book of Jeremiah is speaking. Nonetheless, Christ makes a formal application of those exact attributes to Himself. He could do this only if He were God.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Against Claims Of The Four Canonical Gospels Having Anonymous Authorship

        One claim raised to undermine the credibility of the four canonical gospels is that they were not written by the traditionally ascribed authors. Rather, unknown people during the end of the first to early second centuries created embellished records of Jesus Christ ministering and performing miracles. However, there are no good reasons for us to dismiss the four gospel narratives as being circulated legends or myths.

        First of all, any and all available manuscripts of the four gospels have the same titles designating their respective authors. All copies of Matthew have the same name. All copies of Mark have the same name. All copies of Luke have the same name. All copies of John have the same name. The titles of the traditionally attributed authors are present on all of the manuscript copies of the gospel narratives.

        Secondly, we have no early Christian rejection of the traditional authorship of the four gospels. A few examples of patristic support would include Irenaeus, Papias, Tertullian, and the church historian Eusebius. There exists no other tradition which conflicts with conventional claims of authorship.

        Thirdly, the four gospels are named after unimpressive individuals. Matthew was a tax collector. Luke was not even an apostle. If the four canonical gospel narratives were forgeries, then it would have been far more probable that the authors used names of better known people such as Peter or Thomas. After all, that is the pattern we observe amongst heretics who produced their spurious works during the second and third centuries.

         If the four gospels were forgeries, then how come the four gospels contain embarrassing details regarding the twelve apostles? For instance, Peter denied Jesus Christ three times in a row (Luke 22:54-62). Matthew records Christ calling Peter Satan and a stumbling block (Matthew 16:23). Judas betraying Him to the chief priests and students of the Law also serves as a perfect example of embarrassing details. Paul prior to his conversion persecuted Christians. If the four gospel narratives were forgeries, then we should not expect their authors to incorporate such shameful and humiliating details regarding these people.

        Even if it could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the original canonical gospels were anonymous, that point by itself would still not rule out traditional authorship attribution. Michael J. Kruger says the following:

        "For one, this did happen from time to time with Greco-Roman biographies. We do have examples of formally anonymous biographies, so this would not have been unheard of (e.g., Lucian’s Life of Demonax, Secundus the Silent Philosopher, Lives of the Prophets, Arrian’s Anabasis, and Sulpicious Severus’ Life of St. Martin ). But, Armin Baum has suggested another, and even more fundamental reason. Baum has argued that the Gospels were intentionally written as anonymous works in order to reflect the practice of the Old Testament historical books which were themselves anonymous (as opposed to other Old Testament writings, like the prophets, which included the identity of the author). Such a stylistic device allowed the authors of the gospels “to disappear” and to give “highest priority to their subject matter.” Thus, the anonymity of the Gospels, far from diminishing their scriptural authority, actually served to increase it by consciously placing the Gospels “in the tradition of Old Testament historiography.”

Monday, September 2, 2019

Ignatius Of Loyola And Submission To The Roman Catholic Church

          "To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it, believing that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, His Bride, there is the same Spirit which governs and directs us for the salvation of our souls. Because by the same Spirit and our Lord Who gave the ten Commandments, our holy Mother the Church is directed and governed." (Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, Thirteenth Rule)

          Regardless of whether or not we understand Ignatius as using hyperbole, it is obvious that he taught unconditional surrender of the intellect and will to the Roman Catholic hierarchy. It is the Magisterium that pronounces the allegedly infallible dogmas we are to embrace unquestioningly; dissenters are anathematized. Consider this excerpt from Est Sane Molestum Apostolic Letter by Pope Leo XIII:

          "To scrutinize the actions of a bishop, to criticize them, does not belong to individual Catholics, but concerns only those who, in the sacred hierarchy, have a superior power; above all, it concerns the Supreme Pontiff, for it is to him that Christ confided the care of feeding not only all the lambs, but even the sheep [cf. John 21:17]."

          Consider this excerpt from the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Religious Discussions:

          "By a decree of Alexander IV (1254-1261) inserted in “Sextus Decretalium”, Lib. V, c. ii, and still in force, all laymen are forbidden, under threat of excommunication, to dispute publicly or privately with heretics on the Catholic Faith. The text reads: “Inhibemus quoque, ne cuiquam laicae personae liceat publice vel privatim de fide catholica disputare. Qui vero contra fecerit, excommunicationis laqueo innodetur.” (We furthermore forbid any lay person to engage in dispute, either private or public, concerning the Catholic Faith. Whosoever shall act contrary to this decree, let him be bound in the fetters of excommunication.)

           God has ordained the existence of government offices for our own good. We should obey our leaders to the extent that their decisions are sound and godly. However, the Roman Catholic Church requires a level of allegiance that simply cannot be substantiated on scriptural grounds. The pope requires the submission of both intellect and will in all situations. It is not good enough to simply obey. Hence, we see that the Roman Catholic Church actually wields a significant amount of power over loyal followers.

          The Jehovah's Witnesses Watchtower Society is known for thought control. For example, the Jehovah's Witnesses are forbidden by their church government to obtain blood transfusions. They have regulations as to what they can even look up on the internet. Mormonism is another example of a sect whose government has established all sorts of legalistic rules and regulations. For instance, Mormons are forbidden to drink coffee and tea. In the same vein, the Church of Rome has dietary regulations on various holidays as a requirement for salvation. What all three groups have in common is that adherents are made to obey an authoritarian leader. The hierarchies of these three sects claim to play an indispensable role in the salvation of their followers. Harsh and arbitrary rules are imposed on these deceived people.

          There are unfortunate consequences of submitting to an organization that requires unconditional submission. The New Testament gives us the liberty to individually choose whatever days to observe and foods to eat in thanksgiving and glory to God. No self-proclaimed pastor has the right to dogmatically impose rules that can be found nowhere in Scripture. The Apostle Paul called out Peter for potentially splitting the Christian church as he ceased eating with Gentiles (Galatians 2:11-16). Even the most godly and intelligent ministers and theologians can make serious blunders in matters related to faith and morals. God is the only one who we owe unconditional submission of the intellect and will (Acts 4:19-20; 5:29; James 4:7). It is to Him alone that all will give an account for their deeds performed in the body on Judgement Day.