Sunday, December 15, 2019

A Few Comments On The Roman Catholic Usage Of Religious Iconography In Worship

  • Discussion:
          -The Roman Catholic Church contends that its followers are not actually guilty of idolatry as they are simply giving appropriate honor to Jesus Christ, Mary, and various saints. Religious iconography is said to have no power in itself and that only the person whom a particular image represents is the subject of veneration (CCC # 2132). One problem with such provisions is that Scripture does not approve of us making images of God:

        "To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him? The workman molds an image, The goldsmith overspreads it with gold, And the silversmith casts silver chains. Whoever is too impoverished for such a contribution chooses a tree that will not rot; He seeks for himself a skillful workman To prepare a carved image that will not totter. Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He brings the princes to nothing; he makes the judges of the earth useless. Scarcely shall they be planted, scarcely shall they be sown, Scarcely shall their stock take root in the earth, When He will also blow on them, And they will wither, And the whirlwind will take them away like stubble. “To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One." (Isaiah 40:17-25)

        The Prophet Isaiah articulates a sharp contrast between the living God and powerless idols carved by the hands of men. It is irreverent to the utmost for us to even compare His unfathomable glory to relics which are the product of our fragile minds. These works are the antithesis of God's majesty. So it is not proper at all for Roman Catholics to use religious iconography to worship Jesus Christ. He is God in the flesh (Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:3).

        Some have appealed to Christ's incarnation to justify the use of images in worship (CCC # 2129-2131), although it is difficult to see how or why such validates this practice. Saints are human beings, and the Old Testament emphatically condemned making statues of them for the purpose of religious devotion. The Lord became angry with the Israelites who had urged Aaron to make a golden calf as a result of their desire to have a physical representation of God (Exodus 32:8). We cannot even determine exactly what Christ looked like. We are not to worship our God in the manner that the pagans do with their false gods:

        "And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place.” You shall not worship the LORD your God with such things." (Deuteronomy 12:3-4).

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Blasphemy Against The Holy Spirit

        The promised Jewish Messiah was said to have the ability to perform miraculous deeds by the power of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 35:5-6).

        The Pharisees attributed the power of Jesus Christ to demons (Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:30). In other words, the Jewish leaders had outrightly rejected verifiable evidence that He was sent by God. That is the precise identity of what has been termed the unpardonable sin.

        This scenario is not one that can be replicated today because nobody has seen Christ publicly performing miracles. He is presently sitting at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1). Thus, nobody can actually commit this form of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

        On the other hand, persistent unbelief does not receive the forgiveness of God. A person who dies in a state of voluntary opposition to the conviction of heart brought about by the Holy Spirit will be eternally condemned. That sin in a sense is unforgivable. We must repent and place our trust in Christ's work alone for salvation (John 3:16).

Can Astronomy Explain The Biblical Star Of Bethlehem?

"To understand the Star of Bethlehem, we need to think like the three wise men. Motivated by this “star in the east,” they first traveled to Jerusalem and told King Herod the prophecy that a new ruler of the people of Israel would be born. We also need to think like King Herod, who asked the wise men when the star had appeared, because he and his court, apparently, were unaware of any such star in the sky.

These events present us with our first astronomy puzzle of the first Christmas: How could King Herod’s own advisors have been unaware of a star so bright and obvious that it could have led the wise men to Jerusalem?

Next, in order to reach Bethlehem, the wise men had to travel directly south from Jerusalem; somehow that “star in the east” “went before them, ‘til it came and stood over where the young child was.” Now we have our second first-Christmas astronomy puzzle: how can a star “in the east” guide our wise men to the south? The north star guides lost hikers to the north, so shouldn’t a star in the east have led the wise men to the east?

And we have yet a third first-Christmas astronomy puzzle: how does Matthew’s star move “before them,” like the taillights on the snowplow you might follow during a blizzard, and then stop and stand over the manger in Bethlehem, inside of which supposedly lies the infant Jesus?The adoration of the Magi, after they followed that ‘star in the east’ to Jesus.

What could the 'star in the east’ be?

The astronomer in me knows that no star can do these things, nor can a comet, or Jupiter, or a supernova, or a conjunction of planets or any other actual bright object in the nighttime sky. One can claim that Matthew’s words describe a miracle, something beyond the laws of physics. But Matthew chose his words carefully and wrote “star in the east” twice, which suggests that these words hold a specific importance for his readers.

Can we find any other explanation, consistent with Matthew’s words, that doesn’t require that the laws of physics be violated and that has something to do with astronomy? The answer, amazingly, is yes.

Astronomer Michael Molnar points out that “in the east” is a literal translation of the Greek phrase en te anatole, which was a technical term used in Greek mathematical astrology 2,000 years ago. It described, very specifically, a planet that would rise above the eastern horizon just before the sun would appear. Then, just moments after the planet rises, it disappears in the bright glare of the sun in the morning sky. Except for a brief moment, no one can see this “star in the east.”

We need a little bit of astronomy background here. In a human lifetime, virtually all the stars remain fixed in their places; the stars rise and set every night, but they do not move relative to each other. The stars in the Big Dipper appear year after year always in the same place. But the planets, the sun and the moon wander through the fixed stars; in fact, the word “planet” comes from the Greek word for wandering star. Though the planets, sun and moon move along approximately the same path through the background stars, they travel at different speeds, so they often lap each other. When the sun catches up with a planet, we can’t see the planet, but when the sun passes far enough beyond it, the planet reappears.

And now we need a little bit of astrology background. When the planet reappears again for the first time and rises in the morning sky just moments before the sun, for the first time in many months after having been hidden in the sun’s glare for those many months, that moment is known to astrologers as a heliacal rising. A heliacal rising, that special first reappearance of a planet, is what en te anatole referred to in ancient Greek astrology. In particular, the reappearance of a planet like Jupiter was thought by Greek astrologers to be symbolically significant for anyone born on that day.

Thus, the “star in the east” refers to an astronomical event with supposed astrological significance in the context of ancient Greek astrology.Was the star visible just briefly before dawn?

What about the star parked directly above the first crèche? The word usually translated as “stood over” comes from the Greek word epano, which also had an important meaning in ancient astrology. It refers to a particular moment when a planet stops moving and changes apparent direction from westward to eastward motion. This occurs when the Earth, which orbits the sun more quickly than Mars or Jupiter or Saturn, catches up with, or laps, the other planet.

Together, a rare combination of astrological events (the right planet rising before the sun; the sun being in the right constellation of the zodiac; plus a number of other combinations of planetary positions considered important by astrologers) would have suggested to ancient Greek astrologers a regal horoscope and a royal birth.

Molnar believes that the wise men were, in fact, very wise and mathematically adept astrologers. They also knew about the Old Testament prophecy that a new king would be born of the family of David. Most likely, they had been watching the heavens for years, waiting for alignments that would foretell the birth of this king. When they identified a powerful set of astrological portents, they decided the time was right to set out to find the prophesied leader.

If Matthew’s wise men actually undertook a journey to search for a newborn king, the bright star didn’t guide them; it only told them when to set out. And they wouldn’t have found an infant swaddled in a manger. After all, the baby was already eight months old by the time they decoded the astrological message they believed predicted the birth of a future king. The portent began on April 17 of 6 BC (with the heliacal rising of Jupiter that morning, followed, at noon, by its lunar occultation in the constellation Aries) and lasted until December 19 of 6 BC (when Jupiter stopped moving to the west, stood still briefly, and began moving to the east, as compared with the fixed background stars)...

Matthew wrote to convince his readers that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah. Given the astrological clues embedded in his gospel, he must have believed the story of the Star of Bethlehem would be convincing evidence for many in his audience."

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Two Biblical Proofs For The Deity Of The Holy Spirit

"Compare, for example, Isaiah 6:8–10 with Acts 28:25–27. Isaiah presents a statement by Yahweh in his prophecy. In Acts, Paul attributes the statement to the Holy Spirit. In other words, what Yahweh said is what the Holy Spirit said. We see something similar by comparing Psalm 95:7–11 with Hebrews 3:7–11. What Yahweh says in Psalm 95, the author of Hebrews attributes to the Holy Spirit."

An Effective Refutation Of Sola Fide Or Just Another Case Of Mere Roman Catholic Sophistry?

  • Discussion:
          -A blogger who goes by the name of Catholic Nick wrote an article where he attempts to stump Protestants by using texts such as Galatians 5:6. Following are excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

          "(1) Faith prior to justification lacks love, and thus this faith must start off 'dead'. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, just an incomplete thing, which is why justification is still needed."

          There is no passage of time between faith and justification. Both occur simultaneously. There is also no such thing as a faith which starts off as dead. So this conclusion is built on a straw man.

          "(2) Justification must be what bestows love, and this seems confirmed by Scripture (e.g. Romans 5:5), and thus the Protestant can no longer say justification is purely forensic, but rather infuses divine gifts into the soul.

          The Holy Spirit pours the love of God into our hearts, which is related to our justification. But this act of the Spirit is not to be equated or conflated with the instance of justification. Grace and faith do have an effect on our love.

           Forensic justification causes things which are not forensic in nature to happen. We obtain peace with God by faith, which includes assurance of salvation and the freedom to pursue holiness in gratitude for what God has done for us. These blessings have a consequential relationship to justification by faith alone.

           The phrase "faith working through love" in Galatians 5:6 implies the existence of a faith that is ongoing. Belief in Sola Fide is not a denial of this. The relationship of God to the unbelieving world is that of a judge to a convict, whereas our relationship to Him is that of a father to a son.

           "(3) Dead faith prior to justification becomes living faith after justification by the addition of love to faith, and herein is the essence of a justified believer. This would mean it isn't Christ's Imputed Righteousness that makes all the difference, but rather the presence/absence of love, and thus suggests your justification (salvation) hinges upon what you do with that love. This is why texts like Revelation 21:8 list "unbelief" as one of the many sins that can damn a person, because it's possible to have faith and be damned by other grave sins."

           The presence of love serves as evidence of a regenerate heart. In addition, the reason that "unbelief" is listed as one of several damnable sins in Revelation 21:8 is that it is the opposite of belief. Faith is the instrument by which God justifies us. Thus, that passage is perfectly consistent with the doctrine of Sola Fide.

           "Given the above, when Paul says we are "justified by faith," he isn't saying we are "eternally saved by faith," rather he's saying that we receive God's love within us by believing in the Gospel, and that this is just the beginning of our salvation (Rom 13:8-14; Gal 5:13-14)."

           We would agree with the above comments. The moment of conversion is simply the beginning of our salvation. Justification is an aspect, but not the entirety of the process. What we would argue against is the idea of man earning the grace of God on the basis of good works.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

A Critique Of Roman Catholic Mortal And Venial Sin

  • Discussion:
          -The Roman Catholic Church maintains a sharp distinction between venial and mortal sins. The former category is said to be a less serious offense in the sight of God and does not result in loss of salvation. The latter category is said to be a grave violation of God's Law (CCC #1855) and results in a loss of all sanctifying grace (CCC # 1861). In Roman Catholic theology, mortal sins are deadly to one's relationship with God.

          While Scripture does speak of different degrees of sin, the payment for all is the same--spiritual death (Genesis 2:16-17; Ezekiel 18:4; 20; Romans 6:23). Even our smallest violations of God's Law are acts of treason against Him (Matthew 5:21-22; James 2:10-11). He is perfect and holy. He is true to Himself. We have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and so have incurred the sentence of spiritual death. In judging us, God literally takes into account every spec of our lives (Matthew 12:36). Therefore, the Roman Catholic differentiation between venial and mortal sins is an unbiblical one. Sin as a whole separates mankind from God. Sin by its very nature is fatal to us.

          All sin is paid for by the same shed blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:10-14; 1 Peter 3:18). Sin does have both spiritual and earthly consequences. One may suffer a loss of rewards in eternity, but remains saved. A murderer suffers capital punishment. A thief receives a jail sentence. An adulterer will lose his or her spouse and potentially the entire family. But there are no distinction between mortal and venial sins.

          Once a man has placed his trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, he is justified before God and forgiven of all sins. This is not intended to communicate that a Christian stumbling into sin is permissible, when in reality it is not. The Lord does chasten those whom He loves. Moreover, the grace of God teaches believers to resist sin (Titus 2:11-14). Another dilemma for the Roman Catholic concept is that if we view most of our sin as being "venial" in nature, then we will essentially minimize or overlook our sin nature and the need for God's continual providing of grace.

Atheists Sound The Alarm: Decline Of Christianity Is Seriously Hurting Society

"Only a few years ago, the aggressive “New Atheist” movement was on the march, with rhetorical brawlers like Christopher Hitchens and renowned biologists like Richard Dawkins leading the charge against religion and the last vestiges of Christian faith in the West. Religion, Hitchens famously stated, “poisons everything,” and could only be considered, at best, humanity’s “first and worst” attempt to solve existential questions. If these cobwebbed superstitions could be blasted away by the refreshing winds of reason and the Enlightenment, a fundamentally better society would rise from the ashes—or so the thinking went.

But as Christianity fades further and further into our civilization’s rear-view mirror, many intelligent atheists are beginning to realize that the Enlightenment may have only achieved success because it wielded influence on a Christian culture. In a truly secular society, in which men and women live their lives beneath empty heavens and expect to be recycled rather than resurrected, there is no solid moral foundation for good and evil. Anti-theists like Christopher Hitchens mocked and reviled the idea that mankind needed God to know right from wrong, but scarcely two generations into our Great Secularization and we no longer even know male from female.

It would be interesting to know how the late Hitchens would have responded to the insanities that have proliferated since his passing, and whether he would have come to realize, as some of his similarly godless friends have, that one does not need to find Christianity believable to realize that it is necessary. Douglas Murray, who has taken to occasionally calling himself a “Christian atheist,” has publicly argued with Hitchens’ fellow “Horseman of the Apocalypse” Sam Harris over whether a society based on Enlightenment values is even possible without Christianity. Harris holds out hope that such a society is possible. Murray is sympathetic, but skeptical.

Increasingly, Murray admitted, he believes the atheist project to be a hopeless one. When he joined me on my show recently to discuss his latest book The Madness of Crowds, he reiterated that he believes that in the absence of the secularist’s ability to hammer out ethics on fundamental issues such as the sanctity of life, we may be forced to recognize that returning to faith is the best option available to us. There is a very real possibility, he noted, that our modern concept of human rights, based as it is on a Judeo-Christian foundation, may very well outlive Christianity by only a few short years. Cut off from the source, our conception of human rights may shrivel and die very quickly, leaving us fumbling about in a thick and impenetrable darkness.

Without the Christian underpinnings of our society, it will be up to us to decide what is right and wrong, and as our current culture wars clearly illustrate, our civilization will tear itself apart before it regains consensus. Many optimistic atheists recently believed that once God was dethroned and banished, we could finally live as adults and get on with the utopian project of creating a society based on faith in ourselves. These skeptics were unfortunately skeptical about everything except the goodness of humanity, despite the fact that they had no metaphysical or even Darwinian basis for this easily disprovable assumption. Jordan Peterson’s phenomenal popularity is partially based on his recognition that people are not generally good, and that the past century proves this with the blood of millions.

It is the abject failure of this thesis that is leading some prominent atheists to begrudgingly admit that perhaps Christianity was more necessary than they thought. As recently as 2015, Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) was arguing that children needed to be protected from the religious views of their parents, and made a series of alarming comments regarding the rights of parents to educate their children in the tenets of their religious faith. By 2018, however, Dawkins was warning that the “benign Christian religion” might be replaced by something decidedly less benign, and that perhaps we should take a step back to discuss what might happen if the evangelical secularists are successful in destroying or banishing Christianity. Other atheists and agnostics, from Bill Maher to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, have echoed Dawkins’ sentiments. This is a radical shift in only a handful of years—and the fact that atheists are sounding the alarm should be a warning to Christians about the consequences of our ongoing secularization.

Dawkins has now come out and repudiated his previous belief that Christianity should be banished from society even more firmly. In fact, he told The Times, ending religion—once his fervent goal—would be a terrible idea, because it would “give people a license to do really bad things.” Despite the fact that Dawkins has long argued that the very idea of the God of the Bible being necessary as a basis for morality is both ridiculous and offensive, he appears to be backtracking. “People may feel free to do bad things because they feel God is no longer watching them,” he said, citing the example of security cameras as a deterrent to shoplifting. One wonders if he has heard Douglas Murray remind people that the Soviets murdered their millions in the firm belief that there was no Judge waiting for them when the killing was over."

Monday, December 2, 2019

Why Did The Watchtower Society Become An Associate Member Of The United Nations In 1992 Until 2001?

"Before posing this question as an attack on the organisation it is best to prepare the way otherwise the effect can be lost. Start by asking why JWs are not allowed to participate in political affairs. Then move on to asking them why they hate the UN so much. Getting them to confirm first how the UN is so opposed to Jehovah’s kingdom before dropping the bombshell that that the Watchtower Society joined it increases the effect. They may well deny that this actually happened but just ask them to speak with their elders to confirm it or research it themselves. Leave the question to simmer in their minds."

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Comments On The Jehovah's Witnesses New World Translation Rendering Of Hebrews 1:6

  • Discussion:
          -Hebrews 1:6 was translated in the following manner in the 1961 edition of the Jehovah's Witnesses New World Translation:

          "Let all God's angels worship him."

          How the passage from Hebrews is rendered in modern editions of the New World Translation:

          "And let all of God’s angels do obeisance to him.”

          The Greek word translated into English as "worship" is proskyneo. It goes beyond giving somebody honor, especially when employed in a religious context. That is indeed the case with Hebrews 1:6.

          Consequently, the rendering of proskyneo as "do obeisance" (instead of worship) in the New World Translation is wholly inappropriate. This is a clear example of the Jehovah's Witnesses Watchtower Society taking liberties with the text.