Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Freedom And Liberation From The Law

[Romans 7] 7:25 The Law is holy and its commandment is holy and just and good (12). But sin, that diabolic power, manifests itself in its true colors (12) by using just that good Word of God to rouse in man the dormant will of opposition to God which destroys him. Paul illustrates this working of the Law (as misused by the power of sin) from his early life (7-13). Paul also shows us the working of the Law from his own experience with the Law as a Christian (14-25). It was contact with the Law, confronting him as the commandment, that first gave sin its deadly power in his life (9-11). Paul as a Christian, when confronted by the Law, becomes a man rent by an agonizing struggle (14-24) from which only Christ can and does release him from this hard fought struggle (25).

Martin Franzmann and Walter H. Roehrs, Concordia Self-study Commentary [commentary on Romans], p. 131

Monday, October 19, 2020

How The Gospel Brings About Unity

"One of the defining characteristics of modern cults is the turning of the convert against his family, and the cutting off of that convert from his parents. The true gospel does not do that. We teach young converts to honor their fathers and mothers, even when those parents oppose the Gospel. Unlike the modern cults, the alienation comes only when unbelieving parents disown, expel, or disenfranchise believing children. In such cases, the family of the local assembly is all the more important. The original family has cast out the new believer."

Understanding the Church, by Joseph M. Vogl and John H. Fish III, p. 98

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Pillar And Ground Of The Truth

"The word pillar (στῦλος, stylos) would have special significance to the Ephesians in that their city was the site of the Temple of Diana which had 127 marble pillars upon which announcements were regularly affixed. The local church was a pillar upon which the truth was to be held up that all might see it. By “truth” (ἀληθεία, alētheia) Paul means the full revelation of God in Christ as [1 Timothy] verse 16 makes clear...The church is a household called to manifest the truth in its message and to conform to it in its conduct. Paul adds that the church is the “support” or buttress (ἑδραίωμα, hedraiōma) of the truth. The church, the Apostle implies, exists to maintain the faith and protect it from all danger."

Understanding the Church, by Joseph M. Vogl and John H. Fish III, p. 49

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Non-Christians And Church Attendance

"Nowhere in the New Testament is there any indication that the church met to preach the gospel. Rather the church met to worship, to teach the word, to pray, to have fellowship. The meeting of the church was to edify believers and to glorify God. But it was not to preach the gospel to unbelievers. Rather the saints went out into the world to preach the gospel. … there is no biblical mandate for an “evangelistic service” when the church comes together. There is a mandate to equip the saints to preach the gospel. The work of Christians is not to invite unbelievers to church so that they might hear the gospel. It is to preach the gospel themselves."

Understanding the Church, by Joseph M. Vogl and John H. Fish III, p. 132

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Conversion Entails Spiritual Change

"If conversion to Christianity makes no improvement in a man’s outward actions—if he continues to be just as snobbish or spiteful or envious or ambitious as he was before—then I think we must suspect that his “conversion” was largely imaginary; and after one’s original conversion, every time one thinks one has made an advance, that is the test to apply. Fine feelings, new insights, greater interest in “religion” mean nothing unless they make our actual behavior better; just as in illness “feeling better” is not much good if the thermometer shows that your temperature is still going up."

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 207

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Examining The Catholic Doctrine Of The Real Presence In Light Of Scripture

        "Christ becomes present in the Sacrament of the Altar by the transformation of the whole substance of the bread into His Body and of the whole substance of the wine into His blood...This transformation is called Transubstantiation.” (Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 379)

        The Apostle Paul's language of "proclaim His death" and "until He comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26) logically suggests that the body of Jesus Christ is physically absent from the world at this point in time. He will return again to establish everlasting peace. If transubstantiation is true, then this passage of Scripture has been violated and devoid of substance because Christ would be coming down from heaven on a daily basis by the command of ordained ministerial priests.

        The Lord Jesus Christ told His disciples that they would not see Him in the flesh after His ascension into heaven (John 7:33; 16:10; Acts 1:8-9). If He comes down from His throne at the command of a priest, then He would be contradicting Himself because He would be descending on a daily basis for believers to behold under the appearance of bread and wine.

        Paul stated that Christ is sitting at the right hand of God the Father (Colossians 3:1). If he believed in the Roman Catholic doctrine of the real presence, then it would have been perfectly reasonable for him to provide an exception to that idea. But he does not. Paul said elsewhere, "...even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer." (2 Corinthians 5:16).

         Jesus warned His disciples of people who would claim to have encountered Him after His physical departure from this world and to not be fooled by seemingly miraculous signs performed in such scenarios (Matthew 24:23-26).

        What can be inferred from the text of Scripture is Christ being present amongst believers in a spiritual sense (Matthew 18:20; 28:20). He is made present in our minds as we bring into remembrance the significance of His atoning work. Christ does not need to physically come down from heaven to be orally consumed in order to impart grace or nourish our faith.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Distinguishing Between Water Baptism And Baptism Of The Holy Spirit

Which Spirit also filled John the Baptist even from his mother’s womb; and it fell upon those who were with Cornelius the centurion before they were baptized with water. Thus, cleaving to the baptism of men, the Holy Spirit either goes before or follows it; or failing the baptism of water, it falls upon those who believe.

Anonymous Treatise on Re-baptism (254-257 A.D.)

Friday, September 25, 2020

One Reason Baptismal Regeneration Is False

"And what wilt thou determine against the person of him who hears the word, and haply taken up in the name of Christ, has at once confessed, and has been punished before it has been granted him to be baptized with water? Wilt thou declare him to have perished because he has not been baptized with water? Or, indeed, wilt thou think that there may be something from without that helps him to salvation, although he is not baptized with water? They thinking him to have perished will be opposed by the sentence of the Lord, who says “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father which is in heaven;” because it is no matter whether he who confesses for the Lord is a hearer of the word or a believer, so long as he confesses that same Christ whom he ought to confess...therefore nobody can confess Christ without His name, nor can the name of Christ avail any one for confession without Christ Himself."

Anonymous Treatise on Re-baptism (254-257 A.D.)

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Why People Need Not Be Baptized Twice

"And so there was this same presumption concerning Christ in the mind of the disciples, even as Peter himself, the leader and chief of the apostles, broke forth into that expression of his own incredulity. For when he, together with the others, had been asked by the Lord what he thought about Him, that is, whom he thought Him to be, and had first of all confessed the truth, saying that He was the Christ the Son of the living God, and therefore was judged blessed by Him because he had arrived at this truth, not after the flesh, but by the revelation of the heavenly Father; yet this same Peter, when Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders, and priests, and scribes and be killed, and after the third day rise again from the dead; nevertheless that true confessor of Christ, after a few days, taking Him aside, began to rebuke Him, saying, “Be propitious to thyself: this shall not be;” so that on that account he deserved to hear from the Lord, “Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offence unto me, because he savoured not the things which are of God, but those things which are of men.” Which rebuke against Peter became more and more apparent when the Lord was apprehended, and, frightened by the damsel, he said, “I know not what thou sayest, neither know I thee;” and again, when using an oath, he said this same thing; and for the third time, cursing and swearing, he affirmed that he knew not the man, and not once, but frequently denied Him. And this disposition, because it was to continue to him even to the Lord’s passion, was long before made manifest by the Lord, that we also might not be ignorant of it. Again, after the Lord’s resurrection, one of His disciples, Cleopas, when he was, according to the error of all his fellow-disciples, sorrowfully telling what had happened to the Lord Himself, as if to some unknown person, spoke thus, saying of Jesus the Nazarene, “who was a prophet mighty in deed and in word before God and all the people; how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and fastened Him to the cross. But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel.” And in addition to these things, all the disciples also judged the declaration of the women who had seen the Lord after the resurrection to be idle tales; and some of them, when they had seen Him, believed not, but doubted; and they who were not then present believed not at all until they had been subsequently by the Lord Himself in all ways rebuked and reproached; because His death had so offended them that they thought that He had not risen again, who they had believed ought not to have died, because contrary to their belief He had died once. And thus, as far as concerns the disciples themselves, they are found to have had a faith neither sound nor perfect in such matters as we have referred to; and what is much more serious, they moreover baptized others, as it is written in the Gospel according to John."

Anonymous Treatise on Re-baptism (254-257 A.D.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Example Of the Apostles As An Argument Against Baptismal Regeneration

"...but all the disciples, to whom, though already baptized, the Lord afterwards says, that “all ye shall be offended in me,” all of whom, as we observe, having amended their faith, were baptized after the Lord’s resurrection with the Holy Spirit…the baptism of water, which is of less account provided that afterwards a sincere faith in the truth is evident in the baptism of the Spirit, which undoubtedly is of greater account."

Anonymous Treatise on Re-baptism (254-257 A.D.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Baptism Is Not A Requirement For Salvation

And there will be no doubt that men may be baptized with the Holy Ghost without water, as thou observest that these were baptized before they were baptized with water; that the announcements of both John and of our Lord Himself were satisfied, forasmuch as they received the grace of the promise both without the imposition of the apostle’s hands and without the laver [baptismal font], which they attained afterwards. And their hearts being purified, God bestowed upon them at the same time, in virtue of their faith, remission of sins; so that the subsequent baptism conferred upon them this benefit alone, that they received also the invocation of the name of Jesus Christ, that nothing might appear to be wanting to the integrity of their service and faith.

Anonymous Treatise on Re-baptism (254-257 A.D.)

The Forgiveness Of God For Lapses In Faith

And now blush if thou canst, Novation; cease to deceive the unwary with thy impious arguments; cease to frighten them with the subtlety of one particular. We read, and adore, and do not pass over the heavenly judgment of the Lord, where he says that He will deny him who denies Him. But does this mean the penitent? And why should I be taking pains so long to prove individual cases of mercies? Since the mercy of God is not indeed denied to the Ninevites, although strangers, and placed apart from the law of the Lord, when they beseech it on account of the overthrow announced to their city. Nor to Pharoah himself, resisting with sacrilegious boldness, when formerly he was stricken with plagues from heaven, and turning to Moses and to his brother, said, “Pray to the Lord for me, for I have sinned.” At once the anger of God was suspended from him. And yet thou, O Novation, judgest and declarest that the lapsed have no hope of peace and mercy.

A Treatise Against the Heretic Novatian by an Anonymous Bishop

Monday, September 21, 2020

Atheism And The Origin Of Life

  • The Big Bang Theory:
         -States that the universe began as a very hot, small, and dense ball of cosmological matter, called a singularity, which expanded and transformed into what we call the universe. The universe is continuing to cool down as it continues to spread out further.
          *Why did this happen?
          *Where did the particles of matter which helped to cause the explosion of matter come from? How did everything originate? Something cannot come from nothing.
          *What caused the big bang to go into motion? Something cannot put itself into motion.
          *It would be more reasonable to believe in an uncreated first cause, God.
  • Oscillating Universe Theory:
         -States that the universe expands from a singularity, collapses back again, and repeats the same cycle for all eternity.
          *The universe is not closed and consequently continues to expand outward. In fact, the accelerating force has kept on increasing. We have no evidence for a decreasing speed.
          *A beginningless series of events is logically impossible. The concept of an eternal universe is irrational at face value, for that would mean we could never have reached a point in time when this paper could be written.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Answering Jimmy Akin On Sola Scriptura And The Bereans

  • Discussion:
          -Roman Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin wrote an article on the text of Acts 17:11-12 as it relates to Sola Scriptura and why he thinks that text should not be cited to support the doctrine. Following are his remarks alongside with a critique:

          "...the contrast isn’t between the skeptical Bereans, who insisted on Scriptural proof of what Paul was saying, and the credulous Thessalonians, who accepted it without question. Instead, the contrast is between the open-minded Bereans, who were willing and eager to examine the Scriptures and see if what Paul was saying was true, versus the hostile Thessalonians, who started a riot and got Paul in trouble with the authorities, even though he had proved from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ."

          Acts 17:11-12 does indeed support Sola Scriptura in that the Bereans had tested the validity of the Apostle Paul's message by comparing it to the Old Testament Scriptures. If this method of discernment is not allowable, then it would make no sense at all for Luke to give these people a good reputation by calling them noble. Contrasting the response of certain people from Thessalonica does not change the argument. In fact, the context records Paul himself as appealing to those same Scriptures as the final court of authority in debating Jews (Acts 17:1-3).

          "There is also another reason why this passage isn’t a good proof text for sola scriptura, which is this: The Christian faith contains doctrines that aren’t found in the Old Testament. What’s why even those who favor doing theology “by Scripture alone” don’t favor doing it “by the Old Testament alone.” While the Old Testament does contain prophecies that point forward to Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, it doesn’t contain the whole of the Christian faith."

          Saying that Paul and Silas did not have a compiled New Testament in their hands is nothing but a red herring. The fact that Jesus Christ was proven from the Old Testament to be the promised Jewish Messiah does not refute Sola Scriptura. The original intent of an author does not rule out a present application to broader conditions. It is therefore not out of bounds to cite Acts 17:11-12 as a supporting text for Sola Scriptura. It can be inferred from this text that written revelation is the only safe and reliable guide for doctrine. The question regarding the extent of the canon, while related, is a separate issue.

          The Bereans had used the Old Testament Scriptures to discern the message delivered by Paul and Silas. They had a love for God and His Word in their hearts. The Scriptures were read and searched out by these people in humility and eagerness. However, in Roman Catholicism it is maintained that scriptural proof is not necessary in order for a dogma to be true. The "laypeople" are not allowed to interpret Scripture for themselves:

          "The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him." (CCC # 100)

          This kind of ideology is not in line with what we see taking place during the encounter with the Bereans and them accepting the gospel message. Paul did not direct these people to an infallible teaching office in order for them to test the validity of his message. The Old Testament Scriptures were sufficient for the purposes of Paul as he witnessed to the people as they verified the message that he delivered.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Why God Cannot Tolerate The Presence Of Sin

        There are countless idols in our society, from celebrities to personal lifestyle habits. Anything that is worshiped in the pagan world besides God Himself is a false god. It makes no difference whether Baal is worshiped or oneself is worshiped. One idol prevalent throughout the world of evangelicalism is a god who cannot render judgement on unbelievers because of his love. The end result of that is believing in a god who condones sin. Many who claim to follow Christ in Western culture struggle to accept God for who He is. Is such a deity even worthy of paying homage to?

        If God is unable to judge unrepentant sinners as a result of being overwhelmed by sentiment, then He must be a weak God. He must be a feeble and miserable God. That would be the case because He cannot bear to enforce His own moral Law. God would be slave to His emotions. Consequently, He could no longer rightly be said to be ruler over the universe. It would be governed by empty tenderness and any existing moral order would cease to be. 

        If God were to accept the sinful ways of mankind, then He would no longer be righteous and just. He would no longer be God, which is logically impossible. He would become exactly like us. God would no longer be judge but a coward. Such a portrayal of God does not come about as a result of thinking critically about the biblical text and a complete redefinition of love. The love of God is made evident as He provides for both the just and the unjust:

        "...for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:45)

         The above cited text from the Sermon on the Mount mentions common graces of God which we take for granted. He has the power and authority to give and take them from us. All things that are good and enjoyable are gifts from God. If, however, we fail to take into account the character of God in its entirety, then we will inevitably reach a wrong conclusion as to who He is. A false god will be worshiped. It is a truth that God judges the wicked (Revelation 20). He is holy by His very nature.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Christ Our Wisdom And Righteousness

        "But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption." (1 Corinthians 1:30)

        Jesus Christ is the fountainhead of salvation and all graces that follow from therein. He is the outward manifestation of God's love and mercy. He imparts to us wisdom regarding salvation, which is demonstrated through His work on the cross. We receive a righteous standing before God on the basis of Christ's imputed righteousness. Sanctification is progressive. Redemption refers to our future glorification where we will be made perfect as Christ Himself is perfect. In the Old Testament, the Law is called wisdom and righteousness (Deuteronomy 4:6; 6:25). Christ is our wisdom and righteousness.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

A Backdrop For Understanding Eating Flesh And Drinking Blood In John 6

These ideas would be quite normal to anyone brought up in ancient sacrifice. The animal was very seldom burned entire. Usually only a token part was burned on the altar, although the whole animal was offered to the god. Part of the flesh was given to the priests as their perquisite; and part to the worshipper to make a feast for himself and his friends within the temple precincts. At that feast the god himself was held to be a guest. More, once the flesh had been offered to the god, it was held that he had entered into it; and therefore when the worshipper ate it he was literally eating the god. When people rose from such a feast they went out, as they believed, literally god-filled. We may think of it as idolatrous worship, we may think of it as a vast delusion; yet the fact remains these people went out quite certain that in them there was now the dynamic vitality of their god. To people used to that kind of experience a section like this presented no difficulties at all.

Further, in that ancient world the one live form of religion was to be found in the Mystery Religions. The one thing the Mystery Religions offered was communion and even identity with some god. The way it was done was this. All the Mystery Religions were essentially passion plays. They were stories of a god who had lived and suffered terribly and who died and rose again. The story was turned into a moving play. Before the initiate could see it, he had to undergo a long course of instruction in the inner meaning of the story. He had to undergo all kinds of ceremonial purifications. He had to pass through a long period of fasting and abstention from sexual relationships.

At the actual presentation of a passion play everything was designed to produce a highly emotional atmosphere. There was carefully calculated lighting, sensuous incense, exciting music, a wonderful liturgy; everything was designed to work up the initiate to a height of emotion and expectation that he had never experienced before. Call it hallucination if you like; call it a combination of hypnotism and self hypnotism. But something happened; and that something was identity with the god. As the carefully prepared initiate watched he became one with the god. He shared the sorrows and the griefs; he shared the death, and the resurrection. He and the god became for ever one; and he was safe in life and in death.

Some of the sayings and prayers of the Mystery Religions are very beautiful. In the Mysteries of Mithra the initiate prayed: "Abide with my soul; leave me not, that I may be initiated and that the holy spirit may dwell within me." In the Hermetic Mysteries the initiate said: "I know thee Hermes, and thou knowest me; I am thou and thou art I" In the same Mysteries a prayer runs: "Come to me, Lord Hermes, as babes to mothers' wombs." In the Mysteries of Isis the worshipper said: "As truly as Osiris lives, so shall his followers live. As truly as Osiris is not dead, his followers shall die no more."

We must remember that those ancient people knew all about the striving, the longing, the dreaming for identity with their god and for the bliss of taking him into themselves. They would not read phrases like eating Christ's body and drinking his blood with crude and shocked literalism. They would know something of that ineffable experience of union, closer than any earthly union, of which these words speak. This is language that the ancient world could understand--and so can we.

William Barclay, The Gospel of John (Volume 1), p. 221-223

Monday, September 7, 2020

A Biblical Presentation On The Doctrine Of Adoption

        Adoption is the act of God by which He considers us to be members of His eternal family. We are deemed His children by faith. Adoption is a legal term, figure of speech used to describe a change in our standing before Him. Like justification, it is an undeserved, unmerited favor of God:

        "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12-13)

        It is not by physical descent or by human efforts that one becomes a child of God, but by faith. He took action to redeem us by sending God the Son into this world. We obtain an inheritance in heaven that cannot perish or fade away.

        The Apostle Paul used adoption as a metaphor to communicate that we as believers partake of the inheritance that belongs to Jesus Christ:

        "and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him." (Romans 8:17)

        "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." (Galatians 4:4-5)

        Christ has possession over everything. We shall partake in His glory and riches as we have been included as members of the kingdom of heaven (John 17:22; 2 Corinthians 8:9). We are adopted as children of God in Christ:

        "He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will." (Ephesians 1:5)

        His shed blood brings about both our justification and adoption by God the Father. We belong to Him and He belongs to us.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

More Than Conquerors In Christ

How has God shown himself to be "for us"? Verse 32 answers this with some of the greatest truths of the gospel. The Father did not spare His own Son! He "delivered Him over to us all." Interestingly the phrase "in our behalf" (ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν) is placed first, putting some kind of emphasis upon the substitutionary element of the atonement of Christ in behalf of "us." As Murray put it,

The Father contemplated all on behalf of whom he delivered up the Son in the distinctiveness of the sin, misery, liability, and need of each. If we had been submerged in the mass, if we had not been contemplated in the particularity that belongs to us, there would be no salvation. The Father had respect to all of us when he delivered up the Son.

The giving of the Son on behalf of God's people is the fullest, most inarguable demonstration of His being for us that could possibly be given. And in light of the giving of His Son in our place, does it not follow that He will not along with Him freely give us all things? His point is obvious: God is for us and will not withhold from us anything necessary to life and godliness. He has given us Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, who has become to us our all-in-all. Murry commented,

If the Father did not spare his own Son but delivered him up to the agony and shame of Calvary, how could he possibly fail to bring to fruition the end contemplated in such sacrifice. The greatest gift of the Father, the most precious donation given to us, was not things. It was not calling, nor justification, nor even glorification. It is not even the security with which the apostle concludes his peroration (vs. 39). These are favours dispensed in the fulfillment of God’s gracious design. But the unspeakable and incomparable gift is the giving up of his own Son. So great is that gift, so marvellous are its implications, so far-reaching its consequences that all graces of lesser proportion are certain of free bestowment.…Since he is the supreme expression and embodiment of free gift and since his being given over by the Father is the supreme demonstration of the Father’s love, every other.

James R. White, The God Who Justifies, p. 247-248

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Romans 3:22 And The Deity Of Christ

"A testimony to the deity of Christ is found in the use of the term "faith" here in Romans 3:22. When Paul speaks of saving faith in Romans 4:5, the object is "the God who justifies," and in context this would be the Father. Yet here we have saving faith expressed with the object being Jesus Christ. Surely such faith could not be placed in a mere creature."

James R. White, The God Who Justifies, p. 188

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Editors Should Pay Attention When King David Bursts Into News 3,000 Years Later

Merriam-Webster’s definition 2(b) of the term “peg,” as a noun states: “something (such as a fact or issue) used as a support, pretext, or reason,” for example “a news peg for the story.”

When it comes to media peg-manship and the Bible, it certainly appears that any old pretext will do.

Yet news pegs of any kind are remarkably absent with the most recent example of the genre, in The New Yorker dated June 29. The 8,500-worder by Israeli freelance Ruth Margalit consumes 10 pages of this elite journalistic real estate.

The cute headline announces the pitch: “Built On Sand.” Subhed: “King David’s story has been told for millennia. Archeologists are still fighting over whether it’s true.”

Was David the grand though flawed monarch the Bible depicts, or merely some boondocks bandit or sheik?

The debate affects current Israeli-vs.-Palestinian settlement politics, but in archaeology the last major news peg on David occurred 15 years ago while this pretext-free article appears in most news-crazed year imaginable.

That should tell media strategists something. Margalit’s reputation as a writer and skill at story pitches presumably helped, but the magazine’s editors knew that multitudes gobble up this stuff. The New Yorker’s long-form journalism is well suited to exploring such matters.

Pegs from the past? Any claims that David never even existed were all but eradicated by the 1993 discovery of the “House of David” inscription within a century of the king’s reign. A 1996 paper by Margalit’s central personality, Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University, contended that though there was a David the Bible’s account of him is mostly exaggerated fiction. (Finkelstein later co-authored a 2006 book on this for popular audiences.)

Then in 2005, Eilat Mazar of Hebrew University made a dramatic announcement about unearthing what she believes is the foundation of David’s Jerusalem palace, indicating the grand scope of the Phoenecian building project the Bible describes. Finkelstein dissents.

Margalit is a sure-footed guide through these and other disputes among top archaeologists over the decades. She does not cite any Orthodox thinkers who accept the entirety of the Bible narrative as factual. The best scholarly book from that viewpoint is the readable “On The Reliability of the Old Testament” by British Egyptologist K. A. Kitchen of the University of Liverpool, a conservative evangelical.

Kitchen argues for the plausibility of David’s story in the context of broader Mideast history, surveys the scant material evidence, and explains why that’s so. An archaeologist’s maxim tells us “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” and Jerusalem’s many rounds of destruction reinforce the importance of the point.

Mazar depicted her find in 2006 for Biblical Archaeology Review, which followed with updates and coverage of archaeologists who doubt the claim.

Religion writers should be subscribers or at least familiar with this magazine, which is written for lay readers and blessedly free of technical jargon. It’s a prime source for keeping on top of new developments and story ideas in this field.

https://www.getreligion.org/getreligion/2020/6/30/editors-should-pay-attention-when-king-david-bursts-into-mainstream-press-3000-years-laternbsp

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Proclaiming The Lord's Death And Resurrection

And so he was lifted up upon a tree and an inscription was attached indicating who was being killed. Who was it? It is a grievous thing to tell, but a most fearful thing to refrain from telling. But listen, as you tremble before him on whose account the earth trembled! He who hung the earth in place is hanged. He who fixed the heavens in place is fixed in place. He who made all things fast is made fast on a tree. The Sovereign is insulted. God is murdered. The King of Israel is destroyed by an Israelite hand. This is the One who made the heavens and the earth, and formed mankind in the beginning, The One proclaimed by the Law and the Prophets, the One enfleshed in a virgin, the One hanged on a tree, the One buried in the earth, the One raised from the dead and who went up into the heights of heaven, the One sitting at the right hand of the Father, the One having all authority to judge and save, through Whom the Father made the things which exist from the beginning of time. This One is "the Alpha and the Omega," this One is "the beginning and the end." The beginning indescribable and the end incomprehensible. This One is the Christ. This One is the King. This One is Jesus. This One is the Leader. This One is the Lord. This One is the One who rose from the dead. This One is the One sitting on the right hand of the Father. He bears the Father and is borne by the Father. "To him be the glory and the power forever. Amen.

Melito of Sardis, On the Passover

Sunday, August 23, 2020

On The Completion Of The Old Testament Canon And Apocrypha

  • Discussion:
          -This article serves as a rebuttal to a number of claims set forth by Trent Horn of Catholic Answers regarding whether the apocryphal books belong in the Old Testament canon. Following are excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

          "The authors of the deuterocanonical books did not believe the Hebrew canon was closed or that there was a set of books called “the Writings,” to which no more could be added. The prologue to Sirach only references “the law and the prophets and the others that followed them” and “the law itself, the prophecies, and the rest of the books.” Second Maccabees describes Judas the Maccabee encouraging his troops only with words “from the law and the prophets” (15:9)."

          This attempt at refutation by Trent Horn is ridiculous and manufactured. The translator of Ecclesiasticus in no uncertain terms distinguishes "these things" (meaning the work that he is translating) from "the law and the prophets and the others that followed them." Thus, he believed that there was a threefold structured collection of sacred books that were accorded a unique status. Even the last of the three divisions of the Hebrew canon is spoken of in this passage as being "of our ancestors." Thus, this process was not going on in the days of the person translating this work or even his grandfather. This description suggests a closed canon. Another text relating to the completion of the Hebrew canon is 2 Esdras 14:45-46. It makes reference to a collection of twenty-four books which are intended to be read by all people. That number is equivalent to the number of books comprising the Jewish canon. These twenty-four writings are distinguished from a different set of seventy in that the later are meant only to be read by those who have wisdom. The seventy books are described as having been "written last" or after the writing of the first set.

          "According to Old Testament scholar Otto Kaiser, the deuterocanonical books “presuppose the validity of the Law and the Prophets and also utilize the Ketubim, or ‘Writings’ collection, which was, at the time, still in the process of formation and not yet closed.” In fact, the Dead Sea Scrolls, which contain Jewish writings from the years 400 B.C. to A.D. 100, include copies of deuterocanonical books like Sirach, Tobit, and Baruch, which shows they were considered to be part of the Writings."

          Hundreds of manuscripts of non-biblical material have been discovered in the Qumran caves. It was comparable to a library which contains several different genres of literature. So one cannot simply appeal to the Dead Sea Scrolls as grounds for including the apocrypha in the Old Testament canon. These people were educated in the literature of their time and would have known books such as Sirach and Tobit. 

          "Hebrews 11:35 describes people in the Old Testament who “were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they may rise again to a better life.” These people are only described in 2 Maccabees 7, which describes brothers who accept torture instead of eating pork and violating Jewish law. Since the context of Hebrews 11 includes “the men of old [who] received divine approval” (v. 2), this means the books describing the Maccabean martyrs were part of the Old Testament that was used by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews."

          The author of Hebrews could have referenced the Maccabeean Revolt for the reason this rebellion took place in more recent history and not that he ascribed canonical status to 2 Maccabees. It would make sense for one to consult that work for historical purposes due to that event having a particular significance to an audience with a Jewish background. Furthermore, there could have been multiple sources or family traditions from which the author of Hebrews gathered his information.

          "The idea that the early Church viewed the deuterocanonical books as Scripture is even more evident in the writings of early Church fathers like Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria, Methodius, Cyprian, and Origen. Moreover, these fathers cited these books as “Scripture” or “holy Scripture,” and none of the pre-Nicene Church fathers ever declares the deuterocanonical books to be uninspired or non-canonical. St. Jerome even tells us that at the Council of Nicaea the deuterocanonical work of Judith was considered to be a part of the canon of Scriptures."

          There were church fathers who were not familiar with the Hebrew canon and so mistakenly thought the deuterocanonicals to be inspired Scripture. A distinction was made between the canonical books of the Old Testament and the deuterocanonicals as early as the second century which lasted until the timing of the Protestant Reformation.

          "The prevailing custom among the Jews was the production of separate volumes for each part of the Hebrew canon…When the codex or leaf-form of book production was adopted, however, it became possible for the first time to include a great number of separate books within the same two covers…For whatever reason the change was instituted, it now became possible for canonical and Apocryphal books to be brought into close physical juxtaposition. Books which heretofore had never been regarded by the Jews as having any more than a certain edifying significance were now placed by Christian scribes in one codex side by side with the acknowledged books of the Hebrew canon. Thus it would happen that what was first a matter of convenience in making such books of secondary status available among Christians became a factor in giving the impression that all of the books within such a codex were to be regarded as authoritative. Furthermore, as the number of Gentile Christians grew, almost none of whom had exact knowledge of the extent of the original Hebrew canon, it became more and more natural for quotations to be made indiscriminately from all the books included with the one Greek codex.” (Bruce M. Metzger, An Introduction to the Apocrypha, 177-178)

Did God Abandon Jesus Christ At The Cross?

"The words of Jesus at Matthew 27:46 have come in for many kinds of interpretation. Unfortunately, many of the theories have compromised the Bible's teachings on the nature of the relationship between the Father and the Son. The Father was never separated from or abandoned the Son. This truth is clear from many sources. Jesus uses the second person when speaking to the Father-"why have You forsaken Me?" rather than "why did He forsake Me?" as if the Father is no longer present. Immediately on the heels of this statement Jesus speaks to the Father ("Father, into your hands. . "), showing no sense of separation. Whatever else Jesus was saying, He was not saying that, at the very time of His ultimate obedience to the Father, the Father abandoned Him. Rather, it seems much more logical to see this as a quotation of Psalm 22 that is meant to call to mind all of that Psalm, which would include the victory of v. 19ff, as well as verse 24, which states, "For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard."

James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering The Heart Of Christian Belief, p. 215, note 1 for chapter 11

Saturday, August 22, 2020

The Person And Work Of The Holy Spirit

"There is one concept used of the Spirit that is often thrown out as evidence against the His personhood. We often hear, "The Spirit cannot be a person, because we are baptized in the Spirit and hence, you can't be baptized in a person, but in a substance or a force." Yet, in reality, the Bible speaks of our being baptized into Christ Jesus in Romans 6:3 and Galatians 3:27, and neither passage is ever cited to make the point that Jesus is not a person. All through the New Testament we are said to be "in Christ" or "in Him," and this is never taken to mean that Jesus is not a person. Likewise, being baptized in the Holy Spirit does not deny He is a person-rather, it speaks to His omnipresence and spirituality."

James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering The Heart Of Christian Belief, p. 148

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Personality Of The Holy Spirit And Neuter Gender

"...the argument that is often heard is that the phrase "Holy Spirit" in Greek is in the neuter gender, and it is. But Greek genders do not necessarily indicate personality. Inanimate things can have masculine genders, and personal things can have the neuter gender. We cannot automatically insert the pronoun "it" when referring to every neuter noun any more than we should always insert the pronoun "she" for "love," since love in Greek is feminine. Instead, we determine whether the Holy Spirit is personal the same way we would demonstrate that the Father or the Son is a person."

James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering The Heart Of Christian Belief, p. 141

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Using The Exodus To Illustrate Imputed Righteousness

        The purpose of the Passover meal was to bring into the hearts and minds of the Jews their deliverance by God from captivity in Egypt. He was moved with compassion to redeem His people as they cried out to Him as a result of brutal enslavement by the Pharaoh (Exodus 3:9).

        Being the final part of a series of plagues, God required that the Jewish people sacrifice lambs and apply blood to their doorposts in order that He pass by those houses and leave the firstborn children unharmed (Exodus 12:7; 12-13; 21-24; 27). The Pharaoh lost his firstborn son as the Lord cast judgement on Egypt.

         This incident is illustrative of the imputation of Jesus Christ's righteousness to those who have placed their trust in Him. We have a righteous status credited to our account before God because we have been covered by the shed blood of His Son.

        We are not under divine judgement, but forgiven of our sins. Just as the blood of the lambs was applied to the doors of the houses to spare the oppressed people of judgement, so the blood of Christ is applied to us by faith to enable access to God.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Examining Catholic Redemptive Suffering In Light Of Scripture

        This source explains the Roman Catholic idea of redemptive suffering as follows:

        "The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) in paragraph 1502 teaches that all pain, toil and sorrow united to Christ's passion "can also have a redemptive meaning for the sins of others." In paragraph 1505 the CCC explains, "Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick, but he makes their miseries his own: ... By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion." Paragraph 1521 likewise states that suffering in "union with the passion of Christ ... acquires a new meaning; it becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus."

        Scripture, on the other hand, affirms that it is Jesus Christ Himself who atones for sin and not our suffering in addition to what He has done on our behalf. His work on the cross has ensured that we obtain redemption and the forgiveness of sin:

        "he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption." (Hebrews 9:12)

        Scripture does not bring together our pain and suffering with the shed blood of Christ in the manner of making atonement:

        "So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood." (Hebrews 13:12)

        "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)

        "And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation." (Revelation 5:9)

        Christ's one offering put away sin and thus any other atoning work is rendered unnecessary:

        "for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him." (Hebrews 9:26-28)

        Roman Catholic apologists sometimes appeal to texts such as 2 Corinthians 1:5-7, Colossians 1:24, and Galatians 2:20 in order to substantiate the idea that our suffering can cancel out punishment for sins committed by ourselves and for other people when offered together with the sacrifice of Christ.

        Regarding the text from 2 Corinthians, hardship for preaching the gospel resulted in it being shared and exemplified to the Christians dwelling at Corinth. Suffering can produce comfort and hope in God which can be shared with other people. In addition, the term "salvation" encompasses both the instance of "justification" and the ongoing process of "sanctification."

        Regarding the text from Colossians, one commentator explains, "That which is behind of the sufferings of Christ — That which remains to be suffered by his members. These are termed the sufferings of Christ, 1. Because the suffering of any member is the suffering of the whole; and of the head especially, which supplies strength, spirits, sense, and motion to all 2. Because they are for his sake, for the testimony of his truth. And these also are necessary for the church; not to reconcile it to God, or satisfy for sin, (for that Christ did perfectly,) but for example to others, perfecting of the saints, and increasing their reward."

        Regarding the text from Galatians, Thomas Constable says, "When a person trusts Christ, God identifies him or her with Christ not only in the present and future but also in the past. The believer did what Christ did. When Christ died, I died. When Christ arose from the grave, I arose to newness of life. My old self-centered life died when I died with Christ. His Spirit-directed life began in me when I arose with Christ. Therefore in this sense the Christian’s life is really the life of Christ. We can also live by faith daily just as we became Christians by faith (v. 16). Faith in both cases means trust in Christ. We can trust Him because He loved us and gave Himself up as a sacrifice for us. In this verse Paul’s use of “crucified” instead of “put to death” or “died” stresses our sinfulness. Only the worst criminals suffered crucifixion in Paul’s day. His reference to “the flesh” here is literal. It means our physical bodies. We can see Paul’s great appreciation of God’s love for him. He said Christ loved “me” and gave Himself for “me.” “The whole of Christian life is a response to the love exhibited in the death of the Son of God for men.”

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Are We Physically Healed By Jesus' Stripes?

So what does Isaiah 53:5 promise Christians if it’s not an offer of immediate, unblemished health for all Christians? John MacArthur sheds clear light on the matter in his commentary on 1 Peter 2:24 (which, noted earlier, quotes from Isaiah 53:5):

Christ died for believers to separate them from sin’s penalty, so it can never condemn them. The record of their sins, the indictment of guilt that had them headed for hell, was “nailed to the cross” (Colossians 2:12–14). Jesus paid their debt to God in full. In that sense, all Christians are freed from sin’s penalty. They are also delivered from its dominating power and made able to live to righteousness (cf. Romans 6:16–22).

Peter describes this death to sin and becoming alive to righteousness as a healing: by His wounds you were healed. This too is borrowed from the Old Testament prophet when he wrote “by His scourging we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Wounds is a better usage than “scourging” since the latter may give the impression that the beating of Jesus produced salvation. Both Isaiah and Peter meant the wounds of Jesus that were part of the execution process. Wounds is a general reference—a synonym for all the suffering that brought Him to death. And the healing here is spiritual, not physical. Neither Isaiah nor Peter intended physical healing as the result in these references to Christ’s sufferings. Physical healing for all who believe does result from Christ’s atoning work, but such healing awaits a future realization in the perfections of heaven. In resurrection glory, believers will experience no sickness, pain, suffering, or death (Revelation 21:1–4; 22:1–3). [4]

To be fair, Matthew’s gospel does seem to make a connection between Isaiah 53:5 and physical healings that occurred during Christ’s earthly ministry:

They brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16–17)

But was Christ’s healing ministry His end game, or did it point to an eternal cure? After all, the people he healed still died. Lazarus was raised from the dead, but he still eventually died again. People were healed but the curse wasn’t reversed. Jesus died for the sins of men, but men still continued to sin. He defeated death but His followers continued to die. There is an ultimate fulfillment of Christ’s atoning work that will not be realized this side of eternity (Romans 8:22–25). That’s why John MacArthur rightly observes:

Those who claim that Christians should never be sick because there is healing in the atonement should also claim that Christians should never die, because Jesus also conquered death in the atonement. The central message of the gospel is deliverance from sin. It is the good news about forgiveness, not health. Christ was made sin, not disease, and He died on the cross for our sin, not our sickness. As Peter makes clear, Christ’s wounds heal us from sin, not from disease. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). [5]

There is healing in Christ’s atonement but it’s obviously not fully realized in the present. Christians and non-Christians alike still feel the effects of the curse, and will ultimately die. Our ultimate perfect healing is certain, but it awaits us in the same way that we still await our resurrection bodies. And that shouldn’t bring disappointment to this present life. Rather, it is a glorious future reality for us to anticipate with great joy.

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B160817

Thursday, August 6, 2020

2 Thessalonians 2:2 And The Reliability Of New Testament Texts

        "that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come." (2 Thessalonians 2:2)

       The above reference shows us that even the earliest Christians were aware of the possibility of pseudonymous letters, which bolsters our confidence in having the full New Testament canon.

        It is also worth noting that Paul wrote his signature at the end of each epistle circulated by him (1 Corinthians 16:21; 2 Thessalonians 3:17; Colossians 4:18; Galatians 6:11; Philemon 19).

Monday, August 3, 2020

Debunking Trent Horn's Claims About The Existence Of The Papacy In The Early Church

  • Discussion:
           -This article serves as a rebuttal to the claims of Trent Horn at Catholic Answers in regards to the question of whether the office of pope is historical. Following are a few excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

           "But didn’t Peter refer to himself as a “fellow elder” and not as “pope” in 1 Peter 5:1? Yes, but in this passage Peter is demonstrating humility that he is encouraging other priests to practice. He wrote, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another” (5:5), so exalting his status would have contradicted his message. Besides, St. Paul often referred to himself as a mere deacon (see 1 Cor. 3:5, 2 Cor. 11:23) and even said he was “the very least of all the saints” (Eph. 3:8)—but that did not take away from his authority as an apostle. Likewise, Peter’s description of himself as an elder does not take away from his authority as being “first” among the apostles (Matt 10:2)."

           The above argument rests on a few questionable presuppositions: 1.) Peter described himself in the humblest of terms in order that he set a good moral example and not that he knew nothing in regards to having been bestowed papal authority, and 2.) Peter was addressing members of an ordained ministerial priesthood. There is no evidence for either claim. Even granting that the Apostle is setting forth a model for other pastors to emulate, 1 Peter 5:1 weakens the Roman Catholic case for Peter being first pope because it indicates that he put himself on par with other elders in the church. He never indicates being in a supreme position of authority.

          "In regard to the authority of the Bishop of Rome as Peter’s successor, in the first century Clement of Rome (the fourth pope) intervened in a dispute in the Church of Corinth. He warned those who disobeyed him that they would “involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger,” thus demonstrating his authority over non-Roman Christians."

          Consider this excerpt from the New World Encyclopedia on the nature of the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians:

           "The First Epistle of Clement does not claim internally to be written by Clement, but by an anonymous person acting on behalf of the Roman church to the church at Corinth. Its purpose is to object to the removal of certain presbyters (elders) of Corinth, an action it considers unjustified. Whether there was only a single bishop at Rome at this time is debated. It may be that the writer is himself a presbyter or one of several bishops (overseers) who also acted as the church's secretary. If he were the reigning bishop, it seems likely that he would refer to himself as such or signed the letter by name."

          "St. Ignatius of Antioch referred to the Roman Church as the one that teaches other churches and “presides in love” over them. In fact, the writings of Pope Clement (A.D. 92-99) and Pope Soter (A.D. 167-174) were so popular that they were read in the Church alongside Scripture (Eusebius, Church History 4:23:9)."

           The above presented information shows us, not that Rome held a position of primacy, but it was honored amongst other churches. Eastern Orthodox commentator Andrew Stephen Damick notes the following regarding the use of Ignatius to support papal authority:

           "…the modern Roman Catholic vision of Church unity being defined by subjection to a worldwide bishop in Rome is not found in Ignatius’s writings. We saw how he described his friend Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna as “one who has God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ as his bishop” (To Polycarp, Salutation). He does not say that Polycarp has the bishop of Rome for his bishop nor even a regional Asian primate (i.e., a senior bishop in his area). Being a bishop, Polycarp’s bishop is God. With all that Ignatius has to say about the episcopacy and especially about unity, he had the perfect opportunity to insist on a worldwide pontificate for Rome’s bishop. Rome was certainly on his mind, since he was traveling there to be martyred as Peter and Paul had been before him. Yet in his six letters addressed to churches, it is only his letter to Rome in which he does not even mention their bishop (who was probably either St. Evaristus or St. Alexander I). In the other five letters to churches, the bishop is mentioned, and in three of them, the bishop is mentioned by name. When writing to the Roman Christians, he does mention Peter, but equally with Paul as both are apostles who could give them “orders,” while Ignatius himself would never presume to do that (Romans 4:3). In Ignatius’s writings, there is never any special role given to the Roman bishop or the Roman church, nor even to the Apostle Peter. And when he writes to Rome, he does not ask the Roman bishop to send a bishop to Antioch to replace him. Rather, he makes that request of Polycarp and his church in Smyrna (To Polycarp 7:2)."

           "In A.D. 190, Pope St. Victor I excommunicated an entire region of churches for refusing to celebrate Easter on its proper date. While St. Irenaeus thought this was not prudent, neither he nor anyone else denied that Victor had the authority to do this. Indeed, Irenaeus said, “it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church [Rome] on account of its preeminent authority” (Against Heresies, 3.3.2)."

           The West and certain Eastern churches claimed to have the correct date of Easter that was delivered from the apostles. This episode of contradictory church tradition only proves it to be unreliable as a source of dogma. What we are left with is Scripture as our guide. Irenaeus did not say that churches should submit to Rome due to it being higher in authority, but come together as that church was reputed for being doctrinally orthodox. Consider this introductory excerpt from Philip Schaaf on the translation of Irenaeus's Against Heresies:

           "After the text has been settled, according to the best judgment which can be formed, the work of translation remains; and that is, in this case, a matter of no small difficulty. Irenæus, even in the original Greek, is often a very obscure writer. At times he expresses himself with remarkable clearness and terseness; but, upon the whole, his style is very involved and prolix. And the Latin version adds to these difficulties of the original, by being itself of the most barbarous character. In fact, it is often necessary to make a conjectural re-translation of it into Greek, in order to obtain some inkling of what the author wrote. Dodwell supposes this Latin version to have been made about the end of the fourth century; but as Tertullian seems to have used it, we must rather place it in the beginning of the third. Its author is unknown, but he was certainly little qualified for his task. We have endeavoured to give as close and accurate a translation of the work as possible, but there are not a few passages in which a guess can only be made as to the probable meaning."

           Consider translator footnote 3313 from that same version of Irenaeus's Against Heresies:

           "The Latin text of this difficult but important clause is, “Ad hanc enim ecclesiam propter potiorem principalitatem necesse est omnem convenire ecclesiam.” Both the text and meaning have here given rise to much discussion. It is impossible to say with certainty of what words in the Greek original “potiorem principalitatem” may be the translation. We are far from sure that the rendering given above is correct, but we have been unable to think of anything better. [A most extraordinary confession. It would be hard to find a worse; but take the following from a candid Roman Catholic, which is better and more literal: “For to this Church, on account of more potent principality, it is necessary that every Church (that is, those who are on every side faithful) resort; in which Church ever, by those who are on every side, has been preserved that tradition which is from the apostles.” (Berington and Kirk, vol. i. p. 252.) Here it is obvious that the faith was kept at Rome, by those who resort there from all quarters. She was a mirror of the Catholic World, owing here orthodoxy to them; not the Sun, dispensing her own light to others, but the glass bringing their rays into a focus. See note at end of book iii.] A discussion of the subject may be in chap. xii. of Dr. Wordsworth’s St. Hippolytus and the Church of Rome."

           "Some people object that if Peter and his successors had special authority, why didn’t Christ say so when the apostles argued about “who was the greatest” (Luke 22:24)? The reason is that Christ did not want to contribute to their misunderstanding that one of them would be a privileged king. Jesus did say, however, that among the apostles there would be a “greatest” who would rule as a humble servant (Luke 22:26). That’s why since the sixth century popes have called themselves servus servorum Dei, or “servant of the servants of God.”

            If Peter had an exalted position over the other apostles, then why did Christ not clear up any confusion on this matter by pointing to him? He could have done that easily. It is only natural to raise that type of a question in this context, but Trent Horn's statements are nothing but smoke and mirrors. The pope with his kingly attire and multitudes who bow down before him in adoration is not in the slightest a "humble servant." Jesus was not referring to any specific individual in Luke 22:26 but was offering a general description of anyone who does service for the Kingdom of God.

           "Pope Gregory I used the title in his dispute with the Patriarch of Constantinople John the Faster, who called himself the “Universal Bishop.” Gregory didn’t deny that one bishop had primacy over all the others, since in his twelfth epistle Gregory explcitly says Constaninople was subject to the authority of the pope. Instead, he denied that the pope was the bishop of every individual territory, since this would rob his brother bishops of their legitimate authority, even though they were still subject to him as Peter’s successor."

            That is absolutely untrue. Gregory emphatically denounced the title of universal bishop and thought that such should be reserved for no one. The following excerpt has been taken from the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia as an example:

           "a proud and profane title ... I have however taken care to admonish earnestly the same my brother and fellow-bishop that, if he desires to have peace and concord with all, he must refrain from the appellation of a foolish title. ... the appellation of a frivolous name. But I beseech your imperial Piety to consider that some frivolous things are very harmless, and others exceedingly harmful. Is it not the case that, when Antichrist comes and calls himself God, it will be very frivolous, and yet exceedingly pernicious? If we regard the quantity of the language used, there are but a few syllables; but if the weight of the wrong, there is universal disaster. Now I confidently say that whosoever calls himself, or desires to be called, Universal Priest, is in his elation the precursor of Antichrist, because he proudly puts himself above all others." (Gregory the Great, Book VII, Epistle XXXIII)

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Does The Bible Support The Institution Of Slavery?

        "As for your male and female slaves whom you may have—you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you." (Leviticus 25:44)

        It should be pointed out that the fact the Old Testament records historical atrocities, does not mean those events are endorsed by the God who inspired the prophets to write them. The biblical text simply describes how culture was.

        In the Old Testament, people could voluntarily become servants to pay off debts. Others made reparations for stolen items (Exodus 22:3). Slaves were set free after six years of servitude (Exodus 21:2). These people were not to be abused or mistreated.

        God forbade the Jews from kidnapping people and selling them into slavery (Exodus 21:16; Deuteronomy 24:7). The Apostle Paul also condemned the idea of capturing people with the intent of selling them as he described people who do such as ungodly and sinful (1 Timothy 1:9-11).

        This picture of slavery is far removed from what took place in America or the African slave trade. It was not a matter of skin color. God uses all things in this world to bring about His glory.

        Paul exhorted slaves to obey their masters, not because he approved the institution of slavery, but that it was a means of serving God. Christianity is not a political movement designated to defeat government, but addresses the sinful condition of the human heart.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Church Councils And The New Testament Canon

"It is a remarkable fact no early Church Council selected the books that should constitute the New Testament Canon. The books that we now have crushed out all rivals, not by any adventitious authority, but by their own weight and worth. This is in itself a strong proof of the genuineness and authenticity of the books that have survived. It is not until the close of fourth that any Council even discussed the subject."

Henry Clarence Thiessen, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 25

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Uniqueness Of The Bible As Literature

"The Bible is primarily a religious book and as such it is unique in the world of literature. How could uninspired man write a book that commands all duty, forbids all sin, including the sin of hypocrisy and lying, denounces all human merit as insufficient for salvation, holds out as man's only hope faith in in the atoning death, physical resurrection, and present intercession of Christ, and condemns to hell for all eternity all who reject this one way of salvation and persist in sin?"

Henry Clarence Thiessen, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 85

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Made In The Image And Likeness Of God

        "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:27)

        God made man to be a reflection of His glory. He made us to be morally upright. He gave us reason and the ability to make our own choices. Mankind is the greatest of His creations. That is what made the fall of Adam so devastating.

        The terms "image" and "likeness" are to be understood synonymously. The idea of human life having indelible value finds its basis in having been fashioned in the image of God. It is this factor which distinguishes man from the animal kingdom. Adam Clarke once noted:

        "Gregory Nyssen has very properly observed that the superiority of man to all other parts of creation is seen in this, that all other creatures are represented as the effect of God's word, but man is represented as the work of God, according to plan and consideration: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. See his Works, vol. i., p. 52, c. 3."

        God created man to represent Him on earth and to take care of creation. The earth was meant to be the domain of man. This is comparable in certain respects to the ancient Near Eastern idea of statues of kings or deity representing their presence. The object of emphasis was not so much physical appearance as more so one's special rights or privileges. It is in that sense we are made in the image of God.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

The Application Of Biblical Principles

"...we read in 1 Thessalonians 4:7, "For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life." A principle that may be drawn from this statement, as well as Philippians 4:8, is that viewing pornographic literature or films is wrong. Obviously such media is not explicitly condemned in Scripture, but sexual purity in thought and action is a principle clearly seen in these and other passages. A personal application of this principle would be, I will not view pornographic literature or films."

Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation, p. 288

Monday, July 13, 2020

An Insight On Acts 2:38 And Baptismal Regeneration

"...An important observation, which can be seen only in Greek, is that the verb repent is in the plural, as is the word your which precedes the word sins. Interestingly, however, the words baptized and the first occurrence of you in the verse are in the singular. This seems to suggest that the words "and be baptized, every one of you (sing.), in the name of Jesus Christ," should be set apart as a parenthetical statement. The main thought then is, "Repent [pl.] so that your [pl.] sins may be forgiven. This is a command that corresponds with many similar commands in the New Testament. Then the instruction to be baptized is directed to individuals, suggesting that any individual who does repent should then submit to water baptism."

Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation, p. 120

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Living A God Honoring Life

"It is one thing to read 2 Timothy 1:9, noting that God has "called us to a holy life," and to understand that holiness is a life of purity and godliness, made possible by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. But it is another thing to deal with sin in our lives so that we are in fact leading holy lives. It is one thing to study what the Scriptures say about the return of Christ in passages such as 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-56. But it is another thing to build on and move beyond those facts to the point of loving His appearing (2 Tim. 4:8), that is, longing for and anticipating His coming, and continuing steadfast in serving the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58)."

Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation, p. 14

Correctly Handling The Word Of Truth

Observing what we see in the biblical text, we then should correctly handle it (2 Tim. 2:15). The participle “correctly handling” (incorrectly translated in the King James Version “rightly dividing”) translates the Greek word orthotomounta. This combines two words that meant “straight” (ortho) and “cut” (tomeo). One writer explains the meaning of this as follows:

Because Paul was a tentmaker, he may have been using an expression that tied in with his trade. When Paul made tents, he used certain patterns. In those days tents were made from the skins of animals in a patchwork sort of design. Every piece would have to be cut and fit together properly. Paul was simply saying, “If one doesn’t cut the pieces right, the whole won’t fit together properly.” It’s the same thing with Scripture. If one doesn’t interpret correctly the different parts, the whole message won’t come through correctly In Bible study and interpretation the Christian should cut it straight. He should be precise…and accurate.

Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation, p. 12-13

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Examining Indulgences In Light Of Scripture

        "The Church invites all its children to think over and weigh up in their minds as well as they can how the use of indulgences benefits their lives and all Christian society.... Supported by these truths, holy Mother Church again recommends the practice of indulgences to the faithful. It has been very dear to Christian people for many centuries as well as in our own day. Experience proves this." (Indulgentarium Doctrina, 9, 11)

        "An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints. An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin. Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead." (CCC # 1471)

        Reconciliation with God takes place through the atonement of Jesus Christ alone. The remission of any and all punishments for sin cannot occur as a result of any good works done on our part. Our confidence in God having provided a way to restore our relationship with Him comes not from indulgences but solely through His redemptive work. It makes no sense to say that the merits of Mary and the saints are applied to Christians when Scripture describes them as already having been fully reconciled to God through the work of Christ:

        "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:1-2)

        "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." (Romans 5:8-11)

        We cannot receive remission of temporal punishments of sin before God "under certain prescribed conditions" because Christ Himself has turned away the wrath of God on the cross:

        "whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins." (Romans 3:25)

       The idea of a relationship where punishments have yet to be dealt out does not match how Scripture represents our relationship with Christ:

        "Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people." (Hebrews 2:17)

        There can be no expiation for sins done on our part because Jesus Christ Himself saves us to the uttermost:

        "...he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25)

        The idea of indulgences is rendered superfluous as the author of Hebrews describes the work of Christ as making perfect forever those who have been sanctified:

        "For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." (Hebrews 10:14)

Mormon Contradiction: Is There Salvation After Death Or Not?

        The Book of Mormon says that there are no chances for salvation after death:

        "Therefore, if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and epain, and fanguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever. And now I say unto you, that mercy hath no claim on that man; therefore his final doom is to endure a never-ending torment." (Mosiah 2:38-39)

        The Doctrine and Covenants, on the other hand, affirms the idea of postmortem salvation:

        "And after this another angel shall sound, which is the second trump; and then cometh the redemption of those who are Christ’s at his coming; who have received their part in that prison which is prepared for them, that they might receive the gospel, and be judged according to men in the flesh." (section 88:99)

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Mormon Contradiction: Is The Nature Of God Changeable Or Unchangeable?

        The Book of Mormon contains passages describing God as having an unchangeable nature:

        "For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity." (Moroni 8:18)

        "Now, the decrees of God are unalterable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved." (Alma 41:8)

        "For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?" (Mormon 9:9)

        Official Mormon doctrine, in contrast, affirms that God is increasing in knowledge. Consider this excerpt from Joseph Smith, Journal of Discourses, volume 6:

        "The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is coequal with God himself. I know that my testimony is true; hence, when I talk to these mourners, what have they lost? Their relatives and friends are only separated from their bodies for a short season: their spirits which existed with God have left the tabernacle of clay only for a little moment, as it were; and they now exist in a place where they converse together the same as we do on the earth....There never was a time when there were not spirits; for they are co-equal with our Father in heaven."

        What we have here, in plain English, is an example of theological inconsistency in Mormon revelation.

         If God is able to increase in knowledge, then it follows that He can make mistakes and thus His commandments are liable to error. The Mormon conception of god is not a god in any meaningful sense of the term.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Mormon Contradiction: Is The Trinity One God In Three Persons Or Three Separate Gods?

        The Book of Mormon contains passages describing the Trinity as one God:

         "Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil." (Alma 11:44)

         "And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen." (2 Nephi 31:21)

         Mormon theology, in contrast, teaches that the three members of the Trinity are three separate gods:

         "Latter-day Saints believe in God the Father; his Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost (A of F 1). These three Gods form the Godhead, which holds the keys of power over the universe. Each member of the Godhead is an independent personage, separate and distinct from the other two, the three being in perfect unity and harmony with each other (AF, chap. 2)." (https://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Godhead)

Friday, July 3, 2020

The Forensic Nature Of Justification Before God

"In the LXX, dikaioun is a forensic term. Yet it does not have a predominate negative connotation ("to condemn") as in the Greek, but is constantly used in the postive sense of "to pronounce righteous," "to justify," "to vindicate." The forensic element is even stronger in the LXX than in the Masoretic text."

Gottlob Schrenk, The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, cited by James R. White, The Roman Catholic Controversy, p. 255

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Refutation Of The Roman Catholic Dogma Of Papal Infallibility

  • Defining Papal Infallibility:
          -The Church of Rome teaches that the Pope cannot pronounce doctrinal error when making official declarations from his chair in matters pertinent to faith and morals ("ex-cathedra"). In other words, Roman Catholicism maintains that the head Roman bishop cannot error when speaking in his fullest capacity, and not as a mere private theologian. Also, it is believed that the entire body of legitimate Roman Catholic bishops, who constitute the teaching office commonly known as the "Magisterium," cannot error when they unanimously agree on a doctrine formally defined by the their leader. In short, this is what knowledgeable Roman Catholics mean when they speak of their church hierarchy as being infallible.
  • Roman Catholic Scholars Frank K. Flinn And J. Gordon Melton Say That Many In The Church Of Rome Stood In Opposition To The Notion Of Papal Infallibility In 1870:
          -"In protest, 55 council members left Rome the day before the final vote. Amid widespread disagreement and protest over the council, those now known as old Catholics separated from communion with Rome." (Encyclopedia of Catholicism, p. 621)
  • Papal Infallibility Is A False Doctrine Of Roman Catholicism Because History Has Shown Us That Popes Can Officially Teach Heresy:
          -If the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility is historical, then how could the Sixth Ecumenical Council officially anathematize Pope Honorius I (A.D. 625-638) for enforcing the heresy of Monotheletism (Christ had no human will) on the entire Christian church (his heretical proclamation began with, "We confess one will of our Lord Jesus Christ...”)?
          -"In late 357 Liberius went to Sirmium (modern Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia). Supposedly dejected, he agreed to sign certain unorthodox formulas that served to emasculate the Nicene Creed (the Creed had implicitly disavowed Arianism). Liberius also agreed to sever relations with Athanasius and submitted to the authority of the emperor." (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Liberius)
          -"Also known as Zozimus, he succeeded Innocent I, and was followed by Boniface I. Although his reign was brief, it was turbulent and left a powerful impact on the papacy. Zosimus is best known for his role in the Pelagian controversy. He at first pronounced the Pelagian teacher Caelestius to be orthodox and later declared him and Pelagius both to be heretical." (https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Pope_Zosimus)
  • Roman Catholic Tradition Cannot Simply Be Deemed Infallible Because It Continually Evolves:
          -Although Roman Catholics would consider this argument to be a straw man, it is a proven fact of history that the Church of Rome has placed into effect contradictory church traditions. Examples would include, but are not limited to, Pope Gelasius denying the validity of the Mary's bodily assumption and upholding the notion that no one can be saved outside the Roman Catholic Church. In modern times, however, Rome has affirmed the exact opposite of the previously listed viewpoints. In fact, Rome has referred to Protestants as "Separated Brethren." Recently decreed dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church would include the immaculate conception of Mary (1854) and the assumption of Mary (1950).
  • Church Infallibility And Circular Reasoning:
          -How does one reach the verdict that Rome's interpretation of Scripture is always correct? From the Roman Catholic perspective, people must submit themselves to the authority claims of their church by resorting to the Catholic hierarchy's interpretations of Scripture and seeking its approval. In other words, the Church of Rome argues its validity by appealing to its own claims to having been sanctioned by God as genuine Christianity. Thus, the pope wields the gift of infallibility through the power of the Holy Spirit because he said so.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Debunking Catholic Apologist Steve Ray On John 3:16 And Justification By Faith Alone

  • Discussion:
           -This article serves as interaction with a few claims made by Steve Ray on John 3:16 as it relates to Sola Fide. Following are some excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

           "The present tense, “that whosoever believeth in him,” or in other words, “that whosoever is believing in Him” sheds a different light on the entire verse. One would expect, according to Protestant tradition, the word “believe” to be aorist, showing that it is a “one-point-in-time” event. I used to say, “I believed in Christ on such and such a date, so I know I am saved.” It could be asked why Jesus switched to the present tense in a verse full of aorists. The answer is that Jesus makes it utterly clear what he is really trying to say; that this belief is an acting, continual belief, and not just a past act of faith."

           The Apostle John's usage of the continuous tense does not refute the doctrine of justification by faith alone or even John 3:16 as a supporting text for that doctrine. The language employed simply indicates a person who ceases to have faith will not enter the kingdom of heaven. The doctrine of justification by faith alone is not a denial of faith being ongoing. Biblical faith involves trust in God.

           "...consider whether the word translated “believe” means a mere mental assent. The word in biblical times carried with it the concept of obedience and reliance. Kittel [Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the NewTestament Eerdmans, 1968] states, “pisteuo means ‘to trust’ (also ‘to obey’).” Vines [W. E. Vines, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984)] says, “[R]eliance upon, not mere credence.” This is confirmed further by John the Baptist’s statement in John 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not (apeitheo) the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” The word “apeitheo” is understood by all good translators and commentators to mean obedience. The opposite (antonym) of believe is disobey."

           Consider the purpose and creation of the bronze serpent in the Old Testament:

           "And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived." (Numbers 21:6-9, emphasis added)

            The unfaithful Israelites were dying from getting bitten by poisonous snakes. As a result, the Jewish people needed an antidote to ensure their survival after envenomation by these creatures. They were God's curse to punish His chosen people for sin and rebellion. In response to the people's plea for clemency, God instructed the Israelites to simply look at the bronze serpent, which was created by Moses. Those who placed their trust in the Lord by looking at it miraculously got rescued from the sentence of death. We can infer from this historical event the spiritually bankrupt nature of man. Jesus Christ Himself is the typological fulfillment of the bronze serpent:

           "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:14-18, emphasis added)

           Everybody has been spiritually poisoned by sin. This Old Testament incident of people getting spared from physical death is a typological illustration of Jesus Christ's power to save us from spiritual death. Those who turn to Christ by trusting in His redemptive work are saved from eternal condemnation. Sinners are cured of their spiritual illness by the Great Physician, Jesus Christ. The Jews were not saved by good works, but by simply placing their faith in God. The atonement of Christ is applied to all who come to Him by faith through the gospel.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Agape And Phileo

[John] 21:15 - This passage (vers. 15-17) illustrates the force of two Greek words for 'to love,' phileo and agapao. The former signifies the love of friendship, and is more intimate and intense. It is here translated 'I am attached to,' and in ch. 16.27 'have affection for.' Agapao, more often used in the New Testament, is more general, and signifies love as the settled disposition of a person rather than as an emotion. It is used for God's love to man (except in Titus 3.4, where a compound word is used which embodies the word phileo) and for the love of men to God. Both words are used for the love of the Father for the Son, phileo once only, John 5.20, and agapao in John 3.35, &c.: and for the love of Christ for his own, phileo in John 11.3 and agapao in John 11.5 and elsewhere. Phileo is used in John 16.27, of the love of the Father for the disciples, and of the love of the disciples for Christ.

J.N. Darby's Translation footnote on John 21:15

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Perfected Forever By One Offering

[Hebrews] 10:14 - Having perfectly completed the work, he could sit down, and abide so, having done all; it is in contrast with the priests. They stood daily; he is set down 'for a continuance.' Connecting 'in perpetuity' with sacrifice spoils the whole force of the passage.

[Hebrews] 10:14 - Not 'being,' nor 'having been,' 'sanctified', but the objects of this operation, those about whom God was doing this. As to date, 'we have been sanctified,' ver. 10.

J.N. Darby's Translation footnotes on Hebrews 10:14