Monday, February 24, 2020

A Conundrum For Catholics And Their Abstinence From Meats During Lent

        Despite Pope Paul VI permitting bishops to modify the meat abstinence policy as they see fit in their respective jurisdictions, the idea of weekly abstinence from meats each Friday is one that still exists in the Code of Canon Law (Canons 1250-1253). Violating this commandment is considered by the Roman Catholic Church to be a mortal sin. That means a Catholic who consumes meat on Friday is destined to hell unless the sin is absolved by a priest. This restriction has been limited to Ash Wednesday and Lent in the United States since 1966 (when Paul VI issued Paenitemini). Does this mean that adherents of Rome who ate meat on Friday and failed to confess their sin to a priest before that year are in hell? Did God "bend the rules" and release these souls from hell the moment Church policy changed?

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Is Blessed The Same As Happy In Psalm 1?

So the word "blessed" - what does that mean? Many moderns translate it "happy." I think that's inadequate. I don't think we have a word for it.

But I point out in Hebrew that there are two different words for "bless"...So you have barak which means "to bless", and then you have this word ashrei.

The word barak means "to be filled with the potency for life". It's the ability to reproduce. So that when God blessed the creation, it was to be fruitful and multiply. Now when you carry that over to the NT, Jesus blessed the disciples. He himself never married. He's not saying to them be fruitful and multiply physically, but be fruitful and multiply spiritually. It's a different form of the kingdom. So that's the word "to bless", barak.

Now the other "to bless" is ashrei. The word used here [in Psalm 1:1]. And that word ashrei means that you have a blessed destiny. It usually refers to the future. And that future, that blessed future, is based upon your present relationship with God. The blessed person when you use ashrei may be in deep trouble at the time...This is a quote from Eliphaz in the book of Job. This would be the Greek equivalent of ashrei - makarios. He says "Blessed is the one whom God corrects". We don't think a person who is being disciplined is particularly blessed, but that's a blessed person. "Blessed is the one whom God corrects, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty, for he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal" [Job 5:17-18]. You have a blessed future. So be thankful that you're a blessed person because God is disciplining you to give you the celestial city. You see how that's different from the word "fill you with potency with life and victory"? It's a different word.

Or another illustration is from the Greek of the Beatitudes of Jesus. Who are the blessed? It's not the way we normally think of it. "Blessed - makarioi, plural - are those who mourn, for they will be comforted...Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you...Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven..." (Mt 5:4, 10-12). So the blessed person is a person who has this great reward in the future. That is not translated by "happy". It's totally inadequate for that. I agree the average person doesn't understand it always, but I think it carries more than just being happy.

Professor Bruce K. Waltke, What Do "Person" And "Blessed" Mean In Psalm 1?

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Dilemma For Strictly Materialistic Views Of Biology

"Nothing in nature will ever simultaneously go to both low entropy and high energy at the same time. It’s a physical impossibility. Yet life had to do that. Life had to take simple chemicals and go to a state of high energy and of low entropy. That’s a physical impossibility."

Physicist Brian Miller, "Conundrums for Strictly Materialist Views of Biology"

Debunking The Mormon Teaching Of Human Souls Being Preexistent

        “Before you were born on the earth, you lived in the presence of your Heavenly Father as one of his spirit children.” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, p. 115)

        In Genesis 2:7, we are told that God created Adam from the dust of the earth. He was not a pre-existing soul. Rather, he had life breathed into him. That is the precise moment when Adam's life began. He did not exist prior to walking in the Garden of Eden.

        In Genesis 5:3, we are told that Adam had a son in his own image and likeness named Seth. Thus, he had life breathed into him just as did his father. Seth never existed in the form of a disembodied soul prior to his birth.

       In 1 Corinthians 15:46-47, the Apostle Paul states that our physical birth takes place prior to our spiritual birth. This is contrary to the idea of our souls being pre-existent. God breathed life into man when he was created from the dust of the ground, not put already existing souls into bodies.

       Jesus Christ as God existed eternally with the Father. He took on flesh to make atonement for our sins. If our souls are pre-existent, then that would compromise the uniqueness of Christ. There would be no basis for Him to appeal to His pre-existence as a special qualification (John 8:56-58). The response to Christ's claims of being God points to a general absence of belief in all human souls being pre-existent amongst Jews of His day (John 8:59).

         Blake T. Ostler notes the following regarding the absence of belief in the preexistence of human souls amongst the earliest followers of Mormonism:

       "The earliest Mormon publications defined God—in terms borrowed from contemporary orthodox Christianity—as the sole and necessary basis of all existence.2 [See, for example, Apostle Parley P. Pratt’s statement that at death the human spirit “return[s] to the fountain and become[s] part of the great all from which [it] emanated,” in Parker Pratt Robinson, Writings of Parley P. Pratt (Salt Lake City: Robinson, 1952), 216.] The concept of a preexistence either in the sense of eternal, uncreated spirits co-existing with God or as spirit offspring of God did not exist in early Mormon thought. The Book of Mormon assumed that human existence depended entirely upon God (see, for example, Mos. 2:20-21). When the premortal Lord revealed his finger to the brother of Jared, he explained that humans were created “in the beginning after mine own image … after the body of my spirit” (Eth. 3:15-16), implying that human, physical bodies resemble God’s spiritual body. In contrast, orthodox Christianity interpreted “image and likeness” (Gen. 1:26) [p.128]to mean humankind’s moral capacities, not its physical attributes. The seeds, at least, of anthropomorphism and of co-existence of humans with God were thus planted in Mormon thought in the Book of Mormon notion of creation after the image of God’s spiritual body."

        The same cited source also said the following regarding the pre-existence of man being foreign to early Mormon thought:

        "The classical gulf between God and his mortal creations entailed in the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo was accepted without revision in the official Mormon publication The Evening and the Morning Star in October 1832: “The Creator, who having created our souls at first by an act of his will can either eternally preserve them or absolutely annihilate them” (p. 77). Humans were thus contingent beings who did not exist prior to their creation by God—either as body or as spirit—and could lapse into non-being if God willed it. A letter in the May 1835 Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate echoed a similar belief: “Man is dependent on the great first cause and is constantly upheld by Him, therefore justly amenable to him” (p. 113)."

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Refuting The Mormon Belief That God The Father And Jesus Christ Are Two Separate Gods

        The Mormons reject the doctrine of the Trinity. Instead, they believe that the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are three distinct gods (tritheism). God the Father is called Elohim (Hebrew word for God). Jesus Christ is recognized as Jehovah (the term Lord capitalized as LORD), which can be legitimate in certain contexts because He is the second person of the Trinity. But how can a Mormon make sense of a text such as Psalm 110:1-2? It was quoted by Jesus Christ in Matthew 22:41-45. According to Mormon logic, He would be telling Himself to sit at His own right hand! The Trinitarian perspective properly interprets this text, since it is God the Father addressing God the Son. If Jehovah refers to Jesus as a separate god, then would that also mean He is exalted above God the Father (Psalm 97:9)?

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Genesis Flood Narrative As A Prototype Of The Final Judgement

        "and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly." (2 Peter 2:5)

        What caused God to send a flood upon this earth, resulting in the death of mankind and countless animals? It had to do with the wickedness of man (Genesis 6:5-8). He had forgotten the ways of his Creator. People became overly comfortable with temporal blessings and so had removed the things of God from their minds. They behaved as though He was nonexistent, caring only about the things of this earthly realm (Matthew 24:38; Luke 17:27).

        Noah warned his generation of how God would judge the world through a flood. He was the recipient of mocking and scoffing as he prepared an ark for his family. The people were preoccupied with the things of this life: eating, drinking, and marriage. They were not concerned with the things of God. That is why the flood which Noah had spoken of beforehand was unexpected (2 Peter 3:3-6). There came a time when God closed the door on the ark.

        Just as God cast judgement on sinful mankind through a flood, so He will judge the unrepentant and unbelieving world again. The imagery of fire is utilized as He refines creation and permanently does away with evil (2 Peter 3:7; 10-13). Both scenarios point us to the beginning of a new creation. Those who are righteous by faith will be delivered from the wrath of God to come (Hebrews 11:7).

        Just as faithful Noah was dismissed when he preached repentance, so there are plenty in this fallen world who mock the gospel message proclaimed by God's church. Indeed, He has been rather patient and merciful with all these people (2 Peter 3:8-9). It will not always be that way.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

God Shows Mercy To Those Who Love And Serve Him

       "you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments." (Exodus 20:5-6)

       The Israelites were a cherished treasure before God. If His chosen people remained loyal to Him, then that would ensure their continual protection and support. He would regularly bless Israel. God unambiguously condemned the worship of heathen deities. He required that His people serve Him in ways that He ordains. God would punish descendants who followed in their parent's idolatrous footsteps.

       The love and mercy of God is extended to all who love Him. These realities will be manifested for eternity. God is devoted to those who love and serve Him. These people have found favor in His sight. His love for sinners is infinitely wide. If we truly love God, then we will keep His commandments (John 14:15).

       The Mosaic Law made known the way in which God's redeemed people were to live before Him. This is evident in the preface to the Ten Commandments: "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, therefore..." First, God redeemed Israel. Then, He gave instructions as to how His redeemed people would walk before Him. Consequently, the Mosaic Covenant could not have been a system of works righteousness. We recognize the same pattern found in the New Testament: justification followed by sanctification.

Monday, February 10, 2020

How The Book Of Hebrews Refutes Catholic Mariology

        Only Jesus Christ, being sinless and perfect, is fit to make atonement for our sins (Hebrews 9:13-14; 10:1-10). Christ, our High Priest, offered Himself as a sacrifice before God the Father (Hebrews 9:24-28; Hebrews 10:10-12). Christ satisfied the wrath of God and now sits at His right hand. He can relate to us in our sinful condition because He took on human flesh. He identified Himself with us. Christ forever makes intercession on our behalf before God (Hebrews 4:14-16; 7:23-28). His mediatorship is superior to that of the Old Testament. It is eternal. It is permanent. His role is a replacement of the Old Testament priesthood. We can approach God with confidence through Christ's body and shed blood (Hebrews 10:19-23). We obtain grace and mercy in times of need. If Jesus Christ is the one and only qualified Mediator because of His sacrificial work on the Cross, then any potential mediatorial position of Mary would be redundant. The position of mediator and intercessor is exclusive to Him. He is sufficient to bring about all things pertaining to our redemption.

An Early Date For The Gospel According To John


There are a number of data which strongly suggest a date in the 60s, chief among them are the following.

(1) The destruction of Jerusalem is not mentioned. This fits extremely well with a date before 66 CE.

(2) The topographical accuracy of pre-70 Palestine argues that at least some of the material embedded in the gospel comes from before the Jewish War.

(3) There is much primitive terminology used in this gospel. E.g., Jesus’ followers are called “disciples” in John, not apostles.

(4) The conceptual and verbal parallels with Qumran argue strongly for an overtly Jewish document which fits well within the first century milieu.

(5) The date of P52 at c. 100-150, coupled with the date of Papyrus Egerton 2 at about the same time—a document which employed both John and the synoptics—is almost inconceivable if John is to be dated in the 90s.34

(6) John’s literary independence from and apparent lack of awareness of the synoptic gospels argue quite strongly for an early date. Indeed, this independence/ignorance argues that all the gospels were written within a relatively short period of time, with Matthew and Luke having the good fortune of seeing and using Mark in their composition.

(7) Finally, there is a strong piece of internal evidence for an early date. In John 5:2 the author says that “there is in Jerusalem, by the sheep-gate, a pool (the one called Bethesda in Hebrew) which has five porticoes.” Without discussing all the interpretations possible for this verse suffice it to say that (a) the verb “is” (ἐστιν) cannot be a historical present, and (b) the pool was destroyed in 70 CE.35 By far the most plausible conclusion is that this gospel was written before 70 CE.

In sum, we believe that a pre-70 date for the Fourth Gospel is the most probable one. Further, we believe that this gospel should be dated late in 65 or even in 66, for the following two reasons: (a) it is doubtful that it should be dated after 66, because otherwise the lack of an Olivet Discourse in which many of the prophecies were at that time coming true, is inexplicable; (b) the gospel should perhaps be dated after Peter’s death, as we shall see when we examine the purpose.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Is The Old Testament Misogynistic To Women?

  • Discussion:
          -This article serves as interaction with some claims made by an anonymous atheist regarding alleged evidences of the Old Testament containing prejudice against females. The cited excerpts, which are followed by critiques, were found in a comments thread of a different site:

          "Women were regarded as little more than property. We know that because the Bible has rules on how to sell your daughter (Exodus 21:7). There is no such rule for selling sons, because men are important!"

          This law concerning slaves ensured release upon six years of voluntary service. Such an individual could choose to become a permanent slave. This was not an act of coercion, but of love (Exodus 21:5-6). Permanent and forced servitude of Jewish slaves to Jewish masters was foreign to that culture (Leviticus 25:39-55). Conditions were set forth to make certain that female slaves were not abused and neglected. They were not to be mistreated by their masters. 

          "Leviticus 21:9 says unchaste daughters of priests are to be put to death. Not the sons of course. The law about adultery is all about the other man adulterating your property; it is comparable to the prohibition against theft."

         The context of this passage is about the administration of the priestly law code. The daughters of the priests who committed adultery were put to death, not because they were personal property, but that they put the office of their fathers to an open shame. The Law frowned upon licentiousness and thievery. Both are violations of God's Law.

          "Deuteronomy 22:13-22 is all about virginity. A man wants to ensure his property has not been handled previously by another man. Obviously it is fine for the man to sleep around all he like, before or after marriage."

          This passage does not say that it is permissible for a man to "sleep around all he likes." If a man has relations with a betrothed or married woman, he is prescribed the death penalty. The above verses are addressing a man who defames a woman and the punishment that he has to undergo.

          "Perhaps the worst of this is Deuteronomy 22:28-29, which demands that a rapist marry his victim. Shameful in our culture, but if you consider women as property, this is like a shop saying "You broke it, you pay for it." The woman is damaged property, so the rapist has to pay the full price for her."

          This solution to the above cited ethical dilemma is worth considering:

          "The verb used to explain what happened to the woman is תָּפַשׂ (tāpas). Tāpas means to “lay hold [of],” or “wield.” Like חָזַק (ḥāzaq, the word for “force) used in vv. 25-27, tāpas can also be translated as “seize.” Unlike ḥāzaq, however, tāpas does not carry the same connotation of force. As one Hebrew scholar explains, tāpas does not, in and of itself, infer assault; it means she was “held,” but not necessarily “attacked.’ There’s a delicate difference between these two verbs, but it makes all the difference. Tāpas is often used to describe a capture. Tāpas also appears in Genesis 39:12; when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, she seized (tāpas) him to wear down his resolve. This is distinct from ḥāzaq, which describes a forcible overpowering. Daniel Block notes that, unlike the law in verses 25-27, this law has neither a cry for help, nor an account of male violence. It’s likely that the woman in verses 28-29 experienced overwhelming persuasion, perhaps an erosion of her resolve, but not necessarily a sexual assault. This does not mitigate the seriousness of the act. This woman was indeed violated; she was dishonored and humiliated. However, verses 28-29 do not necessarily indicate she was raped. Had the author of Deuteronomy, Moses, (and the Holy Spirit who inspired him) intended to depict this as a sexual assault, it seems unlikely that he would have chosen tāpas instead of ḥāzaq – the verb used just before it. Given the lexical differences between ḥāzaq and tāpas, and how closely they appear in these two consecutive laws, it seems more likely that these two distinct verbs are meant to convey two distinct scenarios. Further, tāpas does not appear in either of biblical stories describing sexual assault that were written after the Law. When later biblical authors depicted a rape, they used the ḥāzaq (which appeared vv. 25-27) rather than tāpas. We can reasonably conclude that the biblical narrators (and again, the Holy Spirit) knew the difference in meaning between ḥāzaq and tāpas within the context of sexual violence, and they used these verbs with their meanings in mind." (

           "Leviticus 12:2, 5 explain how a woman is unclean longer after giving birth to a girl. Here we get very a clear statement that women are worth less - and exactly how much less (Leviticus 27:3-7)."

           The Law is talking about ritual impurity, not moral impurity or women being inferior to men. As for the latter passage, the valuation is not conditioned on women being less made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). That factor by itself gives human life objective value. The estimation is based on the effectiveness of productive effort. In the Ancient Near East, men were responsible for more and were able to do more vocationally and militarily. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Early Formation Of The New Testament Canon

"There was no early conciliar action that determined which books should be recognized and which not; the acceptance and selection of the books was a spontaneous process that went on throughout the the close of the second century the New Testament contained essentially the same books which we now receive and they were regarded with the same respect that Christians have for them today."

Henry Clarence Thiessen, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 26

A Lack Of Evidence For The Papacy In Rome During The First Century

"It seems as if at the time of the Epistle [to the Romans] there was no centralized organization, but rather as if there were various small groups of believers. Five such groups seem discernible in the chapter (vss. 5, 10, 11, 14, 15). Note that Paul does not address the Epistle to "the Church at Rome" (cf. 1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1), but simply to "all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints" (1:7). The apparent ignorance regarding the Christian movement on the part of the delegates who called on Paul at Rome may be due to the fact that the believers in that city had not yet come into definite conflict with the synagogue (Acts 28:22). At any rate, we believe that the origin of Christianity in Rome must be sought primarily in the work of the converts that came to the city from various parts of the empire."

Henry Clarence Thiessen, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 223