Tuesday, June 19, 2018

What Happens To The Souls Of Infants Who Die?

          There are a number of different positions amongst Christians as to what happens to the souls of children who die. Augustine postulated that unbaptized infants were punished eternally in hell, but to a lesser degree. His views softened over time. For centuries, the Roman Catholic Church unofficially taught that the souls of deceased children go to a place called Limbo. The Greek fathers did not discuss this topic at length, but some believed children who died went to some place distinct from both heaven and hell. The stance defended here is that the destination of little children who pass away enter into the presence of God in heaven.

          Scripture implicitly affirms the concept that we call the age of accountability (Deuteronomy 1:39; Isaiah 7:15-16). This is relative due to the fact that everybody develops differently. Thus, there exists a period of time in childhood in which God in His mercy does not count sins against a person due to lacking reason and understanding. While babies are born with a sin nature, they still cannot actually commit acts of evil. 

          Jesus Christ stated that the kingdom of God is not only for little ones, but also for those who become like children in their faith (Mark 10:13-15; Luke 18:15-17). If babies were to be sentenced to hell upon death, then why did He welcome them? The gospels record Christ having compassion on children as He called them to His side and sat them at His feet in the crowds (Matthew 18:3; 19:14-15). If they were to be sentenced to hell by God for original sin, then why did Jesus commend their simplicity?

          Consider the mourning of King David when the Lord took away his newborn child as discipline for acts of adultery and murder (2 Samuel 12:22-23). Even in the midst of his selfish and brutish conduct, we see God exercising mercy as his own life was spared. He is in charge of life itself. The text of 2 Samuel affirms that both would go to the same place at the moment of physical death. Moreover, Hebrews 11:32-33 tells us David entered into the presence of God. Why should we believe that the souls of deceased children go to some place other than heaven? 

          The God of the Bible is one of love, mercy, righteousness, and truth. He would not condemn to hell somebody who never even had a chance to live. We must also keep in mind those who have severe cognitive disabilities. Though it is a teaching of Scripture that God has inscribed a moral law into the hearts of men, every person needs to have the mental capacity to act. Each man will be judged according to his own conduct (2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Peter 1:17). Babies cannot do anything on their own. What could God judge them for?

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Danger Of The “#MeToo” Movement

"The #MeToo movement has uncovered real abuses of power. But the solution to those abuses is not to replace valid measures of achievement with irrelevancies like gender and race. Ironically, the best solution to sexual predation is not more feminism, but less. By denying the differences between men and women, and by ridiculing the manly virtues of gentlemanliness and chivalry and the female virtues of modesty and prudence, feminism dissolved the civilizational restraints on the male libido. The boorish behavior that pervades society today would have been unthinkable in the past, when a traditional understanding of sexual propriety prevailed. Now, however, with the idea of “ladies and gentlemen” discredited and out of favor, boorishness is increasingly the rule."

Heather MacDonald, “The Negative Impact of the #MeToo Movement

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Calvinist Misuse Of Romans 8:28-30

          "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be confirmed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:28-31)

          The people under consideration in Romans 8:28-30 are those who love God, not a select few whom God "irresistibly causes" to love Him. It does not state that certain people are predestined to become Christians. Rather, those who believe on Christ and His gospel for salvation are destined to inherit eternal blessings. This Scripture passage simply discloses what happens to the elect.

          Even so, it appears that the Apostle Paul places the concept of foreknowledge before predestination, which is problematic for unconditional election. Calvinism has traditionally argued that foreknowledge follows predestination. In other words, the inspired author presents the sequence of the order in a "backwards" manner (not in a consistently Calvinistic fashion).

           We can agree that God foreknew believers personally as His children. Consequently, He predetermined a plan of redemption before the foundation of the world. This does not amount to Him predetermining the eternal destiny of each individual.

          The type of election being addressed in Romans 8 is not a matter of identity, but rather concerns the character and plan for those who are justified in the sight of God. Believers experience fellowship with God. Believers are appointed for His glory. They become vessels of honor to Him. This process of reconciliation takes place when we first believe (Romans 5:1-2). It is a decree to save those who come to Christ by faith. These soteriological blessings are categorically applied to all Christians.

          The entire point that the Apostle Paul establishes here is that God works for the good of all who love Him, and that He wields absolute power over everything. Nothing is beyond His grasp. Nothing is beyond His comprehension. Humans having free will does not negate the sovereignty of God. We as believers should have great comfort and assurance because of these scriptural truths. God does interact with creation. He is working things for good and His glory.

The Calvinist Misuse Of John 6:32-58

          "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out...No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:37; 44)
       
          This passage of John's gospel narrative is known as the Bread of Life Discourse, where the Lord Jesus Christ had delivered a speech at a Synagogue in Capernaum. In the sermon, He likened bread and wine to His body and blood so as to articulate the point to His unbelieving Jewish audience that He was indeed their promised Messiah, who would offer Himself up as an expiatory sacrifice for the sins of mankind. It should be noted that Christ chose not to fully reveal Himself to all members of society during much of His earthly ministry so that He could complete His mission of atoning for the sins of the world. Moreover, these Jews were not born with a seared conscience against God. This is not a matter of people being born hated by God and predestined to eternal condemnation since the timing of creation. The context of John 6:32-58 nowhere indicates an irredeemable situation. It says nothing concerning regeneration leading to faith, which is required for salvation. It says nothing concerning an irresistible calling of the human will. Does regeneration proceed faith? No, regeneration comes after faith. That is what the Scripture affirms (John 20:31; Acts 11:18; Romans 5:1; Ephesians 1:13).

           More precisely, these Jewish people willfully turned their backs against God (John 5:39-40; Acts 28:27). They wanted to be self-righteous. They wanted to be arrogant. They wanted their own sinful lifestyles. They wanted to rebel against the God who created them. In short, this was a totally voluntary hardening of the human heart by sin, which God allows. The mission of Christ was accomplished through the unbelief of Israel. The Jews were handed over to their vices, which explains why they were rejecting Christ. This willful blinding of the conscience was never meant to be permanent, for God has always wanted to save His chosen nation Israel. The Father draws the sinner who listens and learns (John 6:45). We must accept the truth of the gospel that we preach in order to be saved (Romans 10:14-17). We have the responsibility of hearing, knowing, and understanding the revealed truths of God. We absolutely must make the decision of accepting the forgiveness of God as proclaimed through the gospel.

           In John 6:32-58, Jesus Christ was simply trying to get the Jews to see their disconnect from God. They did not truly love the Father because they did not love the Son. One cannot come to have a true relationship with the Father without also believing on the Son. Nobody can come to Christ without first hearing and accepting the truth of the gospel. Hence, the unbelieving Jews were under spiritual condemnation. Their hearts were not right with God. The twelve apostles, however, were drawn by the Father through the miracles and sound teachings of Christ. Their hearts were open to God. As a result, those obedient to the Father also chose to follow the Son. The will of the Father is that all who come to Him and believe on His name be saved (John 6:40). As a result of the crucifixion, God wants to draw everybody to salvation through faith in Him (John 12:32-33; Romans 11:32).

            Calvinists are guilty of limiting God when they argue that He cannot foreknow what He did not foreordain. He is sovereign enough to give us the freewill to accept or reject Him. He can do whatever He wants. He is limited by nothing. The fact of the matter is that the Calvinists have misconstrued the meaning texts such as John 6:37 and John 6:44 to fit their own preconceived theological conclusions.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Calvinist Misuse Of Ephesians 1:1-13

          "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will...also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will." (Ephesians 1:4-5; 11)

          To preface, it should be noted that the verses in question do not actually say anything about God choosing before the creation of the world which individuals will be saved. In fact, Ephesians 1:1-13 does not even mention anything about the unrepentant and the unbelieving, nor an irresistible calling of the human will. This passage from Ephesians discusses God predetermining the plan of salvation and how those who get saved will serve Him. It concerns predestination for blessings, not who will specifically be recipients of salvation. It concerns what will happen to those who get saved. Those who are faithful to God have been predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. He wants to have a relationship with us. He wants to redeem us. He wants to make us His children. We are included in Christ the moment we believe from the heart the message of the gospel (Ephesians 1:13). We were not predestined to be in Christ. Rather, we are predestined "in Him."

          The truth of the matter is that Calvinists misunderstand Scripture due to having a confirmation bias. These people take out of context words such as elected, predestined, foreknew, and before the foundation of the world to fit their deterministic theological paradigm. Thus, Calvinists altogether miss the point of Ephesians 1:1-13. If our eternal destinies have already been determined by God since the beginning of time, then why would the Apostle Paul pray for the salvation of all people (1 Timothy 2:1-2)? How could God reason with His chosen nation Israel (Isaiah 1:18)? Why would He tell His people to make the choice of either serving Him or idols (Joshua 24:15; Deuteronomy 30:15-19; Jeremiah 21:8)? How could the Lord draw near to those who seek Him (1 Chronicles 28:9; 2 Chronicles 15:2; Jeremiah 29:13)? How is it possible for people to harden their own hearts against God (Psalm 95:8)? Why should Christians even be concerned about the loss of heavenly rewards (1 Corinthians 3:15; 2 John 8-9)?

           Hence, the Calvinist view of predestination is irrational at best. The Bible presupposes our capacity to reach out to God through faith and humble repentance. God has no desire in punishing the wicked (Ezekiel 18:30-32; 33:10-11). God delights in showing mercy (Micah 7:18). The Lord does act in a contingent manner (Jeremiah 18:1-13). Election is conditioned on faith.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Spirit Of Holiness

[Romans] 1:4 In many cases it is impossible to put a small or a large S rightly to the word Spirit, as the presence and power of the Holy Spirit characterizes the state, and that and the state are both included; so it is here. It is divine, not merely human, perfectness, and by the Holy Spirit, yet it is Christ's state. But it is not merely a state, but that state which consists in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, and is the absolute expression of it. On the whole, I put a large S here, but it is the Son manifested on earth who is spoken of, and characteristic of him. Resurrection was the proof, but he who had eyes to see, saw what came in flesh justified in the Spirit even when here, the same Spirit which was quickening power in resurrection, as 1 Pet. 3.18.

[Romans] 1:4 Hagiosune, the nature and quality itself, as 2 Cor. 7.1 and 1 Thess. 3.13. Distinct from hagiasmos, the practical effect produced, the character in activity, translated 'holiness' in Rom. 6.19, 22; 1 Cor. 1.30; 1 Tim. 2.15; Heb. 12.14; and 'sanctification' in 1 Thess. 4.3; 4.7; 2 Thess. 2.13 and 1 Pet. 1.2. Another word, hagiotes, is used in Heb. 12.10 (the only time in Scripture), for the quality itself.

J.N. Darby's Translation footnotes on Romans 1:4

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Impossibility Of Abiogenesis

  • Discussion:
          -Following is an excerpt from an article originally published by the Cosmos Magazine:

          "Since he and colleague Tracey Lincoln first succeeded in creating this artificial genetic system that can undergo self-sustained replication and evolution last year, the molecules have changed dramatically as they evolve better and better solutions."

          Naturalistic atheists seem to believe that the creation of these self-replicating RNA enzymes vindicates the notion of abiogenesis, which is the theory that life originated spontaneously from inanimate materials.

           This effort to demonstrate the possibility of life coming from non-living matter does not hold water, considering that these enzymes did not actually create themselves. They did not simply appear from nothing and start evolving.

          If this scenario proves anything at all, then it only means that all created things require an intelligent designer. After all, these RNA enzymes were created by scientists, who have intelligence. They were developed in laboratory conditions, which are artificial, controlled, and customized by intelligent beings.

          There is no scientific evidence existing to support the idea of a self-sustaining cell that could arise spontaneously in the appropriate environment. The modern theories of abiogenesis cannot account for the extraordinary complexity and design of living organisms. Neither is there a known explanatory mechanism for how such an unguided process could work.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Problems With The Visions Of Fatima

        The Roman Catholic Church is known for its reports concerning alleged appearances of Mary and angels claiming to deliver important messages from God. What should also warrant our attention is the fact that some of these supernatural phenomena do indeed seem real. Consider, for example, the visions of Fatima. In 1917, three Portuguese shepherd children began experiencing visions for a period of six months from an entity claiming to be Mary, with the final occasion taking place in the sky with the guise of a trembling, dancing sun within the vicinity of 70,000 people.

        The best method of determining the validity of these so-called miracles is to compare the substances of those messages to the inspired pages of Scripture. We have been called to test and prove all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We have been called to test the spirits to see whether they originated from God (1 John 4:1-4). No professed prophet is to be embraced at face value, even if he is performing wonderful signs and wonders (Deuteronomy 13:1-5). Scripture also speaks of false miracles that are only intended to deceive (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

        Unfortunately, such is the case with the Church of Rome welcoming and encouraging adherents to accept the veracity of these so-called Marian apparitions. The Fatima episodes are an excellent illustration as to why these visions should categorically be rejected on the grounds of being blasphemous. In other words, they are blatantly unscriptural and unchristian. Consider the implications of this message attributed to the Lady of Fatima:

        "Our Lady said that many souls would be saved from Hell and the annihilation of nations averted if, in time, devotion to Her Immaculate Heart were established..." (Fatima.org)

        Nowhere does the gospel mention anything about devotion to the heart of Mary. Nowhere does the New Testament ascribe supernatural powers and roles to the mother of Jesus Christ. Mary is not venerated by anyone in Scripture. Never do we see prayers dedicated to beings other than God by His people in Scripture, nor does He ever grant us permission to partake in such activity. God is our strength and refuge (Psalm 46:1). He is our help and deliverer (Psalm 40:17). We should trust only in God (Psalm 62:1-8; 73:24-26). The Scriptures testify to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (John 5:39-40). In fact, not even the Holy Spirit points to Himself. He points to Christ (John 16:13). Consider further explanation of the messages announced by the visions at Fatima:

        "He also explained to them the great importance of praying and making sacrifices in reparation for the offenses committed against God. He told them: 'Make of everything you can a sacrifice and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication, for the conversion of sinners." (Fatima.org)

       
"The children were also told to pray and sacrifice themselves for sinners, in order to save them from hell." (Fatima.org)


        "Our Lady said it was necessary for those persons to say the Rosary in order to obtain..reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary."

        On the contrary, the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ was already full atonement for every sin that we could ever commit (Hebrews 10:10-18). He is our High Priest who continually makes intercession for us (Hebrews 7:24-28). He is able to completely save all of those who come to Him by faith. We can approach God with confidence because of what His Son accomplished on our behalf on the cross (Hebrews 4:14-16). We cannot establish our own righteousness (Romans 9:30-10:4). We cannot merit for ourselves God's grace and good favor. The notion that we must atone for sin should be offensive to us in the highest degree. It certainly is to Christ. Thus, the messages proclaimed by the visions of Fatima are totally heretical.

        "She showed Her Heart, surrounded by piercing thorns (which represented the sins against Her Immaculate Heart), to the children, who understood that their sacrifices could help to console Her." (Fatima.org)

        The biblical problem of sin is defined as the threat of mankind suffering eternal condemnation as a consequence for breaking the commandments of God. This stuff regarding sins being committed against the "immaculate heart" of Mary is made up out of whole cloth. Mary has clearly been elevated to the level of deity, conflating her will with the will of God. It needs to be understood that God was not by any means obligated to save us. He could have refused, if He so wanted to. He did not have to choose Mary. God could have found another faithful Jewish woman, if He so desired.

        Notice also that these Roman Catholic apparitions commonly advise the faithful to feverishly meditate on the Rosary, which is just another way to glorify Mary. If these were at all given by God, then they would directly point us to Him, considering that God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:4-5). Instead, these visions continually exalt themselves. At best, these so-called Marian apparitions are spurious messages infested with half-truths. At worst, they are demonic utterances used to deceive the public and provoke God to wrath. Consider the words spoken by the mother of Jesus during the wedding feast at Cana:

        "His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” (John 2:5)

        In other words, the biblical Mary pointed to Jesus Christ Himself. Thus, these Marian apparitions are out of line with the Mary of the Bible. They could not possibly be the real mother of Jesus. One of the Fatima apparitions is reputed to have said the following:

        "In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me and she will be converted and a period of peace will be granted to the world. Only I can help you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God."

        But the truth of the matter is that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only One who can offer us assistance in regard to conversion. He came to save His people (Matthew 1:21). He does not need anybody's help. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). He is our righteousness. He is our salvation (Hebrews 5:9). Furthermore, the final restoration of the world to its original state of perfection cannot and will not happen until the second coming of Christ. Yet, Roman Catholics boldly display this mindset in regards to Mary!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

John Chrysostom And Justification By Faith Alone

          The Armchair Theologian published an excellent article with several excerpts from various church fathers, proving a number of them believed in at least some form justification by faith alone. Following are excerpts from John Chrysostom:

          “Let us see, however, whether the brigand gave evidence of effort and upright deeds and a good yield. Far from his being able to claim even this, he made his way into paradise before the apostles with a mere word, on the basis of faith alone, the intention being for you to learn that it was not so much a case of his sound values prevailing as the Lord’s lovingkindness being completely responsible. What, in fact, did the brigand say? What did he do? Did he fast? Did he weep? Did he tear his garments? Did he display repentance in good time? Not at all: on the cross itself after his utterance he won salvation. Note the rapidity: from cross to heaven, from condemnation to salvation. What were those wonderful words, then? What great power did they have that they brought him such marvelous good things? “Remember me in your kingdom.” What sort of word is that? He asked to receive good things, he showed no concern for them in action; but the one who knew his heart paid attention not to the words but to the attitude of mind.” —John Chrysostom, (347 – 407 AD), Sermon 7 on Genesis, in St. John Chrysostom, Eight Sermons on the Book of Genesis, pp. 123-24 (2004), Robert C. Hill translator.

          “They said that he who adhered to faith alone was cursed; but he, Paul, shows that he who adhered to faith alone is blessed.”- St. John Chrysostom (347 – 407 AD) (Homily on Galatians 3)

          “But he calls it their ‘own righteousness,’ either because the Law was no longer of force, or because it was one of trouble and toil. But this he calls God’s righteousness, that from faith, because it comes entirely from the grace from above, and because men are justified in this case, not by labors, but by the gift of God.”- St. John Chrysostom (347 – 407 AD) (Homily 17 on Romans 10:3)

          “Here he shows God’s power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only.” Homily 7 on Romans- St. John Chrysostom (347 – 407 AD)

          “For you believe the faith; why then do you add other things, as if faith were not sufficient to justify? You make yourselves captive, and you subject yourself to the law.”- St. John Chrysostom (347 – 407 AD) (Epistle to Titus, Homily 3, PG 62.651)

           "But what is the ‘law of faith?’ It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God’s power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only.” St. John Chrysostom, (347 – 407 AD), Homilies on Romans 3

           “We need none of those legal observances, he says; faith suffices to obtain for us the Spirit, and by Him righteousness, and many and great benefits.”- Chrysostom (347 – 407 AD), Homilies on Galatians 4

            “And he well said, “a righteousness of mine own,” not that which I gained by labor and toil, but that which I found from grace. If then he who was so excellent is saved by grace, much more are you. For since it was likely they would say that the righteousness which comes from toil is the greater, he shows that it is dung in comparison with the other. For otherwise I, who was so excellent in it, would not have cast it away, and run to the other. But what is that other? That which is from the faith of God, i.e. it too is given by God. This is the righteousness of God; this is altogether a gift. And the gifts of God far exceed those worthless good deeds, which are due to our own diligence.” Chrysostom, (347 – 407 AD) Homily on Philippians 3

            “God does not wait for time to elapse after repentance. You state your sin, you are justified. You repented, you have been shown mercy.”- St. John Chrysostom, (347 – 407 AD), Homily 7 On Repentance and Compunction, p. 95 in FOTC, vol. 96.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Was King Saul "Born Again?"

         "Then it happened when he turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart; and all those signs came about on that day." (1 Samuel 10:9)

         The context of this passage centers around Saul being anointed by God's Prophet Samuel as king over Israel. Prior to him being appointed by God through His chosen vessel, a group of prophets informed him that the Lord was going to give him a new heart (1 Samuel 10:5-7). This passage of Scripture is most certainly intriguing, seeing how the language seems related to New Testament texts such as 2 Corinthians 5:17.

         Even though Scripture records King Saul as being a poor moral example, we can nevertheless learn from his life experience the inevitable, devastating consequences of living according to the flesh. It was characterized as being envious, vengeful, and murderous. He even committed suicide. But nobody can say with absolute certainty what Saul's eternal destiny was, for only God knows the hearts of man (1 Samuel 16:7). It is possible that he could have earnestly pleaded from the heart that God be merciful to him in his last breath.

           Perhaps Saul came to a point of having saving faith, but walked away from salvation. He may haven chosen not to continue on in that pursuit. He may have been saved. If that is the case, then 1 Samuel 10:9 would be evidence of the Holy Spirit's regenerating work in the Old Testament. Regardless of what Saul's state of heart was, God has the power to use anybody or anything to accomplish His will. This exercise is only meant to provide some food for thought.