Tuesday, May 28, 2019

1 Peter 3:15 And The Deity Of Jesus Christ

  • Discussion:
          -1 Peter 3:15 is early evidence for a high Christology. It shows that the earliest Christians believed Jesus Christ to be fully God. This passage is cited as follows:

          "but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect." (emphasis added)

          1 Peter 3:13-14 is an allusion to Isaiah 8. A connection is made with Isaiah 8:13:

          “But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread." (emphasis added)

          Peter substitutes the Old Testament title "the Lord of hosts" with "Christ the Lord," thereby proving that he believed Jesus Christ to be God in the flesh. Both are given the same reverence. We are to honor Christ as the Holy One. The New English Translation says that:

          "tc Most later mss (P M) have θεόν (theon, “God”) instead of Χριστόν (Christon; “Christ”) here. But Χριστόν is widely supported by excellent and early witnesses (P א A B C Ψ 33 1739 al latt sy co), and as a less common idiom better explains the rise of the other reading."

Is Mary The New Eve?

        This source explains the Roman Catholic idea of Mary being the New Eve as follows:

        "Eve, the wife of Adam, became the "mother of all the living," as we read in Genesis, chapter 3, verse 20. Because of Adam and Eve's disobedience to God, sin and death entered the world, and all of Eve's children are born in original sin. Through the obedience of Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, Jesus Christ entered the world as man to reverse the disobedience of Adam and Eve. For this reason, Christ is considered the "New Adam." Christ, the Son of Mary, offers a new life of grace to all who believe in Him. All who accept Christ's invitation become His brothers and sisters, and become the spiritual children of Mary, the New Eve."

        The Scripture places the blame for sin entering into this world on Adam rather than Eve (Romans 5:12-21). The reason for this is that he received firsthand knowledge from God and still disobeyed. Paul develops a typological parallel between Christ and Adam: the former brought life upon mankind whereas the latter brought about death (1 Corinthians 15:45-47). Therefore, any notion of Mary being the New Eve collapses because the responsibility for the fall is attributed exclusively to Adam (even though the woman had sinned). The Apostle Paul does not extend this parallel to Eve.

        Early Christian writers such as Justin Martyr made parallels between Eve and Mary. Irenaeus wrote the following in his Against Heresies:

        "For just as the former was led astray by the word of an angel, so that she fled from God when she had transgressed His word; so did the latter, by an angelic communication, receive the glad tidings that she should sustain (portaret) God, being obedient to His word. And if the former did disobey God, yet the latter was persuaded to be obedient to God, in order that the Virgin Mary might become the patroness (advocata) of the virgin Eve. And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so is it rescued by a virgin; virginal disobedience having been balanced in the opposite scale by virginal obedience. For in the same way the sin of the first created man (protoplasti) receives amendment by the correction of the First-begotten, and the coming of the serpent is conquered by the harmlessness of the dove, those bonds being unloosed by which we had been fast bound to death."

        The articulated parallel does not amount to the full theological developments within Roman Catholicism. It is not about Mary being a mediator of grace or an intercessor of sorts. Simply put, parallels are established between the fall and redemption with Jesus Christ being the central figure of preeminence as the new Adam.

        Mary is like Eve in that she is a woman and that she gives birth to the promised seed. However, any idea of there being a salvific parallel between Mary and Eve goes beyond what is taught in Scripture. The authors of the New Testament nowhere apply a concept of divine motherhood to Mary over the church. Mary is blessed in that she found favor with God, but she is not greater in holiness and grace than any other believer in Jesus Christ. Mary is not the mother of a new humanity any more than was her own mother.

        The only woman mentioned in the New Testament and given the title of "mother" in a spiritual sense is Sarah (1 Peter 3:6). However, even that status is due to the fact of her being a good moral example rather than anything relating to saintly intercession.

Was Jesus Christ Married?

"The canonical Gospels, (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) preclude any option of understanding Jesus as married. He operates as an unmarried teacher with a band of devoted disciples. He is not the head of a household, but builds a household of faith — the church. At the crucifixion, he assigns John responsibility for caring for Mary, his mother. There is no mention of any wife, and certainly no mention of children."


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Ossuary Of James: Early Evidence For The Existence Of Jesus Christ

The judge cleared the accused of all charges of forgery.

Let us consider the accusation about the ossuary with the inscription "James the son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." All (without exception) agree that the ossuary itself is authentic and ancient (first century). The question is whether the inscription in it is forged, or more specifically, whether the phrase "brother of Jesus" was recently added to the old inscription "James the son of Joseph."

The inscription "James the son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" in the Ossuary of James is the best known of the case. Paleographic analyzes and the existence of ancient patina suggest that the inscription is authentic.

The first stop in any investigation on this question would be at the door of paleographers - scholars who can date and authenticate the inscriptions of certain specific historical periods based on the style and position of the letters. In this case, the inscription was authenticated by two of the world's greatest authorities in Palaeography at the present time, as previously mentioned, Andre Lemaire of the Sorbonne University and Ada Yardeni of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

What is even more significant is that no paleographer of any reputation has suggested that this inscription may be a forgery. There is no "other side of the issue," speaking in terms of Palaeography.

Nor is the supposedly scientific charge upheld. Professor Yuval Goren of Tel Aviv University said he had found what he called the "James Bond", which covered the inscription to conceal evidence of forgery. The "James Bond" was, he said, a mixture of limestone and hot water that formed a false patina. However, it was discovered there was no way to make the hypothetical mixture of Goren fix on the surface of the Ossuary without the addition of an acid; traces of it would be found - and they were not there. This so-called James Bond "explanation" is so fragile that it can be removed with a toothpick; She was ill "washed up". Yuval Goren himself admitted that his "James Bond" could be the result of cleaning the ossuary (some traders routinely wash objects with hot water to highlight inscriptions).

More important than this is that the original ancient patina can be seen in various parts of the inscription, including one of the letters of the word "Jesus". Before the trial, Yuval Goren had stated that there was no ancient patina in the inscription. When he was presented on the cross-examination with new photos taken by one of the defendant's experts, Professor Goren was stunned and asked for a recess to allow him time to examine the box itself rather than the photos. He returned the next day and admitted in court that there was, in fact, original old patina in some of the parts of the inscription. However, he attempted to explain this, suggesting that the forger had incorporated ancient scratches into the naturally formed patina, pointing this as evidence of the forged parts of the inscription. About this, Hershel Shanks, editor of the journal Biblical Archaeological Review, said: "If anyone believes this, I'd like to say that I own a public bridge and I'd like to sell it a lot cheaper. " In fact, the presence of this original ancient patina throughout the inscription was observed long before the judgment, by Orna Cohen, one of the members of the committee of the Antiquities Authority of Israel, but no one paid attention to this. The IAA knew where it wanted to go.

There are other, simpler reasons for believing that the inscription is not a forgery. Oded Golan had owned the James Ossuary since the 1970s. He proved this with old photographs authenticated by a former FBI agent in which a type of paper is used that is no longer used at a later date. And Golan has never tried to sell the ossuary or to disclose the inscription. He strongly states that he did not even know that the New Testament mentions James as the brother of Jesus, or as he said, "I never knew that God could have a brother." Even more understandably, he had no idea that the name Ya'acov as written in the ossuary) and Jacob (for any Israeli) was translated as "James" in the New Testament in English.


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Catholic Apologists And The Perpetual Virginity Of Mary

  • Discussion:
          -Roman Catholic apologist De Maria attempted to refute in the comments section of an article of his, where he had a dispute with a fellow blogger, to my main post addressing the perpetual virginity of Mary. The intention in sharing that article was only to clarify matters, but only resulted in more feisty objections that are addressed as follows:

          "The New Testament was originally passed on in Tradition. This is what Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:18-21)."

          First of all, those teachings were written down in epistles. Secondly, the Great Commission is about the preaching of the gospel (which is identified in Scripture). For a more in-depth examination of claims regarding "Sacred Tradition," see this article:


          "The original Scriptures were not written in English. Nor were they written in modern Greek. They were written in ancient Greek and Latin. And they were written by Catholics who were simply writing down Catholic Doctrine. The same Doctrine which Jesus Christ passed down."

          The original New Testament was not composed in Latin. The Vulgate was a translation of the original manuscripts, and not without textual defects. Moreover, it is not as though the vast majority of New Testament scholars who are acquainted with Koine Greek would affirm the perpetual virginity of Mary.

          Notice how De Maria argues in a circle as he fights tooth and nail for the Roman Catholic dogma of Mary's perpetual virginity.

          "You're reading the New Testament in modern English 2000 years removed from the ancient Jewish culture which gave birth to the Christian faith."

          The real problem is that the Roman Catholic Church has derived its dogma from extra-biblical apocryphal sources. See this article for more details:


          The following excerpt from the Jewish Encyclopedia is also helpful here:

          "In post-Biblical literature Jewish opinion stands out clear and simple: marriage is a duty, and celibacy a sin. "The world was created to produce life; He created it not a waste, He formed it to be inhabited" (Isa. xlv. 18; Giṭ. iv. 5 = 'Eduy. i. 13). "Be fruitful, and multiply" (Gen. i. 28) is taken as a command; marriage with a view to that end is a duty incumbent upon every male adult (according to some the duty devolves also upon woman; Yeb. vi. 8; Maimonides, "Yad," Ishut, xv.; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Eben ha-'Ezer, 1, 13)...Abstention from marital intercourse on the part of the husband exceeding a legitimate limit, which varies with the different occupations, may be taken by the wife as ground for a divorce (Ket. v. 6, 7). A single man who is past twenty may be compelled by the court to marry (Shulḥan 'Aruk, l.c. i. 3)."

          "[in response to Matthew 13:55-57 and Mark 6:3-4] Only if you follow the traditions of men which Protestants believe. However, Tradition and Scripture tell us that Jesus was an only child. Therefore, any use of the word "adelphoi" must be in the general sense that we use the word "brother" today. As in good friend, cousin, church companion, and many other senses."

          Nowhere does Scripture expressly state that Jesus Christ was an only child or that Mary remained a virgin for her entire life. Never in Scripture do we see the Angel Gabriel or some other messenger sent by God to tell Joseph that he was not to consummate his marriage. The basis for Mary's perpetual virginity is uninspired legends and unreasonable inferences that go far beyond Scripture.

          Adelphoi does not always mean physical brothers. Nonetheless, the New Testament does not use the Greek word to mean cousin. The context of these passages demands that we understand the brothers and sisters to mean blood relatives. British Methodist theologian and scholar Adam Clarke said the following in his commentary on Matthew 13:55:

          "Why should the children of another family be brought in here to share a reproach which it is evident was designed for Joseph the carpenter, Mary his wife, Jesus their son, and their other children? Prejudice apart, would not any person of plain common sense suppose, from this account, that these were the children of Joseph and Mary, and the brothers and sisters of our Lord, according to the flesh?"

          If a person wants to argue that the brothers and sisters of Jesus are from a previous marriage, then one question that needs to be answered is why they were nowhere mentioned during the escape to and return from Egypt (Matthew 2). The context only presents Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. Why were the relatives not mentioned when Joseph traveled with Mary to Bethlehem for the census (Luke 2)?

          "And the writer knew that Catholics would understand the true meaning of the word. And if they didn't, they have an infallible Teacher to correct them."

          The point being stressed here is that the New Testament uses language in such a precise fashion that the Roman Catholic dogma of Mary's perpetual virginity is rendered highly improbable. Why would the Holy Spirit move people to write in a way that contradicts our common sense? If the inspired writers of the New Testament actually believed this dogma, then why did they not forthrightly proclaim it as truth?

          "[In response to Matthew 1:24-25] The entire idea presented there is "knew her not". This is a perfect example of you treating ancient Jewish speech patterns the same as modern English. But you assume too much. heos hou, or "until", was used differently by Jews than by modern English speakers. So, let's look at the Scripture. Matthew "knew her not until". To, English speakers, that means that Matthew did not know her until a certain point in time and then he did. But to an ancient Jew, that isn't the case. Let me give you an example (2 Samuel 6:23)."

          As an answer to the above quibbles, this excerpt from a paper by Wayne Jackson has been cited:

          "Matthew declares that Joseph “knew not” (i.e., was not sexually intimate with; cf. Gen. 4:1) Mary “until [heos hou] she had given birth to a son” (1:25).While the expression heos hou does not absolutely demand that Joseph and Mary were intimate after Jesus’ birth, that would be the normal conclusion, unless contextual considerations indicated otherwise (cf. 2 Sam. 6:23). In fact, “elsewhere in the New Testament (17:9 24:39; cf. John 9:18) the phrase (heos hou) followed by a negative always implies that the negated action did take place later” (Lewis, 1.42).There is no valid reason why Matthew 1:25 should be the exception."

          "Even that doesn't show a change of status after the wedding day, if read in the culture of the ancient Jews."

           Relations between marital partners is seen as normal in the Old Testament (Genesis 2:22-24). According to Jewish law, one could not be considered married without consummation. Celibacy was not the norm, except among certain members of the Essenes. Sexual relations are a part of God's design for marriage. It is a measure that brings about sanctity and honor (Hebrews 13:4).

          "[In response to Matthew 1:18] Again, since Catholics have always knows that they never came together sexually, then we know that there must be an alternate meaning. That meaning must be "before they came together in one household."

          Matthew 1 speaks of being betrothed but not yet having slept together. The details provided by the gospel narratives strongly indicate normal marital relations between Mary and Joseph.

          "[In response to Psalm 69:8-9] Lol! Really? That is a prophet saying that he has alienated himself from the entire nation of Israel. Have you ever heard that Israel killed the prophets. Come on."

          Psalm 69 is obviously messianic in nature, although not every detail is pertinent to Jesus Christ. Psalm 69:8 was quoted in John 7:3-5. Psalm 69:9 was quoted in John 2:17. Psalm 69:21 was quoted in Matthew 27:34. Psalm 69:25 was quoted in Matthew 23:38. Reading the context of Psalm 69 gives us the imagery of one being alienated. That is exactly what has been reported in the gospel accounts regarding Christ. The text is troublesome for the Roman Catholic dogma of Mary's perpetual virginity because it refers to "my brothers" and "my mother's sons."

          "[Responding to Luke 2:7] Read about Jewish culture. It would do you a world of good. Ok, let's see. OT Jews were polygamous. Let's say that Jew#1 had two wives. One of them had the Firstborn son and that's all. The other had the rest of the children. All boys. The Firstborn would receive double the inheritance of the other boys. That's all. It doesn't mean that wife #1 had any more children. Jesus was Mary's first and only son."

           We are not given any indication that 1.) most Jews were polygamous, 2.) that Joseph was polygamous, or even 3.) that Joseph could afford to have multiple wives. Even if any of these points are true, they are beside the point and incidental.

          "[Responding to the question of how marriage consummation would defile Mary] One of the main reasons is that we know that Joseph was a righteous man. In Scripture, righteous men do not have sexual relations with other men's wives. Joseph knew that the Holy Spirit had brought about the birth of Christ. And that means that Mary had become the spouse of the Holy Spirit. Joseph would not dare come to know her physically."

          Scripture never affirms or even hints at the idea that the Holy Spirit "married" Mary or she became His spiritual wife. That is a man-made concept. The Holy Spirit is not like a Roman or Greek god who has sexual relations with a human being and a god-man is born. The Holy Spirit is not physical. Mary was simply "overshadowed" by the Holy Spirit. His divine power created the physical body of Jesus Christ in her womb.

          "[In Response to John 7:1-10, Acts 1:13-14, and Galatians 1:18-19] In all those passages, the context shows that they were either some other relative or close friends, but in context with the Traditions which were passed down by Jesus Christ, we know that they were not the children of Mary."

          There is simply no valid reason to believe that the siblings of Jesus were cousins or from some previous marriage. Those theories are bereft of a truthful foundation.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Why Does God Allow War?

"As I contemplate human nature and human life, what astonishes me is not that God allows and permits war, but the patience and the long-suffering of God. “He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). He suffered the evil, perverse ways of the children of Israel for centuries; and now for nearly two thousand years He has patiently borne with a world that in the main rejects and refuses His loving offer, even in the Person of His only-begotten Son. The question that needs to be asked is not, “Why does God allow war?” but rather, “Why does God not allow the world to destroy itself entirely in its iniquity and its sin?” Why does He in His restraining grace set a limit to evil and to sin, and a bound beyond which they cannot pass?

Oh, the amazing patience of God with this sinful world! How wondrous is His love! He has sent the Son of His love to our world to die for us and to save us; and because men cannot and will not see this, God permits and allows such things as war to chastise and to punish us, to teach us and to convict us of our sins, and above all to call us to repentance and acceptance of His gracious offer. The vital question for us therefore is not to ask, “Why does God allow war?” The question for us is to make sure that we are learning the lesson and repenting before God for the sin in our own hearts and in the entire human race that leads to such results. May God grant us understanding and the true spirit of repentance, for His name’s sake."

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The False Authority Of The Mormon Priesthood

          The Mormon church explains its dogma of an ordained ministerial priesthood after the order of Melchizedek and its secondary Aaronic priesthood as follows:

         “There are, in the church, two priesthoods, namely, the Melchizedek and Aaronic, including the Levitical Priesthood. Why the first is called the Melchizedek Priesthood is because Melchizedek was such a great high priest. Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God. But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood. All other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to this priesthood. … The second priesthood is called the Priesthood of Aaron, because it was conferred upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations. Why it is called the lesser priesthood is because it is an appendage to the greater, or the Melchizedek Priesthood, and has power in administering outward ordinances.” (Doctrine and Covenants 107:1–5, 13–14)

         Melchizedek, whose name literally means king of peace and righteousness, was a distinct kind of priest who directs our attention to the perfect, unique priesthood of Jesus Christ. The position of High Priest is exclusively reserved for Christ. His priesthood, which is of Melchizedek's priestly descent, is superior to the Levitical priesthood because it is eternal (Hebrews 7:11-12; 23-25). Jesus Christ forever lives to make intercession for those who approach Him. This source says the following about the meaning of the word "unchangeable" found in Hebrews 7:24:

          "The key word is “unchangeable” (aparabatos), which suggests that the Lord’s priesthood is imperishable. Some suggest that the meaning of the Greek term is simply “permanent, unchangeable” (F.W. Danker, et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Chicago: University of Chicago, 2000, p. 97), which, of itself, would eliminate the Mormon idea. But even more to the point is the proposed meaning “non-transferable” (C. Spiqu, Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994, 1.143-44). That would specifically deny that it could pass to other persons."

         Thus, the Mormon church's claim to possessing a priesthood after the order of Melchizedek has been fabricated out of thin air. It has not been sanctioned by God. Men have arrogated for themselves a position that only Christ can take on.

          The Old Testament records the role of priest belonging exclusively to members of the Tribe of Levi (Numbers 18:1-7; Leviticus 6:19-23; Nehemiah 7:61-65). The majority of Mormons, along with Joseph Smith, have asserted that they are descendants of the Tribe of Ephraim. It would follow that most Mormon priests in the "Aaronic" role are under the wrath of God because they have assumed a position that does not belong to them but to the Levites (Numbers 16:1-14; 1 Kings 13:33-34). The House of Ephraim has no rightful claim to the priesthood.

         The priesthood of Melchizedek is held by Jesus Christ Himself. His eternal priesthood has put an end to the ordained ministerial priesthood (Hebrews 7:11-12; 8:6-7).  The Bible nowhere speaks of a distinguished hierarchy of priests who preside in accordance with Melchizedek. In fact, this ruling male figure is mentioned only twice in the Old Testament as he blessed Abraham (Genesis 14) and in a Messianic Psalm (Psalm 110). The higher order of priesthood in Mormonism has been rendered of no authority.

         Exodus 29:4-27 lists certain rituals that one must perform in order to qualify as a Levitical priest. The Mormon priesthood does not offer blood sacrifices and follow various temple ceremonies as prescribed by the Law. So the "Aaronic" priesthood of Mormonism has been shown to be a fraud.

         Furthermore, the assertion that Mormons have been conferred with an Aaronic priesthood is refuted because that ministerial office has been fulfilled by the Cross. Jesus Christ is the only way in which man in his sinful condition can come near to God. The tearing of the veil in the temple signifies the termination of the Lord dwelling in tabernacles made with human hands (Matthew 27:51-54). The type of priesthood set forth by the New Testament is the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5-9; Revelation 1:5-6).

          The priesthood that was operative during the Old Testament was kept specially for Aaron and offspring within the tribe of Levi (Numbers 3:6). That would disqualify the Mormon priesthood because it contains Gentiles.

          "Researchers who have closely examined the D&C and primary source accounts found that the official narrative of priesthood restoration contains numerous gaps, inconsistencies, and contradictions. Scholars also raise important questions that expose potential weaknesses in Smith and Cowdery's story of their miraculous ordinations. For example, if Joseph and Oliver had experienced events as remarkable and life-altering as divine visitations by John the Baptist and three of Christ's apostles, why would they not tell others? These miraculous ordinations were not publicly revealed or documented until five years after they supposedly occurred. Moreover, if the restoration of the priesthood is a fundamental tenet of the LDS Church, why was this revelation excluded from the Book of Commandments when it was originally published in 1833, only revealed in the revised and re-named Doctrine and Covenants in 1835?" (http://www.mormonthink.com/priesthood.htm#ref4)

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Uniqueness Of The Judeo-Christian God

"Recently, archaeologists working in northern Peru made a discovery they called “disturbing and disquieting.”

Digging in the outskirts of the pre-Columbian city of Chan-Chan, they found the remains of about 140 children and 200 animals, mostly llamas. The condition of the children’s remains made it clear that they had been sacrificed along with the animals, perhaps in response to some emergency or dire threat. According to the Washington Post, it’s the site of “the largest known child sacrifice in the world.”

While this is a very unpleasant subject, it serves as a gruesome reminder of how biblical religion, especially Christianity, changed the course of human history.

Chan-Chan was the capital of the Chimú empire. Before their disturbing find, the archaeologists were not aware that this ancient people practiced child sacrifice. Their hypothesis is that the sacrifices were in response to a severe weather event, perhaps a strong El Niño, which caused catastrophic flooding.

Whatever precipitated the child sacrifice, the Chimú were far from alone in their attempts to placate the gods by slaughtering their children. Their conquerors, the Incan Empire, also practiced child sacrifice in times of emergency.

In the Old World, the Carthaginians, who were descended from the biblical city of Tyre, sacrificed children to their gods at shrines the Hebrew Bible called “tophets.” The Romans made a big deal out of this fact in their anti-Carthaginian propaganda, conveniently omitting the fact that they did the same in response to the Carthaginian general Hannibal’s invasion of Italy.

The Carthaginians weren’t the only ancient people who emulated Canaanite child sacrifice. Pre-exilic Israel practiced this demonic rite, as well. In Jeremiah 7, the Lord denounces the “high place of Topheth” where the people “burn their sons and daughters in the fire.”

On account of this abomination, the Lord said that “I cause to cease from the cities of Judah, and from the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride; for the land shall become a waste.”

Then, of course, there’s that one specific example cited by the Washington Post in its article about the find in Peru: the “Binding of Isaac” in Genesis 22. While parts of this story are perplexing and even troubling, it’s inclusion along with the other examples misses a crucial point: There was never a chance Isaac would be sacrificed.

If Abraham, to quote Bob Dylan’s paraphrase, had replied to God “Man, you must be putting me on,” Isaac lives. If, as actually happened, Abraham was willing to be fully obedient to God’s instruction, Isaac lives because God prevents the sacrifice.

This God, as Christianity would later teach the world, doesn’t demand our children as a sacrifice, but rather sacrificed His own Son on our behalf."


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Answering The Mormons On Baptism For The Dead

          "Many people, however, have died without being baptized. Others were baptized without proper authority. Because God is merciful, He has prepared a way for all people to receive the blessings of baptism. By performing proxy baptisms in behalf of those who have died, Church members offer these blessings to deceased ancestors. Individuals can then choose to accept or reject what has been done in their behalf...Because He is a loving God, the Lord does not damn those people who, through no fault of their own, never had the opportunity for baptism. He has therefore authorized baptisms to be performed by proxy for them. A living person, often a descendant who has become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is baptized in behalf of a deceased person. This work is done by Church members in temples throughout the world." (https://www.lds.org/topics/baptisms-for-the-dead?lang=eng)

          Mormons cite 1 Corinthians 15:29 as biblical evidence that Jesus Christ and the apostles supported their strange practice. However, the problem with this argument is that baptism for the dead is nowhere to be found in Scripture. Paul nowhere approves of Christians holding such a custom. The concept is not taught here. The following note on Paul's language in verse 29 is pertinent here:

          "Paul concludes his argument for the reality of the resurrection of the dead in 15:29–34. He asks several rhetorical questions to add weight to his argument. The first question he asks has been the source of much discussion. “Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?” (v. 29). Numerous interpretations of the meaning of this verse have been suggested.xiv While not without its difficulties, Thiselton’s suggestion is perhaps the most plausible. He argues that baptism on behalf of the dead “refers to the decision of a person or persons to ask for, and to receive baptism as a result of the desire to be united with their believing relatives who have died.”xv In other words, dying believers would urge their unbelieving family members to become Christians in order that they might be together again. Paul, then, is referring to those unbelievers who converted to Christ for this reason as those who were “baptized on behalf of the dead.” If there is no resurrection of the dead, their conversion/baptism was for naught. Paul’s second question concerns the dangers he places himself in (vv. 30–34). If there is no resurrection, then what he is doing is foolish in the extreme."

          In other words, the Apostle Paul said that a tradition among unbelievers was to get baptized for the sake of their deceased loved ones with the yearning and aspiration of being united when they were raised from the grave. His intention is not to provide commentary regarding the efficacy or truthfulness of baptism for the dead, but to illustrate that even the pagan world looked forward to being raised from the dead. One error that persisted amongst some of the first century Corinthian Christians that Paul addressed was a denial of the reality of the resurrection. This excerpt on the Mormon practice of baptism for the dead is insightful here:

         "The silence of the Book of Mormon on baptism for the dead is an important fact, for it means that a single verse in the Bible — 1 Corinthians 15:29 — constitutes its sole mention in ancient Christian Scripture. This is acknowledged by the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (a 1992 work published under the supervision of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS church) — “He [Paul] refers to a practice of vicarious baptism, a practice for which we have no other evidence in the Pauline or other New Testament or early Christian writings."

          This practice is patently absurd when approached from a biblical standpoint. One's eternal destiny is forever sealed at the moment of physical death (Luke 16:22-26). God only rewards individuals according to their own conduct (Ezekiel 18:20). Thus, Scripture contradicts any notion of baptism for the dead.

Is Jesus Drinking The Cup Of God's Wrath A Reference To Penal Substitutionary Atonement?

  • Discussion:
          -This post serves as a rebuttal to Roman Catholic apologist De Maria's article in which he objects to penal substitution as being the biblical model of Christ's atonement. His arguments are concisely listed in quotation marks along with a critique of them:

         "Scripture says that God reserves His wrath towards His enemies."

          First of all, it is absolutely biblical to say that God stores up His wrath for those who oppose Him. This can clearly be seen in texts such as Nahum 1:2-10 and Romans 1:18-32. The point that needs to be emphasized here is the universal depravity of man.

          There exists a debt of sin (against God who is holy) that requires payment (Romans 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:56). No man in his fallen condition could possibly fulfill the necessary demands to make restitution. Thus, Jesus Christ took on human flesh so that the debt of sin could be paid off. He is without sin. An infinite debt requires an infinite payment.

          Penal substitutionary theory in a nutshell states that God Himself paid the full debt for offenses committed against Himself. This view on the atonement cannot reasonably be deemed morally repugnant when properly understood. If we are to be saved from the sentence of eternal condemnation, then it is a logical necessity.

          If people honestly want to be treated fairly by God, then that would mean He show us no graciousness and mercy at all for our sins. Moreover, those who argue that no court system on earth has ever allowed for substitution in any form for certain cases are mistaken. This source provides a handful of counterexamples:

          "...during the Civil War, a man could substitute for another man to go into active service. Likewise, when someone owes a debt to the authorities, anyone can pay for it. So the concept of substitution is applicable in some settings."

          Substitutes for rapists and murderers in our justice system are not authorized because we already know that such convicts will most likely continue in their folly. When we are in heaven, sin will be completely and permanently erased.

          "In both forms of suffering there is pain and frequently, death. However, I can't find in the suffering of God's wrath, any indication of a resurrection. And that is the difference between the suffering of God's wrath and in suffering as God's children in imitation of Christ."

          Jesus Christ raised the question regarding His position to James and John to stress humility. The disciples would indeed be "drinking of the cup" in the sense of being persecuted for His righteous name's sake. The suffering that Christ voluntarily underwent was unique as He made atonement for our sins. No one else has the ability to do that. This source explains that:

        "In the Old Testament, the image of the cup can symbolize God’s blessing; however, in the majority of instances, the cup represents the Lord’s judgment and wrath on wickedness (Ps. 75:8; Isa. 51:22). Here in Mark 10:38, the cup has negative connotations, which means it represents the cup of divine wrath that Jesus would drink on behalf of His people to save them from their sin."

          "And Penal Substitution is proven a false doctrine which contradicts the Word of God."

          The above statement is just a subjective opinion. The Roman Catholic Church has not dogmatically defined a specific theory on the atonement of Jesus Christ. Consider this excerpt on Peter Kreeft and Tacelli’s views regarding penal substitution:

          "I do not think the Church has ever officially accepted some explanations while rejecting others...but I don’t think, properly understood, the Church has ever condemned it.”

           Robert Stackpole is one example of a Roman Catholic scholar who embraces penal substitutionary atonement:

          "...what I have endeavored to show is that the "multi-dimensional mystery" of Christ's saving work, especially in His Passion and Death, needs to include (but is not limited to) the doctrine of "penal substitution": the doctrine that God in Christ, out of His merciful love for us, took upon Himself, in our place, the penalty due to our sins, so that, as St. Paul wrote: "Hence, now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1)."