Friday, November 15, 2019

Does Romans 2:6-7 Teach That We Are Justified By Faith And Works? (Part 1 Of 2)

  • Discussion:
           -Karlo Broussard of Catholic Answers wrote an article interacting with a few claims made by Ron Rhodes on Romans 2:6-7 and claimed that other passages such as Romans 3:28 are not so much  categorically condemning works as contributing to our justification but specifically works of the Mosaic Law. Following are some of his remarks alongside with a critique:

          "Romans 2:6-7 refers to good works that belong to the moral sphere. The “works” that Paul speaks of in Romans 3:28 and Romans 4:5 refer to works that belonged to the Law of Moses, the keeping of which was necessary for Jews (circumcision, kosher laws, ritual washings, precepts governing the offering of sacrifices, etc.)."

           A colossal problem with the above argument is Romans 3:19-20. The Law is treated as something that the entire world is subjugated to. Man is silenced before God as he stands condemned for his sins  Thus, the Apostle Paul gives the Law and "works of the Law" a universal application.

            In 1 Timothy 1:8-10, Paul uses the term "Law" in a sense broader than boundary markers. In discussing their application, Paul pinpoints moral precepts as the "Law." That destroys the distinction that some try to make between "works" and "works of the Law."

            In Galatians 5:1-3, circumcision was not part of the "moral sphere" of the Law, yet Paul said that those who seek after that ritual must obey it perfectly. That point blows the distinction made between "works" and "works of the Law" out of the water.

           "The two verses immediately following Romans 3:28 bear this out. Right after juxtaposing the standards of faith and “works of law,” Paul writes in verse twenty-nine, “Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one.” This is the premise that leads Paul to the conclusion in the next verse that God will “justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith.” If Paul is juxtaposing faith and circumcision here in verse thirty, then we can conclude that circumcision is the kind of thing he has in mind when he juxtaposes faith with “works of law” in verse twenty-eight."

           Paul places faith and circumcision side by side for contrasting effect. It would be wrong to interpret "works of the Law" as referring exclusively to the ceremonial law. Both Jews and Gentiles ("circumcision" and "uncircumcision") are justified by the same means: faith apart from works of merit. That is the Apostle Paul's argument in Romans.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

A Note On The Glory Of Jesus Christ

"When Jesus Christ came from eternity to our temporal world, He missed one thing, the glory that He had with the Father, the honor that He had with the Father. It was impossible for man, even redeemed man, to give Him the same recognition, the same honor, the same renown that He enjoyed with the Father in His preincarnate state. That in no sense meant that He left behind any part, or the whole, of His deity, or any or all of His divine attributes, but simply that by coming down here on earth He did not have the same recognition among men, among His creatures, even His redeemed ones, as He had with the co-eternal and co-equal Father. To recognize all that lies within another person, you must possess as much or more."

Spiros Zodhiates, Was Christ God?, p. 92

Monday, November 11, 2019

Is Intelligent Design Unscientific And Unfalsifiable?

  • Discussion:
          -It has been asserted that in order for a scientific hypothesis to be valid, it must satisfy the requirement of falsifiability, which was proposed by the philosopher Karl Popper. In other words, it is assumed that a postulate cannot be regarded as a true scientific theory if it is unable to be shown that it is wrong. One objection to intelligent design is that it fails the test for falsifiability due to proponents attributing various designed features in our universe to a god which has been deemed an unknowable cause. However, it can be adequately demonstrated that intelligent design theory is not only scientific, but also falsifiable.

          Cells literally contain several volumes of information. They contain genetic information known as DNA, which operates in a manner similar to a software program. It is an observable fact that an intelligent, conscious mind is the source of any information that is intended to be practical and useful. Examples would include a newspaper or a journal entry. It is an observable fact that functional systems which contain specified information are the product of a mind. A computer is a classic example of this point. There is no reason to believe that a cell is an exception to the rule, as it clearly has the fingermarks of a Designer. To assert that organized complexity can just naturally happen does not make sense. Our common human experience is that meaningful complexity comes from a mind. Intelligent design advocates are just believing what is common to human experience. Stephen C. Meyer makes these pertinent remarks:

          "This connection between information and prior intelligence enables us to detect or infer intelligent activity even from unobservable sources in the distant past. Archeologists infer ancient scribes from hieroglyphic inscriptions. SETI’s search for extraterrestrial intelligence presupposes that information imbedded in electromagnetic signals from space would indicate an intelligent source. Radio astronomers have not found any such signal from distant star systems; but closer to home, molecular biologists have discovered information in the cell, suggesting — by the same logic that underwrites the SETI program and ordinary scientific reasoning about other informational artifacts — an intelligent source."

          The claim that intelligent design should be rejected due to being unscientific is false because the concept is indeed based on empirical observation. It is derived from inferences made on biological and cosmological structures. DNA requires a mind because language requires intentional thinking. That certainly sounds like a theory that can be tested.

          If one wishes to falsify intelligent design theory, then it needs to be demonstrated how intelligence could arise from nonliving scientific laws. Another approach that can be taken regarding the objection of intelligent design being unfalsifiable is to question the falsifiability of the principle of falsifiability. Some truths are regarded as self-evident. Examples would include human rights being inalienable and the law of non-contradiction. We also have to keep in mind that scientific laws (meaning reality and how it functions) are created and maintained through the continuing governance of God.

The Anthropic Principle And Intelligent Design

The "anthropic principle"-from the Greek word anthropos, meaning "man"-recognizes that conditions on earth are ideal, apparently by design, for the existence of human (and other) life.

An objective examination of the universe indicates that it is finely tuned-adjusted precisely-for the existence of complex life. Following is a sample of key factors:
  • Earth is just the right distance from the sun for life to survive. If Earth were too close to the sun, everything would burn up. If it were too far from the sun, everything would freeze.
  • There is just enough oxygen on Earth-comprising 21 percent of the atmosphere-for life to exist. If there were too much oxygen (25 percent or more), things would catch on fire too easily; all oxidizing processes would proceed too rapidly. If there were not enough oxygen (say, 15 percent), living beings would suffocate.
  • The level of water vapor in the atmosphere is just right for life on Earth. Too much water vapor in the atmosphere would cause a runaway green-house effect. The planet would become too hot for human life. Too little water vapor in the atmosphere would yield an insufficient greenhouse effect, and the planet would get too cold.
  • Volcanoes are necessary for the spreading of soil nutrients. Too many volcanoes, however, would cause critical energy from the sun to be blocked by clouds of volcanic ash.
  • The Earth has one moon, which is just the right size. If Earth had more than one moon, or if our one moon were much larger, there would be tidal instability on earth. In fact, a much larger moon might cause tidal waves to engulf the land.
  • Jupiter, a giant planet with a phenomenally strong gravitational pull, attracts asteroids and comets that Earth does not because of its small and commensurately weaker gravitational pull.
The reality is that there are numerous highly improbable factors that have to be precisely in place in a balanced fashion for survival of life on Earth. Without any one of these factors, life would not be possible. Life, however, exists on Earth precisely because these conditions are just right for life.

The above excerpt was taken from a pamphlet titled Intelligent Design: What You Need To Know (Quick Reference Guide), by Ron Rhodes

Friday, November 8, 2019

Notes On The Corrupt Ministry Of Todd Bentley

In 2008, Canadian-born evangelist Todd Bentley became a household name in charismatic circles when he aired nightly revival services from Lakeland, Florida, for several months. Bentley was known for shouting, "Bam!" as he smacked people on the head—or kicked them—during prayer for healing. He claimed that an angel had been sent by God to bring a great revival to America that would start in his meetings.

But as quickly as Bentley could say, "Bam!" the so-called Lakeland Revival imploded. The meetings, broadcast by GOD-TV, were shut down after news that Bentley had been carrying on an extramarital affair with a woman who had served as his family's nanny. He later divorced his wife, Shonnah; married the second woman, Jessa; and moved to North Carolina to be quickly restored to ministry by author Rick Joyner.

Immediately after the first fiasco, Joyner provided spiritual oversight for Bentley and eventually became convinced the fallen preacher was ready to go back on the road. Bill Johnson, pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California, released a 2011 statement saying that he felt Bentley was ready to be back in the pulpit.

Fast-forward to 2019, and another Bentley scandal has erupted. Stephen Powell, who leads Lion of Light Ministries released a public statement saying he has evidence that Bentley has been engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior with both men and women over the past few years. Powell, an estranged protégé of Bentley's, says he took his accusations to Rick Joyner and that Joyner didn't do anything to protect the people hurt by Bentley.

"I believe Todd has proven over more than two decades of ministry, moral failures and abuse of others that he cannot be trusted with the care of God's people," said Powell in an Aug. 22 post on Facebook. "I believe Todd is not fit for public ministry. On top of his sexual sins, he has proven to be a compulsive liar, he lacks financial integrity when handling God's money and he is a substance abuser that has drawn many others into these sins with him over the years."

Bentley posted a rambling response to his former associate on Aug. 23. While admitting that he does "have a past," he called Powell's charges gossip and hearsay. "The majority of these accusations are absolutely not true. Not all, but the majority," Bentley said. "However, there are some that are true, some that even are partial truths. Much are exaggerated and are based on personal speculation."

Joyner also posted a video response, saying he completed Bentley's restoration process in 2012 and no longer provides spiritual covering for him. Joyner also accused Powell of "witchcraft" for coming forward with the embarrassing charges.

This ugly scandal, which feels like deja vu all over again, has triggered numerous questions from ministry leaders and people in the pews about how to deal with preachers who fail morally. How long is a restoration process? How long should a fallen leader step out of ministry? Should there be a "three strikes and you're out" rule? Is a leader ever permanently disqualified?

Personally, I blame the system for this current mess. We charismatics are more enamored with "the anointing" than character. We run after healings and miracles, even if they are questionably manufactured. We chase gold dust, feathers, goosebumps and smackdowns instead of holiness, biblical revelation and true repentance. We are addicted to hype.

More than a decade ago some people put Todd Bentley on a pedestal because he claimed to have exotic supernatural powers—and many didn't care that he abandoned one wife for another. Now we are paying for that folly. It remains to be seen whether we will clean up our act this time.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Why The Deity Of Jesus Christ Matters

"The examination, then, of the evidence as to whether Jesus Christ was God is of basic and paramount importance to the Christian, for if He was not God, then the Christian religion is no different from any of the other religions of the world. It would be merely a natural religion. But if Jesus Christ was truly God, if He was really existent before His birth as a human being in Bethlehem, then the Christian religion is a supernatural religion."

Spiros Zodhiates, Was Christ God?, p. 35

The Meaning Of Jesus Christ Being In The Bosom Of The Father In John 1:18

"...Jesus Christ in His full deity has always been in the bosom of the Father. What does that expression mean? The Greek word for "bosom" is kolpos, which usually refers to something physical. It is the upper part of the body in the general area of which the heart is located. The heart is always considered as the seat of our affections. We also saw that God is Spirit and must not be conceived as a physical personality. Yet it is sometimes necessary for us physical beings to use physical expressions to understand spiritual realities. Therefore, in this instance, the bosom is used as an expression of love and constant intimate communion of the Son with the Father. It does not mean that God is like us, with a body and a bosom. We are told, for instance, that when the poor man of Luke 16 died he was brought to "Abraham's bosom." That means to the place where Abraham was, into close communion and fellowship with Abraham. Thus here we are given an idea of the Son with the Father. And this follows perfectly, since through the term monogenees we have full deity ascribed to Jesus Christ, the same nature as the Father. Because of this, He knows the deepest secrets of the Father, and the love between Them is unbroken and unique."

Spiros Zodhiates, Was Christ God?, p. 27

On The Invisibility Of God To The Human Eye

"Although John in his Gospel tells us that "No man hath seen God at any time," we have to understand that this refers to the fullness of His glory. Our little cup could not contain Him, which is why we can only "know in part" (1 Cor. 13). This principle also explains the various theophanies or appearances of God to man. One that is mentioned in the Old Testament is the encounter which God had with Moses. In Exodus 33:11 we read, "And the Lord spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend." Here we are told that God made Himself, not necessarily visible to the physical eye of Moses, but audible to his physical ear. This is further brought out in Numbers 12:8, "With him I will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall be behold." Here the voice of God is heard, but only a "similitude" of God is seen, not God in the fullness of His nature. Therefore there is no contradiction at all between what John declares and the experience of Moses."

Spiros Zodhiates, Was Christ God?, p. 10

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Internal Evidence For The Consistency Of The Old Testament--Authors Recognized Each Other's Works To Be Divinely Authoritative

  • The Author Of Ezra Recognized The Pentateuch (First Five Books Of The Old Testament Which Were Written By Moses; Also Called The Book Of The Law) As Authoritative:
           -"Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God." (Ezra 3:2)
  • The Author Of Nehemiah Recognized The Pentateuch As Authoritative:
           -"Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel." (Nehemiah 8:1)
  • Joshua Added Further Content To The Book Of The Law:
           -"Then Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord." (Joshua 24:26)
  • The Prophets Samuel And Jeremiah Put Into Writing Further Divine Revelation:
           -"Then Samuel explained to the people the behavior of royalty, and wrote it in a book and laid it up before the Lord. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house." (1 Samuel 10:25)
           -"Thus speaks the Lord God of Israel, saying: ‘Write in a book for yourself all the words that I have spoken to you." (Jeremiah 30:2)
  • The Books Of Chronicles Are Mentioned In 1 Kings:
           -"Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, how he made war and how he reigned, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel." (1 Kings 14:19)
           -"Now the rest of the acts of Rehoboam and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?" (1 Kings 14:29)
  • The Prophet Daniel Refers To The Writings Of Jeremiah As Inspired Scripture:
           -"in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem." (Daniel 9:2)
  • The Prophet Zechariah Implicitly Refers To The Writings Of Other Prophets Who Were Alive Beforehand:
           -"Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the Lord of hosts." (Zechariah 7:12)

Friday, November 1, 2019

Does Genesis 15:6 Preclude Us Being Reckoned Righteous By Meritorious Works?

  • Discussion:
          -Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers wrote an article on the text of Genesis 15:6 as it relates to justification and how he thinks that the text should be applied in soteriological discussions. Following are his remarks alongside with a critique:

          "Abraham is already a follower of God, someone who already has faith in him, and the context stresses Abraham’s good works and righteousness: (1) He defeated the evil kings. (2) He rescued Lot and the other captives. (3) He went to a priest of God and gave thanks for the victory. (4) He refused any reward from the wicked king of Sodom. (5) And so God himself promised to give Abraham a reward instead. (6) The fact that God is rewarding Abraham for what he has done shows this isn’t a case of a sinner coming to God and repenting so he can obtain forgiveness. It’s God rewarding a follower for faithful service. That means Abraham isn’t acquiring righteousness here for the first time. He is already righteous, as his actions have shown. Then Abraham believes the incredible promise that he will have a multitude of descendants, despite his age (cf. Rom. 4:19, Heb. 11:12), and God reckons that act of belief as a new act of righteousness on Abraham’s part."

          None of the above comments really address the text of Genesis 15:6 on its own terms. The "it" is a reference to Abraham's faith. His faith is the basis for receiving righteousness. That belief does not preclude the obedience of Abraham. His trust in God and His promises was the instrumental cause of him being counted righteous, not any good works that he did. 
          "Some translations bring this aspect out better than others. The New American Bible does a particularly good job. It says that the Lord “attributed it to him as an act of righteousness.” Notice, by the way, that Abraham’s act of faith also wasn’t generic in nature. Abraham already believed in and trusted God in a general way. Here he is believing something very specific: that God will give him a multitude of descendants—a point Paul recognizes when he uses the verse (Rom. 4:17-22). And notice that the righteousness isn’t a counterfactual, purely legal thing. Instead, believing God when he tells you he will do something is a righteous act. Abraham did something actually righteous here."

          There are translational differences. Many readings are legitimate. However, it is important to note that the addition of the word "act" is not present in the vast majority of translations. Moreover, it is absent from the Hebrew. The Hebrew word in Genesis 15:6 is "tsedaqah," which refers to justice or righteousness. It denotes a state of being righteous or just. It is referring to what something is. The New English Translation has this footnote on Genesis 15:6:

           "tn The sentence begins with vav (ו) plus a perfect verb. It does not show simple sequence, which would have been indicated with a vav plus preterite as in the surrounding clauses. The nuance may be that Abram had already come to believe or did so while God was speaking. For a detailed discussion of the vav plus perfect construction in Hebrew narrative, see R. Longacre, “Weqatal Forms in Biblical Hebrew Prose: A Discourse-modular Approach,” Biblical Hebrew and Discourse Linguistics, 50-98. The verb אָמַן (ʾaman) occurs with a Niphal and Hiphil opposition. In the Niphal it means “to be faithful, reliable, firm, enduring.” While in the Hiphil, the form used here, it means “to consider or treat something as reliable, or dependable.” Abram regarded God as reliable for this promise; he believed."

           The Jewish Study Bible has this excerpt on Genesis 15:6:

           "With nothing more than an extravagant reiteration of the promise of offspring, Abram drops his question and trusts in the LORD. "And thus you find," observes an ancient midrash about this verse, "that our father Abraham inherited this world and the world-to-come only as a reward for the faith that he had" (Mek. of Rabbi Ishmael, beshallab 7). In the Tanakh, faith does not mean believing in spite of the evidence. It means trusting profoundly in a person, in this case the personal God who has reiterated His promise."

           Richard D. Phillips, in the book titled By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification, p. 81-82, expounds on Paul's usage of Genesis 15:6 in Romans 4:

           "Paul is contrasting two approaches to righteousness. The one is secured by works and the other by faith. The one is based on merit ("his due") and the other on grace ("as a gift")...Most significant is Paul's contrast between something that is earned, so that it is credited to the person "as his due," verses something that is received by faith, which is received "as a gift." In other words, Paul says that Abraham received righteousness not as something he did but because of God's gracious gift. Carson explains: "Romans 4:4 establishes that there is a crediting, an imputing, that means something is credited to your account that you do not deserve." This means that "when faith is imputed to Abraham as righteousness, it is unmerited, it is all of grace, because it is nothing more than believing God and his gracious promise." Paul's whole argument here is that while Abraham's believing is correlated to his being credited with righteousness, this is not because he did something to earn it."

           The line of reasoning in the excerpt from Mr. Akin seems to reduce the promises made by God to Abraham to be something short of the gospel. Galatians 3:8, however, clearly says that gospel was announced to him in advance. Abraham looked forward to Jesus' day, and rejoiced (John 8:56-58).