Thursday, December 23, 2021

Do Matthew 5:43-45 And Matthew 19:16 Refute Justification By Faith Alone?

  • Discussion:
          -The purpose of this article is to address a few arguments made by Tim Staples against Sola Fide. He appeals to the command to love one's neighbor and the parable of the rich young ruler as biblical evidence for the Roman Catholic position. Following are excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

          "The inspired author here quotes Jesus Christ as using a purpose clause in Greek—hotos genesthe huioi tou patros humon to en ouranois—“in order that you may be made sons of your Father in heaven.” That means, in simple terms, you have to do this (love your enemies and pray for your persecutors) in order for that (being made sons of your Father) to become a reality. It really doesn’t get any plainer than that."

          The Holy Spirit pours the love of God into our hearts through His grace. That is related to our justification before God. However, this act of the Spirit is not to be conflated with that instance. The manifestation of love in our lives demonstrates that we have been declared righteous by God. The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary has this excerpt on Matthew 5:43-45:

          "45. That ye may be the children--sons. of your Father which is in heaven--The meaning is, "that ye may show yourselves to be such by resembling Him" (compare Mt 5:9; Eph 5:1). for he maketh his sun--"your Father's sun." Well might BENGEL exclaim, "Magnificent appellation!" to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust--rather, (without the article) "on evil and good, and on just and unjust." When we find God's own procedure held up for imitation in the law, and much more in the prophets (Le 19:2; 20:26; and compare 1 Pe 1:15, 16), we may see that the principle of this surprising verse was nothing new: but the form of it certainly is that of One who spake as never man spake."

          "When Jesus spoke to the rich young man, he was equally clear that it is not enough to believe in him (Christ) to have eternal life. That is part of it (John 3:16). But Jesus says it is also necessary to “keep the commandments” and “sell what you possess . . . and follow” him."

          A young man who was wealthy approached Jesus Christ and asked Him about what kind of works that he needed to accomplish in order to obtain eternal life (Matthew 19:16). He clearly wanted to earn a right standing before God. In response, Christ revealed that the individual fell short of meeting God's perfect standard of obedience to the Law (Matthew 19:21-22). That is true of us all (Romans 3:23). The disciples marveled at this encounter (Matthew 19:25). He concluded the conversation by reinforcing the fact of the impossibility of salvation apart from the work of God (Matthew 19:26). So, rather than refuting justification by faith alone, this passage actually supports the doctrine.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Early Church Evidence Against Transubstantiation

"Moreover, among the Tauri of Pontus, and to the Egyptian Busiris, it was a sacred rite to immolate their guests, and for the Galli to slaughter to Mercury human, or rather inhuman, sacrifices. The Roman sacrificers buried living a Greek man and a Greek woman, a Gallic man and a Gallic woman; and to this day, Jupiter Latiaris is worshipped by them with murder; and, what is worthy of the son of Saturn, he is gorged with the blood of an evil and criminal man. I believe that he himself taught Catiline to conspire under a compact of blood, and Bellona to steep her sacred rites with a draught of human gore, and taught men to heal epilepsy with the blood of a man, that is, with a worse disease. They also are not unlike to him who devour the wild beasts from the arena, besmeared and stained with blood, or fattened with the limbs or the entrails of men. To us it is not lawful either to see or to hear of homicide; and so much do we shrink from human blood, that we do not use the blood even of eatable animals in our food."

The Octavius of Minucius Felix, Chapter XXX

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The "Spirit of God" Or "Wind" In Genesis 1:2?

Genesis 1:1–2 speaks of more than just the act of creation. The text identifies the Creator as “God” and immediately thereafter indicates the possibility of another person of the Godhead at work: “the Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the waters.” The phrase “Spirit of God” (יםִ להֱ אַ רוּח) occurs only fifteen times in the Hebrew Bible and appears always to be a reference to a person, not a wind. In addition, יםִ להֱ א never occurs as an adjective in the Creation account—it always refers to God.8 The evidence is so overwhelming that Hildebrandt reaches a conclusion commensurate with that of Moltmann regarding the personhood of the Spirit of God: “The personhood of God the Holy Spirit is the loving, self-communicating, out-fanning and out-pouring presence of the eternal divine life of the triune God.”9 However, Hildebrandt then warns that taking this too far might lead to “speculative intrusion into the OT references,” since the full development of the personhood of the Spirit of God awaits the NT revelation.10 This hesitation to make the commitment to seeing a divine person as “the Spirit of God” in the second verse of Genesis arises even among some of the strongest evangelical theologians. Merrill, for example, concludes that “The Spirit is to be understood here as an effect of God and not yet, as in New Testament and Christian theology, the third Person of the triune Godhead.”11 

Why the disagreements and even the hesitation to identify “the Spirit of God” in Genesis 1:2 as a person of the Godhead? Part of the resistance comes from the thinking that the interpreter must give due recognition to the ANE setting for the writing of Genesis and its Creation account.12 Is that how we must read Genesis? Must we limit ourselves to the way that pagan, unbelieving, idolatrous ANE cultures viewed God (or, gods)? To yield to this hermeneutic requires one to degrade and even destroy the significant difference between genuine believers in the true God and those who ridicule them for their faith. Their worldviews are (and were) very different. Their value systems are opposed. A rough equivalent in our own day would be to insist that future readers of evangelical books should read them as though evangelicals have adopted the prevailing worldview or Zeitgeist—that our theology and morality actually coincide with non-Christian philosophy and (im)morality in the twenty-first century. If we would scream, “Foul!,” so would the OT writers. Many who write as Hildenbrandt does only intend that we recognize that the OT writers are reacting to and interacting with the unbelieving culture of their day, not adopting the beliefs expressed by pagan myths. However, it doesn’t always come out sounding or smelling that way, especially when someone insists that there is no way that “the Spirit of God” in Genesis 1:2 could be a person of the Godhead, because such a concept was totally foreign to the ANE cultures among whom the Hebrew writers dwelt. 

One must also look at Genesis 6:3 where God refers to “My Spirit.” Hildebrandt’s treatment of this text detours into later revelation before reaching a conclusion. He seeks to place the reference in a context of divine judgment as expressed throughout the OT. He still comes to a result identifying the Spirit as a personal being, but not as independently as the decision he made in 1:2.

Monday, September 13, 2021

An Exegetical Analysis Of Ephesians 2:8-9

        "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

        The Apostle Paul begins this chapter by describing how the world is in terms of its standing before God. Man is utterly lost, under divine judgement for sin. Man in his natural state is enslaved to Satan, living in lawlessness and perusing fleshly desires. But God in His love and graciousness has offered to us a path of redemption. We are set free from sin and death through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He is life to us. It is not because we loved God, but Him having first loved us, that He reached out to man who is helpless to change his own condition. In this passage, Paul evidently made use of themes found in the Old Testament which relate to the giving of the Promised Land:

        "Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end; And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day." (Deuteronomy 8:11-18, emphasis added)

        "Understand therefore this day, that the LORD thy God is he which goeth over before thee; as a consuming fire he shall destroy them, and he shall bring them down before thy face: so shalt thou drive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the LORD hath said unto thee. Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee. Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people." (Deuteronomy 9:3-6, emphasis added)

        God promised that He was going to grant His chosen nation Israel blessings. He ensured that the Jewish people would remain prosperous and secure. God wanted to continually watch over His people. God wanted to continually provide for the needs of His people. He was not, however, carrying through with His oath to their ancestors because of righteous conduct. Rather, He was working things to His glory. God was not blessing Israel because of anything praiseworthy about these people, for they had went after foreign gods and put Him to the test. The Jews were indeed a rebellious people against Him, just like the rest of us. God accomplished great things on their behalf in spite of them being unrighteous. For that reason, there was no grounds for the Jews to boast or become prideful. He wanted them to place their trust in Him. This testifies to the graciousness and mercy of the Lord. 

        Likewise, God offered up His Son Jesus Christ as a sacrifice to make atonement for our sins. He did so, not because of any righteousness that we have, but in spite of our unrighteousness. We have all sinned against Him. We have all broken His Law. Thus, we neither deserve His grace nor His salvation. None of us are worthy of entering the kingdom of God. His offer of eternal life is available without cost to all who come by faith. Justification in His sight is not accomplished by our merits and power, but by God Himself. He wants us to lean on Him. He gives to believers His righteousness. He saves us because He is loving and merciful. There is no room for Christians in this framework to boast, since it is God who pours new life on to our souls through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is He who removes the stains of sin from us. We are not justified by works of righteousness, but by His grace. 

        Compare the phrase "lest anyone should boast" in Ephesians 2:9 with the language of 1 Corinthians 1:28-29: "and the insignificant things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no human may boast before God." It is clear that God despises the pride or exaggerated sense of greatness that is so common to man. He listens to the humble of heart. God uses ordinary people to bring down those who are puffed-up and perceive themselves to be mighty. He uses us to bring glory to Himself. He takes pleasure in forgiving our trespasses against Him. Why would anyone boast before God? Sin is insane and foolish. It gives one a distorted sense of reality which results in futile behavior. The Apostle Paul wrote elsewhere that people who fail to recognize God for who He is become senseless in their reasoning and worship created entities rather than Himself who is Creator (Romans 1:21-25). That is a most unnatural scenario to encounter. Paul's words about the exclusion of boasting find their backdrop in the words of the Weeping Prophet Jeremiah: "This is what the Lord says: “Let no wise man boast of his wisdom, nor let the mighty man boast of his might, nor a rich man boast of his riches; but let the one who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises mercy, justice, and righteousness on the earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

Thursday, August 26, 2021

When Did Marriage Become A Sacrament?

Divorce, Annulment & Communion
An Orthodox Theologian Weighs In
By David Bentley Hart

Neither, for several centuries after the Apostolic Age, did any Christian theological authority think of marriage as a sacrament in our sense. Augustine (354–430) thought it might be described as a sacramentum in the proper acceptation of the Latin word: a solemn and binding oath before God. But even then, although he took the term chiefly from Jerome’s rendering of Ephesians 5:32, he certainly did not number matrimony among the saving “mysteries” of the church, alongside baptism and the Eucharist. Neither did anyone else, for many, many years. Even the great Church Fathers tended to treat marriage as little more than a civil institution, no different in kind for Christians than for non-Christians. One need only look, for example, at John Chrysostom’s fifty-sixth homily (on the second chapter of Genesis) to see how unacquainted even a late-fourth-century theologian of the highest eminence was with any concept of “holy” matrimony. And, inasmuch as they thought of marriage chiefly as a natural fact rather than as a sacred vocation, the Christians of late antiquity did not treat it as a theological topic.

In his Commentary on Matthew, for example, Origen (ca. 184–253) notes that many of the bishops of his time permitted both divorce and remarriage among the faithful. Canon 11 of the Council of Arles (314) recommends that a divorced man not remarry so long as his former wife still lives, but also grants that, for healthy young men incapable of the continence this would require of them, remarriage may prove necessary. Basil the Great (ca. 330–379) instructed Amphilochius of Iconium to allow men abandoned by their wives to remarry without penalty...Even Augustine, while firmly convinced that marriage should as a rule be indissoluble, nonetheless confessed in his Retractiones that he had no final answer on the issue.

To be honest, many modern believers would be shocked to learn how late in Christian history a clear concept of marriage as a religious institution evolved, and how long it took for it to be absolutely distinguished from what would come to be thought of as common-law unions, or for the church to insist on its solemnization in all cases. They would be even more disturbed, I imagine (as much on democratic principles as religious), to discover that throughout much of the Middle Ages the whole issue of wedlock certified by the church concerned mostly the aristocracy, inasmuch as marriage was chiefly a matter of property, inheritance, and politics. As far as we can tell, among the peasantry of many lands, and for many centuries, marital union was a remarkably mercurial sort of arrangement, one that coalesced and dissolved with considerable informality, as circumstances dictated. And the clergy did not, for the most part, give a damn.

Really, when one looks at it closely, in light of both the empirical facts and the abstract principles of the matter, the distinction between divorce and annulment is specious all the way down. For one thing, as regards actual cases on the ground, anyone who has seen a sufficient number of annulments at close quarters (and I have witnessed quite a few) knows that they are not only fairly easy to obtain for those willing to make the effort, but that the terms governing them are applied with such plasticity that it is difficult to see how any marriage could fail to meet the standards. True, abusus non tollit usum (abuse does not do away with proper use); but, in fact, there really is no abuse involved. The very concept of annulment, as something ontologically distinct from divorce, is logically incoherent, and really can be taken seriously only by a mind so absolutely indoctrinated to believe that the Roman Catholic Church does not tolerate divorce and remarriage that no evidence to the contrary can alter that conviction.

The very premise that a marriage can be pronounced null and void, in effect retroactively (since that same marriage would be regarded as real and legitimate if suit for annulment had never been brought forward), on the grounds of some original defect of intention that means it was never a real marriage to begin with (though again, it would be considered a real marriage if that defect were never exposed), basically provides a license to regard every marriage as provisional only. After all, in what union of a man and a woman could one not detect some crucial defect of original intention if one were to seek it? Moreover, if one looks at the criteria customarily used to prove that a marriage was never really a marriage, they scarcely differ at all from the criteria that the Orthodox Church—in principle, at least—is supposed to accept as legitimate grounds for divorce. And what is a divorce, after all, other than a recognition that the original marriage was contracted in ignorance and without full mutual commitment to everything a true marriage is?

It might make Catholics feel better about their Eastern brethren if the Orthodox Church called these separations “annulments,” and issued formal absolutions from wedding vows under such terms. I have to say, however, that I am glad it does neither. To my mind, the concept of annulment is not only specious and logically contradictory, but also somewhat insidious—in fact, often rather cynical and cruel. It is terrible enough when a marriage—something on which a man and a woman, at what is usually a fairly innocent moment in their lives, have staked their futures and their hopes for happiness—falls apart. It is somehow all the more terrible when, solely for the sake of avoiding institutional embarrassment, we are asked to indulge in the fiction that it was never a real marriage to begin with.

I know of a woman whose well-connected husband managed to obtain an annulment without her consent, and on grounds that would have scarcely qualified him as a plaintiff before a secular divorce court. And I happen to know that, of the two, he was the far more culpable in the matter. What she found bitterest of all in the final settlement was that, according to her church, no one was obliged to admit that her life as a wife and mother of twenty-six years—in a union freely contracted, sacramentally solemnized, physically and fruitfully consummated—had broken apart.

https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/divorce-annulment-communion

Saturday, August 7, 2021

The Word Of Faith Movement Shares A Parallel With Gnosticism In Its Emphasis On Knowledge

The Faith theology exalts knowledge the same way that gnosticism does. Faith is preeminent for the Faith teachers, but they measure faith by the type and amount of knowledge one has. In the Bible, knowledge is not the measure of faith. Paul writes,

"Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God." (1 Cor. 8:1, 2, 3; NIV)

Anyone who claims to have the knowledge of God must prove his knowledge by his love. As it is with knowledge, so also is it with faith. "The only thing that counts," proclaims Paul, "is faith expressing itself through love" (Gal. 5:6, NIV). In his famous "love chapter," Paul teaches that without love, both faith and knowledge amount to nothing: "And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains. but do not have love, I am nothing" (1 Cor. 13:3). Had the love ethic of Jesus prevailed in the Faith movement, many of the barbaric and tragic things done in his name-such as the fatal withholding of medication from young children-would never have happened.

D.R. McConnell, A Different Gospel, p. 110

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Examining A Parallel Between Gnosticism And Word Of Faith Theology

The most obvious gnostic idea taught by the Faith theology is its dualistic definition of Revelation Knowledge as entirely spiritual in origin. Because it is spiritual, the physical senses are of no value in understanding it or using it. The Faith theology teaches the gnostic view that "man is a spirit being" who just happens to have a body. Only the "spirit man" has the capacity to receive revelation directly from the Holy Spirit. Because man's five bodily senses are physical, they are of no value in knowing God or his revelation. This view of revelation reflects the gnostic spirit-matter dualism that Kenyon learned from the metaphysical cults.

The Bible in no way justifies a dualistic view of revelation. Biblical revelation and salvation are physical as well as spiritual. The best proof of this is Jesus Christ himself, who is "the Word made flesh" (Jn. 1:14). In Jesus "all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form" (Col. 2:9). We are saved "through the blood of His cross" (Col. 1:20) and are reconciled to God "in His fleshly blood through death" (Col. 1:22). In our treatment of the Faith theology's doctrine of redemption, known as "Identification," its gnostic spiritualization of the gospel will become further evident. Suffice it to say at this point, the Bible allows for no such spiritualization. The incarnation and death of Christ are the highest forms of revelation, and both are decidedly physical in nature.

Moreover, biblical revelation was not only physical in nature, it was perceived and understood through physical means. The apostles used their physical senses to understand the incarnation of the Word: "And we beheld His glory" (Jn. 1:14), wrote John. "We were eyewitnesses of His majesty" (2 Pet. 1:16), wrote Peter. "And we ourselves heard [God's] utterance...when we were with Him on the holy mountain" (2 Pet. 1:18). The apostles bore witness to what they had "seen and heard" and their "hands handled, concerning the Word of Life" (1 Jn. 1:1). The ultimate form of the Word of God-the incarnation and death of Jesus-was physical in nature and was perceived by physical means. This fact alone powerfully repudiates the gnostic spirit-matter dualism of Kenyon's Revelation Knowledge.

D.R. McConnell, A Different Gospel, p. 108

Thursday, July 29, 2021

On The Meaning Of The Word Psalms

The English word “psalms” is a transliteration of the Greek title of the book. That is, this is the Greek word simply spelled in English or Roman letters. The Greek word psalmoi was first translated into Latin as Psalmi, and then into English as “Psalms.” The Greek word originally meant a striking or twitching of the fingers on a string. The related verb was used by classical writers for the “pulling of a bowstring.” From that came the idea of “pulling or playing a stringed musical instrument.” When the word took ons the extended meaning of a song, there was always the latent background of the stringed instrumental accompaniment tied to the singing. So the meaning of the Greek title of the book is “sacred songs sung to musical accompaniment.
 
Ronald B. Allen, And I Will Praise Him: A Guide to Worship in the Psalms, p. 21

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Does The Roman Catholic Apocrypha Contain Historical And Theological Errors?

  • Discussion:
          -The purpose of this article is to rebut a handful of claims made by Roman Catholic apologist Trent Horn in defense of the apocrypha against charges of it being historically and theologically unsound. Following are excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

          "Protestant apologist James McCarthy says the claim that these books are inspired must be rejected because “the author of 2 Maccabees says that his work is the abridgement of another man’s work (2 Macc. 2:23). He concludes the book by saying, ‘If it is well written and to the point, that is what I wanted; if it is poorly done and mediocre, that is the best I could do’ (2 Macc. 15:38, NAB).”- But by McCarthy’s standard the Gospel of Luke would not be inspired, because it admits to being an adaptation of earlier sources (Lk 1:1-3). First Corinthians would likewise be uninspired, because Paul says he can’t remember whom he baptized (1:15). These passages only demonstrate the humility of the Bible’s human authors—not any lack of divine inspiration in their writings."

          Nowhere do the authors of the biblical books write concerning the quality of their writing, "I have done my best in writing this and hope you do not find it to be lacking." That language is not the product of somebody being moved by the Holy Spirit. It cannot simply be explained away as being human characteristics of Scripture. Furthermore, the words in the Book of Maccabees can readily be contrasted with passages of Scripture that pertain to divine inspiration of revelation (Matthew 10:19-20; 1 Corinthians 2:1; 12-13; 14:37).

          "Moreover, the alleged errors in the deuterocanonical books, such as Judith identifying Nebuchadnezzar as the king of Assyria instead of as the king of Babylon (Jud 1:1), Tobit being described as having lived for more than 150 years (Tob 14:11), can be explained. Specifically, these statements are only errors if the author was asserting a literal description of history, but even Protestant scholars agree that the authors of Judith and Tobit were not writing in the genre of literal history."

          The problem with this argument is that the church fathers considered these kind of writings to not be mythical but historical. If the authors of the apocryphal books intended them to be understood in the same way, then that means they are in error and disqualify themselves from the Old Testament canon. 

          "Claims that the deuterocanonical books contradict theological truths in the protocanonical books also fall flat. One example is the claim that the teaching that honoring one’s father and almsgiving can atone for sin (Sir 3:3; Tob 4:11) contradicts the New Testament’s teaching that only Christ can atone for our sins. But the book of Proverbs teaches that “by loyalty and faithfulness [or what many Protestants would call ‘works’] iniquity is atoned for” (16:6). First Peter says that “love covers a multitude of sin” (4:8), and Acts records an angel saying to the Gentile Cornelius, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God” (10:4)."

          The text from Proverbs speaks of us being merciful to others and faithfully serving God. The text from Acts speaks of God not passing over Cornelius because of his charity and prayer. He was searching for God with an earnest heart. The text from 1 Peter speaks of love covering sins in the sense of not holding wrongdoings against other people. We ought to forgive because we have been forgiven by God. These passages of Scripture have nothing to do with people performing good deeds in order that atonement be made for their own sins.

          "Other claims of theological contradiction are circular, such as the claim that Second Maccabees is not inspired because it records the “unbiblical practice” of praying for the dead. But Protestants only say the practice is “unbiblical” because they do not regard Second Maccabees as part of the Bible. If Second Maccabees is inspired, however, then praying for the dead is a biblical practice even if it is only described in one book of the Bible. To make a comparison, the Gospel of Matthew is the only book in the Bible that records a Trinitarian baptismal command (28:19), but that doesn’t make such a command unbiblical."

          The accusation is not circular reasoning if it can be shown that the practice of praying to the dead is inconsistent with biblical witness on the matter. Does the Roman Catholic Church accept the inspiration of 2 Maccabees in order to justify its dogmas? That is a legitimate question which merits consideration. 2 Esdras 7:105 is an apocryphal text that expressly contradicts the idea of prayers for the dead. Why did that reference not end up being included in the Roman Catholic canon?

          "Finally, some Protestant apologists say the deuterocanonical books are not inspired because they are inferior in style to the protocanonical books of Scripture. Raymond Surburg writes, “When a comparison is instituted of the style of the Apocrypha with the style of the Biblical Hebrew Old Testament writings, there is a considerable inferiority, shown by the stiffness, lack of originality and artificiality of expression characterizing the apocryphal books.”— But this is a wholly subjective criterion that, if taken seriously, would put Shakespeare in the Bible and take books like Numbers or Philemon out of it."

          Do we need an infallible earthly organization in order to recognize that the Quran, publications of the Watchtower Society, and Book of Mormon are not inspired by God? Trent Horn's position collapses on itself because the responsibility of interpretation is always going to land ultimately on the individual. In other words, a man cannot come to conclusions about anything without subjectively using his powers of reason to weigh evidence in ruling out various possibilities. If we deem an ancient literary text to be of inferior quality than canonical texts of the Bible, then it does not logically follow that we must add Shakespeare or remove any text. That is a non-sequitur.

          There is no infallible human ruler to settle conflicts among nations or even amongst peoples of a nation. There is no infallible human arbitrator to resolve contradictory interpretations of data by scientists. No one demands infallible certainty in those affairs. If one's own fallible reasoning is good enough to reach a verdict that the Roman Catholic Church is the one true church, then there should be no objection to independently interpreting Scripture. It would be a most bizarre line of reasoning to assert on the one hand that we should not use our own fallible reasoning to pronounce judgements as to the meaning of Scripture while on the other saying we must read through church fathers and church documents in order to discover divine truth.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Are Christians To Be Giving Tithes?

        Many pastors, one of which is Charles Stanley, believe that Christians are supposed to be giving weekly tithes to their churches. Some, including the aforementioned individual, go as far as to claim that believers ought to give ten percent of their income and that God will bless people who obey. However, there is rationale against Christians tithing, namely, that it was an aspect of the Mosaic Law which does not have pertinence under the New Covenant. It does not apply to us for the same reason that Sabbath observance does not apply to us. Such things have been rendered obsolete at the Cross and so will fade away (Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 8:13).

        Why did the Jewish people provide tithes? It was dedicated to the care of Levitical priests as they performed animal sacrifices in the presence of God (Numbers 18:21-26). They were used for feasts and also given to assist the poor. People made pilgrimages to Jerusalem every couple of years to honor those tithes. The Jews gave crops and livestock for tithes (Leviticus 27:30; 2 Chronicles 31:5). It is ironic that we do not really see pastors imposing these kinds of requirements on their audiences. If these people are going to be consistent, then they might as well throw away the New Testament and convert to Judaism.

        What are Christians supposed to give? The Apostle Paul answered that question in terms of "according to the desire of their hearts" and "not under compulsion" (2 Corinthians 9:7). He makes no mention of a fixed amount of a person's income. The rest of the New Testament epistles are silent concerning tithing. God loves a cheerful giver because he or she is giving from the heart. That kind of giving finds its root in love. 

         One must act in a manner that is financially responsible when it comes to making these kinds of sacrifices. For example, a man may have a family that he is obligated to provide for. 1 Timothy 5:8 says, "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." It would be arrogant of us to presume that God would "catch" us every time we make foolish choices. If a pastor says to tithe, then do not listen. He is guided, not by Scripture itself, but by church tradition which distorts the meaning of Scripture. The tithe was something specifically tied in with the land of Israel.