Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The World Has Always Been Insane

Some people today think that it is ignorant to believe in Satan. Well, if you feel like that, I just ask you to look at the world and at yourself and try to explain some of the things that happen, both within you and in the world, apart from the biblical teaching about Satan and the hosts and powers of evil, these malevolent influences that are unseen in the spiritual realm.

The next step in the argument is that the world, as it is in sin and under the control of Satan, cannot be improved. Indeed, I defy anyone to show that Scripture teaches that it can. The Bible teaches, quite categorically, that sin is such a radical problem that the world cannot now and never will improve itself; there is no hope for it in that way. So we begin to see why the man or woman who is truly Christian, who bases all opinions on scriptural teaching, is not a bit surprised at what is happening in the world today.

Our Lord and Savior himself said, "As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. . . . Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot. . . ." (Luke 17:26, 28). He spans the centuries; he lays down the proposition that because of sin and the Fall, mankind as mankind is going to be no different at the end of history than what it was at the beginning. Therefore, nothing is such an utter travesty of the Christian gospel as the suggestion that because it is preached, each generation will be better than the previous one, and the world will reform and improve, until everything that is evil and wrong will have been banished and ultimately all will be perfect.

The gospel never teaches that; it asserts the exact opposite. I do not apologize for saying that the Bible's view of history is profoundly pessimistic. Of course, that is why the Bible is not popular and has not been so during the last hundred years. Evolutionary theories and hypotheses are very optimistic; they all tell us that the world is going to be better and better and that mankind is evolving and advancing. Philosophers always want to be optimistic if they can be, and thus they paint this picture of improvement. And, of course, if you believe them, you cannot like the Bible because its realism contrasts sharply with these optimistic ideas.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, p. 95-96

Friday, May 20, 2022

A Commentary On Psalm 73:25-26

IV. He was hereby quickened to cleave the more closely to God, and very much confirmed and comforted in the choice he had made of him, v. 25, 26. His thoughts here dwell with delight upon his own happiness in God, as much greater then the happiness of the ungodly that prospered in the world. He saw little reason to envy them what they had in the creature when he found how much more and better, surer and sweeter, comforts he had in the Creator, and what cause he had to congratulate himself on this account. He had complained of his afflictions (v. 14); but this makes them very light and easy, All is well if God be mine. We have here the breathings of a sanctified soul towards God, and its repose in him, as that to a godly man really which the prosperity of a worldly man is to him in conceit and imagination: Whom have I in heaven but thee? There is scarcely a verse in all the psalms more expressive than this of the pious and devout affections of a soul to God; here it soars up towards him, follows hard after him, and yet, at the same time, has an entire satisfaction and complacency in him.

1. It is here supposed that God alone is the felicity and chief good of man. He, and he only, that made the soul, can make it happy; there is none in heaven, none in earth, that can pretend to do it besides.

2. Here are expressed the workings and breathings of a soul towards God accordingly. If God be our felicity,

(1.) Then we must have him (Whom have I but thee?), we must choose him, and make sure to ourselves an interest in him. What will it avail us that he is the felicity of souls if he be not the felicity of our souls, and if we do not by a lively faith make him ours, by joining ourselves to him in an everlasting covenant?

(2.) Then our desire must be towards him and our delight in him (the word signifies both); we must delight in what we have of God and desire what we yet further hope for. Our desires must not only be offered up to God, but they must all terminate in him, desiring nothing more than God, but still more and more of him. This includes all our prayers, Lord, give us thyself; as that includes all the promises, I will be to them a God. The desire of our souls is to thy name.

(3.) We must prefer him in our choice and desire before any other. [1.] "There is none in heaven but thee, none to seek to or trust in, none to court or covet acquaintance with, but thee." God is in himself more glorious than any celestial being (Ps 89 6), and must be, in our eyes, infinitely more desirable. Excellent beings there are in heaven, but God alone can make us happy. His favour is infinitely more to us than the refreshment of the dews of heaven or the benign influence of the stars of heaven, more than the friendship of the saints in heaven or the good offices of the angels there. [2.] I desire none on earth besides thee; not only none in heaven, a place at a distance, which we have but little acquaintance with, but none on earth neither, where we have many friends and where much of our present interest and concern lie. "Earth carries away the desires of most men, and yet I have none on earth, no persons, no things, no possessions, no delights, that I desire besides thee or with thee, in comparison or competition with thee." We must desire nothing besides God but what we desire for him (nil præter te nisi propter te—nothing besides thee except for thy sake), nothing but what we desire from him, and can be content without so that it be made up in him. We must desire nothing besides God as needful to be a partner with him in making us happy.

(4.) Then we must repose ourselves in God with an entire satisfaction, v. 26. Observe here, [1.] Great distress and trouble supposed: My flesh and my heart fail. Note, Others have experienced and we must expect, the failing both of flesh and heart. The body will fail by sickness, age, and death; and that which touches the bone and the flesh touches us in a tender part, that part of ourselves which we have been but too fond of; when the flesh fails the heart is ready to fail too; the conduct, courage, and comfort fail. [2.] Sovereign relief provided in this distress: But God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever. Note, Gracious souls, in their greatest distresses, rest upon God as their spiritual strength and their eternal portion. First, "He is the strength of my heart, the rock of my heart, a firm foundation, which will bear my weight and not sink under it. God is the strength of my heart; I have found him so; I do so still, and hope ever to find him so." In the distress supposed, he had put the case of a double failure, both flesh and heart fail; but, in the relief, he fastens on a single support: he leaves out the flesh and the consideration of that, it is enough that God is the strength of his heart. He speaks as one careless of the body (let that fail, there is no remedy), but as one concerned about the soul, to be strengthened in the inner man. Secondly, "He is my portion for ever; he will not only support me while I am here, but make me happy when I go hence." The saints choose God for their portion, they have him for their portion, and it is their happiness that he will be their portion, a portion that will last as long as the immortal soul lasts.

Excerpts taken from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Did The Jews And Church Fathers Accept The Apocrypha As Canonical?

  • 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 its canonicity being rejected by the Jews and certain church fathers. Following are excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

          "Melito’s list of the Old Testament books lacks the deuterocanonicals, but this is not surprising given that many second-century Jews rejected the deuterocanonical books. The Protestant citation of Melito only helps their case if Melito was listing the Christian canon of the Old Testament. But because Melito was composing a defense of Christ from sources Jews would accept, we would expect Melito’s canon in his Extracts to reflect what Jews in his time accepted. In Hebrew Scripture in Patristic Biblical Theory, Edmon Gallagher says, “Most scholars have been willing to attribute [Melito’s] list ultimately to Jewish Sources.”

          This argument made by Trent Horn that these canon lists were Jewish rather than Christian backfires, since Christians accepted the Jewish canon. The Jews were entrusted with the "oracles of God" (Romans 3:1-2). Those writings are quoted as Scripture in the New Testament writings. Jesus Christ and the apostles appealed to the Old Testament in debating Jewish opponents. The very first Christians were Jews who worshiped in the synagogues. 

          "The fact that Melito went all the way to Israel (or the “eastern place”) instead of asking the Jews in Sardis about the Old Testament canon shows, as we noted earlier, that there was not a consensus among second-century Jews about the canon of the Hebrew Bible. McDonald says, “Not all Josephus scholars agree with Josephus’s account that all Jews everywhere both know and would die for these twenty-two sacred books. . . Why did [Melito] not go across the street and talk to the nearest Jew to find out, if the matter was well known long before his time?”

          It is possible that a situation required Melito of Sardis to travel that we know not of. Why doubt his integrity? Did the apocrypha ever have widespread acceptance as canonical amongst the Jews? These people were not fundamentally at odds with each other about the nature and extant of the Old Testament canon. Josephus said that a sacred collection of only twenty-two books existed in his day which was laid up in the temple. He was not alone in holding to a threefold division of the Jewish canon. It was also attested to by Philo of Alexandria and the Babylonian Talmud. A Dead Sea Scrolls text (4QMMT) "speaks of the Book of Moses and the words of the prophets and of David. Here "David" serves as a title for the third division, since it began with his Psalms" (Archaeological Study Bible, Walter C. Kaiser Jr. and Duane Garrett general editors). The Apostle Paul alluded to a body of writings that were accorded a special status in his own day when he made statements such as "according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:1-6) and "the Holy Scriptures" (2 Timothy 3:15). 

          "Another point to mention is that if being present in either Melito’s or Origen’s lists were necessary for canonicity, then Esther and Lamentations would be disqualified since they are absent from both lists."

          If that proves anything at all, then it would only mean some books of the Old Testament have stronger attestation than others. Even if we did remove a book from the Protestant Old Testament canon, that is not going to somehow justify adding the apocrypha. Further, an individual does not have to provide a complete list of books of the Old Testament canon in order to have relevant information about its structure. That certain canon lists fail to include books like Esther is not the only criterion that we have for canonicity.

          One reason that the authenticity of the Book of Esther has been challenged is that it nowhere mentions the word God. However, a few points of consideration can be made to mitigate this problem: 1.) We have evidence of divine providence in this narrative as God works through circumstance to reverse certain destruction on the Jewish people., 2.) The writer may have left out the name of God to convey his own belief that the Jews who did not return to Israel from Persia were severed from covenant blessings. It would be a way of saying that God was not present amongst the exiles., and 3.) The author may have written in such a way to help foreigners in Persia understand the reasoning behind the Jews observing Purim. He would narrow in on details of the king and write about the Jews without any tone of emotional involvement or interest. That could account for the Book of Esther not explicitly mentioning God.

          "Regarding Cyril, he divided the Old Testament Scripture into three groups: the protocanonical works that catechumens should read, books of “secondary rank” that catechumens should avoid, and books “not read in Churches”— that catechumens should also avoid. The fact that Cyril wanted those who were new to the faith to avoid the deutero-canonical books does not prove they were noncanonical. According to Gallagher, “Cyril himself uses and cites Wisdom and Sirach. Cyril’s canon list was written for catechumens, and so he may have intended his prohibition to apply to them alone, as those who are unable to properly separate the wheat from the chaff.

          Even though Cyril of Jerusalem did not consider the deuterocanonical books to be apocryphal, he clearly thought they had a secondary degree of authority and importance in comparison to the Old Testament Scriptures. His position on the canonicity of the apocrypha is not identical with the modern-day Roman Catholic position, which makes no such distinction between them.

          "Athanasius uses the same division in his festal letter and even places Baruch alongside protocanonical books like Jeremiah. He did not reject the inspiration of the deuterocanonical books, because, as we’ve seen, he called them “Scripture” and used the book of Wisdom in his defense of orthodox Christology. Athanasius recognized that these books were disputed by the Jews of his time but still said those who seek further catechesis should read them."

          Athanasius rejected the books of Tobit, Judith, and Maccabees as inspired. Baruch was viewed as being a part of the Book of Jeremiah. 

          "Since Jerome was mistaken about the reliability and textual tradition of the Septuagint, this refutes his claim that the true Hebrew canon could be found only in manuscripts that lacked the deuterocanonical books. It also refutes Protestant apologists who cite later medieval theologians, along with biblical commentaries, that rejected the deuterocanonical books simply because they followed Jerome’s erroneous argument about the Hebrew text."

          That claim is based on Roman Catholic tradition so as to keep those non-canonical books. Jerome was correct in following the original Hebrew canon which excluded the apocrypha. He grudgingly added the apocryphal books to his Latin Vulgate translation after he was pressured to do so.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

The Ridiculousness Of The Roman Catholic Eucharist

"But seeing, for the frequency of pretending the change of nature in their consecrations, it cannot be esteemed a work extraordinary, it is no other than a conjuration or incantation, whereby they would have men to believe an alteration of nature that is not, contrary to the testimony of man’s sight and of all the rest of his senses. As for example, when the priest, instead of consecrating bread and wine to God’s peculiar service in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (which is but a separation of it from the common use to signify, that is, to put men in mind of, their redemption by the Passion of Christ, whose body was broken and blood shed upon the cross for our transgressions), pretends that by saying of the words of our Saviour, “This is my body,” and “This is my blood,” the nature of bread is no more there, but his very body; notwithstanding there appeareth not to the sight or other sense of the receiver anything that appeared not before the consecration. The Egyptian conjurers, that are said to have turned their rods to serpents, and the water into blood, are thought but to have deluded the senses of the spectators by a false show of things, yet are esteemed enchanters. But what should we have thought of them if there had appeared in their rods nothing like a serpent, and in the water enchanted nothing like blood, nor like anything else but water, but that they had faced down the king, that they were serpents that looked like rods, and that it was blood that seemed water? That had been both enchantment and lying. And yet in this daily act of the priest, they do the very same, by turning the holy words into the manner of a charm, which produceth nothing new to the sense; but they face us down, that it hath turned the bread into a man; nay, more, into a God; and require men to worship it as if it were our Saviour himself present, God and Man, and thereby to commit most gross idolatry. For if it be enough to excuse it of idolatry to say it is no more bread, but God; why should not the same excuse serve the Egyptians, in case they had the faces to say the leeks and onions they worshipped were not very leeks and onions, but a divinity under their species or likeness? The words, “This is my body,” are equivalent to these, “This signifies, or represents, my body”; and it is an ordinary figure of speech: but to take it literally is an abuse; nor, though so taken, can it extend any further than to the bread which Christ himself with his own hands consecrated. For he never said that of what bread soever any priest whatsoever should say, “This is my body,” or “This is Christ’s body,” the same should presently be transubstantiated."

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Of the Kingdom of Darkness (Chap. XLVI)

Monday, April 18, 2022

Men Of Faith Who Were Also Men Of Science

 "We, the undersigned students of the Natural Sciences, desire to express our sincere regret that researchers into scientific truth are prevented by some in our own times into occasions for casting doubt into occasions for casting doubt upon the truth and authenticity of the Holy Scriptures.

We conceive that it is impossible for the Word of God, as written in the book of nature, and God’s Word written in Holy Scripture, to contradict one another, however much they may appear to differ.

We are not forgetful that physical science is not complete, but is only in a condition of progress, and that at present our finite reason enables us only to see as through a glass darkly, and we confidently believe, that a time will come when the two records will be seen to agree in every particular.

We cannot but deplore that Natural Science should be looked upon with suspicion by many who do not make a study of it, merely on account of the unadvised manner in which some are placing it in opposition to Holy Writ.

We believe that it is the duty of every scientific student to investigate nature simply for the purpose of elucidating truth, and that if he finds that some of his results appear to be in contradiction to the Written Word, or rather to his own interpretations of it, which may be erroneous, he should not presumptuously affirm that his own conclusions must be right, and the statements of Scripture wrong.

Rather, leave the two side by side till it shall please God to allow us to see the manner in which they may be reconciled; and, instead of insisting upon the seeming differences between Science and the Scriptures, it would be as well to rest in faith upon the points in which they agree."

A manifesto signed by 617 men of science at the British Association of Scientists in 1865; cited by Alfred M. Rehwinkel in The Flood, p. XVIII-XIX

Friday, April 15, 2022

Exegetical Analysis Of Ephesians 2:4-7

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us." (Ephesians 2:4)

Man has broken the laws of God and has come under His righteous judgement. Our sentence of eternal condemnation in the divine court is duly deserved. However, there is another dimension to be considered in which there is a remedy for our situation. Man has no merit on his own account, but God does. The Apostle Paul defines the means by which our salvation has been brought about: "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace" (Ephesians 1:7). What is the extent to which God loves us? It is very great, meaning a depth beyond our comprehension. His love is infinitely wide in scope. He reached out to us with His graceful offer of eternal life even though we were not seeking after Him.

"even when we were dead in our wrongdoings, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)." (Ephesians 2:5)

Our disobedience toward God made us spiritually dead and destined for His wrath. It meant certain doom for us apart from the intervention of God Himself. Paul elsewhere specifies a number of ways that a person can violate God's Law: "...the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor those habitually drunk, nor verbal abusers, nor swindlers..." (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). The point to be made is that no one on earth can live up to God's perfect moral standard. So, how can we be made alive with Jesus Christ? We are made alive together in Christ through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. We were once dead to evil ways. Now we live a new life of holiness. Our old ways have passed away. Paul expounds further on the phrase about grace in parenthesis in Ephesians 2:8. We have been purchased by the blood of Christ to be vessels of honor to God. He initiates this transformative process of sanctification and brings it to completion.

"and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:6)

We have been raised together to newness of life in union with Christ. That is the greatest benefit of having been reconciled to a holy God. We have a new identity in Christ as children of God. We have a new purpose in this life which is to bring glory to God. We become partakers of His kingdom, which is a kingdom of righteousness: "for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17). There is a radical change of heart which happens in the lives of those who place their faith in Christ. The Apostle Paul's former lifestyle was that of a murderer, since he persecuted the church of God. He went from zealously chasing after Christians to becoming a member of that very group he had once despised. His transformed life was one of service to God in preaching the gospel. Paul now enjoys the fullness of fellowship with Christ in heaven. He has seen Him face to face in glory, and so can we.

"so that in the ages to come He might show the boundless riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:7)

Christ's sacrifice for our redemption is the greatest expression of love made by God to us. It serves as a testimony to His generosity for eternity. The greatest demonstration of love took place when Jesus Christ made atonement for our sins on the cross. He laid down His life for us. God ought to be praised forever for this wondrous deed. This act was not done because we were righteous and deserved His favor. It was solely because of His benevolence.

There Will Always Be Inequality

"Human beings are obviously unequal in numberless ways, including: health, opportunities, abilities, energy, moral character, and contribution to society. It is essential, therefore, in asserting the equality of all men to delineate the nature and the source of that equality. In Christian ethics the nature of equality is that all men are equally to be loved — not equally admired, or emulated, or praised; but equally loved."

Calvin D. Linton, Wycliffe Dictionary of Christian Ethics, Carl F.H. Henry editor, p. 213-214

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Early Church Evidence Against Transubstantiation

"It is not we who eat human flesh — they among you who assert such a thing have been suborned as false witnesses; it is among you that Pelops is made a supper for the gods, although beloved by Poseidon, and Kronos devours his children, and Zeus swallows Metis."

Tatian's Address to the Greeks, Chapter XXV

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Was First Century Judaism Legalistic?

  • Defining the Issues:

          -Advocates of the New Perspective on Paul argue that first century Jewish people did not actually believe that righteousness is obtained through the keeping of the Law, but rather subscribed to a religion of grace or covenantal nomism. Theopedia expounds on that term as follows:

          "This term is essential to the NPP view, as Sanders argues that this is the "pattern of religion" found in Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism...as long as a Jew kept their covenant with God, he remained part of God's people. How does one keep the covenant? Sander's tells us "the covenant requires as the proper response of man his obedience to its commandments." All of Judaism's talk about "obedience" is thus in the context of "covenantal nomism" and not legalism. As a result, Judaism is then not concerned with "how to have a right relationship with God" but with "how to remain his covenant people...Advocates of the NPP say that it was not their works that helped them attain salvation, but it was their "nationalistic boundary markers" (i.e. circumcision, food laws, sabbath, etc.) that kept them within the people of God. Thus, the works, along with the boundary markers were used to keep themselves within the boundary of God's people. Paul was not fighting legalism, but was instead fighting the works and national pride that separated the Jews from the Gentiles."

          Even assuming for the sake of argument that the necessity of grace was upheld in Second Temple Judaism, that does not prove no system of one becoming accepted before God on the basis of faith plus meritorious works existed. In fact, there is evidence suggesting that precisely such a viewpoint was common amongst Jews in the first century.

          Evidence from the Intertestamental Period:

          "Not merely in 4 Ezra but also 2 Enoch it seems clear enough that we have what could be called a works righteousness based on law-keeping such that there is a post-mortem judgment based on the deeds done in this life—resulting in rewards and punishments. Interestingly in Jubilees while ‘getting in’ may well be on the basis of election, staying in and final salvation is said to be on the basis of obedience to the Law.[5] In 2 Baruch God bestows mercy on those who keep the Law, the ones called the righteous. In these same sources when God’s righteousness is discussed it is not a cipher for God’s covenantal faithfulness, but rather has to do with his just judging or ruling." (Ben Witherington, The "New Perspective" on Paul and the Law)

          Evidence from the Four Gospels:

          Jesus Christ repeatedly rebuked the Jews for them looking down at other people whom they perceived as being less faithful to the Law. For example, the Pharisees had inquired as to why Christ ate with people of lower stature (Matthew 9:11). He scolded them for seeking after an outward righteousness (Luke 11:38-39). Jesus even said, "unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees..." (Matthew 5:20). He said to the chief priests and elders, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you." (Matthew 21:1). Jesus addressed a rich young man who wanted to enter heaven on the basis of his faithfulness to the Law (Matthew 19:16-30; Luke 18:18-30). Consider also the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector in Luke 18:9-14.

          Evidence from the Epistles of Paul:

          The Apostle Paul wrote extensively to combat the error of works-righteousness (Romans 9:30-10:4). He, being a former Pharisee, testified to his own efforts of obtaining righteousness through the Law (Philippians 3:4-9).

          Arguments Based on Liberal Scholarship:

          "...For instances of a similar, general use of the language of "works" in Paul's epistles, see 2 Cor. 11:5; Col. 1:21; Gal. 5:19. For instances of this usage in passages that are not universally acknowledged as authentically Pauline, see Eph. 2:9-10; 5:11; 1 Tim. 2:10; 5:10, 25; 6:18; 2 Tim. 1:9; 4:14; Titus 1:16; 2:7, 14; 3:5, 8, 14. Even if we were to grant the view that these texts are not Pauline (which we do not), they minimally suggest that an author influenced by Paul took him to exclude all boasting in any works whatever in the matter of salvation (Eph. 2:9)." (By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification, contributor Cornelis P. Venema, p. 53, note 50)

God Intended Sex To Be Sacred And Treated As Such

"Reducing troth to physical sex is to reduce human sexual intercourse to animal copulation. Physical intercourse is a good gift of the Lord which ought to stay in the marriage-room of the creation. If sex in principle can be had with anyone—so-called free love—without exception elements of selfishness, exploitation and insecurity enter in."

James H. Olthus, Wycliffe Dictionary of Christian Ethics, Carl F.H. Henry editor, p. 408