Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christ Our Mediator: He Cannot Fail

Hebrews 7:20-25:

(20) And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath,
(21) but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him: "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, 'You are a priest forever.'"
(22) This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.
(23) The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office,
(24) but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.
(25) Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.


The mediatorial ministry of Christ in heaven is crucial for salvation, according to Hebrews. By his eternal life, permitting him to intercede forever on our behalf, Jesus Christ can “save us to the uttermost.”

What does that mean? Hebrews contrasts this with the Old Testament sacrificial system, and points out that while the former required frequent, daily sacrifices, offered again and again, Jesus made a once-for-all sacrifice (Hebrews 7:27). So, in contrast to the Jewish understanding, salvation is not something that needs repetitive and recurrent input from human beings to either accomplish or maintain.

This is what we call the doctrine of perseverance or of preservation: those who truly belong to God, those called and regenerated and justified, cannot be lost. In other words, since Jesus is the one who saves and keeps us, we who belong to him cannot be lost. Even we can’t screw this up, because it wasn’t our work in the first place.

This teaching is found elsewhere in Scripture. Jesus told the Jews that whoever came to him, he would never cast out (John 6:37). Why? Because he came from heaven not to do his own will, but the will of the one who sent him (that is, the Father) – John 6:38. And the Father’s will is that Jesus lose none – none! – of those the Father gave him, but raise them on the last day.

(John 6 certainly presents a pile of problems for the Oneness position, as well. How can Jesus say he came to do not his own will but the Father’s, if he is himself the Father? How can the Father “give” anything to the Son if there are no can be no meaningful personal distinction between them? How can the sovereign monergism (i.e., “Calvinism”) of John 6:44, 65 be compatible with the fundamental Arminianism (if not outright Pelagianism) of Oneness theology? But, provided he has the time, I’ll leave the detailed explication of these problems to my brother Mike, who’s spent a lot of time in John. I merely want to expand upon the problems that the doctrine of perseverance found in John 6, and Hebrews, raises for the Oneness worldview.)

See, Oneness theology holds that a believer must maintain himself in a state of holiness in order to retain his salvation. By observing strict codes regarding dress, haircuts, and the like, the person keeps himself “saved.” This idea, that the retention of one’s status as “saved” depends on one’s own effort, is antithetical to the teaching of Scripture. We’ve just seen Jesus teaching in John 6 that this preservation, this perseverance by the believer, is a result of Christ’s work in holding believers safe in his hand – work that is direct obedience to the Father’s will that no believer who has come to Christ be lost.

Now this does not mean that anyone who expresses and professes faith in Christ is therefore safe, as if they’ve “punched their ticket” and they are good to go no matter what they do. That’s easy-believism, and it ignores the fact that the Bible plainly warns that people can be deceived about the state of their souls (eg. Matthew 7:21-23). Only those truly regenerated by the Spirit, who have been moved to faith and repentance by the Father’s drawing and who have put a genuine trust in Christ, can be said to be secure. But mark this: they are secure because of God’s work, God’s promise, not because of human effort. A true Christian will do good works, certainly, and the lack thereof is evidence that a true change of heart has not happened; but these works are the result and fruit of God’s work in saving and preserving the believer, not the cause (immediate or intermediate)! So that is the role of good works: not to secure or preserve salvation, but to proclaim and witness to it.

So back to Hebrews. John 6 tells us the what of preservation: Jesus will not lose any the Father has given him. Hebrews 7 and on tells us the how. What preserves the believer after justification, what “keeps him saved,” is the continuing intercessory work of Jesus before the Father above: “he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). When we stumble, when we fall, and the righteousness and holiness of the Father is impugned, Christ pleads for us. He reminds the Court that the punishment for that sin was already paid. He reminds the Judge that those failings were laid on Himself, and that we are positionally and legally righteous because His own perfect, spotless righteousness are wrapped around us like clothing. Christ preserves us and keeps God’s grace flowing so that we may be picked up, dusted off, and cleaned up to continue growing in holiness.

As our Mediator, Jesus is able to save us to the uttermost. Not just get us into a state of salvation that we are then responsible to maintain through good behaviour; that maintenance is itself the result of Christ’s continuing work. But this is impossible in Oneness modalism, for at least two reasons:

(1) Since Jesus is himself the Father, we really don’t have a mediator in the Oneness perspective. The Judge and the Intercessor (or Defence Attorney) are the same person. This is hardly a situation that engenders confidence. Jesus’ mediation and intercession are reduced to a mere charade.

(2) In some forms of Oneness modalism, the mode or manifestation of the Son has passed to be replaced by the mode or manifestation of the Spirit. This means that our Mediator no longer exists. Hebrews 7 is a nice story, but cannot be real – at most a puppet show.

So therefore, it is not Christ who saves us to the uttermost in Oneness theology. He helps; he gets us started, or gives us the tools, but it is ultimately the believer who is responsible for salvation “to the uttermost.” And since it was our own thickheaded sinfulness that got us into the predicament of lostness in the first place, having our eternal salvation rest even in part upon our own performance is scary in the least – and downright foolhardy.

Oneness theology leaves no place for a doctrine of preservation or perseverance of the believer. In this construct, there is no eternal security. And without such security, assurance of salvation is utterly impossible. A Oneness believer can have the right baptism, speak in tongues, rigidly observe the holiness codes, and yet still be in fear of losing his salvation because, after all, who knows what moral catastrophe may befall him in the future? Who knows what spiritual stumble may occur just before death?

I’ll say it again. If Jesus is not in some eternal and personal way distinct from the Father whom he intercedes with, the entire idea of intercession and mediation is reduced to a mere charade. Charades are no ground for confidence, nor for the efficacy of one’s perseverance.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christ As Our Mediator: Psalm 110, Hebrews, and the Oneness Position

Psalm 110:4

(1) The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool."
(2) The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies!
(3) Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours.
(4) The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, "You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."
(5) The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
(6) He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.
(7) He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.


This psalm has tremendous implications for the doctrine of the Trinity, and especially for the doctrine of Christ as our Mediator with God. As it is quoted in Hebrews twice in establishing the superiority of Christ, it is a natural place to begin when looking at Christ’s role as our Mediator.

Verse 1: Note here that the LORD, Yahweh, is addressing the king here. The cross-reference in Hebrews 1:13 makes plain that this statement is ultimately directed to Christ.

This raises two practical questions for our Oneness interlocutors:

(1) How can God address God, if He is not a Trinity? Would this not be rather schizophrenic? Now the Bible has plenty of references to Jesus addressing the Father, and speaking of (or sending) the Spirit. A Oneness advocate could explain these as Jesus’ human nature addressing his divine nature, but here in this passage that will not work. We have here the divine addressing Christ in a context that Hebrews clearly quotes to establish Jesus’ divinity. So this cannot be a case of addressing Jesus’ humanity alone.

(2) How can Jesus sit at the right hand of Yahweh if there are no interpersonal distinctions between the Father and the Son? I can’t sit at my own right hand. And I’ve already shown that this cannot be a case of separating the divine from the human natures of Christ.

Let’s move on, then, to verse 4, also quoted in Hebrews (7:21). This raises the same question for Oneness adherents. Hebrews clearly states that Jesus was made a priest without an oath, like the old priesthood was – the meaning here is that the old Jewish priests took an oath. Instead, Jesus was made a priest by the one who “swore and will not change” his mind – God. Hebrews’ entire point in 7:21 rests on that fact that Jesus made no oath, because God made the oath. How is this possible, if there are no personal differentiations within God?

I already debunked the idea that God could be addressing Jesus’ human nature, because the context of Hebrews 1 was concerned with asserting his divinity (the Hebrews being addressed had no problem with Jesus’ humanity). However, let’s assume for the sake of argument the Oneness position (not adopted by all Oneness believers, it should be noted) that God is addressing the human nature of Jesus here. Jesus Christ is then our mediator only in his human nature, not his divine nature. This has several devastating implications for Christian theology:

(1) it means that the one Mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5) does not, in fact, partake of both natures, and so removes a key plank in Hebrews’ case for the uniqueness of Christ as our mediator. After all, Moses, another covenantal mediator between God and man, was only human;

(2) it means that Christ’s ministry as high priest in the heavens (which rests on this foundation) is only as a human being and not as God. This is plainly impossible, because Christ as high priest offers himself as a sacrifice for our sins (7:27), and only a person who is infinite God could bear the full penalty for all he saves;

(3) it means our salvation is not fully “from the Lord” as Jonah 2:9 tells us, as a critical part of the economy of salvation is accomplished by human nature alone;

(4) it means that “the power of an indestructible life” that is the reason he became a priest must be something inherent to Jesus’ human nature alone. Therefore, perfect living is possible by human effort without contribution from God. This, by the way, would account for the Oneness priority on human living as an active contribution to one’s salvation.

Next time I’ll look more closely at Hebrews 7:25 and its implications for our argument.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Reconciliation of the Genealogies of Christ in Matthew and Luke

Posted on behalf of Jeff Jones.

INTRODUCTION

The two genealogies of Jesus Christ given in the Gospels have for centuries puzzled scholars and laymen alike. The obvious differences between the accounts of Matthew and Luke pose an important critical question and stand as staples of lists of biblical difficulties.[1] The genealogical issue has given occasion for enemies of the Christian faith to question the inspiration of the Bible and the true ancestry of Christ.[2]

For evangelical Christians who are committed to the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture, it would be inconsistent with their beliefs to simply declare the lists as irreconcilable. Furthermore, while there are biblical difficulties that must be simply accepted as beyond the ability of modern scholars to solve at this point in history, this is not one of those. Proceeding on the assumptions of the unity and infallibility of Scripture, this paper endeavours to demonstrate that the Gospel genealogies can be harmonized.

PRELIMINARY GENEALOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Before delving into the various approaches that scholars have suggested to solve the genealogical puzzle, it is necessary to first examine some pertinent issues that are necessary for a good understanding of the problem. First among these is the matter of the importance of genealogies in the Jewish culture of the first century. It is beyond doubt that the Jews of Jesus’ day attached great value to their genealogies, vital as they were for legal issues such as inheritance and marriage,[3] and so maintained detailed public registers. It was these registers that the Evangelists likely consulted when compiling their genealogies, though some have raised questions about whether the public registers were actually available to the Gospel writers. This doubt is based chiefly upon a statement by Julius Africanus, quoted in the church history of Eusebius, alleging that well before Christ, Herod, embarrassed by the circumstances of his birth, had the registers burned to prevent their discovery.[4]

However, Africanus himself threw doubt on this report, saying: “Whether this be so or not no one could give a clearer account.”[5] The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, writing well after Christ, makes absolutely no mention of the alleged Herodian destruction of the registers, and indeed cites them himself: “Thus have I set down the genealogy of my family as I have found it described in the public records.”[6] Furthermore, the repeated emphasis in Paul’s epistles on genealogical controversies (1 Tim. 1:4, Tit. 3:9) presupposes that the records were available as fodder for speculation. The existence of the registers can thus be considered an established fact.

Second, it must also be observed that, while Jesus’ legitimacy as Messiah was continually challenged by the Pharisees and other opponents, there do not appear to have been any serious questions raised about his Davidic lineage. This lineage in no way is dependent on the two Gospel lists, as plenty of other evidence supports the point. Jesus repeatedly allowed himself to be referred to as the “Son of David,” Peter mentioned his Davidic background in his speech at Pentecost (Acts 2:29-32), and Paul cites him as being a descendant of David at least three times (Rom. 1:3, 2 Tim 2:8, Acts 13:23). Fairbairn observes that one of the objections that was raised against Christ, that of his Galilean heritage, was due to the conviction that a descendant of David was expected to arise from Bethlehem.[7] Since Jesus’ home in Nazareth should have provided his “adversaries a prima facie ground to question [his Davidic lineage]… that these doubts did not find any audible utterance or assume a tangible form, can only be accounted for by the conclusive evidence which existed of His royal parentage.”[8]

Third, the Gospel genealogies, taken as they were from Jewish public records, can be expected to reflect certain idiosyncrasies common in Hebrew genealogies. For example, it was common that a man would be known by more than one name,[9] a fact that could account for some (though certainly not all, or even most) of the differences seen in the Gospel accounts.[10] This fact must be used with care, however. Gregory of Nazianzus attempted to argue that the two names listed as “fathers” of Joseph – Heli and Jacob – were one and the same man, but as Aquinas pointed out in response, the two are stated as descending from different sons of David.[11]

Another very important genealogical feature is that the Hebrews considered a descendant to be the “son” of even a distant ancestor,[12] meaning that genealogical tables could skip generations while committing no real error. We see this in Matthew’s table, where Joram is said to be the father of Uzziah, though from Chronicles we know that Joram’s direct son was Ahaziah, who fathered Jehoash, who fathered Amaziah, the biological father of Uzziah. In the case of Matthew’s list, his reason for passing by some is clearly to conform his list to a pattern of three fourteens.

Furthermore, differences between the lists may reflect a lack of standardization in spelling, the fact that written Hebrew of the time had no vowel points, and the subsequent translation of the names of the public registers into Greek. An example of this can be seen in Matt. 1:15 and Luke 3:24, where the name given in the second generation before Joseph is “Matthan” by Matthew and “Matthat” by Luke; there can be little doubt that the same person is meant.[13]

Finally, Jewish legal practice with regard to adoption and marriage would have impacted the genealogical lines. One outstanding example of such practice is levirate marriage, of which more will be said later. For now it is sufficient to cite the Old Testament example of Jair, whose lineage is cited in 2 Chron. 2, Num. 32:41, and Deut. 3:14-15. In Chronicles, Jair descends from Judah, but the Penteteuchal accounts both refer to him as a Manassite. The oddity is resolved by looking to 2 Chron. 2:22-23, which explains that Jair’s grandfather married the daughter of Machir, Manasseh’s son, and had Segub, who fathered Jair – who thus took his inheritance in Manasseh, while another grandson of

Hezron, Asshur, had his inheritance in Judah.[14]

Fourth, there appears to be some textual problems with both the Gospel lists. Luke lists a second Cainan between Shelah and Arphaxad (v. 36), who is not listed in the Hebrew genealogy (Gen. 10:21-24). Most extant Septuagint copies have the name, but not in the corresponding genealogy in 1 Chron. 1; the Septuagint used by Josephus, Theophilus of Antioch, and Africanus does not seem to have had the name; and Jerome, working from the Hebrew, omits any mention of Cainan in his commentary on that very verse.[15] Augustine, however, writing in the fourth century, had the name in both his Septuagint and copy of Luke, suggesting that “Cainan” entered the Greek textual tradition before that time – probably starting with a scribal error in a copy of the Septuagint and later incorporated as a correction to Luke.[16] The evidence seems to lean against the name having been in either the original Hebrew or Greek, of both Testaments, but it is impossible to be certain.

An easier textual problem is found in Matthew’s account, which, though it purports to present a genealogy arranged in three sets of fourteen generations, lists only 41 generations rather than the expected 42. It has already been observed above that Matthew omits generations (in the case of Uzziah’s forebears), and this is done intentionally to conform the genealogy to his intended three fourteens. It is unlikely that, with this intent, Matthew would have miscounted and dropped too many generations, and so there has likely been a name dropped somewhere in the process of transmission. The most likely place is in the generations of Josiah and Jeconiah, as Josiah is said to have begotten Jeconiah and his brothers around the time of the exile – a statement that is historically suspect.[17] Josiah, well before the exile, actually fathered Jehoiakim, who around the time mentioned by Matthew fathered Jeconiah (Jehoiachin). Jeconiah is listed at the beginning of the third set of generations, and this set, being not only the post-deportation set but also having only thirteen names if Jeconiah is not counted, seems to be the rightful place for the deported king. This, however, leaves the middle set with only thirteen if David is counted in only the first set. When one considers that the difference in the Greek between the two names is one letter (Jehoiakim is VIwakeim and Jehoiachin is VIwaceim), and the letters chi and kappa in the uncial (X and K) are extremely similar, it seems very likely that a scribe inadvertently dropped one name thinking them to be the same.[18] If Jehoiakim were added into the lineage after Josiah, all sets would have fourteen, and the total number would again be 42.

THREE POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS

The early church fathers, like scholars throughout history, struggled with the genealogical differences in the Gospels. Ambrose, for instance, believed the two genealogies represented a kingly and priestly family of Christ.[19] His student, Augustine, building on Ambrose’ foundation, expressed the opinion that due to her relationship with Elizabeth, the wife of a priest, Mary was actually a member of the tribe of Levi. This, to him, was an allegorical clue that Luke’s genealogy was priestly, though he still believed it was that of Joseph.[20] This had the appeal of having Jesus’ lineage traced from both David as king and from Aaron as priest. From this supposition, Augustine, interpreting allegorically, saw Luke’s genealogy as being a “priestly” genealogy, as Aquinas explains:

“But in Luke's genealogy the washing away of our sins is signified," which is effected by Christ's sacrifice. "For which reason Matthew traces the generations downwards, Luke upwards." For the same reason too "Matthew descends from David through Solomon, in whose mother David sinned; whereas Luke ascends to David through Nathan, through whose namesake, the prophet, God expiated his sin."[21]

However, this is a rather fanciful interpretation, based as it is on Luke’s use of an ascending order and on a namesake! Augustine’s allegorical approach carries the weakness of subjectivity – one can find almost anything they want in the text. Interpreting the text from a grammatical-historical approach, one finds no foundation whatsoever for this perspective.

Lea and Black, in describing the genealogical issue, list three primary suggestions offered by New Testament scholars as potential solutions to the genealogical problem,[22] of which two will be examined in this section. The first of these is the idea that Matthew lists Jesus’ adoptive lineage through Joseph and Luke provides his biological ancestry through Mary.[23] Various scholars through church history have held this view. Calvin, though he rejected it, refers to this view and its adherents,[24] and Fairbairn, writing in 1858, lists at least seven of its supporters.[25] Gleason Archer advocates this view in his Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties:

This seems to be implied by the wording of v.23 [of Luke 3]: “Jesus… being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph.” This “as was supposed” indicates that Jesus was not really the biological son of Joseph… It further calls attention to the mother, Mary, who must of necessity have been the sole human parent through whom Jesus could have descended from a line of ancestors. Her genealogy is thereupon listed, starting with Heli…[26]

However, this view poses another difficulty: how could Mary’s line have, after David, diverged from Joseph’s, converged in Shealtiel, and then diverged again afterwards? One possible solution is to assert that the Shealtiel and Zerubbabel in each account are different from the pair in the other, but having identical (very prominent!) names and generations in the same epoch of Jewish history indicates that they are indeed the same. Furthermore, Luke does not mention Mary in the genealogy at all, and it would have been abnormal in the cultural and historical context to trace a genealogy through the mother.[27]

Fairbairn notes that the “Mary’s genealogy” view seems to have been a Reformation-era development, as the early church writers were in general agreement that the two genealogies traced through Joseph, not Mary.[28] Indeed, one of the earliest to advance this view was Annius of Vitterbo around 1490.[29] Ambrose, stating that Mary’s lineage was included in that of Joseph’s, argued that Luke’s genealogy was that of Joseph and that Jesus, “being born according to the flesh, he must follow the usage of the flesh, and he who came into the world must be described in the custom of the world”[30] – that is, by his father’s ancestry. Hilary explicitly said, “…the origin of Joseph instead of Mary is recounted,”[31] and even Augustine stated the lists give two fathers (one natural, one adoptive) for Joseph.[32]

The next approach mentioned by Lea and Black is that of explaining the differences by reference to levirate marriage. This approach starts with the difference in the accounts about Joseph’s father – said to be Jacob in Matthew, and Heli in Luke. This raises the obvious question: how can a man have two fathers? The Roman emperor Julian the Apostate raised this objection as part of an overall attack on the Christian faith, holding it as evidence that the Bible was hopelessly riddled with contradictions.[33] The practice of levirate marriage holds a potential answer to this question. Essentially, levirate marriage involved one man uniting with the wife of a deceased and heirless man in order to produce an heir to continue the latter’s name. The Old Testament law laid down the parameters of these arrangements, and as seen above in the case of Jair, they were widely practiced.

This is an ancient proposal. The third-century writer Africanus, as cited by Eusebius, stated:

“Since the names of the families in Israel were numbered either by nature or by law; by nature, in the succession of legitimate birth; by law, when a man begat children in the name of a brother who had died childless… by following this kind of genealogy some succeeded in the legitimate order of father and son, but others were reckoned in name to one father though the children of another, the memory of both was retained, both of the actual and of the fictitious parents. Thus neither of the Gospels misstates, reckoning both nature and law.”[34]

Proponents of the levirate solution, beginning with Africanus, held that Matthew gave the actual lineage of Christ through Joseph’s biological father Jacob, and Luke gave the legal lineage through Heli.[35]

The problem with this view is that it explains too little. At best, it would account only for the differences in the postexilic period, because the two genealogies converge immediately after the exile. Both writers (Matt. 1:12-13 and Luke 3:27) give the same two names at the start of the post-exilic period: Shealtiel and his son Zerubbabel. There is little doubt that these are the same people, as this is the same Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, referred to repeatedly in Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah as the leader of the Jews returning from Babylon. A levirate marriage producing Joseph would, even if involving representatives of different families, still have these common ancestors. As observed previously, the pre-exilic genealogies are descended from different sons of David, and this theory will not account for this difference. In fact, a levirate marriage involving Heli and Jacob’s generation would go back no further, because as discussed above, the names previous to them in each genealogy – Matthat and Matthan, respectively – most likely refer to the same person![36] Therefore, the levirate idea fails to fully solve the problem.

A ROYAL AND A NATURAL DESCENT

So if Luke is not giving an allegorical account or the line of Mary, as the two accounts were both intended to give Joseph’s lineage, and if levirate marriage cannot account for most of the differences in the genealogies, how are they to be reconciled? Lea and Black give a third option, which they attribute to J. Gresham Machen,[37] that is a far more likely possibility. In this scheme, Matthew gives the legal ancestry of Jesus – that is, the Jewish line of royal succession – and Luke provides (generally speaking, as shall be seen below) Jesus’ natural descent.

Though attributed to Machen by Lea and Black, this view is actually far older than the twentieth century. John Calvin was one of the first to articulate this view. In his Harmony of the Evangelists, he refers to Africanus’ comments, and elaborates:

Matthew and Luke unquestionably do not observe the same order; for immediately after David the one puts Solomon, and the other Nathan; which makes it perfectly clear that they follow different lines. This sort of contradiction is reconciled by good and learned interpreters in the following manner. Matthew, departing from the natural lineage, which is followed by Luke, reckons up the legal genealogy… the kingdom, which had been established in the person of Solomon, passed in a lawful manner to Salathiel [Shealtiel – ESV].[38]

Thus Calvin, in referring to “good and learned interpreters,” does not take credit for this idea himself, but suggests that others either contemporary or prior to him held the same opinion. He goes on:

There is no absurdity in supposing, that Luke traces the descent of Christ from Nathan: for it is possible that the line of Solomon, so far as it relates to the succession of the throne, may have been broken off. It may be objected, that Jesus cannot be acknowledged as the promised Messiah, if he be not a descendant of Solomon, who was an undoubted type of Christ. But the answer is easy. Though he was not naturally descended from Solomon, yet he was reckoned his son by legal succession, because he was descended from kings.[39]

Calvin points to a critical assumption in this scheme: that since the two lists are derived

from different sons of David, there must have been a “failure” in the Solomonic royal line. Consequently, the royal succession passed to the descendants of his brother Nathan. The question is, when did this occur?

Calvin held that the break occurred with the death of Ahaziah when the kingship passed to Joash, who he believed to be of Nathan’s line.[40] He believed that the wicked queen Athaliah, who attempted to kill Joash, would not have done so if he was Ahaziah’s son, because she could have ruled as regent without interference, pretending to be his tutor.[41] Against this view, however, is the fact that the genealogies are still much different after this point, not converging until Shealtiel. Furthermore, there is no reason why Joash’s particular descent would have made any difference in Athaliah’s ability to serve as regent.

Fairbairn, following the same general scheme, offered a better explanation of the Solomonic line’s failure. Instead of locating the break at Ahaziah, he points to the judgment of God on the Jewish king Jehoiakim (Jer. 36:30):[42] “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night.” Therefore it is extremely unlikely that Jesus is Jehoiakim’s physical descendant. If this prediction was indeed fulfilled, and there was a previous break in the royal line as Calvin believed, then there would have been two failures in the line of succession, resulting in the need for yet another adoption or levirate marriage to bring the genealogies together. It seems simpler to dismiss the idea of a failure at Ahaziah and accept the break as occurring after Jehoiachin, Jehoiakim’s son, who in Matthew’s line was succeeded by Shealtiel. As Shealtiel was also in Luke’s list as the son of Neri, the solution is obvious: Shealtiel was the biological son of Neri and the physical descendant of Nathan, and assumed the title to the throne when Jehoiachin died without an heir.[43] As such, Shealtiel (and later Jesus) was a legal, though not biological, descendant of Solomon.

At this point there is another issue to be resolved. In 1 Chr. 3:17-19, Zerubbabel is listed as the son of Pedaiah, Shealtiel’s brother. Whose son was he? One possible resolution is to follow certain Septuagint manuscripts that drop out Pedaiah, but the Hebrew texts are far more likely to be correct.[44] Machen’s solution is that Pedaiah raised up an heir for a presumably heirless Shealtiel in accordance with levirate law, and Luke then counted Zerubbabel as Shealtiel’s son on that basis.[45] This requires a modification of the hypothesis, as Luke does not rigidly provide simply a biological ancestry, but in a general sense gives the natural descent of Christ. Luke thus follows close family and adoptive relationships, while Matthew’s list “involved breaks where the scion of a more or less widely separated collateral line had to be taken into the succession of the heirs to the throne.”[46]

This view explains the differences in the tables up to Shealtiel in the post-exilic period. Yet the two lists depart from one another again, either after Zerubbabel or Abiud (Matt. 1:13) – who may be the same as the Joda listed by Luke (3:26).[47] They do not coincide again until Matthat (Matthan), Joseph’s grandfather. How can this be explained? If the hypothesis that Luke provides Jesus’ natural descent is correct, then the lines did indeed diverge between Abiud and Matthat. They came together again with Matthat, probably the actual son of Levi (Luke 3:24), as the royal succession came to him from Levi’s relative Eleazar (Matt. 1:15), who must have not had an heir of his own. Otherwise, there was perhaps a levirate marriage involved with Levi producing Matthat as an heir for Eleazar.

From here, the problem of Joseph’s biological parentage is easily resolved. Matthew’s Jacob, son of Matthan, and Luke’s Heli, son of Matthat, must in fact be brothers, sons of the same father.[48] Fairbairn postulates that Jacob may have had only daughters, and Joseph, being Heli’s son, married one of these – either before his marriage to Mary, or that she was herself Jacob’s daughter.[49] Joseph would then have become Jacob’s heir with respect to the kingly succession. Furthermore, if Mary was indeed Jacob’s daughter, she and Joseph would have been first cousins – a marriage arrangement hardly foreign to Scripture. As Fairbairn points out, this:

…perfectly accords with Jewish practice… It was the constant aim of the Jews to make inheritance and blood-relationship, as far as possible, go together. And it could not seem otherwise than natural and proper, that the daughter of the nearest heir to the throne of David, should be espoused to the next heir. Nor is it undeserving of notice – as, at least, negatively favouring the supposition respecting Mary – that, while we read of a sister, we never hear of a brother belonging to her; excepting Joseph, female relatives alone are mentioned. [50]

Thus the differences between the Matthean and Lucan genealogies are, quite simply, a matter of emphasis and intent. One of Matthew’s great concerns, as a Jewish writer, was to vindicate Jesus’ claim to be the promised Davidic Messiah who would fulfill the covenants with Abraham and David.[51] To that end, he provided his genealogy to show that Jesus was, through his adoptive father, the rightful and legal heir to the Davidic throne. Luke, on the other hand, was a Gentile writing to Gentiles, who lived in a culture steeped in philosophy that downplayed the importance and goodness of material and fleshly things. His concern, as shown in his list’s culmination in Adam, was to demonstrate Jesus’ relation to the whole human race,[52] as a real human being, with a real family, standing in the line of humanity from its beginning.

CONCLUSION

Apparent biblical contradictions may seem daunting at first, especially to the evangelical Christian committed to the unity and perfection of Scripture. Problems like the Gospel genealogies teach us that, inspired of God as it is, Scripture is also a production of the hands of men, reflecting the culture, priorities, and personality of human writers. They should not serve as a reason to question or abandon the faith – much less as a pretext to attack it – but rather as a humbling reminder that man’s wisdom is far below that of God. By submitting to the teaching of Scripture regarding its perfection and consistency, rather than dismissing it as inadequate in light of fallible human first impressions, Christians are forced to look harder and deeper at what God has inspired. In doing so, valuable lessons may be learned that would be otherwise missed. Such difficulties are a useful reminder that understanding God’s Word is a discipline that requires dedication and hard work, but which promises rich and lasting rewards to those willing to humbly search for God’s truth.


[1] Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982).

[2] Thomas Aquinas, Treatise on the Incarnation, in Summa Theologica, Third Part [book online]; available from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/aquinas/summa.TP_Q31_A3.html; Internet; accessed 19 October 2006.

[3] Thomas Lea and David Black, The New Testament: Its Background and Message (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003), 173.

[4] Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, vol. 1, trans. Kirsopp Lake (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1949), 63.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Flavius Josephus, The Life of Flavius Josephus, in The Works Of Flavius Josephus, vol. II, trans. William Whiston (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974), 4.

[7] Patrick Fairbairn, Opening Scripture (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1858; reprint, Vestuvia Hills, Alabama: Solid Ground Christian Publications, 2005), 181 (page citations are to the reprint edition).

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., 190.

[10] John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Vol. 1, trans. William Pringle (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981)

[11]Aquinas.

[12] Frank Stagg, “Matthew,” in General Articles, Matthew-Mark, The Broadman Bible Commentary, vol. 8, ed. Clifton Allen et al (Nashville: Broadman, 1969), 81.

[13] Fairbairn, 196.

[14] Ibid., 194-195.

[15] Ibid., 197-98.

[16] Ibid., 198.

[17] Ibid., 19

[18] Ibid., 199.

[19] Ambrose, “Exposition of the Gospel of Luke 3:12-13,” in Ancient Christian Commentary On Scripture, vol. III, ed. Thomas Oden et al (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 70.

[20] Augustine, “Harmony of the Gospels 2.3.5,” in Ancient Christian Commentary On Scripture, vol. 1a, ed. Thomas Oden et al (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 4.

[21] Aquinas.

[22] Lea and Black, 174.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Calvin, 80.

[25] Fairbairn, 187.

[26] Archer, 316.

[27] Malcolm Tolbert, “Luke,” in Luke-John, The Broadman Bible Commentary, vol. 9, ed. Clifton Allen et al (Nashville: Broadman, 1970), 41.

[28] Fairbairn, 186.

[29] Stagg, 81.

[30] Ambrose, “Exposition of the Gospel of Luke 3:4,” in Ancient Christian Commentary On Scripture, vol. III, ed. Thomas Oden et al (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 70.

[31] Hilary, “On Matthew 1.1,” in Ancient Christian Commentary On Scripture, vol. 1a, ed. Thomas Oden et al (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 4.

[32] Augustine, 4.

[33] Aquinas.

[34] Eusebius, 55, 57.

[35] Lea and Black, 174.

[36] Fairbairn, 196.

[37] Lea and Black, 174.

[38] Calvin, 85.

[39] Ibid., 87.

[40] Ibid., 86.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Fairbairn, 194.

[43] Ibid.

[44] J. Gresham Machen, The Virgin Birth of Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1930), 206.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid., 205.

[48] Fairbairn, 196.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid., 197.

[51] Stagg, 80.

[52] Tolbert, 41.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The importance of the Trinity

Sadly, there are surely many professing evangelicals who do not understand the Trinity in even a cursory manner, and when asked to explain the doctrine, fail miserably. It is no surprise, then, that those who reject it often misconstrue it, and invest their time into assaulting straw men. Even those who accept it cannot articulate it. I have myself heard it explained wrong many times, and in the past I have held a view that was, in my ignorance, contrary to the revelation of Scripture. Thankfully, grace abounds, and my God and Savior opened my heart to receive the truth of His nature with joy.

Let us briefly examine the motivation for learning this doctrine accurately.

First and foremost, it is absolutely necessary that we hold in our minds the true image of God. The fact is that we make idols out of everything. And when we try to understand concepts, we relate them to things that already exist. There is no way around this - think of how often we try to describe something by relating it to something we already know. We do this same thing with God, in various ways. We try to relate Him to us, and in that way we 'humanize' (anthropomorphize) Him. We try to relate His nature to objects in reality. While this can be helpful to understand a particular aspect of God's nature, pushed far enough or analyzed thoroughly enough, the analogy will be inadequate and flawed - simply put, wrong.

The sin of idolatry is to make a false image of God. That is, every human who has elevated an idol or a concept to the status of god believes to some degree that this representation is accurate, and in many cases, that this representation is true. This includes the postmodern concept of ambiguity - holding an image of a God that is indiscrete, thoroughly foggy and ambiguous is itself an 'image.' So then, it is fundamentally important that we hold in our minds the true image of God, or else we worship a false representation of Him. James White articulates this clearly:

True worship must worship God as He exists, not as we wish Him to be. The essence of idolatry is the making of images of God. An image is a shadow, a false representation. We may not bow before a statue or figure, but if we make an image of God in our mind that is not in accord with God’s revelation of Himself, then we are not worshipping in truth. Since sin and rebellion are always pushing us toward false gods and away from the true God, we must seek every day to conform our thinking and our worship to God’s straight-edge standard of truth, revealed so wonderfully in Scripture. We must be willing to love God as He is, and that includes every aspect of His being that might, due to our fallen state, be offensive to us, or beyond our limited capacities to fully comprehend. God is not to be edited to fit our ideas and preconceptions. (The Forgotten Trinity, p. 18).1

Secondly, it is important for obedience and relationship to God to understand these truths precisely as the Scripture has taught us. Some think that these 'theological details' are only for theologians. This assertion is ridiculously self-contradictory and absurd. Let's quickly examine why.

We are commanded to love God. We are also commanded to love our wives (spouses). As a human being, it does no good for me to say I love my wife, and not care to understand her desires, needs, fears, weaknesses, strengths, etc. In fact, none of you would feel loved if you were with someone who did this, and rightly so. He or she demonstrates an apathy in caring for you, as you would if you did this. Moreover, if my wife has made an effort to tell me about her desires, her fears, and she has invested in causing me to know her and put effort into the relationship, then I am doubly guilty of failing to love her.

This is how we love. We love when we joyfully exist to make much of another with all our heart, strength, and mind.

So if we are told to love God, and we talk so much about a relationship with Him, as is the modern evangelical speak, then is it not absolute lunacy and gross hypocrisy to say "I love God" and make little to no effort to know who He is in every way we can, especially since He has revealed so much through the written Word in Scriptures? In order to have a living faith, in order to have a relationship with God, you MUST know Him as He has revealed Himself to us. It is my strong suspicion that many use the 'mystery of God' concept (which, incidentally, is completely removed from the Biblical concept of the mystery of God) as an excuse for their own apathy and unwillingness to invest in knowing God through the Scriptures. Knowing anyone is hard work, and it requires a great deal of self-sacrifice to love someone. How much more, then, is needed to love God? Jesus demanded absolute self-denial - it is no wonder so many supposed Christians wallow in ignorance willingly: To pursue God means to lose oneself - and many love themselves to much to do that.

Now that I have discussed the importance of knowing truths like the Trinity for our relationship with God, let us look at how it relates to obedience.

1 Peter 3:15
14  But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,15  but in your hearts regard 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;16  yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Simply put, it is a command from God to be prepared to give a defence, an argument, an apologetic for our hope - motivated by an unwavering perception of the holiness of Jesus Christ. We have all, I am sure, failed to do this many times. In order to give a defence for our hope, we need to understand our hope, and we need to understand the God on whom our hope rests: Then we can give the reason why our hope is true - because it is promised by the certain and unchanging Word of the one, true, Creator of heaven and earth; the Triune God. Basically, if you do not understand the God of the Bible, and you do not care to know Him, you demonstrate clearly how much you love Him, and you will fail to be able to give a coherent, consistent, and truthful defence to those who ask you the reason for your hope, and you will find yourself the willing tool of disobedience, working against the very hope and God you claim to love.

For this reason, I think a series on the Trinity would be beneficial, and I am in the process of preparing one.

Notes
1. James White's book, The Forgotten Trinity, is a solid, biblical overview of the doctrine of the Trinity, and well worth picking up. I found it quite helpful in my own past studies, and in producing the document upon which this post is based. You can find it here: http://www.aomin.org/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=47

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Modesty And The Excluded Middle

It seems that my quotation has raised a bit of a ruckus. Scott thinks I'm advocating sexual licentiousness. Let's talk about this for a minute.

Scott said:

"Do you want to know what is actually taught, or do you feel more comfortable saying what is believed while actually not knowing."

I always study carefully before asserting something about another position. I've read Oneness writings, listened to debates with Oneness advocates, studied the testimonies and reflections of former Oneness Pentecostals, and, yes, interacted with Oneness believers.

If you think something I've said is unfair, make it plain. Say, "I don't believe that." And if you don't, or if it can't be shown to be a reasonable conclusion from your stated beliefs, I'll concede that. But you haven't done so yet.

Scott:

"The idea of modesty and nakedness specifically is not relegated to "Pentecostals"."

I wish you'd remembered that before writing your screed.

Scott:

"In fact most denominations 60 years ago believed and looked the same way. Women had long hair, wore dresses and there was a standard for modesty. Now to even state that there should be some modesty is "Legalism"?"

No, and that's not what I said. Modesty is not legalism. Modesty is dressing in a manner that demonstrates discretion and respect for God and one's own body.

Prescribing a specific dress standard (i.e. long dresses) and then threatening adherents with loss of salvation if they do not comply, however, is not modesty, but legalism - because it makes a certain kind of human performance necessary for salvation. In fact, insofar as it represents a temptation to think you are "better" or "more holy" than others, it can potentially be the exact opposite of modesty.

Scott, I have a wife and a daughter. Modesty is of great value to me. I have no problem with long hair and long dresses. And I know our culture is hypersexualized and has a far lower threshold of what is "acceptable" than should be the case. As a husband and father, that scares me. However, I don't see how the fashions of the 1950's are the biblically prescribed answer. You keep talking about denominations some forty years ago. Why only go back that far? Why not go back to the 17th century and hoopskirts? Why not dress like the Inuit in furs from head to toe? What about burqas? What is your standard, Scott? What sets a certain outfit apart as modest, over and against what is immodest? Why does your dress standard please God, over and against, say, the hijabs of fundamentalist Muslims?

I do have a problem with mandating a specific cultural expression of modesty from a specific time period as the only acceptable expression of modesty – and I really object to the aspersions cast upon those who still dress conservatively and as fits their gender as distinct, but who don't see the dress of rural America in the 1950s as being the only way to glorify God in modesty. And when it becomes a test of salvation, that's a big line to cross. You now have to prove not that modesty is a Gospel issue, but that long dresses, segregated swimming, and the like are Gospel issues.

Scott:

"So, we should feel free to walk around virtually naked, save for a fig leaf over our private and frolick in public with the knowledge of Grace and Love, because lust and impure thoughts never enter the mind of a grace effected person."

Now here is a textbook example of "the fallacy of the excluded middle." Because I think that making boys and girls swim at separate times and in full body swimming suits is excessive, I am obviously advocating that they swim together, and naked. This statement is ludicrous, and insulting.

But it underlines my point: the UPC's entire approach to this issue commits the same error. There are two stark alternatives: nakedness, or total separation and full body suits. What makes this legalistic is that it prescribes a law – say, men and women can't swim together - that the Bible never explicitly states (which should matter to you, Scott, since you're fishing for an explicit Biblical verse defining the Trinity) and makes it binding on the conscience. Why stop there? Why not separate the men and women in worship, like Orthodox Jews? Why not separate them in the marital bed, like the Shakers? Where's the line?

This example was cited not because I approve of G-strings or other sexually titillating swimwear (I most certainly don't), but because it represented an extreme reaction in the other direction. UPC theology leaves no room for wisdom and discernment, but sets up a series of laws instead. It may keep a person safe from sexual sin – but it encourages trust in the rules to keep one safe rather than developing Christian discernment and judgment.

And this is a Gospel issue. The foundation for our salvation is the finished work of Christ, alone. What saves us is not the proper mode of baptism, but a living and repentant faith in Jesus Christ (itself a gift bestowed by God). What keeps us saved is not our own efforts, but that same finished work of Christ pointed to again and again by our Advocate and Mediator, Christ, before the throne of the Father. In your theological system, since Father and Son are essentially the same, you have no mediator, and so salvation is something you have to "maintain" by your own efforts. You have to "stay saved." Thus, rules and regulations that focus on behavior while neglecting character, that point to the law instead of to Christ and what we are called to be in Him.

Scott:

"I will endevour to put something together to demonstrate for you what specifically I believe how works and faith function together."

Looking forward to it. Please explain, as part of this, how it is that Christ can truly be called a "mediator" and the Holy Spirit "intercede" with the Father, if they are merely parts that God plays.

Scott:

"I do think your writing demonstrates a complete lack of Biblical understanding in the rank and file of evangelicals in the area of basic ideals of modesty, because the pulpit has been silent so long, there is not even a memory of what these same pulpits have said on these issues just a few decades ago."

I'll be the first to say that modern evangelicals are forgetting their heritage. And many an evangelical church has capitulated to the culture in the area of modesty. But conceding that's a far cry from proving that I am now advocating boys and girls swim naked together!

You'll have to show me how it is that the dress standards of rural America from the 1950's are the only biblically acceptable expression of modesty. You'll have to show me why, biblically speaking, boys and girls can't swim together. You'll have to show me why, biblically speaking, pants of a conservative fit can't be acceptable for women, but dresses are (I don't know if that's what you believe, but many UPC people do, so let me know). What are your criteria for discernment? What are the explicit biblical teachings for these things, like the ones you want for the Trinity? And if your convictions are based on a "whole-Bible" theology, just why can't such an approach be adequate for proving the Trinity?

Scott:
"amazing."

Indeed. I must go - my darned wife is putting a diaper on our daughter, and I won't tolerate any of that clothing stuff for my kids....

I'm praying for you, though. Soon I'll have a bit more on the concept of Christ as Mediator.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

God Is Not An Actor

The Grim Consequences of Legalism

A classmate of mine wrote me the following some time ago, and I thought it an instructive testimony about the devastating impact of Oneness theology:

“We have a close Christian friend who was very mixed up by the United Pentecostals. His theology is just BAD. The worst part is how badly it messed up his children. We visited his adult daughter on our holiday, and she broke down and told me how hurt she had been by the rigid belief system, and restrictions as a child her father demanded, although she loves him, and he is a very loving man... I believe this doctrine of the Oneness movement to be very damaging. I remember that when they went to UPC summer camp as children, they put black plastic around the pool fence, and the boys and girls swam at separate times, in full body bathing suits! This kind of legalism shocked me.”

Theology matters, and bad theology can have horrendous consequences. In the case of this family, the legalism required by UPC beliefs disrupts even a loving family. It’s not for no reason that Paul warned the Colossians that legalism and observing outward regulations is of little value (2:23). Indeed, such obsessive law-keeping is a sign that one has not truly died with Christ to the world (Col. 2:20).

A Distorted Picture of God

But why does Oneness theology tend in this legalistic direction? Put simply, Oneness theology has driven a wedge between, on the one hand, what God “really is” in Oneness theology, and on the other, what God inconveniently “appears like” in the New Testament (and I would argue the Old as well). This dichotomy means that all of the New Testament teaching showing God as an interpersonal being – showing the Father relating to the Son, the Son mediating between the Father and mankind, the Spirit interceding with the Father on our behalf, showing love and affection between members of the Godhead, etc. – is all really just a “show.” These are nothing more than mere “modes” or “manifestations” appearing to relate, to feel, to communicate, to interact.

So while God reveals himself as three temporary and illusory “masks” or “faces,” the reality behind the mask, the “who” of God, what God really is, is still elusive and shrouded. And as one former Oneness Pentecostal put it, “When one’s God is hidden, one must grab onto gods more tangible.” And so the UPC and other Oneness denominations present a God obsessed with appearances and performances, who then gathers a people similarly obsessed with outward appearances. This is a deity who, because he is ever hidden behind the masks he shows to the world and is ever acting like something other than what he truly is, expects (and gets) the same from his people.

It Doesn't Depend On Us, Actually

What a contrast from the gracious (and revealed!) God of the Bible and of Trinitarian theology. The gospels offered by Trinitarians and modalists could not be more different. In the Sabellian modalism of the UPC, God saves a person based ultimately on their own performance. In Trinitarian theology, God saves a person based upon Christ’s performance. The Father sends the Son to redeem the world; the Son submits to the will of the Father and offers himself as the victim of the Father’s righteous wrath against sin; and the Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son to apply this salvation to human hearts as an act of adoration and exaltation toward Christ.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Trinity Matters

The "Oneness" God: Obsessed With Appearances

I was exposed to the Oneness Pentecostal movement when still juvenile in my faith, and that helped sharpen my conviction about the absolute necessity for the Trinity in Christian faith. Put simply, Oneness Pentecostals (like the United Pentecostal Church) are modalists - Sabellians. They believe in three "modes" or "manifestations" of God but reject any personal or eternal distinctions within God's being.

The sad thing is that this reduces God, in biblical revelation, to a mere actor wearing masks. What's more troubling is that the entire thrust of Oneness theology has been fatally tainted as a result. They believe in a God who is ever changing faces, or who is ever revealing a different face - a God who, in short, is extremely concerned with appearances. It's no coincidence that these denominations then require strict dress codes (in some places in Atlantic Canada, the term "Pentecostal" implies not so much tongues and passionate worship as it does floor-length patterned dresses and hair back in a bun) and threaten their members with loss of salvation if they do not comply. Their stress on "Jesus only" baptism as being required for salvation is a further mistake derived from this foundational error.

We Have No Mediator?

The most devastating effect of modalism, however, is that since the Father and Son are identical in person - the same person simply playing different roles - it therefore strips the Christian of his or her Mediator before God. In orthodox theology, while we stand before a Judge being accused by Satan, we also have a Divine Mediator who can argue on our behalf and point to His own work as a basis for mercy toward us. In Oneness theology, there can be no such distinction between Judge and Mediator - the Mediator is the Judge, and thus we have no mediator. Consequently, the believer is left to argue his own case before God without intercession on his or her behalf by either a distinct Christ or a distinct Holy Spirit. It's no wonder, then, that the UPC and other Oneness denominations functionally deny justification by faith alone, adding requirements like Jesus-only immersion baptism, long dresses, short hair on men, tongues-speaking, avoidance of TV, and other "works" or "performances" as requirements for salvation. Without an Advocate before the Father, they have to prove their own worth.

This is just one example of why the Trinity is so critical for Christianity, and why orthodox Christians have held that a denial of the Trinity is heresy. One need not understand the Trinity to be saved - as if any of us ever could - but an informed denial of it is tantamount either to a belief in multiple gods or a denial that we need a Mediator between God and man and an Advocate before the Father. The Trinity is non-negotiable.

Not A Fringe Movement

And just in case anyone reading this thinks that this is just a fringe movement, it's not. It's actually quite influential even in evangelical circles. TD Jakes is one example of a modalist "evangelical leader." The CCM group Phillips, Craig, and Dean are all UPC pastors and all teach Sabellian modalism, and yet their music is all over the Christian airwaves and sung in our churches. I personally think it terrible how low evangelical discernment has fallen. We'd never put music by Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses on Christian radio, precisely because of their Trinitarian heresies (polytheism for the former, subordinationism for the latter). Why, then, are PCD embraced as evangelical Christians when their very conception of God is so radically different from (and incompatible with) ours? Why are UPC pastors, who not only accept but are required to teach salvation by works, embraced as theological role models for evangelical kids?

If we think the Trinity matters, brothers and sisters, it has to matter not only in our classrooms but on our radio stations (and church worship sets) as well. Does it?

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Summarator

I've moved the daily blog update off this blog so that we don't rapidly bury our own content.

If you look to the top-right corner of the blog, you'll see a section entitled The Summarator. Daily blog summaries are posted there.

You may want to subscribe to the RSS feed.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Confusing Regeneration with Eternal Life?

Did this presenter just confuse regeneration with eternal life?

2. Irresistible grace reverses the biblical order of salvation. (This is the most serious.)
a. Which comes first, regeneration or faith? R.C. Sproul quoted to demonstrate the Reformed view that regeneration precedes faith. Jesus words in John 3 concerning the serpent lifted in the wilderness and those looking to the serpent living, proves that John 5:40: coming to Christ precedes having life. John 11:25, the believing precedes the living. b. Which comes first the Spirit’s regeneration or is regeneration commensurate with justification?
c. What comes first repentance and faith or regeneration? John 20:31, the believing precedes the life [other texts cited].

This argument is so absurd that it MUST be a misquote. This can’t possibly be what he’s arguing.

Regeneration isn’t eternal life.

In John, eternal life is intimate communion with the Godhead - life at its scarcely imagined best. It is the present possession of all who believe, for those who believe have relation with God.

Being born again is the fulfillment of Ezekiel 36, the promise of the new heart. That’s the clear referent in John 3.

John 3 makes even seeing the kingdom of God conditional upon regeneration. Is he saying that you get eternal life before seeing the kingdom of God? It can be argued that the clearest referent for the kingdom of God in John is the concept of eternal life. Here's my study notes on this:

While we have no question, we see that Jesus cuts right to the heart of the matter. The man is seeking something, evidence, information, assurance, and Jesus, in a single sentence, summarily dismisses the entire approach of the Pharisees, Nicodemus included. Entrance to the kingdom of God, which for a “Jew with the background and convictions of Nicodemus, ‘to see the kingdom of God’ was to participate in the kingdom at the end of the age, to experience eternal, resurrection life.” [1]. It makes sense that Jesus would begin here. Nicodemus would have taught for years that it is through personal obedience, righteousness, purity and adherence to the Law that one would be good enough to see the kingdom. And now, Jesus says something entirely different.

Let’s look at the kingdom of God for a moment. It is in [at least] three senses that we may speak of the kingdom of God from the Scriptures. The kingdom of God is, in a creative sense, the entire realm of creation. God is Creator, the whole earth belongs to Him, and therefore His rule and realm is all of Creation, since He is sovereign over all things. Second, in an eschatological sense, the kingdom of God is often spoken of as something that is yet to fully materialize, that is coming at the end of the age. Like many concepts in Scripture, the kingdom of God is partially seen now, and will be fully realized at the day of judgment when Christ is put over all things. Finally, the kingdom of God is the rule and authority of God in the hearts of believers. It is in this sense that we understand passages such as that of Luke 17:20-21, where the kingdom of God is said to “be in the midst of you (plural).” [I would add that the kingdom of God is the fulfillment of the whole of God's promises]

Perhaps most important, however, is that John only uses this expression here, and he records an allusion to it in John 18:36, when Jesus explains to Pilate why the disciples do not fight to free Him. John is chiefly concerned with the expressions “life” and “eternal life.” Surely the reference to the kingdom of God is this, especially given the connection in verse 15. To see and enter the kingdom of God is to have eternal life.

Jesus reply is thus shocking: To even see the kingdom of God, one must be born again. This word “born,” Greek γεννάω (ghen-nah-o) can refer to the action of the father (‘to beget’) or the mother (‘to give birth to’), which both communicate the concept of generation or regeneration [2]. The reference is to the individual, that is, no one (male or female), can see the kingdom unless he (or she) is born again. We shall see that this concept of rebirth is not at all foreign to the Scriptures.

What is to be understood here? First, one can never “evolve” into the kingdom of God. A total and complete recreation of the being is required for entry into the kingdom. This obliterates any notion that one could upon his own merits enter the kingdom. It is simply not possible. A rebirth of the being is absolutely necessary.

[1] Carson, John, pg. 188.

[2] Carson, John, pg. 189: “Predominant religious thought in Jesus’ day affirmed that all Jews would be admitted to that kingdom apart from those guilty of deliberate apostasy or extraordinary wickedness (e.g. Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:1). But here was Jesus telling Nicodemus, a respected and conscientious member not only of Israel but of the Sanhedrin, that he cannot enter the kingdom unless he is born again. The verb rendered ‘to be born’ (gennan) can refer to the action of the father (‘to beget’) or the mother (‘to give birth to’): the common ingredient is ‘generation’ or ‘regeneration.’ The coming of the kingdom at the end can be described as the ‘regeneration’ of the world (Mt. 19:28, NIV ‘renewal’), but here what is required is the regeneration of the individual before the end of the world and in order to enter the kingdom.

Does this presenter even understand Arminian1 teaching on this stuff? Considering his scholarship, this is a fair question.

Let's be clear here: The options he presents are:

Regeneration->Faith? or Faith->Regeneration?

Presupposed: Living/Eternal life=Regeneration

So, the options he presents are:

Believing->Living/Eternal life/Regeneration?

Or:

Living/Eternal life/Regeneration->Believing?

Only when you smash clearly distinguished biblical concepts together like this can you not only come up with binary mutually exclusive options, both of which are wrong, but you end up refuting a straw man, as well as contradicting your own position.

The biblical teaching is:

Regeneration->Faith->Justification->Eternal life

Where:

Regeneration=new heart/born again from above

Faith=Receiving Christ and trusting Him, believing the truth that He is the Son of God

Justification=Counted righteous (by faith)

Eternal life=Life that never ends, life at its scarcely imagined best, intimate relation with the Father and Son.

These are all different concepts.

Eternal life presupposes justification. Justification is necessary to commune with God. Justification presupposes regeneration.

At any rate, I, for one, am still a Calvinist.

Notes
1. e.g., John Wesley on John 17:3 - "To know - By loving, holy faith, thee the only true God - The only cause and end of all things; not excluding the Son and the Holy Ghost, no more than the Father is excluded from being Lord, 1 Corinthians 8:6; but the false gods of the heathens; and Jesus Christ - As their prophet, priest, and king: this is life eternal - It is both the way to, and the essence of, everlasting happiness." Compare to Wesley on John 3:5 - "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit - Except he experience that great inward change by the Spirit, and be baptized (wherever baptism can be had) as the outward sign and means of it."

Saturday, November 8, 2008

LDS Temple Announced For Calgary, Alberta

This is rather old news, but the Mormons will be building a new temple in northwest Calgary. Some details can be found at an LDS temples site, among which is the fact that it will be next to the Royal Oak chapel and that the building will be finished in about three years.

Dramatic Increase In LDS Temple Construction

The Mormons have certainly been on a temple-building tear over the past few years. Back in 1965, there were only ten temples built or under construction worldwide, and only one of those (the Cardston temple) was in Canada. Under the presidency of Gordon Hinckley, temple construction increased dramatically. Much like Herod the Great, Hinckley will be remembered as a man of buildings. When he assumed the LDS presidency, there were only 47 temples worldwide, and when he died in January, there were 124 - an increase of 77. While it took the first 120 years of LDS history to see the first 50 LDS temples built, the second 50 were dedicated within a span of just 3 years. In 2000 alone, 34 of these structures were dedicated.

Hinckley was succeeded in January by Thomas Monson, and the fact that since his assumption of office less than a year ago the First Presidency has announced no less than 8 new temples seems to suggest that Monson aims to be as much a "builder" as was his predecessor. Calgary's temple will be the eighth Canadian temple, but it likely will not be the last.

Implications For The Gospel

Alberta is certainly a hotbed of LDS activity, and the Mormon population of the province might well be the highest concentration of Mormons outside the United States. The LDS church has obviously been preparing for this temple for some time, having acquired the extra land in Royal Oak four years ago. This newest announcement needs to be understood as a particularly prominent reflection of the growth of Mormon influence in Alberta.

And in that light, Christians need to sit up and take notice. The LDS church is extremely well organized, has tremendous financial resources, presents a highly controlled public image, and has an aggressive outreach program in its missionaries. Christian evangelism in Alberta and in the Calgary area in particular needs to take the Mormon challenge into account. Christian churches and pastors need to understand and recognize Mormonism as the heresy that it is, and prepare their flocks to be "ready with an answer" to uphold the true Gospel with them.

What can Christians expect? First, the LDS church will milk this project for all the public relations value it can get. The initial announcement was carried in both Calgary daily papers, and as construction commences we can expect more attention to the Mormons in the secular media. This affords the LDS the opportunity to spread their message in response to obvious questions: what is an LDS temple for? what is the difference between a Christian church and an LDS temple? There will be a groundbreaking ceremony, probably well-attended by city officials and media; there will be a public open house for the community, during which ordinary Calgarians may tour the temple before it is dedicated (accompanied by a helpful and evangelistic Mormon missionary, no doubt); there will be a dedication ceremony, which will provide yet another PR opportunity to proclaim the Mormon message.

Second, as a means of increasing their evangelistic impact, we can expect the LDS to downplay the differences between themselves and evangelical Christianity. This has certainly been a recent trend with the Mormons; one outstanding example was the recent publication, by the evangelical Christian publisher Eerdman's, of a book defending the Mormon conception of Jesus Christ by a prominent Mormon scholar - and justifying their conception of their theology as being "Christian." A similar trend can be seen in Mormon temple architecture. Where before, new temples tended to have a very distinctive and even "alien" appearance, more recent temples built in North America have taken a strange turn toward resembling Christian cathedrals. While not all North American temples are following the trend, there are many good examples, including the Rexburg, Twin Falls, Oquirrh Mountain, and Vancouver (Langley) temples, and even the proposed design for the recently announced Gila Valley temple seems to imitate the pattern.

So one thing to watch: when the LDS unveil the design and artist's rendering for the Calgary temple, don't be surprised if it looks rather familiar.

Bottom line is that this new temple represents a statement by the LDS church that they intend to strengthen their position in the Calgary area and in Alberta at large. Now, perhaps God in His wisdom will put a halt to this building project; He's done it before, and not every temple announced by the LDS actually gets off the ground. So we should be praying for God's mercy in this regard.

But in case in His sovereignty He permits this to go ahead, what is less obvious but still present is the opportunity it presents for the true Church and the real Gospel. The very confusion in secular society about what Mormons believe and how they differ from mainstream Christians will present many private and public opportunities to clarify and thus proclaim the real message of salvation to unbelievers.

Let's pray for wisdom, brothers and sisters. And let's not waste this opportunity.

2008-11-07

This post contains summaries of various blogs.

  • Interesting short fiction by Hays. http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/11/i-will-wait-till-my-change-comes.html
  • This describes the significance of Obama's election from the particularly from the perspective of an African-American. "For me, the emotion of this moment has less to do with Obama than with the nation. Now I know how some people must have felt when they heard Ronald Reagan say "it's morning again in America." The new sunshine feels warm on my face." http://www.joshharris.com/2008/11/the_deep_significance_of_obama.php
  • Piper gives a tribute to Billy Graham. Graham "told students in 1964 at Harvard Divinity School… "I used to think that in evangelism I had to do it all, but now I approach evangelism with a totally different attitude. I approach it with complete relaxation. First of all, I don't believe that any man can come to Christ unless the Holy Spirit has prepared his heart. Secondly, I don't believe any man can come to Christ unless God drives him. My job is to proclaim the message. It's the Holy Spirit's job to do the work, period."" "He is famous for saying that he preached too much and studied too little." Then a description is given of his forbidable study habits. [Perhaps the work in Graham is not to be underestimated, all things considered]. http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/1484_A_Tribute_to_Billy_Graham_at_90/
  • Bayly says that it appears that Driscoll has followed Tim Keller in, "an woman can do anything an unordained man can do." http://www.baylyblog.com/2008/11/another-one-bites-the-dust.html
  • Phillips rails on the Lord Jesus mandated requirement to go to a local church, an assembly of believers; contra those who despise the 'institutional church,' which Phillips diagnoses as a hatred for authority. Christ gave to the church her pastors and teachers, and He commanded people to go to the assemblies of believers, and you think yourself smarter than Christ even while disobeying Him if you do not do so, in addition to tacitly admitting that you despise the accountability of church. http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2008/11/why-you-need-to-be-in-church-this.html
  • If you don't read the Bible [and therefore like to hew out cisterns that don't satisfy], Turk points you to some worldly advice on how to be happy over the weekend. http://centuri0n.blogspot.com/2008/11/if-youre-happy-and-you-know-it.html
  • Perkins writes: "there is an inverse relationship between dreaming great visions and faithfulness in the little things. The people who have the grandest, most sweeping plans and strategies for the future are likely to be unreliable and untrustworthy in the smaller, short-term tasks and responsibilities." 1) Ministry is about godliness, not gifts. 2) Our only judge is Christ Himself, not man. Remember that it was Christ who proclaimed rewards for faithfulness over the little things. http://solapanel.org/article/doing_the_little_things_well/#When:22:00:00Z
  • Dan Wallace responds to the CBMW critique of an older post wherein he wrote "that I could not go against my conscience and that, in my view, egalitarians were doing exegetical gymnastics." He argues that CBMW misrepresented him, on account that they read him as saying the exegesis was certain and he just didn't like it [I will say that I independently read Wallace's post before CBMW posted and took that general sense from it too...]. I think what he's saying here is that what he meant is that he's uncomfortably complementarian on account that he thinks the Scriptures teach it so he cannot go against it but it isn't that clear. "I did not say that egalitarianism was clearly unbiblical." http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2008/11/cbmw-and-dialogue/
  • Phillips goes after the "fine Christian blogs and writers are jumping immediately to what I think of as the "I, for one, welcome our new ant overlords" approach." [read previous summaries; some are mentioned there]. He argues that it is unbiblical: "Leaping immediately to theologized "Oh-wells" is a miserably poor and un-Biblical pastoral (or otherwise Christian) approach." By this he refers to blowing off the disastrous implications of Obama's election for many unborn on account of God's sovereignty. Scripture is clear that there is a time to mourn and that we are to weep with those who weep, not theologize them. Not only so, but he points to the example of the OT prophets when there were wicked rulers in the land. "So all that to say: it is appropriate for Christian patriots to mourn. It is appropriate for Christian patriots to weep. It is appropriate for Christian patriots to ask, "What happened? Why? Are there transgressions to repent of, that we might find mercy?"" http://bibchr.blogspot.com/2008/11/reflecting-on-lament-for-america.html
  • A series of posts is coming on the importance of verbal aspect in Greek. "So if you're a Greek professor, Greek student, or just a Greek nerd be sure to check back and weigh in on Verbal Aspect. " http://zondervan.typepad.com/koinonia/2008/11/verbal-aspect-in-biblical-greek---series-of-posts-1110---1114-by-constantine-campbell.html
  • David Bayly isn't moved by the 'historic moment' of a black man becoming President. For, as he points out, this is the anti-thesis of the fulfillment of Martin Luther King's dream. Obama's election was racist to the core. America is congratulating itself on electing a black man, despite the evident baby-killing bankrupcy of his character. "The content of his character? That's had absolutely nothing to do with the election of Barack Obama to our presidency, and white and black Americans who care about justice and mercy are one in being sickened by the hypocrisy of it all." http://www.baylyblog.com/2008/11/hold-out-for-the-real-deal.html
  • At the John 3:16 conference [odd name considering the text teaches particular atonement for believers], the Arminians, huddled safe and sound, work to stop Calvinism, tarring James White as hypercalvinist, even while it is James White who is currently preparing to proclaim the Gospel to Muslims - not them. http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=2955
  • The mood at the John 3:16 conference is said to be that of those looking for exegetical refutations of Calvinism (not vitriolic or panicked), who think that Calvinists have drawn the wrong systematic and logical conclusions from the text, rather than being based directly upon Scripture [now, apply that thinking to John 6]. http://www.challies.com/archives/liveblogging/john-316-conference-attendance-and-mood.php
  • This is the substance of the arguments at the John 3:16 conference against irresistable grace. [the confusion between regeneration and eternal life in the 'most important' point categorically eliminates it from the biblical realm.] http://www.challies.com/archives/liveblogging/john-316-conference-message-on-irresistible-grace-by-dr-steve-lemke.php
  • Ok, this is just funny. In response to liberal upheaval at Coultier's comment, "In the spirit of reaching across the aisle, we owe it to the Democrats to show their president the exact same kind of respect and loyalty that they have shown our recent Republican president," Pike says, "Fear not, Conservatives aren't liberals." http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/11/fear-not.html
  • Franklin Graham confronted Obama regarding his views on homosexuality and abortion, stating clearly to him that they cannot back down on these issues. [the Grahams are doing well today!] http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/BaylyblogOutOfOurMindsToo/~3/445827167/franklin-graham-doses-the-lovefest-with-truth.html
  • The global warming aside - they say that the onset of human civilization was 5000 years ago? You know, I've seen a number like that somewhere before... http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/11/07/climate-change-warming.html
  • The new book Imitating Jesus: An Inclusive Approach to New Testament Ethics by Richard A. Burridge apparently defends an inclusivistic system NT ethics. (e.g. Burridge seems to come close to equating non-acceptance of homosexuality with apartheid in South Africa.) http://euangelizomai.blogspot.com/2008/11/burridge-on-inclusivist-nt-ethics.html
  • Ascol, following up on Taylor's critique, writers of a recent publication by Lemke: "I am confident that Dr. Lemke has no desire to misrepresent anyone's theological position nor any historical record. But he has." (this is the speaker on irresistable grace at the John 3:16 conference) http://www.founders.org/blog/2008/11/justin-taylor-on-steve-lemkes.html
  • Thursday, November 6, 2008

    2008-11-06

    This post contains snippets and summaries from various blogs.

  • Phil Johnson responds, given his arguments about the wrongheadedness of seeking political remedies to every form of human depravity, to Klusendorf's idea that, "Well, I'm all for preaching the gospel, but why should anyone suppose that political efforts aimed at protecting human life detract from the biblical command to go make disciples? Why can't pro-life Christians do both?" He points out how Klusendorf doesn't really seem to be doing a 'both-and' by all accounts, and that "I think he (like most evangelicals) is blinded by starry-eyed naïveté if he really believes the three-decades-long effort to harness the church's political clout has done nothing to damage our collective testimony as the church of Christ or mute the gospel in the message we have communicated to our culture." Johnson also says, "I think he is tacitly acknowledging that if we inject the gospel into the political apparatus of the pro-life movement, we will undermine the ecumenicity that holds the movement together. I've been saying that for years. It's the main reason both/and is not the simple proposition Klusendorf sometimes insists it is." [I will note that there is a difference between calling out for repentance from the evils in our culture and political activism - and Johnson is right, pro-life efforts at the cost of the Gospel (such as ecumenicalism) have priorities completely backwards]. http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2008/11/familiar-can-of-worms.html
  • A hispanic writes in about what he thinks is really happening with race and the politics. He says, " White Americans may view this as a large step towards a less racist and more tolerant society, but I think in general black Americans think of this more as black victory and progress.... It has been a mystery to me how people can proclaim black power or brown power and view white power as being uniquely wrong. Don't get too hopeful about the future of race relations." [it seems to be something of a past-suffering justifies equivalent retaliation, namely, racism (against whites), mentality] http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/11/from-other-side-of-fence.html
  • This post points out the inherent racism and confusion in taking pride that America elected a black president. "Should Americans be proud that a biracial man has been elected US president? Surely that’s no reason to be proud. A man’s ethnicity or skin colour ought to be strictly irrelevant to whether he’s the right man to serve as president. Wasn’t that the point all along? So to take pride in his election on that basis is just another form of racism." http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/11/american-pride.html
  • Peter Enns rehashes an old debate over the Enuma Elish and Genesis 1, as if the arguments are new. This post has a few short quotes relating to the distinctions of the two, and how there is not a dependency. [Triablogue has addressed this ad nauseum - see the archives] http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/11/gen-1-enuma-elish.html
  • Hays briefly goes after lazy proof-texting in applying Romans 13 to the current political affairs. The text has been quoted and applied in all manner of ways throughout history. He quotes Jewett's commentary on Romans: "“The form of the final lines in this pericope is compressed, succinct, and correlative. In each of four examples, governmental obligations are paid to those who qualify. Helmut Merklein aptly refers to the ‘conditionality’ of this formulation. Instead of absolute subservience, obligations are to be met if they prove legitimate. The formulation leaves space for assessments of appropriateness made by the community,” http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/11/rom-13-then-and-now.html
  • A Pelagian tries to use Ezekiel 18 to deny imputation of Adam's sin to all. But the Law says four times that God holds people accountable for the sins of their fathers. Rather than assume God contradicts Himself, ask how it is that God can say what is in Ezekiel 18, and how it would be received by those who received the Law as God's word. Ezekiel 18 is teaching that if they repent they will not be held accountable, and that they sin is proof of their agreement with their fathers. The Pelagian is arguing for infant salvation, and inadvertently proclaiming two ways to be save. [cf. Romans 5] http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/11/pelagian-dualisma.html
  • The critique of Romanism as committing 'Mariolatry' is an external critique. http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=2952
  • Working human brain cells are produced from embryonic stem cells. [i.e. the strongest people can kill the weakest people so as to use their bodies to replace their own failing components.] http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/11/06/brain-cells-stem.html
  • Challies writes more on Compassion International's work with children. "Have you ever looked through the photos of children at Compassion's site or at a table at a concert and wondered why sometimes five or six girls are wearing the same dress? It's not a school uniform and is not a particularly nice dress, so why are several of the girls wearing it? Today I found out why. With tears of shame, even fifteen years later, Julia (pronounced "HOO-lia) sobbed her story. She had been born in such poverty that when, at age five, Compassion had taken her photograph in the hopes that they would be able to find a sponsor for her, she had no clothes she could wear in that photograph. And so she huddled in a bathroom naked with eight other girls while they waited their turn in the dress. One by one they put it on, faced the camera, and then took it off and returned to their tattered clothes." http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/challies/XhEt/~3/443827252/dominican-republic---gods-hidden-gifts.php
  • Turk relates the discussion on abortion between Tony Jones and Klusendorf: "Jones' view [in support of Obama] is that if there are fewer women below the poverty line, there will be fewer abortions -- because in his view, poverty causes abortion. Fear of not having money, or not having enough money, causes abortion. And Klusendorf rightly pointed out that there are socialized countries in the world with heavy support for the poor which have exactly the same rate of abortion as the US, so that argument is a little lame." Now, single women account for two-thirds of all abortions, and half of those getting abortions state that a lack of a male counterpart for stability is the reason. What is happening in the real world (contra Tony Jones) is that women are having sex with men they would consider to be problem relationships, and they don't want the baby making this problem relationship a bigger problem. http://centuri0n.blogspot.com/2008/11/tony-jones-on-wotm.html
  • This asks some decent questions about the church is more able to perform her duties under capitalism vs. socialism, if it really matters, and whether the church is in any danger from a hard left change in American government. http://manspeak.wordpress.com/2008/11/06/is-god-socialist/
  • Phillips laments over America; Bush, the MSM, the Voters - and particularly the "Quislings," the professedly Christian enablers of Obama's infanticide. "These are the hand-wringing, conflicted souls who just can't figure out whether or not it's a good thing to sweep aside thirty-five years of hard-fought, hard-won advances in the pro-life cause. Who just can't agonize themselves into seeing that they have a clear-cut moral obligation to stand athwart the most remorselessly, unrepentantly vicious pro-death advocate ever seriously to seek the White House." ... "You want to keep insisting that you did the right thing? Can't help you. Won't try. After January 20, you go to the dumpsters behind abortion clinics and explain to the sad, tragic, forsaken contents just how deep and nuanced you are." ... "And you pastors who could not find it in yourselves even to say, from the pulpit, that life is an important consideration when voting... I don't know what to say to you. I know some very fine men are absolutely convinced that all politics should be kept out of the pulpit. But is life politics? Is the stewardship of one's vote politics? Are we really called to give no guidance whatever for the pressing moral issues of citizenship?" http://bibchr.blogspot.com/2008/11/lament-for-america.html
  • McKinley argues that God's plan for the world runs through the church, not capitol hill, and thinks we've all come to just give lip service to the idea that Jesus is not a Republican. http://blog.9marks.org/2008/11/on-politics-and.html
  • David Bayly think that Obama's greatest opponents will be jaded congressional democrats. He also asks what constitutes being an American black, since Condi Rice, Ken Blackwell, Alan Keyes, and numerous others aren't considered "truly black" by the black community. http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/BaylyblogOutOfOurMindsToo/~3/443759002/election-thoughts.html
  • Graphic depiction of abortion. http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/BaylyblogOutOfOurMindsToo/~3/444456693/by-schisms-rent-asunder-by-heresies-oppressed.html
  • German Christians were scrupulous about social dancing... not so much about killing Jews, though. http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/BaylyblogOutOfOurMindsToo/~3/444544696/german-christians-were-scrupulous-about-social-dancing.html
  • Just more indication that university is hardly a matter of higher education or critical thinking anymore. http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/foow/posters-and-pin-ups
  • Statistics show that a scant number of people (~4%) are actually atheists. Turns out that the prophets of atheism were wrong, and religion has not died, even in nations where atheistic indoctrination was the norm [mind you, this is happening now too]. The new atheism is a particularly nasty and angry form of atheism that reeks of desperation. Rodney Stark’s says this about the New Atheists’ attempts to stamp out religion: “To expect to learn anything about important theological problems from Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett is like expecting to learn about medieval history from someone who had only read Robin Hood.” There is an overrepresentation of new atheism in the media. With all this said, there is much Gospel work to do. http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/ParchmentAndPen/~3/444466427/
  • "This is a map, courtesy of someone at the University of Michigan, of the election results by county, graded on a scale of "Strongly Obama" (bright blue) to "Strongly McCain" (bright red), with variations measured by shades between blue and red." http://centuri0n.blogspot.com/2008/11/how-to-measure-landslide.html
  • A CD of the worship at Together for the Gospel is out. http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/blogs/worshipmatters/~3/444663474/
  • Homosexuals call for violence against Christians on account of Proposition 8. http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/6081  [Note that the incitement to violence on their part indicates that they care nothing for tolerance or democracy] HT: Phillips news of the day: http://bibchr.blogspot.com/2008/11/hither-and-thither-11608.html Phillips also writes: Pastor Tim Bayly makes me look like a tepid tea-drinker.
  • Read this: "The emoting over Obama's blackness is cloying hypocrisy. If an African American ascending our Imperial Throne means anything, its meaning is bound up with the end of the oppression of a group of persons formerly declared not full persons under our Constitution due to the color of their skin. Instead of learning the lesson of his skin color and descent, though, Obama glides into office on the blood of an entire generation of souls, red and yellow, black and white, who aren't enslaved, but slaughtered. In numbers that, each year, dwarf the oppression of slavery." http://www.baylyblog.com/2008/11/meet-the-new-boss-same-as-the-old-boss.html
  • This article points to a parallel between what happened in Stalin's days in Russia and what is happening now in South Africa. It points to a Darwinian worldview as the basis for Stalin's rabid pragmatism. "Stalin’s henchman Trotsky called for ‘an end once and for all to the Papist-Quaker babble about the sanctity of human life,’ in the Communist campaign of terror in order to impose Marxism on the Russian people." Also, "historians tell us that many of the same social circumstances evident in early 20th century Russia prevailed in both Great Britain and France in the 18th century. Why did France end up with bloody revolution, anarchy, the Reign of Terror and eventually the tyranny of Napoleon, while in contrast, just 30 miles across the Channel, their perennial enemies underwent a quite different revolution? ... These same historians conclude that it was the Christian revival under men such as Wesley and Whitfield that made the difference between the murderous revolution in France and the benevolent transformation in Britain. Not that Christianity was perfect or all-pervasive in Britain..." http://creationontheweb.com/content/view/6051/
  • This article discusses the effect of humanism on all people, including Christians, and suggests a 'test for authority' to see whether humanism or God's truth is the foundation of things we encounter. http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/aid/v3/n1/the-authority-test
  • This article offers an answer for the 'contradiction' in that Rahab lied to protect the spies. The bottom line is that Rahab was justified by faith, righteous on account of Christ, not on the basis of her deeds. http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2008/11/03/contradictions-a-righteous-lie
  • Obama promised change. "read this and ask yourself, "it is really 'change' if the primary attribute of a potential SCOTUS judge is their sex or race? Is that the kind of change we're really after here?"" Could it be people really hate Bush because he's not a sexist racist? http://centuri0n.blogspot.com/2008/11/absentee-ballot.html
  • Looks like these might be some good tips on email management (probably extensible to other areas). http://www.whatsbestnext.com/2008/11/how-to-get-your-email-inbox-to-zero-every-day/
  •