Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bad Theology, Deadly Consequences

It's all too fashionable these days to pretend that God really doesn't care what you believe about him, that your "private beliefs" are your own business and that if someone dares to challenge or refute them they are being "judgmental" and unkind.

The problem is that theology has very practical consequences. What you believe about God directly impacts the way you live, the way you treat others, and the way you raise your children.

What happens if you get it wrong? Christians believe that, if you don't get the Gospel right, the consequences are fatal and eternal. People scoff at that notion, though. How can theology be really that serious?

Does theology really have life and death consequences? Here's your answer.

A Wisconsin couple refused to take their child to the doctor to get checked out for an acute illness. It turns out she was diabetic - the parents didn't know. And unfortunately, they only found out after an autopsy was performed.

See, this couple fell under the influence of false teaching. They believed that if you pray hard enough, God would have to heal their child. This is a tenet of the "word-faith" movement, a deeply heretical and extremely dangerous offshoot from evangelical Christianity. This movement believes that faith is a substance, and that words and prayers spoken with enough faith can bind God to fulfill the request of the petitioner.

This theology robs God of His sovereignty. It distorts the purpose of prayer, changing it from an expression of dependence on God to a means of making God one's own servant. It reduces God to the level of a cosmic vending machine - put in enough "coin" and you'll get the trinket you want.

The greed and selfishness of this movement is horrible enough. But in no area is it more reprehensible than its attitude towards illness. My wife, a registered nurse, has observed "Christians" visiting family in the hospital and blaming the sick for their predicament - because to submit to human medical care is somehow a "negative confession," demonstrating a lack of faith in God and inviting misfortune to fall. The psychological effects on the sick person are devastating. Even worse, though, is when the helpless, like children, are thrown under the bus of this apostate system.

I just watched CNN and heard the local police chief say that the parents would have known for many days, even up to a month, that this girl was in trouble. Up to a month. These parents let their little child, given them by God as a sacred charge and trust, suffer in increasing pain just because they had been taught that God can be manipulated by prayer.

How can you let a child suffer for up to a month? This is called sin. This is one of the most profane forms of sin, as it is dressed in the robes of so-called "faith." And those teaching this theology will be judged for it.

The way that the word-faith movement treats the ill and suffering is beyond excusable. Even Jesus told people there were circumstances requiring a doctor. Even Paul advised Timothy to take medicine. And the contempt and guilt that they visit upon the needy and suffering, blaming them for their own misfortune, is damnable.

Little Madeline was not the first life that this satanic theology has claimed, and as long as the church stands silent, she will not be the last. The church of Jesus Christ needs to stand up and call this theology what it is: apostasy and heresy. Piper put it well: when he thinks of this movement, he feels "hatred." He said that in response to this movement's leaders going to Africa to invite "seed-faith" offerings for their ministries from the poorest of the world's poor. It's no less appropriate here, as yet another child is sacrificed upon the altar of this false god.

More to follow...

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Lousy Case for Faith

I wrote this a while back as part of an appendix to a Bible Study.



In The Case For Faith, pg. 120-121, Norman Geisler asserts that what is clearly God's wrath being poured out on a wicked people and destroying whole nations (Old Testament) is actually merciful, because God killed them before the age of accountability and they automatically get into heaven (and it keeps them from reproducing and making more people that God has to punish). I cannot Biblical agree with this notion. Destroying these people was not merciful. Not in the slightest sense of the word. It was divine justice and wrath. The mercy was God forebearing (Rom. 3:25) with their sins for so long, and allowing them to reproduce and live and breathe and giving them rain and sun (Matt. 5:45). The wrath of God, not His mercy, was made manifest in their destruction.


Furthermore, Geisler's argument is self-defeating, since the most merciful thing God could have done (by his rationale) would have been to wipe those people out on the first sin, but because God let them live for so many years, many of them grew past the "magic age" wherein one gets an automatic ticket into heaven, and therefore God must have been unmerciful. This is where the logic falters: God foreknew that they wouldn't choose Him, but He didn't wipe them out immediately. If one attempts to say, in this perspective, that God was showing mercy by letting them live and giving them the chance to choose Him, and He showed mercy in destroying them, which is it? In the former case, He let many more people reproduce, grow up, and go to hell. In the latter case, He had them slaughtered by the sword. Geisler's argument is not compelling.


Incidentally, I recommend The Potter's Freedom by James White. It is a Biblical criticism of Norman Geisler's free-will theology, as found in Chosen but Free. I did find it somewhat humorous that Strobel states that Geisler's great memory and rapid-fire responses have silenced many critics, but he has yet to respond exegetically to White's criticism (and I say this having read his "response").

Now to the interview with Moreland on pg. 169-194: Among Moreland's errors are His denial that God elects people to salvation according to His purpose, his contradictory assertion that the imagery of flames means some sort of judgment, but that it doesn't mean God pours out His wrath on people, his insistence that fallen people have the capacity to choose God, and his rejection that God created and saves people as a means to an end, instead supposing that God respects people so much that He created the universe and saves them for their sake.

While I wish I had time to interact with all that is said in this chapter (book), I do not. So, I will briefly address several foundational assertions that Moreland makes from which he derives his answer to the 'problem of hell.'


First, on pg. 173, Moreland says, in responding to Charles Templeton's claim that hell is an immoral torture chamber:


God doesn't torture people in hell… Templeton also makes it look like God is a spoiled child who says to people, 'Look, if you're not willing to obey my arbitrary rules, then I'm going to sentence you for it. You need to know that my rules are my rules, and if I don't get my way, then I'm going to make you pay.' Well, of course, if God is just a child with arbitrary rules, then it would be capricious for him to sentence people. But that's not at all what is going on here.


God is the most generous, loving, wonderful, attractive being in the cosmos. He has made us with free will and he has made us for a purpose: to relate lovingly to him and to others… [if we ultimately fail at this] then God will have absolutely no choice but to give us what we've asked for all along in our lives, which is separation from him.


Moreland's first mistake is his judgment that IF God were to make some 'arbitrary' rule then God is nothing more than a selfish child. Let's check what the Bible says:


Isaiah 45:19


19I did not speak in secret,
in a land of darkness;
I did not say to the offspring of Jacob,
'Seek me in vain.'
I the LORD speak the truth;
I declare what is right.


So God declares what is right. By whose standard? Man's? Absolutely not: It is by His own standard. That is exactly what the passage means – God is the sole Being who determines what is right and what is wrong. God "arbitrarily" decides right and wrong and His rules according to His own Creator-owned God-deserved not-respecter-of-humans standard of righteousness. So, then, is God a selfish child? According to Moreland, yes.


Moreover, we read in the Law:


Deuteronomy 8:11


11"Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today…
19And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. 20Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.


The Israelites are warned that God's standard is perfection, according to His (arbitrary) rules (that He declares according to His own judgment), and if they do not obey, they will be punished Contrast this with Moreland's assertions:


"if God is just a child with arbitrary rules, then it would be capricious for him to sentence people."


Well, God is firstly not a 'child.' Moreland would like you to think that if God defined a law for His own sake and reasons, God would be a child. Secondly, we can see clearly He certainly does sentence people for breaking His 'arbitrary rules.' According to Moreland, Yahweh is "capricious" (impulsive and unpredictable, etc.). Or, consider the following:


Deuteronomy 28:45-46


45"All these curses shall come upon you and pursue you and overtake you till you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that he commanded you. 46They shall be a sign and a wonder against you and your offspring forever.



Moreland conveys in this interview that for him there seems to be no realization of God's holiness, and at best a diminished view of His righteousness and righteous standard. He substitutes the historic concept of the perfect holiness and righteousness of God for the unbiblical notion that God is a respecter of persons, and that it would be capricious for God to set rules and demand obedience, and punish if people do not obey. God is no longer the King of kings in More-land, but is reduced to a helpless, non- omnipotent God (read on) who just wants people to choose Him but cannot do anything (read on) to actually accomplish this.



Next, on pg. 182, Moreland asserts, in stating it would be immoral for God to 'force' everyone to go to heaven:



Follow me on this: there's a difference between intrinsic value and instrumental value. Something has intrinsic value if it's valuable and good in and of itself; something has instrumental value if it's valuable as a means to an end. For example, saving lives is intrinsically good. Driving on the right side of the street is an instrumental value; it's just good because it helps keep order. If society decided that everyone should drive on the left side, that would be okay. The goal is to preserve order and save lives.
Now, when you treat people as instrumentally valuable, or only as a means to an end, you're dehumanizing them, and that's wrong. You're treating people as things when you treat them merely as a means to an end. You only respect people when you treat them as having intrinsic value…
If you were to force people to do something against their free choice, you would be dehumanizing them. You would be saying that the good of what you want to do is more valuable than respecting their choices, and so you're treating people as a means to an end by requiring them to do something they don't want. That's what it would be like if God forced everyone to go to heaven.


The problems in here are numerous. But I will focus on the most pressing. To begin with, he asserts a patently unbiblical notion that it would be wrong for GOD to use people as a means to an end. Let's see. Pharaoh. (Romans 9) Judas. The Assyrians (Isaiah 10).


What's wrong with this? When you stand in judgment over God, holding up the all-worthy image of man, well, this is the result.

There is absolutely NO biblical basis for this notion whatsoever. NONE. There is plenty countering it. Here are only some passages:



Isaiah 43:7-8
6I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
7everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made." 6I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
7everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made."



In forming Christians (if even those who are saved are shown to be a means to an end, what of those who are not?) God created them for His glory. This passage expressly says that humans are a means to an end – we are created for the glory of God. Paul asserts as much in Romans 9:



Romans 9:22-23


22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory--



God has prepared vessels of wrath, and prepared vessels of mercy. People are created as the Potter sees fit, for His glory, for His purpose. They are NOT created for their intrinsic value, but to glorify God. We are a means to achieve God's end. Moreland as much as concedes this his position is humanistic and God-diminishing when he claims that God would be immoral in using people as a means to an end. This is YAHWEH, who created man, who can do with the clay as He sees fit –



Romans 9:20-21


20But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?


WITHOUT being judged by people, like Moreland, who attempt to judge God by their standard of 'human value' and morality. After all, we are not saved as an end in itself, even to use Moreland's own example of intrinsic value. Ezekiel prophesied of the new covenant, saying:


Ezekiel 36:22


22"Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came… 32It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.



And Isaiah writes:



Isaiah 48:10-11


10Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
11For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.



Or how about:


Psalm 105:


23Then Israel came to Egypt;
Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.
24And the LORD made his people very fruitful
and made them stronger than their foes.
25He turned their hearts to hate his people,
to deal craftily with his servants.



Reality is not about God 'respecting people for their intrinsic value.' The Bible gives us zero indication that this is true. In fact, even being created in the image of God means, in part, that we are meant to reflect God's glory and bear His image for His sake! The Bible clearly shows that God did create and form people as a means to an end, irregardless of how valuable we think we are, and that this holds true –


Daniel 4:35


35all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, "What have you done?"



God does according to His will among those (you and me, all the nations) who are accounted as nothing. Or does it read:



"all the inhabitants of the earth are extremely and intrinsically valuable,


and He does not force His will among the host of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth."



I speak as to sensible people. Judge for yourselves what is Scriptural.



Thirdly, on pg. 183:


God can't make people's character for them… God respects human freedom. In fact, it would be unloving – a sort of divine rape – to force people to accept heaven and God if they didn't really want them. When God allows people to say 'no' to him, he actually respect and dignifies them



God absolutely can and does make a person's character:



Ezekiel 36:25-27


25I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.


I put forward that being given a new heart (literally, inner being) is tantamount to God 'making a person's character.' God does not allow people to say 'no' to Him. To save a person, He overwhelms their hardened heart by replacing it with a new one. Those who do say 'no,' who God does not regenerate and give a new heart, are not allowed to do so out of 'respect,' but out of divine forbearance (Romans 3) while they accumulate wrath against themselves.


Next, in response to the question, "Why didn't God only create only those He knew would follow Him," Moreland's argument is that it is too difficult. Too difficult for God? So, an all-powerful God, who declares the end from the beginning, works all things according to His purpose, forms light and creates darkness, sustains the universe and every moment of existence by the deliberate word of His power finds this too difficult? The God who made the heavens and the earth by His great power and by His outstretched arm, for whom  "nothing is too hard," (Jeremiah 32:17, 27), the God who could raise up children of Abraham from stones -- He can't accomplish this (cf. Matt. 3:9)?


God even asks the question, "Is anything too hard for me?" (Jer. 32:27) Moreland would seem to reply, "Well, yes God, it is too hard for you. We understand. We don't hold it against you that you just can't create only people who will choose you without creating those who won't. We understand that you have to create those people who won't choose you for the sake of those people who choose you…" Wait a tick – isn't that tantamount to using people as a means to an end? I thought someone said that was immoral and unloving…

This notion of divine impotence is, in a way, closely related to open-theism. Instead of denying foreknowledge, Moreland denies omnipotence because it does not rationally fit with his presuppositions. Tradition can be devastating. Not only that, but Moreland's explanation draws from time-causality concepts in the movie 'Back to the Future' and asserts they are true and that it is this reality in which God works (pg. 187, para. 4). So now Hollywood determines the foundation by which we understand God? God is not bound by causality and time – He forms time, calling out the generations, and everything that has being only does so by His will: To stick the true, eternal, timeless, omnipotent God into an image that asserts that He is a slave to time, causality, and 'free will' based on Hollywood concepts…


This is simply so ridiculous that I will end this point here.


Finally, I will respond to the continued assertion throughout the chapter that fallen sinful people can freely choose God (I note that this is assumed by Moreland, "God made us with free will" and not Biblically established):


John 6:44


44No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.



That doesn't sound like people who can freely choose God. No one is capable of coming to Him (and this isn't prevenient grace, unless you're a universalist). Indeed, God's sovereign, effectual, and irresistible drawing are the only way to come to Christ, and will absolutely without fail result in salvation. The weak humanistic theology Moreland contends for crumbles under the testimony of Scripture.


As a general comment regarding the entire book: It asserts that people seek for God legitimately and genuinely. Paul disagrees:


Romans 3:11

No one understands; no one seeks for God.



If you assert that someone does seek for God, let us assume for a moment they actually are seeking for God. In this case, they are drawn by the Father, given to the Son, and will most certainly be saved. But it is not because they have any desire or inclination of themselves whatsoever to seek for God. Fallen man cannot come to God (cf. John 6:35-45, 63). He is unable to submit (Romans 8, 1 Cor. 2)



In summary, The Case For Faith is not a very good book, and I recommend avoiding it.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

By Grace Alone Do We Stand

The Roman church is not just another church. It is a matter of life and death. The Roman church teaches a false gospel of salvation through personal meritorious works, where grace is merely an enabler, and insufficient. It denies the perfect sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice by practicing mass, which according to Rome is a propitiatory offering of Christ - they repeat the sacrifice over and over and thus deny its sufficiency (contra Hebrews 7:27). There are many other false teachings, but the Gospel is at the core of it.

Paul wrote that "8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Eph 2:8-9). "If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace." (Romans 11:6) The Roman Catholic church directly contradicts this, decreeing at the Council of Trent (and remember that this is dogmatically binding for all Catholics):

CANON IX.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

CANON XXXII.-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.


So here the Roman church is eternally damning anyone who claims that works are themselves gifts from God, they are eternally damning anyone who says a person does not ADD TO GRACE BY THEIR OWN PERSONAL MERITORIOUS ACTIONS which do NOT come from God. They are teaching grace+works salvation, causing people to trust in their own works before God. And this is a tragic and damnable error, and one that contradicts Paul's own statement in Eph 2:8-9.

The Romanists may try to deny that the 'works' Paul wrote of apply to them, saying that they are merely works of the Old Testament (ceremonial) Law. But this is nonsense, since, when "works" are mentioned they are those good deeds in accordance with obedience to God and God's righteous standard, that is, as is perfectly laid out in the moral part of the Law. Our problem is that we have transgressed the moral part of the law. Not only so but a distinction in terms of sections of the Mosaic Law is artificial (e.g., ceremonial, moral). And Paul tells us that even the Gentiles were held accountable because God wrote this standard on their hearts. And the Roman church is then saying that the works which accord with God's good Law given to Moses are not a valid understanding of God's moral standard! But then, if that is the case, how can God hold one accountable, since He never revealed the good works that REALLY please Him? They will say that these are the means of grace given to the church, like penance and mass and indulgences, which are nowhere given in the Scriptures! And by doing so, they undercut Paul's entire argument. Not only so, but Paul does not limit the works here in Ephesians 2 to be 'works of the law.'

So we do not go to the Roman church because it teaches a false gospel leading to death. We trust in the sufficient sacrifice and righteousness of Christ ALONE with no addition of our own merits for salvation. We are saved by grace through faith, not by works, as the apostle said. Not by grace + works. People who follow Rome are following death. They need to reject the Papist teachings and trust in Christ alone for salvation, through His perfect life of obedience and sufficient once-for-all-time offering on the cross that did away with the sins of His people, and His conquering death by rising from the dead.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Perfect Nonsense

"Uhh, well, can an all-powerful God make a rock too heavy for Him to lift? Haha, gotchya!"

Let's think about this for a minute.

If you grant that the Christian God is all powerful for the sake of this argument, then you grant that He created the universe.

Which means that God created the laws of physics.

Including gravity.

So by virtue of God's nature, the law of gravity doesn't apply to Him. He created it. No matter how powerful it is, it obtains its existence from Him.

Now, can God make a rock to heavy for Him to lift?

This question presupposes that God is constrained by that which He created. It presupposes that God is bound by gravity, when gravity obtains its very existence and pull through His divine activity.

And it does so to put you in an alleged quandry: Either God cannot make a rock too heavy for Him to lift because He can lift anything, and then He cannot do all things, or He can make a rock too heavy for Him to lift, and then He cannot do all things because He can't lift it.

In either case, the argument is posed to make you place a limitation on God: Either He is bound to gravity and can do this, implying that He is (a) both bound to His creation, and (b) bound in terms of physical strength, or, God is not bound by gravity, and because of this He cannot make a rock that is too heavy for Him to lift, thus supposedly limiting what He is able to do.

But that second premise is contradictory: It requires the assumption of the very thing that the antecedent denies.

This challenge is not legitimate, since it sets up a conditional in this form:

If X then, (given ~X), B;

"If God is all-powerful and unbound by gravity, then can God make a rock too heavy for Him to lift, assuming that He is bound by gravity (not all-powerful)?"

It's like saying, "If I'm walking, can I stand still, given that I'm not walking?"

So we can reword the supposed challenge:

"Uhh, well, can an all-powerful God make a rock too heavy for Him to lift? Haha, gotchya!"

Into:

"God is not all-powerful. Haha.. oh wait."

Notice how it is really just an assertion, in lieu of an argument, since the challenge makes itself a non-factor. And this assertion begs the question: Prove it.

Moreover, I don't have to answer a question anymore because it is really just an assertion.

So the question is perfect nonsense.

Although, interestingly, given that Jesus is God incarnate, a Triune God CAN do this. God the Father can create a rock too heavy for God the incarnate Son to lift.

Zing!

I need to sleep.