Posted in Beliefs, Biblical Questions, Law, love, relationship, Theology

Love and Law

Love is a catch word that has been robbed of worth in our society. Its beauty and truth has been watered down and distilled to the point that love is no more than a fleeting emotion. Perhaps one of the most popular Scripture texts used in weddings (well, I should say traditional style weddings where people still don’t see getting married in a church as a sin) is 1Cor 13. This popular passage is often coined the love chapter of the New Testament; at least by modern sentiment if not by actual words.

In 1Cor 13 the apostle Paul offers many adjectives to describe the concept of love. For instance, he says in vv. 4-8a the following truths:

  • “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, love never fails.”1

Step back from these verses for a moment and consider the following: Who is Paul describing? What is he describing? Are these characteristics of love the byproduct of human beings or God? What is the object that we should be focusing in on as we read them?

Well, you can ignore the context—a pretty popular practice nowadays—or, you can take the context into consideration. We know the author—the apostle Paul, also known as Saul of Tarsus (exact same dude). We can also see who the audience is if we flip all the way back to the beginning of the book.

Paul tells us that he is writing “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours” (1Cor 1.2). He is writing to Christians in Corinth (that’s what the word saints means), people who have been set-apart (that’s what the word sanctified means) in Jesus Christ. Now Paul also includes all other Christians who claim the Lord Jesus Christ as their own.

With this information on hand, we ought to immediately understand that Paul is limiting his words in 1Cor to Christians; this includes what he is saying in the 13th chapter. Why is that important? Because, these characteristics of love described therein do not apply to all people everywhere. They are specifically pointed at Christians as words of encouragement and instruction.

One of the things that you will notice when you read this letter by Paul is that these Christians are very immature. They have divided into cliques (1Cor 1.11-13), they have bragged about their gifts (1Cor 4.7; 12.4-11), they have taken each other to court before nonbelievers (1Cor 6.1-8), they have cheered on a man who slept with his step-mother (1Cor 5.1-6), they have turned the Lord’s Supper into a feast for the rich who are found getting drunk and being gluttons (1Cor 11.17-34), they have cared little for their brethren (1Cor 10.24-33), and they have belittled the apostle who first brought them the gospel turning to others (1Cor 9); along with many other things that needed to be corrected in their outlook and conduct.

As I have said these Christians are immature and so Paul’s task in this letter is to teach them two primary things: 1) To learn not to go beyond what is written (1Cor 4.6), 2) To be imitators of him insofar as he imitates Christ (1Cor 4.16; 11.1). By submitting their lives to the Scriptures they will in turn be imitators of Christ as Paul is (cf. John 8.31-31; 17.17).

Knowing these things better prepares us for understanding what comes in 1Cor 13 in regards to the subject of love, and the characteristics we see described in the verses above. Notice that the things Paul speaks about regarding love are considered fruits of the Holy Spirit in another place: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal 5.22-23). And these are placed in contrast with that of the flesh (i.e. sinful nature): “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, fractions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these…” (Gal 5.19-21a).

Therefore when Paul opens the 13th chapter of Corinthians up to his readers, he expounds a particular definition of love that surpasses all other things tied to earthly understanding:

  • “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing” (1Cor 13.1-3).

The love that Paul is describing is not seated in the hearts of people; he does not describe it as something natural, but supernatural. This type of love is the fruit of the Spirit. What type of love? Better yet, love for whom? Who is the focus of this letter that Paul is writing? It’s not the Corinthians, although they are the recipients; and, it is not the apostle, although it is by his pen that this letter is given. Who then? The Lord Jesus Christ, who is the head of His Church, who is headed by the Father and He has gifted His people by the Spirit (1Cor 11.3; 2.9-13; 12.4-7) the One God, that is our answer. The love that Paul is describing is not seated in the minds of human beings, for the object of people’s love is not God, but the object of a Christian’s love is Christ.

How then do we demonstrate this love for God? That is the question we ought to be asking ourselves if we proclaim to love Jesus Christ. How are we to know how to love? How do we know in what we should love? How do we know who to love? We are taught that through the Law of God comes the knowledge of sin (Rom 3.20), but we are also taught the inverse (opposite) of this.

Far too many speak of loving God with their whole heart, mind, soul and strength (cf. Deut 10.10), and of loving their neighbor as themselves, but cannot offer a prescription for what that love should look like.

  • “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1John 5.1-3).

God’s Law may be used lawfully or unlawfully (cf. 1Tim 1.8-9). If we seek through it to obtain righteousness for ourselves by the things we do, then we err and deceive ourselves into thinking that we are saved when we are not (cf. Rom 3.28). However, if we through faith, trust in Christ and desire to walk in His steps, then we will be found keeping the very Law that He gave long ago.

We demonstrate our love for God by keeping His commandments (cf. Deut 7.9). The idea flaunted today in popular Christian thought that we are free from being obedient to the Law of God, saying that we are only required to live by the Spirit fails to see that the same Spirit (the Holy Spirit) that leads now has led in the past, and the direction He led back then is the same today (cf. Zech 7.12; Acts 7.51). God abhors a double-standard (cf. Prov 16.11; 20.10), so why would we assume that His mindset today is “different strokes for different folks”?

The answer is He doesn’t. The circumstances of God’s Laws have changed, but the underlying principle behind them has not. God’s Law is still in force for the believer, and as 1John 5:3 says they are not burdensome (harsh or awful).

NOTE TO READER: In the near future we shall look at some specific examples and their relationship today, as well as deal with a misunderstanding I often hear in regards to covenant and salvation, two terms most people conflate. Until then, have a great weekend.

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ENDNOTES:

1 Unless otherwise noted all Scripture shall be of the New American Standard Version: 1995 update (NASB95).

Posted in Beliefs, Christian Living, Christian Perspective, Knowing God, Law, love, morality, Reason

A Dose of Humility is Needed

I find it a little perturbing when Christians attack God’s Law because they find it archaic, culturally bound, and overtly harsh. I’m always wondering to myself, “Is this accurate? Is this the sort of attitude that Christians ought to have towards what God has deigned sufficient and necessary for us to know how we ought to live?”

Let’s be honest, we don’t like being told what to do. I mean when we strip it down to the bear bottom the problem is not so much with what God has commanded to be done, but rather the idea that anyone would tell us how we ought to live. “Do we not have any say in this!?!” “Can we not decide for ourselves what is morally right and wrong?” “Are we not wise enough to choose correct path as we weigh the evidence before us in creation and in our own hearts!?!”

The answer is NO.

I remember when my kids were little (two of them are getting ready to graduate here in a couple of years) and the reaction that they would give when told “no.”

My youngest sister used to tease my parents dog (a Chihuahua) by telling it “no.” If the dog were close, she would point her finger at it and say “Minnie—that was her name—No…nooo….nooo.” The reaction of the little dog was comical, but you wanted to make sure that your finger wasn’t too close to its mouth or you’d get nipped. Minnie would turn her head ever so slightly and begin to snarl, eventually chewing you out with a shrill little bark.

This was similar, although not exactly the same, to one of my kids when they were told “no.” A temper tantrum would ensue. No I don’t know about how this was dealt with in your home, but judging from what I see sometimes at the supermarket not very many people today used the approach I did; punishment quickly came next. The age of the child determined the type of punishment they’d get.

When my oldest was about three years old he wanted to grab things on the coffee table that he didn’t need to touch. Some of you out there would probably just move it up to a higher area to avoid the problem altogether. If the items were dangerous to the child sure that makes sense, but there are some things that need to be left in our way in order for us to learn. We receive instruction and when we fail to abide the instruction we get disciplined.

So, when he wanted something on the table that he was not allowed to have I told him “No, you can’t have that. Leave it alone.” After a moment of consideration he went right back for what he was restricted from having. I’m sure his little mind thought, “If I see it, why can’t I grab it? I see you grab it, so why are you telling me no?” I warned him one more time, and the pause of consideration on his part was much shorter. As he reached his hand out to grab it—all the while looking right at me, to see what I’d do—I caught his hand and delivered a quick smack on it and told him firmly, “I said no.”

He looked up at me with his big blue-green eyes as they filled with tears, and then the flood gates opened up. He cried for a few moments, and then I brought him near explaining to him that it was wrong to do it, because I said so: “You’re not allowed to have it,” and then I hugged him and told him I loved him.

He didn’t know it at the time, but my heart was deeply moved by the scene. I hated that he cried as he looked at me heartbroken, but I also knew it was a necessary lesson. If more parents today took disciplining their kids seriously (notice I’m not saying abusing them), then many of the ridiculous attitudes we see on display at the grocery store or on the evening news would not be happening.

  • “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil” (Eccl 8.11).

The pain of that day taught my son to heed my word. He understood that when I said “no” that is what I meant. Temper tantrums were few and far between in our house. I’m not saying that they never happened, they did, but discipline helped curb the hearts and behavior of my kids. Even to this day my wife and I have had people come up to us in restaurants or in other places commenting on how well behaved our children are; polite and courteous.

Question, did I need to tell my child the reason behind my command? Did they have “a right” to know my rationale behind the law I had given?

The answer is NO.

Why then do we want God to give us justification for why He declares a certain behavior as off-limits? Why do we suppose to suggest that it is necessary for Him to tell me His reasoning why He says “NO?” Of course, this is not limited to the Law of God for we often want to question God for why He allowed this tragedy, or why He willed for this to happen when so many things from our vantage point seem horrible.

Listen to the answer we are given in Scripture:

  • “But 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?'” (Rom 9.20).
  • “Shall a fault finder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it…Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?” (Job 40.2, 7-8)
  • “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots!” (Isa 45.9)

It seems to me that we need to learn a little humility when we come before the Word of God. If He commands us in one way, do we dare go another? If He says this is the right course of action, do we dare say “tell me the reason!” Should we not rather say with the one we profess to be our Lord: “Not my will be done, but thine” (Luke 22.42); and “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father” (John 14.31).

Is this not heavenly wisdom rather than earthly wisdom when we bow the knee before our God and King, acknowledging His divine right over us? It is. And then, is it not utter foolishness when we challenge His Word or course of action because we fail to understand it? It is.

Let us choose Godly wisdom and pray for humility, before we open our mouths uttering blasphemies in ignorance.

Posted in Beliefs, Law, love, morality, philosophy, relationship, Theology

Looking at God’s Law in terms of Relationship and Morality: Interacting with a Popular Belief held by Some Christian Philosophers

NOTE TO READER

  • For this post I am going to do something different. Due to the nature of the article, I am going to give you my conclusion before you read the rest. This writing is a bit more…I don’t know…technical than normal. I am tempted to use the word scholarly, but I’m not fond of thinking of myself in that light so I want to refrain from using that label. In short, the work is heavily cited as its focus is on three works dealing with to some degree morality, the use of law, and the relationship those share with the Christian faith. If you find the conclusion interesting, read on. If you don’t, then I won’t force you (can’t anyway, lol!), but I am hoping that some may benefit from the read. Enjoy…or don’t…up to you….

Closing Remarks…

God is a covenantal God. And, as such He is a Law-giving God. He not only orders the workings of the universe, but the living of His creatures. Some find this distasteful and either reject it or water down the implications, but we find this truth perpetrated from Genesis to Revelation.

First God established His covenant with Adam and when Adam rebelled; his progeny fell with him. That was the inheritance he purchased for his children. God via grace reveals Himself to His people and rejoins them in a new covenantal status. This was done in the past in Israel and in the future (past to us) in Christ Jesus. One cannot pit the laws of God against His goodness, for they are a reflection of His holy heart. The only way to know the good and the evil and to be equipped to do them is to sit at His feet and draw from His Word (cf. Deut 8.3; Matt 4.4). Nor can one pit the laws of God over or under in significance to the relationship we might share with Him as His creatures. The Law of God defines the parameters of the covenantal relationship we share with Him. If we show little regard for the boundary markers He has given us for our good, then we have demonstrated our lack of love for Him. The point being that it is impossible to be in relationship with God without rules and it is an ignorant move to try and elevate one over the other—i.e. rules vs. relationship. This false distinction (relationship over rules) is believed by many professed Christians today, but it has no basis whatsoever in orthodox Christianity.

INTRODUCTION

Relationship, Law or Both: Interacting Some Written Works that Touch on the Subject

Years back I wrote a paper entitled “Reflecting the Image of God: Relationship, Law or Both?” for a class in biblical apologetics. In the paper I critiqued the views written in a couple of books assigned at the time of the course: “Is God a Moral Monster?” by Paul Copan and “Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes” by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien. Overall, I would have to say that the books provided some helpful insight, but the authors viewpoints on God’s Law was suspect as they continually attempted to push the concept of relationship over rules.

For example, Richards and O’Brien write, “The Western commitment to rules and laws make it difficult for us to imagine a valid rule to which there may be valid exceptions. When we begin to think of the world in terms of relationships instead of rules, however, we must acknowledge that things are never so neat and orderly and that rules are not as dependable as we once imagined. When relationships are the norming factor in the cosmos, we should expect exceptions.”1

They continue, “In the ancient world, rules were not expected to apply 100 percent of the time…The covenant [with Israel]…was broken only when it became clear that the relationship was over (e.g., Hos 1.9). The end came when the relationship, not the rules, was broken.”2 In the end these two authors draw the conclusion that “…we have to learn to identify when the Bible is prioritizing relationship instead of rules or laws…[for] it often seems as if God is sovereign over everything except his rules.”3

Clearly, the emphasis that Richards and O’Brien stress is that of relationship over law. Laws are fine, but they are not universally binding to all people. That was never God’s concern and it shouldn’t be ours. That is their ultimate thrust, for to argue contrary to this position is to misread Scripture with Western eyes as their title suggests. Paul Copan as we shall see does not differ from this approach.

Copan asserts the following: “Keep in mind this statement that is worthy of full acceptance: the law of Moses is not eternal and unchanging.”4 My question at the time I was reading this was “worthy of full acceptance” on whose authority? God’s? Is that really how God desires us to look at His Law-Word as somehow limited in time and function? Jesus surely doesn’t seem to agree. For He stated, that “not one jot or tittle” (Matt 5.18) was to be done away with, and any who taught otherwise would be considered “least” (Matt 5.19) in the Kingdom. In fact, the scribes and Pharisees were notorious for doing that very things (supplanting God’s Law with their own), and he said that our righteousness needed to be greater than theirs (Matt 5.20).

This rationality is repeated again by Copan when he writes, “the Mosaic law is not permanent, universal, and the standard for all nations.”5 He goes so far as to say God’s laws given during the Exodus period were not perfect and therefore are not to be seen as universal ones for all people. They were an improvement from the rest of the nations, but apparently only slightly.6 Let me get this straight, God’s Law-Word is only a slight improvement over the rules, statutes and commands of unbelievers? Hmmm, interesting!

Like the previous authors (Richards and O’Brien), Copan seems convinced that relationship holds some sway over rules: “For one thing, God desired that Israel love him and cling to him (Deut 6:5; 10:20), which isn’t exactly reducible to keeping laws!”7 “For what law ever roused one to love another?”8 quips the skeptic of the underlying purpose and scope of God’s revealed law. My critical review of these presuppositions by the authors was met by resistance. The professor at the time labeled the work as straw-manning the authors, but would not provide me with where I had erred.

Similar Drum Beats From Some Other Philosophers

Later on I read another work by a couple different authors who were dancing to the beat of the same drum, bending over backwards to get as far away from God’s precepts as possible.

In their book “Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality,” David Saggett and Jerry L. Walls believe when it comes to what is morally right and wrong, “atheists make a good point when they stress that the fact that some moral truths may have been learned from Christian teachings doesn’t go to show that religion must necessarily be the ultimate cause or ground for those truths.”9 Besides the immediate problem with equating Christianity on par with all other religions, you may be wondering why the authors believe that truth does not necessarily start with the Triune God of Scripture? The solution they offer to their readers is this:

  • “The source from which we gain knowledge is one matter; what made the subject matter true and knowable is quite another. The former is an epistemological issue; the latter is a metaphysical or ontological issue.”10

Epistemological what? Metaphysical what? Ontological what? I know those words are a mouth full and if you are not familiar with such terminology don’t sweat it, most people aren’t. This is philosophical talk; the egghead’s casual manner of speaking to another person. Now to be fair I am to some extent one of those eggheads, what my wife calls the “Technically speaking” crowd. You have to say that phrase within the quotes with an English accent (a.k.a. to us country bumpkins as ‘British’). Let’s face it when “Brits” talk they do have an advantage of sounding much more polished than their “American” counterparts.

Anyway, those words above point to the study of knowledge (epistemology), the study/nature of reality (metaphysics), and the study of being (ontology). What Saggett and Walls are saying in the quote above is merely this, “These are all separate categories, and they do not necessarily have their sources in the same thing.” In fact, they argue that the knowledge of right and wrong (moral values acquired from ethical standards) in this world “springs [from] different sources entirely.”11 Essentially, what they seem convinced that morality can come from a variety of streams (specifically natural law) and does not have to come from our Creator.

Earlier in their work they propose the following Q & A: “How do we know what is right? If God is the Good and his commands constitute moral obligations, at some point we must ask how it is that we come to know his will.”12 One suggestion they offer is conscience13, the other that I have hinted to is nature (i.e. Natural Law Theory). An immediate problem arises, however, when one considers the noetic effects of the Fall and the unreliability of the conscience. Our minds have been darkened by sin (cf. Rom 1.21; Eph 4.18), and our consciences as a result are either seared or perverted (compare 1Tim 4.2 and Rom 12.2). Even Christians are said to have struggles in this area for they sometimes go to teachers that itch their ears rather than confront their hearts with the truth (2Tim 4.1-3). To be fair the authors allude to these truths disclosed in Scripture,13 but still believe in spite of this natural limitation placed on mankind, the individual in question will still be able to deduce what is morally right through a variety of sources not limited to God’s divine commands.14

One of the reasons Saggett and Walls suggest is that they “think there are compelling theological reasons to make room in our ethical theory for divine prerogatives when it comes to [God’s] commands…there’s excellent reason to think that some of his commands are optional or could have been different.”15 On this particular strain of thought it is suggested that the Scripture text that reads, “who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin” (James 4.17), is better understood in this way, “A more sensible reading, both exegetically and philosophically, is that he who is genuinely led to do a particular good deed sins if he refrains from doing it.”16 This is offered in an effort to keep the personal and relational aspect of divine truth expressed in love and not merely command more palatable. But this sort of thinking ought to raise questions in the believer’s mind.

Looking at the Rationale of the Position Being Argued by the Authors

On what ground can I argue as a creature that the Creator could have commanded something differently, making the statute at the very least optional at times? Moreover, by what authority does the creature have in twisting the Word of God to better fit their sensibilities and feelings on an issue? Just because it doesn’t sit well with the creature that his/her Creator would dare determine something that is necessary and obligatory to all of His creation? If I see my enemy in need (his ox has fell in the ditch; Exod 23.4-5), then is my reaction towards this individual’s predicament dependent upon how I feel genuinely led? Is this command and general precept of living only applicable to the believer but has no bearing whatsoever on the behavior of the unbeliever?

Only when we reason that our conception “of goodness [comes] from the bottom up”17 do we find such faulty thinking good. Only when we believe that “nature’s laws” tells us something about moral reality can we come to such conclusions. Only when we believe that our conscience is, along with our personal state of being, essentially good can we be convinced that we need not be limited to God’s special revelation to know what type of person we should be.

What is the fear that drives such thinking? What is the objection that drives such reasoning to attack the concept of God willing and commanding what He knows to be right; what ought to be done? What makes a person, a professed believer, desiring to distance them away from the fact that when God speaks human beings must listen. Not should listen, not may wish to listen, not may want to consider listening, but ought to do exactly as the Creator has ordered us to do without giving us an answer to satisfy our ever drifting sense of right and wrong?

Although Saggett and Walls have many good things to say in their work the crux of the matter is here: “In general, what God can’t do is anything in diametric opposition, irremediable tension, or patent conflict with our most nonnegotiable moral commitments.”18 Notice the concern is weighted by creaturely insight. Logically this leads to the following scenario: “When a particular interpretation stands too much at odds with nonnegotiable moral intuitions, the interpretation has to go, or a high view of biblical authority has to go, or we must deny God’s goodness.”19 Refusing to deny God’s goodness that dismissal is laid at the feet of the interpretation or a high view of biblical authority. Not surprising, as much of liberal theology tends to go in this direction, when the human reasoner cannot accept the plain teachings of Scripture.

Let’s be honest sometimes the Bible hits us in the teeth. But, what should our response be? To dismiss it, look for an escape hatch, or submit to its tenets when our limitations are clearly seen? Obviously, it should be the latter. The problem we constantly run into is that we want to be god (cf. Gen 3.4-5). Rather than admit this Saggett and Walls, along with Copan are often found commenting that the laws of God (i.e. His action through or in response to others) in the OT is viewed as harsh20 and awful.21 Why? Because, to look at some of those commands of God in any other way infringes upon their view of Him as unconditionally loving all creatures the same, with the chief good being unwilling to violate His creature’s free will:

  • “A loving God would plausibly do more to offer his grace and salvation to the Canaanites, even if posthumously… A loving God would do no less than all in his power to bring about their eternal salvation, short of violating their free will…God, we contend, would give even those Canaanites a full and free opportunity to repent of their sins and be saved through Christ.”22

It is interesting how we will bend the Scriptures until it fits the mold that we find acceptable. We are already told in the Bible why the Canaanites had to die, they were justly punished for their sin (Gen 15.16). They were not peaceful, loving or kind people—they murdered their own children as an act of worship to their false gods (Lev 18.1-25, 27-28; 20.1-23)! Moreover, they had no desire whatsoever to know their Creator, for they rejected Him turning to created things (1Kgs 21.26)!

NOTE:
You may want to reread my closing now. More will follow in the future regarding some of the things discussed in areas of theology and politics. Thanks for reading.

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ENDNOTES:

1 E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 166. Italics in original.

2 Ibid, 166. A similar line of thought is expressed on page 169 when the authors again state, “Likewise, in the ancient world of the Bible (and in many non-Western cultures), rules did not necessarily apply to 100 percent of the people.” In order to justify their position they point to Rahab and her family as sharing in the inheritance of Israel, something the Canaanites were not supposed to do, when the land was conquered. What they seem to miss is the fact that Rahab and her family were grafted into Israel via their faith in God. She is identified in two NT books as having faith as a member of God’s people (cf. Heb 11.31; Jas 2.25).

3 Ibid, 174.

4 Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster: Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011), 71. Italics added.

5 Ibid, 89.

6 Ibid, 136.

7 Ibid, 72.

8 Richards and O’Brien, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, 173. The authors compare the desire of “many evangelicals [who] describe our standing before God in terms of forensic justification” as not inherently wrong, but severely missing the mark by pointing to analogy of a husband who promises to abide by a set of rules, as if that satisfies the relationship with his wife. They write, “Such a vow does not arouse love. Rules never do. While a loving husband may perform all those actions, they are the results of the relationship, not the rules that establish it.”

What the authors fail to see is that a husband that breaks his vows destroys the relationship. The marital covenant is established upon the binding arrangement of the vow-markers. Without the boundaries defining the terms of the covenant, not relationship is able to exist. Love is not defined by emotion, but is demonstrated through commitment. An uncommitted spouse will show little regard for the covenantal boundaries established on the day of their matrimony, and will be found destroying the relationship from the foundation up. The two (law/relationship) work together cohesively in a healthy union. Favoring one side over the other is disproportionate and will in time lead to disastrous results.

9 David Saggett and Jerry L. Walls, Good God: the Theistic Foundations of Morality (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011), 160, Kindle Edition.

10 Ibid, 160.

11 Ibid, 160.

12 Ibid, 159.

13 Ibid, 159.

13 Ibid, 165.

14 Ibid, 1

15 Ibid, 120. As their example they suggest God could have required an 11% tithe, rather than a 10% tithe. Such hypothetical conjecture is actually unwarranted and cannot be justified from a creaturely standpoint. How can one claim to know that God could have commanded something different, without providing a warrant for the claim? This amounts to mere opinion and is an utter waste of ink.

16 Ibid, 129.

17 Ibid, 129.

18 Ibid, 135. Italics added.

19 Ibid, 137.

20 Copan, Is God a Moral Monster, 90. He calls it “harsh” when he looks at the sons of Aaron offering strange fire (Lev 10), the men of Israel fornicating with Midianite women (Numb 25), and Uzzah attempting to steady the oxcart when it teetered (2Sam 6.17). It is possible that Copan would say that he is merely being tongue-in-cheek, and in some cases I would agree that this is the case. However, there is no mistake that he has some disdain for these laws, and the actions that followed when they were ignored/broken. If one attempted to reinstate their usefulness he would no doubt cry against it, claiming cultural irregularities—i.e. that was a different culture and time; a subtle form of relativism. Of course, to institute such laws today would require a reworked political system and a heart that truly reflected a love for God.

21 Saggett and Walls, Good God, 138. This comment was offered regarding the Israelite conquest narratives of Canaan.

22 Ibid, 139, 140.

Posted in Beliefs, biblical justice, critique, Law, politics, Racism, Worldview Analysis

Holding Present Generations Accountable for Past Generations Sins: Is Reparations a Biblical Concept?

Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die…The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself; and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezek 18.4, 20).

This principle statement offered by the prophet Ezekiel to Israel at a time when the southern kingdom of Judah was falling to the Babylonians is demonstrating that we are all responsible for our own sins. God does not hold us accountable for another’s sins, but we are judged rightly on the sins that we commit. The prophet took this from an earlier statute given by God to Moses to the children of Israel (physical offspring of Jacob):

“Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sins” (Deut 24.16). To ignore this principle is to pervert justice (cf. Deut 16.19; 27.19). In case the language is not plain enough, to attempt to hold someone accountable for what another person has done is unjust, unrighteous, and not a reflection of God’s heart.

Of course, I imagine some might throw up the argument that Paul says we are all judged for Adam’s sin (cf. Rom 5.18-19)1, but that is an incorrect interpretation of that passage. The sense in which Paul is speaking in Romans is merely to point out that through Adam’s sin all his offspring (as a consequence) were made sinners (Rom 5.19). That is to say, Adam’s children are now identified as sinners, and as a result we all sin (cf. Rom 5.12-13). Again, in case you miss it, we are born sinners therefore we sin—NOT—we all sin and are then labeled sinners; for that inverts the argument of Paul opposite than the way he intends.

The point in the Ezekiel and Deuteronomy passages is that according to God’s way of thinking, we are all judged equitably for our own actions. We cannot point the finger over here and say “they made me do it!” Nor, can we say to this individual or that group, “you are accountable for what was done previously and you must pay the penalty;” even though, you did not participate and were not even there when those sins took place.

In short, no one alive today is responsible and therefore accountable for the sins of slavery in American history. What our forefathers did in the past was wrong and deserving of death (cf. Exod 21.16; Deut 24.7; 1Tim 1.10), but it is a great leap of logic to try and pin their sin on anyone living today.

I bring this up in regards to the subject of reparations. The concept of reparations states that whites should pay for the sins of their forbearers who had black slaves, regardless of the fact that whites today did not in fact participate in the sins of the past, with monetary benefits. In other words, we should be able to tax white people for sins previously committed against black people.

Rather, than argue the case myself, I thought it better for another—who articulates it much better than I could—to demonstrate why this is biblically wrong and sinful and not an appropriate way for brothers and sisters in Christ to treat one another.

Gary DeMar is an apologist and accomplished author and former president of American Vision, a Christian worldview ministry located in Atlanta, GA. And while some may disagree with his eschatological viewpoints2, this should not keep you from listening to what he says politically from a biblical worldview. Please read the article posted below, let feel free to let me know what you think.

https://garydemar.com/should-todays-white-people-pay-reparations-to-black-people/

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ENDNOTES:

1 I should point out that what we see with Adam and the comparison that Paul makes with Jesus (the last Adam) is in terms of covenantal heads. Adam is the representative of the whole human race. God established him in the sense of a covenantal head. According to the stipulations of covenantal arrangements there is an order of hierarchy that must be recognized. The transcendent/eternal God as the governing authority, the created image bearer as the representative of God, the Ethical boundaries established by Creator, the positive/negative sanctions (blessings/cursings) in response to obedience/disobedience, the inherited state of those in covenant with God.

Adam disregarded the first three in the garden. He refused to acknowledge God’s authority over his thoughts and actions. He refused to image and represent God when the serpent and his wife spoke against his Creator. He refused to obey the ethical boundary (law) that his Creator had established. Therefore, rather than being blessed he was cursed, and his continual inheritance on earth for he and his children were no longer identified as children of God, but children of wrath—i.e. sinners.

Jesus as the covenantal head of a new people did what the first Adam did not and therefore purchased for his offspring (those in Him) an inheritance of blessing and eternal life. Only those in Christ experience that positive sanctions of God and a continual inheritance with Him throughout eternity.

2 Gary, like me, is a Post-Millennialist. Eschatology has never been in the history of Christianity been a litmus test for orthodoxy. The arguments from historic Pre-Mill, A-Mill, and even Dispensational Pre-Mill are argued over various understandings of certain biblical texts; Unlike the arguments over Creation, which often smuggle in philosophical viewpoints outside of Scripture—i.e. evolution, big-bang cosmology, etc. Those eschatological disagreements may be the source of fruitful growth and dialogue, as all of God’s children should be doing their best to see what the Scriptures actually teach (cf. Acts 17.11-12). They should never be the source of broken fellowships between the family of God.

Posted in Beliefs, Biblical Questions, evidence, faith, Knowing God, Revelation, Salvation, Theology, Worldview Analysis

Knowledge of God not Possible without Revelation

Suppose God never chose to reveal Himself to His creation. He never spoke to us. He never had His Word(s) written down and preserved for us in a book. Would we know Him? Would it be possible to know Him? God by His very nature is immaterial. He has no physical substance. He is Spirit.

So, I ask again would it be possible to know God without Him having revealed Himself to us?

Jesus says in a couple of different places that such a thing would be impossible. If God did not choose to reveal Himself to His creation, then they could not/would not know Him.

  • “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Luke 10.22).1

Now Jesus makes this statement after praising God for keeping the truth hidden from the supposedly wise and learned in the world. The very thing we find Paul teaching in 1Cor 2:5 where he says, “so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” For, if true knowledge of God—that is to truly know who He is and draw near Him—were obtainable by natural means, without God opening the hearts of sinners, then those who crucified Christ would not have done so.

  • “but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1Cor 2.7-8).

Again, we find Jesus teaching this very truth in John 6. Here Jesus is confronted with people who have witnessed His miraculous power and yet still do not believe in Him. He says, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet you do not believe” (John 6.35-36).

Jesus promises life to all who come to Him. He compares himself to living bread and living drink, and while this allusion most certainly has the wilderness experience in mind, when Moses led Israel from Egypt and complaining Israel was given manna to eat and water from a rock to drink, this also points to the words of the prophet Isaiah 55:1-3.

  • “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David” (ESV).2

Now Jesus is not finished with his audience at Capernaum. He says to those who do not believe—again, even though the evidence of His true nature is right in front of their face—”All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37). The order of operation as disclosed by Jesus is very precise and cannot be rearranged without mispresenting God. Each one the Father gives to the Son will come to the Son, and the Son will not cast them out.

Why do they come?

Because the Father has given them to the Son; He is the source of their belief. If we compare what Jesus has already taught about belief (Luke 10.21-22), with what He is disclosing now, then we should rightly conclude that belief in the Son is the result of the Father’s action (i.e. giving). To those then the Father has revealed the Son, the Son reveals to them to the Father, which is actually the Son’s purpose (it’s the Holy Spirit’s role too, but we haven’t got there yet).

  • “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he [Jesus, the Word-made-Flesh] has made him known” (John 1.18; cf. 6.45-47; 14.6).

All of those who have had the truth of God revealed to them will come to Jesus Christ. There is a difference between how one comes to Christ and we see this constantly repeated in the recorded gospel ministry of Jesus. Not everyone who professes belief (faith) is a true believer in Jesus.

Why?

Some are the type that we witness in John 6. They’ve seen what He can do (evidence), but they really don’t know who He is. Because the truth has not been revealed to them; externally they might find the Lord appealing, but internally there has been no true change of heart.

Jesus explains to his audience that He has “…come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (John 6.38-40). Jesus has just promised eternal life to all who believe.

Who believes?

Those who believe come to Him, but the reason they come to Him Jesus says is because the Father has given them to the Son. The heavy implication from this teaching is immediately felt by Jesus audience and they begin to grumble (John 6.41). Again, this harkens back to the disbelief of those who had been delivered from Egypt but were cursed to wander in the wilderness. Despite all the evidence they saw, they failed to see who God truly is; therefore, they grumbled against Him and any who faithfully represented Him (e.g. Moses). The same is true of this class of people. They have come to Jesus, but they do not believe. Jesus says this is because they haven’t been given by the Father, and so they grumble.

The complaining Jews are rebuked by the Lord. “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6.44; emphasis added). This is a hard teaching from the Lord when properly understood. His own disciples, people who had been following Him for a long time and had witnessed many things that He did, could not bear to hear it/accept it (cf. John 6.60). Again, Jesus reiterates this hard truth to them, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father” (John 6.65; emphasis added).

Why?

Because, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6.63). Yes, but isn’t it true that God wants all people to come to Him, to know Him, to know, love and embrace the Son? Isn’t Jesus purpose for everyone to know Him and His words as true? Is it?

Does Jesus say that?

I’ve heard this argument presented when speaking of the parables of Jesus, but you have to ignore what is going on in the text in order to come to that conclusion. Jesus often taught things that were difficult to hear and accept, and He did not apologize for what He said. Nor does He soften His message to appease His audience (then and now). The disciples asked the Lord why He taught in parables (Matt 13.10), when many people were confused by the true meaning—even them. Listen to what He says, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given” (Matt 13.11; ESV; italics added; cf. Luke 8.10; Mark 4.11-12).

Looking back at what Jesus said in Luke 10:22 as He was rejoicing in the Holy Spirit (v. 21), the fact remains that unless God chose to reveal Himself to His creatures; no one would truly know Him.

Is it possible to know God if He does not reveal Himself?

Just from this brief investigation in Scripture it does not appear so. Further credence seems to be given to Paul’s words in 1Cor 2:14, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” The difference for the Christian is our internal disposition due to what has been given to us:

  • “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God” (1Cor 2.12).
  • As Jesus explained to His disciples, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14.16-17; ESV).

The point being, only those to whom God has revealed Himself may truly know Him.

“Yes, but that can’t be true, Kris, for we read in Romans 1 that all people can know God from creation itself,” you say. It is true that Romans 1 does point to the fact that all human beings know God, but there is a question we need to ask….

In what sense is this knowledge of God spoken about?

Paul starts off in Romans 1:18 explaining that the wrath of God rests against all human beings, because they “suppress the truth in righteousness.”

What truth do people supposedly suppress?

Paul answers that question in vv. 19-25.

  • “Because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but became futile in their speculations, and their foolish hearts was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever Amen” (Rom 1.19-22, 24-25).

There is a sense where every man, woman and child knows that there is a Creator. Paul’s point is pretty clear that this is evident to all, because God has made mankind in that way. We are all image bearers. We were created to image (mirror) our Creator, but since the beginning God’s wrath has been resting against us as a result of Adam’s sin. He was the first to exchange the truth of God for a lie, turning from the incorruptible God to corruptible creatures (Rom 1.23).

However, Paul’s point here in Romans 13, is not that nature can truly make us know God in a genuine, meaningful way. Rather, the verdict is we know enough of the truth that we stand condemned. We are, as fallen creatures, “without excuse” (Rom 1.20); or, without an apologetic. We have no defense against God’s righteous judgment. In other words, we all stand guilty for our sin—i.e. idol worship—and the Lord is revealing that to us.

Yes, but what about the other testimonies of Scripture?

Sometimes you will hear a person make an appeal to one of the prayerful songs of praise in the Hebrew songbook—Psalms. We need to remember that the psalmist (whether it is David or another) is not neutral towards God. Therefore, comments about God’s handiwork declaring the glory of God (cf. Psa 8; 19) say nothing about people in general knowing God personally. In fact, we find quite the opposite when we take the time to read what is written:

  • “For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep! The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this” (Psa 92.4-6; cf. Psa 14.1-3; Rom 3:10-12).

Again, we see the clear indication of what man in his natural fallen state cannot do.

Faith in God is based on what?

The Christian faith is rightly called a Trinitarian faith. We do not believe in three gods (polytheism), nor do we believe in different modes of God (Sabellianism) as if the God of the Bible is constantly changing masks, and we flatly deny any concept of Unitarianism (denial of the Trinity). We believe in One God in three divine persons.

  • “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut 6.4; ESV).

One divine being, eternal/immutable revealed in three divine persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father is neither the Son nor the Spirit; The Son is neither the Father nor the Spirit; The Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. Each person of the Triune Godhead function is differing roles solidified and committed to One central purpose/divine will.

In terms of salvation, it is the Father who sends the Son into the world to redeem His people that He is giving to the Son. The Son willing lays down His life for His sheep taking their place on the Cross, saving them from their sins. The Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son to represent the Son in order to regenerate what was lost in order to raise them up to eternal life. All three persons work cohesively in this effort as God to have a people committed to them (Him) for all eternity.

What about other those other things intimately tied to the Christian faith-system?

How do I know what sin is? How do I know the price that is necessary to atone for it? What is Holiness and why should I be concerned with it? How can I know to live righteously, to whom shall I turn? Or maybe I shouldn’t turn to anyone other than my own self, my own heart? How do I know that people are lost and need evangelized? How do I know that Jesus is the Christ? That He died for sinners? Maybe it was a hoax or He never existed? You tell me that He did exist and His death and resurrection were not a hoax, but how can I be sure. You say that there is evidence for it, but other present evidence against it that sounds just as compelling if not more so. Can I truly be sure that the Christian faith is real, when there so many other options out there? Who is to say which religion is right, or if religion isn’t really just a construct that people have invented to cope with difficulties in life? Karl Marx called it an opiate of the people, maybe it is.

Now, please show me how these may be known—truly known—from creation? How is such knowledge even obtainable without God having revealed Himself to us in such a fashion? The answer is it is not. NOT possible. Without God’s revelation, His spoken-written Word preserved throughout the ages for His people, and without confirmatory evidence4 witnessed in creation (both internally and externally) it would be impossible to know God.

Here’s the problem when we give evidence as the supreme priority for our faith in the God of the Bible…we would know nothing about Him or about ourselves without His breathed-out Word (2Tim 3.16-17). As vital as creation is as a revelatory source it does not actually tell us anything. It has to be interpreted. This is the Achilles heel of Natural Law Theory.

Nature does not teach laws. Nature does not teach. Nature is always interpreted, and interpretation will always be subjective to the individual and the source they lean upon as authoritative. There is a real danger is saying that your faith rests on evidence. What happens when some new line of evidence overturns what was previously assumed as right? According to Scripture the order is supposed to be reversed. Our faith is to rest upon God’s Word (cf. Deut 8.3; Matt 7.24), and then His understanding of all things is what is supposed to guide our own (cf. Isa 11.1-5).

When our faith in God is rested upon anything other than Christ’s Word (the Holy Bible) we are just building sandcastles.

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ENDNOTES:

1 All Scripture shall be of the New American Standard Version (95′) unless otherwise noted (NAS95).

2 The reader would do well to note that entirety of Isaiah 55, paying particular attention to the latter verses where God’s salvation is brought about by His Word which never returns to Him barren, but always brings about the will of God.

3We can even include Romans 2 where he speaks of human hearts bearing the mark of His Law to some degree (Rom 2.14-15). Again, this knowledge is not enough to provide salvation, but further indicts all people.

4 Evidence is secondary in regards to any faith-system as the faith-system in question will have a direct bearing on the way in which the evidenced is viewed. Evidence then is used as confirmation of one’s beliefs not the ground for it. There is ample evidence for the Christian worldview, but these “facts of nature” are interpreted in light of what our worldview teaches.

For example, the Bible teaches that all men are sinners—everybody sins. We can take this teaching and then compare it with what we find going on in the world around us. The evidence will either confirm or deny our beliefs. Some evidence is difficult to assess in light of one’s worldview. In those cases, rescuing devices are erected in order to protect the foundation of one’s beliefs.

Here is an example from an evolutionary perspective. Genetic material does not create informational material—i.e. information comes from some outside source. One way that an evolutionist might attempt to get around this dilemma is by stating that there is a mechanism that happens naturally from genetic material, but we haven’t identified it yet. Give us enough time and we will. Might take a million years, but we’ll get their eventually. Christians use a similar tactic when it comes to things they have difficulty answering. However, the point is that we do not abandon our commitments (faith) because some difficulty is presented to us—i.e. our faith is not rested upon evidence.