Does Jesus Possess the Nature of God?
If there is a God, it is reasonable to believe that this God would have a number of classic attributes, including omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence and omnibenevolence. Does Jesus possess these qualities? What do the reliable eyewitness accounts tell us about the nature of Jesus? Does He possess the nature of God?
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Friday, July 30, 2010
Does Jesus Possess the Nature of God?
Thursday, July 29, 2010
[Often] people who do not like an emphasis on doctrine or theological precision [...] say:We often find resistance to doctrine within the church despite it's ability to clarify and preserve the truths of Christianity. Keller often hears it put this way: "We are not saved by assenting to propositions, but by obedient trust in God. What matters is being like Christ."
" 'We are not interested... in your various ideas and schools of thought with regard to the precise explanation of how the atonement of Christ works. These things are of no concern to us... so long as we are living a good life and producing good works, that is the only thing that matters.' "
Although I find it ironic that there are those outside of Christianity that are heretical (means choice); that choose to believe things that are not Christian, but want to be included under the umbrella of Christianity, it is no surprise that these groups would be resistant to an emphasis on Christian doctrine. This was exactly what was seen in response to a recent post where Mormons would negatively describe trying to define biblical principles like grace, justification and salvation while affirming doing and following what Christ says.
Lloyd-Jones' response is,
"'Whether you like it or not, to speak like that is, in and of itself, to speak in a doctrinal manner. To make statements along that line is, in actual practice, to commit yourself to a particular doctrine... the doctrine of works and, in a sense, of justification by works.' 'Ah, but' they reply, 'we are not interested in such a term as 'justification by works.'" But whether they are interested in such terminology of not, that is exactly what they are saying... In other words, whether we like it or not, we cannot avoid doctrine. ... There is no such thing as an irreligious person; everyone has his or her religion, if you mean by religion that ultimate philosophy or view of life by which people live."
So when you say, "I don't care about doctrine, it's how you live that matters," you are ironically promoting the doctrine of justification by works. You are proposing that what God really wants is a good life. The response can be similar when someone claims that it doesn't matter which religion you belong to, because all religions are alike and no one should be held to a particular doctrine of God. Yet that assumes that God is not holy, and that he does not hold people responsible for how they live. In other words, to say, "no one should be held to a particular view of God" is to assume and promote a particular view of God. To say, "doctrine about God doesn't matter" is itself a statement of doctrine about God - and therefore it does matter! So Lloyd-Jones concludes: "It is no use your saying, 'We are not interested in doctrine; we are concerned about life'; if your doctrine is wrong, your life will be wrong."
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Who Did Jesus Claim to Be?
Even non-believers will often admit that Jesus was among the finest moral teachers the world has ever known. But part of Jesus' teaching involved proclamations related to his identity as God Himself. While skeptics often maintain that Jesus never claimed to be God, the Biblical record indicates just the opposite. What did Jesus teach about his own identity? What does the evidence of Scripture tell us about this teaching? Why do orthodox Christians believe that Jesus was God incarnate?
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Friday, July 16, 2010
"It resounds within me." That is the expression that my friend, who has been coming out of Mormonism and turning to a sort of universalism, used to explain to me how she knows her new beliefs to be true. Coincidentally, it is the same expression used by another friend who is now returning to her LDS roots after having been non-religious for most of her life. In her case, of course, it is the teachings of Joseph Smith that "resound within" her.
Yesterday, the second friend and I were talking about the Isaiah verses in which YHWH God says He is the only God in existence. She believes that the context of Isaiah forces a smaller meaning on these verses - that YHWH is only trying to get people not to worship their little hand-crafted idols. Her belief, like that of many Mormons, is that "Heavenly Father" is the one god FOR US (here on this planet) to worship, but that there are many other real gods out there for other people on other planets. And even though Mormonism teaches that God the Father ("Elohim") had a father that also progressed to godhood, his god/father is not our god, and so he also is not to be worshiped by us.
Obviously, I could not and do not agree with her interpretation of the ONE GOD ONLY verses. But as I tried to look at it from her point of view, I was blessed with the fleeting memory of how it felt to believe that way. And suddenly it hit me...
My Mormon life was cursed with my relying on what felt right to me at the time. Coming to the Jesus of the Bible was completely different. The real truth didn't placate me. It DRAGGED ME OUTSIDE OF MYSELF and forced me to submit to our Creator God. Confronted by the real truth, I finally understood that God Almighty was not interested in my current beliefs, my plans, my works or "goodness"; the promises I tried to make with Him and the deals I wanted Him to make with me. God wanted me to stop dreaming up my own god, and being my own god. He wanted me to find Him, see Him, and recognize Him as the Sovereign Lord of my life.
The experience of coming to Christ was the complete opposite of having something resound within me. I didn't feel a happy, nice feeling. I didn't have my hopes emotionally confirmed for me. I was crushed (Matt 21:44). I had been defeated. With my nose to the floor, I surrendered all my desires, my understanding of how things were, my attempts at controlling my life - ALL I HAD AND ALL I WAS - to Him. And that is where I BEGAN to see things clearly.
Our natural hearts are wicked and foolish (Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 1:21). Our natural self is an enemy of God, and blind to His truth (Romans 8:7, Matt 13:15). We can't look for deep and meaningful truth inside of ourselves. The truth does not resound within our evil and fallen natures (1 Corinthians 2:14). The truth DOES shove us outside of our SELF and our self-love, and offend us in many ways. We're not naturally "in tune" with God's truth, but must let the "old man" be crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6), and the new man be created and sanctified by God and His Word (Romans 12:1-2, 8:29). If we have not been born again, what we feel to be true is coming from an unregenerate heart, which loves itself, and likes to manifest its selfish desires.
It is a good reminder for me, and perhaps someone else out there -- when you go to the Bible, don't take your religion with you. How many people have convinced themselves from the Bible's pages that what they want (or have been taught) to be true IS true, and must as a result, ignore other parts of the Bible that do not, therefore, make sense? I cannot push my beliefs on God; YHWH and His Word will not submit to ME. I am the one who must bow and be corrected. It may not FEEL good - but do I want something that feels good even if it is not the truth?
Good Bible study Tips:
1- Take the Bible verses in their context. Take the Bible as a whole.
2- Interpret the vague and hard-to-understand passages in light of the passages that are easy to understand.
3- Look for your Savior God; the #1-gotta-get-this-right issue is who God IS.
Hebrews 4:12Note: This post assumes that the reader is well-aware of the evidential nature of the Christian worldview. If not, please stick around and read all of Jim's terrific material at pleaseconvinceme.com!
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
I was encouraged by a friend to watch Glenn Beck on his show last night. They were blown away by the things that he was saying. It wasn’t the politics. It was the gospel. For those who don’t know, Glenn Beck is a conservative television and radio personality and is also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) or Mormon. Let me say up front that I am not out to bash Glenn Beck or Mormons or the LDS church. I am simply saying that what Beck is describing is for the most part traditional, orthodox Christianity and not what Mormonism teaches.
During last night’s show, with regard to Black Liberation Theology, Beck replies that what is missing, is grace. He continues (full transcript at the bottom of the post),
“You’re saved by grace. (SAVED BY GRACE appears on the screen.) You cannot earn your way into heaven. You can’t! There is no deed, no random act of kindness, no amount of money to spread around to others that earns you a trip to heaven. It can’t happen! It’s earned by God’s grace alone. By believing that Jesus died on the cross for you, this is what Christians believe, as an individual; you make the choice. You know what I think is the biggest sin is; the biggest problem we’re going to have when we get up to the pearly gates? Even Christians who say, ‘Yeah, I accepted the atonement.’ Did you really? Did you really accept that gift? Did you really unload all the stuff that you had done in your life and give it to Him (pointing up)? That’s how it works… You really have to have a change of heart. That’s where the deeds come in. It’s the change of heart. May I quote the book of James 2:20? ‘But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?’ (FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD appears on the screen.) What does that mean? Our work is a demonstration of our faith.”Now, we know that Mormonism and orthodox Christianity use many of the same words, like God, Jesus, grace, salvation, atonement, etc. but have radically different definitions, but here, Beck describes grace as alone what saves you. He says that the atonement is a gift that we accept by believing that Jesus died for us; that it is about a change of heart and that works are a demonstration of our faith. All are true, but none fall within the range of Mormon teaching.
In The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.70, the prophet, the mouthpiece for God in the LDS church says,
“One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation”.The apostle Bruce McConkie writes in Mormon Doctrine that
"Unconditional or general salvation, that which comes by grace alone without obedience to gospel law, consists in the mere fact of being resurrected. In this sense salvation is synonymous with immortality; it is the inseparable connection of body and spirit so that the resurrected personage lives forever."McConkie teaches that “grace alone” only gets you resurrected to stand before the judgment throne.
"those who gain only this general or unconditional salvation will still be judged according to their works and receive their places in a terrestrial or a telestial kingdom. They will, therefore be damned."Because God the Father does not reside in the terrestrial or a telestial kingdoms, Christians would not call these places Heaven. To get to Heaven (the celestial kingdom in Mormonism) requires more.
"Conditional or individual salvation, that which comes by grace coupled with gospel obedience, consists in receiving an inheritance in the celestial kingdom of God. This kind of salvation follows faith, repentance, baptism, receipt of the Holy Ghost, and continued righteousness to the end of one's mortal probation" (Mormon Doctrine pp. 669-670).The Bible tells us that grace is a free gift. To further complicate things, Mormonism teaches that grace is earned “after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23) and is only sufficient “if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength” (Moroni 10:32).
According to Mormonism, the atonement is both unconditional and conditional. The unconditional part gets you unconditional salvation (resurrection but not Heaven, see above). The conditional part, the part that gets your sins forgiven so that you can be in Heaven with God the Father, requires that you “apply” the atonement by fulfilling the requirements.
lds.org defines atonement as,
“Jesus Christ redeems all people from the effects of the Fall. All people who have ever lived on the earth and who ever will live on the earth will be resurrected and brought back into the presence of God to be judged…This is essentially the conditional or individual salvation that McConkie described, but apparently now “gospel obedience” and “continued righteousness to the end of one’s mortal probation” have been removed. But, both statements contain the need for repentance, part of which according to Mormonism is
Although we are redeemed unconditionally from the universal effects of the Fall, we are accountable for our own sins. But we can be forgiven and cleansed from the stain of sin if we "apply the atoning blood of Christ" (Mosiah 4:2). We must exercise faith in Jesus Christ, repent, be baptized for the remission of sins, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Abandonment of Sin. Although confession is an essential element of repentance, it is not enough. The Lord has said, "By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them" (D&C 58:43).Beck continues,
“We want to concentrate on liberation theology and traditional Christianity, because one is a perversion, and if you get into the churches and you start teaching some perversion of it, it’s going to be a radically bad outcome. Now (James) Cone himself has argued that the Bible is insufficient to know what social justice is. Do you know why? Because social justice isn’t in the Bible. He says you need Marxism to understand what Christianity means. Now I have to tell you, I don’t think and I think that most Christians would agree with me, that Carl Marx speaks for God. I don’t think so. What do you say that we 86 Marx here. Thanks, but no thanks.”Here Beck holds up traditional Christianity as the standard against which this departure, liberation theology, is compared with. Mormonism teaches that in fact, it is traditional Christianity that is the perversion. What God had originally given through the prophets (essentially Mormonism) was altered and lost due to the great apostasy. “Plain and precious truths” were removed from the Bible so that a restoration was necessary. Mormonism teaches that key requirements necessary to be exalted to the celestial kingdom aren't 'in the Bible.' Mormonism teaches that the Book of Mormon and latter-day revelation are needed 'to understand what Christianity means.' So messed up was traditional Christianity that when Joseph Smith as a young boy asks Jesus which denomination of Christianity he should join, Jesus responds that, “answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors (Christian pastors and preachers) were all corrupt.”
Beck states that,
“To receive His salvation, you accept His forgiveness of sins and live your life according to His will. That’s what every Christian church in the country, in the world believes. This is biblical.”Again Mormonism teaches that forgiveness of sins comes by the process of repentance which includes forsaking that sin. To be forgiven of all sins, you need to forsake all sins. This impossible task of perfecting yourself is a far cry from “accepting His forgiveness.”
Beck calls it “the gospel” without adding the requirements found in the “Mormon gospel” and says, “The only way out of this mess is God and if we lose our way to Him, we are in trouble.”
I agree! So what’s going on here? Beck doesn’t seem to be simply presenting Christianity as a basis for American ideals, but seems to be saying that these are his beliefs as well. Many Mormons want to be seen as Christian but still hold to heretical views of salvation. That doesn’t seem to be the case here.
Is Beck being deceptive? Is he seriously confused? Is he uninformed about what the LDS church teaches? Is he coming to a saving knowledge of salvation by grace alone in Christ alone? I don’t know. I do think that many LDS and Christians unfamiliar with Mormonism will be seriously confused by this presentation. Pray for him. This is a guy who is seeking the truth with regard to philosophical ideas and American history. Maybe he will do the same with regard to Mormon history as well.
(FULL TRANSCRIPT)During last night’s show, with regard to Black Liberation Theology, Beck replies that what is missing, is grace. He continues,
“You’re saved by grace. (SAVED BY GRACE appears on the screen.) You cannot earn your way into heaven. You can’t! There is no deed, no random act of kindness, no amount of money to spread around to others that earns you a trip to heaven. It can’t happen! It’s earned by God’s grace alone. By believing that Jesus died on the cross for you, this is what Christians believe, as an individual; you make the choice. You know what I think is the biggest sin is; the biggest problem we’re going to have when we get up to the pearly gates? Even Christians who say, ‘Yeah, I accepted the atonement.’ Did you really? Did you really accept that gift? Did you really unload all the stuff that you had done in your life and give it to Him (pointing up)? That’s how it works. Now I don’t believe that that means that now, you know like Constantine, who died, was baptized, is like, ‘I got a lot of things, I gotta be a King, I gotta kill a lot of people, baptize me when I’m dying.’ I think that’s kinda, you’re trying to work the system there. You really have to have a change of heart. That’s where the deeds come in. It’s the change of heart. May I quote the book of James 2:20? ‘But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?’ (FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD appears on the screen.) What does that mean? Our work is a demonstration of our faith.
We want to concentrate on liberation theology and traditional Christianity, because one is a perversion, and if you get into the churches and you start teaching some perversion of it, it’s going to be a radically bad outcome. Now (James) Cone himself has argued that the Bible is insufficient to know what social justice is. Do you know why? Because social justice isn’t in the Bible. He says you need Marxism to understand what Christianity means. Now I have to tell you, I don’t think and I think that most Christians would agree with me, that Carl Marx speaks for God. I don’t think so. What do you say that we 86 Marx here. Thanks, but no thanks.
But I am also wise enough to know that people will say, ‘Yeah but Glenn Beck is a Mormon! He's not even a real Christian.’ You can believe what you want. I will tell you that I am a man that needed the atonement more than most people do. I appreciate the atonement. I accept Jesus as my Savior. I know that I am alive today because I did give all of it to Him because I couldn’t carry it anymore.
But I know the game that people play, so don’t take this from me. Not only did I call Anthony Bradley on Black Liberation Theology, I also called Richard Land. He is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. I wanted to make sure that I would be saying the same thing as mainline Christianity would say. Same exact definition of individual salvation, as opposed to the perversion of collective salvation. (Here Beck is comparing individual salvation to the liberation theology idea of collective salvation. He isn’t referring to individual salvation as described by McConkie above.) We talked. I said Richard, ‘salvation is an individual relationship between the individual and God through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, right?’ Jesus said, John 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth and the life." (“I AM THE WAY, AND THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.” appears on the screen.)
I cannot be saved for you. I cannot save you. I can’t even save myself. If you are a Christian, you believe that Jesus can save you. If you just tuned in, boy this has got be the weirdest damn episode you’ve ever heard of the Glenn Beck program. There is a point to this, and it is a crucial point that you understand.
When Jesus died, He died for everyone that ever lived. If you are a Christian, you believe that. It was a collective act. It was an act that covered the collective. Everybody who had lived and everybody who will live; the entire collection of people, but it must be accepted personally, individually. Got it? I want to show you the difference here. (walks over to chalkboard) Here is traditional Christianity. Jesus died, two thieves over here. He took on the sins of the world by choice. The empty tomb represents that He conquered death. He was not a victim because He did it by choice. He’s not a victim, He’s a victor. He was a conqueror. He conquered death. Got it? To receive His salvation, you accept His forgiveness of sins and live your life according to His will. That’s what every Christian church in the country, in the world believes. This is biblical. Now, the perversion of the concept of collective salvation, (which is) you accept His forgiveness; you! accept His forgiveness and then you live your life according to His will, meaning do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That’s what it means. This is where it becomes the typical political show, or the news of the day show. Let me bring this now to Barack Obama…”
Beck then explains Liberation Theology, giving numerous examples by way of film clips and compares it to what he has described, calling it, “the gospel” and says, “The only way out of this mess is God and if we lose our way to Him, we are in trouble.”
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Why We Can Trust What the Gospels Tell Us About Jesus
In this podcast, Jim examines the New Testament Gospels as eyewitness accounts. Can they be trusted? Is there any criteria that can be used to determine their reliability? What can we learn from the way in which juries evaluate eyewitnesses in courts across America e...very day? Jim examines the legal criteria for reliable eyewitnesses and then demonstrates how the Gospel accounts meet the standard.
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Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The animator, Jim Zangmeister talks about this project,
This 2-minute video is a kind of animation known as kinetic type. This genre allows the artist to get a little crazy - words become designs, not merely carriers of information. My goal in producing this animation was to have fun – which I did – and to creatively express this idea: the presence of evil in our world does NOT mean that there is no God; rather, it means that he’s up to something. This is a short video so it only scratches the surface – but at least it introduces the concepts and, hopefully, encourages further thought on the subject.HT: Cross-Examined.org
Whenever I think about deep stuff like evil and suffering, I find it helpful to remember two aspects of God’s nature. First, he is perfectly just. So all evil will eventually be punished perfectly and appropriately. Second, he is perfectly loving. Thus, God extends himself sacrificially to forgive those who do evil (all of us) and provide an escape from punishment. What’s amazing to me is how both of these sides of God, his justice and love, collide on the cross with Jesus Christ. You know someone truly loves you if they are willing to die for you. But when God forgave us, he did not simply ignore our evil thoughts, choices, and actions. That wouldn’t be justice, would it? All of our crimes, big and small, were punished perfectly, but the punishment was re-directed toward Jesus Christ. The punishment that Jesus took upon himself demonstrate God’s love and God’s justice.
This video also touches on another cool idea: God is a gentleman. That is, he doesn’t force his love on the objects of his affection (all of us). He is persuasive - not coercive. He allows you to turn your back on him if you prefer to be the captain of your own ship. You may not want to acknowledge a higher authority to whom you must answer. You may not want to admit that you don’t have your act together. He allows you to make that choice. On the other hand, you might realize that God’s relentless love is what you’ve been searching for all of your life. It’s like this: a gentleman does not force a woman to marry him. He becomes vulnerable. He expresses his love to her by his words and actions. Then he asks her to make a decision: “Will you marry me?” At this point, the ball is in her court. She can either accept or reject his offer. In the same way, each of us can accept or reject God’s offer of a life-giving connection through Jesus Christ.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Jim filled in for Greg this weekend on Stand to Reason Radio for 3 hours. Jim spoke on How Christians Should Consider Evidence as Jurors, Circumstantial Evidence and Christian Evidence. Jim also interviewed guest Craig Hazen to discuss the integration of creative communication and the Christian message that he applied in his novel Five Sacred Crossings.
Some of the caller questions were: How do we evaluate Bible translations? How do you find out if someone really is a Christian who claims to be one? How come New Testament writers can take Old Testament verses out of context and we can't? Evidence for the accuracy of the New Testament accounts of Jesus and How much authority does a pastor have to limit disagreement in the congregation?
Listen here to the podcast (mp3) and here for the enhanced version (AAC format - chapters and higher-res m4a audio).
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Jim will be guest-hosting again on Stand to Reason radio this Sunday from 2-5pm PST. Jim will be talking with James Emery White, discussing his new book Christ Among the Dragons: Finding Our Way through Cultural Challenges.
Listen live on (KBRT 740AM), Facebook or streaming using STR's new iPhone/iPod Touch app.
The numbers to call in and ask Jim a question are (800) 227-5278 and in the Southern California area (714) 754-4150.
If you follow on Twitter, there will be listener discussion and a book giveaway on STRtweets. (Search for #STRtalk to engage other listeners about the show and miscellaneous other topics that pop up in the discussion.)
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
I am almost finished with the War and Peace of Intellegent Design that is Signature in the Cell (although I have been almost finished for a couple of weeks now). I saw this interview with Stephen C. Meyer and thought that the answers were clear and concise about what ID is and isn't. Here are two excerpts that address some of the internal attacks from within Christianity.
John Walton, an Old Testament professor at Wheaton College, said this about ID in his recent book on Genesis: “Science is not capable of exploring a designer or his purposes. It could theoretically investigate design but has chosen not to by the parameters it has set for itself. … Therefore, while alleged irreducible complexities and mathematical equations and probabilities can serve as a critique for the reigning paradigm, empirical science would not be able to embrace Intelligent Design because science has placed an intelligent designer outside of its parameters as subject to neither empirical verification nor falsification.” Do you agree with this?
I think it’s strange that a biblical scholar would weigh in on the definition of science. His definition of science doesn’t work. Science often infers things that can’t be seen based on things that can be seen. Darwinism does that. In physics, we talk about quarks and all sorts of elementary particles. We don’t see those. They’re inferred by things we can see. I don’t think his concept of science comports with the experience of scientists. Direct verification is not a standard that separates science from any other discipline. It’s also a odd thing for a biblical scholar to say, because the biblical witness is that from the things that are made, St. Paul says, the attributes of God are clearly manifest, and one of his attributes is intelligence. So why should it be surprising that if we look at things carefully and reason about their origins, that we would come to the conclusion that a designing intelligence had indeed played a role in their origin?
There are many evangelical Christian scientists who disagree with you — even people familiar with genetics and DNA, such as Francis Collins. On what points do you agree with someone like Collins, and at what points do you disagree?
There are a number of points on which I agree with Collins. He says that he’s against intelligent design, but he actually makes arguments for intelligent design in The Language of God. He says intelligent design is the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the laws of physics and chemistry. He also argues that the moral sense of humans cannot be explained by undirected processes. Collins denounces ID as a “God of the gaps” argument or an argument from ignorance, but yet he’s making arguments for intelligent design based on physics. I think he sees theistic implications from the Big Bang, and I agree with that. Where we differ is that he wants to hold out for a materialistic explanation of the origin of life, and I think he thinks that Darwinian evolution is sufficient to account for new forms of life. One of the things I’ve been asking Collins to clarify, as a theistic evolutionist, is what he means by evolution. Which of those three meanings of evolution does he affirm? Change over time, common ancestry? I know he affirms those. But what about the third meaning? The idea that the evolutionary process is purely blind and unguided. I had a chance to ask him personally: Is the evolutionary process directed or undirected? He paused, and responded, “It could be directed.” If he says it is directed, he’s got a problem because he’s breaking with the dominant materialist view of the scientific establishment. If he says it’s undirected, then he’s going to lose his influence with the evangelical Christian church, which he’s desperately trying to influence. If he says that evolution is essentially undirected, that’s not consistent with the biblical view he espouses. Instead, it’s a form a deism in which nature is doing all the work and God is either absent or just watching from the mezzanine.
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
The Ebla Tablets, Moral Grounding, Ergun Caner and the Virgin Birth
In this podcast, Jim responds to a number of listener emails. Do the Ebla Tablets truly verify the Old Testament? Can cultural evolution explain the existence of moral truth? Is there a reasonable explanation for Mary's inability to immediately identify Jesus at the tomb? Does Isaiah use a Hebrew word that means "virgin" or simply "young woman", and does it really matter? How should we respond to the recent demotion of Ergun Caner at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary?
Check out the podcast homepage for subscription information and archives.
Monday, July 05, 2010
When I was LDS, I believed (like I was told) that many "plain and precious" parts of the Bible had been removed by corrupt and careless men. Among these missing "truths" was the Mormon Gospel.
Now that I am a Christian, I have more faith in God's ability to preserve His word, and with good reason. For example, I've just started a new Bible study, and, by Genesis chapter 4, have already come across the real gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) 4 times! Wanna see?
#1 - Genesis chapter 2 -
God has created Paradise for Adam and Eve; everything is beautiful, wonderful, and freely provided for them. They also have complete liberty, except for one thing. God has planted two special trees, and while He says they may partake of the fruit of the "tree of life", He has expressly forbidden them eat from the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil".
What is the "knowledge of good and evil" but the knowledge of right from wrong? When we were babes, we were innocent; once we understood right from wrong, we were responsible for the consequences of willfully choosing the latter. God didn't want Adam and Eve to perish (Genesis 3:16-19), which now they would do, the consequence of not being able to live according to His righteous standard.
At the cross, Jesus took upon Himself the penalty for our wrong doings, if we would do what? Choose Him -- the One who hung on the tree for us (1 Peter 2:24) -- Life. In the Garden of Eden, God's free gift of salvation (eternity in His presence with all its benefits) was the choice they could have made. It is the same gift offered us in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23, Revelation 22:14)
#2 - Genesis chapter 3 -
Adam and Eve, having then chosen to disobey and discovering their nakedness, hide their shame with leaves. God’s response is to kill an animal, prepare its skin, and then exchanges their leaf-covering for the covering that He Himself has provided. Reading through the books of Moses, we see God set up a system of unblemished-animal sacrifice among His chosen nation, Israel, just to point them forward to the time when His pure and sinless Lamb, Jesus the Christ, would shed His blood for our sins. God took from Adam and Eve their own attempts to be found "covered" in His eyes by something that they could do (works), and covered them with a foreshadowing of the only thing He can accept as payment for sin - Jesus.
#3 - Also in Chapter 3 -
The "serpent" responsible for beguiling Eve (2 Corinthians 11:3) is cursed by God. God says, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." The seed of the woman, of course, is Jesus (Galatians 4:4). At the cross, the adversary bruised the heel of the seed of the woman when Jesus died, but our Savior dealt the head-crushing blow, arising from the grave triumphant over Satan, death, and hell (Isaiah 53:10, Acts 26:23, Hebrews 2:14-15).
#4 - Genesis chapter 4 -
Cain offers up the fruit of his labors and Abel offers to God a sacrifice from his flocks. God accepts Abel's offering, but not Cain's. Why not? Again, because the only sacrifice that is pleasing to God is Jesus, or one that shows understanding of the nature of perfection of Jesus' atonement. God is not pleased with the fruits of our hands, our works, apart from Christ (John 6:29, Romans 4:2,6)! Abel, it seems, understood this, but Cain did not.
God's "good news" for us is that despite our wretchedness, Jesus' atoning blood covers our sins, and we can once again be united with God. The idea that the "true gospel" has been removed from the Bible is simply is not realistic. The one and only true Gospel, Jesus and His perfect work on the cross; His triumph over death to save us, is IMPOSSIBLE to remove from the Bible! As you can see, it is written into to the details of the human story by Almighty God, right from the very beginning.
(For more about the gospel in the OT, see Jim's article, "How Were People Saved Before Christ?")
Sunday, July 04, 2010
“I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in its parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of its composition...~Thomas Jefferson in an 1823 letter to John Adams.
It is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is, in all this, design, cause and effect, up to an ultimate cause, a fabricator of all things from matter and motion.”
Stephen C. Meyer, author of Signature in the Cell, writes,
When we celebrate our country’s independence on July 4th, the day may resonate with many Americans more powerfully than in other recent years. The nation’s political mood is increasingly, well, independent. Voters are fed up with incumbent politicians and reigning political parties.
This accounts for the unlikely bestselling books that keep shooting up out of what might seem like nowhere—previously obscure biographies of the Founders that pose fundamental questions about the role of our government and what direction the nation is headed. In a welcome development, Americans want to refresh their acquaintance with the sources of our rights as citizens.
Yet there is one source, more basic than any other, that so far has not received the attention it deserves. I refer to the idea that there is an intelligent creator who can be known by reason from nature, a key tenet underlying both the Declaration of Independence—and, curiously, the modern and controversial theory of intelligent design.
The birth of our republic was announced in the Declaration through the pen of Thomas Jefferson. He and the other Founders based their vision on a belief in an intrinsic human dignity, bestowed by virtue of our having been made according to the design and in the image of a purposeful creator.
As Jefferson wrote in the Declaration, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” If we had received our rights only from the government, then the government could justifiably take them away.
Jefferson himself thought that there was scientific evidence for design in nature...
Taken to heart, Darwin’s view of man does undermine the vision of the Founders. As evolutionary biologist George Gaylord Simpson explained, Darwinism denies evidence of design and shows instead that man is the product of a “purposeless process that did not have him mind.” Fortunately, discoveries in modern biology have challenged this perspective and vindicated Jefferson’s thinking.
Friday, July 02, 2010
It's easy to characterize religion as a blood-thirsty enterprise, a perpetrator of witch hunts, crusades, and religious jihad. But has Christianity been the cause of such evil, or does the truth turn out ot be just the opposite?Greg gives a great 4 part argument against the idea that Christianity is the cause of religious strife and war in this clear and concise article from Stand to Reason.
...If God does exist, a caller to my radio show offered, He ought to be tried for crimes against humanity.
This objection is a common one: Religion, especially Christian religion, has been responsible for more carnage than anything else in history. The argument has two parts. An allegedly factual observation about history is then taken as an inherent criticism of religion in general and Christianity in particular.
Though I can't speak for other religions, this charge against Christianity is false. First, the crimes themselves have been exaggerated. Second, the greatest evil in the world actually comes from those who deny God's existence. Third, Christianity cannot be held responsible when people do un-Christian things. Finally, Christianity's real record of goodness is without peer in world history.