Archive for May, 2012

Paul was in error when he wrote Romans! Really?

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

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ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

What do you say to someone who states that Paul, the apostle, was in error when he states that “there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1 NIV).

I’ve been in a back and forth discussion on Christian Forums with 2knowhim on the topic of God and secular governments. He wrote to me:

When Paul said that all scripture was inspired by God he surely was not including his writings as scripture, that is somethings that men later concluded and we are here to debate the wisdom of such an endorsement.

In order for scripture to be considered scripture it must be put through a vigorous set of standards and it is obvious to me that the churches of Asia got it right by forsaking Paul.

Can scripture be considered as God breathed if it is obvious that they are both fallible and wrong? You say they aught to be accepted because some men, at some point of time, claimed them to be the inspired word of God and you seem to reject any reasonable challenges that clearly show that the writings of Paul are in err because it has always been believe that the compiled writings of Paul’s are in a book you claim is the infallible word of God. But that book we have shown is both fallible and not inspired by God and that only goes to show that the writings in question should not be considered as inspired writings. Jesus’ teachings are a part of the collective of the writings in the bible but they were never put into a book by God but by men and the bible is a fallible book of collective writings of men, which I believe happen to contain true God breathed writings in the teachings of Jesus the Christ.

Is my reasoning in err (sic) then lay out your argument.[1]

The following is my response:[2]

You may be correct when you state that when Paul wrote all Scripture was inspired [theopneustos = God breathed] of God that he was not including his own writings. But I wouldn’t be so brazen as to state that categorically as you did. Why?

In fact, he was referring probably to the OT. However, William Hendiksen and Simon Kistemaker in their commentary on the pastoral epistles commented on the meaning of

all Scripture. in distinction from “(the) sacred writings” (for which see on verse 15) means everything which, through the testimony of the Holy Spirit in the church, is recognized by the church as canonical, that is, authoritative. When Paul wrote these words, the direct reference was to a body of sacred literature which even then comprised more than the Old Testament (see 1 Tim. 5:18). Later, at the close of the first century A. D., “all scripture” had been completed. Though the history of the recognition, review, and ratification of the canon was somewhat complicated, and virtually universal acceptance of all the sixty-sic books did not occur immediately in every region where the church was represented – one of the reasons being that for a long time certain of the smaller books had not even reached ever corner of the church -, it remains true, nevertheless, that those genuine believers who were the original recipients of the various God-breathed books regarded them at once as being invested with divine authority and majesty (Hendriksen & Kistemaker 1955:301-302).

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ChristArt

One of your major errors is your view that Paul was in error because “when Paul said that all scripture was inspired by God he surely was not including his writings as scripture” (your words). This is where you show your ignorance of another portion of the NT:

14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:14-16 NIV, emphasis added).

Here the apostle Peter writes of Paul the apostle who wrote in his letters and how does Peter compare Paul’s writings? They are among the Scriptures as he wrote of “the other Scriptures” in the same breath he was writing about what Paul wrote.

The apostle Peter regarded Paul’s writings as Scripture.

But how do you regard them?

Can scripture be considered as God breathed if it is obvious that they are both fallible and wrong? … the writings of Paul are in err … But that book we have shown is both fallible and not inspired by God and that only goes to show that the writings in question should not be considered as inspired writings.

Even Paul’s “hard to understand” writings are Scripture. What is Peter’s instruction to people like you who claim that Paul is in error? Peter is very clear:

ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

These are not my words, but Scripture places you in the category of “ignorant and unstable people” and what do you do? You “distort” Scripture. What is the consequence for people who do this? “Their own destruction” is coming.

I am not making this accusation against you. This is what Peter, the apostle, in the inspired Scriptures states about those who distort what the Scriptures of Paul state. When you state that Paul in Romans 13:1-7 is in error in what he states about human governments, and you state that he was wrong, and that “the bible is a fallible book “, you are the one who brings “destruction” on yourself.

It is horrifically judgmental on yourself when you do this, but you are without excuse. Peter, under the inspiration of God, has told you what your outcome will me.

It is very sad for me to point this out to you, but it seems that you are ignorant of the nature of NT Scripture – especially the writings of Paul.

This statement by you is abominable:

The bible is a fallible book of collective writings of men, which I believe happen to contain true God breathed writings in the teachings of Jesus the Christ.

And you have the temerity to place it in bold.clip_image004

Works consulted:

William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker 1955. New Testament Commentary: Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.


 Notes:

[1] Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘Can a person discriminate against women and be a Christian? 2knowhim, #38, 16 May 2012, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7654554-4/ (Accessed 16 May 2012).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen, #42.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 October 2015.

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The New Yorker’s biased journalism on Jesus

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

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ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

Andrew Gopnik wrote the article, “What did Jesus do?” (The New Yorker, 24 May 2010) in which he proceeded to give us his scepticism about Jesus with statements such as:

  • ‘The intractable complexities of fact produce the inevitable ambiguities of faith. The more one knows, the less one knows’;
  • ‘Belief remains a bounce, faith a leap’;
  • The reason for Jesus’ cry from the cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ was ‘the Jesus faith begins with a failure of faith. His father let him down’;

If you want comments from the sceptical left-wing of scholarship of Jesus and the Gospels, you’ll find it in this article with prominence given to people like, Bart Ehrman, who believes

that all the Gospels were written decades after Jesus’ death; that all were written in Greek, which Jesus and the apostles didn’t speak and couldn’t write (if they could read and write at all); and that they were written as testaments of faith, not chronicles of biography, shaped to fit a prophecy rather than report a profile.

Then you’ll find comments from the sceptical views of Jesus from people like L. Michael White, John Dominic Crossan co-founder of the Jesus Seminar, Philip Jenkins, Philip Pullman, William Empsom, Diarmaid MacCulloch and Paul Verhoeven.

There was not one quote from a biblical scholar who supported the integrity of Scripture and its reliable witness to the historical Jesus. So, I sent this….

Letter to the editor: The New Yorker

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I sent this online, 24 May 2010, but the letter was not printed in the online edition that I was able to see. A Google search on 16 July 2012 has not been able to find the following letter or part of it:

Andrew Gopnik’s “What did Jesus Do?” (24 May online) is an example of one-eyed journalistic bias. Scholars who supported his skeptical view towards the Gospels were quoted.

Nowhere were contrary opinions quoted from historical Jesus’ scholars such as Drs. N. T. Wright, Richard Bauckham, Samuel Byrskog, Kevin Vanhoozer, D. A. Carson, Ben Witherington III, Craig Evans, Michael Wilkins, William Lane Craig, Craig Blomberg, Darrell Bock and others.

If you want me to believe The New Yorker supports balanced journalism, you’ll need to fix this prejudice.

After seeing this kind of journalism over a number of years from many news sources, I’ve grown used to the secular media taking it as par for the course that they will not deliver a reliable, biblically-based view of the historical Jesus.


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 October 2015.

 

God’s absolutes are absolutely true!

Monday, May 14th, 2012

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By Spencer D Gear

It’s not unusual to hear people scoff at the idea of God’s absolute values for people and societies. Here is one example from the www:

Any claim of absolute Truth is simply Relative Truth that is “dressed up” in a god’s or some authority’s clothing. It is only based on blind belief, and it is usually known as ABSOLUTE BELIEF. Nobody and I mean nobody can show one proposition that is proven to be absolute truth. If they could, they would put an end to this discussion in a hurry. They just want you to believe in their system of belief – Absolute Belief!…

There are NO absolutes! It is impossible to be sure about anything in the past or future. Anybody who thinks they can, must consider checking themselves into an insane asylum.[1]

Do you notice what had to be done to deny absolutes in the above statement? It stated, ‘There are NO absolutes!’ That is an absolute statement! So, in an attempt to deny absolutes, this author had to affirm an absolute.

That was in line with what Friedrich Nietzsche, wrote, ‘There are no eternal facts, as there are no absolute truths’. He also stated, “I will now disprove the existence of all gods. If there were gods, how could I bear not to be a god? Consequently, there are no gods’.[2] Nietzsche fell into the same trap. To affirm that ‘there are no absolute truths’, he had to use an absolute statement. So to deny all absolutes requires an affirmation of an absolute.

When we speak of moral absolutes, some want to play coy as though they don’t know what it means to say that God’s law is absolute. I encountered this with a person who claimed that

I’m trying to understand what it means to say “God’s law is absolute” if you can’t actually point to what God’s law is and you treat the bits you can point to as guiding principles not an absolute.
In order to affirm “God’s law is absolute” I would need to know what God’s law is, and what is meant by calling a law absolute.[3]

In further interaction, I stated that both of us live in Australia. We know what is an absolute law of government. Those who murder and steal in Australia, will be prosecuted if found, because the law of the land in Australia absolutely forbids murder and stealing.[4]

This person’s response was:

I wouldn’t try and use absolute in that way at all. The word “absolutely” seems completely redundant in “the law of the land in Australia absolutely forbids murder and stealing”. It adds emphasis, but it doesn’t really tell you anything
Nor do I know what you might mean trying to transpose that into “God’s law” that you can’t point to and feel only guided by the intent of.[5]

This is an attempt to avoid the issue or deflect attention away from God’s moral absolutes. The Aussie law is absolute when it comes to murder and stealing. There are no exceptions.

What are absolutes?

However, as I reflected further, I became aware that the language of ‘absolute’ or ‘absolutes’ is that of a number of disciplines in our society, including science, theology, ethics and philosophy. I’ll raise a couple of points here about absolutes in theology and ethics. However a definition of ‘absolutes’ in this context is necessary.

What does it mean to speak of ‘absolutes’?

In science, we speak of ‘absolute standards’, one definition of ‘absolute’ in physics is, ‘a particle or object designated as a standard by assigning to it a mass of one unit; used in defining quantities in Newton’s second law of motion’.[6] Dictionary.com gives the meaning of ‘absolute’ as, ‘free from imperfection; complete; perfect…. not mixed or adulterated; pure’.[7] Another example of the meaning and use of ‘absolute’ is by Isaac Newton. He

founded classical mechanics on the view that space is distinct from body and that time passes uniformly without regard to whether anything happens in the world. For this reason he spoke of absolute space and absolute time, so as to distinguish these entities from the various ways by which we measure them (which he called relative spaces and relative times).[8]

What about logical absolutes? Matt Slick has summarised it simply:

Logical absolutes exist.  Logical absolutes are conceptual by nature, are not dependent on space, time, physical properties, or human nature.  They are not the product of the physical universe (space, time, matter), because if the physical universe were to disappear, logical absolutes would still be true.  Logical absolutes are not the product of human minds, because human minds are different, not absolute.  But, since logical absolutes are always true everywhere, and not dependent upon human minds, it must be an absolute transcendent mind that is authoring them.  This mind is called God.  Furthermore, if there are only two options to account for something, i.e., God and no God, and one of them is negated, then by default the other position is validated.  Therefore, part of the argument is that the atheist position cannot account for the existence of logical absolutes from its worldview.[9]

Absolutes and God

When I say that one of God’s attributes is that of absolute moral perfection, I mean that God is morally impeccable. Yes, God is an infinite Being, but he is an infinitely perfect being. i.e. he is absolutely perfect (Geisler 2003:345). We understand this from these kinds of Scriptures: ‘He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he’ (Deut. 32:4 NIV). ‘As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless’ (Ps 18:30); ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt 5:48). Geisler explains:

Sacred Scripture asserts that God is absolutely perfect. There cannot be two beings who are absolutely perfect, for to be two they must differ; otherwise they would be the same. To differ one would have to possess some perfection that the other lacked. But the one who lacked some perfection would not be absolutely perfect; therefore, there can be only one Being who is absolutely perfect—holy, in the metaphysical sense.

Further, if perfection is thought of as moral perfection, then absolute perfection implies holiness as well. God is absolutely perfect, and what is absolutely perfect is set apart from all else. Therefore, God is holy: He is perfect in and of Himself; all else is perfect by participation in His perfection (Geisler 2003:316).

Geisler explains that the English word, ‘perfect’ means flawless, excellent. But there are several Hebrew words for ‘perfect’. These include tanim = complete, sound, blameless, perfect, without blemish; shalem = complete, safe, blameless; tam = complete, blameless, perfect; omen = perfect, faithful; kalil – entire, whole, perfect; and taman = complete, finished, blameless. Greek words for ‘perfect’ include: teleios = complete, perfect, mature; teleiow = bringing to an end, completing, perfecting; teleiotes = completeness, perfection; and katartizw = to perfect, to prepare (Geisler 2003:345-346).

Since one of God’s metaphysical attributes is his moral perfection, that means that: ‘(1) God’s nature is morally perfect; (2) God is infinite, unchangeable, and necessary by nature; (3) Therefore, God is infinitely, unchangeably, and necessarily morally perfect’ (Geisler 2003:347).

This means that God is an absolutely perfect moral Being.

We can search the Scriptures and find that God is an absolute unity in His Being. In theology this is the teaching on God’s simplicity: ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Ex 20:3); ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one‘ (Deut 6:4); ‘The most important [commandment] … is this: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one“‘ (Mk 12:29). See also Isa. 37:16-20; 45:18; Mal. 2:10; Rom. 3:30; 1 Cor. 8:4-6; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:5, and James 2:19.

It is evident from these many verses that there is, absolutely, only one God. But if God is absolutely one, then He cannot be divided into many gods. Combined with God’s immateriality, this lends further support to His simplicity. Even though the Hebrew word for “one” (echad) leaves room for a plurality of persons within a unity of substance,[10] in the monotheistic and anti-polytheistic context in which it was used, there is no implication of a plurality of beings or parts within a being. This would be tantamount to polytheism that Jewish monotheism vehemently opposed from the very beginning (cf. Ex. 20:3; Deut. 6:4) [Geisler 2003:39-40]

Ethical absolutes

In the discipline of ethics, here is a brief definition of ‘moral absolutes’:

The phrase moral absolute is ambiguous. As conventionally used it is taken to mean a moral rule which applies, or is true, irrespective of culture or society. More precisely it means a moral rule enjoining or forbidding some type of action or specifying some value to which there are no exceptions, one which is obligatory in all circumstances (e.g., one ought never to steal) [Harrison 1987:3].

To get all of us thinking seriously about moral absolutes, what would you have done in World War 2 to stop Jews from being annihilated in the Holocaust? Would you have hid them in your home secretly, against government law? What about smuggling Bibles into closed countries as Brother Andrew did, as told in his book, God’s Smuggler?

What happens when God’s Word (His law) conflicts with the laws of your country? Which one will you believe and put into practice? How does Acts 5:29 relate to this ethical issue when it states that ‘we must obey God rather than human beings’ (NIV)?

In Christian Ethics: Options and Issues(1989), Norman Geisler supports ‘graded absolutism‘ (1989:113f). He states that there are three essential premises of this view: (1) There are higher and lower moral laws; (2) There are unavoidable moral conflicts, and (3) No guilt is imputed for the unavoidable (1989:116-120). He provides biblical examples to support his view. These include:

  • The story of Abraham & Isaac and the real moral conflict of sacrificing Isaac (Gen 22);
  • Samson committed a divinely approved suicide (Judg. 16:20);
  • Jephthah’s sacrifice of his daughter (Judg. 11);
  • Lying and not helping to save a life, e.g. Ex 1 (Hebrew midwives); Rahab (Josh. 2);
  • The moral conflict of Jesus’ cross, which has caused many liberal theologians and historical Jesus’ scholars to reject the substitutionary atonement. John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar is one example. His view is that blood sacrifice should not include suffering and substitution and should not include ‘substitutionary suffering’. He stated that ‘worst of all, imagine that somebody brought together sacrifice, suffering, and substitution…. That theology would be a crime against divinity’. While it is correct to call Jesus’ death a sacrifice, but ‘substitutionary atonement is bad as theoretical Christian theology just as suicidal terrorism is bad as practical Islamic theology. Jesus died because of our sins, or from our sins, but that should never be misread as for our sins’ (Crossan 2007:140, emphasis in original). In spite of Crossan’s objections, the moral conflict is that innocent blood was shed for sins he did not commit (see Isa. 53; 1 Peter 2:24; 2 Cor. 5:21);
  • We have numerous examples in Scripture where there is a real conflict between obeying God’s command to submit to civil government and maintaining a commitment to God’s higher law, e.g. Hebrew midwives, Jewish captives who refused to obey Nebuchadnezzar’s command to worship the golden image of himself (Dan 3); Daniel disobeyed Darius’s command to pray only to the king (Dan. 6). The above examples of moral dilemmas in Scripture are from Geisler (1989:116-119).

Geisler has some strong biblical points that we should consider. I don’t especially like the language of ‘graded absolutism’ that he used as it does have some oxymoron connotations. However, Geisler’s alternate label is ‘ethical hierarchicalism’ (1989:116). The latter is a much better summary heading. Acts 5:29 makes it clear that Christians are to obey God instead of human beings. Using the term, ‘ethical hierarchicalism’, as God’s explanation for exceptions to moral laws, as stated in Scripture, is a reasonable summary statement of what God means by hierarchy of ethical requirements when there is a moral conflict.

As an ordained Christian minister, I cannot support the moral absolutes of Scripture and marry homosexuals. When the Australian government passes laws that authorise homosexual marriage (as many MPs are threatening to support),[11] I will disobey the government and refuse to marry homosexuals. See Gen. 2:24-25, Deut. 27:10; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; and 1 John 2:3-6 for my reasons as these Scriptures assert obedience to God and his ethical absolutes. However, there have been whimpers that I’ve heard on the Australian mass media that clergy who object to homosexual marriage in Australia will not be required to perform homosexual marriages. An article stated that:

The motion [in the Australian House of Representatives], introduced by Independent MP Andrew Wilkie this year, states that if the Marriage Act is changed to allow gay marriage, churches would not be obligated to perform such ceremonies. It is expected to be debated in coming weeks.[12]

Obeying God rather than the Aussie government always will be my biblical and ethical commitment.

Marriage cover photo

Courtesy Salt Shakers (Christian ministry)

Works consulted

Crossan, J D 2007. God and empire: Jesus against Rome, then and now. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco

Geisler, N L 1989. Christian ethics: Options and issues. Leicester, England: Apollos (Inter-Varsity Press).

Geisler, N 2003. Systematic theology: God, creation, vol 2. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House.

Harrison, R K (gen ed) 1987. Encyclopedia of biblical and Christian ethics. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Notes:


[1] Fatfist, Hub Author, ‘There are NO absolutes. There is NO absolute truth’, available at: http://fatfist.hubpages.com/hub/There-are-NO-Absolutes-There-is-NO-Absolute-Truth (Accessed 14 May 2012).

[2] Cited by Peter Kreeft 1988. ‘The Pillars of Unbelief – Nietzsche’, The National Catholic Register, January – February, Catholic Education Resource Center. Available at: http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/civilization/cc0009.html (Accessed 14 May 2012).

[3] Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘Can you be a Christian and support unchristian actions?’ ebia #132, 13 May 2012, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7654555-14/ (Accessed 14 May 2012).

[4] Ibid., #134, OzSpen,

[5] Ibid., #136, ebia.

[6] McGraw-Hill Science & Technology Dictionary, available at Answers (online), http://www.answers.com/topic/absolute-standard (Accessed 14 May 2012).

[7] Available at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/absolute (Accessed 14 May 2012).

[8] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ‘Newton’s views on space, time, and motion’ (online), August 22, 2011. Available at: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/newton-stm/ (Accessed 14 May 2012).

[9] Matt Slick 2011. The transcendent argument for the existence of God, CARM. Available at: http://carm.org/transcendental-argument (Accessed 14 May 2012).

[10] At this point, Geisler has the footnote, ‘While the doctrine of the Trinity is not explicitly taught in the Old Testament, as it is in the New (Matt. 3:15-17; 28:18-20; 2 Cor. 13:14), nonetheless, it is implicitly contained in the fact that two or more persons are identified as God and sometimes even speak to each other (e.g., Ps. 45:6; 110:1; Zech. 1:12; cf. Isa. 63:7-10) [Geisler 2003:40, n.1].

[11] There was an Australian House of Representatives Committee inquiry into ‘Marriage Equality’ (read, to include homosexual marriage) in 2011, available at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House_of_Representatives_Committees?url=spla/bill%20marriage/index.htm (Accessed 14 May 2012).

[12] ‘Clergy speak out for marriage’, 25 March 2012, available at: http://ilga.org/ilga/en/article/nsD0LOk1tm (Accessed 14 May 2012).

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 October 2015.

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Mass media correct and Christian wrong!

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

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Photo: Gay rights protesters gathered outside the Victory Life Centre to make their views known. (ABC News: Claire Krohl)

Map: Perth 6000

By Spencer D Gear

How did the news media report on the ‘Rally to Preserve Marriage’ at the church which Margaret Court pastors in Perth, Victory Life Centre, on 24 April 2012?

This is what one of the speakers, Bill Muehlenberg, stated in his article, ‘Shouting Down the Opposition’. He stated:

The mainstream media was of course intolerant as well, refusing to offer balanced coverage. They did come out to video the protestors. Only a few dozen showed up, but the MSM focused on them and their loud shouting, and refused to have anything to do with what was happening inside the venue.

So if you check out and rely upon only the MSM today (see one example I link to below), you would not even know what occurred inside. All the focus was on the noisy militants. There will be plenty of shots on the television news tonight about the tolerance brigade seeking to drown out the meeting, but no coverage at all about what actually transpired inside.

And this is news coverage? This is professional journalism and news reporting? It is like covering a football match and only reporting on one team, with a complete blanket ban of coverage on the other team. But that is a poor analogy, since it implies two equal teams.

At the base of Bill Muehlenberg’s article, he gave the link to the ABC News (Australia) report on the rally, ‘Gay rights protesters rally outside Court’s church’. I took the Christian, Bill Muehlenberg, at his word and found these news items online to examine their coverage:

The West Australian newspaper provided a slightly different story but with the same slant – only on the protesters who were demonstrating outside the meeting, ‘Gay marriage sides clash at rally’, The West Australian, 25 April 2012.

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Courtesy: The West Australian

This is the email reply I received from one of The West Australian editors:

I have consulted with the reporter who wrote the article. She informs me that the press were not invited into the church. She said she “was barred from entering the church by security staff, who would not let me past the barriers to speak to anyone, so it would have been rather difficult to report on the meeting inside. Also tried to get in contact with Margaret Court, but she did not return my calls.”

I hope this addresses your query.

I have copied below an article from ABC online, which covered the story in a similar way to our reporter.

It sure did clarify my understanding. It gave me another side to the story.

Bill Muehlenberg was complaining about the intolerant, imbalanced view in the mainstream media, giving a link to the ABC news item reporting on this event that only gave coverage of the protesters. According to this news editor from The West Australian, that is the only version that was possible. The journalist had no alternative but to tell about the 70 homosexual protesters outside Victory Life Centre because journalists were banned from entering the church and reporting on the Rally.

This causes me to conclude on this occasion that one Christian gave an uninformed, slanted version of the way things are reported in the mass media. However, I need to observe that any journalist could have interviewed a number of people entering the rally – and they didn’t. Bill Muehlenberg informed me via email that he walked past the mass media journalists and cameras without being interviewed. However, this assumes that reporters knew who Bill was and could identify him for interview.

By the way, this one editor from The West Australian was the only letter of response I received from all of the other media mentioned above. All of these received an email from me.

This is not my opinion about all mass media coverage, but an example of what happened on one occasion that was misreported by a Christian (Bill Muehlenberg).

Marriage cover photo

Courtesy Salt Shakers (Christian ministry)

 

Copyright © 2011 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 March 2017.

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What is the connection between Christ’s atonement and his resurrection?

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

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ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

Is it too much to say that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is closely linked to his atonement for sin to provide salvation for Christians and that the resurrection of Jesus is critical to our understanding of Christ’s passion?

Evangelical theologian, Wayne Grudem, wrote:

Peter says that “we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).  Here he explicitly connects Jesus’ resurrection with our regeneration or new birth.  When Jesus rose from the dead he had a new quality of life, a “resurrection life” in a human body and human spirit that were perfectly suited for fellowship and obedience to God forever.  In his resurrection, Jesus earned for us a new life just like his.  We do not receive all of that new “resurrection life” when we become Christians, for our bodies remain as they were, still subject to weakness, aging, and death.  But in our spirits we are made alive with new resurrection power.  Thus it is through his resurrection that Christ earned for us the new kind of life we receive when we are “born again.”  This is why Paul can say that God “made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him” (Eph 2:5-6; Col 3:1). When God raised Christ from the dead he thought of us as somehow being raised “with Christ” and therefore deserving of the merits of Christ’s resurrection. Paul says his goal in life is “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection….” (Phil. 3:10). Paul knew that even in this life the resurrection of Christ gave new power for Christian ministry and obedience to God (Grudem 1994:614).

Isn’t that a delightful summary of how the Christian’s atonement is associated with Christ’s death and resurrection?

A false view of Jesus’ resurrection

But does the nature of Jesus’ resurrection matter? Will John Dominic Crossan’s view (he’s a member of the Jesus Seminar) of the resurrection be adequate for the biblical understanding of Christ’s resurrection? Here are a few samples of Crossan’s understanding of Jesus’ resurrection:

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John Dominic Crossan: Wikipedia

  1. ‘Mark created the empty tomb story, just as he created the sleeping disciples in Gethsemane’ (1995:184).
  2. ‘The authorities know and quote Jesus’ own prophecy that he would rise on the third day. That prophecy is mate to the disciples [Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33;  Mt 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19]…. The authorities do not necessarily believe Jesus’ prophecy, but they fear the disciples my fake a resurrection. Therefore, no guard is necessary because Jesus will have been proved wrong (1995:180).
  3. ‘The risen apparitions in the gospels [i.e. the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection] have nothing whatsoever to do with ecstatic experiences or entranced revelations. Those are found in all the world’s religions, and there may well have been many of them in earliest Christianity…. I do not find anything historical in the finding of the empty tomb, which was most likely created by Mark himself…. The risen apparitions are not historical events in the sense of trances or ecstasies, except in the case of Paul’ (1995:208).
  4. ‘It never occurs to Paul [1 Cor. 15] that Jesus’ resurrection might be a special or unique privilege given to him because he is Messiah, Lord, and Son of God. It never occurs to Paul that Jesus’ case might be like the case of Elijah….. Risen apparitions are, for Paul, not about the vision of a dead man but about the vision of a dead man who begins the general resurrection. It is, in other words, an apparition with cosmically apocalyptic consequences…. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul begins by enumerating all the apparitions of the risen Jesus…. The Corinthians know all about visions and apparitions and would not dream of denying their validity’ (1998:xix, xxviii)

Instead, it is Crossan’s view that is the mythical one. To counter such a view, see, ‘The myth of the metaphorical resurrection: A critical examination of John Dominic Crossan’s methodology, presuppositions and conclusions’ (Anderson 2011).

What really happened at the resurrection of Jesus?

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ChristArt

It is very easy to show from the Scriptures that Christ rose from the dead in a physical body.  Let’s look at the evidence (based on Geisler 1999, pp. 667-668):

1. People touched him with their hands.

Jesus’ challenge to Thomas in John 20:27 was: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”  How did Thomas respond, “My Lord and My God” (20:28).

Jesus said to Mary as she grasped him, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father.”  Matthew 28:9 tells us that the women “clasped his feet and worshiped him.”

When Jesus appeared to his disciples, what did Jesus say?  Luke 24:39, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (ESV). does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

Do we need any further evidence that Jesus had real human flesh after his resurrection?

2. Jesus’ resurrection body had real flesh and bones.

The verse that we have just looked at gives some of the most powerful evidence of his bodily resurrection: “Touch me and see; a [spirit] does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” (Lk. 24:39) and to prove that he really did have a real body of flesh and bones, what did he do?  According to Luke 24:41-42, Jesus “asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’  They gave him a piece of broiled fish.”  Folks, spirits or spiritual bodies do not eat fish.

Third piece of evidence in support of the bodily resurrection of Christ:

3. Jesus ate real tucker (Aussie for “food”).

As we’ve just seen, they gave him “broiled fish” to eat.  He ate real food on at least 3 occasions, eating both bread and fish, (Luke 24:30, 41-43; John 21:12-13).  Acts 10:41 states that Jesus met with witnesses “who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”

That sounds clear to me.  Jesus ate food after his resurrection.  People in real bodies eat real food.

A fourth proof that Jesus was raised in his physical body:

4. Take a look at the wounds in his body.

This is proof beyond reasonable doubt.  He still had the wounds in his body from when he was killed.  John 20:27, “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’”

When Jesus ascended, after his resurrection, the Bible records, “This same Jesus [ie this divine-human Jesus], who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
There’s a fifth confirmation of his bodily resurrection:

5. Jesus could be seen and heard.

Yes, Jesus’ body could be touched and handled.  But there is more!

Matthew 28:17 says that “when they saw [horao] him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” On the road to Emmaus, of the disciples who were eating together, Luke 24:31 states, “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.”  The Greek term “to recognize” [epiginosko] means “to know, to understand, or to recognize”  These are the normal Greek words “for ‘seeing’ (horao, theoreo) and ‘recognizing’ (epiginosko) physical objects” (Geisler 1999, pp 667-668).

Because Jesus could be seen and heard as one sees and recognises physical objects, we have further proof that Jesus rose bodily.

Sixth:

6. The Greek word, soma, always means physical body.

When used of an individual human being, the word body (soma) always means a physical body in the New Testament.  There are no exceptions to this usage in the New Testament.  Paul uses soma of the resurrection body of Christ [and of the resurrected bodies of people – yet to come] (I Cor. 15:42-44), thus indicating his belief that it was a physical body” (Geisler 1999, p. 668).

In that magnificent passage in I Cor. 15 about the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of people in the last days, why is Paul insisting that the soma must be a physical body?  It is because the physical body is central in Paul’s teaching on salvation (Gundry in Geisler 1999, p. 668).  We’ll get to that in a moment.

There’s a 7th piece of evidence in support of bodily resurrection:

7. Jesus’ body came out from among the dead

There’s a prepositional phrase that is used in the NT to describe resurrection “from (ek) the dead” (cf. Mark 9:9; Luke 24:46; John 2:22; Acts 3:15; Rom. 4:24; I Cor. 15:12).  That sounds like a ho-hum kind of phrase in English, “from the dead.” Not so in the Greek.

This Greek preposition, ek, means Jesus was resurrected ‘out from among’ the dead bodies, that is, from the grave where corpses are buried (Acts 13:29-30).  These same words are used to describe Lazarus’s being raised ‘from the dead’ (John 12:1).  In this case there is no doubt that he came out of the grave in the same body in which he was buried.  Thus, resurrection was of a physical corpse out of a tomb or graveyard (Geisler 1999, p. 668).

This confirms the physical nature of the resurrection body.

8. He appeared to over 500 people at the one time.

Paul to the Corinthians wrote that Christ

appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me [Paul]also, as to one abnormally born (I Cor. 15:5-8).

You could not believe the discussion and controversy one little verb has caused among Bible teachers.  Christ “appeared” to whom?  Here, Paul says, Peter, the twelve disciples, over 500 other Christians, James, all the apostles, and to Paul “as to one abnormally born.”

The main controversy has been over whether this was some supernatural revelation called an “appearance” or was it actually “seeing” his physical being?  These are the objective facts: Christ became flesh, he died in the flesh, he was raised in the flesh and he appeared to these hundreds of people in the flesh.

The resurrection of  Jesus from the dead was not a form of “spiritual” existence.  Just as he was truly dead and buried, so he was truly raised from the dead bodily and seen by a large number of witnesses on a variety of occasions (Fee 1987, p. 728).

No wonder the Book of Acts can begin with: “After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

See also my articles on Christ’s resurrection:

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(Courtesy ChristArt)

References

Anderson, T J 2011. The myth of the metaphorical resurrection: A critical examination of John Dominic Crossan’s methodology, presuppositions and conclusions, PhD dissertation, May. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, available at: http://digital.library.sbts.edu/bitstream/handle/10392/2847/Anderson_sbts_0207D_10031.pdf?sequence=1 (Accessed 9 May 2012).

Crossan, J D 1995. Who killed Jesus? New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D 1998. The birth of Christianity: Discovering what happened in the years immediately after the execution of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Fee, G. D. 1987, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (gen. ed. F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament), William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Geisler, N. L. 1999, ‘Resurrection, Evidence for’, in Norman L. Geisler 1999, Baker Encyclopedia of  Christian Apologetics, Baker
Books, Grand Rapid, Michigan.

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 October 2015.

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Whytehouse Designs

 

Is God responsible for all the evil in the world?

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

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Hitler

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(View of a cart laden with the bodies of prisoners who perished in the Gusen concentration camp. Photo courtesy liberatingtheholocaust)

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By Spencer D Gear

How does a Christian respond to all of the evil that is happening in the world in relation to the sovereignty of God? Does God cause or allow the following kinds of evil? — The crash of planes that caused the death of many people, the rape of individuals, Hitler’s Holocaust, and multitudes of other horrible events of evil in our world?

I was blessed and encouraged by Bruce Little’s article, ‘Evil and God’s sovereignty’ (Little 2010). It was he who alerted me to John Piper’s statements about evil and the sovereignty of God (see below). Bruce Little spoke of the horror of a 9-year-old girl, Jessica, in Florida who was abducted, raped, and buried alive about 150 yards from her house in Homosassa, FL.[1]

What about the horrors committed by Charles Manson and his group?

How some Calvinists see it

Remember the US Airways flight 1549 that landed on the Hudson River, New York? Of this incident, John Piper, a strong Calvinist, wrote:

God can take down a plane any time he pleases—and if he does, he wrongs no one. Apart from Christ, none of us deserves anything from God but judgment. We have belittled him so consistently that he would be perfectly just to take any of us any time in any way he chooses (Piper 2009)

So God caused the disaster and brought down the plane on the river. That time, all people survived. What about the times when there is evil committed and multitudes of people lose their lives? Using John Piper’s logic, God is responsible for those as well.

This kind of perspective has made its way onto forums on the Internet. There are interesting and challenging perspectives around the www, one example being on Christian Forums, where Calvinistic people make comments like this:

God Is Not The Author Of Evil


When the orthodox Reformer says that God ordains something He means: either God directly causes something or that He permits something (evil) to happen. This isn’t God speaking with a forked tongue (whatever that means). Rather it is a truth taught in scripture. God doesn’t directly cause evil. For this would make Him the author of evil. Rather He permits it (for morally sufficient reasons) to bring about His overall plans and purposes. His permitting evil it is a kind of indirect causing. That is, His permission is a kind of secondary causing not a direct causing…. Nothing happens anyhow or without God’s most righteous decree, although God is not the author or sharer in any sin at all. [1a]

If God is ultimately sovereign, it does cause people to ask, “Doesn’t that make God responsible for all of the evil in the world?”

I (OzSpen) replied with the following:[2]

I’m not sure that John Piper sees it that way. Piper, a prominent, contemporary Calvinist (Baptist), has stated that ‘God has given him [Satan] astonishing latitude to work his sin and misery in the world. He is a great ruler over the world, but not the ultimate one. God holds the decisive sway’ (2008:44).

Elsewhere, John Piper wrote of the event that some have designated ‘Miracle on the Hudson’. This happened on 15 January 2009 when US Airways flight 1549 took off from New York City and encountered a flock of geese. Some of these birds shut down both plane engines when they were sucked into the engines. Captain Sullenberger was an experienced pilot and instead of landing the plane at the airport several miles away, he chose to land the plane on the Hudson River.

From the accounts I have read, it seems that the pilot’s training, experience and circumstances came together and there was a successful landing on the river and all of the passengers survived. The USA nation rightfully gave Captain Sullenberger hero status.

How did John Piper explain this event? Take a read of the article, ‘The President, the Passengers, and the Patience of God’ (Piper 2009), in which Piper explains the sovereignty of God. His theology is:

Two laser-guided missiles would not have been as amazingly effective as were those geese. It is incredible, statistically speaking. If God governs nature down to the fall (and the flight) of every bird, as Jesus says (Matthew 10:29), then the crash of flight 1549 was designed by God.

Then Piper states, ‘If God guides geese so precisely, he also guides the captain’s hands. God knew that when he took the plane down, he would also give a spectacular deliverance’.

So for John Piper, God in his sovereignty was not only responsible for the geese that flew into the jet’s engines, but he guided the hands of the pilot who landed the plane. That plane crash, according to John Piper, was designed by God in God’s sovereignty.

Now apply that view of catastrophe to the Titanic disaster. In one of the most deadly peacetime disasters in history, the RMS Titanic, a passenger liner, sank on its maiden voyage from Southampton, UK to New York City, US. It collided with an iceberg on 15 April 1912 (100 years ago) in the Atlantic Ocean and 1,514 people died.

clip_image008The Titanic as it departed from Southhampton, UK, April 10, 1912. image courtesy uwants.com.

To be consistent, John Piper’s theology of ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ becomes ‘Disaster on the Atlantic Ocean’ for The Titanic and its passengers. The application has to be that God guided the Titanic’s captain to hit the iceberg. The iceberg was designed by God for the event and 1,514 people were killed by God’s design.

What about the disaster with the twin towers, etc., on 11 September 2001?

Or am I missing something?

ColetheCalvinist replied:

Right. God is ULTIMATELY responsible because He knows what the outcome will be and He could stop it if He wanted to. This is what Piper means by indirect or secondary cause. He’s not the direct cause.
The Reformed view teaches that God positively or actively intervenes in the lives of the elect to insure their salvation. The rest of mankind He leaves to themselves. He does not create unbelief in their hearts. He does not coerce them to sin. They sin by their own choices. The dreadful error of hyper-Calvinism is that it involves God in coercing sin. This does radical violence to the integrity of God’s character. – R.C. Sproul[3]

I have had a back and forth with this person in which I made these statements:

If you hold that view of the sovereignty of God, you must live with the logical consequences of such a position. It makes God into a monster who is responsible for my friend’s rape that happened over and over by an employee in a nursing home and the culprit has been charged with rape.

That view makes God morally and causally responsible for 9/11, the drunk who murdered his family and my friend’s repeated rapes.

I read recently of a man who stabbed his sister and decapitated his 5-year-old sister at a birthday party before the police shot him. If I accept your and Piper’s view of God, these acts are ordained by God, what kind of God is He? Can you justify that from biblical teaching?[4]

And,

You said that “God is ULTIMATELY responsible” for the evil people do. That means that your kind of God caused my friend to be raped multiple times by a medical staff person.

It was your kind of God who “is ULTIMATELY responsible” (your words) for the evil any person commits – including the decapitating of a 5-year-old and the twin-towers devastation of 9/11. That might be the nature of your God, but that’s not the God I serve. Your kind of God “is ULTIMATELY responsible” for the Titanic disaster. In your language, “He could stop it” but he doesn’t.

So that makes your God “ULTIMATELY responsible” for the Holocaust and the gas oven slaughters. What kind of a God is He? If that is what he is like by nature, he’s a monster.
So you erect a straw man logical fallacy with this kind of statement:

His sovereign will is His business alone. The secret things belong to the Lord. I am to trust in His infinite wisdom and holiness and go by His revealed will.

So your God’s secret, sovereign will includes the slaughter of people by Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Idi Amin – and my friend’s multiple rapes.
I think it is time that you reassessed the nature of your God and his relationship to evil in the universe.[5]

God as the creator or authoriser of evil – some Calvinists

John Piper goes so far as to state:

So when I say that everything that exists—including evil—is ordained by an infinitely holy and all-wise God to make the glory of Christ shine more brightly I mean that, one way or the other, God sees to it that all things serve to glorify his Son. Whether he causes or permits, he does so with purpose. For an infinitely wise and all-knowing God, both causing and permitting are purposeful. They are part of the big picture of what God plans to bring to pass (Piper 2008:56).

It is not only John Piper, the Calvinist, who thinks like this. Before the time of Piper, Gordon Clark, another Calvinist, was advocating something similar: ‘As God cannot sin, so in the next place, God is not responsible for sin, even though he decrees it…. I wish very frankly and pointedly to assert that if a man gets drunk and shoots his family, it was the will of God that he should do so…. In Ephesians 1:11 Paul tells us that God works all things, not some things only, after the counsel of his own will’ (Clark 2004:40, 27).

Bruce Little noted that ‘Gordon Clark presents one way of responding to the charge that the Calvinist position leaves God morally responsible for evil even though He ordained it. Clark seeks to smooth out the contradiction by crafting the notion of God’s secret will and His revealed will’ (Little 2010:293). Then Little quotes Clark:

One may speak of the secret will of God, and one may speak of the revealed will of God. Those who saw self-contradiction in the previous case would no doubt argue similarly on this point too. The Arminian would say that God’s will cannot contradict itself, and that therefore his secret will cannot contradict his revealed will. Now, the Calvinist would say the same thing; but he has a clearer notion of what contradiction is, and what the Scriptures say. It was God’s secret will that Abraham should not sacrifice his son Isaac; but it was his revealed (for a time), his command, that he should do so. Superficially this seems like a contradiction. But it is not. The statement, or command, “Abraham, sacrifice Isaac,” does not contradict the statement, at the moment known only to God, “I have decreed that Abraham shall not sacrifice his son.” If Arminians had a keener sense of logic they would not be Arminians (Clark 2004:28).

This sounds more like Clark, the Calvinist’s, illogical view! Little (2010:293) has noted that Clark’s appeal to God’s knowledge does not solve the problem. Why? Because Clark is maintaining that God has two contradictory and incoherent wills! Since God is sovereign, how is it possible for God to have two wills (secret and revealed) for the same event that are contradictory? While Clark admits there is an apparent contradiction in what the biblical text, but his supposed solution fails because it is illogical. Why? Because God’s secret and revealed wills must also apply to Jessica’s death, Hitler and the Holocaust, and the slaughters by Pol Pot (UNICEF estimated 3 million people were slaughtered) and Idi Amin (up to 500,000 people could have been killed under his regime).

Take a read of R C Sproul Jr’s view of God creating sin (this is not R C Sproul Sr) in, ‘Taking Calvinism Too Far: R.C. Sproul Jr.’s Evil-Creating Deity‘. In this article it states that R C Sproul Jr, the Calvinist, asks: ‘“Isn’t it impossible for God to do evil?” He acknowledges that God can’t sin. This isn’t much of a consolation, as Sproul Jr. goes on to say: “I am not accusing God of sinning; I am suggesting that he created sin” (p. 54)’.

John Frame, the Calvinist, wrote:

For us, the question arises as to whether God can be the efficient cause of sin, without being to blame for it. The older theologians denied that God was the efficient cause of sin . . . [in part] because they identified cause with authorship. But if . . . the connection between cause and blame in modern language is no stronger than the connection between ordination and blame, then it seems to me that it is not wrong to say that God causes evil and sin. Certainly we should employ such language cautiously, however, in view of the long history of its rejection in the tradition (Does God ’cause’ sin?)

Why don’t you take a read of the article about supralapsarian Calvinist, John Piper, ‘John Piper on Man’s Sin and God’s Sovereignty‘.

It makes God into a monster!

What is a better solution to the problem of evil?

There is a very simple solution that those who believe in God’s free will to human beings, have been advocating throughout human history. We find it throughout the Scriptures. The Bible shows clearly that people have the ability to choose between two contrary views such as life and death. See Deuteronomy 30:15-19; Joshua 24:15; Isaiah 56:4; Ezekiel 33:11. The New Testament promotes the same view: Luke 22:32; John 3:16-17; Acts 17:30; Romans 6:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 4:10; 1 John 2:2; 4:14; 2 John 1:9 and Revelation 22:17.

Of course there are verses that affirm predestination in association with salvation, but that is not contradictory to God’s giving human beings responsibility through free will. Also see ‘Church Fathers on Foreknowledge and Free will’.

When it comes to the problem of evil, there is a simple solution. When God made human beings in the beginning, he gave Adam and Eve the choice to obey or disobey Him:

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:16-17).

Adam and Eve chose to disobey, beginning with Eve and the serpent’s tempting (Genesis 3). This tempter is generally accepted as the devil/Satan (see John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:3, 14; Revelation 12:9).

Since that time, all human beings inherit original sin, which means that all people have an hereditary fallen nature and moral corruption that have been passed on from Adam and Eve to all of their descendants. Romans 5:12 gives a summary of this view from God’s perspective:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.

Some choose to be selfish, angry, steal or get angry (from mild to severe). Other people choose to do horrific things in their sinful actions. Human beings are responsible for horrendous, sinful deeds. It is human beings who commit the Holocaust, rape and murder. Each human being is responsible and will appear before the judgment of God to be judged.

The Judgment of the Dead (Revelation 20:11-15 NIV)

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire (NIV).

The problem of evil, while inherited from birth, cannot be rebuffed with the claim that God gave it to me and caused me to sin. This is one that I’ve heard from some with a former church connection. The facts are that human beings choose to sin as Adam and Eve were their representatives. Adam was our federal head. If we had been there, we would have done exactly what Adam and Eve did. We see this emphasis in verses such as:

  • Romans 5:18, ‘Just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people’.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:22, ‘For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive’.

Geisler & Brooks (1990:32) succinctly state the solution to the dilemma: ‘God is responsible for the fact of freedom, but men [human beings] are responsible for the acts of freedom’.

That is the hope available to all people

clip_image010(image courtesy ChristArt)

‘For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive’. If you are interested in being made alive in Christ for abundant life NOW and eternal life that can begin NOW, I encourage you to read, ‘The content of the Gospel … and some discipleship’.

 

So, who is responsible for all of the evil in the world?

We are!

References

Clark, G H 2004. God and evil: The problem solved.[6] Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation.

Geisler, N L & Brooks, R M 1990. When skeptics ask. Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books.

Little, B A 2012. Evil and God’s sovereignty, in Allen D L & Lemke, S W (eds), Whosoever will: A biblical-theological critique of five-point Calvinism, 275-298. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Academic.

Piper, J 2008. Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.

Piper, J 2009. The president, the passengers, and the patience of God, Desiring God, 21 January. Available at: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/taste-see-articles/the-president-the-passengers-and-the-patience-of-god (Accessed 7 May 2012).

Notes:


[1] The article,‘Drifter says he held girl three days’ (CNN, June 24, 2005), states that this atrocity occurred 100 yards from her home.

[1a] Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘God is not the author of evil’, ColetheCalvinist, #1, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7654545/ (Accessed 6 May 2012).

[2] Ibid #23.

[3] Ibid #25.

[4] Ibid., #28.

[5] Ibid., #33.

[6] This was originally published as chapter 5 in Gordon Clark’s 1961 book, Religion, Reason and Revelation (The Trinity Foundation, 1986 [1961]).

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 May 2016.

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DIVINE HEALING: IS IT FOR EVERYONE?

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

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(image courtesy ChristArt)

Psalm 103:2-3 (ESV):

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all your iniquity,

who heals all your diseases,

No other agency on earth has been able to match the Church’s record of success in caring for the sick and afflicted. How many atheistic hospitals do you know about? How many Buddhist hospice’s have you discovered? At a time when Western culture desperately needs the church’s ministry of healing, it is the charismatic-Pentecostals who proclaim it regularly but it is almost absent or invisible in most churches of evangelical persuasion.

Western health-care has become one of the most secularised fields in the modern world.

Yet because of the cross, Pentecost and the gifts of the Spirit, the healing ministry is available in and through the church.

“It is an astonishing fact that the early Church won the population of the Roman Empire to Christ, at the rate of half a million converts every generation, while it was still a persecuted and illegal sect… Theologian John Jefferson Davis tells us: ‘The high moral standards of the church and its demonstrated compassion for the less fortunate were important features of its life that attracted outsiders. . .’

“Less well known today is the fact that the demonstrated ability of early Christians to exorcise demons constituted a powerful weapon in its evangelistic arsenal. . .

“The Church either has the dynamis of the Spirit or she does not. . .

“We must insist that Biblical, orthodox Christianity includes exorcism and healing, in a proper balance with worship and the Church’s ministries of teaching, evangelism, and charity. This is certainly the testimony of the New Testament. And it is witnessed by the historic Church as well” (Chilton 1987:160-161).

I. A BRIEF THEOLOGY OF HEALING

The basis for divine healing is not all that complicated. Read Isaiah 53:3-6 and Matt. 8:16-17.

A. Healing in the Redemptive Work of Christ

Please note that I will not use the statement, “Healing is in the atonement.” This is very deliberate because when we say, “Healing is in the atonement,” we are tempted to put it on the same level as salvation. “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (I do not believe in limited atonement.) But whoever intercedes for divine healing may or may not be healed. Why is this?

There are two main camps in this discussion:

1. Healing is available on the same basis as forgiveness.

Therefore, all Christians should experience immediate healing for every sickness, the same way they experience forgiveness.

2. Christians are not always healed; therefore, healing cannot be in the redemptive work of Christ.

Both sides are partly right and partly wrong. The problem lies with this kind of misconception: healing in the atonement automatically implies perfect physical health for every Christian who asks for healing. Because many Bible teachers and preachers have adopted this point of view, they have brought confusion, bondage for believers, and have hindered God’s people from receiving the blessing of physical healing.

See my article, ‘Should God heal all Christians who pray for healing?

3. An examination of Isaiah 53:3-12

  • This is a prophetic passage concerning Christ’s crucifixion.
  • Two human problems stand out in this passage: sin and sickness.
  • Verse 3 prophetically refers to Jesus as a man of pains and sickness. (There is no indication in Gospels that Jesus was ever in any kind of ill health until 24 hours before his death. e.g. Gethsemane, Luke 22:44.)
  • Psalm 22:1-2, 6-8, and11-18 further describe the physical and emotional aspects of Christ’s overwhelming pain and sickness in prophetic expectation.

Why did Jesus have to suffer such pain and sickness? Isaiah 53 says that he took our infirmities (sicknesses); it is our pain he has borne. He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him. By his wounds we are healed.

From this passage it is clear that sin and sickness are borne by Christ on the cross in exactly the same way. I cannot see any other conclusion from this passage.

T.J. McCrossan (1982) in his book, Bodily Healing and the Atonement, wrote:

“In Isaiah 53:4 we read, `Surely He [Christ] hath borne our griefs (kholee–sickness), and carried our sorrows (makob–pains).’ Kholee is from chalah–to be weak, sick, afflicted. In Deuteronomy 7:15 we read, `The Lord will take away from thee all sickness’ (kholee). This word is translated sickness in Deuteronomy 28:61; I Kings 17:17; 2 Kings 1:2; and 8:8. Makob is translated pain in Job 33:19: ‘He is chastened also with pain (makob).’ In Jeremiah 51:8 we read, `Take balm for her pain (makob)'” (1982:17).

When Matthew refers to this passage he uses the words infirmities and diseases (Matt. 8:16-17, NIV; illnesses and diseases, ESV). He then connects the passage with Jesus’ healing ministry while here on earth. They are not griefs and sorrows as in KJV, but illnesses and diseases (ESV).

What does it mean that Christ has borne (nasa) our sicknesses and pains? It is interesting that the same word is used in both Isa. 53:4 and 53:12, “he bore the sin of many.” The Hebrew word, nasa, means to bear in the sense of “suffering punishment for something” (Sipley, 1986:115-116).

A.J. Gordon wrote:

“The yoke of His cross by which He lifted our iniquities, took hold also of our diseases. . . He who entered into mysterious sympathy with our pain–which is the fruit of sin–also put Himself underneath our pain, which is the penalty of sin. In other words the passage seems to teach that Christ endured vicariously our diseases, as well as our iniquities” (n.d., pp. 16-17).

Andrew Murray’s interpretation was:

“It is not said only that the Lord’s righteous Servant had borne our sins, but also that He has borne our sicknesses. Thus his bearing our sicknesses forms an integral part of the Redeemer’s work, as well as bearing our sins” (1934:99).

However, I Peter 2:24 seems to be in the context of bearing our sins for salvation, not sicknesses for healing.

B. Practical Outworking of Healing in the Church

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(image courtesy ChristArt)

1. I Corinthians 12:4-14: “gifts of healings” (v. 9)

The risen Christ has given gifts to his church (Eph. 4:7-16). Healing is supposed to be a normal part (not to be over-emphasised or an exaggerated part), but a normal part of the on-going life of the church.

There’s a controversial passage at the end of Mark’s Gospel. The early church, after the Gospels were written, believed that one of the “signs” of the believing community was healing. Mark 16:17 (ESV) reads: “They will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” Please note, that I do not accept that Mark 16:17 is part of the canon of Scripture.

However, William Hendriksen’s words provide a wise assessment:

“What, then, must we think of Mark 16:9-20, that is, of the ending? It is an interesting summary of some of the appearances of the risen Savior and of his subsequent ascension and session at God’s right hand. As such it is instructive, for it shows us an early church view – how extensively held cannot be precisely indicated – of these matters. To the extent in which this ending truly reflects what is found elsewhere inside the covers of our Bible it can be described as a product, however indirectly, of divine inspiration. Since it would be very difficult – perhaps impossible – to defend the thesis that every word of this ending is without flaw, no sermon, doctrine, or practice should be based solely upon its contents” (1975:687).

God can and does heal in answer to the prayers of the humblest believer.

2. James 5:14-16. “The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.”

In most normal circumstances, God has directed Christians to be healed through the ministry of elders of the church. Compare Mark 6:12-13.

a. God deals with his people through church eldership ministry.

This is God’s usual way of healing. Anointing with oil is part of the regular pastoral ministry of church elders. Some might say,” What if I don’t have the gift of healing?” That is not the issue. If a person has been chosen (ordained?) as an elder, we know he or she has been divinely gifted to engage in a ministry of healing. The gift goes with the ministry of the elders. The Biblical teaching is straight forward: Elders are involved in the healing ministry.

Can God heal in answer to an individual’s prayer? Certainly! See Phil. 4:6-8; I Thess. 5:17.

b. What is the prayer of faith?

1) It does not refer to positive confession (blab it and grab it). This is forcing the hand of God and is grossly presumptuous, manipulative and has occult overtones. It ignores our need for humility and brokenness before God and, even worse, it also ignores the infinite, sovereignty of God.

2) It is not “claiming the promises.”

Many people think you can choose any Scriptural promise, take it to God in prayer, and claim the answer from God. i.e. He must answer our prayers and give us what we ask. Serious problems with this approach include:

  • Is the Scripture really a promise at all?
  • Have we met the conditions God places on it?

3) The prayer of faith is not “obeying the Word.”

It is extremely important to obey the Word of God, but such obedience is not the prayer of faith.

4) Mark 11:22-23 tells us what the prayer of faith is.

How can I have the faith of God? It seems as though it is only by God Himself bearing witness in your heart (inner spirit). If it is God’s faith, it must be God Himself thinking His thoughts through my mind with His own certainty. How does this happen?

I suggest that it happens when my will is in total submission to God and my spirit is open and sensitive to the Spirit of God. It happens in God’s own timing as the elder waits on the Lord. It may happen the first time I go to the Lord; other times it may take many times—persistence. It may happen as I search his word, wait in prayer, or go about my daily duties.

Sipley wrote:

“But when God knows all things are as He wants them, then `a word from Christ’ will be spoken in my heart. I will know what God wants me to do. I will know how God intends to fulfil His promise of divine life in me. I will experience the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, setting me free from the law of death (sickness) in my body. I will not need to try to make myself believe. I will have no doubt. I will be able to pray the prayer of faith for myself or others, and the life of Christ will triumph over sickness in the manner God sees as best” (1986:124).

c. This ministry is performed in connection with confession of sins (James 5:15-16).

It may be sickness because of sin, but not always. See I Cor. 11:30. The effects of unconfessed and unforgiven sin are pervasive throughout people’s lives. People need to confess their sins to the ministering elders and to those whom they have wronged.

God may grace the church with those who are especially gifted in praying for the sick and God uses them for healing. But such a ministry must be carried on within the structure of the local church, never in opposition to or in competition with the local church. There have been gross abuses because of the ministry of “lone ranger” healers or fraudulent healers.

David Chilton says “there is not a shred of evidence, either in the New Testament or Church history, for the independent professional miracle-worker” (1987:165). The freelance healer is not a biblical option. However, a believer may be given “gifts of healings” (I Cor. 12:9, note the two plurals), through gifts of the Spirit in the church. God’s supernatural ways of healing the sick are available today. They are just as relevant as the gift of “faith by the same Spirit,” “prophecy,” or “ability to distinguish between spirits,” etc.

I am reminded of Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV), “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

This is a clear indicator that there will be sham perpetrators of God’s gifts during the church age. However, the counterfeit should serve to point to the genuine, just as counterfeit money would not make sense if there were not the real to imitate.

C. Does God always heal?

God does not always answer our prayers by healing the sick. We must always remember that God is sovereign. “He does whatever he pleases (Ps. 115:3). He is not a genie who does as we tell him. He knows that is best for us. He is the Almighty Lord, the sovereign Creator and planner of all that is good. He is perfectly free to answer us in the way he chooses.

“One of the most important lessons of the Book of Job is that the world does not revolve around man and his perceived needs. The world revolves around God and His plans; the universe exists for God’s glory and pleasure. And God’s purposes transcend our lives, our problems, our hopes and dreams. It can be a bitter pill to swallow, but we haven’t gotten to first base yet if we fail to realize that people don’t come first. God comes first. . God’s ultimate answer to Job boils down to the simple fact that God is God, and Job is not (see Job 38-41)” (Chilton, 1987:168).

The fact that I suffer with sickness is no argument against the justice or mercy of God. If he denies my request for healing, I must rest in the knowledge that I am suffering according to His will. The very same Book of James that teaches on healing, also teaches on the benefits of suffering. See James 1:2-4:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (NASB).

The modern evangelical heresy that godly people are free from suffering was unknown to the Apostle Paul. Suffering, an evil in itself, can have beneficial, sanctifying effects under the providence of God.

Read Psalm 119:67-71; 2 Timothy 4:20 (“I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus,” didn’t embarrass Paul); Acts 9:16 (fulfilled in 2 Cor. 6:3-10; 11:23-33); 2 Tim. 2:9, 12; 3:12; and I Peter 4:19.

Prayer is nothing more than a request from children to their Father. The power belongs to the Father. The power is not in the request itself or in the person who makes the request.

We must remember the emphasis of Psalm 116:15 (ESV), “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” We will die unless Jesus returns before then.

At some point our prayers will not help because the time has come for our body and spirit to be separated to await resurrection on the last day. God’s ultimate will is not to keep everyone reasonably healthy in this life. Rather, it is to bring all of us, body and soul, into the fullness of the New Creation.

D. What about medicine?

Is it sinful to use “natural” or “human” means to restore health? Certainly not — as long as we do not fall into the same trap as Asa did in 2 Chron. 16:12: He “did not seek the Lord, but the physicians” and so died.

We must realise that all health is given through the work of the Holy Spirit. No doctor has the ability to heal. Dr. Luke is called “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14). Paul told Timothy to “use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities” (I Tim. 5:23). There is no hint here that Timothy was living in disobedience or lack of faith.

We need to use medicine prayerfully. It is Christianity that has brought the blessings of modern science and medicine. Modern medicine has its problems and limitations, but it is light years ahead of anything produced by witch doctors.

George Grant wrote:

“The advancement of modern medicine has a direct correspondence with the advancement of the Gospel. Christian nations are havens of medical mastery, guarding the sanctity of life” (in Chilton, 1987:167).

“Guarding the sanctity of life” is being flaunted today with the promotion of abortion and euthanasia.

For over a thousand years Christian churches and monastic communities were the only agencies involved in ministry to the sick. Christians built hospitals and staffed them. They did this while bathing the ministries in prayer. This is a dilemma for the rationalistic atheist. For Christians, it is just being faithful to God’s word. The godly farmer plants, waters, fertilises, prunes, fights off pests and predators – and prays for God to bring the harvest.

So, we can pray for healing (some may be gifted with a ministry of healings, I Cor. 12:9); the elders can pray and anoint with oil (James 5:14-15); we can take medicine. But it is God who proclaims, “I am the Lord, your healer” (Ex. 15:26). He heals according to His good and perfect will.

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(image courtesy ChristArt

References:

Chilton, D. (1987). Power in the Blood: A Christian Response to AIDS. Brentwood, Tennessee: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, Inc., 1987.

Gordon, A. J. (n.d.). The Ministry of Healing. Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, Inc.

Hendriksen, W. (1975). The Gospel of Mark (New Testament Commentary). Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust.

McCrossan, T. J. (1982). Bodily Healing and the Atonement. Tulsa Oklahoma: Rhema Bible Church.

Murray, A. (1934). Divine healing. London: Victory Press.

Sipley, R. M. (1986). Understanding Divine Healing. England: Scripture Press Foundation (UK) Ltd.

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 April 2016.

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