Archive for May, 2013

Kevin Rudd MP’s changed position on same-sex marriage is self-refuting[1]

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Kevin Rudd DOS cropped.jpg

Kevin Rudd MP (Courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

Kevin Rudd, Australian Prime Minister, is now in favour of homosexual marriage

Ribbon Homosexuality Button

I’ve been reading the article from Kevin Rudd’s homepage in which he indicates his change of mind regarding homosexual marriage, ‘Church and State are able to have different positions on same sex marriage‘ (20 May 2013). As expected, some of its content made it to today’s Courier-Mail, ‘Kevin Rudd declares his support for same sex marriage‘. My comments relate to the article on his homepage.

1. Rudd’s position refutes itself

His position is self-refuting, primarily because I expect that he wants me to engage in reading his article in its plain sense – literal interpretation – to understand what he exactly said and meant. But he disagrees with people who read the Bible literally. By the way, a literal reading of the text means that one takes into consideration all the figures of speech and symbols that are in that writing. It was Rudd who stated in his homepage article:

  • ‘If we were today to adhere to a literalist rendition of the Christian scriptures, the 21st century would be a deeply troubling place, and the list of legitimized social oppressions would be disturbingly long’.

Then he proceeded to give examples of slavery in the USA, polygamy, and capital punishment by stoning for adultery. He doesn’t seem to have an understanding of biblical hermeneutics and the difference between Old and New Covenants in the Bible. See the article, ‘What about the Bible and slavery?

See my articles:

2. My primary problems with Kevin Rudd’s conclusions

I see three core problems with Rudd’s changed approach to homosexuality:

1.  The inconsistency in his method of interpretation. Can I presume that he wants me to read the article on his homepage literally so that I understand its content? Should I read the article literally that he have written for The Australian today, ‘A matter for the state, not church‘ (21 May 2013) so that I get the common, everyday meaning of what he wants to convey to me? When I pick up my local newspaper, an historical book, a geography book, a book on politics, or my Bible, should I interpret it literally, metaphorically or as a postmodern deconstructionist? The answer should be obvious. If I want to understand the plain meaning of the text, I read it literally and don’t impose any allegorical, metaphorical or postmodern deconstructionist meaning on it.

2.  Kevin Rudd does not want us to take the same method of interpretation to the Bible. This is the hypocrisy of his position. It’s OK for Kevin Rudd to need a literal reading of his article on his homepage and in The Australian to understand his position, but it’s not OK to read the Bible literally.

3.  He stated that he is a Christian but he doesn’t know his Bible very well. This especially relates to his statement, ‘I for one have never accepted the argument from some Christians that homosexuality is an abnormality. People do not choose to be gay’.

The apostle Paul disagrees with him profoundly in the inspired Scriptures. Which Bible has Kevin been reading? It is not the one that includes 1 Corinthians 6:9-11,

9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (NIV).

The Scriptures put homosexual behaviour in the same category as other sinful actions: heterosexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, theft, greed, drunkenness, slander, and swindling. And have a guess what? All these homosexual behaviours can be changed. The Scriptures state clearly, ‘That is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God‘. And that applies to homosexuals, male or female. Jesus changes all kinds of sinners.

Only this week (I’m writing on 21 May 2013), I have been in email contact with a redeemed lesbian whom I have known for 21 years, who has been wonderfully changed by the living Jesus and has no desire for a homosexual relationship and that has been her situation for the last 25 years. I don’t fall for Rudd’s line that people do not choose to be gay. God’s Word is clear that homosexuality is a sinful behaviour and when a person comes to Christ as Lord and Saviour for salvation, Jesus changes these people, including male and female homosexuals, from the inside out.

Kevin, it’s too late to tell me that homosexuals ‘do not choose to be gay’. They choose to be gay in the same sinful way that people choose to be heterosexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, greedy, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers. It’s a sinful choice. However, all human beings are born with a propensity to sin. See the article, ‘Total depravity’, meaning comprehensive depravity of all human beings from conception.
Rudd stated on his homepage, ‘We have seen a range of social reforms over the decades where traditional, literalist biblical teachings have been turned on their head ‘. That social reforms have been changed does not repudiate a literalist interpretation, whether that is of Rudd’s article in The Australian, on his homepage, or in the Courier-Mail. It exposes the ‘social reforms’ for what they may be – a violation of God’s will.

3. Why literal interpretation is necessary

omg.jpg

Rudd may accuse me of being a Bible literalist. This is what I am. I have been a committed evangelical Christian for the last 52 years and nowhere in the Bible can I read Rudd’s understanding of homosexuality. It is obvious that he is the one who is out of step with biblically accurate hermeneutics on the New Testament’s statements on the origin of homosexuality.

Rudd’s charge against literal interpretation of the Bible cannot be sustained. A literal interpretation is needed to understand what he writes. Then if he writes poetry, an allegory, a metaphor, a literal interpretation incorporates those views. This is how A Berkeley Mickelsen, expressed it in Interpreting the Bible,

“Literal” … means the customarily acknowledged meaning of an expression in its particular context. For example, when Christ declared that he was the door, the metaphorical meaning of “door” in that context would be obvious. Although metaphorical, this obvious meaning is included in the literal meaning (Mickelsen 1963:33).

4. Conclusion

I ask Kevin Rudd to reconsider these serious matters that challenge his changed position on homosexuality. His is not a biblical position. In addition, there are some serious consequences of a homosexual lifestyle. See the physical and sociological in my article, ‘Reasons to oppose homosexual marriage’. Here is an example from this article to conclude:

In Africa, ‘On average it is estimated that HIV infection rates amongst MSM (men who have sex with men) are four to five times higher than the population overall, with highs in certain areas’. [2]

The levels of promiscuity in the homosexual community also elevate the rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).[3]

References

Mickelsen, A B 1963. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Notes


[1] Much of the content of this post I sent in an email to Kevin Rudd on 21 May 2013. I have made some additions and changed from second to third person in speaking about Kevin Rudd.

[2] Africa.gm, July 25, 2008. Available at: AFRICA: Homophobia fuelling the spread of HIV (Accessed 21 May 2013).

[3] See this summary report, ‘The health risks of gay sex, by John R. Diggs Jr. M.D.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

Challenges to evolutionary ‘factual’ evidence [1]

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Evolutions wish

ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

Earth rotating around the sun and gravity are given as examples that ‘evolution is true because of all the factual supporting evidence’ by Phil Gilbank (Pine Rivers Press, February 6, 2013).

Phillip E. Johnson, Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley for 20 years used his skills as a lawyer to investigate the evidence as the books defending the Darwinian theory ‘were dogmatic and unconvincing’.

What did he conclude after gathering the evidence? ‘Darwinist scientists believe that the cosmos is a closed system of material causes and effects, and they believe that science must be able to provide a naturalistic explanation for the wonders of biology that appear to have been designed for a purpose’.  He continued: ‘Without assuming these beliefs they could not deduce that common ancestors once existed for all the major groups of the biological world’.

And there’s another belief they have: ‘Random mutations and natural selection can substitute for an intelligent designer’.

But have a guess what? ‘Neither of these foundational beliefs is empirically testable [by science] and … neither belongs in the science classroom’.[2]

But Mr Gilbank wants us to believe that evolution is supported by lots of factual evidence. Not according to a leading lawyer who examined the evidence!

Notes:


[1] This is a letter-to-the editor that I sent to Pine Rivers Press on 5 May 2013 that was not published. The email address is: letters@northlakestimes.com.au.

[2] Phillip E. Johnson 1991. Darwin on Trial. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, p. 144.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

The fake and the genuine mixed in some churches: A dangerous concoction!

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Landmine Doctrine

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

I’ve been interacting with a missionary friend in a foreign country who wrote of a person from the Bethel Church who feeds 10,000 children, has established churches, and has a humble ministry of bringing healing to the black children of Africa. A film has been made about this person raising people from the dead. This person gains no money from the actions and aches as she sits in the dust with African children, preaching Christ. But she is part of the Bethel Church, Redding, CA, USA.

The question the missionary asked of me: ‘How can this person be misguided and as far from Christ as the church leaders of Bethel church’?

What does the Bethel Church teach?

Bethel Church, Redding CA

Courtesy Wikipedia

The Bethel Church, Redding, California has this teaching on YouTube where there is alleged gold dust falling. See: ‘Gold dust rains during worship at Bethel!

See also:

blue-satin-arrow-smallBethel testimonies’;

blue-satin-arrow-smallJeremy Riddle – Our Father PART 1/2 (Gold dust in the room)’;

blue-satin-arrow-smallGlory Cloud & Gold Dust at Bethel Church’;

blue-satin-arrow-smallBethel’s ‘signs and wonders’ include angel feathers, gold dust and diamonds’.

Critiques of the Bethel Church movement

Empty Words

(image courtesy ChristArt )

What are the issues with Bethel Church, Redding, California, and its teachings? There are many links to assessment of the heresy of Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Apostasy Watch:

blue-arrow-smallWarning – Bill Johnson and Bethel Church’;

blue-arrow-smallSound advice for Bethel Church Pastor Bill Johnson’;

blue-arrow-smallBob Dewaay: Bill Johnson, IHOP [IHOP], & Ancient Heresy Reborn’;

blue-arrow-smallThe dangers of the International House of Prayer’, CARM;

blue-arrow-smallBill Johnson and Bethel – Report from Redding Record Searchlight’;

blue-arrow-smallBill Johnson / Bethel Church, Redding, California’ (links to other criticisms built into the article);

blue-arrow-smallBirds of a Feather Flock Together: Strange Manifestations in ‘Christian’ Circles – from God or not? Feathers in Church? Bill Johnson of Bethel Church, Redding California’;

Let me say up front that we cannot discern a heart before God of any person, whether associated with a church teaching false doctrine or one teaching the truth. That discernment is in God’s hands. But the Scriptures give some strong indicators of what can happen.

What did Jesus say about the mixture of the fake with the genuine?

When I turn to Jesus, this is the truth that he proclaims:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matt 7:21-23 NIV)

Only Jesus knows the truth of the human heart and the eternal destiny of people. It is evident from these Scriptures in Matthew 7 that Jesus did not regard good deeds and supernatural miracles to be guarantees that a person is a Christian who will enter the kingdom of heaven. It is evident that people can do many good works, perform miracles, and not do the will of the heavenly Father. It sounds strange to us, but God knows this is so. In fact, God calls these kinds of people, ‘evildoers’ (NIV) or ‘workers of lawlessness’ (ESV). So, these people are false prophets, even though they perform mighty works.

Evangelical commentator, William Hendriksen, wrote of this passage:

‘Does not all of this point to the possibility that also the demon expulsions and other mighty works of which the false prophets of Matt. 7:22 boast had been nothing but sham? Have not investigations proved again and again that among false prophets illusions, trickery, sleight of hand, etc., abound, and that what is presented as genuine is very often nothing but deception?’ (Hendriksen 1973:376).

Matthew 7:23 indicates a very high Christology. Jesus decides who will enter the Kingdom on the last day and he also decides who will be banished from his presence. That he never knew these people is because they falsely claimed him as Lord.

I find it interesting how the writer of The Didache, after the close of the New Testament, puts it this way, ‘But not everyone who speaks in a spirit is a prophet, except he have the behavior of the Lord. From his behavior, then, the false prophet and the true prophet shall be known’ (Didache 11.8). This is a good summary. One can use the word, ‘Lord’, of Jesus, allege to be a prophet and perform mighty works, and still be a fraud before Christ.

Therefore, the application to the Bethel Church is that a person can perform miracles, do other good works, but engage in false teaching and still not be a Christian who will enter the Kingdom. This does not mean that there are no genuine Christians associated with this church. That discernment is in Jesus’ control. However, ‘I never knew you’ are tragic words when they think that they are doing it for Jesus. Let’s understand that who enters the kingdom will be decided by Jesus. But here in Matt 7 there are strong indicators that good works and miracles can be associated with those who claim Jesus as Lord, but he is not their Lord. These are the penetrating words of Jesus.

I understand that we would like to think that there are those who perform wonderful deeds towards the needy, are used in supernatural miracles, but proclaim false doctrine, are misled but are truly Christian. But that’s not how Jesus sees it according to Matt. 7. I have to be true to Jesus and his teaching. It will sound harsh, but I have to answer at the end of my life to the Lord for my accuracy or otherwise with my biblical teaching. I hope people understand this. There is an attack on the truth of Scripture in the contemporary world.

Mark 9:39 states, ‘But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me’ (ESV). Those who proclaim false doctrine are speaking evil of the Lord as what they proclaim is not true.

I do not believe that miracles ceased with the original 12 apostles. See my article, ‘Can cessationism be supported by Scripture and church history?

Worm and Lace

(image courtesy ChristArt)

Which Jesus?

There is the problem we face in the twenty-first century that was also there in the first century: Which Jesus are they/we serving? Is He the one who mixes falsehood with truth, or is he the one who is ‘the way, the truth and the life’ ALWAYS?

Consider these sources of falsehood and truth. We have warnings and affirmations in Scripture:

matte-red-arrow-small ‘But test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil’ (1 Thess 5:21-22 ESV).

matte-red-arrow-small‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world’ (1 John 4:1 ESV).

They were there in the first century. They are here n the twenty-first century. There will be the fake performed alongside the genuine. To the human eye they may look similar, but to Jesus he is the one who discerns those who knew him and those who didn’t. This we know from his teaching: Genuine good works, genuine miracles, and false teaching do not go together. They are often mixed and Christians are to be people of biblical and spiritual discernment. Too often we are not!

Therefore, the Lord calls all true believers to be people committed to the ministry of discernment:

matte-red-arrow-small ‘But test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil’ (1 Thess 5:21-22 ESV).

matte-red-arrow-small‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world’ (1 John 4:1 ESV).

The challenge

Here is the challenge that you and I face, whether in an overseas country or here in my country of Australia. We are to be these kinds of Christians: ‘So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes’ (Eph 4:14 ESV). It is tempting to see those who are doing massive good deeds mixed with fake miracles, to be seen as genuine. But the false and the truth cannot be mixed and come out as genuine. That’s according to Jesus and the Scriptures.

Why don’t you take a read of this article about the teaching of Bill Johnson and the Bethel Church, ‘An Invasion of Error: A Review of Bill Johnson—When Heaven Invades Earth

Part of the problem we face in the contemporary church is that teaching the truth through sound doctrine from the pulpit and in small groups is on such a low level in many evangelical churches. Many are too interested in their contemporary worship, topical sermons, and Gospel light, to be pursuing the need to teach true doctrine and refute false doctrine.

My wife and I had an experience of that in the last 18 months when we moved to a new suburb in northern Brisbane and sought an evangelical church that proclaimed sound theology in both teaching and song. We visited 8 different churches before we found one that came close to sound teaching (expository preaching from books of the Bible) and solid lyrics in the songs they sang. Most were into rock ‘n roll Christianity in their music and songs, and light sermon content.

I emailed one pastor whom I had never met as he wasn’t there and preaching when my wife and I visited his church on one occasion. I had enquired about going to one of his cell groups locally. His response was that a cell group at his church would not be suitable for me as it was ‘more contemporary than the church service’. I had not mentioned a word to him about ‘contemporary’ anything. Obviously the one person we spoke to after the service conveyed to the pastor some of the comments we made about the service. As for solid teaching in the evangelical churches, we did not find it – except for one. But the problem with this one, which we currently attend, is that it is super-traditional in all that happens in the services. However, the pastor is a sound expositor of Scripture who is not afraid to exegete the Scriptures and provide careful interpretations of the meaning.

See my articles:

silver-arrow-smallFive ingredients of a healthy church: Colossians 4:7-18‘;

silver-arrow-smallDouble faults and no aces: Margaret Court’;

silver-arrow-smallAre the dead raised today?

silver-arrow-smallSeventh Day Adventist atonement doctrine’.

T

(image courtesy ChristArt)

References

Hendriksen, W 1973. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 15 April 2016.

Isaiah 45:7: Who or what is the origin of evil?

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Humans Evil

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

A Calvinist asked, ‘Would you agree that God decrees some evil?’[1]

To this came a response:

Along that line of thought, may I interject some passages which may shed light on the discussion. It seems that we tend to elevate God’s love, from a human perspective, above God’s holiness and an imbalance develops. Consider these passages in the discussion.

“Who can command and have it done if the Lord has forbidden it? Do not both bad and good proceed from the mouth of the Most High? Why should any man living complain, any mortal who has sinned?” (Lam 3:37-39, REB)

“I make the light, I create the darkness; author alike of wellbeing and woe, I, the Lord, do all these things.” (Isa 45:7 REB)
(Notice, NOT author of sin, but of woes, disasters, plagues, etc.)

“If a trumpet sounds in the city, are not the people alarmed? If disaster strikes a city, is it not the work of the Lord?” (Amos 3:6, REB)

“When the Adversary left the Lord’s presence, he afflicted Job with running sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head, and Job took a piece of a broken pot to scratch himself as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, ‘Why do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God, and die!’ He answered, ‘You talk as any impious woman might talk. If we accept good from God, shall we not accept evil?’ Throughout all this, Job did not utter one sinful word.” (Job 2:7-10, REB) (Good grammar indicates it was the Adversary who did the afflicting, not God; yet, it was in God’s plan.)

“The Lord said, “Who will entice King Ahab of Israel to go up and attack Ramoth-gilead?” One said one thing and one said another, until a spirit came forward and, standing before the Lord, said, “I shall entice him.” “How?” said the Lord. “I shall go out”, he answered, “and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets.” “Entice him; you will succeed,” said the Lord. “Go and do it.” You see, then, how the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours, because he has decreed disaster for you.’” (2Chr 18:19-22, REB)
(This is indeed a startling statement we must be cautious with indeed.)

“For the Son of Man is going his appointed way; but alas for that man by whom he is betrayed!’” (Luke 22:22, REB)
and from the ASV

“For the Son of man indeed goeth, as it hath been determined: but woe unto that man through whom he is betrayed!” (Luke 22:21-22, ASV)

Then history’s greatest sin, as has been mentioned, is the ultimate decree of God involving man’s sin: Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:27,28.

“I speak God’s hidden wisdom, his secret purpose framed from the very beginning to bring us to our destined glory. None of the powers that rule the world has known that wisdom; if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1Cor 2:7-8, REB)

(Ponder that statement… Satan and his demons were ignorant!)

The REB I quote is the Revised English Bible, 1989 of the U.K.[2]

I asked the person in footnote #1, ‘Does your God decree the rape of children, the Sandy Hook massacre and the Holocaust?’[3] His blunt response was, ‘Yes’[4], to which my response was, ‘What an horrific God you serve who preordains pedophilia against children and the Sandy Hook massacre!’[5] What do you think his reply could be? Here it is: ‘It’s the same God you serve. You just think He’s impotent’.[6]

What evil does God decree?

My response to Chasewind (footnote #2) was as follows:[7]

Isaiah 45:7 reads: ‘I form the light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity. I am the LORD who does all these things’ (ESV).

I have found Norman Geisler & Thomas Howe’s response to this verse to be most helpful (Geisler & Howe 1992:271-272):

ISAIAH 45:7 – Is God the author of evil?
PROBLEM: According to this verse (Is. 45:7), God “creates good and evil” (kjv, cf. Jer. 18:11 and Lam. 3:38; Amos 3:6). But many other Scriptures inform us that God is not evil (1 John 1:5), cannot even look approvingly on evil (Hab. 1:13), and cannot even be tempted by evil (James 1:13).
SOLUTION: The Bible is clear that God is morally perfect (cf. Deut. 32:4; Matt. 5:48), and it is impossible for Him to sin (Heb. 6:18). At the same time, His absolute justice demands that He punish sin. This judgment takes both temporal and eternal forms (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:11–15). In its temporal form, the execution of God’s justice is sometimes called “evil” because it seems to be evil to those undergoing it (cf. Heb. 12:11). However, the Hebrew word for evil (ra) used here does not always mean moral evil. Indeed, the context indicates that it should be translated, as the nkjv and other modern translations do, as “calamity.” Thus, God is properly said to be the author of “evil” in this sense, but not in the moral sense—at least not directly.

Further, there is an indirect sense in which God is the author of moral evil. God created moral beings with free choice, and free choice is the origin of moral evil in the universe. So, ultimately God is responsible for making moral creatures who are responsible for moral evil. God made evil possible by creating free creatures, but the free creatures made evil actual. Of course, the possibility of evil (i.e., free choice) is itself a good thing. So, God created only good things, one of which was the power of free choice, and moral creatures produced the evil. However, God is the author of a moral universe and in this indirect and ultimate sense is the author of the possibility of evil. Of course, God only permitted evil, but does not promote it, and He will ultimately produce a greater good through it (cf. Gen. 50:20; Rev. 21–22).[8]

GOD IS NOT THE AUTHOR OF EVIL GOD IS THE AUTHOR OF EVIL
In the sense of sin: Moral evil, Perversity, Directly, Actuality of evil In the sense of calamity,  Non-moral, evil Plagues, Indirectly, Possibility of evil

As indicated above and below, there is quite a controversy in Calvinistic vs Arminian circles as to whether or not God is the cause of all the evil in the world. As a Reformed Arminian, my responses are those of such an understanding of Scripture, some of which are articulated in this brief article.

What Calvin & some Calvinists teach on God’s decree of all evil

John Calvin 2.jpg

John Calvin (courtesy Wikipedia)

What do some Calvinists teach on this critical subject of God creating all evil. Take a read of the statements of leading Calvinists, including Calvin, in ‘A Theology in Tension‘.

Here are a few of the quotes of Calvinists from that site:[9]

John Calvin:

‘Hence we maintain that, by his providence, not heaven and earth and inanimate creatures only, but also the counsels and wills of men are so governed as to move exactly in the course which he has destined’.

James White:

Calvinist theologian James White, in a debate with Hank Hannegraaf and George Bryson, was asked, “When a child is raped, is God responsible and did He decree that rape?” To which Mr. White replied… “Yes, because if not then it’s meaningless and purposeless and though God knew it was going to happen he created it without a purpose … and God is responsible for the creation of despair…. If He didn’t [decree child rape] then that rape is an element of meaningless evil that has no purpose” (Bible Answer Man interview, ‘Why it is important to go back to the sources, illustrated’, Friday, August 19, 2011).

W.G.T. Shedd:

“Sin is one of the ‘whatsoevers’ that have ‘come to pass’, all of which are ‘ordained’…. Nothing comes to pass contrary to His decree. Nothing happens by chance. Even moral evil, which He abhors and forbids, occurs by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God… man’s inability to explain how God can make things certain, but not compulsory… is no reason to deny that [God] can do it or that he has done it.”

Gordan H. Clark:

‘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 it…” He goes on to assert, “Let it be unequivocally said that this view certainly makes God the cause of sin. God is the sole ultimate cause of everything. There is absolutely nothing independent of him. He alone is the eternal being. He alone is omnipotent. He alone is sovereign.[ Some people who do not wish to extend God’s power over evil things, and particularly over moral evils…The Bible therefore explicitly teaches that God creates sin.

John Frame:

“The Reformed [Calvinists] agree that God knows what would happen under all conditions, but they reject the notion that this knowledge is ever ultimately based on man’s autonomous decisions. Human decisions, they argue, are themselves the effects of God’s eternal decrees.

Jews on selection ramp at Auschwitz, May 1944

The Holocaust (image courtesy Wikipedia)

Conclusions

So these Calvinists agree that God has decreed all sin and the ultimate cause of everything, including moral evil, is God. It started with Calvin’s teaching that ‘the counsels and wills of men are so governed as to move exactly in the course which he has destined’ (cited above).

I find this to be an obnoxious view of God, the evil one. It is so contrary to the God of light who is also the God of judgment (through disaster and at the Last Judgment). The explanation above by Geisler & Howe (1992:271-272) is much more compatible with the whole tenor of Scripture – God is not the cause of moral evil, but does bring disaster/calamity. There are secondary causes of evil in association with the devil, human beings and other agents.

See also my article, Does God create all of the evil in the world?

References

Geisler, N. L., & Howe, T. A. 1992. When critics ask:A popular handbook on Bible difficulties. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘The foreknowledge of God’, Hammster #103. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7741951-11/#post63052072 (Accessed 13 May 2013).

[2] Ibid., Chasewind #104.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen #110.

[4] Ibid., Hammster #111.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen #112.

[6] Ibid., Hammster #113.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen #107.

[8] Although I have a copy of Geisler & Howe (1992), I copied the above information of Geisler and Howe from Frank Turek’s post of August 23, 2009, available at: http://crossexamined.org/turek-vs-hitchens-ii-debate-video/ (Accessed 13 May 2013). I have added the information in the table below (which is a summary of their position), that is in the Geisler & Howe publication (1992:272).

[9] All of these citations from this article are referenced from the writings or debates of these Calvinistic promoters. Check out the website for documentation. Emphases in bold are original to the article, ‘’A Theology in Tension‘.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 May 2016.

What kind of faith did the demons have?

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Faith Fearful Demon

ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

James 2:19 states, ‘You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!’ (ESV). If the demons have the same kind of faith as Christian believers, who do they believe and shudder, but remain demons who are estranged from God.

There was an interesting discussion on line in which a person stated:

Look up the word faith in the greek theta (sic) used throughout the NT, its a word that literally means to trust with certainty.

Please reason with your own logic. By your logic, our faith is unsustainable because then we wouldn’t know anything. And if we don’t know with certainty, as scripture says we can as Christ says we can, then the faith means nothing. For its relative and flimsy like all other world religions. Please, think critically and study scripture. For it’s the word of God Himself. May He guide you.[1]

My response was, ‘The noun, faith, in the Greek is pistis. The verbal form (I have faith, I believe), pisteuw, is found in James 2:19. How then do you understand this verse in relation to faith being trust with certainty?’[2] His reply was:

Let’s clarify using that verse. the word James uses in v. 19 is, pisteueis. this is derived from Pistis, it does mean and imply a belief/giving credit towards something. but not used in the same way as its derivative. For example, James earlier uses Pistis, from peitho, which literally means to persuade/ in general it implies such a KNOWLEDGE, assent to, and confidence in CERTAIN divine truths, especially those of the gospel, as produce of GOOD WORKS. ( Acts 3:16;17:31; Matt. 17:20 i.e. James 2:14.

Though related, those words are used in complete different contexts.[3]

What should be the response to this kind of challenge, based on the etymology of the Greek pistis (faith)? My reply was: ‘In James 2:19, pisteueis, is a verb, 2nd person, singular, present indicative, active. It is from the base verb pisteuw (I believe). While pisteuw and pistis (a noun) have a common root, we must not confuse the use of a verb with the use of a noun’.[4]

He came back with, ‘I agree. But that only strengthens the fact that our faith is based on trusting in what we’ve come to KNOW as CERTAIN. (refer to my post before with scripture and the greek definition)’.[5]

[6]If I am to accept this person’s understanding of pisteuw in James 2:19, that ‘our faith is based on trusting in what we’ve come to KNOW as CERTAIN’, then I need to understand that this is the kind of faith that the demons have and shudder, based on that faith.
Surely that is not what he was intending to mean! If not, then pisteuw does not always mean what he has stated it to mean. The demons certainly don’t have saving faith that knows and is certain. Therefore, relying on the etymology of the word does not solve the nature of faith for demons in James 2:19.
In his commentary on James, D. Edmond Hiebert, helps me in my understanding of the nature of the demons’ faith:

James -<br /><br /> By: D. Edmond Hiebert</p><br /> <p>

Courtesy Christianbook.com

With one stunning remark James shatters the value of such an orthodox faith if it is inoperative: “the demons also believe, and shudder.” “Also” (kai), perhaps “even,” places such an inoperative faith on the level of the demonic. They also believe in one transcendent God. No atheists or skeptics are among them…. In the story of the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:1-10; Luke 8:26-33; cf. also Mark 1:23-24) we have a clear illustration of such a faith on the part of the demons. These malicious supernatural spirits, engaged in seeking to possess and torment men, readily confessed God’s existence and omnipotence; but their “faith” did not transform their character and conduct or change their prospects for the future. They establish the sad truth that “belief may be orthodox, while the character is evil.” [quoting W. Boyd Carpenter]
The only effect that their faith has upon the demons is that they “shudder” (phrissousin). The verb, occurring only here in the New Testament, means “to bristle,” conveying the picture of a horror that causes the hair to stand on end. The present tense pictures this as their characteristic reaction whenever they face the reality of the eternal God. While this term is not strictly applicable to spirits, yet it effectively conveys the intensity of the horror that seizes the demons when confronting God. They have an intense unquestioned belief in God’s existence and power, but their faith brings them no peace or salvation. They are fully aware that doom awaits them at the hands of the infinitely perfect God (Matt. 8:29; 25:41; Luke 8:31) (Hiebert 1979:187-188).

What, then, is the nature of faith for the demons? It cannot be that of the committed Christian who has faith which is commitment to Christ and that leads to salvation that is demonstrated by good works for God. ‘Faith without works is dead’

Reference

Hiebert, D E 1979. The epistle of James: Tests of a living faith. Chicago: Moody Press.

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘We don’t know’, ChristianLife08#22, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7741434-3/ (Accessed 9 May 2013).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#24.

[3] Ibid., ChristianLife08#25.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#26.

[5] Ibid., ChristianLife08#27.

[6] This was my reply at ibid., OzSpen#31.
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

What’s happening to music in evangelical churches?

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Tuba

(image courtesy ChristArt)

by Spencer D Gear

There was a discussion on the use of instruments in church music on Christian Forums. One writer wrote:

[My] argument is in reference to those churches which have music bands with drummers and guitarists…. it doesn’t’ attract youths but certainly make them comfortable, the music is the same with the world’s music. Furthermore did anyone researched on the origins of drum beats? it originated from voodoo practice whereby they would beat a rhythm during their witchcraft worship. How many churches still practice old fashion hymns with just an organ or piano?[1]

[2]How does this view of drums fit with the use of cymbals? They are pretty loud instruments.

Here are some cross references dealing with loud percussion instruments:

Drum Praise

(image courtesy ChristArt)

1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

2 Samuel 6:5 David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with castanets[3], harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums[4] and cymbals.[5]

1 Chronicles 13:8 David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets.

1 Chronicles 15:16 David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their fellow Levites as musicians to make a joyful sound with musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals.

Ezra 3:10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the LORD, as prescribed by David king of Israel.

Nehemiah 12:27 At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres.

New International Version ©2011 by Biblica

As for churches that sing hymns accompanied by piano and/or organ, there are not many around my region. However, the last 2 churches my wife and I have attended, including the current one, sing hymns from hymn books (now on digital projectors). One was Baptist and was packed to the rafters with people, including considerable numbers of teens and young adults. There was no need to do thrash music to attract the youth at that Baptist church.

The other, the one we currently attend, is Presbyterian. The congregation is elderly with a few young families – but not too many – and the numbers are dwindling. That has more to do with the lack of outreach than the nature of the music. I know of another Presbyterian church in Brisbane that has thrash music with expository preaching. A friend I know attends that church and puts up with the music so that he can be edified by the preaching.

Some of the issues for us

Listen to iPod

(image courtesy ChristArt)

These are some of the musical issues in churches for my wife and me:

  1. Does the service focus on worship of the trinitarian Lord God Almighty or is it human-centred? We seek the former.
  2. Is the content of the lyrics of the songs, hymns and spiritual songs Christ-centred and promoting sound doctrine? I’m finding many contemporary songs to have too many trite, subjective lyrics. There are a few with these characteristics in the older songs as well.
  3. Does the music drown out the lyrics or is the music meant to be an accompaniment to help with the adequate singing of the hymns/songs?
  4. Are the melodies singable for the average person who attends a church service? I’m a very average singer and I find many of the contemporary songs to be not meant for congregational singing, but are meant for performance by a group and band.
  5. Does the music support or detract from the message of the preacher/teacher?
  6. How much of the music is influenced by the nature of music in the contemporary culture?

To be honest, I am concerned at the direction in which many evangelical churches are going with music and preaching content in my part of the world. Contemporary music, light lyrics and topical sermons are the order of the day in evangelical churches.

Here are but two examples of the light lyrics, in my understanding:

Air I Breathe[6]

This is the Air I Breathe
This is the Air I Breathe
Your holy presence living in me

This is my daily bread
This is my daily bread
Your very word spoken to me

Chorus

And I
I’m desperate for you
And I
I’m lost without you

Never let me go[7]

In the shadows; My spirit weak
Love broke through the darkness and lifted me
And I know you’ll never let me go

In the storm in the raging sea
Love conquered the fear and delivered me
And I know you’ll never let me go

Oh love in the shadows
Be the light who leads me on
You’re love I will follow
Be my guide, You’re will be done
Oh Lord

In the arms of the One unseen
Love carried the cross that was meant for me
And I know you’ll never let me go

Oh love in the shadows
Be the light who leads me on
You’re love I will follow
Be my guide, You’re will be done

Oh Lord I surrender, now forever I’ll be loved
In the love of the Father, You are faithful You are strong
So hold me now, hold me now, hold me now

Nothing in this life has walked these streets
Love opened my eyes show me what You see
And I know I’ll never let You go

Now compare

There is power in the blood

Would you be free from the burden of sin?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you o’er evil a victory win?
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

Refrain

There is power, power, wonder working power
In the blood of the Lamb;
There is power, power, wonder working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb.

Would you be free from your passion and pride?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Come for a cleansing to Calvary’s tide;
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

Refrain

Would you be whiter, much whiter than snow?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Sin stains are lost in its life giving flow.
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

Refrain

Would you do service for Jesus your King?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you live daily His praises to sing?
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

Refrain

How great Thou art

Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works thy hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed;

Refrain:

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
and hear the brook, and feel he gentle breeze;

Refrain

And when I think that God his son not sparing,
Sent him to die – I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:

Refrain

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home- what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, my God, how great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

Do you see the picture of what is happening to music in the evangelical church?

References

Youngblood, R F 1992, 1, 2 Samuel, in F E Gaebelein (gen ed), The expositor’s Bible commentary, vol 3, 553-1104. Youngblood, R F 1992, 1, 2 Samuel, in F E Gaebelein (gen ed), The expositor’s Bible commentary, vol 3, 553-1104. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Music: If it feels good, do it!’ zanness#171, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7739696-18/ (Accessed 2 May 2013).

[2] The following is my response as OzSpen#181, ibid.

[3] The 1978 edition of the NIV translated this word as ‘songs’. Youngblood explains: ‘”Songs” (perhaps of victory….), the singular of Hebrew for which is sometimes equivalent to “music” (cf. 1 Chron 25:6-7) introduces the list of accompanying musical instruments that follows’ (Youngblood 1992:870). It does not make sense to me that the 2011 NIV translated with ‘castanets’, which is not common English here in Australia, when ‘songs’ would be much clearer to the contemporary reader. The ESV translates as ‘songs’ but notes that this is from the ‘Septuagint, 1 Chronicles 13:8, Hebrew fir trees’.

[4] ‘The systrum, mentioned only here in the OT, was used widely throughout the ancient Near East, especially in Egypt. It consisted of a handle fitted to “a metal loop with holes through which pieces of wire were inserted and bent at the ends. Since the holes were larger than the wire, the instrument produced a jingling sound when shaken. The Hebrew word comes from a verb which means ‘shake;’ so it is reasonable to suppose that the mea’an’im were sistra (Sellers, “Musical Instruments of Israel,” pp. 44-45)’ (Youngblood 1992:870).

[5] ‘”Cymbals” were of two kinds, one set of which were struck vertically (harsh/noisy cymbals) and the other horizontally (clear cymbals). The former may be reflected in the “clash of cymbals” and the latter in the “resounding cymbals” of Psalm 150:5. The cymbals here were probably clear cymbals (similar to but smaller than their modern descendants, bronze examples of which (cf. 1 Chron. 15:19) archaeologists have found at several cites in Israel (e.g. Beth Shemesh …; Hazor. While not mentioning sistrums, the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 13:8 concludes the list with “trumpets,” resulting in a total of six different musical instruments used to accompany the first attempt to bring the ark from Kiriath Jearim to Jerusalem’ (Youngblood 1992:870).

[6] Available at AlltheLyrics: http://www.allthelyrics.com/lyrics/hillsong/air_i_breathe-lyrics-829435.html (Accessed 2 May 2013).

[7] Available at AlltheLyrics: http://www.allthelyrics.com/lyrics/hillsong/never_let_me_go-lyrics-1037607.html (Accessed 2 May 2013).

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 April 2016.