October 5, 2015

Judaism is Not Christianity II: Jesus the Rabbi?

As I’ve already alluded to in the previous post concerning the fact that Judaism is not Christianity, the main difference between the Jew and Christian is quite simple.

Jesus was the expected Jewish Messiah.

The Jews do not believe this but Christians do. This is where my focus will remain because it is the most important issue at hand for salvation of all men. The centrality of Jesus...right in the middle of the Jewish/Hebrew Bible and in the center of Christian Scripture also. The difference is an issue of recognizing the facts or seeing the reality in facts already given. So it is with the subtlest irony that I use the story of Nicodemus and Jesus to make a point because Nicodemus had all the facts given to him by Jesus but still didn't fully understand. This would be the same story for most of the Jews to this day. Here in this most current post I will address the issue of whether or not Jesus was a Rabbi.

Scripture refers to Jesus as Rabbi in a multiple places. He was referred to as Rabbi by His peers like Nicodemus. We see in the evening meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus that Jesus accepted this title also.

John 3:1-3 ~ Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.  He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

Jesus was a rabbi (teacher) but He also happened to be a unique rabbi. He was One that was capable of opening the eyes of the blind, healing the cripples and sick and invariably, he could raise the dead…including Himself. This was no ordinary rabbi. The Apostles viewed Jesus as a Rabbi. They also viewed Him as Messiah. Jesus wasn’t just a rabbi/teacher He was divine. He is also called Messiah by Peter. Again, Jesus accepts this title without any rebuke of Peter.

Mark 8:27-30 ~ Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Jesus was what amounted to a rabbi when he attended the Synagogue as evidence by His reading of the scroll of Isaiah in Luke 4.

Luke 4:14-21~ “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.  He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

So was Jesus a Rabbi in the sense of being a teacher of the Mosaic Law? I would have to say yes. The biblical evidence all seems to affirm this. But as we will read later in Hebrews, Jesus was a Rabbi of supernatural origins with a supernatural mission. That too is affirmed by Scripture. Was Jesus a Rabbi in the traditional Jewish sense? Was He an academic scholarly type? Did He study the additional Oral Laws around God’s true law that essentially put a fence around God’s Law so people couldn’t even approach the law (except Pharisees and Sadducees)? No. We see that He is essentially viewed as a country bumpkin even by his peers right in Nazareth. I mean, what happened after He read the scroll of Isaiah in Luke 4?

Luke 4:22 ~ All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.  “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

Jesus’ peers were in disbelief. They were amazed by what He had said acting in the capacity of Rabbi yet they could not see or understand the source of the power and authority in His words. They too understood him to be an apt and agile teacher/rabbi but couldn’t understand how an unschooled non-scholarly country bumpkin had become so profound and erudite. It totally baffled them. Had they considered is divine nature, they would've understood.

So, was Jesus a teacher? Yes. Was Jesus an expounder and supporter of the Jewish Oral Law? No. Jesus was more interested in getting people to understand the principles and ideas behind the existing Old Testament Mosaic Laws than obeying legalistic rules that did not get to the heart of God’s Law. That is why we would often hear Jesus say, “You’ve heard it said, but I say to you…”

On the flip side we need to also realize that Jesus is not a Reverend either. A Shepherd? Yes. He said he was the Good Shepherd. A Minister of God’s word. Yes, he ministered or attendant to the spiritual needs of His people? Yes. A minister as a title of a denomination? No. So in a way Jesus was more a Jewish Rabbi than a Christian Pastor to those He taught during His stay on Earth. That's because those that He taught...if they were not Gentile, they were Jewish...even the Apostles and Disciples. So it it better to understand Jesus in the role of a Rabbi.

October 1, 2015

Ezekiel’s Strange Vision Wasn’t So Strange

Of all the Scripture passages we can turn to for strange circumstances, the enigmatic vision that opens the book of Ezekiel in the first chapter might be first on the list. However, once reading this passage with its original ancient contexts in mind reveals a powerful and interesting message not only for its original readers/hearers but also for every believer. The trick is gathering its surrounding biblical, cultural and historical evidences and figuring out where they point in the most reasoned fashion. People do not exist in a cultural vacuum. They are affected by their own culture and the culture of others. I can assure you of one thing. What I believe they do not point at is visions of the demonic or of alien origin (at least aliens from outer space). You are free to disagree.

Let’s look at the context. 

Culturally and historically, it is a Babylonian context. Ezekiel had his vision in Babylon. He was one of the captive exiles. When we do even a little historical study of Babylonian history, astrology and religion I believe this cryptic Bible passage begins to decipher itself. Ezekiel’s vision contains Babylonian iconography and symbolism if one looks at it with Babylonian eyes (see what I did there?). God often gives visions to people in their setting in life in images they can understand so they are easier to interpret and not misunderstand. I mean, what good is a vision or prophecy if no one understands it? 

I believe Ezekiel saw a divine “throne chariot” of the heavens. These chariots were widely described in the ancient biblical world. Just as human kings had chariots, so did deities. Supposedly, god’s (not just Babylonian ones) would traverse the heavens in chariot throne inspecting and exercising authority over it. Also in the vision the throne sits atop an “expanse” (Ezekiel 1: 26), the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 1: 6 for the heavens specifically created by God in the Creation account.

The “wheels” are what supported the chariot throne, along with four unusual creatures (identified as cherubim in Ezekiel 10: 4. Keep in mind Ezekiel is using his known contexts and knowledge to describe a scene to other exiled Hebraic minds here. Each creature had four faces: human, lion, eagle, and ox in Ezekiel 1:10. Adjacent the cherub were four gleaming wheels in Ezekiel 1: 15– 16. They had wheels within them or each one had at least one concentric circle within it. Additionally the outer edge, or “rim,” of each wheel had “eyes”. It should be noted here that Daniel (also a Babylonian exile) described the very same blazing throne with wheels in Daniel 7: 9.

So what’s up with the wheels within wheels and eyes? If we look to Babylonian history, religion and myths we will quickly find that these animals who Ezekiel calls cherubim (because he had no other context) are easily identified. The human, lion, eagle, and ox are the images or icons of the Babylonian zodiac and are also known as a tetramorph. A tetramorph is a symbolic arrangement of four differing elements, or the combination of four disparate elements in one unit. By seeing this, the passage immediately takes on a distinct heavenly and celestial flavor.

Babylonian (and other) archaeological evidence exists showing that early man divided the four quarters of the horizon, or space, later a place of sacrifice, such as a temple, and attributed characteristics and spiritual qualities to each quarter. It is interesting to note that this same type of tetramorph is also outlined in Revelation. Each quadrant or sector equal to one quarter of a circle represented a seasonal constellation in Babylonian astrology. Each face or constellation mentioned here also represented one of the four cardinal directions or quadrants: North, South, East or West. Through observation the Babylonians (like the Israelites) seemed to understand that the heavens and heavenly bodies were often connected to what happened on earth. In other words: Times, seasons, crops, weather, tides, etc. Instead of things like gravitational fields and the like, Babylonians believed their gods controlled those functions.

Furthermore, extensive data about the stars had been laid out on Mesopotamian astrolabes or clay tablets whose concentric circles could well correspond to the “wheels within wheels” imagery (as pictured). This data and these tablets and tables stockpiled in Babylonian libraries is where we would eventually get the idea of “gazerim" or "dividers" or as they are called in our Bible..."soothsayers". Soothsayers who divided the heavens into constellations or "houses" for orientation, astronomical and astrological purposes. It is believed by many learned people that the astronomers of Babylon published a monthly table of the leading events that might be expected to happen. 

We have a similar corollary in today’s world…the zodiac and our horoscopes. As a matter of fact the term zodiac derives from Latin word zōdiacus, which in turn comes from the Greek phrase ζῳδιακὸς κύκλος or zōdiakos kuklos, meaning "circle of animals", derived from the stem ζῶον / zōon "animal". The name is driven by the fact that half of the original signs of the classical Greek zodiac were divided into zodiacal ecliptics and were placed into groupings of stars (constellations/celestial sphere/eliptic) and were represented as animals.

But I digress…

English translations of Ezekiel’s vision though often breaks down and ceases to make sense at the point where the prophet describes “eyes” on the rims of the wheels. The word for eyes in Hebrew occurs a number of places in the vision, but it is not always translated. Taking the ESV as an example, the Hebrew word occurs six times in Ezekiel 1:4, 7, 16, 18, 22, 27. In the vision’s description of the wheels, the word eyes is translated once as “sparkling” in Ezekiel 10: 9. Since ancient Babylonian astronomical texts commonly describe shining stars as "eyes" we can understand how eyes could potentially refer to stars because of their twinkling or sparkling appearance.

So what is the meaning of the vision for the Israelites during their time of exile. Having studied this I have come to the conclusion that even the devout in faith within the body of captives might have easily believed God had abandoned them forever and the Babylonian powers were here to stay. Likewise, the Babylonians could have easily assumed their gods had defeated the One True God and was the one who really ruled the heavens unopposed. Ezekiel’s imagery sends a completely different message to the Jews and the Babylonians that would heed Ezekiel’s vision.

God was not dead nor defeated. He had not turned away from his people. He [God] remained seated in His chariot throne at the center of His domain as seen in the vision and his dominion and rule was the entire heavenly realm and earth as seen in the vision. In other words: Even in the midst of difficult circumstances, we can know that an all-powerful God is active and present in our lives and he is definitely in control.

So we see that Ezekiel's vision might not have been so strange after all. Sometimes the simplest or easiest answer is often the best one. It wasn't alien spaceships or demons in strange futuristic vehicles. It might very well have been God showing Himself to be in total control of both heavens and earth. It is an idea that is clearly more consistent with Biblical principles and other biblical teachings rather than little green men from another planet or the Devil driving a hot rod across the sky.

September 25, 2015

The 50 Main Differences Between Catholicism and Protestantism

My job as a teacher of the Bible is to teach the truth and principles of properly exegeted and interpreted Scripture. As such, because the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) is all over the media it seemed like a good time to bring up a few points. This will be another post sure to win me no friends and elicit a flurry of accusations of "harsh" and "unloving" because most prefer to live in an ecumenical world that is mostly a patchwork quilt of disparate and errant feel good theology that is a mile distant of God's word. 

Well, here it goes.

The Pope will be in town tomorrow and millions will fawn over his presence in adulation as if he is deity in a form of Cult of Personality. So now seemed like a good time to post this because this type of adulation towards a man with dubious theological leanings is very dangerous to people's salvation. 

To all my friends in the Roman Catholic Church, know I love you and that is exactly why I post this. If anyone would like to discuss these facts, I will be willing to do so if I'm not personally attacked. Please understand I am not attacking you or the RCC, I am merely pointing out how Protestantism (therefore I) differs from Catholic doctrine/dogma. I will back up every single one of these Scriptural non-conformities with Scriptural proof if I need to. I merely excluded them here to avoid a post of encyclopedic length.

The following are 50 points where Protestantism (therefore I) depart from Catholicism’s dogma and doctrine. There many others but I needed to cut the list off somewhere and these are the primary ones that come to mind when I explain to my Catholic friends why I am not Catholic. These are points of contention where I completely disagree with Roman Catholicism. From my theological perspective, these must be considered false teaching and contrary to Scripture. Some are outright heresy (there, I said it).

The one true measure of all things…including the Roman Catholic Church is Scripture (Sola Scriptura). These dogma/doctrine are where the RCC departs from a Scriptural divine benchmark given by God and they veer off into the side roads of unbiblical man-made traditions. Adherence to a majority of these can endanger or could compromise people’s salvation which is why I list them. 

Please note that this is not a small list or deviation from Scripture but a large pronounced one. The size of just this abbreviated list shows a consistent pattern of deviation from Scripture over a long period of time (centuries). As time has elapsed the deviations increase in number and intensity. I believe that is because once one departs from the infallibility of Scripture they must continually add more and more to cover their mistakes and still be logically and rationally consistent. The Catholic Church has now reached a point of no return in that some of their dogma and Papal bulls are near the point of incredulousness or impossible to believe. If an institution and its leader are infallible, why all the addendum, revisionism and supplemental decrees? It defies logic.

To those that will malign me for posting this, I would be remiss if I loved someone and did not try to protect them from what I view as a danger to them. I mention these things knowing they are error and jeopardize people’s eternal salvation. Of course, as we have learned from this most recent Pope who is an adherent of Liberation Theology from South and Central America, the emphasis of some doctrines over others is a regional thing. Some of the dogma/doctrine/traditions practiced by some Catholics will not be practiced by others. Regardless, I denounce all 50 of the following on Scriptural grounds.

God as my witness, I am using my gift as a teacher/pastor and exegete here as God intended. I too will be held accountable on judgment day. As Martin Luther said, "I can do no less."

1.      The Catholic Church is the one true church (CCC 2105)
2.     Infallibility of the Catholic Church, (CCC 2035)
3.     Papal Infallibility (1870 AD)
4.     Only the Roman Catholic Church has authority to interpret Scripture (CCC 100)
5.     The Pope is the head of the church and has the authority of Christ (CCC 2034)
6.     The Roman Catholic Church is necessary for salvation (CCC 846)
7.     Tradition equal to Scripture (CCC 82)
8.     Forgiveness of sins, salvation, is by faith and works (CCC 2036 CCC 2080 2068)
   a.     Supererogation
9.     True salvation only thru Catholic Church (Vatican 2, Decree on Ecumenism, 3)
10.  Grace can be merited (CCC 2010, CCC 2027)
11.   The merit of Mary and the saints can be applied to Catholics and others (1477)
12.  Penance is necessary for salvation (CCC 980)
13.  Purgatory (CCC 1031 CCC 1475)
14.  Indulgences (CCC 1471 CCC 1478 CCC 1498 CCC 1472)
15.  Mary is Mediatrix (CCC 969)
   a.     Other Mediators Between God and Man
16.  Mary brings us the gifts of eternal salvation (CCC 969)
17.  Ever Virgin or the tradition that Mary was celibate her entire life.
18.  Mary delivers souls from death (CCC 966)
19.  Mary veneration (Worship)
20. The Assumption of Mary
21.  Mary as the Queen of Heaven
22. Fatima or apparitions/appearance of the Virgin Mary to people
23. Pronouncement of anathema
24. Baptismal regeneration.
25. Transubstantiation, communion becomes actual body and blood of Christ
   a.     Consecration of the Host
26. Confession of sins to priest for absolution of sins
27. Celibacy of priests and nuns (1079 AD)
28. Confirmation
29. Extreme unction (526 AD)
30. Infant baptism (370 AD)
31.  Limbo or the place where unbaptized infants may go upon death. 
32. Adoration of the Host (Wafer Bread) (1220 AD)
33. The Mass (394 AD)
34. Sacrifice of the Mass
35. Prayers to Saints (Veneration/Worship) (375 AD)
36. Prayers for the Dead
37.  Idolatry-Making Images (786 AD)
38. Catholic Attitudes to the Bible (1229 AD)
39. Peter as the Rock or Foundaiton of the Churh
40. Apostolic Succession
   a.     Primacy
41.  Apocryphal Books as Canonize Scripture in support of purgatory, indulgences
42. Names of Blasphemy (350 AD)
43. Rosary Prayer Beads (1090 AD)
   a.     The Crucifix with the Body of Christ on it.
44. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary
45. Crossing Oneself (300 AD)
46. Beatification
47.  Asceticism or Monasticism as a Work to Gain Favor with God.
48. Who Gave Us the Bible? God or the Roman Catholic Church?
49. Seven Sacraments. There are two in Scripture. The Lords Supper and Baptism.
50. Belief in Stigmata

September 23, 2015

Are Guardian Angels In the Bible?

I will admit at the beginning of this post that some people in my life that are really important to me including my mother have asked if it is biblical to believe in guardian angels or if they are even in the Bible. Is there a Biblical precedence? My mom had always assumed it was true but since receiving my theology degree, she and others have begun to question me more often on long assumed traditions and beliefs including things like the End Times and, well, angels and such. By questioning me they have refined or reinforced their own beliefs. They question me because they trust me to speak the truth on things that matter to them and they know I usually leave no stone unturned.

As for guardian angels, my mother had even gone to the extent of put an old painting from Lindberg Heilige Schutzengel above my bed (as above). It is a guardian angel protecting two young children walking over a bridge. It will probably be familiar to many of my readers over 40 yrs old. 

Well, I am here to tell you that, yes, it is biblical to believe that guardian angels exist even if they are not so named in Scripture. In all likelihood though they probably do not look like the image above. Nearly all of the occasions when they become visible they usually look like regular people (Lot, Abraham, Jacob, etc).

Jesus’ own words in Matthew 18: 10 clarify this issue pretty well. From Jesus’ very mouth we see an affirmation that angels who act on behalf of God participate in the affairs or mankind…often to protect them.

Matthew 18:10 ~“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.

Is this just Matthew’s fanciful understanding of something Jesus said? Probably not. If we go back to the book of Job we will indeed see that angels are often intermediaries between God and men. In Job 5:1 we see Eliphaz challenge Job. How?

Job 5:1 "Call if you will, but who will answer you? To which of the holy ones will you turn?

He dares Job to call on anyone who might answer him and asks him to which of the holy ones he would chose to turn to. Holy ones is plural and assumes this has to be something other than God or man. There is only one other being created holy: Angels. Eliphaz makes a presumption that angels would act as intermediaries between God and Job. As such. This understanding of angels was commonplace in the time of the Old Testament.

It is quite clear that people have angels watching over them. This verse is often interpreted to mean that it is only children. We must never forget that we are all God’s children. At the same time this doesn’t mean that all people have an angel watching over them from the time they are conceived to the time they die either. There is no implication here that each and every person has a “guardian angel” nor can this be found in places like Daniel 3:28 and Daniel 6:22. What it does say is that there are heavenly spiritual beings that are committed to heirs in salvation. The key to this passage and its focal point is not so much the angel but one whom the angel is over…the little ones. The Greek  does not say τέκτων/tekton or children it says μικρὸν/micron from which we get the word mirco or small, little in size, stature, or length.

What should be seen in this passage is the esteem of which the “little ones” are viewed in Heaven by angels. These “little ones” are held in such an exulted position that there are angels commissioned by God Himself to watch over them at times. In other words, the little ones are important to God and being important to God, they are not to be brushed off as triviality. Anything God deems as important or worthy of notice should also be taken notice of by man. We should never disregard the things that God regards as noteworthy. We should never despise those that have supernatural beings as companions, especially when we don’t know for sure when those beings are present or not. We may or may not be entertaining angels unaware.

Although we no longer need an intermediary between God and men for salvation. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, Jesus now intercedes on our behalf before God (1 Tim 2: 5). But the New Testament (including Jesus Himself) still describe angels as having an immediate ministry to believers, as demonstrated by Hebrews 1: 14: “Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits, sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” The passage in Acts 12 is even more distinct and shows a continued correlation between angels and people. After an angel frees Peter from prison and execution. Furthermore, Peter goes to the house of his fellow believers in Acts 12: 6– 10. Those inside don’t believe the servant girl’s report that he is at the door. They reply, “It is his angel!” (12: 15). This statement testifies to the early Christian belief that humans had angels who acted as a kind of celestial double— attached to a person for their welfare. The concept of angelic guardianship and activity in our lives is something we have often left to the imagination. 

Additionally, we are exhorted to show hospitality to strangers in Hebrews 13 if for no other reason than the fact that we might be giving that hospitality to messengers of God. The word ξενίσαντες "have entertained" or showed hospitality below also carries with it a sense of astonishment and startled surprise. This of course should not be unanticipated, as anyone who ends up encountering supernatural beings tend to become unsettled or stunned. I know I did. When in is the presence of God this bewilderment is infinitely more powerful.

Hebrews 13:2 ~ “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

We know encountering angels is not only possible- it actually happened to people in the Bible in their ordinary lives. When it did happen, it most often made those ordinary lives extraordinary just as it would today. When God sends His own personal messengers to you, you had better believe that something huge or momentous is afoot and moving about in your life. When the people encountered the angels in the Bible, sometimes people were aware they were in the presence of the supernatural and sometimes not. Sometimes they initially didn’t know but came to an awareness of the fact in the course of the events that unfolded.

The bottom-line is that there is a clear pattern in Scripture to affirm that God does indeed have angelic assistants that actively work on our behalf in the spiritual and physical realm.

Some other New Testament passages concerning the early church that stand out in support of the idea of guardian angels are as follows:

[Acts 8:26-39] The Angel of the Lord told Philip to go to Gaza. There Philip met and converted the Ethiopian eunuch.

[Acts 10:1-8]An angel appeared to Cornelius, telling him that God had heard his prayers and that he should send to Joppa for Peter. The angel said Peter would tell Cornelius what he should do.

Paul, sailing to Rome to be tried before Caesar, was in a storm for two weeks. The Angel of God appears to Paul and tells Paul that he must be brought before Caesar [Acts 27:21-25]. The Angel tells Paul not be afraid for he must stand trial before Caesar; and God had graciously given him all the lives of those who sail with him. Paul then exhorts the men to maintain his courage because Paul believed in faith that things would happen just as God had told him.

September 18, 2015

Biblical Conviction or Personal Preference

[Subtitle: Legalism or Liberty] 

I suppose now is a good time to delineate between what is personal preference, personal convictions, Biblical convictions and Biblical belief. All of these delineations are necessary in a Christian’s life and must be properly divided up and understood or things like personal preference and personal convictions (issues of conscience like 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, 10:23-33) turn into legalism. Biblical Convictions and Biblical beliefs need to be delineated from both personal preference and convictions or doctrines can become cultic or doctrines end up being abandoned for heresies.

1 Corinthians 10:23-24 ~ “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

It is best to understand that except for personal preference and person conviction which are subjective and relative to the believer, all other issues become an issue of dogma, objective or absolutes. We are obliged to obey and believe the objective because they are objective truth from an objective God that has provided inerrant Scripture to validate our belief. When in doubt we must consult with Scripture to assure what we believe is correct.

Personal preference and person conviction allow for a bit more freedom and liberty and should not be viewed dogmatically. If people become dogmatic about them it amounts to nothing more than Pharisaical legalism based on their perception of Biblical principles. Furthermore convictions and beliefs can be further broken down into essentials and non-essentials. If these seem confusing I will break it out below into four distinct categories.
  1. Subjective-Personal Convictions-Essential
  2. Subjective-Personal Preferences-Non-Essential
  3. Biblically Objective-Biblical Convictions-Essential
  4. Biblically Objective-Biblical Beliefs-Non-Essential
I may get a little pushback in the personally subjective category but my attitude is where it is not absolutely imperative to salvation, I need to see things with liberty not dogmatism. As with anything, excess, overindulgence or gluttony is never a good thing. Moderation is desired in most situations yet it is still a person’s discretion how much is too much and is dictated by conscience.

So how do these categories break out? Consult the descriptions below. I of course will not list every possible example but merely giving a quick set of examples to base decisions off of. The following I would consider properly categorized concepts, precepts or principles.

Subjective-Personal Convictions (Essential to Individual Believer’s Well-Being):

Alcohol consumption (in limitation or moderation). If you’re going to have a beer have a beer, not a case. If you are out with an alcoholic friend though you should reconsider. Dancing? Really? I need to tell you there is nothing wrong with dancing when it is all over the Bible in worship to God? I should say that the exception to this is today’s “dancing” in nightclubs though is subject to interpretation. Especially some of the drug and alcohol influenced “dancing”. Sexually provocative and sexually suggestive movement and a “bump and grind” isn’t really dancing. It is more akin to a mating ritual and should be avoided. Clothing seems to fit in this area too. What people wear is pretty much their choice. Again it is an issue of moderation or modesty. Does a man wear a tank top to Sunday worship? Does a woman wear a halter top, skin-tight mini skirt and stilettos to the 10:00 service? There is a difference between what is accepted/acceptable and what is inappropriate.

If the clothes distract others from worship, you are causing people to stumble in their walk. Apply commonsense in this situation. Types of education, should children be homeschooled to avoid secular influence or should Christian children attend school to be acclimated to it and to also integrate their Christian worldview into world around them as salt and light? Your call. Politics? Does every Christian need to lean right? Doesn’t pigeonholing Christians to an either/or proposition of left of right defeat Paul’s idea of all things are lawful? Tattoos and music for me fit into this category also.

Subjective-Personal Preferences (Non-Essential to Individual Believer’s Well-Being):

This category is pretty much wide open. In this category I would place value/worth judgments. What kind of car should I buy? Again the clothes enter into this here too. Colors of clothes and styles. Gratuitously sexually suggestive wardrobes might be socially or culturally acceptable but are they appropriate for the Christian? What kind of pet should I have? A dog, cat, snake, lizard, etc. How should I spend my leisure time? Should I keep it personal or perhaps communal? Do I practice hobbies? Engage family? Community service? Do I study the Word of God? Study science? On a lighter note, do I put the toilet paper in so that it will unroll from the top or the bottom? Do I part my hair to the left, right or no part at all? Can a man have long hair and a woman short? You get the picture.

Biblically Objective-Biblical Convictions (Essential to Individual Believer):

This is the category where the ship begins to tighten up. This is where people begin to balk and complain of legalism, dogmatism and a host of other complaints that people claim are unnecessary restrictions on their lives. I suggest that those that would say those words do not fully understand their Bible or theology. These “restrictions” people claim are being forced on them by the Bible (as it were). These issues are now no longer issues of conscience or obeying one’s subjective (personal) measure of morality but issues of disobeying God’s Word and issues of people digressing from God’s objective truth (apostasy). Objective Biblical convictions keep us on the path to holiness and righteousness. Holiness and righteousness which can only be found in God as He is the only true possessor of it and we are ontologically dependent on him for it. Without which we are condemned.

What are the ideas and principles in this category that cannot be negotiable for the Christian? The Trinity. The Deity and humanity of Christ. Holiness of God, Total depravity of Man therefore Original Sin. Man was originally created holy to be in relationship/fellowship with God but fell into sin. Mankind and Creation has therefore been subsequently cursed. Substitutionary atonement in Jesus Christ. Physical Resurrection of Jesus on the third day after death and burial in accordance with Scripture. Salvation by grace through faith alone. Sanctification of believers. Physical return of Christ. Final judgment.

Like it or not a few of the hot-button issues of the culture today fit here too. Why? It’s an issue of obedience to an absolute moral standard without which apostasy and a fall way from God inevitably ensues. Homosexuality and same-sex marriage, abortion and euthanasia reside here as well because they are violations of morality which still apply to humanity from the Old Testament and are upheld morally in Jesus Christ. In other words, anything in the Old Testament Law that continues to make you more holy and pushes you in the direction of God’s attributes of morality and holiness still apply. Civil and ceremonial Laws like seed and/or fabric mixing do not. As they were abrogated or absorbed by Jesus Christ at the Cross.

Biblically Objective-Biblical Beliefs (Non-Essential to Individual Believer):

In our final category we again we loosen up and enjoy the freedom and liberty that a higher umbrella allows. Personal holiness is required by the principles of Scripture but how exactly we go about it is the working-out of our individual salvation (Philippians 2:12-13). What exactly we believe based on interpretation of Scripture is given some leeway in some instances, other times not. In the leeway category we have things like personal holiness and how we pursue it. We’ve been given many options in many aspects of our lives to pursue holiness and our relationship with God. How we live dictates this because the more we incorporate God into our lives the higher the prevalence of moving towards holiness even in our fallen sinful state. How we pray and frequency of prayer is also our choice. More prayer is obviously better but we are not given strict criteria, merely encouraged to do so. We also have the role of women (not in leadership), forms of church government/administration. Even the position of and conditions of the Tribulation and Rapture (Post, Mid, Pre-wrath, Pre, no rapture).

In the “other times not” category we have things like exact type of hermeneutic (conservative or liberal, the Psalms, historical narrative, parables), account of the creation, Calvinist/Arminian debate, etc. Psalms need to be understood as poetry/song. The Genesis account is historical narrative, a letter is a letter and an epistle is an epistle. Where you fall on some of these, is what I believe to be an issue of maturity and holistic comprehension of Scripture. Many will say that knowing exactly whether or not the Creation is based on Gap Theory, Young Earth theory (4000 years old Creation and literal Adam) or Old Earth theory (billions of years old, mythical Adam). 

Many will say it is irrelevant and not worth splitting hairs over but any astute theologian or student of Scripture will note that it is indeed important to know where you stand on a figurative or literal Adam. Why? Because Jesus believed in a literal Adam.

The same goes with the Calvinist / Arminian issue and issues of freewill and predestination. Why? Because your understanding of God’ sovereignty dictates your view on His omnipotence and omniscience. They might  not be strictly salvational issues but they are critical to your relationship with God. Why? Because part of a true relationship with someone is your understanding of them. Real love drives you to want to know the reality of the One you love....or it isn't true or real love. If you don't fully know them how can you fully love them? You only understand and love a part. Hence it is an issue of maturity.

If God is indeed sovereign and in control of time and space…he had to have at least foreknown the outcome to things and should’ve had the ability / control to inevitably affect their outcome. I personally believe in a doctrine or belief of Concurrence in this situation. This merely states that underneath the umbrella of God’s providence, God chooses to condescend and cooperate with created beings and system in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do. In Ephesians 1:11 Paul says that God “accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will.” The word translated “accomplishes” / ἐνεργέω indicates that God “works” or “brings about” all things according to his own will. No event in creation falls outside of his providence. Of course this fact is hidden from our eyes unless we read it in Scripture. Like preservation, God’s work of concurrence is not clearly evident from observation of the natural world around us like His existence is.

September 15, 2015

In Their Own Words XXXVII: Quantum Nihilism -or- Faith To Believe In Nothing

To all the atheists that will go apoplectic or tend towards hysterics every time someone says that atheism is a religion I present to you a statement from George Klein (an atheist)…

“I am an atheist. My attitude is not based on science, but rather on faith. . . The absence of a Creator, the non-existence of God is my childhood faith, my adult belief, unshakable and holy.” - George Klein ‘The Atheist in the Holy City.’

At least Klein is being philosophically and intellectually honest with his statement. Atheism is nothing new, and yes, it’s a religion. It is a belief system or a religion of "no God". A religion being defined as a set of beliefs that dictate a person’s worldview or perception of reality that can include the following characteristics: A material dimension/aspect, ritual/rituals, ethics/virtue, doctrinal beliefs of philosophies, a social dimension, a logical basis and a narrative or meta-narrative.

When confronted with the statement that their belief is a religion an atheist's retort is usually along the line of: "If atheism is a religion, then not playing baseball is a sport." Although this is an adroit and ingenious response, it is telling of the mindset of the atheist. They view atheism as an ontological negative or absence of belief not an actual belief. They are in error intellectually. One of the prerequisites for being a religion does not require that a deity be affirmed or believed in. It requires that one have a set of beliefs that are adhered to (in most cases in a dogmatic manner...just like atheists do). A case in point similar to atheism is Buddhism. Buddhism is non-theistic. For all basic purposes, Buddhism is atheistic yet it is considered a religion. Atheists therefore believe there is no God and that takes a leap of faith just as much as believing that God exists. Operative word: Believe/Belief. No empirical facts to back up the claim. Denial of something does not make it not exist. It is just a shifting of the burden of proof.

Furthermore, many of the attributes of religion are also manifested in atheism. Included in the list:

They have a worldview--they are naturalists or materialists. They believe that the physical universe is all that exists. They have a dogmatic orthodoxy---If you step outside of it you are mercilessly beat down. They believe that science (scientific method) can explain everything and that no other source of information is acceptable to glean objective data/information from. As mentioned previously they believe it is possible for an adherent of their belief system to apostatize---If you digress from the naturalist explanations you are considered apostate and ostracized from scientific ranks similar to excommunication. They have a meta-narrative: Evolution and mutation and in some really eccentric cases Panspermia (again, a belief or theory, no empirical data). They even have prophets and messiahs: Marx, Engels, Darwin, Nietzsche, Russell, etc.  They have fundamentalist preachers and evangelists too: Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, etc.

When we view atheism in light of the last paragraph we see that atheism is not just the lack of belief in a god, but an outright assertion about the non-existence of any gods, spirits, divinity or supernatural beings. It indeed is a worldview or philosophy devoid or nearly devoid of metaphysics. Atheists in this sense are fundamentalist in their physical naturalism
Sola Fide Scientia! They make overarching claims to things they cannot know for sure, therefore they can only arrive at their conclusions through (imagine this)…a faith or belief in something not provable through experimentation or observable. They make just as much of a Kierkegaardian "leap of faith" as any religious person does. As long as there has been a man around arrogant enough to deny God exists, there has been atheism. When they make the leap of faith to proclaim no God, they are also making an epistomological leap leaving the physical realm and firmly planting a foot into the realm of theology and metaphysics. Atheists making theological statements. How novel.

Atheism in the truest sense is a philosophical position which asserts that no supernatural beings or forces exist. Yet they have no proofs for said assertions. Instead, atheists contend that all phenomena in the universe, including human thought and morality are products of either nature, evolution or mutation. They cannot possibly have no divine origin. To atheists we are nothing but the sum product of atomic and chemical reaction slowly drifting through the darkened cosmic void (stellar wasteland). Because of this, most hard atheists do not believe in the existence of a human soul that survives death nor a “life spark” that makes a person more than the sum of their atom, molecules or cells. In theological terms they are Annihilationists.

How utterly depressing and nihilistic.

Interestingly, modern atheism has been inexorably predisposed and manipulated by the writings of the atheist prophets Marx, Freud, and Friedrich Nietzsche. All of these secular prophets saw Judeo-Christian religion/values as a socieo-cultural human creation. For the most part they saw religions as being created out of evolutionary necessity. In the end they all saw religions as vestiges of the past and were now holding humanity back from advancing.  Marx believed religion functioned like a drug to keep people enslaved to the ruling class. He called it the “Opium/Opiate of the Masses”. Freud more boldly asserted that "religion was an illusion". Nietzsche ignorantly proclaimed that "God was dead".  All of them believed in atheism and a focus on the self/humanity in some form believing this was necessary to overcome human suffering and to reach a climax of human potential. This of course is strangely akin to Saṃsāra commonly known in Buddhism as the wheel/cycle of suffering. Samsara being the move away from ignorance characterized by suffering and anxiety and towards liberation. Yet never once did these educated men see their belief systems for what they were: A tired and true religion. 

I imagine it must take a lot of energy to maintain such a stalwart front of nihilistic belief in the face of such obvious natural revelation from God in the world around the atheist. It is as if one deliberately, in faith, tries insanely hard to believe in nothing. They try in vain to suppress the truth (Romans 1:18-23). It must be truly exhausting to believe in a zero-sum-game against the mounting evidences of supernatural origin in the complexity of cells, DNA and the other-worldliness of the sub-atomic or Quantum realm.

The principal and perhaps sole intellectual driving force behind the rise of the new militant westernized atheistic jihad has been the false idea that concrete, testable data is the exclusive portal to reliable beliefs. This is false and irrational. Nonsense remains nonsense; even when it is uttered by world-renowned scientists and so-called "highly educated" people.

If we look into the recent past we would've seen more rational, reasonable and logical statements from respected scientists like Max Plank (1858-1947). Plank being the intellectual equivalent of all the intellectual "titans" mentioned thus-far. He made a statement about the intrinsic role of faith. Faith not only in religion (which is sort of implied between the lines of Plank's statement) but also having faith to believe some of the things that are seen in nature and science. I'm guessing Plank would’ve known best because he was one of the first to deal with the strange world of Quanta. Plank realized that we ourselves are part of the mystery that is reality and we cannot even fully explain that, yet science tries to explain things in a conspicuous absence of God. This in light of the fact that we cannot even fully figure out the things we can see that God created which are the effect of an obvious cause.

Plank, patriarch of Quantum Theory wrote the following:

“Anybody who has seriously been engaged in scientific work of any kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science are written the words: Ye must have faith. It is a quality which the scientist cannot dispense with… Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. That is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of nature and therefore a part of the very mystery that we are trying to solve.” ~Max Plank

{Addendum: Sorry folks, I called the post Quantum Nihilism as a tongue-in-cheek joke. I am merely mimicking science's proclivity to ostentatiously name theories with over the top multi-syllable words to make overly simplistic theories seem important when they are nothing more than outright nonsense. The second part of the title is more in line with the context of this blog post. :) }
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