H is for Hope

Millions of people across the nation observed the recent American Solar Eclipse. For Christian believers, several biblical verses came to mind.  These verses have to do with the signs of the times and the coming fulfillment of the believers hope in Christ. Sharing scripture on Twitter, Franklin Graham tweeted

“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” Luke 21:28

The tumultuous events in the US and worldwide punctuated by the eclipse draw us to reflect on prophecy as reminders of the hope we share as believers. Although there are great debates among Christian scholars as to the real meaning of many of these prophecies, this does not dilute or distort the reality of our hope built upon the word of God and established in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

The Divine Message Of The August Eclipse

The Sun Will Be Darkened: A Brief Survey of Apocalyptic Symbolism

In this post, we want to invite you to explore hope, what it is and where it is found. This is not a comprehensive journey through the concept of hope. However, the links below will guide you to sources where hope and its implications are examined in detail and perhaps you will choose to make your life a journey of hope!

In his article “Hope” J. Hampton Keathley III, Th.M. graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary defines hope as a feeling, an expectation, a desire for something to happen or to be true.

“Hope may refer to the activity of hoping, or to the object hoped for—the content of one’s hope. By its very nature, hope stresses two things: (a) futurity, and (b) invisibility. It deals with things we can’t see or haven’t received or both. It is a confident expectation of something we cannot see or that we have not received yet.”

The Christian believers hope is built on trust in God and His word. The humanist/naturalist hope is built on trust in reason and matter alone.

In the article “What About Hope?” at The Humanist.com, Lawrence Rifkin writes about his inability to provide an answer to a middle-aged woman when she asked the question “What about hope?” The answers Lawrence presented her with were bright and clear and positive but left the woman unconvinced. After another attempt at answering the question, Lawrence came to the conclusion that he could convincingly present humanism as a source of hope.

Here are a few of his answers to the question.

The humanist worldview is filled with hope. We may be made of matter, but we decide what matters.” 

“Humanism is about possibilities. Without some grand supernatural plan or destiny, the future is open. Possibility means the door for hope and change and goodness is open.”

“The fact that we can try to change ourselves, other people, and the world—and make it a better place through reason and compassion—is a fundamental wonder of being human, and can be celebrated. It is a cause for hope and wisdom.”

“So let’s admit straight out: humanism is not about hope. It’s about facing the world as it actually exists and making the best of it.”

The clue to humanists/naturalists inability to give any human hope is clear, it is all about the human. It denies the reality of God and our relationship to Him. These beliefs set us adrift in the cosmos of human confusion and delusion, by abandoning the very anchor of our souls, in fact denying that we are souls.

The confusion rest in the fact that without a comprehensive objective guide to understanding life, meaning and morality we are left to create our own. The delusion is the fact that many believe we are capable of deciding “what matters” and what is good and have no need of looking outside the box for answers.

The track record of humans living inside the box without any help is tragic. One only has to look at the Holocaust to realize that in the absence of God, morality is but a human convention, morality is subjective and non- binding. There is no hope in the foundational principles of humanism because it denies the source of hope and that is the supernatural reality of God. God is not contained within our box of reason and nature. He is the creator of reason and nature and beyond Him there is nothing else.

Hope for the humanists is not a reality because by definition hope is invisible and they will not allow themselves to hope in something unseen.

Romans 8:24

“For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with endurance” NET

It is like two captains wives watching from the cliffs over the sea. One sees her husband’s ship and declares “there he is” her hope has been fulfilled. The other waits in hope that her husband’s ship is close behind yet cannot see it but her daughter who is at higher vantage point behind her yells out “ I see him, he is coming! ”. Will this wife deny what her daughter saw and leave the cliffs without hope?

This is what the Word of God does for us – it yells out to us “I see him, he is coming”.

Rev 1:7

“Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him—even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the world will mourn for him. Yes! Amen! ”

Without a belief in the Creator and His Word, we are left with an empty hope in human wisdom. Humanist believe that humans are capable of doing good without God. Their hope is misplaced because of the fact humans who do not acknowledge God are without hope.

Can we be good without God?

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/can-we-be-good-without-god

Romans 3:10-12

“No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.”

J.Hampton Keathley writes

 “There are a number of warnings in Scripture against putting our hope in anything other than the Lord because these things will leave us ashamed, frustrated, disappointed, and in ruin.”

Job 8:11-15

“Can the papyrus grow up without marsh? Can the rushes grow without water? While it is still green and not cut down, Yet it withers before any other plant. So are the paths of all who forget God, And the hope of the godless will perish, Whose confidence is fragile, And whose trust a spider’s web. He trusts in his house, but it does not stand; He holds fast to it, but it does not endure.”

The first of several points that Keathley makes is that “hope depends on knowing the Word of God”

Romans 15:4

“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Colossians 1:5-6

“because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel, which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth;”

Proverbs 30:5 tells us that

“Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection.”

New Living Translation

2 Tim 3:14-17

“But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”    New Living Translation

https://thehumanist.com/magazine/january-february-2012/first-person/what-about-hope

Key Summary Points

The humanist/naturalist has no hope because he:

  • Has no belief in the supernatural
  • Does not acknowledge God
  • Has no belief in the afterlife
  • Will not recognize the fallen nature of man
  • Will not recognize the promises of God
  • Will not recognize the life of hope attested to in Gods Word past, present and future
  • Attempts to do good without God
  • Denies the saving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  • Denies eternal life with or without Christ

https://bible.org/article/hope

The believer has hope because he

  • Believes in the supernatural
  • Acknowledges God
  • Believes in the afterlife
  • Recognizes the fallen nature of man
  • Recognizes the promises of God
  • Recognizes the life of hope attested to in Gods Word past, present and future
  • Attempts to do good with the power of the Holy Spirit of God
  • Affirms the saving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  • Affirms eternal life with or without Christ

Where is your hope?

 

Luke 21:28

The Divine Message Of The August Eclipse                                     http://www.unsealed.org/2017/06/the-divine-message-of-august-eclipse.html

The Sun Will Be Darkened: A Brief Survey of Apocalyptic Symbolism by Jeffrey T. McCormack Delivered 05/28/17 http://www.bereanbiblechurch.org/transcripts/topical/sun-will-be-darkened-apocalyptic-symbolism.htm

“Hope” J. Hampton Keathley III,

“What About Hope” by Lawrence Rifkin                               https://thehumanist.com/magazine/january-february-2012/first-person/what-about-hope

Romans 8:24

Rev 1:7

“Can We Be Good Without God?”  by William Lane Craig                                               http://www.reasonablefaith.org/can-we-be-good-without-god

Romans 3:10-12

Job 8:11-15

Romans 15:4

Colossians 1:5-6

Proverbs 30:5

2 Tim 3:14-17

 

F is for Faith

What is Faith?

Faith is the personal and active expression of what we believe is true, it is trust and hope in the physical and/or the invisible based upon reason and knowledge. Our faith experience begins at birth. We bond with our parents, mother first and then our father. Being so dependent and having little choice, we develop a faith in them knowing they will provide our every need. We cry when the needs are not met and are comforted as they are. This faith grows and is based upon past experience, knowledge and love. Good parents will want to assure their child that they love them and can be trusted to provide for their needs and the faith of the child in them is justified and desired.

The great theologian and philosopher St Augustine said “Thou hast created us for thyself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee.” We are created with an emptiness that must be filled with something. In filling our innate spiritual need we turn to the supernatural and put our faith in things invisible. In the days of Nero the infamous ruler of Rome, the Apostle Paul visits and debates with the teachers and leaders of thought. He sees that the people have many gods who control or represent many things. They have established for themselves a god for the river, a god for thunder, god of the sun, moon and sky. Their daily conversations where about pleasing the multiple gods they had put their faith in. Paul points at the inscription they had for the unknown god, and declares this is the God of creation, the God of all things seen and unseen, this is the one true God. He tells them of Jesus Christ and many become believers. Paul’s faith was made complete and effective when he realized as Jesus had said, there is but one way to a relationship with God and that is through His son Jesus who is Emmanuel, or God with us. Today as in Paul’s day many continue to insist they have a way to please their god and a way to ultimate fulfillment or nirvana. Many of us live in doubt and fear that we have not been as morally good as we would like to be and anguish over our relationship with God. There are those who count it all foolishness, denying the existence of a moral law giver claiming moral relativity while pointing out the moral failings of others, picking and choosing the absolute of the day. All of us have a desire to fill the void of the soul. Faith in Jesus affirms that God has reached out to man and in His love has done the work for us.

Christians come to faith in God based upon our understanding of scripture and the revelation of Jesus. As we read through the Bible we come to passages that inform us of the reality of Jesus and His life death and resurrection. Based upon evidence, facts and reason we build up knowledge and assurance that Christ is Lord and Savior. It is by trusting in what you know based upon evidence, facts and reason that you develop a personal relationship with God. This relationship is only possible by investing yourself in what you know is true. In today’s culture biblical faith is under assault and abused in many ways. We will look briefly at where the current dangers are in several areas of the life of faith.

 

 People of Faith

As we grow we place our faith in people, family and friends, doctors and teachers, churches and institutions and government. Each of these sincerely want to assure us they can be trusted to provide for our needs. Historically many have suffered at the hands of those who manipulate and abuse this faith. Those who survived the latest communist and statist regimes of persecution, tyranny, death and suffering attest to the fact that they had mistakenly succumbed to the promises of a brighter future where all the needs of the populace would be met. They had misplaced their faith.

There is a world movement gaining momentum embraced by world leaders to unite all people of faith regardless of what their faith is in. We read a warning in the Bible from 2 Timothy 3:1-17 that speaks of deception in the last days.

“They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

He continues  “They have depraved minds and a counterfeit faith.”

The Christian faith is exclusive of all other faith claims. We must stand firm in this distinction and lovingly point out where the truth claims of other faiths miss the mark. For this reason through the ages Christians have suffered persecution.

“Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived.

“But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” 2 Tim 3:12-16

In following the faith that we know is true we are confronted with truth claims from other faiths. We must be prepared to give them a reason for what we believe and allow the Holy Spirit to complete the work in bringing them to a saving faith in Christ Jesus. One major distinction of our faith vs all others is that we are saved by grace not by works.

“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” Eph 2:8-9

This is a concept that is not embraced in the personal sense by any other faith, or religion including but not limited to Catholics, Jews, and Muslims. This truth is certainly not understood in the eastern religions and philosophies and even some supposedly Christian denominations and other faith institutions such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

 

Faith and Freedom

For the Christian a secure faith is found in the liberty of Christ. As the recipients of a supernatural redemption we are free to live out the forgiveness, mercy and grace Christ has brought us. Our faith is in the one who set us free from bondage to our fallen nature and to death. Thus the Christian may

“Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and don’t be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” Gal 5:1.

We are no longer tossed to and fro by the deceptive propaganda of the oppressive state which seeks only to control and build it’s empire of power and lust, it’s ultimate goal governing the whole world. It is no wonder that Christians suffer persecution from those who are not likely to ever win over our faith. Our freedom and faith in Christ is a threat and an obstacle to the globalist agenda. The followers of other religions whose faith is placed in deities or beliefs other than the state are a stumbling block as well. Thus Communist China’s crackdown on Tibetan Buddhist.

Realizing that completely removing people of faith from the planet is not possible and will always bring about a negative reaction in the form of rebellion and revolution or a state of constant war, these wise leaders are cautiously infiltrating all faiths.

In his article “Patriotism, Piety, and The Perfect Storm” Michael D. Peabody writes how many can be deceived by leaders who usurp the credibility of faith and use it to their advantage in building up the central powers of the state. He gives the example of how Hitler merged Christian themes with nationalism “Hitler had wrapped himself in the nation’s flag and spoken to their Christianity, and though he may not have followed that faith himself, it was a tool he used to persuade and launch his nation on a hellish path.”

Peabody continues with a statement that must be understood as we mature in the faith and we disciple others.

“If religion is to survive in an authoritarian state, it must remain shallow and symbolic, eschewing the intellectual and uplifting the emotional. A would-be dictator finds his greatest strength in associating unquestioning faith with clueless obedience to fabled patriotic prerogative.”

The current tide of relativism paired with a mistaken notion of freedom has made the Christian message more difficult to explain and thus many have abandoned the effort. Our nation no longer enjoys the benefits of a society nurtured and immersed in a Christian consensus. The Marxists proponents of their form of social justice take the emotionally charged new Christian believers hostage and recruit them into building an ever more dependent populace. These leaders have little understanding or need for the true message of Christianity put in place policies and programs which on the surface appear reasonable and charitable yet tear apart the banner of a free and responsible society.

Considering President Obama’s rejection of the Founding vision of the United States, Author Rick Pearcey reminds us of the words of Francis Schaeffer;

“When the Christian consensus died, it left a vacuum, and this will tend to be filled by an elite to form an authoritarian state. When we speak of an authoritarian state, we must not think of the model of Hitler or Stalin, but rather a manipulative authoritarian state. The governments of the world have at their disposal forms of manipulation beyond anything the world has ever known before.”

— Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? DVD, Episode 6, “The Scientific Age”

It is well that we Christians guard and focus our faith in Christ. We must consider that as we allow educational and cultural institutions and government policies to assume more control over our welfare, and lately even our opinions, thoughts and beliefs, we essentially hand over our birthright for a mess of pottage.

In maintaining our faith in Christ we must be alert to deception and discerning of the intents of those we place in positions of power as our representatives. Our faith is indeed a reasonable faith and it has grown and matured and manifested itself in the creation of a form of government like no other. Let us be aware of the consequences of resting quietly in the comfort of our reasonable faith. For the needy world around us is being called to challenge the beliefs of the past and are chopping away at the Judeo Christian values upon which this nation was founded. We are facing an assault from two fronts. One will use our faith deceptively to establish themselves in power and the other will challenge our faith as they seek total liberation from the chains they perceive our faith has bound them in. Are we prepared?

Faith and the Intellect

In the recent past the church has been ignoring the intellectual and embracing the emotional. The focus of teaching has mostly been focused on evangelism with less emphasis on discipleship, engaging the intellect and developing apologetic reasoning. An effective vibrant faith is built with all of the faculties of reason and a spirit filled heart of gratitude and joy, in a sense a Holy Ghost union of the heart and mind, of love and reason.

William Lane Craig writes on the importance of maintaining Christian scholarship at all levels in order to preserve our Christian heritage and to be salt and light in our culture.

“The average Christian does not realize that there is an intellectual war going on in the universities and in the professional journals and scholarly societies. Christianity is being attacked as irrational or obsolete, and millions of students, our future generation of leaders, have absorbed that viewpoint.” Read more

Having absorbed the irrational secular logic of the times and embracing cultural relativism these children are barely approachable with the gospel. For they have been taught that the way forward is progressivism buoyed by the affirmation that absolutes are the cause of strife in all relationships.

Rather than dedicate themselves to the pursuit of truth they are discouraged from this endeavor by being taught that truth does not really matter and claims to truth lead to violence. Craig references this quote from Allen Bloom’s book “The Closing of the American Mind”

“The study of history and of culture teaches that all the world was mad in the past; men always thought they were right, and that led to wars, persecutions, slavery, xenophobia, racism, and chauvinism. The point is not to correct the mistakes and really be right; rather it is not to think you are right at all.

As he describes today’s church as being in intellectual neutral, Craig exhorts us to be engaged in this cultural battle at all fronts.

 “But finally, it is not just Christian scholars and pastors who need to be intellectually engaged if the Church is to make an impact in our culture. Christian laymen, too, must become intellectually engaged.”

 

 

 

Unreasonably Sharing a Reasonable Faith  

A reasonable faith would be one that is guided or affirmed by past experience or knowledge. One may have faith in an individual’s likelihood of responding a certain way in a situation. One may come to assist another in difficult circumstances without hesitation. A person may be relied upon to be supportive in times of need. You may have faith that your uncle will lend you money based on the fact he has done so before.

A reasonable faith may be in regards to nature and physics. Because of past experience you may be confident in assuming that a leap from any height will result in you dropping to the ground, the effect of gravity. However that faith would be tested as you board a plane to fly over the ocean to visit your relatives. Past experience reminds you that objects by nature are pulled to the ground. Your knowledge informs you that working within the laws of nature one can fly with the appropriately designed machinery and equipment. However when we look at Jesus we see that in many circumstance he operated outside the realm of our understanding, of our past experience and knowledge of nature.

Your reasonable faith is within the construct of past experience and knowledge circumstances. It would be unreasonable to expect to be able to walk upon the surface of the water like Peter did as described in the Bible. However he did! I have a faith that allows me to believe this story is true.

Against all understanding of past experience, knowledge and common sense, Peter did what no one but God could do, he walked on water. You may say in this instance Peter had an unreasonable faith.

Many Christians are at this place where Peter was, teetering between reason and un-reason. Our reasonable faith is based upon trust that God’s word is true. It has been proven true by its effect in our lives and in the lives of those who have walked before us. It is proven true by its accurate and unquestionable description of the nature of man and his state of depravity. It is proven by the numbers of prophecy fulfilled and the historical testimony of eyewitnesses by both friend and foe. So we may be deemed reasonable by saying we walk by a reasonable faith.

Was Peter walking a reasonable faith when he walked upon the water towards Jesus? I believe it was this very question he asked himself when he began to flounder and sink. Reaching his hand up to Christ in total surrender Peter realized that his faith in Christ had to be one that is beyond reason and comprehension it had to be complete and childlike. It had to be like that of a child who trust his father to catch him as he leaps into the pool. This childlike faith is based upon trust that is formed by past experience and love. Was Peter’s relationship with Christ such that he had reason to believe that he could do the un-reasonable? Could he place himself at the mercy of the natural world to experience the reality of the supernatural world that Christ himself created? I believe Peter was able to venture beyond his reasonable faith only when focusing his whole being upon the reality of who he was in relation to his Creator, Lord and Savior.

As we grow in our knowledge and experience of the reality of our Lord and Savior, we will grow in our trust in Him and our love for Him. Each step we take that brings us closer to Him will allow us to walk in those places which may seem unreasonable to others but are perfectly natural for the believer. We will be empowered in our heart and mind as we share the reasonableness of our faith in the gospel and the grace of our Savior.

In today’s world generational distinctions have occurred in a rapid pace. Intellectually, the major distinction is the exalted ideals of relativism and the rejection of absolutes. We see generations living a life of inconsistent morals and reason.  As Christians we are called to speak the truth in love. This unconditional love is what trust is built upon. However, the culture around us has been taught to view truth claims that argue in opposition to current norms, values and morals as being hateful. Our challenge is to continue to speak the gospel truth in love. Reaching out to others today in this fashion with an understanding of their need for a Savior may appear as unreasonable as walking on water. However, the gospel message and its supernatural power will be evident for all, as we do this in love, maintaining our focus upon the person of Christ as Creator, Lord and Savior!

2 Timothy 3:1-17

2 Tim 3:12-16

Eph 2:8-9

Video – A Personal Faith: From Doubt to Conviction | William Lane Craig, PhD

Gal 5:1

“Patriotism, Piety, and The Perfect Storm” Michael D. Peabody

Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? DVD, Episode 6, “The Scientific Age”

Rick Pearcey  http://www.pearceyreport.com/blog/2010/12/schaeffer_quote.php

Read more http://www.reasonablefaith.org/in-intellectual-neutral#ixzz4S3hCXnZA

“The Closing of the American Mind” Allen Bloom

Video-Is Faith A Blind Leap? oneminuteapologist

 

E is For Evil

Philosophically speaking one may find volumes on the reality of evil. Evil in the broad sense is considered either natural evil or moral evil. A natural evil would be something outside of our influence, the consequential injuries or death resulting from a natural event or disaster such as an earthquake or erupting volcano, or a personal injury or illness. Moral evils result from the intentional actions or non-actions of a moral agent.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains “Natural evils are bad states of affairs which do not result from the intentions or negligence of moral agents. Hurricanes and toothaches are examples of natural evils. By contrast, moral evils do result from the intentions or negligence of moral agents. Murder and lying are examples of moral evils.”

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/concept-evil/

Theologically there are discussions of how evil is characterized by different religions. Eastern Mysticism and Docetism explain for example that evil is an illusion. Naturalism and Postmodernism explain that evil is subjective as we humans perceive things to be evil.

http://evidenceforchristianity.org/how-do-you-explain-the-question-of-evil-from-various-world-views/

In the Apologetic sense evil is used to argue for both the existence or non-existence of God. The reality of evil is used many times as an objection to the existence of God. In the following article, Aaron Brake does an excellent job detailing reasons why the apologetic “problem of evil” is not a problem for the Christian.

http://pleaseconvinceme.com/2013/why-the-problem-of-evil-is-a-problem-3/

I write of the reality of evil from a christian perspective with an awareness that evil does exist. The fact that one may conclude something is or is not evil does not change the reality. Much like truth, one may or may not believe a truth, however it does not change the fact that the truth is. Some have an acute awareness of the existence of evil, others may have a lesser awareness of evil. One only need to review the headlines of the daily news to see evil acts and their consequences.

Many regard evil as an inherent consequence of a free will. Having the ability or freedom to choose right and wrong since our appearance here on earth, we have chosen wrong many times. The first instance of our choosing wrong is recorded for us in the Bible book of Genesis. Adam and Eve chose wrong by choosing to disobey God and eat from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. Notice the words “of the knowledge of good and evil”. Until that point they had no understanding what evil was. Everything they had was good. Only after deciding to ignore God and choose against God did they realize evil.

Now they had “the knowledge of good and evil”. They soon realized the initial consequences of evil in their immediate reaction of guilt and shame. They covered themselves from each other and hid from God. They remembered what God had said about eating from the tree and were awaiting the consequence.

Romans 6:23 “ the wages of sin is death”

How do we make sense of human evil verses natural evil?

In the article by Aaron Brake referenced above, a summary of Jesus clearest teaching on the problem of evil is given.

Luke 13:1-5

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

“Not only is this Jesus’ clearest teaching on the problem of evil but we see Him addressing both moral and natural evil in His response. Notice that Jesus is first questioned regarding an example of what we would call moral evil: the murder of some Galileans by Pilate. In providing an answer, Jesus Himself introduces an example of natural evil: the falling of the tower of Siloam which killed eighteen.
How did Jesus answer the problem of evil presented to Him? Was Jesus taken back, struck by the profundity of such a pregnant question? His answer is short and to the point: “They weren’t worse sinners, they were just sinners. And unless you repent, you’ll die too.”

Many argue that evil is a necessary consequence of free-will. Without the ability to choose evil we would not truly have a free-will. Perhaps that is more correct than we can understand. But we are left with the struggle of how to choose to do good.
Jesus standard of right and wrong baffled the teachers and leaders of the day. He recognized that evil is in our nature and the evil acts we carry out are first born in the un-regenerate mind following the desires of the heart of flesh. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches that whoever looks upon a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart.

Paul writes in Romans 7:24

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Who can escape the mind and body of sin? No one, but by the blood of the lamb the victory over sin and death is won!

Romans 6:6

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”
Romans 8:2

“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

In the New Testament we read of the change that comes about when one surrenders to the authority of Christ and His Spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:17

“ if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!”

Further on we read of how one is able to walk and maintain integrity in choosing good.

Galatians 5:16

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
As Christians we are called to this distinctive life where we still have a free will and may choose evil to our detriment, but we are more able and empowered to choose good because of the new Spirit nature that lives within us.

#ChooseTruth #ChooseLiberty #ChooseLife #ChooseJesus

Related links;

Does God Exist: The Moral Argument

The Difference Between Ethics and Morality

When the Problem of Evil Gets Personal

How Can God Exist When There Is So Much Evil In Our World Today?

D is For Determinism

Determinism is the idea that events unfold in a predetermined systematic consequential way that is beyond our control. Some call it fate or destiny, others karma and some God’s will. The CARM ministry web site defines Determinism as

“the philosophical view that every event in the universe is caused and controlled by natural laws. This would dictate that there is no free will in humans and that all events are the result of natural and physical laws.”

It is an interesting thing that I came to the place of decision in this series of major terms of apologetics. I had the opportunity to make choices along the way. I am writing this series using the alphabet as my guide. The first three topics were fairly easy to confirm. The decision for this one came down to choosing to write on the concept of design or on determinism.

I had the opportunity to make a choice. That statement describes our understanding of the concept of freewill, which is directly related to determinism. As I ramble about these two concepts trying to make sense of them, I would like to point out that other wiser philosophers have wrestled with this as well. You will find links to the various types of determinism as you read on.

As Christians we understand the Bible as the word of God. In His word He describes this relationship between determinism and freewill in many places. Beginning with Genesis we see that He has created us with a freewill.

Genesis 1:26-28

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

In these verses we see that God created us in His image. As we study and look upon the characteristics and attributes of God we see that we have a freewill and we are commanded to rule and work and create and multiply within the confines of a godly nature. God cannot do anything outside of His Godly nature He would not be God.

Our calling at creation was to live eternally within the godly nature God has given and to do this willingly as free agents enjoying all the blessings of a god nature freewill.

Genesis 2:16-17 ESV

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

This passage reveals a choice that results in a determined outcome. There are types and levels of determinist that look upon freewill with varying amounts of liberty. Hard Determinist argue there is no freewill and all our actions are determined and thus we are not able to do other than what has been determined. This is refuted in the outline below.

At the following site you will find a chart and a very good explanation of the levels of determinism and a refutation of Hard Determinism with an argument favoring Compatibilism.determinismxfreewill-svg1

Created as we were originally before the fall, we were of one nature. Our nature was in the likeness of God. We were allowed to make all of our choices within the framework of that nature. There were multitudes of possible choices all with consequential effects within that nature.

A second nature was introduced at the fall by that which is in direct opposition to God and His creation. We see that nature appear as Eve falls for the lie of the serpent. The freewill choices Adam and Eve had are distorted when obedience to God was made to look restrictive and that God was keeping us from something good.

In this disobedience the choice was made to open up a whole new dimension of awareness and possibilities. However that choice came with a pre-determined consequence that was ignored and overlooked by Adam and Eve and that consequence was death.

This would be considered a deterministic outcome. Within the realm of these two natures regardless of what decisions or choices are made the inevitable outcome will always be death.

From this point on, all of humanity was allowed to work within these two realms, we could choose to live life within the God nature or the anti-God nature. Our choices would always be distorted, compromised and colored by the desires of our newly acquired sin nature. However hard we tried to maintain our lives within the God nature, the anti-God nature would overrule because of the fact that the original choice resulted in the determined outcome of death.

Now we can look at the many verses of scripture and understand the determinism that appears along with our freewill. We can understand the futility of living a life by all the Godly rules and yet still be overpowered by death.  We can get a better idea of the universal aspect of salvation through Jesus Christ and the cost of being restored to our original nature.

Some verses on Determinism and Freewill

Deuteronomy 11:26  “I am setting before you today…”

Deuteronomy 30:1 -19 “ the blessing and the curse…”

Proverbs 11:19 “ He who is steadfast in righteousness..”

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but…”

Joshua 24:15  “Choose this day whom you shall serve…”

Galatians 5:1 “Stand therefore in the liberty…”

Compatibilism

What is Compatibilism?

The next two resources give an explanation of how Determinism and Freewill are Compatible.

 

In reflecting on Determinism and Compatibilism I have come to realize that the choices I make are either motivated by the sin nature or the Spirit of Christ. Many times I find my prayers are to make the right choice not out of fear of a determined condemnation but of love for the one who has rescued me from fear and death, and that this love would rule my heart and mind always.

These verse are helpful in reminding me there is a way to choose the right path.

Romans 8:1-2

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”

Philippians4:8

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

 

 

B is for Bible

The Bible is the most popular and influential book ever written. Guinness World Records estimates there are over 5 billion Bibles in the world today. Billions of individuals have been transformed by its message. Communities and nations have been built upon its foundational precepts. The history of the worlds cultures, social communities, nations and government have been influenced by the Bible. A study of World History would be incomplete and inaccurate without exploring and understanding the Bibles direct influence upon individuals and historical events. The Ten Commandments, the Magna Charta, the US Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, Bill of Rights are all part of the chain of Biblical influence.

Reasons the Bible was written:

The Bible was written over a period of 1500 years by 40 different authors maintaining a consistent theme. The Bible was written for the glorification of God and to deliver His redemptive plan for fallen man. Beyond the most fundamental reasons, there are many other reasons why the Bible was written and they are described here in this article.

http://www.truthmagazine.com/archives/volume36/GOT036071.html

There is no other book in existence that has inspired the writing of so many others. Works of criticism and praise, prose and poetry, literature and science all have volumes of work inspired and influenced by the Bible. It is apparent that there is something powerful about its message. What other book has been so vilified through the ages, so misused and abused by the corrupt and reprobate?

In Apologetics the Bible is central because in it you will find answers that best explain who God is, who man is, and what life and death and meaning are all about. If, as many claim, the Bible is just a book written by men, and is of little value for today, why does it have such lasting impact upon generations? Why is there so much animosity towards its teachings in comparison to other religious books? How do you explain the obvious life transformations of many individuals from depravity and despair to righteousness, joy and hope.

Questions about the Bible:

There are many questions about the Bible that have been asked through the ages. Some of these questions are explored briefly in this article.

http://www.everystudent.com/features/bible.html

Reasons to be skeptical:

Bible skeptics are passionate about discrediting the integrity, reliability and ultimate value of scripture for the individual and society. The American Humanist Association give many reasons to be skeptical of the Bible.

http://americanhumanist.org/humanism/Some_Reasons_Why_Humanists_Reject_the_Bible

Answering the Skeptic:

Bible scholars and apologist have many reasons to support and promote the truth and value of its teachings. They also do a good job of answering the skeptics such as the humanist and agnostics. The following links will bring you to sites that will encourage you and give you answers for the skeptics in your life.

https://carm.org/is-the-bible-reliable

http://coldcasechristianity.com/2015/four-reasons-the-new-testament-gospels-are-reliable/

Jim Warner Wallace, Cold Case Investigator has an inspiring testimony tracing his path from skeptic to believer.

 

Aids to responding with confidence:

Many of us use acronyms as a memory aid. In this valuable link to the article at the Christian Research Institute you will find such a tool.

http://www.equip.org/article/bible-reliability-m-a-p-s-to-guide-you-through-bible-reliability/

The acronym MAPS is used to aide you in describing how we can be certain of the Bible’s integrity and reliability.

  • M is for the early manuscripts. There are numerous copies of the original manuscripts, however there are no originals.

The Acronym BEE is used as an aide in remembering the test that help determine if we have an accurate and reliable rendition of the original.

  • B for Bibliographic support considers the numerous copies available, the sources and the time span between the copies.
  • E for Eyewitness support considers the testimony of eyewitness and contemporaries hostile and favorable.
  • E for External support considering evidence from other non- biblical sources both hostile and favorable.

Once the manuscript is tested the reasoning moves on to the second letter of the MAPS acronym.

  • A is for Archaeological support and
  • P for Prophecy or Predictive reliability, and finally
  • S for Statistics This helpful apologetic tool is described further at the CRI site linked above.

“The next time someone denies the reliability of Scripture, just remember the acronym MAPS, and you will be equipped to give an answer and a reason for the hope that lies within you (1 Pet. 3:15). Manuscripts, Archaeology, Prophecy, and Statistics not only chart a secure course on the turnpikes of skepticism but also demonstrate definitively that the Bible is indeed divine rather than human in origin.” Hank Hanegraaff

How to prove the Bible is true:

In an article at Answers in Genesis the author Mike Matthews explains how we can prove the bible is true.

https://answersingenesis.org/is-the-bible-true/can-we-prove-the-bible-is-true/

Many people will not be persuaded of the truth of the bible even within a reasonable discussion. You must remember that for many it is not a lack of evidence but a will towards un-belief. Matthews points out that

“It’s not a matter of evidence; they just don’t want to be convinced. So it is a mistake to proceed as though the main problem is a lack of knowledge. Your hearers have a heart problem. They have rejected the God of the Bible even before they begin to consider whether His Word could be true.”

Compelling evidence:

Another of Matthews articles “Seven Compelling Evidences Confirm the Bible Is True” presents seven clear and compelling evidences for the reliability and truth of scripture!

https://answersingenesis.org/is-the-bible-true/seven-compelling-evidences-confirm-bible-is-true/

As you explore these evidences and arguments for the reliability of the Bible I hope you will be encouraged to continue pressing on living and sharing these truths.

“A” is for Absolute

The word “absolute” is used in many areas of life. In a brief Google search you will find “absolute adjectives” and “absolute phrases” in English and grammar. In mathematics you will find “absolute values and equations”. In an Excel worksheet you may find “absolute values” in formatting cells.

An absolute in the apologetic or philosophical sense is something that is free and independent of anything extraneous. It is complete in itself and independent of any other cause.

(Note: My aim in this series is to awaken a desire in the reader to explore in detail the principles and concepts presented. I am not fully able to expand on all, for it would be a tedious and untidy task on my behalf and a burdensome read. Thus the many links to sources.)

In Apologetics the “absolutes” we are concerned with are philosophical. In the concept chart below from the “Importance of Philosophy” 2001 Jeff Landauer and Joseph Rowlands, the hierarchy of relationship within the five branches of philosophy is identified.

http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com/FiveBranchesMain.html

Absolutes form an important aspect of, and are addressed generally within, each branch. At the root and forming the foundation of philosophy is metaphysics, the study of existence.

Metaphysically, reality is an absolute. It has a specific nature independent of our thoughts or feelings, it is important for us to form a correct understanding of this reality.

 “The primacy of existence states the irrefutable truth that existence is primary and consciousness is secondary… Existence is primary because it is independent of, makes possible, and is a prerequisite of consciousness.” Landauer, and Rowlands.

http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com/Metaphysics_RealityIsAbsolute.html

Closely related to metaphysics is epistemology, the study of knowledge, how we know about reality and existence. In epistemology we use reason and logic to come to an understanding of how we know what we know and to maintain consistency in how we acquire knowledge.

http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com/Epistemology_Main.html

In epistemology logic is an absolute. Logic guides us to the understanding of reality because it requires us to reason within the boundaries of its laws. They are the Law of Identity, the Law of Non-contradiction, the Law of the Excluded Middle.

J.P. Moreland explains in “What Are the Three Laws of Logic”

The basic laws of logic govern all reality and thought and are known to be true for at least two reasons: (1) They are intuitively obvious and self-evident. Once one understands a basic law of logic (see below), one can see that it is true. (2) Those who deny them use these principles in their denial, demonstrating that those laws are unavoidable and that it is self-refuting to deny them.

The basic laws of logic are neither arbitrary inventions of God nor principles that exist completely outside God’s being. Obviously, the laws of logic are not like the laws of nature. God may violate the latter (say, suspend gravity), but He cannot violate the former. Those laws are rooted in God’s own nature. Indeed, some scholars think the passage “In the beginning was the Word [logos]” (Jn 1:1) is accurately translated, “In the beginning was Logic (a divine, rational mind).”

These laws help us decide which is true and which is false. It within this discipline we find the ability to reason logically and consistently. These fundamental laws of logic form the basis of the “Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God.” This argument is heavily debated and admittedly difficult to follow because of the implications of it validity.

http://www.str.org/articles/evidence-for-god-from-logic#.VroE0lgrKUk

We find absolutes in the field of ethics, the third branch of philosophy. It is the study of what is the right thing for man to do. What is right and wrong? How do we decide? Again in this field you will find debates regarding absolutes. Are there moral absolutes? Do we discover them or do we create them? It is here I disagree with the reasoning of Landauer and Rowlands. They believe that morality needs no God. It is difficult for a theist to comprehend how that could be. Within this discussion you will find that there are moral absolutes and they form the basis of the “Moral Argument for the Existence of God.”

Absolutes are found in politics, the fourth branch of philosophy and a subset of ethics. Basically, it is how ethics is applied to a group of people. In society we are at our best when individuals follow a shared ethic and morality based upon the absolutes found in Scripture. In America we enjoy a system of government founded upon the framework of principles which enable and empower individual liberty under the law. The Ten Commandments formed the basis for laws established in America.

The structure of a representative republic is found in the Old Testament when Moses was directed to establish leaders over groups of tens and fifties and hundreds and thousands. Exodus 13:18-27.

The principle of three branches of government is found in the words of Isaiah 33:22.

Landauer and Rowlands state that

“Reason is man’s prime means of survival…the prime goal of a political system must be the preservation and enabling of the faculty of reason. Reason does not function under coercion…A moral political system must ban coercion… or the initiation of force”.

The means to protect society from evil being the use of retaliatory force and objectifying laws.

At the link below you will find a brief reflection on the character of our founders and how their reasoning from Scripture was integral to the formation of our government.

http://www.face.net/blogpost/1192984/226719/Reflections-for-Constitution-Day?hhSearchTerms=%22absolutes%22&terms=

Finally in the fifth branch we find absolutes in the study of esthetics. What life can be like, the study of art and the sense of life and what makes it all enjoyable and fulfilling. This area depends upon the understanding of the others. Absolutes are part of what make esthetics fulfilling and enjoyable and valuable for the character, vitality and moral of a society.

In the essay “Art and the Christian” Jerry Solomon and Jimmy Williams attribute the creative drive of man to the creator God.

http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/artandxn.html

“He has permitted humans to take the elements of His cosmos and create new arrangements with them. Perhaps this explains the reason why creating anything is so fulfilling to us. We can express a drive within us which allows us to do something all humans uniquely share with their Creator.God has thus placed before the human race a banquet table rich with aesthetic delicacies. He has supplied the basic ingredients, inviting those made in His image to exercise their creative capacities to the fullest extent possible. We are privileged as no other creature to make and enjoy art.”

However the consequences of man’s rebellion also appear in the creative process.

“Man is Jekyll and Hyde:noble image-bearer and morally-crippled animal. His works of art are therefore bittersweet.”

The absolutes that help us evaluate and appreciate art in all forms can be found in scripture.

Phillipians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.”

Absolutes are found in the five branches of philosophy. The concept of an absolute is difficult to grasp for the definition of an absolute itself renders it dependent upon its relativity to something other. We use the word absolute in a casual way many times when we should strive to be more deliberate. In a pure sense the absolute is free and complete and is not dependent on anything. It is self-existent, apart from and independent of anything else.

From the Christian understanding everything that exist is created by God. That which is created cannot be a pure absolute. Only God, being self-existent, having always existed with no beginning or end is absolute. His incommunicable attributes (Self-existence, Immutability, Omnipresence, Omniscience, Etc) are what make Him absolute, His communicable attributes (Love, Mercy, Justice, Knowledge, Etc) allow us to be His image bearers. Those who are redeemed and guided by His Spirit who reflect upon the absolutes found in all God’s attributes become disciples and in turn will make disciples thus influencing nations and people to become more like Him.

“”A” is for Absolute” is an installment in the “Apologetics A-Z” series. Thanks for reading!