Sunday, January 1, 2017

MUST WE CALL GOD “JEHOVAH?”





My response to a Jehovah’s Witness:


“I am Jehovah. That is my name” (Isaiah 42:8)? Does this mean that we must call God “Jehovah?”

I tend to regard this, not as a command to call God “Jehovah” but as a description of who He is, like Jesus being called “Immanuel”:

·       Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
 
Or:

·       Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

In Hebrew thinking, names were to be a description of the person. Consequently, God renamed “Abram” as “Abraham,” because this described what God would do with him. He would make him father of many nations:

·       Genesis 17:5 “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.”

Is “Jehovah” a name by which we MUST call God or rather a description? Jesus didn’t call Him “Jehovah” but rather, “Father.” The Jews wouldn’t even pronounce this name “Jehovah,” which they regarded as holy.

In light of this, we should understand “Jehovah” as a description of who He is. Well what does “Jehovah” mean? Here is our best guess:

·       Exodus 3:13-14 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

It seems that God was teaching Moses that He is undefinable and that He is greater than any name that can be applied to Him. “I AM WHO I AM” is almost identical to “Jehovah” in the Hebrew, perhaps a shorthand for this idea.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

GENESIS THREE, ADAM, THE FALL, AND THEISTIC EVOLUTIONISTS







How should we regard Genesis 3, which describes the Fall of humanity into sin and death? Is it historical or non-historical, as the theistic evolutionists (TEs) maintain?

You might find it strange that TEs are passing judgment on the Bible. However, they have a vested interest in claiming that all the chapters that might contradict evolution as non-historical. For one thing, they believe that death and the survival-of-the-fittest was God’s original plan for evolving us, but this contradicts the plain historical account of not only Genesis 3 but also of Genesis 1-11.

However, does the Bible provide any basis to regard Genesis 3 as non-historical and mythological as the TE claims?

Genesis 3 claims that there was no sin and death until Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the fruit. This is consistent with the creation account in which God states that everything He had created was “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Did this estimation preclude sin and death? Evidently! The creation account is explicit that animals were not intended to eat other animals (1:29-30), and that there had been such a state of comfort and peace that Adam and Eve were naked and were not ashamed (2:25), because they had not yet sinned.

Meanwhile, God had warned His first human creation against one thing – eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil:

·       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.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

After their sin, God gave further details of what this death entailed:

·       “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19)

According to the Biblical account, God’s creation had been “very good,” but we brought sin and death, not God. Sin and death entered the world together, in contrast to the evolutionary account. The NT also affirms its historicity:

·       For the creation was subjected to futility [corruption – the Fall] not willingly, but because of him [God], who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (Romans 8:20-22)

The “groaning” hadn’t been according to God’s design, but He allowed the Fall “in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption.”

Instead, had sin and death been part of God’s glorious plan involving the survival-of-the-fittest, the rest of the Biblical account would have opposed it. For instance, if death had been part of God’s “very good” creation, then He couldn’t blame Cain for killing his brother Abel. After all, it could have been justified by God’s own tool – the survival-of-the-fittest. Cain was simply the fitter one. In fact, any murderer or rapist would have been able to justify his behavior with such a perverse rationale.

There are many reasons that we regard the Genesis accounts as historical. For one thing, the genealogies which include Abraham and even Jesus argue for the historicity of Genesis. If Adam and Eve weren’t historical, then there would be no reason that the rest of the people in his genealogy should be regarded as historical.

Besides, all of the later Biblical commentary also regard these chapters of Genesis as historical. Here is a sampling from the NT affirming the historical creation order we find in Genesis:

·       When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.” (Acts 4:24)

·       He also says, "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.” (Hebrews 1:10)

·       By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. (Hebrews 11:3)

·       Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:3)

Adam as the first man:

·       For Adam was formed first, then Eve. (1 Timothy 2:13)

·       So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. (1 Corinthians 15:45)

·       [Jesus] the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. (Luke 3:38)

·       Enoch, the seventh from Adam. (Jude 1:14)

·       Jesus replied, "But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Mark 10:5-9)

·       “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. (Acts 17:26)

·       For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. (1 Corinthians 11:8-9)

Adam as the original sinner and the cause of the Fall:

·       For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:22)

·       Death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. (Romans 5:14)

If Adam’s work had merely been a matter of myth or parable, then too should we regard the work of Jesus.

Other verses regard even the serpent/Satan as historical :

  • And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. (Romans 16:20; Compare with Gen. 3:15)

·       And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Revelation 12:9)

  • He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; (Rev. 20:2)

To deny that Genesis 3 and Adam and Eve were historical is to undermine the integrity of the entire Bible. It is to disregard the Bible’s own commentary in favor of an alien worldview that is being imposed on the text. It is also to add and to subtract from God’s Word:

·       You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you. (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Rev. 22:18-19)

When the TE denies the historicity of Genesis 1-11, he takes away from God’s Word. When he imposes evolution upon it, he adds to God’s Word.

While the TE claims that he is salvaging the Christian faith for the educated who find themselves in conflict once introduced to the theory of evolution, even atheist Dale McGowan, Managing Editor of the Atheist Channel at Patheos, and author of Atheism For Dummies, is not so sure about this. He quotes Tullio Gregory who expresses his concern:

  • Once you cast doubt on man’s place in creation, the entire Biblical story of salvation history, from original sin to Christ’s incarnation, is also threatened.

Even though he is a strong advocate for evolution, McGowan confesses that he is “conflicted” and troubled by message of BioLogos, a TE organization peddling evolution to the church:

  • In a BioLogos video titled, “Adam and Eve: Engaging the Tough Questions,” an advisor notes that there are “a lot of proposals out there of when the first sin might have happened, what it might have looked like… we don’t have a simple answer on the question of the historical Adam…who were Adam and Eve, when did they live?”

  • This is always the first step in a crumbling theology – the suggestion that the answer is out there, it’s just very, very complicated. The problem is our ability to grasp the answer. But no worries, there are a lot of proposals. It all makes for an impressive simulacrum of rigor, an army of question marks in search of meaningful questions.

As McGowen points out, Biologos has undermined both the clarity of the biblical message and the church’s assurance about it.

However, TEs have often counseled me “to be humble about our interpretations of Scripture.” However, they are not at all humble about their dismissal of the first eleven chapters of Genesis as history. Nor are they humble about dismissing the NT’s clear assertions that Genesis is history.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE LOSE INTEREST IN TRUTH AND THE CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW?





What happens when Christians embrace Christ as Someone who has changed their lives and has bestowed on them many benefits, while there is little consideration of Christianity as the Truth? In his essay, “Why Christianity Lost America,” Indian scholar turned Christian, Vishal Mangalwadi, asks:

  • Why did Christianity lose the power that gave it influence over education and economy, government and law, press and entertainment? How can the Church recover the power to prevail over the forces of evil?

He explains that today’s Christianity is not the vibrant Christianity of the recent past. Today’s version has separated truth from faith, leaving Christianity unbalanced – a plane with one wing, trying to fly with only feelings, mystical experiences, and a private and personalized faith, separated from its Biblical and defensible truth-claims:

  • Christianity lost America because 20th-century evangelicalism branded itself as the party of faith. By default Secularism (science, university, media) became the party of truth. This is one reason why 70% Christian youth give up meaningful involvement with the church when they grow up. http://www.revelationmovement.com/instructors/blog_post/38

Magalwadi observes that many of today’s Christians believe in a Christianity that has little to do with truth and facts and everything to do with internal experience. This imbalance has proved disastrous for Christianity. Mangalwadi cites several examples:

  • In November 2011, I met an American missionary who has served in Guatemala for 36 years. He described a recent (unpublished) doctoral study examining Protestantism in one part of Guatemala. The Hispanic scholar had hoped to substantiate Max Weber’s thesis on the connection between Protestantism and economic development. The data, however, drove him to conclude that the gospel taught by present-day American missions makes no perceptible difference to the economic life of the believing communities.

What a contrast with what Christianity had been historically. One example of the vibrancy of the Christian faith is found in its establishment of universities. Sociologist Alvin Schmidt writes:

  • Given the powerful influence that secularism now has on most Americans, they are probably not aware that “every collegiate institution founded in the colonies prior to the Revolutionary War – except the University of Pennsylvania – was established by some branch of the Christian church.” Nor are most Americans aware that in 1932, when Donald Tewksbury published The Founding of American Colleges and Universities before the Civil War, 92 percent of the 182 colleges and universities were founded by Christian denominations. (How Christianity Changed the Word, 190)

This should not surprise us. The Bible’s teachings unequivocally testify that the faith rests upon the undeniable truths of God (Deut. 4:34-37) – what He revealed and accomplished historically. God never asked Israel to just believe, but rather to believe by virtue of the evidences. For example, when Moses asked God for evidences that He could take to the Israelites to prove that God had appeared to him, God didn’t say, “Well, just tell those Israelites to believe!” Instead, He consistently provided the necessary proofs:

  • Then Moses answered and said, "But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, 'The Lord has not appeared to you.' "So the Lord said to him, "What is that in your hand?" He said, "A rod." And He said, "Cast it on the ground." So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. Then the Lord said to Moses, "Reach out your hand and take it by the tail" (and he reached out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand), "that they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you." (Exodus 4:1-5)

Likewise, Jesus never instructed His followers to believe without reasons to believe. Instead, He provided evidences through his miracles and prophecies:

  • He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3)

  • "You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. (John 14:28-29)

The Biblical faith embodies verifiable truths (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Tim 2:25; Titus 1:1). Mangalwadi contrasts this with other religions:

  • Hinduism, like Greco-Roman religions, is based (self-consciously) on myths.

  • The Buddha rejected Hinduism’s mythical gods and goddesses in favor of mystical (non-rational) Silence.

  • Islam has words that are believed to be true. These words were uttered in a state of non-rational trance, called “prophecy.” Islam, therefore, rests on private, non-verifiable communications of an individual. Sometimes Mohammed went into “prophetic” trance in public, but no one saw or heard angel Gabriel talking to him. The power of his utterances rested on the sword, not on evidence. When his words about the past (e.g., stories from Old and New Testament times) contradicted documented history, his followers had to assume that contradictions mean that texts have been corrupted. Non-verifiable trance communications overrode documented history.

Sadly, Christianity has been going the way of the other religions. In the face of secular attacks upon the truth-claims of Christianity, Christianity has retreated into a cocoon of private faith experiences. We have defensively responded, “Well, I just know what I’ve experienced, and no one can tell me any differently.”

This response hasn’t proved adequate. Against the weight of the claims of the modern university, Christianity has retreated and compromised. It has surrendered the life of the mind for the life of internal experiences. Mangalwadi explains:

  • The church created the university to train godly leaders who will look at all of reality through the light of the Truth (revealed by God’s works and words). Fundamentalism insulated Bible Institutes from other departments to study the Bible alone. It gave up the mission to seek public truth in favor of cultivating private spiritual lives. Once the Bible was put into the silo of Bible Institutes, the Bible teachers were isolated from the public life of the mind.  Preachers memorized the Bible but by and large they did not learn how to meditate upon God’s word in a way to shine its light on all of life.

We have compromised in many ways. We have put the claims of the Bible on the bench in favor of charismatic pastors who have promised experiences if we would only turn off our minds and our insistence to check everything out according to Scripture.

We have embraced a neo-orthodox “Christianity” that tried to salvage the Christian basics by insisting that the Bible really isn’t about what it clearly teaches. Instead, it is a tool to bring us magically into a saving relationship with Christ apart from its verifiable truth claims – claims that the university rejects.

We have embraced theistic evolution (TE) in a vain attempt to make friends with the university. This worldview attempts to make peace by claiming that the Bible isn’t about the physical world – science, history, geography – but about the spiritual. Hence, no conflict between science and Christianity! However, in making this compromise, TE has separated Christianity from all of its supporting evidences – objective evidences that cannot be found outside of this physical world. This is because proof starts with what we know and can agree about. Once this is established, it proceeds to the areas of disagreement – the spiritual claims. However, once the Church abandons the physical world, it no longer has an objective basis to prove its case.

We have embraced “Christian” mysticism and Postmodern “Christianity.” These have, in various ways, demeaned doctrine and apologetics in favor of experience, dogmatically claiming that we can’t really know with any degree of certainty, that “doctrine divides,” and what really matters is a direct experience of God, apart from what we Biblically understand about Him.

Consequently, “the church reads the Bible mainly for private “edification.” Corporately, the Kingdom of Christ has ceased being the city on a hill.” Indeed, we can’t be the light if we believe that biblical truth-claims aren’t verifiable.

In contrast to this, it had been the light of the Bible that had provided the impetus to shed its light upon creation and to master it. Schmidt concludes:

  • Modern science is an outgrowth of Christian theology of the Middle Ages. It proceeded to show that it was Christianity’s values that provided the necessary Weltanshauung [worldview] and motivation to encourage many of its educated adherents to study the world of nature…The public are unaware that virtually all scientists from the Middle Ages to the mid-eighteenth century – many of which were seminal thinkers – not only were sincere Christians but were often inspired by biblical postulates and premises in their theories… [they] knew and believed the words of the biblical writer: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). (How Christianity Changed the World, 243-44).

What then is the answer for us today? To return with courage to the basics! Jesus instructed us to:

  • " Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)

When we leave out truth and the cultivation of the mind, we fail to live faithfully to the teachings of Scripture. Instead, we live defensively, fearful that we will be confronted with questions and challenges that we cannot answer. We therefore practice avoidance. Instead of being a light on a hill, we remain in the shadow of the “light” shed by the prevailing culture.

Once we lose confidence in the Light/Truth of Christ, we become indistinguishable from the world. We no longer have the conviction to live according to the teachings of the Bible. Somehow, the Bible begins to seem judgmental. It is then inevitable that our affections will become set on the things of this world (1 John 2:15-16; James 4:4).