Wednesday, July 27, 2016

JUDGE OR JUDGE NOT





Judging is unavoidable. We judge our children; a teacher judges her students; the employer judges her subordinate; a spouse raises critical issues against her husband; the church disciplines its members; we even judge when we vote.

Against the assertion of some, Jesus did a lot of judging Himself. However, Jesus insisted that judging has to be done with great care. For one thing, we first have to judge ourselves before we are in any condition to judge another:

·       “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log [blindness and self-deception] out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck [the smaller sin] out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:4-5; ESV)

Paul taught the same thing but in a different manner:

·       Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. (Galatians 6:1-5)

Paul made it clear that, sometimes, judging or correcting is necessary. However, not everyone is in a “spiritual” state where they can judge. We have to be gentle! Where does this come from? From examining ourselves! What do we find? That we are “nothing” without Christ and His forgiveness.

When we examine ourselves, any basis for pride is eliminated. We find that we stand only by the grace of Christ. How do we acquire this necessary self-awareness? Through the Bible’s requirement that we love: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

When we attempt to love others by bearing their burdens, we discover that we fall far short of Christ’s calling. This is why Paul wrote: “But let each one test his own work.” When we do examine ourselves with an un-blinded eye, we are humbled by our failures.  However, our failures can reinforce our understanding of the mercy of Christ.

Notice that Paul didn’t write that we come to this self-awareness by comparing ourselves with others. This might just breed arrogance and pride. Instead, Paul wrote: “But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in [comparison with] his neighbor.”

This is not an acknowledgement that any of us have a reason to boast. Instead, boasting is our human tendency. We want to feel good about ourselves, even superior to others, and so we look for occasions to boast by comparing ourselves to others. We, therefore, tell ourselves, “I’d never do what he did. I’m better than that.”

Instead, we have to measure ourselves against an absolute standard – Christ Himself. This standard takes the air out of our sails, as it is intended to do. We see our spiritual failures, and this humbles us.

Does this mean that we are not “spiritual” and that we cannot judge? Of course not! We are required to judge. However, it does mean that only those who have been humbled by the truth and continue to confess their sins can judge. It is these believers who can judge humbly, gently, patiently, and redemptively.

But can we judge with confidence and boldness? Yes, we can! How? We know that we are in the light and, consequently, are judging by the light of God. We also know that our corrections or judgments are not of our own invention but come from Him.

Therefore, when someone accuses you of judging, you can respond, “My judgment is now my own. It is my Lord’s.”

You might also turn the table and rhetorically ask, “Well, aren’t you judging me?”


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

THEISTIC EVOLUTIONISTS MISREPRESENT CREATIONISTS





Arguing in favor of a 24 hour day, Young Earth Creationists (YEC) often cite a verse from the Ten Commandments:

·       Exodus 20:11 (ESV) For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Here is how their logic goes:

1.    The Sabbath day is consistently a 24 hour day throughout Scripture.
2.    The other days must also be 24 hour days. Why? If “day” represented a period of millions of years, as theistic evolutionists allege, then we should also expect that the Sabbath day would likewise involve millions of years.
3.    However, the Bible would not have commanded us to rest for millions of years.

Against this, theistic evolutionists claim that the YEC is not justified in interpreting Scripture in this manner. Here is an example from the Biologos Foundation. Can you find the logical flaws:

·       If “plain reading” means “what the words clearly mean in my language and culture”, then I suppose Exodus 20:11 could be used to support six day Creationism.  But if that is really how we’re supposed to read Scripture, then 1 Samuel 2:8 means the earth is set on pillars, and Deuteronomy 21:21 means we should stone our rebellious sons, and John 15:5 means Jesus is a plant, and Roman 16:16 means we should kiss everyone we meet.  The “plain reading” of Scripture leads to picking and choosing which verses we like and which we ignore.  That is not a responsible way to read the Bible.  There are reasons we don’t take the plain meaning of those other verses as the best interpretation of Scripture; that makes us at least ask whether there might be reasons not to take Exodus 20:11 and Genesis 1 in their plain sense. http://biologos.org/blogs/jim-stump-faith-and-science-seeking-understanding/10-misconceptions-about-evolution#sthash.uFWdZLFY.dpuf

Did you find the flaws yet? First of all, Biologos is engaging in misrepresentation. Bible-respecting interpreters never argue that a “plain reading” means “what the words clearly mean in MY language and culture.” Instead, when we talk about the “plain reading” or “literal sense,” our goal is to recover the original intended meaning of Scripture. This entails a sensitivity to genre and the use of language in its original setting. If it’s a metaphor, we try to understand it as such. If hyperbole, then we attempt to understand it as hyperbole.

Secondly, Biologos claims, “The ‘plain reading’ of Scripture leads to picking and choosing which verses we like and which we ignore.” Certainly, “picking and choosing” fails to represent a high view of Scripture or the way we should try to interpret any piece of literature. By “picking and choosing,” we can draw out almost any interpretation we so desire.

While Biologos makes this charge, they fail to indicate even one verse that YEC leaves out of the equation. Meanwhile, to make it jive with Darwin, Biologos dismisses the entire historicity of the account of creation and the Fall (Gen. 1-3), in opposition to how the NT consistently understands these chapters.

Thirdly, Biologos reasoning tends to suggest that we cannot know with any certainty if anything in Scripture can be taken literally. If we cannot know how to interpret Exodus 20:11, then how can we know how to interpret the rest of the Bible. We might be taking poetry for historical fact.

Admittedly, Biologos has “reasons not to take Exodus 20:11 and Genesis 1 in their plain sense.” What then are their reasons? These are not reasons that arise from the way we ordinarily interpret a piece of literature. Instead, these are reasons imposed on the Bible from without – from the theory of evolution.

It is like interpreting the account of the Magis from an evolutionary psychological point of view – They had journeyed from their far-away land because they were in competition with other Babylonian wise men, who had become more influential. Therefore, the Magi journeyed, not because of a star (representing their hopes) or their desire to worship the King of the Jews, but rather a cynical quest to regain ascendency through a new and attractive “revelation.”

Through twisting Scripture to bring it into conformity with Darwin, theistic evolutionists no longer know what to believe. They advise me, “We have to remain humble about our interpretation of Scripture.” I only wish they would be equally humble about evolution.

Meanwhile, they are so humble about Scripture, that they are passively absorbing everything from the surrounding university culture. I therefore challenged them to go on record regarding their approval or disapproval of same-sex marriage.

Only two would reveal their hand. Both were in favor of it.

Monday, July 25, 2016

THE DEATH OF MODERN SECULARISM





According to the modernist (atheism, humanism, evolutionism), the only reality or truth is physical. Spiritual or moral reality is non-existent. According to the postmodernist, all truth claims are mere human inventions. Consequently, reality is either non-existent or unknowable.

When these two came together, they produced the perfect storm of modern secularism (MS), which believes that truth and justice have no independent reality. At best, they are no more than ideas that evolve as society evolves. Consequently, justice doesn’t truly exist. It is merely a concept we need to keep society going.

If you listen closely to what people say, you will see indications of MS all around you. For example, the pastor preached that because perfect love casts out fear, as the Apostle John had written, we shouldn’t listen to the hate-mongers who warn us about Muslim refugees.

Afterwards, I asked her whether or not we should listen to those who warn about swine flu, the bubonic plague, or radiation leaks. Well, of course, that was a different matter, but why? Plagues and radiation leaks come up on the radar of the secularist, but a group victimized by the West does not. A different set of rules applies here. This reflects MS’ leftist leaning that there are groups who are worthy of preferential treatment. Just look at Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s demand that the courts give preferential treatment to people of color!

Forget the ideal of color-blind justice! And why not forget if, for MS, “justice” is no more than a social construct. It is an institution to be manipulated according to need and ideology.

To the pastor, I brought up the fact that only 1% of asylum seekers that President Obama has brought over were Christians, as opposed to 99% Muslims, most of whom, according to surveys, want to impose shariah law. Without dealing with the threatening implications of this disparity, the pastor interjected that we have to be equally concerned about all groups of people.

I didn’t bring up the obvious fact that the huge imbalance among asylum grantees did not reflect equal concern. Nor did I mention verses that require love to begin with our own households – both spiritual and biological. Instead, I objected that:

·       “Muslims refuse to integrate. The Koran even prohibits them from being friends with non-Muslims (Koran Surahs 3:27; 5:54; 60:1; 60:4), except to deceive to promote Islam.”

She fired back that it is all a matter of interpretation. I responded:

·       “Some things are so clear that they are no longer a matter of our personal interpretation. When the police pull me over for driving 50 MPH in a 25 MPH zone, I cannot claim that it’s all just a matter of interpretation. “25 MPH” means just what it says. I cannot say that I thought it was only a suggestion or a ballpark figure.”

I could have mentioned how the Muslim authorities interpret their Koran on the subject of friendship. One commentator writes (www.koranqa.com; fatwa 59879):

·       “Undoubtedly the Muslim is obliged to hate the enemies of Allaah and to disavow them, because this is the way of the Messengers and their followers.

·       “Based on this, it is not permissible for a Muslim to feel any love in his heart towards the enemies of Allaah who are in fact his enemies too…”

·       “But if a Muslim treats them with kindness and gentleness in the hope that they will become Muslim and will believe, there is nothing wrong with that, because it comes under the heading of opening their hearts to Islam. But if he despairs of them becoming Muslim, then he should treat them accordingly.”

However, the pastor continued:

·       “The Bible also includes such verses. You cannot just point the finger at Islam.”

I challenged her to provide just one such verse. She responded that Jesus claimed that He came with a sword to separate families.

I responded that this verse was a far cry from instructing us to not have non-Christian friends. Instead, Jesus had been pointing to the impact we would have on others, even friends, as His children. He was preparing us for the fact that we would be hated:

·       “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” (John 15:18-20)

The pastor was struggling to come up with another verse, but she was rescued by the intervention an onlooker.

Why was she so ready to equate with Christianity and Islam, the Bible with the Koran – two sets of very different teachings, one highly violent, the other peaceful? She had embraced the prevailing worldview, MS, which eliminates the possibility of discerning any real differences.

In opposition to multi-culturalism, which holds that we cannot judge other cultures, wisdom requires discernment and making critical distinctions. Wisdom requires us to distinguish the victim from the victimizer and to treat them appropriately. It requires us to distinguish the student who is struggling to learn from the one who is disrupting the others. We also need the wisdom to discern real help from enablement, genocide from self-defense, and the innocent from the guilty.

However, MS is slowly eroding away the principles essential for the advancement of society. MS refuses to see and to even acknowledge the basic principles of justice – that there are truly the innocent and the guilty. How does MS do this? It denies the existence of objective moral absolutes. This relegates justice and truth to mere evolving human creations.

My next conversation made this painfully clear. She was a sensitive and caring woman. These are qualities that I greatly admire.

She admitted that she was totally comfortable with the sermon. After challenging her, she responded with passion:

·       “I don’t feel comfortable with what you are saying. You are making hateful divisions among the religions. You are pitting us against them. You are saying that you are better than they are. You are looking down on them and marginalizing them. I cannot go along with any of this.”

Of course, I wasn’t saying these things, but she accurately discerned that I was drawing out some differences between Islam and Christianity. I asked her whether we should have pitted ourselves against Hitler. She could not answer this question directly, but insisted that love could conquer all, even in the case of Hitler.

This is what justice looks like on the streets of MS. It has now become non-existent in the minds of many. It has been eliminated by an overly indulgent form of “love.”

How did this happen? First, the concept of justice has been overturned in favor of pragmatism, what works, what bring desired results, even at the expense of the innocent. This means that we cannot judge in any objective sense. Meanwhile, she was judging me!

Second, many atheists/materialists deny the existence of freewill, and if freewill doesn’t exist, then we couldn’t have acted other than the way that the forces had determined we would act. It also means that we are not deserving of punishment or even criticism.

Third, even if MS does acknowledge freewill, it is only a mere shadow of what we usually regard as freewill. Instead, we are overwhelmingly products of our upbringing, culture, and genetics – nature and nurture. Once again, we are pre-programmed to do what we do. Judging individuals and cultures is therefore regarded as unfair.

Yes, MS is self-contradictory. While it claims that judging is unfair, it is just as judgmental as most other belief systems. However, only a coherent worldview can provide a compelling vision to inspire a nation and human thriving. Meanwhile, MS has left us vulnerable to every pathogen. Oops, there I go judging again. After all, I am suggesting the forbidden – that humanity is somehow superior to the pathogens.

Nevertheless, I did grieve after these conversations – not that I had said the wrong things, but if I was going to offend, perhaps I should have allowed the centrality of the Gospel to offend. God lead me!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

IS THERE SOMETHING THE MATTER WITH OUR FAITH IF WE ARE NOT PERFORMING THE MIRACLES JESUS DID?





Should we routinely be performing miracles today like Jesus did? Some “word of faith” (WOF) preachers claim that we should. Do they have a Scriptural basis for this? They cite:

·       “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever [of you Apostles?] believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12; ESV)

Well, why aren’t we performing “greater works” today? The WOF preachers claim that we just don’t believe the promises of Jesus – a serious indictment.

However, there are many reasons to conclude that Jesus’ promise was only extended to His Apostles. Elsewhere, He promised that it was only the Apostles, those who had been with Him from the beginning, who would be supernaturally equipped by the Spirit to carry forth His Word:

·       But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26)

“Bring all things to your remembrance” could only refer to those who had been with Him. Likewise, “teach you all things!” If this promise only has an application to the Apostles,  Perhaps also John 14:12?

Paul too had been designated as an Apostle. How could the Church know this? Only through “signs and wonders”:

·       For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works. (2 Corinthians 12:11-12)

If all Christians were expected to produce signs and wonders, he would have had no way to prove to the Church that He had been called to be an Apostle. Instead, Paul had taught that not everyone was given a supernatural gift.

It was the Apostles alone who would perform “signs and wonders”:

·       And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. (Acts 2:43; 4:33)

In this way, God had established the fact that the Apostles were His ordained ones to spread His teachings. Consequently, after the Apostles had heard that the Samaritans had come to faith, they sent Peter and John to lay hands for them to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-15).


For the early church, there was no guess-work regarding who bore the Gospel of Jesus. Had all believers been performing miracles, there would have been lots of confusion:

·       And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. (Acts 19:11-12)

·       So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their [Barnabas and Paul] hands. (Acts 14:3)

·       And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? (Acts 3:12)

God sent miracles to prove that it was the Apostles who had been commissioned to carry His Word:

·       Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:12-13)

·       For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2:2-4)

·       So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us [Apostles], either by our spoken word or by our letter. (2 Thessalonians 2:15)

·       When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. (Ephesians 3:4-5; 2:19-20))

·       And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

·       For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; (Romans 15:18-19)

Against this WOF idea that we should all be performing miracles if we believe Jesus, it seems that instead, our Lord has purposed for us a miracle-lean diet. This leanness compels us to walk by faith instead of a constant flow of miracles:

·       For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:24-25)

·       For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Instead of relying upon a miracles-rich diet, our Lord wants us to live by faith, the unseen, and to even persevere in suffering:

·       Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:10-11)

To walk in perpetual miraculous healings is not to “Always carry in the body the death of Jesus.” Perpetual miracles would make us spiritually lazy. We would not learn patience, faith, or how to meditate on the Word day and night.

I have attended numerous WOF churches without seeing the lame walk, the blind see, or the dead raised. Perhaps these are intended only as a rarity among us today.

I too do not want to miss anything my Savior might have for me. I also admit that I do not know what to pray for. However, He assures me that, even if I don’t, His Holy Spirit does, and He is intervening for us (Romans 8:26).