Monday, June 29, 2015


I had traveled extensively in Israel, searching for the community - many of them are collective communities called "kibbutzim" - where I would be loved. However, I had sampled many without finding what I was looking for. Why not? They were all populated by people like me, each looking to receive love in one form or another. Some of us want to be heard, others comforted, still others appreciated.

We all have needs crying out to be satisfied. How seldom do we meet others who just want to give, who are just looking for those whose needs they can unselfishly fill.

Why are givers so rare? The Bible gives us many answers:

·       "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too." (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

I am convinced that before we can truly comfort others, we first need to experience the comfort of God. This implies that we first must suffer. This is a pre-condition for receiving the comfort of God. He just doesn't waste His comforts on those who don't want it.

How does He comfort us? He convinces us that, even though we don't deserve the slightest smile from Him, He is ready to give us the world. This includes everything - His love, forgiveness, and even Himself.

When we are convinced how richly endowed we are by Him, we become secure enough in ourselves to reach out to others. With what? With the assurances He has given us!

Consequently, we are no longer looking to take but to give. What a privilege!

The New Testament Canon came to be as it was Written

It is claimed that the New Testament canon didn’t come into existence until the fourth century. Although the church, as a body, did place their authoritative stamp-of-approval on the exact 27 books NT canon in the fourth century, these individual books were being identified by the early church as soon as they received them.

First of all, Jesus promised to give His Apostles a new and authoritative revelation to take worldwide:

  • And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20; all quotations in ESV)
Jesus’ Word was to take precedence of Moses’, and His Apostles were to carry His Word forth. They would have to teach “all that I have commanded you.” Clearly, Jesus’ Words carried at least the same authority as did the rest of the Scriptures. Therefore, they could not pick-and-choose which they preferred.

Clearly, He had specially ordained them for this ministry:

  • You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:48-49)
They would be supernaturally equipped by the Spirit so that what they taught would be entirely the Word of God:

  • 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)
Because these teachings came directly from the Spirit, they were Spirit-inspired. As such, they were Scripture. Through the Spirit, Jesus would now instruct them clearly and precisely:

  • “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you... I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. (John 16:12-15, 25 ESV)
Did this Spirit-inspiration include the writing of the NT Scriptures? Commenting on these verses, Norman Geisler writes:

  • The question must be asked: What else could Jesus have been referring to but the New Testament? The New Testament writings are the only writings we have ever seen from these apostles. Therefore it is perfectly reasonable to believe that these very New Testament writings are the inspired “all truth” revelation Jesus promised. If Jesus had a high view of Old Testament written revelation (and he did) he certainly would have a high view of this future “all truth” written revelation. In this way Jesus affirmed beforehand that the New Testament was coming— and that it would be just as authoritative as Old Testament. (Evidence of an Early New Testament Canon)
How else could the Apostles fulfill their mission “to the ends of the earth” and “to the end of the age” unless they wrote down the teachings that they had been divinely given!

Even though Jesus didn’t explicitly mention “writing,” the Apostles understood that their “Grand Commission” included the written word:

  • So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. (2 Thessalonians 2:15)
For the Apostles, their oral teachings were equivalent to the written ones.

  • 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)
Did the Apostles understand that they were writing Scripture? Yes! They placed their writings on the level of the Hebrew Scriptures:

  • So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone. (Ephesians 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) 
Peter also placed the Apostolic writings on the same level as the Hebrew Prophets:

  • You should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles... And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:2, 15-16) 
Peter also regarded Paul’s writings as Scripture. For one thing, when Paul’s writings are distorted, they do it to their own destruction. This can only be said about Scripture. Besides, Peter refers to Paul’s writings and to the “other Scriptures,” signifying that he regarded Paul’s writings as Scripture.

John also regarded his writing as Scripture. He wrote about it in the same veneration as the Hebrew Scriptures:

  • I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19) 
Such a warning is only given regarding Scripture (Deut. 4:2; 12:32). The only possible conclusion is that John was aware that he was writing Scripture. Meanwhile, Paul quotes Luke 10:7 as Scripture, and Jude quotes 2 Peter 3:2, indicating that he regarded it too as Scripture.

In many other ways, we see that the Apostles treated their writings as divinely inspired. They directed their letter to be read by other churches (1 Thess. 5:27; Col. 4:16). They spoke as if they were backed by the authority of God (1 Tim. 6:3-4; Gal. 1:8-9; Titus 3:10).

Were the Apostles faithful to commission? Had they gone astray? One powerful indication that they hadn’t gone astray was that the Lord was endorsing their teaching by signs and wonders:

  • 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)
Why did the church regard Paul as an Apostle even though he hadn’t been a companion of Jesus? His ministry was attended by the signs of his Lord:

  • 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) 
For the early church, there was no guess-work regarding who bore the Gospel of Jesus:

  • 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 hands. (Acts 14:3) 
The Lord also bore witness to the other Apostles:

  • 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)
Skeptics insinuate that the writings of the NT can’t be trusted because they had been written after the Apostles had passed by those who weren’t eyewitnesses. However, Geisler cites a skeptic who believe that the NT was written a lot earlier:

  • John A. T. Robinson, leader of the “Death of God” movement revised his dates saying all books were written between AD 40 and 70, with Matthew as early as AD 40, Mark AD 45, Luke AD 57 and John AD 40. Robinson’s concluded that “ all the various types of the early church’s literature … were coming into being more or less concurrently in the period between 40 and 70.”  Renowned archaeologist William F. Albright said that “every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the forties and the eighties of the first century A.D. (very probably sometime between A.D. 50 and 75 ).” This would put the writing of all New Testament books during the lifetime of the apostles and eyewitnesses.
However, the Church Fathers – some of them actually had had with the Apostles - are far more credible than our modern day skeptics, two thousand years removed from the actual events. According the Geisler:

  • Apostolic Fathers confirm [the Apostolic] authorship. The Apostolic Fathers were the next generation of believers after the Apostles (AD 95 to c. 150). They were either direct disciples of the apostles or had personal knowledge of them. There is considerable evidence from these Fathers (and many more after them) that the Apostles were in fact the source of the New Testament writings. 
In fact, Geisler claims that by 110 AD, the Fathers had cited 19 of the 27 NT books as Scripture. By 300 AD, the Fathers had quoted “nearly every verse of the NT.” Only 11 verses gone unquoted.

Perhaps the leading NT scholar of his day, Bruce Metzger, concluded:

  • Neither individuals or councils created the canon; instead they came to recognize the self-authenticating quality of these writings, which imposed themselves as canonical upon the church.
The commentary writer, William Barclay, who was by no means an inerrantist, admitted:

  • It’s the simple truth to say that the NT books became canonical because no one could stop them from doing so. 
And the church councils? Hadn’t they decided which books were to be included in the canon? It had already become patently obvious.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Does Science make the Christian Faith Irrelevant?

Does science – its findings and technological advancements – make Christianity irrelevant? Law professor and apologist, David Skeel, re-states this common objection to Christianity:

  • Many aspects of our existence were mysterious a few centuries ago, and God was the commonly accepted explanation. Since then, science has solved many of the mysteries, and scientists are steadily solving others. There is no need for God. (From an interview in Christian Union)
However, the critical question is this:

  • Does science solve these mysteries apart from God or in concert with God? Has science staked out for itself a domain independent of God or dependent upon Him? Therefore, when we acknowledge science, must we also acknowledge that this entire enterprise rests upon God?
Science depends on universal, immutable, and elegant laws. Without them, no scientific knowledge is possible – at best, only change. From where then do these laws arise and how are they maintained within a universe of molecules-in-motion? Can an explosion – the Big Bang – account for them? Certainly, explosions never create order or functional products, even less, the laws of science.

Instead, these laws give every sign of Design and not the product of as yet non-existent natural processes. Therefore, the search for a natural explanation before the natural exists is oxymoronic. Rather, the laws of science tend to point to the Transcendent for an explanation for their origin, immutability, universality, elegance and perpetuation. Even the pages of Scripture would agree:

  • Jeremiah 33:25 states that God accomplishes His purposes through “fixed laws of heaven and earth.” 
  • Job 38:33 “Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up [God's] dominion over the earth?”
If this is true, then the entire scientific enterprise depends on resources that can only come from God. These resources also include the complex and mysterious phenomena of matter, energy, time, and space, not to mention logic, reason, and math. Skeel marvels about math:

  • Mathematicians have repeatedly conjured up concepts that seemed purely abstract, and yet proved essential to understanding features of our universe such as subatomic physics. How is it that the universe is rationally intelligible, and that our minds are somehow tuned to that rationality? For a materialist, this puzzle is very hard to explain.
Not only do we find a harmony between math and this world of science, we also observe an incredible degree of harmony between logic/reason and this world – a harmony that allows us to understand and use it. This harmony seems to represent a grand Design. As Skeel puts it, “For a materialist, this puzzle is very hard to explain.”

In fact, some materialists have forsaken a naturalistic understanding of the universe. The now-deceased Antony Flew has been called the “foremost atheist thinker of the 20th century.” However, after 40 years of debating Christians, he surprised the world.

At a 2004 debate at New York University, Flew declared that he “now accepted the existence of a God” (p. 74). In that debate, he said that he believed that the origin of life points to a creative Intelligence,

  • Almost entirely because of the DNA investigations. What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements to work together. It’s the enormous complexity of the number of elements and the enormous subtlety of the ways they work together. The meeting of these two parts at the right time by chance is simply minute. It is all a matter of the enormous complexity by which the results were achieved, which looked to me like the work of intelligence.” (Antony Flew with Roy Varghese, There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, 75).
Did Flew have a religious experience that had biased him against a naturalistic explanation? He explained:

  • I must stress that my discovery of the Divine has proceeded on a purely natural level, without any reference to supernatural phenomena. It has been an exercise in what has traditionally been called natural theology. It has had no connection with any of the revealed religions. Nor do I claim to have had any personal experience of God or any experience that may be called supernatural or miraculous. In short, my discovery of the Divine has been a pilgrimage of reason and not of faith. (93).
In fact, the materialistic/naturalistic attempts to explain this universe fall flat in many respects. Any viable theory must be able to explain all of the phenomena in its domain, However, there are just so many things that naturalism cannot explain – the origins of the fine-tuning of the universe, DNA, life, the cell, freewill, consciousness, biological invention and diversity (irreducible complexity), the chemical table, logic, reason, the purpose of life, art and music appreciation, and objective moral law.

However, the existence of an omniscient and omnipotent Creator provides one simple explanation for all of these phenomena. It would therefore seem that the God-paradigm is the superior one and not the irrelevant one.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Gay Marriage, the Supreme Court, and Gross Hypocrisy

Predictably, the Supreme Court split along ideological lines, voting 5 to 4 in favor of gay marriage, making it legal for the entire nation.

President Barack Obama also responded predictably:

  • "This ruling is a victory for America. This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts. When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free."

Certainly, all Americans must be treated as equals, but this isn’t the point. The law has never treated behaviors as equal; nor should it. In fact, discrimination is the very essence of justice. It is the law’s duty to convict the perpetrator of criminal behavior and to defend the innocent.

I also agree with the President that “When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free." However, the very opposite thing is happening in the wake of pro-gay rulings. The rights and speech of those who believe in traditional marriage are being violated. For example:

  • An Iowa Christian couple has lost their livelihood, because they believe in natural marriage. Richard and Betty Odgaard ran Görtz Haus Gallery in Grimes, Iowa -- a beautiful wedding chapel, art gallery, flower shop, and bistro.  They had been serving happy customers in the renovated stone church for 11 years. That is, until homosexuals from Des Moines targeted their Christian business, to use as a tool of the gay agenda.
  • A Pentagon spokesman has just said in writing that Christian troops will be punished and court-martialed if they dare to talk about their personal faith in Jesus Christ. 
Such violations of our constitutionally guaranteed rights are escalating along with the gay political agenda. Why doesn’t the President apply this same principle - “When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free" – to others! Would you call it “hypocrisy?” I certainly would!

The Supreme Court’s deciding vote was cast by Justice Kennedy, who argued:

  • "Without the recognition, stability and predictability marriage offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser."
Is Kennedy truly concerned about the welfare of children? Why then isn’t he concerned about the myriad of studies showing the high price paid by these future parents in terms of abbreviated lives, STDs, mental health issues, domestic violence, and substance abuse? Why does he seem to be dismissive of the overwhelming number of studies showing that children fare far better with their biological parents?

Does he really care about the children? Do any of those who voted in favor of gay marriage?