The Centrality of The Resurrection Part II

The Centrality of The Resurrection

Part II

In part one of our series on the centrality of the resurrection we pointed out that in the earliest proclamation of the Gospel there was a heavy emphasis placed on the resurrection of Christ and his corresponding lordship.  We saw that in the book of Romans the apostle Paul spent equal or more time on the subject of the resurrection than he did on the death of Christ for our sins.  In fact, he contributes justification and salvation to the resurrection (Rom. 4:25, 5:9-12).  He also points out that the resurrection is the proof God has given to all mankind that Jesus is His one and only unique son (Rom. 1:4).

In speaking about the centrality of the resurrection, we are not inferring that Christ crucified or dying for our sins is not central to the Christian gospel.  Both the death of Christ and his resurrection are central to the New Testament witness.  They are actually two sides of the same event.  We can call this event the Christ event.  The apostle Paul in speaking about the Christ event says that the death and resurrection are the central elements of the gospel of Jesus Christ and spoke about them as one happening or event (I Cor. 15:1-4).  In one aspect we could say that his death was the beginning of the resurrection for it marked the beginning of his exodus from this world into glory (Luke 19:31).  He has promised that all those that will put their faith in him will join him in that great exodus on the final day.  His resurrection is a guarantee that they will be fellow sojourners with him into the heavenly places.

In part two of our series I would like to look at a few of the sermons of the early disciples found in the book of Acts in the New Testament.  The first one is found in Acts chapter 2:22-36.  The speaker is the apostle Peter and he is speaking for himself and the other apostles who were all witnesses of the resurrection.  The following is his message to the very Jews, who crucified  Christ.

22 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him:

“‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ 

29 “Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” ‘ 

36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

In the above section of the book of Acts, we find the apostle Peter making a series of arguments for Jesus being the Christ.  In making his arguments he calls upon five witnesses to the lordship of Jesus Christ.  In verse 22, he points people to the witness of the life of Christ and the miracle’s God did through Christ.  If nothing else the miracles were a witness to the fact that this man was approved by God.  In verse 23, he points out to the people that even though God demonstrated his approval of Jesus through working signs and wonders and miracles through him, still the people put him to death.  Then in verse 24 he again says that God bore witness to Jesus again by raising him from the dead.  In verse 25 Peter points to the witness of Old Testament scriptures, pointing out that the resurrection was the fulfillment of the prophecy made by David in the Old Testament.  In verses 29 through 31 Peter explains exactly how this prophecy was fulfilled by the resurrection.  Then in verse 32 he points out the witness of the twelve apostles who all personally witnessed Jesus raised from the dead.  Finally, in verse 33 he points out that the Holy Spirit was bearing witness to Christ and the resurrection by fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy, which predicted God would pour out his Spirit on his people in the last days, which was the very experience that Peter’s listeners had themselves witnessed (Acts 2:14-21).  How could they deny what they were seeing and hearing?  So we have the witness of the life of Christ, the witness of the resurrection, the witness of scripture, the witness of the apostles and the witness of the Holy Spirit all pointing to fact that Jesus is the Christ the Lord.

Some might object because they do not believe in the miraculous, but let me submit  that the conversion of these 3000 people in itself is an evidence to the miraculous.  In verse, 23 Peter said he was speaking to the very people who had crucified Jesus.  His audience accepted his remarks about the miraculous signs and wonders that Jesus worked and his miraculous resurrection.  If there ever was a group of people that could have disputed the miracles of Jesus and his resurrection, this was the group, but they did not.  This also would have been an excellent time for the enemies of the Jesus movement to produce a body or for someone to have disputed the life and miracles of Jesus.  However, there were no counter-witnesses to anything that the apostle Peter said.

I think it’s quite evident that we do not have the complete sermon that the apostle Peter preached in Acts chapter 2. What we have is an abbreviated version of the sermon.  It is evident from verse 38 in the chapter that Peter also spoke to the multitude about the forgiveness of sins.  In verse 40, it clearly stated that he spoke many other words to the audience.  However, one thing we do know is that the Holy Spirit saw fit to record in Scripture this emphasis on the resurrection and lordship of Jesus. Which we will see is a pattern throughout the Book of Acts.

 

To be continued

Rom 10:8-10

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

 

The Centrality of the Resurrection Part I

The Centrality of the Resurrection

Part I

The resurrection of Jesus Christ has been so neglected by followers of Jesus that we might wonder whether they are really the followers of the same Jesus Christ of the first disciples.  From a casual reading of the New Testament, but especially the Book of Acts, the early disciples not only believed in the resurrected Christ but also made the message of the resurrection along with the death of Christ the centrality of their preaching.

It is the church’s faith in the resurrection of her Lord that makes the Christian faith different from all other faiths.  Without the resurrection, the Christian faith is nothing more than a lifeless religion.  Everyone who professes to be a Christian must ask himself whether he really believes in the resurrection or is it simply a doctrine that one believes because of tradition.  The answer to this question can be found by reflecting on what impact it has had on your life.  Do you think and life as though Jesus is alive and coming back to judge the living and the dead?

Let’s take a look at early preaching of the first century church.  We can begin in the book of Romans.  The apostle Paul in Romans 10:9-11 said that belief in the resurrection is one of two of the foundational beliefs that makes one a Christian and is required for salvation.  “That if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”  As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (Rom. 10:9-11).

In his opening remarks in the book of Romans, Paul said that the resurrection of Jesus established His Lordship and His authority for the believer “who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 1:4).  Without the resurrection, Jesus would not be the Christ.  For how could a dead man be the Christ and how could a man who was convicted as a common criminal and executed be the Lord and Savior of the world?  We will see that it was the resurrection that justified Jesus and all those who believe in Him as their Lord.

During the ministry of Jesus, the disciples felt privileged that they were chosen to be the disciples of the master.  However, after his arrest, trial, and crucifixion they were not so proud.  In fact, some were ashamed, believing that maybe they had made a great mistake.  To them it looked like the political and religious powers had demonstrated that this Jesus they followed was a common criminal, a liar, and a false prophet.  They were disillusioned and ashamed of their faith and their commitment to this man.  They were perplexed at how they could have been so deceived and so wrong about the one that they had put their hope and trust in.

However, the story was not over yet for God raised Him from the dead.  In raising Him from the dead, God renewed the hope and trust of the disciples in their Messiah.  Years after the resurrection, the apostle Peter speaks about the renewal of their hope through the resurrection when he said, “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3- 4).  Note that the apostle speaks of living Hope, a Hope that can never again be diminished by the death of its author.  But God did more than that, for in the resurrection God spoke to them confirming everything that Jesus had told them and even more.  He revealed numerous new truths through the resurrection event.

One of those truths is that the disciples of Jesus will never be put to shame again.  “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame (Rom. 10:9-11).  On the Judgment Day many people will be ashamed of what they have said and done.  But the resurrection is the believer’s assurance that his sins have been forgiven and that he will never be ashamed before the living God.  The apostle Paul said, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Rom 4:25).  “Who is he that condemns?  He is Christ Jesus, who died and more than that was raised to life where he is now at the right hand of God interceding for us” (Rom 8:34-35).  For the apostle Paul, the resurrection is the evidence that the believers’ sins are forgiven and that they stand justified before God.  Without the witness of the resurrection we are still dead in our sins.  “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17-19).

Moreover, it is the resurrection of Jesus Christ that sets Him above all earthly authorities.  It was the religious and political powers that condemned Jesus to death.  They said He was guilty of blaspheming and rebellion against Rome.  The religious leaders said that His crucifixion would be a witness to the fact that He was accused by God.  “Cursed is everyone that hangs on a tree.”  They said that according to law of God, He must die.  But in the resurrection, God reversed their decision and said that the accursed one is the justified one.  In this, He set Jesus up over the Old Testament Torah (Law).  In this, God demonstrates through the resurrection that Jesus is greater than Moses and the Old Testament law.  The Romans sealed His tomb with the seal of Caesar which was the symbol of absolute authority.  The seal said, “This man will stay in the tomb.”  But over and against all of this, God raised Him from the dead, showing that the authority of Jesus is greater than the authority of Rome or any earthly authority.  In fact, His authority is even greater than natural law that says that death is permanent.  It was after the resurrection that Jesus said to His disciples, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given unto me.”  Therefore, for the believer there is no authority or power in heaven or on earth that is greater than the authority and power of Jesus.  The resurrection is the witness of His authority and power “who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 1:4).

One reason why we pray through Jesus Christ to the Father is that we believe that He has special authority in heaven and earth.  He himself said after the resurrection, “All power has been given to me in heaven and earth” (Matt 28:18-19).  The reason we can believe that He has all power in heaven and earth is because He demonstrated it by raising Himself up above and conquering every power in the universe.  The greatest of those powers which stands against God and man was death.  In the resurrection Jesus the Christ destroyed death for all those who believe in Him.  It is also the resurrection that gives us the assurance that death has been defeated and that life now reigns in the person of God’s son.

It is through the resurrection that we can have the assurance that our sins are forgiven and that we have eternal life.  The apostle John says, ” I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life (I John 5:13-14).  John says we can have the assurance of eternal life through faith in Christ.  This assurance comes to all who have placed their faith in the resurrection of Christ.  This assurance has nothing to do with one’s goodness.  If it did, no one could have assurance for no one could be good enough.  How would you know when you completely satisfied the demands of God?  The believer’s assurance of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life is based on the authority of Jesus.

The resurrection also defines which God the Christian believes in.  In the first century there were a multitude of gods to choose from.  There were the Greek gods and the Eastern gods.  There were the gods of the heavens and there were gods of the underworld.  However, for the Christians there was but one God.  That one God was defined as “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ” and “the God who raises the dead” (Rom. 4:24).  Not only does the resurrection define God, it also places Him above all the powers of the universe.  For He is the God of life who stands above the deadness of the universe.  He is the God of life and resurrection.  You see, the most powerful force in the creation before the coming of Christ into the world was death, but in the resurrection God raises Jesus above the forces and power of death.  Think about it.  Doesn’t science teach the second law of thermodynamics which says that everything is dying?  When God raised up Jesus, He set a new law in motion.  The apostle Paul calls it the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:2).  If you believe in Jesus, you will receive His Spirit and will live, even in the face of death.

 

(To be continued)

Rom 11:33-36

 ” Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable his judgments,

and his paths beyond tracing out!

   “Who has known the mind of the Lord?

Or who has been his counselor?

 “Who has ever given to God,

that God should repay him?”

 For from him and through him and to him are all things.

To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New Atheists

 

The New Atheists

“I was at this time of living, like so many Atheists or Anti-theists, in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.” C.S. Lewis

Who are the new atheists?  Unlike the traditional atheists of the past, the new atheists are a movement loosely organized around a host of websites and celebrity leaders.  They are very evangelistic and spend a large amount of time and money[i] propagating their faith, which they vehemently deny is a faith, though their movement seems to be increasingly taking on the characteristics of a religious cult.  Their purpose as a group seems to be to destroy faith in God and all religion, which they believe is evil.  So in essence, they believe they are angels of light, taking a message of freedom to the world, a freedom from a faith, which they believe poisons everything.  However, are they really angels of light?

The new atheists seem to be nice guys like any group which has little power.  However, when given power as in Russia and China, atheists behave no better than any other group or maybe worse.  In fact, they have the propensity to use force, especially state power, to spread their ideology and oppress others.  In other words, they behave very much like the thing they hate, i.e., organized religion.

They also represent the narrowest of belief systems, which a person can have, for they must reject  every religious belief system and argue for a total materialist world view.  In contrast, the Christian faith believes that it is the true and the most complete faith; but it also believes that there are many truths to be found in other faiths.  The new atheists are truly narrow people, and their thinking is one-dimensional and resembles the thinking of a fundamentalist religionist.  It is not surprising that their superstars resemble the TV evangelists.

They also share in other characteristic of religion, which is judgmental attitude and a critical spirit. Atheists embrace a naturalistic world view which, if they were being consistent, would eliminate all morality and all moral judgments.  Yet we find them making moral judgments on religious people all the time.  In fact, one of their spokesmen has recently published a book in which he even sets himself up as the moral judge of God.  The book is entitled God Is Not Good.  However, the title is misleading, for most of the book is about the failures of religion over the last few thousand years.  He seems to have missed the obvious observation that religious people are just people and people do bad things when given too much power, like the atheistic Communists of Russia and China, which he conveniently overlooks.

Because the new atheists believe that their unbelief is grounded in science, they have the tendency to elevate science to a place it ought not to hold.  For many atheists, science seems to be like a religion, which they guard as the fundamentalist religious person would guard his holy books.  This is understandable since atheists believe that science is proof of their ideology. Of course, the truth is that science does not support their faith and any true science would be the first to test and challenge any human knowledge, even atheism.  True science dictates that doubters doubt their own doubts. This might suggest that atheists are even poor skeptics.

To the new atheists, science is the proof that there is no God.  Yet the consensus of science is that science proves no such thing.  The US National Academy of Sciences has gone on record with the following statement: “Science is a way of knowing about the natural world.  It is limited to explaining the natural world through natural causes.  Science can say nothing about the supernatural.  Whether God exists or not is a question about which science is neutral.”  If this is the consensus of science, why do the new atheists keep appealing to science to justify their atheism? And why do they keep propagating the very opposite of the consensus of science?

However, no matter what the consensus is, the new atheists continue to line up behind the rebel scientists who want to use science to prove their atheism.  This simply means they are either ignorant or dishonest.  It is also strongly evident that science has little to do with making people atheists.  To read more on what makes people atheists read my paper “The Making of a Fundamentalist Atheist.”

Are the new atheists angels of light[ii]?  I don’t think so.  I personally think they are a group of people who are very angry at an existence, an existence, which to them seems meaningless and without purpose.  The only meaning in life, which they can find is to be free from anything that might restrict their appetites and to convert people to their way of viewing life.  My response is, “No thank you.”  A life without limits and meaning is not worth living.

[i] I have often asked the new atheists where they get their funding for the organized efforts to support their evangelism.  I have never received a response.  However, I believe it is highly possible that some of their funding comes from Communists like George Soros.  The Communist Party of the United States has funded attacks on religion for a century.  They know that America will never become completely Communist as long as it is religious.

[ii]  An honest unbeliever, Dr. E. Wengraf once confessed, “Every piece of anti-religious propaganda seems to me a crime.  I surely do not wish it to be prosecuted as a crime, but I consider it immoral and loathsome.  This not because of zeal for my convictions, but because of the simple knowledge, acquired through long experience that, given the same circumstances, a religious man is happier than the irreligious.  In my indifference and skeptical attitude toward all positive faith, I have often envied other men to whom deep religiosity has given a strong support in all the storms of life.  To uproot the souls of such men is an abject deed.  I abhor any proselytizing.  But still, I can understand why one who believes firmly in a saving faith tries to convert others.  But I cannot understand a propaganda of unbelief.  We do not have the right to take away from a person his protecting shelter, be it even a shabby hut, if we are not sure we can offer him a better, more beautiful house.  But to lure men from the inherited home of their souls, to make them err afterward in the wilderness of hypotheses and philosophical question marks, is either criminal fatalisms or criminal mindlessness.”

 

 

Myths about the Ten Commandments

Myths about the Ten Commandments

Robert D. Brinsmead

The Ten Commandments deserve a place of honor among the most celebrated documents of sacred history. For thousands of years the Jews have reverenced them as the words of the covenant made between God and their people at Mount Sinai. The Christian church has also recognized that the Decalogue contains a summary statement of the moral obligations resting upon all mankind. The Ten Commandments have been used as a catechism by the church since the time of Augustine. And this practice was reinforced after the Reformation.

From time to time voices have been raised within the church in favor of eliminating the Ten Commandments as inimical to Christian teaching. But just as the church catholic has retained the Old Testament as profitable for Christian instruction, it has likewise retained the Ten Commandments for the same reason (2 Tim. 3:16).

Such great teachers of the Christian church as Irenaeus, Augustine and Luther have recognized a qualified use of the Ten Commandments. They have understood that the covenantal document which God gave to the Hebrew nation must be interpreted Christianly and allowance made for the new situation which has emerged through the inbreaking of the new age of the Messiah. But just as the church’s acceptance of the Jewish Scriptures has exposed it to the danger of misusing them, so its adoption of the Ten Commandments has incurred the risk of their misuse. A number of popular myths have developed around the Ten Commandments in some parts of the Christian church. These myths are not innocuous and should therefore be challenged, because they constitute a serious misunderstanding of the Christian gospel and its bearing on Christian ethics.

Myth 1: That the Ten Commandments Are a Divine Legislation Given to All Men for All Time

The Ten Commandments appear in the narrative regarding God’s making a covenant with Israel. They are called “the words of the covenant” (Exod. 34:28), “his covenant” (Deut. 4:13) and “the Testimony” (Exod. 34:29). Research over the last thirty years has established that the Ten Commandments follow the form of a Hittite suzerainty treaty. 1 As Meredith Kline suggests, the Decalogue was the treaty which the great King made with the nation of Israel. In the preamble and historical prologue (typical of the Hittite treaty form) God addressed Israel, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Exod. 20:2). The actual commandments which follow constituted the stipulations of obligation which the covenant imposed on Israel.

Sampey is correct when he says, “It was to Israel that the Decalogue was primarily addressed, and not to all mankind.” 2Harrelson calls the Ten Commandments “the summary statement of the covenant requirements between Yahweh and Israel.”3

We must retain the biblical terminology in this matter. The Decalogue is called “the covenant” (Exod. 34:28)–that is, the Sinaitic, Mosaic or old covenant. Strictly speaking, the Old Testament (covenant) is not the thirty-nine books which bear that title in our modern Bible. Those books are documents which grew out of the covenant. The covenant itself is the Ten Commandments (Deut. 4:13). Paul is therefore terminologically correct when he identifies the old covenant with that “which was engraved in letters on stone” (see 2 Cor. 3:6-11).

According to Deuteronomy 5:2-4 the Lord did not give this covenant (of the Ten Commandments) to the fathers of the Hebrew people. Paul certainly knew how to distinguish between the covenant given to Abraham and the one given 430 years later at Sinai (Gal. 3:16-19; 4:24-26). As a covenant, the Ten Commandments were addressed to the nation of Israel on its way to the promised land (Exod. 20:12). The Sabbath commandment was enjoined with reference to Israel’s bondage in Egypt (Deut. 5:15). It should be clear that the Ten Commandments are historically conditioned and contain cultic elements adapted to the situation of the nation of Israel. Sampey is reasonable when he says:

It is possible, then, that even in the Ten Commandments there are elements peculiar to the Mosaic system and which Our Lord and His apostles may not make a part of faith and duty for Christians.4

We know of no biblical statement which declares that the Ten Commandments are God’s Law for all men for all time. The New Testament does at times cite several of the Ten Commandments from the so-called second table. But nowhere does it insist that Christians are duty-bound to take the entire Decalogue as their rule of life. The question arises, therefore, why the Christian church has honored the Ten Commandments at all if they contain cultic elements which have reference to the nation of Israel alone. Aside from these cultic elements, it has been recognized that the Ten Commandments are largely concerned with moral principles which are self-evidently binding upon all mankind. We way “self-evidently” because it has been well attested that Israel’s ancient neighbors (Egypt, Babylon and Assyria) had laws remarkably similar to the ethical stipulations of the Ten Commandments. Jewish tradition said that seven of the Ten Commandments were known to the sons of Noah and had always been binding on all mankind.5

Because man’s moral consciousness consents to the moral and ethical prohibitions contained in the Decalogue, theologians since lrenaeus have often called them “natural laws.” And since the Ten Commandments provide such a concise and convenient summary of “natural law,” the Christian church has always appreciated their significance. But such recognition of the value of the Ten Commandments differs from the more rigid and systematic mind-set which wishes to maintain the entire document in unaltered form. The New Testament nowhere says that Christians should relate to the Ten Commandments in this way. Nor was this the teaching of the fathers of the early church who followed the apostles.6

Myth 2: That the Ten Commandments Constitute the Highest Expression of God’s Will for Men

Some have regarded the Ten Commandments as though they were the ultimate biblical expression of God’s will. But such a position is a fundamental denial of the claims of Christ. Every revelation of God which comes before Christ is preliminary, veiled and partial. Christ is the full expression of the Father’s will (Col. 2:9). He is God’s final Word to the human race (John 1:1, 2; Heb. 1:1-3). One of the main theses of the Gospel of John is to show that Jesus has removed the Law from the central position it occupied in Judaism. He has taken its place as the Word, the living Water, the Bread of life, the Light of the world, the guiding Shepherd, the Way, the Truth and the Life.7

The Ten Commandments themselves share the inadequacies which characterize the entire Old Testament. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3, the revelation given in the old covenant was glorious, but its glory has been rendered obsolete by the surpassing glory of the greater revelation given in Christ. Rather than being a final statement of the will of God, the Ten Commandments are actually an inadequate expression of Christian morality. For example, in requiring masters to allow their slaves and slave girls to rest on the Sabbath, the fourth commandment implicitly condones the institution of slavery (Exod. 20:8-11, NEB). The tenth commandment likewise condones this institution when it prohibits coveting the neighbor’s slave and slave girl.

As we have already seen, the Ten Commandments were the words of the covenant which God addressed to Israel on their way to the promised land. God clearly accommodates his revelation to the needs of his people in their historical and cultural situation. The Old Testament, including the Ten Commandments, tolerated slavery, polygamy,8 wars to exterminate national enemies, and other practices which fall short of God’s final revelation in Christ. Furthermore, in such matters as exposing the sins of the spirit or commending the practice of positive virtues, the Ten Commandments fall far short of the spirituality of New Testament ethics.9 Rather than imagining that the Ten Commandments forbid every failure to reflect God’s glory and commend every virtue, we should realize that they express the minimal obligations for life within the old-covenant community. The unique feature of the Ten Commandments is not that they demand the highest moral and ethical ideals–for Israel’s heathen neighbors had laws which expressed identical demands. The Ten Commandments were unique because they subsumed such ethical stipulations under a covenant of loving obedience to the personal Lord of the covenant, thereby achieving a unity of monotheistic religion and ethics unknown among other nations.

Jesus brings the Old Testament (including the Law) to completion. He is the Word, the Will of God incarnate, the living Torah. In his unveiled reality, he was all that the Law could only foreshadow.

As a Pharisee, Paul had understood the Torah to be the highest revelation of the will of God to man. But in his vision of the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul recognized in him a fuller, eschatological revelation of God. In other words, Christ, the bearer of the image of the invisible God, has superseded the Torah as the revelation of God and of his will for mankind (2 Cor 4:4-6)10

For the Christian, the Decalogue is no longer the highest summary of human duty. He must ever read it with sincere respect as one of the great monuments of the love of God in the moral and religious education of mankind; but it has given place to the higher teaching of the Son of God, all that was permanently valuable in the Ten Commandments having been taken up into the teaching of Our Lord and His apostles.11

For the Christian the greater reality on which his duty is founded is life in Christ. Christ has expressed this blessed reality in the form of the new law through His words and example, and above all through the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matthew ch. 5-7) and the farewell discourse (John ch. 14-17). The Decalogue falls far short of this directive toward perfection. To attempt to represent it as a summa of Christian morality implies an inadmissible impoverishment. 12

Myth 3: That the Ten Commandments Are Central in New Testament Ethics

Robert Banks says:

It would appear.., that the central position given to the Decalogue in much Catholic and Protestant thinking is open to question.13

On the evidence of the New Testament, Banks is justified in calling the centrality of the Ten Commandments into question. The great theme of the New Testament is the person and authority of Jesus Christ. He unquestionably forces the Law from its key position, and he occupies the central place both as a way of salvation and as a rule of life. All that the Law was to Judaism, Christ is to the New Testament community. It is not what Moses says or even what the Ten Commandments say which constitutes God’s final word, but the person, work and teaching of Jesus. He is the living Torah, who supersedes the authority of Moses (Matt. 5; 12:1-12). In him the Old Testament prophecies concerning the going forth of God’s law from Zion (as distinct from Sinai) are fulfilled (Isa. 2:1-5; Micah 4:1-5; Heb. 12:18-24). The New Testament has a new covenant, a new mountain, a new Teacher and a new law. In this all that is of permanent and enduring value in the old order is taken up in Christ and given greater force. In a penetrating comment on the significance of Christ’s transfiguration, Hartmut Gese says:

The synoptic gospels contain another account which gives a basic answer to the question of Torah, the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8; Matt. 17:1-8; Luke 9:28-36). It gains great importance through its position in the composition of the gospels and cannot be explained as a “misplaced Easter story.” We should read this account too through the eyes of the Old Testament. Jesus ascends a mysterious “high mountain” that is not further identified. The text says “after six days” without giving any starting point for this period of time. But we know that after six days during which a cloud covered Mount Sinai Moses went up the mountain into the light of God’s glory (Exod. 24:16). He was accompanied by Aaron the high priest and the original pair of brother priests, Nadab and Abihu (Exod. 24:1). Here Jesus is accompanied by Peter and the brothers James and John, sons of Zebedee. Just as Moses entered the cloud and the divine light (Exod. 24:18) with the result that his face shone (Exod. 34:29-35), so Jesus was transformed by a light not of this world. Beside him appeared Moses and Elijah, the only ones in the Old Testament who received a revelation on the “mountain,” and they converse with him. Peter naturally thought that this was the place where the tents should be erected for the three recipients of revelation, the tents which the Old Testament describes (Exod. 33:7-11) for use in the ritual observance of the Sinai event. But Peter did not know what he was saying. The Old Testament says, “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud abode (shakan; Gk: hoti epeskiazen ep auten he nephele) and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exod. 40:34-35). Here they themselves were covered by the divine doxa, and they heard the revelation of the new covenant. In the ancient event at Sinai God revealed himself in the formula of self-introduction, “I am Yahweh,” and then he gave the Decalogue. Here, however, God introduces his son, “This is my beloved Son,” and then he continues, “listen to him.” Jesus himself has become the revealed Word. The gospel writers could not present it more powerfully: Jesus himself is the Torah.. 14

Nowhere do Jesus and the apostles exhort us to study the Law except for the purpose of finding in it a testimony to Jesus Christ. in all his letters to the young Gentile churches, Paul has much to say on Christian ethics. But the apostle does not generally reason from the Ten Commandments to Christian duty. His reference point for ethics is not the Decalogue but Christ, his gospel and his Spirit. If Paul subscribed to the Puritan-Reformed idea that the Law (with special reference to the Ten Commandments) was the great rule of life for Christians, he missed many excellent opportunities to expound and illustrate this. It cannot be argued that he took this matter for granted, for he was writing to newly-established Gentile churches which had no background in the Old Testament Law. Aside from two or three incidental references to the Law and the Ten Commandments, Paul reasons from Christ and his gospel to the content of the Christian life. The apostle made no synthesis of New Testament grace with Old Testament ethics as did the false teachers at Galatia. That which determines how a man stands with God–namely, Christ and his gospel–is that which also determines how a man ought to live. The heart of New Testament ethics is faith in Christ and submission to his authority as Lord.

Myth 4: That Because the New Testament Cites Some of the Ten Commandments, This Proves That the Entire Covenantal Document Is Binding

In several instances the New Testament cites some of the commandments from the so-called second table. This is sometimes used as evidence that the entire Decalogue is still binding for Christians. But such logic is fallacious. In 1 Corinthians 9:9 Paul cites the Law of Moses concerning muzzling the ox which treads out the corn. But would any Christian use this as evidence that the entire Law of Moses is still binding for Christians? The Australian constitution cites the words of the first amendment of the constitution of the United States of America. It has thereby incorporated features of American constitutional law in its own constitution. But this does not prove that Australians live under the American constitution.

The new covenant retained what was of universal application in the old covenant. These provisions, however, are not binding on Christians because they are found in the Ten Commandments but because they are self-evident “natural laws” which are not weakened but intensified by Christ and his apostles.

Those who advocate the inviolable claims of the Ten Commandments as a rule of life, yet fail to keep the Jewish Sabbath, are inconsistent. However much they may search for texts which indicate that the New Testament revised the fourth commandment, they are only indulging in a futile exercise to support a tradition that began centuries after the apostles.15 But there is an even stronger argument against their inconsistency. The Ten Commandments constitute the words of the covenant which God gave at Sinai. Every word and letter of a covenant must be taken exactly as it is stated. It is not possible to revise a single clause of a covenant without rendering the whole document null and void. Either the Ten Commandment covenant is entirely binding as God gave it or the covenant is not binding at all. Thus, Seventh-day Sabbatarians are more consistent than their Puritan-Reformed friends from whom they have taken the concept of the Ten Commandments as the great rule of life for Christians.

Myth 5: That the Ten Commandments Are Wholly Devoted to Moral Law As Distinct from Ceremonial Law

The idea of making a sharp distinction between moral and ceremonial laws in the corpus of Mosaic legislation arose in post-biblical times. “The division between the strictly moral and the ‘ceremonial’ in our modern sense was entirely unknown to the Jews. 16 When the New Testament refers to “the Law,” it generally means the entire Mosaic corpus of law. New Testament scholars seem to agree that Paul makes no distinction between one part of the Law and another.

This is not to deny that some contrast between moral-ethical principles and ritual-ceremonial ordinances is valid. But we should not read the distinctions of modern theological language back into scriptural texts where the writers had no burden to make such distinctions.

As far as the entire Mosaic legislation is concerned, there is such a profound mingling of ethical elements with the so-called ceremonial that it is impossible to clearly distinguish the two. One thing is obvious: the line dividing these two elements does not run between the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Mosaic legislation. Even casual reading of the laws in Leviticus 19 will quickly show that moral and ethical laws are mingled with laws for the Jewish cultus. In the same way, the Ten Commandments show the mingling of ethical and cultic elements. Luther, for example, argued that the conmandments concerning both images and the Sabbath were ceremonial. Paul, who taught that idols were nothing, would have broken the second commandment according to accepted Jewish tradition. And the great apostle to the Gentiles certainly gave no heed to the Old Testament Sabbath prescriptions (Rom. 14:5; Gal. 4:10; Col. 2:16).

Leviticus 23 not only declares the Sabbath to be a festival, but links it to the entire system of Jewish festivals. A festival is a ceremony of remembrance and is not one of the “natural [moral] laws” which are written on the hearts of the Gentiles (Rom. 2:15).

While the Ten Commandments are chiefly concerned with common morality, they are a covenant between God and Israel. Therefore a festival or ceremony of covenant renewal–applicable to the Jewish religious cultus alone–is included among the moral stipulations.

Myth 6: That the New Testament Exhorts Christians to Keep the Commandments Is Proof That the Ten Commandments Are Binding upon Them

When the New Testament urges Christians to keep God’s commandments, we cannot assume that it literally means keeping the entire Decalogue.17 By “commandments” John generally means faith and love (John 13:34; 14:1, 15; 15:12-14, 17; 1 John 3:23).

John also refers to God’s commandments in the book of Revelation (Rev. 12:17; 14:12). But while it is true that the revelator uses Jewish imagery throughout his book, such terms as twelve tribes of Israel, seal, ark of the covenant, testimony, tabernacle, Babylon and Euphrates do not have a literal Jewish meaning but are given a Christian meaning.

In 1 Corinthians 7:19 God’s commandments are those mediated to the church in the apostolic teaching (1 Cor. 7:10; 14:37).

In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus specifically refers to obeying “everything I have commanded you.”

When the New Testament refers to “the Law,” it generally means the Law of Moses (e.g., John 1:17; Acts 15:5; 1 Cor. 9:8, 9, 20). “The Law” is the equivalent of what the Jews called the Torah. The word “Law” is always in the singular and means the entire Law or even the entire five books of Moses (Matt. 5:17; Rom. 3:21). Scholars are agreed that when the New Testament refers to “the Law,” no distinction is made between moral and so-called ceremonial laws.18 “The Law” (i.e., the Law of Moses) includes the Ten Commandments as well as regulations regarding uncleanness. According to the rabbis there were 613 commandments in the Law. The New Testament sometimes refers to the Ten Commandments as the Law of Moses (Mark 7:9, 10; John 7:19; Heb. 10:28; cf. Deut. 17:2-6).

In view of the foregoing, if texts such as Matthew 5:17 and Romans 3:31 are “proof” that Christians should keep the Ten Commandments, they are also “proof” thai Christians should keep all 613 commandments of the Law. Obviously, that is not the meaning of such texts. They are telling us that the Law pointed to Christ and testified of him (John 5:39; Rom. 3:21). He therefore came to confirm all that Moses and the prophets had written. The true end of the Law is to lead us to place our faith in Christ and to obey the gospel. He who does this has fulfilled the Law according to its true intent.

Conclusions

  1. Is it therefore legitimate for Christians to use the Ten Commandments? To this we answer Yes, provided they are approached through Christ and interpreted Christianly. Irenaeus, Augustine and Luther used the Ten Commandments legitimately. They interpreted them according to the new situation brought about by the new age of Christ. But many groups of Christians have not followed these great teachers of the church. They have adopted a more rigid and literal mind-set which trys to apply even the religious and cultic details of the Ten Commandments as a rule of life.

Ridderbos points out “that with Christ’s advent the law, also as far as its content is concerned, has been brought under a new norm of judgment and that failure to appreciate this new situation is a denial of Christ (Gal. 5:2).”19 Haring makes this sensible comment on the Ten Commandments:

Whoever wishes to consider it, following Augustine, as the basis for a moral schema must present it in the light of the New Testament and New Testament law (Sermon on the Mount and the farewell discourse) and thus in the light of Christ and of life in Christ.20

  1. Yet having conceded this, we must say that using the Ten Commandments as a basis for a moral schema is not the New Testament approach. Here Jesus Christ replaces the Law, including the Ten Commandments, not only as a way to God but as a rule of life. All that the Law was to Judaism, Christ is to the New Testament community. In his Epistles Paul’s great reference point for ethics is not what the Law stipulates but what Christ and his gospel demand. According to Paul, wrong behavior is that which is “not acting in line with the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2:14) or whatever “is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:10, 11). Christian behavior is determined by Christ–his person, his work and his teaching. Paul’s Epistles demonstrate conclusively that Christ is the great Guide, Shepherd, Teacher, Word and Rule of life for his people. As the apostolic fathers of the early church pointed out, Christ himself has become the living Law or Torah. This new revelation of God’s law comes out of Zion rather than from Sinai in fulfillment of what the prophets declared would take place in the new age of the Messiah (Isa. 2:1-51.

Notes and References

  1. Hittite suzerainty treaties were treaties or covenants imposed by Hittite kings or emperors on their vassal kings. See Robert D. Brinsmead, Covenant (Fallbrook, Calif: Verdict Publications, 19791, p. 10.
  2. John Richard Sampey, art. “The Ten Commandments,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, James Orr, gen. ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 19391, 5:2944B.
  3. W.J. Harrelson, art. “Ten Commandments,” The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, ed. George Arthur Buttrick (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 19621, p. 569.
  4. Sampey, “The Ten Commandments” p. 2944B.
  5. These were called Noachian commandments. See The Jewish Encyclopedia, ed. Isidore Singer (New York: KTAV Publishing House, n.d.), 7:648-50.
  6. See the works of Ignatius, Justin Martyr, lrenaeus and Tertullian. Actually, Irenaeus (A.D. 120-2021 seems to have been the first of the fathers to single out the Decalogue as an expression of moral obligations applicable to all mankind. The tradition of using the Ten Commandments for catechetical purposes gradually developed in the Catholic Church. Yet lrenaeus (and those following his tradition) did not consider the Sabbath commandment binding on Christians in any literal sense. The Ten Commandments were interpreted Christianly. There is no evidence that the apostles singled out the Ten Commandments from the rest of Old Testament law and used them for catechetical purposes.
  7. Judaism had invested the Law with all these titles of honor.
  8. While the seventh commandment condemns adultery, it does not condemn polygamy. Many great O d Testament saints had more than one wife.
  9. For an example of how the New Testament has an ethical maturity far beyond the OId Testament, compare Ephesians 4 and 5 with the Ten Commandments.
  10. Brian Wintle, “Paul’s Conception of the Law of Christ and Its Relation to the Law of Moses,” Reformed Theological Review38, no. 2 (May-Aug. 19791: 45.
  11. Sampey, “The Ten Commandments,” pp. 2946-47.
  12. B. Häring, art. “Ten Commandments,” New Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 19671, 4:8.
  13. Robert Banks, Jesus and the Law in the Synoptic Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 19751, p. 244.
  14. Hartmut Gese, Essays on Biblical Theology, tr. Keith Crim (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 19811, pp. 88-9.
  15. See H. L. Ellison, art. “Sunday,” The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, J. D. Douglas, gen. ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 19741, p. 940.
  16. Jakob Jocz, The Jewish People and Jesus Christ: The Relationship between Church and Synagogue, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 19491, p. 68.
  17. Matthew 19:17-19 is not an exception, because Jesus was addressing a Jew. In any case, Jesus only used the commandments as a springboard to press his own claims for total allegiance as the only way to become complete.
  18. See Jocz, Jewish People and Jesus Christ, p. 68. See also W. Gutbrod, art. on the Law, in Gerhard Kittel, ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. tr. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. 1967 1, 4:1069, 1072.
  19. Herman Ridderbos, Paul.’ An Outline of His Theology tr. John Richard de Witt (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 19751, p. 284.
  20. Häring, “Ten Commandments,” p. 8

 

Miracles and Science

Miracles and Science

By its very nature, atheism must appeal to science as a basis for its unbelief, for without science, it would have little intellectual ground for its beliefs. Of course, most knowledgeable people know that science cannot prove God’s existence or disprove it.[1] At best, science can only offer a naturalistic way of looking at things. This raises the question: Are miracles contrary to nature?

Einstein once said there are only two ways of looking at the world—everything is a miracle or nothing is a miracle. At first, I did not quite know how to take Einstein’s statement. Then I realized that for Einstein, time no longer mattered. He had found the eternal now through his theory on relativity.

You may say, “Okay, what has this to do with miracles?” It has a lot to do with miracles if miracles are in any way connected to time, which I believe they are. But before pursuing that thought it is important for us to clarify the word miracle.

I have had a number of atheists tell me that the difference between science and religion is that the latter believes in miracles and science does not. However, I do not believe that assertion is true. There are two miracles which both science and religion claim to have a belief in, though they may not call them miracles. It is the creation of the universe and the beginning of life.  I say this because these events happened one time; they fall outside of natural law and are beyond a reasonable probability. Remember, to be consistent atheists must conclude that nature and its laws did not exist at the time of the creation, since they were specifically created by “the big bang,” just like the rest of nature.

Just by the observation of nature no one can explain how nothing could be turned into something; and no one can explain how something could turn into something else without a miracle. Of course,  there are many who believe that they have explained these extraordinary changes, but we need to remember that the explanation is not the observation, and the explanation is not the evidence.

Authentic science is based on the scientific method, which states that in order for a phenomenon, occurrence or event to be a true scientific fact, it must be observed and one must be able to reproduce it.  There also must be a means, by which at least an attempt can be made to falsify it.   Neither the creation of the universe, nor the creation of life was observed by anyone living today or in recorded history.  These events cannot  be reproduced either, which puts them outside the arena of science and into the sphere of speculative philosophy or religion. It all comes back to the metaphysical or religious question of why there is something instead of nothing. [2]

 

Now here’s the astonishing parallel. Both religion and science believe in the miracles of creation (something from nothing) and in the evolution of life (something turning into something else).[3] The only difference is the time factor. One believes in fast miracles (religion) and the other in slow miracles (science). Either fast or slow, both of the above fits into the category of the miraculous.  I know that religion does not like slow miracles, and science does not like fast miracles, but remember what Einstein taught us?  Time is relative.

To us humans we have an awareness of time, but it means nothing to the deity, unless when dealing with humans. For that matter, time also means nothing to the animals. There is no evidence that animals are conscious of time.

By now I am sure that those who believe in scientism[4] are about to blow their tops.  Well, let it blow; it may help you to get into your right mind. Your right mind is the mind that can discern the difference between facts and the interpretation of facts, between the data and the explanation and the difference between science and philosophy. Blowing your top may help you get rid of your fuzzy thinking about existence.

So, what have we learned? We have learned that when talking about a metaphysical phenomenon, occurrence or event like the creation of something out of nothing; i.e., things relating to the transcendent or to a reality beyond what is perceptible to the senses, both science and religion appear to believe in some of the same supernatural events. One of those events is the creation of something out of nothing, a phenomenon which is completely outside of nature and space-time as we know it.  However, we find both religion and science telling us  that something changed into something else. Within religion, it is God turning the dust of the ground (star dust) into life, and within science, we see a similar idea, but a lot slower (evolution).

Some of you science buffs are probably saying, “Wait a minute. The big bang theory, science’s creation story, is backed up with facts.”  Well, if there is evidence for the big bang theory, the same facts could prove that God created the universe ex-nihilo, out of nothing. The only difference is that instead of referring to God, scientists call the Alpha a ‘singularity which is a convoluted description of the infinite, the nothing or unknown. No matter what you call it, it sure looks like a miracle. It is something coming from nothing. By far, this must be the greatest miracle of all. It even tops one being resurrected from the dead, which is another example of something changing into something else, and nothing becoming something.

When someone tells me they cannot believe in miracles  but at the same time tell me they can believe in the big bang theory and evolution, I have to wonder if they either misunderstand miracles or the big bang theory and evolution. The statistical probability of the big bang and life coming from non life and then evolving undirected to its apex in mankind is just unbelievable. Yet, many believe in both. Why is it so hard for these folks to believe that God did it? Could it be the conditioning of an atheistic and secular culture?

I know nature has its laws and that some believe they are never suspended or superseded by an outside source. However, from my perspective, a miracle is not the deity suspending natural law, but simply speeding nature up or slowing her down to serve His purposes. So, a phenomenon, occurrence or event in my thinking is a miracle, whether it happens swiftly or slowly. When Jesus turned water into wine He was simply speeding up what nature does with the help of man s every season, in turning grapes into wine.

When Jesus healed people, it was always  instant and complete demonstrating  His power to speed up the natural healing process. When he calmed the storm he was not overriding nature’s laws, but simply speeding them up. Storms always pass given enough time. However, sometimes God gives them a little nudge. I think some scientists might call this the ‘butterfly effect’.

Nature never changes its mind on its own, for it is quite dumb. In fact, it is mindless. It is totally controlled by cause and effect in itself. It needs intelligence outside of itself to speed it up sometimes, as when Jesus turned water into wine. I know a lot of people have a problem with this, but it happens on a small scale every time humans exercise their will. When I hit a cue ball on a billiards table, I have set into motion the natural law of cause and effect.  The laws of nature take over until one of my friends reaches down and quickly removes one of the balls or the cue ball. My friend’s action, which came from his will (mind) has changed the game.

In essence, the game was started by a will and it was changed by a will every time the players interacted with the billiard balls. The game did not create itself nor did it start the game all by itself.  The game is the effect not the ultimate cause, nor is the game the maker of the rules for the game.  If the game has rules, there must be a rule maker and one of the rules of the game is that the creator of the game can speed it up or slow it down or for that matter, do anything he wants thereby changing the rules of the game or the game itself. Of course, the expression speed up or slow down are completely irrelevant to the Uncreated One who is outside space-time. However, He does seem to respect our finiteness and accommodates the failure of our language to communicate His reality, i.e., His game.

For those wishing to pursue the subject of miracles, I would suggest that you begin with C.S. Lewis’s book on miracles and The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton. Both books will give you plenty to think about.

[1] The US National Academy of Sciences has gone on record with the following statement: “Science is a way of knowing about the natural world. It is limited to explaining the natural world through natural causes. Science can say nothing about the supernatural. Whether God exists or not is a question about which science is neutral.” Taken from “Who made God? A Searching for a Theory of Everything by Fay Weldon.

[2] Note: The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton. . The ultimate question is why they go at all; and anybody who really understands that question will know that it always has been and always will be a religious question; or at any rate a philosophical or metaphysical question.

[3] Religious people need to remember that God did not make man out of nothing. He formed him out of the dust of the earth or you could say star dust. In this God changed man from one thing to something else. How He did it is debatable for no one was there watching. It could have been fast or slow.

[4] Scientism is an expression used by some to designate a group of people who have made science into a religion.

The Magical Twins-Science and Magic

The Magical Twins

“Those who have studied the period know better. There was very little magic in the Middle Ages; the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are the high noon of magic. The serious magical endeavour and the serious scientific endeavour are twins: one was sickly and died, the other strong and throve. But they were twins. They were born of the same impulse. I allow that some (certainly not all) of the early scientists were actuated by a pure love of knowledge. But if we consider the temper of that age as a whole we can discern the impulse of which I speak.[1] C.S. Lewis  

I was reading C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man and ran across the above excerpt, which sparked the question as to how science and magic are similar. Of course, raising such a question will immediately cause indignation on the part of those who are involved in scientism, i.e., those who have made science into a religion or ideology. These folks believe that science is above reproach and criticism, which is itself the very proof that they have accepted it as an absolute in their lives. Absolutism is one of the characteristics of a religion, not science, at least real science. Authentic science is a body of knowledge that is constantly changing and expanding. One way it expands is through falsification and criticism. When a belief system is closed to these things, it can no longer be called science; it must be called scientism.

One of the things that science and magic have in common is that they both have magical dust, which we might call fairy dust. Fairy dust is magical dust that makes magical and unbelievable things happen. The magician can throw fairy dust on something and make it appear or disappear with a bang and a lot of smoke, which keeps the audience from seeing what is going on behind the scenes. The audience believes because it wants to believe in magic and the skill of the magician at creating an illusion. However, there are always a few in the audience who seem to have x-ray eyes that see through the illusion.

I know some are getting a little curious as to what the fairy dust of science is. Well, it is the fairy dust of time. When some scientists have a problem with explaining and justifying certain theories, they simply sprinkle some fairy dust of time on it to make it work. For example, when evolutionists came up against some very large problems of not having enough time for their theories to work, they simply sprinkled some of their fairy dust of time on the theory and made it work. When it came to the origin of life and the huge problem of probability, they simple used their fairy dust and say that with enough time anything is possible, even life coming from non-life. Now, that is a greater miracle than having someone resurrected from the dead. The more astonishing thing is that these folks tell us they do not believe in miracles. However, they do believe in fairy dust.

We have some magicians, or should I say scientists, who now are saying that, given enough time, something can even come from nothing. Now, this is the ultimate magic trick, for if the big bang created space-time, it means that there was no fairy dust (time) before the big bang or the beginning of the universe. So what we have is a rabbit being pulled out of a hat without any fairy dust. How could this be? You cannot work miracles without the fairy dust of time. Well, when you run out of fairy dust, there is only one thing to do; create a brand new kind of fairy dust. The new dust is call necessity dust. This dust is only used when you run out of fairy dust and any or all reasonable answers. Necessity dust is made up of convoluted and nonsensical theories which have the appearance of intellectual vitality but in actuality is nothing more than nonsense. However, it often works if the audience wants to be deceived.[2]

In recent years science has run out of time in this universe. In other words, they have run out of fairy dust when it was discovered that the universe had a beginning. The time in our universe can only be stretched so far for it has a beginning and an end. So what can they do? They must make some more fairy dust. Now, that is a tall order. How in the world can you make more fairy dust of time? Well, like most magic, you dream it up. You make another universe or a multi-verse. Remember the story of Peter Pan. Peter lived in Never Never Land. Then there is Alice, who lived in Wonderland. Both worlds had an abundance of fairy dust. The big question is, can the scientific imagination create another worlds or universes to get more fairy dust to prove their theories? I think the answer is yes, for they have come up with a multi-universe theory (string theory) which does not have one shred of scientific evidence to support it. Yet, it is embraced by a consensus of scientists. However, its creation is a matter of necessity. For without it there is no more fairy dust, which means everyone wants to believe in it whether real or not. For what in the world would we believe in if we ran out fairy dust? Maybe God? Of course, science got rid of the God of gaps[3] and replaced Him with fairy dust. So now, where shall they go? Never, Never Land or maybe Alice’s Wonderland?

Some will charge me with being anti-scientific. However, I vehemently deny this charge. What I am against is pseudoscience that claims to be science and the men who abuse science, making it into something it is not. I especially am against those who attempt to use science to prove that there is no God and in so doing, subvert true science to support their unbelief.

For those true believers in scientism, let me challenge you to read Lee Smolin’s book, The Trouble with Physics, which is an objective view of the string theory.[4] I read Smolin’s book after writing this paper and found his book to confirm much of my thinking about the string theory and other new theories of modern science. The book is worth reading solely for its in-depth study of the history of the string theory.

[1] Lewis, C.S. The Abolition of Man

[2] In 1996, American physicist Alan Sokal submitted a paper loaded with nonsensical jargon to the journal Social Text in which he argued that quantum gravity is a social and linguistic construct. You can read the paper on the internet. When the journal published it, Sokal revealed that the paper was in fact a spoof. The incident triggered a storm of debate about the ethics of Sokal’s prank. However, the truth was that the debate was about whether or not it was right to show how easy many scientist are deceived.

[3] “The claim that, given time, science will explain everything is simply the atheist’s version of the God of the gaps. The gaps in our knowledge can be plugged, they say, by future (but as yet unknown) scientific advances; thus the God of the gaps is simply replaced by the future science of the gaps–same gaps, different deity. It’s what philosopher of science Karl Popper called “promissory materialism.” (Who Made God? Searching for a Theory of Everything by Edgar Andrew)

[4] Lee Smolin is a theoretical physicist who has made influential contributions to the search for a unification of physics. He is a founding faculty member of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. His previous books include: The Life of the Cosmos and Three Roads to Quantum.

Other Worlds

Other Worlds

 

“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:10-13

There are many worlds—the ones created by God and the ones created by the imagination of man. God has often accommodated us in our worlds the way a parent would accommodate a young child who was playing in a make-believe world. He even talked baby talk to us at times. You know, He really wanted us to grow up. He spent a lot of time and energy maturing us, getting humanity ready for the coming of the Teacher who would give us the truth about God and ourselves. He spent a lot of time telling us the most amazing and imaginative “bedtime stories” that point toward the Teacher. Now they are called “myths” by many. He used the nation of Israel to reveal a moral code to the world and her prophets predict His coming. He used the Greeks to mature our thinking and He used the Romans to connect the world with a universal road system and language. When things were just right, He placed The One among us and thus began the greatest story ever told.

You see, now and then the real world of God breaks into our world through different people and events. The events we call miracles. The people we call prophets. They usually come into our world to tell us that our world is a mess and that we need to put things in order. We usually respond in less than a cordial way. We often angrily reject the prophets and ignore the events.  Afterward, to justify ourselves, we made some saints or heroes make us feel good about how we and our ancestors have behaved. We then enshrine them in a mausoleum that we call religion, and there they rest as mummies of the past, safely hidden from the real world of us mortals.

When the Teacher came into this world He told us that God’s patience was wearing thin and everyone needed to grow up and open his eyes to the new world which God was about to create.   It would be completed in and through the coming of The One.  He warned people and told them to “wake up for the Kingdom of God is near”.  However, the Teacher also pointed out that He would be our last wake-up call.  No one else would be coming to wake us up. The One was delivering the final warning.

It was predicted that The One would speak and talk to us in a unique way.  He would speak in parables and hard sayings.  It was said that only the elect, those with an undivided heart who were prepared for His coming, would be able to understand His message. They had been watching God’s activity in the world and knew that everything was just right for the coming of The One. When they heard the Teacher proclaim that the Kingdom of God was at hand they understood immediately, that God was about to create a new world order. When the Teacher spoke, He always spoke of the kingdom (the new order) and was continuously inviting people to join Him in building the new Kingdom of God.  He is still inviting people.  Those who have ears to hear and eyes to see will continue to enter and experience the new world of God or what the Teacher called the Kingdom of God.

Before leaving this world The One told those who were of the elect that He was leaving this world to prepare an eternal home for them, another world that was much different than this one. He explained He had to do it that way because the old order was so broken, it could not be fixed. He told His friends to wait patiently for His return. He instructed the elect ones that their mission until He came back, was to tell others about Him and His coming return. They were to shed His light into the darkness that filled this world. He even gave them a list of peculiar happenings to watch out for while they were waiting and working. He also cautioned them to watch out for the trappings of religion they would find all around them. They were not to spend so much of their time collecting the things of this world since this pursuit would distract them from their mission of spreading the good news of the new world that was coming.

Have you heard the voice of The One who said, “Come follow me”?

 

I

 

What About Gay Marriage?

Gay Marriage

In the last few months, I have had a number of people call me to ask my opinion of gay marriage, and they attempted to change my mind when I told them I did not think it to be a good idea. I listened to them politely and then shared with them my opinion.  The following is that opinion.  In this article, I have purposely tried to avoid any argument based on religion or morality.

Recently, I received a number of telephone calls asking my opinion on gay marriage.  In actuality, the calls were an attempt to convince me to vote for the state of Maine to approve gay marriages.  In some respects, I could care less as to whether the state approves or disapproves of gay marriages, as it will have no impact upon my thinking about it.  To me, the truth about any matter is not established by a mob or by counting noses.  However, I do feel it will most likely have an impact on my freedom of speech in this country.  As we see in Canada and Europe, after gay marriage was accepted, it became illegal to speak against it publicly. In Canada, clergymen are not allowed to speak against sodomy and homosexuality except in their churches and cannot even post a biblical verse in public that condemns the practice.  So, I guess as a preacher, I should speak my mind now, before my liberal friends put me in jail.

I also believe that once gay marriage is accepted by the state of Maine or our country as a whole, public schools will be forced to teach it as an acceptable lifestyle, therefore normalizing sodomy as a lifestyle that is not morally or religiously accepted by the majority of Americans.  Proponents of same-sex marriage say that this will not happen.  However, in many cases this is purely a lie for they know it is already happening in most states that have accepted same-sex marriage (California has already passed such laws).  It seems that most states that have enacted this law, find it impossible to merely be neutral on this issue.  In view of this, I do not believe we should give the state of Maine power to force the gay agenda on the rest of us.  Of course, I also know this is exactly what our progressive liberal friends want to do.

For those who will call me a homophobic, I want to point out that I have a number of gay friends with whom I have discussed this matter.  Some of them like the idea of gay marriage, while others hate it, and many are indifferent.  They seem to reflect the same feelings of the general population.  Therefore, rejecting the idea of gay marriage does not mean that one hates gays.

Is It a Civil Right?

One of my callers informed me that marriage is a basic civil right.  I strongly believe in civil rights, but I also believe that those rights can and should be limited by one’s culture, common sense, common decency, and respect for others’ customs and traditions.  When these things are violated, the government has the right to place limits on people.  Just because I want to do something does not mean that it’s my civil right.  To be a civil right, the thing I what to do should be civil.  I don’t have the right to go into the ladies’ room no matter how urgently I have to go.  Should I have the attitude that if women don’t like it, then that’s just too bad?  They’re just bigots.  They’re just hung up with a social taboo called modesty.  Maybe we could change the definition of modesty or do away with it all together?  Would that be civil?  Should I start a movement demanding that everyone be gender blind because our culture has a law that says that I have the right to use a men’s room?  Does my not being able to use the ladies’ room violate my civil rights?  I just do not believe that marriage is a civil right any more than a man going into a ladies’ room is a civil right.

The Cost of Gay Marriage

I also have some serious questions about the cost of redefining marriage in our culture.  One of the callers assured me that it would have no financial impact upon the culture.  How can that be when it has the potential of bringing millions of uninsured people into the system at a lower rate?  Someone will have to make up that difference.  Will it be heterosexual married couples or will it be single people?  Why should a single person pay more for insurance than gays?  Gays want the same rights as married couples but more rights than single people.  Is that fair?  They want the state government to do to singles what they say the state has done to them by giving married heterosexual rights that they do not have.  Moreover, what about the cost of changing all the marriage forms to accommodate gay marriages?  That should be good for a few million dollars.

I do not know about you, but I am personally weary of paying for the so-called civil rights of minorities and special-interest groups.  Recently, the U.S. Navy retrofitted their jet planes to accommodate women pilots.  This little project cost the American people millions upon millions of dollars so a handful of women could be happy and fulfill their dream.  Those modifications also disqualified males over a certain size because they could no longer fit into the cockpits.  What about their rights?  Is that fair?  Can we any longer afford such extreme policies to make a few people happy?  Recently, the government mandated that every motel in the country that has a swimming pool must also have a mechanical elevator in their pool to accommodate handicapped people.  This little law will cost the American people billions of dollars and will only be used by very few people.  How many handicapped people traveling will actually use these pools?  Would it not have been smarter to give tax breaks to motels that would install these machines, giving those motels an advantage over their competition?  Should we provide escalators up all the mountains so everyone can climb every mountain?  Is it not their civil right to have equal access?  Yes, if it is within reason and common sense, which it seems some Americans no longer possess.

Do you see where all this is going?  The concept of civil rights has morphed into a catchall term that means “the government must make me happy.”  My response is—nonsense.  If you want to climb a mountain, and you cannot walk up it, get a friend to carry you or change your desire.  If you want a contract with your partner, get a lawyer to draw it up.  Enjoy your gayness, but do not force it on my children or me.

Is Same-Sex Marriage Fair?

One big problem with gay marriage is that it is not fair for the gays to be treated as though they are a third sex.  Why should their feelings for someone give them some special rights over other single people that are not sexually attracted to the same sex?  Why shouldn’t people who are good friends of the same sex, who do not have erotic feelings for those friends, not have the same rights as married people and gays?  Because of the insurance and tax benefits of marriage, I could see in the future all single people claim they are gay in order to get the benefits.  In view of this, one would have to conclude that gays are not asking for equal rights, but special rights.  Let’s do some clear thinking and come up with a system that will protect everyone without changing a human and religious tradition that has been around for thousands of years.

You see, the thing that people are missing in this debate is that marriage was never about adults meeting their need for sexual fulfillment or even companionship; it was for the children.  Its primary purpose was for procreation and the raising of children.  Therefore, people can be friends and love each other without being married.  We can also give everyone the same rights of married people without calling their relationship marriage.  Why restrict the word marriage just to gays?  Why not apply it to all relationships where people want a legal contract to define their relationship?  However, the real question is why use the word marriage to define a relationship that religion and Western culture have held for eons to be between a man and a woman.  Why divide our culture over a word?  What the gay movement is doing makes no sense, and I suspect a large number of unspoken motives are behind this agenda.  I personally believe that if we use the word marriage to define a gay couple’s relationship, we are well on the way down the road to destroying the concept of traditional marriage, which has been defined by nearly all religions for over two thousand years as between a man and woman.

Picking a Fight

When the gay movement chose marriage as a term to denote their relationship, they should have had the foresight to see the battle that they would have with conservatives, traditionalist, and religious people.  Their attitude has been—to hell with them.  We want the world to change and give us special rights.  Why would anyone believe that people should change a tradition that has existed for as long as human history without debate and resistance?  What kind of people would do that, other than radical liberals and progressives?

As a traditionalist, the gay movement has given me no overwhelming or compelling arguments for me to change my thinking about marriage.  All I hear from them are little sound bites like “It is the fair thing,” or “It is our civil right,” or just name-calling to intimidate me.

What is Next?

I asked one of the callers what was next.  He responded with “What do you mean?”  “Well,” I said, “if people that love one another should be able to get married, what about polygamy?  His response was that would be stepping out on the slippery slope.  I then asked him if same-sex marriage might be a similar step.  His response was, “It is different because more people think polygamy is wrong.”  I then asked him if his statement would not have been true ten years ago about gay marriage, before the gay movement began their PR campaign to normalize their brand of sexuality.  There was silence.  The truth is from a rational point of view there is no difference between same-sex marriage and polygamy or for that matter, incest.  Why would it be wrong for a boy to marry one’s mother if they love each other and are sexually attracted, assuming it was impossible for them to have children?  Is not incest like homosexuality, just one of those past taboos of ancient man?  Once people embrace utilitarianism and relativism, there is nothing left but a slide into the abyss.  We are already on that slide.  Of course, there are those who think sliding down a slide is progress.

The Government and Same-Sex Marriage

The young man who called me stated he did not believe that the state should be involved with marriage.  However, from my point of view, petitioning and lobbying the state to approve something is not getting the state out of it, but rather an attempt to get the state on your side of the issue.  Whenever this is done, it is for using state power to force one’s agenda on others.  You can be assured that the militant gay leaders have an agenda for state power.  Could it be to use the public school system to normalize homosexuality?  It may be a good idea to get the state out of the marriage business altogether, and I think I would support the gays in that effort, but I really do not think that is their goal.  In defense of the state (an institution that I do not like too much), I believe it was quite rational for the state to favor marriage over singleness.  Marriage produces families, and families produced good citizens; consequently, they passed a number of laws to help people in their marriages for this in turn strengthens the state.  So, I believe the state was acting in good faith and for the general welfare when it gave married couples certain privileges.  I still have no problem with that position.

A Dangerous Experiment

One of my main concerns about same-sex marriage is that there has at no time been a culture in the history of the world that has accepted, or notwithstanding, proposed same-sex marriage.  Even the Greeks and Romans in the height of their perversion never suggested the acceptance of same-sex marriage.  Is it really a wise idea to undertake such a huge social experiment without a lot of thought and debate?

Marriage has been from the dawn of civilization between a man and a woman.  Even our language is built around that supposition.  When I refer to my wife, people instinctively know that I am taking about a female partner.  If we legalize gay marriage, men will have to be called wives and woman will have to be called husbands.  If we don’t do it, the politically correct police will probably sue us or call us homophobic.  Will the male playing the female partner in a gay marriage be able to go into a lady’s room, or will we have to build another set of bathrooms?  Remember, we cannot put any traditional norms on people without violating their civil rights.

I mentioned something along these lines to my callers, and their reply was that we are more moral and progressive in our thinking than the Romans and Greeks.  From my study of history, there was a time in Rome and Greece when the people would have thought that we were the barbarians, and they would have been right.  Only a radical liberal could believe and apply the concept of progress to Western culture in the last few decades.  Western culture in the last one hundred years has been sliding into the worst declension the world has ever seen.  In the last century, there has been more genocide, abortion, and war than all the rest of humanity has perpetrated together from the dawn of time.  In business and government greed and narcissism reigns.  Addictions have enslaved millions of individuals.  Sexual perversions have escalated beyond the imagination of Greeks and Romans.  Yes, we have come a long way, baby.  Liberals and progressives need to face the fact that the high humanists of the Enlightenment are dead and gone, and all that remains are a new hedonism and paganism cloaked by a thin veneer of liberal self-righteousness.

The Real Source of Gay Marriage

What the gay movement is attempting is far beyond anything that could have been imagined 20 years ago.  What changed?  The change did not begin with the gay movement.  What is happening in our culture is the fallout of a philosophical movement called postmodernism, which began in our universities a few decades ago.  Those involved in this movement are called deconstructionist (for a good reason).  Out of this group came our radical feminists, radical environmentalists, and our radical gays.  This movement and those involved believed that our culture and institutions are so corrupt and flawed that they must be destroyed and replaced with something totally different, even though they cannot quite yet define what the other looks like.  One of the larger contributors to this movement is the radical feminist who believes that the institution of marriage was created for establishing and continuing male dominance over women.  This means that in their brave new world, marriage between a man and woman must go.  It also means that our culture must become gender neutral.  This means same-sex marriage, same-sex bathrooms, same-sex classes, and same-sex dorms.  This movement will continue to force same-sex norms on the world until the world is gender neutral.  Their goal is a sexually vanilla world.  (It sounds pretty yucky to me, if not purely boring.)  The ACLU is one of the promoters of the deconstructionist movement.

Let me make a few observations, the first one being that I do not believe that postmodern ideology is going to usher in any kind of utopia.  Those who believe this are naïve and outright foolish, as most central planners seem to be.  Based on our past liberal utopian experiments, the odds would indicate that we are heading toward another fiasco of epidemic proportions, like the loss of our civilization.  This, however, does not bother the deconstructionist for they believe that the system must collapse so the unknown can take its place.  The problem is they don’t know what the new looks like, but they do believe that they will be in power to shape its future.

When you understand that nature is not very forgiving, it should be obvious that Western culture should be extremely selective about the roads it travels.  This includes changing the meaning of marriage.  It takes thousands of years sometimes to build a civilization, especially one like Western civilization.  However, civilization is fragile and can be destroyed easier than most could imagine.  We need to be very much aware of the deconstructionist among us, and there are many.  They are angry and often hateful people bent on destruction.  Unfortunately, a lot of nice naïve people get duped into aiding them in their mission.

Where Does This End and When Will It Stop?

When does this all stop?  If our culture compromises common sense and morality for every group that can organize and create some civil unrest, where does it end?  Does the culture have to surrender its civilization to be liberal?  Do we have to stop thinking to make people happy?  Can a culture make everyone and every lifestyle equal?  Should we accommodate the North American Man/Boy Love Association, which wants to lower the age of consent in order for older men to have sex with boys?  Their group is growing.

Canada is an example of a liberal government trying to make a moral-free culture where no one can make a negative judgment about other people’s lifestyle.  A judgment-free culture is not a culture, and it will not be a free culture for very long.  In order for a culture to be judgment-free it must restrict the free flow of information and restrict freedom of speech as they have done in Canada.  In fact, with all the reading I do, I have not seen one honest debate on homosexuality or gay marriage.  Why?  I’ll tell you one reason—homosexuals and advanced liberals intimidate any dissenters by calling them homophobes and other names (as one of my callers did).  I personally think it is time to draw a line in the sand and take a stand on traditional marriage.

Before you vote for gay marriage, please take the time to think through the issue very clearly.  Take into consideration all the consequences and implications of voting for it.  Do not be swayed by propagandists’ arguments based on emotionally charged expressions like: “It is only fair.”  “It is the right of two people who love one another to get married.”  Remember, the gays I talked to do not believe that people should have the right to enter a polygamist relationship.  So they really do not believe that everyone that loves each other should have the right to get married.  Why not?  Where is the fairness?  Polygamists love one another as much as other people.  Is it not fair to put limits on their relationships?  What about the brother and sister who love one another?  Should we deny them the right to get married?  Why not, if they love one another and do not have children or for that matter, why not a mother-son marriage?  Do we really as a culture want to open up these debates?

My Conclusion

My conclusion is that we should be cautious about legalizing gay marriage.  If this cultural experiment fails, it may be extremely hard to correct it.  I ask you to exercise prudence and caution in voting for gay marriage.

I have purposely left out of this discussion any appeal to religion or any discussion about the myths created by the radical gay community to justify homosexuality and gay marriage.  However, for those interested in an exchange that I had with a pro-gay marriage person in which I do bring religion into the discussion, please drop me an email, and I will send you a copy.

The following is an interesting video on homosexuality.

The Baptism of Fire and The Holy Spirit

The Meaning of the Baptism of Fire and the Holy Spirit

Matt. 3:1-12, Mk 1:3-8, Luke 3:2-17

I was at a meeting of ministers from various denominations for a period of fellowship and discussion.  We were told by the facilitator that we would be discussing Matthew the third chapter, verses one through twelve.  When I read the text I thought to myself that this was going to be an interesting and lively discussion since the text introduces the idea of the baptism of fire and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  However, when the time came to discuss it, I was surprised to see how the text was allegorized and the historical meaning of the baptism of fire and the Holy Spirit were totally ignored.  The following is the written explanation of the text that I had prepared for the meeting to read aloud:

We first run into the expressions of baptism of fire and the Holy Spirit in the Gospels in the preaching of John the Baptist.  “John came preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4).  His message promised two things: 1. To those who accepted His message and repented, He promised the remission of sin and the gift of the Spirit. 2. To those who refused, he promised the wrath of God (baptism of fire).[1]   It is obvious from the context that a mixed multitude of people, good and evil, came out to hear John’s preaching. The scribes and the Pharisees He called “vipers” and it is that group He promised would be immersed in God’s judgment (baptized with fire), a judgment He said had already begun.  “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”  He surely did not promise this group that the Messiah would baptize them with the Holy Spirit.  He said to them, “Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath” (Matt3:7)?

He clearly states that the Messiah would completely separate the wheat and chaff in the nation of Israel.  “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:12).  This promise and prophecy is reinstated and elongated in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 23 and 24.  The prophecy is fulfilled in the destruction of the Temple and the nation in A.D. 70 by the Romans.  In this destruction of the Jewish state, the promise and prophecy of both John and Jesus were fulfilled in that generation in the very people they were spoken to (Matt. 24:34).  The evil in the nation would be destroyed with the baptism of fire and the good would be blessed with and by the Spirit of God, i.e., the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which happened to the church (the new temple of God) in Acts chapter two on the day of Pentecost.

To those who repented, John promised that they would receive the remission of sins and would be immersed in the Holy Spirit.  It is interesting and important to note that both promises, the baptism of fire and Spirit, were made to groups and not individuals.  Therefore, we should view both baptisms as corporate and not individual.  Those Jews who rejected the Messiah will be immersed in judgment.  Those who believed in the Messiah would be immersed in the Spirit and its goodness.  “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another” (1:17).

In Acts chapter two, we see the Spirit being poured out on the new creation, and the new creation was immersed and filled with the Spirit of God.[2]  All those who enter into the new creation, therefore, of necessity, are immersed in the Spirit that fills the body of Christ.  When you are put into a vessel that is filled with something, you are immersed in the thing that fills the vessel.[3]  When you are put into Christ, you of necessity are immersed in Christ and His Spirit and share in the experience of the Spirit baptized Body of Christ.  Water baptism symbolizes faith and that one has been immersed into Christ and His Spirit-filled (controlled) body (Rom. 6:1-3, Gal. 3:26-27).

In addition, we see John’s words fulfilled in Acts chapter 2 when Peter tells people “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 3:38).  Here Peter promises the same thing as John; all those who will put their trust in the Messiah and identify with Him in baptism will receive the remission of their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Much of the confusion about the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the baptism of fire comes as a result of three errors: (1) Taking the expression literally instead of metaphorically. (2) Trying to read these baptisms as personal individual experiences instead of as historical events. (3) Reading them as something that happens to individuals instead of a corporate group.

Both the baptism of fire and baptism of the Holy Spirit should be taken metaphorically and not literally (see Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, by Bullinger).  If you take the metaphors of baptism of fire and the Holy Spirit literally, you can end up with what some call a liquid theology, that is, picturing in your mind that the Holy Spirit is a liquid that fills people or that people are immersed in.  Both expressions, being filled with the Spirit and being baptized by the Spirit, are terms used symbolically to denote the amount of influence and control that the Spirit has on a person or the new creation.  They should not be taken literally.  In the book of Ephesians, verse 5:17, the apostle Paul contrasts being drunk on wine which he says leads to mockery with being filled with the Spirit (controlled by the Spirit), which leads to praising God.  The context makes it obvious that Paul uses this contrast to demonstrate the controlling influence of wine with the controlling influence of the Spirit.  Of course, all this is denied by Gnostic Christians who want some kind of religious experience to separate them and elevate them above other Christians.

When John predicted that those in his audience would experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire, he was speaking of two events that would take place in the future.  First was the baptism of fire which took place when the city of Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by Romans in A.D. 70.  The second was the pouring out and baptism of the Spirit on the new creation on the day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2.  John was not speaking of some personal religious experience but rather historical events, which both took place in the first century.

In Acts chapter two, we see the fulfillment of the promise made to apostles that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit and receive power.  The first thing to note is that this baptism of the Spirit is not the receiving of the indwelling Spirit.  The apostles had already received the Spirit before the Lord had ascended to the Father (John 20:21).  What we see in Acts two is the pouring out of the Spirit and filling up of the new creation, i.e., the body of Christ with the Spirit.  All of this imagery is done to show the contrast of the new creation and old creation.  In the old creation, only a few were controlled (filled with the Spirit) by the Spirit; however, in the new creation, the Spirit would be poured out on everyone who had faith in Christ.  In the old creation, only a few individuals had the indwelling Spirit.  In contrast, in the new, all members of the Israel of God (body of Christ) have the indwelling.  You could say that the old creation was sprinkled with the Spirit, and the new is immersed (baptized) in the Spirit.  One was touched by the Spirit, while the other is seized by the Spirit.

Some may have questions about the relationship of the tongues of fire that appeared above the apostles on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts chapter two and the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire.  “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1-4).

Did the light that appeared above the apostles, which seemed to be like tongues of fire have anything to do with the “baptism of fire” that John spoke of?  The answer is an emphatic no.  There is no evidence in the text that would indicate that the writer of the book of Acts saw this relating in any fashion to what John called the baptism of fire.  Neither the writer nor the context gives us any hint as to the meaning of the rushing wind or the tongues of fire.  The most that could be said about this phenomenon is that a similar thing happened in the Old Testament whenever God inaugurated and sanctified a new temple.  Of course, the apostles and the body of Christ (Church) represented the new temple of God’s Spirit, and I believe it would be safe to say that the wind and fire here represented the presence of God in the new creation (Body of Christ).  However, there seems to be no connection here with the baptism of fire spoken about by John.

I hope this has helped your understanding of fire and Spirit baptism.  If you have questions, please contact me at lyleduell@gmail.com

[1]  Fire is used metaphorically as a judgment of the wicked nations.  (Gen. 19:24, Josh. 8:8-19, Ps. 11:5-6, Ps. 50:3-6, Jer. 37:8-10)

[2] Here baptism is used metaphorically to denote the degree and intensity of the work of the Spirit in the new creation in contrast to its limited influence in the old creation.

[3] In Acts 2 the baptism of the spirit is viewed from the viewpoint of Christ as the one pouring out the Spirit. The same phenomenon is viewed as a filling or immersion by those receiving it.  The Body of Christ is anointed and baptized with the Spirit by Christ.  In this, Christ shared His anointing with His body. He brings His entire body under the same anointing that He received from the Father. This anointing is the anointing of Christ and includes His Body which makes it corporate, and not individual as it was in the old creation.  All believers share in this anointing for they are all in Christ.

Science, Religion and Carl Sagan

Science, Religion and Carl Sagan

 The following is an excerpt from Carl Sagan.  “Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking.  I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time—when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.” (Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark)

Carl Sagan believed like so many in our culture that science was going to usher in a brave new world.  Well, it has.  It is the brave new world of Aldous Huxley.  One of my questions for Mr. Sagan if he were still alive would be “How can science create in people a love for truth and a desire to find it?”  Science is a methodology for finding truth.  It does not create truth nor does it have the power to create a love for the truth.  It seems we are quickly moving toward the very situation that Sagan dreaded for his children and grandchildren.  Yet we have more science now than ever before in human history and the world is still filled with darkness.  Could what Albert Einstein said be true?  “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”

The problem is if science is to remain pure science, it must stay neutral toward good and evil; i.e. morality, and if it stays pure science it has no power to move mankind toward the good.  In fact it has no mechanism to discern good from evil.  Well, you might say it has reason.  My answer is it had an illusion of reason until recently then it demonstrated that humans are not foremost rational beings and are often control by passions, ideology and avarice[1].  This includes the scientists (for you folks that have made them into the new holy men).

Even if science could discern the difference between good and evil with reason, it has no power to move man to desire the good over the evil.  In some cases it may not be rational for some men to choose evil over good.  For instance, would it be reasonable for a man to tell the truth if he was going to suffer loss for telling the truth?  Reason that is not informed by faith in a higher order is like a horse without a rider, wild and unpredictable. It may be gentle or destructive, but it can never be the foundation of right and wrong for the masses.

The truth is that secular humanism with its scientific foundation is crumbing in the west and will most likely take western civilization with it into the abyss of a new dark age.  In all honesty you can be in a dark age and still have your toys, and a man can be a barbarian, even if he has an I Phone[2].

The only reason humanism has enjoyed some success in the past is that it had, as its foundation, a civilization which was created by Greek rationalism and Christian morality.  Christianity is a religion based on historical facts and has always supported reason.  Greek philosophy and Christian morality formed an ideal foundation for the creation of Western civilization.  They are like the Jack and Jill of civilization in that they go up the hill together and they fall down the hill together.

However, secular humanism has picked away on the foundation of Christianity for centuries and has now weakened it to the point where it can no longer support the culture or even its own institutions.  For this reason secularism has diminished a vital part of the foundation upon which humanism and science were built on, i.e. western civilization.  Doing away with Christianity is like a man believing that the way to run faster is to cut ones legs off.  It will be interesting to see what will happen to western civilization in the next few decades and whether Sagan’s prophecy is right[3].

[1] Reason is blinded by ideology and the avaricious passion of those doing science. There is no such thing as pure reason. Pure reason is a fiction created by the enlightenment to move people away from faith and religion. It is the only thing left for a man once he rejects God. If he has the courage, reason alone will only take him to nihilism.

[2] The proof of this is the barbaric behavior of the Nazis towards the Jewish race in Germany during World War II. It was the educated class, which ordered the extermination of Jews.

[3] The most dangerous state in the growth of civilization may well be that in which man has come to regard all these beliefs as superstitions and refuses to accept or to submit to anything which he does not rationally understand. The rationalist whose reason is not sufficient to teach him those limitations of the power of conscious reason, and who despises all the institutions and customs which have not been consciously designed, would thus become the destroyer of the civilization built upon them. A. Hayek, The Counter-Revolution of Science: Studies on the Abuses of Reason (Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1979), pp. 162-163.