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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Monday, March 31, 2008

Adding to our Collective

*See the update below (4/1)

Our fourth baby was due this past Friday. But like the many ways babies can be so tricky, she decided to stay put a couple of more days. So, on Sunday morning, around 4:30 AM, my wife leaps out of bed and says rather breathlessly, "I think my water broke!" My immediate reaction was to strip the bedding so the mattress doesn't get wet. What a thoughtful husband.

My wife never had her water break at home with our previous children, so we were at a loss as to what to do. We were sort of under the impression from the accumulation of many years of birthing facts that if your water broke and nothing was happening that it wasn't an immediate need to rush to the hospital. She wasn't having contractions, and in our mind it was just better for her to labor at home until they are strong enough and close enough to justify going to the hospital.

I call the labor and delivery department at the hospital where we were going to have the baby just to confirm our thesis. The nurse answering the phone must've thought I was a moron, first-time father when I asked, "My wife's water broke, do we need to come to the hospital right now or can we wait?" There was a pause and she replied, "Yes sir, you need to come right now."
I go to my wife and tell her the news, and for about 20 minutes I'm fumbling around with loading the car with bags and getting dressed like Ricky Ricardo and Fred Mertz when Lucy has little Ricky.

We get to the hospital and my wife was yet to have contractions so the nurses send us off to walk around awhile. That gave me the opportunity to get some breakfast at the cafeteria, but by the time I ate and had my coffee, the walking must had done the trick, because my wife was stopping every 45 seconds to endure a contraction. Once we get back to the room, in a desperate voice she says, "I want an epidural!" This is around 9:30 AM. The epidural doctor comes in around 10, takes about 20 or 25 minutes to administer the medicine, and within 10 minutes after it starts working she is ready to push.

Our regular doctor was off for the day, but the doctor he had covering for us was a crack-up. He comes in with a ratty old shirt and a pair of short pants and a Lucky Strike ball cap. He turns the cap around like a fifth grader and says, "All right, this kid doesn't like what we are doing to it, so let's get it out of there." At first, a normal parent would be thinking, "A crazy man just walked off the streets and is impersonating a doctor," but he knew all the nurses and they all just seemed to love the guy. After a few good pushes from my enduring wife, Eliana Sophia was born at exactly 10:45 AM, even though her official paper work reads 10:46. I made sure to be looking at the clock as soon as she came out. And for all you ladies: She was 8 pounds, 15 ounces, and 21 inches long.

At this point, mama and baby are doing quite well. There was a concern with jaundice, because all three of our boys were in the hospital for at least a week until their jaundice decreased. Eliana, according the the lab, has negative blood, but also negative coombs, which means she may not get it. Hopefully they will be home in just a couple of days.

Her little brothers also love her and are already wanting to hold her and feed her. The youngest boy has this Of Mice and Men thing going because he strokes and pets her just a bit too hard, but it appears she is going to extremely spoiled.

UPDATE: My wife thought it may be wise to tell a little bit about her name. Originally she was going to be called Gabrielle Grace, and I imagine a good number of our friends may remember she was called Gabrielle for at least 8 and half months. However, "Gabby" is just too easy a nickname and my wife hated it. "Gabby" gives the impression she is nothing but a blabber mouth talker. I happened to like Gabby, but I succeeded to my wife on this one.

So, about two or three weeks ago, while researching alternative names, she came across Eliana, which means "God has answered" in Hebrew. That is significant, because we were praying our fourth child would be a girl. The Butler men have either all of one sex or the other. So, I have uncles who have either all boys or all girls. It just seemed as though it was genetically determined that we would have another boy. But, God does answer prayers, particularly my wife's, and can over-ride genetic determinism. Hence the name Eliana was an appropriate fit. Sophia means wisdom in Greek, and I thought it sounded rather regal, so we went with that as a middle name.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Gleanings from Job #10

Continuing in my devotional series on Job...


The Apparent Blessing of the Wicked (20-21)


The book of Job can be difficult to understand, yet within the discourses between Job and his friends, the book becomes a divine revelation addressing specific issues that trouble mankind.

Particularly, why do the innocent suffer?

Even though we know the central character in his narrative is Job, in reality it is God, who has placed Himself on trial to determine if whether or not saving faith is real and if it can persevere.

We have been considering the second round of dialogs of Job's so-called friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, and this time we come to Zophar's second speech to Job. All of the three friends are accusing Job of being a secret sinner; that the reason why he has endured the loss of his livelihood, family, and his health, is that God is punishing him for his sins.

Beginning in chapter 20, we have recorded for us a discussion about the apparent blessing of the wicked. The reality being that in our world, real sinners - really corrupt individuals who live lives without submission to the Lord - are living lives of prosperity, health, and wealth.

The righteous will often fret about this reality, because there is something just so tremendously odious about a God mocker seemingly able to get away with his sin, living a cushy existence as it were, utterly unpunished, while the righteous, the truly good person, struggles and suffers in this life.

Rock stars in our day and age have the ability to capture this lifestyle in song. Consider ex-Eagle, Joe Walsh, and his song "Life's Been Good:"

My Maserati does 185/ I lost my license, now I don't drive.
I ride in limos and sit in the back/ I lock the doors in case I'm attacked.

I have a mansion, forget the price/ I've never been there they tell me it's nice.
I live in hotels, tear out the walls/ I have accountants pay for it all.

I go to parties sometimes until four/ It's hard to leave when you can't find the door.
I've got an office with gold records on the wall/ please leave a message maybe I'll call.


It's hard to take this fortune and fame/ all my friends change, but I'm still the same.
People say I'm crazy, but I have a good time/ life's been good to me so far.

Behavior which should have been punished for being irresponsible and criminal only brings joy to the person.

A more recent song by rock group Nickel Back sings of similar wealth and merriment as they describe a life of a rock star that includes staying out all night, getting free drugs, hanging out with Playboy models, and driving fast cars.

Both songs describe a lifestyle of opulent, emperor decadence all without walking with God.

In the following exchange between Zophar and Job, the two men address this subject.

Zophar's Speech (20)

Zophar begins his opening dialog with Job by harshly responding to his closing words in his last speech as record in chapter 19:28, 29. Job warned that his friends are in danger of incurring God's judgment for their false accusations against his integrity. Zophar says his comments only offend him as reproaches, rather than rebukes (20:3).

However, he moves into laying out his argument against Job. His primary thesis: The wicked will be swiftly and harshly dealt with by God in judgment.

- The wicked are cut off (20:5-9) What appears to be the triumphing of the wicked will quickly be cut short. Hypocrisy is only for a moment, and even though his pride and haughtiness reaches into the clouds of heaven, he will perish forever in his own refuse.

- His riches will make him ill (20:10-21) Zophar describes the the life of the wicked and how he is rich, but his riches and sumptuous living will only make him sick. It could be that all the wealth he has accumulated was gotten by deceit so his conscience is guilty, or those from whom he stole will come back to enact revenge. Or it could be as simple as God moving in his heart to make him hate his wealth, or causing him to go unexpectedly bankrupt.

- His self-sufficiency fails him (20:22-28) Because the wicked refuses to submit to God and His laws, he is a person who revels in his self-sufficiency. He doesn't need anyone but himself. Thus, when the wicked person attempts to take care of himself apart from God, that is when God moves in an undeniable, divine way to humiliate him. If he flees from someone wielding an iron weapon, he basically runs into someone who will smite him with a bronze weapon. Even the creation is brought against him to reveal how his self-sufficient attitude is foolish (27).

Zophar then concludes his speech by saying these illustrations demonstrate how God appoints the wicked to swift destruction. His implication is that Job is suffering the same destiny of the wicked. His severe trials are proof of this.

Job's Response (21)

Job responds by pointing out reality. Though God does at times move quickly against some unrighteous people who behave wickedly, this is not the norm. Contrary to Zophar's descriptions, the wicked are not swiftly cut-off.

If it is true the wicked are swiftly cut-off, then how does Zophar explain the following:

- The wicked live long lives (21:7). Many of them die after many years.

- The wicked even become mighty in power (21:7, 8). Not only do wicked God mockers live long lives, but they also have positions of power and authority. Many of the major kings and world rulers listed in scripture were men who lived wicked lives and grew stronger every year as they exercised tyrannical authority over their subjects. They even see their children raised up to replace them on the throne.

- The wealth of the wicked never ceases (21:9, 10). Their houses, or what would be their livelihood, are safe from the fear of God's judgment. They seem to be blessed as their livestock and cattle breed without any problems.

- The wicked live their lives in merriment (21:11-13). They are always celebrating, dancing, partying with abandon.

- Death comes easy for the wicked (21:13). Whereas normal people may languish on the death bed suffering from crippling ailments or some loathsome disease, death for the wicked is in a moment, something painless and even welcomed.

- The wicked live without God (21:14, 15). They argue against God and any involvement He may have in their lives by saying "who is the Almighty that we would serve Him?" The point is simple: I am making it well on my own, why do I need God? They basically live lives as fist shaking atheists against the Lord. And though it is true their prosperity is really not of their own doing, but the Lord's mercy, still nothing happens to them.

The truth of the matter is plain: The lamp of the wicked isn't always put out like we would like it to be. They don't experience the destruction they deserve.

HOWEVER

Though the rich man dies in comfort and ease (20:23), while a poor man dies never experiencing good food or enjoying comfort (20:25), both men will lie down in death's grave (20:26).

Job concludes by pointing out Zophar's true intentions with his words. He is basically equating Job's suffering with the suffering of the wicked 20:27, 28). But Job's hope of vindication is in the hand of the Lord, because all men, regardless of how they lived on earth, including the wicked man living a life of comfort, are reserved for the day of doom (20:30).

This also should be our comfort. Rather than fretting over unrighteous, mean-spirited, individuals who live in big homes, have the best of everything the world offers, and engage in carnal pleasures with impunity, the truth of the matter is:

ALL MEN WILL DIE AND BE JUDGED BY GOD.

They should be pitied, for even though their days on earth were full of what they perceived as unmeasurable blessing from a human perspective, it was really the Lord allowing them to accumulate a long list of sin for which they will be held fully accountable.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Obi-Wan Buys a Car

Here's a little fun while I am preparing some more substantive articles:

For our inner Star Wars geek.

I sort of wished he tried that Jedi mind trick.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Space Mysteries

AiG discusses the Pioneer anomaly, its affects upon deep space probes, and its relevance to a biblically based model of the cosmos.

A Modern Space Mystery

Its a bit technical, but I geek out on this sort of astronomy stuff.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Book Review

Reinventing Jesus: How the Contemporary Skeptics Miss the Real Jesus and Mislead Popular Culture.

J. ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel B. Wallace

A Book Review by Hayden Norris,

It seems that you cannot turn on the television or pick up a newspaper without seeing some new ‘discovery’ that ‘disproves’ the Christian faith. The Gospel of Judas, the Jesus Tomb, and the Gospel of Thomas have taken center stage recently, but the attacks of skeptics are nothing new. There have always been people who are skeptical to Christianity. Skeptics seem to come up with theory after theory as to how the Bible is not what it claims to be, the Word of God, and have sounded the supposed ‘death nail’ in the coffin of Christianity more times than I can count. The authors of the book Reinventing Jesus see this challenge and their assessment is that:
The radical skepticism sown in the media and rooted in postmodernism has been cultivated in an environment of biblical ignorance… The media’s assault on the biblical Jesus, postmodernism’s laissez-faire attitude toward truth, and America’s collective ignorance of Scripture have joined to create a culture of cynicism. In short, society has been conditioned to doubt. (pgs. 15, 16)
So what is the concerned Christian to do when they sit around the dinner table and hear someone state that the divinity of Jesus Christ was not determined until the council of Nicea, as Dan Brown has made popular in the Da Vinci Code? or what about the argument that since we do not have the original manuscripts we cannot be sure of the Bible? What would you say if you were asked these questions?

The book Reinventing Jesus answers these questions and many more in a way that is understandable and accessible. I have taken a graduate level course in New Testament textual criticism and hate to admit how much of it I have forgotten, or never learned in the first place. This book takes much of what I learned in that course and ‘boils it down’ to make it understandable to the ‘person in the pew’ which is its greatest strength.

There are many reasons as to why I would commend this book to anyone from the pastor in a church near the local university having to deal with the radical views of students, to the mechanic that is being heckled in the shop because he believes in a ‘fairy tale’. The first is its readable chapters with excellent illustrations. The book is divided up into five distinct parts that can be read separately or as a whole. Each section is heavily endnoted with direct quotes from many people who are critical to Christianity. The authors seem to be very even handed when dealing with quotations and also very clear in the flaws of the views of those they disagree with.

The second reason that I would recommend this book is that it really is a ‘page turner’. You might think, “A book on textual criticism is a page turned? Sounds like an oxymoron to me.” Until I read this book I would have agreed with you. In my class on textual criticism, I do remember nodding off a time or two (the class was right after lunch which might have exacerbated the situation) because the material was dry and lifeless. The authors of Reinventing Jesus breathe life into the ‘dead bones’ of textual criticism with their understandable illustrations and excellent writing style.

The final reason that I would recommend Reinventing Jesus is that it really strengthens your confidence in the Bible that you have in front of you. Each section of the book builds the case for the Christianity of the Bible that it is now in vogue to attack (think Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Bart Ehrman, and Richard Dawkins). Part One: I believe in Yesterday, deals with the assertions of the so called ‘Jesus Seminar’ that try to challenge whether or not the writers of Scripture ‘got the story right’. Part Two: Politically Corrupt? The Tainting of the New Testament Texts, addresses the difficult subject of manuscripts and the copying of Scripture in an understandable and readable way. Part Three: Did the Early Church Muzzle the Canon? ,is worth the price of the book, and it handles what was included in the Bible (know as the canon) and debunks the conspiracies of the Da Vinci Code. Part Four: The Divinity of Jesus: Early Tradition or Late Superstition?, focuses on whether or not the people who followed Jesus though He was divine (which He is) and in my mind puts to rest the thought that He was married to Mary Magdalene and buried in a tomb somewhere. Part Five: Stealing Thunder: Did Christianity Rip Off Mythical Gods?, addresses some of the modern skepticism that tries to find parallels between the mystery religions and ancient religions and Christianity. This section puts to death the notion that Christianity is a copy-cat religion.

With all this in mind I do have one caution. This book assumes what is commonly called ‘Markan priority’ which is widely accepted, and easily dismisses other points of view. For a great study on this topic, which I understand is a very technical one, see Three Views on the Origins of the Synoptic Gospels edited by Robert L. Thomas (Kregel, 2002).

The battle is waging around us as many skeptics are afforded an almost unchallenged hearing. Too often Christians are afraid to stand up against the so-called experts because they feel ill-equipped to defend the faith. This should not be so! This is especially true when we have works like Reinventing Jesus to guide us in answering their criticisms. We should not be afraid to do as Peter says in 1 Peter 3 :15 “…always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;” I commend J. ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel B. Wallace for this important and admirable work, and leave you with this statement from the book:

The real Jesus is far from safe. We seem to know that instinctively. It’s why we keep or distance. But something strange happens when we approach him fearfully and humbly in the words of Scripture. We hear the ring of authenticity in his voice. We witness the genuine authority in his actions. So we take a closer look and see that he is good. (pg 262)


Hayden Norris is an Associate Pastor at Mt. Morris Community Church in Mt. Morris, Michigan.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Excursus on Eternal Security










What does it mean to be blotted out of the Book of Life?


Recently I posted four articles addressing the certainty we have as Christians in eternal security. God has saved us, applied Christ's righteousness to our account, and will give us eternal life. There are no conditions with obtaining this promise, or making it certain by us having to "abide" faithfully in Christ. When we were saved, we are saved for eternal life, period.

I presented those articles as a series of studies to my volunteers and a few folks asked about specific problem passages that do seem to suggest Christians can lose their salvation if they rebelliously misstep against the Lord's commands. I don't want to address every possible problem passage that is raised against the doctrine of eternal security, however, one passage that was often repeated to me by a diversity of folks was Revelation 3:5 where John writes,

He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

According to my various inquirers, the passage suggests that a Christian must pursue a life of continuous overcoming, which implies we have to maintain some position before God, and that overcoming secures our name in the Book of Life. To not continue with overcoming could very well move the Lord to blot out our names from the Book of Life to punish our unfaithfulness. Thus, it seems to suggest that when we believed in Jesus, our names were added to the Book of Life, but it can be removed for some persistent act of disobedience on the Christian's part during his or her life.

But is that what this passage means? Let me see if I can unpack what John is saying.

The idea of an "official" book with names of people who can and are blotted out is not unique to Revelation. This threat of blotting out names from a book is first mentioned in Exodus 32. This is the record of the worship of the golden calf by Israel. When Moses goes to God to plead for the forgiveness of the people, he says, If you will forgive their sin - but if not, I pray, blot me out of your book which you have written. And the LORD said to Moses, whoever has sinned against me, I will blot him out of my book. In a desperate plea for Israel, Moses asked to be blotted out from this book by God's hand.

A second place is found in Psalm 69:28 where David prays against his enemies by saying, Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.

The obvious question could be asked: What exactly is this Book of Life, or the Living, and what does it mean to be blotted out of it? Let me begin with defining the word blot first.

Starting again in the Old Testament, the word blot or blotted, is translated from the Hebrew word machah and it can have the idea of wiping off as in wiping off a dish, or more to our point at hand, wiping out, as in exterminating or destroying. Interestingly, the word carries more to it than just they idea of killing a person. The word has more of the picture of erasing or totally eliminating from existence or memory. This is certainly the meaning of the word in Deuteronomy 25:19 and 29:20. Deuteronomy 9:14 even shows a contrast between the Hebrew word shamad, which can also mean destroy or annihilate, with machah. Moses records, Let Me alone, that I may destroy (shamad) them and blot (machah) out their name from under heaven; and I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they. More than being annihilated, the threat was to erase the memory of their name from off the earth.

Additionally, the word machah is often used to speak of God bringing final, authoritative judgment. The first time the word is used is Genesis 6:7 where God speaks of destroying men with a flood. It is used again in Genesis 7:23 to speak of God sending the flood that destroyed, or blotted out, erased, all living things from the earth.

Now, moving to the phrase Book of Life or Book of the Living...

The idea of the Book of Life is a bit more difficult to ascertain, however, Dr. Merrill Unger, I believe, rightly explains in his theological dictionary that in the OT it appears to be "a figurative expression taken from the custom of registering citizens in a society or maintaining genealogical records." We tend to skip over the long, genealogical sections of scripture like 1 Chronicles 1-9 when we are doing our daily devotionals, but those repetitive lists of so-and-so begetting so-and-so had the purpose of tracking all the Children of Israel. In a manner of speaking, those genealogical sections represent the Book of Life for the nation of Israel. A family lineage is vitally important in OT culture, especially for the purpose of maintaining ownership of the family land. Thus, to be "blotted" out of the Book of Life meant the person's lineage would be forever removed from the genealogical record. We even see examples of this with Korah's rebellion (Numbers 16), Achan's sin (Joshua 7), and the kingdom of Saul (1 Samuel 15).

Coming to the NT, the use of the phrase Book of Life takes on the meaning of a register that records all of those individuals, I believe to be "God's elect," who are to inherit eternal life. See for example Philippians 4:3, Revelation 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 21:27. I find it interesting to note that in Revelation 13:8 and 17:8, one factor that distinguishes between those written in the Book of Life and those who are not, is that those not written in the Book of Life are easily led astray by the Anti-Christ. Those who are written in the Book of Life will not follow the Anti-Christ.

With those things in mind, there is one final question to answer: What exactly does John mean in Revelation 3:5 when he writes, "He who overcomes?" The common thinking among Christians is to understand John's words as describing an act of spiritual obedience. In other words, overcoming is a discipline we believers perform in the course of our process in sanctification. A continuing act of personal holiness to obtain the ultimate victory of eternal life. Hence, if we don't pursue being faithful overcomers, or some how fail by acts of disobedience and so forth, then we risk being blotted out of the Book of Life. Thus the certainty of being even added to the Book of Life and keeping our name from being erased from it, depends upon how well we behave ourselves in the discipline of overcoming.

But John has written other things, including a short epistle which addresses how a person knows for certain he or she has eternal life. In 1 John 5:5, the beloved apostle writes, Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? Rather than being an act of spiritual discipline that secures your name in the Book of Life, the word overcomer is a descriptive title for a Christian believer, a person who has believed upon Jesus as the Son of God. So, a person who is a Christian is an overcomer, or to put it in reverse, one who is called an overcomer is a Christian. The one who overcomes is one who has already placed his or her faith in Jesus Christ.

When we draw all of this data together, I believe John is exhorting with a promise in Revelation 3:5. The Christian, or overcomer, is already written in God's Book of Life, the record of all of God's elect unto salvation. Contrary to how human societies would remove a disliked individual from the city records so that the person and his family could no longer reap the benefits of being a citizen and is cast out, God's promise to His people is that no one, no matter who they are or what they may do, will ever be blotted out of the Book of Life. Revelation 3:5 is a promise of security to God's people, not a threat of judgment for not faithfully abiding.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

My Town is Drowning!

I received an email from a cousin back in my home town of Batesville, Arkansas with pictures attached telling how the river that runs just south of town was overflowing its banks and almost running over the bridge. I didn't even know there was this level of raining happening back home. I was stunned. She even stated rather breathlessly (at least it read as being "breathless") "You could stop your car and reach out the door and touch the river." That's pretty amazing.













Thankfully, the bulk of my kinfolk, including my mother, live up on a mountain where the flood waters can't reach them. My mother said she didn't see any cow bodies floating in the water, so the cattle that normally roam around in the big fields surrounding the river must have been moved before hand. Nothing can be as disconcerting than seeing - and smelling - a dead cow body floating in a river.

And the one ironic picture in the collection: Riverside Gardens Florist
















More picture can be viewed at my home town newspaper for anyone interested.

Flood Photos

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bart on Prager

The current champion of the neo-atheists is the shrieking apostate, Bart Ehrman, the chairman of Religious Studies at Chapel Hill in North Carolina. He was interviewed by Dennis Prager on his radio program to promote his new book on why he thinks the Bible can't answer the big questions in life.

God and Suffering

I have only heard bits and pieces of the interview, but from what I have heard, Prager, who is not a Christian, did a fairly good job of pressing Ehrman on many points. Ehrman flat out said he didn't believe in God, so I am guessing he is moving away from his professed agnosticism and into the atheist camp. He also admitted he believes men can find more meaning with believing in Darwinian evolution than the idea of our Creator creating. Prager really hammered him on this point and you can hear Ehrman becoming a bit annoyed as he tried to defend his position.

The interview may make for a nice supplement to Tim Challies recent review of Ehrman's new book.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Gleanings from Job #9

...continuing in my devotional series on Job

Hope for the Wicked (18-19)


We have been considering the severe trials the man Job experienced at the hand of the devil. After these trials devastated his life, Job's three closest friends come to him and offer comfort. The comfort, however, was really painful, because they accused Job of grievous sins he had committed. If only he would confess these sins to God, they argued, well then He would relieve Job of the disaster which had struck him. Job, of course, rightly asserted his innocence of any grievous sin for which he was being judged.

Job's friends challenge him with a series of three speeches. The last time we looked at Eliphaz's second speech to Job, this time we look at Bildad's second speech. Just like Eliphaz, Bildad becomes more harsh with his words against Job.

His main point is to describe to Job the miserable condition of the wicked.

Thus, his accusation inferred is just as we observe how miserably the wicked can suffer, so you too, Job, who is suffering miserably, must be wicked.

I. The Wicked's Starting Point

Bildad takes up an elegant description of the wicked in chapter 18, and even though his words are misplaced as they are wrongfully aimed at Job, there is much truth to his words concerning the wicked.

Most people think of a wicked person as someone totally immoral in conduct. These are individuals who molest children, rape and murder, and engage in horrific violence against their fellow men. But the scriptures through out do not describe the wicked in terms of corrupt behavior.

Looking down to 18:21, the wicked are clearly defined: The place of him who knows not God.

A person's wickedness starts with their willful rebellion against God. It is a person who knows not God. This doesn't mean the person has no knowledge of God, as if the person doesn't know any better, or spent some time seeking out God and couldn't find any suitable evidence for His existence. Rather, this is a person who with forethought of malice, turns his back upon what he knows is the truth of God. This is the picture of the "fool" as described in Psalm 14:1. Thus, his wickedness is defined by the fact he lives a life in rebellion against his creator.

II. The Wicked's Woes

Moving back up to 18:5 and following, Bildad lists a series of illustrations about the life of the wicked. Though these comments are not necessarily true of all those who seek to live out their lives against God, they do represent some specific generalities.

- The wicked are aimless (5,6). Bildad speaks about how the "light" of the wicked goes out, or the flame of its fire does not shine. Additionally, his "lamp" is also put out, as well as the strength of his steps shortened. I think the idea here speaks about the person's basic life or lifestyle. That which gives him direction and brings him joy. God's Word is said to be a lamp to the feet of the righteous, as well as the light unto his path (Pslam 119:105). The wicked, however, do not have their "path" lighted. Because they have chosen to resist God, He will in turn darken his path and put out any lamp he may have. The imagery, I believe, speaks to how there is no true direction for the life of the wicked person.

- The wicked is his own troubler (7-9). The picture here is of a person who is ensnared by his own counsel. The point being that because he attempts to live his life apart from God, the choices he makes will often times be wrongheaded and foolish; choices that will often times bring him to personal ruin.

In the past, when I have visited a doctor for the first time, I am required to fill out extensive medical forms. Some of the questions asked of my personal health are amazing, and I often wonder how many folks honestly respond to them. There will be questions about my eating habits, sexual habits, whether or not I do drugs or smoke. Many of these things are behaviors that reflect a person making poor, even stupid choices, for his or her life.

The person is said to walk into a snare. There is a part of this comment that makes it more than just an accident, but it is a deliberate, willful walking as if the person wants to walk into the snare. The terrible choices he makes is likened to a noose or a trap.

- The wicked are disheartened and weakened with guilt (11-13). The imagery describes terrors that frighten a person. The idea here could be one of expressing how the wicked person is paranoid and delusional. This is a person who knows he or she is guilty and is all the time frightened of being caught. The person can never live his or her life in peace. This is similar to how Herod acted violently against young children whom he feared threatened his throne.

- The wicked leaves no heritage for Himself (14-17, 19, 20). There is an importance describe in scripture of leaving behind a good inheritance for your family; to have your linage remain on the earth from generation to generation. Everyone wants a good name to be remember, but the activities of the wicked insures they will not have such a blessing. Instead, people remember their wickedness, the things which marked them out as a God despiser. As a result, his home is displaced. Others occupy his house or dwelling as it says in Job. And sadly, his memory fades from the earth, unless of course you are super bad and you become a cursing for all to remember.

- The wicked will be eternally judged(18). The description given by Bildad is one who is driven from living in light to the darkness and being chased out of the world. This could be an allusion to the final judgment of the wicked. In the end, once they leave this world, they will be chased from the light into eternal darkness, where they will never see light again.

Now, even though Bildad speaks truth, his words are mis-guided as he rants against Job, because Job has does nothing to earn the title of being "wicked."

Job Response (19)

I. Bildad's Counsel is grievous

Job opens his response to Bildad expressing the torment he receives from his words. God's hand is surely directing his plight, but his trials are not a result of his personal wickedness. Throughout his response as recorded in chapter 19, Job tells how he sees God's hand against him (19:7-20). Most certainly God has a hand in his difficulties, because God is sovereign. There is nothing that happens He did not decree to happen.

II. Hope for the fallen

However, after Job turns from lamenting his trials, he lifts his eyes, as it were, heavenward and speaks of his redeemer, a redeemer that can stand and advocate between God and sinful men.

There are several things we can note about this redeemer:

- He is a man (25), for he stands upon the earth. Additionally, a redeemer is one who is a kinsman. Just like Boaz was to Ruth, he not only had the ability to act as kinsman-redeemer, but the authority because he was next to kin. Hence, this redeemer here in Job will be a next of kin in that he will be human.

- He has power over death (26), because Job is certain that after his death - even after his skin rots - he will see God in his flesh. That means this redeemer can raise men from the dead.

- He is divine (26), because he too lives and raises from the dead and is mentioned along side God.

- He exercises judgment (29), meaning he not only will judge Job's situation fairly and justly, he will also bring wrath against those who mistreated and misjudged Job (his friends).

The down trodden and those who are truly wicked do have a hope of a redeemer who can genuinely stand in their place before God.

This passage has a prophetic ring to it, for there is only one individual who has the qualifications to be the redeemer Job describes: The Lord Jesus Christ.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Apologetics in Action

Fearing Not

The video pretty much speaks for itself.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Playgrounds of Misery

I am sure there is a reason why many of these things exist in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

It may explain why these countries have some of the lowest birthrates in the world.


Prepare yourself to laugh and cringe all at the same time.

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The Assurance of Eternal Security (pt. 4)

I return to my study of the doctrine of eternal security. Those interested can see my previous three installments here:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

I believe the doctrine of eternal security is a vitally important one. Primarily because having a proper understanding of what the scriptures teach on the subject is so key to the psychology of our spiritual well-being. There are many folks who struggle with the certainty of their salvation because they think they have engaged in some sin that has disqualified them from their inheritance of eternal life. Having a biblically based understanding of eternal security shapes our hope and motivation in our salvation.

I have been noting through out my studies that the doctrine of eternal security is the capstone of the doctrines of salvation. All of them point to the certainty of eternal security, and to deny eternal security wrecks havoc upon the entire superstructure of soteriology.

Eternal security, or the certainty of eternal life is threaded throughout the Bible, particularly the New Testament.

For example:

Eternal Life is founded in God's ordaining decree. Consider Acts 13:48 - Now when the gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

Eternal Life is grounded in the Person and Work of Christ. Romans 5:21 - so that sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Eternal Life comes to us as a gift. Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The truth of eternal life, and the certainty of our eternal security if we are recipients of eternal life, is so intertwined with the full manifestation of who God is and so clearly taught in scripture, to suggest or teach contrary to what God has revealed on the subject slanders God's character. In fact Paul says as much when he wrote Titus. In Titus 1:2, ...in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began. Thus, to claim eternal life is conditioned upon our "remaining in Christ" or our "continuing efforts to be obedient," and if we willfully stumble or rebel against these duties we then risk forfeiting that eternal life, in my opinion, suggests God has lied about the promise of eternal life.

Yet, as I have been noting in my previous studies, there are Christians who insist we can forfeit our eternal salvation by walking away from the Lord. By not abiding in Christ. It is my contention such notions are misguided and ultimately harmful to a theologically correct view of our relationship with God. My polemic against conditional security is argued around seven key points. I have looked at four of them in the previous three articles, I will consider the final three in this one.

V. Presents A Wrong Perspective of Adoption

One of the clear NT pictures of our relationship with God, that Paul in particular paints in his epistles, is one of being adopted. The concept of adoption, oiothesia in the Greek, is used 5 times in the NT all by Paul: Romans 8:15, 23; 9:4; Galatians 4:5; and Ephesians 1:5. He draws the concept from Roman law when a father adopted a son that is not his physical offspring. By this adoption, the son becomes the legal heir of the father. The son may not even look like the father, but by this legal adoption, he has all the rights and privileges of a natural born son. It would be like a Scottish family adopting a Korean son. Even though the Scottish family are red headed and ruddy complected, the Korean son has all the legal rights as if he were a native Highlander himself.

Ephesians 1:5 specifically highlights the doctrine of adoption as it pertains to our spiritual relationship with the Lord: ...having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.

There are three things to note about this passage:

- Our adoption begins with the good pleasure of God's will. It was his delightful desire to adopt us as His children.

- Our adoption is according to His predestined plan. Meaning, our adoption was in His mind in eternity past (vs. 4). It was something He had determined to accomplish.

- Our adoption is secured by Christ's work on the Cross. Christ death legally secured our adoption on behalf of God the Father.

With these truths in mind, how then can we become unadopted? Our adoption is secured by Christ. If we can undo this adoption, doesn't that mean there is something inadequate with His death? Moreover, was God mistaken about the pleasure of His good will? In other words, our adoption, according to Paul, is determined by God's predetermined plan. If many who were adopted at salvation can willfully walk away from their salvation, being cut off as a branch by "not abiding" (John 15), was God mistaken about His plan to begin with? These are some serious ramifications for our understanding salvific adoption as outlined in the NT.

VI. Denies The Promise of Our Inheritance

Building off the last point on adoption, Ephesians 1:14 speaks to our inheritance, or what would be our down payment. Paul writes in 1:13, 14: In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Paul's explains how Christians are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, and that sealing is the guarantee - our down payment - of our inheritance, or what would be our eternal life. Peter refers to this inheritance as being incorruptible, or imperishable, undefiled, and never fading away. Unlike human inheritances that can be stolen, or lost, or subject to the elements, or the ebb and flow of the economy, our eternal inheritance is just that, eternal. It will never change. Nothing can act upon it to change the terms.

Because we as Christians have the Holy Spirit, we can be certain of our eternal security. The idea of "sealing" is one of a person placing his signature on a legal document. The sealing speaks of ownership. God's ownership of His people is the sealing of the Holy Spirit given to them at their individual salvation. That "seal" gives us the promise of our eternal life. There is nothing that can undo that seal. To say a person can lose this eternal life denies the clear and explicit promise made by God as to the certainty of receiving our inheritance.

VII. Denies God's Power to Keep

And finally, expanding on the previous two points, the idea of conditional security denies God's power to keep His people from falling away. I would also add it denies God's desire to keep His people from falling away.

We have noted that our inheritance, our eternal life, is most certain because of the Holy Spirit's indwelling presence in our individual lives. Christians are considered "sealed," or more specifically, owned by God. The Holy Spirit's sealing is His mark upon His possession, the Christian. That "sealing" keeps the Christian secure, utterly preventing any one else from acquiring him as a special possession and preventing him from being lost.

Jude sums up the certainty of our "keeping" well in the closing verses of his little epistle. He writes in verse 24, Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy... Jude says that God exercises the ability, or power, to keep us from stumbling. In the context of his epistle, which addresses apostasy, this is a marvelous promise. It means that God will most certainly exercise all the divine means necessary to prevent us from being lost, to be overcome with apostasy so that we abandon our faith. That is a glorious, and most certain hope, and one that cannot be denied.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gnome of Terror

I saw this article over at Drudge and couldn't resist linking it. I mean, who doesn't like gnomes? I dream of a day when I can have a garden with my wife so I can have a place for my entire collection of The Franklin Mint Presidential Gnomes.

Creepy Gnome Terrorizes Town in Argentina

Just wondering out loud here...

I am eager for a day when I see a headline in our local paper, "Creepy Gnome Creature Terrorizes Upscale Northpark Community in Valencia." It seems like these things are only terrorizing communities in third world countries where I don't live.

Has anyone there in that terrorized town thought to shoot the gnome if it is so terrifying? Maybe catch it in a potato sack to see if it will grant you wishes? What I see on this video would not paralyze me with such fear that I wouldn't at least attempt to chase it or hit it with a stick.

Is that one guy embarrassed he screams like a woman?

You capture a creepy gnome creature on your camera and then you abruptly end it right when it is getting good? I don't get it.

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My Day at the Shepherd's Conference

Shepherd's Conference has changed a lot since I was in seminary and was required to attend. First there is the increase in keynote session speakers. When I was having to attend, it was only John. That's cool to have one of the most renowned preachers in the world speaking at your conference, but generally, he preached material that he had already preached to his congregation.

Next is the perks. The pastors who have been attending since I graduated get all sorts of great stuff, especially books. I never received any free books when I attended. It is quite the bummer just to think about it now.

Anyhow...

I don't get to attend like I use to. I usually have one day I take off from work to visit on campus. I spend my time catching up with some pastor friends I know from out of town or who I attended seminary with.

As a run down of my day on Friday:

I had a good visit with Bob Chandler who is a pastor and prison chaplain in Oklahoma. I met him through some prisoners I have been corresponding with. They wrote Grace to You years ago looking for materials to help with their Bible studies. I think I sent them some books and tapes and I started up a pen-pal relationship with a couple of them. They told me about Bob and how he regularly came to their facility to lead Bible studies. His studies were the only ones that were expositional and he proclaimed the doctrines of Calvinism, which all the guys who attended just loved. His teaching was a welcomed change from all the health-wealth, Church of Christ stuff they were getting. Bob and I spent a good portion of the day together, along with a couple of his friends who traveled with him. He caught me up on all my prisoner friends I have been writing off and on.

I met Steve Lamm, a regular reader of my blog. Steve pastors a small church called Grace Church in Santee, CA, down in the San Diego area. I spoke with him and his friends and had a great time talking about ministry and raising kids, particularly home schooling vs. public schooling. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit with him and I hope to have more in the future.

I spent some time talking with Barry Horner. Barry has written Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must be Challenged, probably one of the most comprehensive critiques of replacement theology, or super-successionism, to be published in sometime. Replacement theology or super-successionism is the default Reformed eschatology which teaches that the Church has replaced Israel as God's people. Those who adhere to replacement theology are generally either amillennial or postmillennial and recoil at the description of their views as replacement theology. They like to consider their position as "fulfillment theology." However, the historical reality is that the hermeneutical principles of re-interpreting the OT with the NT, a heavy emphasis on typology, and the idea that the Church is now Israel, was a system developed after Augustine's allegorical theology he picked up from Origen. Barry contends, and I believe demonstrates rather conclusively, that much of the Antisemitism the Jews have suffered from the hands of Christians over the centuries stems from the heavy emphasis on a replacement theology hermeneutic advocated by Roman Catholicism and that was absorbed by the Reformers after their break from Rome.

I basically stood by Barry as he signed books and peppered him with questions. He was an absolute delight to speak with. I told Barry that my main complaint with his work was that it was not enough. I wanted more. He has in the plans a new website that will specifically emphasize exegetical works interacting with replacement hermeneutics. I hope to have a fuller review of his book at a later date, but those interested in reading a Reformed Baptist reaction to Barry's work can check out Sam Waldron's attempt to answer some of Barry's claims at the Mid Western Theological Studies Blog Also, Barry was interviewed by Chris Arnzen on his radio program out of the Long Island area.

I learned about a couple of more pastors having to resign because of their views on Calvinism. It seems like every year I hear a story about a pastor who was either removed from his pulpit or had to resign because he believed in Calvinism. I have yet to hear of a pastor who was staunch Arminian being ran out of town because of his freewill theism. Maybe they are, but I haven't heard of any. It's not like these guys are rushing head long into their first pastorate breathing Calvinistic fire wanting everyone to swear allegiance to the Canons of Dort. These are men who arrive at their first church eager to love the people and teach the Bible. As they teach verse by verse through scripture, they are faithful to what the text says, refusing to water down any mention of election or depravity and as a result, people get rankled.

This time, however, the men were not in trouble with their congregations. They had run up against the leadership of a domestic missionary sending agency that helps financially with pastors in rural areas where it is difficult for smaller churches to support a pastor full time. The agency basically told the pastors to stop preaching Calvinism (which they weren't) or they would withdraw financial support. One guy resigned his church and is looking for a new church. The second guy was so loved by his church, that they want to attempt to support him full time. I was actually encouraged by that story, from what appeared to be otherwise bad news.

The conference didn't necessarily have a theme
, but most of the keynote speakers spoke on the importance of pastors proclaiming the whole counsel of God when they preach and not mutating the gospel message or compromising the teaching of the Word to accommodate secular society and the feelings of the world. There were plenty of withering critiques of seeker-sensitive model churches and the emergent crowd. I have been reading on some favored blogs of mine comments from bloggers and their readers how MacArthur is becoming a grouchy old man with his criticisms. I believe they are missing John's point if they believe this about him. As a Calvinist myself, I believe God is sovereign in the salvation of His people. I don't have to have Saturday evening seeker services or change the Sunday morning worship time so it reflects a college retreat atmosphere in order to get people to come to church. This accommodation to the whims of worldly people, I believe, runs contrary to the fundamental belief in God's sovereignty to save, along with a denial in the simple sufficiency of the Bible. Phil hopes to interact with some of these criticisms of John in future posts at his blog.

Over all it was good time and the Lord willing I look forward to next years conference.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Ducks Beware

This is like a total awesome man video.

All my male readers will watch it and respond by saying "cooooool." All the homeschool moms will roll their eyes and snort out a "What ever."

I am not sure why the host needed to talk in hushed tones. Especially on a gun range.


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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Gleanings from Job #8

...continuing in my devotional series on Job

How the Wicked Live (Job 15-17)

I have been considering the book of Job. It is the first book in the Wisdom literature of the Bible, with Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon being the others. Though Job is Wisdom literature, it tells the true story of a man who suffered severe trial. His closest friends come to him to offer comfort, but their encouragement is really critical and negative and never amounts to any true counsel for Job.

The argument of Job's three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, make against Job is that he is suffering these trials because he is a sinner. If only he would admit his wrong doing against God, confess his sin, then God would be sure to rescue him from his difficulties.

In response, Job has been faithful to rebuke them, asking them to show where he truly sinned. Each one of his friends has already attempted to convince Job of his wrong-doing with a first round of speeches. Chapter 15 begins the second round of speeches, with Eliphaz being the first one to speak. Just like his previous speech, Eliphaz assumes Job is suffering because he has sinned. It is the same theme for his second speech. His accusation is that Job is excusing or justifying his wickedness.

I. The Rebuke (15)

Eliphaz begins by rebuking Job for what he perceives as him justifying his wickedness.

1) He charges Job with being prideful and boastful (15:2-4)

2) He says Job is irreligious (4), a man who does not fear God. Later in vss. 12, 13 Eliphaz says Job "turns his spirit" against God.

3) Job is said to be dishonest with his friends (5, 6).

4) And Job spurns their counsel (11).

II. The Reproofs

After Eliphaz falsely accuses Job of justifying his wicked heart, he attempts to illustrate his charge as to how those who are miserable, in this case Job, are so obviously wicked with a series of reproofs. Eliphaz draws these condemnations from his own experience, "what he had been told and what he had seen" (vs. 17, 18).

1) The wicked have a painful existence (20). Those who pursue wickedness, a life ultimately in rebellion against God, cannot expect to live without oppression, especially from God.

2) The wicked are vexed with thoughts of paranoia (21, 24). Anytime there is trouble, the wicked man is thinking someone is out to get him. Every sound at night is a person coming to enact revenge against him. In our modern day, a criminal who sees a police car thinks it is coming after him. This reveals a guilty conscience; a person who knows he has done wrong.

3) The wicked is bound with thoughts of sudden death (22). Similar to the previous point, the one who is involved with wicked behavior will walk around thinking this day is his last because someone may get him.

4) The wicked fights against the Lord (25, 26) All his actions are defiant fightings against God. Eliphaz pictures an individual who is not only acting sinfully against God, but one who is willfully running toward Him in rebellion, who has taken up arms against God with a shield. I am personally reminded of Proverbs 19:3 where it says, The folly of a man brings him to ruin, but then his heart rages against God. In other words, his own wickedness destroys his livelihood, but he blames God for his problems.

5) He forgets God, by depending upon himself (27). The image of covering his face with fatness implies a person who is rich and capable of living on the best of foods. It is often used as a negative comment, because it invokes the image of person obtaining all his riches by himself without thought of God.

6) The wicked is truly alone (28). Because he runs from the law or from being held accountable for his criminality, he lives where no one else is. Such an existence speaks of a heart that hates any sort of authority. I am always amazed that all these little desert towns in Southern California where maybe 90 people make up the population, are mainly individuals who have had problems with the law in their past and refuse to be beholden to any authority.

7) The wicked may never enjoy prosperity (29). His possessions are spread all over the place. Either they have to pay off fines, or make up for past wicked behavior by being given to others, but what ever the case, the person doesn't have any legitimate inheritance to leave a family (32-24).

All of His reproofs are theologically correct. In other words, there is truth in the words he presents to Job about the wicked. Even we in our modern day see these things as true even for the wicked who prowl about in our societies. The problem, however, is that Eliphaz hatefully implies Job is truly the object of these thoughts without warrant. Just like the wicked, Job has done wickedly and is suffering as they do with the trials he is experiencing.

III. Job's Response

In response to Eliphaz's accusations, Job calls him and all his other friends miserable comforters. Rather than helping him, they are merely mocking him. In 16:6-17, Job describes with vivid word pictures how his so-called friends have become his enemies. They fight against him rather than help him.

But in spite of their attacks, Job appeals to his integrity to answer Eliphaz's charges.

1) He maintains a pure conscience (16:17) In spite of his friends accusations, he knows he had no violence in his hands. In other words, he did nothing against anyone to hurt him or her.

2) Additionally, his prayer life was pure (17). He prays to God with a heart of worship and devotion.

3) He calls upon any sin to be revealed (18, 19). In words speaking to Cain's slaying of Abel (Genesis 4:10), Job says he does not want the earth to cover any blood shedding he may had done. He wants there to be a total revelation of any genuine sin he had done against God and man.

4) He is confident God will vindicate him (17:1-3). He finishes out his response to Eliphaz by proclaiming how he is confident God will be a surety for him. Basically, that God will see to it that he is vindicated of any wrong-doing he is be accused of by his friends.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Garfield without Garfield

Maybe it is the medication I am currently taking, but as I scrolled through this collection of cartoons, I was snickering to myself like an idiot. People walking through my area were tossing me looks. It was embarrassing; like the time I attempted to contain my giggles in Mrs. Wells' 5th grade class as I read the poetry of Where the Side Walk Ends with Julie Stevens.

Garfield Minus Garfield

Someone has provided an unusual take on one of the stupidest comic strips every put to print. The purpose statement at the blog sums it up well:

Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness in a quiet American suburb.

Better is an understatement. I hope there are some folks out there who share my warped sense of humor.


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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool (Pt. 20)
















Is Christianity borrowed from other ancient religions?

I come today to my final post addressing Chaz Bufe, the blues guitar picking, Christ-hating anarchist, and his 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity. Its been a long journey to say the least, with frequent interruptions, but I can confidently affirm that I stayed my course to make it to my goal.

Chaz's final point argues that the key components of the Christian faith are borrowed from a plethora of ancient religions that pre-date Christianity. Most specifically, from the religious followers of Mithras, a Persian cult god that was extremely popular among the Roman soldiers during the first century. Chaz writes,

20. Christianity borrowed its central myths and ceremonies from other ancient religions. The ancient world was rife with tales of virgin births, miracle-working saviors, tripartite gods, gods taking human form, gods arising from the dead, heavens and hells, and days of judgment. In addition to the myths, many of the ceremonies of ancient religions also match those of that syncretic latecomer, Christianity. To cite but one example (there are many others), consider Mithraism, a Persian religion predating Christianity by centuries. Mithra, the savior of the Mithraic religion and a god who took human form, was born of a virgin; he belonged to the holy trinity and was a link between heaven and Earth; and he ascended into heaven after his death. His followers believed in heaven and hell, looked forward to a day of judgment, and referred to Mithra as "the Light of the World." They also practiced baptism (for purification purposes) and ritual cannibalism-the eating of bread and the drinking of wine to symbolize the eating and drinking of the god's body and blood. Given all this, Mithra's birthday should come as no surprise: December 25th; this event was, of course, celebrated by Mithra's followers at midnight.

Christianity is a faith grounded in history. In other words, the second person of the real Triune God, became a real man named Jesus, who lived in a real period of human history, walked a real geographic area, and performed real signs and wonders to demonstrate His claims of deity. This real, historical person Jesus, then gave Himself up to be falsely executed so as to die on a real cross so as to ransom a people from the penalty of their sin. He really resurrected from the dead 3 days after His execution, and will really return to judge the world at His historical second coming. There is nothing "mythical" about the person and work of Jesus Christ.

The idea that Christianity is a religion based upon composite myths and stories borrowed, or stolen, from other ancient religions is rather new in literary studies. The first critics who speculated about the "Jesus myths" began to write in the mid-1800s. Many of them were the product of the atheistic enlightenment which attempted to displace the influence of the Christian church in western society. German philosopher, Bruno Bauer, who wrote out his views of Jesus in the 1840s, was probably the first "serious" attempt by a "scholar" to connect Christianity to pagan myths. Bauer even argued that Jesus never existed and was a total fabrication of the earliest sects of Christianity. One of Bauer's students, Karl Marx, promoted the belief Jesus never existed and made it part of his Communist dogma.

These "copy-cat" claims, however, were debunked early on by legitimate scholars, even by those who would be considered liberal. But the advent of the internet and the ability for any anti-theistic crank and his little brother to post this pseudo-intellectual nonsense without scrutiny, has brought about a resurgence of the "Jesus myth" fallacy among the network of various atheistic groups. Uniformed Christians who stumble upon the "scholarly" looking web articles become alarmed at what they read. If it is true Jesus never existed, or that the bulk of the Christian faith is hobbled together with bits and pieces of other existing religious myths, then our faith is unfounded and we are, as the Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15:19, men to be pitied.

To begin answering Chaz's assertions of parallel, copy-cat faiths, probably the most thoroughly written response for lay level readers is J.P. Holding's collection of essays addressing the variety of ancient religions atheists claim are borrowed by Christians. His research does a good job of debunking some of the alleged connections and demonstrating they are more contrived by the critics than based upon genuine similarities. More specifically, he has written an article addressing the Mithras connections Chaz directly mentions in his point. What J.P demonstrates in this article, and what Chaz fails to tell his readers, is that the real Mithras scholars, not the internet cranks smoking up their comparisons, deny any myth borrowing ever happened between Christians and followers of Mithraism. When the top scholars in the world of one of the most obscure and forgotten cults flat out deny the central tenant of your thesis, you're pretty much making stuff up in order to sustain your argument.

J.P.'s article is more than adequate to show Chaz doesn't have a clue what he is talking about, but let's consider a simple historical and biblical response.

First of all, it is true mystery religions flourished throughout the ancient world around the 1st century. Yet, the one place where they were not only uncommon, but also rejected, was Israel. The practice of pagan mystery religions were non-existent in ancient Palestine. That is simply because the Jews had learned a rather hard lesson about God's utter hatred against pagan cults nearly 500 years earlier when Babylon was used as the rod of punishment against Israel's idolatry.

Christianity is Jewish in origin, and it began in Jerusalem and flourished in Israel for nearly the first two decades after the Spirit's coming. The first Christians were also Jews who were raised with a revulsion toward cultic paganism. It is absurd to think that in the incubator of OT monotheism where Christianity was born and firmly rooted, that the main components of the faith were myths and symbols borrowed from a variety of pagan mystery religions that didn't even exist in the same country.

In truth, the historical background of Christianity grounded in the doctrine of the Person and Work of Jesus was well founded before missionaries began to even encounter pagan mystery religions. This is an important point to consider. We must realize that it takes a significant amount of time for "mythology" to be established within a religion and the components of Christianity were well-founded decades before the close to the first century. Paul's doxology of Christ he describes in Philippians 2:5-11 may well had been a citation from an early Christian doctrinal hymn. Paul wrote Philippians around 60 AD, which means he is citing an affirmed doctrine of Jesus Christ that had been believed by the faithful for at least 30 years prior to his writing that epistle.

Additionally, Christianity was a public faith. Meaning the Gospel was proclaimed and taught out in the open to all people groups without exception. Mystery religions, on the other hand, like Mithraism, only tend to flourish among exclusive groups who are "in the know" as to the the content of the religion; individuals who have "earned" the right to be entrusted with the secrets of the religion. In order to know about Mithras, a person would have had to at least become a Roman soldier, something that was exclusively male, and then probably involve himself in a series of initiations in order to even be recognized as worthy of learning of Mithras. Roman soldiers, then, would have no interest in "evangelizing" for Mithras, or even promoting a belief in him, because it was a faith shared only among those who were Roman soldiers who had been initiated into the secret order. Thus, a copy-cat religion would be extremely difficult to develop, because it is impossible to cut-and-paste together parts for a new mystery religion when you don't even know the "mysteries" of the other religion to begin with.

Further, skeptics like Chaz don't like to consider the NT as being an historical document, but in reality it is. The first 5 books, the 4 Gospels and the book of Acts, are historical documents recording the events surrounding Jesus Christ and the spread of the Christian Church from Judea to the uttermost parts of the world at that time. When Christians began to engage the pagan, gentile world with the Gospel, it was obvious to the gentiles that Christianity presented unique truth claims that radically set it apart from the scores of mystery religions familiar to the gentiles. What made Christianity special was not that it borrowed already existent myths, but that it presented reality, a belief in a living God who was active in space and time and claimed to be the judge the entire world.

Never in any of the many encounters with gentiles as recorded in the NT do the pagans respond to the Gospel message as if it was just another mystery religion. For example, when Peter presented the Gospel to Cornelius in Acts 10, Cornelius, who was a Roman soldier, does not say, "Oh that sounds just like what the followers of Mithras believes." Moreover, there was a supernatural move of the Spirit that fell upon Cornelius and his household in the presence of Peter and the Jewish men with him. Such an occurrence of the "Spirit falling" upon people is absent the Mithras mythology. Moreover, when Paul was in Athens (Acts 17), a city completely given over to idolatry, cultic practices, and mystery religions, his preaching of Jesus to the people was a curiosity. His message was so unique that it caught the attention of the local authorities who brought him into meeting to have him explain his "religion" (Acts 17:22ff.). After Paul brought up the Resurrection of Christ, most of the people mocked, because the idea of a dead man rising back to life was unheard of. No one said, "There is nothing really new about this Paul's beliefs, this stuff sounds just like any other "mystery" religion."

And then finally, Christianity experienced periods of violent persecution for at least the first 200 years of its existence. In addition to severe state sponsored persecution, there were secular critics who wrote against the Christian faith. None of those critics ever attempted to debunk Christianity as being an off-shoot of Mithraism or a copy-cat of any other known mystery cult. If Christianity was nothing more than a collection of already pre-existent myths found in other ancient mystery religions, then there would be no need to persecute the Church or write against its beliefs. Why would anyone be threatened by another mystery religion with similar myths already believed and practiced by adherents of other similar faiths? Secular critics of Christianity accused them of atheism, because Christians refused to acknowledge the other gods. No other mystery religion was a threat to the social fabric of the times, because no other mystery religion god told its followers to abandon idolatry and believe in an historical person, or to turn from pagan temples and religious prostitutes to serving the One True God and living a life of ethical holiness.

Conclusion

Chaz ends his lengthy screed by offering a final word. He says that his 20 points are just a smattering of the problems with Christianity. He then states that even if a half of what he wrote, or maybe even two-thirds or even three-quarters, was discounted, the fact that Christianity must be abandoned would remain. That is a rather bold claim; however, I believe my meager responses show that it is really an embarrassingly laughable claim. Moreover, what he has to offer as a suitable philosophical replacement is unworkable in the real world.

Chaz is an obscure, amateur philosophy hack who has access to the internet. I would have never known he existed, but it was a goofy picture of a moon-bat, anti-war atheist holding a sign advertising his website which linked over to Chaz's site that made me aware of him. I took on his claims, not only for the blog fodder, but to show how Christianity can easily answer the prattlings of a fool. Chaz represents the type of Bible critic most Christians will encounter in the class room, or at work in the break room, or at the family reunions and holiday get togethers. Though I have taken a while to respond (almost 2 years or more), I do hope I have offered some stepping stones for my readers to use when they encounter the Chazes in their lives.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Eeegads

This is why the tell you to remain in your seat with your safety belts fastened until the plane comes to a complete stop...


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Sunday, March 02, 2008

For any Shepherd's Conference people

My illness has abated some, but the coughing spasms still have me in a death grip. So much so that I lost my voice from coughing over the weekend. I have been whispering to my family, and my kids of course think I am being quiet on purpose and whisper back to me when I get onto them about something. The Lord willing, I hope to be over this thing sometime this week so I can return to a bit of normalcy. It would be nice to sleep through the night without awakening to the violent paroxysms of coughing up a slug.


Anyhow, I figured there may be some occasional readers out there who are coming into town for the Shepherd's Conference. If so, please contact me through the email linked at my blog's profile page and we can exchange telephone information. I may not be able to go out and eat dinner with you or anything, though I would certainly delight in such a possibility; however, I would like to say hey, shake your hand, exchange some "how-you-doings" if anything. I know I plan to be on campus this Friday (3/7) to here Dr. Phil speak on Acts. Drop me a line, I would love to hear from you.

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