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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

All Saints' Day

Originally posted three years ago on Nov. 1st:

Taken from Roland Bainton's masterful biography on Martin Luther, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther.

The Church, while taking an individualistic view of sin, takes a corporate view of goodness. Sins must be accounted for one by one, but goodness can be pooled; and there is something to pool because the saints, the Blessed Virgin, and the Son of God were better than they needed to be for their own salvation. Christ in particular, being both sinless and God, is possessed of an unbounded store. These superfluous merits of the righteous constitute a treasury which is transferable to those whose accounts are in arrears. The transfer is effected through the Church and, particularly, through the pope, to whom as the successor of St. Peter have been committed the keys to bind and loose. Such transfer of credit was called an indulgence. ...

During the decade in which Luther was born a pope had declared that the efficacy of indulgences extended to purgatory for the benefit of the living and the dead alike. In the case of the living there was no assurance of avoiding purgatory entirely because God alone knew the extent of the unexpiated guilt and the consequent length of the sentence, but the Church could tell to the year and the day by how much the term could be reduced, whatever it was. And in the case of those already dead and in purgatory, the sum of whose wickedness was complete and known, the immediate realse could be offered. ...

There were places in which these signal mercies were more accessible than in others. For no theological reason but in the interest of advertising, the Church associated the dispensing of the merits of the saints with visitation upon the relics of the saints. Popes frequently specified precisely how much benefit could be derived from viewing each holy bone. Every relic of the saints in Halle, for example, was endowed by Pope Leo X with an indulgence for the reduction of purgatory by four thousand years.

The greatest storehouse for such treasures was Rome. Here in the single crypt of St. Callistus forty popes were buried and 76,000 martyrs. Rome had a piece of Moses' burning bush and three hundred particles of the Holy Innocents. Rome had the portrait of Christ on the napkin of St. Veronica. Rome had the chains of St. Paul and the scissors with which the Emperor Domitian clipped the hair of St. John. The walls of Rome near the Appian gate showed the white spots left by the stones which turned to snowballs when hurled by the mob against St. Peter before his time was come. A church in Rome had the crucifix which leaned over to talk to St. Brigitta. ... In front of the Lateran were the Scala Sancta, twenty-eight stairs, supposedly those which once stood in front of Pilate's palace. He who crawled up them on hands and knees, repeating a Pater Noster for each one, could thereby release a soul from purgatory. ... No city on earth was so plentifully supplied with holy relics, and no city on earth was so richly endowed with spiritual indulgences as Holy Rome. ...

Fredrick the Wise, the elector of Saxony, Luther's prince, was a man of simple and sincere piety who had devoted a lifetime to making Wittenberg the Rome of Germany as a depository of sacred relics. He had made a journey to all parts of Europe, and diplomatic negotiations were facilitated by an exchange of relics. The king of Denmark, for example, sent him fragments of King Canute and St. Brigitta.

The collection had as its nucleus a genuine thorn from the crown of Christ, certified to have pierced the saviour's brow. Fredrick so built up the collection from this inherited treasure that the catalogue illustrated by Lucas Cranach in 1509 listed 5,005 particles, to which were attached indulgences calculated to reduce purgatory by 1,443 years. The collection included one tooth of St. Jerome, of St. Chrysostom four pieces, of St. Bernard six, and of St. Augustine four; of Our Lady four hairs, three pieces of her cloak, four from her girdle, and seven from the veil sprinkled with the blood of Christ. The relics of Christ included one piece from his swaddling clothes, thirteen from his crib, one wisp of straw, one piece of the gold brought by the Wise Men and three of the myrrh, one strand of Jesus' beard, once of the nails driven into his hands, one piece of bread eaten at the Last Supper, one piece of the stone on which Jesus stood to ascend into heaven, and one twig of Moses' burning bush.

By 1520 the collection had mounted to 19,013 holy bones. Those who viewed these relics on the designated day and made the stipulated contributions might receive from the pope indulgences for the reduction of purgatory, either for themselves or others, to the extent of 1,902,202 years and 270 days. These were the treasures made available on the day of All Saints. ... on the eve of All Saints, when Fredrick the Wise would offer his indulgences, Luther spoke, this time in writing, by posting in accord with current practice on the door of the Castle Church a printed placard in the Latin language consisting of ninety-five thesis for debate. [35, 36, 53, 60]


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween and all that...


Friday, October 29, 2010

Fred's Voter Guide

Ah... The mid-term elections are here. Over the course of 2010, it has been a delight to watch the Democrat left implode upon themselves. For my California readers I thought I would post my take on the candidates and propositions. I apologize to you non-California people, like Neil. This post isn't really relevant to you, but maybe you'll like my snarky comments.

In the grand scheme of things, there are only two major races in California that are significant, Governor and Senate.

First, we have Jerry "moonbeam" Brown and Meg Whitman battling it out for governor.

Granted, Meg isn't the greatest of candidates we have before us. I think she displays the Pollyannish naivete of R'nold when she boasts of coming to Sacramento to shake things up. I believe she is going to find herself engaged in a titanic struggle with the state unions to get her agenda passed. We can only hope she isn't a tomato can like R'nold was and is rendered useless when the union mob threatens her family.

Yet, in spite of these severe shortcomings, she is miles ahead of Jerry "moonbeam" Brown. Honestly, Jerry Brown? A dirty old hippie that's been deloused and put in a suit? Are the people of California that stupid? Or should I say high? This is a guy who wants us to live in these high density communities where we take monorails to work everyday and have our electricity rationed to us about 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the evening. Seriously? Jerry Brown?

Next is Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina for senator. I know next to nothing about Fiorina. Dan did mention about working under her at HP after she first announced her intentions to run. I don't care that I don't know who she is. Boxer is such an obnoxious shrew I want her thrown out. Yes, Ma'am.

With the other candidates, if you want to see real hope and change for California, just vote all Republican, maybe Loosertarian if you must, but the Marxist sympathizing Democrats need to be junked.

Now, to the state propositions,

Proposition 19 is about the legalization of pot. Dude... like. I don't think it's a great idea to let people have the ability to grow dope in their backyards and light up fatties in the coffee shops. The last thing we want is to turn this place into one of those coma induced Scandinavian countries. I'm voting NO dude.

Propositon 20 is all about redistricting the congressional districts, which may be a good idea. Voting yes will remove elected officials, who have something to gain from controlling how congressional districts are outlined, and give it to a non-political commission. This proposition works together with proposition 27 in which a yes vote on that proposition eliminates the non-political commission and gives the authority back to elected officials. Me personally, I am voting Yes on prop. 20 and No on prop. 27.

Proposition 21 is a scam proposition that makes people think it's a good thing to raise our vehicle license fee 18 dollars to help pay for state parks and wildlife programs. There are currently lots of Disneyesque commercials showing majestic mountains (Most of which are found in the federal parks of California) and frolicking animals that are attempting to get people to vote yes on this proposition. It's a scam in that we already have plenty of tax money directed to such programs if our state legislatures could balance the budget and cut back on state union pensions. But, because they are bound by laws they passed, they have to now find alternative ways to cover their rears.

Proposition 22 is designed to keep the state from raiding the funds used for transportation projects like adding more car pool lanes (as if we need more car pool lanes). I am voting yes on this proposition, but something tells me that politician will find a way to raid those funds anyways.

Of all the propositions on the ballet, Proposition 23 is the most important. It will suspend the implementation AB 32, the disastrous air pollution control law. The main talking point from the opponents of Prop. 23 is the fact that a couple of out-of-state energy companies based in Texas helped fund the push to get Prop. 23 on the ballet. They repeatedly point this out in their political ads as if they have uncovered some nefarious, right-wing conspiracy.

I, however, praise the Lord there is someone out in the real world that has common sense and the means to take a financial risk in order to save California from their own mental instability. We should think of those Texan oil companies as concerned homeless shelter workers who wish to rescue us from our own drunken filth.

I like my electricity. I like my air conditioning. I like my suburban sprawl. I like my giant box stores and malls. I want to have the freedom to drive a big, gas guzzling truck with deer blinding lights and big, knobby, rabbit crushing tires if I so choose. I don't want to put solar panels on my house and I don't want to have to live like I am in Central Africa using cow dung for fuel to cook my food and a car battery to power my fluorescent bulbs for a couple of hours in the evening. And I certainly don't want to live in some high density dystopian hellscape governed by ugly, short haired, blandly dressed, environmental women bureaucrats. So I am voting YES on Prop. 23.

Proposition 24 repeals recent legislation that would allow businesses to lower their tax liability. When you Google "prop. 24" the first website that pops up is the "yeson24" website. The summary line says: "It's time to give US a break NOT big corporations." Such slogans are usually the songs of crackpot progressives who hate big businesses and want everything to be mom-and-pop driven. But seeing how these evil corporations are the ones who employ thousands of workers, it is stupid to tax them into oblivion and drive them from our state. I am voting NO.

Proposition 25 changes the requirement for a legislative vote to pass a budget and budget related legislation from being two-thirds to a simple majority. Which means in a liberal, crackpot oriented state like California, the crackpot liberals would get everything they wanted passed. The two-thirds is the much needed stalemate. I'm voting NO.

Proposition 26 requires that any taxes (that have been Orwellianly renamed as "fees") must have a two-thirds vote for approval. See why Prop. 25 is important now? I'm voting YES

On Proposition 27 see above under Proposition 20.

As for the judges on the ballet. If you are like me, you are totally stupid when it comes to who you should vote for as a judge. The word is that all three of the Supreme Court Justices should be voted out, so I am marking "no" on all three. As for the other justice seats, I did find this helpful website, put together by a conservative guy, who provides some additional information.

Judge Voter Guide

Look in the side bar for your county/district, and they have some info about the various candidates.

And then of course, make sure you read over your ballets and double check them before you hand them in.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Jesus on Tap

I had a delightful phone conversation with an old friend the past weekend. During the course of our discussion, my friend turned us to addressing whether or not Christians should drink alcohol. My friend is by no means a teetotaler, but he is becoming increasingly troubled by the "restless and Reformed" types, especially among the leadership of the churches where their ilk are dominant, who brazenly flaunt their liberty by drinking alcohol and letting everyone know THEY ARE drinking alcohol.

In the church circles where my friend currently runs within the Bible-belt south, he sees such expressions of liberty as being unwise. It causes more harm than good and it raises the question of why a minister would want to unnecessarily threaten the impact of his ministry just to defend his liberty to drink wine. In my friends words, "is the freedom to drink alcohol a hill a pastor really wants to die on?" I couldn't agree more.

Our discussion took me back almost three years to a commentary I wrote addressing this very issue in relation to smoking and drinking. It was in response to another post I wrote responding sarcastically to an article Steve Camp wrote at his blog berating a deacon who told some folks to not smoke on the church grounds. I no longer read any of Camp's stuff, but I thought my comments were appropriate for my friend to review. When I found the link for my buddy, I also thought I would re-post it here, slightly edited, for newer readers I have gathered since 2007.

Originally posted September, 2007

A handful of inquirers have asked me about my post I did last week about drinking in church parking lots.

Just so that I am clear: I don't advocate the drinking of alcohol in church parking lots.

I was hoping people would click over to Steve Camp's post on smoking in church parking lots and then return back to me and note the clever, humorous twist I took disagreeing with his criticisms.

But alas, a few folks were lost in translation, so let's recap.

Steve wrote a post charging a church greeter with legalism who had scolded some youthful church members for smoking in the church parking lot. Steve went on to explain that real ministry is down and dirty and involves the lives of sinners who smoke. Thus, he concluded it was wrong for this greeter person to tell these church youth to stop smoking in the parking lot.

I believe Steve is over-reacting and wrongfully charging this greeter with legalism. I believe it is inappropriately tacky for youthful church members, or any church member for that matter, to be puffing on cigarettes in the church parking lot in between Sunday school and the morning service, and a greeter who asks them to stop is not acting legalistically.

I agree with Steve, and many of the posters in the combox, that smoking in and of itself is not sinful. A Christian has liberty to smoke cigars, cigarettes, and pipes if he so chooses. He just shouldn't do it out in the parking lot where people are driving up and coming into the church. My wife pointed out, as did Daniel, that a married couple has the liberty to "make-out" in their car in between Sunday school and the morning service, but I hope we all agree that "making-out" is inappropriate behavior in church parking lots on a Sunday morning, even if you are married and may have tinted windows.

So, to illustrate my disagreement with Steve, I basically took his exact same article and replaced the word "smoking" with "drinking." I am sure Steve, being a firm Reformer, believes a Christian has the liberty to drink alcohol just like he has the liberty to smoke cigarettes. The prohibition against alcohol in scripture is becoming drunk, not drinking in moderation.

However, I imagine Steve, as well as any other right minded Christian, wouldn't want a group of youthful, 21 years old Christians cracking open their Buds out in the church parking lot in between Sunday school and the morning service. Sure they are at liberty to drink. They're just having one beer, right? Or a glass of Australian Shiraz if they happen to be attending one of those high class Presbyterian churches.

Never the less, in spite of their liberty to drink, I hope Christians, even Steve, would recognize the lack of propriety with drinking in the church parking lot on Sunday morning. A greeter would certainly be right to confront them and ask them to stop.

Now, this discussion has raised some thoughts in my mind I wish to share if you all will indulge me.

First, smoking is not a sin. Yes, smoking doesn't have the greatest of health benefits, but neither does eating fried apple pies, KFC, potato pancakes, and Slim Jims. Those Bible-belt fundamentalists who tend to yap about smoking being sinful and cite medical journal statistics to justify their stance against Christians smoking are usually the first ones to belly up to an "all-you-can-eat" buffet at a Chinese restaurant or at Cracker Barrel for a time of "fellowship" after church on Sunday.

I could only hope these dear brethren would learn to utilize a biblically informed toleration for other Christians who are at liberty to exercise their freedom in Christ to smoke their cigarettes or drink their Jim Beam, rather than judge everyone through their narrow personal preference standards.

Yet, telling a person not to smoke on church property because the pastors think it is inappropriate is not to the same as legalistically accusing someone of sinful vice.

Second, on the other hand, I must confess I am becoming increasingly annoyed with restless young Reformers who believe they are free to flaunt their liberty and boast openly of their smoking and drinking. I sort of sympathize with them because many of them are like me and were either raised or saved in a legalistic church who instilled in them misguided ascetic values as a governing code for personal conduct.

Somewhere along their Christian walk these young Christians are awakened to the glories of the doctrines of Grace and the principles of the Reformation. Eventually, over time, the restless young Reformer comes to rightly see the foolishness of those ascetic values and their eyes are opened to the truth those values are really preference convictions at best and are for the most part no way grounded in scripture. In response, they over-react in the opposite direction by imbibing wine, beer, and cigars and become boorish with their new found freedom in Christ.

I have witnessed this countless of times. In fact, there is a nationally known radio Bible teacher who broadcasts from an inn that boards white horses. Back in the early 90s, before it went national, this radio program aired live on Sunday nights from a station here in LA. When the host and his crew weren't bashing John MacArthur and Master's Seminary for their dispensational views, they would be boasting openly of their liberty to drink and smoke and mockingly criticize those evangelicals who think such activities are sinful. Even though I agree with them in principle, their attitude was, and still is, obnoxious.

Sadly, I see this obnoxiousness displayed in the attitudes of many Reformed brethren on the blogs. Even though you may have a more mature biblical perspective on drinking and smoking, you guys need to recognize there are many who do not agree with you and you should not be a jerk toward their weak conscience. Paul could not be any clearer that a Christian with liberty can be just as "legalistic" as the Christian with the weak conscience. See Romans 14-15 and Galatians 5:13-15.

As I close this up, I was directed by a reader to the Journey Church where they have a weekly Bible study held in a bar. See article here.

The ministry is called Bottleworks, and its purpose is to have theological discussions in the local pubs like in the olden days back in the 1500s. The person who sent me the links asked me what I thought about their outreach. All I can say is I feel a bit ambivalent. I want to know what their end game is. In other words, what is it they wish to accomplish having a theological round table outreach in a bar? My experience has been that what ever it is you use to draw crowds is what you will have to continue doing in order to keep the crowds. Do we want folks to formulate their fellowship around drinking in a bar once they are saved? I don't think that is necessarily a good thing.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Some Eschatological Studies

It has been a long time since I have written on the subject of eschatology. I had started defending premillennialism, but got distracted. The big encounter I had earlier this year with theistic evolutionists stirred my passions to address Genesis, but I do plan on returning to eschatology and premillennialism, so stick around. Back articles are available HERE if anyone is interested.

I even have in mind to do some study of individual passages of Scripture, like the Olivet Discourse, Ezekiel's Temple vision, and a few others. My original goal was to build an exegetical case for premillennialism, rather than just write about it in general, and I plan to stick to my initial direction. My series on Daniel is bringing me closer to discussing chapter 9 and the 70 weeks prophecy, and eventually chapters 10-12, which is a major eschatological portion of Scripture that has to be dealt with exegetically.

In the meantime, Master's Seminary prof., Michael Vlach, has been adding articles to his website, Theological Studies, that may be useful for those wishing to dive into eschatology. Most of them have been written by his seminary students for the classes Dr. Vlach teaches. I have to confess I haven't read them all in full just yet, but they appear to be stimulating studies.

Worship in the Messiah's Kingdom, is a study on Ezekiel's temple vision.

Hebrews and Eschatological Systems, explores whether or not the book of Hebrews only supports non-premillennial systems of eschatology.

Nations in the Eternal State deals with how literal, geo-political nations will have a place in the eternal state.

Then one final note, Dr. Vlach's dissertation on supersessionism, or replacement theology, has been printed in a lay friendly book. I have read over his dissertation, and contrary to a few of my Reformed Baptist acquaintances who wish to dismiss their own views of Israel as "replacement theology," Dr. Vlach has done a good job of outlining the historical background to the theology. There have been other books on the topic, like Barry Horner's work, Future Israel, and Dr. Vlach's work will provide additional information to the debate.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gleanings from Daniel [15]

ramandgoat The Ram and the Goat

[Daniel 8:1-8, 15-22]

I have been considering the book of Daniel. This unique prophet ministered in two great world empires: the Babylonian and the Medo-Persian. His prophecies are so exact as he describes the future kingdoms and how God's purposes will unfold in relation to those kingdoms that people have claimed the book is written after the facts.

I have covered the first 7 chapters. One thing I noted is the language in which chapters 2-7 is written. Those chapters are written in Aramaic, the common language of the world at that time. Thus, Daniel chapters 2-7 may had served as a testimony to the unbelievers as to God's dealings with Isarel as they related to that world.

Another portion of Scripture written in Aramaic that may also have a similar purpose as Daniel's portions is Jeremiah 10:11 which states, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens. Chapter 8 sees the language of Daniel switch back to Hebrew. The information contained in chapters 8-12 have a message written directly to Israel.

Chapter 8 is a second vision Daniel has of world empires. Once again the vision employs animals to symbolize these world empires.

I'll consider three sections:

I. The Setting (8:1-2)

There are a few things to note about the historical setting of this vision.

The Time It was during the third year Belshazzer's reign. This is two years or so after Daniel had his first vision during the first year of Bels. Remember, Bels. became a co-regent with his father, Nabonidus, in 553 B.C., thus this second vision takes place around 551-550 B.C. Nabonidus departed to live in Arabia and he left Babylon in the hands of his corrupt, worthless son.

Things looked bleak for Israel, because the collapse of the empire was imminent as Cyrus began conquering the Median empire. The fall of Babylon and the kingdom was merely a decade away.

The Location The vision takes place in Susa the citadel. In this vision, Daniel is transported 350 miles east at the birth place of the Medo-Persian empire, the headquarters of Cyrus. The book of Esther takes place here, as did Nehemiah. At the time of Daniel's vision here in chapter 8, Susa is a province of Elam.

II. The Vision (8:3-8)

Daniel lifts up his eyes and sees a series of visions with a ram and a goat with a large horn.

The ram is described as having two horns. One is larger than the other. The shorter one, however, then grows larger that the first one. The ram is said to trample everything around it.

The next vision is of a goat. A flying goat to be exact. It flies across from the west and attacks the ram and the ram is said to be helpless against this belligerent goat. The goat grows great, but is suddenly cut down. It’s horn is broken off and in its place grow four horns.

III. The Interpretations (15-22)

Beginning in 8:15, Daniel has his vision interpreted for him. A man (appearance of a man), an individual describe as gabor, or a mighty man, appears to Daniel. Quite possibly this is a theophany, a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus. Gabriel also stands next to Daniel and the man's voice tells Gabriel to interpret the vision for Daniel.

What he tells Daniel is his future, a future he will not see personally, and the distant future for his people, Israel.

The Ram. It pictures the Medo-Persian empire. The two horns represented two divisions of the empire. The bigger horn is originally Media, originally, the larger of the two divisions. The shorter horn that grows larger than the first pictures Persia which overtook Media in greatness. This two part kingdom has been pictured as the silver arms in Daniel 2, the lopsided bear in Daniel 7, and now the ram with 2 horns. The ram attacked in all directions and no one could withstand it, which is exactly what happened with the Medo-Persian empire.

The Goat. Gabriel plainly states that the goat is Greece. This prophecy is provided some 220 years before these events even took place. It would be like someone during the Revolutionary War predicting how Obama would be president in 2008.

The first king of this kingdom was Alexander the Great, the son of Philip of Macedon. He was twenty years old in 336 B.C. when he became king and he launched his attack against the Persian in 334 B.C. Daniel’s vision tells how he attacked the ram “with great rage” and the image of this goat flying across the earth speaks to the swiftness of his attack. Alexander’s military victories fulfilled this prophecy perfectly.

Alexander was determined to avenge the assaults on his homeland when the Persians invaded Greece in the late 400 B.C. His first victory was at the Granicus river in Asia Minor. He crushed Darius III in North Syria in 333 B.C. He took Tyre after a 7 month siege in 332. He then conquered Egypt without any real battle. He founded Alexandria on the northern coast of Egypt, naming it after himself. By 330 B.C. all the major Persian cities had fallen as he pushed Darius' army back through Afghanistan to India. He conquered the Near East in less than 3 years and spread the Greek culture all over the Mediterranean region.

Four Horns. Even though Alexander was a great and remarkable commander, he died unexpectedly of a high fever at the young age of 32 in 323 B.C. He left two, young sons, Alexander IV and Herakles, who were both murdered. After a time of fighting among themselves, Alexander’s kingdom was divided between four military commanders who came to be known as the Diadochi or the “Successors”: Antipater, and later Cassander controlled Greece and Macedonia, Lysimachus ruled Thrace and a large portion of Asia Minor, Seleucus I Nicator governed Syria, Babylon, and a big section of the Middle East, and Ptolemy I Soter controlled Egypt and Palestine. As Daniel’s prophecy notes, none of these four horns achieved the greatness once held by Alexander.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Filming Outer Space

Pastor Dustin alerted me to this video.

A father and son build a homemade space balloon that takes a HD camera 19 miles into the upper atmosphere of our planet. This article provides a bit of more detail about their project. They also have a website for those interested,

Brooklyn Space Program


They weren't the first ones to try this.

This one went up to 107,000 feet.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Evangelicals and Atheists Together

An old earth antagonist of mine, who attempts to "exhort" me with frequent emails and document bombs that complain bitterly against young earth creationists, alerted me to an upcoming conference:

The Vibrant Dance of Faith and Science

The first thing I noticed is how it is utterly devoid of any young earth, biblical creationists. I guess that is to be expected.

I am sure the participants in this event plan to come together, present happy talking lectures "respecting" everybody's views, and otherwise gaze at their navels as they vainly attempt to find common ground on how to understand creation and origins. From what I see, however, it appears to be a cacophonous confluence of popularizing evidential apologists and anti-fundamental Socinians. Basically, a Together For the Heresy conference, or maybe we can call it Evangelicals and Atheists Together. With the diverse group of speakers they have pulled together, why not throw in Richard Hoagland while they're at it.

Now, for those folks who wish to inflict a severe wedgie upon me for offering such a harsh criticism, what am I to conclude? Seriously? I mean, it's not like the Bible is unclear as to how God created. Do we really want to pretend like we don't know what God revealed about creation? Is the historical record of Genesis honestly up for debate here? In my mind, this is like all the Jesus apologists like Gary Habermas and Michael Licona having a conference with the Jesus Seminar cranks in order to find common ground regarding the Gospels.

There is a group of sponsors for this symposium/conference thing. In the sidebar of the home page we see listed Reasons to Believe, the American Scientific Affiliation, Biologos, The Discovery Institute, and some outfit called the Institute for Biblical & Scientific Studies to name a few.

Among just this handful of organizations the divergence of conviction is striking.

A few of these "ministries" offer up a doctrinal statement. Consider what is believed about the Bible:

The doctrinal statement at Reasons to Believe says this about their understanding of Scripture (note my emphasis):

We believe the Bible (the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments) is the Word of God, written. As a "God-breathed" revelation, it is thus verbally inspired and completely without error (historically, scientifically, morally, and spiritually) in its original writings. While God the Holy Spirit supernaturally superintended the writing of the Bible, that writing nevertheless reflects the words and literary styles of its individual human authors.

Okay. Let's look at another one,

The host church for this conference, Grace Covenant Church, has a similar doctrinal statement regarding the Scriptures (again, note my emphasis):

1. The Holy Scriptures We believe in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the verbally inspired Word of God. Inspiration is God's superintending of human authors so that, using their own individual personalities, they composed and recorded without error His revelation to man in the original autographs. All Scriptures are authoritative and without error in any category of knowledge, including science and history, and are of supreme and final authority in all matters about which they speak. We believe the Scriptures are to be interpreted in a literal and normal way. This means to consider history, grammar, context, and harmony with other Scriptures as guidelines for interpretation. We believe that the Holy Spirit guides the believer to understand the Bible. We believe that God's revelation to man is complete, and that He speaks to man primarily through the Scriptures.

The operative word between these doctrinal statements is history. According to both Hugh Ross and his staff and the elders at this church, they consider the Bible to be authoritative and without error in a number of specific categories particular history. Genesis, dare I say, presents an entirely different take on history than what the typical secular deep time evolutionist believes and presents to our nation of youths. Yet Biologos has clearly come out on the side of the deep time evolutionists against the authoritative view of Scripture both Reasons to Believe and Grace Covenant Church claim to affirm. In fact, over the course of the last few months, Biologos has devoted a number of essays and articles redefining, dumbing down, and in most cases, outright rejecting the doctrine of inerrancy, the very doctrine Hugh Ross and the elders of Grace Covenant claim to uphold with conviction. And they want to Tango with these people?

Consider another sponsor, the obscure organization called the Institute for Biblical and Scientific Studies. It is headed up by a guy named Stephen C. Meyers. Not the Discovery Institute guy who wrote the Signature in the Cell book, who ironically is one of the keynote speakers at this conference, but an unknown, disgruntled anti-fundamentalist. In his testimony, which is a long, raging diatribe against his fundamentalist upbringing, he writes about being liberated from the darkness that had blinded him to truth. In one section where he rejects the conservative view of Exodus for the higher critical version, he writes, Not only was the Bible not a science book, it was not even a historically accurate history book. Indeed. So here we have another participant with this group who denies the historical authority of Scripture.

Near the bottom of the page explaining the background and motivation for this conference, there is a little section titled, Values and Issues to Address. Point #2 states, Collegiality and Respect – irrespective of sincerely held differences, we will seek to promote collegiality, respect and community among symposium participants and attendees. In other words, we don't care what sort of wack-a-doodle nonsense you may believe about Genesis, evolution, the creation of man, the reliability of the historical Genesis record, the fall of Adam into sin, or how the denial of an historical Adam severely impacts Christian theology, no one will say anyone else is wrong, in error, or otherwise a promoter of heresy. The only ones to whom this statement does not apply are biblical, young earth creationists.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Separation of Church and Technology

I had a frenzied week; a fun frenzy, but frenzied nonetheless. So, even though I have accumulated lots of potential blog topics, I haven't had any time to read, reflect, ponder, and write.

I did, however, get the opportunity to hear James White's podcast from Tuesday, 10/12 and I glanced over the article he reviewed at the opening of his show. Though it is a bit technical, the author did a fairly good job of boiling down the essentials of DNA, genetics, and the intricacy of our human genome.

Getting Over the Code Delusion

The main theme of the article is to point out that the deeper we go into the human cell with the advances of our technology, the more we are discovering just how much we don't know at all about the origin of life. If one didn't know any better, it would be easy to conclude that the author is a contributor to the Discovery Institute. He seems to want to deny the stated obvious: that life is complex beyond imagination and functions with a purpose or an intended design. On the one hand, he exposes the inability of evolutionary gobbledygook to adequately explain life as we know it evolving by random, undirected processes, while on the other he is trying his best not to invoke the word "design."

The final paragraph summarizes the article well,

There is a frequently retold story about a little old lady who claims, after hearing a scientific lecture, that the world is a flat plate resting on the back of a giant tortoise. When asked what the turtle is standing on, she invokes a second turtle. And when the inevitable follow-up question comes, she replies, “You’re very clever, young man, but you can’t fool me. It’s turtles all the way down.”

As a metaphor for the scientific understanding of biology, the story is marvelously truthful. In the study of organisms, “It’s life all the way down.”

This attitude of denial provides problems with those who wish to evaluate the evidence with integrity. Will there now be a separation of church and technology as those intrepid scientists who see what is so plainly the truth are willing to acknowledge the hand of their Creator?


Monday, October 11, 2010

Hermeneutical Challenges and other Exegetical Jedi Mind Tricks

Jamin Hubner's orthodoxy is being assailed. He writes,

Apparently, if you admit the fact that A) hermeneutical challenges exist in Genesis and B) the age of the earth might be old, you’re a card-carrying naturalist philosopher and a full-blown critic of Scriptural inerrancy and perspicuity, no questions asked. Questioning the age of the earth and pointing out the unique features in the historical narrative of Genesis 1 is paramount to selling your soul to Darwin (or worse). Doesn’t matter if you believe Genesis 1 is historically reliable. Doesn’t matter if you subscribe to the Chicago Statement on Biblical inerrancy. Doesn’t matter if you’ve critiqued theistic evolution for over a year. Doesn’t matter if you believe in the Westminster Confession or London Baptist Confession of Faith with regards to the world being made “in the space of 6 days.” Doesn’t matter if believe Adam and Eve were really the first human beings. Doesn’t matter if you think man was made less than 15,000 years ago. You are damaging the Christian faith and are a hindrance to the truth. Who would have thought?

Indeed. Who would have thought such an inconsistency -- extreme disconnect, to be exact -- between the historical Genesis record as it supposedly relates to the inerrancy of Scripture would throw anyone's orthodoxy into total higgledy-piggledy.

Yet, according to Jamin, there are "hermeneutical challenges" and "unique features" in the Genesis account. Really?

The phrases "hermeneutical challenges" and "unique features" are the clever use of those exegetical Jedi mind tricks I was mentioning previously. There is no textual warrant to conclude "hermeneutical challenges" and "unique features" exist in the opening chapter of Genesis. In fact, the text is rather easy to translate and quite straightforward as to what it says. First year Hebrew students are usually given the assignment to translate the first chapter because of the simplicity of the language. Thus, any challenges and uniqueness said to be in the first chapters of Genesis are contrived.

There is a reason why "scholars" have to appeal to imaginative linguistic gimmicks with the text of Genesis: Christian scholars have capitulated the biblical record of origins to the evolutionary, deep time constructs taught by the secular, scientific community. What we have here with all of these various interpretations from the creation week is a rescue attempt by men to save God from the embarrassment of His own revelation. God is seriously making Himself look foolish in the eyes of the academic community.

But, engaging in any face saving effort on behalf of God has serious ramifications to one's overall theology -- yea, verily, the application of one's presuppositional apologetic methodology -- and Jamin, either from the lack of study, or overall maturity, doesn't see it.

Let me break down his paragraph:

Doesn’t matter if you believe Genesis 1 is historically reliable. Okay. Let's grant your conviction. Historical reliability implies Genesis 1 imparts historically reliable information. According to the language of the text, God created in 6, ordinary days, one revolution of the earth, evening and morning, sunrise to sunrise. As the book of Genesis unfolds, God tells us how long people lived, who their offspring were, how long they lived, etc., so that a person reading the Bible can piece together the genealogical record and get a fairly close reading as to how old the biblical revelation says the earth is.

Is Jamin saying he believes this? At this point, in the manner that he is defending himself, I can only say his conviction is disingenuous, because all I have read from him is that there are five different views of how we could possibly understand Genesis and pretty much all of them only deal with the theology of Genesis 1, not the history. That's like dealing with only the theology of Christ's death and Resurrection, while by-passing the historical reality of His three year ministry in Israel.

Doesn’t matter if you subscribe to the Chicago Statement on Biblical inerrancy. If one does subscribe to the CSBI, but thinks it accommodates deep time, old earth creationism, one is basically being inconsistent. To remind the reader as to what the CSBI says on this matter,

We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.

We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.

Note the last sentence. The writers are denying that the scientific hypotheses (read here, deep time beliefs) about earth's history may be used to overturn (read here, reinterpret using exegetical Jedi mind tricks) the teaching of what the Bible says about creation and the flood. In other words, the old earth creationists Jamin wishes to accommodate, do not line up under what the CSBI expressly affirms and denies. Because being an OEC who believes in billions of years clearly overturns what the Genesis record so plainly says about creation, the flood, and the history of the world.

Doesn’t matter if you’ve critiqued theistic evolution for over a year. No. It does matter. Because as much as your garden variety OEC insists he is an entirely different sprout distinct from theistic evolutionists, both hold one thing in common: young earth creationists are wrong about Genesis chapter 1 and the history of the world.

Doesn’t matter if you believe in the Westminster Confession or London Baptist Confession of Faith with regards to the world being made “in the space of 6 days.” If Jamin insists on affirming the WCF and the LBCF, it does matter how they define the phrase "space of 6 days." If we understand what the framers of those confessions believe, none of those alleged five interpretative views of Genesis 1 are welcome among them.

Doesn’t matter if [sic] believe Adam and Eve were really the first human beings. One may believe this, but Adam and Eve were also historical people, not just theological concepts. "First human beings" indicates historical matters. Real, flesh and blood people who lived and died, and more importantly, we are told how old Adam was when he died. If one believes Adam and Eve were really the first human beings, one also has to believe they lived in space and time and history. So the question is: Does Jamin believe that history was real and happened just the way Genesis 1 describes how it happened?

Doesn’t matter if you think man was made less than 15,000 years ago. It does matter if one wants to accommodate B.B. Warfield, Meridith Kline, and the late, great James Boice, because the old earth views they adhere to flatly contradict the idea that man was made "less than 15,000 years ago." I would argue their old earth views flatly contradict what the Bible says about the age of the creation to begin with, but to say they are inconsistent and are compromising the teaching of Scripture some how violates some academic code I am unaware of.

You are damaging the Christian faith and are a hindrance to the truth. Who would have thought? Apparently, Jamin didn't. It's quite simple: Jamin claims to be presuppositional in his apologetic methodology. He is suppose to begin and end with God's revelation in Scripture. Meaning he is suppose to begin with the Bible and build his Christian theology and worldview upon the proper exegesis of the text, apart from outside "evidences" governing the interpretation of the biblical text, but I don's see him doing such in the case of Genesis 1.

Jamin has not demonstrated by any stretch that I am to read Genesis 1 as anything other than straightforward history. Genesis 1 is not apocalyptic genre, or primeval history, or some other kind of theological prose that allows me the freedom to mold its meaning so as to teach something entirely different than God created the world in the space of 6 days around 6,000 years ago. It is just inconsistent to accommodate deep time views of earth's history when this position is so radically different than what the Bible teaches. This is inconsistency at its worse.

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Saturday, October 09, 2010

The Omni Attributes on Display

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained, -- Psalm 8:3

Those who follow Phil on twitter may have already watched this. The video contrasts the size of planetary and solar objects to each other. By the end, at least according to the video that is underscored by the awesome John Barry soundtrack from the movie The Black Hole, we are to be left amazed at how insignificant we are as people. "You are not the center of the universe!" flashes up in the final moments.

However, God has told us we are the center of the universe in both location and significance. For it is upon the earth that God revealed Himself and set into motion His decrees of redemption. It is also upon the earth where we can, as the Psalmist says, witness God's handiwork. We see His "omni" attributes on display. You know, those attributes that make God God. In this case, God's omnipotence in His ability to create and God's omnipresence, in that there is no where God is not (Psalm 139).

When people ask, "why would the universe be so big?" or "why would God make millions of galaxies with billions of stars and only create life here on our planet?" the reason is quite clear according to Scripture, The heavens declare His righteousness, and all the peoples see His glory, Psalm 97:6. And The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork, Psalm 19:1. The universe is big and earth is small because shows forth the ultimate power of the God who creates and the God who saves.


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Ideological Crusades

"When militant Darwinists such as Richard Dawkins claims, "The theory is about as much in doubt as the earth goes round the sun" [The Selfish Gene, 1], he does not state a fact but merely aims to discredit a priori anyone who dares to express reservations about evolution. Indeed, Dawkins has written, "It is absolutely safe to say that, if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane" [Review of Blueprints, 34].

Eric Hoffer would have treasured these statements had they been available when he wrote The True Believer (1951). Worse yet, Dawkins knows the many serious problems that beset a purely materialistic evolutionary theory, but asserts that no one except true believers in evolution can be allowed into the discussion, which must be held in secret. Thus he chastises Niles Eldredge and Stephen J. Gould, two distinguished fellow Darwinians, for giving "spurious aid and comfort to modern creationists" [The Blind Watchmaker, 241, 251]. Dawkins believes that, regardless of his or her good intentions, "if a reputable scholar breathes so much as a hint of criticism of some detail of Darwinian theory, that fact is seized upon and blown up out of proportion." Dawkins views have been widely shared.

Consequently, while acknowledging that "the extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record" is a major embarrassment for Darwinianism, Gould confided that this has been held as a "trade secret of paleontology," and acknowledged that the evolutionary diagrams "that adorn our textbooks" are bases on "inference, ...not the evidence of fossils" [The Panda's Thumb, 181]. Indeed, according to Steven Stanley, another distinguished evolutionist, doubts raised by this problem with the fossil record were "surpressed" for years [The New Evolutionary Timetable, 104]. Stanely noted that this, too, was a tactic begun by Huxley, who was always careful not to reveal his own serious misgiving in public. As Eldridge summed up, "We paleontologists have said that the history of life supports [the principle of gradual transformation of species], all the while really knowing that it does not [Time Frames, 145]. This is not how science is conducted; it is how ideological crusades are run." Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts, and the End of Slavery (pgs. 177, 178)

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Answering the Punk College Atheists

Pastor Dustin Segers and Sye TenBruggencate, way back at the first of September, engaged in a public debate at a local college in Greensboro with the atheist club.

A review summary is available, as well as the audio downloads for those interested in hearing them.

Since the debate, Dustin has been working through the questions thrown at him during the debate, providing more detailed responses to his atheist challengers. Seeing that probably many folks will encounter their first real, genuine blue ribbon God hater the first year or so at college, I thought I would link over to Dustin's posts to provide a solid resource.

Question & Answers: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

And articles answering supposed Bible contradictions:

Part 1 , Part 2 and Part 3

I'll add future articles when they become available.

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Monday, October 04, 2010

Starfish and Worms

I was busy mailing out around 14,000 ESV Study Bibles last week, (see HERE) so blogging was at a stand still. As I play catch-up, enjoy this time lapsed video of starfish and giant sea worms eating a dead seal. My kids loved it when we watched it this past weekend.

Swarming Giant Worms and Starfish