Sunday, December 25, 2011

Veiled in Flesh the Godhead See

Christmas is a time that brings mixed emotions to me. I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness, and I never celebrated Christmas until I was 22. That first Christmas was awesome. I felt something akin to what Ebenezer Scrooge felt after his awakening in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. For the first time the joy, the peace, the reason for Christmas was very clear to me. Since then I have loved Christmas. But it is during Christmas that I also think of the family that is still lost in the Jehovah's Witness cult. Nearly all of my family is involved in that cult, and I feel so sad for them. I am trusting in God to rescue them from their servitude to that cult. It appears more and more that the Jehovah's Witness cult is crumbling. That, however, is the topic on another post.

What I want to talk about today is the theology of Christmas: the incarnation of Jesus. I want to do this using a portion of lyrics from Hark the Herald Angel Sings.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail incarnate Deity.

This lyric appears to be a distilled version of John 1:1-14; the Christmas story without the angels, the star, the magi, the shepherds, the manger, etc. This is the theology of Christmas. That Creator condescended and became His creation. I don’t know about you, but I find this jaw dropping! Why would God do this? Not only the condescension of incarnation, but the ultimate insult, allowing Himself to be nailed to a Roman cross some 33 years after the first Christmas! This is the miracle of Christmas. This is John’s Christmas story.

John tells in four simple words, “The Word became flesh”. In the most humble of surroundings of a barn, the Creator of heaven and earth entered time and space. This is what makes Christianity different from all other religions. Our God, in His effort to save His fallen creation, came to earth.

He did this because we can in no way establish a righteousness that is perfect. Our actions, our words and our thoughts are stained with sin. The Apostle Paul, in his magnum opus on the gospel of Jesus Christ, the book of Romans, quotes from the Old Testament with this stinging indictment on humanity:

There is no one righteous, not even one, there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, not even one. Their throats are open graves, they deceive with their tongues, the poison of asps is under their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood, ruin and misery are in their paths, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes. (Romans 3:10-18, NET).

Now, I realize that some of you reading this may be shocked to find out that this is what the Bible actually says about you (please don’t trip when I say “you”, because I am in the same boat with you). Perhaps you attend a church that doesn’t teach that you are a sinner. Perhaps they teach you that you simply have made bad decisions, and that if you simply follow the principles they will educate you with you can live your best life now? Or perhaps the pastor of your church teaches that your problem is not sin, but damaged emotions? Or perhaps you have been taught that the reason Jesus came to earth was to teach you how to have health and wealth in this life? If the church you attend does not teach you that you are a sinner in need of a savior then they are robbing you, and your eternal soul is in danger (Matthew 23:15).

The reason that God condescended into flesh, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth was to live the life that you could not live; a life of perfect obedience to God’s Law in action, word and thought. As an aside, Jesus did not accomplish this because he was devoted to prayer and fasting, as I once heard from the pulpit of a church. No, Jesus accomplished perfection because He was perfect. Jesus’ life was not an example for us to follow either. Jesus life was, no, is the life we receive credit for as a result of his resurrection (Romans 4:25). In return for His perfect life, Jesus was burdened with all our sin! It was on the cross that Jesus received the full punishment for our depravity. This punishment does not make salvation possible, but secures it for each and every person that believes.

God became flesh in order for Him to feel temptation. In the wilderness after his 40 day fast, from the desires of others, in the garden, and at other times Jesus felt temptation. Yet He was without sin (Hebrew 4:15). Yes, He knows everything about us. He faced temptation, stared it in the eye and vanquished it. He did this not as an example for his followers to emulate. He did not do it through the power of prayer and fasting. He did it because hidden in the flesh of Jesus was all the fullness of God (Colossians 2:9).

This is the theology of Christmas. It is simple, and to the point, but don’t let that fool you. The Gospel is simple. Yet within it there are some of the most profound and deep ideas that the human mind could never think up (2 Corinthians 2:9).

My message to you this Christmas is simple. Know who you are honoring today. He may have come the first time in a manger, but he will return again riding a warhorse and dressed in all-white. Why all-white? Because He’s not going to get bloody! So today, as you reflect on the birth of our Savior, do not just reflect on him as a baby in a manger, but as the Most High God wrapped in human flesh.

Hark! the herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the new born King, 
peace on earth, and mercy mild, 
God and sinners reconciled!" 
Joyful, all ye nations rise, 
join the triumph of the skies; 
with th' angelic host proclaim, 
"Christ is born in Bethlehem!" 

Hark! the herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the new born King!" 
Christ, by highest heaven adored; 
Christ, the everlasting Lord; 
late in time behold him come, 
offspring of a virgin's womb. 
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; 
hail th' incarnate Deity, 
pleased with us in flesh to dwell, 
Jesus, our Emmanuel. 

Hark! the herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the new born King!" 
Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! 
Hail the Sun of Righteousness! 
Light and life to all he brings, 
risen with healing in his wings. 
Mild he lays his glory by, 
born that we no more may die, 
born to raise us from the earth, 
born to give us second birth. 
Hark! the herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the new born King!" 

Music by Felix Mendelssohn. Lyrics by Charles Wesley

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Death of a Foe

I woke up this morning to discover that the noted essayist and "New Atheist" Christopher Hitchens has died. I am not happy at his passing. In fact, I am very sad. God said that He takes no delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23). Therefore, I am not here to gloat over his death, but rather to reflect on the impact Mr. Hitchens, one of the so-called "Four Horseman of Atheism". A moniker he shared with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett.

What was the impact of Mr. Hitchens? On me personally, I loved his later political views. He began as a Trotskyite, but later moved away from the Left and to the Right of the political spectrum. I loved the rhetorical flair that he often used to deliver his ideas. He was a master of rhetoric. He called former President of the United States, Bill Clinton, a rapist, Mother Teresa a fraud, and former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger a war criminal.

Hitchens also had a less than chivalrous side. He left his pregnant first wife for another woman.

What vaulted Hitchens to worldwide fame was his response to the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. He and the other "New Atheists" tarred all religion with every evil act committed on the face of the earth. He wrote with a vicious pen that ripped into anyone that believed in God, as well as God himself.

I read his book God is Not Great. I love his style. Direct, to the point, and filled with biting sarcasm, which I love! That said, I do recall in chapter one of God is Not Great, Hitchens reminisces of his first inclinations towards atheism at the age of nine. Sadly, most of those inclinations that later became a full blown world view were never reflected upon, and refined.

Much of Hitchens railings against God, like the railings of the three other Horsemen (Dawkins, Harris & Dennett) are simply warmed over 19th century rationalistic attacks on Christianity by atheists of that age. These arguments have been summarily refuted, and continue to be. What made the "New Atheism" new, however, was the caustic manner in which they attacked religion. Saying that religion is not only unbelievable, but it was not even worthy of respect or tolerance.

My thoughts, however, are not on his writings or his style, but instead with his family. They lost a husband and a father. Their pain is real. I pray for them. I also pray that perhaps, before he died, Hitchens realized the futility and foolishness of denying his Maker, repented of his sin, and accepted the work of Jesus on the cross.  That is my hope, the reality may be opposite.

In either case, Christopher Hitchens is no longer an atheist. The writer of Hebrews, said, "...[I]t is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement" (English Standard Version). He has faced his judgement, for better or for worse, a judgement that I leave to God. Based on what Mr. Hitchens believed, however, leads me to believe that his judgement was for the worse. Consignment to an eternity in hell, where he will recieve full punishment for his sin against the God he so vociferously denied.

You might be saying to yourself, "What an intolerant thing to say!" Well, I ask, why would God allow a man that not only denied His existence, but HATED Him for even being a figment of the collective imaginations of humanity to spend eternity with Him?

The ultimate question, though, is not what happened to Christopher Hitchens, but rather what will happen to you when you die?

You see, you are a sinner. You have lied. If you have ever told one lie, no matter how small or how white, you are a liar. If you have looked at a man or a woman with sexually charged thoughts, then you have committed adultery. If you have gotten angry at another for no reason, then you have committed murder (Matthew 5:27-29).

You have committed idolatry. Worshiping other gods. No, I'm not talking about lighting candles to saints, or that. Rather, you have taking a good thing that God has created for your enjoyment, and made it an ultimate thing in your life! You have taken something or someone, and devoted yourself first and foremost to that someone or something to the exclusion of God! This is the essence of idolatry.

No amount of good performance can ever tip the scales of God's justice to your favor, let alone get them to even! You will never be able to satisfy God's wrath over your sin! There is only one work that can ever satisfy God's wrath over your sin, and that is the death of an absolutely perfect man. That man was Jesus of Nazareth. He lived a perfect life. A life that you should have lived. He never violated any aspect of God's law.  It was not just that he lived a perfect life, but he died a death that you should have died. A violent and bloody death on a Roman crucifix. On that cross, Jesus became sin by receiving the full wrath of God for sin.

That death, however, is not the end of the story. If Jesus simply paid the penalty to God for our sin, then we would be forgiven, but still under the power of sin. This is why the resurrection of Jesus is so important. SO important that Paul said in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 that if Jesus did not rise from the dead then we might as well, party on, for there is no hope. So three days after Jesus died, he rose from the dead and presented himself alive to his closest followers! Jesus' resurrection was so potent, that it not only convinced Jesus' closest followers, but also a hardened skeptic, James (how was Jesus' own brother), and a zealous persecutor of the church (Saul of Tarsus, who later became Paul). Not only these, but many others on the 2,000-plus years since then have had there lives radically changed by the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

I do not want to eulogize Christopher Hitchens. Rather, I want to say that here is a man that spent his whole life railing against God, and at the end of it, he may be facing a eternity feeling the full wrath of that very God he mocked, scorned and denied. I want to tell you, the reader, that you do not have to face that same eternity. Today, you have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and I implore you to choose life!

Christopher Hitchens will pay for his sin for eternity. I am deeply saddened by his death, because as the English Reformer John Bradford said, "There but by the grace of God go I!" It is only God's grace that kept me from a path similar to Hitchens'. You to can join us in Bradford's sentiment by accepting the free gift of God for salvation. I pray that you will accept it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Religion of Him or the religion of him

You will notice, if you have an education that was not from a public school within the past twenty years that I have not capitalized the title of this post correctly. I have done so in order to make a point. You see the modern church has abandoned the Religion of Him for the religion of him, and in doing so has placed the souls of many in jeopardy.

First, let me define some terms. When I use religion, I don't mean religious acts designed to placate an angry God. no, when I use the term religion I mean a philosophy that tells one what to believe and how to live. Doesn't Christianity tell one what to believe and how to live? Further, when I use "Him", I am referring to Jesus, as he has been historically understood by the historic Christian faith. Lastly, when I refer to "him" I am referring to pastors that are exchanging their mission, vision, etc. for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So what is the Gospel of which I write? The Gospel is defined by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 (ESV):
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
This is the Gospel. The Good News. The thing that is ours to proclaim, not to edit.

What I want to write about today is men who exchange the Gospel for a vision, and the Savior for a founder. This is "the religion of him." In other words, exchanging the Religion of Him, for the religion of him. Understand that the use of the term vision came into vogue in the early 90s with the development of the "seeker sensitive" church. This term refers to the particular and subjective thought, burbling, or idea that motivated the pastor to found a church or movement.

So what is the "vision"? It comes in many forms. Usually in some pithy statement like "reaching the lost at any cost." What it really is, however, is law. It is do more, give more, follow these principles, etc. There is no rest, no trust, no grace, but only law. It is clearly the religion of him; the religion of the pastor. Many of these "vision-driven" churches are slavishly devoted to prayer, fasting and giving, and on the other hand pay lip service to God's word. This is demonstrated by whether or not the Bible is preached in a systematic and expositional manner. The "vision-driven" sermons are long in home-spun sentimentality and short on gospel truth.

Most of these "vision-driven" churches are mere fronts for "therapeutic moralistic deism". They teach that when you do for God, God is some how obligated to do for you. This is primarily taught to the church attenders through tithing principles. Many of these churches teach that your and your finances are under a curse if you do not tithe (pay 10% of your gross pay to the church). Now I have written on the tithe and why it is not applicable to the Christian on this blog in the past. Most of these churches over emphasize financial prosperity and health. These pastors teach their congregants to "lick the earth" as Blaise Pascal once said. In other words, these visionary pastors teach the congregants to get their sustenance from the world rather than from heaven.

The Religion of Him, by contrast, is not focused on what we can do for God, but on what He did for us. That everything we do to propitiate an angry God; a God that is rightfully angry at our sin. Jesus, on the cross, became us! He took on all of our sin, and the full measure of God's wrath came down upon Him on that Cross. He paid for every sin we have committed, and will ever commit has been atoned for on that cross. If you have placed your faith in that work, then there is no need for you to work in order to propitiate an angry God. The religion of him focuses on you and how you can live your best life now by applying various life principles.

Ultimately, the religion of him is about the pastor and what he has done, the miracles he performed, and his life spent for the church. The Religion of Him is about Jesus, His life, His work! Why would anyone want to exchange the Religion of Him for the religion of him? That is the question I leave you to answer.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Door Scratching God

Recently someone whom I have as a "friend" on my Facebook posted a quote from Ezra LaTurco, Director of Victory Outreach's West Coast Urban Training Center. The quote was as follows:
God can only do what you believe he can do.
The problem with this statement is that God's ability is not limited by our belief about what He can or cannot do, but by His nature and character. God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18); God can never send a flood to destroy all life on earth (Genesis 8:20-22); God cannot get tired (Isaiah 40:28); God cannot take on a task too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:17); God cannot be prejudiced (Acts 10:34-35); God cannot remember the sins of those forgiven by Him (Isaiah 43:25). I would ask Mr. LaTurco, based on his statement, if I believe that God can do one or all of the above, then does that mean He has to perform them?

I'm sure that Mr. La Turco would categorically deny that form of reasoning. Why then would Mr. LaTurco make a statement like this? More than likely it was in the midst of some emotional fund-raising rant. Something that Victory Outreach is especially good at, but that is another post.

What this statement demonstrates is a core problem with word-faith/prosperity teaching. The key error with word-faith teaching is that it makes God the servant of man. God is the cat scratching at the door of the human heart begging to be let in. What is stopping Christians from having the abundant life is the fact that we have not allowed God to do the impossible for God! That if we gave our tithes and offerings (in faith) then God could enter our lives and bless us. Note the key, we (humans) have the ability to allow or prevent God from acting! Where in the Bible is this taught? I am just asking for one clear and in context Bible verse!

Ultimately, this statement is bunk, and should disqualify anyone who utters such piffle from standing behind a church pulpit. What is more frightening, is that Mr. LaTurco is leading young people! This sort of triteness is being taught to a generation of young men and women in the guise of Christian education! If I had college age children they would not be attending any Victory Outreach youth group if this is an example of what they would be taught.

I pray that Mr. LaTurco would repent of this error.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why Are There Four Gospels in the New Testament?

I recently heard a sermon by John MacArthur of Grace Community Church, located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, in which he made a very interesting statement about how Bible study is modeled to a church by the Senior Pastor or Teaching Pastor of a particular church. Pastor MacArthur stated (and I am paraphrasing) that whatever a pastor is interested in will be what is preached from the pulpit. Well, I have personally witnessed this in a tweet form my old pastor. He tweeted the following on Nov. 5:
My topic 4 Sunday am. is act 2:42-47 Why do we Have only 4 Gosples? Becouse there is only 4 Learning Styles all part of the body of Christ!!
The reason why this is a topic is because the pastor finds this interesting. This is a pastor that has spent thousands of dollars traversing the country trying to find the fastest way to grow a church. During my time at this church, we went from the Willow Creek method to the Saddleback method, to the learning styles, to the dimensional method. All with no success. I say that because that while there was a growth spike, there was no real lasting fruit. the church continually hovers around 200 core attenders. I do not say members, because this church does not have a membership roll. What is never used is the clear blueprint that Luke was inspired by the Holy Spirit to record. It was always Acts 2 plus something else.

Now I had two questions regarding this tweet. First, what relationship does the four "learning styles" and Acts 2:42-47 have to do with each other? Second, why do we have four gospels in the New Testament?

First, let me briefly deal with the first question. Absolutely nothing! Why? Very simply the four "learning styles"  are based on the teachings of Ray Zacharias, who is now retired from active teaching. In his seminar, he speaks of four learning styles: Innovative, Common Sense, Dynamic and Analytical learners (a more comprehensive summary can be found here). Mr. Zacharias, then links these for styles to the Gospels:

Matthew = Common Sense
Mark = Dynamic
Luke = Analytic
John = Innovative

The problem is that these four learning styles are not the only measure of human learning styles available. In fact, I would say that there are as many different learning styles as there are people. Now as a general rule, I do find that most people tend to fit into one of these four categories. Let me be clear I am not refuting this method.

So what is my issue? The linking of these learning styles to Acts chapter two. I am sure that the pastor in question will magically transport this late 20th century idea back to the 1st century church, and how it was a key to the growth of the church. That the apostles used this idea to help grow the church.

Well, there are a number of problems with this view, but I will limit myself to three.

First, the idea of learning styles would have been completely foreign to the 1st century Jewish mindset. I say this because this idea was invented in the mid-20th century. The general teaching method in the 1st century was oral, in which the rabbi spoke and the disciples listened. Some bright young Jew got the idea to write the teachings of a rabbi down, giving birth to the Midrash and the Talmud. As a general rule, however, teaching was spoken and recited and not written and read.

Second, this idea would have been even more foreign to the apostles. These were men who were not educated in the Jewish religious tradition. As I have presented above, this idea was foreign to them. If this idea was foreign to them, then it would be even more foreign to the "unlettered" apostles.

Third, the Holy Spirit gives us the actual reason for the growth of the Jerusalem church. The first, and most important reason was "the apostles' teaching". These men were teaching the words of God to the people of God first and foremost because that was, and is, the key to making disciples. These men taught the "uncut" Word of God. Their commitment to the teaching, please note that the church is to be taught and not preached to, was so strong that when problems regarding the dispersion of food came up, they assigned deacons to handle that issue so that they could maintain their devotion to teaching the people of God (Acts 6:1-6).

So it is clear that the apostles did not utilize anything other than the Word of God to grow the church. Likewise, modern pastors must focus on the teaching of the Word of God as the key to church growth and not the modern humanistic musings of man.

Now, why are there four gospel accounts of the life of Christ? Why not three, or five, or many more? The answer to that is because each of these Gospels are directed to one of four audiences that made up the then known world. Each Gospel answers a particular question that each of the audiences would have regarding the life of Christ. The Gospel;s were not written because there are only four learning styles. Now I do agree that there are parallels between the learning styles and the Gospels, but that was not the assertion that was made. The assertion that was made was that there are four Gospels because there are four learning styles. This is incorrect and must be refuted.

First, Matthew was written primarily to the Jews. Matthew answers the question, "What did Jesus say?" If you had an edition of the New Testament with the sayings of Jesus in red letters, and removed the red letters from it you would eviscerate the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew gives us a genealogy of Jesus that establishes His right to the throne of David. It contains the fullest record of the parables and preaching of Jesus. Matthew gives us the fullest accounts of the Sermon on the Mount and the Olivet Discourses. Further, Matthew is arranged thematically and not chronologically. The miracles, parables and sayings of Jesus are clustered around various themes. The key term in Matthew is "Kingdom of Heaven" which is evidence that this Gospel was written by a Jew to be read by Jews.

Mark's Gospel was written to Romans. It answers the question, "What did Jesus do?" It emphasizes the the deeds of Jesus. You find no genealogies in Mark. The reason is that the Romans did not care about who Jesus descended from. The Romans were interested in power. They needed to be convinced that Jesus was more powerful than Caesar. The key words in Mark are "immediately" and "authority". These words demonstrate Jesus' power. Mark also converted monetary units to lira.

The Gospel of Luke was written to the Greeks. Greeks were not interested in what Jesus said or how much power Jesus had. They were interested in who followed Jesus. Luke answers that question by emphasizing the followers of Jesus, e.g., Simeon (2:22-35), Anna (2:36-38) and Mary (2:51). Luke interviewed the eyewitnesses (1:3). He gives us more detail than any other Evangelist. Why were the followers of Jesus so important to the Greeks? Because Jesus needed to be shown as a universal Savior.

The last Gospel is John's account of the life of Christ. This book was written to Christians. It answers the question, "Who was Jesus?" It emphasizes the deity of Jesus. The seven "I Am" statements are found in John. In John you find Jesus being called God explicitly, by both His friends and His enemies. I can go further, but that would go beyond the realm of my argument.

In conclusion, it must be repeated that the reason why there is four Gospels is because of the four core audiences in the world at the time of the writing of the Gospels. The learning styles were not an idea that even existed at in the 1st century in Jewish thought and by extension early Christian thought. The reason is that the learning styles were not invented until the mid 20th century. The learning styles has no place in building the church. Acts chapter two gives us the blueprint for that. Since the Holy Spirit authored that, and the Pentecostal movement is so big on the work of the Holy Spirit, then they should be the first to reject humanistic methods of growing a church. Lastly, the reason why there are four Gospels is because they answer four essential questions as to the identity of Jesus of Nazareth. I hope and pray that this educates people as to why the Holy Spirit gave us four gospels and how the Holy Spirit intends the church to be grown.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Context, Context, Context!

Today I came across a Facebook post that said the following:
People say respect is earned. I diagree its given. The word says give and it shall be given unto u. What have u been giving?
 Now this little blurb, in and of itself is not questionable. I believe that there is a certain amount of respect that should be given to others. There is also a certain type of respect that must be earned, but that is not the point I wish to focus on. What I would like to examine a little bit more is the use of Luke 6:38 as a basis for this statement.

I have been posting lately about how certain verses are taken out of context and turned into a pretext for heresy or heterodoxical ideas. By heterodox, I mean a departure from strict orthodox beliefs but are not heretical. In other words, I would call the Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues a heterodox doctrine because it departs from strict orthodoxy regarding the historical understanding of that doctrine.

This Facebook posting, however, is a little different in that it represents just how deep the post-modern literary idea has invaded the church. You see the post-modern literary model is the idea that no one can understand the intent of a writer, unless the reader personally knows the author. Therefore, the reader can read into the literary work any idea she wants. What we have here is a clear case of that post-modern idea.

Now part of the problem that we are addressing is caused by the chapter and verse divisions that he find in the Bible. These chapter and verse divisions are not part of the existing manuscripts. They were additions made by the French Protestant printer Robert Stephanus. Many of these divisions appear arbitrary and in many cases utterly random.  They also tend to confuse readers and to be the cause of much bad teaching. These chapter and verse divisions, however, have become so ingrained that to change them now would cause mass confusion. It is possible to read the Bible and to ignore the chapter and verse divisions because there are translations that indicate paragraphs which make interpretation easier.

What the person posted was a partial quote. Now I do not want it to seem that I am picking on this particular person. I have heard this verse used as a basis for generous giving during the receiving of the offering during a church service, particularly within the Pentecostal churches. She quoted Luke 6:38. I have posted it below from the English Standard Version for you to see:
give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
 First, look at the word "give" and note that the letter g is lower case. This indicates that this word does not begin a sentence. Second, there is the pronoun "it". What does the word "it" refer to? Does it refer to the word give? If so, what are we to give? This verse, in and of itself, is very ambiguous. Since this is the case, we must look at the broader context of the verse so let's go back one verse to 37. I have posted both verses below:
 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
Now the overall context of the chapter is Luke's rendition of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. The particular paragraph in question is dealing with judging others. With this in mind, we can see that what is in question in verses 37 & 38 is mercy and forgiveness. It is clear from the literary context that neither respect nor money. The error demonstrated here is the the error of taking one verse out of its context and forcing it into a context that is completely foreign to the author and the audience. The point I am trying to make is that Christians must interpret the bible in a very consistent manner. We cannot play with the bible. It is a the book that God has given us, not as a guide to moral behavior, but as a guide to show us the grace, mercy & justice of God.

There is more I can say on this topic, and I will in future posts.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Touching Not God's Anointed?

Recently I have posted on my personal Facebook account some very critical statements of recent sermons from the church I used to attend. It has led to some people "unfriending" me in some cases and being critical of me in others. Now, let me be perfectly clear: I have no ax to grind with that pastor. I left his church for a number of reasons, which I will enumerate in a future post. None of them are personal, they are all based on biblical grounds, but that is for another post.

The point I wish to address in this post is whether or not a pastor is exempt from criticism based on Matthew 18:15-18, which says,
15 "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
It is interesting that while I had planned on dealing with this particular scripture as part of the "Scripture Twisting" series, God has forced me to deal with this issue over the past few weeks. God is totally sovereign in how He directs the actions of man, even with this insignificant blog. Now there are a number of teachers and pastors (and their congregants) that believe they should never receive any public criticism for any publicly spoken preaching. Instead any correction should be done in private, or in my case, not on my Facebook account, according to these scriptures. Is this the case with this particular passage?

First, what is the context of this verse? The context on Matthew 18 deals with the ethics and morals of those that are following Jesus and not biblical doctrine. If a believer falls in the areas of ethics and morals, then there is loving private confrontation in hopes of restoring the believer. If the believer fails to respond to the correction, then the confrontation is escalated.

Second, the New Testament illustrates how false doctrine, when spoken in public, should be handled. Paul confronted Peter when Peter was acting in a hypocritical manner (Galatians 2:11-14). Paul publicly rebuked Hymenaus and Alexander regarding their blasphemy (1 Timothy 1:20). Paul publicly addressed the harmful actions of Alexander the copper-smith (2 Tim. 4;14). John publicly rebuked Diotrephes over his false doctrine and his failure to submit to John's leadership and the authority of others (3 John 9).

Third, there are many well intentioned Christians who have told me that this sort of public criticism give non-believers the impression that there is no love or unity among Christians. While there is to be love and unity among Christians, it is important to note that Christianity is not based on love or unity. Rather Christianity is based on truth (1 Timothy 3:15). Christians are to fight for the faith (Jude 3). Believers are to examine everything spoken from the pulpit carefully and to hold on to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Lastly, Christians should be following the example of the Bereans in Acts 17:11. Here these people who were hearing the preaching of the Apostle Paul actually had the temerity to verify what they were being taught by actually comparing what they were taught to the Scriptures! They were actually verifying the teaching of a truly  anointed Apostle of Christ, not a self-proclaimed one. All of these examples showed a commitment to truth. Without a commitment to truth there can be no true love or unity within the church.

Lastly, my criticisms are rooted in love. I do not look for opportunities to be critical of others. These issues are brought to my attention by others that are concerned by what they are being taught. They come to me. I do not go to the church's streaming video and look for issues. I do not attend that church any more, and I really don't want to hear the preaching from that pastor. It is my love, however, for the people that are concerned, and those that are not sophisticated enough to understand that they do not have to believe everything they are taught without being critical, that motivates me. These people have not been taught how to root through a sermon, discarding the bad and treasuring the good. Which is what I had to do for many years while attending that church.

True love an unity is exemplified by the pastor's love of truth, and not his adherence to his particular false teaching. True love and unity is exemplified by how followers of Christ adhere to the truth of the scriptures. That is why I write this blog; to help you, the reader, understand the truth and to fight for it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Joshua 1:8 - Is This Verse a Key to Finding Financial Prosperity?

Joshua 1:8 states:
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
In my years as a member of a borderline Word-Faith movement, I cannot tell you how many time I heard this verse used as a proof text that God wants Christians to prosper financially. The problem I saw with this particular use of the scripture is that I never saw financial prosperity as the topic in question. Based on the context of chapter one, the prosperity meant by God was military.

The conquest of the land by Joshua and the armies of Israel hinged on Joshua's commitment to meditate on and obey God's Word. The prosperity that God spoke of to Joshua included the fulfillment of God's promises in the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:1-3). Just before his death, Joshua urged the people to continue living in submission to the Scriptures (Josh. 23:6).

Nero Burning Christians
What the Prosperity teachers fail to realize is that Jesus never promised His followers a life of prosperity and health.  In fact, He promised the opposite, adversity and tribulation. The illustration above, is a representation of that tribulation in which the Roman Emporer Nero dipped Christians in pitch and set them on fire in order to light his courtyard so that he could engage in chariot races at night. All through the Gospels and Epistles we see Christians encouraged to face persecution and tribulation with courage and hope.

Paul called the persecution and tribulation he faced a "momentary light affliction" when compared with "the eternal weight of glory". Sadly, I know of one church pastor that once told me that this hope for the hereafter was "not enough" to get people into church. He said that he needed to offer the people something for now. Interestingly, Jesus never spoke about having abundance in this life. He taught His followers to pray for our "daily bread". Meaning that we are to be content with what God gives us.

The prosperity movement is based on contentment, but on greed. In order to justify this greed, Prosperity teachers insist on ripping verses from their context in order to justify their greed and desire for a lavish lifestyles and fleecing of the people they are charged with caring for.

So what is the lesson in this abused verse? Very simply, do not smuggle ideas into the text that are not there. In this case smuggling an idea of financial prosperity into a text that promises military prosperity. We also see the importance of "not reading a Bible verse" but looking at the paragraph and chapter of the verse in order to  draw out the meaning of the verse. So remember whenever a person or a pastor wants to proof text.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Prohibition of Homosexuality

In this post we will look at three modern objections to the biblical prohibition of homosexuality. They are:

First, that the prohibition's connection with the ceremonial Law no longer makes this ban enforceable.
Second, that barrenness was the reason for the ban, not homosexuality in and of itself.
Third, we will look at the reason why homosexuality and its connection with idolatry.

Homosexual Prohibitions Are Ceremonial

In the following scene from the television show The West Wing, the "acting President" Jed Bartlett takes a "right-wing" talk show host to task over a literal interpretation of Leviticus 18:22-24. While I expect that no Hollywood writer would ever take the time to speak to a Christian to learn the answer to Bartlett's diatribe, believers should learn how to respond to this ignorant rant.

So what is the response of a Christian to this rant? Very simply, Israel was under a different form of economy. It was a theocracy in which God was the supreme ruler. The fact that "President" Bartlett brings up a number of the other ceremonial laws, and we will deal with those in later posts. What I want to focus in on is the prohibitions of homosexuality.

Many people that advocate homosexuality, especially in the liberal denominations, state that because these laws are located with the ceremonial and dietary laws, and that these laws were done away with (Acts 10:15), it follows that these laws were also done away with.

The "Sin of Barrenness"

The question that must be asked is why did Yahweh ban the practice of homosexuality? Some say it was the sin of barrenness. First, barrenness was considered a curse by the ancient Israelites (Gen. 16:1; 1 Sam. 1:3-8). Children were considered a blessing from Yahweh (Psalm 127:3). The blessing of the land was connected to children (Gen. 15:5). It would then follow that homosexuality would be frowned upon because it produces no children. Further, it is not homosexuality that is necessarily condemned, but the refusal to have children.

If you believe that homosexuality is abolished because of its connection with the ceremonial law, then you must also believe that the bans on rape, incest & bestiality are illegitimate, and that we can now engage in those practices. I wonder how the good Catholic "President" Bartlett would have responded to this during his selective diatribe? The sexual laws, however, are not connected with procreation. Putting homosexuals to death would make no sense, considering the fact that heterosexual marriage would be a more appropriate punishment.

Romans 2:12-15 states that the Gentiles do not have the ceremonial Law. The law against homosexuality, however, extends beyond Israel (Romans 1:26). Further the Gentiles have no covenental stake in producing a new generation. The Jews did. This is why Yawhew judged the Canaanites (Leviticus 18:1-3, 24-25). This is the context that "President" Bartlett failed to take into consideration during his diatribe. I diatribe, coincidentally, sparked by wounded pride. Further, the punishment for homosexuality was brutal. Death by stoning. On the other hand, those that violated the dietary laws were considered unclean and banished from the camp for a specific period of time.

If barrenness was a sin, then menopausal women in that time were sinful, since they no longer could bear children. If barrenness was a sin, then no one other than Jesus himself advocated sin, since he sanctioned singleness (Matthew 19:11-12) as did Paul (1 Corinthians 7:8). Contrast these teachings with the clear prohibition of homosexuality in the New Testament (Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10; Jude 7).

Connected to Pagan Worship

Others say that the Biblical condemnation of homosexuality was due to its close association with the pagan worship that existed in Canaan at the time of the exodus and conquest by Israel (Deuteronomy 23:17). Part of the worship practices at that time was to engage in sexual activities with temple prostitutes, female and male (1 Kings 14:24). We also see a condemnation of heterosexual pagan worship in Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26-27.

While homosexuality is often associated with idolatry it is not connected with idolatry. Sexual infidelity is often used as a metaphor for idolatry (Hosea 3:1; 4:12), but it has no direct connection with idolatry. Sexual sin (hetero & homosexual) is immoral at all times and not just when associated with idolatrous worship.

It is important to point out that while idolatry may lead to sexual sin (Romans 1:22-27), they are different sins. The Mosaic Law does distinguish between idolatry (Exodus 20:3-4) and sexual sins (Exodus 20:14-17).

The Core Issue

Homosexuality is no different from any other sexual sin. Rape, incest and bestiality all fall into the condemnation of God because they pervert the teleological design of human sexuality into something that it was not designed for. While homosexuality may by connected to barrenness since no children can come from a homosexual union naturally, it is not because of barrenness that homosexuality was condemned. Lastly, while there was a connection in ancient times to homosexuality and pagan religion, idolatry and homosexuality are two separate and distinct sins that must be dealt with separately.

The reason why homosexuality is a sin is because God says it is a sin. That prohibition is sounded throughout the Old Testament and into the New Testament. Which brings us back to "President" Bartlett's rant from The West Wing. The answer to "President" Bartlett is simple. In Christianity, there is to be no one who calls himself a Christian that engages regularly in homosexual practices, or a number of other practices. If this is the case, then that person is to be removed from the church, until he comes to repentance, or dies in his sin (1 Corinthians 5:1-13). Unlike the theocracy of Israel in which these persons were given capital punishment, the church is to remove these persons from the church.

This answer did not work for the writers of The West Wing. Instead of doing the hard work of getting the story straight they opted for the easy cheap shot. Then again should we expect the world to give Christianity a far shake? According to the Scriptures the answer is no.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later - Reflections on 9/11

My first recollections of that morning were the frantic voices of Mark & Brian, the morning drive-time DJs on Los Angeles' KLOS radio station. You see, I always have slept with on. Their frantic talk of a horrible "accident" in which a jumbo jet had slammed into one of the World Trade Center towers work me at just before 6 AM that dreadful Tuesday morning. Immediately, I donned my bathrobe and ran to the front room to turn on the TV. There in front of my eyes was the burning North Tower of the World Trade Center. I sat on the arm of the sofa and was shocked. I called for my room mate, who was still asleep in his room, to come out and look at what happened. No sooner had I called him, I witnessed the second plane slam into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. I knew then that America had just changed. She would never be the same again. I got physically sick.

Soon the reports of a plane slamming into the Pentagon filtered out. I had to get ready for work. How anyone could demand people to work on that day was, and still is beyond me, but I guess when the dollar is more important than your employees you'll do it (Integra Marketing was my employer at the time). I dragged myself away from the TV to shower for work. It was the fastest shower I have ever taken in my life. I did not want to miss anything.

It was after the shower and as I was dressing for work, that the reports of the Pentagon attack began to air. Again, a wave of nausea passed over me. Then the towers began to fall. I watched in utter horror and morbid curiosity as the South Tower began to fall onto itself. My thoughts were for the people that were in the floors above the impact zone. There was no way they could have escaped. There were reports of people who, rather than wait for a slow death, took their lives by leaping off the Towers and into eternity.

By the time I got on the freeway to head to work, the reports of United 93 were airing. This plane crashed in Shanksville, PA. What was not known at the time, was how the passengers fought to stop the Muslim terrorists that had hijacked the plane. They fought, and as fighters truly exemplified the American spirit of fighting against injustice. It was also around this time (7:30 AM Pacific Daylight Time) that the North Tower fell. Oh how I wanted to just turn around and go home.

When I got to work, everyone was in shock. Instead of the usual music on the office radio, one of Los Angeles' all-news station was on chronicling the days events in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, PA. People were in no mood to work. Everyone's emotions were raw and on their sleeves. It was sad. That Tuesday was one of the slowest days I have ever had to endure in a work environment. I hope to never have another day like that.

For the next week, the TV was on either Fox or CNN. I don't think I watched as much news during that week than in any time prior or since.

It's been ten years since those attacks. Attacks that were not only motivated by hate, but by religious hate. Particularly, the hate of Muslims performing Jihad on "the great Satan". Now, there are those that claim conspiracy and "inside job". These people need help. Sadly, most of the 9/11 "truthers" are just as fanatical as the Muslims that piloted those aircraft on that fateful day. I won't go into their conspiracy theories, sufficed to say that anyone who has actually dealt with conspiracy theories knows that the effectiveness of a conspiracy is severely limited by the number of conspirators, time from the event, and the ability of the conspirators to remain in contact with each other. A conspiracy the size of 9/11 requires a number of people "in the know" of a massive proportion. I won't go into it in detail, but there is no way, in my mind, that a conspiracy required to pull of 9/11 is just too massive. Someone should have talked, but no one is talking, not out of fear, but because there is nothing to say in that regard.

There are others that claim that the hens of U.S. foreign policy finally came home to roost on 9/11. Perhaps the people that espouse this view are right. However, the best and most simplest explanation is that 19 whack-jobs actually hijacked these airplanes and used them as flying bombs specifically against strategic symbols (financial, military & possibly political in the U.S.). Ultimately, God was in control, and both allowed and decreed the events of September 11, 2001 to happen. I struggled for many years to understand why those events, and subsequent tragedies happened. The answer came a few years later as I read Luke 13: 1-5 (ESV). I understood why these things were allowed to happen.

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
 It was verse five that struck me. Jesus said, "...unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." Jesus states this twice, and if Jesus said something twice then it behooves us to pay attention to what He said. You and I are no better nor no worse than the 2, 977 victims and the 19 terrorists that died that day. Unless we repent, however, we too will perish as they did.

So reader, let me ask you are you ready to repent?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Verse Abuse - Translation Misinterpretation

While most of the abused verses in the Bible lie on the laps of tradition, and personal misinterpretation, there are a small group of verses that have been misinterpreted by the various translation committees of a particular Bible version. A number of these are well known, and some others are not. We will be looking into a number of them in this series.

Today, we will be looking at Exodus 20:13 which has been translated by the King James Version as, "Thou shalt not kill." What is telling, is how the modern translations have rendered the Hebrew word "raw-tsakh" ("kill" in the KJV). A brief survey of the translations I use the most (English Standard Version, New American Standard, New International Version & New King James Version) shows the Hebrew has been rendered as "murder". The reason why this is important to look at is that this verse has been used by certain Christian sects and cults to justify a pacifist view regarding war in general, and what is called "just war" in particular (I will not be exploring this issue in this entry, however the reader is free to "Google" that topic). This verse has also been used to justify opposition to the implementation of capital punishment.

I believe that the following are fair definitions of "killing" and "murder":

  • Killing is the taking of the life of a human being.
  • Murder is the taking of a the life of an innocent human being without just cause.
This is why many criminal codes divide homicide into a number of different categories that reflect this main distinction.

That said, we must look into the broader context of the Mosiac Law in order to understand what God was demanding from the people He called His own. The main reason for the Mosaic Law is that Yahweh wanted His people to to be unique from the nations that surrounded them. Therefore, killing motivated by hatred or anger was distinguished from unintentional killing, from capital punishment, or from just war. The key factor being intentional deliberation as opposed to emotional reactions.

This misinterpretation by the translation committee of the King James Version is one of the few that modern translations have addressed. There are a couple of others that modern translation committees have not had the courage to touch because of the tradition laid down by the King James Version. We will be addressing some of these in future posts.

Of course the exposure of this verse forces us to ask the question of whether or not a person can a particular version of the Bible. To this I say that a person can trust the vast majority of the English translations available. There are a couple of notable exceptions, with the Jehovah's Witnesses New World Translation, being the most notorious of mistranslated Bibles. The reason I say this is that while other English translations have translation errors, these errors do not affect  historical essential Christian doctrine, such as the deity of Jesus and the Trinity. The New World Translation deliberately mistranslated verses that demonstrate these doctrines to support their own heretical views regarding these doctrines. So what is the best way to ensure that you are not getting a mistranslated Bible version? Very simply, use a number of Bible translations in your Bible study. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Genesis 22:14 and The Promise of Prosperity

I continue my series on abused bible verses with one of my favorites. I say this because I used to attend a Pentecostal church that preached the so-called "prosperity gospel." This "gospel" is wrapped up in the false idea that God wants believers to have prosperity and health. I believe it is a false gospel and is based on blatent misinterpretations of Scripture that do not apply to Christians, but to ancient Jews that were under the Mosaic Law. I have addressed this a previous post.

So Abraham called the name of that place, "The LORD will provide"; as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided." First, it is clear that "The LORD will provide" is a poor translation of the Hebrew. According to the English Standard Version, the proper translation should be the LORD "will see" or "will be seen." This forces us to ask the question, what will be seen? It is clear that according to the context that this chapter is a visual example of what the Father would do to His Son some 2,000 years after this event.

Here are some points to think about. First, Just as Isaac bore the wood that he was to be sacrificed on (Gen. 22:6). Similarly, John 19:17 states that Jesus bore the cross that He was to die on.

Second, in Gen. 22:5 Abraham prophesied to his servants that he and Isaac would return from the mountain. In Matt. 16:21 Jesus foretold that He would be raised from the dead (cf. 1 Cor. 15:4).

In Gen. 22:9, Issac willingly went to the alter of sacrifice. In Heb. 12:2, Jesus viewed the cross, His alter of sacrifice, with joy.

As the story concludes, Abraham calls the place where he was to sacrifice Isaac, "Yawhew Yireah" or "Yawhew Will Provide." Now as I have shown above, this is a bad translation based on the King James Version, but given that, the question that must be asked is what did Yahweh provide on that mountain? As I have stated, the story is a visual prophecy of Jesus death on the same mountain 2,000 years future from this event. The provision was the death of Jesus.

Sadly, Pentecostals and those who hold to the "prosperity gospel" have stripped this passage of its great soteriological (the doctrine of salvation) meaning and trivialized it into a verse that merely promises financial prosperity and good health. This is truly sad, because the gospel is not about simply about the here and now, but about "the eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17) that Paul promised Christians.

Further, this is a sad commentary on the carnal nature of many modern Pentecostals. When I attended a Pentecostal church (i was not just an attendee, but a member of leadership there), I asked my former pastor about the emphasis on the here and now as opposed to the future in his preaching, in the denomination they belonged to, and in Pentecostalism, in general. He responded that the promises of eternal life was "not enough" for people to become Christians. Rather he said that people "need something now" to motivate them to call on Christ. Sadly, this sort of teaching merely creates false converts that are "twice the children of hell" as those that never professed faith in Christ (Matt. 23:15).

These prosperity preachers are editing the the gospel in order to win attendees as opposed to disciples of Christ. They are removing the promises of trials and tribulations which were promised by Jesus to His disciples in Luke 14:25-33 and substituting the false gospel of wealth and health. It is indeed sad that too many Pentecostal preachers are doing this. It is my prayer that they repent of this false gospel, and return to preaching the true gospel, that is, repentance from sin and belief in Jesus of Nazareth (Mark 1:15).

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Back With A Vengeance!

After an interruption caused by the crashing of my old laptop, I have finally been able to get a new laptop which will enable me to post with my usual frequency. I look forward to posting on the topics I have been thinking about for the past few months, and can't wait to post them. So look for a new post in the coming week.

Above all thank you for being patient with me. I do not foresee another problem like I had. I look forward to posting and fielding questions from you, the readers.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Creative Days: Aeons or Twenty-Four Hours

Another problem with many who attempt to interpret the Bible is the the importation of modern ideas into a cultural and literary context that is not familiar to the Bible writers, for example, insisting that the Bible writers listened to a radio. One example is the attempt by many "old earth" creationists to transform the six creative days in Genesis 1:3-31 from six literal 24-hour days to extensive periods of time.

The problem with this view is that there is no historical or exegetical basis for this assertion. First, the concept of million and billion are of recent origin and were totally foreign to Moses (the author of Genesis).

Second, to the ancient Jewish people (i.e. Moses) numbers had to have a concrete association. In other words when a Jewish shepherd took a flock out to pasture the owner of the flock would gather pebbles and as each sheep passed the owner the owner would take a pebble form the pile and deposit it in a bag. When the shepherd returned with the flock at a later date the owner would count the sheep by removing the pebbles from the bag. If the shepherd was good then there word be more sheep than pebbles, and if there were less sheep than pebbles you can guess the result of that.

Third, Arabic numerals (1,2,3, etc.) were also unknown to Moses. In other words, Hebrew numerals were spelled out, much like on a check. These reasons are good enough to jettison the "old earth" creationist theory. We are not just interested in a historical refutation of this view, but are primarily interested on what the Bible says.

The Hebrew word translated "day" in English is "yom". What is interesting about this word is that when it is modified by a numeral, then it always refers to a literal 24-hour day. Now one of the verses that that "old earth" creationists use to attempt to prove their view that "yom" when modified by a numeral is not a literal 24-hour day is Hosea 6:2:
After two days he will revive us;
   on the third day he will raise us up,
   that we may live before him.
The first usage of "yom" is a dual absolute (literally "day day") and is not modified by a numeral. The second usage of "yom" is modifired by the number three. The question then arises as to whether or not this modification causes the passage to refer to a literal 24-hour day or a period of time longer than 24 hours? The answer can be found in the principle of Scripture interpreting Scripture.

The Apostle Paul interpreted Hosea 6:2 in 1 Corinthians 15:4. In this Scripture, and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul interprets Hosea 6:2 as three literal 24 hour days. Further, Jesus prophesied that after three days in the grave He would be raised up from it. As we can see the insertion of modern ideas into a text leads to bad ideas, and "old earth" creationism is a bad idea.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Gap Theory - Genesis 1:1-2

Genesis 1:1-2 has been translated by the King James Version as follows:

 1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
 2And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
The problem with these verses is not readily identifiable by a surface examination of the text. The problem we are facing here is the artificial insertion of the period between verses one and two. This insertion has led to a number of theories that appear to ignore the actual Hebrew in the verses. Further, the period between verses one and two has been used by theistic evolutionists and "old earth" creationists as a basis for a "gap theory" or to shoehorn modern atheistic evolution into the text of the Bible. The problem is that the Hebrew does not appear to allow for the period or the insertion of billions of years into the God's creation process.

Dr. Robert Morey has translated these verses as follows:
When the Beginning began, out of nothing, God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was devoid of life and a desert, and darkness covered the surface of the sea, and the Spirit of God was brooding over the surface of the water.
 What must be pointed out is that verse two is a series of three vav consecutives (rendered "and" in English). According to Dr. Morey's translation, the vav consecutives indicate that verses one and two are actually one sentence in the Hebrew. What the King James version translators did in artificially inserting the period between verses one and two is set their misinterpretation in stone for all subsequent English translations of the Bible. This is not the only verse in the King James Version that they did this to. I must point out, however, that whether verse one and verse two are translated into one or two sentences this does not affect the doctrine of creation.

This artificial division has led to the establishment of the "gap theory". This theory, proposed by well intentioned Christians who hope to shoehorn the geological record into the first two verses of Genesis by positing that there was a undetermined period of time between verse one of Genesis chapter one and verse two. This theory can still be found in the Scofield Reference Bible, the Dake's Annotated Bible and some other Bible study aids.The "gap theory" is also promoted by Dr. Hugh Ross of the Institute for Creation Research.

One of the problems created by the "gap theory" is the insertion of pre-Adamic humanoids. This attempt at synthesizing the assertions of atheistic evolutionists with the Biblical record does not work. Namely, because Genesis 2:7 does not say "the living creature became a man" but that "the man became a living creature."

In conclusion I wish to say that I do not believe that whether a believer is an "old earth" creationist or a "young earth" creationist is an essential over which Christians should break fellowship. I realize that there are many who may disagree with me on this point, and you are entitled to that view. With that said, I do wish to point out that the use of Genesis 1:1 & 2 as a foundation for an "old earth" view is playing fast and loose with the Scriptures. I believe that a serious exegesis of the Scriptures will necessitate a "young earth" view of this planet by a Christian that is serious about studying the Bible.