Tuesday, June 23, 2009
If You Want to Use the Bible to Make a Point, It Helps to Actually Read It.
Art Hughes, over at the Tennessee Democratic Party website, has posted a claim
that Jesus was a socialist. I've read claims like this before, and they always make me laugh since it requires the Son of God to endorse an atheistic government.
Not too likely.
Because Jesus believed and taught the concept of the rich giving to the poor, was he a socialist?
There are multiple mistakes in this first opening statement. First, socialism has little to do with the rich giving to the poor. The classic definition of socialism
Socialism refers to any one of various economic theories of economic organization advocating state or cooperative ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and a society characterized by equal opportunities/means for all individuals with a more egalitarian method of compensation based on the full product of the laborer.
There's nothing about "giving" in there. Instead, socialism is all about the government taking ownership of the economy and dictating who gets paid how much. There is no giving, only taking.
Next, Jesus did not advocate that the rich give to the poor, but that everybody gives to God.
Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into a the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two b small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Here is a widow who is giving all that she has to the Jewish Temple, certainly a rich organization at the time, right? Yet Jesus praises her devotion to God, praising a poor woman giving to a rich temple. To take Jesus's ministry and make it all about taking from the rich and giving to the poor to produce a more equal outcome is a tremendous distortion.
We should not have to have a tax system at all, like the Muslims (the same Christian God) who believe it is an obligation to take care of their poor and do so voluntarily.
Wow. Did you know that Muslims worship the same God as Christians? That would come as quite a shock to the Muslims, since they believe that all infidels, which includes all Christians, must convert and will be converted to Islam, either voluntarily, or by the sword.
Another interesting point is this bit about taxation. Apparently, Art believes that a tax collected by the church isn't really a tax, even when the church is the government. Also his use of the word voluntary is a bit misleading, given the consequences in Islam for failing to give
Mark 14;7…”you will always have the poor with you.”“When ever you want to you can always do them good.”
Let's provide some context:
3 And while he was at c Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. 4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. 9 And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
Hmmm. Mary Magdelene has just anointed Jesus's head with an expensive oil, that cost almost a year's wages. Think about that for a minute. A denarius was equivalent to a day's labor and the jar of ointment cost more than 300 denarii. The apostles, particularly Judas, were outraged that she "wasted" a year's labor on a single man, instead of using the money they could have gotten through selling it to help the poor. Apparently, Art thinks Judas had the right idea.
Deut 15;4,5…”adherence to GODS’s laws would largely prevent poverty..”
Another bit of twisting. Again, let's add the context:
But there will be no poor among you; for the Lord will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess— 5 if only you will strictly obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today.
Poverty would be prevented, but not by a forcible or even a voluntary redistribution of wealth, but by living soundly, no man would become poor. This passage in Deuteronomy is pointing out that poverty is the result of bad choices, not random circumstance. If you live according to the Word as given, without variance, and without exception, you will not be poor. Verse 7 then says that there will be poor, which tells us that men will fail to live up to that standard of obedience. The passage goes on to say to help your brother when he is poor, to lift him up so that he can stand again.
What this passage does not say is that we can eliminate poverty through giving, or through the social redistribution of wealth, as Art implies.
Lev 19;9,10,23.22,24;19-20…the had the right to “glean” in the harvest fields…..therefore did not have to beg for bread or resort to stealing.”
Luke 16;14..”The money –loving Pharisees had little interest in the poor.”
Pro 14;21,28;27…”the Jews were under obligation to assist the poor”
Luke 19;8..”half of my belonging, LORD, I am giving to the poor.”
Luke 14;13,14…”when you spread a feast invite the poor, cripple, lame and blind and you will be happy.”
These passages all deal with giving to the poor, and have nothing to do with a government taking from you and giving some of it to the poor. They speak of charity, not welfare, and there's a big difference. These passages also speak of giving with a glad heart, not having a government take what it wants from you and give some of it to who it decides is worthy.
10 Reasons Jesus was a Socialist
This should be fun.
1. Jesus owned nothing.
On the contrary, Jesus owns everything as the Son of God. All things are His, including us. He will come again and will reign on earth as He now reigns in Heaven as Prince of All.
2. Jesus argued for the dissolution of the family and the establishment of communes.
Notice there are no Scriptural references here. Jesus argued that people should follow Him for their salvation, and that those who did would become His Family, just as His mother and brothers were His Family. He didn't try to dissolve the family; he tried to strengthen and broaden it. If you read the Bible, one of the most striking images is of the Church as the Bride of Christ. Why would the founding family unit be used as a metaphor of our relationship with Christ if Jesus wanted to dissolve the family? As for the establishment of communes, in Acts we read that the early church was established on communist lines, with no personal property, and community ownership of all funds. It worked for a while because each and every member of the group was dedicated to the Lord, to following God and His rules, not mans. An earthly commune cannot last because it will be dedicated to following man's law, not God's.
3. Jesus loved all people regardless of ethnicity or class.
Yes he did, and that included the wealthy and the industrious. Can socialists say the same? I didn't think so.
4. Jesus revolted against the imperial government, established religion and finance capitalism (usury).
Wow. One of the reasons the Jews rejected Jesus was that He didn't lead a revolt against Rome. In fact, He told the Jews to obey Roman law, to pay their taxes, and to live under the oppression. He told the people that when they were required to carry a Roman soldier's equipment for a mile, to carry it two miles. If they were struck by a Roman soldier on the cheek, they were to offer the other cheek. When Pontious Pilate ordered the Crucifiction, Jesus could have avoided it, but He followed the Roman law, even to death.
As for established religion, well, he certainly had a lot of disdain for the Pharisees, but He had the highest regard for Judaism, quoting from the Scriptures constantly, and explaining them to those who misunderstood. He ordered his disciples to go out and spread His Word, to create a body of believers, and he gave those believers orders to carry out. Seen in this light, He wasn't revolting against established religion, but correcting the mistakes and removing the corruption that had grown into the religion. As for finance capitalism, well this passage
should clear that one up.
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into a the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.
In this parable, we see that gifts are to be used for increase, to become greater. Failure to use those gifts is "wicked and slothful" But pay very close attention to vs 17, which speaks of bankers and interest. Finance capitalism is not condemned in the Gospel. Usury, on the other hand, is condemned. The conflation of the two terms is a modern distortion.
5. Jesus taught that we should act as one body, one blood.
Absolutely. Show me a socialist country where everyone is treated the same and I'll buy this a socialist teaching.
6. Jesus taught that his kingdom (ie nation state) is in the heart and not below the feet.
Wrong again. Jesus's kingdom is the Earth and everything in it, on it, above it, and under it. Read Revelation.
7. Jesus taught that we should fight for Justice and 'turn the other cheek' to petty morality.
Really? Where? he taught that we should forgive sinners, but not that we should disregard the sin. There's a big difference here, and I challenge anyone to find any teaching in the Gospel that says we can disregard morality. Being freed from judgment under the Law does not free us from our obligation to honor it. Jesus Himself said that the Law still has a place
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
8. Jesus was a laborer and a teacher.
And that makes Him a socialist?
9. Jesus practiced healing and forgiveness.
Only socialists forgive? Only socialists can heal? Now Art's just getting ridiculous.
10. Jesus taught that you can't be an imperialist and a disciple at the same time.
No, Jesus taught that you can't be concerned with earthly treasures
and be His disciple at the same time. In order to follow Christ, you are required to give up your fleshly life, your earthly concerns, and follow Him.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Imperialism is too small to fit this message. You can't be a socialist and then a disciple. You can't be a communist and then a disciple. You can only be a disciple first, living in the world, but not being of the world. The more your focus is on earthly matters, like how much the CEO makes, or whether the bank's charge too much interest, the less your focus is on what really matters.
Art engages in an especially pernicious revision of Biblical principles to make his case. What makes it so bad is that not only does he misrepresent Jesus the man, he misrepresents His Divine Message of Salvation. Art's Jesus might be able to feed a lot of people's bodies, but he can't save anyone from damnation. Only the Jesus of the Gospel can do that. Forget the politics, forget the economics, forget all of the things of the world; know that we as humans are corrupted from our original perfection, and that only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ can we be redeemed to God.
That's a much bigger and more important message than "Jesus was a socialist."
Monday, December 15, 2008
The People of the Book: Why the Bible is The Bible Part 2
, I talked about why the Bible is so important to Christians. In essence, and in a way no other book can claim, the Bible is the revealed Word of God, written by Him through the Holy Spirit and proven by His Son. Before I go on, I want to reinforce the incredible nature of this book, and the reward it promises.
Imagine that in some dusty old library, you came across a book written in the 1600's. Hand written and bound, and gathered from unknown writers over decades, the book told you the following tale. There will be a huge lottery jackpot in the future, worth $400 million, and it gives the winning numbers and the date the prize will be given. In order to prove the accuracy of its predictions, it goes on to tell the story of a man by the name of Richard Hailey, who would be born in the State of Tennessee in the early 1960s. He and his family would leave Tennessee for Florida, but return after a short time to Tennessee, where his father worked in sales. The boy would grow into a man, and join the Navy, where he traveled the world for 9 years. At the end of his travels, he would return to his home in Tennessee, along with a wife and 6 children. There, he would work at a variety of jobs, get divorced, and after a long time, find a new wife.
Now imagine after reading this book, that you googled Richard Hailey and found out that every detail of the story written 400 years ago was true. What would you say about such a book? And more importantly, what would you say about the rest of the information in that book? Would you buy a lottery ticket?
Well stop imagining and let's start reading that Book, because the Old Testament records the life of Jesus Christ in that amount of detail. That's a big claim I know, but I'm going to back it up right now.
|Psalm 2:6-9 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.|
I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou [art] my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
Ask of me, and I shall give [thee] the heathen [for] thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth [for] thy possession.
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
|God will send His Son to rule as King|
|Genesis 3:14-15 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou [art] cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:|
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
|God's Son will be born of a virgin, and will fight against Satan|
|Genesis 17:7-8 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.|
And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
|God's Son will be born of the bloodline of Abraham.|
|Genesis 21:12 And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.||God's Son will be born in the bloodline of Isaac, not Ishmael|
|Psalm 132:11 The LORD hath sworn [in] truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.|| God's Son will be of the line of David, and will sit on his throne.|
|Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.||God's Son will be born of a virgin, and will live among men.|
|Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, [though] thou be little among the thousands of Judah, [yet] out of thee shall he come forth unto me [that is] to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth [have been] from of old, from everlasting.||God's Son will be born in Bethlehem.|
|Psalm 72:10-11 The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.|
Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.
|God's Son will have kings bowing before him.|
|Hosea 11:1 When Israel [was] a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.||God's Son will return to Israel from Egypt|
|Isa 40:3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.||God's Son will be preceded by a messenger who will announce His coming to Israel.|
|Mal 3:1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.|
|Isaiah 9:1-2 Nevertheless the dimness [shall] not [be] such as [was] in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict [her by] the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.|
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
|God's Son will begin His Ministry in Galilee.|
|Zec 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he [is] just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.||God's Son will enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey.|
|Isa 53:1-3 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?|
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, [there is] no beauty that we should desire him.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were [our] faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
|God's Son will be despised by many.|
|Isa 42:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, [in whom] my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.|
He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.
A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.
|God's Son will minster to Gentile as well as Jew, and he will do so meekly, not with a lot of fanfare.|
|Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.||God's Son will not speak in His own defense at His trial|
|Isaiah 53:8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.||God's Son will be sacrificed to pay for our sins.|
|Isaiah 53:9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither [was any] deceit in his mouth.||God's Son will be die among the wicked, even though he had no sin.|
|Psalm 41:9 Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up [his] heel against me.||God's Son will be betrayed by his friend.|
|Zec 11:12-13Then I said to them, "If it is agreeable to you, give [me] my wages; and if not, refrain." So they weighed out for my wages thirty [pieces] of silver.|
And the LORD said to me, "Throw it to the potter"--that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty [pieces] of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD for the potter.
|God's Son will be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, and that price will be used to purchase the potter's field.|
|Isaiah 53:12Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.||God's Son will die as a criminal, even though he was innocent of all wrongdoing, for the purpose of interceding on our behalf, so we would not have to die for our sins.|
|Exodus 12:46In one house it shall be eaten; you shall not carry any of the flesh outside the house, nor shall you break one of its bones.|
Psalm 34:22He guards all his bones; Not one of them is broken.
|God's Son will not have any broken bones.|
|Zec 12:10"And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for [his] only [son], and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.||God's Son will be pierced.|
|Psa 22:18They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.||God's Son will have his garments taken from him, and divided amongst his enemies by chance.|
|Psa 16:10For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.||God's Son will go to Hell, but he will be raised from death by God|
|Psalm 110:1A Psalm of David. The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."||God's Son will be given a throne beside God, where He will sit until His enemies are cast down.|
|Gen 14:18Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he [was] the priest of God Most High.|
Psalm 110:4The LORD has sworn And will not relent, "You [are] a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek."
|God's Son will rule as both priest and King, having both bloodlines.|
So there's the Book; what about that lottery ticket? How high is the jackpot, and how much do we have to pay for the ticket? Well the jackpot is salvation, and this is the part where I'm supposed to start preaching to you about how the ticket is free to you and me because Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has already purchased that ticket with His Blood.
I'm not going to do that because while it is 100% true, it's not entirely accurate. You see, there is a cost in accepting the ticket that Jesus bought for us, and that cost can't be counted in dollars and cents, or good deeds, or works, or a specific quantity of certain prayers said on specific days. In fact, there's only one thing in this earth that we can give to Jesus that will allow us to accept that ticket.
Ourselves. God doesn't want our money, our good deeds, or our intentions; He wants us, wholly and without reservation.
It's the hardest easy thing to do that you'll ever come across.
Monday, December 01, 2008
The People of the Book: Why the Bible is The Bible
You trust your family doctor and a druggist for your pills
Ricky Skaggs "If You Don't Believe the Bible"
You take them every day and believe they'll cure your ills
And you want a lawyer present when the business deal goes down
But you're scared to death of preachers talking Hell and Heaven Bound
If you don't believe God's Holy Bible
And your faith is not in the Lord
You can't get to Heaven to receive your just reward
If you don't believe the Bible then you don't know the Lord
I started writing the next section of Christianity 101, all about what it means to be a Christian, but I kept getting stuck. I'd get a few paragraphs written, and then I'd have to go back and rewrite them to include an explanation of the explanation, complete with references to the Bible. And then I'd read what I had written and it would be more about the Bible than about being a Christian.
Being stubborn and a bit slow on the uptake, I kept blasting away at the post. I'd said I was going to write about what it meant to be a Christian, and by God I was going to fulfill that commitment. Eventually, I realized that the constant digressions were "by God," and I was being directed to write something else.
This post, in fact. So here we are talking about the Bible.
Looked at through purely human eyes, using only the intellect, the Bible appears to be an almost random collection of ancient texts, gathered over centuries, transcribed and translated by hand over and over again, with all of the creeping errors attendant to that arduous process. There are 66 books in our Bible, written by 40 or so authors, over 1,500 years or so. From a human perspective, any coherency they might possess, and by coherency I mean uniformity of theme and content, is more due to the editorial process than anything else.
Not only that, but the historical accuracy of some of the stories is questionable, if not downright unbelievable. I mean, how many people do you know who have walked on water, changed water into wine, been swallowed by a fish, followed a burning pillar through the desert, or risen from the dead? It has to be mythology, right? No different than the Greek/Roman myths we studied in school, just stories made up to help a primitive people understand a complex and frightening world.
I mean, that's all the Bible is, right?
There's a key difference between the Bible and every other sacred text out there. Prophecies written in the Bible have come true.
Now let's think about that rationally for a just a minute and start with the assumption that I just made a true statement, that prophesies in the Bible have come true. Let's define it strictly so we know what we are talking about. I'm saying that the Bible contains verifiable written descriptions of events that would happen in the future, and that those events occurred as described. What would that mean to us in the real world?
The simplest explanation is that somehow, the prophets were able to access information from a source that was outside of time. Now that's a pretty strange thought, but even stranger is the realization that modern physics tells us that standing outside of the flow of time is actually the most accurate description of the universe.
Let me explain that last thing a bit. Most of us have heard about Einstein and the theory of relativity and e=mC2
, but most of us have no idea what it means beyond the most basic level, that is, if you convert a small amount of mass to energy, you get a lot of energy. 1 kilogram, roughly 2.2 pounds for us undereducated Americans, totally transformed to energy will give 90*1015
joules, which means nothing to us, or 2.5*1010
kilowatt-hours, which still doesn't mean anything to most of us.
Let's put it this way. If every home used 2700kw-hrs of electricity per month, 2.2 pounds of fuel would power 150,000 of them for 5 years.
Like I said, a lot of energy.
But the thing about that equation is that it isn't just about matter and energy transformations. Energy is defined as moving a mass at a velocity, and velocity involves moving through a certain distance in a certain amount of time. What Einstein showed is that space and time are two aspects of the same thing, just like energy and matter are two sides of the same thing. He went further and said that not only were they the same thing, but that they should be freely transferable, just like matter and energy. We can convert matter to energy and vice-versa, we should be able to convert time to space as well. Only there's this little thing called entropy that gets in our way. Entropy for our purpose here can be considered as the arrow of time. It allows us to move in only on direction through time and at a prescribed rate.
The really cool thing is that entropy is now understood not as a material part of the universe, but as an effect of our own limited ability to perceive the true nature of the universe. As Einstein said, "The difference between past, present, and future is a stubbornly persistent illusion."
Now, when the smartest man of his generation tells me that the slow stately progression of time is an illusion, I tend to pay attention, even though I am completely unable to pierce that illusion due to my limitations as a human.
But think about the impact that has on the question of Biblical prophecy. Science tells us that the true state of the universe is timeless, at least, so far as we understand time. The Bible tells us that God is timeless, at least, so far as we understand God. How hard then is it to make the leap that God, who stands outside time, gave the information to His chosen prophets, who recorded that information into the writings we call the Bible?
I walked through a few of the prophecies in an earlier post
, and you can take a look at it to see some of the precise details written centuries before His birth that were fulfilled by Jesus Christ, but I want to spend more time talking about something I touched on earlier, and that is the mechanism of delivery of these prophesies.
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost.
Peter tells us that prophecy comes directly from God through the Holy Spirit. We use the word inspired
to describe this process, yet we often neglect to look at what the word really means. From the Latin roots, the word literally means 'moved by the indwelling spirit' or 'the spirit coming inside,' in this case, the Spirit of God. In a very real way, the prophecies were given by God, authored by the Holy Spirit, and communicated by His chosen messengers.
In fact, it isn't just prophecies that were written in this manner, but all of the books of the Bible.
Paul tells us this in his letter to Timothy
All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
Now this would be a circular chain of logic, claiming that the Bible is Divinely inspired because it says it is, except that the prophetic record of the Bible backs up the claim it makes. Hundreds of prophecies have been fulfilled, and none have been proven false. Even more astonishing, a close reading of the Old Testament shows that nearly every verse has prophetic implications. As an example, Gen 3:15 says:
And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel."
Moses's word choice is very interesting here. Generally, women do not produce seed; that's up to the man. The woman nurtures the seed. But here, through Moses, God is telling us that His Son will bruise the head of Satan.
Here in this verse in the third chapter of the first book of the Bible is a distinct prophesy of Jesus Christ, that He will be born of a virgin mother and that He will defeat Satan. If that seems a bit of a stretch to you, then read Isaiah 7:14
, where that prophesy is made much more explicit.
When the choice of one simple word can give a verse a prophetic aspect, then the only way for the Bible to have been written is through the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And that means the whole Bible, not just the pretty parts we all like to think about.
I got into a discussion at another website over Bible interpretation, and I asked the people there how they decided which parts of the Bible to believe, and which parts to dismiss as irrelevant or wrong. No matter how many times I asked that simple question, I got no answers, only challenges to my own beliefs, along with a side order of snark and condescension. Apparently the concept of the Bible as an integral whole has fallen into disfavor among the more enlightened Christians among us, and that's sad, because it is impossible to be a Christian without the Bible. (At last! He gets to the point!)
Think about it logically for just a minute. If the Bible is not wholly and completely inspired by God, and parts of it are in error, then what parts are most likely wrong? The parts that run counter to our own experiences of course. Think back on that list of miracles I went through at the beginning of this post. All pretty unlikely, right? So why believe they happened if the Bible is full of mistakes? Did Jesus come back from the dead? Did he actually walk on water? Did he perform actual miracles, or are these things myths and legends?
And finally, if you believe these things are myths and legends, then how can you call yourself a Christian?
On the other hand, if you can believe in a real Risen Savior who died on the Cross to save us from our sins, then why do you find it so hard to believe that sin is real, and that the Bible that tells you that Jesus is Lord is the same Bible that tells you what He calls sin? If Jesus is God, then who are you to question His Law?
That's what this is all about ladies and gentlemen.
If you believe in God, and you believe that Jesus Christ was His Son, then you must believe the Bible is His Word.
Look at it another way. The Bible is the tool given to us by God so that we can know Him, and through His Son, be justified to Him. Without Scripture, we are left to our own intellect to define God, and we've already seen how limited that intellect is. We're trapped in time, unable to discern why we did what we did, much less predict what we're about to do. Any God we create will be no greater than the mind that created it, and I don't know anybody with a mind strong enough, smart enough, and advanced enough that could create a god I'd want to follow. Gods created by man tend to suffer from all the idiosyncratic weaknesses of men. I have a simple principle I follow; if I understand everything that a god says, if it all makes sense to me, then that god is no greater than I am, and I know how much I screw things up. It follows that a God worth following is going to have aspects that are beyond my understanding. He will say things and require things that make no sense to my intellect. Just as my parents had rules that I didn't understand when I was a child, I expect God will have rules for me that I don't understand. And like a child, I have faith that those rules are in my best interests because like my parents, God loves me.
So when I see something in the Bible that makes no sense to my intellect, I thank God for the reminder that He is smarter than me, and then I pray for understanding, not through the intellect, but through the Spirit. Then, after the Spirit gives me understanding, then I can approach it through intellect.
I want to close this up with a little demonstration of inspiration. Actually, if you were paying attention, I opened it up with that demonstration. This post is a demonstration of God's inspiration. I'm not claiming prophesy or perfect understanding here, and I mean this in all humility, but I could not write what I thought I was supposed to. And as long as I fought to write what I thought I was supposed to write about, the words wouldn't come. But once I stopped arguing and listened, I discovered that I was supposed to write something different. That it was important that I do this before that. The cynic would call this the action of the subconscious and dismiss any other explanation, not realizing that the whole concept of the subconscious is just as nebulous as the soul. I know otherwise. It was a God moment, when I stopped arguing and started listening. There was no burning bush, no small still voice, not even the ringing of a bell. Just an idea that I should probably write about the Bible first, since it's impossible to talk about being a Christian without accepting the Bible.
Next time (maybe), we'll talk about Biblical inerrancy, the different versions and translations, and what I mean when by "The Bible," since it's not as simple a subject as we'd like it to be.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Why Am I A Christian? Part 2: I Am Not an Animal! I Am A Man!
Gen 1:26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
No, I'm not getting into the whole evolution vs Intelligent Design debate. While I'm one of the first to recognize that there are significant issues with evolution, intelligent design is logically flawed as it tries to use a negative proof as an affirmative proof, and you can't do that. Don't worry, I'll go through that later on.
But what I'm talking about right now is us, humans, and the fact that we are not simply products of natural processes. If we are simply products of natural processes, like evolution, then all that we hold as exemplifying the best of humanity, our empathy, generosity, altruism, self sacrifice, all of these are evolutionary defects that will drag us down to extinction eventually.
Now that's a pretty bold statement, but it is the simple truth. You'll hear differently as secular humanists try to find a way to say that man may be an animal, but he is inherently good and civilized, and that when left to their own devices, most folks will behave with simple decency. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth, as we see proven out every time there is a crisis of some kind. For every story of heroism, we find dozens of stories of people taking advantage of the tragedy for their own benefit, or worse. In New Orleans after Katrina, in L.A, after the Rodney King verdict, we saw rioting, looting and horrific violence.
Are these the acts of beings who are intrinsically good? Would an entire nation of good people follow the Nazi path to racial genocide?
Let's take a step back and start from the beginning. If we are products of evolution and nothing else, then we are subject to the same laws and rules as every other animal on earth. The first rule is that the process of evolution occurs to the individual, not the species. This is a very important rule to understand because it is the underpinning of the evolutionary framework. Species do not evolve, individuals do. Genetic mutation, the rolling dice that drives evolution occurs in an individual organism. If the change is advantageous, which is defined as giving that organism an edge in survival, then that mutation will be passed along to the organism's offspring. Those individuals in the species which mutate in neutral or disadvantageous ways will produce fewer offspring and those offspring will be less able to compete for mates and resources.
Now, how does this rule play out in human terms? Let's look at the behavior of another mammal and see. When a pride of lions gets a new alpha male, that male will often go through the pride and kill all of the cubs. The females then come into season, and the new alpha breeds with the females, thus replacing the old alpha's progeny with his own, presumably stronger genetic material. This behavior is a result of a successful genetic mutation which causes the individual with the stronger genetic profile to remove the inferior genetic material from the breeding pool.
That's nature folks. Not too pretty is it? If humans behaved that way, we'd lock 'em up wouldn't we? Well, we do. Check any criminal statistics database for domestic violence and compare the statistics for biological parents vs step parents and you will see that there is far more child abuse in families with a step parent. And when we lock up those parents that abuse their step kids, and prevent them from acting to pass on their presumably stronger genetic material, what is the evolutionary impact?
A weaker next generation.
That's evolution folks, and it pretty much sucks as a basis for any kind of ethical code.
Now the secular humanists tell us that while self interest is the bedrock of human behavior, they've built up an artificial construct they call enlightened self interest and reciprocal altruism that they say explains why humans behave towards other humans with compassion, sympathy, empathy, and altruism.
It's a crock.
Sure, you can find behaviors in the animal kingdom that seem to confirm this construct, particularly in herd animals, where beta males will act as guards and defenders of the herd. However, there's a key difference. When the predator strikes and pulls down his prey, the guardian animals chalk it up as one for the lions and walk away. They do not come between the predator and his prey once the defensive position has failed.
Another key difference is in how humans vs. animals treat their newly born. Imperfect offspring in the wild die, often killed outright by its parents. While that is becoming a more popular option in modern society, it is hard for me to consider that an advance in civilization, more a return to our animal nature. However, in most cases, our imperfect infants are kept alive, often through the expenditures of tremendous amounts of time and effort. From a purely evolutionary standpoint, this is folly. First, it is a tragic misuse of resources that could better be used to save lives that have more chance of being meaningful and more importantly, productive. Second, it increases the possibility of weak genetic material being passed on to future generations, slowing the natural progress of evolution.
The final difference, and the one that is the key as far as I am concerned is that the acts we hold as being the most evocative of our humanity are those that are most contra-evolution. For example, the soldier who throws himself on a grenade to save his fellows is acting in a way that diminishes his ability to pass on his genetic material. Under evolution, his behavior is a mistake. The industrious man who gives away everything he made to strangers over his own children is another example of an evolutionary mistake. In fact, anytime a human does something for another human with no thought of benefit for himself or his offspring is committing evolutionary suicide. Charity, altruism, heroism, and self sacrifice are all evolutionary dead ends.
Well, that's not entirely true. A cynical person could find a use for these behaviors, and actively encourage them in order to take advantage of them, and this is the ultimate explanation for the continued existence of these behaviors, at least, according to the secular humanists. In this explanation, unselfish behaviors are encouraged by the smartest members of the group in order to achieve an advantage over the rest. By in effect handicapping others with the drive to take care of those less fortunate, the smarter ones, who feel no such compunction, are able to operate more efficiently to procure a greater amount of the available resources, thus improving their offspring's survivability.
If that is the truth of science, then O Lord, give me fantasy every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Rather than inventing esoteric constructs like reciprocal altruism or cynical interpretations to explain away the undeniable existence of an impulse in man to rise above his animal nature and to try to do good, I'll stick with the Bible that tells us that we are not animals, we are men, created in the image of God.
Created, not evolved, and no, I'm not dismissing evolution. Gen2:7 says:
And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
Compare that to Gen 2:19
Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought [them] to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that [was] its name.
Did you see the critical difference there? God breathed life into Adam after forming him; He didn't do the same after forming the animals. The mechanism that God used to form the animals and Adam may have been the same, but He took as extra step with Adam, breathing life into him.
And when God made Eve, he didn't form her from the lifeless dust, but took her from the living Adam, transferring the gift of life to her as well.
Clearly, the Bible tells us that man was created differently than the animals, and given a different role, dominion.
But wait, there's more!
Because Adam and Eve sinned, and ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they gained the ability to recognize good and evil. In essence, they developed a conscience. Paul speaks in detail of this conscience in Romans chapter 2 14-16.
for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves,
who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves [their] thoughts accusing or else excusing [them])
in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
We are more than the animals in the fields and we are subject to a higher Law that kill or be killed. Rejecting this truth makes us no different than the animals in the forest and jungles, and elevates "Kill or be killed" as the new Golden Rule.
I'm better than that. That's why I am a Christian.
Next time, we're going to start talking about what it means to be a Christian, and I guarantee there will be some surprises.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Why Am I a Christian? Part 1: A Brief History of Us
There's a lot of different answers for that question.
I am a Christian because God has called me to follow Him and I am answering that Call.
That sounds pretty arrogant, doesn't it? After all, who am I to claim that the all powerful all knowing all everything Lord of all creation has taken personal notice of an insignificant little sinner like me, and specifically called me to follow him? It's preposterous. It's lunacy.
It's the truth.
Let's start by looking at the Bible
. Here are a few Scriptures to start the conversation.
So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.
To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called [to be] saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Ok, I know, I've lost a bunch of you when I started quoting Scripture. After all, it's just the Bible, right? It's just a book.
Well, I disagree with that idea very strongly, and here's why.
Let's look at a few things the Old Testament had to say about Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 50:6 I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.
Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
Isaiah 53:9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Micah 5:2 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.
Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
These were all written more than 400 years before Christ was born. In Daniel, we find out the exact year Christ would be born. In fact, the prophecies in Daniel were so accurate that many scholars thought that the Book of Daniel had to have been written much later than tradition claimed. That is, they thought that until a copy of the book was found among the Dead Sea scrolls and dated to 300 BC.
When a book can make predictions that specifically about events that won't happen for another 300-500 years, it's time to pay attention to it.
But let's get back to Christianity, and why I am a Christian.
I love science. I love learning about how things work, how they fit together, what makes things happen, all that great stuff. I'm not a scientist myself, but I have a solid grounding in science, and I read voraciously.
One of the areas I really get into is theoretical physics, and astrophysics, specifically the origins of the universe. Essentially, when you're talking about the origins of the universe, all the competing theories boil down to one of two contradictory yet equally ridiculous propositions.
Proposition 1. The universe is eternal.
Proposition 2. The universe appeared out of nothing.
The universe exists, therefore it has either always existed, or it was created from nothing. Science, for obvious reasons, favored Proposition 1, but the latest research, much to their surprise, now favors Proposition 2. The universe is not eternal; it had a beginning and will have an end.
Score one for the Bible, eh?
Well, not so fast. A beginning doesn't always mean there has to be a beginner, if you see what I'm saying. There is a possibility that things just, well, happened. And that's what the scientists are telling us right now.
The theory goes something like this.
In the beginning was nothing. Absolutely nothing. No time, no space, no energy, no matter. Picture your fridge two days before payday. That's the kind of nothing I'm talking about.
Except it's a little more complicated when you get close to zero on a sub atomic level. It turns out that when you get down to very very small things, the laws of physics don't act like they do at our gross physical level. Because of the quantum nature of our universe, we can't be precisely sure what zero is. If you remember your high school physics, you might remember something called the uncertainty principle. If you're a real nerd like me, you might even remember that it said that we can't be absolutely certain of the position and the velocity of a subatomic particle. We can know either one individually, but not both.
Now when my high school teacher explained it, she made it sound like it was a limitation on our experimental ability, that the act of measuring one aspect of a particle changed the other aspect. The truth is that it goes deeper than that. The more accurate way of saying it is that once you get small enough, the universe itself isn't sure of the exact characteristics of a particle or a piece of space for that matter. Obviously, zero is smaller than that, and in a very real way, the value of zero is indeterminate.
So what does this mean to us? Well, when I say that in the beginning there was nothing, that is both true and false. It is true that we were at a zero state, but the actual value of zero was indeterminate, and by that, I mean it moved. Zero at one instant in time was bigger than at another instant in time.
Yes, I see a hand in the back...
I thought you said there was no time at this point? How could things be changing?
Excellent question! In order for zero to change, time had to be passing. So physicists have theorized that a different kind of time existed before the universe began called, and I am not making this up, imaginary time. Imaginary time is absolutely unrelated to real time, which hadn't even started yet, and according to most physicists conveniently went away on vacation when real time began, which was certainly a relief for the future watchmakers of the universe.
And then it blew up. Chaos theory has a type of equation that can be applied to this indeterminate variation of sub quantum level states and if you solve it just right, it rapidly expands, and some physicists believe a similar blow up was the origin of our universe.
So here's the scientific picture of the origin of the Universe. There was nothing, but that nothing was sometimes more than nothing and other times less than nothing as it varied indeterminately in imaginary time. Then it blew up and we had a Universe.
Like I said, I love science, and this mind game is a lot of fun to play, and who knows, it might even be close to the truth, but think about it for a minute.
We're looking at a very improbable event either way we look at it. Whether we believe that an Infinite Being created the entire universe, or we believe that the Universe sprang into being because of a chaotic explosion in imaginary time, we're making a pretty big leap of faith either way. Both ideas are so ridiculous that the only reason they are not dismissed out of hand is, well, we had to get here somehow.
So what does all of this have to do with why I am a Christian?
Because when you look at science, and everything we know, and everything we've learned, and everything we think we've learned, there's still room for God. The big questions, how did we get here, where did we come from, how did life begin, are we the result of billions of happy accidents, or was there a plan, why are we here, these remain unanswered with no real indication that science will answer them any time in the near future.
Christianity has those answers, if we're willing to look, and learn, and listen. That doesn't mean I reject science, not at all. Science is great on how, at least in most cases, but why is another matter altogether. I'll be talking more about science in the days to come because there's some really interesting things going on right now. As a teaser, I'll just say that when Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is at hand, he was describing a physical truth that modern man did not become aware of for almost 2000 years.
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