Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"Heresis" Part IV

Joh 13:35  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Rom 12:16  Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

The scriptures are so pure, their commands so straightforward, they flow so wonderfully together. If we did not know, we could not imagine they were written by 40 different authors who lived hundreds of years apart. They walk with the same message and carry the same theme. Each book lends support and strength to the other.

It is equally difficult to imagine that we are so divided over a book of such unity. It seems we must be determined to disagree upon something and separate ourselves from one another. This has become so distasteful to some they disdain doctrine and label it divisive. They refuse to define what they believe other than Jesus is their savior and God is their Father. They will make superficial references to the Holy Spirit and stress the love factor professing that is all we need. The sermons consist of moral ethics laced with more love your neighbor feelings. However, this is not a faith that will stand the test of time.

For one to truly be committed to a person, one must know who that person is. The Christian by faith is called to a commitment of such magnitude in Christianity that death itself will not break it. Therein lies the importance of doctrine and maintaining Orthodoxy. As we are seeing, that is not and has not been an easy task for the Church. Men are weak in their passions, pride and emotion rules much to often in the Christian heart. The tendency of the Christian to follow a personality and be influenced by people with Charisma or popularity weaken our position.

History demonstrates this is not unique to today, the errors and division of the first few centuries of the church were not unlike ours. They were perhaps even worse, which demonstrates the divine origin of the scriptures. For it is evident that men of themselves could not produce such a work of perfection.

That brings us to one of the greatest struggles the church has faced concerning Christ. Who was He? Why does it matter? It matters because we are called to trust in Him for our redemption, our very eternal existence depends on His ability to perform His claims.

Arius was an influential teacher that rose up from within the church which brought division for over half a century. Some of these movements lasted hundreds of years before losing influence, and even then to resurface time and time again throughout history.

Arianism is as big as history itself, it almost consumed the church and even exist today in various movements. Arianism defined the nature of Christ as a new created being. God created Him in order to mediate between Himself and the world which had fallen. Christ was independent of God and distinct from Him. Like fallen man Christ could have exercised his free will to disobey God. In certain forms of Arianism Christ was not worthy of divine worship as the Father. However, being a perfect creature through which all creation was made He could be our mediator. If you are familiar with other sects claiming the name Christianity today many of these element will sound familiar.

This belief became very popular among Christians as it seemed to maintain the oneness of God demonstrated in Scripture and maintained the uniqueness of Christ that is found in Scripture. This theology matters immensely because it denied the divinity of Christ. In this controversy as in all controversies the weakness of men becomes evident. Men of influence within the Church began to us the political powers that be to gain advantage over those that opposed them. Over those years Orthodoxy was determined by the view of the Emperor who happened to be in power at time. Advantage was gained by whatever means possible to promote the view each party thought was correct.

After years of struggle, Orthodoxy finally came to the forefront. The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 325 AD and 381 AD established Orthodoxy for us for over a thousand years. Only in the last century has that understanding of Scripture come under attack again.  

 What are we to take away from this? First the positive, these difficulties only magnify the majesty of the Scriptures, (2Pe 1:19  We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
2Pe 1:20  Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
2Pe 1:21  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.)


Second, the weakness of our understanding and the nature of our passions leave us at a disadvantage. Approaching our study in a humble state recognizing these elements of our nature is necessary. Awareness of the same weaknesses in others should cause caution in us in following any new movement. Scripture must be weighed against Scripture while taking into considering the Orthodox beliefs of those before us. We must remember, the Scriptures have been scrutinized for thousands of years by men of great minds and much understanding. The excitement of finding some new revelation that has not been explored is an unsafe approach. Such has been the downfall of many and the cause of much confusion within the body.  

Finally, the two considerations above brings us within reach of the assurance of our faith. We are assured of the ever-present help of the Holy Spirit to teach us as we study. Our cautions only aid us in that understanding and helps bring clarity as we learn. We can find Orthodoxy as it is understood in the scriptures. We can understand by Nicene Creed that Jesus Christ is "the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds;
God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God;
begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father,
by Whom all things were made:
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven,
and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man:
And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried:
And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures:
And ascended into Heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father:
And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead:
Whose Kingdom will have no end:" 


We can take that Orthodox understanding and find that it does not conflict with the flow of the Scriptures. In this, we can find unity and assurance of faith. 

For a much more in depth study please see the book by Harold O. J. Brown "Heresies" 

May the Grace of God be with each of you,

David     


   

       

Monday, August 13, 2018

"Heresies" Part III

In Christian thought, attempts to understand the Godhead was the source of much erroneous teaching that arose in the first few centuries and even abides with us now.

A Christian confesses that God is One, yet God is seen in scripture as Three persons. Attempts to explain this has led to much controversy. The Nicene Creed of 325AD which we will look at later provides our Orthodox understanding. However, before the Nicene Creed, there were others who offered less than acceptable understandings. We must not look so much upon these as enemies of the faith, but see them as examples for caution. It seems their attempts were sincere, just sincerely wrong in their understanding of scripture.

How does a finite mind grasp the understanding of an infinite being whose otherness is so far from us we have nothing to relate to or compare Him to? We can only understand as far as His revelation reveals Him in scripture. Though He is infinite we can know Him by the scriptures, but no further. It has been the attempts to go beyond what is revealed that has led into error.

Monarchianism was one such attempt that can be broken down in two parts. One part being Adoptionism and the other Modalism. They both appeared in the second century and as Monarchianism does, they tried to explain the Oneness of God amidst what we know today as the Trinity.

Adoptionism would see Christ, not as God, but as a man who received the Spirit of God in a special way. This solves the mystery of the Trinity, but it leaves Christ as a man and not divine. This is unacceptable with Orthodox Christianity and had to be confronted.

Modalism was a form of Monarchianism that took another approach. They wanted to solve the mystery of the Trinitarian nature of God without doing damage to the divinity of Christ. It would hold that Christ was God, but only as a mode in that certain age. Modalism does not allow for the individual person of Christ along with the person of the Father and the Holy Spirit. This solves the mystery, but it leaves an incomplete Gospel and does damage to other parts of scripture.

Orthodoxy see God subsisting of three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All being of the same One essence, all being eternal, and all being divine. Adoptionism removes the divinity, Modalism ignores the personage.

Yet a greater threat was soon to arise, we will look at it next time.

For a much more in depth study please see the book by Harold O. J. Brown "Heresies" 

May the Grace of God be with each of you,

David     

Sunday, August 5, 2018

"Heresies" Part II

One of the first issues that had to be address in the Christian faith was something known as Gnosticism. Gnosticism was not just found within the Christian faith. It was a vein running through it, and was a part of a larger Gnostic movement that pervaded the time. The Christian form varied from the other movements that extended into other religions and religious thought.

Gnosticism really did not resemble Orthodox Christianity at all, but it did borrow certain terms and Jesus as a savior in its presentation. The Jesus it presented was a mystical Jesus that didn't really have a human body, but only appeared to be flesh. He didn't really die on a cross, he only appeared to do so to help those with little understanding comprehend salvation.

The basic root of Gnosticism was special knowledge. God gave special knowledge to certain chosen ones, knowledge that opened up understanding of the spiritual world. You were to depend upon them for help to understand the mysteries of the gods. There were many gods in Gnosticism both good and bad, Jesus being one of the good ones. It borrowed so much from Orthodox Christianity it had to be confronted, many were beginning to associate it with the Christian faith. The Apostle John confronted it in his writings and there are reasons to believe that it was Gnosticism that was held by Simon Magus of Acts 8:9-24 that brought the difficulties in his reception of the Gospel. Two individuals, Syrian Saturnilus, and an Egyptian Basilides developed a more complex form of Gnosticism during the 1st part of the 2nd Century.  One of the best known apologist to defend the faith against this error was Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons. (125-202) His work "Against Heresies" was written around 180 through 189 and confronted it head on.

This early writing is very comprehensive and precise in defining the churches understanding concerning the doctrines affected by this error. You could say we owe the gnostic heresy for the theology that formulated for us the doctrines we now understand to be Orthodox. We know Orthodox belief was there and understood for it was the error that caused the Orthodox teaching to respond and produce this work within the Church.

Many of the gnostic beliefs that present secret knowledge or knowing along with making one feel elitist have resurfaced from time to time. One of the more resent would be "Christian Science" developed by Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910). It has many similarities with the old gnostic belief. Many other forms with much more subtle similarities have crept into various other modern day Christian movements.

From this gnostic belief came another form called Docetism, it focused on the fact that Jesus must have been a spiritual being without a body, only human in appearance. It would be foolishness to think a divine being could be flesh and be crucified. (1 Cor. 1:23)

A teaching called Marcionism was also developed out of these gnostic beliefs by a man named Marcion around the middle of the 2nd century. Marcion could be considered the first great heretic because he was able to organize his teaching into a rival church. This movement would exclude all Jewish scripture and use only the Gospel of Luke and the writings of the Apostle Paul as authoritative scripture.

Marcionism would be greatly opposed by the great apologist Tertullian (160 AD - 230 AD).  The Church owes much to Tertullian for his work confronting this false teaching and helping establish the Orthodox beliefs that were held by the church. It would be Tertullian though who would later fall for another false teaching called Montanism.

Montanism was more difficult to confront because it continued to hold to so many of the Orthodox beliefs that it would feel and look much like Orthodox Christianity.

Where Marcion excluded much of the Scripture, Montanus would not only retain it, but claim to add to it by divine revelation. 2nd century Christianity considered special revelation such as was given by the Apostles and Prophets to have ceased. The Apostolic gifts of tongues and interpretation of tongues along with special miraculous healing and prophetic utterances were no longer in practice.

Montanus along with two women prophetesses claim to still possess these gifts. They promoted the idea that special revelation was still flowing through the church and mysteries beyond what had been revealed were still coming. It was an attempt to reform the church back to what he determined it had strayed from. There are many similarities between Montanism and what we know today as Pentecostalism and Charismatic movements.  Montanism was difficult for the church to deal with, but over time it became obvious that his claims to special revelation did not match up to the Apostolic writings. His prophetic utterances along with those of his female companions were much lacking in their accuracy.

He was eventually marked as a heretic and his teachings harmful to the church. Once again Orthodoxy had responded and produced the basis of sound teaching. (Tit 1:9  Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.)       

It was Marcion and Montanus oddly enough that perhaps pointed out the need for an established canon of Scripture. That is not to say there was not a collection of books and writings that were already considered authoritative. However, it is safe to say by the end of the 2nd century the New Testament canon had been completed with a few books remaining controversial into the 4th century. But these were all books that were already in circulation and being used by Orthodox Christianity.

There are those who promote the idea that the Christian faith evolved over time like all religions do. They attempt to say there was never a faith once delivered to the Saints as Jude 1:3 states. If there was, they insist it is impossible to know what it was since it has evolved so much over the centuries. Those who make such statements simply do not understand the efforts that have been put forth by the church to document and defend the faith. There is an Orthodox faith that has traveled the centuries and maintained it's truth for those who are chosen to believe it. In this series we will continue to watch it march its way to our own lives.

For a much more in depth study please see the book by Harold O. J. Brown "Heresies" 

May the Grace of God be with each of you,

David     
 

Friday, July 27, 2018

"Heresies"

As Christians, we are a people of the book, the Bible that is. All true believers look to it for instruction and direction in their Christian walk. Yet, so many times we find ourselves at odds with one another within our understanding.

I spent most of my life believing things I was convinced was truth only now to have come to an understanding it was not. Some of the things we disagree on are of little importance, others are of profound importance. It is this striving to understand the truth that has brought me to this place. Jude speaks of a faith once delivered to the Saints. (Jud 1:3  Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.) It is of this faith that we are concerned.

I am re-reading a book by Harold O. J. Brown (1933-2007) "Heresies" subtitled, "Heresy and Orthodoxy In The History Of The Church". It is quit helpful in gaining understanding of the difficulties of maintaining truth throughout history. Because it is so helpful, I wanted to post a series of blog post giving an overview of the book. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to gain a better understanding of the faith once delivered and who has a desire to maintain Orthodoxy. He has done the work of researching the history and cataloging it into chronological order so we can view our history over nearly two millenniums.

First lets define Orthodoxy, from Webster's 1828: OR'THODOXY, n. [Gr. right, true, and opinion, from to think.]
1. Soundness of faith; a belief in the genuine doctrines taught in the Scriptures.
Basil bears full and clear testimony to Gregory's orthodoxy.
2. Consonance to genuine scriptural doctrines; as the orthodoxy of a creed.


Now lets define Heresy, from Webster's 1828: HER'ESY, n. [Gr. to take, to hold; L. haeresis.]
1. A fundamental error in religion, or an error of opinion respecting some fundamental doctrine of religion. But in countries where there is an established church, an opinion is deemed heresy, when it differs from that of the church. The Scriptures being the standard of faith, any opinion that is repugnant to its doctrines, is heresy; but as men differ in the interpretation of Scripture, an opinion deemed heretical by one body of Christians, may be deemed orthodox by another. In Scripture and primitive usage, heresy meant merely sect, party, or the doctrines of a sect, as we now use denomination or persuasion, implying no reproach.
2. Heresy, in law, is an offense against Christianity, consisting in a denial of some of its essential doctrines, publicly avowed and obstinately maintained.
3. An untenable or unsound opinion or doctrine in politics.



I'm sure you may already see a difficulty, one man's Orthodoxy is another man's Heresy. Dr. Brown effectively demonstrates I think that Orthodoxy was already implicit within the Church when heretical teachings began to surface. It was in response to the heretical teachings that Orthodoxy began to become explicit in the Church.

We will take a look at these heretical teachings as we go along in this series. We must first come to terms with something that may seem strange to us. In the beginning of the New Testament church they did not have a Bible as we have it. Even for the first three hundred years there was no established collection of books called the Bible. There were many churches that did not possess all the Apostolic writings. John had not written his Revelation until the end of the 1st century. With persecution being extremely strong and even martyrdom a true reality, there was not much time for what we know as theology or the development of it.

However, we know that Orthodoxy was already implicit within the church, though it may not yet have been developed and defined as it later became to be. We know this because when heretical teachings began to surface it was Orthodoxy that responded. The book of Jude is dated before A.D. 65-67 and he is already having to address false teachers. We also need to understand that all these false teachers were not intending to be destructive, they were sincere in their search of truth and many were martyred alongside their Orthodox counterparts. That is why error is so dangerous, it is also why heretics were rejected by the church so harshly, as they placed the salvation of souls in jeopardy.

As we endeavor to work our way through this overview, let us remember our love for truth. However, we must also be moved with compassion and love for those we discover in error. We must know all our understanding is weak. Therefore, we must be ever so cautious as we hold to established truth that has been affirmed and re-affirmed throughout the churches history concerning the scriptures.

We are not to be heresy hunters, but truth searchers and then pro-claimers of that truth. There is a trend today to accept anything that bears the name of Jesus Christ. However, we will discover that the most dangerous heresies in history held to the name of Christ. They delivered a Christ that could not save, it was a Christ created in their own minds and worshiped in their own imagination. What they brought and many continue to bring today, is a faith different from the one once delivered to the Saints that Jude was so earnest about defending.

It should be noted that these heretical teachings do not boldly appear so, but have the sound and feel of truth many times. One of the early church fathers stated, "Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than truth itself." ~ Irenaeus (AD 130-202). 

The error is so craftily spun that many times even the one infected is not aware of their falsehood. They are as deceived as those who follow them. If this sounds troubling to you, it's because it is troubling. It is dangerous and hurtful both to the world and the church. We may say I don't want it to be that they, I just want to go to church and not think about all this. We find in John's writings, 1Jn 4:1  Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
1Jn 4:2  Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
1Jn 4:3  And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.   


One of the first heresies we find is a misunderstanding of the nature of Christ. A number of early heresies preached a Christ that was not a man. John had to confront those who denied His humanity. They preached a Christ that was a God but not a man, but a Christ that was not fully God and fully man is not a Christ that can save us from our sins.

Another early heresy was a Christ that was man, but was not God. They denied His divinity. There is a constant assault upon the truth, John had to confront it, Jude had to encourage the church to defend it. It's not going away, therefore, we have the responsibility to defend it in our generation. To defend it we must know what it is, it is that we will set our purpose to establish in this series.

May the Grace of God be upon each of you,

David          





Monday, July 2, 2018

"The fight of Freedom"

To most Americans the sight of our flag spurs within us strong emotions, it is a symbol that reminds us of our struggle to obtain what we call freedom and our efforts to maintain it throughout our history. We have learned many lessons along the way, unfortunately we have also forgotten many. There have been times when events of providence would remind us of these forgotten things, but it seems in our remembering, we were never able to capture the fullness of those things again. Each time in our effort to return, we would find ourselves with less than we once had. This effect has left us in such a state of freedom and government that our founding fathers would most likely not even recognize it as their government, nor conducive to their ideas of freedom.

The remnants of what they gave us still provide us with (though to a great measure diminished) a certain measure of political and social freedom. I do believe in what has been termed "American Exceptionalism." This is not because I see us as some special people with superior minds and abilities. The Scripture tells us we are all under sin and depraved in our nature.   

(Rom 3:10  As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
Rom 3:11  There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
Rom 3:12  They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.)


Our exceptionalism lies at the foundation of our laws and forms of government. These ideas were formed in the minds of men who were influenced by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and who were learned in the Scripture. It provided them with an understanding of freedom that had alluded previous governments of history. Similar concepts of republican government had been tried before with some success, but limited in both time and effect. But here, the principles came into effect with a people whose hearts had been prepared to not only live under them, but understand them and cherish them.


"[W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending
with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. . . . Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." (Source: John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co. 1854), Vol. IX, p. 229, October 11, 1798.)

[I]t is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue. (Source: John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, 1854), Vol. IX, p. 401, to Zabdiel Adams on June 21, 1776.)

At the founding of our nation, our people not only understood the principles of freedom derived from an understanding of the Gospel, but from that Gospel understood the nature of fallen man. This not only gave them the unique ability to form a free government, but the unique ability to be governed by that government. We have come so far from their experience that we are becoming indifferent to that religion and its morality that was so crucial to it. The freedom they envisioned was understood to only be possible with a people given to the principles embodied within the Christian faith. 

John Adams expresses this very well in the quotes listed above. The government they instituted and the constitution they so wisely produced could only govern such a people adequately. If the people became something else, the government of necessity would  have to change. Thus, the strengthening of our government and the increase of its rule in our lives is in direct response to the weakening of our people to govern themselves by the principles they entrusted their lives to. 

It is not that all citizens of the United States must be Christian for the Constitution to function adequately, this was understood to be unrealistic. But the principles of Christianity must be instilled into society for it to function properly, a morality so to speak that would form a basis of right and wrong, and appropriate conduct. To the extent this is disregarded is in direct proportion to the failure of the Constitution to function. 

“Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all blessings which flow from them, must fall with them.” ---- Jedediah Morse. (Source: Jedediah Morse, Election Sermon given at Charleston, MA, on April 25, 1799.)

The pillars have been damaged, without God's grace they cannot be repaired. Time and man's nature have eroded them beyond recovery. Only God's Amazing Grace and its work upon the hearts of men can restore the freedom of Government those before gave us. 

But hope is not lost, if America crumbles into the dust ben of history and all her great principles lie in ruin, the God of Providence still rules and His Gospel still gives freedom. Whereas American freedom gives political and social blessings, the Gospel gives true freedom to the heart of man. It frees him from his brokenness and gives life where only death abides. 

The world is a broken place, America has been a shinning light, it was made to be that light by the Gospel and has been a blessing to its people and the world. America needs the Gospel, the Gospel does not need America. It is the Gospel that is the hope of the world and a reprieve from its brokenness. 

The freedom of the Gospel which is found in Jesus Christ likewise comes not without conflict and fighting. There is a continual struggle that abides in the Christian life. It is a struggle both within and without. 

2Co 7:5  For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears. 

Gal 5:17  For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

Freedom is not easy in any realm, it must be defended and fought for. As there are enemies to American freedom, there are enemies to our spiritual freedom. If we neglect the one, we lose a nation, if we neglect the other, we lose life eternal. Like the principles that built America, the principles upon which the Church was formed have been so diminished in American Christianity that it is almost unrecognizable from the Church of our fathers. The fighting, the sacrifice, and the love for truth have been replaced with complacency, comfort, and the love of our own pleasure. We have convinced ourselves that God wants for us what our own carnal hearts desire. 

But this is not freedom, but bondage to our own corruption. We may be free to do what is right in our own eyes, but our eyes are blinded to truth. 

Deu_12:8  Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.

Jdg_17:6  In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

Pro_12:15  The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.

Pro_21:2  Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.

There is great grace where truth is found. For a man to see, his eyes must be opened, this he cannot do for himself. For a man to understand his mind must be illuminated, this he cannot do for himself. Even yet, he is unable of himself then to do and obey the truth that he sees and understands. Our hope is in God alone, for in His grace we see, and the Holy Spirit so works this grace in our lives that truth is illuminated and then through His sanctifying work we are able to obey the truth we receive. Therein we have life and freedom from our own ruin. The bondage of our corrupt nature is broken, and we are free indeed!    

Joh 8:36  If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. 

The structure of our American government was such that it restrained and protected society from the unrestrained passions of men and gave a certain measure of peace and freedom in which to live. But the Gospel frees us from our own passions, gives real peace and freedom to do righteousness. Opens our eyes to God's truth and a desire and love for it. 

If you want to live in a free nation, seek the principles that produce that freedom. If you want to be free regardless of your political and social status, seek the one who alone gives life! Cry out to him in repentance, seek mercy and not judgment. He has Grace in abundance. If you have the least desire, move toward Him. Continue to press in, there is life in abundance!

May the Grace of God be with each of you,

David    

 

 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

"God Said"

The following work is a response to my friend who is an agnostic / atheist. He from time to time challenges me on my faith and poses questions of interest. Since I haven't posted anything in a while I thought it might be interesting to post some of our conversations.


Greetings My Friend,

I'm not sure if you were done with my last question to you about the Killing of Jesus, but, here is another issue I would like to address to you:

It is written in Genesis that God said, "Let there be light (Gen !:3); in Gen 1:6 God said, "Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water;" and in Gen 1-11 God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to the various kinds"....and so on.

Okay, here are my questions: Why did God have to speak and who was he speaking to? Himself? Was God using "magic" to conjure up all that he desired? Dictionary.com states to conjure a miracle...to call into existence by magic. 

Gene,
__________________________________________

You do have a keen eye for scripture, were you ever to come to faith, you would make a great theologian! No God did not have to speak, nor did He speak as we would understand it. This involves God’s otherness, remember before we talked about His “being” and that He is not like us. He has no mouth to speak with, no parts to form sounds with. He is spirit and spirit is non-corporal. (Joh 4:24  God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.) 

 As a spirit and as the Supreme Being He is revealed in scripture to be at all places at all  times. He is no less present here as He is in heaven or the far reaches of the universe. His being fills all things, He is understood by theologians as a Simple being, because He does not consist of parts, therefor he has not a mouth with which to speak.

What we have throughout scripture is what theologians call “anthropomorphic language.” It is a way of presenting the acts of a spiritual being in terms relatable to human understanding. In scripture we find God doing things with His hand and arm. (Luk 1:51  He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.)  (Isa 40:10  Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.) Yet He has no parts, no hand, no arm. He is even here described as coming or moving from one place to another, yet He cannot move, there is no place for Him to move from or place to move to, He is Omnipresent at all times and all places. He is also said to be angry, to be please, to laugh, to love, to hate, to be grieved. Yet He has no emotions as we would understand, this is called God impassibility.  He is described in scripture as immutable, meaning He cannot change. Any movement from anger to laughter would be a change in His being, of which He is incapable, being immutable. You can see the far reaching conquences to this immutable being when it comes to our understanding.

Yet we find these terms used constantly throughout scripture. It makes Him reasonable to our minds, allow us to follow Him in thought as His time passes through our lives. This mystery is deepened in John chapter 1.

(Joh 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 

Joh 1:2  The same was in the beginning with God. 

Joh 1:3  All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.) John speaking of the same event as your reference in Genesis 1, speaks as if the Word that was spoken was a Person, not a sound. So what did God do in the beginning? What ever He did that brought about the existence of matter, space, and time He has deemed it most accurate to describe it to us as His speaking.

In Exodus,  (Exo 3:8  And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites) God is described as coming down. Does that mean He was somewhere else for a time? No, He is Omnipresent. But as events occurred in time and life experience, He deemed it most accurate to describe this action as coming down. It is a way to relate the action of a spiritual being in terms and reasons a physical mind comprehends and understands. It makes the action knowable.




In Numbers (Num 23:19  God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?) Here it is said that God is not a man that he should lie or repent. Yet, in Jonah it is said, (Jon 3:10  And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.) There are a number of things here, besides the contradiction, you again have God changing His mind. But an immutable being does not change His mind, also, a change necessitates a receiving of additional information that renders a more perfect action. Yet God is not only immutable, but omniscient (all knowing) and perfect in that He cannot improve upon His actions. So how do we understand this language?




In the events of time we see changes, God is seen and understood to be involved in all such events. In the language that describes these things for us, God appears to change in mind and actions; yet it is the events in time that are changing and God remains immutable, omniscient, and perfect. But the language reveals these events in human terms and presents God in a form our minds relate to and understand.

The Westminister Confession speaks of these things thus, (There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory;
most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.) 



John M. Frame says it well, “Although God's eternal decree does not change, it does ordain change. It ordains a historical series of events, each of which receives God's evaluation. God evaluates different events in different ways. Those evaluations themselves are fixed in Gods eternal plan. But they are genuine evaluations of the events. It is not wrong to describe them as responses to these events.
Furthermore, we have seen that God is not only transcendent beyond time and space, but also immanent in all times and spaces. From these immanent perspectives, God views each event from within history. As he does, he evaluates each event appropriately, when it happens. Such evaluations are, in the most obvious sense, responses.
Does such responsiveness imply passivity in God? To say so would be highly misleading. God responds (both transcendently and immanently) only to what he has himself ordained. He has chosen to create a world that will often grieve him. So ultimately he is active, rather than passive. Some may want to use the term impassible to indicate that fact.”

Perhaps Gene, you can see in this my passion in knowing and understanding the nature of God. It is fascinating to the mind, exciting to the soul, reaching into the wonders of such a being. (Eph 3:9  And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 
Eph 3:10  To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 
Eph 3:11  According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:)

May the Grace of God be upon each of you,
David


Sunday, April 29, 2018

"Question of Morality" Part II

The following work is a response to my friend who is an agnostic / atheist. He from time to time challenges me on my faith and poses questions of interest. Since I haven't posted anything in a while I thought it might be interesting to post our conversation.

"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. - Thomas Jefferson


Here is the problem I have with your response to the killing of Jesus. There is no reasoning (scripture) that can be given by the Bible to justify the torture and sacrifice of a Man to exonerate the crimes of others. I ask this question in friendship, not in condemnation: How can you default to the Bible to justify a brutal killing when your own sensibility and reasoning should reject such an outrageous concept? 


It is, in my opinion, morally wrong to hold a child responsible for the crimes (sins) of their parents. Did not God know ahead of time that Adam and Eve would eat from the Tree of Knowledge? If he knew that would happen, how can he hold their descendants responsible? There is no Biblical justification that can exonerate a God the allows the execution of his own Son (himself) so that mankind can be saved from eternal hell. There is no justification that can exonerate a God the allows a man to rape a little girl and take no action except to wait until the death of the rapist to send the rapist to Hell unless of course, the rapist accepts Jesus into his heart and is saved from justice. How can anyone with compassion and empathy let God go unaccountable for allowing cruel things happen to children? A God that does that is either not as powerful as proclaimed or doesn't care and therefore is not worthy of "God" status. 


You stated,  "Our morality is not from Him, for our morality is in ruin." I absolutely disagree. If I see a child being raped, I would do whatever I could to stop the rape. God choose not stop the rape of a child. I believe my action to take action against the rapist is moral. God's decision not to interfere is immoral and therefore it is God's morality in ruins.  


You stated, "Every human being, even from our perception of innocent, though not yet having done any good or bad is guilty by nature." I am not even sure how to respond to that, except, once again I must say "I absolutely disagree." So a newborn baby taking his first breath of life is already condemned and guilty of sins (crimes) he or she has not committed. This is one of those concepts that Christianity puts forth that for me shows how Christians set aside reason and logic because of the fear of Hell if they don't accept God's "plan, verdicts, and rules."


You say mankind does not understand God's true perfection. Well, you may be right because I cannot understand how it is perfection that an all-powerful God allows a child to be raped, condemns us at birth for the sins of our parents and creates a "Hell" for those of us that cannot believe in something unseen and unproven. If there is a God, he made us that way and he is a monster to create a situation that virtually guarantees many will not accept a myth as true and condemns us to hell because we use our reason and logic to reject a claim that cannot be proven. 


Well, my friend, I know have thrown a lot at you and I have actually enjoyed responding to your email I could go on, but it is 10:52 p.m. and I need to get to bed, work tomorrow! 

Take care my friend,

Gene
________________________________________

Excellent response Gene, I see what you’re saying. Those conundrums have crossed my mind before as well. They are not easily answered and theologians have wrestled with them over the years. I will give you my best understanding of the Scriptures at this point. Since you like to reason things out, lets start with where Logic might take us.

 {LOG'IC, n. [L. id; Gr. from reason, to speak.]
The art of thinking and reasoning justly.
Logic is the art of using reason well in our inquiries after truth, and the communication of it to others.

Logic may be defined, the science or history of the human mind, as it traces the progress of our knowledge from our first conceptions through their different combinations, and the numerous deductions that result from comparing them with one another.

Correct reasoning implies correct thinking and legitimate inferences from premises, which are principles assumed or admitted to be just. Logic then includes the art of thinking, as well as the art of reasoning.

The purpose of logic is to direct the intellectual powers in the investigation of truth, and in the communication of it to others.} – Webster’s 1828 edition.  

(Isa 1:18  Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.) 

Let’s start with the beginning, if God is who he says He is and is truly infinite in His nature, does he have the right to create? It seems from that statement logic would dictate it would be right for Him to create, for nothing exist outside of Him. I cannot think of an argument at this point that would prevent Him from creating assuming as the Scripture states He has the power to do so.

Now let’s add another dimension, if God is righteous, then he must create in a way that is right and just. (Dan 9:14  Therefore hath the LORD watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the LORD our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice.)
So, following this logic, when creation is complete, it must be complete in such as fashion that nothing wrong or unjust exist. (Gen 1:31  And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.)

You stated, “There is no reasoning (scripture) that can be given by the Bible to justify the torture and sacrifice of a Man to exonerate the crimes of others.”  So we are not debating the authority of the statement, but the logic of it.

So far we have a creation that is good, no death exist, no crime, no hate, nothing in creation has committed an injustice. So at this point we have determined I think quit reasonably that it was right for God to create, and there being no injustice committed in or by this creation, we must determine His creation to be right.

I will assume we are good up to here, but now we come to the issue of evil, unrighteousness, and injustice. We will have to determine if it would be right for God to create in such a way as to allow those things to exist in His Creation. We will have to admit He could have created without allowing these elements in His creation since He is infinite in Power and Wisdom. But since He chose not only to allow them but make provision for them, how are we to understand it? And would it be right?

If God in some way of His own essence induces evil into His creation, then He becomes responsible for that evil. Lets try and identify the source of this evil. (Eze 28:15)  Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.) The first appearance of Evil in creation that I can find is here where the great created being that we now know as Satan fell. He was perfect from the day of creation, no contrary thought to perfection, no injustice, complete goodness. But we discover this being diverted from this state and a root of iniquity began to sprout. It did not precede from God, but came from the creature. You find this same process taking root in the first two human beings, iniquity coming from the creature and it falling from it’s original state of being.

But was it right for God to create in such a manner as to make this possible? I think we have determined it was right for God to create, and it was right for Him to create in what ever manner He pleased as long as it is consistence with His Righteousness. If God created a perfect being, but in that perfection gave Him the moral ability to understand God’s purpose and see His Glory; but also possess a consciousness of his own being with an ability to pursue his own purposes and glory, can we charge God with an injustice? I would argue that this would not be an injustice, but a giving of moral responsibility to the creature. The fact God new they would fall does not make it unjust in giving them the opportunity to stand and making them responsibility for it. Even our own experience I think in a small way demonstrates this. We all know our children will fail, yet it is not wrong for us to let them try. Nor is it wrong for them the carry the responsibilities of those failures. They learn from the failure as well as from the consequences of those failures. 


It seems reasonable for God to make demands upon the creature (man) and expect obedience from him. All that would be required of him would be for God’s Glory and the creature’s own good. Then to give the creature the absolute ability of being able to perform that obedience with ease would be perfectly right to require. The fact the creature (man) could recognize the Glory and Majesty of his creator, and possess the ability to recognize what he was as a creature, would be a glorious thing. But sin sprang when the creature through the possessing of these faculties began to desire what God was, for himself and his own glory.


It seems reasonable for God to determine the rules of conduct as long as those rules were right and good. (Gen 2:17  But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.)  Though Adam was a very great man, a very good man, and a very happy man, yet the Lord God commanded him; and the command was no disparagement to his greatness, no reproach to his goodness, nor any diminution at all to his happiness. Let us acknowledge God's right to rule us, and our own obligations to be ruled by him; and never allow any will of our own in contradiction to, or competition with, the holy will of God. – Matthew Henry (1662-1714)

It seems reasonable for God to require service from the man since God owns everything, therefore for the enjoyment of living in God’s environment should require something of the man. (Gen 2:15  And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.) 

It seems reasonable and right for God to keep one tree for himself and forbid the man from it’s use, after all, God owns it all and has given the man access to all but one.  (Gen 2:16  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat)

As in all societies, once a law is given, justice demands retribution for the breaking of that law. (for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.) The law and the punishment was made clear and set forward so as the breaking of it would be committed with full understanding. (1Ti 2:14  And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.)

We know that the man committed treason and rebelled against the Maker and time moves on. I took the time to cover all of this to demonstrate that the account of creation and the fall of man follow a logical and reasonable course of actions. God being right and good toward the man, the man being happy and complete in his environment and responsibilities. The man being wrong in his rebellion and punishment just.


But some will say, the punishment does not fit the crime. One disobedient act and all creation is plunged into ruin and the human race into eternal damnation. It is here we do not understand what perhaps Adam may have understood. Before time began, God inhabited an eternity of pure Holiness and Blinding Righteousness. (Isa 57:15  For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.) Now a dependent created being call an angel introduces iniquity for the first time, an act that brought an eternal curse without any means of hope upon itself and all who followed it. Then the one created being that was made in God’s own likeness joined this rebellion which is a crime our minds cannot comprehend. We can only know it’s greatness by it’s punishment. If a man comes upon another man’s property and kicks his dog without provocation, there is a level of retribution to be sought. If he abuses the man, a higher level of retribution is demanded. If he abuses a man of dignity such as a Prince or President an even higher level of retribution is to be sought. If he abuses an infinite being completely out of his species, a being who is eternal and majestic above all known measures, the highest, not of Creation, but the source and fountain of all! At what level does justice seek retribution? But out of pure Mercy, God of His own being meets the demands of divine justice and offers to the man redemption from the fall.

Again, you stated, “There is no reasoning (scripture) that can be given by the Bible to justify the torture and sacrifice of a Man to exonerate the crimes of others.” There is a misunderstanding somewhat in this statement concerning the Christian understanding of Christ Sacrifice. Remember how before we talked about Christ himself having the power to take up again His own life, that no one takes it from him, but he lays it down of his own purpose. Perhaps your military training will help us here. Do we not hold one in high esteem who offers and gives his life for another? Have we not heard the heroic tales of one who threw himself in harms way to save his fellows? The one who threw himself upon the grenade and saved his buddies! Oh, but he had a wife and small children, surely it was wrong for him to make the sacrifice! No, the circumstances of the moment made the sacrifice the right thing to do.

I would suggest the circumstances in which man finds himself in after the fall makes the sacrifice of Christ offering himself to save us the right thing to do. Did the man’s buddies deserve such a sacrifice to save them? They would probably say no. Did we deserve that deity should humble himself and become a man and offer himself in our place? Obviously the answer is no, but it was right for God to show mercy if he choose to do so.

You stated, “It is, in my opinion, morally wrong to hold a child responsible for the crimes (sins) of their parents.” There is a slight misunderstanding of this concept also. It is true we are all guilty in Adam. (Rom 5:12  Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned:) It is not Adams particular crime, but what we became as a result of it. It is the nature of what Adams was that was passed on to his race, sin is as much of who we are as the life we live. For this we ourselves our guilty. (Rom 5:14  Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam's transgression, who is a figure of him that was to come.)

I present this in response to your question of reason. I hoped to demonstrate that if the God of the Bible is who He says he is, then the torture and sacrifice of the God Man (Christ) is reasonable in all aspects. It would be the only logical action that could be taken to save the creature. When the concept of such a being as God contrasted with such a creature as man is understood, the logic and reason become more clear. That is what the study of Theology is, that we come to understand these things more clearly. Anytime you reason together and information is share, understanding is lightened. That is Theology to the Christian, reasoning with the Scriptures is like talking with God and understanding things He has revealed. Bringing spiritual things to light. (1Co 2:10  But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 
1Co 2:11  For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of the man, which is in him? even so the things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God. 

1Co 2:12  But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God; that we might know the things that were freely given to us of God. 
1Co 2:13  Which things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth; combining spiritual things with spiritual words. 
1Co 2:14  Now the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged.)
There is more I would like to say about some of the things you mentioned, but this has been a very busy week. Give me some time and I will proceed to try and address some other issues you brought up. I don’t want leave anything in question unaddressed. But for now I hope this at least helps you to see the logic we find.
David