Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Description of the Godly Man

by J. R. Miller, 1907

"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." Psalm 1:1-3

In this Psalm, the description of the godly man is first negative:
  There are certain things he never does.
  There are places in which he is never seen.
  He does not make wicked men his advisers.
  He is not seen with those who are evil.
  No one ever sees him among mockers.
Thus the godly man is known by what he does not do.

Then there are certain things that the godly man does:
He loves God's word, reads it, and feeds upon it.
He is careful to live where his life may be nourished by the streams of grace.

As a result, he is like a tree in his beauty and in his fruitfulness. Fruit is the test of Christian character.

Then the godly man's life does not wither in heat or drought. It is perennial, and lives in all kinds of weather.

Another feature of his life is that everything he does prospers—not always in worldly things—but even in his losses and trials, he is still blessed. For, "We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!" Romans 8:28

My Portion!

by James Smith, 1860

"You are my portion, O Lord!" Psalm 119:57

Many people are proud of their possessions, and boast of their wealth; yet their possessions are very limited, and their wealth has wings and may at any time flee away!

A Christian may not be proud—but he has great reason to be thankful.

He can look over the whole earth, and say, "My wealth exceeds all this!"

He can look up and gaze on the starry heavens and say, "My property exceeds this vast expanse!"

He may try to conceive of the greatness and glory of the created universe, and then say, "I claim more than all this!"

Looking up to the author, owner, and disposer of all worlds—he can say, "You are my portion, O Lord!"

What a privilege! A portion—and such a portion.
God Himself in all His greatness, and in all His goodness.
God with all He is, and all He has—is my portion!

What kind of a portion is this? It is immense, for it comprehends all.

All the attributes of the Divine nature, are for us.
All the perfections of God's character, are on our side.
All the productions of the divine power, are for our good.
Therefore the apostle says, "All things are yours!"
Nothing good is withheld from us!

What the father of the prodigal said to his eldest son—our heavenly Father says to every one of His children, "Son, you are ever with Me, and all that I have is yours!"

And we may adopt similar language in speaking to our heavenly Father, to that used by the angel to Abraham, "By this I know that You love me, because You have not withheld Your Son, Your only Son from me!" And from this fact, we may draw the same conclusion as Paul did, "He who spared not His own Son--but delivered Him up for us all, how shall he not with Him also, freely give us all things!"

O beloved, God in all the glory of His nature and perfections, God with all His unsearchable riches—is our portion!

What kind of a portion is this? It is immutable. It remains forever. Others may lose their property, or it may become deteriorated and comparatively valueless—but our portion is forever the same.

Speaking of the finest, noblest, and most durable works of creation, the Psalmist says, "In the beginning You laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain the same; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing You will change them, and they will be discarded. But You remain the same, and Your years will never end!" Psalm 102:25-27

Our portion can never be forfeited, or alienated, or reduced in value—because it is the unchangeable God!

Blessed is the man that can say with Jeremiah, "The Lord is my portion, therefore will I hope in Him!" Or with David, "The Lord is the portion of my inheritance!"

If God is my portion, then I ought to be content without any other portion. He is . . .
  enough in poverty,
  enough in persecution,
  enough in life,
  enough in death,
  enough for evermore!

If God gives me Himself--then it is more than as if He had given me the whole world, or ten thousand worlds like this! O how happy was the apostle Paul, who knowing God to be his portion could say, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in need!" Philippians 4:11-12

If God is my portion, I ought to be thankful. It is enough. There is no losing it. What dignity, what honor is conferred on the man who has God for his portion! I deserved to be stripped of everything, and to be turned out of God's presence eternally penniless, wretched, and miserable. But instead of this, God in His free grace, in His infinite mercy--gives me . . .
  a mansion,
  a city with eternal foundations,
  a kingdom; more,
  He gives me Himself!
God in all His glory, in all His grace—is mine!

If God is my portion, then I ought to be living upon Him. If I live upon anything outside of God—then I live upon what is finite, and will change. But if I live upon God, I live upon the infinite, and upon what is unchangeable. As a believer, I should live befitting the dignity of my lofty character, position, and prospects. The man of fortune ought not to live like the pauper. Just so, the Christian ought not to live like other men.

If God is my portion, I ought to be making a proper use of it. I should set my portion over and against . . .
  all my pains and privations,
  all my griefs and grievances,
  all my sadnesses and sorrows.
I should look above all my trials and troubles—and rejoice that throughout eternity, I shall have . . .
  eternal ease—instead of pain,
  eternal plenty—instead of privation,
  eternal joy—instead of grief,
  eternal gladness—instead of sadness,
  and eternal bliss—instead of sorrow!

Beloved, is the Lord your portion? Are you living upon Him as such?

But if God is not your portion—then what is?
Where are your thoughts most?
Where do your affections center?
After what do you pursue?
The world? It is a poor, perishing, unsatisfying portion! It will be found insufficient, unsatisfactory, and perishing! Unless God is your portion, you will be . . .
  unsatisfied in life,
  wretched in death, and
  indescribably miserable to all eternity!

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!" Psalm 73:26

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas: The Birth of Christ?

"She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus,
for he will save His people from their sins."
Matthew 1:21

 
When was Jesus born? Far too many Christians, when they celebrate the Christmas holiday, have erroneous and bankrupt theology (what they believe) concerning the event of Jesus' birth. For starters, many actually think that Jesus was born on December 25th. But more than that, these people get their erroneous theology from songs and dramatizations—not from the Bible.

Who Saw Jesus as a Baby?
The Bible informs us that "there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night" (Luke 2:8). They were told that they would "find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger" (Luke 2:12). So they made their way to Bethlehem "in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger" (Luke 2:16). After all of this transpired, they "went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them" (Luke 2:20). That is the end of Luke's account of the birth of Christ Jesus. Were there any other people present after His birth when He was laid in a manger? Nope.

When Did the Wise Men See Jesus?
The Bible informs us that "magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem" (Matt. 2:1) looking for the Christ. There are two things to make note of here. First, they came from the east. How many days do you suppose it would take for them to travel from the east to their destination? Second, they arrived in Jerusalem—not Bethlehem. We are told that "Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared" (Matt. 2:7), and then he "sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi" (Matt. 2:16). The magi continued following the star "until it came and stood over the place where the child was" (Matt. 2:9). The Bible informs us that "After coming into the house they saw the child with Mary His mother" (Matt. 2:11). Jesus was not lying in a manger when the wise men first saw Him; He was living in a house. He was no longer a baby; He was a child around two years old.

How Many Wise Men Were There?
We have already established that there were no wise men at the birth of Christ. But how many wise men saw Jesus when He was a child? We do not know. The Bible does not tell us. It uses the word in plural, so we know there were at least two of them, but there could have been as many as fifty. We do not know for sure. The only information that appears in three are the gifts that were presented to Jesus: "gold, frankincense, and myrrh" (Matt. 2:11). So you can toss out that song, We Three Kings.

When Was Jesus Born?
Dates for the birth of Jesus often hover around the period of 7-4 B.C. By the 4th century A.D., historians and theologians were celebrating a winter Christmas. It was not until 525 A.D. when the year of Jesus' birth was fixed by Dionysius Exiguus, who determined that Jesus was born 8 days before New Year's Day in 1 A.D. However, he was totally, utterly, and completely wrong.

According to Colin J. Humphreys in "The Star of Bethlehem—a Comet in 5 BC—and the Date of the Birth of Christ," from Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society 32, 389-407 (1991), Jesus was probably born in 5 B.C., at the time the Chinese recorded a major, new, slow-moving comet—a "sui-hsing," or star with a sweeping tail in the Capricorn region of the sky. This is the comet Humphreys believes was called the Star of Bethlehem.

Assuming the Star of Bethlehem was a comet, there were 3 possible years: 12, 5, and 4 B.C. By using the one relevant, fixed date in the Gospels, the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar (28/29 A.D.), at which time Jesus is described as being "about thirty" (Luke 3:23), 12 B.C. is too early for the date of His birth, since by 28 A.D. he would have been 40 years old. Herod the Great is generally assumed to have died in the spring of 4 B.C., but was alive when Jesus was born, which makes 4 B.C. unlikely (although possible). In addition, the Chinese do not describe the comet of 4 B.C. This leaves 5 B.C., the date Humphreys prefers. The Chinese say the comet appeared between March 9 and April 6 and lasted over 70 days (Makes sense when you consider that the magi followed it from the east, which would have been a journey of several says.).

The best known censuses of Augustus occurred in 28 and 8 B.C. and 14 A.D. However, these were for Roman citizens only. Luke 2:2 and Jewish historian Josephus refer to another census, one that was "during the governing of Syria by Quirinius" (Luke 2:2 [or Cyrenius, KJV; Gr.: Kyrenios]). This was not that census that taxed the Jews of the area, because it was later than the probable birth date of Jesus, but was likely a census for pledging allegiance to the Caesar, which Josephus dates to a year before the death of King Herod (Ant. XVII.ii.4). In addition, it is possible to translate the passage in Luke 2:2 to say it happened "before the governing of Syria by Quirinius." From all these figures, Humphreys deduces that Jesus was born between March 9 and May 4, 5 B.C. This period has the added virtue of including the year's Passover, a most propitious time for the birth of a Messiah.

Replacing "Christ" with an "X"
While December 25th has absolutely nothing to do with Christ Jesus or His birth, Christians often get upset over the fact that so many people replace the "Christ" in Christmas with an "X." Is this something we should be making a stink about, even if we choose to celebrate the birth of our Saviour on this date? Not really, and here is why. The word "Christ" in the Greek is Christos (Χριστος), which means "anointed one," and refers to the event of Jesus' baptism (Matt. 3:16-17; Mark 1:10-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-34). The Χ is the Greek letter chi. Thus, Xmas is not directly a way of secularizing the holiday (although in English we read it as an X, to cross something out, rather than the initial of the word Christos). However, Christmas was a pagan holiday long before is was "Christianized," and since it has absolutely nothing to do with the birth of Christ Jesus whatsoever, the secularizing of it really is not a big issue.

Since Christ has nothing to do with Christmas in the first place, the bandwagon crusade for "Keep Christ in Christmas" is rather shallow, empty, and vain. Let the heathen have their distorted pagan holiday where they worship their fictitious god, Satan Claus—er, I mean, Santa Claus. Think about it: Santa is depicted as being omniscient (all-knowing, knowing whether you have been bad or nice) and practically omnipotent (all-powerful; being able to get in and out of any house in order to leave gifts) and omnipresent (being everywhere at once; he can travel the entire world of 7 billion people in a single night).

If we Christians truly want a holiday specifically for remembering and celebrating Jesus' birth while also worshiping our Saviour, let us pick a date between March 9 and April 6 and petition our governments for it to be recognized as a national holiday. Let the heathen have Christmas and let us adopt a date of our own that is closer to the actual time when Jesus was born in order for us to celebrate His birth. Since there are no holidays in March (at least for Canadians), how about March 23rd? The precise middle between March 9 and April 6.

Where Does Your Christmas Theology Come From?
Here are some questions to find out how well you actually know your Bible and whether your theology comes directly from the Bible or from errors contained in songs and dramatizations.
  1. When Mary became pregnant, Mary and Joseph were:
    1. Married
    2. Engaged
    3. Just friends
    4. None of the above
  2. When Mary became pregnant,
    1. Joseph married her
    2. Joseph wanted to dissolve their relationship
    3. Mary left Nazareth for a while
    4. An angel told them to go to Bethlehem
    5. Both B and C
    6. Both B and D
  3. Who directed Mary and Joseph to go to Bethlehem?
    1. Herod
    2. Caesar
    3. An angel
    4. The IRS
  4. Joseph’s family was from
    1. Jerusalem
    2. Bethlehem
    3. Nazareth
    4. Singapore
  5. For the journey to Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph
    1. Walked
    2. Joseph walked and Mary rode a donkey
    3. Took a bus
    4. The Bible does not say
  6. Who told Joseph to name the baby Jesus?
    1. Mary
    2. The chief priests and scribes
    3. An angel of the Lord
    4. Herod the king
  7. What did the innkeeper say to Mary and Joseph?
    1. There is no room in the inn
    2. I have a stable out back where you can stay
    3. Both A and B
    4. None of the above
  8. The baby Jesus was born in a
    1. Cave
    2. Barn
    3. Manger
    4. Who knows?
  9. What animals were present at Jesus’ birth?
    1. Cows, sheep and camels
    2. Cows, sheep and donkeys
    3. Lions, tigers and bears
    4. None of the above
  10. What is a manger anyway?
    1. A small barn
    2. A feeding trough
    3. A place to store hay
    4. A Greek term for a nursery
  11. When did the baby Jesus cry?
    1. When he saw the wise men
    2. Whenever babies usually cry
    3. When the cattle started lowing
    4. No crying he makes
  12. How many angels spoke to the shepherds?
    1. A multitude
    2. One
    3. Two – Gabriel and Michael
    4. Who knows?
  13. What sign were the shepherds told to look for?
    1. A star over the stable
    2. A barn outlined in Christmas lights
    3. A baby in a manger
    4. Both A and C
  14. Just what is a ‘heavenly host’?
    1. An angelic choir
    2. The welcoming angel in heaven
    3. An army of angels
    4. None of the above
  15. What song did the angels sing?
    1. O Little Town of Bethlehem
    2. Handel’s Messiah
    3. Glory to God in the Highest
    4. None of the above
  16. Who saw the star over Bethlehem?
    1. Mary and Joseph
    2. The wise men
    3. The shepherds
    4. Both A and C
    5. None of the above
  17. How many wise men came to see Jesus?
    1. One
    2. Three
    3. Twelve
    4. The Bible does not say
  18. What in the world are Magi?
    1. Eastern kings
    2. Astrologers
    3. Magicians
    4. None of the above
  19. When the wise men brought their gifts to Jesus, they found him in
    1. A manger
    2. A church
    3. A house
    4. None of the above
  20. Christmas has always been observed
    1. On December 25
    2. At Grandma’s house
    3. On January 17
    4. None of the above
The answers are as follows: (1) b; (2) e; (3) b; (4) b; (5) d; (6) c; (7) d; (8) d; (9) d; (10) b; (11) b; (12) b; (13) c; (14) c; (15) d; (16) e; (17) d; (18) b; (19) c; (20) d.

Jesus: Did He Exist, and Who was He?

No serious scholar has ever ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus, and with good reason. History proves without a doubt that Jesus is indeed a historical figure. We will examine the extra-biblical (outside of the Bible) sources momentarily. However, the question that we need to be asking is, Who was Jesus?

Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). After Jesus spoke these words, what reaction do we see? “The Jews again took up stones that they might stone Him. Jesus answered them, I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these works are you stoning Me? The Jews answered Him, We are not stoning You for a good work, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a man, are making Yourself God” (vv. 31-33). The Jews understood very well that Jesus’ words meant that He claimed to be God. After hearing these words they wanted to stone Him to death.

Many people today, including those within Islam, claim they "respect" Jesus as a great moral teacher. However, there is a problem with this. You cannot respect Jesus. Jesus said He was God. Anyone who claims to be God—and there have been hundreds throughout history—is either a madman, a liar, or who he claims to be. There are only three options to choose from. A madman—a lunatic—does not deserve your respect; he deserves your pity. The same goes for a liar. You can either revere Him as God or reject Him as a fraud, but you do not have the option to just "respect" Him.

In his famous book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis makes this statement:
"A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg—or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us."
Either Jesus was a madman, a liar, or He was Who He said He was. If he were a madman, how did He engage in intelligent debates with His opponents or handle the stress of His betrayal and crucifixion while continuing to show a deep love for His antagonists? If Jesus were a liar, why would He die for His claim when He could easily have avoided such a cruel death with a few choice words?

Apart from the historicity of Jesus, the other thing we must consider is His death, burial, and resurrection. Non-believers will attempt to ridicule and deny this by any means possible. However, many of the historical records that prove the historicity of Jesus also contain testimonies of His crucifixion. In other words, Jesus really was put to death. Let us look at the records that prove Jesus' existence and His crucifixion:
  • Cornelius Tacitus (A.D. 55-120), Roman historian:  Most acclaimed works are the Annals and the Histories. The Annals cover the period from Augustus Caesar's death in A.D. 14 to the death of Emperor Nero in A.D. 68, while the Histories begin after Nero's death and proceed to the reign of Domitian in A.D. 96. In the Annals (XV,44), Tacitus alludes to the death of Christ and to the existence of Christians at Rome:
    "But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also."
    Christus is the Latin rendering of the Greek Christos. It is interesting that Pilate is not mentioned in any other pagan document which has survived.  It is an irony of history that the only surviving reference to him in a pagan document mentions him because of the sentence of death he passed on Jesus the Messiah.
  • Suetonius: Roman historian and court official during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian. Suetonius wrote in his Life of Claudius (25.4):
    "As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome."
    Chrestus is a misspelling of Christus. Claudius' expulsion of the Christians from Rome is mentioned in Acts 18:2.  This event took place in A.D. 49. In his work Lives of the Caesars, Suetonius also wrote:
    "Punishment by Nero was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition."
    Assuming Jesus was crucified in the early thirties, Suetonius places Christians in the Roman capital less than 20 years later and he reports that they were suffering for their faith and dying for their conviction that Jesus had really lived, died and that He had risen from the dead!
  • Pliny the Younger: Roman governor in Bithynia, A.D. 112, wrote to Emperor Trajan to seek advice as to how to treat the Christians. He recounts that he had been killing Christian men, women, and children.  He is concerned that so many have chosen death over simply bowing down to a statue of the emperor or being made to "curse Christ, which a genuine Christian cannot be induced to do" (Epistles X, 96).
  • Tallus: Tallus was a secular historian who (circa A.D. 52) wrote a history of the Eastern Mediterranean from the Trojan War to his own time. The document no longer exists but it was quoted by other writers like the Christian, Julius Africanus, who wrote around A.D. 221. He quotes Tallus' comments about the darkness that enveloped the land during the late afternoon hours when Jesus died on the cross. Julius wrote:
    "Tallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun—unreasonably, as it seems to me (unreasonably of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was at the season of the Paschal full moon that Christ died." (Chronography, 18.1)
    The importance of Tallus' comments is that the reference shows that the Gospel account of the darkness that fell across the earth during Christ's crucifixion was well known and required a naturalistic explanation from non-Christians.
  • Phlegon: Julius Africanus also quoted another secular scholar whose works are now lost. Phlegon wrote a history called Chronicles. Phlegon also comments on the darkness at the time of Christ's crucifixion:
    "During the time of Tiberius Caesar an eclipse of the sun occurred during the full moon." (Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18.1)
    The 3rd century Christian apologist Origen also references Phlegon's record of this event in his work (Celsum, 2.14, 33, 59), as does the 6th century writer Philopon (De.opif.mund. II, 21).
  • Mara Bar-Serapion: Syrian stoic philosopher who wrote a letter from prison to his son circa A.D. 70. He compares Jesus to the philosophers Socrates and Pythagoras.
  • Josephus ben Mattathias (also known as Flavius Josephus): 37-100AD, Jewish priest, general and historian.  He wrote two great works of Jewish history: The Jewish War, written in the early 70's and Jewish Antiquities, which was finished about A.D. 94. In his work, Jewish Antiquities, there is a passage that has created heated debate among scholars for many decades (XVIII, 33):
    "Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day."
  • Lucian of Samosate: Greek satirist later half of 2nd century spoke scornfully of Christ and the Christians but never argued that Jesus never existed (The Death of Peregrine, 11-13):
    "The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day—the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account..."
    He even said:
    "(Christ was) the man who was crucified in Palestine"
  • The Babylonian Talmud: References to the history of Jesus in the Talmud do not question that Jesus Christ existed.
    "It has been taught:  On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu.  And an announcer went out, in front of him, for 40 days (saying): 'He is going to be stoned, because he practiced sorcery and enticed and led Israel astray.  Anyone who knows anything in his favor, let him come and plead in his behalf.' But, not having found anything in his favor, they hanged him on the eve of Passover." (Sanhedrin 43a; df.t.Sanh. 10:11; y. Sanh. 7:12; Tg. Esther 7:9)
    Another version of this text reads: "Yeshu the Nazarene." Yeshu (or Yehoshua) is Hebrew (or Aramaic) for Jesus—in English this name is also translated "Joshua." The Old Testament hero bore the same name as Jesus the Messiah. "Hanged" is another way of referring to a crucifixion; see Luke 23:39 and Galatians 3:13.
    The issue the Talmud quarrels with is not with whether or not Jesus existed, but with the Christian belief in Jesus' virgin birth. It records (not surprisingly) that He was born under shameful circumstances:
    "R. Shimeon ben Azzai said [concerning Jesus]: 'I found a genealogical roll in Jerusalem wherein was recorded, Such-an-one is a bastard of an adulteress'" (b.Yebamoth 49a; m Yebam. 4:13)
    In another passage we are told that Mary, "who was the descendant of princes and governors, played the harlot with carpenters" (b. Sanh. 106a). In another passage we find:
    "His mother was Miriam, a women's hairdresser.  As they say, ...'this one strayed from her husband'" (b. Sabb. 104b).
  • The Amoa "Ulla": Ulla was a disciple of Youchanan and lived in Palestine at the end of the third century. He wrote:
    "And do you suppose that for (Yeshu of Nazareth—Jesus) there was any right of appeal? He was a beguiler, and the Merciful One hath said: 'Thou shalt not spare neither shalt thou conceal him.' It is otherwise with Yeshu, for He was near to the civil authority."
*Note: The writers of the Talmud took their job seriously. These men were Jews who did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah.  They were not Christians, but they documented Christ's crucifixion. Flavius Josephus was a professional historian who took his job seriously as well. He researched his work before publishing it. These Roman men were professional historians. They also researched their work before publishing it. They also documented Christ's crucifixion.

Apart from all these extra-biblical sources, we know that Jesus' resurrection is a historical fact because He was seen by over 500 eye-witnesses. If none of this were true in the least, nobody—and I do mean nobody—would stake their lives on it and go to their grave asserting that it was true. They would have to be mentally insane to do such. The excuse of "mass hysteria" fails drastically in the face of reality. If people know something to be a complete and utter lie, they will not put their lives on the line and endure unspeakable persecutions just to insist that it is true. Furthermore, if it was nothing but a farce, a scam, a lie, why—after these people were persecuted and put to death—did more people convert and follow it? This is the historical testimony of the church; where the church is persecuted, it sees great growth. Why? If you witnessed your friends, family, co-workers, and other people you do not know being persecuted and put to death for holding a particular belief that you do not hold to, logically and with great common sense, are you seriously going to start believing what they believed? Highly unlikely!

All of this just brings us back to the original inquiry: Who was Jesus? Either He was a madman, a liar, or He was Who He said He was. If He was Who He said He was, then we are faced with a great problem and ought to respond accordingly.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Types of Apologetics

Classical Apologetics: This refers to the defense of the faith using rational arguments for the existence of God, and may use evidence to substantiate biblical claims and miracles.  It is very similar to evidential apologetics. A couple of the arguments typically used for the existence of God are the cosmological argument—an attempt to prove God's existence by stating that there has to be an uncaused cause of all things—and the teleological argument—the use of the analogy of design; since the universe and life exhibit marks of design, there must be a Designer.

Comparative Apologetics: While no such category of apologetics actually exists (at least not formally), this refers to the defense of the faith through comparative religions and comparative worldviews. You cannot divorce religion and worldview from each other, otherwise you concede the whole battle to the unbeliever. Christianity shows itself to be superior to all other worldviews in four different categories: philosophy, ideology, comparative religion, and counter-cults.
  • Ideology: Ideologies attempt to transform society. Christianity is not an ideology (although some of its eternal ideas do transform society,  they transcend such change in terms of their source, scope and ultimate end). Philosophical movements that qualify as ideologies are: Behaviorism, Secular Humanism, Darwinism, Marxism, Feminism, Freudianism and National Socialism.
  • Comparative Religion: While this would technically include the other two categories as well, for simplicity we will only include world religions. A world religion is a religion that has been around since the dawn of current world civilizations, and that has shaped civilization in one way or another. This would include: Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Shintoism, Taoism and Orthodox Judaism.
  • Counter-cults: Under the term "cult," we typically place the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Oneness Pentecostals, Roman Catholic Church, Seventh Day Adventists, Word-of-Faith Movement, and adherents to Scientology. Walter Martin once put it this way: “The average non-Christian cult owes its very existence to the fact that it has utilized the terminology of Christianity, has borrowed liberally from the Bible (almost always out of context), and sprinkled its format with evangelical clichés and terms wherever possible or advantageous.”1 The distinction could not be made any better than that.
The boundaries between these are arbitrary since they are all religions.

Evidential Apologetics: This refers to the defense of the faith by use of evidence to prove the existence of God, the authenticity of the Bible, the uniqueness of Christ Jesus, the factual nature of the resurrection, and anything else in the history of the church where skeptics cry some sort of cover-up. In other words, one need not presuppose the existence of God. This defense often consists of any or all of the following categories:
  • Archaeological Evidence
  • Biblical Evidence
  • Empirical Evidence: (based on the five senses, which could logically include several of the other categories)
  • Historical Evidence
  • Scientific Evidence
Typically, evidential apologetics argues for the defense of the faith solely by use of any or all of these categories except biblical evidence, thereby giving up one's authority—the Bible—and undermining one's own position. If one is not careful, one can reduce apologetics, and thus Christianity, to a list of facts and figures that do nothing but ‘educate’ a person. Reason could be given too much importance. Individuals who argue solely from external evidence often do so because their opponent has used the fallacious argument, "You cannot use the Bible to prove the Bible." That is illogical. I am sorry, but if I state that the President of the USA lives in the White House, how can I prove to you that he does live in the White House if you will not allow me to look in the window to show you that he does indeed live in the White House? This is where presuppositional apologetics comes in.

Presuppositional Apologetics: This refers to the defense of the faith by presupposing that the Bible is absolutely true. It presupposes the existence of God, the authenticity of the Bible, the uniqueness of Christ Jesus, the factual nature of the resurrection, etc. The Bible, then, is held to be the ultimate authority, while all other evidences (archaeological, empirical, historical, and scientific) merely help support the Bible's authenticity. External evidence can be and often is used, but the Bible is always maintained to be absolutely true as the final authority on all matters of life.


1 Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, 30.

Opinions

"Everyone has and is allowed to have their own opinion. However, whenever fact enters the playing field, opinion is rendered irrelevant and must bow to fact. Opinion only matters with regard to likes and dislikes; e.g., what the best colour in the world is. Opinion is merely personal preference and is no contender against fact." —Me
The next time someone tries arguing that something is just "your opinion," remember my above words. Opinion is merely personal preference and only matters in the realm of personal likes and dislikes; where a thing cannot possibly be proven. I like the colour blue, and so it is very much my opinion when I say that blue is the greatest colour in the world, because it cannot be proven in the least. Someone else will say red is the greatest colour in the world, and that is their opinion. Opinions are not things with which to fight about; they are not hills to die on!

I could say apples are the best fruit in the world and someone else could say that oranges are. Now, if we were arguing about which is the healthiest fruit, we could indeed determine through science which fruit truly is the healthiest. Doing so would be introducing fact, which would make any opinion on what the healthiest fruit is irrelevant. But in regard to what you or I consider to be the best fruit (based solely on what we prefer over all the others), they are just opinions.

With that said, opinions are personal preferences but personal preferences are not opinions—especially where morality and what is right and wrong are concerned. I might prefer to use a quarterstaff to a gun, but preferring the one over the other is not an opinion. Saying that one is better than the other is an opinion, unless why you are saying it is better is qualified (e.g., it is better for killing, it is better for hunting, it is better for self-defense). 

Opinion has nothing to do with biblical interpretation, so someone arguing "That's your interpretation" is merely attempting to use it as a synonym for "That's your opinion." My interpretation can either be right or it can be wrong! It cannot be treated as though it is merely an opinion, because it is not!

Too many people are tossing the phrase "That's your opinion" around, ignorant as to what an opinion actually is, attempting to re-define the word "opinion." That is one of the things that irritates me the most about post-modern society. Everyone is ignorant of the fact that words have meanings, and they attempt to re-define just about every word they use. Thus, for every individual, all these words mean different things. It makes communicating difficult, if not impossible. When you learn about amelioration (words that used to have negative meanings but now have positive meanings), pejoration (words that used to have positive meanings but now have negative meanings), and contronyms (also spelled contranyms; words that have contradictory meanings), you really understand why English is the most difficult language in the world to learn. As an example, the word "brave" use to mean something negative, pretty much the opposite of what it means to us today. It makes you wonder about those who have picked up ancient books and read them, understanding the words they used by the definitions we have today. Words like unicorn. I mean, what will post-modern children think of when they are watching The Flintstones and in the theme song they hear, "We'll have a gay old time"? What about when they see the title of the movie The Gay Divorcee?

If ignorance is bliss, then most of these people must be living in paradise. Learn what an opinion is and quit using the word incorrectly!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Ten Things I Wish Homosexuals Knew About the Truth

This blog entry is in response to this erroneous and asinine posting found on the Internet:

  1. In Jesus' teachings, He upheld heterosexuality as the only moral standard with which all human relationships are to be gauged by and engaged in. Anyone who has paid attention in the least to His teachings will know that Jesus referred his hearers back to "the beginning" of creation and informed them that this was the standard with which to live by: "He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'" (Matt. 19:4-5). He then added that what "God has joined together, let no man separate" (Matt. 19:6). Paul followed Jesus' teachings to the letter and did the same thing. The Bible upholds this standard on every page.
  2. You are not being "persecuted" when you are told matter-of-factly that what you are doing is a perversion of both human and sexual nature. Turning around and attempting to silence us by trying to force us to accept your perversion through misuse of the law is persecution, however.
  3. Truth is intrinsic. Because God is the same "yesterday and today and forever" (Heb. 13:8), He "does not change" (Ps. 15:4). His Word does not change either because He and His Word are one. His words are a reflection and extension of Himself and His holiness. What was condemned under the Old Testament (Lev. 18:22; 20:13) is also condemned under the New Testament (Rom. 1:26-27). The stoning of homosexuals under the Old Testament was to show just how much God hates this perversion (just as He hates all sin [see Ps. 7:11; 11:5; Prov. 16:5]), but it was all an outward example of what God expected internally. We were to be killing sin at its core, within us, and living out the law internally—not merely externally. Under the New Testament, we are no longer to stone such individuals, because Jesus already suffered for their sins, but to love them in spite of their sin and preach the Gospel to them so that they might repent and be saved. While many things changed or ceased from the Old Testament to the New Testament, anything repeated in the New Testament still stands for us today. The standard of heterosexuality is upheld throughout the entire New Testament and leaves no room for homosexuality. The prohibition against it has not changed.
  4. You have always had the same rights that every other human being has ever had. You cannot ask for the right of marriage because that right does not apply to you. It is a right that belongs specifically and solely to one man and one woman being united together as one in holy matrimony. Anything less than this is not a marriage, regardless of the civil laws that might be passed. Civil law does not overrule God's Law. Whenever civil law contradicts God's Law, it is to be ignored and abhorred.
  5. It is no longer your personal lifestyle choice when you are trying to force others to accept your perverted practices as "normal" when they are completely and utterly unnatural to both human and sexual nature. The Bible proves it; science proves it; nature proves it; and both logic and common sense prove it. Everyone can have their own opinion about something, but once fact enters the playing field opinion becomes irrelevant. If you want to engage in sinful behaviour behind closed doors, that is your choice. It is still wrong and I will tell you that it is wrong. But when you try and force me to accept it as "normal" behaviour, that is my choice.
  6. Marriage is a divine institute. It was created and ordained by God. God defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman for life. God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Gen. 2:18), and He created a suitable mate and helper for him, which was woman—someone who was similar to him (being of the same species) but different from him (being of the opposite gender). He goes on to say, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). How else could they obey the mandate to "Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28)?
  7. If you feel the need to try and force 98% of the population into accepting and approving of your perverted sin in an attempt to try and silence your screaming conscience, it should be a major red warning sign that what you are choosing to participate in is not natural, nor is it normal, and that you are lost and headed straight to hell unless you repent.
  8. To condemn homosexuality as the sinful practice it is (along with pornography, rape, pedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia, lying, theft, murder, etc., etc.), one only needs to read their Bible and take God at His word. The Golden Rule of Hermeneutics states, "If the plain sense makes common sense, seek no other sense." The Direct Statement Principle of Hermeneutics states, "God says what He means and means what He says." The language of Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, and Romans 1:26-27 is pretty crystal clear and unmistakeable. Even a child understands what they are saying.
  9. Homosexuality and slavery have nothing in common. Homosexuals have never had any rights stolen from them. You cannot compare homosexuality to slavery. This is a false comparison. Homosexuality is not an ethnic minority. Homosexuals have never been bought and sold in America; they have never been denied the right to vote; there are no gay and straight classrooms or drinking fountains; and they have always had the right to hold property and participate in the political process. Homosexuals have always had the same rights all Americans have had. The same sure cannot be said about African-Americans.
  10. When Jesus forbade judging, He was talking about condemning a person in the legal sense, for He goes on to tell us that "You will know them by their fruits" (Matt. 7:16, 20), implying that we are to judge within a certain standard. Any first-year Bible student who looks up the Greek word translated in Matthew 7:1 will know this. Furthermore, if we look at what the rest of the Bible has to say, the Christian is told that he has the right to judge—just not those outside of the church because God will judge them on Judgment Day (see 1 Cor. 5 & 6).

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Does Archaeology Support the Bible?

by Bryant Wood for Archaeology and the Bible

Over the years there have been many criticisms leveled against the Bible concerning its historical reliability. These criticisms are usually based on a lack of evidence from outside sources to confirm the Biblical record. Since the Bible is a religious book, many scholars take the position that it is biased and cannot be trusted unless we have corroborating evidence from extra-Biblical sources. In other words, the Bible is guilty until proven innocent, and a lack of outside evidence places the Biblical account in doubt.

This standard is far different from that applied to other ancient documents, even though many, if not most, have a religious element. They are considered to be accurate, unless there is evidence to show that they are not. Although it is not possible to verify every incident in the Bible, the discoveries of archaeology since the mid-1800s have demonstrated the reliability and plausibility of the Bible narrative.

Here are some examples:
    Clay Tablet, Ebla. Photo copyrighted.
  1. Clay Tablet, Ebla. Photo copyrighted.The discovery of the Ebla archive in northern Syria in the 1970s has shown the Biblical writings concerning the Patriarchs to be viable. Documents written on clay tablets from around 2300 B.C. demonstrate that personal and place names in the Patriarchal accounts are genuine. The name “Canaan” was in use in Ebla, a name critics once said was not used at that time and was used incorrectly in the early chapters of the Bible. The word tehom (“the deep”) in Genesis 1:2 was said to be a late word demonstrating the late writing of the creation story. “Tehom” was part of the vocabulary at Ebla, in use some 800 years before Moses. Ancient customs reflected in the stories of the Patriarchs have also been found in clay tablets from Nuzi and Mari.
  2. The Hittites were once thought to be a Biblical legend, until their capital and records were discovered at Bogazkoy, Turkey.
  3. Many thought the Biblical references to Solomon's wealth were greatly exaggerated. Recovered records from the past show that wealth in antiquity was concentrated with the king and Solomon's prosperity was entirely feasible.
  4. It was once claimed there was no Assyrian king named Sargon as recorded in Isaiah 20:1, because this name was not known in any other record. Then, Sargon's palace was discovered in Khorsabad, Iraq. The very event mentioned in Isaiah 20, his capture of Ashdod, was recorded on the palace walls. What is more, fragments of a stela memorializing the victory were found at Ashdod itself.
  5. Another king who was in doubt was Belshazzar, king of Babylon, named in Daniel 5. The last king of Babylon was Nabonidus according to recorded history. Tablets were found showing that Belshazzar was Nabonidus' son who served as coregent in Babylon. Thus, Belshazzar could offer to make Daniel “third highest ruler in the kingdom” (Dan. 5:16) for reading the handwriting on the wall, the highest available position. Here we see the “eye-witness” nature of the Biblical record, as is so often brought out by the discoveries of archaeology.
HAVE ARCHAEOLOGISTS FOUND ANY MAN-MADE STRUCTURES MENTIONED IN THE BIBLE?
  1. The base of the Tower of Babel in Babylon where language was confused (Genesis 11:1-9).
  2. The palace at Jericho where Eglon, king of Moab, was assassinated by Ehud (Judges 3:15-30).
  3. The east gate of Shechem where Gaal and Zebul watched the forces of Abimelech approach the city (Judges 9:34-38).
  4. The Temple of Baal/El-Berith in Shechem, where funds were obtained to finance Abimelech's kingship, and where the citizens of Shechem took refuge when Abimelech attacked the city (Judges 9:4, 46-49).
  5. The pool of Gibeon where the forces of David and Ishbosheth fought during the struggle for the kingship of Israel (2 Samuel 2:12-32).
  6. The Pool of Heshbon, likened to the eyes of the Shulammite woman (Song of Songs 7:4).
  7. The royal palace at Samaria where the kings of Israel lived (1 Kings 20:43; 21:1, 2; 22:39; 2 Kings 1:2; 15:25).
  8. The Pool of Samaria where King Ahab's chariot was washed after his death (1 Kings 22:29-38).
  9. The water tunnel beneath Jerusalem dug by King Hezekiah to provide water during the Assyrian siege (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chronicles 32:30).
  10. The royal palace in Babylon where King Belshazzar held the feast and Daniel interpreted the handwriting on the wall (Daniel 5).
  11. The royal palace in Susa where Esther was queen of the Persian king Xerxes (Esther 1:2; 2:3, 5, 9, 16).
  12. The royal gate at Susa where Mordecai, Esther's cousin, sat (Esther 2:19, 21; 3:2, 3; 4:2; 5:9, 13; 6:10, 12).
  13. The Square in front of the royal gate at Susa where Mordecai met with Halthach, Xerxes' eunuch (Esther 4:6).
  14. The foundation of the synagogue at Capernaum where Jesus cured a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:21-28) and delivered the sermon on the bread of life (John 6:25-59).
  15. The house of Peter at Capernaum where Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law and others (Matthew 8:14-16).
  16. Jacob's well where Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman (John 4).
  17. The Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, where Jesus healed a crippled man (John 5:1-14).
  18. The Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where Jesus healed a blind man (John 9:1-4).
  19. The tribunal at Corinth where Paul was tried (Acts 18:12-17).
  20. The theater at Ephesus where the riot of silversmiths occurred (Acts 19:29).
  21. Herod's palace at Caesarea where Paul was kept under guard (Acts 23:33-35).
IS THERE ANY CONFIRMATION OF BIBLICAL EVENTS FROM WRITTEN SOURCES OUTSIDE THE BIBLE?
Sumerian King List. Photo copyrighted.The most documented Biblical event is the world-wide Flood described in Genesis 6-9. A number of Babylonian documents have been discovered which describe the same Flood.

The Sumerian King List (pictured here), for example, lists kings who reigned for long periods of time. Then a great Flood came. Following the Flood, Sumerian kings ruled for much shorter periods of time. This is the same pattern found in the Bible. Men had long life spans before the Flood and shorter life spans after the Flood. The 11th tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic speaks of an ark, animals taken on the ark, birds sent out during the course of the Flood, the ark landing on a mountain, and a sacrifice offered after the ark landed.

The Story of Adapa tells of a test for immortality involving food, similar to the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Sumerian tablets record the confusion of language as we have in the Biblical account of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). There was a golden age when all mankind spoke the same language. Speech was then confused by the god Enki, lord of wisdom. The Babylonians had a similar account in which the gods destroyed a temple tower and “scattered them abroad and made strange their speech.”

More examples of extra-Biblical confirmation of Biblical events
  1. Campaign into Israel by Pharaoh Shishak (1 Kings 14:25-26), recorded on the walls of the Temple of Amun in Thebes, Egypt.
  2. Revolt of Moab against Israel (2 Kings 1:1; 3:4-27), recorded on the Mesha Inscription.
  3. Fall of Samaria (2 Kings 17:3-6, 24; 18:9-11) to Sargon II, king of Assyria, as recorded on his palace walls.
  4. Defeat of Ashdod by Sargon II (Isaiah 20:1), as recorded on his palace walls.
  5. Campaign of the Assyrian king Sennacherib against Judah (2 Kings 18:13-16), as recorded on the Taylor Prism.
  6. Siege of Lachish by Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:14, 17), as recorded on the Lachish reliefs.
  7. Assassination of Sennacherib by his own sons (2 Kings 19:37), as recorded in the annals of his son Esarhaddon.
  8. Fall of Nineveh as predicted by the prophets Nahum and Zephaniah (2:13-15), recorded on the Tablet of Nabopolasar.
  9. Fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-14), as recorded in the Babylonian Chronicles.
  10. Captivity of Jehoiachin, king of Judah, in Babylon (2 Kings 24:15-16), as recorded on the Babylonian Ration Records.
  11. Fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians (Daniel 5:30-31), as recorded on the Cyrus Cylinder.
  12. Freeing of captives in Babylon by Cyrus the Great (Ezra 1:1-4; 6:3-4), as recorded on the Cyrus Cylinder.
  13. The existence of Jesus Christ as recorded by Josephus, Suetonius, Thallus, Pliny the Younger, the Talmud, and Lucian.
  14. Forcing Jews to leave Rome during the reign of Claudius (A.D. 41-54) (Acts 18:2), as recorded by Suetonius.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bad Science We Have Been Taught



This diagram is what we have been taught for decades in our schools with regard to the makeup of planet Earth. However, it is highly speculative and theoretical, not based on a single shred of scientific evidence. Why do I say this? Let us examine the facts:

Earth radius is the distance from the Earth's center to its surface. This distance has been calculated to be approximately 6,371 km (3,959 mi). Please take note of the distances recorded on the above diagram (or any other diagram you encounter).

Located within the Arctic Circle, in the Northwest corner of Russia, is the deepest hole ever drilled into the Earth. Soviet scientists began drilling the hole in 1970, eventually reaching a depth of 12,262 m (40,230 ft) in 1989. The Soviets wanted to bore through the Earth's crust and into the upper mantle, though no one knew what would happen. Fears of unleashing seismic disaster upon the world, or even demons from hell, proved to be unfounded. The project was abandoned due to temperatures in excess of 177C (350F), which allowed rock to flow back into the borehole.

How thick is the Earth's crust? According to this diagram, it's 5 to 50 km. Other people have said, "The thickness of the Earth's crust is not equal in all areas. The average thickness is 20-25 miles, but there are places where the Earth's crust is 45-47 miles thick." How do we know this? The deepest hole ever drilled into the Earth's crust is 12.262 km (7.62 mi, when rounded up). Ergo, this information is speculative theory—not science.

Nobody has ever come to, or seen, the edge of the Earth's crust. The mantle, outer core, and inner core are just made up. Nobody has ever seen them. Furthermore, nobody has ever seen what the Earth is made out of. For all we know, the center of the Earth could be made out of cream cheese. The deepest distance ever drilled is not even 1/500th of the Earth radius. Our science textbooks are filled with speculations that have no evidence to support them and lies not based on scientific observation. Here are some other lies taught in our science textbooks:
  1. "Stalactites take millions of years to form." If this is true, why do we have them growing in the basements of older houses?
  2. "Petrification takes millions of years to occur." If this is true, why do we have modern-day petrified items?
Any time you see the words "million(s)" or "billion(s)," you can know that it is speculative theory based on the random guesswork of numbers, rather than on actual scientific observation and factual evidence. Pay attention to the world around us and get your information from it—not from erroneous and falsified textbooks.

Addendum: I have talked with individuals who have attempted to tell me that "science does not attempt to prove or disprove anything." If this is the case, then you had better never go see a doctor ever again in your entire life, and you might want to avoid going to the gas station to fill your vehicle with gasoline because this time it might be chocolate milk you fill it with. Science has proven and disproven many things, but, contrary to what many have falsely been led to believe, science cannot provide an answer for everything. I have even talked with individuals who have attempted to suggest that going "beyond science" is somehow science, which it clearly is not. Imagination is not science. For those ignorant individuals who agree with the two false arguments contained in this paragraph, might I suggest you educate yourself as to What Is "Science" and "Scientific Method"? And for those ignorant individuals who ignorantly refer to a "consensus" among scientists regarding certain beliefs, there are two quotations by Michael Crichton in that article that you might want to pay close attention to: "There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Truth Concerning Galileo

Have you ever heard the argument that "Galileo was persecuted by the church for teaching that the Earth was spherical and not flat"? Guess what? It is a lie. It never happened. It is a myth. One perpetuated by complete and utter ignorance.

What is the real story?

A few hundred years ago, the majority of the people still believed that the Earth was the center of the universe and that the sun orbited the Earth. This was the view of the Roman Catholic Church as well throughout the life of astronomer Galileo, from 1564 to 1642.

During the period of the Renaissance, there was an explosion in the understanding of our universe. This was the case with the field of astronomy. People began to question the Earth-centered model of our universe due to new scientific observations. Aristarchus, around 270 B.C., was the earliest person to suggest a sun-centered solar system. However, the theory remained largely unexplored for over a millennium, despite there being good evidence to support it.

In 1543, Copernicus published his studies, pushing the sun-centered theory forward. Aware of the hostile reaction that was inevitable to result from the Roman Catholic Church, he wrote a disclaimer stating that his studies were purely mathematical and included a dedication to the Pope.

In the early 17th century, Galileo, at the cutting edge of human understanding, took things further through telescopic observations and published a work on the planetary orbits. The Roman Catholic Church brought their full force down on the apparently "heretical" Galileo when they discovered his work. In 1615, the Roman Catholic Church forced Galileo to denounce his findings and to never teach what he had discovered. Nearly 20 years later, in 1633, Galileo again published his findings on the observed orbits of the planets. Once again, the Roman Catholic Church got up in arms. Galileo offered to show them evidence, but they refused to look through his telescope, fearing that the devil could create illusions with such an instrument. In order to avoid being burnt at the stake, Galileo once again denounced his own work and was placed under house arrest by the Roman Catholic Church for the rest of his life. He was even afforded a decent lifestyle while under house arrest. He was never actually persecuted, other than being forced to denounce his findings.

In 1992, the Roman Catholic Church, through Pope John Paul II, made a formal apology to Galileo and withdrew their accusations of heresy, agreeing that, yes, the Earth does indeed revolve around the sun. While being rather late, it is impossible to withdraw accusations against a person once they are dead. It does little for him now.

You can look this information up for yourself anywhere. These are the historical events that transpired. It had nothing to do with the Earth being flat. Like most lies that people believe in their blissful ignorance, this one has been repeated loud enough, long enough, and often enough. If a person with a degree perpetuates the lie, people think, "Well, he's got a degree so he must know what he's talking about." People need to learn to do their homework and do their own research rather than regurgitating the same spoon-fed nonsense they have heard others say. The problem with education is that it merely teaches you to think and believe the way your teachers think and believe; it never teaches you to actually think for yourself.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Dead to Sin: One Step at a Time

I read an article earlier this week written by a self-professed alcoholic who argues for the fact that alcoholism is not a disease. In fact, I read several articles on this precise topic, even written by legitimate psychologists who are fed up with the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) labeling alcoholism (and obesity, and many other non-disease issues) as a disease. This particular article got me thinking about the Christian's position and how they are told to "consider yourselves to be dead to sin" (Rom. 6:11) and "do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts" (Rom. 6:12). Here is part of what that article had to say:
Is alcoholism really a disease?
Speaking of alcoholism in these terms makes it difficult to accept certain claims we have all heard declaring that it is a disease. Alcoholism is certainly related to psychopathology, but does this necessarily make alcoholism a disease? I do not believe that it does. Almost any human behavior or habit, positive or negative, could likely be linked to pathology. Alcoholism is, if anything, the symptom or sign of a greater problem. There may be myriad conscious and unconscious thoughts running through our minds, each guided by conflicting impulses and inhibitions, creating confusion and leading us to act contrary to our own best interests, but when it comes right down to it an alcoholic knows that it is a bad idea to pick up a bottle of Jack Daniels and start drinking. You know that it will lead you down a path of misery and devastation, but you crave it. You crave the pain and the desperation, you crave the bitter void that you know awaits you. Perhaps it could be argued that this very craving is evidence of disease and indeed it is a convincing argument, but it does not necessarily follow that alcoholism is itself a disease. The question still remains: if you know that what you are doing is destructive, if you are staring directly into a black abyss and choosing to follow it, then are you not in total control of your actions? On a daily basis there are a thousand things we might be driven to do by pathological lines of thought, but we still wouldn't grab a loaded magnum and start picking off our co-workers. Only a psychotic would do something like that! Are alcoholics psychotics? I'm sure there are some cases in which they are, but most of us are just using this disease thing as another way of feeling sorry for ourselves.
As an alcoholic, I think that it is important for people to comprehend that disease is not the issue. Labeling alcoholism as a disease provides a new source of denial for addicts: instead of forcing the addict to admit that she controls her own behavior and is fully accountable for the results of that behavior, the idea of disease allows the addict to deny a certain level of control and use that denial as an excuse to continue destructive behavioral patterns. It is certainly true that alcoholics reach a point at which they are out of control, but they allow themselves to lose control. The very urge to drink comes from the desire to lose control and in most cases it is a fully conscious decision. Alcoholism is something that appeals to a particular personality and to a particular psychology. It is not a disease, but a self accepted path to destruction. The alcoholic loathes himself and all those around him and so he loses himself in a haze of drug induced oblivion. Unconscious factors may play a role, but it is still a conscious choice. Only if the alcoholic can come to accept responsibility for his own deterioration, can he begin to deconstruct the lies he has told himself about his addiction and possibly even dig his way out of the debris.
You see, it is quite simple. A disease is something that happens to you. Not something you do to yourself. Alcoholism and obesity are the results of bad choices, but choices none the less. By providing an excuse for alcoholism and obesity, you take that choice away. Our society has become too much of an enabler for various people these days (including homosexuals). It offers up excuses left, right, and center instead of dealing with the real issues at hand. They do not want people to take responsibility for the repercussions of their own actions, but instead want to provide them with an excuse to blame it on anyone or anything else. The same is found within the Christian circle.

Far too many Christians grab Romans 7 and use it as an excuse for not living up to what the rest of Scripture clearly commands on every page. Study it some time. Read carefully from Matthew through Jude and note everything it says about how the Christian is to live and conduct himself/herself; every command, every declarative statement. Also take note of the passages where it is dealing with a mixed group of genuine converts and false converts (which Jesus illustrated, on several occasions, would be the reality), such as much of 1 Corinthians. These Christians pull Romans 7 out of its context in order to find "another way of feeling sorry for" themselves. Using Romans 7 in this way "provides a new source of denial for" those who do not want to rise to the Saviour's standards. Often times, it is because they have a pet sin they do not really want to discard, even though the Bible tells them that "Everyone who names the name of Christ is to depart from unrighteousness" (2 Timothy 2:19).

The Christian "controls his/her own behaviour and is fully accountable for the results of that behaviour." Until the Christian "accepts responsibility for his/her own deterioration, can he/she begin to deconstruct the lies he/she has told himself/herself about" the Christian life and their position in regard to sin.

You see, I believe the reason why most Christians read what Romans 6 and 8 say (as well as the rest of the New Testament) and then try to argue and make excuses using Romans 7 in an attempt to back them up is because they look at it either as being instantaneous (where you will never sin again and never have to worry about temptation ever) or they are too focused on the future (of being sinless) instead of dealing with the present. Both of these are wrong views and understandings of what it means to be "dead to sin."

When you wake up, until you fall asleep, your day is filled with a series of choices. Temptations will come to your mind (your thoughts) and to your flesh (your behaviour) repeatedly throughout the day. Never the less, you make the choice whether you will submit to those temptations and act upon them, or whether you will resist those temptations and refrain from acting upon them. "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it" (1 Cor. 10:13). "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death" (James 1:14-15).

When wrongful thoughts come to your mind, you know in that instant it is wrong to entertain them, but you have the choice as to whether you will do so or not. To argue and say you have no such choice is to say you are powerless to sin, which is to say that Christ's death, burial, and resurrection were ineffective in dealing with sin. Both of these are lies. Likewise, when you act without thinking (or rather, without thinking clearly), right in that exact moment you know what you did (or are about to do) is wrong. If the action has not yet been committed, you can change the course thereof and set your mind on proper things (Phil. 4:8). However, if the action has been committed, you can apologize and ask for forgiveness, because you know what you just did was wrong. We tend not to do this because of our stubborn pride, which only serves to increase the severity of the sin we have just committed.

As Christians, we need to be living in the present while hoping for the future. We need to deal with temptations that will befall us one at a time. Every time we resist a temptation to sin, we earn a victory. The power is ours through the Holy Spirit Whom has been given to us by Christ Jesus. How else would you take these words?: "so we too might walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4); "our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin" (Rom. 6:6); "he who has died is freed from sin" (Rom. 6:7); "consider yourselves to be dead to sin" (Rom. 6:11); "do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts" (Rom. 6:12); "do not go on presenting the members of your body as instruments of unrighteousness" (Rom. 6:13); "sin shall not be master over you" (Rom. 6:14); "having been freed from sin" (Rom. 6:18, 22); "so now present your members as slaves to righteousness" (Rom. 6:19); everything in Romans 8:1-14; "walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16); "those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal. 5:24); "If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit" (Gal. 5:25). These are commands and declarative statements.

Romans 8:24-25 is a blessing for the Christian: "For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it." We will not achieve sinless perfection in this life, but we hope for it and we strive to attain it one victory at a time. Yes, we will fail and we will fall, but we are not defeated. Take each temptation in its own time. A person growing in Christ-likeness will see more and more victories as they try to be like Him. If you are not seeing more and more victories, or you are simply not seeing any victories whatsoever, then perhaps there is a deeper root issue that needs to be dealt with—like your salvation. The Bible even says that God "is able to keep you from stumbling" (Jude 24). It also says "as long as you practice these things, (the things found in verses 5-8) you will never stumble" (2 Pet. 1:10).

Look at all the examples Paul provides for us. For example, the athlete running the race. It requires perseverance, endurance, and dedication. Who are you dedicated to? Yourself? or the Saviour? If you are dedicated to the Saviour, you are going to take your walk seriously and put forth your very best effort. With your own desires in life, you set the bar high and attain to reach that goal. How is it that concerning your spiritual life, where the bar is already set for us, you want to set that bar much lower and not even try to attain it? Which is more important? Which is more beneficial? If you do not put any effort into your walk, what does that say about you? Something to think about.

The fact is, if you belong to Christ Jesus, you are dead to sin and should consider yourself as such (positionally and practically). Take each temptation that befalls you one at a time. Make the right choices and resist those temptations. Do not focus on the sin. Do not focus on your victories. Do not focus on your failures. Focus on the Saviour. As Robert Murray M'Cheyne said, "For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ." The Bible repeatedly tells us to set our minds on better things, on things above. We need to change the way we think. Become dead to sin one step at a time.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Why the Church Should NOT Re-think "Gay Marriage"

Our society is attempting to manipulate the word "marriage" in order to make it sound like "gay marriage" is plausible. More and more, people are beginning to lose their sense of right and wrong, get on this wicked bandwagon, and buy into this perverted distortion. Nathan Hoffman explained it well:
Separating man and woman from marriage is like separating sodium and chloride. Remove either chemical from the equation and it’s not salt anymore. It’s lost its saltiness and is good for nothing. Remove either man or woman from the equation of marriage, and it’s not marriage. Calling it “gay marriage” is like having a water bottle filled with nothing but oxygen and calling it water. Sorry, but you’re missing part of the equation.
—Nathan Hoffman
I do not think I could have said it any better myself. Nathan Hoffman has it straight to the point. As Eric Hovind said, "Redefining 'marriage' to include 'gay' is like redefining 'circle' to include 'square.' It does not work. It is attempting to change the entire concept of marriage. When we leave the absolute standard set forth by God’s Word, we are in big trouble."

There is nothing for the church to re-think in regard to this perverted distortion known as "gay marriage." God has repeatedly said "No" to same-sex relations. They are a perverse distortion of the absolute standard set by God for all men and all women; that "man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). There are no exceptions! What God has called wicked and perverse, we do not have the right to attempt to call "good." God has forbid it, it is forbidden, end of argument.

One of the many problems that arise is when this issue hits close to home. All of a sudden people forget themselves and lose their intelligence and start trying to defend their friends and/or family who have chosen to follow the gay lifestyle. They begin trying to make excuses for them. I am sorry, but if your son or daughter or niece or nephew or uncle or aunt or anybody close to you decides to become a rapist or murderer or thief, it does not matter how much you love them, you do not get to excuse their sin. Rape, murder, and stealing do not suddenly become alright just because someone close to you is guilty of committing them. The same goes for those who have chosen to follow the gay lifestyle. You can still love them, but do not attempt to excuse them and change God's Word because of it. Wrong is still wrong no matter who is on the other side of it; your husband, your wife, your children. They still stand guilty and condemned no matter how much you love them. Sin does not suddenly become alight just because someone close to you is guilty of committing it. Be wise and agree with God. Do not attempt to go against Him.

It does not matter how much you love the person that is close to you, or how much you do not desire for them to go to hell. If they are guilty of sin, any sin—and we all are, they are already condemned and sentenced to hell. Trying to change that reality by denying it does not actually change a thing. You can lie to yourself all you want and make all the excuses you want for your loved ones, but come judgment day they will stand condemned before the throne of God. You would be wise not to make it harder on them by attempting to excuse their sinful behaviour and trying to justify it for them. Agree with God and what God has said, keep reminding them of God's standards, and keep praying for them. More importantly, pray for yourself that you would uphold God's truth regardless of what happens around you. You need to be strong in the face of adversity, not sway with it.

"You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination." (Lev. 18:22). "If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them." (Lev. 20:13). "For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error." (Rom. 1:26-27). "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24, cf. Matt. 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9; Eph. 5:31; 1 Cor. 6:16). The standard for what constitutes marriage is clear. Anything short of this is an aberration. Period.

Why should the church not re-think "gay marriage"? Because the equation for marriage is man plus woman. God created this equation and made it the only standard by which human relations should be engaged. If you remove one of the elements from this equation, you no longer have a marriage. Two men or two women do not constitute a marriage. If the church believes God, trusts His Word, and obeys Him, there is nothing for the church to re-think on this matter. God has already spoken and the matter is settled.