"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Monday, July 31, 2006

Tongues, American Individualism and Galatians

There's an interesting debate (so far, it's kind of one sided, but that should change before long) among Reformed bloggers. The debate started with a post by Dan Phillips on the Pyromaniacs blog. Adrian Warnack then posted a response on his blog. Dan is now on his third post responding to Adrian, who has left on "holiday" (vacation for us Yanks). Adrian's blog does have an entry from Dr. Sam Storms presenting a counter argument to Dan's first post. But I really don't want to talk about tongues here.

What I've been thinking about recently is the second and third items in my title. Peter Kirk, in a comment to Adrian's post, mentioned a series he was finishing entitled "The Scholarly and Fundamentalist Approaches to the Bible". The series seems to me to be largely an attempt to justify the egalitarian (as opposed to the complementarian) interpretation of the Scriptures. In responding to a comment to his first post in the series, Peter Kirk writes:

"Thank you, Brian. As for Dr Henry or anyone else being a significant theologian, I am with Paul on this: "As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism..." (Galatians 2:6, TNIV). Paul was talking about "James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars" (v.9, TNIV). If Paul would not defer on theological issues even to the recognised leaders of the church in his time, but in fact opposed Peter himself face to face (v.11), then who is anyone like Dr Henry that I should be expected to defer to them just because of their name or reputation?" [emphasis mine]

Apart from this series of posts, I do not know Peter Kirk. But it appears to me he is espousing a one of the more extreme forms of what I will call "American Individualism." This may seem strange given that he resides in the UK, but I think this is individualism is one of the more unfortunate exports out of the U.S. [Please note that I said, "appears." I do not know Peter Kirk, and he may not be saying what I'm about to write against. There is a bit of a language gap here (English to its less formal step-child American English) that makes this more likely. However, whether this is really what he is espousing with this statement, there are many who would espouse my interpretation of his statement. /disclaimer]

What I'm concerned about is the mixture of American individualism with the doctrine of soul competency that ends up saying, "I stand alone in my interpretation of Scriptures and do not need any help in determining what a particular passage mean." The passage in Galatians 2:6 can be cited as defending this position. However, I see two problems with this interpretation.

First, Paul tells us this immediately after saying that he had received his doctrine directly from Jesus, and not from the agency of humans (Galatians 1:11-12). Therefore, Paul is not concerned with what James or Peter or John might say, because his gospel came directly from Jesus. Whether these other men affirmed it or not was not significant. Unless, therefore, we are claiming direct revelation from Christ, I don't think we can use this passage to assert our own authority.

Second, the point of Galatians was to say that the Gospel is not a matter of interpretation. It is a fixed truth to which we must align our thinking. Therefore, we should not heed teachers who teach contrary to the gospel. But not every teacher teaches contrary to the gospel. Teachers who do not are to be respected and honored. This is evident in Galatians 6:6 where Paul says, "One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches." (ESV) There are, according to this verse, those who teach. They are to be respected to the point that receive compensation for their labor in the Scriptures (see also 1 Timothy 5:17-18). They are not to be ignored.

So Paul is clearly saying that we should listen to others. The point of the Scriptures is that we need to be discerning, testing every spirit to see if it is from God. The key is humility, sorely lacking in much of Western Christianity, leading to a willingness to be corrected when wrong. Soul competency is correct, I will not be able to blame my failures to interpret the Scripture on anyone else. It does not therefore follow, though, that I cannot nor should not look to others whom God has gifted differently to learn from them. Coming to the unity of the faith does not mean everyone agrees with me. It means we teach one another to agree with God.

What is interesting is that those who do not want to listen to anyone else do not practically apply this to you and me. They don't want to be able to dismiss everyone else's opinion, but do not want people to dismiss their opinion. I think this is done unintentionally. They have never thought the logic of their position through to this point, but it is clearly what they mean when they teach (in spoken or written form).

The proper approach, in my opinion, is to study the Scriptures and pray over them and see what they say to me. Then go to other sources and see how they have interpreted the passage. If my interpretation is significantly different, then the passage calls for more prayer and study. Are the alternative arguements convincing? We need to do all this with a humility that acknowledges that we could be wrong about the passage.

PS - 1 Timothy 2:11-15: The one thing I find lacking in the egalitarian attempts to explain these verses, most often by appealling to a cultural limitation, is that Paul bases his instruction not on what was (or was not) occurring in Ephesus, but on creation and the fall. This letter is post resurrection, post Pentecost. If either event was to fully reverse the effects of the fall, why did Paul cite the fall as reason for his instruction? Overall, the egalitartian position is not convincing.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Questions on the Godhead - Part 8 - Christology

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I am moving toward completing this series. In doing so, today I'm going to respond to a set of questions from the United Pentecostal Church International's (UPCI) 60 Questions on the Godhead relating to Jesus and His divinity. Again, the UPCI is one of the leading "Oneness" groups, that believe that God is one in nature and in person. They differ from groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses in that they do ascribe deity to Jesus, saying that the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are merely different manifestations of the One God. Because of this they baptize in the name of Jesus only, and, therefore, are sometimes referred to as "Jesus only" Pentecostals.

They differ from the historic Christian faith because the confession of the church from its beginnings has been that God is One in nature/essence existing eternally as Three Persons. The key question between the UPCI/Oneness theology and Trinitarian theology is whether the Scripture presents the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as manifestions, or as Persons who relate to one another. This will be a large focus of the last post responding to the 60 Questions. Much of what we will look at today the UPCI will say proves that Jesus is the One God incarnate (in human form). Trinitarians will say a hearty, "Amen!" to that assertion. But these verses say nothing about whether the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are merely manifestations, or truly different persons.

Question 45. Is Jesus the true God? Yes. I John 5:20.

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20 ESV)

Question 47. When Paul asked the Lord who He was, what was the answer? "I am Jesus." Acts 9:5.

And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. (Acts 9:5 ESV)

Question 48. When Stephen was dying, did he call God Jesus? Yes. Acts 7:59.

And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts 7:59 ESV) OR And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. (Acts 7:59 KJV)

Question 49. Did Thomas ever call Jesus God? Yes. John 20:28.

Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28 ESV)

Question 51. Does the Bible say that Jesus was God with us? Yes. Matthew 1:23.

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:23 ESV)

Each of this questions relate to Jesus being identified directly by one of the divine attributions, either Lord or God. They serve to show us the authors of the Scriptures viewed Jesus as being "very God of very God." As such, they stand against views of Jesus that would make Him less than the Father, but do not address the central issue between a Oneness view of God and a Trinitarian view of God.

A note on Acts 7:59: The KJV rendering of this verse has an unnecessary addition of the word "God" that is not in the original Greek manuscripts. It is clear from the context that Stephen prays to Jesus just as one would pray to God, thereby ascribing deity to Jesus. The ESV rendering above is closer to the original Greek text.

The next group, either within a single question or as a pair, link texts that identify God as doing or being something, then link this same thing with Jesus. We'll look at each pair individually, with a focus on the last pair which will allow me to discuss what is, perhaps, the best teaching in the Old Testament displaying that God exists as different persons.

Question 33. How could the church belong to Jesus (Matthew 16:18) and yet be the church of God (I Corinthians 10:32)? Because Jesus is God in the flesh.

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18 ESV) AND Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, (1 Corinthians 10:32 ESV)

Again, there is a clear equality established in the New Testament between Jesus and God. This is similar to the Kingdom of Heaven being the same as the Kingdom of God. The church consists of the elect of God whom Jesus has purchased with His blood. Jesus tells us that the Father has given to Him a people (John 6:37, 10:29, 17:6-9). This is the church, those that the Father chose, the Son saved, and the Spirit seals.

Question 41. Does the Bible say that God alone treads upon the waves of the sea? Yes. Job 9:8
Question 42. Why, then, was Jesus able to walk upon the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 14:25)? Because He is God the Creator. Colossians 1:16.

who alone stretched out the heavens and trampled the waves of the sea; (Job 9:8 ESV) AND And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. (Matthew 14:25 ESV) AND For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16 ESV)

The argument here is a little strained. The Job passage is a figurative passage about creation. To link this to Matthew 14:25 and Jesus literally walking on the water is problematic. After all, Peter walked on the water, if only momentarily (He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. - Matthew 14:29 ESV), but we do not ascribe any deity to Peter. The better argument is to link Job 9:8 directly to Colossians 1:16, since the former describes God as the Creator, and the latter describes Jesus as the Creator. Again, a clear statement of the deity of Christ.

Question 50. How could Jesus be the Savior, when God the Father said in Isaiah 43:11, "Beside me there is no Savior?" Because "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself." II Corinthians 5:19.
Question 59. Does the Bible say that God shed His blood and that God laid down His life for us? Yes. Acts 20:28; I John 3:16. God was able to do this because He had taken upon Himself a human body.

I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior. (Isaiah 43:11 ESV) AND that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19 ESV)

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
(Acts 20:28 ESV) AND By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John 3:16 ESV)

These are just a couple of other examples where the Scriptures identify Jesus and God as doing the same thing, in this case saving a people for to glorify God. Question 50 is generic in terms of salvation, while Question 59 specifically discusses the sacrifice of life through the shedding of blood. Nothing to which a Trinitarian would object.

Question 60. The Bible says that God is coming back with all his saints (Zechariah 14:5) and also that Jesus is coming back with all his saints (I Thessalonians 3:13). Are two coming back? No. Only one is coming back--our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Titus 2:13.

And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. (Zechariah 14:5 ESV) AND so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:13 ESV) AND waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, (Titus 2:13 ESV)

But one other passage should be included in this mix: I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14 ESV)

As I mentioned earlier, this passage shows us the clearest glimpse I can find in the Old Testament showing that God exists as multiple persons, and also foretells the incarnation. Notice that the Father (the Ancient of Days) gives dominion and glory to "one like a son of man." The Son of Man is Jesus' favorite title for Himself, pointing those who heard Him back to this passage. He is the fulfillment of this passage. Also remember that Jesus has been promised that the Father will make His (Jesus') enemies a footstool for His feet (Psalm 110:1). Jesus is the fulfillment of the covenant with David, and He will rule forever from David's throne. So the One True God is coming back, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to establish the Kingdom of God on the earth. "What a day of rejoicing that will be!"

PS: I want to commend to you a series of posts by Jonathan Moorhead. On the right hand side are a series of articles entitled "Moor Modalism" that are excellent studies of the impact and infiltration of Oneness theology (modalism) into modern Christianity. Highly recommended as a deeper study of the issues I've been discussing here.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Questions on the Godhead - Part 7 - Theology Proper

Pressing on with our look at the UPCI's 60 Questions on the Godhead, I've reached the point of organizing the remaining questions into three groups, Theology Proper, Christology, and Trinitarianism. The Christology questions are by far the largest in number, and may require two posts.

Theology Proper is the study of the Godhead, including existance and attributes. This typically includes matters relating to the Trinity, but for the purposes of this study, many of those questions will be addressed in the last post on Trinitarianism. The questions in this section largely focus on questions about the nature of God.

Question 34. Will God give His glory to another? No. Isaiah 42:8.

I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. (Isaiah 42:8 ESV)

The point of this passage is that Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, alone is to be worshiped. We are not to turn to idols of wood or stone. This is a restatement of the 1 st and 2nd commandments: "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth." (Exodus 20:3-4 ESV) As with many of the remaining "questions" from the UPCI, there is only a problem if one assumes Trinitarians are polytheists (that Trinitarians believe that there is more than one God).

Trinitarians do not. We are firmly committed to the Scriptural assertion that God is One. But that one God exists eternally as Three Persons. We can understand that this is the Biblical teaching, but there is mystery here. But when we are talking about the infinite, eternal creator of the universe, we should expect mystery.

Question 35. Was there a God formed before Jehovah, or will there be one formed after? No. Isaiah 43:10.

"You are my witnesses," declares the Lord, "and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me." (Isaiah 43:10 ESV)

Question 36. What is one thing that God does not know? Another God. Isaiah 44:8.

"Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any." (Isaiah 44:8 ESV)

These are statements of God's holiness. We frequently think of holiness as moral purity, but the Biblical idea of holiness has more to due with being different and/or set apart. [As Christians, because we have been set apart (been made holy) by God, we should display that difference in part by moral purity.] God is different than anything else in existence. No other real gods exist.

Immediately following this in Isaiah is one of the most stinging indictment's of idolatry in all of Scripture. If you have never looked at it before, be sure to read Isaiah 44:9-20. The culminating verse is v. 19, "No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, 'Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?'" (Isaiah 44:19 ESV)

Question 37. What is one thing that God Cannot do? Lie. Titus 1:2.

in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began (Titus 1:2 ESV)

That God cannot lie (ESV "never lies") is also established in Hebrews 6:18 (so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. - ESV) where we are told that it is impossible for God to lie. However, is this really all that God cannot do?

2 Timothy 2:13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. (ESV) According to this verse, God cannot deny Himself. Why does God never lie? Because He is the truth (John 14:6). He remains faithful because He is faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9) and therefore cannot be unfaithful. In other words, God will never act contrary to His own character (attributes).

Question 38. How many Gods should we know? Only one. Hosea 13:4.

But I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior. (Hosea 13:4 ESV)

As Deuteronomy 7:9 states, God is a God of covenant. He brought Israel out of Egypt to be a holy nation. But the Mosaic covenant was a conditional covenant, in which Israel would be blessed for obedience, but cursed for disobedience. Hosea is proclaiming to Israel that God is going to judge them, and since judgment comes from their only savior, there will be no escape.

Again, the UPCI, I assume, thinks this is a statement against Trinitarianism. But, as I've mentioned several times, Trinitarians embrace the unity of the Godhead.

40. Is it good to think upon the name of the Lord? Yes. Malachi 3:16.

Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed [KJV - thought upon] his name. (Malachi 3:16 ESV)

It is indeed good to think upon the name (character/attributes) of God. The context here is that of deliverance and judgment - Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. "They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him." (Malachi 3:16-18 ESV)

Salvation and deliverance is to those who fear God and think about who He is. One of the reasons Christianity is so weak in the Western world is that we have forgotten God. Our sermons and thoughts are self-help messages about how to live a better life. But we miss out on the real life if we do not think about who God is.

Calvin teaches in the Institutes that true knowledge is knowledge of God and of self. He argues that these to are linked, and interdependent. But that, "it is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he have previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself." Let us strive to know God more truly as He has revealed Himself through the book of nature, but more especially through the book of revelation, the Bible.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Need for Repentance

Sometime back now I did a post on confession. Because of some recent events, especially this post from Marty Duren at SBCoutpost.com, I've been thinking about a particular part of confession, that of repentance. As Marty notes, the SBC is found of recommending changes for people and groups outside the denomination, and we seem pretty good about patting ourselves on the back, but how deeply have we considered our own sins?

In Luke chapter 18 Jesus tells us a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector. I think sometimes we too quickly gloss over the Pharisee's words. They are words of thanksgiving. He doesn't claim that he gets credit for his righteousness, God gave it to him. But instead of praising him, Jesus says the tax collector, who instead of claiming to be righteous acknowledged that he was sinner, walked away justified.

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:9-14 ESV)

Oh that we would be humble people who remember, as Marty noted, that judgment begins with the house of God. And may I remember that, as Steve Camp once noted, it [judgment] begins with me.

Not convicted? or not convicted enough? Go do a gut check at Cerulean Sanctum.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Star Trek Personality Quiz

Okay, this is completely off topic, but somewhat humorous (maybe I should say "fascinating" to be consistent). Though I have to say I'm shocked by the results! Okay, maybe not. I think I would have preferred Data, but this doesn't surprise me. What is surprising is how far down the list Mr. Scott is ...

Your results:

You are Spock

You are skilled in knowledge and logic.
You believe that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

Jean-Luc Picard
Deanna Troi
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
Will Riker
Beverly Crusher
Geordi LaForge
James T. Kirk (Captain)
Mr. Scott
Mr. Sulu

Click here to take the Star Trek Personality Quiz

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Favorite Hymns - The Church's One Foundation

The Church's One Foundation was written by Samuel J. Stone. The one foundation is "Jesus Christ her Lord" in the words of the hymn. This reflects 1 Corinthians 3:11 where Paul tells us, "For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (ESV) There are many other lines in the hymn that are near quotations from Scripture.

The Reverend Stone wrote this hymn along with eleven others to help explain the Apostles Creed, which reads:

I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth
And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary
Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell
The third day he rose again from the dead
He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead
I believe in the Holy Ghost
I believe [in the] holy catholic church; the communion of saints
The forgiveness of sins
The resurrection of the body
And the life everlasting. Amen.

(Historic Creeds and Confessions. 1997 (electronic ed.) (Article 1-12). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.)

With each line considered an article, the ninth article is addressed by this hymn. That article states that, "I believe in the holy catholic church; the communion of saints." Catholic here is not a reference to the Roman Catholic church, which had not formed when the Apostles' Creed was written, but the "universal" church. It is an affirmation, particularly when linked with "the communion of saints", that speaks to the church throughout time and space as being one church.

There are those who would deny this truth, and say that we should only speak of the local church, but I think these people are missing a great truth. Jesus is building His church (singular) of which each local congregation is but one part. Local churches consist of believers, false professors, and "god-fearers" (those attracted to Jesus but who have not converted). But Christ's church consist only of believers.

Believers, we are told in Revelation, from every tribe and tongue and nation. It is a sad truth that local churches, at least in the U.S., are still segregated bodies. We have white churches, black churches, and Hispanic churches. This hymn affirms that despite any division that might exist here, in Christ we are all one. May we strive to display that unity here on earth.

The local church is not unimportant. True believers gather together regularly with other believers to worship. Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." (ESV) If we are to be effective ministers of God in the world, we need the encouragement and aid of other believers, and they need us as well.

The version of the hymn that follows is the one typically included in hymnals. The link above to CyberHymnal contains the full version as originally written (all seven stanza's).

The Church's One Foundation

The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.

She is from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.

’Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace forevermore;
Till, with the vision glorious,
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious
Shall be the Church at rest.

Yet she on earth hath union
With God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won,
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we
Like them, the meek and lowly,
On high may dwell with Thee.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Jeremy Green: Paige Patterson on Alcoholic Beverages

Pastor Green has apparently turned off comments on his blog, which included four responses by me in the discussion thread for the above post (click here to read that post). The comments were moderated, and giving Pastor Green the benefit of the doubt, I will assume that he turned them off because he did not have time to read through each comment before posting it. Even if that is the case, the effect is to silence any opposing viewpoints, so I'm going to repost my responses here. While I had saved my own, I do not have the other comments to which I responded. I do feel that I quoted enough of the responses for everyone to understand the objections that were made to my arguments. However, I am more than willing to post the full responses here if they are supplied to me or would welcome Pastor Green to post them in the comment section.

Pastor Green wrote (in a comment): I have found that the moderationists (at least most of them that I have encountered) are not truly willing to discuss the Scripture on the subject.

My Response (MR): I expressed my hope that we could have a civil discussion on this issue. I then began discussing three passages of Scripture:

Deuteronomy 14:24-26 And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household."(ESV)

This passage is clearly about worship, and Moses states that if you make a long journey, and therefore bring money instead of the tithe, then you may buy whatever you want, including wine or strong drink.

1 Corinthians 11:20-21 "When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk." (ESV) I think we have to assume here they were not getting drunk on Communion grape juice. So wine may not be specifically mentioned in this passage, but it is clear the Corinthians were using wine during Communion. Paul does not condemn them for this, but only for getting drunk.

One final passage: Colossians 2:16 "Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath." (ESV) Restrictions on drinking wine are an issue for moderationists because Paul here says to make it an issue ("let no one" is a command). So, if Paul is not talking about wine or strong drink in this passage, then to which drink is he referring? What other drink in that day would someone have been looked down on for drinking?

I appreciate both men, Dr. Patterson and Dr. Aiken, and their love for Jesus and their willingness to stand for the truth.

But in this case, Colossians 2:16 holds. "I am bound by the Scriptures that I have adduced, and my conscience has been taken captive by the Word of God; and I am neither able nor willing to recant, since it is neither safe nor right to act against conscience. God help me. Amen."

[End of my first comment - That was the end of my first post. Pastor Green then responded to this comment. My response follows.]

Pastor Green,

Thanks for your response.

Pastor Green wrote [Regarding Deuteronomy]: Where it is used in Deuteronomy 14:26 it can be argued from the general consistency of all the Scripture that it was not an intoxicant.

MR: This is hard to sustain if you do a word search on the Hebrew. This word is consistently associated with wine and the context strongly indicates an alcoholic content (though not likely a "distilled" content given that time period). His entire article has a lot of "might mean" type of language, and his root argument comes down to saying it cannot mean that because it does not fit his view. That might be acceptable if (1) he could clearly demonstrate the likelihood of the alternate meaning; and (2) he substantiates his view. It is possible he tries to do the latter elsewhere, but I'm of the opposite opinion, that the Old Testament has no statements that in any way necessiate other than the standard understanding of "strong drink."

As for the former point, he clearly fails, IMO. Too many other Hebrew scholars do not hold this view, even those who say that abstaining is the best option for modern Christians.

Pastor Green wrote [Regarding 1 Corinthians]:
"Paul distinguishes this private feasting from the Lord’s Supper. This scandal, which was increased by the lack of concern the wealthy Christians had for the poor, seems to have been limited to the church at Corinth."

MR: Two points here. First, in the context, Paul mentions the Lord's Supper before the statement about being drunk. "When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk."(1 Corinthians 11:20-21 ESV) I agree that a more substantial meal was being eaten, much like the Last Supper, but Paul doesn't seem to distinguish between a love feast and the Lord's Supper.

Second, Paul says nothing indicating it was not appropriate for alcoholic wine to be present. He condemns the drunkness, but has nothing to say about the fact that wine was being consumed.

Pastor Green wrote [Regarding Colossians 2]:
"If God permits alcoholic drinks to mankind, every human being is told by God to refuse to be judged by man on this matter."

MR: Psalm 104:14-15: "You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart."(ESV)

Is this "true" wine? First, outside of Welch's commercial, people don't talk about grape juice "gladdening the heart." Second, it is suspect that every verse that is against wine is talking about "true" wine and every verse that is for wine is talking about unfermented grape juice. Third, other passages that talk about wine gladdening the heart are clearly references to "true" wine.

Esther 1:10: "On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha and Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus."(ESV)

2 Samuel 13:28: "Then Absalom commanded his servants, 'Mark when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, "Strike Amnon," then kill him. Do not fear; have I not commanded you? Be courageous and be valiant.'" (ESV)

As for Proverbs 23:31, is it a command not to drink "true" wine? I don't think so. The passage relates not to drinking wine with a meal, but drinking to get drunk. In context it is a warning that when wine is alluring it should be avoided.

"Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. 'They struck me,' you will say, 'but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.'" (ESV)

But could Colossians have in mind milk, and not wine? In support of wine is the following. (1) There are no specific restrictions about drinking milk in the Bible. It is not mentioned elsewhere, so to introduce it here is forced. (2) Colossae's population would have intimately acquainted with the worship of Dionysus, the Greek God of wine, and the drunken feasts in his honor. Therefore, it is likely that "drink" here is a reference to wine "offered to idols" much that same way that meat offered to idols is an issue elsewhere.

But in general, the text seems intentionally silent on what type of drink is in view. Food and drink do not defile us, even wine. It is the attitude of the heart. Drunkeness is not a problem because you have imbided wine, but because it reveals something of the heart.

[End of my second comment - The response to this post came from another commentor named Tim. Pastor Green expressed agreement with Tim's response and did not provide any additional responses. Here is my third comment, responding back to Tim.]

Tim wrote: There is always a tendency when making arguments to grasp at evidence which does not in fact help in our effort to pursuade.

MR: Here! Here! I agree.

Tim wrote [in regard to Psalm 104:14-15]: Obviously the context is the harvest. Perhaps you have never farmed but I have and am quite aware of joy that the harvest brings without reference to inebriation.

MR: Let's consider the context. Looking at the verses again: You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart. (ESV)

The context is God's provision for His creatures, both cattle and man (v.14). Verse 15 discusses the provision for man in more detail. According to your interpretation, harvesting of olives makes the face to shine and harvesting of bread strengthens man's heart. But do your read them this way? No one else does. Oil makes the face to shine when it has been used to anoint the face (see Matthew 6:17; Luke 7:46; 2 Samuel 12:20; 14:2). Bread strenthens the heart when it has been eaten (Genesis 18:5; 1 Samuel 28:22 - "Now therefore, you also obey your servant. Let me set a morsel of bread before you; and eat, that you may have strength when you go on your way." - ESV). I also provided serval other verses linking gladdening of the heart to wine. So why then doesn't this passage speak of wine as a gift of God to gladden the heart? Why should we see the subject of wine here in reference to harvest, when the text clearly indicates otherwise for oil and bread?

Matthew Henry, who Pastor Green quoted earlier in response to one of my posts, says of this passage: "Here is bread, which strengthens man’s heart, and is therefore called the staff of life; let none who have that complain of want. Secondly, Does nature go further, and covet something pleasant? Here is wine, that makes glad the heart, refreshes the spirits, and exhilarates them, when it is soberly and moderately used, that we may not only go through our business, but go through it cheerfully. It is a pity that that should be abused to overcharge the heart, and unfit men for their duty, which was given to revive their heart and quicken them in their duty. Thirdly, Is nature yet more humoursome, and does it crave something for ornament too? Here is that also out of the earth—oil to make the face to shine, that the countenance may not only be cheerful but beautiful, and we may be the more acceptable to one another.

Tim wrote: Furthermore, since alcohol is a depressant it would seem that the psalmist would be innacurate to ascribe gladdening of the heart to an alcoholic drink making the God who inspired it errant in His observation.

MR: Except alcohol can have either a stimulant or depressent effect. At least two factors are involved, dose and time after consumption. Some reports state that its effects will vary from individual to individual.

Tim wrote: Proverbs 23 seems to be crystal clear and any effort to say that it does not state to stay away from highly alcoholic wine is flat denial of the obvious.

MR: I would argue, based on the above, that your interpretation of Psalm 104:14-15 is a flat denial of the obvious. With regard to Proverbs 23, it is nice that it is obvious, but I gave you arguments for my position. Stating that my position is wrong without exegeting the passage to show why does not in fact help in our effort to pursuade.

The preceding verses deal with the drunkard. The verses that follow deal with the drunkard. So with what does v.31 deal? "'Lingering over' alcohol (vv. 30–31) describes those who derive comfort and security in knowing that a glass of wine is at hand, ready to deaden the senses." [Reference: Garrett, D. A. (2001, c1993). Vol. 14: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of songs (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (197). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.] I don't think it's as obvious as you seem to think.

Tim wrote: One only has to look at the potential of even small amounts of alchol consumed by a pregnant woman to cause fetal alcohol syndrome to realize that something is amiss. The AMA advises women who are or want to be pregnant to consume no alcohol because no safe amount is known. But you folks keep suggesting that God has said alcohol is a blessing, is encouraged and ought to be consumed to the glory of God. If that is true then you interpretation seems to make either God or the medical community a liar. I'll let you figure out who.

MR: I never said everyone should drink. The Psalmist doesn't say that everyone should drink. There are times when people should not drink. But let's consider the pregnant women argument. Based on this argument, Christians should refuse to eat anything with sugar, because it is harmful to diabetics. On the flip side, current medical theory states that for heart health, one should consume one to two glasses of dry red wine a day. Grape juice is not sufficient because even though it has the antioxidants, it does not lower LDL like wine.

You state that I'm arguing from silence. But in 1 Corinthians 11:20-26 Paul is talking about the Lord's Supper in v.20 and in v.23ff. In verse 21 he says they were getting drunk. On grape juice? No, the passage clearly indicates that they were using wine for the Lord's Supper. The argument that they were is not an arguement from silence but logically deduced from the text.

As for Colossians, if one Christian judges another Christian because the latter has drunk wine, is former not judging on the basis of drink? The simple reading of the passage is that any drink is in view here. It is the prohibitionist who makes an argument from silence in this passage.

Yet you accuse me of arguing from silence, but do not present any evidence. You don't point out where my interpretion is faulty on these verses. Instead, you issue a blanket statement without support that I'm wrong. I'm willing to review any exegesis that I have done incorrectly, but first you have to show some evidence that it's wrong.

[End of my third comment - The response to this post again came from Tim. Here is my final comment, responding back to Tim.]

MR: Tim,

Thanks for your continued engagement on the issue, but this will likely be my last post. I've already spent more time on this issue than I intended. I still think you are missing parts of my argument, so I'll make one last attempt at clarifying.

For example, in the Psalm 104 passage I assume that the word gladden means to make joyful. I also assume that the word wine means wine. The counter argument assumes wine does not mean wine. You can argue that wine doesn't mean wine, but I'm not arguing from silence. The burden is on the person who assumes a meaning for the word other than the standard meaning.

Tim wrote: In your interpretation of Proverbs 23 you suppose that the words "do not look" do not mean "do not look." . . . I just don't know how you can get from "do not look" to "don't drink too much" without a lot of supposition.

MR: "Do not look" means "do not look." The question is to whom and when does the statement "do not look" apply. It applies to those who tarry long over wine, those to whom it has inordinate appeal. The Reformation Study Bible puts it this way, "The occasions when wine seems especially desirable call for deliberate caution in its use." Or, again, as the NAC commentary puts it, do not look applies to those who "derive comfort and security" from alcohol.

So when wine has the potential to become a crutch, an escape mechanism, it should be avoided. But this verse does not address having a glass of wine with a meal, or with a gathering of friends. The danger about which this passage is warning us is when you are drinking with a focus on the drinking.

Tim wrote: He had already gone out of his way a couple of chapters earlier to point out that the Lord's supper is to be celebrated without leaven.

MR: The leaven/purity argument is not convincing. Leaven is specifically forbidden as part of the Passover celebration, but no mention is made of using only unfermented wine. Jews allow the use of either fermented or unfermented wine.

But, since the Scripture is silent, both sides have to argue from silence. The non-alcohol group makes a leaven = impurity symbolizing sin = fermentation argument. Nowhere in Scripture though is fermentation equated with sin the way leaven is.

What, however, was the stated reason for not using leavened bread in the first Passover? The point about the leaven in the initial Passover was that Israel would have to eat in haste. There would be no time to let the dough rise.

On the other hand, this means they would not have time to pick grapes or trample out juice, even if they had been in season. Passover was about six months after the harvest, so grapes would not have even been in season. So they would have to use what was on hand at the time, wine with some level of fermentation.

Tim wrote: Further folks suppose that Paul does not condemn the drinking of alchol at the celebration because he does not so state in the passage.

MR: It is correct that saying, "since Paul does not condemn wine, this means he allows it" would be an argument from silence. However, the primary reason I reference this passage is to prove that fermented wine was used by the early church in communion, as you realize in the next comment.

Tim wrote: You suppose that wine was used in the celebration of the Lord's supper while what is described in I Cor does not resemble the Lord's supper celebration at all.

MR: I assume that the context is the Lord's Supper because Paul says that he's talking about the Lord's Supper. It is specifically mentioned in 11:20. It is clearly the subject of 11:23ff. While it may not resemble the way we celebrate the Lord's Supper today, that does not surprise me. I know they didn't have little plastic cups or precut wafers. That there would be other more substantial differences in the surrounding elements should not be unexpected.

Again, I'm basing this on what Paul says. Here's the challenge, exegete starting at 11:20 or earlier through at least 11:26 focusing on how Paul can be transitioning from discussing the Lord's Supper in v.20, to not talking about it in v.21, to talking about it again in v.23.

Pastor Green, thanks for keeping this civil. I respect the conviction that you, Tim, and others have on this issue. I just don't see a Biblical mandate for your position. So, I think Colossians 2:16 has to be the overriding statement.

So, in accordance with Romans 14:3, I do not despise those who choose to abstain. I only request that you consider doing likewise and not pass judgement on those who do not.

May God bless your ministry.

[End my fourth and final comment; no response to this was ever posted by Tim or Pastor Green.]

Pastor Green is still posting on this subject (this, for example) and still commenting about it on other blogs (here, for example), so I feel it is appropriate to repost my comments here. I again state that I hope Pastor Green will make the comments public again, and would post those comments to which I responded if they were supplied to me. I have no desire for this discussion to be one sided. Each one needs to review all the information and make a decision that does not offend their conscience.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Questions on the Godhead - Part 6

What does it mean to say that God is One? The most well known verse in the Old Testament was the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one." (ESV) For those who reject Trinitarianism, either in favor of denying the deity of the Son, Jesus the Messiah, (the classical heresy known as Arianism, believed today by groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses) or in favor of denying the distinction of persons within the Godhead (the classical heresy known as modalism, believed today by Oneness groups like the United Pentecostal Church International - UPCI), this is a cornerstone verse. Trinitarians, they claim, are polytheists, believing in more than one God, not monotheists as this verse, and others, require.

In "60 Questions on the Godhead" from the UPCI, we have a number of statements that attempt to defend the "Oneness" position by showing that God is identified as "One" and that Jesus is identified as "One." Among these questions are the following:

Question 30. Does the Bible say that there is but one Lord? Yes. Isaiah 45:18; Ephesians 4:5.

Isaiah 45:18 - For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): "“I am the Lord, and there is no other." (ESV)
Ephesians 4:5 - one Lord, one faith, one baptism, (ESV)

Question 31. Does the Bible say that Christ is the Lord? Yes. Luke 2:11.

Luke 2:11 - For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (ESV)

Question 32. Does the Bible say that the Lord is God? Yes. I kings 18:39; Zechariah 14:5; Acts 2:39; Revelation 19:1.

1 Kings 18:39 - And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, "“The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God."” (ESV)
Zechariah 14:5 - And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. (ESV)
Acts 2:39 - For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (ESV)
Revelation 19:1 - After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, "“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God," (ESV) (KJV has "unto the Lord our God")

Question 39. How many names has the Lord? One. Zechariah 14:9.

Zechariah 14:9 - And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one. (ESV)

Question 43. Is God the only one who can forgive sin? Yes. Isaiah 43:25; Mark 2:7.

Isaiah 43:25 - "I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins." (ESV)
Mark 2:7 - "“Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"” (ESV)

Question 44. Why, then, could Jesus forgive sin in Mark 2:5-11? Because He is God the Savior.

Mark 2:5-11 - And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven."” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, "“Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "“Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, '‘Your sins are forgiven,'’ or to say, '‘Rise, take up your bed and walk'’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,"” he said to the paralytic," “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home." (ESV)

Question 54. Does the Bible say that there is only one wise God? Yes. Jude 25.

Jude 25 - to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (ESV)

None of these verses or questions are problematic for the Trinitarian. We profess that God is One, One God in Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If asked how can this be, we can only point to the fact that this is the testimony of the Scriptures, and that God is above our ability to comprehend. I discussed this in more detail when I responded to Question 7, but Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." (ESV)

There are some things we can only apprehend in the faintest of ways. Just as I cannot explain Jesus being fully God and fully man in only one person, so I cannot explain God being One but existing as Three Persons. But this is what the Bible affirms. Interestingly, in quoting the verses above that cite that God is the Lord, and Jesus is the Lord, the UPCI has laid the groundwork for one of the proofs of the Trinity. In Mark 12:35-37 we read the following:

And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, "“How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared, '‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.'’ David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?"” And the great throng heard him gladly. (ESV)

There is a lot in the passage about who Jesus is. But the key to this discussion is the statement, "The Lord said to my Lord." I have been affirming that a key truth of Trinitarianism is relationship. Oneness adherents typically state that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are different manifestations of the One God. But Trinitarians affirm that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct persons and the evidence for this is that they relate to each other as persons. Here, David records that the Lord (God the Father) speaks to David's Lord (the Messiah, Jesus).

So yes, we Trinitarians affirm with Deuteronomy 6:4 that God is One. But we also affirm that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are different persons within the Godhead, not merely different manifestations of God. This has been the historic confession of the Christian faith. In this regard, the Athanasian Creed, likely not written by Athanasius but named for him. This creed can be found at many places, including the following link: Athanasian Creed.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Favorite Hymns - Immortal, Invisible

What better subject for us to focus on when our voices are raised in song to God than His character. I love Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts and find comfort in considering God Moves in A Mysterious Way. But Immortal, Invisible, which as a starting point uses 1 Timothy 1:17 - "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen."(KJV), serves to lift my thoughts to our Great God. In the midst of difficult days, it is songs like this that serve to comfort and strengthen me.

The words to the hymn were written by Walter Chalmers Smith and published in 1876. I don't know many details about his life or the circumstances around the writing of the hymn, but consider the verses:

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great Name we praise.

The first line speaks to us of the fact that God lives forever, and cannot die. Also that He is not seen by human eyes, but is revealed in the written word and the Living Word. This is the wise God, who knows the beginning from the end and works all things after the counsel of His own will. He is hidden from our sight by the brilliance of His glory, so He indeed is most blessed, most glorious. Again affirming that God has always existed, He is the Ancient of Days as revealed by the prophet Daniel. Throughout Scripture He is the almighty, and His victory is certain. How then can we not praise His name?

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above
Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.

God never slumbers, but always watches over His creation. Therefore, He never is behind, rushing to do what needs to be done. But, like the light that illumines our day, we rarely take notice of His work in our midst. Part of His being Almighty is that God needs nothing, nor does any exercise of His power reduce His power, so His sovereign reign is secure. God is always just, and the beauty of His justice is like the mountains which tower above us. Stand at the foot of the Rockies and see how they tower over you. So also is God's justice. But the clouds, the source of life giving rain, display to us the goodness and love of God, who provides for us though we are unworthy.

To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small;
In all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.

God is the source of all life. He Himself is dependent on no one else for life, but all life is dependent on Him. Our lives here on this earth are a vapor, here and then gone, but God abides forever, and never changes. He is the Great I Am.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
But of all Thy rich graces this grace, Lord, impart
Take the veil from our faces, the vile from our heart.

So God is our Father, if we have received in faith the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. And only in Jesus can we see the Father, because the light of His glory shines too brightly not only for our mortal eyes, but even for the angels who cry "Holy, Holy, Holy" in His presence. We can only with the hymn writer request that God in His grace remove the veil from our eyes, and also to sanctify us more fully. Today, we do not like to think of ourselves as vile, but we are. Saying that should not make us less, but more compassionate. We are all sinners, and apart from the grace of God, we all would perish. Think not more highly of yourself than you ought.

All laud we would render; O help us to see
’Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee,
And so let Thy glory, Almighty, impart,
Through Christ in His story, Thy Christ to the heart.

So we praise You, O Lord, and ask that you remove the scales from our eyes. Grant to us to understand that we do not see You not because You are not with us, but because of the blinding beauty of who You are. O Father, grant that through our knowing the work of our Savior, Jesus, His Spirit would dwell with us throughout our fleeting days, to make us more like Him.

If there is a song this side of Heaven that speaks more wonderfully of the attributes of our God, I have not found it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Recent Posts Worth Reading - July 18, 2006

"What the American Church Is Doing Right - Part 1" is well worth 10 minutes or so of your time.

"As more people wake up to the shallow messages preached in many of those churches, realizing that they've strayed away from the sacred and into tawdry dog and pony shows, we'll see change."

Also, Dan Phillips has a another excellent post at Teampyro about not being ashamed of the Gospel.

"I will admit that I have a bad case of idiomanumoragorophobia. That's the fear of being publicly made a fool by my own hands. It isn't the fear that I'll be asked a question that has no good answer; it's that I won't have the answer, the perfect answer, and will simply do a passable imitation of a wet trout on a dry, flat, hot rock."

Finally, if you're interested in the debate over the SBC resolution on alcohol, I recommend you check out the concerned SBC'er blog. In responding to those who hold the total abstinence position, he links to their articles if you want to see the opposing view.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Questions on the Godhead - Part 5

Well, after a break it's time to resume our look at the UPCI's "60 Questions on the Godhead" which I have been reviewing for a couple of weeks now. I want to pick up some of the points that I have skipped over previously and get through point 29. Seeing that I've already covered Questions 52 and 53, this will put us over the half-way point in the review.

Question 16. When God said, "Let us make man in our image" (Genesis 1:26), was He speaking to another person in the Godhead? No. Isaiah 44:24; Malachi 2:10.

The two passages sited to declare that Genesis 1:26 could not have the Trinity in view merely assert that the one true God is the creator. Trinitarians are in whole hearted agreement with these verses, and acknowledge that God alone is creator. However, given the limited revelation of the Trinity within the Old Testament, we do not expect a detailed discourse in Isaiah about how the Son created everything through the Spirit in accordance with the plan of the Father.

Genesis 1:26, however, clearly uses a plural noun for God, and the plural "us". There are three options for those who would take this passage as monotheistic. The first is that God is speaking in royal terms. This is popular in some circles, but probably was not a common practice when Genesis was written. Second, it is possible that God is referring to the angelic host who are with Him when He says "us". The major problem of this view is that it does not address the plural "Elohim" used for God. The third and final option is that this is an early revelation of the Trinity. Obviously, not much detail is given except that at lease two divine persons are at work in creation. It would be much later in revelation history before what the plurals signify would be explained.

Question 17. How many of God's qualities were in Christ? All. Colossians 2:9.

Question 18. How may we see the God who sent Jesus into the world? By seeing Jesus. John 12:44-45; 14:9.

Question 19. Does the Bible say that Jesus is the Almighty? Yes. Revelation 1:8

Worth remembering (sometimes I forget) that this document is probably meant to protect the UPCI from those that would claim Jesus is not God. In that regard, I see about three types of questions within the 60 Questions. (1) Questions that attack the Trinitarian view of God. These questions are the focus of my posts; (2) Questions that are "set up" questions for type (1) questions. These questions are meant to be affirmed, and then supposedly lock the respondant into agreement with a Oneness view of God a question or two later. I have dealt with a few of these already; and (3) Questions like these three that aim to establish the deity of Christ against those that would claim He was less than fully God. These questions Trinitarians can affirm without reservation as they would appear to be aimed at refuting beliefs held by groups such as the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Question 24. Did Jesus tell Satan that God alone should be worshipped? Yes. Matthew 4:10

Question 25. Does the devil believe in more than one God? No. James 2:19.

There is nothing here really objectionable to Trinitarianism. I suppose that the UPCI might think this could be used against Trinitarianism, since they try to make us out to be polytheists. But the Trinitarian assertion is that there is only one God, but that the one God exists in three persons. Therefore, God alone is to be worshipped, but this says nothing about whether God exists as a single person who reveals Himself as three manifestations (the UPCI view) or whether God exists as three persons.

Question 26. Does the Bible say that God, who is the Word, was made flesh? Yes John 1:1, 14.

Question 27. For what purpose was God manifested in the flesh? To save sinners. Hebrews 2:9, 14.

Question 28. Was Jesus God manifested in the flesh? Yes. I Timothy 3:16.

Question 29. Could Jesus have been on earth and in heaven at the same time? Yes. John 3:13.

Question 26 is the only mention of John 1:1 in the "60 Questions" which is, as I noted elsewhere, strange given its profound significance on the relationship of the Godhead. But it is not discussed because it clearly teaches a distinction in the Godhead, the Word "being with God" and the Word "being God". The question in as far as it goes with the verse is correct. John tells us that this Word became flesh and dwelt among us, a clear reference to Jesus.

Likewise, per question 27, this occurred to for the salvation of sinners. Question 28, I assume, is meant to mean that Jesus is only a manifestion of God in fleshly form, when in fact He is God the Son who has taken on human form. To read a fuller explanation from Paul on this, study Philippians 2:5-11.

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (ESV)

Notice that according to the UPCI, one "manifestation" did not count equality with another "manifestation" something to be grasped. Again, this only makes sense if we see the Father and the Son not as manifestations, but as persons.

Question 29 is based on a problem verse, where the key phrase to prove the answer to the question is not in the best manuscripts. The best manuscripts for John 3:13 read, "No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man." (ESV) The KJV rendering includes "which is in heaven" at the end of the verse. Even if the KJV has the correct rendering, Trinitarians affirm that the divine nature, which is omnipresent, dwells fully in Jesus.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Paul's Concern over the Galatians

Been a busy week with little time to post. This will be short.

A Bible study I'm involved in just started working through Galatians on Tuesday. Today I get a chance to check the Pyromaniacs blog and this is the latest post. I think we talked about most of this, but maybe not as clearly.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Questions on the Godhead - Part 4

Time to resume our look at "60 Questions on the Godhead" from the UPCI. As with the previous post I'm going to jump around a bit to link up similar questions. Let's start with Question 12 and I'll pick up Questions 10 and 11 in a little further down.

Question 12. Is the mystery of the Deity hidden from some people? Yes. Luke 10:21-22.

Luke 10:21-22 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." (ESV)

The "these things" of v.21 is most likely a reference to salvation, when compared to 1 Corinthians 1:18-30. So in v.22, what we see is that the mystery of the deity is hidden not just from some but from everyone, with the exception of those to whom the Son intentionally reveals the Father. In the context of the Scriptures, this would be the elect. Those whom the Father has chosen from the foundation of the world.

This passage does not support a Oneness view of God, though. It does, in fact, support a Trinitarian view of God. Jesus here "rejoices in the Holy Spirit." Why would one manifestation rejoice in another manifestation? Why then would that manifestation then talk of a third manifestation handing something over to Him? This is not the language of manifestation, but of relationship. The Father knows the Son and the Son knows the Father.

Question 10. Does the Bible say that there are two persons in the Godhead? No.

Of course not. The Bible teaches that there are three persons in the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Question 20. Whom do some designate as the first person in the trinity? God the Father.

Question 21. Whom do some designate as the last person in the trinity? The Holy Ghost. But Jesus said that He was the first and last. Revelation 1:17-18

Question 23. If Jesus is the first and the last, why did God say in Isaiah 44:6 that He was the first and the last? Because Jesus is the God of the Old Testament incarnate.

Interesting series of questions. Again, they are building from a starting point to a conclusion. Question 20 is correct that the Father is often referred to as the first person of the Trinity. However, question 21 is incorrect. The Holy Spirit is not referred to as the "last person" of the Trinity, but the "third person" of the Trinity (Jesus, the Son, being the second person of the Trinity).

But what about the "first and last" statements? Is question 23 correct? Yes. Jesus is the God of the Old Testament. Trinitarians have never denied this. It is essential to our view of God. John records that Isaiah saw Jesus' glory, and the context that of Isaiah's vision of God in the temple.

So what does it mean to say that God is "the first and the last"? This has nothing to do with whether God is Trinity or not, but is an affirmation of His eternality. In Revelation 22:13, John records the words of Jesus, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." (ESV) The Triune God is the beginning and the end. He is eternal. "Alpha and Omega", the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and "the first and the last" are other ways of saying "beginning and end."

That this is correct can be seen in Revelation 1:8, "'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.'" (ESV) Notice that Alpha and Omega here correlate to "who is and who was and who is to come." Present, past and future God is the almighty one.

Question 11. Does the Bible say that all the Godhead is revealed in one person? Yes, in Jesus Christ. II Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:19; 2:9; Hebrews 1:3.

These are all great verses that affirm the deity of Christ. I rejoice in the truth revealed in them that Jesus was fully God. But none of these verses address the central question of whether the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are persons, or manifiestations. Note that I said these verses, because the context of Hebrews 1 has God the Father speaking to God the Son. There is relationship between the two persons of the Trinity.

As I hope I'm making clear, whether we are talking mere manifestations or persons who have a relationship is the key issue between a Oneness view of God and the Trinitarian view of God. The Bible presents relationships within the Trinity that can only exist among different persons. Why is it "not good for man to be alone?" Because Eve (and the other people who followed her) allow us to more properly bear the image of God, because we relate to one another as persons, just as the Father relates to the Son, and the Son relates to the Spirit, and the Spirit relates to the Father.

Let me close by looking at one more question:

Question 22. How many persons did John see sitting on the throne in heaven? One. Revelation 4:2.

This is a wonderful passage in the Bible. The passage is the scene in heaven where there is continual worship of God, who is seated on His throne. But John notices a scroll, that no one is able to open, until the Lion of the tribe of Judah shows up. When John turns to look at this lion, he sees instead the slaughtered Lamb standing there. Yes, there is one on the throne in John's vision. But praise be to God that beside the throne there appears the Lamb slain to save people from every tribe and tongue and nation. To Him be blessing and honor and glory and might forever more.