Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Taking Jesus for a Test Drive

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Most people admit to belief in some sort of God, which is consistent with what the Bible teaches (Romans 1:1-22, Ecclesiastes 3:11). Most do not know the true God in a personal way. Some have had the gospel message clearly explained to them, but they have rejected it or traded the truth for false religions and philosophies.

Many people profess belief in God but are not truly in the faith. We do not "test drive Jesus", but must humble ourselves and submit to his Word.
Used car lot, Lancaster, Ohio, 1938 photo by Ben Shahn / US Library of Congress / Public Domain
Some people think that they are Christians because they attend(ed) church and participated in rituals. Perhaps they get a twinge of sentiment around Christmas and Easter which inspires them to give an intellectual assent to Jesus. Unfortunately, many of these professing (or "former") Christians demonstrate little or no knowledge of biblical Christianity.

Easy Believism

Some folks want to make evangelism simple and pleasant. They come up with "ask Jesus into your heart", "God has a wonderful plan for your life", "say a little prayer", sales approach evangelism, and similar schemes. Some of these riders on the Owlhoot Trail do not know the real gospel message and may not be truly saved themselves. Check out this episode of Wretched Radio for examples of people who do not know (or even deny) the gospel. Such shallow evangelism leads to false conversion and people who think they are Christians, but do not understand salvation.

The Unbeliever Judges God

One approach to presenting the truth to atheists and other people who want to put on intellectual airs is to present all sorts of evidence, catering to the unbeliever's ego, allowing the Mighty Atheist™ to decided whether or not God exists and is worthy of worship. Not hardly! As shown above, Scripture teaches that people already know that God exists, but suppress that knowledge. In addition, the heart of man is deceitful and beyond cure (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV), or as the King James Version renders it, "desperately wicked". Do you really want to be guilty of trusting the hearts and minds of fools (Psalm 14:1, Proverbs 1:7) above God's Word?

Knowledgeable Christians are divided on a philosophical approach called Pascal's Wager. Simply put: if we're right, they're lost for eternity, and if they're right, we have lost little in our lives, so they may as well live as if God exists. Some Christians think that is a good idea, but again, it puts the unbeliever in the superior position. It also seems to appeal to works-based salvation.

The Test Drive

In a similar way, some people give the dreadful offer of "Try Jesus". Some even say to try him for thirty days! Pretty insulting to almighty God. This attitude makes it sound like they are giving Jesus a test drive and they can move on if they're dissatisfied. Perhaps another philosophy will suit someone better, another epistemology will be fulfilling instead of the Word of God. Cornelius Van Til said, "We cannot choose epistemologies as we choose hats". I would add, "... epistemologies or vehicles". There is only one way to salvation (John 14:6, Acts 4:12).

What is Lacking?

Easy believism and catering to the ego do not produce actual converts. Those modern churches that put on shows, preach from movies, and do other gimmicks may pack in the attendees, but they do not preach solid biblical truth. Jesus did the opposite of modern preachers, and drove away people! Being a Christian is not easy, and Jesus said that we have to deny ourselves and take up the cross (Luke 9:23). Indeed, we are guaranteed persecution (Matthew 13:21, Acts 13:50, Romans 8:35, 2 Timothy 3:12). Ever hear the word repent from these jaspers? It's in the Bible, you know, such as Luke 24:46-47, Acts 20:21, 2 Peter 3:9, 2 Corinthians 7:10. Go ahead, look it up. Repentance means to not only change our minds, but turn away from our sinful actions in conjunction with the leading and convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

For an excellent sermon, you can read or download the audio of "The Call to Repentance".

We must humble ourselves and submit to Christ, growing in knowledge and grace (2 Peter 3:18, Ephesians 4:15, Romans 12:2). Our faith grows primarily through sound teaching and the reading of God's Word. I'll allow that there are some parts that are difficult to receive, but we cannot say they are not true because we dislike them. There was judgement of the global Flood at the time of Noah, as Jesus, Peter, Paul, and others affirmed. We are sinners and deserve eternal punishment. Jesus is God the Son, the Creator of the universe. He took on human form and humbled himself before God the Father (Philippians 2:6-8, Romans 5:8). Jesus died on the cross but bodily arose three days later (1 Corinthians 15:3-6). He did this out of love (John 3:16). If we humble ourselves and receive him through faith (not by works), we will be transformed (2 Corinthians 5:17) and adopted as children of God (John 1:12, Romans 8:15, 23). People might think they can earn salvation by how swell they are, but Scripture disabuses them of that notion; there's no room for pride, just the grace and mercy of God.

Evidence in Good Works

Don't be disunderstanding me now! We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), and not by works; we cannot earn our salvation by what we do (including rituals and such), nor can we keep it by our actions. That leads us to a spirit of fear. No, what I'm talking about is that our commitment to Christ and the Word is displayed by our works.

If you've spent any amount of time reading and hearing biblical teachings, you will have heard mention the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus also talked about bearing fruit (e.g., Mark 4:20, John 15:2-5, and others). Those who only have a superficial, emotional, or cultural acceptance of Jesus will not be demonstrating the fruit of repentance and knowledge of the Word. We must show Christian love to other believers (John 13:35,

People need to not only repent but also to have Jesus as the supreme authority in our lives. No, not everyone is riding the Sanctification Trail at the same pace, so we have to let God do his work in their lives as he chooses, you savvy that? I know full well that I'm mighty weak in some areas, and see other areas where my fruit-bearing is decent but other people are lacking. That's between God and each of us, except in cases of willful sin where we need to lovingly rebuke or correct some people, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

Detailing the Chosen Car

There are people who profess belief in God but show little or no real knowledge of biblical teachings, and their lives do not reflect the transformation and regeneration of being truly born from above. Some will choose what they want to believe and reject things they dislike. This is not about disagreements regarding side issues (such as baptism of infants, for example), but foundational truths of Scripture that get chosen and rejected during the car detailing process.

To be blunt, when they do this, they are building a God they can keep on the knicknack shelf to shine up when they need him. This is idolatry, old son, and requires repentance.

Continuing the test drive analogy, one guy decided he hated God and parked the car. He bounced around with atheism, agnosticism, made some Gnostic remarks (calling God evil and a liar) — and then announced the did believe in Christianity after all, and would essentially give religion another test drive. He resumed attendance of an extremely liberal church that has little regard for the Bible. In addition, he rejects biblical truth about the global Genesis Flood, and utterly hates biblical creation (as well as those of us who teach it, and the Bible likens hatred to murder), forget John 13:35. He is his own god, and the real God is kept on that knicknack shelf. Obviously, any Scripture that disagrees with his preconceptions will have to succumb to his "wisdom" and preferences The sad fact is that far too many professing Christians justify rebellion against God and prefer the idols they made their ownselves.

Dealing with it

People need to get serous about their salvation and commitment to God. Ask yourself, "Am I really in the faith?" Sure, everybody stumbles. It has been rightly said that people may fall, but diving into sin and staying there is a different situation altogether. Christians can repent of their sin (1 John 1:9) and continue in fellowship with God and other believers. If rejection of foundations of the faith, the essential teachings, is your lifestyle, I strongly urge you to examine yourself. There is no "trying" or "test driving" Jesus, but only repentance and commitment. The teachings at this link should help.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Interpreting the Bible with "First Mention"

There are many biblical scholars that I have heard and read (including Dr. James R. White, who can translate an ancient manuscript from the Greek on the spot). They never mentioned the Law (or Principle) of First Mention, so I was surprised to learn that this concept is a problem for hermeneutics and proper interpretation.

There is a concept called the "Law of First Mention" that is used to interpret the Bible. Unfortunately, it has several problems, leads to errors, and should not be used.
The Bible, George Harvey, 1845
I was also startled to learn that some educated biblical creationists actually use this Law of First Mention. Essentially, it means that the meaning of a word is determined by where it first appears in the Bible. That may appear sensible at first, but there are some things to consider. 

First of all, an argument for First Mention may appear more believable if people were reading from the original languages instead of translations. Another problem with the concept would be that the books of the Bible are not laid out chronologically — Job is considered to be the oldest book, Mark is considered to be the earliest Gospel, and John's Gospel is not synoptic, not following the timeline of Jesus' ministry. Also, there is no indication in Scripture that this approach is valid. There are other reasons to reject the pitfalls of First Mention.
Since the Bible is God’s Word, it is of utmost importance that Christians properly understand its message. To do that, one must learn how to rightly interpret Scripture. Sadly, many believers have never been taught basic principles for interpreting the Bible. This oversight has led to many verses being taken from their contexts and too many aberrant theologies based on other unsound methodologies.

. . .
Nevertheless, proper interpretation of the Bible must be held in such a high regard that any deviation from sound hermeneutical principles should be corrected. Young-earth creationists are not immune to mistakes in this area. While Bible-believing Christians may occasionally disagree on the correct application of certain interpretive principles, we can all agree that using a demonstrably poor principle to defend a correct position is unnecessary, inappropriate, and unbecoming of those who are committed to upholding the truth of Scripture.

One such principle has found favor among some young-earth creationists, and it is occasionally used by others who disagree with our view. It is known as the “principle of first mention,” or sometimes the “law of first mention.” Not everyone agrees on exactly what it means.
To finish reading, click on "Is the 'Law of First Mention' a Legitimate Interpretive Principle?"

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Doubling Down on Darwin in Denmark

Someone dared to question evolutionary science and point out moral problems with mixing Christianity with the Bible. The state church of Denmark wants him reeducated.

The joys of living in a civilized world where independent thought is encouraged, disagreements are discussed, violence and defamation are not used to get others to surrender to your point of view, atheists and evolutionists do not force their religious views on others — let me know when you find such a place. While most people believe in the separation of church and state (no, it is not in the US Constitution) and reject the idea of an official state religion, atheistic secular humanism is becoming the state church in the United States. Evolutionism is foundational to atheism and other religions that reject the authority of God's Word, and this is readily apparent from the actions of my distant kinfolk in Denmark.

Apparently, it is a sin to question Darwinism in the state Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark. One priest found out the hard way. Now, don't be disunderstanding me. Mads Jakobsen does not seem to hold any creationist views, but he does have problems with evolutionary science interpretations and how hitching up the bride of Christ with Darwinism can result in moral problems. Bishop Harpy's reaction was to malign the errant priest and call for his reeducation. Sorta like a Stalinist but with different lingo, or maybe from George Orwell. Intelligent people believe in evolution, you know, and we can't have idiots like that in our state church, no siree!  Can't be putting the Bible above fallible man's science opinions, can we?

If you study on it, you'll see why this is yet another reason we need Question Evolution Day.
Even within some churches, Darwin skeptics can face censure and calls for re-education in the religion of evolution.
That Darwin doubters can expect persecution within secular academia is old news. But in the church? Karsten Pultz, an intelligent design supporter in Denmark, reported a story he found in a “Christian newspaper” in his home country. He tells about the difficulties a Darwin doubting theologian encountered within the Danish church. 
To read the rest, click on "Danish Church Persecutes Darwin Doubters".

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Determining the Original Intent

When reading a document, it is important to understand the original intent of the authors. The goat rodeo hearings for the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh showed the lengths that some politicians will go to attain prominence for their own political viewpoints. Kavanaugh is an originalist, which means that he considers the original intent of the US Constitution when making his decisions. An interesting parallel can be made with interpreting the Bible.

An interesting comparison can be made between examining the original intent of the Bible and the US Constitution. Inserting liberal ideas have profound consequences.
Credits: Left image, Freeimages / Robert Owen-Wahl;
Right image: US National Archives and Records Administration
It seems reasonable to determine the intent of the authors. Obviously, there are some marked differences because the Bible was written by several people under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the Constitution was written by fallible men with good intentions. 

When the original meanings are abandoned, all sorts of bad judgments ensue. In the case of the Constitution, we had the Dred Scott decision and that unborn children are not legally protected as persons. When activist judges and other people believe that the Constitution is a living and evolving document, it can be made to say just about anything. Similarly, liberal religious leaders shy away from the original meaning of Scripture, torturing the text until it confesses to just about anything they desire.

The languages of both the Bible and the Constitution are important factors. The Constitution was ratified in 1788, so we have English language differences between then and now to consider. The Bible is much older and written in different languages, and the usage at the time is often a factor. For example, the word translated star (aster, ἀστήρ) has a broader meaning in the Bible than we use today.

Modern theologians bushwhack Genesis, conveniently ignoring the plain reading, valid exegesis, the historical-grammatical approach, and logical thinking so they can compromise with long ages and evolution. We also see the same violence applied to other passages in the Bible. A great deal of confusion and bad decisions could be avoided through commitment to the original intent.
In the recent Supreme Court nomination furor, Evangelicals were often named by the media as supporters of the originalist nominee. The reason for this is obvious as to hold on to biblical mores and values, a fidelity to the culturally Christian context within which the constitution was framed is essential. It is therefore a bitter irony that many of these same evangelicals do not take an originalist position on our own ‘founding document’ as Christians, the Bible—particularly the ‘preamble’ to the Bible, the opening chapters of Genesis. Many (in fact most) evangelical leaders today have abandoned the fundamental principle of a historical-grammatical approach to their interpretation of the scriptures when it comes to origins. This approach basically entails the idea that the original meaning of the words and the intentions of the authors are essential in rightly understanding and interpreting the Bible. The scriptures are divinely inspired and therefore stand on their own authority.
There can be no doubt as to the intent of the original writers of Genesis. In a well-known quote the Oxford Hebrew scholar James Barr, himself hostile to the Genesis account of creation a few thousand years ago, nevertheless asserts,
To read the article in its entirety, click on "Scriptural originalism — Searching for the meaning of Scripture". Also, you may be interested in a podcast or transcript by Dr. Albert Mohler. Follow this link and look for "As both sides attempt to read the tea leaves on abortion, the legitimacy of the Supreme Court is called into question".

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Gospel of Isaiah

When reading the prophets in the Old Testament, it is easy to feel a mite lost without a guidebook or a pastor telling you what's going on. If I want expository preaching on, say, Zechariah, I can listen to Dr. John MacArthur. He also preaches on Isaiah, but I don't feel quite as lost along the trail when reading Isaiah. The prophets talked about time and events that are baffling to this child, what with kingdoms and people that are mostly lost to history.

The prophet Isaiah tells us a great deal about Immanuel.
Prophet Isaiah predicts the return of the Jews from exile, Maarten van Heemskerck, 1560-1565
A reader of Isaiah who is also familiar with the rest of the Bible can see some important things happening. Several times, Isaiah reminds Israel and Judah (and us) that God is the Creator. There are places in his lengthy book where he talks about Immanuel (or Emmanuel). We learn about God the Son, the Creator, and his birth, death, glory, and the restoration of all things at the end. In fact, I thought there were some echoes of Isaiah when I was reading the Revelation. God foretold (I don't cotton to the word "predicts", many people can do that) many things about Jesus through Isaiah and other prophets, and much of the gospel message is found in his book.
Isaiah is often seen as one of the most theologically rich books of the Old Testament. Living in a time of rampant idolatry and apostasy, Isaiah prophesied against Israel to the north and Judah to the south, foretelling the exile and return to the land of promise. Judgment and restoration of Israel, Judah, the nations, and the earth is a huge theme, as well as the destruction and humiliation of the false gods and idols. The judgment is something that is justly deserved because of the sins of humanity, but the restoration is only possible through a remarkable figure prophesied in Isaiah; Immanuel. Isaiah gives the fullest revelation about the Messiah in the Old Testament, and in fact it is possible to preach the whole Gospel from Isaiah.

While Immanuel is clearly Jesus, it can be useful to look at what we know about Immanuel from Isaiah alone, before reading the text through the lens of New Testament revelation.
To read the rest, click on "Immanuel: The Gospel according to Isaiah". You may also be interested in "Archaeological Evidence for Prophet Isaiah".

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

William Lane Craig and Other Genesis Deniers

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Wisdom itself beings with God (Prov. 1:7), and the Bible is to be the foundation for the Christian's thinking in all areas (Psalm 119:105, 2 Tim. 3:16-17, Rom. 11:33). As we have seen in several articles here and on other biblical creation sites, Genesis is the source of all major Christian doctrines. Some professing Christians as well as atheists, old earth proponents, and other anti-creationists reject the authority of the Bible and attack not only the truth of God's Word, but also the people who take their stand on it.

There are people who reject the authority and plain teaching of God's Word, especially about creation. William Lane Craig is great at defeating atheism, but he mocks biblical creationists.
Credit: Pixabay / Jeff Jacobs

The Wisdom of the World

The Christian's faith is established in God, not in the ever-changing whims of man-made science philosophies. For example, some have joyously stated that proof of the Big Bang validates the Bible, only to have the evidence pulled out from under them. If someone's faith is based entirely on secular interpretations of science, they have little to support their beliefs when scientists change their minds. The wisdom and ways of God are far above those of man (1 Cor. 1:18-25, 2 Cor. 10:4-5 ESV).

The first line of offense for anti-creationists is to attack the person with ad hominem remarks and ridicule. If you read comments on posts, forums, and so forth, the hatred is palpable. They also blatantly misrepresent Scripture and creationists. Although denying the Bible, some (like this tinhorn) pretend to understand it and use it to demonize creationists. I do not say this lightly: such people are evil, seeking to destroy under the pretense of defending "science". Only their narrow, rigid views are to be tolerated, and the views of people who disagree are to be silenced. This silencing is often attempted through the aforementioned ridicule and misrepresentation.

Unequally Yoked

A frequent admonition for Christians who are considering marrying unbelievers is found in 2 Corinthians 6:14. The most common translation is that we are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, and some render it mismatched, bound together or similar expressions. It is also used in counsel regarding business partnerships with unbelievers. Christians should also avoid other alliances with those in rebellion against God.

Some professing Christians are willing to ride with atheists for the anti-creationist brand and ridicule not only biblical creation science, but the people who proclaim it as well — and many do it with fervor, giving aid and comfort to enemies of God. I reckon John 13:35 has been blotted out of their Bibles, as well as other verses about showing love for Christian brethren and for God's Word. This makes me wonder if they've actually read the New Testament.

I have seen some misotheists say they can accept some "moderate" Christians as long as they reject recent creation and the Genesis Flood. As regular readers have seen or a search of the site will reveal, denying the Flood is required by old earth and theistic evolutionary views but essentially calls Jesus, Peter, Paul and other who affirm the Flood to be liars! That is not "moderate" by any means.

Teaming up with unbelievers to ridicule believers really takes the rag off the bush. They are elevating atheistic interpretations of science to the magisterial position above God's Word as the final authority, which opposes the Bible that they claim to believe. It's who they are and what they do. God meant what he said about creation, and he said it plainly, old son.

People in rebellion against God hate Bible-believing Christians because rebels hate Jesus (John 15:18, 2 Tim. 3:12). Why does the world hate him? Because he testifies of it (John 7:6-7) and people will stand before him at the Judgement (Jude 1:14-15, Rev. 20:12-13). If you profess to follow Christ but join with unbelievers, I strongly recommend that you examine yourself to see if you are indeed in the faith. Also, are these folks with such venomous ejecta the kind you really want to associate with?

William Lane Craig Denies Recent Creation

Dr. Craig has openly mocked biblical creationists. He does not perform proper exegesis, preferring philosophy to biblical authority. Yes, he devastates atheism and affirms theism, but incompletely because he does not present the true God of the Bible.

Now I'm going to recommend an article by Dr. Jason Lisle. He expands on some of the things I mentioned earlier, and he shows how Craig's thinking is confused and is loaded with bad theology.
Our critic this week is Dr. William Lane Craig, a philosophy professor and Christian apologist.  Although Craig defends Scripture in some areas, he adamantly denies literal (6-day) creation in favor of the big bang and secular timescale.  Last week [November 18, 2018] he responded to a question posted on his blog.  His response seems to indicate a lack of faith in the clarity and authority of God’s Word, and a misplaced confidence in the opinions of fallible men.  This highlights the difference between classical/evidential apologists like Craig, and those apologists who embrace biblical authority as the ultimate presupposition by which all experience is made intelligible.
To read the rest of this important article, click on "William Lane Craig on Genesis". Also, I recommend a video message by Adrian Rogers, "Your Friendly Enemy". Edit: I added a very short video below, just above the music.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Reliability of the Chronicle of Adam

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

It is easy to wonder about the accuracy and reliability of biblical history, what with the events happening such a long time ago and all. People disagree about events in much more recent history such as the World War II, for example. How do we know that the oldest narrative it correct?

People may wonder how Moses knew the events of Genesis so he could write them accurately.
Credit: RGBStock / Billy Frank Alexander
Yes, I'll allow that it's been a mighty long time between then and now, and things are very different. People may think of those games where one person tells another down the line, then it turns out that the last person hears something very different from the original story. Well, isn't that how we received the biblical texts? They had oral transmission until someone got the notion to invent writing, so mayhaps the Eden account was a bit fouled up before Moses commenced to setting down the events? That's a fair question.

Hold up a minute there, Hoss. 2 Timothy 3:16 NIV tells us that Scripture is God-breathed. (Many translations are less direct, using the word inspired.) Even if writing did not exist until long after the events of Genesis, we can still trust God that God has given us the truth.

The idea that writing did not exist until after humans had existed for a few hundred thousand years is based on Darwinist presuppositions. Even people who reject evolution may also accept the notion that there was no writing from the beginning.

Biblical creationists have made a compelling case that writing (as well as language and intelligence) existed from the beginning — Adam and Eve were created with everything they needed to survive in the newly-minted world, including the ability to write.  Dr. Ben Scripture had a podcast where he affirmed that he also believes that Adam (and later authors) write some materials which were preserved until Moses edited them. He also had some other interesting things to say. I hope you'll spare 13-1/2 minutes and give it a listen.