Why Akathleptos?

Why Akathleptos? Because it means Uncontainable. God is infinite. Hence, the whole universe cannot contain Him. The term also refers to the incomprehensibility of God. No man can know everything about God. We can know Him personally but not exhaustively, not even in Heaven.

Why Patmos? Because the church is increasingly marginalized and exiled from the culture.

Why Pen-Names? So the focus is on the words and not who wrote them. We prefer to let what we say stand on its own merit. There is precedent in church history for this - i.e., the elusive identity of Ambrosiaster who wrote in the 4th century A.D.

“Truth is so obscured nowadays, and lies so well established, that unless we love the truth we shall never recognize it." Blaise Pascal

Monday, August 31, 2015

Many pulpits that were silent are about to discover that the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train

A Kentucky county clerk must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected contentions that she is being forced to violate her religious convictions. The justices, without explanation, refused to lift a lower court order requiring Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis to resume distributing marriage licenses. She stopped issuing any licenses -- and defied an order from the state’s governor -- after the Supreme Court ruled in June that gay marriage is a constitutional right. The emergency appeal marked an early test of how the Supreme Court will handle religious objections to gay marriage in the aftermath of the landmark June 26 ruling.

Article is here.


James Dobson was right here; it never was about gay marriage. As he noted it .... is not about same-sex marriage, except only tangentially. Many gay and lesbian groups have admitted that marriage has never been their primary objective. Instead, it is about everything else. What’s at stake is the entire culture war. To begin, it is an expression of hostility toward people who take their Christianity seriously.

When the Supreme Court ruled gay marriage a constitutional right, they also said this ...
"Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises," acknowledges Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in Obergefell v. Hodges, "and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here."


Pastors and church leaders who thought being upset over the gay marriage ruling was much ado over nothing, are now finding otherwise. Think that legal polygamy is impossible? Read this.

Now that we’ve defined that love and devotion and family isn’t driven by gender alone, why should it be limited to just two individuals? The most natural advance next for marriage lies in legalized polygamy .... This is not an abstract issue. In Chief Justice John Roberts’ dissenting opinion, he remarks, “It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage.”

It's about to get worse for Christians who faithfully follow Christ in obedience. Much worse. Many church pulpits that were silent are about to discover - too late - that the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming bullet train.

Biblical View of Human Sexuality (Part 2)

(Part 1 is here)

The American culture is struggling to contain the wreckage of the sexual revolution. As Mona Charen (American columnist and political analyst who does not write explicitly from the Christian perspective and is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center) observes,

The agonies college campuses are now routinely experiencing are the result of a hyper-sexualized culture that has robbed the young of romance, courtesy, privacy, and, yes, love. The feminists call it “rape culture” and blame “traditional masculinity,” but they forget, if they ever knew, that “traditional” men were never encouraged to behave like this.

.... Neither men nor women are happy with the chaotic and utterly unromantic world they’ve inherited. It’s a culture of drunken hook-ups and “booty calls,” where traditional courtship is dead and even dating is increasingly rare. In pop culture, in entertainment, and even in redoubts of “higher” learning, crudeness and vulgarity have become commonplace .... As for romance, it is like a transplanted tropical plant, struggling to survive in frozen soil.

.... Nor has there been a time in American history when so much of what the young are taught to prepare them for this stage is a product of ideology rather than our best understanding of the truth.

... They’ve been instructed that the crucial moral lesson they should take away from sex education is hygiene. They’ve learned that anything goes so long as both (or all) parties consent; and, most crucially, they’ve been schooled that there are no differences that matter between the sexes.

That last one especially is at the heart of the current chaos. Men have been invited to assume that women are neither more nor less sensitive than themselves when it comes to sex. Women have been encouraged to believe that engaging in casual hook ups is another step on the ladder to full equality.

... The mess on college campuses is part of the larger chaos between men and women that characterizes modern America. This failure is no orphan. It can count among its fathers the sexual revolutionists and the feminists.

... many feminists and progressives believe that our “gender” system, which is not biological but cultural, is responsible for rape and sexual assault. Presumably, if we could eliminate the categories of male and female altogether, as many urge, we’d stop sexual violence. But denying the social, psychological, and yes, biological differences between the sexes is part of what has brought us to the current pass. Progressives survey a flood and prescribe rain.

... The sexual revolution and the feminist revolution teamed up to create the culture of ultra-casual sex that now characterizes campus life and social life in general. If we were attempting to design a social code that would be more conducive to date rape and less likely to lead to romance and love, we could scarcely improve on hook-up culture.

... Try as they may (and many seem to be making a heroic effort) women are not comfortable with hook-up culture. That, I submit, is why drinking to the point of incapacitation has become such a widespread phenomenon among the young. 

... It’s common for young people to “pregame” on a Friday or Saturday night—that is, begin drinking before attending a party. The point is not to relax, nor even to get a little tipsy. The goal is drunkenness. Something is making young women turn to alcohol in huge numbers. Perhaps abrupt sexual intimacy with virtual strangers makes them uncomfortable?

The hook-up script completely inverts the traditional order of attraction and intimacy. Instead of meeting, talking, dating, touching, kissing, and eventually having sex with someone, the new rite requires sexual intimacy with virtual strangers upon a first meeting or after only casual acquaintance.

“It’s just something that I feel like as a college student you’re supposed to do,” explained one student to Freitas, author of “The End of Sex.” “It’s so ingrained in college life that if you’re not doing it, then you’re not getting the full college experience.”

... Lisa Wade, a sociologist at Occidental College, has studied hook-ups and found that most students she interviewed were “overwhelmingly disappointed with the sex they were having in hook ups.” This was true of both men and women, but “was felt more intensely by women.” The women, Wade writes, “felt that they had inherited a right to express their sexuality from the women’s movement of the 60s and 70s.” But they were disappointed. 

... Romance and love, two of the greatest joys of life, must begin with interest in the whole person. To be the object of a crush, to know that someone is a little tongue-tied around you at first, to be appreciated for your unique qualities, to be admired—isn’t that what most people hope for? What a world away that is from the drunken hook-up.

The current approach to the mess on college campuses amounts to doubling down on the mistakes of the sexual and feminist revolutions. We are to deny that men and women want and need different things from sex. We are to embrace a “yes means yes” regime that will do little to clarify “he said/she said” disputes. We are to continue our long march away from tenderness, fidelity, and relationships toward some androgynous utopia in which male and female are no longer even recognized categories.

The truth from which our society has been fleeing for half a century is not really so awful. There are differences between men and women, particularly in what they want and need from sex. Ungoverned sexuality can degenerate into degradation and abuse all too easily. Love and tenderness really are the best routes to happiness. Women have it within their power to reject the hook up culture and insist upon a return to dating. Such a turn would be a boon to everyone—but most of all to themselves.


Here are ten misconceptions from the sexual revolution often held by unbelievers and Christians alike:
  1. Sex is only a physical act. Scripture is clear that sex is not only the physical union of a man and woman, but also the spiritual joining of the two (1 Cor 6:16-17). In the Bible's strongest statement about sexual desire, Jesus cuts to the heart of the matter (Matt 5:27-28). Jesus remarkably affirms that sexual desire affects the inside of a person ("in his heart") whether or not anything takes place externally. Sexual intimacy between a man and a woman is the physical expression of a spiritual union that occurs between them; this is why Jesus takes the position that divorce is not tenable option (Matt 19:4-6). A married couple may divorce relatively easily in the eyes of the law, but the spiritual union between them is not so easily dissolved. Sexual relations inevitably and fundamentally alter the relationship between a man and a woman; after this most intimate of acts and communication that can occur between two people, the two will never look at each other, or be able to think about one another the same way again.
  2. “Consenting adults” is a reliable guide as to whether something is appropriate. Such a position naively assumes that an adult will always want to do what is right and fails to understand the Biblical truth that all of us are sinners by nature, prone to do what is wrong (Rom 3:10-12; 3:23). By way of practical illustration, a man and a woman may want very much to commit adultery with each other, but their mutual consent, of course, does not validate the act. Because we are sinners by nature, the only true infallible guide as to whether something is wrong or right, is the revealed truth within Scripture – not our own judgement or assessment (Ps 119:9, 101-104, 105-106, 150-151, 155; Rom 7:7).
  3. “If it feels good, it must be right”. This is related to the 2nd misconception. Scripture affirms that sin is often pleasurable; that is precisely why it is so attractive. Note the reference to sinners as “lovers of pleasure” in 2 Time 3:4 and the reference to the allure of the “passing pleasures of sin” in Heb 11:25. By way of analogy, the heroin user ingests the drug for the fleeting pleasure it provides, all the while slowly destroying himself. This of course, does not mean that sex should not pleasurable. It can (and should be) be an immensely pleasurable act. The point is that it is foolish to believe the moral correctness of an act is indicated by whether it imparts pleasure.
  4. Sex inevitably becomes boring with familiarity (i.e., “the honeymoon is over”). Nothing is further from the truth (Prov 5:18-19). In fact, as we shall see, the opposite is true. Because sex is the intimate physical expression of the spiritual union between a husband and a wife, the sexual experience can and should actually intensify in pleasure through the years as the bond between the two of them deepens. The sexual experience between a husband and wife can actually be far more powerful and intense decades after marriage than at the start. What was world-class fireworks on the honeymoon can be megatons of thermonuclear detonation decades later.
  5. The primary ingredient in a fulfilling sexual experience is physical attraction. This  is related to the 4th misconception. While, of course, physical attraction is an important aspect of the sexual experience, it is not the most important. Most men know all too well that physical attraction is a powerful catalyst for sexual attraction. But it ultimately is not the determining factor for how satisfying a sexual experience can be. It is a tragic mistake that may make to believe that the more physically beautiful a man or woman is, the more satisfying the sex will be. What is inside a person is far more important than the outside (1 Pet 3:3-4). Remember that we’ve already seen sexual intimacy is the physical expression of a spiritual union – it is the bond (i.e., the relationship) between the husband and wife that largely determines how fulfilling the sexual experience will be. A relationship based solely or primarily on physical attraction is doomed. As familiarity sets in or physical appearance inevitably deteriorates with age, the relationship and its’ corresponding sexual expression will corrode – and may even cease altogether.
  6. Technique and experience determine the ultimate quality of a sexual experience. While a sexual experience with an experienced prostitute may be temporarily exciting, it ultimately will neither fulfill nor satisfy (for reasons we will explore in depth later). Sexual experienciences can and certainly should be exciting. But it is the ultimately the ability of a sexual experience to fulfill that determines its’ quality. In contrast to prevailing secular wisdom which encourages sexual experimentation before marriage in order to “gain experience” so as to be better “prepared” for marriage, the Bible affirms sexual purity as important before, after and during marriage (Heb 13:4).
  7. The emphasis is on receiving pleasure (i.e., “What’s in it for me?”). Interestingly this misconception seemingly appears to be more common among men, rather than women. Sex can be and should be an intensely pleasurable experience for both the man and the woman. But each partner should enter into the experience with a sacrificial, giving attitude that focuses on giving pleasure to the partner. The primary goal for both the husband and the wife should be to satisfy each other, not oneself. The Bible clearly teaches we have the responsibility to seek the well-being and pleasure of others in accordance with the example of sacrifice that Christ gives us by His life (Rom 15:2-3; 1 Cor 10:24). Both husband and wife should approach the marital bed with the attitude of pleasing their partner – not oneself.
  8. Sex is the most important thing in a marriage. Sex is a wonderful gift from God to be enjoyed as He designed. But it is neither the most important thing in life nor in marriage; Jesus Christ and a vibrant personal relationship with Him should be paramount both in the life of the individual and within the marriage, and is, without dispute, the most important thing for the Christian (Matt 10:37; Luke 14:26; 1 Cor 11:3). When sex becomes the most important thing in an individual’s life, it has superseded its’ God-ordained role and the potential then exists for real abuse – much as wine dominates the life of the alcoholic,  or food the life of a glutton, or money the life of the greedy. Scripture warns against us allowing our lives to be ruled by immorality (1 Cor 6:12-13). When sex becomes the most important thing in life or a marriage, it then becomes the “master” and the individual (or marriage) inevitably serves “it” rather than the other way around. 
  9. Sex is not important to a marriage. At the other extreme, some improperly say that sex is irrelevant for a good marriage. While sex is clearly not the most important thing in marriage, neither can we say that it is of no importance. Scripture affirms the importance of sexual relations within marriage (1 Cor 7:3-5 - ironically, this passage is penned by Paul, a celibate, as instruction to married couples.) Sex is very important in marriage. Barring physical injury or disease, regular sexual relations between the husband and wife is a sign of continuing union. (It is noteworthy that while Roman Catholicism does not permit divorce, it does permit annulment for any marriage that is not consummated.)
  10. Sex is the result of the fall of man. More than a few Christians believe this, at least subconsciously, if not outright. They mistake the extreme intimacy of the act, confusing it with something that surely must be less-than-holy. God instituted sexual relations between the husband and wife before the Fall (Gen  1:28) and pronounced it along with everything else He created as “very good” (Gen 1:31). In contrast to immorality, when we engage in a God-sanctioned sexual experience with our spouse and become one through the act of sexual intercourse, we actually glorify God through this intense experience (1 Cor 6:18-20).

(Continued in Part 3 here)

John Piper - What Is It To Believe?

Piper With Thoughts on Jesus’s Demand to Repent

In 2006, John Piper authored an article entitled "Thoughts on Jesus’s Demand to Repent".

One of my concerns is to show that repentance in Jesus’ message is not behavior but the inner change that gives rise to new God-centered, Christ-exalting behavior .... The first demand of Jesus’ public ministry was, “Repent.” He spoke this command indiscriminately to all who would listen. It was a call for radical inward change toward God and man ... 

So the basic meaning of repent is to experience a change of the mind’s perceptions and dispositions and purposes. The other factor that points to this meaning of repent is the way Luke 3:8 describes the relationship between repentance and new behavior. It says, “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” 

.... repenting is what happens inside of us that leads to the fruits of new behavior. Repentance is not the new deeds, but the inward change that bears the fruit of new deeds. Jesus is demanding that we experience this inward change.

.... That’s the essential nature of sin. It’s an assault on God .... Jesus’ view of sin was that it dishonored God and put us in debt to restore the divine honor we had defamed by our God-belittling behavior or attitudes. That debt is paid by Jesus himself. “The Son of man came . . . to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). But for us to enjoy that gift he says we must repent. Repenting means experiencing a change of mind that now sees God as true and beautiful and worthy of all our praise and all our obedience.

... No one is excluded from Jesus’ demand to repent .. none is excluded. All need repentance. And the need is urgent.

... Jesus, the Son of God, is warning people of the judgment to come, and offering escape if we will repent. If we will not repent, Jesus has one word for us, “Woe, to you” (Matthew 11:21). This is why his demand for repentance is part of his central message that the kingdom of God is at hand. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

... the demand to repent is based on the gracious offer that is present to forgive, and on the gracious warning that someday those who refuse the offer will perish in God’s judgment.

After he had risen from the dead Jesus made sure that his apostles would continue the call for repentance throughout the world. He said, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47). So the demand of Jesus to repent goes to all the nations. It comes to us, whoever we are and wherever we are, and lays claim on us. This is the demand of Jesus to every soul: Repent. Be changed deep within. Replace all God-dishonoring, Christ-belittling perceptions and dispositions and purposes with God-treasuring, Christ-exalting ones.

Full article is here.


Advocates of Free Grace theology wrongly view repentance as a "work" that if required, contaminates the essential doctrine of justification by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone (i.e., see my earlier posting here entitled "Much Of The Modern Church Sadly Misunderstands The Doctrine Of Grace". Piper makes clear however that repentance is not part of the "new deeds" enabled by justification, but is an inward change that leads to the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

What was the message of the early church? Acts mentions repentance more than any other NT book (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20). In Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2), he concludes with a call for the people to repent.

Theologians often say that repentance and faith can be understood as “two sides of the same coin." Keeping in mind that true repentance is a change of mind and heart (not merely being sorry for our sin) - putting saving faith then in Jesus Christ as Savior requires changing our mind about who He is and what He has done. We change our mind from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ. One may "repent" (change their mind) without "believing" (trusting Christ), but a person can't "believe" (trust in Christ) without "repenting" (having changed their mind).

The Got Questions ministries eloquently puts it this way,

It is crucially important that we understand repentance is not a work we do to earn salvation. No one can repent and come to God unless God pulls that person to Himself (John 6:44). Acts 5:31 and 11:18 indicate that repentance is something God gives—it is only possible because of His grace. No one can repent unless God grants repentance. All of salvation, including repentance and faith, is a result of God drawing us, opening our eyes, and changing our hearts. God's longsuffering leads us to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), as does His kindness (Romans 2:4).

While repentance is not a work that earns salvation, repentance unto salvation does result in works. It is impossible to truly and fully change your mind without that causing a change in action. In the Bible, repentance results in a change in behavior. That is why John the Baptist called people to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). A person who has truly repented from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ will give evidence of a changed life (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 5:19-23; James 2:14-26). Repentance, properly defined, is necessary for salvation. Biblical repentance is changing your mind about Jesus Christ and turning to God in faith for salvation (Acts 3:19).

Wayne Grudem addressed the issue of salvation without repentance from sin in his Nov 2014 address to the Evangelical Theological Society. His key points:
  • Free Grace theology is based on a misunderstanding of word “alone” in the historic Protestant affirmation of justification by “faith alone”. The consistent Protestant teaching from the Reformation onward has never taken “faith alone” to mean “faith that occurs by itself in a person, unaccompanied by other human activities.” The Reformers always took “faith alone” to mean that “faith is the only thing that God responds to.” And so – Reformation teaching was: We are justified by faith alone [it alone is what God requires] but the faith that justifies is never alone [repentance, good works, other things always come with it]
  • The Free Grace movement today is not upholding the Reformation doctrine of sola fide, or “justification by faith alone.” It is promoting a view of saving faith that the Reformers never held.
  • Free Grace theology weakens the gospel message by avoiding any call to unbelievers to repent of their sins.
  • Free Grace theology gives false assurance of eternal life to many people who profess faith in Christ but then show no evidence in their pattern of life.
Wayne Grudem's comments in full can be found here. The ESV Study Bible (here) in its' theological article entitled "God’s Plan of Salvation" elaborates,

... what are we to do to be saved? We must turn to God in Christ, which entails turning back from sin. If we repent of (decide to forsake and turn from) our sin (as best we understand it) and trust in Christ as a living person, we will be saved from God’s righteous wrath against our sins. This response of repentance and faith (or trust) can be explained in more detail as follows:

Turn to God. In the OT, God commands people to turn or return to him, and so be saved (e.g., Isa. 6:10; Jer. 18:8). In the NT, Christ preached that people should turn to God, and Paul summarized his account of his preaching with that phrase: “that they [everyone] should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:20; cf. Acts 26:18). Thus, as Paul said earlier, he preached “testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). To repent means to turn. And the turning that we are called to do in order to be saved is fundamentally a turning to God. James could refer to the Gentiles who “turn to God” (Acts 15:19). To “turn to,” in this sense in the Bible, is to orient your life toward someone. As God’s people—those who are being saved—we are to play the part of the Prodigal Son who, though conscious of sin, guilt, and folly, flees to the Father (Luke 15:20). Paul at Lystra calls the people to turn to the living God (Acts 14:15). Paul refers to the Galatian Christians as those who had come to “know God” (Gal. 4:9); this is what we do in repentance: we repent to, we turn to God, and henceforth know him as the God who forgives our sins and accepts us for Christ’s sake.

Turn away from sin. Turning to God necessarily implies our turning away from sin. The whole Bible—OT and NT—clearly teaches that to repent is to “acknowledge [God’s] name and turn from [our] sins” (1 Kings 8:35; cf. 2 Chron. 7:14; Jer. 36:3; Ezek. 14:6; 18:30; Acts 3:19; 8:22; 26:18; Rev. 2:21–22; 9:20–21; 16:11). We cannot start to pursue God and sin at the same time. First John makes it clear that our basic way of life will either be oriented toward God and his light, or toward the darkness of sin. Christians in this life still sin, but against our deepest desires and better judgment; our lives are not guided and directed by sin as before. We are no longer enslaved to sin. Though we still struggle with it (Gal. 5:17), God has given us the gift of repentance (Acts 11:18), and we have been freed from sin’s dominating power.

Believe and trust. Put another way, our response is to believe and trust God’s promises in Christ, and to commit ourselves to Christ, the living Lord, as his disciples. Among Jesus’ first words in Mark’s Gospel are “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). The obedience that typifies God’s people, beginning with repentance, is to result from the faith and trust we have in him and his word (e.g., Josh. 22:16; Acts 27:25). Thus sins are sometimes called “breaking faith with God” (e.g., Ezra 10:2, 10). Having faith in Christ, which seals our union with him through the Holy Spirit, is the means by which God accounts Christ’s righteousness as our own (Rom. 3:21–26; 5:17–21; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8–9; Phil. 3:9). Paul could refer to “salvation through faith in Christ” (2 Tim. 3:15). Frequently this initial repentance and faith can be simply expressed to God himself in prayer.

Charles Spurgeon in a sermon here dated July 13, 1862 forcefully argued that repentance and saving faith are inseparable. Churches that remove repentance from their proclamation of the gospel strip away the very catalyst for the radical change incurred by true believers that is mentioned in 2 Cor 5:17. Their version of the gospel is powerless to effect real change.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Biblical View of Human Sexuality (Part 1)

The Bible presents human sexuality as an extraordinary blessing from God.  It also holds the view however that sex is such a mysterious and powerful thing that it must to be subject to certain boundaries -- like marriage.  By definition, the more powerful something is, the greater the potential for catastrophe when misused.  So it is with human sexuality.  When properly used in its God-ordained role in marriage between a husband and wife, it is an extraordinarily powerful blessing to be enjoyed.  Misuse has devastating consequences.

Human sexuality is an undeniably powerful force:
  • Unlike most other living creatures, humans normally continue to have sexual relations well beyond the child-bearing years.
  • Virtually all other mammals have a specified time in which the female is receptive, or in heat, whereas the human female can be receptive anytime to a sexual experience, not just once or twice a year.
  • Sexuality can remain a powerful force well into the senior years.
  • It is by far the most potent force in advertising (i.e., “sex sells”).
  • It is by far the most profitable industry on the planet; pornography is the most profitable industry on the Internet and grosses more money than all professional sports combined.
  • Many believe that sex is man’s second most powerful drive after survival.
  • In an instinctive understanding of the power of sex and its inherent spiritual aspect (which Scripture addresses in some detail), some eastern teaching tends to regard sex as a religious sacrament; it is seen as the one act in which the self is (or can be) completely transcended in union with another (i.e., Tantric Buddhism or the Indian Kama Sutra).
  • The worldwide popularity of Viagra, the world’s first recognized true aphrodisiac, has been astounding – extending, according to news reports, even to the black market where it is booming in popularity.
Unfortunately, the church has not always faithfully presented the Biblical view of sex; many of the early church fathers came to regard celibacy as a more desired state and viewed sexual intercourse as proper only for procreation ….. i.e., three examples:
  • Jerome, (circa 393 A.D.) author of the Latin Vulgate approved of sexual intercourse only for procreation – never for pleasure alone
  • Augustine, (circa 400 A.D.) who struggled with an immoral life prior to his conversion, took the same view
  • Clement of Alexandria also took the position that "To have coitus other than to procreate children is to do injury to nature"
And when the church has accurately presented the Biblical view, it  has not always been correctly understood or remembered - with the best example being the Puritans. For more than 150 years, the Puritans have gotten a bum rap. The colonizers of New England, credited with the first Thanksgiving, are most often portrayed as drab, glum and pleasure-hating. You've seen the depictions -- religious zealots whose idea of fun was burning a falsely accused witch, or narrow-minded prudes best described by the adjective they spawned: "puritanical." But that image is a false one, historical scholars now admit, "There's now a complete consensus that the popular image of the Puritans is almost totally inaccurate," said Mary Beth Norton, a professor of American history at Cornell University and author of the critically acclaimed "In the Devil's Snare," a new book about the Salem witch trials.

"The Puritans were typical people of their time in that they enjoyed the pleasures of the 17th century. They liked to drink. They liked to sit and talk. They liked to eat well when they had the food to eat.  They liked to play games, like an early version of shuffleboard. And they enjoyed sex.  Let's put it this way, they weren't ascetics, like monks."

Pilgrims and Puritans alike promoted sex as a gift and duty from God, but only within the confines of marriage. To contemporary ears, that may not sound progressive. "But it's an important and radical departure from traditional Catholic teaching of the period, which then tended to view sex, even within marriage, as morally tainted, as almost a necessary evil," said Richard Godbeer, author of the new book "Sexual Revolution in Early America."

If a Puritan man did not frequently or adequately perform his husbandly duties, consequences could be severe. Godbeer, a professor of history at the University of California, Riverside, writes of James Matlock, a cooper accused before the church of denying "conjugal fellowship" to his wife for two years. Matlock was excommunicated for failing to sexually satisfy his wife.

"Most of my students," Godbeer said, "are quite surprised by what I have to say about Puritan sex and Puritan life in general because they bring preconceptions they've absorbed from `The Scarlet Letter' and other works of that sort."

Consider Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 classic of American literature where a main character must wear a scarlet "A" for "adultress." It was pure fiction, but the public accepted its portrayals as fact. It was journalist H.L. Mencken who in 1928 famously defined "puritanism" as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." – something now acknowledged by historians as historically false. Said Norton, "That gave Puritans a bad name from which they never recovered."

In fact, the Puritans celebrated marital sex as a wonderful gift from God, first and foremost for pleasure, and then for procreation

So potent is human sexuality that Scripture warns that its’ abuse (i.e., sexual sin) is in a category unto itself (1 Cor 6:18-20).  Why? An understanding of the Biblical perspective on human sexuality will give us insight. In our day and age especially, it is important that the church present an effective witness to the Biblical perspective on human sexuality – otherwise, the destructive cultural and secular views will prevail. Unfortunately, the church in contemporary America has often not done a good job in this arena during the last half of the 20th century and into the 21st century.

Consider what the understanding of a typical youth in America will be on human sexuality if his/her parents are silent and they hear nothing from the church:
  • their understanding of sex is drawn from pop culture, television, MTV and movies, popular songs on the radio, and Madison Avenue advertising
  • they are often exposed to a secular education that increasingly promotes alternative sexual lifestyles (condemned in Scripture) as acceptable
  • their peers in school, right or wrong, are a source of information
  • many of the icons of the younger generation (i.e., Britney Spears, Janet Jackson, Lady GaGa, etc.) promote the flaunting of sexuality
  • condoms are readily available to young teens (and even younger), provided by some schools
  • our society even tries to remove the consequences of illegitimate sex:   in a country where a 13-year girl old cannot have her ears pierced without parental permission, she has the right to an abortion without the parent even knowing about it
In our culture thoroughly saturated with sexual images and bombarded with sexual innuendo, young people are prone to come to one of two conclusions on their own:
  1. Either they accept the popular notion that sex is free and the more you get both in terms of multiple sexual partners and alternative lifestyles in the sense of anything goes, the better
  2. Or, sensing that the first view is not right and rightly observing the inevitable devastating effects of “free sex”, they may then wrongly conclude that sex must somehow be inherently sinful and more to be tolerated as a “necessary evil” rather than embraced as a blessing
Both views, as we shall see, are wrong

We can forfeit the blessings that result from living life as God designed it. We can forfeit the moral freedom God intends for us, and instead become enslaved to degrading passions (2 Pet. 2:19). Nowhere is this more true than in our sexual behavior.

(Continued in Part 2 here)

Breath Of Life

Angelia Grace with her enthralling voice singing "Breath Of Life" (her original song) on behalf of the unborn ...

Demon Possession and Mental Illness

Chris Cook, a practicing Christian psychiatrist in the UK, offers his perspective on demonic possession and mental illness here.  He concludes,

Demon possession and mental illness, then, are not simply alternative diagnoses to be offered when a person presents with deliberate self harm or violent behaviour, although they may need to be distinguished in such circumstances, whether by spiritual discernment or the application of basic psychiatric knowledge. It would seem reasonable to argue that demon possession may be an aetiological factor in some cases of mental illness, but it may also be an aetiological factor in some non-psychiatric conditions, and in other cases it may be encountered in the absence of psychiatric or medical disorder. Furthermore, demon possession is essentially a spiritual problem, but mental illness is a multifactorial affair, in which spiritual, social, psychological and physical factors may all play an aetioIogical role. The relationship between these concepts is therefore complex. Differential diagnostic skills may have a part to play in offering help to those whose problems could be of demonic or medical/psychiatric origin. However, spiritual discernment is of at least equal, if not greater, importance in such matters.

An orthodox priest, Luke Melackrinos, offers some insight on this subject,

While the encounters Christ has with the possessed are dramatic, and certainly Hollywood presents horrifying, graphic representations of demonic possession, I think we face much more frightening forms of possession on a daily basis.

The evil one is very clever and subtle, so much so that we as a society have become comfortable with the concept of evil in our lives. Take a moment and consider the reaction of the townspeople when they see the formerly possessed man sitting in his right mind listening to Christ. They don’t rejoice at this man finally being free; they ask Christ to leave. Think about that for a moment. They were more comfortable with a possessed naked man in the graveyard than with Christ and His Holiness.

..... Almost daily, we choose evil over good, even though we certainly know that this is not what is best for us and our spiritual lives .... The greatest victory that the evil one can achieve is to make us believe that evil and the demonic are not real.

My series on spiritual warfare here deals with this issue at length. As our culture increasingly embraces evil, a natural consequence will be increased demonic activity. As I concluded in that series,

As our culture descends deeper into depravity and secularism prevails while the gospel is largely muted in the public square, demonic influence will grow in power and pervasiveness. The church is the only entity empowered to confront it. Churches that fail to pray regularly for the world and culture in which it is embedded have an inward focus and need to adjust their spotlight. As individual Christians increase in holiness (increasing sanctification should be the norm for anyone that follows Christ), by nature they will be powerful deterrents against evil.

There is little question that demonic influence plays an increasing role in the rising mental illness afflicting our culture.  Maturity, discernment and wisdom are crucial in confronting it. In cases of strong demonic influence, traditional methods of treatment (i.e., medication, psychotherapy, etc.) may successfully suppress the symptoms but are ultimately ineffective in removing the root cause. It is akin to putting a band-aid on melanoma. The only cure is the gospel.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Hypostatic Union (Part 3)

(Part 1 is here; Part 2 is here)

Here comes the most fascinating part. Since the two natures are united in one Person, the fact that Christ's human nature didn't know when He would return means that the Person of Christ did not know when He would return. Thus, Jesus the Person could truly say, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone" (Matthew 24:36). At the same time, by virtue of His divine nature, we can also say that the Person of Christ did know when He would return. Knowledge and ignorance of the time of His return are both true of the Christ, but in different ways. In His human nature, the Person of Christ was ignorant of when He would return. In His divine nature, the Person of Christ did know when He would return. Thus, Christ Himself both knew and did not know when He would return.

Jesus is now both God and man forever. Christ's humanity was not a mere fleshly shell that God rented and used for a temporary amount of time. God did not just come to live in flesh as a man, but the 'Word became flesh' (John 1:14). This means that God astonishingly incorporated human nature into His eternal being. In the incarnation humanity has been permanently incorporated into the Godhead.  God is now a man in addition to being God.

Think on the implications of that! While 2 Pet 1:4 is traditionally understood to mean we share in the divine nature as we become increasingly like Christ through the process of sanctification and subsequently glorification …. It may also echo that humanity is now permanently incorporated into the Godhead in the person of Christ. But we must be careful not to fall into heresy here by asserting that we somehow become divine (little “gods” in a sense) as some have done, i.e., as some Word of Faith teachers have (Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar., Joyce Meyer, etc.)

At the virgin conception God acquired an identity He would retain for the rest of eternity. His human existence is both authentic and permanent. Jesus' humanity is not something that can be discarded or dissolved back into the Godhead, but He will always and forever exist in heaven as a glorified man, albeit God at the same time.  Upon his ascension, Jesus was not deified, but rather was glorified.

For most people it is obvious that Jesus will be God forever. But for some reason it escapes a lot of us that Jesus will also be man forever. He is still man right now as you read this and will be forever. The Bible is clear that Jesus rose physically from the dead in the same body that had died (Luke 24:39) and then ascended into heaven as a man, in His physical body (Acts 1:9; Luke 24:50-51). It would make no sense for Him to have done this if He was simply going to ditch His body and stop being man when He arrived in heaven.

That Christ continued being man, with a physical body, after His ascension is confirmed by the fact that when He returns, it will be as man, in His body. He will return physically. Philippians 3:21 says that at His Second Coming, Christ "will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory." This verse is clear that Jesus still has His body. It is a glorified body, which Paul calls "the body of His glory." And when Christ returns, He will still have it because this verse says that He will transform our bodies to be like His. Both Jesus and all Christians will then continue living together in their bodies forever, because the resurrection body cannot die (1 Corinthians 15:42) because it is eternal (2 Corinthians 5:1).

Why did Jesus become man, and why will He be man forever? The book of Hebrews says that it was so that Christ could be an adequate Savior who has all that we need. "He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people" (2:17). First, notice that Jesus became man so that He could die for our sins. He had to be human in order to pay the penalty for humans. Second, this verse says that because Jesus is human like us, He is able to be a merciful and faithful high priest. His humanity enables Him to more fully sympathize with us and identify with us.  weakens our comfort and faith to not know that Jesus is still man and in His body. For if He is not still man in heaven, how could we have comfort knowing that He can fully sympathize with us? He can sympathize and be a faithful high priest and know what we are going through not just because He was once on earth as a man, but because He continues forever as that same man.

The Chalcedonian Definition (also Confession or Creed of Chalcedon) was adopted in A.D. 451 at the Council of Chalcedon in Asia Minor. That council was the fourth of the first seven Ecumenical Councils, which are accepted by Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and most Protestant churches. This creed was adopted at the Fourth Ecumenical Council held at Chalcedon--located in what is now Turkey--in 451 as a response to certain heretical views concerning the nature of Christ. It established the orthodox view that Christ has two natures (human and divine) that are unified in one person. (The Creed is reproduced in entirety at the bottom of this post.) The Definition defines that Christ is 'acknowledged in two natures', which 'come together into one person and one hypostasis'. There are five main truths with which the creed of Chalcedon summarized the biblical teaching on the Incarnation.

  1. Jesus has two natures -- He is God and man.
  2. Each nature is full and complete -- He is fully God and fully man.
  3. Each nature remains distinct.
  4. Christ is only one Person.
  5. Things that are true of only one nature are nonetheless true of the Person of Christ.

What Is the Significance? Why bother with this seemingly fancy term of "hypostatic union"? What good is it to know about it? At the end of the day, the term can go, but the concept behind the term is infinitely and crucially precious—and worshipfully mind-stretching. It is immeasurably sweet—and awe-inspiring—to know that Jesus’ two natures are perfectly united in his one person. Jesus is not divided. He is not two people. He is one person.

As the Chalcedonian Creed states, his two natures are without confusion, without change, without division, and without separation. Jesus is one. This means Jesus is one focal point for our worship. And as Jonathan Edwards preached, in this one-person God-man we find “an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies.” Because of this hypostatic, one-person union, Jesus Christ exhibits an unparalleled magnificence. No one person satisfies the complex longings of the human heart like the God-man. God has made the human heart in such a way that it will never be eternally content with that which is only human. Finitude can’t slake our thirst for the infinite. And yet, in our finite humanity, we are significantly helped by a point of correspondence with the divine. God was gloriously infinite before he became a man in Jesus. But we are finite human beings, and unincarnate deity doesn’t connect with us in the same way as the God who became human. The conception of a god who never became man (like Allah) will not satisfy the human soul like the God who did.

Beyond just gazing at the spectacular person of Jesus, there is also the amazing gospel-laced revelation that the reason Jesus became the God-man was for us. His fully human nature joined in personal union to his eternally divine nature is permanent proof that Jesus, in perfect harmony with his Father, is undeterrably for us. He has demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners, he took our nature to his one person and died for us. As the now-eternal God-man, Jesus alone is the perfect high priest of Hebrews 7, able to perfectly intercede for and represent man before God …. And perfectly able to represent God before man

Creed of Chalcedon (451 A.D.)
We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

"Slavery, Hitler and Planned Parenthood"

Ken Connor doesn't pull any punches in his outstanding editorial entitled "Slavery, Hitler and Planned Parenthood". It is reproduced in entirety below.

Human beings have always had an extraordinary capacity for self-delusion. We justify horrible things by telling ourselves that we are acting in the service of a noble cause, or by dehumanizing the victims of our unjust actions.

History is littered with the corpses of innocent men and women who died in the name of their persecutor's depraved ideology. Josef Mengele is perhaps the most famous example of this principle.

One of the chief physicians at the Birkenau concentration camp, Mengele performed cruel and gruesome human experiments on Jewish twins in an attempt to prove the supremacy of the Aryan race. He was known by the children he selected for his experiments as "Uncle Mengele" because he treated them kindly and gave them sweets. These same children, however, were subjected to terrifying and painful procedures and often killed with impunity when they proved no longer useful.

Quite simply, Josef Mengele was a monster. He was a sadist who enjoyed inflicting pain on others. He lacked empathy for the suffering of the Jews at Birkenau because in his mind, and in the mind of Adolf Hitler and his followers, Jews were subhuman.

During the time of the American founding, a large portion of the Southern economy relied upon slave labor. So entrenched was the slave tradition that it took a civil war and over half a million dead Americans to eradicate it.

Slave owners often split up families, selling off mothers and fathers separately from their children. Slaves were beaten, sometimes killed, women were raped.

Today, it seems unimaginable that there was a time when it was considered normal for one human being to own another — to buy and sell a person as if they were a piece of farm equipment. That it happened in America, a country that prides itself on being a land of equality and opportunity for all, only adds to the shame.

In Hitler's Germany, however, and in the early American South, the prevailing attitude towards Jews and Blacks, respectively, was seen as normal. People either knew what was happening and approved of it, or they simply went along without questioning it because it was "just the way it was."

This same mentality exists today with regard to abortion. Over the last 43 years, the American people have come to accept that part of a woman's constitutional liberty includes the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. As the years have passed and the procedure has been more widely embraced, all vestiges of shame have fallen away. In America today, we have as little regard for the lives and dignity of unborn children as did slave owners had for the lives of blacks in the pre-war south, and no organization embodies this shameful attitude more than Planned Parenthood.

Another uncover video has been released by the Center for Medical Progress, and it's truly horrifying. In it, a former employee of StemExpress describes an episode of "specimen harvesting" in which she and a colleague cut through the face of an aborted baby in order to extract his brain, all while the child's heart still appeared to be beating.

It turns out that "intact fetal cadavers" are something that companies like StemExpress are willing to pay top dollar for, and Planned Parenthood has been happy to accommodate this demand. The more developed fetal organs are, the better research potential they have. This means later and later term abortions explicitly for the purposes of harvesting organs. Babies are being delivered as intact as possible and their tiny bodies scavenged for parts, like a stolen car in an inner city chop shop.

This is what it's come to: The culture that has embraced the Roe v. Wade decision as a ruling on behalf of human liberty has become a culture that trafficks in the blood and body parts of unborn children.

Like Mengele's twins at Birkenau, it is done in the name of "research," and like the slaves of the American South, it is done in the name of profit. And we the people are unable to muster the collective outrage to put a stop to it.

Instead, we have judges issuing injunctions to stop the Center for Medical Progress from releasing more videos. We have the organization in charge of the butchery waging a PR campaign to combat the so-called "War on Women." We have congressmen and candidates wringing their hands, trying to parse out the fine moral nuances of fetal killing and dismemberment.

If anyone wonders whether or not America has finally fallen down the rabbit hole, I think the answer is clear.

The federal government never should have gotten in the business of funding Planned Parenthood in the first place, but it certainly should have no hesitation about cutting ties with the organization now. And yet, despite the ongoing revelations about the macabre work being done, it's likely that no substantive action will be taken.

On the contrary, we have congressional Democrats calling on the Department of Justice to investigate the Center for Medial Progress on the grounds that taking unauthorized video footage was a violation of the law. These people are unmoved by the sight of tiny baby appendages scattered in pie tins and footage of officials horse trading "fetal cadavers" over lunch but outraged by the so-called violation of Planned Parenthood's "privacy rights."

If America was truly a civilized society, then our response to these revelations would be immediate and unambiguous. Those responsible for these barbarous acts and all who support them should be treated as the ghouls that they are, as sadists who traffick in human carnage. If we can't muster the collective outrage to stop such practices, if our elected officials insist on continuing the public financing of this butchery despite widespread objection, then our future as a nation is in jeopardy.

A nation that can't agree on basic notions of right and wrong — a nation bereft of a collective moral compass — cannot be a bastion of liberty and justice, and will not long endure.

Article is here.

Veritas - The Lord's Prayer

Friday, August 28, 2015

Hypostatic Union (Part 2)

(Part 1 is here)

It would be wrong to think that Christ's two natures mix together to form a third kind of nature. This is one of the heresies that the early church had to combat. This heresy taught that "the human nature of Christ was taken up and absorbed into the divine nature, so that both natures were changed somewhat and a third kind of nature resulted. An analogy to [this] can be seen if we put a drop of ink in a glass of water: the mixture resulting is neither pure ink nor pure water, but some kind of third substance, a mixture of the two in which both the ink and the water are changed. Similarly, this view taught that Jesus was a mixture of divine and human elements in which both were somewhat modified to form one new nature. This view is unbiblical because it demolishes both Christ's deity and humanity. If Christ's two natures mixed together, then He is no longer truly and fully God and truly and fully man, but is some entirely different kind of being that resulted from a mixture of the two natures.

But, even if we acknowledge that the natures do not mix together into a third kind of nature, it would also be wrong to think that the two natures changed one another. For example, it would be wrong to conclude that Jesus' human nature became divine in some ways, or that His divine nature became human in some ways. Rather, each nature remains distinct, and thereby retains its own individual properties and does not change. As the council of Chalcedon stated it,

"...the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved..."

Jesus' human nature is human, and human only. His divine nature is divine, and divine only. For example, Jesus' human nature did not become all knowing through its union with God the Son, and neither did His divine nature become ignorant of anything. If any of the natures underwent a change in its essential nature, then Christ is no longer truly and fully human, or truly and fully divine.

Christ is only one Person

What we have seen so far about the deity and humanity of Christ shows us that Christ has two natures -- a divine nature and a human nature --  and that each nature is full and complete, that they remain distinct and do not mix together to form a third kind of nature. But if Christ has two natures, does this mean that He is also two people? No, it does not. Christ remains one Person. There is only one Christ. The church has historically stated this truth in this way: Christ is two natures united in one person forever.

At this point we encounter another heretical view to beware of. This view, while acknowledging that Jesus is fully God and fully man, denies that He is only one Person. According to this view, there are two separate persons in Christ as well as two natures. In contrast to this, the Bible is very clear that, while Jesus has two natures, He is only one Person. In other words, what this means is that there are not two Jesus Christ's. In spite of the fact that He has a duality of natures, He is not two Christs, but One. While remaining distinct, the two natures are united together in such a way so as to be one Person.

Put simply, there is a certain sense in which Christ is two, and a different sense in which Christ is one. He is two in that He has two real, full natures one divine and one human. He is one in that, while remaining distinct, these two natures exist together in such a way as that they constitute "one being." In other words, the two natures are both the same Jesus, and thus are one Person. Again, as the Chalcedonean creed says, Christ is  ...

"to be acknowledged in two natures...concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God, the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ..."

Things that are true of one nature but not the other are nonetheless true of the Person of Christ. The fact that Christ is two natures means that there are things that are true of His human nature that are not true of His divine nature. And there are things true of His divine nature that are not true of His human nature. For example, His human nature hungered, but His divine nature could never be hungry. So when Christ hungered on earth, it was His humanity that hungered, not His divine nature.

By virtue of the union of the natures in one Person, the things that are true of and done by only one of Christ's natures, are nonetheless true of and done by the Person of Christ. In other words, things which only one nature does can be considered to have been done by Christ Himself. Likewise, things that are true of one nature but not the other are true of the Person of Christ as a whole. What this means, in simple terms, is that if there is something that only one of Christ's natures did, He can still say, "I did it."

We have many instances in Scripture which demonstrate this. For example, Jesus says in John 8:58, "...before Abraham was born, I am." Now, Christ's human nature did not exist before Abraham. It is Christ's divine nature that eternally exists before Abraham. But since Christ is one Person, He could say that before Abraham was, He is. Another example is Christ's death. God cannot die. We should never speak of Christ's death as the death of God. But humans can die, and Jesus' human nature did die. Thus, even though Jesus' divine nature did not die, we can still say that the Person of Christ experienced death because of the union of the two natures in the one Person of Christ.  Because of this, Grudem says, "by virtue of union with Jesus' human nature, his divine nature somehow tasted something of what it was like to go through death. The person of Christ experienced death."

How could Jesus say that He did not know the day or hour of His return (Matthew 24:36) even though He is omniscient (John 21:17). If Jesus is God, why didn't He know the day of His return? This is solved by our understanding that Christ is one Person with two natures. The answer is that in regards to His human nature, Jesus does not have all knowledge. Thus, in His human nature He really did not know the day or hour of His return. But in His divine nature, He does have all knowledge and thus in His divine nature He did know when He would return.

(Continued in Part 3 here)

"It's Not About Same-Sex Marriage; It Is About Everything Else"

James Dobson is warning here in his August newsletter that the recent Supreme Court decision ...

.... is not about same-sex marriage, except only tangentially. Many gay and lesbian groups have admitted that marriage has never been their primary objective. Instead, it is about everything else. What’s at stake is the entire culture war. To begin, it is an expression of hostility toward people who take their Christianity seriously.

.... There is almost no limit to what will be imposed on the American public as a result of Obergefell. There is every indication that a barrage of court cases has been pre-planned and will be implemented against those who dare to disagree with the government’s view of marriage. Some will lose their jobs for failing to knuckle under.

Some will lose their professional licenses. Some will be persecuted, ridiculed and fined. Some will go to prison. After all, the Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex marriage is an inviolable Constitutional right that will trump other liberties considered untouchable for more than 200 years.

..... And that is only the beginning. Already there is speculation about other permutations of the same-sex decision being added to the law, including polygamy[iii] and what are called polyamorous relationships, meaning “many loves.”[iv]  The decree represents a sharp turning point in the moral character of our nation, which is changing day by day.

....  I grieve over what will happen to kids in public schools. They will be taught that right is wrong and wrong is right, and that the teachings of Scripture are unreliable and inaccurate. How unthinkable it is that in some states kindergartners, barely out of babyhood, are being taught adult perverse behavior that should never be discussed in the classroom. Soon, publishers of public school textbooks throughout the country will have to re-write and re-illustrate materials to make them conform to the demands of Obergefell. It matters not that these revisions will contradict the beliefs and convictions of Christian parents. It has already become the law of the land in some states.

Anything activists can dream up could be imposed on our children by liberal judges. LGBT propaganda will be blatantly taught to wide-eyed kids who are too young to understand how they are being manipulated. There is no consideration that the messages given will contradict the beliefs and convictions of millions of parents. The wishes of moms and dads will have been overridden and superseded by five Justices who have a better plan for their kids.

This is not the first time in recent history that children have been used as pawns in the hands of tyrants. I’m reminded of the words of German dictator, Adolf Hitler, spoken as war in Europe approached. He said, “Your child belongs to us already . . . what are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing but this new community.”

Newsletter is here.

The Center For The Study Of New Testament Manuscripts

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM), under the umbrella of The Center for the Research of Early Christian Documents (CRECD), exists for the following purposes:
  • To make digital photographs of extant Greek New Testament manuscripts so that such images can be preserved, duplicated without deterioration, and accessed by scholars doing textual research.
  • To utilize developing technologies (OCR, MSI, etc.) to read these manuscripts and create exhaustive collations.
  • To analyze individual scribal habits in order to better predict scribal tendencies in any given textual problem.
  • To publish on various facets of New Testament textual criticism.
  • To develop electronic tools for the examination and analysis of New Testament manuscripts.
  • To cooperate with other institutes in the great and noble task of determining the wording of the autographa of the New Testament.
CSNTM is a non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) status (incorporated in Texas on September 13, 2002). All donations are tax-deductible.

Their web site is here.

7 Problems with Christian Opposition to Biblical Inerrancy

Robert Bowman highlights 7 problems with Christian opposition to the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy.

Kyle Roberts, a theologian at United Theological Seminary and a former evangelical, has written a blog article on Patheos entitled “Seven Problems with Inerrancy.” Roberts is an example of a growing number of theologians who argue that we should retain faith in Jesus Christ and even confess Scripture to be “inspired” or “the Word of God” while rejecting the belief that Scripture is inerrant. In this response, I will point out seven problems with Roberts’s position.
  1. Jesus Christ believed that Scripture is inerrant.
  2. Christian non-inerrantists ignore or distort nearly two millennia of Christian affirmations of the absolute truth of Scripture.
  3. Christian opponents of inerrancy grant themselves the right to advance careful, qualified definitions of their view of Scripture but do not accord advocates of inerrancy the same right.
  4. Critics commonly criticize caricatures of inerrancy rather than engaging with the doctrine as evangelical theologians commonly understand it.
  5. The “inspired but not inerrant” position cannot explain what separates the books of the Bible as Scripture from other Jewish and Christian texts.
  6. Christian opponents of inerrancy typically slide back and forth between claiming merely that Scripture contains picayune errors and claiming that Scripture contains false claims and immoral teachings.
  7. Critics of the inerrancy of Scripture fail to understand Scripture as much as they could because they too easily judge biblical texts to be in error instead of searching for explanations alongside other believers.
Complete article is here.

"Many are reaping what they have sown individually, but we are also reaping what we have sown culturally"

Ed Stetzer talks about the hack of the Ashley Madison web site (launched in 2001 as a place for people in ostensibly committed relationships to go if they wanted to cheat on their spouse or significant other.) He astutely points out that while individual responsibility exists, it's also the fruit of a culture wildly careening off the rails.

It’s a Cultural Issue
Many are reaping what they have sown individually, but we are also reaping what we have sown culturally. Though what was in the dark is now in the light, and though those who share our faith face utter embarrassment, our place is not to gloat. Perhaps, rather, we should grieve at what sexuality has become in our culture. As the Ashley Madison leak moves from a big data file and glaring headlines on a computer, to strained conversations or screaming matches around the kitchen table, maybe it’s worthwhile asking, “Is this really what we wanted as a society?”

Full article is here.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hypostatic Union (Part 1)

Key to the picture of Jesus presented as the ideal priest (Melchizedek) in Hebrews is the incredible, mind-blowing assertion in Scripture that Jesus is both fully God and fully man. The fact that Jesus is simultaneously both God and man is vitally important for us. As a human who shares in our human weaknesses, he knows what it is like to be human and tempted and is therefore able to represent us in the presence of the Father where he pleads to Him for us (Hebrews 5 and 7). Because he is fully God, he is able to show us what God is like (John 14:8-11) but more important because he is God, he is able to pay for our sins and restore us into a right relationship with God again (Colossians 1:19-20)

The problem that we find ourselves in - the alienation that our sin brings between us and God - Jesus can fix because he is both man and God. He alone is able to reconcile us. Our reconciliation with God would be impossible through Christ though were He not both God and man. Jesus is the most important person who has ever lived, literally God in human flesh.

He is not half God and half man. He is fully divine and fully man. In other words, Jesus has two distinct natures: divine and human. Jesus is the Word who was God and was with God and was made flesh, (John 1:1,14).   This means that in the single person of Jesus we encounter both a human and divine nature - God and man. The divine nature was not changed when the Word became flesh (John 1:1,14).  Instead, the Word was joined with humanity (Col. 2:9). Jesus' divine nature was not altered.

Also, Jesus is not merely a man who "had God within Him" nor is he a man who "manifested the God principle."  He is God in flesh, the second Person of the Trinity. "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word," (Heb. 1:3). Jesus' two natures are not "mixed together," (error of Eutychianism) nor are they combined into a new God-man hybrid nature (error of Monophysitism). The two natures of Christ are separate yet act as a single unit in the one person of Jesus.  Whatever is true of either nature, is true of the Person of Christ. This is called the “Hypostatic Union.”

Also, Jesus is not half-man and half-God (a half breed).  It is important to realize that in order for the redemptive nature of Christ to be adequate, both natures must remain at one hundred percent each. To make Him more human than God would eradicate His being able to remain blameless. And to make Him more God than human would eradicate His ability to completely self-identify with those He came to save.

A doctrine that is related to the Hypostatic Union is the “communicatio idiomatum” (Latin for "communication of properties"). It is the teaching that the attributes of both the divine and human natures are ascribed to the one Person of Jesus. This means that the man Jesus could lay claim to the glory He had with the Father before the world was made (John 17:5), and claim that He descended from heaven, (John 3:13), and also claim omnipresence, (Matt. 28:20). All of these are divine qualities that are laid claim to by Jesus; therefore, the attributes of the divine properties were claimed by the person of Jesus.

One of the most common errors that non-Christian cults make is not understanding the two natures of Christ:
  • For example, the Jehovah's Witnesses focus on Jesus' humanity and ignore His divinity.  They repeatedly quote verses dealing with Jesus as a man and try and set them against scripture showing that Jesus is also divine.
  • On the other hand, the Christian Scientists do the reverse.   They focus on the scriptures showing Jesus' divinity to the extent of denying His true humanity.
For a proper understanding of Jesus and, therefore, all other doctrines that relate to Him, His two natures must be properly understood and defined. Jesus is one person with two natures. This is why He grew in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52) yet knows all things (John 21:17).  He is the Divine Word that became flesh (John 1:1,14).

Let’s wrestle some more with this jaw-dropping concept ….

The term hypostatic union is much easier than this theological word sounds, but the concept is as profound as anything in theology. The English adjective hypostatic comes from the Greek word hupostasis. The word only appears four times in the New Testament—maybe most memorably in Hebrews 1:3, where Jesus is said to be “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (hupostasis).” Here the author of Hebrews uses the word in reference to the oneness of God. Both the Father and the Son are of the same “nature.” Jesus is “the exact imprint of his nature.”

However, in early church discussions, as Greek thinkers tried to find agreeable terms with those who spoke in Latin, the word hupostasis came to denote not the sameness in the Godhead (God’s one essence) but the distinctness (the three persons). So it began to be used to refer to something like the English word “person”.

The Personal Union of Jesus’ Two Natures
“Hypostatic union” may sound complex in English, but it’s actually a pretty simple term. Hypostatic means personal. Thus, the hypostatic union is the personal union of Jesus’ two natures. Jesus has two complete natures—one fully human and one fully divine. What the doctrine of the hypostatic union teaches is that these two natures are united in one person in the God-man.

Jesus is not two persons. He is one Person. The hypostatic union is the joining of the divine and the human in the one Person of Jesus. But just how are this two natures united in Christ?  Orthodox theology answers this way: Each nature remains distinct, but united with the other.

For a right understanding of the Incarnation, we must understand that the two natures of Christ remain distinct and yet retain their own properties. What does this mean? Two things: (1) They do not alter one another's essential properties, and (2) neither do they mix together into a mysterious third kind of hybrid nature.

(Continued in Part 2 here)

Hey Christians, Say Goodbye To Religious Freedom (There will be plenty of cake, though)

Just in case you need a refresher: Back in 2012, a baker in the Denver suburb of Lakewood was asked by a gay couple to make them a wedding cake—two years before gay marriage was even legalized in Colorado. The owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Jack Phillips, declined to participate in Charlie Craig and David Mullins’ celebration, because such an event conflicted with his Christian faith.

Here are a few things Phillips didn’t do: He didn’t query consumers about their sexual preferences. He didn’t bar same-sex couples from purchasing a cake at a place of public accommodation. He didn’t ask consumers traveling in same-sex pairs to leave his shop. He didn’t hang a ‘No Gays Allowed’ sign in his window.

What he could never have known when he first opened his shop was that celebrating gay marriages would be a precondition for making a living. And when you consider that there are at least a few dozen other bakeries within a short drive from Masterpiece Cakeshop that could have accommodated the couple’s celebratory pastry needs, why would he?

Yet instead of exhibiting a basic level of tolerance (or dignity), two priggish bullies decided to call the authorities when Phillips refused to bake them a cake. And the cultural commissars at Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission soon ruled that he had discriminated against the couple.

The shop was not only ordered to alter store policy and start baking cakes for gay weddings–or else face debilitating fines, a consequence often reported on by the media–but it was also forced to provide comprehensive staff training, ensure compliance, and then file quarterly obedience reports with the government for two full years. In these reports, Phillips had to describe exactly which remedial measures the shop had taken to conform, and document the reasons why any other patrons were denied service.

..... If you admit—and many rational people do, even those who quarrel with the reasoning behind religious obstinacy—that millions of Christians hold some form of a genuine, long-standing religious conviction that prohibits them from celebrating gay marriages, but you still support state coercion against them, then you might as well just concede that religious freedom isn’t compatible with your conception of a contemporary society.

Full article is here.

Faithful Christians Cannot Be Judges in Ohio

Judge McConnell said that as a Christian, he could not officiate at same-sex weddings. The Board of Professional Conduct of the Ohio Supreme Court said he must. In other words: Christians, check your faith at the bench or you may not serve as a judge in the state of Ohio.

It is helpful to go through the board’s opinion because it reveals how they will treat complaints filed against judges in the future. If a judge is the subject of a complaint filed by a lawyer, fellow judge or member of the public, the board reviews the complaint. They will apply the strained analysis of this opinion in determining whether to sanction, suspend or remove the judge from the bench.

In Ohio, judges are elected by the people, at every level, municipal, circuit court, appeals court or state Supreme Court. In many other states they are appointed. Where they are appointed there are growing efforts to weed out Christians. This advisory opinion presents a new way of removing Christians from the bench after the people have elected them to office.

In this seven-page opinion the Board claimed that there is a “self-evident principle that the personal, moral and religious beliefs of a judicial officer should never factor into the performance of any judicial duty.” In other words, Christians must check their faith at the bench if they serve as a judge in the state of Ohio.

The Christian faith is not like a hat which people can put on or take off upon entering or leaving a church building. It informs the entirety of one’s life. Christians do not believe what they believe about marriage solely because it is a “religious” position. They insist it is objectively true. There is a Natural Law which can be known by all men and women and is binding on all men and women. If civil law contradicts the natural law, it is not law at all. This includes the law concerning the nature of marriage.

Effectively, in this advisory opinion the Ohio Supreme Court has created a new form of “religious test” for judicial office. This is in direct violation of Article Six of the Constitution, which states that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

This advisory opinion is directed against classical Christians, whether from the Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant traditions. The idea is to claim not that judges’ religious beliefs are wrong but that they’re irrelevant to what they do — and then to rig the rules so that they cannot remove themselves from officiating at same-sex marriages without being accused of violating their judicial office.

Full article is here.

Planned Parenthood Failed to Report Child Rape

A new report from the Alabama state health department confirms that the Planned Parenthood abortion business failed to report the rapes of a 14-year-old girl who ultimately had two abortions during a four-month time period. 

As Blaise Pascal (one of my favorite theologians) said, "Evil is easy and has infinite forms."

Full story is here.

Will there be differing degrees of rewards in heaven and different levels of punishment in hell?

There is no evidence that the human spirit, as to its basic constitution, will be changed by the experience of death. If it is the case that we are capable of different levels of satisfaction and enjoyment now (dependent upon our capacity for such) it follows that such likely will be the case in the eternal order of things. This seems to be a logical inference supported by Scripture. The Bible implies varying levels of reward for the redeemed. While everyone in heaven will be supremely happy, the capacity of some appear to be greater by virtue of their sacrifices and spiritual development in this life.

In one of his parables, Jesus told of a nobleman who entrusted to each of ten servants an equal quantity of money with which to do business while he was away in a distant land (see Lk. 19:12ff). When he returned, they were called to account for their stewardship. One fellow had multiplied his investment ten-fold and was granted authority over ten cities. Another increased his trust by five; similarly, he was rewarded with five cities. Finally, one man had done nothing with his allotment, and consequently lost it. For our purpose here, simply note that the two men who had increased their investments were rewarded according to their respective results.

The Scriptures affirm that Christ, at the time of his return will “repay each person according to what he has done” (Mt. 16:27 ESV). The preposition kata (“according to”) implies a norm, standard by which “rewards or punishments are given” (F.W.Danker, et al., Greek-English Lexicon, University of Chicago, 2000, p. 512).

Paul was thrilled to know that, at the time of the Lord’s return, he would have both joy and glory on behalf of those whom he had helped in their journey to heaven (1 Thes. 2:19-20). By way of contrast, however, the apostle cautioned the Corinthians about the manner in which they seek “materials” for the make-up of the Lord’s spiritual house, the church (see 1 Cor. 3:10ff). He urged them to consider the quality of those on whose behalf they labored (i.e., earnest people versus superficial) for the time would come when their construction material would be put to the test, the quality being revealed.

Paul noted that if a man’s “work” (i.e., his converts; cf. 1 Cor. 9:1) did not abide, though he himself might be saved, he would suffer “loss.” The loss would be the joy and glory (cf. 1 Thes. 2:19-20) of knowing that his labor was fruitful eternally (cf. Gal. 4:11). The implication is plain – the more we endure in this life and the greater our faithfulness, the greater our joy and reward will be in Heaven.

On the opposite side of the equation, there is the implication of degrees of punishment in Hell. If anything, the Bible is even more decisive on this issue. Jesus informed the citizens of certain communities in Galilee that on the day of judgment, it would be “more tolerable” for certain people of the ancient world (e.g., Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom) than for them (Mt. 11:20-24; cf. 10:15). The word “tolerable” means “bearable, endurable.” In the Greek Testament the word represents a comparative format. The difference was in the opportunities each had enjoyed. Judgment was to be balanced against this factor.

Christ told about a certain master who took a trip. While he was away, his servants, who had been charged with various responsibilities, disobeyed him. When the Lord returned, and discovered that some had knowingly been disobedient, while others had disobeyed in ignorance, he punished them according to the level of their culpability (Lk. 12:47-48). There is perhaps no clearer passage than this, that teaches degrees of punishment. Unbelievers often reject the gospel on their false understanding of Hell - that they (who may have never murdered, raped, robbed, etc.) will be in Hell with someone like Hitler or an unrepentant abortionist, not grasping that the levels of punishment may be vastly different.

During the course of his trial, Jesus informed Pilate: “He who delivered me unto you has the greater sin” (Jn. 19:11). Justice requires a greater punishment for a greater sin. A man who set aside the law of God under the Mosaic regime, was executed without mercy. The writer of the book of Hebrews declares that the one who tramples on the Son of God and who treats, as a common thing, the blood by which he was sanctified, will deserve a much “worse” punishment (Heb. 10:26-31). The principle is this: there is a greater level of responsibility for those who live under the better covenant, and there will be appropriate punishment meted out for those who, through apostasy, reject it.

The apostle Peter wrote regarding those who had “escaped the defilements of the world” by virtue of their knowledge of the truth, i.e., obedience to the gospel (2 Pet. 2:20-22; cf. 1 Pet. 4:17). He warned that should they become entangled again in these defilements, and overcome, their “last state” (their apostate condition) would be “worse” than the first (the pre-conversion state). Ominously, he says it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back to their former lifestyle. This, most assuredly, teaches a greater level of punishment for apostates than for those who never knew the truth.

James provides a word of caution appropriate to this topic. “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (3:1 ESV). Is there any question about the implication of that warning?  “The main thought in vv. 1-12 is the greater responsibility of teachers and the extremely dangerous character of the instrument [the tongue] which they have to use? Greater responsibility brings greater judgment” (James B. Adamson, The Epistle of James, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976, p. 141).