Daily Archives: March 15, 2014

Questions about Evil: What is Evil?

 

What is the nature of evil? We talk about evil acts (murder), evil people (Charles Manson), evil books (pornography), evil events (tornadoes), evil sicknesses (cancer or blindness), but what makes all of these things evil? What is evil when we look at it by itself? Some have said that evil is a substance that grabs hold of certain things and makes them bad (like a virus infecting an animal) or that evil is a rival force in the universe (like the dark side of Luke Skywalker’s Force). But if God made all things, then that makes God responsible for evil. The argument looks like this:

1.   God is the author of everything.

2.   Evil is something.

3.   Therefore, God is the author of evil.

Augustine vs. Manichaeus

Manichaeus was a third-century dualist who claimed that the world was made of uncreated matter which was, in itself, evil. Hence, all physical existence was evil; only spiritual things could be good. Augustine wrote a great deal to show that all that God created was good, but evil was not a substance.

“What is evil? Perhaps you will reply, Corruption. Undeniably this is a general definition of evil; for corruption implies opposition to nature; and also hurt. But corruption exists not by itself, but in some substance which it corrupts; for corruption itself is not a substance. So the thing which it corrupts is not corruption, is not evil; for what is corrupted suffers loss of integrity and purity. So that which has no purity to lose cannot be corrupted; and what has, is necessarily good by the participation of purity. Again, what is corrupted is perverted; and what is perverted suffers loss of order; and order is good. To be corrupted, then does not imply the absence of good; for in corruption it can be deprived of good, which could not be if there was the absence of good.” [On the Morals of the Manichaens, 5.7.]

The first premise is true. So it appears that in order to deny the conclusion we have to deny the reality of evil (as the pantheists do). But we can deny that evil is a thing, or substance, without saying that it isn’t real. It is a lack in things. When good that should be there is missing from something, that is evil. After all, if I am missing a wart on my nose, that is not evil because the wart should not have been there in the first place. However, if a man lacks the ability to see, that is evil. Likewise, if a person lacks the kindness in his heart and respect for human life that should be there, then he may commit murder. Evil is, in reality, a parasite that cannot exist except as a hole in something that should be solid.

In some cases, though, evil is more easily explained as a case of bad relationships. If I pick up a good gun, put in a good bullet, point it at my good head, put my good finger on the good trigger and give it a good pull … a bad relationship results. The things involved are not evil in themselves, but the relationship between the good things is definitely lacking something. In this case, the lack comes about because the things are not being used as they ought to be. Guns should not be used for indiscriminate killing, but are fine for recreation. My head was not meant to be used for target practice. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with strong winds moving in a circle, but a bad relationship arises when the funnel of wind goes through a mobile home park. Bad relationships are bad because the relationship is lacking something, so our definition of evil still holds. Evil is a lack of something that should be there in the relationship between good things.[1]

 


[1] Geisler, N. L., & Brooks, R. M. (1990). When skeptics ask (pp. 60–61). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Questions about World Religions: What do you think about various alternatives to Christianity, such as agnosticism, atheism, and humanism?

 

Many individuals who have rejected the Christian claim have embraced other views of life. Most state that there is no God as the Bible teaches, and if there is, then He is unknowable. The claims of these alternatives will not hold up under investigation.

An agnostic usually is someone who does not know whether God exists. The agnostic has not made up his mind on God. He is a doubter. Some agnostics are more aggressive than others in searching for God, and this we applaud.

The Bible promises, if anyone desires to know the truth about God, they shall. “If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself” (John 7:17, NASB).

Unfortunately, most agnostics do not make a real effort to know if there is a God. They do not consider the question all that crucial. Yet it is crucial. The very fact that an agnostic cannot be sure whether there is a God makes it logical that he should consider the claims of Christianity. Therefore, agnosticism is not grounds for rejecting Christianity; rather it is grounds for examining Christianity.

Atheists affirm there is no God. Yet they cannot hold this position dogmatically. For us to be able to make this type of statement with authority, we would have to know the universe in its entirety and to possess all knowledge. If anyone had these credentials, then by definition he would be God.

Thus we see that, unless the atheist is all-knowing, he cannot make a dogmatic statement on God’s existence. Therefore, he can only state that he is uncertain whether or not there is a God, and this view is agnosticism. This we have already investigated earlier and found wanting. The atheist’s claim that God does not exist crumbles under examination.

The humanist believes that man will be able to solve all his own problems. This creed that “man is the measure of all things” offers no concrete solution to those looking for a way out. Today, in our world, humanism is quite popular.

Humanism fails on two counts. First, man operating by himself cannot set up true standards of justice or values in the world without God. If one man decides his human view of values is correct and another man decides his view is correct, then who will decide between them?

Who would decide between the Nazis and the Jewish race in World War II? Each had a set of values, but who was right? The majority? The nicest? The meanest?

Without a higher standard of authority to go to, which is God, all of life is based on the values of the majority or a dictator in power. They have no sure truth to turn to; it is all a matter of opinion.

Second, humanism believes man is “getting better and better every day in every way.” However, with two world wars in this century and the world on the brink of nuclear holocaust, the demise of optimistic humanism is a foregone conclusion.

Thus humanism offers not hope but despair. Humanism does not solve problems; it creates them. If humanism is honestly examined, it leads man not to look to man, but beyond himself, for the answers.

These alternative views, when soundly probed, are found not to undermine Christianity but rather to reinforce it. This is because philosophical systems and other religions, in their search for truth and meaning to life, fall short in their quest. Without the Bible as a solid foundation, there is no way to determine whether or not we have the truth. It alone offers man truth and hope.[1]

 


[1] McDowell, J., & Stewart, D. D. (1993). Answers to tough questions. Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

Questions about Theology: What Is Conditional Election?

 

While the Bible clearly teaches that God elects people to salvation, there are disagreements as to the basis of that election. Conditional election is the belief that God elects people for salvation based on His foreknowledge of who will put their faith in Christ. Conditional election says that an all-knowing God looks to the future and decides to elect people based on a future decision they will make to come to faith in Christ. It is considered “conditional” election because it is based on the condition of man doing something of his own free will. According to conditional election, those whom God knows will come to faith in Christ are elected by God and those who God knows will not accept Christ are not elected.

Conditional election is one of the Articles of Remonstrance which define Arminian theology and is a core part of that worldview and theological system. As such it stands in direct contrast to the belief held by those who hold to Reformed Theology which believes that the Bible teaches unconditional election, the view that God elects people based on His sovereign will and not on any future action of the person being elected.

Those who believe in conditional election will often cite verses like 1 Peter 1:1–2 were Peter is writing “to those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.…”. The key phrase here is “elect … according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” Or another verse with similar implications is Romans 8:29–30: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined, he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

Yet there really is no debate or disagreement in the fact that God, because He is all-knowing, knows beforehand who will be saved and who will not. But the debate between conditional and unconditional election is about whether these verses teach that man’s “free will choice” is the cause of God’s election or an acknowledgement that God has the foreknowledge of who will be saved and who will not. If these were the only verses in Scripture that dealt with election, the issue as to whether the Bible teaches conditional election would be up for debate, but they are not. There are other very clear passages that tell us on what basis God elects people for salvation.

The first verse that helps us understand whether conditional election is what the Bible really teaches is Ephesians 1:4–5: “… even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.” Very clearly we see that God predestines or elects individuals “according to the purpose of His will.” When we consider the idea of adoption and the fact that it is God who choses us for adoption and that it is done before the foundation of the world, it seems to be pretty clear that the basis of God’s election and predestination is not because of a choice we would make in the future but solely upon His sovereign will which He exercises “in love.”

Another verse that strongly supports unconditional election is Romans 9:11 where God describes “the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls.” While some want to dismiss Romans 9:11 as applying to corporate election and not individual election, you simply cannot dismiss this section of Scripture that clearly teaches that election is NOT conditioned on anything man has done or will do but is solely based on the divine will of a sovereign God.

Another verse that teaches unconditional election is John 15:16, “You did not chose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.…”. Further, in John 10:26–27 we see Jesus saying: “But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow me.” Conditional election says that people who believe are chosen as His sheep because they believe, but the Bible actually says just the opposite. The reason they believe is because they are His sheep. Election is not conditional upon man’s acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior but is instead the cause of it.

Conditional election is the view that man’s “free will” decision to accept Christ as Savior is the basis for his/her election. Therefore in a very real sense man’s decision is the cause of salvation. This view of election is in large part necessary because of the Arminian worldview where man chooses God, instead of God choosing man. Boiled down to its simplest form Arminian theology is that ultimately man’s salvation depends on his “free will decision” alone and not God’s will. Conditional election leads to the conclusion that God’s actions in election are dependent upon man’s free will choices. In a very real sense this view of election and salvation make God subject to the whims of men and their decisions, and his will becomes essentially the cause and effect of his salvation.

On the other hand, in unconditional election it is God’s sovereign will that determines who is elected and who is not. Therefore it is God’s will and God’s grace that is completely responsible for man’s salvation. All those whom God elects to salvation will come to saving faith in Christ and those whom He does not elect will not (John 6:37). In this scenario, it is God who gets the glory for His grace and mercy in offering salvation to those who do not love Him, and who can’t come to Him on their own (Ephesians 2:1–5).

These two views on election are not compatible at all. One is true and the other is false. One makes God’s election and ultimately man’s salvation dependent upon man, ultimately giving man the credit and glory, while the other recognizes that election and salvation depend on God’s sovereign will. One worldview has man being the master of his destiny, and in essence in control of his salvation, while the other has God rescuing lost, hopeless sinners not because they deserve it but because He wills it. One view exalts man and the other exalts God. One is a testimony to man’s goodness and ability, and the other is a testimony to God’s amazing grace.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Alms for the celebrity pastor

Many people know that celebrity Christian authors rely on ghostwriters, researchers and now, their church or ministry marketing team to turn them into “bestsellers.”

The bestsellers’ racket has become so distorted and corrupt, the gold sticker or printed designation on a book’s cover doesn’t mean so much these days. In other words, “bestseller” can mean anything someone wants it to mean. A single author can call his new book a bestseller because that particular project sold more than his previous books.

Now, we find in the sleazy world of celebrity Christian ministry that authors like Mark Driscoll and Steven Furtick have learned how to rig the system in order to have “bestseller” in front of their names.

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Do Not Be Surprised…This ‘n’ That (14 March 2014)

 

  • Carl Trueman offers more important thoughts on celebrity pastors.
  • Fred Butler continues his review of chapter six of Authentic Fire.
  • Good grief. As if enough kooky things don’t already come out of this ministry, now they’ve given a hearty endorsement to the ‘Son of God’ movie.
  • And while we’re on the topic of ‘Son of God,’ Brannon Howse interviewed Justin Peters this week (Part 1 and Part 2) to talk about Peters’ opinion of the movie. The best part, perhaps, is hearing Justin Peters recall how he proclaimed the gospel to everyone in the theater once the film had ended.
  • Mars Hill Church spent big bucks to get Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage on the bestseller list. After the firestorm of coverage, Mars Hill responded, and Dr. James Duncan responded to their response.
  • Speaking of big bucks, someone stole $600,000 from Joel Osteen’s church. It’s more than a little ironic that someone finally stole from Osteen, who himself is a thief for taking that much money from people while feeding them nothing but soul-condemning slop. Of course, 600k is just pocket change for Lakewood Church.
  • At The Cripplegate, Nate Busenitz continues his series on the gift of tongues.
  • Here’s more worthwhile reading from James Duncan regarding how celebrity pastors are “selling their pulpits for commercial gain.”
  • I love the book of James. In my second year of grad school one of my term papers was titled, “The Voice of Jesus in James” and examined the allusions to the Sermon on the Mount that are found in this epistle. It is such a rich, challenging, convicting book. Dr. Michael Kruger tells us why we need this book in the New Testament canon.
  • Here’s your weekly dose of adorable. (Thanks, Amy!)
  •  Things That Go Bump in the Church releases April 1. (You can preorder it here and no, I wasn’t paid to say that!) I’m looking forward to what promises to be an interesting read.
  • This kind of sounds like a scene out of Pet Semetary (for those of you who never read Stephen King, it’s supposed to be spelled like that), except the cat is still alive.
  • Redeemed by a relative:

Source

Addressing concerns over “Son of God” film

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. ~Eph 5:11

Son of GodNot surprisingly the movie “Son of God” has created quite a stir in the Christian community.  Before I gave the theater my money I read several reviews, blog posts, Facebook comments and viewed TV interviews of husband and wife team Mark Burnett and Roma Downey promoting their film.  Roma is a familiar face to many and is best-known for her role on the successful TV show “Touched by An Angel.”  Mark Burnett is the executive producer of a string of hit TV shows such as “Survivor,” “The Voice, “Celebrity Apprentice,” “Shark Tank,” and he has won several Emmys.

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FREE eBook Download – Knowing the Truth about the Resurrection

We are offering FREE, for a limited time only, Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon’s book, Knowing the Truth about the Resurrection.

Download your copy today and begin preparing for Resurrection Sunday now!

Available in English and Spanish as a PDF download.