Daily Archives: March 17, 2014

Questions about Bible Verses: Romans 1:19–20—Are the heathen lost?

 

Problem: Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through Me” (John 14:6). Also, Acts 4:12 says of Christ, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (nasb). But what if someone has never heard the Gospel of Christ, will he be eternally lost? Paul seems to answer this in the affirmative. But is it fair to condemn people who have never even heard about Christ?

Solution: Paul’s answer is clear. He said that the heathen are “without excuse” (1:20) because “what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made” (1:19–20). So, the heathen are justly condemned for several reasons. First, Romans 2:12 states, “For as many as have sinned without Law will also perish without Law, and as many as have sinned in the Law will be judged by the Law.” This passage teaches that the Jew is judged by the Law, the Hebrew Scriptures, but the Gentile is condemned by “the Law written in their hearts.”     “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Rom. 2:14–15, nasb).

Second, the question assumes innocence on the part of the saved man who hasn’t heard the Gospel. But the Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). In addition, Romans 1:18–20 says that God clearly reveals Himself through natural revelation “so that they are without excuse.” Human beings are not innocent regarding God’s natural revelation.

Third, if a person who has not heard the Gospel lives his life to the best of his ability he simply is doing works for salvation. But salvation is by grace, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). Not in any way, shape, or form can anybody do anything to gain access into heaven. If there was such a way, then the work of Christ on the Cross was a futile act.

Finally, the Bible says in essence, “seek and you will find.” That is, those who seek the light they have through nature, which is not sufficient for salvation, will get the light they need for salvation. Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Acts 10:35 adds, “But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” God has many ways to get the truth about salvation through Christ to those who seek Him. He can send a missionary (Acts 10), or a Bible (Ps. 119:130), give them a vision (Dan. 2; 7), or send an angel (Rev. 14). But those who turn their back on the light they have (through nature) and find themselves lost in darkness, have no one to blame but themselves. For “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).[1]

 


[1] Geisler, N. L., & Howe, T. A. (1992). When critics ask : a popular handbook on Bible difficulties (pp. 437–438). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

Questions about Miracles: Are Miracles Possible?

 

The most basic question to ask about miracles is, “Are miracles possible?” If they are not possible, we can wrap up our discussion early and go home. If they are possible, then we need to address the argument that gave us the idea that they are absurd. We find the root of this argument in the writings of Benedict de Spinoza. He developed the following argument against miracles.

1.   Miracles are violations of natural laws.

2.   Natural laws are immutable.

3.   It is impossible for immutable laws to be violated.

4.   Therefore, miracles are not possible.

He was bold in his assertion that “nothing then, comes to pass in nature in contravention to her universal laws, nay, nothing does not agree with them and follow from them, for … she keeps a fixed and immutable order.”

Certainly we can’t argue with the third step in that argument, for what is immutable can’t be set aside. But are natural laws immutable? And does he have a correct definition of a miracle? It seems that Spinoza has stacked the deck. He built into his premises his own view that nothing exists beyond the universe (and that God is the universe). So once he has defined natural law as “fixed and immutable,” it is impossible for miracles to occur. He had gotten the idea that natural laws were fixed from the Newtonian physics that were the latest rage in his day. But today scientists understand that natural laws don’t tell us what must happen, but only describe what usually does happen. They are statistical probabilities, not unchangeable facts. So we can’t rule out the possibility of miracles by definition.

The definition he uses also carries his antisupernatural bias. It assumes that there is nothing beyond nature that could act in nature. This follows from Spinoza’s pantheism. As long as God is limited to staying inside nature’s boundaries, or is nonexistent, then a miracle can only be seen as a violation of order. The bottom line of the matter is that if God exists, then miracles are possible. If there is anything beyond the universe which might cause something to happen in the universe, then there is a chance that it will do so. Now most scientists will want some evidence to show them that God exists, and that can be found in chapter 2. But once we have established that a theistic God exists, miracles cannot be ruled out.

Benedict de Spinoza (1632–1677) was one of the modern rationalist philosophers. Rationalism believed that all truth could be deduced from self-evident principles without examining factual evidence. Spinoza’s background was Jewish, but he was expelled from the synagogue at age twenty-four for his unusual views. He was convinced that there could only be one infinite substance and nothing else, so he concluded that God is the universe (pantheism). Natural laws, then, were the laws of God. Given this starting point, miracles are automatically eliminated. If the supernatural is identical to nature, then there is nothing beyond nature to intervene. Anything beyond nature must be greater than God, and that is absurd.[1]

 


[1] Geisler, N. L., & Brooks, R. M. (1990). When skeptics ask (pp. 76–77). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Questions about Christianity: What makes Christian conversion valid? Can’t it be explained psychologically?

 

Whenever a believer gives his or her testimony, there always seems to be someone who objects to this being used as evidence for the Christian truth-claim. They contend that it seems like everybody has some sort of conversion experience or religious testimony.

The Mormons talk about the burning in their heart; those in Eastern religions will talk about the peace and tranquility they receive; others will admit to a new joy or happiness.

Why is Christian conversion correct and the others incorrect? Can’t it be better explained by conditional responses or some type of self-hypnosis?

It is true that many today are testifying to religious experiences in which they claim to have met ultimate reality. At first glance, the Christian sounds like everyone else because he is also claiming to have experienced truth. The unbeliever or casual observer needs more than a mere testimony of subjective experience as a criterion to judge who, if anyone, is right. The difference is that Christians have that criterion.

Christian conversion is linked to the person of Jesus Christ. It is rooted in fact, not wishful thinking. Jesus demonstrated that He had the credentials to be called the unique Son of God. He challenged men and women to put their faith in Him, that they might know God and what life is all about.

Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10, KJV). When a person puts his faith in Jesus Christ, he enters into personal relationship with God Almighty, which results in changes taking place in his life.

Christian conversion is neither self-improvement nor culturally conditioned. There are many who put their faith in Christ, and do it against the pressures of friends and family. The Christian’s experience ultimately depends on God and His work in the person’s life. This must take place. The experience is grounded in this fact, not in the person himself.

Besides the fact that Christian conversion is based upon something objective, the resurrection of Christ, there is also the universality of Christian experience that must be considered. From the time of Jesus until today, people from every conceivable background, culture, and intellectual stance have been converted by the person of Jesus Christ.

Some of the vilest individuals who ever walked the face of the earth have become some of the most wonderful saints after trusting Jesus Christ. This must be considered. Because of the diversity of the people, it cannot be explained away simply on the basis of conditioning.

Let’s say, for example, that someone approaches you and says that he has found the meaning of life, ultimate reality. He confesses that his life has undergone a drastic change. So you ask him what the key is to this major change. He responds by saying, “Ever since I started wearing a watermelon rind on my head, my life has been changed.”

You check with this person’s friends, and they tell you that indeed he has been different since the day the rind was put on his head. Now you want to know if this experience is peculiar to this one individual, or if others have made the same claim. Thus you start looking for people with watermelon rinds on their heads.

You look far and wide, but cannot find anyone else with a similar experience. Thus you conclude this person is generating his own experience, and is not meeting ultimate reality.

Christian experience is universal, and though this in and of itself does not make it true, it does make it worth considering. What does make it true is that it is based upon the overwhelming evidence of the deity of Jesus Christ.[1]


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

Questions about Family / Parenting: How Does the Bible Define a Good Christian Family?

 

A good Christian family is one which lines up with biblical principles and one in which each member understands and fulfills his or her God-given role. The family is not an institution designed by man. It was created by God, and man has been given the responsibility of stewardship over it. The basic biblical family unit is comprised of one man, one woman—his spouse—and their offspring or adopted children. The extended family can include relatives by blood or marriage such as grandparents, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles. One of the primary principles of the family unit is that it involves a commitment ordained by God for the lifetime of the members. The husband and wife are responsible for holding it together, the current attitude of our culture notwithstanding. Although divorce is sought and granted much too easily in our society, the Bible tells us that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).

Ephesians 5:22–26 provide the guidelines for husbands and wives in a good Christian family. The husband is required to love his wife as Christ loved the church, and a wife should respect her husband and willingly submit to his leadership in the family. The husband’s leadership role should start with spiritual matters and then flow to instructing and teaching both his wife and their offspring scriptural values, leading the family into biblical truth. Of course, the first requirement for the members of a good Christian family is that they all be Christians, having a true relationship with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Fathers are instructed to bring up their children in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). A father is also to provide for his family. If he does not, he “denies the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). So a man who makes no effort to provide for his family cannot rightly call himself a Christian. This does not mean that the wife cannot assist in supporting the family—Proverbs 31 demonstrates that a godly wife may surely do so—but providing for the family is not primarily her responsibility; it is her husband’s.

Woman was given to man for the purpose of being her husband’s helper (Genesis 2:18–20) and to bear children. Husband and wife are to remain faithful to one another for a lifetime. This eliminates the cultural view that divorce, living together without being married, and same-sex marriage are acceptable in God’s eyes. Sexuality expressed according to biblical standards is a beautiful expression of love and commitment. Outside of marriage, it is sin. God declares equality of worth in that all people, men and women, are created in God’s image and likeness, and are therefore equally valuable in His eyes. This does not mean, however, that men and women have identical roles in life. Women are more adept at nurturing and caring for the young, while men are better equipped to provide for and protect the family. Thus, they are equal in status, but each has a different role to play.

Children are given two primary responsibilities in the family: to obey their parents and to honor them (Ephesians 6:1–3). Obeying parents is the duty of children until they reach adulthood, but we are to honor our parents for a lifetime. God promises His blessings on those who honor their parents.

When a husband, wife and children all fulfill their God-appointed roles in the family, when they have all committed their lives to Christ and to His service, then peace and harmony will reign in the home. But if we try to have a good Christian family without Christ as Head, or without adhering to the biblical principles the Lord has lovingly provided for us, we will fail.[1]


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

St. Patrick: Reclaiming the Great Missionary

patrick_shamrock_0Today most people know St. Patrick for green beer, banishing snakes from Ireland, using shamrocks to teach the Trinity, or his walking stick growing into a living tree. Indeed, none of these legends has anything to do with the real Patrick.

However, the factual accounts of Patrick, missionary to Ireland, are even more compelling than the folklore. Telling the true story of Patrick provides an inspiring lesson in God’s grace and mercy.

While other 1,500-year-old characters in history are difficult to research because too few writings have survived time, Patrick is hard to study because so much has been written about him. The bulk of the writings on Patrick are lore, fiction, and embellishment. In uncovering the real Patrick we must sift through ten fictional accounts of his life to find one factual work.

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Biblical Grounds for tossing out the “F” word – part 2

Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely...

In my previous post, I took a quick stroll through the pseudes/pseudo word group in the New Testament and looked at the term “false” in its various usages and manifestations.  Now I recognize that seems like I’m on a mission to make myself the most fringe Bible-egghead out there, but I honestly and sincerely do those sorts of things unto a serious and necessary end.

Egghead(I’m fighting the urge to toss out a few dozen egg puns right now…)

So, in an eggshell, the idea of the last post was that a “false prophet” isn’t so much a technical category as it is, quite simply, a prophet who falsely claims to be a prophet.  This then begs the question: if every prophet who wrongly claims the title us a false prophet, aren’t there tens of thousands of false prophets out there?  Aren’t there then also millions of false…

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Why do tyrants from Haman and Hitler to Hamas and Khamenei want to “annihilate” the Jews?

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog

German Chancellor Adolf Hitler and his personal representative Rudolf Hess, right, during a parade in Berlin, Germany, on Dec. 30, 1938. (Photo by AP/Haaretz) German Chancellor Adolf Hitler and his personal representative Rudolf Hess, right, during a parade in Berlin, Germany, on Dec. 30, 1938. (Photo by AP/Haaretz)

(Tampa, Florida) — Why do tyrants throughout history want to “annihilate” the Jewish people?

With Jews around the world celebrating the biblical holiday of Purim this past weekend — and in light of the release of my new novel, The Auschwitz Escape, tomorrow — I addressed this question last night as I taught from the Book of Esther at Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Florida.

Some notes from my message:

From Haman to Hitler to Hamas to Khamenei, evil men throughout history have not simply opposed or disagreed with the Jewish people.

Again and again they have used the language of “annihilation” and they have pursued policies to accomplish this diabolical mission.

HAMAN — Consider what the Bible teaches about this evil Persian leader sought to do in ancient times.

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Extremely Contagious Pig Virus Has Already Killed More Than 4 Million Hogs In The U.S.

If you eat pork, get ready to pay a lot more for it. A highly contagious pig virus known as “Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus” has now spread to 27 different U.S. states, and it has killed more than 4 million hogs since last May. Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the entire world, estimates that approximately 10 percent of all adult female hogs in America have contracted the disease already, and there is a very good chance that any offspring that they have will die. That is because the mortality rate for this disease for piglets is between 80 and 100 percent. Fortunately, we are being told that this disease does not affect humans. However, considering the fact that California is in the midst of one of the worst droughts in recorded history, and considering the fact that the U.S. cattle herd has shrunk (Read More…)

The Lukewarm Church

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

30 “As for you, son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, ‘Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ 31 And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain. 32 And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it. (Ezekiel 33:30-32 ESV)

In the book of Revelation, chapters 2 and 3 contain the seven letters Christ dictated to John to be sent…

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