Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Dangers of Young Earth Dogmatism

I am a Young Earth Creationist (YEC). Of sorts. I am a Creationist in the sense that I believe in a single all-powerful being who created everything that exists. I also happen to believe that God created humanity by way of a distinct act and not by way of evolutionary mechanisms over millions of years.

I am a Young Earth Creationist, specifically, in the sense that I currently happen to think that the earth is relatively young.

What I am not, is a Young Earth Dogmatist (YED). That is, I do not think faith in the youth of this planet is explicitly taught by the scriptures, crucial to Christianity, or even super important to believe in.

Therefore this post is not contra YEC, but contra YED. I do not oppose a position but a disposition.

There are two dangers in Young Earth Dogmatism.

Firstly, insisting that faith in the youth of this planet is crucial to Biblical Christianity tends to cause unnecessary division, while the Bible stresses a wide degree of latitude for brothers and sisters over matters that are not explicitly addressed in the Bible. Now don't get me wrong, I know that there is room for constructive disagreement among Christians, and that's what I have with my Old Earth brothers and sisters. But Young Earth Dogmatists tend to practically elevate their scientific speculations to the levels of certainty and importance of the gospel itself, and this, like all syncretism, introduces problems.

Secondly, Young Earth Dogmatism repels people from the faith. When individuals are brought up believing that the Bible incontrovertibly teaches that this planet is less than 10,000 years old, and then they encounter extremely compelling scientific evidence to the contrary, they are forced to make a choice that just might be unnecessary. Now, I am aware that there may be things the Bible teaches, which are often construed in secular circles as being at odds with scientific data and/or their interpretations, but faith in the youth of the earth need not be added to this list. Don't make matters worse; pick your battles, and all that.

This is not to mention the people who weren't even raised by Christian parents who are repelled by Young Earth Dogmatism. Sure, there are those who are repelled by genuine Christian dogma. But, again, if this isn't genuine Christian dogma, and it is offensive, why not relegate it to a lower status? The gospel should be stripped of everything that hinders.

The gospel is nudist that way.

So, where is there room for millions and billions of years? Before, during, and after the six days in Genesis 1.


The six days of creation begin pretty early on in the text, right? And what part of "in the beginning" don't I understand? How could there possibly be room for millions and billions of years before the six days of creation?

Incidentally, one of the most widely held theories among Evangelical Christians is something called the "Gap Theory". This theory maintains that there is a gap of time in between the first and second verses of Genesis 1. This theory, in addition to enjoying a wide fan-base, also enjoys grammatical support. James E. Smith, himself an opponent of Gap Theory explains:
The Ruin-Reconstruction theory (also known as the Gap Theory) is perhaps the most widely held view among evangelicals. According to this view verse 1 describes an original perfect creation... Verse 2 is translated, “Now the earth became waste and void.”…

Can Genesis 1:2 be translated “Now the earth became waste and void”? Many authorities insist that the verb hayah cannot be rendered became here. The truth of the matter is that this verb more often than not expresses an action and not a state of being. The Gap Theory cannot be opposed on linguistic grounds. [1]
In addition to the Hebrew verb היה (hayah), which more often means something closer to "became" than "was", there is other immediate grammatical support for reading Gap Theoretic notions into Genesis 1:2. For example, the textual note on Genesis 1:2 in the ESV says:
תֹהוּ (tohu) and בֹּהוּ (bohu), when used in proximity, describe a situation resulting from judgment (Isa 34:11; Jer 4:23).
These three words, read plainly in Hebrew, would lead a reader to believe that sometime after God created the heavens and the earth, God caused the earth to lose its form and contents by way of judgement.

Thus, there are textual reasons to posit a gap of time in between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. That's all I need to establish the Biblical room for millions and billions of years before the six days of creation. However, since Gap Theory is interesting, I will tell you what some Gap Theorists think occurred during that gap.

There are several events that the Bible teaches occurred very long ago. I will go through them and then we can figure out how to order them.

In Job 38:1-7, in the middle of God's monologue to Job, God sarcastically asks Job where he was while God was laying the foundation of the earth, "when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy". In order to "shout for joy", the sons of God (a phrase which, in the book of Job, refers to angelic beings) had to have already been in existence.

Now notice how the six day creation account doesn't mention anything about the creation of the angels. Why? Because God had already created them prior. So this is one event that occurred in eternity past that we will have to find a place for on our creation timeline.

Now take a look at Genesis 3:1. This "serpent" that is mentioned in the garden is also called "the devil" or "Satan", and is the deceiver of the world. But long before that, he was a different creature of a different moral standing in a different place. That is, he was a blameless, anointed cherub on the holy mountain of God (Ezekiel 28:12-14). He became proud because of his beauty and persuaded about a third of the other angels in heaven to attempt a mutiny, against which God's army of righteous angels, led by Michael the seraph, fought back, taking the mountain and driving them all out of heaven - and down to earth (Ezekiel 28:15-17, Revelation 12:4-9).

So that's how the serpent came to be corrupt and displaced. And this must have happened at least prior to Genesis 3:1, or else he wouldn't be called "the serpent", wouldn't be outside of the mountain of God, and wouldn't be deceitful.

Genesis is famous for giving an account of the Fall of humanity, but what it fails to record is the Fall of the angelic host who would become known as demons. This Fall, the subsequent heavenly war, and its conclusion are all events that we must find a place for on our cosmic timeline.

So here is one way of drawing up the order of events:

1. In the very beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).
2. Sometime either before or after (1) God created Angels.
3. Sometime after (1) and (2), the archangel Lucifer, a cherub, and his followers (about 1/3 of the heavenly host) fell morally, by pridefully attempting to usurp God’s throne. So the archangel Michael, a seraph, and his followers subsequently waged war against them.
4. As a result of (3), Satan and his demons were violently evicted from the mountain of God.
5. Perhaps as a result of (4), the earth then lost its form, contents, light, and firmament. Perhaps the first Fall, that of Lucifer, shook the cosmos, renting its very fabric, and knocking planets out of orbit (think of the cataclysm caused by the crucifixion - imagine a pristine universe being morally torn for the very first time). Or perhaps out of bitterness, Satan and his demons threw a demonic fit, and rioted after being kicked out of heaven (imagine the cosmic riot of those powerful enough to have been God's own lieutenants). Or perhaps as God had them thrown out, His wrath burned against them so intensely that the spheres themselves melted and violently erupted (think of an ancient apocalypse, bringing a chilling symmetry to the Eschaton).
6. Perhaps it was then that the events beginning in Genesis 1:2 began taking place. Perhaps, after the earth became formless and void, it needed re-creation. As R. Jamieson and his colleagues describe it,
the earth was without form and void—or in “confusion and emptiness,” as the words are rendered in Is 34:11. This globe, at some undescribed period, having been convulsed and broken up, was a dark and watery waste for ages perhaps, till out of this chaotic state, the present fabric of the world was made to arise. [2]
And so God spent six days re-creating the earth, feathering a nest for a new type of creature He had designs for; forming the globe into a shape He liked, filling it with fruitful plants and wildlife, lighting it properly, and firming up land masses on its surface. To again quote from Jamieson,
the Spirit of God moved—literally, continued brooding over it, as a fowl does, when hatching eggs. The immediate agency of the Spirit, by working on the dead and discordant elements, combined, arranged, and ripened them into a state adapted for being the scene of a new creation. The account of this new creation properly begins at the end of this second verse; and the details of the process are described in the natural way an onlooker would have done, who beheld the changes that successively took place. [ibid.]
7. Then, after God had finished filliping, He rolled up His sleeves and conducted His opus, creating a spitting image of His Very Self, symbiotically spread across two genders and fully equipped for reproduction.
8. And that's why the serpent was already present on the earth by Genesis 3:1, with the motivation to bring down mankind – the pinnacle of God’s fresh creative achievement; the one creature fashioned after God Himself.

How long before or after the creation of the heavens and the earth did God create the angels? How long did He reign among them in peace before the rebellion? How long did the war last? How long after the rebels were put down did God begin the re-creation of the earth?

With these and other questions unanswered, can it be said that a plain reading of scripture may possibly leave room for millions and billions of years before the six days of creation? At least a plain enough reading that makes enough room that Christian brothers and sisters holding to inerrancy and a straightforward hermeneutic may thus maintain that the earth is older than 10,000 years without being defrocked by Young Earth Dogmatists?


Who has the gaul to suggest that there could be room for millions and billions of years during a six day period (besides Paul Copan, of course)? Moreover, can such a one earnestly claim a "straightforward" or "literal" hermeneutic? I have been surprised by some of my a- or post-millennial friends, whom I love, who seem to have no problem swiftly allegorizing the prophets, Savior's, and apostle's teachings on the Kingdom of God and by many of the same who happen to also be Calvinists, who read Calvinism into verses like 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 John 2:2, but turn right around to force a woodenly literal (in their words "plain") interpretation of passages that, to many, are quite obviously poetic, figurative, or allegorical (think "this is my body", a phrase too rarely compared to others like "I am the door" and "I am the vine", and a post topic for another night).

The Hebrew word יום ("yome", which literally means "to be hot") is not always used for "24 hours as we know them". In fact, the very same verse says that God called the "light" as "day" (and the "darkness" as "night"). Taken literally, this would mean that "day" only referenced the 12 hours or so of light that occur for a stationary observer during a revolution of the globe, unless back then it took the earth 48 hours to revolve, leaving the reader of Genesis to understand that there was a 24 period of light ("day"), and a 24 period of darkness ("night"). Moreover, a single chapter later, the author of Genesis references, in verse 4, this whole creation account as the (sl.) "day" in which God created the heavens and the earth. Obviously, the author can't be using "day" literally in both cases, otherwise he would be saying that God took 144 hours to create everything, and that God took 24 hours to create everything, and this is a mathematical contradiction.

But it's not just this instance in Genesis. In verse 17, God promises Adam and Eve that in the (sl.) "day" they eat of the forbidden fruit, they will surely die. Obviously, we know that they ate the fruit, but didn't die right away. Now, we might interpret God's promise as meaning that they will introduce death into humanity, and will subsequently die. Or we might interpret it as meaning that they will spiritually, and not literally, die. In either case, we can either interpret "day" literally or "die" literally, or both figuratively, but we know that Adam and Even didn't literally die on the same literal day that they ate the fruit, and therefore cannot interpret all words in a woodenly literal sense, like the Young Earth Dogmatists insist we must.

And it's not just in Genesis either. There is case after case of this Hebrew word being used for durations other than singular solar days as we know them.

This isn't a simple issue of reading the Bible plainly or not. Most of us read our Bible in English, which, I hear, is like "kissing your bride through her veil". How can you really know what her lips feel like? How can you expect to correctly pick up all of the nuances so simply? Hermeneutics, even of the most respectably straightforward kind, require the strict examination of context: literary, grammatical, and historical (the Chicago Statement calls this "grammatico-historical exegesis" and says that it requires "taking account of its literary forms and devices"). The goal is to determine what the author literally means. The goal may be exegesis and not eisegesis, but that doesn't mean that the Biblical authors never used figures of speech or idioms or the like, or that the words and phrases in the original will always translate perfectly, clearly, and into literal language.

I once heard John Piper quoted as saying "Raking is easy, but all you get is leaves. Digging is hard, but you might find Gold.". Sometimes a plain, surface-level reading isn't good enough. Sometimes it takes a little elbow grease and a sturdy shovel.

I've been thinking about all of this for a long time. But one of the reasons I decided to whip out a post now is that my very Best of Man posted a blog with a link to a video featuring Ken Ham himself. There is a lot of good in Answers in Genesis, his Young Earth Creationist ministry, and the video clip has a lot of good stuff in it too. I just have a bone to pick with his disposition.

Anyway, I left a comment summarizing my critique of Young Earth Dogmatism, and one of the objections I received was
If we have to reinterpret the plain meaning of Scripture and we were misled by the plain meaning of Scripture for thousands of years until Darwin came along, then what else have we misunderstood? What other plain teachings of Scripture do we have to reject and come up with a new interpretation for when science comes along and says our interpretation is wrong?"
It was a good point. I thought about it, and then remembered a couple of things. For one, I don't think that the Bible addresses certain things (quantum mechanics, for example). And I think one of the issues it doesn't address, is the exact age of the planet. So, if humans have believed a certain way, incorrectly, for thousands of years, it's to their chagrin. We believed incorrectly about the geocentrism of the universe for thousands of years too. But the Bible doesn't address that, so who cares? I mean, scientific progress is important, but it's not as if people had been reading the Bible geocentrically, and then came to reinterpret it in the face of scientific evidence, right?

Oh wait.

And what about the Jews? Weren't they entrusted with the law, the prophets, and the writings? But didn't they misinterpret them so grossly that they missed their messiah?

It seems it is in fact possible to incorrectly and dogmatically read scripture through our own scientific paradigms to the detriment of the unity of the church, and that it is possible for God's people to misinterpret His word en masse and for long periods of time.

But there's more. It turns out that there is in fact a historical allegorization of the six day creation account, going all the way back to the first century. Most of the Apostolic Fathers held a view called "Chiliasm", which was not only Premillennial, but drawn from the six day creation account. Under this view, each "day" in Genesis was 1,000 years (think of reading 2 Peter 3:8 literally!). The seventh day then corresponded to the future millennial reign of Christ (think of Hebrews 4:1-11 comparing the sabbath to the future "day" or rest). En early expression of this view is summarized for us in a document that was almost canonized:
The Sabbath is mentioned at the beginning of the creation thus: 'And God made in six days the works of His hands, and made an end on the seventh day, and rested on it, and sanctified it.' Attend, my children, to the meaning of this expression, 'He finished in six days.' This implieth that the Lord will finish all things in six thousand years, for a day is with Him a thousand years. And He Himself testifieth, saying, 'Behold, to-day will be as a thousand years.' Therefore, my children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, all things will be finished. 'And He rested on the seventh day.' This meaneth: when His Son, coming again, shall destroy the time of the wicked man, and judge the ungodly, and change the sun, and the moon, and the stars, then shall He truly rest on the seventh day.

-The Epistle of Barnabas (circa 100 AD)
Chiliasm gets rarer by the century, but its early existence proves that Christian tradition alone cannot be used to justify a wooden interpretation of "day" in the Genesis creation account.

This is not to mention the various flavors of Theistic Evolution that can be found in vintage Christianity (C. S. Lewis, while he is known for what my good friend Derek von Barandy calls the "the pre-Plantingian argument that (naturalistic) evolution is self-defeating", also accommodates for something close to evolution within the Christian worldview), or in contemporary Christianity (for example, Alister McGrath, The Archbishop of Canterbury, and I understand Biola professors J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig both exhibit something like my position - namely, that there is room within orthodoxy for Theistic Evolution if the scientific evidence leads that way.

The point is that an exegesis of the text alone does not get us conclusive evidence that "day" means "24-hour period" in this case:
Now, when it comes to the days of Genesis...I'm of the view on this that while we ought not allow science to dictate to us our exegesis of the Old Testament, nevertheless, if there is an interpretation of the Old Testament that is exegetically permissible-- that is, and old age interpretation; that is to say, if you can find conservative, inerrantist, evangelical Old Testament scholars that say that the interpretation of this text that treats the days of Genesis as unspecified periods of time, and that is a completely permissible thing to do on exegetical grounds alone, then my view is that that is a permissible option if it harmonizes the text with science because that option can be justified exegetically, independent of science...

I will tell you that two of the best-known exegetes of the Old Testament in the American evangelical community are Gleason Archer at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Walter Kaiser at Gordon Conwell. Walter Kaiser and Gleason Archer are respected in the entire United States as being faithful expositors of the Old Testament. Both of them know eight to ten Old Testament languages, and they both have spent their entire lives in Hebrew exegesis. Both of them believe the days of Genesis are... vast, unspecified periods of time, and are in no way required to be literal twenty-four hour days. view, then, is this: if all of the Old Testament scholars at our seminaries that I trust, that love the Bible and that I respect their credibility were saying that it's required of us to believe these days are twenty-four hour days, I'd have a problem. But if there is enough of these men that I trust--I'm not talking about people that are trying to give up real estate here and are just bellying up; I'm talking about men that the community recognizes to be trustworthy authorities of that Hebrew exegesis are saying that this is an option--then I'm going to say in that case it's permissible.

-Dr. J. P. Moreland, "The Age of the Earth"
In light of this then, is it possible to say that basic conclusions from an honest attempt at reading scripture might leave open the possibility of millions and billions of years, even during the six day creation account?


Even supposing that no time, or little time, elapsed between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 (requiring us to do something with the creation of angels, the fall of Satan, the rebellion, the heavenly war, and the eviction of the demons from heaven), and that the Genesis creation account only took 144 hours (plus 24 hours of "rest", whatever "rest" literally means for God...), we still wouldn't know from the Bible how old the earth is. Even if we knew how long it took to create it, we wouldn't necessarily know how long ago that creation took place.

There might be historical or scientific reasons to believe that humans have only been around for so long, or that the creation account itself could have only been so long ago, but these are all historical and scientific issues, as they relate to the Biblical text (like ice-core tests, for example). They are extra-Biblical, and have nothing to do with a plain reading of scripture alone. The Young Earth Dogmatists want to be able to use extra-Biblical material themselves, but as soon as anyone else brings scientific data into the conversation, they talk about the supremacy of the Bible (read: their interpretation of the Bible) to science.

But the Bible itself recommends we consult outside sources! The Psalms say that the heavens declare the glory of God. The Proverbs send the sluggard to observe the ants to learn lessons about productivity. Romans says that God's invisible attributes have been made known through creation, and that this is enough to ground responsibility for belief in God. And the list goes on. In the words of John Calvin,
If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God.
All parties involved in the discourse really should be able to use extra-Biblical material in appropriate ways in the discussion. But in doing so, they should avoid elevating their positions to the level of gospel truth.

But are there just Biblical reasons for thinking that the six days of creation only occurred 6,000 years ago or so? Well, a lot of Young Earth Dogmatists, like Kent Hovind ("Dr. Dino") like to line up the genealogies from the Hebrew scriptures to make this case. But the problem with that, is that Hebrew genealogies aren't what we out here in the Western world today think genealogies are supposed to be like. Whole generations are often skipped. The ancient Hebrews just found different things important than we do. A case in point is the genealogy in the beginning of Matthew. It even differs greatly from a straightforward synthesis of the genealogies in the Hebrew scriptures. Now, this isn't a problem for inerrancy, because the authors of these books are trying to communicate something other than what most people in the West use genealogies to communicate. We like clean, comprehensive, factual family trees. The ancient Hebrews were more interested in what it means to be a son of Adam, or Seth, Abraham, or David. Thus, they don't always literally mean "son". Sometimes they mean "grandson" or "heir". Or, in the case of Jesus, being the son of David means being a great+ grandson and the heir to his throne and the one about whom the prophets speak. So lining up genealogies won't tell us exactly how long ago the six days of creation were (for a more rigorous exegetical treatment of the Old Testament genealogies from an Old Earth Creationist's perspective, see

And so, can it be that a plain reading of scripture might possibly also leave room for millions and billions of years after the six days of creation?

You might have objections to all of these things. I do. But that's not the point. The point is that there can be and in fact are, plenty of Christian brothers and sisters, and have been throughout history, who do in fact hold to inerrancy and even something of a straightforward hermeneutic, who also maintain that the "days" in Genesis are not all 24 hour periods and/or that the earth might possibly be older than 10,000 years.

Young Earth Dogma is found nowhere in the Bible or any of the creeds, and need not be ascribed the same certainty or importance as the gospel itself, lest we cause divisions among ourselves and drive people away from the true dogmas of Christianity.


[1] Smith, J. E. (1993). The Pentateuch (2nd ed.) (Ge 1:2). Joplin, Mo.: College Press Pub. Co.
[2] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. (1997). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Ge 1:2). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Do YOU think an unborn baby is distinct from a set of tonsils?

While you probably do, your representative probably doesn't.

And now every American with health insurance can be forced by the federal government to pay for the termination of the lives of those who cannot stand up for themselves.

By the way, our Walt Minnick made it clear that he doesn't distinguish between a set of tonsils and an unborn baby, that he can't think independently, and that he isn't fiscally responsible after-all by failing to stand strong for the amendment that would have prevented taxpayers from being forced to fund abortions they don't want to (and can't afford to). This is the guy we voted in to replace Bill Sali (who, regardless of what you think of him, was at least pro-life).

At least our Mike Simpson did a better job of accurately representing his pro-life Idahoan constituents by voting yes (see his record).
"Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed." (Psalm 82:3, NIV)

Federal Healthcare vs. Federal Military

As I have been growing a little bit more classically liberal, I have been struggling over a number of issues. One is healthcare. To be honest, there remains quite an appeal to universal healthcare to me, at least in the abstract.

The main thing I haven't been able to fully get an answer for from my classically liberal friends, who think a federally regulated military is justified and constitutes an appropriate use of government but universal healthcare is not and does not, is why defense against foreign human invaders is significantly different than defense against domestic bacterial and viral invaders and why defense of the right to life by way of destruction is better than defense of the right to life by way of healing.

I am not interested in defending my position this time - I don't actually have much of a position. I am just curious whether a federal military can be relevantly distinguished from a federal healthcare system in principle.

Blogger Redirect Error seems to work fine, but redirects to for me on Firefox and Safari. Bizarre. I tried deleting all the JavaScript off my layout in case there was some erorr or something, but that didn't seem to work. I reset all my browser settings in case of some bizarre mix up, but that didn't work either. I doubt would employ hackers to hijack blogspot URL's...?

Does anyone else out there who views this blog in Safari get the same redirect? Could this be a strange Safari 4 thing?

Have any other Blogger users had similar problems?

[UPDATE: I tried changing my template, which didn't resolve anything. So I unlinked all my references to, which did the trick. I have no idea why.]

[UPDATE 2: I found a rogue Biblegateway link that hadn't been deleted after-all. So now I am really dumbfounded. Any programmers out there with any insight?]

The Titles of an Excellent Wife: Commentary on Proverbs 31

An excellent wife who can find?
  She is far more precious than jewels.

The heart of her husband trusts in her,
  and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
  all the days of her life.

She seeks wool and flax,
  and works with willing hands.

She is like the ships of the merchant;
  she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night
  and provides food for her household
  and portions for her maidens.

She considers a field and buys it;
  with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

She dresses herself with strength
  and makes her arms strong.

She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
  Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
  and her hands hold the spindle.

She opens her hand to the poor
  and reaches out her hands to the needy.

She is not afraid of snow for her household,
  for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
She makes bed coverings for herself;
  her clothing is fine linen and purple.

Her husband is known in the gates
  when he sits among the elders of the land.

She makes linen garments and sells them;
  she delivers sashes to the merchant.

Strength and dignity are her clothing,

  and she laughs at the time to come.

She opens her mouth with wisdom,
  and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

She looks well to the ways of her household

  and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children rise up and call her blessed;

  her husband also, and he praises her:

"Many women have done excellently,
  but you surpass them all."

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
  but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Give her of the fruit of her hands,
  and let her works praise her in the gates.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Unanswered Prayers and the Personality of God: How "Raiders of the Lost Ark" Got it All Wrong

A while back I wrote a post directed primarily toward atheists who argue that God doesn't exist based on the irregularities of answers to prayers. I had been reading atheist arguments and just got sick of hearing that one.

Well this weekend I got to thinking about fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who need to hear a similar message. For example, The Prayer of Jabez makes the same error that the atheist's arguments do: assuming the Christian worldview is one in which God will necessarily grant a request if it is performed a certain way. And worse yet, Christians who get into The Secret hold this belief - not even about God anymore - but about The Universe.

Reflecting on this reminded me of a subtler instance of this type of thinking, my judgment of which might raise some eyebrows. My wife and I were once a part of a prayer team that was led by some very nice and respectable people, with whom we remain on good terms. One thing these individuals did however, that rubbed us the wrong way, was act in God's name without His consent. They were steeped in charismatic, "name it and claim it" type theology, and had the tendency to pray that whole limbs would grow back, and that blind individuals on the street would receive sight, in the name of God. But their prayers weren't always tempered with the "by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" mentality. Rather, they were framed in "God has given me His name and His authority to use to heal the sick" mentality.

What's the problem with this?

There are several. Let's take a look at what happened to Israel, when they acted without God's consent:
Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek. The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. And when the troops came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, "Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies." So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

As soon as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, "What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?" And when they learned that the ark of the LORD had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid, for they said, "A god has come into the camp." And they said, "Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight."

So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home. And there was a very great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. And the ark of God was captured, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died. (1 Samuel 4:1-11)
Israel acted without communicating with God. They thought that God was something to be manipulated by way of the Ark (just as we often think God is something to be manipulated by way of prayer). Then, as if attempting to manipulate God wasn't bad enough, they went so far as to say "Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies."! They thought the ark itself would save them. God shows no tolerance for this, in this case chosing to make it abundantly clear that He cannot be manipulated by men, that He does not dwell in temples (or boxes) made by hands, and that He certainly does not exist as anything made by human hands. In thinking this way about God, the Israelites had lowered their worldview to Philistinian levels ("when they learned that the ark of the LORD had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid, for they said, "A god has come into the camp."").

The result? Thirty thousand dead. Eli's sons dead. The ark lost.

When, with our words or with our behavior, we ascribe any of the characteristics true of God alone (ultimate power, knowledge, love, ability to save, deservedness of being glorified, pleasingness, etc.) to anything, even good things given to us by God (the law, the ark of the covenant, the name of God, food, sex, marriage, prayer, etc.), we commit idolatry.

If 1 Samuel 4 is an example of the devastation that occurs when people try to wage war in God's name without God, I cringe to think of the damage done when people try to wage spiritual war in God's name without God. The ark was a very concrete symbol and it was horrifying to lose it (not to mention the Israelite lives), but what subtler, spiritual ground are we losing when we attempt healings and other acts of spiritual warfare in God's name without His endorsement?

Another friend of mine, now overseas, told me a story. In a town he used to live in, a little girl died. A local church told everyone, including the parents, that God wanted to raise this little girl from the dead. They prayed for days straight in vain. Their prayers went so long that the police ultimately had to seize the girl's body for burial because it stank so bad. The church claimed the police shouldn't have done that, because they stopped giving God the opportunity to work.

Do you think, if God is intent on raising someone from the dead, a couple of city cops are going to stop Him?

Why didn't those limbs our team prayed for grow back despite the fact that we used the name of God? Why didn't the blind we prayed for see despite the fact that we used the name of God? Why didn't the little girl rise from the dead despite the fact that we used the name of God?

The same reason the Israelites lost the battle despite the fact that they used the ark of God.

Neither God's name nor His ark nor any other created thing has any power whatsoever in itself.

And the result of making that mistake this time? Destruction of the hope of those people who were told were going to be healed and the parents of the girl whom the church promised would be raised. Destruction to the reputation of the Christian God when He didn't do that which He was said He would do. Destruction to the faith of those believers who prayed fervently because they were led to believe God wanted to perform these miracles.

Obsessing over extraordinary healings causes us to lose sight of ordinary healings, which are also only accomplished by the providence of God. Obsessing over the restoration of physical sight causes us to lose sight of the importance of spiritual sight. Obsessing over temporal life causes us to lose sight of eternal life. Obsessing over the unbelievable causes us to lose sight of God in the believable. Obsessing over breeches in physical law causes us to lose sight of the ingenuity of that law in the first place.

Don't get me wrong: God reserves the right to perform miracles for His purposes. My point is simply that He also reserves the right to withhold miracles for His purposes.

I'm reminded of something the disciples asked Jesus one time, centuries after 1 Samuel was written. In Mark, the disciples are baffled when they can't cast out an evil spirit. They ask Jesus 'why?', and He says that a spirit of such a "kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.".

And so it remains apparent that God is not an impersonal force that He may be commanded, an idol or an ark to be manipulated, or a name to be used like a magic spell, but a personal being who must be asked.
You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. (Exodus 20:7, NIV)

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Don't be fooled into thinking It has already come." - St. Paul (paraphrased)

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for (that day will not come) until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

Don't you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-10, NIV)

What Coercive Interrogation Methods Get You

Alexander the Great once went to Delphi to seek guidance from the priestess-oracle on a day when it was forbidden for her to speak any prophecies. Alexander seized her and compelled her to speak, and he was satisfied by her message--"My son, you are invincible".
Quoted from G. K. Chesterton "Collected Works", volume 33, p. 40.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Creeds, Confessions, Traditions and the Kingdom of God: Part III

I am in the middle of a mini-series on why I think the Kingdom of God is not something that can be said to be here, but only something to anticipate. I have made six arguments, a "so what" post, and a number of quotation posts. Two nights ago I wrote a state of the union explaining my curiosity at finding Premillennialism suspiciously absent from the creeds and consensuses of the major branches of Christendom. Then, last night, I wrote a followup to it. Tonight I have something small to add to these two state of the union posts.

I was thinking that it could seem ironic that I accept Tradition's canon, then turn right around and use that canon to disagree with Tradition.

So I did some introspecting and I thought I would share with you why I think doing this is ok.

I don't accept the canonicity of books of the Bible because Tradition does. In other words, I don't view the authority of the Bible as being in any way derived from Tradition. Rather, I see Tradition as recognizing the divine inspiration of the scriptures. And I don't take their word for it. I am moved by their arguments.

And so since, as I mentioned in the previous post on this matter as well as in another older post on this blog, one has no choice but to think for oneself, rather than think about which Tradition is the right one to adopt as a religious authority, I will think about which Tradition is right.

Further, it is not clear that Jesus or the apostles meant for there to ever be a religious authority (at least not in the Roman or Eastern sense). And how would we adjudicate between competing authorities? The only way is to try and see which has accurate theology. But if we are able to determine theological matters on our own, what would we need a religious authority for?

Therefore I will respect tradition highly and count it as useful and trust that in some sense the Spirit is guiding it, but I will not elevate it so highly that I won't be bold enough to break from it where I think it's beliefs are unwarranted scripturally or philosophically (and this is only relevant to my view of the Kingdom of God if it is true that candidate religious authorities indeed teach contrarily to my Premillennialism, and I have already stated that I am not convinced Premillennialism is at least not incompatible with the earliest and most popular creeds).

Stop Obama from giving $1,500,000,000 of your money to the Abortion Industry.

Abortion is wrong, most of us think so, and Obama should know it (a growing number in his own party do).

From the Susan B. Anthony List:
Did you know the abortion industry wants a $1.5 BILLION taxpayer bailout?
President Obama's 2010 Budget recommendations signal the Abortion Bailout is in full swing!

Here is the 2010 edition of the Abortion Bailout Package:

  • Taxpayer funding for abortions in the District of Columbia
  • $317 million in taxpayer funding for “Title X” Health Clinics (aka your local Planned Parenthood affiliate)
  • $50 million for the UNFPA, an international aid organization connected to coercive abortion as part of China’s coercive one-child policy

    In December 2008, Abortion groups submitted a 50 page proposal to the Obama-Biden Administration. To date President Obama has fulfilled 11 of the 15 policies requested for the first 100 days. With more of the Abortion Bailout to come, we can surely expect to see some of the other demands to come in the months ahead:

  • Include Abortion coverage in any taxpayer-subsidized national health care program
  • Expand taxpayer-funded abortions on military bases
  • Expand taxpayer-funded abortions through the Peace Corps program
  • Expand taxpayer-funded abortions for federal prisoners
    Send a letter to your Senators by filling out the form on the Susan B. Anthony list right now.

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009

    Creeds, Confessions, Traditions and the Kingdom of God: Part II

    I am in the middle of a mini-series on why I think the Kingdom of God is not something that can be said to be here, but only something to anticipate. I have made six arguments, a "so what" post, and a number of quotation posts. Last night I wrote a state of the union explaining my curiosity at finding Premillennialism suspiciously absent from the creeds and consensuses of the major branches of Christendom. Tonight I post a followup to that. Specifically, I have a two-pronged answer to why I think Premillennialism can't really be found in any of the creeds.

    The other day Jon and I were talking and he was explaining to me a revelation he had had. As he's been dealing with government offices and policies and businesses and the business world he realized something like that we are all just people and this is a big mess.

    As I have been studying (admittedly only a bit - I am no scholar), I have been realizing that historical Christianity is full of just a bunch of people and is a big mess. Now don't get me wrong - I think the Holy Spirit has moved in that mess and I think the History Books tell us stories of "just people" being used by God for His purposes. I think the Hero is always God and it is always Him despite humanity, and that's part of the whole point.

    At any rate, my current thinking on the councils (those called "ecumenical" by various groups and otherwise) is pretty broadly stroked and fuzzy, but comprises two elements.

    First, their creeds and canons were not divinely inspired like the scriptures were (and I think they would agree).
    Second, they were conducted by humans (and I think they would agree with this too).

    The second belief I list above in light of the first lowers my view of the veracity of the creeds. It is not clear which councils ought to be considered "ecumenical", much less what ecumenicity is exactly and exactly how it is relevant. Each council has its own set of controversies, dissenters, and amendments (some are even amended [contradicted?] by later councils that are also recognized as authoritative by certain groups recognizing the previous as authoritative).

    If one wants to believe in the authority of church history, one has to pick a historical side on a ton of issues in succession, or work really hard at principally defining the scope of those to be considered authoritative while sifting through their disagreements to find the lowest common theological denominator (and is this even the right approach?).

    Theology by democracy seems tricky when it isn't clear whose votes to count.

    Further, how ought this picking, defining, and sifting be done? According to what criteria? At some point one has to think for oneself. This must be done to come up with the right criteria by which to pick, define, and sift, or one has to think about which authority's picks, definitions, and sifts to adopt.

    But isn't thinking for oneself (in some qualified sense anyway) incompatible by the belief in religious authority?

    Not to mention the fact that it is not clear how Jesus' promise, that the Holy Spirit will guide us, has or will occur exactly (viz. it is not clear that the councils were the direct and exclusive outworking of this promise, or that the majority of those who administered or attended them thought so).

    As of tonight, I am not convinced that any creeds or authorities outside of the scriptures ought to be seen as inerrant. It seems like they are about extremely useful.

    So on to my second prong. It seems like, while Premillennialism isn't explicitly taught by any of the major creeds, neither is any other eschatological system. It appears that they just weren't addressing Last Things yet. They were still worrying about basic things like, you know, condemning major Christological and Trinitarian heresies.

    Either that, or they believed that there was room for eschatological disagreement within orthodoxy.

    There is much to be studied on all of these matters. Still I maintain that the works that we have all agreed are canonical, teach Premillennialism, and I find it significant that most of the earliest and most respected church fathers, especially those said to have had direct ties to John himself, were evangelistically Premillennial. I hold these conclusions with an open mind.

    Can a man be faulted for honestly struggling to understand these things?
    "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," (1 Timothy 2:5)

    "But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light." (1 Peter 2:9, NLT)

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    Creeds, Confessions, Traditions and the Kingdom of God: Part I

    I am in the middle of a mini-series (when does a mini-series become a series? Sorry for posting so much lately!) on why I think the Kingdom is not quite here yet. I have posted seven major entires, and included some intermittent quotations. I have plans for a number of additional entries, but tonight I want to take a break and give you sort of a state of the union.

    In my extra-Biblical research I have found a wide number of very early Christian leaders and thinkers, especially those who are said to have been disciples of John himself or of one of his disciples, who are Premillennial (most notably Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Terullian, Papias, and Polycarp - and arguably Clement, Barnabas, Hermas, and others). However, I have noticed that explicit Premillenialism is not taught in any of the Ecumenical creeds, nor really in any of the proceeding major creeds or confessions. Further, the Orthodox, Catholic, and Reformed traditions are all more or less Post- or Amillenial.

    The only really major traditions I can find that are Premillennial are HIstoric Premillennialism (which includes a number throughout history, and a healthy number of the Reformers, such as Spurgeon), and pretty much all of the various modern Dispensationals (Classic and Progressive and whatever other flavors there may be). I think Premillennialism might still be the minority view if you tally up every Christian's vote for all time.

    What do I make of this? I am not sure. I still think, and am willing to defend my position that, the Biblical authors intended to convey a Premillennial eschatology, and I also have the witnesses of a very large number of very early church fathers, and then the couple traditions I mentioned above.

    But no creeds, confessions, or major branches of the church? Could I have missed something in the Biblical text? How high of a view do I have of the creeds?

    I am thinking it through. I found this Preterist who makes an interesting case against hyper-creedalism. While I might disagree with his eschatological system, I think I might be willing to adopt his view on the creeds. It's still very high, but maintains that they are not to be considered scriptural and so may contain non-damnable errors. Thus when intra-mural theological disputes arise, we are permitted to break with the theology of the creeds if we have a scriptural basis for it.

    Augustine, who is famously Amillennial, was Premillennial for a long time before becoming so and maintains that there is room within Orthodoxy for Premillennialism. He cautions Premillennials to not become too materialistic though, making sure we agree that that the goodness of the Kingdom is that we will be fully relationally restored with God, and not that we will inherit a nice shiny world to do with whatever we want.

    It seems like he and a number of others maintain that Premillennialism is at least compatible with the creeds. He's a Compatibalist in that way I guess (ha, ha).

    In addition to exploring this, today I took a bit of time to read some from Justin Martyr's Dialogue With Trypho, which is amazingly clear and Biblical and ancient and, as previously noted, Premillennial. It is highly recommended.

    Stay tuned.

    Justin Martyr on the Kingdom of God


    And Trypho to this replied, "I remarked to you sir, that you are very anxious to be safe in all respects, since you cling to the Scriptures. But tell me, do you really admit that this place, Jerusalem, shall be rebuilt; and do you expect your people to be gathered together, and made joyful with Christ and the patriarchs, and the prophets, both the men of our nation, and other proselytes who joined them before your Christ came? or have you given way, and admitted this in order to have the appearance of worsting us in the controversies?"

    Then I answered, "I am not so miserable a fellow, Trypho, as to say one thing and think another. I admitted to you formerly, that I and many others are of this opinion, and[believe] that such will take place, as you assuredly are aware; but, on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise. Moreover, I pointed out to you that some who are called Christians, but are godless, impious heretics, teach doctrines that are in every way blasphemous, atheistical, and foolish. But that you may know that I do not say this before you alone, I shall draw up a statement, so far as I can, of all the arguments which have passed between us; in which I shall record myself as admitting the very same things which I admit to you. For I choose to follow not men or men's doctrines, but God and the doctrines[delivered] by Him. For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this[truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians, even as one, if he would rightly consider it, would not admit that the Sadducees, or similar sects of Genist , Meristae,Gelilaeans, Hellenists, Pharisees, Baptists, are Jews(do not hear me impatiently when I tell you what I think), but are[only] called Jews and children of Abraham, worshipping God with the lips, as God Himself declared, but the heart was far from Him. But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged, the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare.


    "For Isaiah spake thus concerning this space of a thousand years: 'For there shall be the new heaven and the new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, or come into their heart; but they shall find joy and gladness in it, which things I create. For, Behold, I make Jerusalem a rejoicing, and My people a joy; and I shall rejoice over Jerusalem, and be glad over My I people. And the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, or the voice of crying. And there shall be no more there a person of immature years, or an old man who shall not fulfil his days. For the young man shall be an hundred years old; but the sinner who dies an hundred years old, he shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and shall themselves inhabit them; and they shall plant vines, and shall themselves eat the produce of them, and drink the wine. They shall not build, and others inhabit; they shall not plant, and others eat. For according to the days of the tree of life shall be the days of my people; the works of their toil shall abound. Mine elect shall not toil fruitlessly, or beget children to be cursed; for they shall be a seed righteous and blessed by the Lord, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call I will hear; while they are still speaking, I shall say, What is it? Then shall the wolves and the lambs feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent[shall eat] earth as bread. They shall not hurt or maltreat each other on the holy mountain, saith the Lord.' Now we have understood that the expression used among these words, 'According to the days of the tree[of life] shall be the days of my people; the works of their toil shall abound' obscurely predicts a thousand years. For as Adam was told that in the nay fie ate of the tree he would die, we know that he did not complete a thousand years. We have perceived, moreover, that the expression, 'The day of the Lord is as a thousand years,' is connected with this subject. And further, there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place. Just as our Lord also said, 'They shall neither marry nor be given in marriage, but shall be equal to the angels, the children of the God of the resurrection.' (Justin Martyr, "Dialogue With Trypho" c. 80 AD)
    Justin Martyr is one of the earliest significant Christian apologists after the apostles. He is cited as a religious and philosophical authority by both Irenaeus and Tertullian. He suffered martyrdom at Rome under the Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

    "Dispatches From the Front" and the Kingdom of God

    Abraham Piper is giving away a DVD of a series about the frontlines of the mission field. The series' website points out that
    Often our view of God’s Kingdom is too small and limited to what we have experienced.
    They have no idea just how true that statement is.

    "Swedish parents keep 2-year-old's gender secret"

    This is interesting:
    We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset,” Pop’s mother said. “It's cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead.”
    And it's not cruel to bring a child into the world with a purple stamp on their forehead?
    the parents were quoted saying their decision was rooted in the feminist philosophy that gender is a social construction.
    And androgyny isn't a social construction?
    "I believe that the self-confidence and personality that Pop has shaped will remain for a lifetime," said Pop's mother.
    You bet it will.

    If gender is a social construction and not a biological one, why would it be necessary to "keep it a secret"? What is there to be kept secret?

    Irenaeus on the Kingdom of God

    "If, however, any shall endeavour to allegorize [prophecies] of this kind, they shall not be found consistent with themselves in all points, and shall be confuted by the teaching of the very expressions [in question]. For example: "When the cities" of the Gentiles "shall be desolate, so that they be not inhabited, and the houses so that there shall be no men in them and the land shall be left desolate." "For, behold," says Isaiah, "the day of the LORD cometh past remedy, full of fury and wrath, to lay waste the city of the earth, and to root sinners out of it." And again he says, "Let him be taken away, that he behold not the glory of God." And when these things are done, he says, "God will remove men far away, and those that are left shall multiply in the earth." "And they shall build houses, and shall inhabit them themselves: and plant vineyards, and eat of them themselves." For all these and other words were unquestionably spoken in reference to the resurrection of the just, which takes place after the coming of Antichrist, and the destruction of all nations under his rule; in [the times of] which [resurrection] the righteous shall reign in the earth, waxing stronger by the sight of the Lord: and through Him they shall become accustomed to partake in the glory of God the Father, and shall enjoy in the kingdom intercourse and communion with the holy angels, and union with spiritual beings; and [with respect to] those whom the Lord shall find in the flesh, awaiting Him from heaven, and who have suffered tribulation, as well as escaped the hands of the Wicked one." (Irenaeus, "Against Heresies, Book V", c. 180 AD)
    Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, who was said to be a disciple of John the Evangelist. He is one of the earlier witnesses to the recognition of the canonical character of all four gospels. He is recognized as a saint by both the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches (and by Protestants, I suppose, since we follow St. Paul in calling all Christians "saints"). "Against Heresies" was written primarily as a defense against Gnosticism.

    Tertullian on the Kingdom of God

    "But we do confess that a kingdom is promised to us upon the earth, although before heaven, only in another state of existence; inasmuch as it will be after the resurrection for a thousand years in the divinely-built city of Jerusalem, "let down from heaven," which the apostle also calls "our mother from above"; and, while declaring that our... citizenship... is in heaven, he predicates of it that it is really a city in heaven. This both Ezekiel had knowledge of and the Apostle John beheld." (Tertullian, "Against Marcion")
    Tertullian lived in the 2nd and 3rd centuries after Christ and is credited with coining our term "Trinity". He spoke very clearly of three Persons, sharing a single Substance. He is also credited with coining the terms "Old Testament" and "New Testament".

    Some Jews on MySpace and the Kingdom of God

    This is the seventh argument in a mini-series on why I think the Kingdom of God is not quite here yet.

    The first argument was based on the binding of Satan as part of the establishment of the Kingdom, the second was based on the separation of the sheep from the goats, the third had holes in it, and concerned John the Baptist, the fourth draws from the classic Christmas passage in Isaiah, the fifth continues exploring that passage, and the sixth does too.

    Today's post is less of an argument, and more of a "so what".

    "Jesus was not the messiah" claims an atheist based on some YouTube videos. I ran into this same thing when talking with a number of Jews in a MySpace chat room at 4am one night several years ago while working on a project for school. They were extremely well-versed in the Tanakh and were able to demonstrate to me, from the Hebrew, why Jesus did not fulfill all of the messianic prophecies. I didn't know what to say.

    But today, I don't even have to view the videos to know that I agree, even though I am a Christian.

    How can I agree with atheists and Jews who believe that Jesus didn't fulfill all of the messianic prophecies of the ancient Hebrew prophets and is therefore not the messiah? Doesn't "Christian" mean "follower of Christ", "Christ-like", or "little Christ"? Isn't "Christ" the Greek form of "messiah"? Didn't Jesus say to the woman at the well who spoke of the promised Christ, "I AM He."?

    After President Obama was elected, but before he was inaugurated, he diffused a lot of pressure to bring immediate change by reminding voters that "there is only one POTUS at a time". Even though Obama was the one elected to bring hope and change, he was not the President yet. But when asked whether he was the one everyone was talking about who was going to bring hope, he would have said "I am he.".

    I believe that Jesus was the One spoken of by God and the prophets the whole time. And I believe He meets all of the criteria to be the messiah. But I also think I see that He did not perform that role when He came. I think there is a reason for this that future Kingdom posts will get to, but the point is that I think Jesus is not the messiah yet, like Obama after election but prior to inauguration, was not the President yet.

    Jesus is the Messiah Elect.

    If I'm right, then insisting that Jesus is the messiah can hurt the case of Christ because Jews, and atheists like the one I cited, will be able to show us how our faith is inconsistent with our holy book.

    [Disclaimer: I took a look at some of those videos and want you, dear reader, to know I do not agree with most of what they say. They make some arguments I think are misunderstood and I do think Jesus fulfilled a good deal of prophecy and is the messiah to come. As of today however, I continue to maintain that Jesus did not erect the promised Kingdom and so did not act as messiah during His first coming.

    I also want to make clear that I believe the work He did accomplish during His first coming was extremely important - more important than the people could have ever realized - and it was a necessary foundation for the Kingdom of God.

    His work just isn't finished yet.]

    Sunday, July 12, 2009

    David's Throne and the Kingdom of God

    This is the sixth argument in a mini-series on why I think the Kingdom of God is not quite here yet.

    The first argument was based on the binding of Satan as part of the establishment of the Kingdom, the second was based on the separation of the sheep from the goats, the third had holes in it, and concerned John the Baptist, the fourth draws from the classic Christmas passage in Isaiah, and the fifth continues exploring that passage.

    Today's argument again continues exploring the Isaiah passage.
    "He will reign on David's throne
      and over his kingdom,
      establishing and upholding it
      with justice and righteousness
      from that time on and forever." (Isaiah 9:7b, NIV)
    1. When the KOG has been established, it will be true that "Jesus reigns on David's throne and over his kingdom".
    2. It is currently not true that "Jesus reigns on David's throne and over his kingdom" .
    3, Therefore, it is currently not true that the KOG has been established.

    Why think (2) is false? Because David's throne was destroyed, and Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father at the moment.

    "Why not think David's throne, while physically destroyed, became metaphorical and was relocated to the Father's right hand?" one might wonder. Before I answer, let me take a second to show some humility.

    I don't have an extremely high degree of certainty that I'm on the right track about the nature and timing of the Kingdom. I have tried to edit the posts in this mini-series to reflect my uncertainty, but I have trouble wording things humbly. This is a flaw in myself and I am sorry. Now, I believe in owning convictions, but I also believe in humility and in being honest about one's varying degrees of certainty concerning different beliefs. And I recognize I haven't and am not currently doing a good job at that, which is my bad.

    That said, the reason I am disinclined to think that David's throne, when destroyed, became metaphorical and was relocated to the right hand of the Father, is that David was a literal man and sat on a literal throne and the scriptures take great pains to demonstrate that Jesus is literally his heir and there is nothing in the text that I can find to motivate such abstraction.

    Now don't get me wrong, I think the important thing about a throne is the authority that it symbolizes. I'm not saying Jesus will necessarily collect the fragments of the old throne and reassemble it (although, why not?). But it seems like when the throne was destroyed, it was destroyed both literally/physically and symbolically. It wasn't as if the physical throne was destroyed, but the authority that was in place remained powerful. If David's heir was in power, wouldn't he just rebuild another physical throne, so that he would have a place to sit, and a symbol of his authority?

    I suppose one could still try to maintain that the prophecy wasn't straightforward and that, though it spoke of things very near and dear to the Jews' daily lives (things they were used to taking literally, eg. "David's thone"), it used them in very abstract ways without textual hints as to its meaning (or one could point me toward textual motivations for an abstract interpretation of this prophecy, or one could argue that I should look in places other than the text of the Bible for understanding).

    But I would have to ask 'why?'. Why work so hard to try and force all these things into a picture allowing us to say that the Kingdom of God is now? Are we afraid these things will never come to pass, and so feel the need to show how they are poetic? Are we afraid that prophecies that primarily concern the future have no relevance to us today and feel the need to make everything in the scriptures practical? Is there some other place in scripture that plainly states that the Kingdom of God is present, and so we need to reinterpret all of the Kingdom prophecies in light of this?

    I suspect many hold to the latter. Jesus plainly says "the Kingdom of God is at hand" in a couple of places, and "the Kingdom of God is in you" some others.

    Stay tuned for posts about what I currently think Jesus meant when He said "the Kingdom of God is at hand" (including meta-commentary on the parables concerning the Kingdom of God), the Lord's Prayer and the Kingdom of God, Mark's account of the wine at the crucifixion and the Kingdom of God, whether I think the Kingdom of God is still at hand, the word "but" and the Kingdom of God, the apostolic understanding of the Kingdom of God, some Jews on MySpace and the Kingdom of God, and some practical alternatives to common rhetoric on the Kingdom of God!

    R. A. Torrey on the Kingdom of God (again)

    "Furthermore, it is possible for the intelligent student of the Bible who believes in the coming of our Lord as the only solution of all our political, commercial, and other problems to pray for peace, for in praying for peace, he is praying for the soon coming of Him who is the Prince of Peace, just as we can pray for God’s kingdom to come, knowing that the kingdom cannot come until the King comes." (R. A. Torrey, "Armageddon, the Great War, and the Prince of Peace)

    R. A. Torrey on the Kingdom of God

    "It has been the purpose of God from the very beginning to keep His people in ignorance as to the exact time of our Lord’s return, and while we believe most positively that He may come at any moment and that we should always be looking for His appearing (Luke 12:35-37) we should never set a date for His coming nor assert positively that He will come in our own generation, but always bear in mind our Lord’s own parting words to His disciples, “It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father hath set within His own authority” (Acts 1:7), and we should go on laying the best plans we can and make the best preparations we can for the most energetic prosecution of His work possible until He actually does come." (R. A. Torrey, "Premillennial, Not Near-Sighted")

    Friday, July 10, 2009

    C. H. Spurgeon on the Kingdom of God

    "If I read the word aright, and it is honest to admit that there is much room for difference of opinion here, the day will come, when the Lord Jesus will descend from heaven with a shout, with the trump of the archangel and the voice of God.

    Some think that this descent of the Lord will be postmillennial that is, after the thousand years of his reign. I cannot think so. I conceive that the advent will be pre-millennial that he will come first; and then will come the millennium as the result of his personal reign upon earth. But whether or no, this much is the fact, that Christ will suddenly come, come to reign, and come to judge the earth in righteousness." (C. H. Spurgeon, "Justification & Glory")

    The 'New' Biblical Theologians and Textual Critics

    New Atheist-y arguments from Biblical difficulties such as apparent contradictions and seemingly evil actions of, or commandments from, God tell me two things.

    1. The New Atheists must see Christianity as one of the bigger and more plausible threats to their position against the existence of any God.
    2. There is a place for New Biblical Theologians and New Textual Critics (not just New Analytic Philosophers of Religion).

    If Christianity is the most plausible theistic religion to the New Atheists, why not make it even more so by demonstrating the veracity and coherence of our holy book and the benevolence of our God in it's narrative? This will take good textual critics and philosophers who are extremely well acquainted with the scriptural narrative and how to properly exegete its meaning.

    But what could make these Critics and Theologians "New", like the resident "Four Horsemen"?

    Peace and the Kingdom of God

    This is the fifth post in a mini-series on why I think the Kingdom of God is not quite here yet.

    The first post was an argument based on the binding of Satan as part of the establishment of the Kingdom, the second was based on the separation of the sheep from the goats, the third had holes in it, and concerned John the Baptist, and the fourth draws from the classic Christmas passage in Isaiah.

    Today's argument continues exploring the Isaiah passage.
    "Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end" (Isaiah 9:7a)
    In addition to the fact that I think this verse makes clear that this prophecy concerns a political entity of which the messiah will be head of state, I think it paves the way for the following.

    1. When the KOG has been established, it will be true that "there is no end to peace".
    2. It is currently not true that "there is no end to peace".
    3, Therefore, it is currently not true that the KOG has been established.

    Notice how it says there will be no end to His government or to peace. While my link only concerns interpersonal peace, I think it's easy enough to see that there is an end to intra-personal peace for each of us in the age as well.

    Even if the King is "reigning" in our hearts and lives as individuals in a metaphorical or spiritual sense today, it is bounded. At least for me; the messiah doesn't reign without end in my heart. Like Paul, I still sin. And there is an end to the peace I have in my heart as well. I get depressed. I despair. I experience anxiety. These aren't Kingdom dispositions! There may be some sense of Kingly rule or of divine peace, but there is an end to it. And I don't think it's just me. There are whole segments of humanity being spiritually ruled by the pretender to the throne (believers and unbelievers alike).

    Sure, if we adhere to Jesus' teachings, we will instance in our hearts and relationships the type of order, love, righteousness, and peace that will be present in the Kingdom. We will 'glimpse' the Kingdom.

    But our hope is that the remaining sin in our hearts will be vanquished, that the peace in our hearts will well up like a fountain and never be quenched, that these secular political rulers will be unseated, that Satan will be bound, and that Christ will reign as King - both in our hearts and on the earth - without end. And I think it is abundantly evident that we can't set this up on our own. We need Jesus to come back and reign as messiah.

    And not just reign, but reign with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:9; Revelation 2:27, 12:5, 19:15).

    Thursday, July 9, 2009

    Government and the Kingdom of God

    "For to us a child is born,
        to us a son is given;
      and the government shall be upon​ his shoulder" (Isaiah 9:6a)
    This is the fourth post in a mini-series on why I think the Kingdom of God is not quite here yet.

    The first post was an argument based on the binding of Satan as part of the establishment of the Kingdom, the second was based on the separation of the sheep from the goats, the third had holes in it, and concerned John the Baptist.

    The fourth goes something like this: scriptures, as in the verse cited above, teach that when the prophesied One comes as King, the government will rest on His shoulder. So below is a test I devised to determine whether the prophesied One has come as King or not.

    1. When the KOG has been established, it will be true that "the government rests on the messiah's shoulder".
    2. It is currently not true that "the government rests on the messiah's shoulder".
    3, Therefore, it is currently not true that the KOG has been established.

    Some might object to the subject of my link. Why select him to contrast with the messiah? I suppose I did this for a couple of reasons. Bypassing the obvious, the first reason is that at this moment, our government more or less rests upon his shoulder. Now, if you claim that it doesn't, because we have a three part government with checks and balances, then I say you are just driving my point home: our government is not the type of government that the Kingdom will be. And if you object by saying that this isn't the only government on earth and another one might be the Kingdom, (I have to first ask "which?" and then "why aren't you there?") I am forced to cordially point out that you are once again driving my point home: there currently isn't a single world government, which can be said to rest upon a single shoulder. Yet, that is what will happen when the prophesied One returns as King!

    "Wait, wait wait!" you might say, "You've got it all wrong! The government, in a metaphorical sense, will rest on the shoulder of the prophesied One". If you find yourself in this camp, I can't help but ask: how it is possible that Satan was able to offer this world to Jesus? Could it be because Satan is the one governing this world (in the metaphorical sense)?

    It appears that Jesus is neither the literal political King, nor the metaphorical spiritual King at the moment.

    "Wait!" you might say again, "Jesus is the metaphorical King of believers!". It's funny how we're willing to restrict the extent of the Kingdom after diluting it's potency, just to be able to say that it's here. But at what cost? Why not let the full breadth and strength of the prophecies stand?

    Alas, I hope my next argument will demonstrate why I don't think the promised Kingdom has only and metaphorically to do with less than a third of the earth.

    Stay tuned for my next argument, which starts out with a verse from the same passage.

    A Simple Pro-Life Argument

    Sunday, July 5, 2009

    John the Baptist and the Kingdom of God

    "Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." (Matthew 11:11)
    This is the third post in a mini-series on why I think the Kingdom of God is in no way "present" or "already", but only "not yet".

    The first post was an argument based on the binding of Satan as part of the establishment of the Kingdom, and the second was based on the separation of the sheep from the goats.

    Today my argument will have holes in it. Intentional holes. Or blanks, rather.

    It goes something like this: Jesus, in the verse cited above, teaches that even the one who is least in the Kingdom is greater than John the baptist. So below is a test I devised to determine whether the Kingdom is present. You have to fill it out for yourself.

    1. When the KOG has been established, it will be true that "I am greater than John the Baptist".
    2. It is currently _______ ("true" or "not true") that "I am greater than John the Baptist".
    3, Therefore, it is currently _______ ("true" or "not true") that the KOG has been established.

    Leave a comment with your answers.

    Saturday, July 4, 2009

    Goats and the Kingdom of God

    "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him ​will be gathered ​all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates ​the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then o​the King will say to ​those on his right, ‘Come, you ​who are blessed by my Father, inherit ​the kingdom ​prepared for you from the foundation of the world...

    "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. " (Matthew 25:31-34 & 41)
    This is the second post in a mini-series on why I think the Kingdom of God is not something that can be said to be here now, or at hand (as it was during Jesus' early ministry).

    The first post was an argument based on the binding of Satan as part of the establishment of the Kingdom.

    Today I would like to take a look at another thing that Jesus says will occur as a part of the process of erecting the Kingdom.

    In the passage cited above, Jesus teaches that when the Son of Man comes one day to establish the Kingdom, He will first separate the sheep from the goats. The sheep will enter into the Kingdom, but the goats will be sentenced to hell.

    I think it is important to note here that the judgment upon the goats is due to their own choices, but pronounced by God Himself. So it seems that God is the judge, not man. In one sense, the choices of the goats did not condemn them and they did not send themselves to hell or create a metaphorical living hell for themselves. Rather, their choices made them guilty and therefore worthy of condemnation. But they are not the judges. God is the judge, and God is the one who pronounces the sentence.

    I also think it is relevant that hell is a place where the Son of Man will send the goats. This implies that hell is a netherworld and unless one has the power to travel across time or dimensions or whatever it is that separates this world from hell, one cannot claim to be able to send oneself to hell.

    Finally, the result of the Sheep and Goat Judgement is that there will be no more goats afterward. To put this more formally:

    1. When the KOG has been established, it will be true that "there are no longer any goats".
    2. It is currently not true that "there are no longer any goats".
    3, Therefore, it is currently not true that the KOG has been established.

    Bible Giveaway

    Logos Bible Software is celebrating the launch of their new online Bible by giving away 72 ultra-premium print Bibles at a rate of 12 per month for six months. The Bible giveaway is being held at and you can get up to five different entries each month! After you enter, be sure to check out Logos and see how it can revolutionize your Bible study.

    Thursday, July 2, 2009

    Wednesday, July 1, 2009

    Answered Prayers and the Personality of God

    I am pretty sure I have read double-blind, peer-reviewed studies performed and cited by Christians and non-Christians alike that either scientifically support or undermine the idea that prayer changes things. One had to do with intercessory prayer by confirmed born-again evangelicals for groups of people in hospitals. There was a control and variable, bla bla bla (they even controlled for whether those being prayed for knew what was going on). And the results of this particular study were positive. Intercessory prayer by this type of people for this type of people (it was all very specific) had a statistically positive impact on health.

    But then I saw one just like it with contradictory results.

    Here's the thing: I think these studies are completely wrong-headed to begin with. Why think that answers to prayers would be scientifically measurable? We are not talking about a consistent, impersonal force like gravity that can be measured. We are talking about the decisions of a personal being who not only has the power to choose when, where, why, and how he answers, but also has the right to do so.

    I keep reading these atheist testimonies that cite, as one of their reasons for leaving the Christian faith, the inconsistency of answers to prayers. I personally just don't see how that's relevant. God has never promised consistent positive answers to prayer. Where did they get the idea that Christianity teaches that God has to do whatever a Christian asks for?

    Have you even read our scriptures? There is story after story of unanswered and unexpectedly answered prayers!

    And moreover, if Christianity were true, if there exists an almighty God who created everything and sovereignly presides over the universe, holding it all together and guiding every moment of it, wouldn't you expect him to reserve the right to answer prayers on His own terms?

    In fact, if God were subject to our prayers and, so long as we prayed according to some strategy, He had to answer them, wouldn't that mean that we were in some sense higher than Him? Wouldn't that relegate Him to genie status? Who wants to worship a genie anyway? Or if not a genie - an impersonal force of some sort. But Christians aren't sorcerers. Take your beef to followers of "The Secret" or some other witchcraft.
    "...our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." (Daniel 3:17-18, bold and underline mine).