googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: September 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Is Nature the 67th Book of the Bible?

Some people believe that God is revealed in His creation. They believe that the universe testifies to a Designer and that if we study the universe, we can better understand the nature of God. Some have even gone so far as to claim that nature is like a 67th book of the Bible. They reason that, since God is not a deceiver, we can trust His revelation in nature just as we can trust His revelation in Scripture. Of course, it's true to a point that God is revealed in nature. I've blogged before that the heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). The universe is sublime and does indeed bear witness that there is a Creator. The enormity of the universe affirms the enormity of God. That old hymn comes to mind, “When I, in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands have made... then sings my soul, 'How great Thou art!'” But when we begin to compare the general revelation from nature to the specific revelation of Scripture, a few problems come to mind.

First there is the fundamental difference in the confidence we can have in nature compared to Scripture. As wondrous as our world seems now, we know that it is not how God made it. The perfect world that God created was cursed at the Fall of Adam and also judged during the Flood. The Bible tells us that the whole creation suffers and groans under the curse (Romans 8:28). The Scriptures, on the other hand, are perfect. Jesus affirmed that the Scriptures are more absolute and enduring than the creation when He said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). It's folly to compare the broken creation to the perfect Scriptures.

What's more, science is more of a journey than a destination. Science literally means “knowledge” and we can never claim to have perfect or complete knowledge. Much of what we once believed “scientifically” was later shown to be wrong. Even among the things we claim to know now, there is hardly anything we can claim to know everything about. Our understanding of any given “fact” is limited and can only be improved upon. As we study more, we may even find out that what we thought we knew about the fact was wrong all along. However, Scripture will never be proven wrong. It is perfect and complete as it is. While we continuously learn more things scientifically, there is no more revelation of Scripture. We should continuously strive to better understand the Bible but the Scriptures themselves can never be improved upon.

This leads us to our second point which is the matter of interpretation. Contrary to the popular adage, facts do not speak for themselves; we invent theories which are attempts to explain the evidence. In a previous blog, I cited this interesting quote: “When the rocks say they are 4 billion years old and the Bible says they are less than 10,000 years old; who do you believe: the author of the Bible or the author of the rocks?” The irony is, that God is the author of both! In the Bible, God has revealed information regarding what has happened to the rocks and we should be using the Bible to help us understand more about the rocks. A more accurate quote would be, “Which are you going to trust: what the Bible says about the rocks or what scientists say about the rocks?”

In 1832, Charles Lyell (a pioneer in geology) was speaking at King's College London when he made this telling statement:

“for the sake of revelation as well as of science – of truth in every form – the physical part of Geological inquiry ought to be conducted as if the Scriptures were not in existence.”

There you have it. If you claim to trust the testimony of dumb rocks, you are actually trusting in the interpretation of the rocks made by men who interpret the evidence with the assumption there are no Scriptures. What's worse is that some Christians allow the conclusions of these scientists to govern their interpretation of Scripture. They are, in a very real sense, making Scripture subservient science. It should be the other way around; we should use the Bible to help us understand the world and not vice versa.

Finally, if nature were truly another book of the Bible, it is a poor witness in leading souls to Christ. The rate of atheism among earth scientists is much higher than among the general population. If the wonder of the universe speaks so strongly about the existence of God (which it does), then we would expect the opposite to be true – the overwhelming majority of scientists should be believers. Not only are many scientists atheists, many of the most high profile scientists are militantly against the idea of God. You might have heard about Dr. Stephen Hawkings' recent assertions that tacitly say there is no God. It has created quite a buzz in the news but his attitude isn't new. 30 years ago, Carl Sagan said, “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” Moreover, there is that most militant of all atheists, Richard Dawkins, who said, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”

The Bible warns us to not add to Scripture (Revelation 22:18). I believe that someone should think twice before proclaiming anything – even the creation – to be a “67th book of the Bible”

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Granville Sharp's Rule and Christologically Significant Verses

If any “rule” can exist in Koine Greek, the Granville Sharp Rule must qualify as the most contested yet most proven. Granville Sharp was the 18th century son of the Archbishop of York. He is best known for his work as an abolitionist but has left us a great legacy in his theological writings. Sharp had no formal education but, while working as a young apprentice to a London linen-draper, he taught himself Greek.

In his studies, Sharp discovered an important Greek idiom – the rule which now bears his name. He noticed that whenever an article+noun+“kai”+noun construction occurred, both nouns always referred to the same person. This construction is commonly called the “TSKS construction.” A key point to this rule is that only the first noun has the article (“the”) and the second noun is anarthrous. Additional points include that the nouns must be singular, personal, and not proper names.

The rule sounds more complicated than it really is. Here is an example in English so that you can see how the construction works: 2 Peter 2:20, “the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (τοῦ Κυρίου καὶ σωτῆρος ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ). This short clause has the article (“the”), noun (“Lord”), kai (“and”), and noun (“Savior”). Therefore, according to Sharp's rule, both of these nouns refer to the same person. In this context, they obviously both refer to Jesus.

Here are a few more instances:

Matthew 12:22, τον τυφλον και κωφον (the blind and dumb)

2 Corinthians 1:3, ὁ Θεὸς και πατηρ (the God and Father)

Ephesians 6:21, ὁ ἀγαπητὸς ἀδελφὸς και πιστος διάκονος (the beloved brother and faithful minister)

Hebrews 3:1, τον αποστολον και αρχιερεα (the Apostle and High Priest)

Revelation 16:15, ὁ γρηγορῶν καὶ τηρῶν (the one watching and keeping)

The context of these examples clearly demonstrates that both nouns in each verse are references to the same person. Setting aside textual variations, the TSKS construction occurs some 80 times in the NT and most scholars agree there are no exceptions to Sharp's rule.

Sharp's rule takes on considerable, theological significance when applied to two verses: Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1. Here are the verses in the Greek:

Titus 2:13, τοῦ μεγάλου Θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ (the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ).

2 Peter 1:1, τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡμῶν καὶ σωτῆρος ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ (our God and Savior Jesus Christ).

In both of these verses, “God” has the article and “Savior” is anarthrous so, according to Sharp's rule, they are references to the same Person. In these contexts, that Person is Jesus. Therefore, this explicitly means that Jesus is both God and Savior.

Those who deny the divinity of Christ refuse to see what should be obvious. The usual objection raised is to question the intent of the original authors: was this “rule” in the minds of the writers as they penned the New Testament? Considering the frequency where the TSKS construction appears and the large number of unambiguous examples that exist in the NT, I would say the writers understood well and precisely meant to say that Jesus is God and Savior. Indeed, where such a large number of unambiguous examples exist, to insist that these two passages are exceptions is nothing more than special pleading.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For!

I first heard Velma Hart's comments on Bill Bennett's radio show. For the rest of the day it's all I heard – on CNN, Laura Ingrim, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity. Most of the talk centered around how Obama seems to be losing luster among even his Democrat supporters. Certainly that's happening but I think there's an angle here that isn't being mentioned.

Some people believe the waning favor for Obama is happening because the economy continues to struggle and they don't believe Obama is doing enough about it. He's been a big disappointment to them. Perhaps these people should step back a little and think about some of the things Obama has accomplished while in office. He managed to rack up a record $1.4 trillion deficit his first year in office; he's on pace to break his deficit record in his second year; he added thousands of government workers to the tax-payers' payroll; he pushed through the long sought-after healthcare reform; after doling out billions to prop up failing banks, he began attaching regulatory strings retroactively to the banks receiving the money; he demonized Wall Street sending the markets into turmoil; he socialized one of the largest private companies in the world (GM); he issued an executive moratorium on off-shore drilling; and most recently passed sweeping, financial regulation. This is the stuff liberals dream about.

While he was doing these things, Obama had the full support of his liberal base. Not once did I hear any Democrat say something like, “Let's put healthcare on the back-burner and work on creating jobs.” Actually, I heard the opposite – they said healthcare reform would create jobs by making would-be entrepreneurs free to pursue their dreams (like being an artist as Nancy Pelosi suggested). Regulating “big oil” companies to death was supposed to create “green jobs.” Punishing big banks and Wall Street firms was supposed to create jobs by... er... well, I don't know how punishing employers creates more jobs but the liberals sure loved sticking it the bank CEOs.

So here we are nearing the end of Obama's second year in office. He has pushed the liberal agenda farther than anyone could have hoped or imagined but no utopic society has materialized and so liberals are disappointed. The problem is, the liberals are blaming Obama but can't see that the problem is that it's really the liberal agenda that isn't working.

Liberalism is a failed ideology. You cannot help the workers by destroying the employers. The opportunity to earn more is an incentive for people to work more but if you rob people of what they earn (in the form of higher taxes) then you rob them of the incentive to work more. If you promise equal results through the redistribution of wealth, then you are encouraging equal effort from the workers. There is no incentive to start a business, take more risks, and work harder if the end result is the same as if you'd done nothing.

Tell me the truth, what more liberal thing could Obama have done? Every piece of liberal legislation he's put forth has already been passed. I think it's time liberal recognize that it's not the man but the liberal ideology that's not working. You wanted hope and change? You've got it. Look where it's gotten us.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Following Jesus

In His famous calling of His disciples, Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Though He said this to His apostles, Jesus has made a similar call to everyone: “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34). I've always been intrigued by Jesus' choice of the word “follow.” He didn't say, “Sit with me” or anything similar but, instead, chose the word “follow.”

To follow someone necessarily implies that the first person is moving and you are going wherever he goes. By using this word, Jesus is telling us that being a Christian isn't a static experience. Wherever Jesus intends to go, He expects us to be there with Him. He tells us this overtly in John 12:26: “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be.” After all, how can anyone claim to be a “follower” unless he actually follows?

So where is Jesus going? While on earth, the Bible says that Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom (Matthew 9:35). If we are to follow Jesus, this would likely be a good place to start. His command to the apostles at His ascension was, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19-20).

I see too many Christians though, who are content to sit. They are like babies; week after week they sit in a Church pew waiting to be fed the word. We nurture babies when they're little because they can't do anything for themselves. As they get older, they start walking and taking care of themselves. Babies are cute but after a while, if they aren't walking or growing it's not cute anymore. If they're not growing then something's wrong. Why is it that some people have been Christians for years yet still seem to be babes in the faith? When are they going to start putting feet to their faith and start following Jesus?

I guess people have a lot of excuses for not following Jesus. In Luke 9:59, Jesus said to one disciple, “Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.” In the account of the rich young ruler, Jesus said, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” But we see that the man went away sorrowfully, “for he had great possessions.” Even true believers sometimes are afraid to show themselves as true believers. At the arrest of Jesus, the Bible says that Peter followed “afar off” (Luke 22:54). Joseph of Arimathea was a believer in Jesus, “but secretly for fear of the Jews” (John 19:38).

Ask yourself honestly: "Am I following or sitting"? If you aren't following then why? No excuse is adequate. Isaiah 40:31 says, “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Did you see that? Believers should walk, run, and fly. It's God Who gives us the ability. We should never be sitting. We need to be following.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Burning the Koran

Liberals are brain damaged. I don't mean that in general; I mean every single liberal is brain damaged. The extent of their mental impairment is at once simplistically easy to understand yet impossible to fathom. It's a paradox. While I can never understand why they think the way they do, it's too easy to predict what they will think.

We have still another example of liberal hypocrisy surrounding the FL pastor who plans to burn copies of the Koran on this year's anniversary of 9/11. Liberals are outraged at such a thing. To say they condemn the practice would be putting it mildly. They are denouncing it in the worst way. They cry that it is offensive, that it is unnecessarily provocative, and that it puts our soldiers in further jeopardy of retaliation. I say that liberals don't give a whit about any of these things.

Doesn't anyone remember all the controversy just a couple of decades ago surrounding flag burning? Much to the glee of liberals everywhere, the Supreme Court ruled that burning the American Flag was protected by the “free speech” clause of the First Amendment (Texas v. Johnson). I didn't hear any liberals then whining over how offensive it was. Instead, I remember them holding flag burning protests all over the US. They were happy to give offense. Why, some seemed to even consider it an act of patriotism to burn a flag. And do you think they even cared about how American soldiers felt?

Burning the flag, of course, would qualify as political speech. However, liberals have no qualms over offending religious folks as well. Er... I should qualify that by saying liberals have no qualms about offending Christians. Do you remember the “art” exhibit known as “Piss Christ”? What could be more offensive then photographing a crucifix in a jar of urine? Oh, I know: it would photographing a crucifix in a jar of urine and then subsidizing the “artist” with tax payer dollars via the National Endowment for the Arts!

I can't say I agree with the burning of Korans in FL but I absolutely refuse to take seriously the empty objections put forth from liberals. Since when do they care about religious tolerance? Since when do they worry about free speech being offensive? Can you remember any similar furor over a Bible burning ever? Once again, it's easy to see what's going on: liberals hate America and Christians so they don't object to burning flags or Bibles. However, when someone burns the religious text which happens to be used by radical Muslims who are killing Americans, then they get their panties all in a bunch. The thing I can't figure out is why liberals feel this way.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Augustine was a Young-Earth Creationist!

Unfortunately there are many Christians who believe in evolution. Many in this category only believe because they were taught in school that “evolution is a fact.” A few others, however, are more firmly committed to evolution – even “militant” about it. Folks of this stripe are a little more studied and practiced in their arguments. In their attempts to reconcile evolution with Scriptures, one subject they will inevitably raise is an appeal to certain church patriarchs with Augustine perhaps being the most often cited.

By way of example, I found this interesting excerpt from a site called SMSC Resources:

It is often overlooked by ‘Young Earth’ advocates that, even before Darwin published his Origin of Species in 1859, scientists as well as Christians holding a high regard for the Bible, accepted that the Earth was very old indeed. Early Church Fathers such as Origen (born c. 185 AD) and Augustine (354-430 AD), long before modern geology developed, had understood the references to ‘days’ as intended by the writer in a figurative manner:

"What man of intelligence, I ask, will consider as a reasonable statement that the first and the second and the third day, in which there are said to be both morning and evening, existed without sun and moon and stars, while the first day was even without a heaven? … I do not think anyone will doubt that these are figurative expressions." [Origen]
"Christians should not talk nonsense to unbelievers … Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world … and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn." [Augustine]
Most old-earth creationists or theistic evolutionists who appeal to the church fathers, handle their quotes a little more carefully than we see here. SMSC Resource's characterization of the beliefs of Origen and Augustine is grossly misleading. Admittedly, Origen, Augustine, and a few others did hold “non-literal” views the days in Genesis, which is precisely what makes them so popular among old-earth Christians. It gives them great comfort while advancing their own “non-literal” views of Genesis. In the broader context of all of their writings, however, the understanding of Scriptures held by the church fathers are not at all similar to modern, old-earth views. To suggest that Augustine and others accepted the notion that earth was “very old indeed”, as suggested above, is patently false.

First, it should not be forgotten that the opinions of the church patriarchs are not Scripture. The Scriptures are not dependent on the interpretations of the church fathers but rather their opinions must be validated by Scripture. Even if the patriarchs held the views being attributed to them, that does not make modern, old-earth theories correct Secondly, I would also ask why “non-literal days” must necessarily mean “millions of years”? Augustine believed, rather, that everything was created in an instant. Consider the following quote from his work, Confessions:

Thus, they have their successions of morning and evening, partly hidden, partly plain. For they were made from nothing by thee, and not from thyself, and not from any matter that is not thine, or that was created beforehand. They were created from concreated matter--that is, matter that was created by thee at the same time that thou didst form its formlessness, without any interval of time. Yet, since the matter of heaven and earth is one thing and the form of heaven and earth is another thing, thou didst create matter out of absolutely nothing (de omnino nihilo), but the form of the world thou didst form from formless matter (de informi materia). But both were done at the same time, so that form followed matter with no delaying interval.

We can see in this passage that Augustine did not ascribe long ages to the days of creation. He believed that God created matter and then formed it instantaneously into the heavens and earth “without any interval of time.” To him, the “days” did not represent long periods of time. Instead, he believed the “days” were merely an unfolding of events that historically all happened in a single moment.

Augustine would also be at odds with many modern theologians concerning the age of the earth. The idea of an old earth did not begin with Lyell or Darwin. The Greeks, Egyptians, and other cultures also believed in an old earth with many thousands of generations. Augustine commented on their beliefs (source: City of God):

In vain, then, do some babble with most empty presumption, saying that Egypt has understood the reckoning of the stars for more than a hundred thousand years. For in what books have they collected that number who learned letters from Isis their mistress, not much more than two thousand years ago? Varro, who has declared this, is no small authority in history, and it does not disagree with the truth of the divine books. For as it is not yet six thousand years since the first man, who is called Adam, are not those to be ridiculed rather than refuted who try to persuade us of anything regarding a space of time so different from, and contrary to, the ascertained truth?

In other places, Augustine also spoke matter-of-factly about the Flood. He referred to it as a “deluge of universal water” which he acknowledged rose to 15 cubits above the highest mountain, that the Ark preserved the various manners of beasts, and where “every living thing which could not naturally live in water perished.”

Again, regardless of whatever respect should be due Augustine, it cannot be stressed enough that he was merely a man and not even a prophet or apostle. His opinions were merely his opinions and not doctrine. Even so, old-earth Christians should not find any comfort in his writings. The irony is that old-earth Christians would appeal to his writings when he so clearly spoke out against the old-earth beliefs of his own day! He stated outright that people who advance long ages in opposition to the truth of Scripture should be ridiculed! Quotes like those made by SMSC Resource above are examples of “quote-mining” at its worst. Augustine is no friend to these modern compromisers; Augustine was a young-earth creationist!