Month: November 2016

Responding Biblically to Common Atheist Arguments

Here is a conversation between an Atheist and myself. He brought up 9 common arguments against the existence of God. His concerns were legitimate, but I believe the Bible has the answers to these emotional statements.

1. Objective Morality? Please. Rather, please explain the strange sense of whimsical morality and justice within the Christian tradition. First, I am born guilty and deserving of eternal punishment because of something someone did 6000 years ago – the original sin.

This statement presupposes the imputation of Adam’s sin on the whole human race. I don’t believe Scripture teaches in total depravity or being born as sinners. Psalm 51:5 is the most common verse used: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me (ESV).” The English Standard Version and NASB both have the most literal translation from the Greek. Other translations say “I was sinful at birth.” This is not what Scripture is teaching here. His mother conceived him out of wedlock. The other verse commonly used: Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned (Rom. 5:12). The last phrase “because all sinned” reveal that each individual is personally responsible for their sins. Have you lied? Said the name’s Lord in vain? Coveted after something that doesn’t belong to you? I know I have. Therefore, our own sin condemns us, not the sin from Adam.

2. Even though babies are sinners based on Adam, they will still go to heaven if they die before their age of accountability.

Once again, I don’t believe your examples are consistent with what Scripture teaches. Babies and children don’t have the cognitive ability or moral framework to understand right from wrong. When they take something that doesn’t belong to them, it’s not considered stealing. They are exploring the world and learning their boundaries. However, if an adult steals money from their employer, no one would ever say, “He is still exploring his environment.” The individual would be fired and put in jail for embezzling money.

3. Someone receives the death penalty for what I did as I go free – the vicarious atonement.

The vicarious atonement of Christ is a gracious gift to you and I. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might receive the righteousness of Christ. While I was reading John Loftus’s book “The end of Christianity” I came across this statement: “So as a Christian, it seems one ought to believe it is wrong for the innocent to suffer in the place of the guilty on the basis of his implanted sense of right and wrong and the clear teaching of the Bible (p. 185).” Absolutely. John Loftus is exactly right. And it parallels with what Jesus said in John 10:18, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” The greatest injustice that ever happened on this planet was for the sinless one, Jesus Christ, to die for us, who rebelled against Him by our own free will (not determinism).

4. Jesus paid it all – really?

God’s eternal being can take on the eternal weight of God’s wrath. Jesus confirms this connection in Gethsemane when he prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus drinks the cup of God’s wrath, a cup that has accumulated the fury of God against sins of all types. Heinous crimes, adultery, careless words, dishonoring thoughts, lies — all of it will be punished by God.

5. Someone deserves eternal torture by burning because of 70 years of sin – eternal torture in the lake of fire.

Personally, I think Hell is locked on the inside. People love their sin more than they love God. People worship self rather than God. They would rather burn with their lustful thoughts than transform their mind to what is holy and good and righteous. They won’t want to enter a place where all attention and focus will be upon Jesus Christ. They would rather gnash their teeth in defiance forever than bow their knees to the holy one of God. As Desmund Tutu said: ‘I’d rather go to hell than worship a homophobic God.” There is a book entitled: Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment. They may be able to address some of your emotional concerns on Hell.

6. I have the power to save the whole world, but I don’t want to. I’ll save a few because I want to – The Calvinist tradition and its understanding God and election.

Once again, you are assuming a Calvinist position. I don’t follow Calvin, but the Bible. Read these words from 2 Peter 3:9. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” The same can be said in the Old Testament. “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel (Ezek. 33:11).”

7. I had the thought of enjoying a bad action, so I am just as guilty as doing the bad action – the excessive application of Matthew 5 and a personal favorite in the repertoire of Christian preachers wanting to make sure that not even one person sits in the pew feeling innocent from sin.

All evil actions start from a thought. Just because one doesn’t carry it out doesn’t mean they are innocent of it. In fact, read through some documentaries by serial killers who started out with an evil thought that led to their action of murder. It’s all about the intentions and attitude of the heart. Someone may be bitter and angry against their friend and never incite violence. However, their relationship will always be in question until they get rid of that thought or try to reconcile back. Restoration is the key to why thoughts should be good, pure, and holy. God is concerned about both the heart and the action.

8. Sin is sin – how most American evangelical and fundamentalist Christians think.

I never said all “sin is equal.” Good verses you alluded to. Here is another one that Jesus said in Matthew 11: “But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to heaven? No, you will descend to Hades! For if the miracles that were performed in you had happened in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

9. One more example for free. Most Christian traditions will not touch this one. Noah gets drunk. One son sees him naked and makes fun of it to his other brothers. The result: Noah is allowed control the destinies of people for the next 4500 years and sets up systems of slavery and oppression. The black skin descendants of Ham and Canaan are cursed to live lives of slavery, slave trades, slave ships, oppression, cruelty, rape, etc. because Ham saw his naked drunk father and made fun of it? Huh? Strange sense of justice.

 

If the type of slavery that happened in Africa in the 19th century was in the Bible, the Mosaic Law would sentence that person to death. Exodus 21:16 reads: “Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death.” Africans were rounded up by slave-hunters, who sold them to slave-traders, who brought them to the New World to work on plantations and farms. This practice is abhorrent to God and they would have been put to death for it. Contrary to popular belief, God did not condone antebellum slavery in the Bible.

 

 

Evangelicals, Bring Baptism Back to the Gospel

When I did a grammatical-historical exegesis of Mark 16:16; Jn. 3:3-5, Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:4-6, 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26-27; Eph. 5:25-27; Col. 2:11-13; Tit. 3:5; and 1 Pet. 3:21, I came to the conclusion, all presuppositions from Southern Seminary aside, that water baptism is indeed part of the gospel. This led me to a dynamic transformation encounter with the living God.

I no longer view water baptism as an outward sign of an inward grace that has already happened in the past. For Scripture makes it clear there is only one faith, one lord, and one baptism. Not a spirit baptism first and then a water baptism later.

For even Dr. Schreiner makes it clear in his Romans commentary concerning 6:4-6: “Christians would have inevitably thought of water baptism since it was the universal initiation rite for believers in Christ. Moreover, Paul probably loosely associated baptism with water and baptism by the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13), since both of these occurred at conversion. Thus any attempt to distinguish between Spirit baptism and water baptism in the Pauline writings goes beyond what Paul himself wrote. Thomas Schreiner, Romans: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic Press, 1998), p.306-307. Stott is also correct in saying that Paul was thinking of water baptism here, but it would never have occurred to Paul that baptism in water could be separated from baptism in the spirit (Contra Stott, 1994, p.173).

I no longer view baptism as an ordinance or an act of obedience, but as a working of God through faith according to Colossians 2:11-13. Thus, baptism is not a work but an act of faith. And since it’s an act of faith, it harmonizes with justification by faith in Christ alone. In fact, Martin Luther makes it clear when he said: “that faith must have something in which it believes, that is, something it clings to, and something on which to plant its feet and into which to sink its roots. Thus faith clings to the water and believes baptism to be something in which there is pure salvation and life, not through the water, as I have emphasized enough, but because God’s name is joined to it…It follows from this that whoever rejects baptism rejects God’s word.”

When I view Acts 2:38 as “repent and be baptized” for the forgiveness of sins, I no longer explain it away in a convoluted manner. I simply look at the Greek word eis, which means motion toward, and infer from this passage that both are necessary conditions for the forgiveness of our sins. When you examine Arndt and Gingrich’s Greek lexicon, they devote two full pages to motion toward rather than five lines devoted to the causal use of eis or other attempts to argue “because of.”

I have merely scratched the surface, but this has helped me understand why there are a diversity of views concerning the gospel. Some include faith only and Grudem has rightfully denounced this doctrine in his book “Free Grace Theology” 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel. Also, MacArthur has done a good job to defend Lordship salvation instead of the Savior only model you see in many organizations, such as Campus Crusade for Christ. Platt has adequately addressed the doctrinal issue concerning the sinner’s prayer and how Jesus never told anyone to ask him in their heart.

All of that said, unless baptism is brought back into the gospel, the SBC will always be confused about the “timing” in which conversion occurs. Does it happen during the moment of faith? Does it happen at faith and then during one’s “calling on the name of the Lord”, which would refer to repentance. Or, as the Reformed Baptists would argue, regeneration precedes all of this. Without a foundation for conversion, the whole salvation process will become spiritualized. And I am convinced it will lead to a gnostic theology similar to praying a sinner’s prayer into the heart rather than “repenting and being baptized” for the forgiveness of sins.

I think Scripture makes it clear in Colossians 2:11-13 and especially 1 Peter 3:28 the “timing” in which God saves us. Hear me out. I am not teaching baptismal regeneration as the Roman Catholics define it. One must have the cognitive ability to understand the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Thus, water doesn’t bestow any magical grace to the individual.

When Peter said baptism now saves you, he makes it clear not to focus on the water, but your appealing to God for a good conscience. Now that word appeal is vitally important. It’s not a pledge. It’s not something you do. It’s a promise that God has said. He will save you! He will redeem you! He will apply his atoning work on the cross for your sins when you call upon the name of the Lord to be saved. Just as Noah entered the ark to protect him from the flood of judgment, so then baptism is the mode by which God separates the unrighteous from the righteous. When we enter into baptism, we are united with Christ. We are buried with Him in baptism (Rom. 6:4-6).

This is not to be taken figuratively or allegorically. Let me explain. Before I got married, I thought about Olya as my future wife. I repented of all other women because I knew she was the one for me. But it wasn’t until I came into union during marriage that her and I became married. During our physical ceremony, the spiritual reality occurred simultaneously in that the two became one flesh.

Similarly, when we enter into the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ by baptismal immersion, the physical reality demonstrates the spiritual reality, not in the past, but at “that moment.” This is not a theologically awkward understanding. In fact, the visible church is a true representation of the invisible church. Jesus Christ was not just a spirit, but took on human flesh. God always unites the physical and spiritual realities. It wasn’t until the Protestant Reformation, with the influence of Zwingli, that water and spirit baptism became separated. Many commentaries on John 3:5 from the early church Fathers indicate water baptism was taught when regeneration occurs.

Brothers and sisters, its my hope you look into the meaning of baptism yourself without any preconceived notions. Just ask yourself a simple question. If my local church requires baptism by immersion in order to be a member of the church, then why would your requirement be any more than the universal church? Basically, some of the SBC churches agree in this ordinance as a necessary component for church membership, but not for salvation? How is this the case? I will be praying for you to seek God in this manner. Have a great day!

Faith and Works: Two Sides of the Same Coin

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?”– James 2:14

A family is on a road trip to the Grand Canyon. Shortly before they arrive, a young man comes out from nowhere and tells them to pull over quickly. “Don’t go any further,” he exclaims. “At the end of this road there is a cliff!”

What evidence will indicate the family really believes the young man? If they say, “we believe you,” but continues to go down the treacherous road, do they sincerely believe? Wouldn’t it make sense for the family to turn their vehicle around if they had faith in this man? Of course. Their action demonstrates their faith.

This is what James is arguing in his letter. If one truly has faith, their works will demonstrate it. Faith and works are inseparable. You can’t have one without the other. James makes it explicit in verses 19-23:

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

The book of Hebrews also makes it clear that faith and works are two sides of the same coin. Every time faith is mentioned, a reason is given. For instance, by faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. By faith Noah prepared an ark for the saving of his household. By faith Sarah received strength to conceive and she bore a child when she was past the age (Heb. 11:1-11).

Does this mean our works save us? Not at all. Our works only demonstrate saving faith. Romans 5:1 makes this clear: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through out Lord Jesus Christ.”

But don’t fall into the trap of thinking faith is alone. There is no such thing as saying you believe in Jesus, but not doing what he commands. John 14:15 states, “If you love me, keep my commands. Furthermore, Jesus said to his disciples, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

There is a false teaching going around that says faith doesn’t require obedience. I want to make it clear that our justification is a free gift and nothing we earn, but why would a believer want to continue in sin? Yes, we struggle with sin, but it’s not a pattern of the Christian life. Paul says to those in Rome: “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? God forbid.”

1 Corinthians 6 warns us to flee from sin: “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived:Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

This is a serious verse. If sin is a constant pattern in your life, then don’t keep telling yourself: “I am saved by faith.” I am saved because God loves me.” While these are true statements, if they are used as an excuse to sin, then you are perverting them. I remember when I first became a Christian I would use God’s grace card all the time to comfort myself in sin.

But 1 John tells us, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seem remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” Shouldn’t this bring holy fear to us? Let’s be real. I am a human too. I know what it’s like to lie to myself in order to satiate my sinful desires. Let’s just be frank. Don’t do it. Flee from it. Ask God to give you the strength to overcome. He will always provide a way of escape.

Remember the analogy at the beginning of this article? I told you about a family traveling to the Grand Canyon. If they don’t believe the young man, they may smile, act friendly, but tell him, “It’s okay. Don’t worry about us.”

If that’s you, then let me be the young man in the story, warning you to repent and trust in Jesus. Don’t be tempted to feel comfortable in your sin just because salvation is a free gift.

I was shocked to hear one preacher tell an entire audience. “Once you have eternal life, not even God can take it from you. Once he promises it, there is no way back. No matter what you do.” Really? You think that’s true?

God destroyed the entire world through a flood because of his hatred towards sin. God rained down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah, annihilating everyone except Lot and his daughters. Even his own wife was turned into a pillar of salt.

God makes it clear in Romans 9:15 that He is sovereign over the fate of all of us: For he said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

You can’t manipulate God. You can’t even use God’s own grace card to get you out for fire insurance. It has to be genuine. Is eternal life a free gift? Absolutely. Will it ever be earned? Of course not. Jesus paid it all. But just because he paid it all doesn’t mean your covered in his blood. If you are, then his holy spirit will convict you of sin and lead you to a life of holiness.

Whoever is reading this, I care for you. It may sound harsh, but I don’t want to be a nice doctor that makes you feel better. I want to be a doctor who may say, “You have cancer and if you don’t treat it now, you will die.” That’s true, right? But the cure is trusting in Jesus.

Are you willing to do that today? May God give you the strength to persevere until the end.