Monday, December 31, 2018


Or rather, good riddance to a neo-evangelical institution pretending to be reformed.

How Apostates Comfort Themselves

This describes every delusional, self-glorifying, apostate story  I've ever heard. It seems this narrative is necessary to comfort those who engage in the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Biblical Theology XLV: Ephesians

Ephesians is a Pauline work written to summarize God’s work and purpose for the individual Christian life and community. He begins by arguing that God has blessed believers with every spiritual blessing because he chose them to be holy and blameless in His sight (1:4). This phrase lets the reader know what the book is about, i.e., God’s purpose to make the saints holy in Christ. This is the means through which they will glorify God, a thematic element in the first three chapters and creates an inclusio that binds those chapters together (1:6, 12, 14; 3:21). 

Theology: The first three chapters of Ephesians deals with how God makes His people holy positionally in Christ, and is a monergistic work accomplished by God. Unification with Christ, as the One to whom all things are given, is the means of the believer becoming holy and blameless in God’s sight. Hence, the prepositional phrase “in Him” is repeated over and over again within the first three chapters (1:1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11; 2:21-22; 3:12). All things can be summed up in Christ (1:9). The Spirit of God is given as a down payment until full redemption takes place (1:13-14). 

To make His people holy, God first predestines His people to be holy and blameless (1:4), predestines to adopt them as sons (v. 5), made us alive together with Christ (2:5), and seated us with Christ in the heavenly places as those who will inherit all things (v. 6). He does this by gifting a salvation by grace through faith to His people (2:8-9). He includes, not only Jews, but Gentiles into this group (2:11-19), making them into one new people (v. 15), bricks in a holy dwelling, who will grow as a holy temple in which God dwells (2:19-22). 

The means through which this is all accomplished is through the preaching of the gospel (Chapter 3), and the purpose is to showcase the wisdom of God to all authorities in the invisible realm (3:10), and so the church is to be the display of God’s work to accomplish His redemption and holiness of His people to the praise of His glory, which means that God’s glory is in the church which is in Christ (3:21).

Hence, the first work is all God’s. He predestines His people, places all of His people in His Son, gifts them salvation when they are dead in their sins, places them into a new group as adopted sons who are citizens of His kingdom and heirs of all things. We might summarize this as God’s work in regeneration/justification, even though much more is going on here than we typically associate with those words.

Ethics: The second half of Ephesians, Chapters 4-6, convey how the people of God who have been redeemed participate in becoming what they have been positionally made to be in Christ, i.e., holy and blameless. This is the sanctification that results from God’s work, which is to live worthily of the call to which Christians have been called (4:1). The means of becoming holy is the church to which Christ gave gifts so that believers would grow together into the maturity of love in the truth (4:1-16). 

Believers are called to no longer live as unbelievers live, but to live in the holiness to which they have been called. What feeds the rebellion of unbelievers is ignorance and deception (4:17-19). What feeds holiness is faith in the truth in the community of the Spirit, i.e., the church (vv. 20-25). In fact, another inclusio is created between the beginning of Chapter 4 and the armor of God in 6:10-20. This sandwiches in the commands to live according to the new man who has been made in the likeness of God, a restoration of the image of God in man (4:22-24). 

The commands, of course, expand the applications of the gospel and the moral law in love and forgiveness and holiness of living. They address all aspects of life, i.e., interpersonal relationships, speech, sexuality, treatment of family members, work, money, etc. As in all of the New Testament, these are the works that come forth from an inward transformation of the believer that is now compelled to live in love (5:1) when he was united to Christ through God’s work displayed in Chapters 1-3. 

Thus, the goal of God’s predestination, i.e., our holiness in being restored to the image, is fulfilled both in His work through Christ on the cross and via resurrection and the continued work of the Spirit through the church.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Problems with Millennial Views

People often ask me what view of the millennium I hold. I always tell them I don't hold a view of the millennium. They always look at me rather perplexed, as though it is somehow impossible to have an eschatology without a view of the millennium. I, instead, don't take a view because I don't think the Bible necessarily gives us a view. Instead, it gives us a more general, rather than specific, eschatology that is sometimes described as "inaugurated." This generic inaugrated view allows for the three most common positions we see throughout church history: historic premillennialism, amillennialism, and postmillennialism. The funny thing about each of these is that they often quote passages that simply support a general, inaugurated view to support theirspecific, millennial view. However, since each of these views assume the inaugurated view, no one is proving anything with these passages.

Instead, what I would want to show is that each view has problems. This is not an exhaustive list of problems. There are others. It is just to show that there are some issues with trying to be specific if the Scripture is not, and that is the point of this post. The issues themselves prove that the Bible does not teach these specifics, and is being more logical than chronological, more generic than specific in the way that it discusses its inaugurated eschatology.

For instance, in Historic-Premillenialism, Christ comes back and reigns with  His resurrected people for a thousand years until the end. The wicked are then resurrected after that thousand years. However, this is built off of a literal reading of Revelation 20. In 1 Corinthians 15:24ff., however, Christ must reign by the Father's side in heaven until He puts all of His enemies under His feet.

23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

The final enemy is death that is put to its end at the resurrection of the saints. However, if Christ returns, and He still has enemies left according to Revelation 20, then death is not the last enemy, Christ still has enemies on the earth a thousand years after the resurrection, and He should therefore have never returned, since He was to sit at the right hand of God and reign until He subdued all of them. It seems in this context that putting one under His feet has to do with permanently ridding the comsos of his enemies, and hence, He hands the dominion of the spiritual realm over to the Father in order to take His earthly seat on the Davidic throne to rule the nations. This timeline doesn't seem to add up.

In Amillennialism, the tribulation occurs in AD 70, or is concurrent with the millennium, and the millennium refers to the entire age of the church through which Christ reigns spiritually with His people. The problem with this view is that those who enter the millennium in Revelation 20, again the primary passage from which the millennial idea comes, are saints who have been martyred by being faithful to Christ through persecution. Their resurrection is clearly a physical one, not a spiritual one, in the passage, as they are already Christians who have been regenerated and died for their faith. They come alive and reign with Christ. Yet, if this is a spiritual thing in heaven, they are already "alive" as souls in heaven before the millennium (20:4ff.).

I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They[a] had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

All of the explanations for this seems to wrap themselves around the idea of "coming alive" as regeneration; but as said before, these saints are already dead and had been regenerated when they became Christians before death. That's actually what led to their being martyred because, as regenerated Christians, they refused to worship the beast and his image (a reference to Domitian, not Nero, so this isn't even beginning in AD 70). So the people who enter the millennium are regenerated and live out their Christians lives faithfully before it. They enter only once they are resurrected. The idea of the first resurrection being spriitual, then, is not supported by the text, and therefore, does not support Amillennialism.

In Postmillennialism, as we just saw, Christ must put all things underneath His feet before He reclaims the earthly Davidic throne. This is done by a gradual claim over His enemies, the last one, as 1 Corinthians 15 states, is death. However, one of Christ's enemies is the chaos of the created order itself that is fallen and subjected to futility. Wild animals, floods, etc. display the hostility of creation toward Christ and His people. They are an enemy that must be subdued. Yet, postmills tend to put everything in terms of politics and miss this point. If the natural order must be subdued in a process now, since Christ rules over all things now, then why does Romans 8 state that it will not be until after the last enemy of 1 Corinthians 15, i.e., death, is done away with in the revealing of the sons of God at the resurrection? In other words, not only is it not gradual, but it is after the doing away of the final enemy if we were to put a timeline on it. So it's the last enemy after the last enemy, as Postmills will often say while mocking Premills that there is still an enemy left after the last enemy is destroyed.

19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[h] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

This non-gradual descriptions pervades the Bible, as all of the microcosmic eschatological events seem to display a violent upheavel of the wicked in God's deliverance of the righteous, and if they are types of what is to come, it seems odd to be so different than what is to come. In continuity with this, Daniel 2 seems to indicate that the little stone comes along and destroys all of the other kingdoms all at once. The text in v. 44 states that there is no kingdom left for any other people. It is only then that the stone grows big and fills up the earth, i.e., after all of the other nations are destroyed, not during their destruction or before. This is because Old Testament eschatology is focused on the consummated eschaton and does not know of an inaugurated one. Yet, this text and the others mentioned are usually used as prooftexts that support rather than reject a Postmill view if taken as literally communicating a timeline or the manner in which the kingdom takes over the world. 

Again, there are lots of other issues in the abuse of texts that are taken out of context and the use of texts with which everyone would agree. The most comical one is that of calling Postmillennialism the eschatology of victory when Jesus wins and inherits all things He is marked to inherit in all of them. The true eschatology of victory, of course, is when these three views are saturated in Calvinism, as the gospel accomplishes exactly what God intends it to accomplish, and again, He completely and utterly wins in every single one of them both in this age and in the one to come. 

But what of these contradictory timelines? Again, I think it is simply a matter of trying to bleed too much out of these texts that are not giving us timelines, but rather generalities of the eschaton, which is why conflicting images are used of both the renewed cosmos and hell itself (e.g., fire, darkness, deep water, barren land, etc.). Perhaps, it is the problem of wanting to know too much of what is not important to know. It is sufficient for God's people to know that He wins, we win, and what we do in being faithful to preach the gospel will yield exactly what God wants it to, nothing more and nothing less.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Pacificism as Pure Hatred of the Innocent

Love and hate are often viewed as feelings in our culture. In the Bible, however, they have to do with prioritizing one over another. Christ argues that one cannot serve both God and money as though one can have two masters, not because one cannot have both in his life, but rather because he will either "hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other" (Matt 6:24 // Luke 16:13). Loving both is impossible because love is not a feeling, or even placing both in some sort of importance in one's list of important things; but rather, loving one means placing one over the other so that they other is not loved when a choice must be made between them.

This becomes an important point against pacificism or non-violence. The scenario where a murderer breaks into your house to kill your family demonstrates where pacificists have gone astray in the understanding of their responsibilities to love their families over others. Paul argues that a man is to provide for his own household, not those of the world, precisely, because he is given the responsibility to love it over others by keeping it from the chaos of death that would occur if he did not financially care for it. If given the choice of feeding the neighborhood kids and feeding his own, Paul says he is worse than an unbeliever if he does not take care of his own. But if the concept of love one sees in many pacifist arguments is accurate, how can this be true? One is to love all people equally. In fact, the very concept of biblical love as placing the lives of one group over another is really what the pacificist is rejecting. But it is clear that he is rejecting biblical love because he is rejecting the way that God loves.

In Malachi 1:2-5, God declares what love and hate look like in just such a scenario as the one I laid out above. Israel is God's household.

“I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob's brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’” Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!”

To love Israel, God must hate its destroyers; and He does not merely hate its destroyers in terms of emotions (God doesn't have emotions in the sense that we do). Instead, love and hate are proven by actions that either save the life of those loved or destroy the lives of those not loved. God saves Israel's lives by destroying the destroyers. 

What this means is that no one can say he loves his family if he saves the murderer and lets him kill his family. He has loved the murderer because he has chosen him over his family. He has chosen to save his life so that the lives of his family are destroyed. He has loved the one and hated the others. This must be the conclusion because love and hate are not emotion in this scenario, but the very actions of choosing one party's life over the other. One cannot love both when a choice must be made anymore than one can make a square circle. The choice itself is a prioritization of one over the other. The immorality of inaction when one is given a duty to love is no more less responsible and evil than the immorality of action.

Likewise, when we see this passage come up again, it is in Romans 9, where God has chosen His people as vessels of honor/salvation and the reprobate as vessels of dishonor/damnation, and He has done so for the purpose of using the damnation of the reprobate to love and save those who are chosen. Again, love is placing one's life over another. Hate is placing one's life under another. There is simply no such thing as loving everyone the same, and indeed, it would be evil for one given the charge to love one person or group over others, and one the moment of choice comes, to betray them by choosing their destroyers over them. And all because Jesus supposedly has a modern inclusive view of love, a view that does not withstand the context of any love passage in the Bible, including those spoken by the Lord Jesus. 

In terms of government, it is like a nation that promises to protect its citizens suddenly doing nothing and allowing their enemies to come in and slaughter them. It is like police standing by and watching women and children getting raped and murdered. The father of a family is no less government than these. The soldier, the policeman, the father all have their respective duties to love those under their care, and when they do not protect them, God's wrath falls swiftly upon such wicked governments. Why in the world would Christians, who should know better than anyone, be any different? They ought to love more perfectly like God than any other government. He who does otherwise is worse than an unbeliever. He has denied the God who made him, and brought absolute shame on Christ who destroys all of the destroyers of His household. Let him who betrays his household in such a way be anathema.

Biblical Theology XLIV: Galatians

Galatians is written by the Apostle Paul as a response to the influence that a group historically called "the Judaizers" were having on the Christians in Galatia. There is some controversy about Paul's definition of the law, and how one determines to what Paul is referring will largely dictate one's interpretation of Paul in the letter. It is important to note, however, that an antinomian interpretation of Galatians that negates the necessity of pursuing the holiness described by the moral law is negated by Paul's ending argument that one will eternally reap what one sows.

Theology: Paul gives a few arguments as to why his gospel is the correct one: (1) It was given to him by Christ Himself and not by any man, (2) Christ died for nothing if the law could transfer its righteousnes to sinners, (3) righteousness and the inheritance thereof are given to Abraham via faith, and therefore, all who would receive it must receive it likewise, (4) the promise is actually only given to one individual seed of Abraham, which is Christ, (5) the law enslaves the one who naturally attempts to fulfill it, (6) the gospel receives persecution from the natural children because it makes spiritual children, and the natural and spiritual offspring of Abraham were always at odds, (7) the Judaizers wish only to boast about themselves and are not concerned about the true gospel.

Paul indicates that the Judaizers have argued that the law is the means of salvation, i.e., becoming right, being rectified. He argues that the law is perfect and is not the problem. We, however, are the problem. We are incapable of receiving a righteousness from the law in our present state. Instead the law can do nothing to sinners but show them that they are not what they should be. It displays God's righteousness/rightness, but in doing so, displays the sinner's wrongness. Paul argues, therefore, that the reason why the law just kills the sinner who comes to it is because his nature is in conflict with the law, and rather than transfer its righteousness over to the sinner, it's justice demands the sinner be put to death. What must happen is that he must be made right through the death of Christ. By being united to Christ through faith, he receives God's favor through Christ, and receives the Holy Spirit who recreates him. Thus, he receives the death penalty of the law by being crucified with Christ, and obtains a new nature that is in harmony with the law. His new relationship with the law is one of fulfillment, having been transformed by the Spirit as one who is loving, patient, kind, in control of himself, etc. The works of love flow from this, and as a result, the law is fulfilled.

Because sinners have a nature that is contrary to the law, what is needed is a new nature, and this transformation can only take place when one is united to Christ through faith. If righteousness could be transferred from the law, Christ died for nothing. The law, however, does not transform anyone. It enslaves and kills everyone, not because it is bad or unholy. The law is good and just, but people are not good and just, and that is the problem. Instead, the promise of the inheritance is promised to a particular seed of Abraham, i.e. Christ (3:6-18). Hence, everyone who would receive the promises of Abraham must be united to Christ through faith, be crucified with Christ in order to fulfill the just penalty of the law over him (2:19-21; 3:13; 6:14), receive the blessings of His faithfulness (2:15-16; 3:22) and be created new with a love for God and others that fulfills the righteousness seen in the law.

This all happens because the Holy Spirit is given to the individual, who is given/created/born again with a new nature as an adopted son (3:3, 5, 14; 4:6; 5:29). Hence, Paul states, “For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that matters is a new creation!” (6:16).
Receiving the Spirit of God through faith in Christ, then, is the vehicle through which one is transformed and will end up fulfilling the righteousness of the law. If one tries to use the law as a vehicle of righteousness, he will only enslave himself again to the destruction the law brings to all sinful people.

It seems clear then that Paul is arguing against any of the law, moral or ceremonial, to have the ability to transfer righteousness. Hence, Christ's death was necessary, and a new creation of the individual is needed. Hence, he is arguing about what makes one right with God and right like Jesus, period--justificaition and sanctification, the whole of how one obtains rightness. All is through the Spirit's work through faith in Christ.

Ethics: Having been made right with Christ, one is made into a new creation that wants to love in the manner that the law defines as loving. Hence, those who have been truly united to Christ by faith, and have received the Holy Spirit will have a new nature, a change of being, that produces the rightness communicated in the Torah and elsewhere in the commands of Scripture. This will be a nature that wants to love one's brother or sister in Christ, and the one who works through love fulfills the righteousness in the law, not as one who must be made right, but as one who is made right by faith in Christ, and therefore, does what is right.
Any claim that being saved by faith and not by law somehow means that those in Christ are free from becoming righteous misunderstands what Paul is saying. Christians are free from the penalty of the law in order to be restored to God, and pursue love as the basis for righteous living. In other words, both Paul and the Judaizers are arguing that people must become righteous and be saved from the present evil age (1:4). The difference is that they are arguing over the means to get there. Paul argues that one becomes righteous through the faithfulness of Christ and His work that brings about the new creation of an individual, and the Judaizers are arguing that the law itself is transformative if one just does it . 

Hence, Gentiles should dedicate themselves to the law as Jewish converts. Christ, then, just becomes a part of that righteousness, perhaps, even just filling in the gaps. Paul, however, argues that Christ is the only means to receive righteousness because although the law is righteous, it cannot transfer its righteousness to the sinner (3:21-22), and so the law is only a tutor that leads to Christ in terms of its role in one being made right, as it just shows one what he should be and is not (3:24-4:7).

Hence, Galatians is not arguing for an antinomian understanding of the gospel as many seem to conclude. Paul is clear to say that those who practice the works of the flesh will not enter the kingdom of God, and whatever one reaps is in accordance with what he will sow in eternity. This may sound contradictory to some who have misunderstood him, but he is arguing essentially that those who do righteousness are righteous and those who do evil are evil, not because one followed the law and the other did not, but because one was transformed through his faith in Christ and the other was not. Hence, as all Pauline theology indicates, faith working through love produces fruit, not in an external, outwardly performing manner, but in a way that is now consistent with the new nature that is compelled to worship God and do what is right. As Paul states, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision carries any weight – the only thing that matters is faith working through love” (5:6).

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Social Justice in the New Testament

"No social program is given in Scripture for the institutional church in relation to civil society in general despite the grave social problems in the New Testament world. In fact, the New Testament barely mentions the social climate of its world at all. Slavery, a pernicious social ill in the Roman world, is never addressed as a structural evil to be eliminated by social "partnering" with evangelism or in any other specific manner. Jesus, Paul, nor any other writer called for the abolition of slavery . . . If the new evangelicals and others are right in their theory of societal activism, Paul's actions and counsel were either in error or the Apostle was unforgivably apathetic. If Paul today would denounce entrenched structural evil in the United Nations sessions and in corporate boardrooms across the world, as Carl Henry assumes he would, it is surely not asking too much for the great Apostle to have written even a few such lines in private correspondence to a Christian friend . . . Christian social involvement embraces the social responsibilities the church had toward its own people. The New Testament teaches the benevolence of the local church to its own members; it does not portray the church as the God-appointed watchdog over the social welfare of the world at large. The economic commonality of Acts 4:32-35 was of believers only and was not projected into civil society at large in fulfillment of some notion of a social mandate. In Acts 6:1-3 the local church developed a strategy to handle the social well-being of its own widows, not all of the widows in the wider area. The Christians in Antioch contributed to the relief of the famine-stricken believers in Judea (Acts 11:27-30). Romans 12:9-21 gives direction to believers in practical affairs, but there is no social directive except "contributing to the needs of the saints" (v. 13). Paul gathered money from the churches of Macedonia and Achaia for the poor saints in Jerusalem (Rom 15:25, 27; 2 Cor 8-9). 1 Timothy 5:3-16 gives numerous instructions for the physical/financial support of the local church for its destitute widows, guidelines that demonstrate that the church's social program clearly was not intended for the greater civil community. James 2:15-16 involves a brother or a sister--a fellow believer--who is in need of food or clothing, and for whom mere platitudes are worthless gestures. James declares that the evidence of genuine, persevering faith is to "give them what is necessary for their body" (v. 16). In 1 John 3:17, the context is again limited to the saints and not the world at large; the material compassion is for the "brother" in need" (Rolland Mccune, Promise Unfulfilled: The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism, 261).