Friday, November 22, 2013

Handling a Tough Question Like, Did Jesus Go to Hell Before His Resurrection

Introduction.

Our beliefs are passed down from so many avenues, from reciting creeds to catechisms. So let's say we are sitting in a Bible study with believers from diverse backgrounds. We are all coming under the Scripture's authority, when a leader in the group references, Jesus' going to hell before His resurrection. Many of us, because of our backgrounds might think nothing of it. But is it true?

This posting is relevant to a phrase in the Apostle's Creed, that is not what is really taught from Scripture, and is pointed toward the fourth statement in the creed which states the following:

"Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell:" 

This writer agrees with everything up to the phrase "dead and buried." But did Jesus really descend into hell before His resurrection? I really don't think that He needed to. Let's look at the real issue behind this and see what we find.

Friday, October 18, 2013

True or False: In order to become a Christian, one must commit intellectual suicide. FALSE


One of the popular myths coming out of our modern educational system is that a truly intelligent person will not believe the Bible and to do so is to commit intellectual suicide. Actually, the opposite of this assertion is true. A truly intelligent person cannot help but believe the Bible. The belief that God has revealed truth to men in His Word and especially in His Son Jesus Christ is the only thing that can make sense out of life.

Most of the early colleges and universities in America were founded upon this principle. Harvard, William and Mary, Yale, Princeton, and many other institutions of higher learning had the Bible at the center of their curriculum. Jesus Christ was considered to be the foundation of all knowledge. As the first code of Harvard laws stated in 1642, 

"…Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning."

Some of the greatest intellects of history have found the Christian world view to be completely reasonable, rational, and intellectually satisfying. Men like the Apostle Paul, Augustine, John Wycliffe, Rembrandt, John Milton, Blaise Pascal, Johann Sebastian Bach, Robert Boyle, Jonathan Edwards, Michael Faraday, James Clark Maxwell, Lord Kelvin, and C.S. Lewis, to name a few, saw no contradiction between thinking and believing.

The reason the Bible is ridiculed by many the so-called "intellectuals" today is that their hearts are morally depraved. Their pride and arrogance have blinded them to the truth. "Professing themselves to be wise, they have become fools." (Romans 1:22) Yes, it is possible to have earthly intelligence and be a fool in the eyes of the God they deny.

If you are a Christian and a university student, don’t fall for the pseudo-intellectualism which bombards you on your university or college campus.  It is a fa├žade which puffs up your pride, but in the end will leave you empty, looking for meaning and purpose. Ultimately it will matter little if you are counted wise or foolish by the college crowd. What will matter is whether you have walked with God and made it your aim and desire to be pleasing to Him. This is true wisdom and man’s reason for existence.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

So How Did They Determine the Books of the Bible?

You may have heard an objection like, "You can't really sure of what books in the Bible should be there and what books should not?"  Or, "Why is the Apocrypha not in the main books of the Bible?  Who made that distinction?"  Whether it is either of these or some other facsimile of an objection like it, one will either hear it in a spirited conversation with someone challenging the authority and authenticity of the Bible, or one will hear it in a liberal professor's classroom. Not matter where the objection comes from, there is an answer.

To start things off, we need to understand that there were many ancient writings considered in the process of putting the books of the Bible together into one book. There had to be a determining authority selecting the books making the cut and the others getting "the boot."  Should some of the excluded writings have been included?  Why or why not?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Wow, How Times, I Mean Terms Have Changed!

With the caving in to the culture by the Boy Scouts of American and the most recent decisions by the US Supreme Court to crush the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8, it is an imminent fact that terms like “fundie,” “homophobe,” and “bigot” will become louder as our culture becomes more hostile toward the Christian faith and those who embrace. These accusations will be received from people who embrace a relativistic starting point in their ethics and morals. Welcome to the world that is waving a banner of what was once known as the “new tolerance.” Whether we like it or not, the temperature is being turned up against the biblical worldview and those who embrace it. 

However, believe it or not, this so called “new toleration” is really not so new. It has taken a few decades to be ratcheted up to what we see and hear now, a loud appeal for the new “normal.” But how did it get here? How did it get to the point where the definition of tolerance became a cultural synonym for “acceptance”, “permissiveness” or “affirmation”? 

The purpose of this essay is to give a possible answer to this question through the tracing of the definition of tolerance. and its changes over the last century and a half. As we trace the definition of toleration together, we will be able to provide a couple of answers to engaging this cultural dilemma.



It is this writer’s conviction that understanding this issue will provide a tool in the arena when possible discussions emerge. 
 


The Definition Has “Circled the Drain” 

 As we all know, definitions of words change with the culture or so it appears. We can think of words like “gay,” which meant one time in our cultural history to refer to one who is happy. Now it refers to the description of a “lifestyle.” The word change in the meaning of “tolerance” is not much different.

One day, a colleague and I were conversing with three of our co workers, who are essentially first and second year college student age. Our discussing centered around “tolerance” and its definition. In this discussion we pointed out to them that the traditional definition of tolerance does not imply what it means in our present day culture. Thanks to the internet dictionaries that are available, we were able to take time to engage these sources and follow the path to the present day definition entries. What we found was quite interesting, a metamorphosis of cultural meaning for this word so popularly thrown around at the local university campuses across our nation. 

Allow me to give some examples here. While there are multiple definitions for the word “toleration” I will address those definitions that fall within the context of this discussion. [1] 

Coming from the angle of definitions show the importance and the power of words. Various academic dictionaries have sought to be the rudder for definitions of words over the history of a nation and its worldview at large. [2] The various definitions for the word “tolerance” or “toleration” appear to agree with this notion. As one moves through the older dictionaries to the more modern editions, the original definition seems to be cast aside for a subtly loosened definition. A demonstration is warranted here. 

As the reader engages these definitions, watch for subtle shifts in the definitions. One will find that there is a move from an earlier original definition, like the definition coming out of the Worcester Dictionary of the English Language (1874) which states, “toleration is defined as “the power or act of enduring; tolerance is applied to the disposition of habit of mind, toleration of action. Tolerance will lead to toleration of different opinions.” 

Something to notice from this definition. First, the word “bigoted” is no where to be found. Secondly and more importantly, the definition implies the act of enduring in spite of any disagreement of views. Person A can endure with Person B’s views without running any risk of being ostracized or being called some inflammatory name. 


Presenting a biblical application to this definition, the Jews in the Old Testament were commanded to be tolerant of strangers in their midst and to show them hospitality and care for their needs. God has commanded them to the thinking that even though people may do or think differently, they are still holders of intrinsic value, whether one agrees with them or not. 

Moving to the Century Dictionary, an Encyclopedic Lexicon of the English Language (1911), there is an expansion of the definition with the first mention of any use of the word “bigotry.” [3] The definition for tolerance is as follows: 

a disposition to be patient and indulgent toward those whose opinions or practices differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry or severity in judging of the opinions or conduct of others: ‘the Christian Spirit of charity and tolerance.’ 

While the word bigotry is present and an allusion to “Christian Spirit of charity and tolerance‘ is used as an illustration, one must be careful to note some things here. 

First, what does it mean not judge? Everyone makes judgments. The word bigotry implies a motivation and degree of Person A’s judgment of Person B. I will define this word "bigotry," when we get to the last section of this posting.

Second, there is still present the aire of being patient toward another person who holds to differing persons. At the same time, apart from a biblical worldview as a standard, one cannot escape the fact that there will be some kind of judgment being made of that view. This is an inescapable point from both sides of the conversation. 

Funk and Wagnall’s New Standard Dictionary of the English Language (1931) reflects this as well, by stating “tolerance” as, “forbearance in judging of the acts or opinions of others; especially forbearance towards those of religious views differing from one’s own.” 

Notice there is the sense of endurance between two differing views, i.e., differing or opposing religions. Remember that the culture still was dealing with the immigration issues and had already experienced World War 1. Religions like Judaism and others not so prevalent were making their way to this country. There was plenty of warrant for the appeal to be “free from bigotry” and the exercising of forbearance toward those of different religious persuasions. 

But that does not mean a Christian should not share the truth of the Christian faith with someone embracing a different religion. The motivation and the presentation of the message were most likely variables in determining whether or not the recipient of that message or an onlooker would deem the presenter’s message as bigoted or not. 

But America experienced a few wars, and then came more ideological shifts and influences. There was also the segregation of the sixties, and a continuing flow of immigration. With these variables, the definition of this word “tolerance” morphed with the changing culture [4] to reflect a new idea, that Person A must “accept” Person B’s worldview or ethical foundation as an equal worldview or ethic. 



Where did the definition land after the last major ideological tectonic shift? The definition crossed a line that had not been implied in the original definitions of the word. What line did the definition cross?



Prior to the change, the definition, as it relates to this discussion, appeared to apply only to the social milieux where ethnicity and nationalities were insulted. Now the definition has crossed over the lines into the categories of the ethical and moral choices. This is where the culture is today, but what does the definition look like? [5] 





The Definition Has Crossed the Line



One of the best illustrations where this cross over can be seen is in the television and film medias. Recalling the seventies, the television sitcom, “All in the Family” with Carroll O’Connor portraying the highly critical and bigoted (especially in today’s terms) father, “Archie Bunker.” Archie’s daughter is married to a man of Polish dissent. Not a single episode would go by without some bigoted slur of his son in law’s ethnicity or nationality. Given the historical setting of the television show, it stands to reason that there is still an understanding of “tolerance” and bigotry. [6]



However, researching the later episodes, terms like “fairy”, “fag”, and “queer” began to be introduced into episodes toward the latter years of the final seasons of the program. This is just one of the handful of programs that began to reflect the proverbial “camel’s nose creeping into the tent.” So what does the definition look like now? 



Toleration’s definition now has words inserted into the definition, words like, “acceptance”, and “permissive.” These are words that no longer just apply to categories of ethnicity or nation of origin. With these words inserted, there is a moral and ethical line that has been crossed. Here are just a few examples,



Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary has as an entry for “tolerance”, “an act or instance of tolerating, esp. of allowing, enduring, or accepting what is not actually approved; forbearance; allowance by law or government of the exercise of religions other than an established one.” [7] 

 

Allowing” or “accepting what is not actually approved.” The question that surfaces here is what is it that one is being admonished to “accept” that is not actually approved.” The definition does not say. However Webster’s Dictionary Online’s definition streamlines the definition a little closer to the issue. According to this source tolerance is defined as, 



A fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc.; A fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one's own’ An interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one's own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint. [8] 

And the MacMillian Dictionary reinforces this definition where tolerance is defined, “the attitude of someone who is willing to accept someone else’s beliefs, way of life, etc. without criticizing them even if they disagree with them.” [9]

These two definitions reflect the current attitude toward the definition of tolerance. It is one thing to be fair, but who holds the plumb line on fairness? The definition of toleration that was is not the definition that is currently in vogue. 





Conclusion.



No longer are you and I going to be allowed to “love the sinner and hate the sin.” The term “sin” is now the new hate speech. What we need to do when engaged in conversations with people who disagree with us is convey the “gentleness and respect” that 1 Peter 3:15 calls us to demonstrate.



Another thing we need to do is to make sure that when engaging in conversations we need to make sure we understand the definitions of “toleration,” “tolerance,” and bigotry or bigot; and make sure we help those who are making such accusations against clarify the definitions in the discussion. This will level the “playing field” and hopefully keep the conversation cordial and keep us toward sharing the truth in love, but also telling the truth like the truth should be communicated.



Understand that the Supreme Court’s decisions did not make gay marriage the norm for the country. Understand that the decisions did not make the gay lifestyle accepted right across the board in the country. If the church does not step into the game, and take the gospel to the culture, I will give this culture 7-10 years until is becomes “normative.” If this happens, we need to be prepared for persecution in this country. This is a hard saying that I do not like myself. However we need to step up our witness and show that we really love the Lord with all our heart, and all our soul and prove that we love the mind by engaging our minds for the glory of Christ and for the edification of the saints.



Maranatha! 

_______________ 

Notes 

Writer’s note:I have come to the conclusion that understanding of the original for the word “tolerance” as opposed to the present day definition of tolerance is much like the analogy of arguing ethics versus morals. Ethical frameworks determine what “ought” to be. One’s moral choices are the outpouring of that person’s ethical starting point. The original definition of tolerance versus the present day definition of tolerance is much like this. Morality can be seen lived out is what is based upon one’s ethical underpinnings. 

[1] The definition of tolerance is not excluded to only ideological or moral categories. It is also used within the medical community for one having a tolerance to a medication or a type of treatment. It is also within the world of mechanical engineering where the laws of physics come into play with pressure, tension or some other force coming upon a particular object. 

[2] Words are extremely powerful, and dictionaries are always very precise about what vocabulary they use in their definitions. This writer is under the persuasion that there is even the worldview of the compilers or the editorial committees of various reference works are reflected between the pages and in the entries therein. 

[3] The early 1900‘s in American culture saw a lot of people coming to this country in search of greater opportunity and a new life. With this in mind, it might be surmised that whenever the word “bigot” or reference to someone being “bigoted” it may have been related to one’s nationality or ethnicity by another. This understanding carried into the 60’s and the 70’s in this nation. 

[4] In all fairness to some of the modern dictionaries, there are a couple of entries that were found to be in line with some of the earlier entries. E.g., Random House Dictionary of the English Language has their entry for “tolerance” stating, “a fair, objective and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc. differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.” The New Oxford American Dictionary (2001) has their entry as “the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.” 

[5] You can also read Tolerance is an American Value at http://www.americanvaluesare.com/index.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=19&showall=1 

 [6] I am using the term bigoted to mean “making a judgment without or a lack of any information.”
 

[7] Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, 2010, K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc, s.v. “tolerance.” (Bold font inserted by this writer) 

 [8] (Webster’s Dictionary Online at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/tolerance?s=t

 [9] http://www.macmillandictionary.com/us/dictionary/american/tolerance)

Monday, February 18, 2013

When Worldviews Collide in Worship

by Rob Lundberg

A couple of months ago, I wrote an article on the subject of “The Apologist’s Life of Worship.”  In that article I emphasized importances of the life of worship in every believer’s life, and how it incorporates not just the emotions of the heart and the soul and not just the confines of the worship service one attends.  I also shared that there is a need for not just our hearts and souls but also our minds should be invited to worship as well.

This article kind of springboards off of that article but is spawned by something I just recently noticed while attending a worship service not too long ago.[1]  

The Setting.

The setting takes us to the open worship at the beginning of a worship that lasts about 30 minutes or so before the pastor gets up to give the message from the Word of God.  There was a particular morning where the worship leader was leading in a few of the praise songs, and one of those songs is a popular one called, “Breathe,” by Michael W. Smith.  For those of us who are  not familiar with it, it is not a long chorus.  In some worship settings, it can be longer than the composer’s intentions to the point where the repetition can turn almost mantric.  The song’s lyrics are as follows,

this is the air I breathe
this is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me

this is my daily bread
this is my daily bread 
Your very word spoken to me

And I, I'm desperate for you
And I, I'm I'm lost without you

This song is one that addresses our desperate need for God’s presence in our life and our relationship.  Not faulting the song, the lyrics are biblical in that they point to Christ as the Bread of Life and the desire and need for the Holy Spirit’s presence in the life of the believer.

So, Rob, if you say the lyrics are biblical, what is the problem?  Where is the problem?  

The problem comes when the worship leader changes the words in the first stanza, which happened in this service.  The worship leader took the lyrics from “This is the air I breathe” to addressing God and leading the congregation to sing, “You are the air I breathe.

When this transition happened my daughter looked at me.  I quickly whispered to her that she and I will discuss what she heard on the way home from church.  She had picked it up and her "baloney detector" was going off quite loudly in her heart and mind.

Before I do, please understand that I have already spoken to the leadership about the issue of confusion that could come about during a very highly emotional song of praise. This is why the mind should be invited in to our worship.


What is the Issue?

The issue is potential confusion between the worship leader and those whom he is leading in worship.  The leader might make the lyrical change, understanding it metaphorically.  But it may not be the case with some of the people caught up in the moment of worship and might be weak in their understanding of the biblical worldview.    Let me paint the example for us and then make some comments.  

What is the difference between, “this is the air I breathe” and the change over to, “You are the air I breath?”  Let me share with you first that there are two ways one can look at a statement like this.   A statement contains some kind of comparison can be taken literally or it can be taken metaphorically.

Taken literally the first statement, "this is the air I breathe," is fine.  The change over to the second statement creates a few problems, drawing in a worldview that contradicts a biblical worldview.  That worldview is known as pantheism


What is pantheism

Pantheism is the worldview of the Eastern world religions: Hinduism, Daoism, and some schools of Buddhism.    Simply stated the worldview of pantheism is as follows:  God is all; all is God; God is in all.  Karma and reincarnation are considered non negotiables under a pantheistic worldview.  Unfortunately, a pantheistic worldview kind of thinking is also found in a handful of non Christian cults like Christian Science, the Church of Scientology, the Unity School of Christianity, and the occultic School of Theosophy.


How does this tie into the changed lyrics of “Breathe” when one sings, “You are the air I breath?”  It changes things in a few ways.

1.  It changes the nature of God from the infinite Creator to something that is finite and created.  God created the air, and when we reduce God to something that is created, we are not far from those those create God in another image; which violates the Second Commandment.

2.  It also deifies (makes divine) that which was created.  This is the converse of the previous point.  If God is all; and all is God, and in all, then the flip side to the previous point is that God is brought down to the level of a created being.  The statement, “You are the air I breath” also elevates the air, something that is finite and created, and equates it with “God” (“all is God”).  When that happens, God also becomes a created being, and makes God dependent on someone or something else for His existence.   

To a fault, please note that I am not trying to criticize a worship leader or a church.  My intention is to show that when we sing, we run the risk of getting caught up in the emotions of the song.  That is not to say that singing and getting into the music is bad.   God has created us with emotions and feelings; and worship should incorporate our feelings and emotions.  At the same time the mind should not be abandoned in our worship experience either.   That being said, there is another side to the lyrical “you are the air I breathe” and that is the metaphorical side of a comparison.


Speaking metaphorically. . .

When I had the chance to speak to one of the assistant pastors and one who was a leader in the worship ministry, I approached this issue with “gentleness and respect.”  I summarized the dangers of moving into the worship of a “pantheistic deity” but also offered this side of the argument as well.  That side being that the lyrics, “you are the air I breathe” could be taken as metaphorical.

What is a metaphor?  Some of us might remember our early school days where we were learning poetical comparisons like simile and metaphor.  Both of these terms denote some type of comparison.  

A simile is a comparison that uses “like” or “as” where a metaphor is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between two unlike things that actually have something important in common.   The car and airline industries give us some examples of metaphors.  For example Nissan has their little quip, “Life is a journey.  Enjoy the ride.”[2]  

The Bible even has metaphors referring to God.  A huge metaphorical example is found in John 4 where we read Jesus’ words,  

Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst again.” (John 4:14). 

Of course we know that the water that Jesus is referring to is His Gospel, which is the knowledge of how to have everlasting life and grow in that gift of eternal life.  Over in John 7:37 we read Jesus’ words "If any anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.”   Now obviously we are not going to literally drink Jesus.”   What Jesus is saying here, metaphorically is that he is that “water,” which means that if one wants to no longer thirst spiritually, they need to come to Him for He is the way, and only way to salvation. 

So if the Bible uses metaphors, why can’t we use metaphors when referring to God? Obviously the Bible tells us that God is our “strength and our refuge” (2 Sam. 22:3); and our rock and [our] fortress and [our] deliverer.”  That Psalm goes further to say, “My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2).  Is God literally a rock? Is He literally a shield?  Is He literally the horn of my salvation?  In other words, is God a rock, a shield, or a horn?   Or is there an contextual application in that verse that applies those terms in such a way to show that a relationship in knowing God  gives us stability, protection; and He is our Savior?  

So if the Bible uses metaphors, why shouldn’t music leaders directing a congregation in songs of praise use metaphors?  This is “the rub” right here.  There are few good reasons. Allow me to list them here.

  1. Even though air is invisible, and God is invisible, the air is created and God is not.  Even though we know air is present and can sense the presence of God in the moral fibre of our being, in the creation, in His Word and through the gift of sound reasons.  This being said, God is not to be brought to the level of a created “thing” like air.

  2. Following upon this first thought, music is a gift from God and it is used to offer praise up to Him.  Music can enrapture us with emotion and with passion.  The danger is singing something without inviting the mind into that part of our worship, and run the risk of singing or offering up to heaven something that is not biblical.  In my thinking this kind of mindless emotionally charged kind of worship is not worship that will bless the Lord and will not be blessed by the Lord.

  3. Lastly, and as equally important, are the people who are being led in worship.  First off music is not the only form of worship.  Many people in our churches need to understand that worship is more than just music.  It is a part of our worship.  But that music should be leading us to the God of the Bible and not addressing some foreign religion that embraces one foreign deity or a pantheon of deities.[3]
There are many people in the pews today, singing songs that are not grounded in a solid biblical world view.  Some of those songs are played on contemporary Christian radio.  Unfortunately, there are many in the churches across this land who do not embrace a solid biblical worldview, to where singing, “You are the air I breathe” to God, may sound fine.   The problem is that is is far from biblical.  Also, the music leaders today need to check the music and make adjustments so that a congregation of people will not be lead down a path leading to worldview that is foreign to the biblical worldview rooted and grounded in the Word of God.

Conclusion.

Leaders in the Christian church have a commission based responsibility to protect the sheep from  anything that conflicts with the Word of God.  That means that church leaders need to know the Word and understand what it means to have a biblical worldview; so as to avoid the possibilities of  leading their congregations down the path of a conflicting worldviews.  As a response to this, we have looked at one danger of bringing a pantheistic worldview into our worship.

Today more than ever, with some of the new apostate practices and ideologies that trying to gain a foothold on the church and many Christians today, it is vitally important for church leaders, pastors, education leaders, music and worship leaders, evangelists, and behind the scenes apologists need to encourage and protect the flock with biblical truth. Let us be reminded of Paul’s exhortation to Titus where he encourages him and us to be about  “
holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” (Titus 1:9)  We see this warning also in Acts, 20:29 “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” 

As our predecessors in the early Church led the saints in worship toward the true and living God, may we hold fast to the truth, just as they did in this age of grace.



Notes.

[1] Please note that I have spoken to one of the staff who oversees the worship part of the ministry of this church.  What I share in this article is some of the fruit that I shared with this dear brother in the faith, which he took as a "good word" and definitely something to pay heed.

[2] Here is a grammar website that shares more on metaphors (http://grammar.about.com/od/qaaboutrhetoric/f/faqmetaphor07.htm).  And you thought that grammar was a bygone English class.  It is something that we cannot resist nor escape, even in biblical interpretation and communication.

[3] Please see my essay on the question of whether or not Christians and Muslims worship the same God.  http://rob-lundberg.blogspot.com/2012/10/is-god-of-islam-same-as-judeo-christian.html