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 façade 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)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Understanding the Meaning of "Faith"


by Rob Lundberg
Introduction.
The other day I was involved in a conversation with a group of men at a Men’s Breakfast at our church. One of the discussions we were working over was the meaning of this word, “faith.” The definition of faith is very much misunderstood by Christians and maligned by skeptics, depending on which side of the conversation one finds themselves.
Allow me explain what I mean. Many folks, Christians and atheists alike, will define this word “faith” by stating that “faith is believing something with no evidence.”  Some well meaning Christians would even say that they have no need of evidence, and that they “just believe” in Jesus. On the other side of the “ledger,” atheists would like us to take their definition of “faith” to mean “believing something that you cannot see” or to mean the most popular accusation, “believing something without evidence.”
Even though I have written on indirectly on this subject in a past blog posting, what I would like to do is to “hit this subject head on.” My reasons for this are simply because many Christians find themselves in conversations with skeptics on spiritual matters where often times this subject comes up. Those of us who step in the arena with atheists know that this is a favorite “hot button.” We need to have a good grasp on how to respond to this subject as it is due to come up in conversations with the groupies parroting the arguments of the “popular atheists.”
I am going to approach this subject using one of my favorite methods, the question and answer inquiry. [1] First, I will start with the question of what is “faith” from the dictionary perspective. From there, I will answer some of the questions which could follow from various translations in the BIble from Hebrews 11:1. In this section, I will address two common English renderings that lead to, what I believe, is the source of confusion for Christians regarding a lack of understanding of the definition of “faith.” Lastly, I will close with what it means when we use the term, “the Christian faith.”
Please note that this will not be an exhaustive presentation on this subject due to the scope for this setting. At the same time I believe it is an important enough subject to engage and possibly further the discussion. I do have a goal to do more writing on this subject at a later time, perhaps in the form of a position paper.
What is the definition of faith?
Many folks, when looking for the definition of a word turn to a dictionary. Having had a few discussions with those embracing “popular atheism,” one thing is certain. Of the five different definitions presented in the most dictionaries, the “objection” fomenting from the atheist is centered on only one of the five definitions listed in most dictionaries.  When approaching the dictionary for a definition for “faith,” we need to look at all the definitions and fit them into their proper context.
This cannot be understated. It is of most importance to understand that in many cases where there are multiple definitions for a word, it will depend on a certain context where the word can be used. “Faith” is one of those words. Let me demonstrate this by breaking down the definitions. Wading through Webster’s dictionary.com  there are five sub-definitions for “faith.” [2]
The first definition of faith implies a type of confidence or trust in a person or a thing, i.e., “having faith in another’s ability” (to do something). This definition draws in a strong reference to an object, whether that object is a person or a thing, that is believed with strong conviction. This can refer to marital fidelity, faith in a religion, or faith in a person.
In the context of religious faith, there are many people in our culture who have this kind of faith in whatever religion they embrace. The interesting thing is that they are convinced that their religion is true, but the question is, have they tested those truth claims to know they are true. There is a conviction, but the question is toward a validity of truth for the religion that is embraced. This idea is going to be important in the remaining sections.
The second definition is in favor of a fideistic view of “faith.” The definition implies a “belief that is not based on proof.” It is like one having a kind of faith that is based more in hypothesis or theory than substantiated by fact. Again, there is a faith that is believed as true, but the question is toward a validity of truth for the religion that is embraced. I think of those who embrace religions based upon feeling, but the religion itself has not been tested for its truthfulness.
There is a third definition this more in the religious context. From the dictionary, it is the faith or “belief in God or in the doctrines of religion” or a particular religion or ideology. The definition is used with an object, i.e., the firm faith of the Pilgrims. May I insert here that this third definition can refer to those on both sides of the “belief line?” Many skeptics have a “faith,” though they will not admit it, in the idea of scientism, thinking that science will one day prove all truth. I call this the unreasonable faith of the skeptic.
Fourthly, there is a definition which refers to the “belief in anything as a code of ethics, or a standard of merit. This can be religious in its context or it can be patriotic in another context. To give an example of this kind of “coda” faith, I have some friend that are up the road about 40 minutes from us at Quantico Marine Base. Those of you who have served in the Corps or know someone in the Marines will be familiar with the saying, Semper Fidelis  (Always Faithful). [3] This is that kind of “faith.”
Lastly there is a usage of this word “faith” that reflects a description of “a system of religious belief”, i.e., the Christian faith or the Jewish faith. I will address this in the final section of this posting.
But if faith involves conviction, strong allegiance, and the belief in someone’s ability to do something, how do these line up with the biblical understanding of faith?
What About the Bible and Faith?
In a conversation between fellow believers, the Bible translation one uses can either keep a smooth conversation or muddy the waters. In either case it surely sets the ground for how the rest of the conversation goes. That is because some translations do not use the word, “evidence” in the Hebrews 11:1 definition of faith, even though the reasons for evidence are present. Demonstrating this using two popular translations, the New American Standard Bible and the New King James Version, I think we will see what I am trying to convey.
Notice with me first the New American Standard Bible (NASB),
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Next notice the rendering in the King James Version (NKJV),
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Hebrews 11:1 indeed gives us the clearest definition of “faith” from the Bible. Entering into a very quick word study, this verse uses words like “assurance” (NASB) and “substance” (NKJV) in the first part of the verse. If we were to look at the original language for these words in the text, we run into this “fun” Greek word, hupostasis (ὑποστασις) [4]; which simply means “assurance.” This kind of assurance imparts the meaning of a confident assurance and not some blind assurance. There is a sense of a “guarantee,” or an “attestation” where the object of one’s faith is true.
Moving to the second part of this verse, we see this idea reinforced with another word building off of the Greek word, “hupostasis.” Looking at the second clause we read the phrase, “the conviction/evidence of things not seen.”
Conviction and evidence are the same word in the original language of the text, the word, elegchos (ἔλεγχος). This word denotes “evidence” or “proof” and originates from the word that was used in ancient papyri for legal proofs where there was an accusation. [5]
What are we being accused of? What we are being accused of, by the popular atheists, is embracing a blind faith, or believing in something for which there is no evidence.
The problem with this accusation is that Christians have a strong confidence or assurance in Jesus’ finished work of redemption for our sins. This is not only evidenced by His historical death on a cross, His burial, but it is also capped off by His physical resurrection from the dead.
This is not some kind of “I hope I win the lottery” kind of faith, nor is it some blind leap in the dark. No, this is a faith that packs an assurance because of the eyewitness testimony from biblical historical sources.  We also have external sources from those who followed and trusted the testimony of the biblical writers. We move forward in history and we are trusting the same eyewitnesses. So this is not a blind faith by any means, but one that is loaded with circumstantial evidence attesting to its veracity. By the way, this is also why Christians should care about the evidences for their faith, particularly in the days in which we live.
Let’s move now to answering the question about what we mean by the “Christian faith.
What do we mean by the Christian faith?
It was the great preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who gave us a great way of explaining what “faith” is all about by bringing in three ingredients for faith: “knowledge, belief, and trust.”
In order to gain some kind of object for ones faith one must have knowledge about certain facts that are believed to be true.  Those facts better be good if they are going to provide us with a solid object for our faith.
As Christians we base our knowledge on the historicity of Christ, and key historical events which have been proven reliable through ancient eyewitness testimony, sacred history, and even secular history.  We have knowledge of the good news of the gospel message and knowledge of how one may receive the free gift of salvation (Romans 10:9,10).  There are plenty of solid reasons to know that the Christian faith is packed with truth.
On the other side of the “belief line,” atheists bases their knowledge on theory or strings of theories that God does not exist.  They believe that God does not exist, and they base that belief on science, drawing together all kinds of logical fallacies which can be turned over and used against their arguments.   Both Christians and skeptics know certain “facts” that they believe are true. (Who has the most faith between the two “camps?”)
As we examine all the knowledge based upon the evidences of God’s historical intervention in the history of mankind, the historical life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we then take the next step.  It is the step of belief.
This is not some kind of mental assent. There is a lot of evidence for what we believe about God’s existence, the life and work of Jesus, and the historical reliability of the Bible; whereas not to believe would be destructive.  You see biblical faith is not believing against the evidence.  When all is said and done the Christian faith is a believing and a knowing which in turn results in action.  What is that action?  It is the final step in Spurgeon’s description on faith.  It is called trust.
Going beyond some kind of assent, the Christian faith is not just about believing that it is true. The Christian faith demands the action of taking what we know, what we believe, and taking it to the final step. The Christian faith is about personal trust in the God of the Bible, the Trinity–Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The center of this trust involves a personal relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, in which we recognize our dependence on Him not just for our existence but for our salvation.
We acknowledge that we are not the people we were created to be, that we have abandoned God and gone our own way.  Acknowledging this, we turn (repent) and rest in the assurance that Jesus Christ, through His death and resurrection, has reconciled us to God. As a result we are able to be honest about who we are (rebellious and broken people in need of healing and a transformation of character), and we are able to hope, and have a growing confidence that Jesus Christ is sovereign over all of reality, that His kingdom is being realized, and that He is indeed returning us to the arms of the one holy and loving God.
The Christian faith is not believing something that has no evidence. As Bible believing Christians do not deny reality, we discover it; and once we discovered it there is no turning back.  We are called and must act upon it.
We are called to love God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind.  We have biblical mandate to act upon that calling, by loving our neighbor as ourself by first denying ourselves, taking up our crosses and following the One who gave His life and rose from the dead for us.
What we have are better evidences for believing the Christian faith than the atheist. What does the atheist have?  Well, I’m still waiting to hear something them worth believing. I think we’ll be waiting a long time. Perhaps they are the ones believing in something for which there is no evidence and not the Christian.
Notes
[1] This is known as the “Socratic method” a form of inquiry and debate between individuals with opposing viewpoints based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideas.
[4] Hebrews 11:1 in Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Corporation, 1976: 706.
The original posting for this article can be found here. . .

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Why Believe in Jesus' Resurrection?


by Rob Lundberg

What makes Christianity different from other religions? It is that the Founder of the Christian faith rose from the dead. As you celebrate this resurrection season, let me give you three facts that give validity to Jesus’ resurrection. His resurrection was foretold in the Old Testament, prophesied by Jesus himself, and those who claimed to be eyewitnesses were willing to die for believing in a resurrected Christ. These are three truths you can share with others as you explain why you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ.

Truth #1: Old Testament Prophecy Predicted Jesus’ Resurrection.
Jesus is unique among all people in history in that he is the fulfillment of centuries of Messianic prophecies, which are found in the Old Testament of the Bible. These prophecies foretold his place of birth, details of his life, his mission, his nature, his death, and his resurrection. Some scholars estimate that there are more than 300 Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament that refer to the Messiah (Jesus). One is Psalm 16:10-11:
You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life. In Your presence is fullness of joy. In Your right hand are pleasures forever.
Peter preaching on the day of Pentecost says that this psalm is a prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection (see Acts 2:25-28 & 31) − Jesus’ body would not undergo decay. The Apostle Paul, speaking at a synagogue service, also connects Psalm 16 with Jesus’ resurrection:
Therefore David also says in another psalm,
“You will not let your Holy One see corruption.”
For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption (Acts 13:35-37).

Truth #2: Jesus Prophesied His Own Resurrection.
Jesus spoke openly about what would happen to him when he came to Jerusalem:
The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again (Mark 8:31; see also Matt. 17:22; Luke 9:22; and John 2:18-21).
Those who consider the resurrection of Christ unbelievable conjecture that the early church put these statements in Jesus’ mouth well after his death. But anyone giving an honest reading of the Gospels can come to their own conclusion that Jesus himself often spoke of his resurrection.

Truth #3: The Change in and Commitment of the Eyewitnesses.
Up to this point we have seen that the Old Testament predicts the resurrection of the Messiah. Second we see that Jesus makes more than one statement about his own death and resurrection. This now brings us to a quick look at three key facts that cannot be denied. In fact most scholars find these facts hard to refute.
First, it is a historical fact that Jesus was crucified by the Roman government (Matthew 27:31-56; Mark 15:20-41; Luke 23:26-49; John 19:16-30). Secular writers like Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, Mara-Bar Serapion, and the Talmud all record his crucifixion as a historical fact!
Second, the disciples went from scared believers to bold eyewitnesses of a resurrected Messiah (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16; Luke 24:1-43; John 2:22; ch 20; 21:1-23). They also proved their conviction in Christ’s resurrection by being willing to pay with their lives for saying that “Jesus is Lord.” For example, Luke records the martyrdom of James, the Son of Zebedee (Acts 12:1-12), one of the apostles of Jesus. Jewish secular historian, Flavius Josephus confirms the execution of James in his Antiquities of the Jews, Book 20 ch. 9. The eyewitnesses were willing to die for their claim of that Jesus was still alive!
Third, there was a first century religious “terrorist,” known as Saul of Tarsus who persecuted the Christian church. But, this Saul of Tarsus, who became  Paul, claims to have encountered the risen Jesus on his way to imprison Christians (Acts 8:1; 9:1-22; 17, 19, 20; 22:6-21; Phil. 2:2-11). Paul was a fanatical Pharisee and a student of the great Jewish rabbi Gamaliel. All these led him against a belief in Jesus’ resurrection. But his conversion, subsequent mission work, and suffering for his faith are a testimony to the reality of Jesus’ resurrection and of his appearance to Paul (Acts 9:15-16).

Conclusion.
The message about Jesus Christ can be summed up this way. Paul said:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures . . . (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
The resurrection cannot be taken out of the Christian message. IF Jesus is not risen from the dead, Paul himself says that his message is WORTHLESS! (1 Cor 15:12-19). BUT if Jesus is risen, then we have victory over our sins and hope beyond the grave. These three truths testify that Jesus is RISEN!

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Rob Lundberg is an apologetics and worldview instructor with a passion and purpose to equip students and families to know God's Word and how they can defend their faith in their schools, their workplaces, and in their everyday interactions with strangers, friends and family. Rob has appeared on radio and Christian television (Capital District of NY) as well has spoken in community college and university settings.  He is currently available to speak at conferences, pulpit supply, seminars, break-out sessions, Pastor Q and A, workshops, retreats, or anything else a church or Christian school, or group needs.  Check out his website at roblundberg.org

He is currently serving as a Chapter Director/Apologist at the University of Mary Washington for Ratio Christi, a global movement that equips university students and faculty to give historical, philosophical, and scientific reasons for following Jesus Christ. 





Thursday, March 28, 2013

Is Physical Healing a Guarantee in the Atonement?

by Rob Lundberg

Before I get started, let me take this quick moment to thank those who have voiced prayers for my wife and our family, as Kathy recovers from hand (right thumb) surgery.  This posting is a revisiting of a subject I wrote on back in 2009 on the Real Issue blog.  That posting and this one deal with the issue of the atonement as it relates to healing. The passage that is often misapplied , coming from Isaiah’s words in Chapter 53 and verses 3 through 5.
"He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed."
Conversations with well meaning “Christians” about terminal illness or someone having the flu, or even about a surgery, can often raise a question where this passage is referenced in one context of another.  In not too recent days, I encountered such a conversation with a well meaning believer who misused this “atonement” passage to encourage me and our family.  Were they sincere?  Yes.  Were they encouraging?  Yes.  Were they using this passage correctly?  No.
Please understand that I DO believe in the Lord’s being able to heal someone instantaneously if He so chooses.  I also believe that God is not obligated (notice my usage of wording in the question) to heal “the saints” [1] physically and still receive glory through their infirmities.   There are two misapplications that I see being used by those holding to this TBN and the Word Faith theology [2].
The first misapplication is a self-centered entitlement attitude with respect to being God’s child.  There is this idea that God is obligated to heal His children.  This is not just unrealistic of living in a fallen world, it is also unbiblical.  The problem of evil whacks us from three different perspectives, natural, moral, and illness and disease [3].  And then there is the several biblical passages like the book of Job, and John 9:1-12, with the man who was born blind.
The second misapplication of this passage is larger than this first one.  It is one that presents a categorical problem where there is a misdirection of the meaning of the terms transgressions and iniquities.  Let’s take a look.
Looking at the passage we see that there is, without a doubt, an interest toward the reader of this passage.  This interest in found in verse 5, which is central to the issue before us: “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
Many folks who like TBN and the Word Faith teachers get excited about “healing” and often misapply this passage by directing it to the person who has a physical disability.  However while there is a substitution being carried out by Christ, "the Suffering Servant," the primary purpose of that substitution is not toward a physical healing.  In fact that act of substitution is for something more important than our physical well being.  It is for our sins.
This Suffering Servant was not wounded, beaten, and battered for our physical well being.  He was crucified after those beatings and bruisings for the real reason, the sins of mankind.  That means one must look at this passage in light of the finished work of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for sin.  There are a few reasons for this.
First of all, while ultimate healing is in the atonement, it is a healing that we will enjoy ultimately in our resurrection bodies. Physical healing, while we are in our mortal body, is not always guaranteed in the atonement.  Can God heal physical ailments?  Yes.  Will He heal?  He will heal according to His will but He will also receive glory in our infirmity.
Moreover, it is a major exegetical error made by Word Faith teachers not to handle the text in its proper context. How so? It is important to note that the Hebrew word for healing (rapha) can refer not just to physical healing but also to spiritual healing.
The context of Isaiah 53:4 indicates that spiritual healing is definitely in view.   Looking at verse 5, we are clearly told that "He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed" (v. 5).  What must be understood here is that transgressions [4] and iniquities[5] are spiritual categories.  The former deals with the action carried out that is against God's moral law. The latter has to do more with our depraved nature being sinful and missing the mark.[6]  Therefore the context governs the view of spiritual healing; spiritual healing from the misery of man's sin is what is what is being referenced here.
Furthermore, there are numerous passages in Scripture which substantiate the view that physical healing in this mortal life is not guaranteed in the atonement, and that it is not always God's will to heal in this physical life in the physical here and now.
The Apostle Paul could not heal Timothy's stomach problem (1 Timothy 5:23), nor could he heal Trophimus at Miletus (2 Timothy 4:20) nor Epaproditus (Philippians 3:25-27).
Paul spoke of "a bodily illness" that he had in Galatians 4:13-15.  He also suffered from a "thorn in the flesh" which God allowed him to retain (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). God certainly allowed Job to go through a time of physical suffering (see Job 1-2).
In none of these cases is it ever stated that the sickness was caused by sin or by unbelief. Neither Paul nor any of the others acted as if they thought their healing was guaranteed in the atonement. They accepted their situations and trusted in God's grace for sustenance in this fallen world. It is noteworthy that on one occasion, Jesus indicated that sickness could be for the glory of God (John 11:4).
Finally there are numerous passages in Scripture which reveal that our physical bodies are continuously running down and suffering from various ailments. Our present bodies are said to be perishable and weak (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Paul said that our "outer man is decaying" (2 Corinthians 4:16). Death and disease will be a part of the human condition until that time when we receive our resurrection bodies that are immune to such frailties (1 Corinthians 15:51-55).
Conclusion.
Please understand, I am not against God's intervening in the life of someone who has a debilitating ailment. Am I willing to admit that God can and does heal in the same manner that He has shown Himself to work? He can and sometimes He does. He also uses the God-given gift of medical science to treat and sometimes heal our physical bodies.
My concern is that when someone says to me: "you know that if you believe, God will heal you of your hypertension He will."   That is a big bone of contention and false teaching.
When one takes the passages in their context, it is clearly seen that the Word Faith teaching turns out to be total nonsense, even heretical.  Whether we realize it or not, God has already healed the one who is redeemed. The earthly tent that we live in is passing away, but we can still glorify God in the one which we reside. He may even have a purpose for our disability, terminal illness or just the consequences of living in a fallen world.  Just ask Joni Erickson Tada [7] or Nick Vujicic [8].
Notes
[1] I am using this term “saints” referring to those who have been redeemed and have come to believe on Christ and His Christ’s finished work of atonement and redemption.
[2] Word Faith theology is also known as the “name it and claim it”, “health and wealth” or “positive confession” movements, that owe their ancestry to groups like Christian Science, Swedenborgiansim, Theosophy, Science of Mind, and New Thought - not to classical Pentecostalism.  For more information about this false teaching see The Apologetics Index entry at http://www.apologeticsindex.org/w00.html#wordf.
[3] While the problem of evil falls essentially into the categories, natural evil and moral evil, let me point you to my posting on the Real Issue blog, on “The Three Faces of Evil and a Christian Response.”
[4] A transgression the violation of a law, command, or duty. The Hebrew word most often translated as transgression in the Old Testament means "revolt" or "rebellion." The psalmist wrote, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered" (Ps 32:1). In the New Testament every occurrence of the word transgression (NKJV) is a translation of a Greek word which means "a deliberate breach of the law" (Ro 4:15; 1 Ti 2:14; Heb 2:2).  (from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)
[5]The definition of iniquity is about unrighteousness, lawlessness. The Bible often uses this word to describe evil and wickedness. Iniquity can suggest different types of evil, such as transgressions of spiritual law and crimes against God (2 Pe 2:16; Rev 18:5), moral or legal wrongs (1 Co 13:6) or depravity and sin in general (Ge 15:16; Ps 51:1,5,9). (from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)
[6] Man is not a sinner because he commits sin. He is already a sinner and the action of committing the sin is an outworking of that nature.
[7] Joni Eareckson Tada suffered a diving accident that left her as a quadriplegic.  She is glorifying the Lord with a ministry reaching out to those with disabilities and various life issues, by sharing the gospel and “the ministry of touch.”  Learn more at http://www.joniandfriends.org.
[8] Learn more about Nick Vujicic at “Life Without Limbs”, http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org.

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