Friday, May 30, 2014

God-honoring and Bible-based Christian Mutual Funds

When we stand before the Lord, we will have to give an account for our use of money, along with everything else.  All we have really does not belong to us, but is a stewardship we have from God. Scripture represents an abuse of financial stewardship as a serious sin (cf. James 5:1-5Matthew 25:14-30).  Do you own mutual funds (and, therefore, are you part owner of) companies that promote or support abortion, pornography, moral perversions like sodomy, or ungodly entertainment, alcohol, tobacco, or gambling? If you do, you are partaker of the sins of these companies.  Do you not know if your investments are clean?  Find out here:
What options do Christians have for investing in mutual funds?  The best option is:
Eventide produces the only mutual funds I can recommend without reservation. They filter out the bad companies, like the Timothy Plan (discussed below) also does, but they are better.  While both the Timothy Plan and Eventide Funds filter out companies that support abortion, pornography, immorality, ungodly entertainment, alcohol and  tobacco manufacturers, and gambling, the Timothy Plan only gets rid of manufacturers of alcohol and tobacco (e. g., brewery companies) while Eventide avoids retailers also (e. g., supermarkets and restaurants that sell alcohol). Eventide thus avoids the woe God pronounces on those who distribute alcohol in Habakkuk 2:15.  Eventide also goes beyond avoiding companies that do evil to seek out and invest in companies that do positive good.  Thus, while both the Timothy Plan Funds and the Eventide Funds are far, far better than secular mutual funds, Eventide is #1, and the Timothy Plan is #2 in terms of Biblically responsible investing.
I contacted Eventide to make sure that my comments about them, and my comparison of their Funds with those of the Timothy Plan, were accurate.  The following is the reply I received (slightly edited):
[W]e appreciate your support!  Your description of us is accurate.  In the past we’ve used the following description of our process:
Many socially responsible and faith-based funds merely focus on the negatives: avoiding companies that produce tobacco or pornography, for example. While this is an important part of Eventide’s process as well (such not investing in companies that support pornography, tobacco, abortion, gambling, violent video gaming, or environmentally irresponsible actions), Eventide goes a step further and asks even more thoughtful questions about integrity, business practice, and value-creation. For example, the Eventide Gilead fund avoided banks in 2008 because of concerns about exploitation — concerns that unfortunately proved to be well founded in retrospect. Positively speaking, Eventide is invested in companies developing the next generation of drugs to treat diseases like anemia or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Eventide strives to provide its investors with the pride in knowing that their money is with not merely successful companies, but admirable companies.
In general, we focus on the profit centers of businesses when evaluating them for investment, and seek companies that excel at value creation for all their stakeholders — customers, employees, supply chain, communities, environment, and society.  Importantly, we also avoid investing in companies that engage in predatory behavior or seek profit above all else (such as those in the above description).
One comment, while your description of us is accurate, we are very supportive of the Timothy Plan.  We feel that it’s essential that Christians be made aware that stock investing — in any form — is really company ownership, conferring ethical responsibility to investors, and therefore Christians should seek to own only those companies aligned with God’s purposes in the world.  We feel that the Timothy Plan provides great value for investors seeking to avoid investing in companies that harm others and thereby dishonor God.

Based on the investment principles of Eventide, I enthusiastically support and recommend their mutual fund family.  Furthermore, while I would be willing to accept a lower rate of return for Biblical filters, Eventide has consistently posted a fantastic rate of return, beating the large majority of related secular and unfiltered mutual funds!   Learn more or purchase Eventide Funds here.
 I also agree with Eventide in being happy about the existence of the Timothy Plan.  According to their brochure, the Timothy Plan Funds filter out:
1.) Abortion:
a.) Manufacturers
b.) Hospitals
c.) Insurance Companies
d.) Contributors
e.) Researchers
2.) Pornography
a.) Producers
b.) Publishers
c.) Distributors
d.) Internet
e.) Facilities
3.) Anti-Family Entertainment
a.) Producers
b.) Advertisers
c.) Promoters
4.) Unbiblical “alternative’ lifestyles:
a.) Financial Support
b.) Employee Groups
c.) Active Involvement
5.) Alcohol
a.) Manufacturers
6.) Tobacco
a.) Manufacturers
7.) Gambling
a.) Manufacturers
b.) Facilities
c.) Equipment

These filters–which Eventide also employs–are fantastic, and make the Timothy Plan mutual funds far superior to secular mutual funds that will almost certainly contain companies that support these types of wickedness. However, the Timothy Plan Funds do not filter out alcohol and tobacco retailers.  When I asked them about this matter, they indicated that they had no plans to add such a filter in the future.  For that reason, I cannot recommend believers purchase their stock funds. You ought not be a part-owner of companies that retail alcohol and tobacco, lest you become a partaker of the sins of those who displease God by consuming these ungodly substances, die from using them, kill others in drunken driving crashes, etc.  I believe that the Timothy Plan non-stock funds, however, can be owned with a pure and Biblically-grounded conscience.  For instance, their High Yield Bond Fund employs all the filters above, but by owning it you are only lending money to, say, Walmart, instead of directly owning the company.  If Israel could lend money to the heathen (Deut 15:628:12), then it is certainly Biblically justifiable to own bonds with Timothy Plan filters.
 In conclusion, then, if you own secular mutual funds, you are almost certainly supporting practices that cannot by any means be justified Biblically.  The Biblical principles of both the Timothy Plan and Eventide Funds are vastly superior to the disregard of the Lord by secular mutual funds;  however, because Eventide eliminates retailers of alcohol and tobacco, while the Timothy Plan does not, the Eventide Funds are the only ones that can be unconditionally endorsed.  Only the non-stock Timothy Plan funds can be justified in light of Habakkuk 2:15.  I personally own both the Eventide Gilead Fund (ETGLX) and the Eventide Health Care and Life Sciences Fund (ETNHX) as well as the Timothy Plan High Yield Bond Fund (TPHAX).  Finally, I also believe that peer-to-peer lending is a good investment which can be done with Christian principles–find out more about this potentially high-yield investment here.
Of course, I am not giving you official financial advice.  I cannot predict the future, other than that the Lord Jesus is going to come back at some point and everything God’s Word says about the future is going to happen.  The Bible says that riches are uncertain (1 Timothy 6:17).  I cannot guarantee that any mutual funds or other investments will go up instead of down.  Trust in Jesus Christ, not in them.  I am saying, however, that Scripture is clear that God will judge our stewardship of the resources He has given us, and that investing–and all other areas of life–must be done to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).  May the information above help you as you seek to glorify God with the financial resources He has entrusted to you.
Note that I have also posted this article here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Exploring Unacceptable Degrees of Normativeness of the Book of Acts

Making the New Testament book of Acts normative instead of transitional comes from a wrong perspective and interpretation of scripture and explains much wrong doctrine and practice in professing Christianity today.   Some pin the needle on bad doctrine and practice, vis-à-vis the Charismatic movement.  Some of it is bad, but not quite as bad, e.g., revivalism.  Some is all over both professing and actual Christianity in bits and pieces or doses.   I still have some of it in my system, which I'm still getting out, so if I see it in someone else, I'm not ready to pull the trap door on him.

What do I mean by normative?  "Normative" is the word that is used in biblical interpretation and application to describe what is "applicable to us and required of us today."  I've heard the terminology of descriptive versus prescriptive.  What we read in Acts is not prescriptive.  What we read there very often does not become the rule.  It is not written for contemporary imitation.  A lot of questions relate especially to the application of Acts.

For instance, in the very first chapter the apostles fill the empty place left by Judas. The names of Joseph and Matthias are put forward, and the choice is made by drawing lots (v. 26). Is that how we are to select church leaders today?   If you say, "yes," then you are saying that Acts is normative there.  If not, then you are saying it is not always normative and in fact that Acts is not normative.  I don't know anyone who says the way they chose a new apostle is normative for choosing leaders.

Anyone who reads the Bible has to understand the concept of normative.  The dietary restrictions in the Old Testament are not normative. We don't still stone rebellious teenagers.  Christians have already become practiced at this and even gotten into some groove of application.

I want to make a particular point with this post, to help people consider what they're doing with the book of Acts.  To do that, we've got to think a bit about why and how Acts is not normative.  The main issue is miracles.  Miracles are miracles.  If they were normative, they wouldn't be miracles.  And miracles -- tongues, healings, and other supernatural events -- were signs, meaning that they had the point of authenticating, accrediting, confirming the office of the apostle, the Word of God, the new institution, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the beginning of a different era.  If miracles were normal, they wouldn't point to anything, confirm anything.

When we see a sign event, a miraculous activity in Acts, we shouldn't consider it normative, any more than we should think that leaders today should be chosen by casting lots.  No.   We're thankful for that era of miracles, the apostolic period, and we even anticipate another during the time of Jacob's trouble, the tribulation period, the seven years right before Jesus comes back to set up His kingdom.

Now let me give you a few experimental examples from Acts.  Peter and John heal a cripple sitting outside the temple in Acts 3, and throughout Acts you have many such healings and miracles.  In 5:18-19 the apostles are arrested and put in jail, but during the night an angel of the Lord opens the jail doors and brings them out.  In chapter 8 the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit after they believed and were baptized. Should we still expect “Damascus Road” conversions today like Paul had in Acts 9?  Do miracles of judgment, like the blinding of Elymas the magician in Acts 13, still occur today?   For Paul and Barnabas to go on their first missionary journey, the Holy Spirit said in 13:2:  "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them."  Will words like that be spoken directly to men by God, telling them exactly what God wants them to do?  Should we expect them?

Even in Acts, certain activities are not normative all the way through the book.  James is killed and Peter is not in the same chapter.  Paul is let out of Damascus in a basket and Peter gets an angelic escort out of prison.  Not everyone instantly falls over dead for lying like Ananias and Sapphira did in Acts 5.

Making Acts normative for today is very often continuationism, that the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit have continued to this present age.  However, there are other unacceptable degrees of normativeness of the book of Acts.  I'm not going to talk about the furthest degree, Charismaticism, or even something short of that, blatant revivalism.   I would like us to think about lesser degrees that are also unacceptable.

Earlier I mentioned Acts 13:2:  "As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them."  Because the Holy Spirit said something in Acts 13 doesn't mean that He is still saying things.   They didn't have the New Testament, so that's how an apostle like Paul would know.  This is not normative.  The Holy Spirit isn't speaking like that today, and yet it isn't unusual for professing cessationists to say that the Holy Spirit told them something.  He didn't.  Even if he did, it is absolutely non-verifiable and dangerous.  Yet, this experience is often a testimony among independent Baptists.

I said that these "Holy Spirit-told-me" events are non-verifiable.  They're not.  But sometimes the adherents use numerical results to verify.

One subtle way "God tells people" today is "peace from God."  The Lord either "gives peace" and that means "go ahead and do it," or He apparently doesn't give peace and that means "don't do it."  These peace experiences are non-verifiable.  Now, if someone just doesn't want to do something or does want to do it, and it isn't disobedient to scripture, he is free to do that by the grace of God.  However, saying that it is some kind of message from God clashes with scripture.  If you don't have a scriptural basis one way or the other, just say that you don't want to or you didn't want to do it.  Don't say you're hearing from God about it.

Let's consider that last paragraph as it relates to obtaining of a spouse, a life's partner.  1 Corinthians 7:39 says, "The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord."  Look at the last part of the verse.  She can marry whom she will.  As long as the marriage is between two saved people, two people in the Lord, she can marry whom she will.

Maybe someone doesn't feel right about it, but he or she shouldn't see that as God telling him or her anything.  He or she just doesn't want to do it.  It might even be a faithless fear that is leading to the "lack of peace," having nothing to do with God and totally to do with him or her.  This kind of statement is accepted carte blanche in almost every circle of Christianity today, and it is an at least soft form of continuationism.  This is an unacceptable degree of normativeness of the book of Acts.

One more.  This combines the healing that occurs in several chapters in Acts, beginning with the man in chapter 3.  In Acts 12, God got Peter out of prison.  Peter was an apostle.  On the other hand, as I mentioned before, he allowed James to be killed.  Peter comes to a house where church people are gathered and they are praying.  Some assume that they must have been praying for Peter to get out of prison.  It says nothing like that. You don't read one prayer like that in the New Testament.  I don't think we can assume that.  Neither can we assume that if we were praying for someone to get out of prison, that it is God's will.  We don't know that.  James had just been killed.  I don't believe they were praying for Peter to get out of jail, because there is no biblical basis for believing that.

God is a good God.  He can deliver someone from prison if He wills.  We can thank God for His goodness.  He can deliver someone from sickness.   However, there is no biblical basis to say that God will heal someone of a sickness.  If you knew that was God's will, you should pray for everyone to be healed from sickness and never stop praying that -- go through the phone book and every hospital in America -- knowing that God would always heal in answer to the prayer.  You don't know that.  There is no biblical basis to believe that.  What you can believe is that God is a good God and that He can heal.  Pray for the person's spiritual needs and leave his healing up to God.  If someone who is sick wants you to pray for him, you can pray for him, but there is no prescribed prayer for healing that we know will result in his healing.

Today people might say something like the following: "So and so is in prison for preaching, so let's pray that he get's out."  This is another unacceptable degree of normativeness of the book of Acts.  I'm giving it as an example, but there are many other of these types of events.

What about Philemon 1:22?  Good question.  Paul wrote, "But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you."  That's not Acts.  That's Philemon.  My answer is that Paul the apostle knew that it was God's will that he would be given to him, so he wanted him to pray that.  In the end, Paul's head was chopped off.  Was there a prayer that could have kept that from happening?  Faith comes from hearing the Word of God and God only answers a prayer of faith.  Philemon must have known that it was God's will for Paul to be released, so he had the faith to pray it.

People will pray for a great many things that they want.  If God wants you to have property and a building, then should you pray for it?  And He'll give it to you?  Do you know that?  Do you have a biblical basis for believing that?  You really don't.  I recognize that some will say that happened to them, so it must be true.  I would have said the same thing at one time.  I believe that God might cause or allow you to have a lot of different things.  It doesn't mean that you needed them or that you got them in answer to a prayer. 

Jesus said to pray for your daily bread.  Depend on and pray that God will meet your daily physical needs and then work for those.  The combination of those two is God's will.

Perhaps some readers are asking, "So what is a valid application of the book of Acts?"  Some of Acts is applicable for today, but not Acts as a whole.  It is a transitional book.  It would be worth it for you to explore whether you are not making a right application of Acts to your own life.  Acts isn't normative.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Not God's Problem: The Bible Does Answer the Question of Suffering in Lamentations

No one should be happy that Bart Ehrman gets a job teaching the Bible and religion on a state campus. Everyone should ask why it is that it must be someone like him the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill employs.  Ehrman was a Moody Bible style confessing evangelical who apostatized at the latest iteration of his education at Princeton. Ehrman repackages fairly old liberal theology and writes it in a popular style for a more average reader.  In 2009 HarperCollins published his book, God's Problem:  How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question -- Why We Suffer.

I first leafed through Ehrman's book at a Barnes and Noble right after it first came out, while I was waiting for a meal reservation. Everyone suffers, and when they do, they and their loved ones are most often at their worst.  Ehrman preys on the most vulnerable in society to turn them against God.

Right now on Wednesday nights I'm preaching through the book of Lamentations.  I had never taught the Old Testament book, and when I'm finished, I will have taught at one time or another every book, every word, of the Bible in some fashion or another.  A major point of Lamentations, if not the point of Lamentations, is to answer the question, why we suffer.  It is a primer on suffering.

There is a preview of God's Problem at google books, so I did a search with the word "Lamentations," and the word doesn't appear there.  That's a problem.  Don't say the Bible fails to answer 'why we suffer,' and not deal with an entire book on suffering in the Bible.  Perhaps I'm to assume that Ehrman is not familiar with Lamentations, that he wrote his book without interacting at all.  "Fails to answer" is big talk.  There should have been at least a chapter proving how that Lamentations fails to answer his question.  Without having done so, his book is a lie.  If you leave that out, you've failed.  What is true, however, is that Lamentations blows Ehrman's thesis away. Lamentations says that suffering is Not God's Problem and answers some of the most basic, most fundamental questions about suffering.

Ehrman says that God doesn't answer the question.  More accurately, Ehrman doesn't like the answer.  God answers.  Oh yes.  And God is God.  Someone may not like the answer, but it is still the answer and it is still coming from the Creator.   You don't get to send God back to the drawing board to get it right.  You conform to what He said.  Not Ehrman.  The arrogance, the rebellion, drips off of him.

The English reader may not know that Lamentations has amazing structure in the Hebrew.  Each line of the book is an acrostic using the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.  That's why the chapters have 22 verses each, except for the third, which has 66.  The middle chapter, the apex of the book in a chiastic structure, has 22 triads, with each line of each triad starting with the next letter of the alphabet.  Much more could be said about the structure, but I want to park on the third lament to deal with the "problem" of suffering.

Jeremiah wrote Lamentations over the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.  You could argue that this was most horrific point in Israel's history.  The people of Israel went through a very, very difficult time.  I think the best representation of it lies in the event of women debating which child they're going to eat, because of rampant starvation.

To reduce the answer to the question of sufffering, Lamentations gives two perspectives.  They suffer because of their own sinfulness.   They would suffer even more if not for the mercies of God.  Both aspects answering the question of suffering focus on the attributes of God.

Chapter 2 says that God is angry.   He deserves to be.  Anger explains what occurs.  From the human perspective we get Lamentations 3:39, "Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?"  Anyone who is suffering is alive, a living man.  Should any living human be complaining about suffering, when he knows what he deserves for the punishment for sins?  That's what connects to 3:22, "It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not."  Grace is getting what we don't deserve, and mercy is not getting what we do deserve.   If you are thinking about your suffering, then you are getting less than you deserve.

Why are men not consumed?  The mercies of God (3:22a, chesed, His lovingkindness), the compassion of God (3:22b), the faithfulness of God (3:23), and the goodness of God (3:25-27).  Several of the verses of chapter 3 offer a primer on how to take suffering.  God has a way He wants it, probably best characterized by being silent and taking your medicine.

Sometimes when you suffer, everything else is taken away except God.  That's fine, because, 3:24, the Lord is your portion.  The Lord said the same to the Levites when He apportioned their share of the promised land.  The Lord would be their portion.  God wants us to be satisfied with Him.  I think of Paul in Philippians when he said that the high calling of God was in Christ Jesus.  We are complete in Him.  Jesus is good enough.

Bart Ehrman for sure is not satisfied.  And since he still has trouble with suffering, he won't ever be, because it's only going to get worse for him from here.  He's the lost man of the great tribulation, sticking his fist up at God.  He can only do it because God gave him a fist and the energy and time to shake it at Him.

What about those who cause the suffering?   You can't avoid the fact that God allows it (3:32), but again, this is less than what we deserve, whatever it is that we get.  We shouldn't complain.  But just because he allows men to cause suffering doesn't mean that He approves.  You read three infinitives of 3:34-36 --

To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth,
To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High,
To subvert a man in his cause,
the Lord approveth not.

and the answer:  the Lord approveth not.  Assyria didn't make it.  Babylon didn't make it.  God didn't approve.   The Hebrew word translated "approveth" in the KJV is the word for "see" or "perceive."  God isn't just going to look at what they've done.  He doesn't approve of it.  He's going to do something about it. That's a clear message through scripture.

If you're an agnostic or atheist like Ehrman, mass murderers get away with the suffering they cause.  Pol Pot. Mao.  Hitler.  All agnostics like Ehrman.   That encourages suffering, because without God, nothing matters. The idea of Ehrman is that you don't get a sufficient answer from the Bible for suffering, which is a big enough problem to reject the Bible and God.  But without a God, what difference does suffering make, one way or another?  That Ehrman even argues means he can't logically conclude that he's only a chemical reaction spewing at us.   In a quest for human evolution, people might be encouraged to cause suffering, and have no reason to stop it. Shouldn't that be trouble for him?  No.  Everyone can get away with anything and everything, which explains why it is that you haven't seen much charity from agnostics.  Ehrman noticed that too, so johnny-come-lately started up a blog that he makes you pay to read to raise proceeds to stop poverty.  He makes us pay to alleviate poverty if we wish to read the drivel he writes.  It does him a favor, because he can now point to it when that argument is made.  That's an agnostic's idea of care.  Troubling.

The Bible does answer the question of suffering.  It's not a problem for God.  Never has been.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Book of Life and Eternal Security--do Revelation 3:5 & Revelation 22:18-19 Teach that a Christian may Lose his Salvation?

The Bible teaches that the names of all the elect were written in the book of life from the foundation of the world. “The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” (Revelation 17:8)

The elect have their names still written in that book now (Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Heb 12:23—note the perfect tense for their names being written; point action from the foundation of the world, with continuing results to the time they are in the New Jerusalem; nobody is blotted out). Those with their names in the book live with God forever, and those whose names were not in the book from the foundation of the world are cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:12, 15). God works in those whose names He has written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, giving them a new heart, and putting his Spirit in them, so that they are characterized by righteousness (Rev 21:27).

What about Revelation 3:5? “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.”

It is amazing that a verse where Christ promises His elect, those who overcome (all believers, 1 Jn 5:4-5), will not be blotted out, is reversed, and used to affirm that their names will be blotted out! In the apostle John’s day, the king of any land kept a register that was very much like a census. If a man committed a crime against the state, his name was removed from the register and he was no longer considered a citizen. If a person moved, his name was put on another register and erased from the former register. The king also kept a register of the living subjects of his kingdom who had not rebelled against him. Christ is saying in Revelation 3:5, “Some petty kings might blot your name out of their books, but I will never blot your name out of My book.” He had put their names in there from the foundation of the world (Rev 17:8), and He will not take them out now; they will all be delivered (cf. Dan 12:1).

Gill on Revelation 3:5: “And I will not blot out his name out of the book of life; by which is meant the choice of persons to everlasting life and salvation; and this being signified by a book, and by writing names in it, shows the exact knowledge God has of his elect, the value he has for them, his remembrance of them, his love to them, and care for them; and that this election is of particular persons by name, and is sure and certain; for those whose names are written in it shall never be blotted out, they will always remain in the number of God's elect, and can never become reprobates, or shall ever perish; because of the unchangeableness of the nature and love of God, the firmness of his purposes, the omnipotence of his arm, the death and intercession of Christ for them, their union to him, and being in him, the impossibility of their seduction by false teachers, and the security of their persons, grace, and glory in Christ, and in whose keeping this book of life is; which respects not this temporal life, that belongs to the book of providence, but a spiritual and eternal life, from whence it has its name.”

Poole on Revelation 3:5: “And I will not blot out his name out of the book of life; that is, I will give him everlasting life: the phrase is an allusion to men who use to keep books, and in them the names of persons to whom they will show kindness. The book of life; applied to God, signifieth his eternal predestination, or purpose to bring some to heaven; out of which book, though none can be blotted out whose name is once wrote in, yet those whose names are in this book may be under some fears and apprehensions to the contrary.”

What about Revelation 22:19? “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” This verse describes an unbeliever. He characteristically “takes away” (Gk. aphaireo as an iterative present set in contrast with the point action of God “taking away” in the verse) from the Bible, corrupting and changing it. Such actions will not characterize the elect, who “tremble at His word” (Is 66:2, 5; Prov 13:13). If the elect corrupted His Word instead of receiving it, Christ’s prayers are a failure (John 17:8, 6, 17; cf. John 6:68; 1 Thess 2:13)—blasphemous thought! The “part” in Revelation 22:19 is prospective, not possessive. They have no real part, although they may seem to (Luke 8:18). God offers salvation to “whosoever will” (v. 17). Notice the “part” is not just in “the book of life,” but also in “the holy city” and “the things which are written in this book.” People in heaven and hell (obviously) cannot change Scripture; it is people who are alive on earth who do it. Nobody currently on earth is already in possession of “the holy city” and “the things which are written in this book.” The world around us sure doesn’t look like the New Jerusalem! The living who are justified certainly aren’t there yet, and the lost certainly aren’t there yet either! Just as God offers a “part” in the holy city and the blessings mentioned in Revelation to the unconverted, so does He offer them a “part” in the book of life; they have a prospective “part” in all three, but a possessive part in none of them. The person who rejects the blessings offered him in the book of Revelation, choosing to tamper with its text instead, forfeits his offer of eternal life by rejecting the Word instead of doing what all who belive and are saved will do, that is, receive the Word (John 17:8). In the previous chapter of Revelation, John uses “part,” to meros, to represent a “part” one has before he actually gets it (21:8; cf. 20:6); there people who repent lose their prospective “part” in the lake of fire for a “part” in glory. In Rev 22:19, people reject a prospective “part” in the New Jerusalem and the book of life for damnation. One has a “part” prospectively before possessing it in Mt 24:51 + Luke 12:46 (to meros autou, just as in Rev 22:19; note it was his “part/portion” before he actually got it). In Luke 15:12, the meros or “portion” pertained to the younger son before he actually possessed it.

Note as well that the warning of Revelation 22:19 is to “any man,” that is, to all; so the vast span of unconverted humanity have a “part” in the book of life, the holy city, and the blessings of Revelation in the sense mentioned in Revelation 22:19. (Or, based on Revelation 22:18, the warning is at least addressed to all who hear the words of the book of Revelation, many of whom are not converted). If the verse was a warning that men who actually are written in the book of life may have their names actually removed, the verse would read, “If any justified person shall take away . . . he shall have his name blotted out,” rather than “If any man shall take away . . . God shall take away his [prospective] part,” as the verse actually does read.

In summary: Revelation 22:19 does not mean that one who actually possesses a part in the book of life and the New Jerusalem loses it; it means that one who is offered such a part, who has it prospectively, may lose it by rejecting Christ and, instead of repenting and believing the gospel, corrupting the Scriptures and rejecting their teachings.

Barnes on Rev 22:19: “When it said here that ‘God would take away his part out of the book of life,’ the meaning is not that his name had been written in that book, but that he would take away the part which he might have had, or which he professed to have in that book. Such corruption of the Divine oracles would show that they had no true religion, and would be excluded from heaven.”

We have now covered every reference to the book of life in the Bible, although there are many other books mentioned in Scripture, such as the books which record the works of the unsaved (Rev 20:12), the book of the law (Deut 28:61), the book of the wars of the LORD (Num 21:14) the book which records every tear and sorrow of the elect (Ps 56:8), the book of those alive on earth (Ps 69:28; Ex 32:32-33 cf. Num 11:15; Deut 29:20; Is 4:3), the book which records the members of the unborn baby (Ps 139:16), etc.

The book of life supports the doctrine of election, and therefore, eternal security. Those who corrupt Scriptural teaching on the book of life to teach that the Savior fails to save all who come to him are in danger of receiving the curse of Revelation 22:19.

Note that this study is also posted here.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Root of Uncertainty: Not Can't, Not Don't, But Won't

A few years ago now, Phil Johnson, executive director of Grace to You, told me something that I've now quoted quite a few times, but here goes again:

Virtually everything is clear and certain in your mind. The pomos' pathological uncertainty is in part a reaction to the unwarranted hubris of the rigid fundamentalist perspective you represent.

I got to this quote again because uncertainty is blamed on certainty.  I have read this kind of analysis from Daniel Wallace.   He said in an interview:

When they place more peripheral doctrines such as inerrancy and verbal inspiration at the core, then when belief in these doctrines start to erode, it creates a domino effect: One falls down, they all fall down.

Wallace made a very similar point by calling upon the idea of a pendulum swing from certainty to uncertainty, encouraging a level of uncertainty to stop men from pushing the eject button on all of Christianity.  To him, certainty would lead to uncertainty.

By the way, now Johnson agrees that the explanation for uncertainty is a new form of legalism in which legitimate Christ followers "by the current definition . . . . [are] environmentally conscious pacifists who think justice entails government-mandated redistribution of wealth."  To do this, they must "reinvent [their] understanding of atonement, redefine [their] attitude toward gender, and change or tone down all the classic biblical doctrines that don't fit well with postmodern political correctness."  That doesn't sound like a reaction to certainty, but, oh well, whatever happens to work, even if it is opposite of something else.

No, uncertainty doesn't come from certainty.  If it sounds like a joke (and you hear laughter), it should.  There is obviously zero in the Bible that would make that point.  Stick with me here.  This will be profound.  Uncertainty -- comes from opposition to certainty.  Not actually profound.  More like as obvious as it gets.  When someone looks at certainty and doesn't like it, because he likes the conveniences of uncertainty, certainty hasn't caused that.  He wants it his way.  That's all.  To say that uncertainty comes from certainty is itself rebellion, which brings me to the actual point of my post.

The root of uncertainty isn't that someone can't know.  He can know.  It isn't even that he doesn't know.  He knows.  It is that he won't know.   Churches today allow for doubt, and even teach doubt.  And they act like it is superior.  Well, that's a farce.  Maybe a satire.  It's treating Spam like it's a filet mignon, mainly because of an investment in Hormel Foods.

People foresee deniability in uncertainty.  They see a future where they can use uncertainty as an excuse.  They need uncertainty because it will allow them to take a loose position or stand that conforms to the world.  They won't have to suffer as much, because they'll fit in more.  They'll get bigger because of that, because people don't want to suffer.  They're looking for a convenient brand of Christianity that will kowtow to the culture.  Uncertainty is part of the recipe of a larger coalition that will write a bigger paycheck and bring greater popularity.  A system of celebrity in evangelicalism uses uncertainty.

Everything I've described above is the won't.  It knows the truth and suppresses it.   Evangelicals and fundamentalists embrace an uncertainty of the Words of God.  They won't believe God preserved them without error, even though God said He would.  They embrace the doubt engendered by the "science" of textual criticism.  I put science in quotes, because it isn't actual knowledge.  It's only a theory.  God's Word is truth.  God said it, but men won't believe it.   And since they won't be certain about His Words, who will be certain about what the Words mean?  And if they won't know what they mean, how will they know how they apply?

The root of certainty comes from men, including many, many professing Christians, who are unwilling, not unable, to be certain.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Same Gender Intimacy and Coition Is Bad and Worse

I'm trying to allow this article to pass through sensitive filters, so those, mainly Christians, won't be blocked from it.  That is the only reason I'm avoiding certain terms and used same gender intimacy and coition (SGIC).


The NFL had its first openly SGIC claimant drafted this year #249 by the St. Louis Rams.  ESPN covered Michael Sam and his "boy friend" celebrating his success by playfully messing each other's faces with cake and icing and smooching.  Miami Dolphins defensive back Don Jones 'came out' with this tweet -- "Horrible" -- before quickly deleting.  Too late, Don.   Saturday night, Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey said the team wouldn't tolerate Jones's actions and coach Joe Philbin echoed that sentiment.  Men who don't like male on male smooching get Hickey (sorry, couldn't resist).   He was fined an undisclosed sum, temporarily discharged from the team, and required to complete an educational training class before he can join other activities.

Horrible.  The same night I heard the above news on radio, a popular talk show host, speaking of some other event, said, "Holy [expletive]."  Education class for him?  Nope.  Anyone surprised?

I am truly interested in Jones's mandatory class.   Must he keep straight lipped while shown videos of men feeding each other cake and cuddling each other cheek to cheek?  Are Christians required to remain in the closet?  How could we have gone to required unmitigated support in such short time?  "Horrible" less than explains a genuine Christian attitude toward the activity of Sam and his collaborator.  The NFL forbids a genuine Christian reaction to this sin.  Maybe Christians should boycott the NFL -- no attendance, no products, no television.  I'm afraid that financial loss is the primary motivation here.

My friend, Bobby Mitchell, wrote about this same phenomena two weeks ago and then half the discussion revolved around opposition to his isolated mention of former Bob Jones University president, Stephen Jones (SJ).  SJ thinks the Bible contradicts SGIC, but Mitchell was decrying his softness toward it. In 2013, Jones delivered several messages on 'same gender intimacy' and said such statements as the following:

I want you to know that I also have close SGIC friends. Several of them are unsaved, and I’m trying to be a testimony to them. They know my position. We’re close friends. In fact one of the nicest guys I know is a SGIC.

Would Jones talk about his close fornicating friends?  Isn't friendship with the world enmity with God?  And then:

Alright, so don’t feel prideful sitting there, “Well I don’t have a same-[gender] attraction, so I’m doing ok.” If you lie, if you’re a liar, God says you are an, you are abominable. Your sin is abominable. It’s in the same category. The same thing with dishonest business practices. Those who are dishonest in business, it is an abomination. God uses the same word to describe it. In fact he says everything the wicked do - their thoughts, their walk, their sacrifice, their prayer - it’s all an abomination.

The first major point in SJ's outline on the subject regarded man and woman as "God's ideal," which implied that man and man or woman and woman were not God's ideal.  "Ideal" isn't the way to describe hetero marriage.  Why?   Someone who sees an act as "less than ideal" sees it as "less than the best."  I don't think SJ would consider it only "less than the best" if pressed on this (maybe not), but that is the connotation of the terminology he used.  In light of everything else he said, it reads as if he uses the soft language to favor the Sams of the world.  I agree with Bobby Mitchell here.

In reading about this terminology, "God's ideal," I found this is language used by those who divide between qualified acceptance and non-acceptance.  Those who claim to be Christian and give qualified acceptance will use the "God's ideal" type of language to indicate that.  They usually add that the person didn't choose to be born that way, so it is a condition for which he doesn't have control.  And, we should be sensitive to that condition, like we would other ones.  I'm not saying that SJ believes the latter, but he uses the language of qualified acceptance, blows that particular dog whistle for it.

Qualified acceptance language poses as evangelistic compassion, arguing that SGIC will listen better to the saving message and feel a drawing kind of "Christian love" by the qualified acceptance.   I contend that the acceptance is a bow to the culture, which requires it, and Christians today feel shamed by a new morality. SGIC requires acceptance.   Acceptance lessens the guilt and doesn't properly represent God's hatred of the sin.  We become children of God, not by the will of man, and this strategy smacks of pelagianism, attempting to fan a spark within the dead soul through human means, instead of using the law as a schoolmaster (Gal 3-4). 

I want to hone in on one of SJ's points.  Over all the messages in a big series from the BJU staff, a common theme was that SGIC is no worse than any other sin.  There were at least three major arguments:  it is listed with other sins, God calls other sins an abomination, so all sin is an abomination, and SGIC really was only one sin among others that destroyed Sodom.   This argumentation itself furthers the cause of toleration or acceptance of SGIC, attempting to explain away its uniqueness.  SJ and others shamed the students who viewed SGIC as worse than different sins like it was a Pharisaical attempt to reduce the seriousness of their own sinning.

Is it true that SGIC is morally equivalent to lying and idleness and other sins?  SGIC is listed with other sins in the Bible like a lifestyle of and lack of repentance over those sins mark a lack of conversion.  It's true, but that doesn't make each of them equal in abhorrence.  I don't think we should say that the abomination label makes a sin equal to other sins with that label.  It really gives no information except that the act is an abomination or in certain cases the person is one.  SGIC is an abomination.  Abomination is a more serious designation than "not God's ideal."

Romans 1 makes SGIC sound more serious than just any other sin, based on a legitimate argument.  Romans 1:26:27 portray SGIC as reaching the apex of rebellion against God, as the chief indicator that God had given up the participants in SGIC.  No other sin is mentioned as that.  We can see that it is a sin against nature, that is, a sin against design.    Read it:

26  For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

If you read all the verses around these above two, you see that it is the essence of unthankfulness.  At the root of God's work as Creator is His designed distinctions between the genders.  SGIC erases those distinctions and says there's a better way.   SGIC adherents shove in the face of God at the root level their hatred of how God made them.  Nothing is more basic than man and woman and the people reverse that in favor of their own lust.  Nothing rebels against God like SGIC.  It's in its own category.

I probably overuse the metaphor, "if you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras."   The hoofbeats say that SGIC is worse.  SJ and others are looking for zebras.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The NKJV—Just “Easier to Read,” or an Inferior Translation that, Among other Problems, is Weaker on Sodomy?

Is the NKJV simply an easier-to-read update of the King James Version, or does it alter—for the worse—the sense of the KJV?  Consider, as a representative example, the following passages from the KJV:

Deut. 23:17 There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.
1Kings 14:24 And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.
1Kings 15:12 And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made.
1Kings 22:46 And the remnant of the sodomites, which remained in the days of his father Asa, he took out of the land.
2Kings 23:7 And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove.

These passages are rendered as follows in the NKJV:

Deut. 23:17 “There shall be no ritual harlot of the daughters of Israel, or a perverted one of the sons of Israel.
1Kings 14:24 And there were also perverted persons in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.
1Kings 15:12 And he banished the perverted persons from the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made.
1Kings 22:46 And the rest of the perverted persons, who remained in the days of his father Asa, he banished from the land.
2Kings 23:7 Then he tore down the ritual booths of the perverted persons that were in the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the wooden image.

Do you notice something that is missing? Yes, every reference to the abomination of homosexuality is gone in these passages. In fact, the word “sodomite” is entirely absent from the NKJV. The NKJV is weaker on homosexuality than the KJV.

While it is outside the scope of this post to examine this question in detail, the translation “sodomite” is correct and indubitably superior to the translation found in the NKJV in these texts.  In the words of a non-KJVO and modern-version supporting scholar:

[H]omosexual connotations belong to the Hebrew. . . . Rather, the terms of both the Hebrew text and the LXX suggest cultic prostitution and homosexual practice. . . . [H]omosexual practice cannot be eliminated from the range of meaning in light of the linguistic and cultural contexts.
            The Hebrew texts and their Greek renderings have much to contribute to modern discussions of the Biblical teaching regarding sodomy. The Scriptures address sodomy in Gentile (universal) contexts (Gen 18:25; 19:1–8; Judges 19), in everyday Jewish legal settings (Leviticus 18; 20), and in religious worship (uses of qades in Deuteronomy and Kings). The sense is always condemning. Indeed the divine judgment exercised on Sodom is intended to be a perpetual warning to Gentile nations as well as to Israel (Luke 17:26–37). Homosexual conduct validated Sodom’s evil (Gen 13:13; 18:17–21). It was culpable before the “judge of all the earth” (18:25).
            The passages make a significant contribution to ethics and civil law (cf. Rom 1:26–27; 1 Tim 1:8–11). Western society should heed this revelation in the formulation of its ethics and laws. There is Biblical and historical precedent for the criminalization of homosexual practice. . . .
            It is important to point out that the KJV . . . [is] not in error when [it] use[s] “sodomite” in the places discussed above. . . . If terms such as “male cult prostitute” or the collective “cult prostitute” are used, marginal references should make it clear that sodomy is at least included in these terms.
            Critics of the usage of the LXX and of the KJV have simply not considered the total linguistic and cultural settings. The LXX translators seem to have exercised deliberation and concern to reproduce appropriately the impact of the Hebrew to their contemporaries centuries after the Hebrew was written. While they use terms more explicit and contemporary than the Hebrew, they have not distorted or contradicted the meaning of the Hebrew, for a homosexual idea was there already. The reinterpretation of modern critics has strayed too far and is fairly termed revolutionary and revisionist. (pgs. 176-177, “The Contributions Of The Septuagint To  Biblical Sanctions Against Homosexuality,” James B. De Young. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 34:2 (June 1991) 157–177).

The weakness of the NKJV—and the vast majority of other modern Bible versions—on sodomy in the texts above is another of the many reasons why the NKJV and other modern Bible versions should be rejected and English-speaking Christians and churches should use only the Authorized, King James Bible.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Answering the TR (Textus Receptus), Perfect Preservation of Scripture Question. One More Time.

Scripture teaches presuppositionalism, and being a presuppositionalist, I look at the problem of volition versus intellect.  Applying this to the doctrine of bibliology, specifically what the Bible teaches about the preservation of scripture, I think most misunderstandings are a matter of the will and not the intellect.  Almost all of them.

Like most other truth, where people are wrong, they are rebellious against the true, scriptural position on the preservation of scripture.  I can't tell why for each individual, but I could give you a long list of why it is that people won't believe it, that relates to "won't" rather than "can't."  Again though, I don't believe it is intellect, but volition.  People just won't believe what the Bible says.  For most, I think it is pride, but a multitude of sins comes out of pride, so that's an easy one of the reasons.

I've explained what I believe here and elsewhere again and again and again and again.  And then people straw man it again and again and again and again.  The position they say I take isn't very convincing and easily shot down.  The biblical position is biblical, so it can't be shot down, so rather than deal with that, they go to the easier target and then celebrate like they got the actual thing.  They get the plastic duckie at the fair and now they think they're skeet shooters.

For the sake of new readers and those with thick heads and even for the rebellious or deceitful, I'm going to explain it one more time.  Some of it I'm going to repeat several times even here, so there will be no doubt.  I'm not going to attempt to prove the position from the Bible, because I've done that again and again.  People are fine to ask about it, but we do have a whole book on it (why not buy it?).  I'm not even going to show that it is historical, but I've done that already again and again.  We'll probably have a second book about that some day soon.  I'm going to talk about the true, right position, so people will know what it is.

To start, I got this position from the Bible, from reading it and studying it.  There is not a whiff of anything else taught in the Bible.  Then when I went to find out what the historical doctrine of preservation was, I found the biblical position was also the only historical Christian position.  I have never had anyone prove what I'm saying in this post to be wrong.  No one.  I'm not saying people won't say it's wrong.  They do say it's wrong, but they don't give you any biblical reasons why it is wrong.  They don't have any.  You will read no other position in history, so, in other words, every other position is brand new and is assuming that the only historic Christian position was apostate -- all genuine believers were apostate on this position.  How possible is that?  Then that brings up another point, that is, can there be a brand new position or can there be a position that was totally apostatized in the history of biblical Christianity?  You'll have to believe the brand new position in addition to the total apostasy of the true position for centuries and centuries if you reject the position I'm espousing here.  Enjoy that.  I won't be joining you.

By the way, I've discussed the above position at pretty good length with Daniel Wallace and he believes that third from the last sentence of the last paragraph.  He believes this is the only position that was believed after the printing press for hundreds of years and even before, but that it was an apostasy of the biblical position.  Wallace also has a novel position of inerrancy, not found in historical literature.  All of this is actually developed on the run to conform to what he does.  It's pragmatic.  It works for his situation, but he's a scholar, so it works for many others too, who are under his influence.  He doesn't have to prove his position from the Bible.  That should be bad for a Bible professor.  Not anymore.

Next is a clear statement I think is important for everyone to understand.  Here goes.

The Bible teaches that God would preserve every one of His inspired Words in the language in which they were written, accessible to every generation of believers.

What I want to repeat is that we believe that God would preserve His Words.  Words.  We are not saying God preserved the paper or parchment or vellum of the original manuscripts or one perfect copy that made its way down through the annals of history.  Scripture doesn't teach that.  It teaches the preservation of Words and letters, and so that's what I believe.

What I have written is what I believe, but it also just so happens to answer the "which TR?" question for anyone who cares, which most don't.  I've found that they just try to discredit the position that can be taught by the Bible and the one found in Christian history without providing one of their own.  I've found it's their only option.  The "which TR?" question is a red herring.  It just takes away from the doctrinal point that needs to be considered first, that is, what does the Bible teach about preservation?

God preserved all the Words of scripture and they were all available for believers of every generation.  That is not saying that all those Words were, again, in that perfect copy that made its way down through history -- you know, just one perfect copy.  Scripture doesn't teach that.  That particular view is one of the main straw men.  No one teaches that or believes that.  We should believe what God said, no more and no less.  Even if there was no evidence that a perfect copy made its way all the way through, it doesn't prove anything that there is no evidence.  The straw man is more than what the Bible teaches, so it can't be defended.  I don't want to defend it.  It's not in the Bible and I don't believe it.  We live by the Words, not by the parchment or vellum or scroll that the Words are written on, or even by the ink.  Those are what God said He would preserve.

The Words accessible to believers in the 16th century were what they received, hence the received text.  They had them.  It's not "which TR?".  It's that the Words are available.  The King James Translators translated.  The King James Version is a translation.  They translated the New Testament from Greek words into English ones.  The Greek words from which they translated were available.  They didn't translate from Scrivener's (1881/84).  They translated from what was available then.

When you compare all those various editions of the TR, you have very few differences -- in the low hundreds of variants.  And most of those are spellings.  We're not talking about entire passages, entire verses, just individual words and sometimes just letters.  What I'm saying is that those editions are nearly identical.  But all the Words were available, and that is the biblical standard.  Since they were available, they were the ones that God preserved.  Perfect preservation is that God perfectly preserved all of the Words.

I own and I believe you can still purchase an annotated Scrivener's that marks each difference from the 1598 Beza.  1598 is before 1611.  Just thought I'd tell you.  The differences are very little.  You would hardly notice it in a translation.  For those who say that Scrivener is some type of reconstruction, they really are giving you the wrong impression of the differences.  They are tiny.  Some would say that if there is one difference, open wide the door to textual criticism or don't believe the doctrine of perfect preservation.  Again though, the belief is that we have all the Words accessible, and I'm saying that believers came to an agreement about which those Words were.  They were already almost identical to begin with, so the "which TR?" question indicates either misunderstanding or it's trying to give a false impression that these editions were vastly different.

I know that next is where the most major rub will come in, for those who choose to doubt God's promises.  Do we know what those very Words are?  Historically, Christians have said, yes.  This is in their doctrinal statements, in their sermons, and in their writings.  How do we know which words are the exact ones?  We know by means of the canonicity of the Words.  God promises the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth, and the church has agreed what the Words are.  This is how we have been directed, just the same as we were directed to the very books.  The Holy Spirit directs or guides the believers to the very ones.  The providence of God is involved, just like it was in the preservation of the Godly line that led to Jesus, the preservation of the nation Israel, and the preservation of our eternal souls.

The King James Version comes from the Words that were available to believers.  The Words behind the modern versions weren't available.  They weren't what Christians agreed upon by faith.  They had agreed on the text received by the churches.  Since I believe we will also know what the Words are, when it comes to those 300 or so differences between the editions of the TR, then I see that God's people agreed on what was behind the King James Version.  Can we know what those Words are?  I believe we can.  Are they found in one edition?  If you want those, you will get Scrivener's.  That is what represents what God's people have received.

At this point, the critics of the biblical and historical view have various attacks.  They don't offer a biblical point of view.  They look for inconsistencies in the application of the biblical position.  They'll say that the text of scripture was reverse engineered or that the Greek text comes from the trajectory of the English.  I've already answered those two criticisms in the paragraphs above.  They will also say that there are a few words that are unsure or uncertain.  They want to argue about the scientific veracity of those examples.  Were they the actual Greek words from which the English translation comes?  Are they found in an existent hand copy?   I don't think those questions should lead to a wholly unbiblical and new point of view.  They don't merit it.  I am glad to discuss them, especially since that's where the critics want to park.  They don't want to talk about the doctrine.  I just believe God did what He said He would.  We don't need to keep looking for God's Words.  We've already had them throughout all history since their inspiration.