Sunday, May 30, 2021
Friday, May 28, 2021
PATAS debate: Does History Validate the Accuracy of the New Testament Gospels? in Manila with the Philippine ATheist and Agnostic Society
My debate with the president of the Philippine ATheist and Agnostic Society or Philippine Atheism, Agnosticism, and Secularism Society over the historical accuracy of the New Testament Gospels is now live! Learn more about the debate here or watch it on YouTube here.
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
If "Drinking Any Amount of Alcohol Causes Damage to the Brain," Is It Permissible for True Believers to Drink Alcohol?
It doesn't make sense for anyone to drink something that causes damage to the brain. A new study says that drinking any amount of alcohol, even one drink, causes damage to the brain. Both CNN and Fox News reported this. It was an Oxford University study using 25,378 participants. Knowing what alcohol is and how it affects the body, this news doesn't surprise me. It deprives brain cells of oxygen and they die. This is something people already knew, but it is has been released now as a scientific study.
I already believe the Bible, especially in Proverbs 23, teaches against alcohol consumption or what has been called the teetotalling position, the prohibition of alcohol. I wrote a five part series on it (first, second, third, fourth, and fifth). I show that prohibition of alcohol is a historic and biblical position. This recent study adds another layer, because the Bible would argue that it is wrong to destroy your body and especially your brain or your mind. Indeed, "the mind is a terrible thing to waste." It would seem that you could not love God with your mind by damaging your mind. Those two thoughts are in contradiction to one another.
An online Christian forum linked to this above article and I was interested in how pro-alcohol professing Christians would deal with it. It seems insurmountable. Proverbs 23 says alcohol is destructive so that someone would be better never even to look at it. This is God's will. So what were the arguments against the article?
One, the study wasn't "peer reviewed" yet. The study had been done and yielded it's results, but apparently peers had not yet offered their review before the study showed up in public. There is a dedication to alcohol among some professing Christians that becomes desperation when they might be required to stop drinking. What hypothetical scientific peers might say is that there is a safe or acceptable level of brain tissue loss. Imagine that conversation.
"This s going to destroy some of your brain tissue if you drink it." "How much will I lose with one drink? Two?" "Oh, only that amount? Well, that's a safe and acceptable loss of brains that I will never get back again, so give me that drink."
So, more study needs to be done to find out what acceptable brain tissue loss is. I know that when we cut our fingernails, they grow back. When we destroy brain cells, do we get those back? In the end, it is the pleasurable feeling of destroying brain cells with alcohol versus the loss of that pleasure. What should a Christian do? I think we all know that a Christian disobeys God by destroying brain cells or brain tissue. The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and destroying brain tissue with alcohol moves to an unacceptable level of harm to the temple of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
The other argument was a related argument to the first one, that is, drinking is a calculated risk like "climbing a mountain, exploring a cave, snow or water skiing, scuba diving, buying bitcoin, investing in a stock, driving a motorcycle, seeing how fast your car can go (100 mph plus), ice skating, or driving on a frozen lake." He included drinking alcohol as parallel to everything else in that list.
Scripture teaches that believers should not tempt God by taking risks, the example of Satan in Matthew 4, tempting Jesus to jump off the pinnacle of the temple. This is not of faith. It's true that anyone could die doing almost anything, that breathing causes cancer and someone crossing the road could get hit by a car. Alcohol does damage brain tissue. That's not a calculation according to this study. It's 100 out of 100. You are destroying your brain. None of the examples of activities in the previous paragraph guarantee destruction. There is an argument for calculating risk, I agree, taking the safer route if possible, but alcohol isn't safe, so this argument doesn't work.
There is more to an argument against alcohol. When you drink it, you're hurting yourself, you're also disobeying God, and you're causing others to stumble. None of those are permissible in scripture.
Sunday, May 23, 2021
Reading through the Bible twice this year, I just recently finished Ezekiel and I noticed these words as an emphasis in the book: "Ye shall know that I am the LORD your God." I wondered how many times then it was in Ezekiel so I looked it up, and then I also wondered how many times it was in the Bible. I kept the search to "know that I am the Lord." The words of that search just in Ezekiel are 63 times. ""Know that I am the Lord" is found 77 times in the whole Old Testament. It has to be an emphasis of the book of Ezekiel found so many times, and it is God Who is saying those words.
Here are some samples.
6:7, And the slain shall fall in the midst of you, and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
7:4, And mine eye shall not spare thee, neither will I have pity: but I will recompense thy ways upon thee, and thine abominations shall be in the midst of thee: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
7:27, The king shall mourn, and the prince shall be clothed with desolation, and the hands of the people of the land shall be troubled: I will do unto them after their way, and according to their deserts will I judge them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.
11:10, Ye shall fall by the sword; I will judge you in the border of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
12:15-16, And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall scatter them among the nations, and disperse them in the countries. But I will leave a few men of them from the sword, from the famine, and from the pestilence; that they may declare all their abominations among the heathen whither they come; and they shall know that I am the LORD.
12:20, And the cities that are inhabited shall be laid waste, and the land shall be desolate; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
14:8, And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
15:7, And I will set my face against them; they shall go out from one fire, and another fire shall devour them; and ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I set my face against them.
23:49, And they shall recompense your lewdness upon you, and ye shall bear the sins of your idols: and ye shall know that I am the Lord GOD.
25:5, 7, And I will make Rabbah a stable for camels, and the Ammonites a couchingplace for flocks: and ye shall know that I am the LORD. . . . Behold, therefore I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and will deliver thee for a spoil to the heathen; and I will cut thee off from the people, and I will cause thee to perish out of the countries: I will destroy thee; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD.
25:11, And I will execute judgments upon Moab; and they shall know that I am the LORD.
25:17, And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.
29:6, And all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am the LORD, because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel.
30:8, And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I have set a fire in Egypt, and when all her helpers shall be destroyed.
30:26, And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse them among the countries; and they shall know that I am the LORD.
33:29, Then shall they know that I am the LORD, when I have laid the land most desolate because of all their abominations which they have committed.
35:4, I will lay thy cities waste, and thou shalt be desolate, and thou shalt know that I am the LORD.
35:23, And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.
39:6, And I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles: and they shall know that I am the LORD.
39:28 Then shall they know that I am the LORD their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen: but I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them any more there.
Those aren't even half of the usages in the book of Ezekiel. I'm guessing that you didn't read them. You got the gist of them after a few samples and stopped reading. This is typical, but maybe you should go back and read them. What you can see is that God does what is called in scripture "evil things," which doesn't mean "sinful," but things of judgment, like pestilence, famine, war, and death, so that the people will "know that I am the LORD their God."
I noticed that it isn't only "evil things," but also blessed ones such as the following example:
36:11, And I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
That is a positive one, but I don't think I saw another positive one of the 63 usages in Ezekiel. It does mean that God uses blessings or positive things so that we will know that He is the Lord, but He mainly uses negative ones, ones that hurt and deprive. Those get our attention better and we know it. God uses those. What does it produce? In rebels, it produces more anger and rebellion, and then God judges them more, destroys them usually. However, His purpose is that they would know that He was the Lord. That's what He wants.
The way these above examples read is something I've often said and that is that pleasure whispers to us and pain screams at us. I don't like pain. I don't want pain. But I know that pain gets my attention more than pleasure. I almost don't want to say it, because I'm saying something that will come about.
None of us should lose sight of the point though. God wants to be known as the LORD our God. That knowledge is more than just intellectual. It affects our wills. You can read that in these passages too. It's the kind of knowledge that overcomes us and changes us. Our behavior changes, because when we know that, we act like we know it. This is what God wants from us. We should know it.
The title of this piece is that God intervenes on earth in an obvious way. If God wants us to know something, He shows us. How we see He shows us in Ezekiel is through these difficult circumstances and events. They get our attention. They make us think. We could avoid them if we would just take in the revelation of God through creation, conscience, and through His Word. God is sovereign, but He may not intervene in a noticeable way, but if He wants to be noticed, this is how He wants to be noticed, that He is the Lord our God.
Friday, May 21, 2021
Does the punctuation of the King James Bible--specifically, for this blog post's purposes, in the Old Testament--have any basis in the Hebrew text? Find out in my latest blog post here.
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
How Jesus Relates Persecution to the Gospel in the Sermon on the Mount and His Example to Us In Doing So
In what is called "the Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew 5-7, Jesus preaches salvation to a Jewish crowd of people and pulls down with supernatural wisdom and authority their unique strongholds. For instance, in the very first statement, one of the Beatitudes, He says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The Jews didn't see themselves as spiritually poor, but spiritually wealthy. They were by rights, God's chosen people. Of course, they were already "blessed" through the Abrahamic covenant, and even in their own eyes, the Mosaic covenant, according to the Deuteronomic code. None of their thinking was true on this, so Jesus eviscerated it in the Sermon.
Another Jewish thought is "the kingdom." They would have considered themselves already the beneficiaries of the kingdom through the Davidic covenant. "Heaven" is the abode of God and they saw themselves as the children of God, so wherever God was, they would be, even as God resided in the tabernacle through the wilderness. Jesus confronts their wrong thinking when he shows the rich man is in Hell, not in heaven in Luke 16. None of this, the kingdom or heaven, was theirs, however, unless they were poor in spirit, which meant that they acquiesced to their own spiritual poverty, that they really were lacking and in dire need. They needed to do what the Apostle Paul did and count their own spirituality as loss and as dung for them to win Christ or find themselves under the reign of the Messiah in His kingdom with all its promised blessings.
The Jews already saw themselves as sadly and badly not receiving their just desserts, their appropriate reward. According to their own assessment, they were persecuted by the Romans as they had been by many other various empires previously. This would fly in the face of being a blessed people and a kingdom people. It was an unacceptable circumstance that should be turned around and would be reversed by a true Messiah. That's not what Jesus said though.
Just like the people in the kingdom of heaven would be first poor in spirit, they would also be persecuted for righteousness sake (Matthew 5:10). Persecution is the guaranteed cost of a truly saved person and Jesus frontloads this in His gospel presentation in Matthew 5:10-12. As people enter into true salvation through Jesus Christ, they need to expect persecution. They need to count the cost. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, that if any man will come after him, let him take up his cross daily. Jesus issues that understanding right up front to those who might receive the kingdom. It's a narrow road with few on it.
Churches today do not give their targets for attendance or membership the impression that they will suffer or be persecuted by joining up. That's a way to shrink the numbers. However, it is the method of Jesus. He included that in His gospel presentation and more than once. Do not expect to have it easy if you're a Christian, and that's not why you're receiving Christ, for what you'll receive in time, because that's going to be persecution. Very likely why less are truly converted today is because they do not see the Christian life as worth suffering for. They would choose a Christianity full of pleasure, but not the one with guaranteed pain, so they reject genuine Christianity for the placebo. Churches offer the placebo, because that's what people want. Then the entire program of the church revolves around various pleasures, especially for the young people.
The Jews thought they were persecuted already, but they were were persecuted for unrighteousness. Daniel prophecies why Israel would be dominated by the Romans. He was downhearted by the lack of enthusiasm for God among the captives in Babylon, comfortable to just stay and not return to the land for true worship of God. They would keep being chastised because of their faithlessness and then they took that as persecution. Actual persecution is for righteousness and not unrighteousness. Just because the Jews of Jesus' day were suffering didn't mean they were persecuted and neither did it mean they had a future kingdom for them. No, that kingdom was only for those persecuted for righteousness.
People in the future kingdom do not fit into the present one, the kingdom of this world. The people under the future reign of Jesus are those who want a present reign of Jesus. People who want Him to be king in the future have got to want Him to be king in the present. Those over whom Jesus reigns will be persecuted. They will not fit in. They will be despised, reviled, and accused falsely by men. That will be the norm for those following Jesus Christ into the kingdom and He wants them to know that right up front.
Jesus isn't going to take away persecution in the short term. He offers the future kingdom as a motivation for present rejoicing. The basis for being exceeding glad now is the reward in heaven for all eternity. There is a lack of joy in churches and in professing Christian families because of something far less than persecution. The church and family members are not getting their way and they don't like the discomfort now. They expect to be treated better and have their rights protected. When they get hard preaching from scripture they become easily offended. When they are required to live like a Christian, they are put off and threaten to quit, if not just to find another church where they'll be treated like they want.
Professing Christians aren't looking for a church where they will suffer. They are looking for a place of creature comforts with lots of friends. This is not what Jesus told true believers to expect. He told them just the opposite and He included it in His gospel presentation.
Monday, May 17, 2021
Does the wrath of man work not the righteousness of God? It would seem that this was true because of James 1:20 and it's saying that explicitly: "For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." How could anyone question that? It's the entire verse.
You see someone get angry, this verse comes to mind, and you quote it to the angry person. Yet, what if I saw that you weren't angry, and I quoted instead, Ephesians 4:26, "Be ye angry, and sin not"? This verse seems to require anger not to sin. James 1:20 seems to require no anger not to sin. Are they contradicting one another?
2 Corinthians 7:11, a classic passage on repentance, includes as part of repentance over sin, "indignation." It's obvious that the indignation is over someone's personal sin, which is also what Ephesians 4:26 is about. Anger at one's own sin is useful for not sinning.
John 2 doesn't say that Jesus was angry when He cleansed the temple, but of his disciples, who were present and witnessing this occurrence, John 2:17 says, "And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up." Jesus reached down, picked up strands of leather to form into a make-shift whip, and started whipping people, animals, and overturning tables. It looked like He was angry. The Greek word translated, "zeal," which is a quotation of Psalm 69:9, BDAG calls "an intense negative feeling." There was sin all over that temple, and Jesus was angry over it. He had an intense negative feeling about it.
Let's return to James 1:20 and look more at the context, seeing verses 18-22:
18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. 19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: 20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. 21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
James lays out tests of faith so that someone can know that he's been converted, that he has saving faith. Saving faith proceeds from the "word of truth." See that in verse 18? God begat us "with the word of truth." A test of faith is what someone does with the word of truth. The context is about hearing scripture and doing it. It is obvious that the hearing of scripture is the preaching of the Word of God.
In the context, when the Word of God is preached, since it is the agent of our regeneration, our conversion, turning us into a 'firstfruits of God's creatures,' every man should "be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath" (v. 19). There is one positive and there are two negatives. If someone is receptive to the Word of God being preached in a positive way, he is "swift to hear," and then in a negative way, he is "slow to speak" and "slow to wrath." He is listening and not debating or getting angry with what he is hearing.
James directs his writing to "beloved brethren." Are these saved people? I believe they are unsaved and saved Jews, a mixed multitude attending a church. "Brethren" in this case refers to Jewish brethren, people in the nation Israel. Some of them are saved and some of them are unsaved. If they are unsaved, listening to the preaching of God's Word could result in their being saved, or in other words, 'work the righteousness of God." On the other hand, if they were to debate and get angry with the preaching of scripture, that would not work the saving righteousness of God.
If these are saved Jews hearing James's epistle, they could acknowledge that they have a saving response to preaching. They are swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. Their response to scripture is a test of their faith, and they pass that test.
The "wrath" of verse 20, that "worketh not the righteousness of God," is the wrath of verse 19, "slow to wrath." It's not just any wrath. It is anger at the preaching of scripture. That anger, that wrath, worketh not the righteousness of God. It results in a person not receiving imputed righteousness by faith. If this is a saved person, it results in his not receiving sanctifying righteousness.
A man, who is angry with the preaching of scripture, will not "lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness" (v. 21). As a result, he will not receive the saving of his soul. He's not listening to scripture. He's arguing with it and angry with it. As a result, he is not begotten by the Word of Truth.
James continues in verse 22 on the same theme. A true believer will not just hear but also do what the Bible says. He will hear it and practice it. This all connects to his relationship to God. God is the source of every good and perfect gift (v. 17a). He spoke the world into existence by His Word and He doesn't change (v. 17b), so He is still giving good things through His Word, including His righteousness.
When someone uses James 1:20 in a general way to say that no wrath works the righteousness of God, that is false. We know that some wrath, righteous indignation, does work the righteousness of God. This is the wrath of man against the Word of God when it is preached. That is the wrath of James 1:20 and that is how James 1:20 should be used or applied. When it is isn't used that way, it is being twisted or perverted. You could even say it isn't working the righteousness of God.
Friday, May 14, 2021
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
I believe in imminency, which means Christ could return any moment. That's enough for me to be as ready as I can be ready. You can't get more expectant than possibly right now. However, I believe God allows us to see more to get us even more ready for His appearing. Any moment is difficult to sustain and everyone reading here knows that. Are these signs of the times?
In a technical sense, the signs of the times are all related to the second coming of Jesus Christ, not the rapture. The sign that Christ's coming is near is a sign for His return to the earth, not believers being caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess 4:16-17). Nothing has to happen on earth for the rapture to occur, no signs needed. No signs have to occur before the rapture. So are these events and circumstances to occur before the catching up of the saints? Are they signs?
Let me illustrate. The coronavirus might be at least pestilence-light. It's not on the level of what we see in the tribulation period as a sign of the second coming of Christ, but it hearkens to that event. If this level of disease does what it has done, what will something much worse be like?
For a long time, I have thought that disease would be the factor that starts bringing the whole world together. It won't all be together until later, but what we see occurring today could be moving us closer to the final event. Every country has this common cause of fighting disease. Physical life takes prominence. Health becomes more important than national interests. Citizens show willingness to give up personal autonomy for purposes of safety. It's easier to control the many with only a few.
All the forms of media cause people to more vulnerable to deceit. Temporal interests become preeminent and break down resistance to lust. This puts apostasy in the fast lane. Anyone who knows the Bible can see how evil this world has become.
As a sign during the tribulation, Israel will be saved. Well, Israel exists now, when it didn't between 70 and 1948 AD. The rise of the nation Israel isn't a sign, but it is an occurrence that makes way for several signs in the future.
We don't live in an age of signs. They have occurred in the past during certain periods. Signs will arise to confirm to the Jewish people that the Messianic age, His kingdom on earth, is soon to come. These will authenticate another baptism of the Holy Spirit during that future age.
Events and circumstances today remind us of signs which are to come. They aren't here yet, but we could say that this increasing knowledge relates to what Daniel prophesied in Daniel 12:4. Prophetic knowledge will increase as mankind gets closer to the end.
Monday, May 10, 2021
Friday, May 07, 2021
Tuesday, May 04, 2021
In the first post in this series, I started with the motivation for detecting and correcting doctrinal and practical error. It needs to happen, but it won't happen if you don't know something's wrong. If you know something's wrong, it's probably because you know what's right, so you also know the correction. Scripture is clear that detection must occur. The Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 writes this:
21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
There are three commands in these two verses and they all relate to this subject. The first part is most important, because you can't obey the other two without obeying the first one. First you prove everything, which is to test everything, the Greek word, dokimazo, which is a metallurgical term. Metals are tested for impurity and then purified.
I like to call the "testing," "keeping my grid up." The grid portrays a kind of mesh that catches error. Error can't get through. The grid represents some kind of criteria by which judgment is made. Why would I think this "proving" relates to doctrinal or practical error? The flow of the chapter indicates it, considering the previous verse, which says, "Despise not prophesyings." Prophesying or preaching, forthtelling of the Word of God, should not be despised. It should be proved though. It presents a balance for the listening to preaching.
Once something has been proven or tested, if you don't despise it to begin with, you will hold fast that which is good. Paul starts with the positive. True doctrine and practice should be embraced. It reminds me of the part of 1 Corinthians 13, "Love rejoiceth in the truth." "Good" is morally good.
The second command is what someone does with doctrinal and practical error. He abstains from it. The language is "all appearance of evil," and "appearance" is not something that looks like something or appears like it. The Greek word and the English word mean "form." It's simple. "Abstain from all form of evil." "Evil" is the opposite of "good," so morally bad or wicked.
The Apostle Paul commands the members of the church at Thessalonica to do what this series is about. Doctrinal and practical error is not good. It is evil. It first must be detected by having the grid up. The good must be embraced and the evil jettisoned.
What is the standard for detection and correction? Jesus in Matthew 22:29 said, "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures." Error comes from not knowing the scriptures, according to Jesus. The standard for detection and correction is scripture, and that is the grid that is kept up in order to prove all things. When Paul spoke about the error in Jerusalem in Acts 13:27, he said the reason was that they knew not the voices of the prophets that they read every Sabbath. In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter says that error comes when unstable and ignorant men wrest the scriptures to their own destruction.
Sunday, May 02, 2021
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.