The Moral Argument for the Existence of God

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ARRIVAL OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN AT THE INN by Gustave Dore, 1885

A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, LETTER FROM BIRMINGHAM JAIL

This true law diffused among all men, is immutable and eternal.” -Cicero, DE LEGIBUS

In a previous blog defending the unborn, I mentioned that saving a life isn’t just a argument from the religious among us. That there are non-religious people who also affirm that abortion is immoral. But what makes something immoral?

The concept of moral subjectivity says that morality is subject, or relative, depending on the person, culture, or time frame. What may be considered morally right for you may not be for me. Or what was considered morally right in the past is not so now.

Absolute morality states morality is the same for all people of all time. It’s not what is considered moral or immoral; it’s that morality is an actual thing that transcends human perceptions.

In this video (at 6 minutes and 30 seconds in) a moral relativist gives this syllogism:
a) If morality is objective, then we would all have the same view of morality.
b) If we all had the same view of morality, then we would never disagree about what is moral.
c) We do disagree about what is moral.
Conclusion) Therefore morality is not objective.

Premise “a” is false. A person can believe 2+2=5 and another believe that it equals 4. One person can believe the earth is flat and another believe it is round. So just because someone has different views doesn’t mean the truth isn’t objective. The same logic can be applied to morality.

The fallacy in premise “a” makes the logic in the rest of the argument fall part. People can and do disagree about what has already proven to be true. Disagreeing about facts doesn’t make the facts any less factual. It doesn’t make truth relative.

You may argue that we cannot compare objective truths like laws of mathematics to something as abstract as morality. But the truth is: morality is just as objective.

Some skeptics argue that God cannot be the standard for morality because of some of His actions in the Bible. What must be noted however is that the skeptic, often a moral relativist, is making a morally objective claim. They claim that the actions of Yahweh are not moral.

But where do they get their standard of morality from? Is it just a matter of individual taste? Is it a matter of societal conditioning? Is it something deeper?

If morality is truly subjective then a person cannot claim that God or anyone else is wrong for what they view as moral or immoral. If I stole your wallet, then you could only say that stealing wallets is wrong for you and that my views are just as valid as yours. But, reality tells a different story. If I stole your wallet, then you would not believe I am wrong, you would know that I am wrong and you would reasonably expect that I should know it is wrong as well. Every fiber of your being would expect that I should know that it is wrong. Therefore, you wouldn’t be indifferent to the theft, you would be angry at the thief. And rightfully so.

In Mere Christianity, chapter 3, C.S. Lewis states there is a difference in the Law of Nature and his Law of Human Nature. The law of nature describes what things do, like a rock falling because of gravity. The Law of Human Nature (or the Moral Law) describes what a person ought to do, regarding ethics and morality. “I am not angry – except perhaps for a moment before I come to my senses – with a man who trips me up by accident; I am angry with a man who tries to trip me up even if he does not succeed. Yet the first has hurt me and the second has not. Sometimes the behavior which I call bad is not inconvenient to me at all, but the very opposite.

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He further states, “If we ask: ‘Why ought I to be unselfish?’ and you reply ‘Because it is good for society’ we may then ask, ‘Why should I care what’s good for society except when it happens to pay me personally?’ and then you will have to say, ‘Because you ought to be unselfish’ – which simply brings us back to where we started. You are saying what is true but you are not getting any further… If a man asks what is the point of behaving decently, it is no good replying, ‘in order to benefit society,’ for trying to benefit society, in other words being unselfish (for ‘society’ after all only means ‘other people’), is one of the things decent behaviour consists in; all you are really saying is that decent behaviour is decent behaviour. You would have said just as much if you had stopped at the statement, ‘Men ought to be unselfish.’ And that is where I do stop. Men ought to be unselfish; ought to be fair. Not that men are unselfish, not that they like being unselfish, but that they ought to be.

Are your feelings the standard? No. There is a standard that you know exists outside of yourself. A standard of how we know we “ought” to act. And others are expected to know this standard also.

“Well, of course. The law of the land and accepted human behavior is the standard. And the law says stealing is wrong,” you may argue. Then, by that same logic, you cannot argue against the Atlantic Slave Trade, the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, or any other historical events once deemed lawful.

“Well, I can argue against those because they were crimes being committed against humanity.” So what you’re now saying is that they were violating a moral standard that transcends cultures, nations, and centuries.

We see that we know morality is a real thing that exists outside of ourselves. It is observed by us and known by us but it is a thing outside of us. It is set by a standard that we know we should behave by.
So what is the standard? Does it change?

18th century philosopher, Immanuel Kant, believed that morality was not subjective but rather objective. That it was an axiom of the metaphysical world. He stated “I ought never to act except in such a way that I could also will that my maxim should become a universal law.” He called this the Categorical Imperative. In other words “Act in a way that all of mankind would benefit if we were to treat each other the same way.” It wouldn’t be ok for everyone to start stealing from each other, so its not ok for one person. Or as Jesus said 1700 years before, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Atheist, Sam Harris said, “It [the world] needs people like ourselves to admit that there are right and wrong answers to questions of human flourishing, and morality relates to that domain of facts…” He believes that there is an objective morality. What sets him apart from the Christian worldview is what he believes to be the source of this morality.

According to the atheist, humanity is just a higher evolved species in the animal kingdom. But logic tell us that animals do not act in moral or immoral ways. Each animal just does what is best for his own survival. According to naturalistic atheism, morality is just a construct of evolution; making humans the final authority on what constitutes as morals. So, who then decides? The most powerful? The most logical? The richest? History tells us that these qualifications are still flawed standards for morality.

Our position is that objective morality points to the existence of God.

Because there is a moral law, there must be a Moral Law Giver. God is that moral law Giver. He is the standard and Has given us the law. And this law in written on our hearts.

In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus said that the whole law is summed up as “You shall love the Lord your GOD with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” The first four of “the law” (the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20) are of the love of God and the last six are of the love for our fellow man.

What’s important to note is that cultures during different periods of time and in other societies have had similar commands or standards for ethical living. Here are some illustrations:

  • “I have not slain men” Confession of the Righteous Soul. Ancient Egypt (against murder)
  • “I saw in Nastrond (Hell) beguilers of others’ wives.” Volospa. Old Norse (against adultery)
  • “I sought no trickery nor swore false oaths.” Beowulf. Anglo Saxon (against lying)
  • “Choose loss rather than shameful gains.” Ancient Greece (against stealing)
  • “Utter not a word by which anyone could be wounded” Law of Manu. Ancient India (against insults)
  • “You will see them take care of…widows, orphans, and old men, never reproaching them.” Native American (showing charity [love])

This is proof of what Paul tells us in the second chapter of Romans; that even people who do not have the Law written, have the law instinctively. “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.” (verse 14)

Moral laws are instilled in us because we are created in the image of God. Like God, we love what is good and hate was is evil. God loves what is good because He is good. Goodness is one of His attributes. There is no goodness aside from God. However because of our sinful, fallen nature we often disagree on what is good and what is evil. But the truth remains, we know there is a standard of goodness that transcends time and culture. This Standard is God.

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

The Moral Argument for the Existence of God

The Shema and The Trinity

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MOSES SPEAKS TO ISRAEL, by Henri Felix Emmanuel Phillippoteaux

“The Shema is the central prayer in the Jewish prayer book. It is generally one of the first prayers a Jewish child learns. The Shema defines what it means to be Jewish as it has since the days of Moses:

 Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad—“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4).”

http://www.jewishvoice.org/media/publications/articles/yeshua-and-the-shema.html?referrer=http://www.google.com.af/

If the the Shema states that God is one, doesn’t that contradict the Christian doctrine of the Trinity?

If the LORD is One, then how can He be also Three? The word “echad” (the ch is more of a throaty h sound) in the above verse is the Hebrew word for one. But, if we believe God is a Trinity how do we reconcile this apparent contradiction?

Well, in Genesis 2:24 the same word “echad” is used to describe how a husband and wife will become one flesh.

In Genesis 11:6, the tower of Babel narrative describes the people as being one (echad).

Ezra 2:64 the whole assembly is gathered together (echad). But the people in the assembly numbered 42,360. In these verses, echad represents a unified oneness, not a numerical oneness.

Now, I can’t say that echad always represents a unified oneness. Sometimes it can represent a numerical oneness (Ex. Numbers  13:2, Deut.17:6) . So how do we know the difference?

As usual, the answer lies in the context. The word for God in the Shema is plural אֱלֹהִים (‘Elohiym).  Just like Genesis 2:24, chapter 11 verse 6, Ezra 2:64, and others not listed here, echad means a compound unity.

You will see the word Eloheinu above and think that’s different than the plural Elohiym. The only difference is Eloheinu means “Our God” but the root word is still the plural word Elohiym.

Therefore, we see that even before the Trinity was understood as we understand it today, the Hebrews of the Old Testament understood there was a vastness and complexity to the Godhead.  The very first word used for God in the Bible (Genesis 1:1) is the plural word Elohiym.

So there is no contradiction. God does not change (Malachi 3:6).

Psalm 102:25-27
“In the beginning You laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.They will perish, but You remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing You will change them and they will be discarded. But You remain the same, and Your years will never end.”

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

The Shema and The Trinity

Homosexuality from Multiple Perspectives

Destruction of Sodom
The Destruction of the Cities of the Plain (Lot and his daughters running for cover in foreground. Mezzotint with etching, c.1830s.) ~ by James G S Lucas

So the LGBTQ movement is something that is becoming more and more common and personally affects Christians more than ever before, quite clearly because of the acceptance of the movement in mainstream media.

I have recently wrote about the importance of loving everyone regardless of their race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, etc. which can be found HERE but the definition of what that love looks like is very much debated among Christians and everyone else.

As such, I thought it may be helpful for some Christian’s and non-Christians alike for us to outline what we believe at Theologetics.org and why we believe it.

Let’s start by looking at what is at stake. For someone who identifies as being gay or a lesbian, if Christians take a stance against same-sex attraction and these Christians are wrong about it being a sin, the individuals that embrace same-sex attraction will rightly feel ostracized and hurt because what they are identifying as is the same thing many Christians would wrongly be calling a sin. But if Christians stand against homosexuality because it really is something that is wrong, something God condemns, and something that is a hurtful lifestyle, then Christians that lovingly condemn the sin are showing true love to the sinner.

As Christians, it is important for us to realize how deep this goes, many if not all people that embrace same-sex attraction are not just lightly making the decision one day to like the same sex, they had been feeling an attraction for a long time.

Lets take a brief look at the attraction itself. Often it is believed this attraction is something people are born with. While there is not much evidence for that stance, the truth is it really doesn’t matter from a Christian perspective. Some people are born with a disposition for the abuse of alcohol or drugs but that doesn’t make that desire healthy or right. So I would caution Christians or secularists that take a side of the issue using the logic that it is or is not in the genes since the Bible clearly states that we all have sinned and have a sin nature, so genes are not a good measuring stick for this issue or any other for that matter.

So to the Christians reading this I say please be kind, gentle, loving and patient when dealing with this issue as those who are lost need to see Jesus in you more often than hearing about what the Bible says is wrong. Remember, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” Proverbs 15:1

So now, let’s take a quick look at the Bible.

The Bible doesn’t address the issue of homosexuality much but when it does it is clearly condemned as being sin. For the purpose of keeping this blog short I won’t go into the meanings of the verses about homosexuality but for someone that questions what the Bible really says about it being sin, you can find some information on it HERE. Basically there are several ways the Bible is read and how it is read depends on the reader.

In my opinion, the four basic types of Bible readers are:
1. Non-Christians
2. Cultural Christians
3. Non-Fundamentalist Christians
4. Fundamentalist Christians

Non-Christians consider the Bible to be either just another book of many, that it is out-dated or maybe even that it is a bad book. They may believe it has some good ideas or no good ideas but definitely not a book that has any authority over how people should live their lives. As these beliefs are unfounded, it would take at least another separate blog to begin to explain the reasons why but some information about the authority of Scripture can be found as a PDF HERE.

In reality, a Cultural Christian is someone that really follows culture over the Bible regardless if it aligns with the Bible or not. They don’t really read the Bible that often and usually don’t care to either. They may consider themselves a Christian because their parents are Christian, or they were baptized as a child, or something to that effect. A Cultural Christian says one thing and does something else. This is hypocrisy. It is illogical to say you believe something or identify as something but live as though you do not. In reality, many Christians have areas in their lives that they may say they believe what the Bible says but live as though they do not believe it. All who say they follow Christ should examine their hearts in any area of life and truly compare it with what the Bible says regarding that area.

Non-Fundamentalist Christians are among varying denominations and individuals that generally don’t believe in the complete authority of the Bible. They may believe that the Bible is either only partly inspired by God or not at all, or that the inspired word of God has been changed and not to be taken literally today. Similar to Cultural Christians, a Non-Fundamentalist’s belief is also illogical, let me explain.

If I were to believe the Bible is only partially inspired by God, and that some of it are men’s ideas added in, I would have no way of knowing what to really believe is true or not and thus, it would not make sense to put any faith in the Bible at all. The same logic applies if I were to believe the Bible were originally 100% God’s inspired words but that it has since been changed.

Similarly, if I were to believe the Bible was written completely by men, not inspired by God at all, it would have no authority and would just be another book among millions, so calling myself a Christian would really be pointless as all other ideas, religions, and philosophies would have equal merit and truth. (That’s not to say other non-Christian sources of information don not have some truth to them, just that the Bible is the only ancient manuscript that can be shown to be without error in it’s original manuscripts, and divinely inspired with hundreds of fulfilled prophecies. Again, some information about the authority of Scripture can be found as a PDF HERE and other good places to start would be books by Lee Strobel, Ravi Zacharias, C.S. Lewis, and Dan Story)

Which leads to the last type of Bible reader; the Fundamentalist Christian. Fundamentalist Christians believe the Bible is completely inspired by God. They look at context when interpreting the Bible and take it to be literal when the language is not poetic or allegorical. If you claim to be a Christian, this is the most logical way to read the Bible. If you are not a Christian, there are many reasons why you should look into what the Bible really says, specifically about Jesus, and the historical, archeological, theological, and simply logical reasons why the Bible is the inspired Word of God which any of the previously mentioned links and authors are great places to start.

So, if the Bible is completely inspired by God (which the evidence is well in favor of it being so) and the passages that discuss homosexuality are examined in context and taken literally (the most logical way to read and interpret the Bible), homosexuality is clearly found to be a sin. 

Anytime anyone chooses sin, they are saying to God that they want to do things their way instead of God’s way. Anytime we try and do things our way leads to pain, sickness, destruction, and death. Being a sin, homosexuality is destructive to those who practice it and thus, the most loving thing Christians can do is lovingly stand against the sin while being loving and like Christ to those who embrace same-sex attraction. This is our stance. I hope this was helpful for those who read it, at least in understanding where many Christians and Christian organizations are coming from when they say they will not compromise on Scripture when it comes to these specific issues of homosexuality.

By Clark Campbell
Theologetics.org

Homosexuality from Multiple Perspectives

So You Have Gay Friends and Think You Are a Christian?

Jesus and Peter
Treasures of the Bible (Jesus’ Ministry) — Jesus, Walking on the Water, Rescues Peter

A friend of mine recently couldn’t find his youngest boy. He and his wife looked all over their house and once they realized he really wasn’t there, they called the police. This father assumed (and hoped) his son went to a friend’s house without telling them and he planned on yelling at his son and even spanking him on the spot for wandering off when he found him. After an hour of scouring the neighborhood, an hour that felt like an eternity, he finally found him at a neighbor’s house. But in that moment, he couldn’t yell, he couldn’t spank his son like he planned on doing, all he could do was hold him in his arms because he was safe.

He said that he got just a small glimpse of what God feels when one of his lost children is found. That he was shocked that he didn’t react the way he had planned and that his heart was so full of gratitude that the only thing that came out of him was love for his lost son.

Jesus came to this earth to get back what was most precious to God; his lost children.

“his lost children”

But who are his lost children? Who are the ones that are SO precious to God that he would send his only begotten Son to die a horrific death in OUR place just to reconcile us, to save us? Who are the ones that have God’s love, his affection, his heart?

The answer… We ALL are!

Every.

Last.

One of us.

It doesn’t matter what you have done. God loves you. It doesn’t matter what mistakes you have made. God wants you. Not everyone will accept this gift and many will choose to live eternally apart from God and stay lost but regardless, God loves all of us!

So when some in the body of Christ elevate certain sins over others, namely homosexuality, and don’t reach out to those individuals in love because of that sin, they are not only making a mistake but committing sins (plural) themselves.

The sin of hypocrisy. The sin of arrogance. The sin of selfishness…

So if you have gay friends and think you are a Christian, you are truly living like Christ. If you are trying to be a light to those who are lost, you are living the way Christ called all of us to live. We are called to be in the world and not of it. I think the Church focuses on the second half of that verse a little too much sometimes, “not of it.”

Sometimes while trying not to be of the world we forget to be in it.

Don’t get me wrong, we cannot condone sin in any form. Being gay is clearly a sin and should not be celebrated (Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Romans 1:26-28). But those who struggle in that area should be loved, should be befriended and shown that they are important to God. Let them see God in you, not God’s judgment through you, after all, there is not one of us who does not struggle in some area. As I see it, Jesus treated the lost this way, never condoning sin but always loving the sinner. He was the most critical of the religious of His time; the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the religious leaders… Jesus called them “white-washed tombs” (Matthew 23:27) meaning they were hypocrites, self-centered and missing the point of true love. They focused on the law too much and did not love people.

The law is important but it never supersedes God’s love. Love fulfills the law. Like many things in life, you cannot have one or the other, there needs to be a balance of the two. But it seems to me more and more “Christians” in our day are known by the law, not by the love. Again, not to say one replaces the other, just that Jesus was known by His love and I really believe we should too.

So while some celebrate the LGBTQ community and others treat them like they are committing the unforgivable sin, we should open our arms, our hearts, and our homes to EVERYONE in love to show them that they are cherished by us and subsequently, by God. Just maybe that will make the difference in their lives and help open their eyes.

By Clark Campbell
Theologetics.org

 

So You Have Gay Friends and Think You Are a Christian?

Go and Make Disciples, Not Just Converts

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Farewell Discourse from the Maesta by Duccio (1308-1311)

 

At any given Sunday service, youth retreat, children’s church, Christian concert, etc, there is typically what is known in American Christianity as an “altar call.” It is usually an invitation of those who want to make Jesus Christ their personal Lord and Savior and those who already are Christians but want to rededicate their lives to Him. Some attribute the popularity of alter calls to Billy Graham and his popular crusades. While there is no direct biblical reference to alter calls, I cannot speak negatively of them. Many have come to Christ by the way of altar calls.

I want to talk about what happens after the altar call. I think we falter when we see altar calls as a litmus test of how well a ministry or sermon or gathering is going. We like seeing crowds come to the front. We like knowing that (x) amount of people filled out commitment cards. But there is a danger of a false sense of accomplishment here.

How many of these decisions to come forward were caused by family or peer pressure? How many of these decisions to come forward were based on emotions being drawn by the worship leader? What happens after the music stops? Are these conversions genuine? I’m sure millions are. But, who seeks to pour into spiritual growth afterwards?

In what is known as The Great Commission found in Matthew chapter 28, Jesus commands “Go and make disciples of all nations…”  While making converts is vital to the growth of the Church, there has to be a continuous maturing of the believer after that. Otherwise you’re left with large amounts of spiritual infants who, often by no fault of their own, haven’t moved from milk to meat. They were simply a face in a crowd. While the angels were rejoicing at their salvation the elders bragged about the number of hands that were raised.

If a man has been working at a job for 20 years and showed very little knowledge or skill in his work, you might believe something to be very wrong, either with him or the training program. If a man is a Christian for 20 years and can’t name something elementary like the four Gospels and shows very little spiritual fruit, we should be wondering what went wrong. He is spiritually a 20 year old infant.

Wikipedia defines a disciple as a “student”. Merriam Webster defines a disciple as “someone who accepts and helps to spread the teachings of a famous person.” In traditional Chinese, the disciple was a person “who believes in the ideas and principles of someone famous and tries to live the way they do or did.” In the original Greek of Matthew 28, disciple (didaskalos) is a pupil of a master or teacher. The root Latin word that we get disciple from (discipulus) actually means “scholar”.

As we can see the meaning of disciple is far from someone who stays in spiritual infancy. A disciple should be steadily growing in knowledge and holiness. While the Holy Spirit has His part to play, so do other believers. When Jesus called out Lazarus from the dead, he left it up to his family and friends to make sure he didn’t stay in his grave clothes. In other words when we are saved from our spiritually dead selves, it is the responsibility of those who have been waiting and praying over us to help us look like the spiritually awake individuals that we become. This is one reason being an active member of local church is so vital.

I know of many churches that don’t just leave the new believer alone after their conversion. Many send mail, call, or even visit to help ensure the believer is growing. Many churches have discipleship programs where the new believer or even the 20 year old infant can learn to grow in Christ. There are missionaries who don’t just leave the people they find with a new faith but actually ensure the natives they converted learn and grow to become new pastors and teachers. These are the churches and believers that are fulfilling Jesus’ mandate to make disciples.

If you are a new believer or believer who realizes that you haven’t been growing since you got saved, then my advice is to surround yourself with believers who are maturing spiritually. Find a church that encourages Bible reading and group study. And make the time often to study for yourself.

Helping believers grow in knowledge is one of our goals here at Theologetics.org. Every believer must also mature in spiritual fruit. It is our prayer that reading this will cause us to evaluate ourselves and motivate growth in both aspects of your Christian walk.

Applicable verses:
Matthew 28:19
Hosea 4:6
Psalm 1:1-3
2 Peter 1:5-6
2 Peter 3:18
2 Corinthians 13:5
Colossians 1:10
Ephesians 4:15
Galatians 5:22-23
Titus 2:1-8
Hebrews 5:12

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

Go and Make Disciples, Not Just Converts

How to Understand the Bible

william-morris-letter-b
William Morris letter “B”

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth– 1 Timothy 2:15

I’ve heard the same story repeated. I’ve even experienced it myself. A Bible Study is underway and the person leading the study will begin by reading a verse or passage. Then he will ask those attending what that scripture means to them. In a group of 10 you might get 10 different answers. This is especially true with more ambiguous or mysterious passages. You might ask “what’s wrong with that? The Bible speaks to everyone differently depending on where you are in your life.” There is some truth to that. But let me provide another perspective:

You write a letter to a loved one. How much of that letter would you expect them to read? It would be safe to assume that the entire letter is to be read. While certain phrases or sentences may stick out in the persons mind, they are to be taken in context with the rest of the letter. If a sentence seems questionable on its own, usually it is the rest of the letter that will make sense of it. It’s all a part of communication. You want the reader to understand what you meant, not for them to inject their own interpretation.
This is how we should come to scripture.

The Bible is a collection of books and letters written to those identified as God’s people. Hermeneutics is the science of rightly interpreting the Bible.
Scripture in its original form did not consist of chapter and verse divisions. To be honest sometimes I wish it still didn’t. But, with such a large book, chapters and verses are helpful for finding the words you need. However, we fail when we pick out a verse without understanding the surrounding text, or context (with the exception of most of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes).   Take a verse like Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge lest you be judged,” which many of us take to mean you should never correct anyone in sin or wrong doing. However, a more thorough reading of chapter 7 will explain that we’re not being told NOT to judge. We’re being told that we shouldn’t judge others before we have judged and corrected our selves first (verses 3-5) on the same matter. Some chapters even begin with the adverb “therefore” meaning “for that reason”. Because of this, we should know what was being said in the previous chapter. This will bring new light to the following chapter. Since most books in the Bible are written as narratives or letters, it would greatly benefit the reader to read the entire book other than just a couple of chapters. This can and will bring the better understanding of each verse read.

In the grander scheme, reading the entire Bible can bring better contextual understanding of each of its included books. In regard to Matthew 7:1 we are told over and over throughout the Bible to judge rightly and to use discernment (judging). Making the common phrase “The Bible says not to judge,” erroneous and at best incomplete.

Literary context is only one step in “rightly dividing the word of God.” Duvall and Hayes in their book GRASPING GOD’S WORD, explain how to get a better understanding of scripture in 5 steps they call “The Interpretive Journey”.

Step 1 is called “Grasping the text in their town”. Basically what would the text in question mean to the original readers. How would they have understood it. This can be difficult if there is no general understanding of who the original audience was or how they viewed the world around them. Is the book written as a historical document, poetry, epistle?

Step 2 is measuring the width of the river to cross. In other words what are the differences between the original audiences and myself? What was their culture, language, and situation? Were they under a different covenant?

Step 3. “Crossing the principlizing bridge.” What is the theological principle this text presents? You come to a verse like “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this” in Deuteronomy 22:5. This isn’t just a commandment forbidding women to wear pants. If we look at the differences in culture as stated in Step 2, we can understand that there were no pants in the culture of the ancient Israelites. So they would have understood it to mean your appearance in general. God made man to be male and woman to be female. The way you present yourself to the world is to either submit to who God made to be or to go against it. Crossdressing could also be a matter of being deceptive.

“Consulting the Biblical map” is Step 4 of the journey. This goes back to using the rest of scripture as context for understanding. Is what I have gathered about this passage agreeing with the rest of scripture. Since God does not contradict Himself nor does He change His mind then if my understanding is contrary to what is explicitly stated elsewhere then it is my understanding that needs to submit to scripture, not the other way around.

The Last step on thee journey is “Grasping the text in your own town”. This is where you apply what you have learned in the previous 4 steps to your life and the lives of those around you. How does it apply in my culture now?

Biblical exegesis is a process of rightly interpreting. Exegesis is only done through careful and objective study of the text. The opposite of proper exegesis is called eisegesis. Eisegesis is when the reader interprets the text through subjective lenses and makes the scripture mean whatever he wants it to mean.

One way to properly exegete scripture is by studying the original languages it was written in. I’ll give a simple example that many of us have learned in high school. There is a famous scene in Romeo and Juliet where Juliet is seen asking “Romeo, Romeo. Wherefore art though Romeo.” Now in our modern English, that sounds like Juliet is inquiring about the location of her beloved Romeo.  But, in the 1500s, when it was written, that phrase would have been understood as “Romeo, Romeo. Why are you Romeo?” Since Romeo and Juliet came from feuding families she was asking why did Romeo have to be Romeo of the family that her family hated. The next line in the poem makes sense of this when she says “Deny thy father…”

Now if we need help understanding a poem written in the same language only a few hundred years ago, how much more so a book written in foreign languages thousands of years ago? Now I’ll use a biblical example to make my point.

In John 21, after Jesus’ resurrection, He asks Peter “Do you love me?” To which Peter responds “Yes Lord; you know that love you.” Jesus asks this question to Peter twice more. And twice more Peter has the same response. Now in the English this may seem like just a conversation about Peter’s love for Jesus, and that would be right. However, the conversation in the original Greek presents Peter answering a somewhat different question than he is being asked. The term love that Jesus is using is the Greek word “agape” meaning an unconditional love. The term for love that Peter uses is the Greek word “phileo” meaning more so a brotherly/friendship type of love. Both still “love” but different verbal expressions and meanings. It is believed that Peter was so ashamed after his 3 denials of Christ that he could not say with confidence that he unconditionally loved his Lord because his zeal turned to fear and he abandoned Jesus.

Back to the scenario being played out in Bible studies around the country. The goal should not be to come away with subjective interpretations of scripture. We can know what the Bible says and what it means when time is taken to properly study it. So to correct this scenario the person leading the study should already have a proper understanding of the text. Yet, he can walk his audience through how he got the understanding of what the original author meant. So, when the time comes to engage the group, they aren’t left with subjective interpretations; they will have an educated understanding of what was meant. What the Author actual meant. The subjective part comes in how each individual with apply it to his or her own life.

Some people ask me how they should begin reading the Bible. It is my personal opinion that starting with the New Testament is the wisest choice. Start at Matthew and read to the end of Revelations. When I began seriously reading the Bible I spent most of my time in the New Testament until I’d read it several times. I suggest the New Testament first because it teaches us what we need to know about salvation and Christian living. Then I say read the Old Testament, Genesis to Malachi. But as you are reading be sure to read each book just like you would a book. Only using chapter and verse divisions as reference points. Write down verses that speak to you (or baffle you) in a notebook for further study. And last but most importantly, always seek the Holy Spirit’s illumination. Reading the Bible without it will lead to confusion, misunderstanding, and misuse.

By Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

How to Understand the Bible

What Believing in Evolution Actually Means

Earth
The geocentric model according to the Bible of Martin Luther.

There is no denying it, micro-evolution exists, although the term itself is quite misleading. Micro-evolution is a term that is commonly used to describe adaptation within a species to help them survive. These adaptations never result in a new species, there is not even one piece of observable scientific evidence to suggest otherwise. Adaptations always result in the same or less information within that species DNA code and for macro-evolution to occur would require new information which simply does not happen.

This blog is not meant to be about the absurdities of macro-evolution. There are great resources out there that go in to much detail about micro and macro-evolution from a Biblical standpoint (Mike Riddle and Answers in Genesis are two resources that immediately come to mind but there are many more). This blog is about what it means for a Christian to believe in macro-evolution (which I will simply call evolution from here on out). So it is my hope that if you have read this far, you will find this helpful and not hurtful.

For a Christian to believe in millions of years of evolution means:

1. The authority of scripture is compromised since the writing style of Genesis is “historical narrative” and not poetry:

The normal order for a Hebrew narrative sentence is:
Conjunction–Verb–Subject–Object.

The order in poetic writing is:
Subject–Verb–Object

The style of writing of Genesis 1 is historical, using the waw-consecutive to express consecutive action (waw = and).

http://www.ldolphin.org/genmyth.html

So for example, if I were to choose to believe that the creation account is not really a literal six day event as recorded in Genesis but a figurative allegorical story, that would be similar to me believing Jesus was not really a literal man but a figurative fictional character. It would be one thing if Genesis were written as poetry but the fact is, it was not. If I were to treat it like it is poetry and not literal, what stops me from doing the same thing with the rest of the Bible?

2. To believe in evolution means man wasn’t made distinct from the animals as recorded in Genesis but is an animal.

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.””
Genesis 1:26

“then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”
Genesis 2:7

The Bible teaches that God made us unique, that there was a distinct moment where we were created in God’s image. Not slowly becoming more human, and thus, more like God over millions of years.

3. To believe in evolution means Eve would not have been made as a help-mate for Adam from his rib.

“20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.
22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”
Genesis 2:20-22

Again, the Bible lays it out clearly, man was literally alone and God took part of Adam to provide a suitable mate for him since no creature that already existed was fit to fill that void.

4. To believe in evolution means thorns, disease, and death would have existed before Adam and Eve since fossils (supposedly existing millions of years before Adam and Eve) show thorns, disease, and death; all of which should have only happened after Adam and Eve sinned.

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”
Genesis 1:31

“16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,
17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.””
Genesis 2:16-17

“17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.”
Genesis 3:17-18

Using faulty dating methods, the fossil record is believed to show death and disease existing way before Adam and Eve would have existed. But in Luke 3:23-38 it shows Jesus’s bloodline all the way back to Adam who is portrayed as a literal man. This bloodline places Adam roughly 6,000 years ago. If Adam existed 6,000 years ago but we have fossils supposedly hundreds of thousands to millions of years old that show thorns, disease, and the death of humans and animals, then the Bible would simply be wrong. There is no combining evolution and the Bible, there are logical and scientific ways to show that the Biblical account of creation is the most likely and that the scientific assumptions and dating methods currently used today are false.

5. If humans merely evolved instead of being created the way the Bible says we were, that means God used death to create us and it had nothing to do with Adam and Eve’s sin which seems to negate our need for a savior.

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned–”
Romans 5:12

I know there are Christians out there; sincere, God-fearing, and Jesus-loving Christians, who hold to the belief that God used evolution to create us. Aside from a lack of true evidence, it seems to me that it is a serious compromise of the authority of Scripture to hold such a view. I hope this blog has given food for thought to any Christian with a theistic-evolution viewpoint or any Christian who hasn’t really considered how to reconcile evolution and the Bible. I do not mean to try and condemn anyone, only to point out what seems like the logical conclusions of a theistic-evolution worldview.

By Clark Campbell
Theologetics.org

What Believing in Evolution Actually Means