God in the Flesh

20171117_063714
The Nativity by Gustav Dore, late 19th century

Colossians 2:9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, . ..

In the Bible we learn that God came down and dwelt in the body of man. He was born of a woman, lived, ate, slept, cried, and died. In theology, this is known as the Doctrine of the Incarnation. The word “incarnation” means to be made into flesh. The Incarnation is one of the vital doctrines of the Christian faith although it has had its critics over the centuries. Here I seek to explore and defend the concept of God in the flesh.

In the Book of Genesis, God tells Eve that her Seed will crush the head of the serpent but the serpent will bruise the Seed’s heel (3:15). This was a promise from God that a man born of a woman would be the one to defeat the serpent, Satan. This gospel is the first revelation of who the Messiah would be. As time goes on in human history we are provided more info on this Man (progressive revelation).

In Isaiah 7:14, we are told that there will be a virgin who will give birth to a Child and His name will be Immanuel. Often in the Old Testament times, a name given to a person was actually a description of that person. Such is the case with Immanuel which means “God with us.” So this will be literally God dwelling among us as a man. Isaiah goes on to say in chapter 9, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom…” So more is now revealed. God will dwell among man as a man. He will be of the lineage of David and will establish His kingdom. And from Genesis, Satan will bruise His heel but He will defeat Satan.

Now we come to the fruition of the promise made to Eve and to the people of God. The birth of Jesus. The only man born of a virgin, Jesus came to earth as the Immanuel that Isaiah foretold of 700 years before.

Like I’ve stated previously, in Matthew we see that Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. And in the Gospel of John, He is described as the Word that was with God and the Word that was God (John 1:1). In Colossians 1:15, He is the “image of the invisible God.” In Philippians 2:6, He is the very nature, or form, of God. Hebrews 1:3 says He is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”

Jesus is the “uncreated incarnate Creator of creation”. All things were created from Him, through Him, and for Him (Romans 11:36). Yet, the Creator came to earth and dwelt in His creation. This is referred to as the Hypostatic Union; Jesus being truly God and truly man. Jesus is the two natures of God and man in a single hypostasis (essence, substance, nature). He is the theanthropos, or God-man.

The dual nature of Jesus may sound confusing, but God is not the author of confusion. John 1 calls Jesus the light. Scientists have discovered that light also has a dual nature. The scientific community was once divided on whether light was wave or whether it was particle. However they’ve discovered that it is both wave and particle, something scientists used to consider an impossibility.

Some have argued that Jesus is not God because the Scriptures says He slept and that an all-powerful God does not need to sleep. This argument basically comes from a person who doesn’t take their own premise to its logical conclusion. That is, that God being all powerful can choose to place himself in a human body and limit that human body to the natural laws that govern all other humans; like the need for rest and food and water. He also came as a Jew meaning that He had to obey the spiritual laws He had given Moses about 1,200 years before. And He did so, perfectly.

Some people would say “is this like Hercules who was the progeny of a god and human mother?” NO. Jesus was fully God and fully man. The fictional Hercules was half-god and half-man. Some would say that Hercules only became a god after his death. Unlike Hercules, Jesus the Son was ALWAYS God. He says in the Gospel of John, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Jesus says in the Garden of Gethsemane that He shared the glory with God before the world began (John 17:5). Therefore, there was no progression, or apotheosis, of Jesus to divinity. He was always God.

Jesus came to earth to be the propitiation, or atoning sacrifice, of our sins. He could only be this as a perfect man, but since there is no perfect man, God came to earth to be just that.

As John Piper states, “In order for Jesus to suffer and die, he had to plan way ahead of time, because … he couldn’t die. Immortal. He didn’t have any body, yet he wanted to die … for you. So he planned the whole thing by clothing himself with a body so that he could get hungry and get weary and get sore feet. The incarnation is the preparation of nerve endings for the nails – the preparation of a brow for thorns to press through. He needed to have a broad back so that there was a place for the whip. He needed to have feet so that there was a place for spikes. He needed to have a side so that there was a place for the sword to go in. He needed fleshy cheeks so that Judas would have a place to kiss and there would be a place for the spit to run down that the soldiers put on him. He needed a brain and a spinal column with no vinegar and no gall so that the exquisiteness of the pain could be fully felt. I just plead with you – when you’re reading the bible and you read water toy texts like “he loved you” and “gave himself for you,” you wouldn’t go too fast over it. Linger, linger, linger, and plead with him that your eyes would be opened.

Further reading: John 1:1-14, Romans 1:2-5, 8:3, 9:5, Philippians 2:6-11, 1 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 2:14, 1 John 1:1-3, 4:2

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

Advertisements

The Validity of Christ’s Claims

blogs.thegospelcoalition.orgrayortlundfiles201406062-16a9cb25c20709cd48ea2a4fbee217b125ea9d52
Jesus Healing The Sick by Gustav Dore

In my last blog I stated that in the realm of spiritual truths, having the right answer matters, especially in regard to an eternity with or apart from God. Jesus made claims that must be examined. He claimed to be the only way to the Father. If what He said is true then all other beliefs are false.

When anyone makes a claim of who they are then they must be able to back up those claims in order to persuade others. A person who claims to be a doctor will have proof of receiving his doctorate. A company asking for proof of who you are may ask for identification or proofs of residence. A man claiming to be the one way to God must prove to be from God and of God. Here I offer such proofs of Jesus being who He claimed to be.

1. Jesus healed and raised the dead on His own authority. We are shown often in the Scriptures that God’s prophets and apostles have healed people. The difference between them and Christ is that they did not do so of their own power or authority. They had to pray before doing so (ex. 2 Kings 4:33, 1 Kings 17:20). Or they did so “in Jesus name” (Acts 3:6). Jesus never had to appeal to a secondary means of authority.

2. The Seven Witnesses: In the Gospel of John there are seven witnesses listed that validate Jesus’ claims. Deuteronomy 19:15 states that a single witness does not suffice. Knowing this, the Pharisees told Jesus in John 8:13, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”  However, John the Apostle shows us there are more than enough witnesses to corroborate that Jesus is who He says He is.

  • John the Baptist: John 1:34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.
  • Jesus Himself: John 8:14 Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.
  • God the Father: John 5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen (Matthew 3:17, Luke 9:35)
  • The Holy Spirit: John 15:26 But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
  • The prophets of the Old Testament: John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me
  • Jesus’s miracles (works): John 10:25 I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me  (Matthew 14:20, Matthew 17:27, Mark 4:39-41, John 2:7-9)
  • The witness of believers: John 15:27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

3. The Resurrection. This is perhaps the most important of all that substantiate Jesus’ claims. While the Bible states that others have been raised from the dead, only Christ was raised of His own power. He said, ” Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.” (John 2:19). He also said, regarding His life, that He has the “authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” (John 10:18).

4. Doubting Thomas, Jesus-hating-Saul, and Unbelieving James end up worshiping Jesus as God.

  • After word was getting around that Jesus had risen from the dead, His disciple, Thomas, refused to believe it until he saw with his own eyes and felt the nail scars with his own hands (John 20:25). After Jesus appeared to Thomas, He told him that he could touch His wounds. We aren’t told whether Thomas did actually touch, but we do know that just the sight of Jesus made him believe. And in believing he called Jesus “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)
  • Paul, who was not only skeptical of Jesus but persecuted His followers, was also visited by the risen Savior. This event was so miraculous that it changed Saul from a hater of Christians to Paul, one of Christianity’s most prominent missionaries. Paul, who wrote 13 of the 27 New Testament books. In these books he calls Jesus God and describes divine attributes of Jesus: Romans 8:3; 1 Corinthians. 8:6; 10:4; 15:47; 2 Cor. 8:9; Galatians 4:4, Philippians 2:5-6, Colossians 1:16-19.
  • James, the Brother of Jesus, did not believe in Him (John 7:5). 1 Corinthians 15:7 states that Jesus appeared to James and the other apostles after His resurrection. Afterwards, James became a follower (and worshipper) of his brother and went on to write the New Testament epistle that bears his name. Historian, Flavius Josephus even records that James was martyred because of the truth of his brother that he spread to others, ” the brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ…was delivered to be stoned” (Antiquities, 20.9.1)

So, as we see Jesus didn’t just make outrageous claims; He backed them up. We see that He had witnesses and His own works to validate what He said about Himself. As C.S. Lewis famously states, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

Can a sincere belief be sincerely wrong?

multiple-choice-test

With so many people in the world and so many different worldviews and conflicting religions, it’s hard for many people to grasp the idea that only a small portion of the population could be “right” about what many would say really matters, the purpose of life and what happens when we die. Nineteeth century poet John Godfrey Saxe wrote a poem titled Blind Men and the Elephant:

It was six men of Indostan,
To learning much inclined, 
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind), 
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind. 

The First approach’d the Elephant, 
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side, 
At once began to bawl: 
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!” 

The Second, feeling of the tusk, 
Cried, -“Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp? 
To me ’tis mighty clear, 
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!” 

The Third approach’d the animal, 
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands, 
Thus boldly up and spake: 
“I see,” -quoth he- “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!” 

The Fourth reached out an eager hand, 
And felt about the knee: 
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” -quoth he,- 
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant 
Is very like a tree!” 

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, 
Said- “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most; 
Deny the fact who can, 
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!” 

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope, 
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope, 
“I see,” -quoth he,- “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!” 
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long, 
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong, 
Though each was partly in the right, 
And all were in the wrong! 

MORAL, 
So, oft in theologic wars 
The disputants, I ween, 
Rail on in utter ignorance 
Of what each other mean; 
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

All the men in this poem are blind men making the best guess they can with the information they are given. Are we like these men? Are the different religions of the world basically men grabbing at different parts of the “Elephant” which they cannot see? All the men in the poem were essentially wrong. But is all of mankind wrong? For those who are sincere seekers of truth yet end up with the wrong answer based solely on the limited information they are given, does eternal damnation await them?

This is an important question for the Christian and the non-Christian. For the Christian because it will effect his evangelism. If he believes he has the only right answer and those who don’t will perish for eternity, then he will be driven to share his faith with others. If he believes we are all just doing the best we can and that his faith may be as valid as other faiths, then he is likely to have a laissez-faire approach when it comes to matters of faith. He probably will not put much stock in Jesus’ command to go into all the world and make disciples of all men. Both Christian and non-Christian will have an attitude that says “You believe whatever you want. As long as you are truly seeking the truth and have a sincere heart, God will not punish.”

Does God hold us accountable if we seek the truth but come to a wrong conclusion? Is there a wrong conclusion? The answer matters. In school we learn at a very young age that there are right and wrong answers. On an assignment, getting one wrong answer will get points taken off. Getting too many wrong answers will get a failing grade. On some tests, some answers could be worth more points than others (like essay questions verses multiple choice questions). The important thing we learn, however, is that THERE IS A RIGHT ANSWER AND THERE IS A WRONG ANSWER. In the realm of belief systems some questions have more value than others. For example, in Christianity some believe that speaking in tongues is one proof of salvation today, while others believe that speaking in tongues is one gift of many that a believer may or may not have, and yet others believe that speaking in tongues was only for the New Testament church. This is what we consider nonessentials. Nonessentials are things we may disagree on but will not get anyone to heaven or condemn anyone to hell. Things of “minor points”.

In the Bible, Jesus tells us in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, the life. No man comes to me unless the Father draws him.” This is a pretty exclusive claim. For someone to believe in the claims of Christ they must believe that Jesus is the one door. The one right answer. Jesus didn’t say He was A way, but THE way. And that no one comes to the Father except through him. He also says that “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” in John 6:44. He repeated this sentiment in John 6:65 “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Jesus also says “I am the door (gate). If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved.” John 10:9

It is to be noted that although many disciples rejected Jesus’ claims immediately after he made them (John 6:66) His disciples took them to be the words of life (John 6:68-69). In the book of Acts 4, Peter said with boldness “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” Paul tells Timothy that “there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Jesus the Messiah.” 1 Timothy 2:5

So with all the claims of Christ to have the sole key to salvation, any other religion that claims otherwise is saying Jesus’ claims are false. That being said, anyone who claims all faiths are basically the same and equally valid fail to see that Jesus is not and cannot be just one valid choice among many. In the multiple choice world of religions, there is only one right answer and it is Jesus the Christ. Jesus didnt just make these claims, He backed them up. In my next blog I will dive into the reasons His claims are valid.

More exclusive claims of Christ: 1 John 2:23, 1 John 5:11-12, Luke 10:16, Luke 12:8-9 , John 3:18, John 3:36, John 8:24, and John 10:7-8b.

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

What is the Gospel?

CHRISTIAN LOSES HIS BURDEN by Wm. Strang, from the book The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, 1894

One of the most commonly heard yet commonly misunderstood words in the Christian community is the word “gospel”. When people hear gospel they may think of a kind of music. Some who hear it think “truth”. Some hear it and equate it to the Bible but aren’t sure exactly what it means.

Then there are those that know that the word gospel means good news. They are correct. But what is it the good news of? Is it a promise of financial prosperity? Is it a promise of physical health? Is it a promise of perpetual happiness? That you’ll never experience pain or sorrow, financial trouble, or sickness? No, that’s not the Gospel of Christ.

To understand the Christian gospel, we must start way back in the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve live in perfect harmony and communion with God. It is also implied that life would be everlasting in this paradise. They witness no shame. They suffer no pain. They experience no death. God in His sovereignty gave Adam and Eve the choice to obey and live forever in perfect communion with Him or to follow their own path. The instructions were clear: Enjoy everything in the garden you desire except for the fruit of that one tree. Of the day you eat of it you will surely die.

Why was the tree put there in the first place? The Bible doesn’t say specifically but I believe it was to give man the choice to obey God or disobey. God chose not to create humans as “robots” or “slaves” that had no will. But He created us as creatures that could choose Him or choose otherwise. However, since only God is good and goodness and life are only found in Him, to choose otherwise, by default, is to choose death.

This was the sin of Adam and Eve. They chose otherwise. The Adversary in the form of a serpent tempted Eve to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree. Eve offered it to her husband Adam who then ate. At that moment sin and death entered the world. Their unveiled communication with God was now wrought with shame and hiddenness.¹ The land that had once freely offered its bounty to them was now cut off from their access. By sweat and hard work was Adam to work the ground and by pain was Eve to bear children. But worst of all was the chasm that was now created between God and man. Man had been kicked out of God’s first temple (the Garden of Eden) because he failed to guard it.

Because Adam is the representation for all of man, and because all of man comes from Adam, this bad news doesn’t just apply to Adam and Eve. We all share in the curse of their disobedience. Now we have a sin nature.

Because of our sin nature, we are prone to sin. We are susceptible to sins enticement and we are slaves to sins power. This is evident because to do wrong is usually easier than to do right. Therefore, all of us sin. And because we all sin we all die. Not only is this death physical, it is spiritual. Since, our spirits are eternal then the death they experience is eternal. The death our spirits experience is unlike the death of our bodies. When our bodies die they can no longer experience what goes on around them.  Spiritual death, on the other hand, is an eternity apart from God in a place the Bible calls hell; where no joy, happiness, love, or peace is found. Jesus calls it a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth and where the worm does not die (Mark 9:44).

This is the bad news that must be understood and accepted before we get to the good news.

“You cannot possibly understand what the Bible says about salvation unless you understand what the Bible says about the thing from which we are saved.”- J. Gresham Machen


The good news is first told in Genesis 3:15. This protoevangelium (or first gospel) says that the serpent will bruise the heel of the Seed of the woman but the Seed will triumph by crushing the serpent’s head. However, the fulfillment of this promise would take some time.

Let’s go back to what happened in the Garden. After man and woman ate the fruit they saw they were naked. So in shame, they covered themselves with fig leaves. However, God sacrificed the first animal to cover man’s shame. In other words man’s works weren’t sufficient to cover his shame. God had to shed blood to do it.

From that moment on, sacrifices of animals without blemish were the only suitable sacrifices for sin (Lev. 17:11, Hebrews 9:22). But even these sacrifices only covered sin for a time. The sacrifice of atonement had to be done once every year by the high priest for all the people of Israel.

These sacrifices were to point to Jesus’ sacrifice. The everlasting sacrifice. Jesus lived a sinless life and was therefore without blemish. He became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross freed us from sin’s power, saved us from sin’s penalty, and rescued us from sin’s presence. He fulfilled the promise God gave to Adam and Eve. Satan bruised the Seed’s heel when Jesus was crucified on the cross. But when Jesus rose from the dead, He defeated the Enemy’s power over man and death was defeated.

By placing our faith in the work of Christ we no longer have to be separated from our Heavenly Father. We now have direct access to talk to the Father as we once did. And we have an advocate to go to God on our behalf (1 John 2:1-2).

We are also given the Holy Spirit who leads us into truth to help us discern right from wrong (John 16:7-11). He will also be our Comforter in times of trouble (John 14:16).

The Gospel also promises us that when we die we will spend an eternity with the Father. Whoever believes in the Lord Jesus will have everlasting life (John 3:16). Not that we will not die a physical death but that in the end we will live in the presence of the King (John 11:25) where we will no longer have to worry about sin, pain, suffering, or death (Revelation 21:4).

None of this can be done on our own. Like Adam and Eve, our works do not cover our sins. They’re insufficient. Only by what God has done as the person of the Son through His sacrifice on the cross can man be reconciled, redeemed, and restored. God, by His grace and mercy, has provided a way out of the trouble we have placed ourselves in. He could have left us up to our own devises but He knew we could not save ourselves. He could choose to wipe us all out at the first sinful thought or the first sinful act we commit. An infinitely righteous and holy God would have every right to.


How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”- Isaiah 52:7

The first four books of the New Testament are called the Gospels. In them they tell the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. After Jesus was born wise men came from the east looking for Him. They asked “where is He who is born king of the Jews?” (Matt. 2:2)

During the last few days of Jesus’ life, He gives us pictures of Him presented as this king: His triumphant entry riding on a donkey, His being presented a robe and crown of thorns, and His being lifted up on the cross. Although the robe, crown, and cross were used to mock and kill our Lord, they were still symbols of who He came to be.

Upon His return, Christ will establish His kingdom upon the earth and restore ALL things as it had been before Adam and Eve sinned.


Therefore, the Gospel does not just declare freedom for man. The Gospel is the good news of the Kingdom of God. Kingdoms of men come and go but the kingdom Jesus sets up will be an everlasting one (Daniel 2:44).

So how can we be sure that we enter into His kingdom? John the Baptist made it clear, “REPENT, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2). Also, ““The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; REPENT and BELIEVE in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15). When we repent we turn from our sins. We change from the path of death in which we were going, to life in Jesus Christ.

Further reading: Matthew 4:17, Acts 2:38-39, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, Ephesians 1:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:15-17

FOOTNOTES:
¹This is pictured in the temple when there was a curtain that separated the Holy of Holies, where the presence of God was, from the rest of the temple and the people. Only the High Priest could enter on the Day of Atonement. But the veil was torn the moment Christ died on the cross (Matthew 27:51)

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

The 2nd Hidden “Verse” about Jesus in Genesis

Descent-from-the-Cross
Rembrandt, The Descent from the Cross: the Second Plate, Date
1633

 

It is incredible to think, that the God who created the entire universe by speaking it into being, would love us and want to know each one of us on a personal level. And that this same God inspired various imperfect people from all walks of life to write about his love for us in a collection of ancient manuscripts we call the Bible. But it’s not only that his love was written about and revealed to us but when you dig into the original languages the Bible was written in, you can see the story of Jesus thousands of years before he was even born hidden in unique ways.

It is more apparent to me today than it has ever been that God is incredibly multi-faceted, so much more than 3-dimensionally and I feel like the more I learn about the Bible the more this can be clearly seen. One example of this is a previous blog we wrote that talks about the hidden “verse” about Jesus in Genesis 5 which outlines the various definitions of the names of the line of Adam to Noah which reads much like a Messianic prophecy. This blog is similar in that it outlines various definitions of the names of the twelve sons of Jacob which has another amazing resemblance to the story of Jesus. I was first made aware of this from something someone else posted on social media.

Lets begin…

Genesis 29:31-35, 30:1-24, and 35:16-18 describes the 12 sons of Jacob who would become the fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel. The following are a list of the 12 sons in order of birth with meanings of each name listed next to it;

1 Reuben – Behold A Son, Son Of Vision, Son Who’s Seen
2 Simeon – Hearing, He Who Hears, Man Of Hearing, Hearing With Acceptance
3 Levi – Joined, Adhesion
4 Judah – Let Him (God) Be Praised, Praised
5 Dan – Judge, Judging
6 Naphtali – My Wrestling
7 Gad – Good Fortune, Harrowing Fortune
8 Asher – Happy, (happiness, to be right in the eyes of someone, to obtain this person’s approval)
9 Issachar – Man Of Hire, He Is Wages, There Is Recompense
10 Zebulun – Glorious Dwelling Place, a rather reserved Dwelling, Wished-For Habitation
11 Joseph – Increaser, Repeater or Doubler, May He (Yahweh) Add, He Shall Add, He Adds, Increases, May God Add
12 Benjamin – Son (building block) Of The Right Hand (of God)

Each name has multiple meanings and even different roots. Taking into consideration that some of the names clearly describe God and others describe man, one translation of each of the twelve names, one name after the other, reads in this way:

“Behold a son who hears with acceptance, joined to (us), let Him be praised. A judge of my wrestling bringing good fortune to obtain His approval. He is wages (for) a glorious and reserved dwelling place. He shall add (us) son(s) of his right hand.”

Now, Hebrew to English is a little rough to begin with but the main idea is pretty clearly seen even without the added pronouns and conjunctions to aid in connecting the words. This isn’t to say these are the only meanings of the names, some may not even be the primary meanings but it’s amazing that God had Jacob give his children names that could be translated in a way that shows the story of Jesus coming to offer salvation to the world!

http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Reuben.html#.WYqGk4okqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Simeon.html#.WYqGuookqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Levi.html#.WYqG14okqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Judah.html#.WYqG9IokqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Dan.html#.WYqHDookqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Naphtali.html#.WYqHKYokqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Gad.html#.WYqHSookqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Asher.html#.WYqHYIokqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Issachar.html#.WYqHf4okqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Zebulun.html#.WYqHnookqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Joseph.html#.WYqH3ookqRs
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Benjamin.html#.WYqH9ookqRs

Clark Campbell
Theologetics.org

The Moral Argument for the Existence of God

wp-1488816608679.jpg
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 an 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.

wp-1488814510593.png

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 here, “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 is 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 Shema and The Trinity

moses_speaks_to_israel
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 perhaps 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