Evolution in the Public School

One subject I have been overdue to write on is the issue of evolution, specifically regarding public education and the indoctrination of the youth.

I received my undergraduate degree in secondary English education. I was very excited to become a public educator until the opportunity to be a pastor presented itself.

Although I did not enter education, it has been, and always will be, an area of passion and concern of mine.

One of the many controversies the public, specifically the religious sector of the public, gets up in arms about is the issue of evolution and it being taught in the classroom.

Religious parents will often get very upset about this. There is often a demand that creationism or intelligent design be taught along side it, and sometimes there are opportunities for students to opt out of those lessons in more conservative school districts.

What may surprise many is that I do not get very upset about evolution being taught in the public schools. Although I believe Darwinian Evolution to be a fundamental attack against the Christian faith, and that it is neither true nor scientific, I take no issue with it being taught in the public schools. Why do I, a Christian pastor with an education background, care so little about evolution being taught in the public schools? Why do I not petition for a change in the curriculum?

Before I answer that question, let me first address the issue of how public evolution is not truly being taught in the public school system at all.

Who Teaches Evolution?

The idea that evolution is actually taught in any school in America is hard to believe. Evolution is not taught in any public school, or at least, it is not taught in full.

No school actually teaches evolution as a whole, nor do they practice it as being true in any real sense. The natural consequences of evolution are not taught in school, and most alarmingly, the schools do not practice or live evolutionary ideas out consistently.

Basic concepts and history of the evolutionary worldview are taught in the science classrooms, but the teachers and administration will steal from the Christian worldview everywhere else. Here is one example from my personal history.

While student teaching, a young high school girl came into my classroom during a plan period of mine crying profusely. She allowed me to stay in the room, but she felt much more comfortable talking to my female mentor teacher, as she had a stronger relationship with her (I was new.) She began to tell a story about how some of the girls on her athletic team had been saying ugly things about her physical appearance. My mentor teacher responded as any parent would hope (she is a wonderful teacher).

She said many things she ought to have said. She affirmed for this young girl that she was in fact very beautiful. She told her that her worth and value are not found in the opinions of others. She told her that she was an amazing girl. Good stuff, right? The problem is every element of her words of comfort are basic denials of everything this sobbing girl was taught about evolution in biology.

The English teachers apparently do not believe in evolution, and even teach in direct contradiction to it. After all, if the world we lived in truly had the genesis story naturalists claim, and if evolution and natural processes were the closest thing to a sovereign God, that girl is worthless and ugly.

Evolution cannot produce an intrinsic value to cling on to for that girl. She cannot be unique, objectively valuable, and precious. She is simply accidentally developed pond-scum which managed to crawl its way out the primordial goo. She is stardust. Just like frogs, fish, bananas, feces, maggots, and everything else we touch and smell. There is nothing intrinsically unique or objectively valuable about her. No one accidental, random concatenation of atoms has the authority to pronounce such things over another biological bag of meat and bones, whose ancestors were also fish. Who on earth, according to this worldview, did my mentor teacher think she was speaking such objective and intrinsic language over that girl?

The closest the evolutionary worldview can get to any meaningful objective definition of value and purpose is procreation. The entire goal of evolutionary beings is offspring. Thus, worth and meaning are completely derived from the opinions of us from those within our species. Until that young girl finds a human to give her children, she is worthless. And physical union for our particular species initially begins with attraction and desire. Thus, women are defined by what others think of them, specifically, sexually. If boys and girls find her ugly, she is. If the boys don’t want to procreate with her, she is useless.

This goes for the boys too. Until a fertile woman decides to lay with them, they have no meaning or purpose. They can make one up, but it is not objective or real.

As a Christian, I can consistently say what was said to that girl. I have an objective basis and authority for declaring her valuable and precious regardless of the contrary opinions of sixteen-year-olds. It’s called the image of God. I can tell her she is beautiful and special without blowing any smoke.

Take another scenario I (fortunately) never had to experience: school shootings. Do public schools handle these like Darwinism logically requires? No, they handle them much more like Christians would (although not entirely). In the denunciation of these acts, what are the arguments against? Are they pragmatic or intrinsic?

In other words, what’s the reasoning for not allowing a disturbed kid to shoot up the school? Why is this not just a “the survival of the fittest” scenario at work? Where’s our natural selection in all this? A kid needs to blow off steam, who is to tell him that’s not the right way to do it?

Notice, the arguments schools actually give are intrinsic. The argument is never presented the only way an evolutionist could present an argument:

“School shootings are wrong because they disrupt learning.”

It is true that a school shooting disrupts learning. It’s hard to take a math test with that going on in the hallways. But that argument crosses the mind of no one. You’ll never hear a representative of a school victimized by this, nor any politician addressing the issue speak that way. Why? Because school shootings are opposed on an objectively moral and intrinsic basis, not a pragmatic one. However, evolution cannot provide a semblance of an objective moral or intrinsic worth.

School shootings are evil because children matter. People have divine meaning and divine rights. That is why they are so horrible. That is why a student shooting another student is far more horrific than the same student cheating off another student’s test. Both are wrong, but Christians can consistently say why shootings are worse.

If the public school finds the students objectively valuable, and treats them with worth, that school may present aspects of Darwinism in biology, but the school is not teaching evolution. It is actually teaching theft. It steals from the Christian worldview while refusing to acknowledge the Christian worldview.

By way of a side, this seems to me to be the plausible reason why so many secularists have such a hard time understanding the Christian argument about morality. Whenever I introduce an inexperienced, aspiring pagan-apologist to the argument of morality, they often misinterpreted me to be accusing them of  having no morals. I have to go to great lengths to get them to see the argument is about justifying and grounding ethics, not having or practicing them.

It makes sense though, because the contradictory worldview presented in secularism simply hands them the two elements of the religion, one foundational the other stolen, and these kids just grow up in it. They go to school where two things are taught:

  1. Evolution
  2. People matter, so be kind to others.

They are indoctrinated into these two things. Evolution is true, and be a good person. They are never taught to examine whether these things can coexist, whether they can truly cohabitate consistently in a worldview together. They just believe in both elements as they were both the part of the lesson of the catechism class they had third period.

The examples of human value and objective ethics prior are just a couple examples among many that could be mentioned about the nasty and illogical consequences of evolution which are inescapable yet ignored.

Along with the practical denial of evolution, the academic side of the public presentation is still not accurate either. Greg Bahnsen lays this out in his essay. The fact of the matter remains that the historical worldview foundations which led up to the theory of evolution are ignored entirely. And when those are examined, as Bahnsen points out, it is clear that evolution, as Darwin promoted it, was nothing new, and it operated before Darwin as a worldview with far reaching religious implications. It was not, and is not, a raw scientific theory.

Where Evolution Belongs

To get to the point, the reason that I fight so little against the teaching of Darwinian evolution in the public schools is because I actually believe it belongs in public schools.

Suppose you sent your child to a private Roman Catholic school. Would you be surprised to find Roman Catholic theology espoused? Suppose you sent your child to a Muslim education center. Would you be outraged if the teachers there taught Islamic doctrine? Or would it not be expected that the Quran would be used to teach mankind’s origin? Likewise, when we send our children to secular schools, the only thing that belongs there is secular education. If disagree with me, you likely do not see secularism for what it truly is: a religion.

During my undergraduate degree, I took a class which combined all of the different disciplines (English, Science, Math, etc.) One of the future science teachers asked our professor about how she would handle teaching evolution, knowing religious students will be offended. The professor answered by saying something very close to,

“You have to tell them that outside of the classroom they can wear their ‘religious hat.’ But once they step foot inside the classroom they must take off that hat and put on their ‘science hat.’ They can go ahead and wear their religious hat outside the classroom, but not in the classroom.”

Is this actually what’s going on? Is it possible to remove our religious hats in any area of life? And if we can, is there truly a “science” hat out there to be worn?

The Bible regularly presents dichotomies to us. People are either on the narrow path, or the path to destruction, but there is no middle path (Matthew 7:13). People are either for Jesus, or against Him, there is no open-mindedness (Matthew 12:30). People are either righteous or sinners, there is not a middle position (Matthew 25:33).

Biblically, there is no approach to education which is neutral to Christianity. It is either for or against. Thus, Secularism is simply another worldview option competing with Christ. Public education is not a neutral space for raw facts to be openly investigated. The minds of the students are not blank sponges not being guided in their investigations by desires and biases. The educators are not religiously neutral teachers with no worldview dictating what information they teach and how the teach it. The curriculum is not designed by objective researchers without worldview commitments influencing their work.

The common understanding of public education is that it’s a neutral environment. This is why so many Christians find it so outrageous that evolution alone remains the standard curriculum for school. Most bring to the table the idea that public education should teach a multiplicity of ideas. Even if this were the case, were it the obligation of public education to do this, we have simply changed from one anti-Christian curriculum to another. To move from secularism to pluralism (what the Bible would refer to as polytheism) is simply exchanging one idol for another. When Jonah called Nineveh to repent, they were not being called to adopt a new religion with even more gods, a polytheistic religion, but they were called to worship the one true God.

The fact remains though that public education is simply not required to teach everything everyone believes. That could not even be done. Thus, there must be a standard for what, and how they teach. What is the basis then for curriculum standards?

The presupposition held by most is that facts are neutral and are interpreted in a vacuum. Thus, public education seeks to present raw, unbiased, facts. Facts of math, facts of history, facts of science etc. are allegedly all able to be taught and interpreted independently from any overriding worldview apparatus.

In other words, in order for public education to be truly public the Bible must be false. For the idea that no man is neutral, and that there are noetic effects of sin, and that everyone knows the truth but suppresses it unrighteousness, those things cannot be true in order for public education to be truly public. Public education, to be what it is designed to be, requires an understanding of mankind in complete contradiction to biblical anthropology.

This means that public education begins with a religious understanding of man and education, not a neutral one. This fact ought to be made clearly by examining the fruit, as we are always called to do.

Public education across the country has taken hard stances in extreme opposition to Christian teaching on the most important social issues of our day. Outside of uniquely conservative districts things like transgenderism, homosexuality, and premarital sex, are presented in a positive, affirming light among faculty and curriculum alike. This is the fruit of the system never being truly “neutral” in the first place.

To bring this all to its point, in a non-Christian religious school, the creation myth of that religion is what I would expect to be there. I would not expect to see the scientific evidence interpreted and taught in such a way as to affirm Scripture, when the foundations of the institution are built on denying the truth of Scripture.

That is why I say evolution belongs in the public school. Evolution is the creation myth of Agnosticism and Atheism alike. Therefore, in a school where no God is allowed to be promoted, or, where all gods must be, that school will naturally teach its own Genesis story. An element among the curriculum of public education that I see as validating my point is the popular alternative to evolution.

Were you a parent upset by the teaching of Darwin in science, and were you to speak to the school board about curriculum standards, what would you suggest replacing Darwinism? Which genesis story belongs in public schools if not evolution? The leading rival to Darwin to me seems to be Intelligent Design (ID). The reason this is important is because ID is explicitly not creationism. Many are tempted to see them as the same, but they are inherently distinct. What is the difference? The national ID organization publicly states it this way:

The theory of intelligent design is simply an effort to empirically detect whether the “apparent design” in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause) or is simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations. Creationism typically starts with a religious text and tries to see how the findings of science can be reconciled to it. Intelligent design starts with the empirical evidence of nature and seeks to ascertain what inferences can be drawn from that evidence. Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design does not claim that modern biology can identify whether the intelligent cause detected through science is supernatural.

ID then becomes more of a negative statement than a positive one. It’s more a denial of Darwinism than it is an affirmation of an alternative view. ID is far more a statement on the error of Darwinism than it is an answer to biological questions in regards to nature’s genesis.

The problem with ID is the assumption that any approach to the scientific evidence can not start with a “religious text.” ID makes the same mistake (assuming neutrality) that its opponents make.

“Intelligent design starts with the empirical evidence of nature and seeks to ascertain what inferences can be drawn from that evidence.”

ID thinks it is unique from Creationism is that it is not starting with a specific God and then trying to interpret in light of that religious assumption. However, that is exactly what every scientific approach is doing. We are all interpreting the evidence from a religious starting point.

Some texts are invisible, some are not canonized with nice leather-bound covers, but all scientists are beginning with a text.

“Intelligent design starts with the empirical evidence of nature and seeks to ascertain what inferences can be drawn from that evidence.”

Furthermore, the issue then becomes this issue of ascertaining drawn inferences. In other words, the dilemma of ID is now exposed. The ID design crowd wants to claim that the science classroom should just present the raw facts and evidences of nature because their evolutionary opponents are already claiming that for themselves. Thus, the issue becomes, not one of evidence, but of interpretation of evidence.

The error of ID is the assumption that when we begin to “ascertain what inferences can be drawn from that evidence,” we can do so without an interpretative grid guiding us. Ironically, the evolutionists think the same thing. So, why are we not drawing the same inferences?

To present ID to a school board is essentially to say your teachers should interpret the evidence this way and not that way. But the Darwinian teacher can just as arbitrarily say the same thing for his position. As can the Muslim. As can the Mormon.

At the end of the day, we are all advocating for the god of our system to guide our curriculum. To think we can find a neutral education facility where no god is being advocated falls flat. There is always a god of the system.

The question naturally then before us then is not, “Should public schools teach creationism or evolution?” That is as silly a question as, “Should Christian schools teach Christian or Buddhist doctrine?” The question before us really becomes, “Should education be public?” Meaning, should Jesus be recognized as the God and authority over any school, or should we pick a different god?

That is the question, and those are the only options. Thankfully, I know what Jesus’ opinion on that is: Matthew 28: 18,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

Important Qualifications

I was nearly a public school teacher. Three of the women in my life closest to me are public educators. Many good and faithful Christians in my current and previous church are public educators.

The purpose of this post was not to paint all public teachers as evil secularists teaching garbage material to children with evil agenda’s behind all they do.

There are many good schools and good teachers. There are even entire districts doing great work.

My post is specifically addressed to the philosophy of public education, and the larger education trends I see nationwide. Some concepts require a broad brush.

Application

What are you to do with this post? I am not telling you to pull your kids from public school. That is a decision for you, for you to make with prayer and the counsel of the church leadership.

I am not telling you you’re in sin if you’re involved with the public school. However, I am calling you, either as a parent or a potential parent, to be heavily involved in your child’s education. You must instill a biblical worldview with them, help them see everything through the Bible, and challenge the falsehoods they are hearing. The Bible gives the role of education to parents. It is your duty to raise them in the Christian faith. Whether you put them in public, private, or home-school environments, your duty remains the same. They will hear false doctrine eventually. Prepare them.

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My Conversation with Jim the Atheist

It’s been a while since I have had an extended dialogue with an Atheist. I wanted to share one I recently had in the comment section of my most recent post.

I share it for a couple reasons. It remained civil. We were at times blunt, but conversations of this nature require that. Certainly, much of Jesus’ language falls into a similar category.

However, given Jim’s shotgun approach (technically a logical fallacy) a lot of good ground is covered, and so my desire is that my responses to his claims and questions would be helpful.

The conversation is still ongoing. All I have edited is the grammar, no content has been removed or added. If you are interested in seeing how it finishes, keep an eye out in the comment section. I likely won’t respond to much more. He began by saying…

Which God and which scripture should I choose here? The elastic immorality of the Old Testament which is ripe with slavery and genocide and cruelty or the Quran? BTW, Jesus didn’t invent the golden rule so your entire argument is blah after the first paragraph. Ancient Egypt.- circa 2000 BCE “Do for one who may do for you, That you may cause him thus to do.” – The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant 109-110,

Hebrew Bible – circa 700 BCE “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am the LORD.”

Zoroastrianism.- circa 600 BCE “That nature only is good when it shall not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self.” – Dadistan-i-Dinik 94:5,

Buddhism.- circa 500 BCE “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” – Udana-Varga 5:18,

Confucianism.- circa 500 BCE “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” Analects of Confucius 15:24,

Socrates.- circa 400 BCE “Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others.”

Jim, before commenting, I appreciate you very much for taking the time to read my blog. I have an incredibly small audience, so it really does bless me, even in the midst of disagreement.

“Which God and which scripture should I choose here?”

There is only one God, so you should choose the one that actually exists, and has made Himself known with undeniable clarity to each of us (Romans 1: 18-32). He has revealed Himself in 66 books, known to us because they are self-authenticating in their very nature.

“The elastic immorality of the Old Testament which is ripe with slavery and genocide and cruelty…”

It’s very ironic hearing an Atheist criticize an ethic for being “elastic.” Elastic morality is a central and necessary tenet of Atheism. Your worldview openly affirms a subjective, constantly changing moral code which adapts to new information and different societies. No moral code is more elastic than Atheism’s attempt to provide men with a code of conduct.

The word “immoral” does not even belong to your worldview. What could possibly be objectively immoral within a worldview framework that offers no objective moral code? Without God, immorality does not exist. As Richard Dawkins says, all there is is blind pitiless indifference, but not immorality. For example, you list slavery, genocide, and cruelty, as being “immoral.” Says who? What gives you the right to tell a foreign culture and a foreign people group how they ought to have behaved?

“or the Quran?”

The Quran is a little late in the game to even be considered. It does not bear the divine qualities, nor testify to a divine nature, but it is riddled with contradictions and inconsistencies, not only internally, but most importantly, with the clear teachings of the prophets of the Old and New Testaments, the very ones it claims to represent, and continue revelation for. In other words, the Quran must be rejected because it contradicts the known Scriptures which came before it.

“BTW, Jesus didn’t invent the golden rule so your entire argument is blah after the first paragraph.”

It’s shame you thought this, because you clearly did stop reading after the first paragraph. I know you stopped reading because nothing in my argument ever came close to stating that Jesus invented the Golden Rule (GR). In fact, I actually stated the exact opposite. So, the rest of my article, on that standard, is not “blah.”

First of all, I do not believe morality is “invented” but “revealed.” You use that word invent because it’s tied to your worldview. In your worldview, there is no such thing as morality, so it must be invented by people. In my worldview, morality is a description of the immutable character of God. God reveals His nature and laws to us, but they are never invented; they are discovered.

But to the point, had you finished the blog you would have read me stating that Jesus grounds the GR in the Old Testament. Therefore, I affirmed that the GR predates Jesus’ earthly ministry (not Jesus, as He is the eternal God.) Jesus did not invent the GR and did not claim to, but instead claimed that his formulation of the GR was a summary application of the Old Testament Law. That is my very thesis.

However, even if I did claim Jesus invented the GR, I don’t know how that nullifies the points about Atheism I made.

In response to your comment about the historic religions that affirmed the GR, it is difficult to know how to reply as I don’t have enough context to know what the point you’re trying to make is. If you’re trying to prove “Jesus did not invent the GR” as you stated earlier, then I responded to that already.

Here are a couple other points I can make about this historical reflection:

  1. It actually affirms the biblical worldview when other religions have similar laws. For the Bible teaches that God wrote a base level of Laws on the human heart (Romans 2). Therefore, aspects of God’s Law have been divinely revealed through innate human nature. To be human is to know God, for His Law is part of who we are. Thus, the fact that there are basic laws we all agree on only affirms what the Bible says God has done. The difference is, only Christians can justify this innate knowledge. The other religions above cannot.
  2. It also makes sense that other religions would adopt certain aspects of Christianity (or Judaism at that time) because Truth is valuable. In other words, there is a reason people make counterfeit dollar bills rather than counterfeit monopoly bills. Dollar bills are worth something, monopoly money isn’t. So when people want to copy something, they copy things of worth.

So, it makes a lot of sense the pagan religions of the ancient world would steal laws and narratives from God’s revelation, because what God has revealed is worth something.

Well you are special. It just shows that Christianity is nowhere near original and is a compete copycat of pagan, Egyptian, Norse and Greek mythology enforced to stay by Constantine. There have been no less than 15 near identical stories predating the Christ story. But this one, this one is the real one. You’ve got some reading to do. You have the burden of proof as you are claiming a god exists. I say there is nothing. Prove it. No one has shown a shred of evidence so far but belief, and if you do learn enough about the fallacies of your faith you’ll be an atheist too. You’re on the road to it. Welcome to the minds of the free.

The Bible refers to me not as being special but forgiven.

“It just shows that Christianity is nowhere near original and is a compete copycat of pagan, Egyptian, Norse and Greek mythology.”

What “just shows” this? How does the fact that Jesus claimed the Prophets (who predate Greek and Norse mythology) taught to love our neighbor show Christianity stole from religions hundreds of years in the future?

“…enforced to stay by Constantine.”

I really do not say this to be rude or condescending, but it really does shock me that your view of history is so skewed. It’s truly been years since I have heard this claimed, even from non-Christians. It is historically indefensible that Constantine enforced Christianity on the world. That is why I find your comment, “You’ve got some reading to do” to be very ironic. I am not the one spouting outlandish historical revisions on the same level as The Da Vinci Code.

“There have been no less than 15 near identical stories predating the Christ story.”

This is not true for 3 reasons.

  1. This is a common talking point, but in reality, every story which people today claim resembles the Christ story, when actually examined, does not mirror it very well at all. Since you believe positive claims require the burden of proof, the onus is now on you to give me 15 stories, minimum, and an accurate view of the Christ story, and then show how they are “nearly identical.” Again, I hope you’re regretting that “You’ve got some reading to do” comment by this point.
  2. Most of the stories you have in mind do not predate the Christ story, because the Christ story was first told in the Garden and continued to be prophesied for thousands of years prior to Christ’s incarnation. The realization of the story took place two thousand years ago, but the story itself was told many thousands of years before that. Thus, if your presupposition is that which ever story was told first is the original, then your 15 mythologies copied the Christ story, not the other way around. Which brings me to the 3rd point:
  3. I said earlier that copycats copy valuable things. To be in the counterfeit business you have to make a product that resembles a valuable thing. Christian truth is inherently valuable, so it makes sense other religions would try so hard to look like us.

“You have the burden of proof as you are claiming a god exists. I say there is nothing.”

This is a common misunderstanding among atheists about the burden of proof. However, yours is the best example I can find because you blatantly contradict yourself when others do so only implicitly.

Notice how you claimed I have the burden of proof because I made the positive claim that God exists. But you then followed it up with a positive claim yourself, “I say there is nothing.”

This means you bear the same burden. You made a claim “nothing” exists. Prove it.

The burden of proof falling on the positive [claim] is true when it comes to formal debate propositions and legal hearings. But in general debates about ultimate’s, EVERYONE has a worldview which needs proving. This is an inescapable reality. Every person has implicit positive understandings about reality. Therefore, everyone bears the same burden of proof. Even those more agnostic than you still have a burden of proof. If someone were to claim, “There may be a god, but I don’t know” that person (although the Bible says they are lying) has still made an implicit positive claim. The claim is this: “Since god may not exist, it’s possible that the reality we exist in could exist without God.”

They must now prove their positive claim, that things like science, love, reason, knowledge, ethics, etc. can all have a foundation apart from God. We all bear a burden of proof.

“Prove it. No one has shown a shred of evidence so far but belief.”

I’ll bite. The proof that the Christian God exists is that without Him you cannot prove anything. My proof is proof itself.

Only the Christian worldview can make sense of intelligibility. All of the things that make the concept of “proof” meaningful are found in Christ. Apart from Him, you cannot justify your presuppositions about the nature of proof. Evidence requires an intelligible universe. It requires things like knowledge, reasoning, induction, laws of nature, laws of logic. None of these things can be justified outside of Christ. Therefore, the proof of God is found in the fact that you think proof is possible.

“and if you do learn enough about the fallacies of your faith…”

There are none. However, what’s ironic is fallacies require absolute laws of logic. What is logic? Logic is universal, unchanging, and immaterial. Your worldview demands the universe is only material, and constantly evolving. Thus, the very fact that fallacies exist denies your worldview.

“…you’ll be an atheist too.”

No, I won’t be. It’s actually impossible since Atheists don’t even exist (Romans 1: 18-32).

“You’re on the road to it.”

Actually, I am on the road toward eternal life (Matthew 7: 13-14). And you are commanded by God to join me on this narrow way (Acts 17: 30).

 “Welcome to the minds of the free.”

To the contrary, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in Christ (Colossians 2: 1-3). Any philosophy are worldview not founded on Christ is empty and deceitful (Colossians 2: 8). Those outside of Christ are the ones whose minds are darkened, and their thoughts are foolish and futile (Romans 1: 21-23). Our minds are not renewed until Christ sets us free (Romans 12: 1-4). Thus, you are the one enslaved; I am free.

I don’t have time to write a whole book in reply to this If the Quran in not old enough to legitimize a religion for you, then neither is the Bible. The 66 books you mention are easy enough to dismantle. Which translations suits you best? Let’s start there. One point at a time. You seem to be running the Gish Gallop gambit. Or is it argumentum as nauseum?

 

“I don’t have time to write a whole book in reply to this”

That is understandable. I do not either. Feel free to remove yourself from the conversation whenever. I will not take it as a sign of cowardice or defeat, as I too am bust.

“If the Quran in not old enough to legitimize a religion for you, then neither is the Bible.”

The Bible is far older than the Quran. The New Testament by a good 4-5 centuries, and the Old Testament by some thousands of years.

However, I think this missed my point. I was not saying the basis of truth is pure historical age. God was free to reveal Himself progressively, and the newer revelation was not less true than the older. The point that I was making was the Quran came so late, that there is nothing reasonable about overthrowing hundreds of years of known Christian Scriptures and known Christian beliefs [and history], many of which the Quran commands its followers to adhere to. I was saying the Quran is too new to be a legitimate Old Testament sequel, I was not saying it was too new to be true.

“The 66 books you mention are easy enough to dismantle.”

LOL. Ya… our presuppositions certainly affect how we view history’s hundreds of years of attempting to do this.

“Which translations suits you best? Let’s start there. One point at a time.”

I’m not sure how this is relevant. I preach from the ESV. But I believe most of the modern translations to be accurate and reliable (NKJV, NASB, NIV, etc.) I reject paraphrases like the Message and the NLT.

“You seem to be running the Gish Gallop gambit. Or is it just argument ad nauseum?”

I cannot believe this. I have literally engaged only in a point by point response to everything you have said. Therefore, any Gish Gallop, Shotgunning, or argument ad nauseum is being done by you.

 You can’t prove the Bible is true by quoting the Bible There is no proof of prayer or god answering prayer. People give him credit for all the good and excuses are made for the rest. Prayer is just one “worldview” I have that in the end was false hope and promises that never came to fruition. Ever! When you look at what is actually claimed and hoped versus what happens is a huge disparity. Every iota requires deep explanations and apologetics. It not true.

 

“You can’t prove the Bible is true by quoting the Bible.”

I never did that. I quoted the Bible as true, but I did not prove the Bible by quoting it. That wasn’t the structure of my argument. However, when dealing with Ultimates, circularity is inescapable. I can prove this with one easy request:

Prove to me your reasoning faculties are reliable, but don’t use your reasoning faculties to do so.

See how impossible that is? Same goes for my ultimate authority. If I were appeal to anything else, then I would be disproving my ultimate authority is ultimate. You cannot prove your car is the fastest car in the world by having a tow truck tow it down the speedway very fast. You cannot prove you are the strongest person in the world by utilizing someone else’s strengths. Whichever is ultimate will have to vindicate itself, from itself.

“There is no proof of prayer or god answering prayer.”

I don’t think you need that first part. There is proof of prayer. People pray all the time. I think you just needed the second part.

Remember earlier when you accused me of running the Gambit? Ya… I never appealed to prayer as my proof.

“People give [God] credit for all the good and excuses are made for the rest.”

This is actually very true. I agree this happens. But what some people do is irrelevant to whether the Bible is true, Some scientists are weird people. Does that make the enterprise of science unreliable?

“Prayer is just one ‘worldview’ I have that in the end was false hope and promises that never came to fruition. Ever! When you look at what is actually claimed and hoped versus what happens is a huge disparity.”

Perhaps God was not listening due to your idolatry of heart (Is. 1: 10-17). Or, perhaps your theology of prayer (it’s purpose and our expectations) was not formed biblically. Don’t blame the fork when you try to use it like a spoon.

“Every iota requires deep explanations and apologetics. It not true.”

This is due to the constant attacks. Secondly, are you saying you would be more likely to bow your knee to Christ if His revelation were more simple? That would seem to discredit it more than verify it.

Again, I don’t know why we are talking about prayer, but prayer being a theological concept we can dive deeply into and ask difficult questions about hardly disqualifies it from being true. How much of known quantum physics do you deny because it requires so much explanation?

The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule

Any person who professes any form of Atheism will find themselves regularly in conversations about morality. Objective ethics has become the Achilles’ heel of the position which asserts a universe without God is possible.

What I have found strikingly interesting over the years is how many non-Christians will cling to the Golden Rule rule as being a moral standard for themselves. I have heard many non-Christians quote the golden rule when discussing their own personal ethic.

Jesus’ famous words in Matthew 7:12 has become known today as “The Golden Rule.” Jesus commands us in His epic sermon,

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

The Golden Rule has become infamous around the world. Young children in public schools are often taught this rule, and few people are unfamiliar with it.

As Christians, we obviously support the Golden Rule, as it was prescribed by God to us. Because of that, we can be overjoyed when people espouse it as their own.

However, the golden rule is not the Gospel. Notice how Jesus makes this distinction in the very next verses,

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

The Gospel is metaphorically described as entering the narrow gate, something altogether distinct from the Golden Rule. Because of this, we cannot be satisfied when people claim the Golden Rule as their own. On the contrary, it should disturb us.

Non-Christian worldviews are constantly stealing from the Christian faith to try and plug the holes within their worldview. Non-Christian worldviews are not true, and therefore have major gaps and inconsistencies, thus, they must steal tools and lumber from our faith to patch things up.

Typically, this form of worldview robbery is more subtle, but in the case of the Golden Rule it is happening right in front of our eyes, and we have become accustomed to saying nothing about it all. May we never be the kind of tenets who smile and wave at the men in the masks walking out with all our stuff.

How can we effectively fight against this theft of our morality (2 Corinthians 10: 3-5)? I suggest doing this: quote the entire verse.

Jesus did not tell us, as it is commonly quoted in the KJV, to do unto others as we would have done unto us. Jesus did not leave it hanging, but instead, grounded this ethic in a standard.

“…for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

Whenever you hear someone, who is not a professing believer, claim the Golden Rule, remind them that the Golden Rule is actually a general summary of the Old Testament. If you reject the Old Testament, you reject the Golden Rule.

The Golden Rule does not derive its authority via pragmatism. It is liked by the world because it does happen to be very practical. If everyone truly lived this way, the world would be a better place. It is practical, but Jesus does not require it because it is practical and pragmatic. Jesus required it because the Law of God and the Prophets from God.

The expression “the Law and the Prophets” in the Bible is an expression for the entire O.T. Scriptures.  In Jesus’ day, the O.T. was the Bible since the N.T. was not yet being penned. Therefore, Jesus believed the Golden Rule ought to be practiced by us because the Bible said so.

This sort of begs the question, why is the Bible authoritative? This is because Jesus had an understanding that the Old Testament Scriptures were in fact the very words of God (Matthew 22:33). Therefore, the Golden Rule is good, and the Golden Rule is binding because the Bible says so. Therefore, a person cannot take one without the other. No one gets to reject Jesus but take His Golden Rule. They do not get to reject the Old Testament, while gleaning the fruit of it.

When a person claims this, remind them that the Golden Rule finds it’s foundation, not only in Jesus, but in the O.T. Scriptures. When Jesus quoted the Golden Rule, He did so by explicitly telling us that to follow it is to obey Scripture and affirm the authority of Scripture to tell us how to behave.

I would encourage Christians to never quote the Golden Rule without quoting the entirety of verse 12. I would encourage Christians to remind everyone who adheres to this rule of it’s biblical foundation.

When you do this, what you are essentially doing is asking the famous, “By what standard?” question.

Obviously, we as Christians like the Golden Rule (when correctly interpreted and applied). However, we do so consistently with our worldview. We enjoy and apply all of God’s Laws. If someone rejects God’s authority, then the Golden Rule suddenly ceases to be what we know it to be.

It now becomes an arbitrary idea floating in the minds of people. Why does it have any authority? Why is it “good?” Why is it binding on anyone else?

These are issues that must be asked, they must be accounted for. Until then, the golden rule is just an arbitrary, subjective idea binding on no one.

An Alternative Secular Ethic

Other than the Golden Rule, another popular secular ethic is the idea of “not harming others.” More times than I can count have I heard the question, “Why can’t I do that if it doesn’t hurt anyone?” Probably the most sophisticated presentation of this ethic comes from Dan Barker. In more than one debate, he has publicly defined morality as “Causing the least amount of harm as necessary.”

What’s wrong with this secular ethic? The problem is that the Secular worldview has an issue of providing foundations and definitions.

The worldview which seeks to operate outside Scripture’s boundaries cannot give an account as to why this ought to be how morality is defined. But rather, I’d like to focus on a couple additional issues.

Whose Pain Matters?

For starters, there is an issue of defining the realm of who is involved which the secular ethic cannot do. In other words, who is included in this, and why?

Certainly, unborn babies are not included in this. After all, the secular worldview in modern America has been on crusade against the unborn. We are slaughtering them for any and all reasons. Clearly, Barker (and most in his camp) conveniently leave out unborn people from this ethic. Why?

Along with that, in every scenario there are so many people involved one wonders by which standard do we determine whose “harm” is to be considered. Take for example a somewhat common scenario of a young-man “coming out” and telling his parents he is gay and is planning on moving to the city with his boyfriend. The parents are devastated. They are heartbroken and angry. They have been emotionally harmed. Is their son’s actions sinful, then? After all, he harmed his parents.

How many secularists would preach to the parents, who were just harmed, that they should not be bothered because their son’s homosexuality isn’t harming anyone. Well, it harmed them. But apparently their harm doesn’t count.

Barker would likely remind us that his standard is not “thou shall not harm” but that “thou shall harm only in ways completely necessary.” He uses the example of heart surgery to make this point. Technically, surgery is very harmful. We are cutting open and decimating another human’s body. Were it not for anesthesia, it would be a torturous scene making a Saw movie look PG.

However, this intense harm is a necessary harm. Surgery is preventing more serious, long term pain and harm. Thus, it’s necessary. The problem is not solved however. For there are very simple methods for determining a triage of harm in a medical situation. A method is in play which makes it easy to know heart surgery is a good harm compared to living with a clogged artery and sick heart.

What’s the moral method for the scenario above? Is the brokenness of parents the heart attack or the surgery? Whose harm is the more necessary one? His worldview cannot answer that question.

What this also leads to is the issue of how we, time-bound, feeble humans, can possibly know who will be harmed by our decisions and how much. How often do we make decisions, and are completely blown away and shocked by the consequences?

The standard imposed by Barker and the worldview he represents requires omniscience. Thankfully, I am able to get my morality from Someone Who can actually claim that attribute.

The question arises going the other direction too. Not only is their arbitrariness in who is excluded, but there is arbitrariness in who is included as well. Not only are people like unborn babies and conservative parents of homosexuals not included, but one has to wonder why anyone else is.

Someone sympathetic to the reconstituting a Nazi agenda may agree with this secular ethic, but may want to limit it only to the Arian race. We should seek to minimize harm, but not for blacks and Jews. Who is to tell him otherwise? His circle of inclusion is smaller than most in the secular world, but who has the perfect circle? Who has the standard all other circles must seek to match?

What if a person decides the circle needs to be bigger than both Barker and our Nazi? What if a person thinks trees, and plants (both considered living creatures) should have the exact same moral equivalency as any human being. Who is to tell this person they are thinking too big?

Who Defines “Harm”?

Not only can the “who” not be defined, but the “what” cannot be defined either. Who is to define what is “harmful”? Take our scenario about the homosexual son above: does emotional harm count in this ethic, or just physical harm?

Equally important, this standard conveniently assumes what it needs ultimately to prove: the absence of the spiritual. When evaluating the harm of a decision, should I take into account spiritual harm?

1 Corinthians 6 states that homosexuality is a sin which prevents one from entering the kingdom of God. That makes it far more harmful than any physical damage the human body can receive. Yet, I doubt judgment in hell is a concern this sexual ethic allows into consideration.

Like above, this aspect also requires omniscience. How could we possibly know in most situations what the physical, emotional, and spiritual effects will be of our decisions?

Lastly, this ethic cannot account for how the categories of harm interact. Is there a triage among them, meaning, is physical harm worse than emotional, or social harm? Take an issue like spanking. Parents who spank do so because the believe the physical harm of spanking will prevent a greater harm, a social and emotional harm.

People against spanking think that the physical harm is inexcusable, regardless of its potential future social or emotional benefits. Does Barker get to decide between the two? Who gets to?

Conclusion

As should be made clear by now, whether it’s the Golden Rule, or any other moral claim, unless it is revealed by God in Scripture, it is a chaotic mess of arbitrariness, subjectivity, and complications.

Only God, through His Word, provides a meaningful ethic for man to obey.

Christian, should you treat others as you would like to be treated? Yes, you should. Why should you? It’s simple: because the Bible says so.

And no other reason is sufficient to answer that question.

God & Hell

Introduction

The concept of hell is a difficult one to talk about. Because it is so difficult and controversial, we rarely like to discuss it, but because we don’t discuss it, we open the doors wide for false ideas and assumptions to creep in unchallenged.

I recently watched a video shared on Facebook which involved Christian apologist Frank Turek giving an answer to a student about hell during the Q&A. In this, he gives a very common description of hell, one in which many Christians embrace. It can be paraphrased like this,

If you don’t want to be with God, He is not going to force you into His presence forever. Hell is simply just the absence of God. If you don’t want to be with God forever, He will give you His wish.

I have some very serious concerns over this very popular presentation of hell.

The Quasi-Truth

There is a semi-truth to it all. It is true that those who go to hell chose it. The damned are those who hate Christ in this life, and continue to hate Him in the next forever. C.S. Lewis once said “the gates of Hell are locked from the inside.” God is, in one sense, giving people what they want in damnation.

Is it true that hell is the “absence of God?” The short answer is no. This is not true at all (see my reasoning below). However, this is suggesting something true about the nature of hell, depending on what we mean by “presence.”

God is omnipresent. To say that God is “not present in hell” is to deny an important attribute of God. However, sometimes we use the word presence in ways more specific. For example, we might say Moses’ face was changed because he was “in the presence” of God. Angels are so glorious because they are in the presence of God. Perhaps the best example is the Tabernacle. God’s presence dwelt there. His glory could filled that place. God’s presence was everywhere outside the tabernacle, but His presence and glory filled that place in a unique way.

There is, then, a sense where hell can be described as not having the presence of God. God will not be experienced, seen, or beheld by those in hell the way He will by those in heaven. His favor and love will not be there. Thus, this can be accurate.

However, this phrase requires so much explanation to be true, it does not seem to be a helpful way of explaining hell, especially to non-Christians who are not familiar with the nuances of our esoteric vocabulary.

The Truth

All in all, this understanding of hell is not true and not helpful for a number of reasons, specifically because it presents a passive suffering of hell, ignores the purpose of hell, and because God has all authority everywhere.

 Active vs. Passive Judgment

It is actually not biblical to present hell in this way because the Bible presents hell as being an active form of punishment, not a passive one. The concept that people go to hell to experience the consequences of living without God makes God’s wrath passive. It’s passive in that God has simply thrown His hands in the air and left men to their own devices.

Active punishment is much different. Active punishment is God bringing proper retribution of sin.

Suppose a child kept continually running around in the living room. Mom asks the child to stop. Mom knows the T.V. stand, the coffee table, and the bookshelf are all painful objects to run into, but her child continues to sprint through the living room, defying mom’s command to stop.

Mom has two forms of punishment at her disposal. She can passively punish her child. This would entail doing nothing. The child then inevitably hits his head on the corner of the T.V. stand, and that very painful experience serves as mom’s passive punishment. She knew it was coming, but she let it happen. She could have stopped it, but chose not to. That is passive punishment.

Active punishment would have been to stop the child in his tracks, take him to his room, and spank him; that is active punishment. Many try to portray hell as passive; but the Bible teaches it is active.

Matthew 10: 28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

Jesus says that there is room for a healthy fear of the wrath of God. And Jesus says this because the Father is actively involved in justice. Jesus does not say “Fear hell where body and soul will inevitably find themselves destroyed.” Jesus says the Father will destroy body and soul in hell. This is active punishment.

The Purpose of Hell

The passive view of hell above ultimately misses the entire point of hell: punishment for sin. To present hell as if the suffering of that place is just the natural consequence of God not being there is to suggest God just needed a place to put people who didn’t want to go to heaven. Therefore, hell becomes a holding cell for people who rejected the mansion.

But this is not hell’s purpose. The purpose of hell is to punish sin.

John 8: 24, “I told you that you would die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.”

When unbelievers die, they die in their sin. That is significant. This means that they are not simply just going to a place without Christ. It means that they will be held accountable for sin. In death, they stand before Jesus, the judge, and are sentenced. People do not go to hell because they rejected Christ. People go to hell because of their sin. Rejecting Christ is sinful, but that is not the only reason someone goes to hell, and subtly, the popular view of hell among many of us subtly implies that.

If I test positive for cancer, and the doctors are convinced a few rounds of chemo will save me, but I refuse to take chemotherapy, what killed me? Cancer killed me. Not taking chemo didn’t kill me. Someone without cancer could not take chemo and not die. Cancer killed me.

Likewise, people go to hell because of sin. They do not just simply choose to go somewhere other than heaven. They are sentenced to hell by God. Hell is not passive because hell serves a purpose, and that purpose is to punish sin.

God Has All Authority Everywhere

A huge concern of mine with the concept of being “free from the presence of God in hell” is that it tends to either breed, or stem from, the false notion that hell is Satan’s domain. I do not know which came first, the chicken or the egg, but there is a clear correlation between subtracting the active wrath of God from hell, and the concept of Satan running the show there.

It is very easy to develop a cartoonish view of hell where Satan rules and tortures people. It resembles Greek mythology far more than biblical Christianity. When this notion is dissected, it is found to be illogical and unbiblical.

Logically, why would God’s greatest enemy, the very serpent whose head He came to crush (Genesis 3:15), the very antagonist He triumphed over (Colossians 2:15), the very foe He came to bind (Revelation 20: 1-3), why would He get to enjoy eternity forever, torturing people?

The worst creature to ever exist gets to chortle and sneer while sinful humanity weeps and gnashes their teeth? That hardly seems reasonable or just. Unsurprisingly, it is not the picture the Bible paints.

Revelation 20: 10, “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

The Bible clearly expresses that hell will be hell for Satan. Satan will not rule hell, Satan will be forcefully cast into it. Hell will be punishment for him too. It will be severe, eternal torment for Him. He will not be running around burning people and stabbing them with pitchforks; he will be judged.

That leads us to the true authority in hell. It’s not God’s wicked, fallen enemy, but it is God. God has authority under the earth. Satan is not the one to fear in hell; God is. It is the just and righteous wrath of God which ought to make us tremble at the thought of hell, not the wrath of Satan.

The Motivation

I want to tread carefully with this part. As I have said, there is a very real way in which hell can be spoken of as “the absence of God’s presence.” I do not know the heart and motivations of my readers, so I am not attempting to judge everyone with one broad stroke.

I do suspect though, for all of us, that we speak of hell this way not because it is the conclusion of serious exegesis, but because everyone can swallow it better.

This very passive, permissive view of Hell, one where God just allows people to go to the destiny of their choosing, is easier for us to say. It doesn’t taste as bad in our mouths.

The reality of the situation is that all human beings who experience natural affections have a difficult time wrapping their heads around the concept of divine torment as a means of just punishment. It is very difficult to tell a person we love that they are going to suffer consciously in hell. We cloak the final resting place of the damned in euphemism to sugarcoat this very difficult doctrine. The problem is, that if it tastes better in our mouths, it will sound better in their ears.

Perhaps that is part of the motivation too. Perhaps we are embarrassed to speak of hell in the way we know it to be. Regardless, it is not helpful to the unbeliever to soften hell. It is not loving or beneficial to them to at all dampen their fear of hell. They should be afraid; we all should be.

Matthew 11: 6, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

We will only bolster their unbelief and make them more comfortable in their rebellion if we hide the true nature of the consequences of their sin and unbelief. If we love them, we will tell them the whole truth about hell.

Conclusion

The aim of this post is not to turn everyone into fire and brimstone preachers. I am not asking you to bring hell up as often as you can. I am not asking you to hold signs on the street corner tomorrow of stick figures burning in flames. I am not requesting we start recreating medieval art of people boiling in pots.

This is simply an aim to love God and love people. We love God by thinking about hell what He thinks. We defy and demean His character if we hate something He considers necessary and just.

What did Jesus think and say about hell? What did His Apostles teach about hell? Whatever Jesus and the Apostles think and say about hell is what we want to think and say about hell. And we love our neighbor by doing this.

May we not be subjects who blindly follow God out of fear. God desires our faith and our love, not our reluctant obedience. However, may we never lose a healthy dose of reverent fear for the just power of God. May we never walk this Christian life out without fear and trembling. The wrath of God brought Jesus to His knees before the crucifixion. May we never make little of that.

god and hell

Three Reasons for the Incarnation

“But had we the tongue of men and angels, we were not able in any just measure to express the glory of this condescension; for it is the most ineffable effect of the divine wisdom of the Father and of the love of the Son – the highest evidence of the care of God towards mankind. What can be equal unto it? What can be like it? It is the glory of the Christian religion, and power of all evangelical truth.”
– John Owen, The Glory of Christ

I will not pretend all that can be said about the glories of the incarnation of the 2nd Person of the Trinity will be said here. However, since it is Christmas, it felt appropriate to call upon the Scriptures and be reminded of the wonder of the incarnation.

The incarnation of Christ is a beautiful thing. But the question could be asked, “Why the incarnation?” Why this way and not that way? Why did God do this, rather than something else? Certainly, the answer to that finds it’s ultimate solution in the eternal decree and plan of God to most glorify Himself (Ephesians 1: 20). However, the Bible does give us many reasons from that redemptive decree for why Jesus took on flesh. Here then are three biblical reasons for the incarnation. Here are three reasons why Jesus took on flesh.

I. To Serve

Philippians 2: 3-8,
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Paul addresses the Philippian congregation and calls them to humility. He calls them to be humble and to put others before themselves. He then proceeds to point to the greatest act of humility the world has ever seen to serve as their example; namely, the incarnation.

Paul had the mindset that the act of the incarnation is the premier act of humility to the world. That Christ Jesus, creator of all things, would become a creature, and not only be found in the form of a man, but also become a servant, is the highest expression of humility the world will ever know.

Certainly, as creatures, being a servant is part of our nature. We are not self-sustaining. We are serving creatures. Christ Jesus is no servant. He has no obligation to serve, to sacrifice, or to lay things aside, yet, He willfully emptied Himself.

This means that the incarnation is more than a means to an end. It certainly is that (see number II) but it is more than that. The act of the incarnation itself, apart from the cross, was an incredible act of humility and love to people. That God would become man, walk our soil, breath our air, and experience our hurts, that is proof that God loves us. That is proof He is for us and not against us.

The incarnation was the means for Christ to demonstrate His humility and love for man, that He would be made like us to serve us, and ultimately die for us, as one of us.

II. To Die

Hebrews 2: 14-15,
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

The author of Hebrews presents in important argument. Jesus partook of flesh and blood, why? To destroy Satan and deliver His people through death, that is why. In other words, death was the only means to conquer evil and save sinners. The problem however, is two-fold. Only God has the right to do this, and God cannot die.

Only God, the only perfect Being, has the right and prerogative to die for sinners. Another sinner is not allowed that privilege.

Only God has the power to raise from the dead. No creature can raise themselves from death.

Clearly,  only God can conquer evil and atone for sins. However, this must be done through death, and God cannot die. How can a God who cannot die, die for sins? The answer is the incarnation. Jesus took on flesh and blood so that God could die.

In the hypostatic union, Jesus added a human nature to Himself. He brought on a nature capable of bleeding and dying. Thus, God solved the problem. Because of the incarnation, God could finally die, and simultaneously not be defeated in death.

Attached to this idea is the ever important doctrine of substitutionary atonement. The incarnation is necessary because atonement for sins is necessary.

Were God unjust, He could simply “forgive” people without requiring payment. That’s what corrupt judges do. They disregard law in order to wink at crime. Were God unjust, He could do the same. He could avoid the cross, and “just forgive us.” The problem is, were God unjust, He wouldn’t be God.

God is just. This means sweeping sin under the rug with a “boys will be boys” attitude is not a possible means of absolution. God required payment, and only He had the funds to make this payment.

Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 22). Because of the incarnation, Love could bleed. 

III. To Mediate

Hebrews 2: 18,
“For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

Hebrews 4: 14-16,
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

One of the most significant roles of Christ is that of our High Priest. Christ forever intercedes for His people (Hebrews 7: 25). This is made possible because of the incarnation. In order to represent us, He had to be us. He had to know who and what He represents.

As the verses above indicate, no mercy would be available in Christ were He not willing to be tempted, and to suffer as we do. Because He can emphathize with our weaknesses, we can expect grace. The incarnation allowed Jesus to be truly human. He experienced a real, human life. He endured what we endure. This makes Him fitting to be our mediator and representative. He can be our Priest; He is one of us.

Christmas is the best time of the year. In this time we remember who Christ Jesus is. We remember what He has done. We remember the greatest event in all of human history. God broke silence and pierced through the night. Through the virgin’s womb, God was made low. He humbled Himself, He came to our door, He came running to us.

God did not give us just another prophet, or just another apostle, or just another message. Through the incarnation, God gave us Himself.

Christianity is a Religion

boBo Hutches is currently serving as an Associate Pastor at Living Water Bible Fellowship in Alamosa, Colorado. Originally from Springfield, CO he made his way to Alamosa to study at Adams State University. While he was pursuing his studies, he began to feel the call to pastoral ministry. Plugging into the college ministry that Living Water offered he continued to pursue this call by stepping into a student-led leadership role for the ministry. The college ministry allowed him to be more fully integrated with the Living Water congregation at large, a congregation he began to know and love more and more, until the church decided to bring him on staff to continue to pursue the pastoral call through many specific pastoral opportunities including, preaching, teaching, discipleship, counseling, leadership development, and directing the Community Group ministry at Living Water.

In his spare time, he enjoys the spending time with his girlfriend, hanging out with friends, regularly visiting the local coffee shops and taking advantage of the many outdoor activities Alamosa has to offer.

Christianity is a Religion

If you were raised in contemporary Christian culture like me, you probably hate that word, “religion.” I hated that word when I first came to faith in Jesus. That word for me was tantamount to blasphemy. Today, when a Christian says this word it leaves a bad taste in the mouth, a feeling of guilt momentarily overshadows the soul, and a commitment is made to not say the “R-word” again. I hated the word religion, especially when it was placed in close proximity to “Christianity.”Anytime the words “Christian religion” came across the news or in conversation, I would quickly protest or explain, “Well, Christianity is really more of a relationship and not so much a religion.”

The intention behind the protest is correct in that I wanted to distinguish the Christian faith from that of Roman Catholicism, or Mormonism, or Pharisaism. I wanted to communicate that biblical Christianity is unique in its teaching of how a sinner is reconciled to a holy God. Sinners are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and our religious deeds merit nothing before this holy God. In my thinking, to be religious was to be self-righteous, stuffy, and a slave to traditions. I certainly did not want myself nor my faith to be associated with that. The intention was right; the response was wrong.

James tells us that,

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).

There it is, right there in the Bible. That cursed R-word. Surely it’s a textual variant, or perhaps the translators were just being lazy that day. Or is it something different? Could that word be there intentionally? If the Holy Spirit has the wisdom and authority to inspire this word, maybe I should be comfortable describing my faith as a religion.

Slowly but surely, I came to realize that it’s true. Christianity is a religion, but it is also a relationship. It’s both.

A funny thing that Evangelicals commonly like to do is make needless, false dichotomies. Our Christian culture is full of them. Street evangelism or friendship evangelism? Hymns or contemporary music? Love for theology or love for people? Both is my answer to these false dilemmas and it is no different to the question, “Is Christianity a religion or a relationship?” My answer: it’s both.

Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ that is expressed in religious exercises.

My relationship with Jesus is not like my relationship with my father, co-worker or other church members, it is fundamentally different. My relationship with Jesus is transcendental and not earthly. He is not my significant other nor my personal ethics coach; rather, He is my Lord and my God.

I don’t meet Jesus for coffee down at my local coffee shop and catch up with what’s new in our lives; I meet Him in the early morning in the confines of my living room, hear from Him in His word and speak to Him through prayer. I don’t call Him up flippantly; I approach Him reverently. I don’t express my relationship with Him by talking about the good ol’ days; the highest expression of my devotion to Him comes through corporate worship with His people on a Sunday morning. I devote myself to religious activities and exercises to express the seriousness of this relationship to Him and to others.

I now see the word religion as old, sacred, and beautiful. As Christians, we should be comfortable using the R- word when talking about our faith. It is not a curse word to be avoided, it is rather a sacred word to be embraced.

Being comfortable with the R-word matters to our unbelieving friends, too. If I am constantly trying to reach my friends with the Gospel, and I continue to stress the one-sided relationship aspect of the Christian faith, what will be their perception when I invite them to my church? We do a lot of “religious” things at my church on a Sunday morning. In fact, it’s all we do on a Sunday morning. Fellowship, prayer, preaching, singing, taking of the Lord’s table, and baptism are all religious activities! And it is supposed to be that way; we shouldn’t be ashamed of that.  

Jesus holds the place of the most important relationship in your life, but He is also the founder of your religion. The Bible holds both of these truths in a beautiful tension, and so should we.

Sacred & Secular

Doctrine and Devotion

One of my favorite podcasts to listen to is “Doctrine and Devotion” (Doc & Devo). Lead pastor of Redeemer Fellowship, Joe Thorn, and elder candidate, Jimmy Fowler, put on a great show. They are theologically rich, and hysterical to boot. As a reformed Baptist like them, I agree with them on quite a bit, and I have been sanctified on many theological issues because of their ministry. They really are a blessing to God’s church.

Their latest podcast was one I had to take issue with, but I could not do so without the previous introduction. It would be a mistake for anyone reading this to interpret it as criticism against these men or their church. I recommend them to all. This is simply in attempt to write a blog which will be informative for my audience.

I also want to proceed in the same spirit and manner in which they conducted their podcast.

“We are encouraging people to think harder about these things. We don’t have all the answers. Don’t read your favorite blog and go ‘OK that’s my view.’ Instead read the books, read broadly.”

I share their humble and gentle spirit. I hope no one reads this and assumes I am correct.  I hope no one takes this as a dogmatic position which is binding or representative of all the leaders and members of my church; it is not. Feel free (as usual) to leave comments and questions about this post exposing the holes in my theology if need be! The issue at hand is one of the main ingredients of a Christian’s eschatology, and I do not pretend to have all the answers of eschatology. I am relatively new to my position, and still have many holes as well as texts unanswered. I am open and willing to change my mind on the issues below, but I hope that my current disagreements can still be a useful challenge to many.

Two Kingdoms?

The title of the podcast episode is “Sacred and Secular” and is a promotion of Two-Kingdom Theology. Risking simplicity, their brand of Two-Kingdom theology asserts there are two kingdoms in the world: a secular kingdom and a sacred kingdom, the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God. Two-Kingdom Theology is essentially addressing the issue of how the Church (Christians) is distinguished from and interacts with the world.

In this view, the idea of “Christendom” is unwelcome. The idea of a Christian nation (a theocracy) is rejected, for politics is part of the secular kingdom, and therefore no effort to “Christianize” it is necessary.

Admittedly, the terminology can be misleading. The vocabulary was used by the reformers (Calvin and Luther specifically) but completely different views fight over who is representing the two-kingdoms of the reformation. Without wanting to get into this debate, I am going to call the position advocated by Doc & Devo Radical Two-Kingdom theology (R2K). I stole this from Douglas Wilson. He calls it this in his book, Empires of Dirt, and since I will be quoting from his book often, it is fitting to adopt his terminology.

Essentially, what the podcast focused on was the idea of the church’s mission. Should we be in the business of “redeeming” the culture? Should the church expect cultural change? In R2K fashion, Doc & Devo said no. I maintain (with a loose grip) we should.

Two “Kingdoms”

Before addressing the claims in the podcast, let me first define my position in regards to Two-Kingdom theology.

Like the reformers, I do believe in distinction. There are distinct authorities and nations in Scripture. I believe the government is not the church, and the church is not the government, and neither of those are the family. The real distinction for me lies in the one of worlds, not kingdoms.

Jesus, in His high priestly prayer, did not pray for the world, but prayed for those whom the Father gave Him out of the world (John 17: 9). John tells us not to love the world which is passing away (1 John 1: 15-17), and Peter describes us as “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2: 11).

There is a very real distinction at play in the Bible, but perhaps the distinction needs to be made between the world and the church, not between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of men, and that is not merely semantics.

Secular and sacred are real divides, but they are not kingdom divides. They are not divided as kingdoms, but they are divided within the kingdom.

The Secular World

Secularism has become the official religion of Agnosticism. It is a political title for something the authors of the Bible would think of as polytheism. But there is a place for the word secular, and it ought to mean non-ecclesiastical. There is work within the church, and work outside the church (ecclesiastical and secular), but all work is kingdom work. The divide is one within God’s kingdom. Not all people are called to work in the church, but all people are called to be part of the church. Not everyone is called to be a deacon or a pastor, but everyone is called to be a Christian (Acts 17: 30). Thus, the secular should be able to coexist just fine within a Christian kingdom.

The issue then becomes simple: how many Kings are there? It’s hard to imagine a kingdom without a king. Who is the king of the “secular kingdom”? Who sits in the throne over the “kingdom of men”?

The last time I checked, there is only one King. His name is Jesus, and He has all authority in both heaven and earth (Matthew 28: 18). There is only one King, and therefore, there is only one Kingdom.

Certainly, there are “kingdoms” on earth. There are sovereign nations with real boundaries and divinely appointed authorities. However, those nations are not existing in a world outside the rule and reign of Christ. The kings of those nations did not die and rise again, and therefore, there is a higher Name above them (Philippians 2: 8-11). But the Kingdom of God is penetrating the kingdoms of men, and the kingdoms of men are supposed to be taking their seats within the kingdom of God.

The controversy then (which I will flesh out in my responses) is the Church is not supposed to maintain a secular and sacred divide within the world, but is instead supposed to, as pastor Joe called it, “erode” the line between the two. Both the secular and the sacred must operate under the Lordship of Christ, applying His Gospel and His Law within their sphere. 

The kings of the earth who do not honor their Lord have not rallied together and created their own kingdom to spite Jesus. They are simply unfaithful deacons within the world, which belongs to Jesus entirely.

This is why I believe in Christian theocracies, and why I believe the Christian church should set their sights on that within the nation God, in His sovereignty, has placed them.

Because Jesus owns the nations, because everywhere we go, we are in His kingdom, living in His jurisdiction, the nations should structure themselves accordingly, and rule in light of that reality.

Psalm 2 was written to the kingdoms of the earth. They are told to “serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” They are told to “Kiss the Son.” The nations are not a kingdom to themselves. They are expected to serve, obey, and kiss Jesus. As Douglas Wilson put it,

“The kings of the earth are to receive Christian baptism, and they are to bring their honor and glory into the Christian Church” (Empires of Dirt, 99).

There are realms of authority within the world, legitimate ones. That is the reformer’s doctrine of two-kingdom theology. However, I maintain that all the world is the kingdom of God, not just Jerusalem, and not just the Church. It all belongs to Jesus, and therefore we must call every person, every government, every organization, and every nation of men, who belong to Jesus and live in His world, to begin acting like it.

However, the kingdom of God is not fully manifested. The kingdom of God is not described in Scripture as an air-strike, raining down on the world and changing it in the blink of an eye. No, it is instead described as a mustard seed, or leaven (Matthew 13: 31-33). It began very small, but it grows gradually overtime until it is all-encompassing and beautiful.

The point of my position is that when the woman in Jesus’ parable leavens the dough, she expects the leaven to leaven the entire lump. The leaven will not stop at certain boundaries of the secular part of the dough.

Jesus came and brought the kingdom of God with Him. He planted the seed, and now it’s growing. This is why the Bible can speak of it as both being a present reality (Matthew 4: 17; Luke 17: 20-21: Acts 28: 30-31), and also as something to come (1 Corinthians 6: 9; Matthew 5: 17-20).

Thus, the Kingdom of God is not a global phenomenon yet, but it is getting there. We just need more time in the oven. And the growth of the kingdom implies there are no Secular boundaries with “No Trespassing” signs God’s people are required to obey.

Dealing with the Podcast

As has been said, the podcast dealt more specifically with the calling of the Church. Is it the Church’s job to effect cultural change? We will focus our discussion on this concept as I respond to some of the claims made by Doc & Devo.

“Redeeming culture is not the mission of the church…We are called to make disciples as disciples; that’s what we are called to do.”

This was repeated regularly throughout the cast. I simply do not understand the distinction. I understand the distinction between the church and the world, but I do not understand the distinction between culture and disciples.

It is true Christians must be about the Great Commission (GC) in Matthew 28: 18-20,

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.‘”

The GC is to disciple the nations, to baptize the nations, and then to teach them what Christ taught. How does that not redeem culture? A culture is a group of people within a nation who hold shared values. The GC, effectively accomplished, would change the group of people within that nation, and it would change their values. The culture has definitionally changed through the GC.

Was Michelangelo called to “paint the Sistine Chapel,” or was he called “to make the Sisitine Chapel beautiful?” The answer is both. By painting it, he beautified it. When we make disciples of the nations, we change those cultures.

This is why I disagree with Pastor Joe’s claim that we, “get confused because [we] have eroded the distinction between the sacred and the secular.” Perhaps we are actually confused by the creation of an artificial distinction between culture and disciples.

In short, people are culture. To change people is to change culture, and the GC is expressly about changing the people of every nation. the GC is about salvation and sanctification. And when enough people are saved and sanctified, that has consequences. Perhaps the church is not directly called to change the culture, but the church should be expecting it on the basis of what she has been called to. What this then really boils down to, is not so much the mission of the church, but the potency of the Gospel. 

“When have we ever seen the city renewed by the church?”

This argument is fair and is one the most concerning arguments against my position used by R2K proponents. My father uses this one regularly, and I don’t think I have a great answer for it. If Paul couldn’t change Ephesus, how can I change Denver? If the Spirit, who saved 3,000 people at Pentecost, did not turn Jerusalem around, why expect Him to change mine?

One observation that needs to be made though is that this is a bit anachronistic. The idea that the kingdom of God grows slowly and progressively means we need a lot of time for this change to finally set. Don’t blame the leaven when you pull the bread out of the oven too early.

However, what was most ironic was that after Pastor Joe asked this rhetorically, Jimmy Fowler answered with “Salt Lake City.” They both laughed it off as a joke, but it appears the joke is on us.

Has not Mormonism managed to transform that city, and even the entire region? If a false gospel can do that, why can’t the true one?

“Restoration is possible in part…we’ve seen it happen.”

The question that must be asked at something like this is, “Says who?” Why is restoration of culture only possible in part? This idea must either come from experience or the Bible.

I do not know of a single text Scripture which promises God will only restore certain amounts of a culture. Where does the Bible draw this line? How much restoration is too much for God before He reigns in all that Gospel triumphing stuff? How much victory is too much victory?

And it seems that, were this based on experience alone, it is being interpreted upside down. For one, all of the cultural redemption that has happened in history through the church should be considered evidence against R2K (or at least the beginning of something worrisome). Secondly, I see no reason at all why this experiential observation cannot be encouragement for the antithetical hypothesis; namely, that because we have seen radical restoration, we can expect to go all the way.

If a baseball player slams one to left field, and the outfielder leaps the wall and catches it, we are not to infer from the out that the batter, the next time up at the plate, is unable to hit a home run. Instead, we should wait at the edge of our seats with baited breath. He has actually proved he can.

“The calling is on all people at all times in all places to live faithfully where you are at.”

This is common rhetoric, and certainly something I agree with, but the question I have to ask is, to what end?

To what end are we called to just live faithfully? If we do this long enough and faithfully enough, will something happen, or is it just for show? Tertullian famously said,

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

There are many who, to be in line with their own eschatology, reject this because they recognize the latent-postmillenial hope, many love this quote without really recognizing the ingredients. It’s easy to see why the Christian is drawn to it. It is not only poetic, but it also pays homage to our dear brothers and sisters who have been tortured and murdered for the sake of Christ. However, what this quotation is actually saying is that all of those faithful martyrs, being faithful where they were at, actually accomplished something with their faithfulness.

Tertullian believed that the martyrs are not merely God’s trophies, but were actually agents used to advance the kingdom. Through their blood, through their suffering, they help secure a world with less blood and less suffering.

This ironic redemption circle is present within the Gospel itself. Colossians 2: 13-15,

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”

Jesus disarmed the demonic forces, shamed them, and triumphed over them, by being killed. This is the beautiful irony of the Gospel. The greatest accomplishment Satan ever managed to complete was the crucifixion of the Son of God. Satan hated Jesus, and so did men. And all of His enemies managed to get their way, and end Him (only from their perspective, for we know that no one takes Jesus’ life from Him unwillingly [John 10:18]). Yet, this great accomplishment by God’s enemies, was simultaneously their own defeat. They brought about their own destruction through their attempts of victory.

Hebrews 2: 14-15, 

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

Jesus conquered death by dying. He achieved victory through losing. This is the irony of the Gospel. Like Haman was hung by the pole he constructed himself, the enemies of God destroyed themselves.

This is the picture of the martyrs. There is a beautiful irony in their faithfulness. The very blood they spill brings forth vegetation from that ground.

They plant the kingdom seeds, and then their adversaries water that seed with the blood of Christians. The adversaries of the church are actually adversaries of Jesus (Acts 9:4). And so they likewise persecute Jesus today just like they did in His day: to their own demise. They bring about their own destruction.

The point of all of this is two-fold. One, this is why we cannot look at Christian suffering and determine the postmillenial hope to be rubbish. That fact that things are difficult now is not an indication that it has not gotten any better, nor that it will not get better. Christians are still dying. That’s tragic, I understand that. But when Jesus died it was actually the sign of something redemptive; good things and better times were to come.

That brings me to my next point. Jesus’ faithfulness was fruit for the rest of us to reap. Likewise, we are faithful now, not only for faithfulness’ sake, but for our grandchildren’s sake as well.

This ironic Gospel victory shows up in the faithful witness of Christians. When we endure faithfully, when we live faithfully, we expect something to happen. The church grows, the Gospel endures, and God’s glory covers the earth.

In his book, Wilson comments on the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from Daniel 2. Certainly, those three men are emblematic of being faithful where you’re at. And then said faithfulness put them in a high political office, and it was written into civil law that the God of Israel had to be respected. Wilson concluded his commentary this way,

“I would counsel extreme caution. Do you see the sorts of excesses that faithful presence can lead to? …This is dangerous business, this faithful presence stuff. You have to watch your step constantly. If you are too faithful, you might win…” (Empires of Dirt, 152).

“[The redemption of the world] is God’s work in Christ. It will only happen when Jesus returns. The ultimate redemption of this world, all creation being renewed…that’s God’s work. We don’t redeem the world. God redeems the world in the end.”

The language of this is not problematic, but the implication given the context it is in. Certainly it is true that the coming of Christ will actually accomplish something. Paul makes this clear in Romans 8: 20-23,

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

Final redemption for creation, final glorification for the people of God, the wiping away of every tear, all of this will happen at Christ’s glorious return. Everyone agrees the Second Coming will be awesome (where’s my ribbon for the understatement of the year?) Christ will make things right, redeem everything, and fix the universe at that time, and those who reject R2K theology have no inconsistency in accepting this. Wilson says,

“[T]here is absolutely no inconsistency between wanting the nations to acknowledge Christ and laboring for their conversion, on the one hand, and acknowledging that nothing will finally and ultimately be put right until the resurrection, even if the nations are fully converted, as I believe they will be.”

All Christians agree that after the Second Coming, everything will be perfect. The point of separation then becomes this, in the entire plan of redemption, which divine action pulled most of the weight: the cross, or the second coming?

What will have the most influence in changing the world? Which event will most drastically change people, the Gospel, or the judgment? It seems that Scripture is emphatic that the Gospel is the hope of world, the Gospel was the bigger rock thrown into the pond of eternity.

Why is it that Jesus was exalted so that “every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”? It’s because Jesus “being found in human form, he humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2: 5-11).

What is it that has reconciled all things to Jesus, “whether on earth or in heaven”? It was the peace made by “the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1: 20).

A prolific Messianic prophecy, Psalm 22, promises global redemption in verses 27-31,

“All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.”

All that is said to be the consequence of Jesus’ atonement, not His Second Coming.

We do agree the world will be put right, and that this is the work of God, not the work of man, but the Gospel is just as much the working and power of God as the Second Coming is. The Gospel has the shoulders to carry the world, and the Gospel has already happened. It’s time to cultivate and reap.

“Jesus Christ, Lord of the next Christendom, won a great victory before He was enthroned to where He is currently enthroned, at the right hand of the Father. We do not honor that victory by acting as though it passed through history the way Jesus passed the wall of the upper room, without leaving a hole. No, He left a hole, all right. History has never been the same and can never be the same.” -Douglas Wilson, Empires of Dirt

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