The Confession Alone: The 6th Sola

The Confession Alone: The 6th Sola

Confessions and formalized creeds have been an edifying edition to the Christian faith. Since the beginning of the New Covenant (and even further back since the dawn of teaching), mankind has formalized and rehearsed many sayings, creeds, idioms, and other phrases that have refreshed our minds about a how we ought to think or understand life. Within Christendom, there are certain flavors of creeds and confessions that we Reformed folks hold to very dearly. Assuming that you understand which confessions exist, I seek to make my point quickly. If you have never read a creed, confession, or catechism, I highly suggest you do some research and learn from them.

Having said all that, there is an authoritative flaw in our Reformed circles. I call it he Sixth Sola: Confession Alone. It is this idea that if it is not a part of your confession, it cannot (or in some cases should not) be taught or even considered as biblical. Or, practically speaking, although we do not verbally admit this, when we are discussing Scripture with someone, and the first thing that comes out of their mouth is “X confession says…” when making their case, it is making the confession the ultimate authority in the conversation (unless they are just using the confession as a springboard to talk about Scripture). I am aware that this last statement may have ruffled more feathers than the first, but understand what I am actually saying and do not misinterpret my words. If your first or final authoritative response in any discussion about theology or what the Bible teaches concerning what you believe and why is “the confession says” you have turned a guidepost into a destination.

Most, if not all, creeds, confession, and catechisms are reactive. That is, they are written and formed based off of some other creed or confession that is in opposition, and those forming it wish to distinguish themselves for the opposing party. It can be in response to false teaching (or perceived false teaching), or it can be simply trying to make a stand about a certain belief within a specific community that affirms X belief(s). As I already said, this is not inherently wrong. These are great ways to find out where your stand in your faith. i would argue that it is impossible to say anything without it being “creedle” in some way. But if you do not study the Scriptures and seek to understand why you believe what you believe, and whether or not you think you can agree with these confessions, you are placing the cart before horse. The confessions can point you in a specific direction (guidepost), but they are not the final authority (destination). Our first response in any discussion should be Sola Scriptura, not Sola Confessio (Latin check). Yet, time after time, when I dive into the Scriptures with particular pastors, preachers, and believers who ascribe heavily to confessions and creeds, whenever there are any disagreements or whenever I make my points from Scripture, I am faced with “but the Confession says…” How can this be within a Reformed world whose foundational mindset is supposed to be Scripture Alone?

There can be many reasons why one authoritatively appeals to the a confession more than Scripture. But I think I have narrowed them down to two main roots: Traditionalism and laziness. There is nothing wrong with tradition. Every denomination and person has them. It is when that tradition begins to have authority over Scripture is when we have a huge problem. Some people find great joy in holding to the long standing tradition that some of our creeds and confessions teach. Nothing wrong with that if you understand what you believe and why. But it seems that this is not the case with many. By proxy, if you are a traditionalist in this area, you will quote the confession better than you can quote Scripture because you are relying on the confession to approve yourself before God (or men). Unless for whatever reason you don’t have any access to Scripture, or in some way you are only able to memorize Scripture by categorizing them via the confession, there should be no reason why you cannot study for yourself what the Bible teaches within the pages that the confessions are pointing to. Which brings me to my next point.

I find that it is easier to quote a saying, phrase, creed, etc., in place of actually making a verbal argument concerning what you actually believe and why. Nothing wrong with summarizing what you believe, or repeating a summarization of something you would affirm. But If I believe that the reason why man exists is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, why? Because the confession says so? Or because the Scripture quoted in the confessions says so? Have I looked at the listed Scriptures? Have I taken the time to study and reform my thinking in light of the Scriptures that a confession teaches? Will I be courageous to practice Semper Reformanda if I discover some nuance in the Scriptures? Or will I be taking the confession at face value because my community of believers/churches do? Or because the men before me were theological giants who were totally incapable of error even in the minutia? Laziness is what causes us to use the confessions as they were not meant to be used. These are guideposts, not destinations.

Notice, I am not challenging the confessions. Nor am I exhorting anyone to cast away the didactic luxury that they bring to our lives. I am challenging how we think concerning them. We all have a tendency to elevate anything good over God. That is evident in Scripture and in our daily lives. If we find ourselves running to the confessions and creeds as our primary authoritative source for understanding and assurance of our faith in Christ, and we can quote and explain a confession easier than we can explain Scripture and the gospel, we must immediately eject ourselves from the seat of traditionalism and laziness, and we must diligently seek God through the Scriptures for our assurance and understanding. This doesn’t mean we cannot use the confessions to help us in this direction. But once again, where does your affection, affirmation, and assurance of your faith lie? In Christ Alone, or in the Confession Alone? Is it because the confession says so that you believe X, Y, Z, or is it because you have studied and affirmed that the Scriptures teach it?

One last time, I am not bashing any confession, or the use of them in discussion. But I am standing against any form of authoritative proclamation or behavior that insists that the confession is the first and final say so in any biblical discussion and practice. If your “go-to” argument and assurance of your belief is “the confession says,” you’ve lost all credibility. And if the confession is your main source for approving yourself before God, your credibility may not be the only thing that is lost.

-Until we go home

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 2) – Eternal Fire

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 2) – Eternal Fire

It can be difficult for some people to digest large chucks of complex information. It is even harder for people to pick up on subtle nuances that certain teachers use in order to make their case. What’s even more difficult is the fact that not many Christians read the New Testament with a systematic and linguistic lens that is trained to detect and digest all these subtle nuances that certain teachers use to deceive them. But I have good news! You do not need to know all of how Greek works to understand what I am about to show you. As hopefully some of my readers already know, I like getting to the point. So in this particular article, I will challenge the idea from certain conditionalists that believe hell’s fires are only temporary. Or, to be accurate, the fire is only eternal in the fact that the effect of the punishment they provide the wicked endures forever. If you haven’t picked up on that subtle nuance already, some who believe in conditional immortality believe that the fires of hell are meant to eventually “consume” the person. They contend that this is what Jesus meant by “unquenchable.” That is, the fire cannot be “put out” rather than “die out,” and that it will not stop until the adversaries are totally consumed (or in their case annihilated).

Before I show from Scripture why this isn’t the case, here is the only difficulty I have, or anyone who wishes to make a case in writing. This isn’t conversation. In conversation you can investigate and probe in ways that writing cannot. In live debate and cross-examination, you can publically show why a person’s position in a particular area is in error. In blog posts, all people do is write in response to opposing blog posts, and will carefully pick and choose what they will or will not respond to, or write something in such a way that seems like a legitimate response, but it is not. Of course, anyone can use my previous sentence against me, and I should expect that. But the reason I went through all the trouble to write this paragraph is so that the reader is aware that what I am about to deal with in this article is so specific and easy to understand, it would take a linguistic twisting so incredible, that it would have to deny how certain grammars of Greek work. And while some opponents of eternal conscious torment believe this is “insignificant” in comparison to the stacks of evidence that seems to support conditional immortality (CI) or annihilationism, this is just one of the many semantic proofs that will be the proverbial snow ball that rolls down the mountain.

One of the text used by CI folks is Matthew 25:46 when Jesus says:

“And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

I will deal with how the words “eternal punishment” does not mean that the results of the punishment lasts forever as CI presents it. But for now, let’s look at this Scripture in context. The first thing we have to see is that this whole chapter deals with Jesus and His judgment on the wicked at His return. Starting in verse 31 of chapter 25, He begins a discourse about those who will inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and those that are wicked will be cast into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Other than the fact that some CI and annihilationists think that Satan and his angels will also be “consumed” by this fire, some others insist that this “eternal fire” is eternal in the sense that it is from God (because He is eternal), or that its punishment upon the wicked has eternal consequence, but not the fire itself. Don’t run, here comes the easy-to-understand-Greek-grammar that I mentioned earlier.

In Greek, you will sometimes have an article-noun-article-adjective construction. Don’t run. If I lost you, you will get it in a second. It would like literally writing, in Matt 25:41,  “the fire, the eternal one.” Adjectives describe or limit nouns. If I say I have a house. That’s the noun. If I have a yellow house. That adjective describes the noun. If I further mention that my house is eternal. then I have added another element to the noun, but it still describes or limits the noun in some way. If I say, “Hey, look at that house.” And you ask “which one?” It is probably because there is more than one house around and you seek to know which one I am looking at. If I reply, “The yellow one” I am implying that not only is the yellow house significantly different than all the other houses around it, but I am also saying that this one is a certain kind of house in context of all the other houses. In this Scripture, starting in verse 41, Jesus turns to the wicked and says:

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

This is what it looks like in Greek. I will highlight the words you need to pay attention to in order to understand my illustration above.

ότε ἐρεῖ καὶ τοῖς ἐξ εὐωνύμων πορεύεσθε ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ οἱ κατηραμένοι εἰς τὸ πῦρ τὸ αἰώνιον τὸ ἡτοιμασμένον τῷ διαβόλῳ καὶ τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ

Notice that εἰς  means “into” and τὸ (article) πῦρ (noun), which means “the fire.” But not just any fire, but τὸ (article) αἰώνιον (adjective) – “the eternal one.” In essence, what this Scripture is making clear is that unlike all the fires that die out and/or are eventually put out, this fire that the wicked will be cast into, with the Devil and his angels, is itself eternal. This is not dealing with the consequences or results. The fire itself is of an eternal nature meant to burn for eternity. Despite what some opponents may say about this, this carries huge implications. Because what Jesus is saying that we will be cast into the fire, the eternal one, when we are judged. And here is the kicker. The eternal punishment mentioned in verse 46 sits within the context of this eternal fire that awaits us. This means that the fire that burns forever dictates how eternal punishment in this context is to be understood. No linguistic tricks attached. Even though the word “punishment” by itself can ambiguously represent the result of it dished out, in this particular text, it clearly illustrates that the punishment will be itself eternal. And that the fire, which burns eternally, will be the instrument used to carry out the sentence.

But wait there’s more!

In Matthew 18:8, Jesus uses this same Greek construction (article-noun-article-adjective) to illustrate our reaction toward sin. He says:

“And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.”

This is what it look like in the Greek.

εἰ δὲ χείρ σου πούς σου σκανδαλίζει σε ἔκκοψον αὐτὸν καὶ βάλε ἀπὸ σοῦ καλόν σοί ἐστιν εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν ζωὴν κυλλὸν χωλόν δύο χεῖρας δύο πόδας ἔχοντα βληθῆναι εἰς τὸ πῦρ τὸ αἰώνιον

Look familiar? It should. It is as Matthew 25 says, “the fire, the eternal one.” And Jesus not only says that the fire is itself eternal, but he parallels this with the next verse by saying:

“And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.”

Another way to put this verse is fiery hell. The word hell used here is “Gehenna” which is the book of Revelation equivalent to the lake of fire. And Jesus spoke about Gehenna differently throughout the gospels then He did about Hades, which just generally meant the place of the dead. But CI and annihilationists want you to believe that this fire is not going to burn those in it forever, but that they will eventually be consumed. However, in this Scripture, Jesus semantically links the two – Gehenna and “the fire, the eternal one” – equally to make His point about what will happen to those who don’t take sin seriously and are not born again.

Hang in there, although I can go on, there is only one more thing I want to show you.

Just like in Matthew 18 where Jesus parabolically encourages you to slice your hand off in comparison to being thrown in hell, Mark 9:43 provides a parallel passage that describes the same teaching. But notice how the eternal fire is mentioned here.

“And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.”

Here is how it looks in the Greek:

kαὶ ἐὰν σκανδαλίζῃ σε χείρ σου ἀπόκοψον αὐτήν καλόν ἐστίν σε κυλλὸν εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν ζωὴν τὰς δύο χεῖρας ἔχοντα ἀπελθεῖν εἰς τὴν γέενναν εἰς τὸ πῦρ τὸ ἄσβεστον

Do you notice something familiar about this verse? I bolded it for you so you can recognize it. Do you recognize the grammar/construction? You should. It is the art-noun-art-adj construction we’ve been talking about. Except we have a new word introduced. It is ἄσβεστον (asbeston) which means to be “unquenchable” in English. And it is only used three times in the New Testament (Matt. 3:12; Mark 9:43; Luke 3:17). It literally means that it cannot be extinguished, put out, or die out. In essence, what this verse is saying is people will go “into Gehenna, into the fire, the unquenchable (inextinguishable) one.” It’s a bit awkward sounding in English, but Gehenna, fire, and eternal burning are all interconnected ideas.

The proponents of CI like to say that unquenchable means that the fire can’t be “put out,” not that it won’t “die out.” This is a subtle nuance, and I find it manipulative and trite. But it is a nuance nevertheless. The difference is illustrated by knowing when I light a fire, it will either die out on its own, or I can snuff it out, extinguish it, or quench it with my fingers, water, blowing it out, etc. This isn’t an entirely bad case to make, because God’s eternal wrath cannot be quenched against those who are His enemies (except by atonement). The difference is that conditionalists believe that this only means that the fire will not be quenched until it has entirely consumed the wicked. In other words, it can’t be put out until it has finished consuming. But as we already learned from these other passages above, the fire itself is indeed eternal. So whether it cannot be extinguished or put out or die out, really makes no difference seeing that the fire will burn perpetually. Even if it meant that it can’t be “put out,” the point is the fire will not stop burning, ever! But perhaps the Scripture means what it has always meant for the majority who read it, and the Greek scholars who interpret it. That is, the fire burns forever because those in that place of punishment, as Matthew 25 implies, are there forever. Unquenchable means it can’t be put out, extinguished, or die out because God is the only one who can do it! And even if it is taken from Isaiah 66, and various other passages in the Old Testament that have similar semantic value, it does not negate Jesus’ exegesis that the fire will remain and so will those who are in it.

Although more could be said, for the sake of brevity, I will close with this. In a future article, I will deal with “unquenchable” fire and arguments that proponents of CI and annhilationists make to justify their reasoning as to why the fire is a “consuming” fire and not an eternal one. But for now, ponder the grammatical construction and think about how the fire could burn for eternity, and yet there will be nothing left to burn? A predictable rebuttal will be that God Himself is a (or The) consuming fire. I agree. But that is not what the Greek is implying. This fire resides within the “place” where the Devil, his angels, and all those who are wicked will go. It is its own fire. It is categorically different than other fires that burn. That is what the grammar reveals. Of course, it is a fire that comes from God, is kindled by God, and can only be put out by God. And, It is God administering the punishment, and it is God who is present within the fire. But if the persons are eventually consumed, why would the wrathful anger of God burn forever against an enemy that no longer remains? Therefore, the fire cannot be simply from God, because the implications are not as simple to deal with, and the grammar doesn’t point in that direction.

-Until we go home

*For more information on Greek grammar, I recommend getting a copy of Dan Wallace’s book “Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics” which verifies this grammar and many other constructions.

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 1) – Intro

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 1) – Intro

The subject of hell for many is very uncomfortable. Even trying to deal with this subject as a topic of apologetics seems very shallow. After all, if there is any kind of punishment after death, since it is from God, it will be terrible regardless of how we try to magnify or mitigate the sentence. Whether we are annihilated immediately after we are resurrected, suffer conscious torment in the intermediate state only to be resurrected and continue in that state of suffering, or we suffer for a time and then are annihilated, why should it matter? Does it matter? Well, yes and no. Yes, in the sense that if we are going to look at what happens to people who are not saved and their punishment, we inevitably will view the atonement and God through a particular lens. No, in the sense that if a person believes only that hell is not eternal conscious torment, and this is their only variation, they aren’t fundamentally saying something that could be considered damnably heretical. However, they certainly do raise eyebrows of concern, especially in the area of the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Because one thing you must always be aware of is that every major doctrine is interconnected. Hell and Heaven are major because they inevitably affect one’s view of what the atonement accomplishes. Alter the state of either destination, you must inevitably shift your view, however subtle, concerning the cross of Christ. Some shifts are damnably heretical (or at least can lead there). Meanwhile other shifts are inconsistent and concerning, but may not be.

For the ministry of Rethinkinghell.com, there are a number of contributors that propose the idea that immortality is not for the wicked, but only reserved for the saved. That is, immortality is conditional upon salvation in Jesus Christ (the doctrine of conditional immortality – CI). As for the wicked, they do not receive immortality as the righteous do. They are doomed for punishment that is eternal, but it is not the process of being punished that is eternal, but the results of the punishment that is eternal. The Scriptures that mention eternal punishment, eternal fire, eternal destruction, according to this position are semantically pointing to the eternal result that comes from God, not the fact that the punishment or the fire itself will last forever.

In the future posts, I will deal will various arguments that some of the contributors of Rethinking Hell make. I will seek to also clarify and strengthen why I believe the experience of the wicked in hell will be eternal conscious torment. I don’t want to be petty and trite when I discuss this seeing that I view this doctrine as major. However, what needs to be stated is that while I strongly disagree with those that believe this doctrine, I cannot confidently affirm at this time that such a doctrine is damnably heretical. At first I did. I have throttled back some. Seeking to err on the side of caution. But I still have a wide suspicion about this doctrine not only because of some of the contributors’ position on penal substitution, but also the theological implication this has on the atonement of Christ (even though the contributors of CI say there are none).

These points will be discussed in later posts in detail. But for now, just know that the doctrine of conditional immortality is gaining much notoriety among certain evangelical circles, and everyone within Christendom will have to deal with the subject sooner than later. I have been following Rethinking Hell for about 3-4 years now, and have seen notable attention. This is not to start a theological mob, but to create awareness that discussion is now necessary, and there will be many who will divide, yet again, over something like this. As you read the following parts to this series, remember that while some people say this is not a major doctrine, I believe that it is. To what degree that this will affect/change fundamental truths of Christianity is too soon to be seen. But there are major concerns that I hope people will notice and address as it grows. If you are not familiar with the ministry, you can go to Rethinkinghell.com and read for yourself some of the articles and podcasts put forth by this ministry.

-Until we go home

Jesus’ Punishment Not Like Ours

Jesus’ Punishment Not Like Ours

There are certain denominations that don’t believe in the eternal conscious torment of the sinner, even among professing evangelical circles. I will deal with this in future articles, but they often bring up the inequality of punishment that Christ receives as a substitution for sinners. Someone like me who believes that hell is eternal conscious torment is often accused of not seeing the cross in just terms because Christ didn’t suffer eternally. There are some opponents who are inevitably annihilationist that will admit, however, that Jesus also was not annihilated. So in either case, Jesus’ punishment does not equally demonstrate the punishment of the wicked. Yet some within this camp further affirm that Jesus dying was the punishment. In other words, because Jesus died, that is how He was able to equally take our punishment because we die. And He rose again, defeating death on our behalf so that the righteous can have immortality. In essence, the moment that Jesus died is when Jesus took the punishment and only in dying, therefore, can we justly say He took our place, since death is the punishment.

While I do not holistically disagree with the conclusion, I also do not fully agree with the premise. Jesus’ experienced God’s wrath for us on the cross. The punishment was not solely death, but suffering God’s wrath because sin was laid upon Him. Death is the result of sin, and Jesus should have died long before He hung on that cross because of the way He was beaten. But because He was sinless, and had not yet had sin placed upon Him (which was a picture of the day of atonement), the body He had was not yet ready to die. It was only after sin was laid upon Him, and God’s wrath poured upon Him that He could cry, “It is finished!” This is penal substitution which some who reject eternal conscious torment love to also subtly deny. Or better yet, not explicitly affirm with plain speech. They rather affirm substitution, but not penal substitution. But I digress. The point is how do we reconcile the fact that Jesus was able to endure sufficiently and efficaciously God’s wrath that He will forever pour out on sinners? If the annihilationist position is true, why would Jesus have to experience the Father’s wrath if the punishment is realized in His death?

These are questions that seem weighty, but can be answered easily. Let’s make this plain. Jesus did not suffer punishment the same way that we will suffer punishment. Whether you believe annihilationism (in any form) or eternal conscious torment, one truth about Christ’s atonement will remain the same. Jesus suffered more for sinners than any sinner will ever suffer for their own sin. Why? Because of who He was! Listen, we are not just talking about a regular Joe Schmoe. We are talking about the precious Lamb of God! God of very God. The Holiest of Holies. The High and Mighty Son. The Prince of Peace. He humbled Himself, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, was ridiculed, mocked, and beaten by His own creation who He could have crushed like grasshoppers. Yet, He endured suffering in obedience to the Father to fulfill all that was written concerning Him. In one sense, He did not need to hang for hours. He didn’t need to continue bearing with the mocking and jeering that He did on behalf of sinners. But He chose to. And whether God chose to do it with a paper cut, or He chose to do with all of His eternal might, because of who Jesus was, just one tiny drop of blood spilled from an open wound inflicted upon Him would have been sufficient to save infinite legions of depraved sinners. But because dying is a part of the punishment, He could have just had His throat slit like the lambs of the Old Testament. He could have had a swifter execution. But instead He chose one of the most excruciating and humiliating ways to die. And endured God’s wrath as He bore it all!

I pray you don’t miss this. The punishment of Jesus will never match the punishment we receive because Jesus should not have been punished. If it were not for the grace of God, the punishment of Jesus would never have happened. If it were not for the justice of God, the punishment of Jesus would not be necessary. So in one sense, I agree with those who are opponents of eternal conscious torment that the punishment on Jesus doesn’t seem fair and equal. Because it wasn’t! What’s fair is that >>>> I <<<< should have been slaughtered! I should have experienced God’s wrath for all eternity without mercy and grace. Jesus enduring even a millisecond of God’s wrath on my behalf is infinitely more grace than I will EVER deserve. So when I hear from certain circles concerning their rejection of penal substitution and eternal conscious torment on how it seems cruel, I agree. Jesus should have wiped us all out! It’s seems cruel that it took the matchless, priceless, precious, and spotless God-Man in order for wicked and depraved sinners like us to be free. That Jesus, in His willingness and obedience, stepped into time, clothed Himself in sinless flesh, and subjected Himself to something worse than an everyday criminal’s death. It was one of the most tortuously notorious executions invented by man. A punishment reserved for the worse of the worst. Yet He suffered more than just a criminal’s death so that criminals like me can be saved. Why would He do such a thing?! It is more than cruel, it should not have happened! God would have been perfectly justified in giving us what we deserve, and never thinking twice about it. And in light of what the Father did to Jesus, eternal conscious punishment in Hell seems like an act of mercy in comparison to what Jesus endured for us. But the Triune God, by His mercy and grace, had an eternally bigger plan to save sinners from their sin, and to separate a people unto Himself, so that they can enjoy the greatest blessing ever to receive –Himself.

Jesus was more than a substitute. He was THE Surpassing Substitute. He was more than what you could expect a substitute to ever be. Sacrifices in the Old Testament typified substitution, but Jesus outshines them all! But Jesus wasn’t just a substitute, He was THE Perfect Penal Substitute. He didn’t just suffer a little of God’s wrath, but endured as much as was necessary to appease and satisfy His justice as a propitiation for our sins. And this was still infinitely more than He deserved. He endure more suffering, more pain, more sorrow, more agony not because of how long He was on the cross, but because He was on the cross! I cannot stress this enough. Jesus is more valuable and more beautiful than any being in the universe because He was God. He gave Himself for our sins. The punishment was not what we should have received. It was way more than we’ll ever experience, because He was innocent. If we can grasp this, when we look at Jesus on the cross, we should no longer wonder how He could sufficiently endure God’s eternal wrath, but wonder in why He was on the cross in the first place. We should no longer ponder the punishment matching the crime, but the fact that He had to be punished in the first place. We should be more offended at Christ having to take such a punishment than the eternal conscious torment of the wicked. Because if we value Jesus as He should be valued, it should be no surprise that God would eternally pour out His wrath on those that choose their sin over Him. Jesus’ punishment is by far a greater offense than sinners suffering in Hell forever (although paradoxically, it is a glorious grace because of Him who regenerated me because of it). I am more humbled and broken about my sin when I see the Lamb of God crushed by the Father, than by millions of souls weeping and gnashing in Hell. Jesus shouldn’t have suffered and died on that cross. But praise God He did. For it was the only way I would see Jesus as preciously and magnificently as I do today (and it grows daily). And even still, this article falls miserably short in comparison to the glory and majesty of who He is and what He has accomplished for those of us who have repented and believed His glorious gospel.

One final word. While I get what people say when they sing or read that “it should have been us upon that cross,” I can no longer say that this is fully the case for me. I don’t seek to undo thousands of pages that say something to this effect, because, for the most part, I don’t disagree. I should have experienced my punishment for my own sin. And it is from this sentiment that this understanding springs forth. So when people say this, I don’t fret. But I have recently come to appreciate the crucifixion of Christ in a way that has become exceptionally humbling for me, and I sought to share it with all. I pray that this article brings you to the same place it has brought me. To a place of deeper reverence, worship, obedience, and understanding concerning what Jesus accomplished on our behalf.

-Until we go home

One Thing Atheists and Christians Can Agree On

One Thing Atheists and Christians Can Agree On

 

No doubt many have run into an atheist who is adamant about the non-existence of God (usually, in a more specific sense, the Judaeo-Christian God of the Bible). Whether it is all religions or just Christianity in general, they tend to reject what they believe is blind faith and fairy tales. Of course, they are entitled to their opinion. And there is no small shortage of satirical and philosophical rhetoric that some of them use to “refute” the existence of God. But, if you pay attention to the arguments they use to defame, blaspheme, and misalign God, there is one thing that Christians can agree with them on – the god they believe doesn’t exist really doesn’t.

A Strawman Argument is a logical fallacy that someone sets up as a misrepresentation, exaggeration, or complete fabrication of someone else’s position in order to make their own argument seem more reasonable. In this case, many atheists misrepresent their understanding of God/gods and portray them in such a way as to make their own argument seem reasonable, logical, and justified. But, in doing so, they not only set up a strawman, but they commit the most common and widely violated of all sins – idolatry. How? Well, it’s simple.

Anytime you hear an atheist speak, you will usually hear them mock God’s love in contrast to His justice (hell). Or misrepresent His “inability” to answer prayer. Or maybe you might hear how they don’t agree with Him creating intelligent human beings, yet require them to use “faith” to trust in Him (as if faith is absolutely blind). These are just a few of the many. But even if there is an answer to every misrepresentation they have about God, the most important thing is to reveal that although they don’t believe in God, they have inevitably made one up in their own mind! They have set up a divine strawman by which they can reason against over and over so that they can justify their suppression of the truth (Rom 1:8). So even though atheists may suppress the knowledge of God, and know that the true God of the Bible exists, in order for them to ease their conscience and justify their sin, they must create an image of god that suits themselves. A god that that they can deny, vilify, and reject by the approval of their own thoughts and imaginations. Most of their arguments do not work if they don’t do this. Whether you set up a idol to worship to go to war with, it is still idolatry.

Hopefully this strikes you as a much different approach then just providing scientific evidence for God’s existence. This is a mixed approach between revealing their sin and pressupostionally showing them another reason how and why they reject God. Next time you hear a false representation of God, you should disarm the atheist by telling them something like this, “Boy, I’m glad that the god that you are talking about doesn’t exist, because if he did, I would be an atheist too.” Because when you really get down to the nitty-gritty, what atheists do is exchange the truth of God for a lie (Rom 1:25) just like everyone else who does not know Him. And since eternal life is defined by knowing Christ intimately (John 17:3), other than the fact that the typical atheist is just suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, we must engage them by showing them that they are just like every other religion in the world (yes, atheism is a religion) that believes in false gods. Except theirs is just a deified punching bag that they can throw philosophical blows at in order to make themselves feel superior, more intelligent, and morally justified in their sin.

While other world religions offer sacrifice to their gods in order to appease them, atheists repeatedly sacrifice their false representation of God on the altar of reason, logic, and scientific method (systems of thinking our Lord Jesus Christ gave them) in order to appease themselves.  But hey, at least now when we speak to atheists, Christians can agree that the god they are talking about truly doesn’t exist. Because once they are introduced to the God of the Bible, Jesus Christ, and are regenerated by His Spirit, they will no longer speak defiantly, but devotedly; no longer with a heart of war, but of worship.

Let’s pray for the atheists that we witness to and bring the light of the gospel to them.

Below is an quick example on dealing with these kinds of atheists in conversation.

-Until we go home

 

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Disclaimer: DefCon does not support Peter Kreeft. Only the quote used in the link window.

Not Everyone Can Be The Mouth

Not Everyone Can Be The Mouth

This article contains an excerpt that was taking from my book, Apocity: The Greatest Omission which can now be downloaded for free.
This portion of the book is emphasizing the true meaning behind 1 Corinthians 12, and how this passage cannot be used as means to say that  evangelism is the “mouth” of the body, and therefore, seeing that we have differing roles/gifts, not everyone can be the mouth. Sadly, there are variations to this excuse.


The idea that not everyone can be a consistent witness because they are not “the mouth” is also wrongly pulled out of 1 Corinthians 12. I have actually heard men (more often pastors and teachers within the congregation) say “not everyone can be the mouth.” In other words, we are
not all gifted with the gift of evangelism, and the mouth is the metaphor they use to describe those that do have it. Once again, this is urban legend, and I will clear up this confusion.

When you look at 1 Corinthians 12, right from the get go, in verse 1 Paul clearly says, “now concerning spiritual gifts.” This is a good clue that Paul is about to clarify some things for the Corinthian church. This issue with spiritual gifts and the divisions within the church was one of the reasons Paul wrote 1 Corinthians in the first place. In verse 4 he mentions how there are “diversities of the gifts” that come from the same Spirit. Verse 11 reveals how the Spirit passes out gifts as He wills (This challenges those who think that you have to speak in tongues as proof that you have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. See Chapter 5). Then, in verse 12, Paul begins to emphasize the unity of the body not only because we are all partakers of His Spirit through salvation (v13), but also because of how the diversity of the members affect the unity of that body. In other words, Paul is trying to give us an illustration that even though there are different gifts within the body of Christ, these divisions of gifts do not mean we are divided as a body. We are unified together by the Spirit, who distributes these gifts, and one gift is not more important than the other in the grand plan of the Church. Are you following? If not, this next part may be harder for you to grasp.

When you look at the metaphor that Paul uses for the body, he repeatedly gives us clues as to what he is trying to get across to the Corinthian church. In verse 15 he says, “If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body” (Emphasis added). He asks the same questions concerning another body part in verse 16. Verse 21 he says, “And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you;’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” Once again, Paul seems to be hinting at something here, and in verse 22 he gets to his point: “… those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.” So basically Paul is trying to say that every member of the body is “necessary” no matter what gift, no matter what background (v13), and no matter how weak one seems to be (v23-24). Paul has said all this so that we realize that everyone within the body should need one another and that we should benefit from each other’s gifts, strengths, weakness, and backgrounds (v25). I might have been very general with my exegesis of this text but my purpose is not to get to the small details (that would be a whole other chapter), but to make some observations that I believe will squash this idea that evangelism is a gift, specifically here, “the mouth.”

If you are one to believe that not everyone can be the mouth (insinuating the mouth being a spiritual gift), or you have heard this from someone and think it is a valid statement, then here are some points to consider. 1) Where in this chapter does it specifically mention evangelism? The urban legend that evangelism is a gift still applies here too, not just Ephesians 4. Also, if you are saying that not everyone
can be the mouth, then you have to show me from 1 Corinthians 12 how believing this is in any way a “get out of witnessing free” card, because that is not Paul’s intent in this particular chapter of Corinthians. 2) Paul did not mean for this chapter to be used as a cop out to not preach the gospel. If you remember what I said in the previous paragraph, Paul’s main concern was unity. There seemed to be divisions in the church for various reasons, and the insinuation that Paul gives in numerous verses is that some believed that there were others that were not needed, or that they were not a part of the body because they seemed weaker or less honorable. There might be more background to this, but the main point is that Paul was more specifically targeting the need for everyone within the body and for every spiritual gift, rather than just emphasizing certain ones over the other. 3) Where does “not being the mouth” come into this metaphor? If you read this chapter carefully, when Paul used the metaphor of the body it wasn’t for us to figure out which body part we are (or think we are), it was to help us understand the importance of unity within a human body and relate that to the body of Christ. This was his main point! It is so absurd when I hear people call this person a foot, or that person the hand, or evangelism the mouth. This is not what Paul is saying! 4) When was the last time you did something without all body parts involved? If evangelism is the mouth, does that mean I don’t use my hands or my feet to preach? The Bible talks about feet being beautiful for preaching the gospel (Romans 10:15), so does this mean not everyone can be the feet either? Do I need someone who is the arms carry me to my corner to pass out tracts because I am not gifted in doing it myself? I am being very caustic for a reason. I have become so sorrowfully burdened about these vain attempts to explain away our responsibility to preach that it has caused me great spiritual distress to see professing believers continually making urban legends, like not being a mouth, a popular excuse. The nature of these excuses call into question the salvation of many who call themselves believers (a topic we will explore in the next chapter).

I can understand that there are persons within the body who are skilled in certain areas in which others are not. For instance, there are men and women who fly missionaries to their destination for the glory of God. These saints risk their lives to fly over dangerous areas to do  amazing things for God. Here is my question though: Just because they metaphorically can be the arms that carry missionaries where they need to go, does that remove their responsibility to preach to the lost themselves? Just because my primary job is “an arm” (I don’t actually believe that, just proving a point) does that mean I don’t have a mouth? If anything, anyone who is supporting evangelism efforts would see the importance of evangelism and would feel the obligation to preach themselves. This example goes for those who mow lawns for the church, who do the finances, those who usher, teenagers in youth group, deacons, pastors, and the list goes on! Your primary duty within the local church includes evangelism. Evangelism is not a secondary duty; it is the indivisible infrastructure of your calling as a Christian!

At this point, I feel it is necessary to say this. As I previously said in Chapter 2, I understand that the roles that God has given within the local church are for us to be perfected and conform to the image of Christ. I am not blind to the reality of our weakness, nor do I think that each
person’s gifting is unimportant. I know that pastors have a part, deacons, leaders, congregations, members, etc.; all play an important part in the whole of the universal church of Christ. What the revelation of Scripture seems to imply, however, is that none of that infringes upon our call to be faithful in our witness. None of it! There is no such gift of evangelism and there are no Scriptures that we can use to justify this position. If we refuse to accept this reality, then gross apocity among many local churches will continue. And I do not know about how you, reader, may feel about it, but I think God is weary of it.

 

-Until we go home

Is Your Wife Your First Ministry?

Is Your Wife Your First Ministry?

At DefCon, we holistically support men who support their families. Men who make discipleship and love a priority for the home. The home is one of the central building blocks for a society, and the marriage is the sun by which everything in the home orbits. Having said this, there are many priorities that pastors, open air preachers, and everyday christian men have that may sometimes burden us. We can become anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed with the multiple obligations that we are to tend to. And yes, wives are included in this list of feelings. And the one thing that is not helpful are Christian cliches like, “Your wife is your first ministry.” It has a nice ring to it, and for the most part it is well meaning, but it does not properly convey the responsibilities and obligations a Christian may face on a day to day basis. It has also been abused by certain preachers that wish to exclude certain men from ministry.

I have attached a blogtalk episode that I and a pastor friend of mine recorded about this topic. My hope is that we would all take into consideration the biblical model of men not just in ministry, but just being men in general. All the material discussed in this episode may or may not reflect all the views of contributing bloggers here at DefCon. Here is the narrative and link of the episode below.

“On this exciting episode of G220 radio, George will be joined by Pastor Tom Shuck from Pilgrim Bible Church. Pastor Shuck is a graduate of Master’s Seminary and Columbia Evangelical Seminary and was a missionary to India for 12 years. He holds both a Masters of Divinity (MDiv.) and a Doctorate of Ministry (DMin.). He has been a pastor of Pilgrim Bible Church for 4 years and helped start a seminary in India as well as planted a church there. He enjoys sports, music, family trips, and George’s personal favorite, linguistics. He has evangelized in cities like Oakland, Orlando, Mumbai, Pune training believers how to evangelize, preach the gospel, and make disciples. His wife is Lisa Shuck and two children.”

“This episode we’ll explore the cliche “Your wife is your first ministry.” Is it Scriptural? Are there other primary biblical responsibilities? Can you make ministry your idol or mistress? What should a man who is called to preach do with this kind of cliche? What about missionaries and evangelists of old that we look up to that sacrificed much, even their marriages, for the gospel? What about Matthew 22:35-40, 1 Corinthians 7:32-34, Ephesians 5:22-33, and 1 Timothy 3:5?”

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/g220radionetwork/2016/05/10/ep-157-is-your-wife-your-first-ministry

-Until we go home