Archives For Theology

han soloWhat body do we occupy between the time our lifeless bodies decompose into worm-fodder and when they are resurrected in glory?

The short answer is that we don’t know. The Bible doesn’t say. Biblically speaking, it’s a secret. But it’s no secret that the absence of knowledge can’t deter bloggers from opining for 800 words.

So, let’s start with what the Bible does say:

  1. Disembodied spirits seem to require a material, animated host, i.e. a person or animal (remember the pigs) in which to operate in the material world. In Scripture we see spirit beings such as angels and demons disengaged from the material dimension until they manifest in a bodily form.
  • Matt 12:43 When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none.
  • 2 Kings 6:17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
  1. Bodies are mortal but spirits are immortal. A human being’s spirit separates from his/her mortal body when that body stops functioning—dies—and translocates to where Jesus is, a realm called Paradise (Luke 23:43; 2 Cor 12:3).

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Reformation Day - Nerds498 years ago tomorrow, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany, kick-starting the Protestant Reformation. Nearly 500 years later, God’s people reserve this day to celebrate the rescue of His Word from the shackles of Roman Catholic tyranny, corruption, and heresy. The glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the sufficient Scriptures had been recovered, and it’s been doing its saving work ever since.

Romans 1:16–17 stands at the heart of the Reformation, especially because of how central it was in Luther’s conversion. Luther speaks of how he had hated the phrase, “the righteousness of God,” because he understood it to be speaking only of God’s standard of righteousness by which He would judge unrighteous sinners. But eventually, he says, “I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open.”

Today, as we reflect upon and remember the grace of God that fell upon the world in the Protestant Reformation, I want to reflect upon the Gospel that made it happen—and particularly the concept of righteousness which was so central to the regeneration of the great reformer. And to do that I want to focus on another text that Paul penned, which gives us wonderful insight into the saving righteousness of God. In Philippians 3:9, Paul explains what it means to be found in Christ—namely, “not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (NKJV).

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This Saturday, October 31, commemorates nearly 500 years since one of the greatest movements of God in church history; the Protestant Reformation. Up to the time of the Reformation, much of Europe had been dominated by the reign of Roman Catholicism. To the populace was propagated the idea that salvation was found under Rome and her system alone.

But as the cultural and theological fog cleared in Europe and beyond, God’s people gained a clarity that had been mostly absent for centuries. The Reformers gained this clarity from keeping with a simple principle: sola scritpura, or, Scripture alone. As they searched the word of God, they discovered that Rome deviated radically on the most critical points of biblical Christianity. With one mind, God’s people discerned from Scripture that, tragically, Roman Catholicism was a desecration to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today, nothing has changed. To my evangelical and Catholic friends, it’s important that we no longer erroneously say that Roman Catholicism differs from Scripture only on minor points of doctrine and history. As the Reformers saw clearly, and will be demonstrated here, the differences could not be greater.

In keeping with that movement of God by the word of God, here are a few reminders of how Rome is a desecration to Christ:

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Semper ReformandaReformation Day is fast upon us. Next Saturday will be the 498th anniversary of Martin Luther famously nailing his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany, and kick-starting the Protestant Reformation as a result. Because of that, there will likely be many posts in the Christian blogosphere celebrating the recovery of the biblical Gospel from the perversions of Roman Catholic theology. And because of that, there will likely be many Romanist sympathizers who chide us Protestants as divisive, overly-narrow, unity-destroying, and judgmental. They’ll say something like this (a comment we’ve received before at The Cripplegate):

This is what drives me nutty about Christianity. We all believe in the Bible, Jesus Christ, the road to salvation and the Resurrection. Do I believe exactly as you do? I’m sure I don’t, but I don’t believe you’re any less Christian than I am. We need to understand that there’s more that unites us than divides us.

The problem, of course, is that Protestants and Catholics don’t all believe the same things about the most foundational aspects of the Christian Gospel. That means that we’re not just other Christians from another “denomination.” When two people disagree on issues as fundamental as the basis and instrument of salvation (i.e., Christ’s righteousness alone imputed through faith alone, versus Christ’s righteousness imparted through faith and our works) and whether good works are part of the ground of our righteousness or merely the evidence——one of them is a Christian and the other isn’t.

We see that proven plainly by the way the Apostle Paul spoke about the Judaizers. The Judaizers were professing Christians who “began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’” (Acts 15:1). In other words, they taught that the righteousness of Christ received by faith alone is not enough to secure your salvation. To be sure, you need to have faith in Jesus; they wouldn’t deny faith in Christ is necessary for salvation. They would just say it was insufficient; instead, you must “complete” your justification by performing certain good deeds. In other words, the Judaizers sought to add personal works of righteousness to the ground of their justification. They were the first-century counterpart to the Roman Catholic Church, which teaches, “If anyone says that the [justification] received is not preserved and . . . increased before God through good works but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of the increase, let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, Session 6, Canon 24). For the Judaizers, those works were circumcision and the other Mosaic ceremonies. For the Catholics, those works are baptism, participation in the Eucharist, and the other sacraments.

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October 22, 2015

The myth of race

by Jesse Johnson

One of the most harmful effects of evolutionary theory is the concept of race. Despite having zero scientific validity to it, the idea that human beings can be categorized into general “races” that are supposedly connected to their biology has wormed its way into our world views. It needs to make a quick exit—stage left.

Thabiti Anwaybwile (pastor of Anacostia River Church in DC) said it this way: “Believing in race is like believing in unicorns, because neither exist.”

Certainly cultures exist. Certainly ethnicities exist. And certainly racism exists (largely fueled by the whole notion of race to begin with).

But unicorns do not, and neither does race.

Here is a definition of race, followed by four reasons you should evict the concept of race from your vocabulary and your worldview:  Continue Reading…

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It was a saying frequently heard in those days. As they would make their way up to the doors of the monastery, history records that those daring to enter the Augustinian ranks chanted the following: “In thy holy name we have clad in the habit of a monk, that he may continue with thy help faithful in thy Church and merit eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

With the hope of accumulating that merit, the monk candidate then stepped foot into a life of austere devotion to Roman Catholic tradition. It would not be easy, but with enough rigor and exertion, the candidate could move himself that much closer to the possibility of heaven.

There was one such man who dared enter the Augustinian ranks at the age of 22. After nearly being struck by lightning, Martin Luther vowed to abandon his secular studies to become a monk. Two weeks later, on July 17, 1505, Luther presented himself at the monastery of Erfurt.

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Problem of EvilSeveral weeks ago, I began a series of posts by outlining some foundational biblical teaching about God’s decree. We examined numerous passages of Scripture that speak of God’s decree as eternal, unconditional, unchangeable, and exhaustive. As a result, we concluded that God is properly said to be the ultimate cause of all things. As the Westminster Confession states, “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass” (WCF, 3.1).

Whenever you say something like that in a theological discussion, immediately the question is raised: How can God be the ultimate cause of whatsoever comes to pass—even actions and events that are evil and sinful, things which God Himself prescribes against—and yet not be rightly charged with unrighteousness. Perhaps the most common answer to that question is an appeal to the notion of divine “permission.” In other words, though God is ultimately in control, He doesn’t ordain evil; He merely allows it. In a second post, I demonstrated why such a solution is unsatisfactory, both theologically and biblically. After considering a number of passages that don’t shy away from attributing to God a very active role in the bringing about of evil events, we concluded with John Frame: “God does bring about sinful human actions. To deny this, or to charge God with wickedness on account of it, is not open to a Bible-believing Christian. Somehow, we must confess both that God has a role in bringing evil about, and that in doing so he is holy and blameless” (Doctrine of God). That post demonstrated that Scripture plainly teaches both (a) that God is unquestionably righteous and (b) that He indeed ordains sinful events and actions. And if that’s what Scripture teaches (and it is), it is not our place to sit in judgment upon and question the consistency of those declarations. That only breeds the worst of biblical and theological mischief. To argue that God is unrighteous for ordaining evil is to sit in judgment upon both the Word of God and the Judge of all the world. Instead, it falls to us to receive both propositions as true on the authority of God’s infallible and inerrant Word.

But is there any way to understand how it can be that God is not the chargeable cause of sin, even though He ordains that it be? There is a way for the worshiper of God to ask that question submissively, not because we demand that God give an account of His understanding of justice that satisfies our sensibilities, but simply because we desire to know Him and worship Him for what He has revealed of Himself. And there is a way to answer that question that remains faithful to sound biblical interpretation and theological reflection.

The answer that Scripture seems to give can be boiled down to two propositions. First, though God is the ultimate cause of all things—even evil—He is never the proximate, or efficient, cause of evil. Second, Scripture regards only the efficient cause of evil as the chargeable or blameworthy party. Let’s look to a sample of texts that bears this out.

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September 30, 2015

Arminianism & Its Hazards

by Eric Davis

calvins flowerChances are you’ve discussed it lately. Who chose whom? God? Man? Both? Whose will and choice triggers salvation? Man’s? God’s? Both? It’s a common occurrence to spar over Calvinism (the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace) vs. Arminianism.

This post could not possibly address all the issues. Instead, it will take a brief look at some of Arminianism’s consequences. But first, a quick reminder of common Arminian teaching.

Arminianism typically holds that God elects individuals to salvation based on his foreknowledge of their personal worthiness. It’s claimed that God’s election means that he chose those whom he foresaw would trust in Christ for salvation prior to them doing so. God chose those whom he foreknew would choose him. Humanity, therefore, is fallen, but not incapable of seeking God. Though sinful, man is still able to arouse his will so as to choose God savingly. Some reject election, arguing that it is incompatible with human freedom and responsibility, thus rendering things like evangelism, prayer, and discipleship unnecessary. It follows, then, that many argue that one is able to lose their salvation.

arminian flower

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Arminianism has had its propagators over the years. Jacob Arminius, of course. Later, John Wesley wrote, “I reject the blasphemy clearly contained in the horrible decree of predestination…I would sooner be a Turk, a Deist, yea an atheist, than I could believe this” (Cited in Demarest, The Cross and Salvation, 102). About 100 years later, Charles Finney held that there are essentially two types of people; the savable and the unsavable. God chose those who inherently possessed the ability by their freedom to choose God and be saved. Some contemporary proponents include F. Leroy Forlines and Roger Olson, to name a few.

Wherever we might find ourselves theologically, there are a number of hazards for consideration which are consequent of Arminian teaching:

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With all the talk of blood moons and the putative “probability” of the rapture being today (September 28, 2015), I decided to reprise this…

All Bible-believing Christians are expecting the rapture; we all just define that event differently. My earlier post, Secret Disservice: Problems with the term ‘Secret Rapture,’  generated some questions I’d like to address.

1) What is the rapture?

The word ‘rapture’ comes from the Latin rapturo, meaning, “I seize, I snatch, or I carry away” which is the Vulgate’s translation of the Greek word harpadzo, meaning “I catch up, I carry away.” As a half-Greek etymology geek I can’t resist mentioning that English sailors sourced their word “harpoon” from the Greek for the implement used to snatch a large  fish out the water.

Harpadzo” or “Rapturo” is  rendered  “caught up”  in   1 Thess 4:16-17  where Paul says,

16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord, (ESV).”

Also, 1 Cor 15:51-53 refers to the fact that believers will not all die, but will all be changed in the twinkling of an eye.

This is why I could provocatively claim that all Bible believing Christians are expecting a rapture. We all agree that at some point Christians will be snatched up into the clouds to meet Jesus. The vexing question is: “When?!”

Some say, “Any moment now, before God judges the earth for seven years, which precedes the final return of Christ to usher in his 1000 year earthly reign.” (The correct This writer’s view). Continue Reading…

No PermissionIn my last post, I outlined some foundational biblical/theological teaching on the decree of God. We looked at passages of Scripture that speak of God’s decree as eternal, unconditional, unchangeable, and exhaustive. As a result, we concluded that God is properly said to be the ultimate cause of all things.

Immediately, this raises the question: How can God be the cause of actions and events that are evil and sinful—things which God Himself prescribes against—and yet not be rightly charged with unrighteousness? Some people answer this question by appealing to the notion of divine “permission.” In other words, though God is ultimately in control, He doesn’t ordain evil; He merely allows it. I don’t find this kind of explanation convincing for two reasons.

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