Friday, August 29, 2008

Early Church on Abortion

Here are some quotes from the early church on abortion:

“You shall not kill the child by obtaining an abortion. Nor, again, shall you destroy him after he is born.” (Barnabas, 70-80 AD, 1.148)

“You shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill one who has been born.” (The Didache, 80-140 AD, 1.377)

“We say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder. And we also say that we will have to give an account to God for theabortion.” (Athenagoras, 175 AD, 2.147)

“In our case, murder is once for all forbidden. Therefore, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier way to kill a human. It does not matter whether you take away a life that has been born or destroy one that is not yet born.” (Tertullian, 197 AD, 3.26)

“Indeed, the Law of Moses punishes with appropriate penalties the person who causes abortion. For there already exists the beginning stages of a human being. And even at this stage, [the fetus] is already acknowledged with having the condition of life and death, since he is already susceptible to both.” (Tertullian, 210 AD, 3.218)

“Are you to dissolve the conception by aid of drugs? I believe it is no more lawful to hurt a child in process of birth, than to hurt one who is already born.” (Tertullian, 212 AD, 4.57)

“There are some women who, by drinking medical preparations, extinguish the source of the future man in their very bowels. So they commit murder before they bring forth.” (Mark Minucius Felix, 200AD, 4.192)

“The womb of his wife was hit by a blow of his heel. And, in the miscarriage that soon followed, the offspring was brought forth, the fruit of a father’s murder.” (Cyprian, 250AD, 5.326)

“The soul is not introduced into the body after birth, as some philosophers think. Rather, it is introduced immediately after conception, when the divine necessity has formed the offspring in the womb.” (Lactantius, 304-313AD, 7.297)

“You shall not slay your child by causing abortion, nor kill the baby that is born.” (Apostolic Constitutions, 390 AD, 7.466)

(HT: James Grant)

Here are some others:

"Women who were reputed to be believers began to take drugs to render themselves sterile, and to bind themselves tightly so as to expel what was being conceived, since they would not, on account of relatives and excess wealth, want to have a child by a slave or by any insignificant person. See, then, into what great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by teaching adultery and murder at the same time!" (Refutation of All Heresies [A.D. 228]).

Council of Ancyra:

"Concerning women who commit fornication, and destroy that which they have conceived, or who are employed in making drugs for abortion, a former decree excluded them until the hour of death, and to this some have assented. Nevertheless, being desirous to use somewhat greater lenity, we have ordained that they fulfill ten years [of penance], according to the prescribed degrees" (canon 21 [A.D. 314]).

Basil the Great:

"He that kills another with a sword, or hurls an axe at his own wife and kills her, is guilty of willful murder; not he who throws a stone at a dog, and unintentionally kills a man, or who corrects one with a rod, or scourge, in order to reform him, or who kills a man in his own defense, when he only designed to hurt him. But the man, or woman, is a murderer that gives a philtrum, if the man that takes it dies upon it; so are they who take medicines to procure abortion; and so are they who kill on the highway, and rapparees" (First Canonical Letter, canon 8 [AD 374]).

"The woman who purposely destroys her unborn child is guilty of murder. With us there is no nice enquiry as to its being formed or unformed. In this case it is not only the being about to be born who is vindicated, but the woman in her attack upon herself; because in most cases women who make such attempts die. The destruction of the embryo is an additional crime, a second murder, at all events if we regard it as done with intent. The punishment, however, of these women should not be for life, but for the term of ten years. And let their treatment depend not on mere lapse of time, but on the character of their repentance." (Letters, 188.2)

John Chrysostom:

"Wherefore I beseech you, flee fornication. . . . Why sow where the ground makes it its care to destroy the fruit?—where there are many efforts at abortion?—where there is murder before the birth? For even the harlot you do not let continue a mere harlot, but make her a murderess also. You see how drunkenness leads to prostitution, prostitution to adultery, adultery to murder; or rather to a something even worse than murder. For I have no name to give it, since it does not take off the thing born, but prevents its being born. Why then do thou abuse the gift of God, and fight with his laws, and follow after what is a curse as if a blessing, and make the chamber of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter? For with a view to drawing more money by being agreeable and an object of longing to her lovers, even this she is not backward to do, so heaping upon thy head a great pile of fire. For even if the daring deed be hers, yet the causing of it is thine" (Homilies on Romans 24 [A.D. 391]).


"I cannot bring myself to speak of the many virgins who daily fall and are lost to the bosom of the Church, their mother. . . . Some go so far as to take potions, that they may insure barrenness, and thus murder human beings almost before their conception. Some, when they find themselves with child through their sin, use drugs to procure abortion, and when, as often happens, they die with their offspring, they enter the lower world laden with the guilt not only of adultery against Christ but also of suicide and child murder" (Letters 22:13 [A.D. 396]).


"Sometimes, indeed, this lustful cruelty, or if you please, cruel lust, resorts to such extravagant methods as to use poisonous drugs to secure barrenness; or else, if unsuccessful in this, to destroy the conceived seed by some means previous to birth, preferring that its offspring should rather perish than receive vitality; or if it was advancing to life within the womb, should be slain before it was born." -De Nube et Concupiscentia 1.17 (15)

"Therefore brothers, you see how perverse they are and hastening wickedness, who are immature, they seek abortion of the conception before the birth; they are those who tell us, "I do not see that which you say must be believed." - Sermon 126, line 12

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nancy Pelosi vs Christian History on Abortion

Here are a couple of great responses to what Nancy Pelosi said about abortion. Here are her comments:

MR. BROKAW: Senator Obama saying the question of when life begins is above his pay grade, whether you're looking at it scientifically or theologically. If he were to come to you and say, "Help me out here, Madame Speaker. When does life begin?" what would you tell him?

REP. PELOSI: I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. And Senator--St. Augustine said at three months. We don't know. The point is, is that it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose. Roe v. Wade talks about very clear definitions of when the child--first trimester, certain considerations; second trimester; not so third trimester. There's very clear distinctions. This isn't about abortion on demand, it's about a careful, careful consideration of all factors and--to--that a woman has to make with her doctor and her god. And so I don't think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins. As I say, the Catholic Church for centuries has been discussing this, and there are those who've decided...

MR. BROKAW: The Catholic Church at the moment feels very strongly that it...

REP. PELOSI: I understand that.

MR. BROKAW: ...begins at the point of conception.

REP. PELOSI: I understand. And this is like maybe 50 years or something like that. So again, over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy. But it is, it is also true that God has given us, each of us, a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And we want abortions to be safe, rare, and reduce the number of abortions. That's why we have this fight in Congress over contraception. My Republican colleagues do not support contraception. If you want to reduce the number of abortions, and we all do, we must--it would behoove you to support family planning and, and contraception, you would think. But that is not the case. So we have to take--you know, we have to handle this as respectfully--this is sacred ground. We have to handle it very respectfully and not politicize it, as it has been--and I'm not saying Rick Warren did, because I don't think he did, but others will try to.

Here is a transcript (about 3/4 of the way down the page). Now she is rightly being rebuked by the Denver Archbishop:

“Catholic public leaders inconvenienced by the abortion debate” –says the statement- “tend to take a hard line in talking about the ‘separation of Church and state.’ But their idea of separation often seems to work one way.”

“In fact, some officials also seem comfortable in the role of theologian. And that warrants some interest, not as a ‘political’ issue, but as a matter of accuracy and justice.” Archbishop Chaput’s statement recognizes Pelosi as “a gifted public servant of strong convictions and many professional skills” but adds that “regrettably, knowledge of Catholic history and teaching does not seem to be one of them.”

The Archbishop goes on to summarize the teachings of the Roman Catholic church and in quotes Lutheran Dietrich Bonhoeffer (in probably about the only context it is acceptable to quote a Lutheran positively):

The statement recall’s Connery’s conclusion: “The Christian tradition from the earliest days reveals a firm antiabortion attitude... The condemnation of abortion did not depend on and was not limited in any way by theories regarding the time of fetal animation. Even during the many centuries when Church penal and penitential practice was based on the theory of delayed animation, the condemnation of abortion was never affected by it. Whatever one would want to hold about the time of animation, or when the fetus became a human being in the strict sense of the term, abortion from the time of conception was considered wrong, and the time of animation was never looked on as a moral dividing line between permissible and impermissible abortion.”

The Archdiocese’s statement also quotes “the blunter words of the great Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”

Bonhoeffer, a strong critic and later victim of the Nazi regime in his native Germany wrote that “the destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed on this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.”

Archbishop Chaput’s statement continues, explaining that, “ardent, practicing Catholics will quickly learn from the historical record that from apostolic times, the Christian tradition overwhelmingly held that abortion was grievously evil. In the absence of modern medical knowledge, some of the Early Fathers held that abortion was homicide; others that it was tantamount to homicide; and various scholars theorized about when and how the unborn child might be animated or ‘ensouled.’ But none diminished the unique evil of abortion as an attack on life itself, and the early Church closely associated abortion with infanticide. In short, from the beginning, the believing Christian community held that abortion was always, gravely wrong.”

Nancy Pelosi certainly isn't a church historian and nowhere near being a theologian. With the Archbishop's pointed response, all one can say a word: She got schooled. The gross misrepresentation conducted by Pelosi is a violation of the 9th commandment. It should serve as a warning to all of us, it is easy to cite the past and quote them where they agree with us rather than doing the hard work of historical investigation.

With regard to the early church Mike Acquilina comments:
The early Church left clear paper trails on very, very few issues, but abortion is certainly one of them. It is condemned by the Didache, the so-called Epistle of Barnabas, the apocryphal Apocalypse of Peter; by Clement of Alexandria, Athenagoras, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Minucius Felix, Hippolytus, Origen, and Cyprian. And that partial list takes us only to the middle of the third century. Those witnesses emerged from ancient Syria, Egypt, Rome, Greece, Samaria, and North Africa. So, as the Vincentian Canon puts it, abortion was condemned always and everywhere and by all. There is no exception in the ancient Christian record, and this is one of those moral teachings that set Christians distinctly apart from the pagan world. If there were Nancy Pelosis around before the discovery of California, everyone — pagan or Christian — recognized that such advocates for the “choice” of abortion were extra ecclesiam, outside the Catholic Church.
Rodney Stark reminds us:
"From the start, Christian doctrine absolutely prohibited abortion and infanticide, classifying both as murder. These Christian prohibitions reflected the Jewish origins of the movement. Among Jews, according to Josephus: "The [OT] law, moreover, enjoins us to bring up our offspring, and forbids women to cause abortion of what is begotten, or to destroy it afterward; and if any woman appears to have done so, she will be a murderer of her child." (1960 ed.). In similar fashion, the Alexandrian Jewish writing known as the Sentences of Pseudo-Phocylides advised: "A woman should not destroy the unborn bade in her belly, nor after its birth throw it before dogs and vultures as prey"..." The Rise of Christianity, p.124

After quoting the Didache and Justin Martyr First Apology from the early and mid-second century respectively, Stark continues:
In the second century, Athenagoras wrote in chapter 35 of his Plea to the emperor Marcus Aurelius,

"We say that women who use drugs to bring on an abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion...[for we] regard every foetus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God's care... and [we do not] expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child-murder."

By the end of the second century, Christians not only were proclaiming their rejection of abortion and infanticide, but had begun direct attacks on pagans, especially pagan religions, for sustaining such "crimes." In his Octavius, Minucuis Felix charged:

"And I see that you at one time expose begotten children to wild beasts and birds; at another, that you crush when strangled with a miserable kind of death. There are some women [among you] who, by drinking medical preparations, extinguish the source of the future man in their very bowels, and thus commit parricde before they bring forth. And these things assuredly come down from your gods. For Saturn did not expose his children but devoured them. With reason were infants sacrificed to him in some parts of Africa."

The Rise of Christianity Christianity, p.125
Yes, the early Christians unequivocally rejected and condemned abortion. Of course, they believed that women who had had abortion could find forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, history is pretty clear, the church has resisted and condemned abortion from the beginning. This should say something about the searing of the conscience of those who want to maintain a Christian confession and uphold the right to murder unborn children.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ephesians 1:14--A final thought

Ephesians 1:14 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.

Final thought: This whole section ends with “to the praise of His glory”.

Do you and I really make ourselves about the business of glorifying God and delighting in Him? We talk about evangelism—which is for God’s glory. We talk about comfort—and nothing glorifies God more than seeking Him for comfort. But we live in a day and age where Christian people have no desire to please God or find delight in Him. We seek the treasures of this world—not the gospel treasure of our inheritance where God gives Himself to us.

In our beliefs—we tolerate all sorts of perverse wickedness—such as God does not know the future or God doesn’t predestine—“how dare man not contribute something” so we say. We seek comfort and security in all sort of things: money, pleasure, marriage, bank accounts, government, friends, relationships—all without seeking comfort in God. We are drunk on the thoughts about God and pleasures in God’s world that rob Him of His glory. This week I got a catalog with books for pastors most of them were on how to be spiritual, how to make your church thrive, how to grow disciples….but judging by the topics and titles most were woefully inept at turning the soul to delight at God’s glory in the gospel. When we see that God accomplishes salvation from start to finish—we are led to serve God, find comfort in God and most of all delight in God! Our vision for this church—and for all of God’s people—is to be a local body that glorifies God and enjoys Him forever.

I can do no better than Jonathan Edwards in his masterful sermon “God Glorified in the Work of Redemption” speaking of those views of God and salvation that keep credit for man:

“[W]hatever other scheme is inconsistent with our entire dependence upon God for all…it is repugnant to the design and tenor of the gospel, and robs it of that which God accounts its luster and glory.”[1]
[1] The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader (Yale University Press, 1999) p.80

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sermon Applications 8/24/08

Text: Ephesians 1:11-14

Ephesians 1:11-14 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.



Application: You and I are to take great comfort in the source of our inheritance.

i) The reason I have salvation is because God planned and purposed it. Salvation from the start is a work of God.

ii) You and I should take comfort that God makes us heirs. He makes us His own children. We who were not his children—who had nothing desirable inside of us—God chose to give us a great and wondrous inheritance. We are like the juvenile, locked in detention. We have no family, we are rebellious and lawbreakers but God who is rich in mercy comes to our prison…sees our poor estate; that we are lawbreakers. He set us free and makes us a member of his family. We get all the rights and privileges. You can take tremendous comfort that whatever your circumstances God knows them and even before you were born He had planned to give you a wonderful inheritance. He does not leave or forsake His children. While his children are called to suffer in this life—they never lose their inheritance in fact we are prepared for it when we turn our eyes heavenward in our trials.



i) THE MORE YOU BELIEVE IN THE SOVERIEGNTY OF GOD MORE YOU SHOULD WITNESS![1] Why is it that we are so timid to share our faith? We’d rather invite people to church and let the pastor do it. It because we say we believe in God but we really do not believe in the power of God. At the root—we say we are not ashamed of the gospel. But we are.

ii) God accomplishes salvation from start to finish and right in the middle he has put you to be involved in bringing people to faith. He positions you on the front lines. He orchestrates your life so that you might share the gospel.

iii) Where has God put you that you might be part of His plan in bringing people to salvation?

iv) We proclaim the Word of truth—God brings the fruit. It is not our job to save people. It is our job to declare, to announce this “word of truth” and God brings faith.

v) Bringing glory to God in salvation means, you must proclaim the gospel. In our day we are much better at sharing our personal testimony than we are at sharing the gospel. Personal testimonies are good—you should know what God has done in your life to bring you to believe. But to evangelize is not to share ‘my personal testimony’—you can add that as an example. BUT TO EVANGELIZE IS TO SHARE THE GOSPEL.

(1) Mark Dever in his Nine Marks of a Healthy Church has Mark 2 is ‘the gospel’—a healthy church must understand the gospel. Mark 5—a healthy church must have a Biblical view of evangelism. He says “In telling other people how much Jesus means to you, you may not have told them the Gospel at all. Have you explained what Christ did by dying on the Cross?”[2]

(2) A Buddhist can testify to the change of life he has experienced in converting. An Muslim can testify to a powerful experience with Allah and the great joy of converting. A New Age guru…an Eckhart Tolle, an Oprah…can testify to a powerful experience of the great beyond… and awakening and feeling spiritual alive. Only a Christian can testify to the Word of Truth—the gospel of what Jesus did on the cross. What makes your experience different? It is the fact that what Jesus did is true and historical!


Application: We are to take great comfort that God does not loose His own.

i) There is always a danger of false profession of faith—Jesus will turn to some who have said “Lord, Lord” and respond “depart from me I never knew you.” (Matt. 7:22-23)—but this is not the passage for that. In this passage—we need to seek comfort. God accomplishes salvation from start to finish. If you have saving faith in Jesus Christ—rest assured God will loose you. He will not abandon you. He has put the seal of the Spirit in you and you will not be lost.

ii) This becomes great comfort in struggles, suffering and affliction. Do not loose site that in the gospel you have been sealed for the day of your redemption. We may suffer and go through horrible difficulties whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual—but you, dear Christian, belong to the Lord. You are His—He has so guaranteed it that our triune God has put the Holy Spirit in your heart. Rejoice and delight in God who has given Himself to you—first on the cross and now in the pledge of the Spirit. This puts struggles in a whole new light. Bless the Truine God.

[1] See J.I. Packer’s masterful work: Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.
[2] Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, p.133

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Puritans

Smart kids enjoy the Puritans.

When I was in high school I had one of "those" English teachers who hated the Puritans. I mean she really despised them--at least that's how I remember it. We read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Arthur Miller's The Crucible. Any literary critique and historian worth their salt can tell you these are not historical representations. However, you couldn't get that past my 11th grade English teacher. I remember some lectures on how "bad" the Puritans were and about all their evil which hunts. She read history through the lens of fiction. (I always had a nagging feeling my teacher didn't like Christians, or maybe at least those of a protestant variety--but only a feeling).

Now I'm glad I read the fiction but I wish I would have read the Puritans first hand in high school. Then I got to college and found out the Puritans were like me. At least I mean I wanted to be like them: they had a love for God, they had a love for His Word and doctrine was rigorously believed and lived. I can thank Jonathan Edwards scholar Steve Nichols for this. Now I'm actually looking forward to my kids getting to high school and at times secretly wish they too get one of "those" English teachers.

Lesson: read the Puritans. This year Timmy Brister offered this challenge to read the Puritans.

Over my vacation I read Watson's the Doctrine of Repentance. I was amazed and blown away by how simple and "practical" it was. It was fairly short and a quick read but well worth meditating over and digesting slowly. There was just great Biblical advice on how to repent, what it looks like, warnings for the unrepentant, and exhortations to repent. I felt like what Spurgeon said of Bunyan was true of Watson's gem: Prick him anywhere and he bleeds the Bible.

I'm not an expert on the Puritans (yet?!) but reading the Puritans makes me a better student of the Bible. I hope it makes a better preacher as I apply the Bible, a better pastor as I shepherd with the gospel, a better father as I raise a home, and a better Christian as a I grasp Christ as my sole righteousness. --Things the Puritans were superb at.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

McLaren on Politics

The Washington Post has this quote from Brian McLaren:

"I've only met one person in my travels in recent months who has said he is voting for McCain, and that was because he was an admittedly single-issue voter," Mr. McLaren said. "Nearly all the vocal people I've met are enthusiastic about Obama. Based on the people I'm in front of as a speaker, I'd never guess the poll numbers are as close as they are."

This along with McLaren's endorsement of Obama is interesting.

Let me post these words from McLaren as part of a Dueling Duo (explanation of my Dueling Duos):

Which side wins--Demoncrat or Republican, East or West, elite or bourgeois or proletariat, Herodian or Zealot--may be considered news within the system, but until someone brings into the system resoureces from outside it, unless someone kicks a whole in the wall of the systems so we aren't trapped within it, there is not real good news...The dominant system is at its most powerful when its covert curriculum has taught us that tit is all there is; there is no outside...Through this one example [context: how the Right handles abortion and the Left handles global warning as part of 'the suicide system], I hope readers will be sensitized to see others, and become more aware of how the conventional language of culture war between Left and Right (or socialist and capitalist, or even between terrorist and free world) has become a smokescreen, a distraction, or camouflage under which a more dangerous battle of values is waged covertly." Everything Must Change, 285-286 [emphasis original]

So here's my first question: how is McLaren by his first quote able to actually being "sensitized to see others"?

He sounds rather naive and culturally narrow in his views of what people out there believe (at least according to the poles) as the Washington Post points out: "But the polls of self-described evangelicals don't bear out Mr. McLaren's observations. While national polls show Mr. McCain to be neck and neck with Mr. Obama, a survey from the authoritative Barna Group shows that Mr. McCain holds a commanding lead among evangelicals, with 61 percent to Mr. Obama's 17 percent. "

It seems to me McLaren commits the ultimate emergent sin: he is culturally narrow. It seems he can't fathom how anyone but a single issue voter can support McCain--I mean isn't it obvious. Or at least it is obvious then that he only gets to a certain group of vocal people.

Here's my other question: how is supporting a candidate within the system not becoming corrupted to the very system and empire narrative we are told to resist in 'Everything Must Change'?

I would suggest the only reason that this move is not seen as supporting the empire-Caesar system of the suicide machine is because McLaren believes in Obama's views (which he has every right to do and exercise his freedom of speech to that end). Is it possible that there is a bit of hypocrisy here? Is it possible there is a neo-pharisaicalism going on here? He seems perfectly content to write a whole book about the suicide systems and particularly harp on capitalism (which is not necessary synonymous with greed, the latter of which should be prophetically denounced) while proposing more socialist solutions. He tells us to expose the system and resist it and offer counter narratives... but one gets the sneaky suspicion that all of this is good so long as you're resisting conservative 'systems' (either theologically or politically) not the more liberal varieties.

Obama and McLaren have one thing in common: they like the word change. But are these moves really change?

Just a thought.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Romulan Cloaking Device

Ok, well it might not be from the Romulan Empire, but scientists say they have now succussfully "cloaked" a three dimensional object. If this is what the government is not admitting, one wonders how long Skunk works has been able to do this?

Here is the the article:

Researchers have demonstrated for the first time they were able to cloak three-dimensional objects using artificially engineered materials that redirect light around the objects. Previously, they only have been able to cloak very thin two-dimensional objects.

The findings, by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, led by Xiang Zhang, are to be released later this week in the journals Nature and Science.

The new work moves scientists a step closer to hiding people and objects from visible light, which could have broad applications, including military ones.People can see objects because they scatter the light that strikes them, reflecting some of it back to the eye. Cloaking uses materials, known as metamaterials, to deflect radar, light or other waves around an object, like water flowing around a smooth rock in a stream.

Metamaterials are mixtures of metal and circuit board materials such as ceramic, Teflon or fiber composite. They are designed to bend visible light in a way that ordinary materials don't. Scientists are trying to use them to bend light around objects so they don't create reflections or shadows.

It differs from stealth technology, which does not make an aircraft invisible but reduces the cross-section available to radar, making it hard to track.

Here's the problem: The Treaty of Algeron forbids the development of cloaking technology. But of course that treaty won't be written until 2311.

Facscinating. Check out more here at Science Daily.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Thoughts on Redemption

These are some of my thoughts on redemption when I was working through Ephesians 1:7.

Ephesians 1:7 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace
a) Notice here that the 'in Him' refers back to verse 6 with "the Beloved". God the Father has freely bestowed grace upon us through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Grace is simply—'favor extended where wrath is deserved'. When a teenager takes your car out for a joy ride and they crash it in the farmer's field—if you decide not to punish them you are bestowing, or giving them grace. They do not deserve to be forgiven; they deserve a punishment a consequence. Yet you freely forgive them. God does this in Christ—but how?

b) This is where the word redemption is quite crucial. To redeem means: "buy back" or "to make free by means of paying a ransom or price." In the ancient world slaver were redeemed—they could buy their freedom at a slave market. Captives and prisoners of war could be set free for a price. This then is incredible important and many 'Christians' today deny that there is such a thing or a necessity of 'redemption' through payment of a price. Let me just briefly defend to you the meaning of this word.

c) The word apolutrōsis (apolutrwsi$) means to buy back or to make free by paying a ransom price. We know of ten different times that this specific word is used in the ancient Greek literature. These include Plutarch, Philo, Josephus, the Letter of Aristeas, Lucian, and the Greek translation of Daniel 4:34. Leon Morris, in his rehearsal of the evidence concludes, "In every passage, without exception, there is a payment of a ransom price to secure the desired release." [1] B.B. Warfield's study concludes the same thing.[2] It is unambiguous.

d) Some who find the idea of 'payment' so offensive to the gospel, saying 'this makes God mean, will say we need to take our usage from the OT not the pagan slave markets. Second, apolutrōsis belongs to a word family with the root "lutroō" (lutrow). This word family is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament to speak of redemption. So for example, Israel was captive as a slave in Egypt:
Exodus 6:6 6 "Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, 'I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.
Remember Israel's captivity to Babylon:

Isaiah 43:14 14 Thus says the LORD your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, "For your sake I have sent to Babylon, And will bring them all down as fugitives, Even the Chaldeans, into the ships in which they rejoice.

Isaiah 44:22-24 22 "I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud And your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you." 23 Shout for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done it! Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth; Break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it; For the LORD has redeemed Jacob And in Israel He shows forth His glory. 24 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, "I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself And spreading out the earth all alone,
There are three Hebrew words translated by this word family 'redeem' (lutrow). G'l (lag), pdh (hdp), and kphr (rpk). In various contexts they are used in various ways, for sacrifice, ransom, appeasing by payment of money, to redeem and set free through payment, etc. The basic point is the Old Testament has this clear concept of 'redemption through payment of price with this word-group. Thus, to speak of "redemption" is not a pagan concept but an Old Testament concept. [3] In some OT passages, the price is not so much money or blood—but the mighty arm of the LORD exerting a great labor or force to set His people free—but it costs something.[4]

e) This is important because people today find the idea of redemption by paying a price to be offensive. We are told by 'Christians' that this model of sin-redemption is a 'Greek' model. "That it is repugnant." The Bible teaches that there is redemption!

f) This redemption is the payment of Jesus' shed blood to set us free from our slavery to sin. Notice in verse 7 "through his blood". The purchase price is the shed blood of Jesus Christ. This is not, as some have believed, a ransom paid to Satan. This idea even comes out in the Chronicles of Narnia when the evil which demands payment for Edmund's sin: "That human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property…unless I have blood as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water." [5]

g) The Bible teaches the ransom is paid by Christ's blood to God. We are under obligation to obey God—and when we sin we are under the penalty of sin and judgment from God. The judgment is that believe in Jesus but we love wickedness and darkness.
John 3:16-19 16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.
h) It is not as if we have a bad God who Jesus appeases. We have a God the Father, who loves us so much that He sends His only Son Jesus so that our sin can be paid for and we can enjoy fellowship, a relationship with God. If your child who stole your care to go joy riding, is chased by the cops and arrested—He has a fine to pay. Either he pays it, or you pay it. But if the fine goes unpaid—that is considered unjust. No one considers a judge good if he lets the guilty go free. In the same way, God does not let the guilty go free.
Exodus 34:7 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations."
Exodus 23:7 7 "Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty.

Proverbs 17:15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.
[1]The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, p.18

[2] Warfield, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, vol. 2 p.356 (speaking of the word family) also p. 362 on the significance of the prefix "apo".

[3] See especially Morris, Apostolic, p. 18-27 for OT usage. Also Warfield Works 2:327-372.

[4] Morris, Apostolic, p.26

[5] C.S. Lewis The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe qtd Pierced for our Transgressions p.144.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

On Postmodern Theology

"Although there is little agrement as to what it means to be post-modern in theology, precisely because pluralism is at the center of it, the new theologies have typically shared a disaffection with the various forms of fragmentation that modernization had produced. Different as the theologies are, they are in this sense post-modern. They are protestations against the rift between ourselves and nature, between ourselves and the divine order, and between individual groups and the human community. They propose to bind up what has been torn apart, in some cases calling for a return to pantheism or for adopting a view of God's immance that equates divine activity with the rectification of social wrongs. Such theologies thus reassert the union of nature and human nature in a whole that is religious and that gives us the ground for seeking its expression not simply as individuals but in community. In this sense, to be "post-modern" is often to be Easter in one's spirituality." --David Wells, No Place for Truth or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology, p. 66-67

Monday, August 11, 2008

Why we add "post-" to everything

Why is it that we are so content on defining ourselves but every label so long as it as a "post-" prefix? For example one can be "postmodern" or we are told we live in a 'post-Christian' culture. David Wells has these insightful words:

"[T]he continuing need to be post is still a telling indication of the modern mind. What it tells us, I believe, is that beneath all of the difficulties and disappointments that modernity has brought, there still resides a belief in progress; we continue to think, or perhaps fervently hope, that we are still moving toward a better future. The truth of the matter is that most Americans are impatient with nay-sayers and are disinclined to indulge, or even to attempt to understand, those who think that the basis for such hope might be gone. It is not merely that Americans typically think that such arguments are wrong; more importantly, they think that these arguments are offensive. They violate an important tenet of the cultural creed--namely, that there is always hope because things are always improving, despite the fact that under secular auspices there is no truth by which one can judge whether a culture is moving forward or backward." --David Wells No Place for Truth or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology p.67

Friday, August 8, 2008

Ephesians 1:8-10

Verses 9 and 10 of Ephesians chapter one explains to us how it is that God lavishes His grace on us.


Ephesians 1:9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him

a) This “making known to us” describes for us the manner in which God lavishes His grace on us. When one becomes a Christian one comes to understand and the know the gospel.

b) The “mystery of His will” refers to nothing less than the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We see this several ways:

i) First, contextually: Notice that what God has made known to the believers was the gospel truth they had heard:

Ephesians 1:13 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,

ii) Second, in Ephesians 3:2-4, Paul uses the same language of “mystery” and “administration to speak of Jesus Christ and the gospel that has come to be revealed:

Ephesians 3:2-5 2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace which was given to me for you; 3 that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. 4 By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;

This clearly refers to what Paul was preaching—the gospel.

iii) In Colossians 1:25-27, Paul uses “mystery” to speak of our being united to Jesus Christ which is the fruit of the gospel.

Colossians 1:25-27 25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

iv) Finally, in Romans 16:25-27—the mystery is the gospel message of Jesus Christ that was prophesied in the past but now come to be fulfilled.

Romans 16:25-27 25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, 26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.

c) What is the mystery of His will? The mystery of His will is the gospel. The coming of Jesus Christ was prophesied in the Old Testament—in this sense it was not a “secret”. However, it was a mystery in the sense that it was not until the proper time—the fullness of time—that God would reveal the full purpose of His plan. “Mystery” is a redemptive-historical category. God gave foretastes and foreshadows in the Old Testament but as good and as clear as this was; it was still far shy of the actual manifestation—the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.


Ephesians 1:9 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him

a) What determines why we come to know this ‘mystery of His will’? Nothing but the will of God. It is his “good pleasure”. God delights in making Himself know to those He has elected. In verse 5, God predestined us ‘according to the good pleasure of His will’. Here we come to know His will—the gospel, His purpose for all things—only according to His good pleasure.

b) What motivates God to lavish this grace on us? We cannot say we are, to paraphrase the SNL character Stuart Smalley, ‘good enough, smart enough or doggone it he likes us’. WE HAVE NOTHING. It is nothing save His good pleasure. He has delighted in revealing it to us so that we get know credit and He gets all the credit. We have nothing left to boast in—save the LORD.

c) This ‘good pleasure’ has been purposed in Christ. That before the foundation of the world the Father covenanted with the Son that this should be their plan. The Son would glorify the Father; the Father would glorify the Son; the Spirit would glorify the Son and the Father. This is the mystery of redemption: God acts in such a way that the members of the Trinity glorify each other. They delight themselves. They derive pleasure is doing and fulfilling what humans could never dream of. Each member of the Trinity makes the others the most important person in the universe so that the Godhead derives all the credit, honor, worship and glory.


Ephesians 1:10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.

a) The ‘administration’ here speaks of a plan or a strategy. It speaks of the activity of bringing something about. It can in English and in Greek speak of an office. Paul speaks of His own office in Ephesians 3 as an ‘administration’. But here is speaks of the activity of God. That God’s purpose in Christ was to do something ‘in the administration of the fullness of time’.

b) The fullness of time speaks not just of ‘just the right time’ but this idea when the perfect time comes. When the time reaches it completeness or goal. So in Galatians 4:4 we read that in the ‘fullness of time God sent his Son to be born of a woman’.

c) What does God do in ‘the administration of the fullness of time’? He puts all things under the headship of Jesus Christ. “summing up” means “to unite” or “to bring it all together”. All things are brought into union with Christ—they are placed under His authority.
Ephesians 1:19-23 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
d) The purpose of redemption is not just to ‘save us’. The purpose of Christ is to be put as the head of all things—now He is head over the church and we receive the benefits of salvation from a relationship of union with Him. But Christ is made the king of all creation. This goes back to the garden of Eden. God establishes Adam in the garden as his image. That means all authority over creation was given to Adam. He was a ‘vice-regent’. He was the Lord’s administrator—a governor under the great king. He had rule and authority. He was to have dominion over the earth. In this dominion, He should have crushed the serpent underneath his heal. Adam failed and we are put into captivity—into slavery to sin. We need redemption. But not only do we receive redemption—Christ is a second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45). He is the eternal ‘image of God’ (Col. 1:15). He comes humbles Himself, dying for us, and is exalted over all creation. He is the new vice regent. Not only is He the eternal Son of God—but He is the true human—that Kingdom.

e) God’s purpose for all creation is to glorify Himself within creation. He does this by setting the Son up as head over creation. The Son is united to all things in heaven and on earth so that God might be all in all.
1 Corinthians 15:28 28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.
This is a mystery: that God would fulfill His purpose within creation. Genesis 1:1—God created the heavens and the earth. God reigns in heaven. But is plan and goal is to manifest His reign and glory ‘on earth as it is in heaven’. How does an invisible God do this? In the person of the Son—who is God with us. In Christ we behold the glory of God—we see in the image of the invisible God. He reigns as one who is truly God—but He also reigns as one who is truly human and thereby can represent Himself as the head of all creation from within all creation. This brings God to get all the glory from creation, while in Jesus He dwells within His creation. This mystery is being revealed at Calvary—and will be revealed at the end of the age—the fullness of the times.

Tomorrow: Sermon Applications

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sermon Applications 8/3/08

Text: Ephesians 1:8-10

Ephesians 1:8-10 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.




i) If we see the gospel as the mystery of God’s will—it must change our whole worldview. In the gospel, we see that the center of all of human history hinges upon Christ. It is a life altering event. It must change our whole worldview. Everything hangs of the Cross and the resurrection. It is the assurance that God will destroy evil but recreate the heavens and the earth. Only as God lavishes His grace on us do we actually see the centrality of Jesus Christ.

ii) We need to recognize that our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ is a product not of human knowledge and ability but of the lavish grace of God. This whole section of vv.3-14 centers on the sovereign outpouring of God’s grace. You see, it is not my wisdom, my smarts, my cunning ability to understand the Bible that helps me see Christ as the center of God’s plan. With human wisdom, we never find God in Christ. Many people still have the veil over their eyes when the Bible is read. To say that the horrible cross of Christ is where we find God Himself is foolishness. But why do you and I rejoice in it? Why do we marvel in it? Why to we grasp that here along in our salvation? Because of the lavish grace of God. He has brought us to see and savor Jesus—to come to a knowledge of this mystery.



i) We are to boast only in the Lord. When we recognize that we can do nothing—that the only reason I know God is because He has lavished His grace on us. That He does this not because we deserve it or because we measure up or somehow kept our part of the bargain—then, and only then is pride cut down. We acknowledge out absolute indebtedness to God and the work of Christ.

ii) We are to take pleasure in what God has taken pleasure to do. The center of God’s plan is to crucify Christ and exalt Him. God delights in giving the Son a kingdom. He will reign forever. He alone is worthy. As Revelation says:
Revelation 11:15 15 Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever."
When ever I hear this line sung in the Hallelujah chorus it gives me chills. It gives me a delight to know that this world is not about me—I am not the center of the universe. God is not here for me—to be at my beck and call.


Application: What does this all mean?

i) The union is not a metaphysical union. It is not as if the particles of Jesus are spread over all creation. This is how Eastern thought, particularly Buddhism and New Age thought thinks of union—as is a spirit of some kind touches everything. This union is not like Greek thought—as if the particles are spread everywhere. We face a temptation to compromise with this in our culture. To be Biblical is to reject this. This notion of union rejects the Biblical notion that Christ is united to us as LORD over all of us! It is an affront to the gospel that we must resist with ever ounce of our being.

ii) When I understand God’s ultimate purpose in this lavish grace, it causes me to rethink how I fit. Michael Horton describes it this way:
“When trouble comes, whether external or internal threats to our physical or spiritual welfare, we are to turn inside out. Our first inclination at these times is the opposite. Like a turtle withdrawing from its shell at the sign of danger, we turn inside and grab hold of our resources to sustain us. But as counterintuitive as it is for us, we must turn outward at precisely these times and hope only in the Lord… One thing that made sense to my wife during her trials, she now says, was my encouragement to concentrate not on what she was going through but on what God is doing in this cosmic battle of the ages [the conflict is the kingdom of God vs. the kingdom of this world/Satan; the decisive battle centers in the death and resurrection of Christ]. Especially when our infants were in intensive care for three months, the obvious temptation was to be so completely preoccupied with them that we lost sight of God and his grace in Jesus Christ.” (Too Good to be True: Finding Hope in a World of Hype, p.169-170)

iii) The union I have is submission to the kingship of Christ. The great hope of the Old Testament is an Israelite king ruling all creation, like Adam was supposed to, and then the nations coming to worship God. Do I find myself submitting to Christ? Do I find myself desiring to be place under Christ’s care and authority—bending my heart to the king? If I do not—Christ will establish His authority when He returns by destroying me under His judgment.

iv) This ‘being united to Christ’ is symbolized today by communion. Communion is a sign that I receive all spiritual benefits from Christ. That I am blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies through receiving Christ. It is a reminder that God’s plan it to sum up all things under Christ. Christ will be the head over all creation—but He is the head of the church is a way that is most special—He is our deliverer and our salvation.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Moral Defense of God

This is an essay I wrote back in college. The assignment was to take one of the philosophical arguments for God and write an essay on it.

A Moral Defense of God

Society has begun a new quest:

We must seek, in the very heart of religious conceptions, those moral realities that are, as it were, lost and dissimulated in it. We must disengage them, find out what they consist of, determine their proper nature, and express them in rational language. In a word, we must discover the rational substitutes for those religious notions that for a long time have served as the vehicle for the most essential moral ideas. (Durkheim 9)

William James argues for the same point when he writes, "'The religion of humanity' affords a basis for ethics as well as theism" (198). However, William James and Emile Durkheim are incorrect. Human reason is not and cannot be the basis of morals rather, the existence of uniform morals in the world affirms a standard beyond human creation, namely 'god'.

First, all moral values are uniform in some way. What is affirmed in this statement is that when we examine the scope of society there is a general moral value of some kind. When this paper argues for uniform morals it is not denying cultural distinctions and difference, rather it is arguing for similarity that has tethered all societies together at some level. C.S. Lewis contends, "Human beings all over the earth have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way. . ." (Mere 21). Throughout history morals can be seen as based on some objective standard. We cannot deny the moral similarities among civilizations. Without denying differences C.S. Lewis affirms that there are striking moral similarities throughout history and culture:

There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference . If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of say, ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks and Romans, what will strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own. (Mere 19)

One striking similarity is the belief in some form of universal truth. Hindus believe in the Rta, the "great ritual or pattern of nature and supernature which is revealed alike in the cosmic order" (Lewis Abolition 27). For Plato there was "the Good [that] was 'beyond existence'" (Lewis Abolition 27). The Chinese believed in the Tao which was "reality beyond all predicates, the abyss that was before the Creator Himself." and "the ancient Jews praised the Law as being true" (Lewis Abolition 28).

C.S. Lewis is also quite precise in his documentation of more specific examples in the appendix of his book The Abolition of Man. Certain moral standards, such as murder is wrong, have been maintained among the cultures of history. [1] What can account for these similarities?

In his novel, Thus Spake Zarathstra, Nietzsche uses the fictional character to argue "That anything at all is good and evil- that is his [man's] creation" (Qtd. in Hoover 112). Certainly societies have risen and fallen at the hands of great men but does that necessitate that man has created his own standards? This view of the origin of morals does not do justice to the evidence of moral standards throughout the ages. If man merely created morals according to his own taste we would assume that moral standards would be as different as black and white. Rather, what we see is that we are comparing shades of blue. There may be differences but each color is still inherently blue.

There must be some moral uniformity. For example, in the years following World War II the various nations of the world, Israel in particular, embarked on a manhunt for Nazi war criminals. The criminals were then tried before an international court. What basis was there for such a trial? The trials were not simply because the Allies won the war but because there was a belief that there was a moral standard that the Nazis were accountable to.

William James argues that "there can be no final truth in ethics any more than in physics, until that last man has had his experience and said his way" (184). He would argue that morality is relative to the observer. He supports a universal principle of a different kind. For him, "the essence of good is simply to satisfy demand. . . The various ideals have no more common character apart from the fact that they are ideals" (201).

This view fails to do justice to the evidence of uniformity. If good is only that which satisfies demand, then morals are again reduced to the creation of man, or his demands. To refute both Nietzsche and James consider the words of C.S. Lewis:

It is no more possible to invent a new ethics than to place a new sun in the sky. Some precept from traditional morality always has to be assumed. We never start from a tabula rasa: if we did, we should end, ethically speaking, with a tabula rasa. New moralities can only be contractions or expansions of something already given. And all the specifically modern attempts at new moralities are contractions. (Christian 53)

Even if we limit good to the satisfying of demands, as James attempts to do, we still have clung to at least a bare thread of traditional morality. The further and further we continue down this dark path the closer we move to total anarchy. Even in a state of anarchy, each individual still would declare something as good and bad. This raped form of morality is not a new morality at all as we are led to believe but merely a perverse contraction.

There is no moral vacuum in which man or group can create a new moral. Rather, as Kenneth Boa states, "The idea of right versus wrong and good versus bad is firmly entrenched in the human mind, and it is consistently displayed in the human experience" (154). Even those who argue for subjective moral values would probably not hesitate to shout, "That is not fair!" if there accountant cheated them out of their entire life's investments.

What we see is evidence of uniform morals which cannot be explained as man's creation. The evidence of a standard seems to concur with the writer of Ecclesiastes when he wrote, "There is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, 'Look! This is something new'?" (1:9b,10a).

Second, the uniformity of morals points to a standard which must be beyond man's creation, a god. In the above section we have seen evidence of a standard and argued that cannot be explained as man's own creation. We will argue that in order for the evidenced uniform morals to be explained we must look to an objective standard beyond man.

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines moral as "of or relating to principles of right or wrong in behavior" (756). To have truly have a principle, i.e. a moral, there must be someone to give that moral. Or more simply put to have a law there must be a lawgiver. All modern countries that have a set of laws for their government trace those laws back to someone or some group. These laws or principles go beyond the mere facts. Facts tell us, "A happened and then B and C happened." But beyond that there is a value judgement. Morals dive deeper and tell us, "A was right and B and C were wrong" or "B and C ought not to happen." How can we account for this? Can we account for this value judgement or must we reduce it to the subjective relativity of man's reason?

The evidence we examined under the first premise points out that there is a human desire to define this standard of moral. Without an objective standard there would be no uniformity between cultures as we examined.

William James denies all objectivity entirely. He argues in the physical world there are no morals only facts. The idea of 'oughtness', or morals, can only be discussed from a personal perspective. He states that, "Moral relations now [once human perspective is introduced] have their status, in that being's consciousness. So far as he feels anything to be good, he makes it good" (190-1, Emphasis his). But moral values that are reduced to a human standard really carry no value or weight to them. They fall short of the definition of a moral, instead of a principle they become a suggestion. Without a standard a moral is not a moral at all. It becomes what one person suggests is right. Why does he suggest its right? He made it right. Kenneth Boa points out the flaws of subjectivity stating, "If these values are based solely on human experiences and subjective feelings, there is a real problem when people criticize or appeal to moral values, they are appealing to something which in their minds is self-evident and objective" (155-6).

Emile Durkheim suggested that we can and we must wrestle morals away from any and all religious basis. His goal was "a completely rational moral education, that is to say, excluding all principles derived from religion" (19). He proposed that we do this without letting morality lose any of its basic elements. In other words, where traditional morals taught us that "God says, thou shalt not kill." We can merely erase the "God says" and hold up the "thou shalt. . ." and our morals will be sufficient.

As we have shown this is an insufficient treatment of morals. It is not a new moral but a reductionism, as one can plainly see. To Emile Durkheim our reason will naturally validate this moral as a true and acceptable moral standard. The moral becomes a moral that man created. Because we deleted the "God says" (the religious basis) we walk along the same lines as Zarathustra when he declared, "What is good and evil no one knows yet, unless it be he who creates. He, however creates man's goals and gives the earth its meaning and future" (112).

Arlie Hoover, who analyzed Nietsche's contribution to the Holocaust, is quick to point out the past failures of denying an objective standard. She comments, "there is no universal morality, that morality is purely a human creation, that good and evil are determined by creators, great individuals, powerful men- the Nazis will find these ideas very helpful in fashioning their worldview" (112).

Most are quick to condemn the Nazi atrocities. But we tend to move down that path when we indorse subjectivity of any kind, whether group or individual. Mounce warns us of the dangers of relativism:

It is inherently unstable. On reflection, it collapses into a relativism of individual form. In short, a morality which is relative to the general will soon reduces itself to a morality which is relative to my will. For if I am at all reflective, I shall soon find myself wondering why, if there is a conflict between the two, I should follow the general will rather than my own. (281, Emphasis his)

The last comment this writer would like to make is more theological because Dr. Nichols has stated, "We cannot talk about philosophy as if theology does not exist." When we attempt to place morals solely in the subjective hands of man's reason merely we affirm man's prideful sinful self. The Westminster Confession summarizes the Bible's portrayal of man's condition as "dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body" (Qtd. in Reymond 446). Man cannot claim to be without sin (1 John 1:8,10 et al). Any moral that man attempts to set man's own reason as a standard will fall short and decay because man himself is sinful.

What this paper has argued then is first, there is evidence of uniform morals. While the exactness of them differ from culture to culture there is still a commonality that cannot be denied, or downplayed. The uniformity of morals point to a standard beyond man; for if the standard is not beyond man the morals by definition cease to be morals. They turn into suggestions that one can choose not to follow. What we have shown is that, contrary to Emile Durkheim, standards cannot be taken from religion and given to man's reason. We defend the existence of an objective moral standard beyond man, i.e. god.

We have not defended nor was it our attempt to completely defend the Christian God of the Bible. Rather, we showed that morals demand something above man. Let us close with the words of C.S. Lewis:

These may be fine speculations: yet I believe that nothing short of this [a Divine God] can save us. A Christianity which does not see moral and religious experience converging to meet at infinity, not at a negative infinity, but in the positive infinity of the living yet superpersonal God, has nothing, in the long run to divide it from devil worship; and a philosophy which does not accept value as eternal and objective can lead us only to ruin. (Christian 80-1)


The Bible. The New International Version. 1984.

Boa, Kenneth. "What is Behind Morality?" Bibliotheca Sacra. Vol. 133. April-June 1976.


Durkheim, Emile. Moral Education: A Study in Theory and Application of Sociology of Education. Ed. Everett Wilson. Trans. Everett K. Wilson and Herman Schnurer. New York: Free Press. 1961.

Hoover, Arlie. "Who speaks for life? Nietzsche's Contribution to the Holocaust." Restoration Quarterly. Vol. 40(2). 1998. 109-23.

James, William. The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy and Human Immortality. (Both bound as one). New York: Dover Publications. 1960.

Lewis, C.S. The Abolition of Man. New York: Macmillian. 1947.

_____. Christian Reflections. Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans. 1967.

_____. Mere Christianity. New York: Macmillian. 1952.

Mounce, H.O. "Morality and religion." Philosophy of Religion. Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press. 1998. 253-85.

Nichols, Stephen. Introduction to Western Philosophy. Lancaster Bible College: Lancaster, Pa. Class Lecture. Oct. 9, 2000.

Reymond, Robert. A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Pub. 1998.

[1] The purpose of this paper is not to examine and compare moral standards of these cultures but to make us aware of their existence. The list of examples one could give are quite extensive, if one requires specifics beyond the scope of this paper, this writer suggests starting with The Abolition of Man. C.S. Lewis includes an appendix with examples.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A thought about science

"Science works by experiments. It watches how things behave. Every scientific statement in the long run, howevercomplicated it looks, really means something like, 'I pointed the telescope to such and such a part of the sky at 2.20 a.m. on January 15th and saw so-and-so,' or 'I put some of this stuff in a pot and heated it to such-and-such a temperature and it did so-and-so.' Do not think I am saying anything against science:I am only saying what its job is. And the more scientific a man is, the more (I believe) he would agree with me that this is the job of science--and a very useful and necessary job it is too. But why anything comes to be there at all, and whether there is anything behind the things science observes--something of a different kind--this is not a scientific question. If there is 'Something Behind', then either it will have to remain altogether unknown to men or else make itself known in some different way. The statement that there is any such thing, and the statement that there is no such thing, are neither of them statements that science can make. And real scientists do not make them. It is usually the journalists and popular novelists who have picked up a few odds and ends of half-baked science from textbooks who go in for them. After all, it is really a matter of common sense. Supposing science ever became soe complete so that it knew every single thing in the whole universe. Is it not plain that the questions, 'Why is there a universe? 'Why does it go on as it does?' 'Has it any meaning?' would remain just as they were."
--C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity, pp.22-23

Here is what leading scientist Fracis Collins is reported as saying by Christian Today:
"There really is no conflict between faith and reason," Professor Francis Collins told the CS Lewis Foundation's international summer institute, Oxbridge 2008, on at St Aldate's Church, Cambridge, on Wednesday.

"As a committed materialist in college, I assumed the physical was all there was," said Collins, who in 1977 at the age of 27 completed a career change from chemistry to medicine and became a doctor. This, he said, forced him to confront pain and death face-to-face. "That was a dramatic turn for me. The concepts were not hypothetical anymore."

Through encounters with patients, pastors and, finally, by reading "Mere Christianity" by CS Lewis, Collins realised, "I had never really looked at the evidence. Atheism had only been a convenient pathway. I had to decide what was really the truth but I thought that faith and reason were on opposite poles."

"Mere Christianity" began life as a series of lectures given by Lewis in 1943, and the best-selling book that followed had a profound effect on Collins. "Even in the first few pages, all my arguments about faith just fell apart. It was breathtaking ... Lewis remains my best teacher," he said. Within a year, Collins had become a Christian.

HT: Between Two Worlds

Monday, August 4, 2008


Josh Reich, a pastor in Arizona and one of my friends, and soccer buddies, from college has some great thoughts about reading on his blog:

  • Always have a book and a highlighter/pen with you. At home, in the car, when you are meeting someone (in case their late), at an appoitment, next to your bed, in your bathroom. If you want to read a lot, you have to maximize the time available.
  • If you exercise or drive a lot, books on your ipod.
  • Read good books. This seems like a no-brainer, but a lot of people read the wrong books. Ask readers what they are reading, what their favorite books are and then read those. There is nothing worse than buying a book only to find out it is a waste of time.
  • If a book doesn’t grab you after 30 - 40 pages, stop reading. [1]
  • Read only the chapters that jump out at you in a book.
  • Most authors quote a certain group of people. For example, while John Ortberg is a great author, he is always quoting Dallas Willard. Find out who authors quote a lot and read them. If you wrote an emergent book, you will quote Brian McLaren, so read him. I always read those authors before I read the authors that quote them.
  • Find out who your favorite authors are reading. They will tell you on their websites or blogs what books they are reading right now.
  • Read books about a ton of topics, don’t get pigeonholed, make sure you are reading on spirituality, theology, relationships, biblical history, leadership, etc. Too many people (especially pastors) only read one kind of book. It gets kind of lopsided.
  • Read reviews on Amazon and blogs. Find out what people thought. Most reviews in my opinion are right on. You can check out my recommended list here andmy book reviews here.
Great thoughts about reading, to which I add:
  • Keep a list of books and then edit it regularly. –I keep a long wishlist, and I never expect to get to them all. But this helps me do exactly what you describe. I add books when I see them cited by authors. If I see a particular book a lot by authors then I bump it up higher on my list. By keeping a book list it helps me balance into all areas of reading and not get pigeonholed (admittedly I probably still do get pigeonholed somewhat).
  • Read experts in the field. You waste a lot of time reading multiple surveys or once you have read one or two surveys on an issue try to read the experts in the field, those who have the most techinical arguments or who are foundational for later cases.
  • Don’t be afraid to read journal articles. Some times they make the ‘tightest’ cases on an issue.

One other thing you can do is scan a book before you read it. Try to determine where the authors is going and how he will lay out the case. This helps you get a lay of the land before you get into the thick of the forest. (It also provides motivation to plow through those though sections without getting bogged down).

One the making of books there is no end. Don't waste your money and your time on the bad ones. Although do read the books that you might disagree with--they will sharpen your critical thinking.

Thanks Josh.

[1] I tend to want to quibble a little bit with this one. Depends what you mean by "grab"--sure if it is turning into something really bad or other than what you thought--by all means put it down. But I would say sometimes you have to apply yourselves to the book. Some of the best arguments and the most ingenious cases are made by the dullest writes who have the most mundane styles. I just offer a caution because we live in an age of exitement where if we aren't 'entranced' in the first five minutes we tune out. Sometimes the best books are like a steam train--they are slow to get going but hit you with a wham once you get up to full speed. In contrast, not every book can be like a JJ Abrams film (think MI:III or Alias) with the first few minutes of heavy action to sink its hook in.

"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...