Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Two Physics Majors
The first conversation that I had using the "starter question" was with two physics majors named Adam and Steve. They behaved and conversed like true gentlemen and the interaction was truly pleasant. They both initially denied the existence of absolute truth and I pointed out to them that this claim was self-refuting since to deny absolute truth is to make an absolute truth claim. They didn't quite get the point initially (probably because I wasn't clear), but as I parsed out the argument they got the point. I then further reiterated the self-refutation by showing that to deny the existence of absolute truth causes you to use the invariant, abstract, universal laws of logic, thus showing that you believe in absolute truth in practice though you deny it in principle. We then discussed the laws of science and after some discussion, they both agreed that they were arbitrarily assuming that the laws of logic and science were going to work the same way in the future that they had in the past, thus committing the logical fallacy of begging the question. We then discussed the existence of moral absolutes and they both denied that such existed, so I asked them, "So, you believe that under certain circumstances that it would be okay to torture babies for fun?" They both hesitated initially, but then admitted that given their moral relativism, they couldn't morally object to it if their society condoned and legalized it. At this point, I pointed out to them that they had made my point for me, namely, that if they don't begin with God, then there is no objective, transcendent basis for right and wrong. They agreed too! I then answered more of their questions regarding creation/evolution issues, gave them some creation literature, and we then shook hands and parted ways. Please pray for Adam and Steve.
A Catholic Young Lady
Next, I spoke with a girl that had a cross around her neck and after handing a tract to her I asked if she was a Christian and she said "yes". I then said, "Okay Christian, I've got a knife in my back and have three minutes to live, please tell me what must I do to be saved." She obviously had a Catholic background as she said that I had to go to purgatory first before being admitted to heaven. I then asked, "So, I don't need to do anything but die?" She never said that I needed to repent of my sins, ask for forgiveness and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, or anything like that, but instead said, "Well, you should have gone to confession, attended Mass, etc." and I said, "But I don't have time for that now, I'm dying, I feel guilty about things I've done, and I want to go to heaven but I've only got 2.5 minutes to live". She said that as long as I lived a good and sincere life and didn't commit any mortal sins, then I don't have to worry because I'd be reconciled to God anyways. Knowing that adultery and murder are mortal sins per Catholicism, I then said, "But I remember reading in St. Matthew where Jesus said that if I have had a lustful thought then I've committed adultery in my heart and that if I've hated someone or called them a fool then I'm guilty enough to go to Hell." [Matt. 5:21-22; 27-28] She then reiterated that I should have went to confession, the Mass, etc. and then she walked into her building and the conversation ended there. I realize that her responses are not completely representative of how official Catholicism would answer my question, for I am aware of the doctrine of "last rites/extreme unction", but her inability to point me to Christ as the sole source of salvation is telling indeed.
A Skeptic that Redefined Absolute Truth
After she entered the building, I then turned to two guys near the bike rack outside the entrance, handed them a gospel tract and asked them about the existence of absolute truth and one guy refused to enter into conversation with me and quickly left whereas his friend said that absolute truth existed but that it was subject to the individual. I then defined absolute truth (truth for all people, times, and places) and he denied it existed. I then pointed him to his own denial as a proposition that proved the contrary and he saw the problem, but demurred and said he had to go.
Dwight: Open, Honest, and Pensive
I then walked to the other side of campus, passing out tracts as I went and met up with a black man outside of the library named Dwight. Dwight was new to the area, was not a student, and was very open to the gospel. I had prayed for God to put people into my path today that were open to the gospel, and Dwight was my answered prayer. He seemed to absorb everything I was saying like a sponge. He admitted that he was a sinner, was not reconciled to God through faith and repentance in Christ, and was living contrary to God's ways. I used zero apologetics with him as he didn't need it. He simply needed to hear the old, old story of Jesus and His love. He was visibly convicted by my words and as I explained the kindness and love of God in sending His Son to die for wicked people who don't deserve His love, he seemed to really be affected by this. I told him to go home, read the gospel of John, put his face in the carpet, and beg God to save his soul. He shook my hand, asked where we went to church, and really appreciated my being there. I told him that our meeting didn't happen by chance, but that it was God ordained. Please pray for Dwight.
A "Christian" Who Didn't Know the Gospel
I then handed out more tracts, walking through the campus toward the Northern most side and had a great discussion with a young man that I handed a tract to that professed to be a Christian. I asked him that same thing that I asked the Catholic young lady earlier, and he couldn't explain to me what the gospel was, so I asked, "If you can't explain the gospel to me, why should I believe that you are a Christian when you aren't even familiar with it's most basic message?" I then gave him the gospel in a minute and he was off to his class.
A Great Listener
At this point, I found myself outside of a building with college kids sitting and chatting everywhere. So, I went up to the young man that was closest to me and introduced myself and asked him what he was studying. He told me he was studying for a psychology test that was on the topic of people who think they have been abducted by aliens. We talked about this for a few minutes and then I asked him about the existence of absolute truth and he had an interesting response that I've never heard before: "I believe in absolute truth, but only if people have been exposed to it." I then pointed out that whether or not people have been exposed to it is irrelevant; what's relevant is whether it's true or not. I then used an imperfect analogy about how Australians who come into our country are still subject to our laws even though they are not specifically aware of what those laws are. He got the point, then I was able to share with him why I was there and we then had a great discussion about God, the gospel, evil, and salvation. He came from a non-churched home (both of his parents were "non-religious" scientists) and his big sticking point was "the problem of evil", specifically, the tremendous amount of suffering in the world. The next 20 minutes proved to be a very fruitful discussion where I was able to not only answer his objections, but also point him to the gospel of Christ. We shook hands and he left to take his test.
A Put Off Pluralist
Next, I spoke with two young men who overheard some of my conversation with the previous young man. I gave them each a tract, asked them the question of the day, and they both denied the existence of absolute truth. I then pointed out the contradiction, they admitted the problem and retracted their original position, and then I asked them what was the source of absolute truth. They both essentially said that it was God. I asked them "Which God?" to which one responded, "I'm a supporter of the idea that there are many ways to get to God" and I then asked, "How can there be many ways to get to the same God when all the major world religions have competing and contradictory truth claims about who God is and how to be reconciled to their conception of the divine?" I then gave some clear examples. I got no meaningful answer but to be fair, they had to scoot off to class.
Making up a god
I then headed back toward my car and had a great conversation with a young Hispanic man named Carmelio (sp?) who also initially denied the existence of absolute truth, but retracted after being shown the refutation thereof. When asked, he said that he believed in God, but when he said that he didn't necessarily believe in the God of the Bible, I explained to him that he had made a god to suit his own likeness and that was idolatry. I spent some time working through some of the other commandments and he admitted that if God were to judge him based on his violation of those commands, that he would go to Hell. I then preached him the gospel, gave him a Bible (he said he didn't own one), and instructed him to read the gospel of John and call or e-mail me if he had any questions. Please pray for Carmelio.
Disinterested Young Ladies
I then kept heading back to the car and spoke with three young girls outside of the campus ice cream shop that couldn't have been more than 16-17 years of age each. They all professed faith in Christ but blew it when it came to explaining to me how a person is saved. I explained the gospel to them, two out of the three looked disinterested, so I gave them tracts, and thanked them for their time.
Happy Go Lucky
The next young man I spoke with was named Josh. I recognized him from somewhere else, but I just couldn't place where I knew him from. We had a great conversation, and he already understood repentance but didn't understand saving faith that well; and I had the opportunity to explain it to him and we shook hands and he took off.
A Smoking Gun
I then spoke to a young black man taking a smoke break outside of a campus thrift shop. He was a really nice guy, listened well, and asked some great questions about Islam and Christianity. He thought that Christians and Muslims basically believed in the same God and I corrected that notion and explained the gospel to him. He gladly took a tract, and I told him if he had any questions to give me a call or e-mail me.
Another Guy Who Didn't Know the Gospel
The last guy I spoke with was a black man named Derek. He didn't know what the gospel was, so I explained it to him and he too listened intently as we stood on the sidewalk. Please pray for Derek.
All in all, God granted a productive day of evangelism. A few things I need to work on are as follows:
1. Being more succinct instead of waxing eloquent.
2. When people object to Christ's exclusive claim in John 14:6 by asking about other world religions, ask them if they believe in those religions in order to avoid unnecessary discussion and debate about things they don't believe.
3. Use more Scripture in discussions with people (Romans 1:16; Hebrews 4:12).
May God grant those who I spoke with eyes to see and ears to hear. Indeed, as Jesus said, the fields are white unto harvest.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
The question: What can Darwin teach us about morality?
God is dead, so why should I be good? The answer is that there are no grounds whatsoever for being good. There is no celestial headmaster who is going to give you six (or six billion, billion, billion) of the best if you are bad. Morality is flimflam. [bold and italics mine for emphasis]
Assuming his presuppositions for the sake of argument, I agree completely. No God means that there are no objective, transcendent, moral standards and morality is "flimflam". Moral realism is a pipe dream. I couldn't have said it better myself. What's even more helpful is the fact that Ruse openly admits that there is no grounding for moral standards. So why am I so stoked about this since I'm a Christian and Ruse is an atheist? It's because he's making my point for me. So, thank you Dr. Ruse for owning up to the consequences of your own worldview. However, Ruse refutes himself when he opposes anarchy,
Does this mean that you can just go out and rape and pillage, behave like an ancient Roman grabbing Sabine women? Not at all. I said that there are no grounds for being good. It doesn't follow that you should be bad.Why not? Why can't I go out and rape, pillage, and plunder like a champion serial killer? You may object, "Dude, you'll get thrown in jail and possibly be executed." But I'm really clever and I don't plan to get caught. So explain to me again why I shouldn't do it if I can get away with it and there's no grounding for morality? Worse yet, Ruse begs the question because he assumes that raping and pillaging are "bad." Who says it's "bad" and why should I listen to their opinion? Given his assumptions about reality, why should I give a rip what anybody else thinks? After all, I'm a clever atheist and I'm going to use my smarts to avoid not only being arrested, tried, and convicted, but better yet, I don't have to worry about Judgment Day since there will never be one!
Indeed, there are those – and I am one – who argue that only by recognising the death of God can we possibly do that which we should, and behave properly to our fellow humans and perhaps save the planet that we all share. We can give up all of that nonsense about women and gay people being inferior, about fertilised ova being human beings, and about the earth being ours to exploit and destroy.
First, which set of moral standards inform "do[ing] that which we should" and "behav[ing] properly" if different societies having contradictory "shoulds", "oughts", and "proper behaviors"? How do you "save the planet" if different societies have contradictory moral values about how that is to be done? An objection may be, "Scientific experimentation has demonstrated that we are destroying the planet, thus endangering future generations of humans." But again, given Ruse's fundamental axiom about morality, why should I care? Maybe I think the human race needs to go extinct in the future. After all, we've had our shot and we blew it, so it's time to give another organism a shot at the Darwinian crap shoot. Given Ruse's views, my contributing to the destruction of the planet won't immediately affect me and I'm not obligated to uphold Ruse's or anyone else's standards of what constitutes "shoulds" and "oughts". I can make up my own rules because I'm my own little god and I get to call the shots regardless of what other little gods feel, think, and experience. Third, if we're just organized molecules banging around how do I get an ought from an is? In other words, how does the description of what happens in the world tell me about how I ought to act in the world? Finally, Ruse begs the question again by assuming it is "nonsense" to object to homosexuality, to assume that the fertilized egg is a human being, and to think it's okay to not recycle. If I get to make up my own standards, maybe my standard calls for discrimination against homosexuals because I think they are disgusting, maybe I think abortionists need to die because they dress in ugly blue scrubs, and maybe I don't care whether the earth is destroyed or not because littering and dumping my trash in the woods feeds my rebellious streak. If Ruse can arbitrarily assume that certain things are bad without justification then I can do the same. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
So, according to Ruse, we make up our own moral standards and agree to follow the standards we have made up in order to promote survival value in our society. Those within that society who demur from the majority will either do what the majority says even though they don't agree with it or face the consequences for violating that particular society's made up standard. However, I'll face the consequences only if I get caught, and remember, I'm clever and there's no Judgment Day. I also own a lot of C-4, have over 5,000 rounds of 7.62 mm FMJ cartridges in my basement, own 13 well-polished Kalishnakov rifles, and I have different ideas than most about how to win friends and influence people. But I digress with my spoof. Ruse goes on,
Start with the fact that humans are naturally moral beings. We want to get along with our fellows. We care about our families. And we feel that we should put our hands in our pockets for the widows and orphans. This is not a matter of chance or even of culture primarily. Humans as animals have gone the route of sociality. We succeed, each of us individually, because we are part of a greater whole and that whole is a lot better at surviving and reproducing that most other animals.
The fact that humans are naturally moral beings doesn't tell us what our morality should be. The Bible says that we have a sense of right and wrong hardwired into us as well (Romans 2:14-15), but Ruse isn't going to accept God's account of why we are moral. You might care about families and orphans, but why should I care about your feelings towards them? If I like to torture four year old girls for fun because I feel I should do that since it gives me the jollies, whose to say it's objectively wrong since moral realism is a pipe dream? And even if it is generally true that group cohesiveness promotes survival value of the individuals in the group, why should I seek cohesiveness and how do these facts tell me what I ought be doing within the group given Ruse's axiom? Should I do this for my own survival? Maybe I don't want to live. Maybe I'm on a mission to die. But if suicide is wrong too then why is it wrong? Given Ruse's godless view of the world, why should I struggle to live in this miserable world when I could kill myself and take a few others with me just for fun? After all, there's no god and no ultimate consequences, so it's either eat, drink, and be merry for as long as you can like a consistent hedonist, or forget even trying to do that and end it all now because reality is nihilistic. But Ruse and others like him don't like the consequences of nihilism; it's just too uncomfortable to stay there too long. Thus, folks like this have to piece together "shoulds" and "oughts" from the very God that provides the grounding for those things, even though they hate him. The Christian philosopher Cornelius Van Til nailed it when he said that the unbeliever has to metaphorically sit on the lap of his Heavenly Father in order to slap Him in the face.
On the one hand, we have suppressed all sorts of common mammalian features that disrupt harmonious living. Imagine trying to run a philosophy class if two or three of the members were in heat. On the other hand, we have all sorts of sentiments about helping others and about the need to be fair. The love commandment is part of our biology.
Why suppress the so-called "mammalian features"? I'm sure there's loads of people that would love to run around naked in the woods acting like dogs without any consequences. If the "love commandment is part of our biology", why not also appeal to the "seek and destroy" commandments in the Pentateuch which are also supposedly part of our biology? The truth is, any moral "oughts" can only make sense if you first begin with the fact that humans are created in God's image and then ground those "oughts" in that established fact. That's not the answer the professed atheist wants to hear, but it's the answer that God gives them. You say, "But I don't believe in your Holy Book". I know, that's the problem. You cannot believe and embrace it, that is, unless God Himself grants you saving faith (John 6:65).
It is true that we are aggressive at times, and it is even more true that thanks to our technology we can and sometimes do wreak the most terrible consequences on our fellow humans. But even so, compared to many other species, we are softies. The murder rate among lions, for instance, makes downtown Detroit look like a haven.
Contrary to secular philosophy, God says He hardwired into us knowledge about His existence, a basic sense of right and wrong, and a sense of justice (Romans 1:19-21; 2:14-15). This explains why we are softies, why we should care and do care about others, and that's why downtown Detroit isn't as bad as it could be; well, at least not yet.
Morality then is not something handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai.A boldfaced lie. "They exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the created thing rather than the Creator . . ." (Romans 1:25). Morality was given to Israel by God through Moses and God did it again through Christ, the greater Lawgiver.
It is something forged in the struggle for existence and reproduction, something fashioned by natural selection. . . .Ruse begs the question again by assuming morality has a common cause rooted in evolutionary processes. Again, morality is hardwired into us by God, contrary to what Ruse suggests (Romans 2:14-15). You might object, "But aren't you assuming that too?" Yes I am. Everybody reasons in a circle since everybody begins with certain beliefs about the world that they can't empirically prove. Everybody has some type of faith commitment. The difference is that the Christian's circle is gracious and non-arbitrary since it is based upon God's own infallible word, whereas Ruse's is vicious because it is arbitrary by virtue of being based upon the contradictory opinions of men.
It [i.e., morality] works and it has no meaning over and above this.If morality reduces to pragmatism then what are my goals? To love people as myself or hate some of them and treat them like cockroaches that need to be exterminated? Nazi Germany took the latter route in 1938 when the German Supreme Court ruled that Jews were not persons and upon that basis the Nazis eliminated 6 million of them. They had laws against murdering people, they just redefined what a "person" was. This is the kind of thing that can happen when morality reduces to pragmatism. When what "works" is merely defined by what your goals are versus what God says in His word then you can rest assured it will end in disaster because the nature of man is quick to leave God's precepts and adopt their own.
Why fall on a grenade to save your fellows when it hardly pays off for you?
It doesn't if Ruse is right. Why use the word "hardly" when being blown to smithereens to save the life of your friends amounts to a mere scattering of your molecules on a battle field? How does that bring some kind of benefit? However, since God's word is true, we can make sense out of something like this since Jesus gave us the greatest example of self-sacrificial love in His atoning death on the cross.
Morality is just a matter of emotions, like liking ice cream and sex and hating toothache and marking student papers. But it is, and has to be, a funny kind of emotion. It has to pretend that it is not that at all! If we thought that morality was no more than liking or not liking spinach, then pretty quickly it would break down. Before long, we would find ourselves saying something like: "Well, morality is a jolly good thing from a personal point of view. When I am hungry or sick, I can rely on my fellow humans to help me. But really it is all b******t, so when they need help I can and should avoid putting myself out. There is nothing there for me." The trouble is that everyone would start saying this, and so very quickly there would be no morality and society would collapse and each and every one of us would suffer.
But why should I care about suffering? Why should I care about how people feel given Ruse's assumption about morality and reality? Unless you begin with the God of the Bible, you're never going to have anything to grab onto when it comes to developing moral standards for society other than how certain actions make people feel per the majority. But again, this commits the is/ought fallacy.
So morality has to come across as something that is more than emotion. It has to appear to be objective, even though really it is subjective. "Why should I be good? Why should you be good? Because that is what morality demands of us. It is bigger than the both of us. It is laid on us and we must accept it, just like we must accept that 2 + 2 = 4." I am not saying that we always are moral, but that we always know that we should be moral.
This is the same ole' same ole' (i.e., "we always know that we should be moral" = question begging and is/ought fallacy). There is also a clear reference to self-deception in the statement, "It has to appear to be objective, even though really it is subjective. " Amazing. A convenient, pragmatic, self-deception. We deceive ourselves about the nature of morality because it affords survival value through group cohesion. Nice motive. The problem is, historically speaking, over the last 100 years the powerful, clever, and wicked have taken advantage ethics like these to suit their own evil agendas, and given enough time it can lead to the utter ruin of a society since the foundation thereof is built upon the sinking sands of man's word rather than God's. Just look at the history of the 20th century per Nazi Germany, communist Russia, China, and Cambodia.
Am I now giving the game away?Yes you are. Thank you for doing the heavy lifting for us. We Christians truly appreciate it.
Now you know that morality is an illusion put in place by your genes to make you a social cooperator, what's to stop you behaving like an ancient Roman? Well, nothing in an objective sense.Amen again!
But you are still a human with your gene-based psychology working flat out to make you think you should be moral.That's good. I look forward to the day when marrying an aardvark is acceptable in my state since I and many others think that marrying non-humans should be morally permissible.
It has been said that the truth will set you free. Don't believe it.Another lie. Your Creator told you otherwise. You would do well to heed His words, "31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." 33 They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, 'You will become free '?" 34 Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 "The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:31-36)
Oh and by the way, if the truth can't set us free, I guess that means then that we can't believe your "truth" about morality.
David Hume knew the score. It doesn't matter how much philosophical reflection can show that your beliefs and behaviour have no rational foundation, your psychology will make sure you go on living in a normal, happy manner.
Thank you for admitting to us that if one adopts your view of reality and ethics, they will be irrational for the purposes of promoting survival value through group cohesion to an arbitrary, made up standard. And it took a Ph.D. to tell people how they can be irrational and happy about it. This is great, we not only have the opportunity to reject the Creator but also to be irrational. Speaking of truth, David Hume knows all about the truth now. The problem is it didn't set him free. I hope God has mercy on you and sets you free before it's too late.
God is dead.Nietzsche is dead. God is doing just fine.
. . . God is dead. Morality has no foundation. Long live morality. Thank goodness!No, you ought to thank God that you're still breathing. God may have mercy on you before then. We'll have to wait and see. The type of "Morality" that "lives long" without a transcendent foundation is not the type of morality that most thinking people will be interested in, especially if they're not the ones with political power calling the shots. Just ask the 6 million Jews that died in the concentration camps, the Russian citizens that were murdered by their own dictator, or the huge numbers of people that died under Pol Pot's regime.
No, Dr. Ruse, we can't be good without God. We can't even get close. This is because apart from Christ, all your works are filthy rags in His sight and your definition of goodness runs contrary to His. What you call good (i.e., homosexuality, abortion) He calls evil (Isaiah 5:20-21). For God said through the prophet Isaiah,
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes And clever in their own sight! (Isaiah 5:20-21)Thinking that one can set up their own standards of morality without dependence upon God is the height of arrogance (Isaiah 10:1). And as admitted by Ruse and demonstrated by me, without God one can neither ground nor define "good" in a non-arbitrary way. Spiritually, all of this ends up in a wicked mess that will merit eternal death. That's why we need Jesus. It's high time for Dr. Ruse to repent of his sins and put his sole trust in Christ as Lord and Savior. Unless he builds his hope on Jesus blood and righteousness, his continued truth suppression will not only cost him his intellect, but his eternal soul and the souls of those who are duped by his "ruse".
Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Corinthians 1:20)
Friday, March 19, 2010
I arrived 20 minutes early to get a parking spot and as I walked to my preaching spot I passed out several tracts and told 30 or more students that I was going to be preaching in the "quad" and that they were welcome to come and listen and/or ask questions while I was preaching. I arrived at the quad and it was a perfect place to preach due to heavy foot traffic, excellent acoustics, plenty of places to sit, and some shade from nearby trees. I couldn't believe that this was the area that the administration assigned for me to preach at, but there it was, a perfect place that God providentially placed me in. I took my text from Matthew 7:13-14, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." I began to explain the gospel in clear, unambiguous terms, and it didn't take long till a small crowd formed with people listening intently and even some were videotaping the preaching with their iPhones and other devices. I expected to get at least a few hecklers, but I got none all day. Instead, I was getting "Amens" from people in the crowd! In my own personal experience, that's a first for me while doing open-air ministry work on a college campus. Several more people sat down on the picnic tables to listen while they smoked cigarettes, ate their lunch, or just sat down to relax. Others stood at a distance smirking, laughing, and pointing, but they were few and far between. However, those who drew near were listening intently, with no mockery whatsoever taking place. I expected otherwise, due to the profanity I was hearing from several young men as I was getting set up. Perhaps giving all of them a tract and letting them know that I was getting ready to preach caused them to respect me more in some strange way. I don't know. Either way, this is rare among campus preaching.
After I preached for an hour straight, a policeman walked up and I immediately stepped down, and courteously introduced myself with a respectful handshake and stated my purpose for being there. I then showed him my authorization papers to be on campus, and he said, "Man, I'm so glad you're out here, the phone has been ringing off the hook with complaints in our office, but I am really glad that the students are hearing about Jesus. You can't go wrong with Jesus!" He then told me that I was okay to keep going, I shook his hand and told him I appreciated what he was doing, and he warmly said goodbye. I kind of feel sorry for the guy because it was as if he wanted to hang around and fellowship, but had to go answer another call. You got to love that.
Since I preached an hour straight before the officer arrived, I decided to take a 10 minute break. At this point I had several students that wanted to talk to me, so I attempted to patiently interact with all of them. To summarize these encounters, the first young man was skeptical about religion in general and Christianity in particular. He believed that it was wrong to kill animals to eat them (unless your life was in danger) and I immediately asked him if he was a vegan. He admitted that he was not, and I pointed out to him the inconsistency of his position. He then tried to argue that it really wasn't his position and then I explained to him the powerful role of presuppositions in one's thinking, and he admitted that he was wrong, shook my hand, and humbly admitted that he needed to start going to church again. I explained to him that going to church was useless if he wasn't receiving sound teaching, and I explained to him what a Biblically faithful church looks like. He said he didn't have a Bible, so I gave him one of our compact ESV Bibles and some gospel literature. He then stayed almost one more hour after that and was nodding affirmatively to my preaching and encouraging others to listen in as well. Several other Christians came up and gave glory to God for my being there, and I told them I was merely trying to be obedient to the Lord.
The second hour of preaching apparently disgruntled some of the professors and other faculty. I think this was because the acoustics were great and the windows were open in some of the buildings nearby. At one point, about 8-10 of the faculty from Davis Hall (which is situated right next to the quad where I was preaching) stood outside to listen for about 10-15 minutes. When I saw them, I began an open-air critique of secular humanism, autonomy, and the sin of intellectual pride from the word of God. I was respectful of course, but they received an earful.
Once I finished preaching the second hour, I spoke with several believers that thanked me for being there and wanted to encourage me in the work which I was doing. Other believers wanted to know about how to better prepare for apologetic encounters. The several unbelievers I spoke with ranged from apathetic relativists to edgy pluralists, but the conversations remained amicable nonetheless. All of the unbelievers I spoke with today didn't care that they contradicted themselves and one girl even admitted outright that she didn't care if she was irrational; as long as she was comfortable in her own mind, she felt like she was good to go.
I plan on praying diligently for these folks and I ask that if you are a believer, that you will pray that the Lord will bless our efforts.
I will conclude with a few helpful tips for evangelists who are approaching a school's administration and campus police department to determine what (if anything) needs to be done in order to freely engage in on campus evangelism and open air preaching:
1. If you must meet with the administration, be kind, be truthful, dress professionally, and explain to them who you are, exactly what you want to do, and why you want to do it. I told the administration something like this both in person and in writing, "I am a pastor at a local church and I am concerned about the spiritual welfare of our city and your campus. Therefore, our church would like to kindly submit a request from your administration to engage in one-on-one evangelism, open-air preaching, distribution of Bibles and other religious literature." This was very timely in light of the fact that GTCC had a rape in broad daylight at 8:00 a.m. in a crowded parking lot back in January. The timing of this campus rape worked out for God's glory and our advantage since many in administration will welcome any measures that will quell such acute wickedness on campus and promote public safety.
2. Check with the campus police department and ask them if there are any regulations or ordinances regarding free speech that you need to be aware of. This brings to mind some more general thoughts: Campus police are like most other police I've interacted with; they simply want to do their job, keep the peace, and go home in one piece. Generally, I have found them to be helpful when inquiring about campus rules and regulations as it pertains to evangelistic work. They appreciate it when a person tries to work with them instead of making their job harder. Yes, there is the occasional opposition from an officer that has a personal problem with what you are doing. However, I have found that if and when you are confronted by the police, a warm smile, a hand extended ready to shake his or her hand, and a brief introduction of who you are and why you are there helps the situation tremendously. Always speak to him or her as "Thank you officer Jones" and "Yes sir . . . ma'am". Showing general respect and kindness to the civil authorities is becoming of Jesus Christ and His gospel and because it demonstrates that you are person of integrity and sound character versus the riff-raff that they regularly have to deal with.
While it is true that we have First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and press, in as much as lies within us, we should always strive to work with the God-ordained civil authorities unless they command us to do something that God forbids or forbid us to do something that God commands. Remember that God said, "Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." (Romans 12:18-19) May God bless you as you consider how to engage your community with the truth claims of Jesus Christ.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
The second person I spoke with was a sweet, young black lady that was a relativist. In the midst of the conversation I asked her, "If ethical standards are determined by society, how do we judge between societies when they have mutually exclusive ethical standards?" She replied, "Uh, I guess we go back to our own upbringing" and I said, "But that wasn't the original standard you raised and because of that it wouldn't be relevant." I then asked her the same question again, using Nazi Germany as the classic example and she said, "That's a good point, I see where you're going with this." I then told her that unless you begin with the Bible you cannot have a non-arbitrary, transcendent basis for any standard, much less ethics and that if God's word is ditched in favor of a social contract, then there are no absolute, transcendent ethical standards by which a society can objectively determine right from wrong (Judges 21:25). I then asked her what her religious background was and she said, "Christian"; I asked her to tell me how to get to heaven and it was essentially the same postmodern pottage I received from the young man above. I then gave her the gospel, our contact information, we exchanged a warm handshake, and I was off to talk to someone else.
The third person I spoke with was a young girl that rejected Christianity because she prayed that her mother would be delivered from enslavement to alcohol and it never happened, so she left the faith. She also noted that her father-in-law held to Native American religion and that she liked some of those beliefs better than Christianity. I asked her if she thought that Christianity was merely one of many ways to get to the same God and she agreed that she did. I then asked her how that could be true given the fact that most major world religions have competing and contradictory truth claims? She asked for an example and I noted that Native American religions tend to be animistic and pantheistic and then contrasted that with the Creator-Creation distinction made with the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and asked her how those four alternatives could be true at the same time and the same sense when they have completely different truth claims regarding the nature of God, man, the world, and the afterlife. She then saw the point so I then asked her "How do you determine the difference between right and wrong?" and she basically said that she follows her heart and seeks to do what brings the greatest happiness to the most people. I then asked her that if she made moral judgments based upon what her heart tells her and my heart tells me that its okay to molest little girls for fun then how can she object? Worse, if what makes the majority happy determines what is morally acceptable then upon what basis could she condemn the practice of widow burning in ancient India? She then admitted that there was a problem with her views and I then explained to her that this problem is solved through the gospel of Jesus Christ. I explained the gospel to her and she went on her way.
The third person I spoke with was a young man raised as a Roman Catholic but was now cynical of religion, especially "the Church". I asked what he now believed about epistemology (how does one know what he knows?), metaphysics (what is reality like?) and ethics (How do I determine right and wrong?). He was all over the board in answering these questions. I then explained to him the problems with his understanding of church history, "the Church", what the true Church is, what it looks like, and how truly regenerate people behave. He then shifted gears and explained that the existence of God can neither proved nor denied and I quickly responded with what God says in Romans 1:19-21, ". . . that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened." I then said, "My friend, the Bible says you know God exists and the evidence is all around you. You're standing on it, breathing it, and living in it." He admitted that this was true and I said, "I don't know what all happened to you in your religious upbringing, but I would like to know this: Do you know what the gospel is?" He admitted he was clueless. I then took the next ten minutes to explain the differences between the Biblical gospel and the false gospel of Roman Catholicism. He avoided eye contact, was always looking around at who was listening in on the conversation, his body language screamed that he was uncomfortable and wanted out of the conversation, so I wrapped things up, asked if he had any questions, and he quickly bolted after a weak handshake.
I then took the opportunity preach open air for about 15 minutes because the foot traffic was sufficient enough to do so, and we had several hundred that milled through and heard at least part of the gospel. Several young folks were standing around listening for a few minutes, but no hecklers came forward and the foot traffic died down after 15 minutes.
I then spoke to one other girl that became a Buddhist through her involvement in Asian martial arts. I have a long history in practicing various types of martial arts so this was a good stepping stone to discuss the differences between Buddhism and Biblical Christianity. I couldn't discern whether she held to Theravada or Mahayana Buddhism, but it didn't matter because she contradicted her own principles several times in her own description of what she believed. I then explained to her why I rejected Buddhism; because it didn't offer a loving personal God who could forgive my wrongdoings against Him and other men. After asking her if she knew what the gospel was, she said she didn't, and then I spoke the truth to her in love. She said she had a Bible, and I told her to begin reading in the gospel of John to read about who Jesus is. She truly was enjoyable to talk to and I hope to get the opportunity to speak with her again.
In conclusion, here are a few things to help you in your beginning evangelism/apologetical work:
1. Be able to summarize the gospel in a minute or less. This is the most important thing you can do. Be ready to explain the gospel in greater detail as needed. Some passages to read, familiarize yourself with, and do memorization work in are John 3; Romans 3-5, and Ephesians 2.
2. Study a reformed catechism and memorize the answers and Scripture proofs to the sections that pertain to the nature of God, the doctrine of salvation, the nature and sufficiency of the Scriptures, and other pertinent sections.
3. Be able to ask the following questions of people and provide the Biblical answers to people as needed: "If you could ask God one question, what would it be?", "If I have a knife stuck in my back and only have 2 minutes to live, what must I do to go to heaven?", "Do you believe in absolute truth?" "Do you believe in God?" "How do you determine the difference between right and wrong?" "Do you consider yourself to be a good person?" These kinds of questions are diagnostic and are designed to help you gather information about people so as to determine where to take the conversation next.
3. Print these out and familiarize yourself with the Biblical answers to questions and objections: God’s Answers to Man’s Excuses
God’s Answers to Man’s Questions
4. Here's more great evangelistic resources:
Lies Students Hear
Alpha and Omega
Are There No Absolutes?
Are You Bad Enough?
Are You Born Again?
Baptism or Christ?
Great Teacher or God Incarnate?
How Would You Feel?
One Way or Many?
Way of Salvation
What Then Shall I Do With Jesus?
The Worth of a Soul
What Every Woman Needs
First, it must be noted that this quote from John 8:7 is the section dealing with the woman caught in adultery, commonly known by scholars as the Pericope de Adultera. Almost every evangelical textual critic over the last 100 years has considered John 7:53-8:11 to be a dubious portion of the text, which means that it was probably not an original part of this gospel. It is found in various places throughout the manuscript tradition of John's gospel (after 7:36, 44, and 21:25) and even one extant manuscript places it after Luke 21:38. Also, the earliest manuscripts and many early versions do not have this section at all. Many manuscripts that do have it contain scribal notations that indicate that it was not an original part of John's gospel. The vocabulary and style in this section are very different from John's own writing style and the traditional placement of 7:53-8:11 interrupts the flow of thought that naturally occurs between verses 7:52 and 8:12, further suggesting that this section is an interpolation. Finally, no Greek church father comments on this passage before the 12th century, further suggesting that this passage was not original to John's gospel. I favor the scholarly opinion that suggests that this narrative is a true historical event that occurred in Jesus' ministry that circulated as oral tradition in the early church but was never included in the original New Testament writings. Instead, this oral tradition was later added as an extended marginal note in some early manuscripts and because it is in harmony with Jesus' ministry it eventually made its way into the text of John's gospel as we have it today.I received the following questions in response:
"Are you saying that God has allowed His Word to be corrupted by forgeries and that the Bible is not, as it is today, 100% the Word of God?"We have the word of God. However, God in His providence has allowed the Greek and Hebrew manuscript copies to have errors in them. 99% of these errors and corruptions are untranslatable into English and consist of minor mistakes such as misspellings (i.e., the "movable nu" variant), reversal of word order, etc. The remaining ~ 1 percent of textual corruptions consists primarily (but not exclusively) of the two famous examples of interpolation in the gospels (Mark 16:9-20; John 7:53-8:11), the comma Johanneum (i.e., 1 John 5:7-8 in the KJV/TR), and other examples of skipping lines when copying from one manuscript to another, and minor expansions found in the later Byzantine manuscripts from which the KJV's edition of the textus receptus is largely based on (i.e., "the Lord Jesus Christ" in one Greek text vs. only "Jesus Christ" in another). It is important to note that contrary to the claims of Bart Ehrman, none of these textual variants affects the overall meaning or message of the New Testament. I have read most of Ehrman's popular work on the subject of textual changes changes the message of the New Testament (i.e., The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture and Misquoting Jesus) and he simply overstates the case. For more information, I would encourage you to read "The Gospel according to Bart" by Dan Wallace, PhD. Some of the notes that scribes put into the margins of these manuscript copies eventually made their way into the text over a long period of time for various reasons. Some scholars think this is the case with the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11). It is important to state clearly at this point that all evangelical text critical scholars agree that there are thousands of very minor copyist errors and a few interpolations in the manuscript copies of the Bible because this is exactly what the manuscript evidence shows us. To deny this is to stick your head in the sand, intellectually speaking. Not one Greek manuscript among the 5700+ Greek manuscripts reads exactly word for word like another Greek manuscript. This is exactly what you would expect if the manuscripts were copied by hand through the centuries and that is exactly what the scholars have found.
The only group that denies most of this information are King James Version only advocates. I went to a TR-only seminary (i.e., Textus-Receptus only) which is a type of King James only-ism, so I am very familiar with their arguments since I sat in their classes, read their propaganda, and discussed these issues with my KJV-only professors in private conversations. As an aside, the Textus Receptus only position says that the Greek text underlying the KJV New Testament is superior to that of the critical Greek text that most modern translations come from. However, the New King James translation is a modern translation based upon the same Greek text as the KJV, but when I argued for using it in seminary, I was shot down because it was suggested to me that the NKJV has some bad translations in it that undermine orthodoxy. I then responded, "Well, in 1611 the KJV translators didn't know about the Granville-Sharp construction in Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 and thus the KJV obscures the deity of Christ in those verses, so shall I avoid using the KJV too?" I received no meaningful response. I wasn't convinced of their position then and I am not convinced now. Here's why: (1) Any KJV only advocate runs into the same problem when they make the KJV the golden standard because different KJV Bibles read differently depending upon who published it (Oxford or Cambridge) and when it was published (i.e., the 1769 revision done by Benjamin Blaney). Second, if you are going to argue that the Greek text that underlies the KJV (i.e., the TR) is superior and on that basis we should accept it, which TR shall we accept? There were originally five editions of the TR produced in the early 16th century by the Roman Catholic scholar Desiderius Erasmus and the one that underlies the 1611 KJV is not exactly like any one of those original five editions. Worse yet, the KJV translators themselves in the original preface to the 1611 KJV said that they believed that even the worst translations could still be called the word of God.
"Once you let the door open for one passage, on what basis must we insist that no other books have been corrupted in some similar fashion?"Some of the books of the OT and NT have been corrupted in a similar fashion but (1) not to the extent that it destroys the meaning and message of the entire book and (2) the variants in question have been well known and well published by evangelical textual scholars for over a hundred years. This is why modern translations have footnotes indicating such things. Even early editions of the KJV had marginal notes to indicate when a particular variant reading was present in the manuscript tradition. For example, all modern translations have a footnote indicating that Mark 16:9-20 is an interpolation in the text of Mark's gospel. While most Greek manuscripts contain this passage, the earliest manuscripts do not. This passage and John 7:53-8:11 are the largest and most well known textual variants in the New Testament. Based upon internal and external evidence, the majority of scholars believe that Mark 16:9-20 was added later in order to smooth out Mark's abrupt ending at 16:8. Much of the vocabulary of verses 9-20 is very different from the rest of Mark's gospel, suggesting that verses 9-20 are not original. Early scribes used special marks in their manuscripts to indicate that they thought verses 9-20 were spurious. The church fathers Eusebius and Jerome indicated that almost all Greek manuscripts in their day lacked it. Also, there are two other endings of Mark that are found in the manuscripts, thus suggesting to us that none of them are original. Most evangelicals believe that verses 9-20 were a very early attempt by a well-meaning scribe to smooth out the end of Mark's gospel after verse 8. In all fairness, it is important to note that verses 9-20 were known by several second century fathers (Tatian, Irenaeus, and possibly Justin Martyr), however, the internal and external textual evidence weighs against their inclusion. Nevertheless, we have the word of God as it comes to us in the gospel of Mark, we just have sufficient textual evidence demonstrating that verses 9-20 were added on later.
There are no perfect copies of the Bible, even though the original writings were infallible and inerrant by virtue of their nature as God-breathed texts. All evangelical scholars today teach that inerrancy only applies to the original writings and not the copies. God has preserved His word. He just hasn't chosen to do so through perfect copying practices. God's means of preserving His word has been done through the multiplication of thousands of manuscripts, translations, and editions over a large geographical area in a very short period of time. This was the providential mechanism He used to prevent any one group of people from making wholesale, fundamental changes to the Scriptures. Since the most rigorous argument against inspiration and inerrancy in light of textual variation comes from Dr. Bart Ehrman, I will conclude with a summary of Dr. James White's argument against Ehrman's claims. Ehrman says in Misquoting Jesus,
In particular . . . I began seeing the New Testament as a very human book. The New Testament as we actually have it, I knew, was the product of human hands, the hands of the scribes who transmitted it. Then I began to see that not just the scribal text but the original text itself was a very human book. This stood very much at odds with how I had regard the text in my late teens as a newly minted “born-again” Christian, convinced that the Bible was the inerrant Word of God and that the biblical words themselves had come to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. As I realized already in graduate school, even if God had inspired the original words, we don’t have the original words. So the doctrine of inspiration was in a sense irrelevant to the Bible as we have it, since the words God reputedly inspired had been changed and, in some cases, lost. Moreover I came to think that my earlier views of inspiration were not only irrelevant, they were probably wrong. For the only reason (I came to think) for God to inspire the Bible would be so that his people would have his actual words; but if he really wanted people to have his actual words, surely he would have miraculously preserved those words, just as he had miraculously inspired them in the first place. Given the circumstance that he didn’t preserve the words, the conclusion seemed inescapable to me that he hadn’t gone to the trouble of inspiring them. [Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, (New York: HarperCollins, 2005), 211.]Take note of Ehrman’s critical assumption: textual variation precludes inspiration. Ehrman argues that if God really inspired the text of the Bible then there would be no variants since inspiration would also require word-for-word preservation in the succeeding copies. Think about this scenario very carefully. How would God fulfill Ehrman’s requirements for this type of preservation had He wanted to preserve the Bible this way? Would the scribe that started to misspell a word because of eye fatigue immediately burst into flames? Would an angel appear and shout, “STOP NOW, Write that word with TWO nu’s!”? All such scenarios seem absurd because the critical assumption is flawed to begin with. Ehrman’s requirements amount to this conclusion: God could not, by definition get His revelation to man outside of His chiseling the entire Bible on a huge rock, or more to the point, until the invention of the modern photocopier. Textual variation is part and parcel of any ancient manuscript; whether the Bible, the Qu’ran, Tacitus, or Josephus. So, Ehrman’s assumption provides a presuppositional means of arguing that no divine revelation by definition could be transmitted before the premodern era. This means that before the photocopiers, you can’t be sure of any historical document; including your own hand-written signed birth certificate. There is no denying that God could have prevented all textual variation in His word through elaborate technological or supernatural mechanisms, but He didn’t. But this begs the real question: Why should we believe textual variation precludes inspiration when Jesus and the apostles had no such standard given the fact that both Jesus and the apostles freely quoted from the Septuagint and sometimes they quoted a textual variant? (!) They not only rejected Ehrman’s assumption, but they also, (like the KJV translators) believed that even imperfect translations could be called “The Word of God”. What’s worse is that even if we did have a master copy of the Bible somewhere then Ehrman would probably use its singularity as the strongest argument against its antiquity and accuracy. Thus, it seems that Ehrman gets to deny divine revelation in either direction; regardless of the scenario.
The truth is, God has preserved the text of the Bible, just not in the way that Ehrman assumes that it should have been done. This has been carried out providentially through the much less miraculous means of (1) textual multifocality – a wide, rapid uncontrolled copying of the text, and (2) textual tenacity – the nature of the copying process tenanciously preserved all the readings in the manuscripts; both the corruptions and the original. It is far more amazing to see that God has taken the work of multiple authors, written in multiple locations, in multiple contexts, writing to multiple audiences, during a time of Roman persecution, working through the very mechanisms of history, and in that process create the single most and best attested text of the ancient world where less than one percent of the text requires scholars to engage in serious examination of the sources to determine the original reading. Even Ehrman admits that the text has been preserved in such a way that today’s textual scholars are merely “tinkering” since the task is for all intents and purposes completed. Ehrman said, “. . . at this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering. There’s something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is.” (Bart D. Ehrman, “Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior: An Evaluation,” TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism , revision of a paper presented at the Textual Criticism Section of the 1997 Society of Biblical Literature conference in San Francisco.)] As Dr. James White noted, “Over 5,700 manuscripts, fifteen hundred years of transmissional history, multiple authors, and the combined wrath of Rome and the Gnostics – yet we have the NT we possess today. That is miraculous indeed!" [James R. White, The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations?, (Bloomington, MINN: Bethany House, 2nd Ed. 2009), 307.]
Sunday, March 14, 2010
7:2. The first covenant made with man was a Covenant of Works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.
7:3. Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace. wherein He freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.
Not only do most Covenant Theologians hold to this view but many other theologians also believe that Scripture presents a Covenant of Works with Adam and that it is one of the basic building blocks of Scripture. Consider Wayne Grudem’s comments on the Covenant of Works in his excellent volume on systematic theology:
In this statement to Adam about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil [‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it you shall die’ (Gen. 2:16-17)] there is a promise of punishment for disobedience—death…In the promise of punishment for disobedience there is implicit a promise of blessing for obedience. This blessing would consist of not receiving death, and the implication is that the blessing would be the opposite of receiving “death.” It would involve physical life that would not end and spiritual life in terms of a relationship with God that would go on forever. The presence of the ‘tree of life…in the midst of the garden’ (Gen. 2:9) also signified the promise of eternal life with God if Adam and Eve had met the conditions of a covenant relationship by obeying God completely until he decided that their time of testing was finished. After the fall, God removed Adam and Eve from the garden, partly so that they would not be able to take from the tree of life ‘and eat, and live forever.’
So it seems that this point of view is not necessarily exclusive to Covenant Theology. New Covenant Theology (hereafter NCT), however, disagrees with those who hold to a Covenant of Works with Adam. In order to set the stage as to why NCT does not agree with Covenant Theology on the presence of a Covenant of Works in the Garden, allow me to ask a question: “What will the weather be like in heaven?” I am fairly sure that there will have to be some form of weather in the new heavens and the new earth. Certainly we will have physical bodies that can enjoy it. Will it be sunny or rainy? Will it be a winter wonderland or a Mediterranean paradise? Perhaps since hell will be hot (or is that just a metaphor?), heaven will be cold. The answer for all of us who have not yet been to heaven is simple: “I don’t know what the weather in heaven will be because Scripture doesn’t tell us.” Scripture does speak about heaven, but God never tells us anything about the weather. Much of what was quoted above is like an answer to the question about weather in heaven—pure speculation. Who knows if it is right? The entire argument might be correct, but if what they say is not clearly stated in Scripture, then it is just pure speculation. It can neither be confirmed nor denied. It is uncheckable. In fact, if God does not deem it important enough even to tell us about issues like the weather in heaven or the so-called probation period of Adam, it is a safe to say that we don’t need to know about these things.
Did God Make A Covenant Of Works With Adam In The Garden?
Those who believe in the Covenant of Works understand that within the arrangement between God and Adam there was an “implicit promise of blessing for obedience.” But our question is, “How can you be certain if it is not stated explicitly?” Above, Dr. Grudem, in agreement with Covenant Theologians, argues that the tree of life is that which “signified the promise of eternal life with God if Adam and Eve had met the conditions of a covenant relationship by obeying God completely until he decided that their time of testing was finished.” It may seem like a logical deduction to connect the Tree of Life to a promise. But before we can make that connection, we must go to Scripture with these questions: Does Scripture tell us that the tree signified this? Does God’s Word say that there was a “time of testing” or “probation period” anywhere in the text of Genesis? Does God ever say that Adam only had to obey the command for a certain period of time? Does God ever say that if Adam did obey the commandment that God would allow him to eat from the tree of life? Does the text say that if Adam and Eve obeyed that they would be “established in righteousness forever and have their fellowship with God made sure forever”? There might have been a probation period and there might have been a covenant, but if Scripture doesn’t tell us this, then we must not speculate about these things.
NCT does not believe that it is wise to refer to God’s relationship with Adam as a “covenant.” NCT holds that God gave Adam a command with a promise of punishment if broken. And because this situation is not called a covenant by the authors of Scripture, we must think twice about describing it by that name ourselves.
Let’s consider that most important and foundational question “Is it biblical?” Even if the relationship between God and Adam in the Garden is technically a covenant, God places no importance on that fact. If Scripture does not use the term “covenant” when referring to God’s relationship to Adam but uses it of other pivotal events, perhaps we should reserve the term for those events God calls covenants. Consider whether refraining from calling the arrangement a covenant would do damage to your theological system and whether your system in turn drives you to call God’s dealings with Adam a covenant.
Rejecting the Covenant of Works Without Rejecting the Principle of Works
Salvation can “theoretically” be earned by perfect heart-act obedience to God. Conversely, even the smallest act of disobedience earns God’s infinite and eternal wrath. We do not need the “Covenant of Works” to embrace these facts. These statements actually have clear biblical foundations that can be verified by simple exegesis.
If we turn our attention to the Old Covenant and examine the nature of that covenant under which Christ was born, we will find that it was a “Covenant of Works.” That is, we find that the condition for blessing was perfect obedience to the commands of that Covenant and cursing and wrath followed violation of any of those commands:
Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: 4 'You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to Myself. 5 'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel." (Exodus 19:3-6)
"Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 "All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God . . ." (Deuteronomy 28:1-2)
"But it shall come about, if you do not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: (Deuteronomy 28:15)
Although there are many places one could turn in the New Testament to support this doctrine, the book of Galatians is the locus classicus. The book of Galatians is the great antidote for any fool who desires to earn God’s acceptance by works. Now, Paul does not rebuke the Galatians because salvation by works is an unbiblical concept. He rebukes them because it takes perfect obedience in order to gain eternal life by works. They should know this and they should realize that they are unable to achieve such a thing:
Did God Make A Covenant Of Works With Adam In The Garden?
For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM." 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH." 12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, "HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM." 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE "-- (Galatians 3:10-13)
If you desire to be saved, even just in part, by earning or meriting your salvation, then your salvation will not be gained by faith but by obedience to the law. But make no mistake—you actually have to “do” the law to be saved in this manner (v.12). James tells us that even one violation of God’s law is treated by God as if you violated every law: "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all." (James 2:10)
Many believers fear that if they deny the Covenant of Works schema, then they will have to abandon the crucial biblical understanding of the relationship of salvation and works as well as the seriousness of sin. But notice that establishing the biblical foundations of the relationship of salvation and works of the law, as we have done above, can be done without reference to a Covenant of Works made by God with Adam in the Garden. Establishing the biblical truth concerning our accountability to God for keeping His commands in the New Covenant era can also be done without reference to God’s relationship with Adam. Consider Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul is simply saying that when you break the commands that apply to you in the New Covenant era, what you earn from God is eternal wrath in hell. You get the curse of God unless Jesus Christ takes the curse in your place.
Answering a Common Objection
Objection: Hosea 6:7 clearly says that God made a covenant with Adam and Adam broke that covenant: “But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; There they have dealt treacherously against Me.”
Answer: First, we need to consider the options we have for translating this verse as all competent modern translations list in their footnotes. This verse can be rendered with the following options concerning the phrase in question: “like Adam (or “as at Adam” or “like men”), they have transgressed the covenant— there they have dealt treacherously against Me.” Although, at first glance this text seems to say that there was a Covenant of Works that God made with Adam, a second glance may lead to another conclusion. Not only are there other interpretive options for this text, such as taking Adam as the name of a location (Joshua 3:16) at which some rebellion occurred, but also within the ranks of Covenant Theology there are many who do not see this text as supporting the existence of a Covenant of Works in the garden. Even if one were to grant that this text does refer to the relationship in the garden between God and Adam (which is something this interpreter cannot grant), we must ask the question: Can this verse bear the full weight of the massive doctrine of the Covenant of Works in Covenant Theology?
 The Westminster Confession of Faith (Glasgow: Free Presbyterian Publications, 1995), 41, 42.
 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,1994), 516.
 A locus classicus is the primary place in Scripture where a particular doctrine or concept is explained.
 As an example of this see “The Adamic Administration,” in The Collected Writings of John Murray [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1977], 47-59.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
"Judge not lest you be judged!"These canned responses are mere smokescreens used to offer an attempted justification for their desire to get us to shut up. Thus, when evangelizing, I want to provide you with a few quick rebuttals to these responses.
"He who is without sin let him cast the first stone!"
"Do you sin? If so, then who are you to judge me?"
1. "Judge not lest you be judged!"
This response rips Jesus' words right out of the context of Matthew 7. Scripture twisting is the hallmark of a false professor who wants to justify their ongoing sin. Here's the passage with some context from verses 1-5,
"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.The context makes it clear that Jesus is condemning all types of judgment, but only hypocritical ones. For example, if I sin and don't repent yet I go on to judge my fellow Christian for doing the very same thing that I refuse to repent of, then I am a hypocrite and have no right to point out that same sin in other believers. Christ tells hypocrites to first repent of their sin (v. 5, "first take the log out of your own eye"), then go and confront other believers who are doing the same. It is further evident that Christ is not condemning judgment altogether when He later says in the same chapter:
"Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." (Matt. 7:6)In order to determine the difference between dogs, hogs and believers, Christ commands us to judge a righteous judgment (Matt. 7:6, 16a; John 7:24). This is a judgment call that is made by the believer with an eye to discerning whether the person lives a life that is characteristic of a true believer. John sums up this kind of life quite well in 1st John 3:6-10,
"You will know them by their fruits." (Mat 7:16a)
No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:6-10 ESV)When the unbeliever says, "Judge not, lest ye be judged" you can respond with, "Then why are you judging me?" Explain to them that everybody makes judgments when it comes to people's behavior and that is what they are doing to you. The real issue is whether your judgment is righteous or hypocritical. This means that you must continually fight against your own sin and put it to death by the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:13). It may be helpful to ask them, "Would you feel comfortable letting a drunk stranger rummage around in your home with your young children present?" The point in asking a question like that is to show once again that everyone judges since everyone must evaluate other people's behavior. This is not only necessary for Christian fellowship but also for safety. Some judgments are righteous and some are hypocritical and for a wicked sinner to make a judgment call on a righteous person who is lovingly confronting them in their sin is the height of hypocrisy.
2. "He who is without sin let him cast the first stone!"
First, it must be noted that this quote from John 8:7 is the section dealing with the woman caught in adultery, commonly known by scholars as the Pericope de Adultera. Almost every evangelical textual critic over the last 100 years has considered John 7:53-8:11 to be a dubious portion of the text, which means that it was probably not an original part of this gospel. It is found in various places throughout the manuscript tradition of John's gospel (after 7:36, 44, and 21:25) and even one extant manuscript places it after Luke 21:38. Also, the earliest manuscripts and many early versions do not have this section at all. Many manuscripts that do have it contain scribal notations that indicate that it was not an original part of John's gospel. The vocabulary and style in this section are very different from John's own writing style and the traditional placement of 7:53-8:11 interrupts the flow of thought that naturally occurs between verses 7:52 and 8:12, further suggesting that this section is an interpolation. Finally, no Greek church father comments on this passage before the 12th century, further suggesting that this passage was not original to John's gospel. I favor the scholarly opinion that suggests that this narrative is a true historical event that occurred in Jesus' ministry that circulated as oral tradition in the early church but was never included in the original New Testament writings. Instead, this oral tradition was later added as an extended marginal note in some early manuscripts and because it is in harmony with Jesus' ministry it eventually made its way into the text of John's gospel as we have it today. However, since this section is in most Bibles, because the average person knows nothing about the text critical situation of John 7:53-8:11, and because believers almost never read the small footnotes at the bottom on the page in their modern translations, a few comments are in order.
First, when the objector says, "He who is without sin let him cast the first stone!" immediately ask, "Who's trying to stone you?" Explain that the context of John 7:53-8:11 is that of stoning an adulterous woman on the spot on the basis of two or three witnesses in accord with the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 13:9; 17:7). Thus, their objection is irrelevant to our present situation since we are no longer under the Mosaic theocratic kingdom.
Second, this objection is not helpful at all to their situation since stoning someone under the Mosaic Law could not be done by witnesses who were complicit in the same sin. This explains Jesus' comment to the Pharisees in 8:7, suggesting that they too were adulterous. Thus, this objection is moot on at least two counts.
3. "Do you sin? If so, then who are you to judge me?"
This objection assumes that a person has to be absolutely sinless in order to preach the gospel, a notion that clearly contradicts Scripture and reality. We will never be completely sin free as long as we live in our unredeemed flesh, for even the apostle Paul said that he had not attained perfection in this life (Phil. 3:12). The Bible says that there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins (Eccles. 7:20) and that the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh so that you may not always do the things that you please (Gal. 5:17). Including himself in the "we", the apostle James said that "we all stumble in many ways" (James 3:2) and the apostle John declared plainly "If we say that we have [Greek for "we have" is a present tense, indicating an ongoing action] no sin we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). To be consistent, that means that all people everywhere would have to stop preaching the gospel whether on street corners, in private conversations, or in church buildings because all people sin. The logical implication of this would be that we would have to rid the world of all true Christians. Ask, "So are you saying we need to get rid of all Christians everywhere since no one is completely sin free?" They might get confused when you say this, so go on to explain that Jesus commanded that all Christians go into the world and make disciples by preaching the gospel, which includes a call to repentance (Matthew 28:19), but if we have to be sin free to preach the gospel, then we can't preach the gospel. Worse, since everybody (believer and unbeliever alike) necessarily makes judgment calls on others, we would have to rid the world of all people since everyone judges others in some sense. Finally, like the first objection, this too is self-refuting since all men sin and yet they, an unrepentant sinner are judging you for judging them, thus, by their own standards they too are in sin.
I am sad to say that in spite of what's offered above, most unbelievers who bring up these inane objections could care less about your well reasoned responses. Few will listen; most will not. Their objections usually aren't borne out of an original interest to get help from Christ by removing their own intellectual debris, but to attempt to tie Christians up in knots so that they can feel justified in their sins. May God sanctify us as we seek to put to death our sin as we serve Christ with clean hands and a pure heart and may God grant them repentance through sincere gospel preaching.