Tuesday, April 30, 2013

EVEN THE DEMONS BELIEVE


What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
(Jas. 2:14–26)
The Bible tells us that there are many counterfeits in the world: counterfeit Christs, counterfeit gospels, counterfeit prophets, counterfeit Christians and counterfeit faith. It is a sad reality that the pews (or stadium seats) of many churches are filled with those who profess to know Christ and to have been saved by Him, but whose lives fail to bear even the tiniest speck of fruit to demonstrate that faith. Rather, their lives stand in direct contradiction to the Gospel by which they claim to be saved. Not that men are saved by their works, but that good works necessarily will be found in the life of a true believer. The glorious truth of Ephesians 2:8–9 stands strong and true, that it is by grace that men are saved through faith—not by the work of men, but by the person and work of Christ, a merciful gift from God to sinners. Yet, as dearly as the believer loves those verses, how often the following verse is forgotten:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:8–10)
photo: herzogbr via photopin cc
True salvation wrought within a sinner by the power of the Holy Spirit will result in a changed life. Those who have not been changed by Him have not been saved by Him. How tragic it is to watch those whom we love walk down a wide path of destruction, misled by a false conversion and a counterfeit faith. Christians must understand the gravity of such deception and be prepared to confront it.

May you find the following sermon, delivered Sunday, February 10, by Pastor Mike Abendroth of Bethlehem Bible Church, to be a helpful and motivating tool in developing a greater understanding of and zeal to challenge counterfeit faith. Each one of us knows someone who professes Christ with his lips but denies the Lord with his life. May we not stand silent when faced with such false faith...faith that is worse than that of the demons.

Click here to listen to the sermon, "Worse than Demon Faith."

Further Reading
The Subtle Deeds of Satan and the Saving Truth of the Holy Spirit
We Trust in Jesus for What We Cannot Do Ourselves
Halftime and the Renewed Mind

ABSTAIN FROM ALL APPEARANCE OF EVIL

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

God chose to employ human language—words—to communicate His will to people. Even though this medium of conveyance is quite adequate to achieve such an objective, misunderstanding sometimes can occur. One example of confusion is seen in Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonian Christians: “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). This verse frequently is used to assert that Christians should avoid engaging in actions that appear to be improper or sinful—even though those actions may not actually be sinful. However, the 1611 translators of the King James Version were attempting to convey the idea that one should abstain from evil in whatever form it mayappear. Newer translations help to clarify the underlying Greek text by translating the verse, “Abstain from every form of evil” (NKJV). The verse is banning the practice of sin/evil in whatever form it occurs—whether lying, stealing, murdering, etc.
Contextually, verses 19-22 of chapter five form a pericope that warned first-century Christians to refrain from stifling the expression of miraculous gifts—charismata (vss. 19-20). Christians were admonished to test the gifts of the Spirit for their authenticity so that they would hold to what was correct (vs. 21). As such, these verses are parallel to Ephesians 3:1-5, 4:30, Isaiah 63:10-12, and Psalm 78:40. These passages demonstrate that when individuals opposed or withstood God’s miraculously endowed representatives—by rejecting the wordthat those emissaries presented—they grieved or quenched the Holy Spirit in the sense that they rejected His instructions, refusing to accept the teaching that would enable them to gain God’s approval. The word “quench” (sbennumi) is used in the New Testament to refer to the act of extinguishing a literal fire. However, in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 it is used metaphorically, and spotlights the idea of suppression. One does not literally suppress or quench the Spirit. Rather, one suppresses the influence of the Spirit on one’s own life by resisting the Spirit’s teaching via Scripture. Specifically, in context, when Paul said to abstain from the appearance of evil, he was referring to abstaining from inauthentic admonitions from those who claimed to possess miraculous gifts.



Copyright © 2002 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

SALVATION IS A WORK OF GOD



There is a difficult but marvelous truth to be found within the pages of Scripture: You, dear Christian, cannot save anyone. Nor can any sinner save himself. No matter how pithily or poetically one asks Jesus to "come into his heart," no matter how many zeroes are written on the check, no matter how piously the Lord's Table is approached, no matter how many Bible studies one participates in, no matter how many sermons one hears, no matter how many Bibles one owns, no man can bring himself to the point of salvation, nor can any man hold himself responsible for saving another. Salvation is a work of God.

"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). That is, if a man is not born from above, by a work of God alone, he cannot be saved. R.C. Sproul explains further: 
No man has the power to raise himself from spiritual death. Divine assistance is necessary. . . . 

. . . The question still remains: “Do I cooperate with God’s grace before I am born again, or does the cooperation occur after?” Another way of asking this question is to ask if regeneration is monergistic or synergistic. Is it operative or cooperative? Is it effectual or dependent? Some of these words are theological terms that require further explanation. 

A monergistic work is a work produced singly, by one person. The prefix mono means one. The word erg refers to a unit of work. Words like energy are built upon this root. A synergistic work is one that involves cooperation between two or more persons or things. The prefix syn means “together with.” I labor this distinction for a reason. The debate between Rome and Luther hung on this single point. At issue was this: Is regeneration a monergistic work of God or a synergistic work that requires cooperation between man and God? . . . After a person is regenerated, that person cooperates by exercising faith and trust. But the first step is the work of God and of God alone. 

The reason we do not cooperate with regenerating grace before it acts upon us and in us is because we cannot. We cannot because we are spiritually dead. We can no more assist the Holy Spirit in the quickening of our souls to spiritual life than Lazarus could help Jesus raise him for the dead.

(Source)
Only the power of God wrought in the heart of a man can regenerate him, granting him repentance of sins and a faith in Jesus Christ that saves.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44)
This ought to be a great comfort to the Christian who obediently evangelizes, sharing the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Why? Because the response of the sinner is not dependent upon the messenger or the methods he employs. Oh, this does not mean that the Christian should be careless in his proclamation of the saving Gospel—may it never be! The message that is delivered indeed does matter, but if the sinner has been made aware of his fallen state and pointed to the crucified and risen Savior, yet still does not collapse in a puddle of brokenness, humility and repentance before God, that does not mean that the messenger has failed.

Yet God, in His gracious kindness, sees fit to use men as a means of sharing that which can bring another to salvation. It is through the proclamation of the Word that faith is awakened. Whether that Word is shared from a pulpit or in the produce aisle of the grocery store, it is through the hearing of God's own truth that men are saved.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Rom. 10:17)
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24)
photo: _sjg_ via photopin cc
Beloved, only God knows the condition of the soil into which we sow the seeds of the Gospel (see Mark 4:1–20). And while we must be faithful to sow those seeds, we do not possess a magical, divine Miracle-Gro®formula that can cause those seeds to germinate and sprout into saving faith. Only God can work such a miracle, and He is faithful to save all those who come to Him.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:35–40)
Those who are lost, who are drawn by God, will not find themselves reclining, lazily waiting for the Spirit to do His work and to save. No, because the Gospel, though good news, demands a response. What must a man do to be saved? Repent, and believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation (Acts 2:37–3816:30–34).

It takes great humility and brokenness of pride to come before the throne of God, acknowledging that you have nothing of your own to offer. Yet it is Christ alone who lived and died as the perfect sacrifice for sin. It is only the righteousness of Christ, imputed to saved sinners, that is worthy to stand before God. The Lord is merciful, from His first work to His last, but most of all in His salvation of those who once stood condemned as His enemies (1 John 4:101 Tim. 1:15Rom. 5:6–11). Bow your knee today before this gracious despot, the sovereign, supreme ruler and Lord of all.
God, be merciful to me, a sinner! (Luke 18:13)
Further Reading
How Does God Accomplish the New Birth? (Sermon by Pastor Don Green)
John MacArthur on the New Birth
Jesus Christ Is Coming Soon
Even the Demons Believe

WHY IS BELIEF IN GOD NATURAL TO MANKIND?



On  June 18, 2012, well-known and much-read atheistic blogger Leah Libresco put out a blog post titled: “This Is My Last Post for the Patheos Atheist Portal” (Merica, 2012). In the post, Libresco explained that she was no longer writing for the atheist portal because she is no longer an atheist. During the months prior to the post, her mental struggles and rational investigations led her to the conclusion that God exists (Libresco, 2012).
What was the primary factor that forced Libresco to this theistic conclusion? She explained that morality was the key. Throughout her time as an atheist, she struggled to come to grips with how humans can adhere to a morality that seems objective if there is no God. As she searched for answers among atheistic thinkers and writers, she admitted that their answers were inadequate.
In an interview with a CNN news reporter, Libresco noted that her conversion from atheism to theism was “kinda the same thing with any scientific theory, almost, that it had more explanatory power to explain something I was really sure of. I’m really sure that morality is objective, human independent; something we uncover like archaeologists not something we build like architects” (Merica, 2012, emp. added).
Libresco’s intellectual honesty regarding morality is refreshing to see. [NOTE: A.P. does not endorse Libresco’s affiliation with Catholicism. See Pinedo, 2008.] Her conversion highlights an important aspect of the process of searching for truth: explanatory value. With an ever-increasing number of skeptics, unbelievers, atheists, and agnostics in the United States and around the globe, it is important for Christians to look for ways to teach them about God, and then Jesus Christ. One effective way to do that is to show that the concept of God maintains much more powerful explanatory value than atheism for the realities that we see around us. Thus, when approaching a reality upon which both theists and atheists agree, the question would be: “Which idea, theism or atheism, explains this particular phenomenon the best?” To frame it in a more positive way, “If there really is a God, what would we expect the world to look like?” Leah Libresco recognized the reality of objective morality and concluded that if atheism were true, there would be no objective morality; but if there is a God, then objective morality is exactly what we would expect to find.
That principle can be extended to a host of realities that are present in our world. The one that this article addresses is the fact that mankind has an inherent predisposition to recognize a supernatural, intelligent Creator. This article establishes the fact that this reality is generally recognized by both atheists and theists. It will then address which of these two ideas, atheism or theism, most adequately accounts for this fact. The purpose of such an endeavor is to reach the unbelieving community with powerful evidence that has the ability to bring them to a belief in God, and one step closer to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Humanity’s “Intuitive Theism”

It might surprise the reader that both atheists and theists overwhelmingly admit that humans are predisposed to believe in an intelligent creator of some sort. Richard Dawkins, arguably the world’s leading atheistic thinker, lecturer, and writer, asked the question: “Why, if it is false, does every culture in the world have religion? True or false, religion is ubiquitous, so where does it come from?” (2006, p. 159). His assertion that religion is false is inaccurate, but his statement highlights the fact—the reality—that religion is universal to mankind, and has been in every human culture ever studied.  He went on to say, a few pages later: “Though the details differ across the world, no known culture lacks some version of the time-consuming, wealth-consuming, hostility-provoking rituals, the anti-factual, counter-productive fantasies of religion” (p. 166). So deeply religious are humans, Dawkins refers to their desire to recognize some type of creator as a “lust for gods” (p. 169). The late atheistic writer Christopher Hitchens wrote: “Sigmund Freud was quite correct to describe the religious impulse, in The Future of an Illusion, as essentially ineradicable until or unless the human species can conquer its fear of death and its tendency to wish-thinking. Neither contingency seems very probable” (2007, p. 247).
Renowned atheist Sam Harris was forced to admit the truth that the concept of God is an inherent human predisposition. He wrote: “Similarly, several experiments suggest that children are predisposed to assume design and intention behind natural events—leaving many psychologists and anthropologists to believe that children, left entirely to their own devices, would invent some conception of God” (2010, p. 151).
The research to which Sam Harris refers is extensive. Paul Bloom and Deena Skolnick Weisberg have written an article, titled “Childhood Origins of Adult Resistance to Science,” which was published in Science magazine in May of 2007. They suggest that children tend to attribute purpose and design to virtually everything, a tendency the authors call “promiscuous teleology” ([316]:996). Bloom and Weisberg noted: “[W]hen asked about the origin of animals and people, children spontaneously tend to provide and prefer creationist explanations” (p. 996).
In an article titled “Are Children ‘Intuitive Theists’?” Deborah Keleman documented research which led her to conclude that “the proposal that children might be intuitive theists becomes increasingly viable,” and “together, these research findings tentatively suggest that children’s explanatory approach may be accurately characterized as intuitive theism” (2004, 15:299). In an extensive 49-page article in Cognitive Psychology, Margaret Evans wondered aloud: “Why is the human mind (at least the Western protestant mind) so susceptible to creationism and so comparatively resistant to naturalistic explanations for the origins of species?” (2001, 42:252).
In light of the current research, Bloom admitted: “There is by now a large body of research suggesting that humans are natural-born creationists. When we see nonrandom structure and design, we assume that it was created by an intelligent being” (Bloom, 2009, p. 3). He opined: “Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins was right to complain, then, that it seems ‘as if the human brain were specifically designed to misunderstand Darwinism’” (p. 3). Some atheists, like David Mills, writing for a more popular audience, assert that we “should recognize that all children are born atheists. There is no child born with a religious belief” (2006, p. 29). But that assertion misses the point that humans are born with the predisposition to theistic conclusions. Overwhelmingly, the atheistic community recognizes the reality that humans are born with a “lust for gods,” a “promiscuous teleology,” and a penchant toward “intuitive theism.”
Theists likewise concur that humans have an inherent predisposition to conclude an intelligent Creator exists. Theistic apologist Paul Copan describes mankind’s tendency toward creation as a “religious impulse” that is “deeply imbedded” in the universal human thought process (2011, p. 30). We could supply scores of similar statements from creationists that would underscore the obvious conclusion that, by and large, the creationist community agrees with the atheistic community that there is a universal, built-in, in-born, intuitive human tendency to believe in an intelligent creator. The question then arises, which understanding of origins, atheism or theism, best explains why humanity exhibits “intuitive theism”? One key to arriving at the answer to this question is to understand the problems this reality poses for atheistic, naturalistic explanations of the Universe.

Theism and Religion are “Costly” Concepts

According to naturalistic, atheistic assumptions for the origin of the Universe and the evolutionary assumption for the origin of mankind, everything that exists must have a naturalistic cause. By that, it is understood that atheistic evolutionists must present a reason to explain why humans are “intuitive theists” that corresponds with their atheistic beliefs that the material Universe is all there is. The problem that the atheistic community runs into in this regard is that the ideas of religion and theism run counter to what one would expect to find if atheism and naturalistic evolution were true. According to evolution [by this we mean atheistic, naturalistic evolution in which no intelligent designer played any part], natural selection eliminates physical structures and mental states that are costly in terms of their survival value. For instance, if there developed in a certain sub-group of humans the intuitive idea that rabid Kodiak bears made good pets, that group would soon be killed by such bears, and whatever aspect of the brain that housed the belief would be eliminated from the human population as a whole.
To illustrate further, if a certain group of humans tended to spend lots of effort on religious ceremonies that had nothing to do with their physical survival, and another group did not “waste” their resources on anything but their physical survival, natural selection would suggest that those “religious” people who “wasted” their resources would eventually lose out in the race for physical survival. And the “non-religious” group would be selected by nature to become more prevalent and replace the “wasteful” religious group. Yet, we see just the opposite.
Richard Dawkins acknowledged this problem facing atheistic ideas. He stated: “Religion is so wasteful, so extravagant; and Darwinian selection habitually targets and eliminates waste” (2006, p. 163). Atheistic philosopher Daniel Dennett stated: “Whatever else religion is as a human phenomenon, it is a hugely costly endeavor, and evolutionary biology shows that nothing so costly just happens” (2006, p. 69). What do these atheistic writers mean when they say that religion is “wasteful” and “so costly”? Dennett expounded on the idea when he said that when people look at humanity all over the world
what they see today is a population of over six billion people, almost all of whom devote a significant fraction of their time and energy to some sort of religious activity: rituals such as daily prayer (both public and private) or frequent attendance at ceremonies, but also costly sacrifices—not working on certain days no matter what looming crisis needs prompt attention…and abiding by a host of strenuously observed prohibitions and requirements (p. 75).
Dawkins expanded his ideas of “wasteful” as well, when he said:
Religion can endanger the life of the pious individual, as well as the lives of others. Thousands of people have been tortured for their loyalty to a religion, persecuted by zealots for what is in many cases a scarcely distinguishable alternative faith…. Devout people have died for their gods and killed for them; whipped blood from their backs, sworn themselves to a lifetime of celibacy or to lonely silence, all in the service of religion. What is it all for? What is the benefit? (pp. 164-165).
In their discussions and writings, atheists have sometimes suggested that religion possibly has such overwhelming health benefits that it is “worth” the expense. They note such things as the results of some research to suggest that prayer can lower stress levels or blood pressure. Or they comment on the emotional benefits of fitting into a community, which religious rituals would foster and encourage. Virtually across the board, however, they have rejected the idea that religion is actually beneficial for the physical survival of mankind. They contend that such minor advantages as lower stress levels or lower blood pressure certainly cannot justify the massive expenditure of resources on religion. [NOTE: It is easy to see why they have rejected those explanations. If religion actually provides benefits that would be greater than any negative consequences, then it would be better for humanity to hang on to religious ideas regardless of their factuality or validity. Since most modern atheists are calling for the eradication of religion, they are forced to downplay its benefits and look for another answer that could compel people to want to eliminate religion. While we certainly are not suggesting the idea that religion is beneficial and that is why it “evolved,” it is plain to see why the current atheistic community has forsaken it.]
Sam Harris contended, “And even if tribes have occasionally been the vehicles of natural selection, and religion proved adaptive, it would remain an open question whether religion increases human fitness today” (p. 151). The current atheistic consensus is that religion does not bestow upon humanity enough physical benefit to “increase human fitness.” How, then, do atheists respond to the two facts that (1) humans are intuitively theistic and (2) such religious theism is extremely costly and does not bestow physical survival fitness on our species?

The Current Atheistic Answer: Religion is a Virus or By-Product

What naturalistic explanation can be given to account for the ubiquitous and extremely costly nature of religion? In their attempt to show that theism is unnecessary and ultimately harmful, the atheistic community has concocted the idea that theistic ideas are analogous to mind-viruses that infect a person, not for the benefit of the person, but for the benefit of the mind-virus. In other words, theism is a mind-virus that has been passed from host human to host human for its own survival, and not for the benefit of the human organisms it inhabits. Dawkins explained: “The fact that religion is ubiquitous probably means that it has worked to the benefit of something, but it may not be us or our genes. It may be to the benefit of only the religious ideas themselves, to the extent that they behave in a some-what gene-like way, as replicators” (p. 165).
Dawkins has expounded upon this idea and used the term “memes” to describe ideas that he asserts behave in ways similar to genes. He contends that theism is a “meme” that acts as a mental virus, infecting people and forcing them to replicate the meme by teaching others about it and expending vast resources on it. Along these lines, Dan Dennett has suggested that “the common cold is universal to all human peoples in much the same way as religion is, yet we would not want to suggest that colds benefit us” (p. 165). Dennett, using the meme idea, asserted: “The meme theory accounts for this. According to this theory, the ultimate beneficiaries of religious adaptations are the memes themselves…” (p. 186).
Atheist Darrell Ray wrote an entire book, The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture, based on this idea. He opened by saying:
It was not until Richard Dawkins’ idea of  “viruses of the mind” that we gained a ready-made way to examine religion as closely as we look at the epidemiology of the flu virus. This book will show how religions of all kinds fit in the natural world, how they function in our minds and culture and how similar they are to the germs, parasites and viruses that inhabit our bodies (2009, p. 13).
To build his case for the “religion-as-a-virus” idea, he mentioned numerous things that he perceives as validating evidence of his assertion. He wrote: “Once a person has converted to a religion, it is difficult to have a rational conversation about the irrational aspects of his religion. It is as though something invaded the person and took over a part of his personality” (p. 20). He went on to discuss the situation in which a friend lost his father to cancer. Before the loss, the friend was “non-religious.” But after the father’s death, the friend “got a severe case of religion that changed his personality dramatically.” Ray says “there was no way to have a conversation with him on any subject without religion creeping in” (p. 19). He further asserted that “stress can activate the chicken pox virus in adults, leading to the condition known as shingles. Similarly, stress tends to reactivate the god virus in many people” (p. 25).
Other alleged symptoms of the “god virus” include the idea that “religion always functions to ensure its own survival,” just as a virus does (Ray, p. 36). To undergird this assertion, Ray said: “Go into any Christian bookstore, and you will find books about living in a secular world, living with a spouse who is not saved or how to convert friends and relatives. The god virus is always concerned with protecting and expanding its territory—that is what these books are all about” (p. 176). Ray has taken Dawkins’ meme/mental virus idea to its logical conclusion.

The Simplest Response to the God Virus Idea

One very simple idea clearly manifests the flaws in the God virus concept. If thoughts or ideas were self-sustaining, self-replicating “memes” that were simply out for their own survival, that would mean that the idea of atheism would fall under the same condemnation as a “selfish meme” ensuring its own survival to the potential detriment of its host. By what criteria could anyone discern between “real” ideas and those dastardly memes infecting the brain. If someone did propose a set of criteria, who is to say that such criteria are not, themselves, a menacing meme that is infecting the mind of the person trying to weed out memes? And how would we know that the concept of a meme is not merely a meme in and of itself infecting the minds of atheists who present the idea? The reader can see how quickly such a discussion would digress into intellectual chaos. Furthermore, how could people be held responsible for anything they think or do? “My memes made me do it!” would become the mantra for all kinds of malicious crimes. And while atheists have attempted to provide answers to such problems, if memes really do exist as individual entities, who is to say that such “answers” are more than memes?
In fact, when analyzing the writings of those who present the “meme/virus” idea, the reader can quickly ascertain the flaw in their reasoning. For instance, Ray said that when the religious virus took over his friend after his father’s death, the friend mentioned religion in virtually every conversation. But the same could be said for any number of individuals who have become outspoken atheists, who insist on inserting their unbelief in virtually every conversation they have.
Ray stated: “In viral terms, it means that people are so deeply infected that they are immune to influence and generally ignore any evidence that contradicts their beliefs” (p. 39). Yet it can be shown that the available scientific evidence contradicts major tenets of atheistic evolution, a fact that is generally ignored by the atheistic community (see Miller, 2012; Miller, 2013). In addition, we mentioned that Ray said: “Go into any Christian bookstore, and you will find books about living in a secular world, living with a spouse who is not saved or how to convert friends and relatives. The god virus is always concerned with protecting and expanding its territory—that is what these books are all about.” What, pray tell, are the books, tracts, DVDs, and pamphlets about atheism designed to do? Are they not written for the very purpose of protecting and expanding the “territory” of atheism?
Listen to the atheists themselves as they describe their “religious” efforts. Prolific atheistic writer and debater, Dan Barker, likened his teaching about atheism to “evangelism” and he stated: “Representing the Freedom From Religion Foundation, I get to engage in similar atheist ‘missionizing’ all across the American continent….” At one point he said, “Atheist ‘evangelism’ doesn’t just happen in front of an audience” (2008, p. 325).
Notice the irony of the fact that the first chapter of Dawkins’ book The God Delusion is titled “A Deeply Religious Non-Believer.” In that chapter, he quotes Carl Sagan’s writings from a book titled A Pale Blue Dot. Sagan wrote: “A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.” Dawkins then stated: “All Sagan’s books touch the nerve-endings of transcendent wonder that religion has monopolized in past centuries. My own books have the same aspiration. Consequently I hear myself often described as a deeply religious man” (p. 12). Additionally, Ray rails on “religion” as a destructive meme/virus, and yet throughout his book, he capitalizes the terms atheist and atheism consistently. One example is when he states: “In fact, the only thing you can get some Atheists to agree upon is that there is no god” (pp. 51-52). Is it not the “religious” concept “that there is no god” that could easily be put forth as the meme that has infected so many minds to the detriment of the host human and in spite of a vast amount of evidence to the contrary? Such is the double-edged sword of the meme/virus concept. If it cuts at all (which it does not), then it cuts both ways.

The Existence of God Provides the Logical Answer

Up to this point we have established that both atheists and theists admit that humans are “intuitive theists.” That is, the belief in an intelligent Creator comes naturally to humans. This idea poses a serious problem for the atheist because the concepts of God and/or religion are extremely costly to the human species. Thus, in an attempt to explain why theism is so prevalent, they liken it to a mental virus that is out for its own survival and not for the benefit of the “host organism.” This explanation, and others like it, fail since arguments used to dismiss the validity of theism and religion would be equally effective to demote all concepts—including atheism—to “by-products” and “memes.” Thus, we are forced to conclude, as Paul Copan did: “Attempts by these New Atheists to explain away theology as a useful fiction, or worse, a harmful delusion, fall short of telling us why the religious impulse is so deeply imbedded. If God exists, however, we have an excellent reason as to why religious fervor should exist” (p. 30).
In other words, if there really is a God, Who is an intelligent, supernatural Creator Who loves mankind and desires that mankind should know the truth, what would we expect to see? We would expect to find humans “pre-programmed” for a belief in God. Of course, we would not expect all humans to come to the proper conclusion that God exists, since a loving God would equip humans with the capacity to choose what to believe and how they choose to behave. We would, however, expect God to have so designed humans that to dismiss the concepts of creation or theism would be unnatural and would require some type of reverse programming. That an intelligent Designer exists is the answer which maintains the most powerful explanatory value.
In fact, further reading into the atheistic literature makes known the fact that atheism is “unnatural” in the sense that it is not how the human mind is designed to perceive the world. Let us refer back to the Bloom and Weisberg article titled “Childhood Origins of Adult Resistance to Science.” It is important to understand their definition of the term “science.” Their research was done in order to show why many Americans reject atheistic evolution. Thus, the term “science” is equated with “atheistic evolution” in their writing. Understanding this to be the case, notice that they said: “The main reason why people resist certain scientific [read that atheistic evolutionary—KB] findings, then, is that many of these findings are unnatural and unintuitive” (2007, 316:996). Keleman concurred when she wrote: “The implication is that children’s science failures may, in part, result from inherent conflicts between intuitive ideas and the basic tenets of contemporary scientific [atheistic evolutionary—KB] thought” (2004, 15:299). In Dawkins’ discussion of the situation, he includes the fact that Bloom says that humans are “innately predisposed to be creationists.” Dawkins then comments that “natural selection ‘makes no intuitive sense.’” Thus, he concludes that children are “native teleologists, and many never grow out of it” (pp. 180-181).
Notice the admission by these atheistic writers. They are forced by the evidence to admit that humans are naturally inclined to believe in an intelligent Designer. They are further forced by the evidence to conclude that the various tenets of atheistic evolution are counterintuitive and unnatural. Yet, in spite of the evidence, they cling to the idea that somehow this situation can be reconciled with the belief that God does not exist. Notice that a presumption of atheism could never have predicted the situation that humans would be “intuitive theists.” Nor do the purported atheistic answers to the problem provide adequate explanatory value. The simple and most powerfully supported conclusion is that God exists, and that is why humans are “innately predisposed to be creationists.”

The Next Step

Once God’s existence is established using humanity’s “intuitive theism,” the next step would be to see how God expects His creatures to use this preprogrammed disposition. If we can establish that the Bible is God’s Word (and we can, see Butt, 2007), then we can go to it to determine the proper human response. First, we can see that God expects everyone to use this predisposition to accurately assess the evidence He has provided to come to the conclusion that He exists. Romans 1:19-21 bears this out:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened (emp. added).
Notice that the biblical text makes it clear that these men “suppress the truth” even though “what may be known of God is manifest in them.” Furthermore, unbelievers will be “without excuse” because they are equipped with the evidence, and the inherent predisposition and ability to arrive at the proper conclusion.
In his sermon on Mars Hill to the Athenians, the apostle Paul explained that the Creator “has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the Earth…so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27). Paul’s statement corresponds perfectly with the idea that God has so designed humans that they naturally “grope” for Him. This would also fit perfectly with the fact that “many psychologists and anthropologists [are led] to believe that children, left entirely to their own devices, would invent some conception of God” (Harris, p. 151). Humans are “groping” for God.
Notice, then, the divine program for salvation. First, a person gropes for a Creator. That person is able to find the Creator Who designed humans and instilled within them the ability to know Him. Their knowledge of this Creator should lead them to the conclusion that humans are His offspring and not the product of a naturalistic, chance process (Acts 17:29). This truth was sufficiently verified by the life and death of Jesus Christ, Who will ultimately judge all mankind based on the plenteous evidence God has supplied and their inherent ability to assess that evidence correctly (Acts 17:31).

References

Barker, Dan (2008), Godless (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press).
Bloom, Paul (2009), “In Science We Trust: Beliefs About the Natural World that are Present in Infancy Influence People’s Response to Evolutionary Theory,” Natural History Magazine, 118[4]:16-19.
Bloom, Paul and Deena Skoinick Weisberg (2007), “Childhood Origins of Adult Resistance to Science,” Science, 316 [5827]: 996-997.
Butt, Kyle (2007), Behold the Word of God: Exploring the Evidence of the Inspiration of the Bible (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Copan, Paul (2011), Is God a Moral Monster? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Dawkins, Richard (2006), The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin).
Dennet, Daniel (2006), Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (New York: Viking).
Evans, Margaret (2001), “Cognitive and Contextual Factors in the Emergence of Diverse Belief Systems: Creation versus Evolution,” Cognitive Psychology, 42:252.
Harris, Sam (2010), The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (New York: Free Press).
Hitchens, Christopher (2007), God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Twelve).
Kelemen, Deborah (2004), “Are Children ‘Intuitive Theists’? Reasoning About Purpose and Design in Nature,”Psychological Science, 15[5]:295-301.
Libresco, Leah (2012), “This is My Last Post for the Patheos Atheist Portal,”http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked/2012/06/this-is-my-last-post-for-the-patheos-atheist-portal.html.
Miller, Jeff (2012), “The Law of Biogenesis [Part I],” Reason & Revelation, 32[1]:2-5,9-11,http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1018.
Miller, Jeff (2013), “Evolution and the Laws of Science: The Laws of Thermodynamics,” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/article/2786.
Mills, David (2006), Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press).
Pinedo, Moises (2008), What the Bible Says About the Catholic Church (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Ray, Darrel (2009), The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture (Bonner Springs, KS: IPC Press).


Copyright © 2013 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 29, 2013

IS IT UNLOVING TO CALL OUT FAL$E TEACHER$


shai linneShai Linne is no stranger to those who love Christian Hip-Hop music (he’s been my personal favorite for years).   He is not even a stranger to those who don’t love Christian Hip-Hop, although I’m convinced that Shai is on Phil Johnson’s playlist (see Phil Johnson’s GTY post here).   But now he is apparently no stranger to Paula White Ministries either.
Shai Linne’s new album “Lyrical Theology” features the pre-release single “Fal$e Teacher$”, which calls out 12 well known prosperity preachers.   So who made the list?  Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, TD Jakes, Joyce Meyer, Paula White, Fred Price, Kenneth Copland, Robert Tilton, Eddie Long, Juanita Bynum, and Paul Crouch are all identified as false teachers (each of whom we could spend an entire post on).  Fal$e Teacher$
Wadeoradio.com made the bold move to request a response from each of the 12 preachers and received at least 1 response from Bradley Knight, the manager of Paula White’s ministry.  Not only is Mr. Knight the manager of Paula White’s ministry, he also happens to be her son.  In an effort to defend his mother, he calls Shai Linne’s song “pure cannibalization without Biblical precedence.
Phil JohnsonOf course, we know there is “biblical precedence” to call out false teachers.  Not only did our Lord Jesus call out false teachers (Matthew 7:13-36) but so did the Apostles Paul (1 Timothy 1:202 Timothy 2:16-18) and John (3 John 1:9).  There is no question that there is “biblical precedence”.  But the question remains, is this the loving thing to do?
You can’t help but feel Knight’s pain.  After all, this is his mother.  If there ever was a reason to get into a fight in the school yard, this is it.  But I would contend that calling out false teachers is not only the most loving thing you can do for the sheep, it is also the most loving thing that you can do for the false teachers themselves.
Referring to false teachers in Titus 1:13 Paul says, “reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith”.  The “so that” indicates that part of the reason we are to reprove false teachers is for their own spiritual health! To be “sound in the faith” speaks of spiritual health and wholeness.  Far from being unloving, it is actually to the false teachers’ advantage that they be reproved.kids taking medicine
As Shai Linne points out “today the only heresy is saying that there’s heresy”.  It might be strong medicine for false teachers to be “put on blast” but it’s the right biblical prescription.  There is no competition between love and truth.
If you are interested, see See Shai Linne’s response to Brad Knight.

CHRIST THE IMAGE OF GOD



Heb 1;3I don’t have anything specifically eloquent or polished today. But I’ve had the privilege of reflecting recently on the glory and presence of God and how Christ is the perfect image of God, and I’d like to celebrate those truths with you.
The Old Testament had much to say about the presence of God. Throughout the history of Israel, God’s presence was mediated through fire (Exod 3:6;Deut 5:4), through blazing light (Exod 33:18–23), through visions (Ezek 1:28) and angels (Jdg 6:21–22; cf. 13:21–22), through the temple worship (Pss 27:4;63:1–2), and even through God’s own Word (1 Sam 3:21). But with the coming of Jesus and the New Covenant era, the glory of God’s presence is now uniquely and supremely manifested “in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). This makes sense, of course, because Christ is the perfect “image of God” (2 Cor 4:4).
This is precisely the testimony of the opening verses of the Book of Hebrews. Though God had revealed Himself by speaking to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days He has spoken finally and decisively in His Son (Heb 1:1). Christ is therefore the radiance of the Father’s glory (1:3)—the manifestation of the very presence of God, the “effulgence of the divine glory,” as one commentator colorfully puts it.
The Son is also described as the exact representation of the Father’s nature (1:3). The word for “nature” there is hupostasis, which the lexicons tell us speaks of the “essential or basic structure/nature of an entity” and thus refers to the Father’s “substantial nature, essence [and] actual being.” And the phrase “exact representation” is a translation of the Greek termcharakt─ôr, which denotes “a stamp or impress, as on a coin or a seal, in which case the seal or die which makes an impression bears the image produced by it, and . . . all the features of the image correspond respectively with those of the instrument producing it” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary, 577). Exact ImprintJust as the shape, impressions, and intricacies of a coin reveal precisely the nature of the original die, so does the Son reveal the very essence of God Himself. Anthony Hoekema’s conclusion is inescapable: “It is hard to imagine a stronger figure to convey the thought that Christ is the perfect reproduction of the Father. Every trait, every characteristic, every quality found in the Father is also found in the Son, who is the Father’s exact representation.”
This teaching is borne consistent witness throughout the NT. Though no one has seen the Father at any time, Christ the only begotten God in the bosom of the Father has explained Him (John 1:18). Literally, the Son has exegeted the Father, making known to finite humanity in His own person what was otherwise imperceptible. The glory that humanity beholds in Christ is the “glory of the only begotten from the Father” (John 1:14). Paul tells us that Christ is “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), such that, “though God is invisible, in Christ the invisible becomes visible; one who looks at Christ is actually looking at God” (Hoekema, 21). So full is the Father’s revelation of Himself in the Son that Jesus can say to Philip, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), for in Him “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col 2:9).
All of this accords entirely with the parallelism going on in 2 Corinthians 4:4 and 6, which presents as synonymous
(a) the (i) light of the (ii) gospel of the (iii) glory of Christ, (iv) who is the image of God, and
(b) the (i) Light of the (ii) knowledge of the (iii) glory of God (iv) in the face of Christ.
Paul clearly shows that “the glory of Christ” in v. 4 is identical with “the glory of God” in v. 6 by identifying that Christ’s being the image of God is synonymous with the light of God’s glory shining in the face of Christ. Jonathan Edwards comments,
The glory and beauty of the blessed Jehovah, which is most worthy in itself to be the object of our admiration and love, is there exhibited in the most affecting manner that can be conceived of; as it appears shining in all its luster, in the face of an incarnate, infinitely loving, meek, compassionate, dying Redeemer.
Therefore, we conclude with Piper that “there is a glory of the Father and a glory of the Son, but . . . the Father and the Son are so inseparably one in glory and essence that knowing one implies knowing the other” (God is the Gospel, 72). And I love how Tullian Tchividjian puts it: “When we look at Christ . . . we never have to give ourselves a cautious mental check and think, Oh, but that’s Jesus, not God. Seeing Jesus, we see God.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect embodiment of the very image of God. He is the supreme revelation of the Father—the very radiance of the Father’s glory and the exact representation of His essence. Though God revealed Himself in various ways throughout history, by His great grace we now behold the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God shining in the face of Christ (2 Cor 4:6). Let us worship Him for this. And beholding His glory, may we be transformed into that very image, from glory to glory (2 Cor 3:18).

RAISING BUBBLE BABIES


The fascinating case of young David Vetter, makes for a vivid illustration. Vetter was born in 1971 with a condition ominiously called Severe Combined Immunodeficiency. What that meant was that his little body had no natural ability to fight off any disease. The mildest form of any germ could result in his death. Doctors attempted to protect him by placing him in a sterile plastic environment. The media, with uncharacteristic discreetness, never revealed his name while he was alive, but dubbed him affectionately as “The Bubble Boy.”
VetterVetter’s medical team sought to provide him with as normal a life as possible. The boy was educated, watched TV, and had a playroom area—but all within the confines of the sterile bubble.
In an attempt at curing the child, a bone marrow transplant was done from his sister through intravenous tubes running into the bubble. What pre-screening tests could not reveal was that the donor’s blood contained dormant traces of a virus. With no immune system, the virus rapidly spread and killed David Vetter at age twelve.
That sad story has a parallel in the spiritual world. Many parents treat the souls of their children as if they possessed an incurable immune deficiency. Anxious about infecting their young ones with worldly philosophy, they keep them in a sterile environment. Some parents never allow their children to play with other kids, or venture outside the home. All there education and entertainment comes directly from their parents. This certainly does preserve the children from worldly, unbiblical influences, and is highly appropriate in the very young years. But at some point, if they child has any hope of surviving independently outside the home, he or she will need to have been exposed to what is out there.
Germs in the Bubble
Bubble
There is a spiritual reality that makes the attempt to insulate our children from sin even more futile. On this end of the spectrum of overprotection, parents have the misconception that the problem with their children lies outside the protective bubble of isolation. But the Bible reveals to us that sin is far more insidious than any biological killer.
The deadly reality is that sin resides in your child’s heart, from birth. The germs are already inside the bubble.
Consider the implications of these sobering verses:
  • Ps 51: Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
  • Ps 58: The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.
  • Jer 17: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
  • Rom 5:12  Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.
These truths warn us that at the time of our birth we already have a sin nature, inherited from Adam.
When parents come to grips with the fact that their children are sinners from the womb, it brings a perspective of dependence on God for the salvation and protection of their children. Instead of taking the whole burden on themselves, parents can enjoy the freedom of knowing that their children’s problem is not something the parent can fix, but a systemic sinfulness that can only be removed by the world of Jesus, the Savior.
Parent, you cannot break your child; they come broken. Likewise, exposing them to worldly vices will not make them sinful; they come that way already. I’m not saying kick your kid out of the protective bubble to fend for himself or herself. I’m saying, employ a strategy of slow, incremental education of how to deal with sin by relying on the Savior.boy
You cannot repair your child by yourself, but you can take him or her to the Savior for rescue. This is liberating in one sense, but it does not remove all responsibility from parents. This truth simply changes the responsibility of the parent, and realigns it with reality. You cannot save your child, but because Jesus can, your job is to constantly take your child to Jesus in prayer, through teaching, and by example.
Cure Found: Pure Blood
The tragedy of David Vetter is that the very blood being pumped into his body to save his life was infected with that which would take his life. In a spiritual parallel we need to recognize that the only way to replace the sin in us to get a pure substitute to exchange righteousness for unrighteousness.
The blood of Jesus is the only perfectly innocent blood in the Universe. He is the only person to live a perfect life; in Him is no sin whatsoever. So when Jesus gives us His righteousness, and takes our sin upon Him on the cross, our salvation is secure and undefiled (uninfected) and depends entirely on Him (1 Pet 1:4). When you apply that truth to parenting, it gives you confidence to stop raising bubble babies, and to let your kids off the bench and in the game so that they can learn how to participate in God’s story of redemption, instead of just spectating from the sidelines.

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