Posts for March 2014
3 Posts found

Mark 3.22-29 – The unforgivable sin
Posted: 5 March 2014 in Mark

And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils. And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house. Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.

It is sometimes speculated what the unforgivable sin, spoken of more than once in the Bible, might be. From the context within which Jesus makes his remarks, the answer to that question seems to me reasonably clear. The unforgivable sin is to describe the works of God as being those of the Devil, and, by extension, to identify God with the Devil. To do such a thing must be the grossest blasphemy there is, and we are here assured that it is unforgivable. For the thought to so much as enter somebody’s mind, at least for more than a fleeting second, would mean that they were destined for eternal punishment.

In contrast, failing to recognise the divinity of Jesus, and his status as our only means of salvation, will bring condemnation in the normal course of events, but, like most sins, it can be forgiven if repented of. However, there is a sin, which is so grievous an insult to God’s infinite holiness, that it will assuredly be punished eternally. That ought to be a sobering thought, even if most of us do not go around thinking that God’s works are of the Devil.

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Acts 4.24b-28 – The Heresy of Open Theism.
Posted: 4 March 2014 in Acts

Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.

Whilst I do not make a habit of labeling a heretic anybody I disagree with, it hardly seems too strong a word in the case of the Open Theism. If open theists are right, then the above, taken directly out of the pages of the Bible, must be so much poppycock. If they are right, and God does not know the future, then he could have had no clear idea of why Jesus came to Earth, he could not have foreseen the crucifixion, and the Resurrection must have been a desperate attempt to put right something which was unintended by him. All of the prophets would have been lying through their teeth, when, in predicting the future, they claimed divine authority for their words. Alternatively, and even worse, God himself would need to have been lying. It is difficult to imagine that the new atheists could come up with anything more destructive of a whole 2,000 years of Christian theology.

It would be more honest of open theists if they admitted that they don’t like the implications the above, and similar passages of scripture, have for the limited nature of human freedom, and so they are going to abandon historic Christianity, in order to start their own religion. In that religion, absolute and unfettered human freedom would be the guiding presupposition, and any doctrine of God they had would need to be fitted in around that. One thing is for sure, a god who could be surprised by the course of events, and who could see his plans come awry as surely as any of his creatures could, that God would not be the God of Christianity. For that matter, he wouldn’t be the God of Judaism or Islam either.

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” (Isaiah 46.9-10)

The God who speaks there seems to have no doubts about the extent of his omniscience. His counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure. Well, he couldn’t very easily be sure of that, if he cannot foresee the future. If God’s omniscience goes out the door, his omnipotence soon follows it.

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Isaiah 28.9-13 – Charry Picking Scripture.
Posted: 3 March 2014 in Isaiah

Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.

Perhaps this is not the most obvious lesson to take out of the above passage, although it is not a million miles removed from it. Recently going through my mind was the way in which people today can sit light to the words of the Bible, with the primary motivation being that they don’t like what it says. Not excluded from that are many of those who like to label themselves “Bible believing Christians” (by which they generally mean that they are Young Earth Creationists). There are, of course, myriad examples of that, but one of the most frequently heard is a protest against the concept of eternal punishment – and that even in the face of the unambiguous words of Christ. For example in Matthew 25.46:

“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”

[Sometimes people will try to argue that the Greek word which is there translated everlasting doesn’t actually mean everlasting. Yet you never hear it argued that that very same word doesn’t mean everlasting when it is used in connection with the everlasting God. (As it is in both the Septuagint and Romans 16.26)]

One of the favoured options for evading the doctrine of eternal damnation is to postulate universal salvation. It goes pretty much without saying that nobody coming to the New Testament for the first time could possibly read that out of it. So to make it say what they want it to say, the proponents of universal salvation have to indulge in the selective reading of scripture, and subtle argumentation, which only academics, or those informed by them, could be capable of: “The word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little,” as Isaiah puts it.

I really cannot believe that God would wrap his scriptures up in language so obtuse that people have been misunderstanding them for 2,000 years, and that, even today, their true meaning can only be uncovered by specialists in ivory towers. The Bible is not an academic treatise; it is given for the salvation of men, or “as many as the Lord our God shall call,” to quote Acts 2.39. It is not given so that we can necessarily like what it says, but it is given so that we can accept what it says as having been divinely revealed – and that, unfortunately, includes the eternal damnation of some of our fellow men and women.

We need to call ourselves to account whenever we find ourselves rebelling against God’s truth – and that, admittedly, can be often enough. The temptation to cry out, !It’s not fair!” especially in connection with something like predestination, can be difficult to resist, but God is righteous, and we are not; God is Lord of all Creation, and we are not.

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