Psalm 96.4-7 – The plan of salvation
Posted: 9 September 2014 in Psalms

For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the Lord made the heavens. Honour and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. Give unto the Lord, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength.

It is true, of course, that there is only one God, and that he made the heavens and the Earth. And yet, at the time the above psalm was written, almost the entire population of the world was engaged in idolatry, of one sort or another, when they should have been fulfilling their duty in the worship of the one true God. If it be asked how that situation came about, the answer, naturally, is that it was a direct consequence of the fall. Nevertheless, out of this mass of unredeemed mankind, God chose for himself a peculiar people, as the King James Version of the Bible puts it.

Due to the general corruption of mankind, it is not to be doubted that those who know not God will, for their sin, be punished everlastingly. There is no point in fudging that fact, as some branches of Christianity are wont to do, and so, when the Lord graciously made himself known to the Jews, they became indeed a privileged people.

In retrospect it can be known that the vocation of this privileged people was to be the means by which God’s written word would be given to us, and, ultimately, by whom Christ would come into the world. Once that had been achieved, the written word could be the carrier by which God’s revelation was taken to all mankind, thereby bringing salvation to God’s elect.

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Psalm 90.7-12 – Sinfulness and the Fall.
Posted: 8 September 2014 in Psalms

For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled. Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

The thing I notice about the above passage is the way in which it takes for granted that the hardness of life is the direct result of mankind’s universally sinful nature, and the divine judgment under which the entire creation now resides. When sin is offered as an explanation for suffering in the world, it frequently attracts the rhetorical question, “How does sin cause earth quakes?” or something along those lines, which from a theological perspective is somewhat superficial. As Paul makes clear in Romans 8.21-22, as a result of the fall, the entire natural order suffered disruption. Of course that defies scientific explanation, and the physical cause of earth quakes is known, but it is nevertheless a metaphysical, and, more importantly, divinely revealed, fact:

Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

When the final verse of the above passage speaks of applying our hearts unto wisdom, it means, of course, to recognise and repent of our intrinsically sinful nature, to seek after God’s will, and to pray for his mercy.

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Proverbs 28.26 – The folly of following our own hearts.
Posted: 6 September 2014 in Proverbs

He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.

We can look to our heart, and there we will discover what we would like to be true. Alternatively, we can look to the Word of God, and there discover what is true. Even if what we find in the latter is not altogether to our liking, it is folly to twist it, so that it more nearly conforms to the former.

The things we would like to be true are, in some measure, the result of cultural conditioning, although our sinful tendency to place ourselves and our desires, rather than God, at the centre of his universe, also plays apart. In any case, in a century or two’s time, cultural mores will have changed, and the things people then find acceptable/unacceptable will have changed. God, however, does not change, and neither does his revealed will.

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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.