DIVING INTO THE DEEP WATERS OF DIVINE ELECTION

For some time I have desired to pen a blog of my understanding of Divine Election, but I realize the philosophical and theological implications involved in such an endeavor stirs up a myriad of emotions in people who take opposing views. I realize I am diving into deep, deep waters of God’s eternal ocean, where all who undertake the task must eventually come up for air realizing the ocean is much deeper than one can fathom. One must confess the subject of divine election shines like an unreachable star among the majesty of God’s galaxy of unfathomable wisdom. In attempting to penetrate the boundaries of the truth contained with the inspired Word regarding such a subject one discovers that our finite minds can only go so far before we turn away, finding that we must bow in wonder before the Sovereign of the universe. Like a majestic snow-covered mountain soaring into the heavens, gaze as earthbound man may upon it his eyes can never capture the entire mountain’s glory. Divine Election leaves us in awe as we recognize we can only touch the hem of the garment of such a subject.

It is not my intention to be critical of or critique another’s view of Divine Election, but only articulate my perspective. The position I articulate usually results in Calvinists saying I am too weak on the sovereignty of God and results in Arminianists saying I am too weak on the free will of man. This I know, the Bible teaches both; therefore, I embrace both the total sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man for his free choices. While harmonizing God’s sovereignty and man’s freewill can leave us grasping for words of explanation that don’t yet exist, my perspective of Divine Election involves the interplay of both God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom to choose.

I contend that Divine Election must begin with Jesus Christ, who is the Electing God and the Elected Man. Christ is the Predestined One. Karl Barth has succinctly stated, “The Triune God eternally elects, or chooses, in divine freedom, to be for humanity the God of grace and love. Therefore, in Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man, God is both the elector and the elected…It is the event which God willed from eternity” (Barth, Dogmatics in Outline, 1959, 69).

Christ is the ground and starting point for God’s electing actions. The starting point in divine election is in a Person, in an Act, the Act of the Christ of the Cross. Divine Election is in Christ, and nothing is elected outside of or prior to Him. Outside of Christ there is no election of any individual. God justifies individuals on the grounds of the perfect life, perfect obedience, and perfect sacrifice on the cross of Jesus Christ, foreknown in eternity past. God elects on the grounds of the perfect, atoning work of Christ; it is election based on the Holy Father foreknowing the perfect life and finished work of Christ on the cross.

If the starting point of Divine Election begins with other than Christ then there is a tear in the seam of biblical revelation. Christ is the eternal thread woven into the fabric of divine revelation that binds ALL biblical truth tightly together. As the eternal “Word,” who was with God and was God in the beginning, as the divine Reason and Revelation, there cannot be a higher cause of election than Jesus Christ. If there is a prior cause for election other than Jesus Christ, it would result in one’s election being outside of Christ not in Christ. This is not possible as the Bible says in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The Bible records in Colossians, “For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him: and He is before all things and by him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17).

Since Christ “is before all things,” this means that before a decree to elect, there was/is Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word, the Elect One. And it is “in Him” all things consist, not outside of Him or prior to Him. Nothing was prior to Christ; therefore, Christ being the Chosen One from the beginning means that before any decree of election there stands Jesus Christ towering over eternity, in which nothing or no one was planned or chosen before Him. Isaiah prophesied of the Messiah to come, “Behold my servant, whom I up hold, mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth. I have put my spirit upon him” (Is. 42:1). The disciples saw in Jesus Christ the fulfillment of the Elect One/Chosen One. Peter says of Jesus that He is the “chief corner stone, elect…” (I Peter 1:6). There is only one Elect Man and that Man is Jesus Christ.

Shifting the focus of Divine Election away from a decree to save only selected individuals to the exclusion of others, onto Jesus Christ being the Elect One/Chosen One, gives validity to the invitation, “Whosoever will may come.” Such an invitation is valid because the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is THE ELECT ONE (Isaiah 42:1; Luke 23:25; I Peter 2:4-6), the Predestined One (I Peter 1:19-20). Divine Sovereignty doesn’t eliminate human freedom to respond to God’s invitation, or else man would be nothing more than a pawn without a choice. Dale Moody has written, “Christ is the Predestined One in his death and resurrection. In his death Christ is both rejected and accepted by God. At the cross he stands as both a rejected sinner and the accepted Son of God. He was rejected because he bore our sins. He was accepted because he knew no sin of his own” (Moody, Word of Truth, 1981, 341). God in His sovereignty has taken the initiative in salvation, but man must respond to the call of conviction and respond in the affirmative in order to be saved.

The election of Christ as the Predestined One is initiated by God; therefore, to Him is due all glory and honor. Christ is the Captain of the elect. And a person whose faith is “in Him” is justified, apart from one’s works or merit, as the result of trusting the ELECT ONE, Jesus Christ. His atonement is sufficient to save all who put their trust in the Elect One, but is only actualized by those who believe. As Paul clearly declares, “The righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe” (Romans 3:22). The Holy Father’s saving purpose is as wide as the world (John 3:16). In Christ we see the purpose and principle of election, the election of ONE for the salvation of those who see their need of a Savior and respond in faith.

Christ in His becoming a man didn’t take the nature of some men and not others, but he took upon Himself the nature that is common to all humanity. He came to earth in the “likeness of men and being found in fashion as a man” (Philippians 2:5-11). In Christ’s work on the cross all humanity was acting in Him. As all are guilty in Adam (Rom. 5:15), now in Christ man has had his legal standing before the Holy Father changed. We enter into what He has done for us by faith in His finished work. Paul proclaimed, “Be It known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him ALL that believe are justified from all things, which ye could not be justified by the Law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39).

What Christ presented to the Father for His complete satisfaction was perfect obedience on behalf of all humanity. It was not the perfect obedience of a select few but all humanity. He paid the debt of sin, not just for some, but all men. It was a universal holiness Christ lived and a universal paying of man’s debt. Christ presented to God, as man’s Representative, the Elect One, the obedience and holiness owed the Father from all men. When one thinks of what Christ did, he did for humanity as a whole (John 3:16). By being One with us, and the Elect Man, man has been provided a Savior. Christ in a universal holiness and a universal curse, provides a salvation that is offered to all, which our souls enter into by faith. Holiness alone could answer Holiness and only the Holy God can provide for us what we cannot provide for ourselves. The debt of sin must be paid and, again, our Holy God in Christ made payment for us. The answering to God in holiness is owed by all and the debt owed for not complying is owed by all. What love, for in Christ God met both demands on behalf of all.

P.T. Forsyth writes, “The need for satisfaction for God’s wounded holiness can only be met by a personal holiness upon the scale of the human race, upon the universal scale of the sinful race. Anything less would be insufficient. What Christ presented to God on the cross was therefore not the perfect obedience of a saintly unit of the race but a perfect universal obedience.” However, only those who respond in faith to the Elect One is the perfect work of Christ actualized in their life. Paul wrote to Timothy, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. Who gave himself a ransom for all” (I Tim 2:4-6). Of course, not all will be saved for not all will embrace the all-sufficient atoning work of Christ provided on behalf of humanity.

God in His sovereignty has determined the terms of salvation, and only when one responds with faith in the Elect One, Jesus Christ, will salvation be actualized in experience. Herschel Hobbs writes, “So God elected that all who are ‘in Christ’ will be saved. All outside of Christ will be lost. God in his sovereignty set the conditions. Man by his response [appropriates] the results” (Herschel Hobbs, The Axioms of Religion, 1978, 71-72). God’s ground of accepting us is anchored in the electing of Jesus Christ in our place and on our behalf through the Incarnation, the cross and the empty tomb. Christ is the Elector and the Elected One, and by virtue of one’s faith in the Elect One, the Predestined One, they are by the awakening power of the Holy Spirit “baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free” (I Cor. 12:13).

It is realized Classical Calvinism will argue such a perspective of Divine Election as presented limits the sovereignty of God and exalts the free will of man. While harmonizing the two will always remain a mystery, God in His sovereignty in making allowance for the exercise of man’s choices does not weaken God’s sovereignty but in actuality demonstrates His sovereignty. One is truly sovereign who can in their sovereignty make allowances for the exercise of freedom of choice for the sole purpose of demonstrating His total sovereignty in guiding the universe to His own glorious end. God is sovereign in his plan of salvation and His guiding of history, but he does not deny the freedom of man to make his own decisions even to his own eternal destruction.

While it is understood the perspective on Divine Election as I have presented will find disagreement with those who embrace Classical Calvinism, we can agree to disagree. This one truth we can agree on, those who recognized their lostness, repent of their sins and embrace Christ as their Savior are counted among those who are called the elect.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

TRUE SUCCESS IS FAITHFULNESS

One of my favorite quotes comes from the lips of our nation’s twenty-sixth President, Theodore Roosevelt, who wisely stated, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Wise words indeed! Those words can be applied to any endeavor we undertake. No matter what one undertakes to do there are always critics who are ready to criticize and point out where it could have been done better or will tell you how much better they could have done it, you knowing and they knowing, too, that they would have never embarked upon such an endeavor to begin with. I have always said, tongue-in-cheek, an expert is someone who has never done it before!

While Roosevelt’s words are true in any endeavor one embarks upon, it is especially true for those who are faithful laborers in the Lord’s vineyard. One who is attempting to plow a straight row with the Gospel plow is always visible in their labors and is always open to scrutiny. It is easy to spot the stumbling of a man or to point out where he could have done better. While “attempting” means the possibility of stumbling and coming up short, but it is better to have swerved  a bit in the row than the alternative which is far worse….to never have been faithful in plowing. Laboring in the Lord’s vineyard may produce blisters along the way, but the Master’s heavenly ointment soothes and heals hands of faithful service.

It is easy to measure success only by what one sees, not realizing success often takes place in the realm of the unseen. Too often success is defined as visible results that that can be measured by the physical eye and takes us beyond what has previously been accomplished. If results can’t be measured by sight, there are those who are quick to label the effort as unsuccessful. Such criteria must not be the measuring stick for judging spiritual success. When Paul wrote First Corinthians he defined success as a person who was “found faithful” (I Cor. 4:2). Paul’s criteria for “success” was faithfulness, which cannot always be measured by visible results or the grandiose being accomplished.

Oswald Chambers echoed Paul’s wisdom when he wrote, “God has not called us to success but to faithfulness.” The Bible requires us to be loyal to the Master regardless if we don’t measure up to the world’s definition of successful. Faithfulness is a characteristic that is lacking in many arenas today. While success can be short lived, faithfulness is a quality that is enduring and in the long run has the greatest impact.

Faithfulness is not always exciting and often deals with the mundane. Faithfulness doesn’t always find itself in the spotlight, but is often found in the background getting done the things that need to get done. Faithfulness doesn’t always receive accolades from the crowd, but it carries with it its own reward. Sometimes faithfulness doesn’t get press, but it gets the Lord’s attention. Let us never dismiss the importance and value of faithfulness. Faithfulness doesn’t always receive applause, but it looks forward to those words from our Lord, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” What we label as success can be momentary and vanishing, but faithfulness possesses an enduring quality priceless in the eyes of the Lord. While every servant of the Lord should set goals and strive to fruitfully reach them, let us never sacrifice faithfulness on the altar of perceived success as defined by culture.

Sometimes we may grow weary in our faithfulness, but let us keep on keeping on being faithful in our service and relationship with Him. Sure there are always rocks in the field and stumps to avoid when one plows for the Lord, but that is no reason to slacken the pace; keep faithfully plowing. Faithfulness keeps the plow sharp. Let the critic continue to criticize, let the finger-pointers keep pointing, let the whispers keep whispering, but may those who are diligent in duty and service continue to be faithful.

Let it be said of each servant of the Lord as was said of David’s loyal followers who were faithful to guard the supplies, David commending them for faithfully “staying by the stuff” (I Sam 25:13). Let us always strive to be faithful to “stay by the stuff,” and in so doing our “place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Being faithful…therein is found success.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

DOES IT MATTER HOW WE ADDRESS GOD?

There is a theological revolution taking place in Christendom that seems to be gaining more traction with each passing year. It is a revolution that is seeking to transform the very structure and composition of the Christian faith. As the walls of gender identity continue to be torn down in the secular realm, we see exerted efforts by those who support the feminist reconstructionist agenda to abolish gender identity in regard to the doctrine of God. Their goal is to permanently eliminate from Scripture the use of the masculine pronoun when referring to God by either substituting “God” with feminine terminology or using neuter terminology when referring to Deity.

Is such a change warranted? Does it really make any scriptural difference as to whether one uses masculine or feminist pronouns when referring to biblical Deity and if a terminology change was made to accommodate feminist reconstructionists would it affect the integrity of Scripture and the presentation of the Gospel message? While it is recognized that a blog of this nature cannot give adequate attention to such a broad topic, the issue at stake is of such vital importance as it relates to the integrity of Scripture and the Gospel that the issue needs to be addressed, although somewhat briefly.

The contention of those who seek to reconstruct gender identity is that all masculine pronouns as it relates to God are only metaphorical and come from an antiquated time when women were considered nothing more than property with little or no rights; therefore, such terminology should be changed to better adapt to the changing times so as not to offend women or foster the idea that women are inferior to men. Those who champion such a change in biblical usage do so by pointing out there is female imagery found for God in the Old Testament. Let it be pointed out that there are only four instances of incontestable feminine imagery for God in the Bible, all found in the book of Isaiah (42:14; 45:10; 49:15; 66:13). While there are a few OT similes that allude to God’s care as that of a mother bird (Duet 32:11-12. Isaiah 31:5), Hebrew scholar Mayer I. Gruber writes that only in Isaiah does the “prophet explicitly compares the Lord to a mother, while throughout the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures the Lord is explicitly compared to a father but not a mother” (Gruber, “The Motherhood of God in Second Isaiah,” Revue Biblique, Paris, 1983, 351-359). While found in Isaiah are four instances where a mother’s love and comfort for a child is used as a simile for God’s love and comfort for hurting Israel, in the Old Testament God is NEVER called mother. And let it be added, in the New Testament God is NEVER addressed as mother. In both Testaments God is referred to as Father some 250 times, but NEVER as mother.

It is understood from Scripture that God is a Spirit (John 4:24); therefore, He has no sexuality. If that be the case, then why not attach to God neuter language? If one believes the Bible is inspired and if one believes the Bible is the self-revelation of God, then the Scripture teaches the self-revelation of God as Father. Elizabeth Achtemeier correctly states, “The Bible uses masculine language for God because that is the language with which God has revealed himself. The biblical, Christian faith is a revealed religion. It claims no knowledge of God beyond the knowledge God has given of himself through his words and deeds in the histories of Israel and of Jesus Christ and his church” (“Exchanging God for ‘No Gods’: A Discussion of Female Language for God,” 1992, 5).

Alvin Kimel writes, “‘Father’ is not a metaphor imported by humanity onto the screen of eternity; it is a name and filial term of address revealed by God himself in the person of his Son…No matter how other groups of human beings may choose to speak to the Diety, the matter is already decided for Christians, decided by God himself. To live in Christ in the triune being of the Godhead is to worship and adore the holy Transcendence whom Jesus knew as his Father” (Kimel, A New Language for God? A Critique of Supplemental Liturgical Texts – Prayer Book Studies 30, 1990, 11-12). If God has been revealed through the Son, then God has made Himself known as “Father.” As Jesus told Phillip, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father” (Jh 14:9).

The Triune God has self-revealed Himself in masculine terminology. Why did God reveal himself in masculine terms? The addressing God in masculine terminology is a mark of Judaism and Christianity in contrast to the world’s other religious traditions, as God sought to distinguish Himself from the surrounding cultures of other nations who worshipped female deities. The God of the Bible being revealed in masculine terms was unique in the world of that day, as feminine deities were the norm. Let it be noted that religions where worship centered upon feminine deities the worship of nature/the natural instead of the Creator was prominent and the slide into unrestrained passions and moral debauchery was rampant. So, it was not man who attached masculinity to God, it was the result of God’s self-revelation to differentiate Himself from the feminist-based paganist religions of other nations. Achtemeier observantly writes, “It was not that the prophets were slaves to their patriarchal culture, as some feminists hold. And it is not that the prophets could not imagined God as female: they were surrounded by people who so imagined their deities. It is rather that the prophets, as well as the Deuteronomist and Priestly writers and Jesus and Paul would not use such language because they knew and had ample evidence from other religions surrounding them that female language for deity results in a basic distortion of the name of God and of his relation to his creation” (Achtemeier, Female Language for God, 2006, 109).

One finds in the New Testament Jesus always addressed God as Father. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told his disciples that when they prayed, they were to address God as “Father” (Matt. 6:9). Throughout his ministry Jesus set the example by always referring to God as “Father” (Matt. 7:21; Mark 13:32; John 10:36; 14:6, 9, 28; 20:17). In the New Testament, “Father” is always the preferred personal name for the first person of the Trinity. Jesus before ascending back to His “Father” instructed His disciples that when they baptized new converts they were to do so in the name of the Triune God, “the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). The Triune formula given to the Church by Jesus clearly identifies and linguistically defines the first person of the Trinity as Father. In our addressing God, there is no greater authority for which we are to appeal than the mandate of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Triune God who is confessed in the baptismal creed as given by Jesus, became normative and authoritative. Basil the Great (329-379) stated that all other terminology that sought to be substituted for the verbal identification of the Triune God as given by Jesus should be rejected. He wrote that “it is enough for us to confess those names which we have received from the Holy Scriptures and our Savior” (Basial, Ep., 175).

The Apostle John, a disciple of Jesus, followed the example and mandate of his Master, as he uses the term “Father” when referring to God 122 times in the gospel he wrote. Matthew, also a disciple of Jesus, in the first book in the NT uses the term “Father” 64 times when referring to God. It is clear the disciples addressed God as they were taught to do so by Him who came to reveal God—as “Father.”

Paul in obedience to Christ who transformed his life, did not deviate from the Master’s terminology of “Father” when speaking of the First Person of the Triune God (Gal. 1:3; Eph. 6:23; I Cor. 8:6; Col 1:2). In Romans Paul affirms that as the result of Christ’s atoning work we have been enabled to address God as Father. He writes, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). Addressing God as “Father” was not one of many designations used by Paul to speak of the first person of the Trinity, but “Father” was the only name used by Paul. Paul in identifying God as “Father” was using intimate and personal language by which believers were to address the One who is Wholly Other: “Father” being the very name which Jesus used to address God.

Kimel profoundly writes of the Christian usage of the word “Father”: It is a filial, denominating title of address revealed in the person of the eternal Son. “On the lips of Jesus,” Wolfhart Pannenberg states, “‘Father’ became a proper name for God. It thus ceased to be simply one designation among others. It embraces every feature in the understanding of God which comes to light in the message of Jesus. It names the divine Other in terms of whom Jesus saw himself and to whom he referred His disciples and hearers.” Jesus names the Holy God of Israel Abba, “Father,” thereby expressing, and indeed effectuating, the intimate inner communion between them, a unique relationship of knowing and love. “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son” (Matt. 11:27). By this historical address God is acknowledged as the hope, joy, ultimate source, and final authority in our Lord’s life; by this address he is constituted as the Father. The dominical naming occurs within the being of the Godhead. It is an event of the divine biography, an eternal act of self-differentiation occurring in time. When uttered by the incarnate Word, “Father” (defined exclusively by Christ himself in the totality of his filial existence) is a created, performative word of eschatological power–analogous, on a different level, to God’s speaking forth the universe in Genesis 1–which eternally calls into being the One who loves his Son beyond all imaginings, beyond all conditions and limits. The Father receives from Jesus, through the power of the Spirit, his hypostatic identity as Father. (Kimel, “The God who Names Himself,” Speaking the Christian God: The Holy Trinity and the Challenge of Feminism, 1992, 204-205)

For one to seek to alter the name of God to other than “Father” strikes at the core of biblical authority and what was normative for our Lord Jesus Christ and the whole of the OT and NT writers. To identify God other than “Father” is to abandon how He is clearly addressed in Scripture and Church history. To call Him other than His self-revelation as “Father” is not “adjusting” the Christian faith for the twenty-first century, but in actuality is creating a new god different from the God of biblical revelation. And anytime  there is a departing from the authoritative biblical normative, a god is created by one’s own hands that has not the power to save nor the power to change one’s life.

The God of the Bible has distinguished Himself from a culture that desires to gravitate toward religiosity that identifies itself with feminine deities, which invariably follow the path of substituting the God of the Bible for the worship of the creation and the creature leading to a rejection of the Triune God (Romans 1) and a de-personalization of God. When God is de-personalized inevitably a laxness in biblical morality is embraced as the norm.  We always err and start down a slippery slope when we seek to “update” God’s Word and “dumb-it down” to conform to the culture. God’s Word doesn’t need adjusting or updating, it needs to be unapologetically and boldly proclaimed.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Peter 1:3).

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

WHY THE DOCTRINE OF BIBLICAL CREATION IS IMPORTANT

Most Christians don’t see the importance of articulating a theology of biblical creation. While most Christians give an accepting nod to  the premise that God created the heavens and the earth, it is not a doctrine many see as one of significance in comparison with more “important” Christian doctrines. However, one’s view of biblical creation is the foundation from which all other biblical doctrines find a sturdy foundation upon which to rest. The doctrine of creation is the necessary starting point for the Christian faith. Why is a biblical view of creation important?

First, a proper biblical view of creation Affirms God as Creator. The first verse of Genesis begins, “In the beginning God created…” Genesis 1:1 identifies God as the Source, Reason, Creator of all that exists. The Bible never seeks to argue the existence of God, but contends it is a fact established by creation itself and the conscience of man (Ps. 19, Rom. 1& 2, Rev. 4:11). The Bible clearly affirms that the universe, man and the existence of all things didn’t happen by accident or by some unknown cosmic event, but all was created by a holy God. It has often been said that if a person can embrace the first verse of Genesis, they will have no trouble with the rest of the Bible. Genesis identifies our Creator-God creating Ex Nihilo (out of nothing). He did not need matter or energy or have to use material which previously existed, but there was nothing and then there was! The theories of man to explain the existence of the universe have to begin with matter or energy or “material” which already existed. The God of Genesis created from “scratch” by the power of His Word (Genesis 1-2; John 1:1-3). All that exists didn’t happen by “accident” but was purposely created “in the beginning” by God who is the Source by which all things exist and continue to exist.

Second, a proper biblical view of creation Affirms Biblical Authority. One discovers from a careful reading of Scripture that the whole of divine revelation is held together by threads that are woven tightly to Genesis 1-3 as historical narrative. Old Testament authority rests upon the events and promises as found in Genesis 1-3 (Exod 31:17; Deut 4:32; Ps 33:6; 90:12; 136:5–9; 148:2–5; Isa 40:25–26; 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; 48:13; 51:13; Amos 4:13; Jer 10:12; Zech 12:1). The great biblical doctrines Paul sets forth in Romans regarding God, man, sin, the work of Christ, and God’s continued dealing with man and Israel, clearly rest on an understanding of Genesis 1-11 as historical. As well, when one turns to the New Testament, the theology and worldview of the NT writers had deep roots in the creation narratives, Jesus accepting the writings of Genesis as historical and authoritative (Matt 19:4–5; John 1:2–3; Rom 4:17; Eph 3:9; Col 1:16; 1 Tim 2:13; Heb 1:2; 11:3; Rev 4:11; 10:6–7). If the recorded events in Genesis are not rooted in actuality this casts doubt on the entire biblical record. It is clear that the foundation of biblical authority cannot be separated from divine revelation as found in the beginning chapters of Genesis.

Third, a proper biblical view of creation Affirms Man as Created by the Creator. The Bible is clear that man didn’t come into existence through the “accident” of evolution, but that man was purposely created by God. The Bible teaches that man draws his worth from the truth that he was created as the crown of God’s creation. If there is no Creator then man has no worth or value other than what he himself creates or has imposed upon him. If there is no God which breathed into man the breath of life, then man has no soul which separates him from other beings. If there is no God and man is only a cosmic accident, saying life has meaning is a futile pursuit that becomes elusive in life and vanishes at death. Man, though, is more than a “just so happen” of atoms, molecules, or chemicals that came into being by natural processes, but man came into being by the direct creation of God who created man in His own image and breathed into man the breath of life, giving him value and worth. As one created in the image of God man is endowed with life, a soul, personality, creativity, mind and with the ability to communicate with his fellowman and his Creator.

Fourth, a proper biblical view of creation Affirms Man’s Disobedience before his Creator and the Entrance of Death. When one reads the first two chapters of Genesis, God states that all of creation is “good.” If one skips chapter 3 and begins reading with chapter 4, one has to confess something colossal happened — death entered the world. Where did it come from? Genesis 3 records that man deliberately disobeyed his Creator and as a result of sin, death, which was not part of the original creation, entered the world. If death and sin were a natural aspect of God’s creation then He would not have been able to declare all things “very good” (Gen. 1:31). While death is a natural component of the evolutionary process, in the Bible death is abnormal. Lee Anderson astutely observes that “death before the fall thus destroys everything that the Bible teaches about the goodness of God, the goodness of the original creation, and the prospect of goodness in the future creation” (Anderson, “The Relevance of Biblical Creationism,” JMAT 18:1 (Spring 2014), 106).

As the result of man’s disobedience, the Fall resulted in the fruit of sin birthing death into the world. Paul is clear in Romans 5:12 that as the result of sin death entered the world. Death was not part of God’s creation in Genesis 1-2, so what happened? Again, death entered the world as result of man’s mutiny to his Creator. To contend otherwise, is to say death was a natural part of creation. If death is not related to the fruit of sin as the Bible teaches, then the death of Christ was not necessary as death is not the curse of sin from which man needs deliverance and atonement. If death was initially a natural part of creation and not the consequence of sin, then there is no need for the atoning sacrifice of Christ as death would not be related to sin. However, the Bible teaches death is the consequences of sin which was not part of God’s “very good” creation; thus, because of one man’s sin bringing death in the world, another Man through his life, death and resurrection defeated death for humanity (Rom. 5:12-15).

Fifth, a proper biblical view of creation Affirms the Creator’s Initiative in Redeeming Man and Restoring His Creation. Because our first parents sinned against the Creator, their fellowship with Him was broken and the consequences of their sinful choice resulted in far-reaching ripples that affected all creation (Rom 8:22). How can man’s broken communion be restored? How can man pay the sin debt which he owes the holy Creator? One truth is certain, man is unable to restore the broken fellowship, nor can he pay the debt he owes for his sin offending a holy God. We find in Genesis 3:15 that God took the initiative by making a promise that One would come who would be the “seed of the woman” who would restore the broken fellowship between God and man and pay the sin debt that man was incapable of paying. The Old Testament is the history of God bringing to fulfillment the promise He made in Genesis 3:15 of a Redeemer and Restorer. All that came before Christ was fulfilled by Him and all that comes after Him is determined by Him.

Genesis 3:15 was fulfilled when God clothed Himself in human flesh, stepped into time, and as the Representative of humanity assumed the responsivity for our sin debt. The Good News is that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing (counting) their trespasses (sins) unto them” (2 Cor 5:19). In Christ man’s broken fellowship with His Creator is restored, in Christ’s resurrection we become partakers of His victory over death, and in His divine destiny creation awaits the day it will experience Paradise Restored (Rom. 8:22).

Sixth, a proper biblical view of creation Affirms that the Creator is directing His Creation toward a Divine Goal. Natural evolution is an purposeless ongoing process that has no destiny for which the creature or creation anticipates. The Bible teaches that in Christ all history is flowing toward a New Heaven and New Earth. Because of man’s disobedience, sin marred the first creation,  but because of the obedience of one Man, the Man Christ Jesus, restoration of broken felllowship caused by sin can be found and the promise of the day when Christ makes all things new is the living hope of those who have in faith embraced the Creator who became the Redeemer in Jesus Christ. The cross is our assurance that sin and death will not win at last, for when man sought to do His worst to the Son of God, He came out victorious and in faith His victory is our victory.

More reasons could be given why a proper biblical view of creation is important, it is clear to see the doctrine of creation is the thread that is woven into the very fabric of the Christian faith. For one to contend that the doctrine of creation is not important is to deny the very truths that are foundational to biblical authority and the Gospel message of Christ’s atoning work. As David Noebel has excellently written, “When presenting the Christian worldview, then, we take the Bible at face value…. When the writer says, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,’ we understand him to say that there is a God, there was a beginning to creation, that heaven and earth exist, and that God made them. When the writer says, ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on him shall not perish but have everlasting life,’ we understand him to say that there is a God, that God loves, that God sent His Son, and that those who believe Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. It does not take a Ph.D. or a high IQ to comprehend the basic message of the Bible. God’s special revelation is open to everyone” (Noebel, Understanding the Times, 2015).

Yes, the biblical doctrine of creation is important. And the Creator desires to make you and me a new creation, “For if any man be in Christ they are a new creation, old things are passed away, behold all things become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

THE CHURCH THAT MADE CHRIST SICK!

Any church that compromises with the culture becomes ineffective in impacting that culture….and a compromising church makes Christ sick!!

When studying the Seven Churches Jesus addressed in Revelation, most readers of the NT are familiar with the words of Jesus to the church at Laodicea. Jesus Christ, who is the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness (3:14), the One whose words can be trusted, the One who is the Head of “creation” (3:14), indicts the church saying, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot. So then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth” (3:15-16). The church made Christ nauseated!

Three times He pleads with them to be hot or cold. Why would Christ prefer the church to be “cold” as well as “hot” (3:15)? The words of Jesus indicate that “hot” and “cold” are desirable alternatives to lukewarmness. The contextual interpretation has to do with the “hot” waters from Hierapolis and the “cold” waters from Colossae that were piped into Laodicea and when they mixed lukewarmness resulted. Just as when the waters are compromised, when the church compromises with the culture the result will always be spiritual ineffectiveness, unfruitfulness, and lukewarmness in the church.

Let us examine the text to gain an understanding of Jesus’ picturesque words.

To understand the full impact of Christ’s words a look at the local background is necessary. While the city of Laodicea was a place of industry and wealth, it did not have a suitable water supply. Hierapolis, which was only six miles away from Laodicea, was known for its hot mineral-laden springs which people came to for its cleansing and healing qualities. Colossae, which was only ten miles away, was known for his cold waters which brought refreshing to those who drank it. Laodicea had their water piped in from a six-mile long aqueduct. When the water arrived it was lukewarm, disgusting to the taste, not fit to drink. One historian wrote, “The water supply of Laodicea was derived from an artificial pipeline, bringing water which was literally lukewarm and so impure as to have an emetic (vomiting) effect.”

The contrast in the words of Jesus is between the hot spa-like healing waters of Hierapolis and the refreshing cold waters of Colossae. Jesus is saying to the church at Laodicea that He desired they have “works” (v. 14) that supply the city/community with spiritual cleansing and healing for the spiritually sick (hot) or spiritual refreshing for the spiritually weary (cold), but they were doing neither. Instead, they were spiritually like the lukewarm water piped into the city, disgusting to the taste, unfit to drink or use. While the church should have been ministering to the city and providing spiritual waters of cleansing, healing and refreshment, their compromising with the culture around them made them spiritually ineffective in providing healing and refreshing waters to others. They should have been proclaiming the gospel of Christ to their city, but because of their compromising the Word they were unfit of being used by Jesus.

Jesus knew their works (3:14), which were devoid of spiritual quality. He rebukes the church for their disgusting lack of witness, barrenness and ineffectiveness which was distasteful to Him like the drinking of lukewarm water that makes one want to “spew” it out of their mouth (3:16). The Greek word translated “spew” is intensely strong and used nowhere else in the New Testament and paints a vivid picture of someone about to vomit. Albert Barnes writes that “the image denotes deep disgust and loathing at the indifference which prevailed in the church at Laodicea.” Their spiritual condition made Christ sick!

Anytime a church compromises the Word of God under the delusional assumption that compromise will attract those outside the church, the church is weakened, becomes lukewarm and loses its effectiveness to make an impact for Christ. The church will never win the world by becoming like the world, it only becomes barren and fruitless.

The words of Christ contain a touch of irony. The church at Laodicea was to be His mouthpiece to spread the Good News, but because in their works they had failed to do so, He who is called the Word was ready to spew them out of His mouth. Jesus’ charge against the church was their total lack of ineffectiveness in ministering to those who needed spiritual healing and refreshing. They needed to repent, because their compromising with the culture around them had resulted in their loss of a community witness, fruitfulness and effectiveness, the loss of being Christ’s mouthpiece for truth.

John R. Stott has written, “The Laodicean church was a half-hearted church. Perhaps none of the seven letters is more appropriate to the twenty-first century church than this. It describes vividly the respectable, sentimental, nominal, skin-deep religiosity which is so wide spread among us today. Our Christianity is flabby and anemic, we appear to have taken a lukewarm bath.”

Even though Christ said He was about to spew them out of his mouth because their ineffectiveness was so distasteful to Him, there was still opportunity to repent and be restored to fellowship and fruitfulness. Sadly, many churches today have compromised with the culture in a delusional attempt to impact the culture, and as a result have become barren, fruitless and non-impactful. May the Church today heed the words of Jesus and once again be uncompromising, “zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:19).

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

THE PRICE OF A SIGNATURE

On the Fourth of July the USA will celebrate another birthday. It all began on July 4, 1776, when fifty-six brave men put their signature on a document called The Declaration of Independence. This wondrous document is built upon a premise that seems forgotten in our day, that premise being each person derives their rights from “their Creator,” the “Supreme Judge of the world” (God is mentioned four times — twice at the beginning at twice at the end), and the chief purpose of government is to ensure and protect those rights. The Declaration of Independence only contains 1,321 words, yet it is one of the greatest documents ever conceived and penned by man.

The document, which declared independence from the British, was signed by fifty-six brave men “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” The fifty-six men from the thirteen colonies who penned their name on the document, twenty-six were lawyers, nine merchants, six farmers, six physicians, two statesmen, one planter, one surveyor, one shoemaker, one minister, and one printer. Eighteen of the men were under forty years of age, three in their twenties, and the oldest, Benjamin Franklin, was seventy years old. Two who signed it would later become President, two were to be fathers of future Presidents.

These fifty-six men knew the minute they signed the document they would be labeled as traitors by the British and there would be a price upon their head. They were risking their lives for the cause of freedom. What did it actually cost these men for signing the Declaration of Independence? I am afraid we have forgotten what it cost them. Not one of the signers escaped the battle for independence without suffering some loss or penalty.

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors and tortured before they died; twelve had their homes ransacked and burned; two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured; nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War; Layman Hall of Georgia had his property confiscated; George Walton of Georgia was imprisoned; Joseph Hewes of North Carolina died from utter exhaustion from the strain; William Hooper of North Carolina was driven from his home; John Penn of North Carolina had his health wrecked and died in 1780; William Floyd of New York was driven from his home and his property confiscated; Philip Livingston of New York had all his property taken from him; John Morton of Pennsylvania became forsaken by friends and died eight months after the signing; Richard Stockton of New Jersey was dragged from his bed in the middle of the night and thrown into prison; Caesar Rodney of Delaware died from cancer not long are signing; John Hart of New Jersey was forced from his home, his house burned and he lived as a fugitive; Roger Sherman of Connecticut efforts during the battle for independence took a toll on his health and was relieved of many of colonial duties; Lewis Morris of New York was a man of considerable wealth but lost it during the war; Carter Braxton of Virginia lost his wealth and his property seized; Thomas Heyward, Arthur Middleton and Edward from South Carolina were all thrown into prison; Thomas Nelson of Virginia lost his fortune and died in poverty; Francis Lewis of New York had his home burned and his wife taken prisoner; Abraham Clark of New Jersey had two of his sons captured and put in prison; John Witherspoon of New Jersey had his voluminous library burned; Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey had his home taken and became a fugitive; Thomas McKean of Delaware was so pursued by the British that he was forced to constantly move his family; George Ross a minister from Pennsylvania died in 1779 from broken health; William Whipple of New Hampshire developed heart problems which eventually took his life.

More examples could be given of the price paid by the signers of the Declaration of Independence, but a portrait of the noble character of these men is clearly imprinted on the canvas of history. The clothes these men wore were not held together by thread, but by principle, honor and a selflessness that led them to pledge their all for the cost of freedom. They had steel backbones forged in the fires of convictions and courage. These men were brave and  fearless who knew the consequences and penalties that awaited, yet they signed anyway, pledging their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.

One truth is certain, freedom was and is not free. For that one prize – freedom – these men signed a declaration and suffered horribly. Two-hundred and forty-three years later we must not forget the price paid for freedom nor forget the spiritual and political heritage of the birth of this nation. To forget our heritage is to head down a road that will eventually lead us away from liberty back unto tyranny. In a day when political correctness sees patriotism as offensive, it is a position that will find liberty being swallowed up in the quicksand of weakness and cowardice that will lead to loss of freedoms.

One can’t help but wonder in the day in which we live where so many want something for nothing; who feel like they are owed something without earning it or sacrificing for it; who don’t believe in personal responsibility; who contend there are no eternal principles on which to base one’s life or govern society; would such individuals pay one-tenth the price those 56 brave men paid for freedom and liberty? The answer is self-evident.

As we pause to celebrate the birthday of this Nation, let us not forget the sacrifice and commitment of those fifty-six stalwart men. While our Forefathers battled the British, we today are waging a battle for the very soul of America. It is a battle of greed versus sacrifice, spiritually versus secularism, God versus godlessness, good versus evil, decency versus indecency, right versus wrong, principles versus political correctness, responsibility versus irresponsibility. To the observing eye, that for which the signers of the Declaration of Independence gave so much, appears to be slowly slipping away from you and me.

The freedoms for which our Forefather fought and sacrificed for demands that we never yield to the tyrants of vice over virtue, for when we do, we will discover the brave signers penned their names in vain. May it not be so.

Have Blessed and Safe Fourth of July

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT

Recently I had the privilege to have lunch with two distinguished men in the ministry who I hold in high esteem. We discussed many topics, some weighty and some lighthearted. In our conversing, one of the men stated he had recently talked to a minister who said the Old Testament was irrelevant for our day and time and it was of little value for twenty-first century Christendom. Sadly, there are those who embrace such erroneous thinking. However, such a viewpoint is not only erroneous, but sorely lacking in theological insight and is a disastrous concept to embrace when developing NT interpretation. It is of necessity we not abandon the OT but to become familiar with its rich contents. Let me list eleven reasons why the Old Testament is of vital importance for modern-day Christendom. I could list more, but I must stop writing somewhere…so I will stop at eleven!!

First, the Old Testament lays the foundation for understanding the New Testament. In the OT we find the progressive unfolding of the revelation of God to man in regard to Jesus Christ. The OT is more than a history book of random stories, but the OT relates to man how God used imperfect people, events and promises to bring about His progressive revelation of a Savior. If we tossed aside the OT then we fail to understand that Christ didn’t just appear on the scene one day without announcement, but his arrival had been a progressive unfolding since Genesis 3:15 when God promised that a Savior would come from the Seed of a Woman to deal with Satan and sin. His birth in Bethlehem and subsequent work on earth, God had been unfolding since the Fall of Adam and Eve. Without the OT that truth would be lost.

Second, the Old Testament is filled with types and shadows which Christ fulfilled them all. When one studies the OT Tabernacle, every piece of it pictures some aspect of the character and work of Christ. The Jewish Feast Days speak of Christ. The Passover depicts the work Christ. When one looks at the sacrificial system of the OT, it foreshadowed the day when John the Baptist would point to Jesus and cry out, “Behold, the lamb of God which has come to take away the sin of the world” (Jh 2:29). Without an understanding of the OT sacrificial system and the reason for it being instituted, the statement of John the Baptist would make no sense. The OT is filled with many such examples where Jesus fulfilled the types and shadows to the last dot on the i.

Third, without the Old Testament we would not know Jesus was the one sent from God. The Old Testament is filled with signposts (prophecies) along the way that were for the purpose of giving recognizable proofs so one could know if Jesus was the true one sent from God or an imposter. The OT prophesied Jesus would come from the tribe of Judah, come from the line of David, would be born of a virgin, would be born in Bethlehem, would have to flee to Egypt for a short time after his birth, would grow up in Nazareth, would be crucified, and would rise from the dead and the list goes on. Matter of fact, there are some 300 prophesies dealing with Christ’s first coming. Christ fulfilled every one of them to the letter. If we tossed aside the OT how would we know He was truly the Son of God whom the Father promised or an imposter?

Fourth, the Old Testament is important for without it we would not have an understanding of many of the Jewish customs mentioned in the New Testament. We would not understand why the Pharisees got angry when Jesus said, “I Am.” We would not understand why Jesus cleansed the temple courtyard during one of the Passovers. We would not understand why some of Jesus disciples, who were zealots, were excited when they saw the miracles Jesus performed (John 6). We would not understand why the Pharisees hated Jesus so.  We would not understand why the Jews were so nationalistic.  Without the OT there is so much in the NT that would leave us baffled.

Fifth, without the Old Testament the first book of the NT, Matthew, could not be understood. Matthew’s target group was the Jews, and he is constantly referring to OT passages, Jesus being the fulfillment of those passages. If we only had the NT, we would not know why the Jews were looking for a Messiah or King and the question of the Wise Men would make no sense, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” Without the OT we could not grasp why Matthew spent so much time proving that Jesus was the ONLY rightful heir to the throne of David.

Sixth, without knowledge of the OT we could not grasp the preaching of the disciples in Acts. They considered the OT important for they were continually preaching Christ was the fulfillment of the OT Scriptures. Their messages were filled with OT passages. The sermon of Stephen to the Jews would make no sense without an understanding of the OT (Acts 7). Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch would leave us scratching  our heads as to its meaning without the OT (Acts 8). Many more such incidents in Acts could be cited, which without the OT one would not be able to comprehend.

Seventh, without the OT one could not understand many of the names and titles given to Christ in the New Testament. The names given to Christ are anchored in the OT, and without the OT we would wonder why those names were attached to Him. Names such as the Son of Man, the Seed, Messiah, One greater than Moses, High Priest, Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God, Emmanuel, I AM, Weeping Prophet, Wonderful, Prince of Peace, etc. are all OT names. Those names cannot be adequately understood outside their OT context.

Eighth, without the Old Testament one cannot understand the book of Hebrews. The book of Hebrews is centered upon the theme that Jesus Christ is superior to all the OT types and shadows that foreshadowed Christ and He is superior to the greatest of men in the OT. Without knowledge of the OT one might as well remove Hebrews from the NT for it would be incomprehensible.

Ninth, without the Old Testament there is no chance of understanding the book of Revelation. The last book in the Bible is hard enough to understand as it is, but one who dismisses the OT will never unlock the mysteries of Revelation. There are 100s of clear reference taken from the OT found in John’s apocalyptic writing. To just name a few, allusions are made from OT books like Genesis, Exodus, Nahum, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Ezra, Jeremiah, Psalms, and the list goes on. Dismiss the OT and Revelation remains locked.

Tenth, the OT is important because of the many valuable lessons we learn – both positive and negative. Paul stated that the stories in the OT are given to us as examples from which we can learn (Romans 15:4). If we removed the OT we would never know such powerful and positive stories as the  Walls of Jericho come tumbling down, David and Goliath, Ruth and Boaz, Esther, Abigail, and the list goes on. As well, we have many stories that serve as warnings like David and Bathsheba, the failure at Ai, the failure of Israel to listen to the prophets, and the list goes on. The many stories in the OT serve as both an encouragement to us as well as a warning.

Eleventh, the OT is important because it reveals a God who has revealed Himself to humanity as Holy. All of God’s dealing with man is based upon the foundation of God’s holiness. Only that which can comply with God’s perfect holiness can ever come into His presence. Since man is sinful and cannot comply with God’s demands, the OT is the unfolding of the plan of God of how sinful man can be brought into a relationship and fellowship with a holy God. The OT reveals God’s holy-love has provided in our place a Substitute, Jesus Christ, who lived in our stead the holy life we cannot live and then took upon himself the just judgment we deserved for us not being able to comply with God’s holy demands. In Christ our God has provided for us the means of forgiveness of our sins and restored fellowship and communion with Him. It is in the OT we first learn of this amazing provision. Without the OT the NT work of Christ could not be fully understood. The OT teaches us the nature of God and the necessity of the atonement of Christ.

In summary, those who say the OT is unimportant are shortsighted and fail to grasp the full intent of the wondrous of work of God in Christ. Doing away with the OT would be like beginning a story at the middle of a book, much is missed by skipping the first half. Let us always remember, all that came before Christ (the OT) was fulfilled by Him, and all that comes after Him is determined by Him! Those who do not let their footsteps venture over the pages of the OT are missing much that God has to say and will never fully grasp the richness of the character of God the Father and the fullness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, get to reading the Old Testament!

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

ATHEISM AND THE PROBLEM OF FAIRNESS

I have always been intrigued by the atheistic German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) and what made him tick. Nietzsche popularized the phrase “God is dead.” While possessing a brilliant mind, his philosophical writings reveal a man whose hand penned such venomous thoughts it leaves a rational person scratching their head how one can be filled with such rage and contempt against Christianity and the existence of God. Sadly, his rantings found him spending his last years alone and in a state of insanity.

Nietzsche believed that objective morality did not exist, stating that “good and evil were only images” and all  “moral systems are immoral.” Yet I recently read a quote of his in which he appealed to an objective standard of fairness. In an essay he wrote in 1874 entitled On the Use and Abuse of History he wrote, “Very few serve the truth, for only a few possess the pure will to be just/fair, a very few of whom possess the power to be able to be just.”

What struck me as odd in the quote above, is Nietzsche’s use of the words “truth, fair, just.” My question is, if truth is relative, which atheism contends; if there is no objective standard of right and wrong; if there is no Moral Law Giver; then how can one appeal to a standard of fairness or just(ice)? On what basis does one appeal to fairness? If there is no objective standard of right and wrong, fairness, or what is just, where is anyone’s value judgment regarding what is fair and just any better than another? If that is the case, then who determines what is fair and just? Where did the idea of fairness come from? Who determines what is fair and just? How is it that man instinctively knows when something is unfair and unjust? How did Nietzsche and those who follow in his steps know when they are confronted with fairness or unfairness? How can one appeal to any sort of standard of what is fair and just if an objective standard doesn’t exist?

It seems logical that Nietzsche’s very appeal to what is “fair” and “just” points to the fact that there is a universal, objective standard of fairness and justice that exists beyond ourselves. Those who embrace the thought of Nietzsche that “God is dead” and that truth is relative and there is no objective moral standard, then why appeal for man to act in a way that is fair and just? After all, if truth is relative then whose standard of fairness and justice is one going to appeal? And then if what is fair and just is subjective, then what is fair and just today may not be tomorrow. One may contend there is no Universal Law Giver regarding what is fair and just, but as soon as a person begins to argue and judge their value system as being better than another, one is giving nod to the fact that an objective standard of what is fair and just does exist!

Yes, the very appeal to what is fair and just reveals there is an objective standard of what is fair and just; it reveals there is a standard  beyond ourselves and our rational minds. If there is a Universal Law of what is just and fair then Nietzsche’s contention that “God is dead” becomes a mute argument. For the question arises, where did the objective standard of what is fair and just come from? For this writer the answer is self-explanatory….the existence of God becomes the best possible answer for the existence of such a standard.

In his book, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis, a former atheist, argued that the concept of fairness is so universal to human societies that it is evidence of the existence a Divine Law Giver. Lewis once argued that there was no God because “the universe seemed so cruel and unjust.” However, in reflection he continues, “But how had I gotten this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” He concluded, “Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist — in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless — I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality — namely my idea of justice — was full of sense. Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (Harper Collins, 1952), 38-39).

The Source of our sense of fairness and justice has to lie outside ourselves. There is a moral sense built into our nature whereby we judge the rightness or wrongness of our actions. The innate moral sense exists within us in one of two ways: either because God put it there or it is “nothing but a private idea of my own” (Lewis). Lewis poses the question, “How did I get this idea of just and unjust?” Our sense of fairness and justice comes from a transcendent God who is the Ground of all Being of all that is fair and just.

So, anytime an atheist appeals to “truth, fairness or justice” they are using language that violates their own “creed” and are appealing to an objective standard beyond themselves. Their very appeal is evidence of an Intelligent Law Giver, fairness and justice being characteristics of His holy nature.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

EVERY DAY IS A GIFT!

Let me state at the outset: Every Day is a Gift!

The week of June 10-13 is forever etched in my mind. Until six years ago those dates were just early days in the first half of the month of June. It all began with an annual physical in March 2013 when some disturbing “numbers” cropped up. Back and forth visits to the Doctor, eventually led to me having, on June 10, 2013, a biopsy to determine if I had prostate cancer. Four days of anxious waiting followed as I waited for the results. Then on June 13, 2013, the phone rang delivering the “word” for which I had been waiting. It’s a phone call I will never forget. It was 6 p.m. My wife and I had just sat down to eat supper. I had only taken a few bites. WXII news was coming on the TV…and then the phone rang. The news of the world had to be put on hold as I awaited news regarding myself. The phone rang one more time before I could answer it, but I instinctively knew who was calling.

Answering the phone, I nervously said, “Hello.” The doctor didn’t mince words, he got right to the point. “Rev. Merritt,” he said, “I wish I had better news for you, but of the twelve samples we took nine came back cancer.” My heart sank as I listened in disbelief. I hoped I had heard him wrong. I thought to myself, “Surely he has gotten my samples mixed up with someone else.” But I had heard right. Yet, even in bad news there was some good news, as the doctor added, “We have caught this very early, your prognosis is better than 90% recovery rate. We will sit down and look at what are your best options for treatment.”

I honestly cannot remember much of what else was said because I was numb from what I had been told. I wasn’t the first person to receive such dreaded news and I certainly won’t be the last, but when it is you receiving the news that puts a different perspective on the situation. As I slowly hung-up the phone I tried to explain to my wife, as best as I could remember, what the Doctor had said. We both sat in stunned silence. I tried to finish my supper but my appetite had vanished like a leaf in a wind storm. The thoughts in my mind were twirling faster than a mid-west tornado. Over the years my phone has rung thousands of times, yet that phone call turned my world upside down and put me on a path of uncertainty.

For the next eight weeks my time was spent reading everything I could read on prostate cancer, talking to men who had traveled this same road, visiting several doctors discussing my best options, and finding shelter under the Wings of Christ and in the Words of Christ. I would be less than honest if I didn’t confess that there were many anxious and fearful days. There were times I felt like a trembling cat treed by a big-bad, barking dog. There were times I got by myself and wept. Our God wept through human eyes (John 11:35) so tears are a language He understands. Through it all the Lord was/is faithful (I Thes. 5:24; 2 Thes. 3:3) and His sustaining strength and grace was/is ever present. Though I had always known it, I now KNEW IT…Life is a Precious Gift!

After much prayer and consulting wise doctors, which I was so blessed to have, it was decided my best option was to take 43 radiation treatments. They began on Sept 10, 2013, and ended on November 7. There were times I thought they would never end, but “this too shall pass.” And it did. For the first five years afterwards I had follow-up check-ups every six months, with each check-up proving continued success of the treatments. Doing remarkably well, this past year my check-up was changed to once a year. I realize I will have to have check-ups the rest of my life. But that is ok. Each doctor appointment is a reminder that every day is a precious gift from the Lord.

It has been six years now since I got that shocking phone call and I am here to tell you, the LORD IS FAITHFUL. He was with me every uncertain step I took. His promise that He will never leave us or forsake us is true. That He is a Shelter in times of storms is true. That He is our Certainty in uncertain times is true. That He is an Anchor when the ship of life is being tossed to and fro  is true. That He is a Rock that never trembles when we are trembling is true. That He who is the Prince of Peace is able to speak peace to the troubled waters of our souls is true. That He is our Foundation when we feel like we are sinking in quicksand is true. That He is our Strength when we are weak is true. That He is our Burden-Bearer when the load is too heavy to carry is true. That He is our Wisdom when our minds are perplexed is true. That He is our Great Physician when sickness invades our lives is true. That He is our Rest when our soul is restless is true. That He is our Courage when we are cowards is true. That He is our Light in our darkest hour is true. That He is our Way when we can’t see the way is true. That He is the All-Sufficient One when our sufficiency is lacking is true. That He is the Great I Am who is in the present tense of our every circumstance is true. Yes, the Lord is faithful.

And again, I am here to tell you every day is a precious gift from the hand of the Lord.

We never know when that life-altering phone call or knock at the door will come. But I can assure you when you answer the phone, He already knows the contents of the message you are about to hear. I can assure you when you answer that knock at the door, He already knows who stands on the other side and why they are there. We can always be assured He is there no matter what we are confronted with or what we go through. He is there and that makes all the difference in the world, in eternity…and in our lives.

The Lord He is faithful…and every day is a precious gift.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

PERILOUS TIMES ARE HERE

Paul, before he departed this world for his heavenly reward, wrote his swan song letter to Timothy, his son in the faith. Timothy was residing in Ephesus, serving as spiritual advisor to those who comprised the church in a city where unrestrained living abounded. Pagan religions flourished, whose major characteristic was gross immorality, which had become an accepted part of the culture. Paul had organized a church in Ephesus, and Timothy was seeking to bring stability to a church which was being greatly influenced by the culture. The young evangelist was encouraging the church to influence the culture, and not the culture influencing the church. Paul’s letter to Timothy was one filled with encouragement to remain faithful and be courageous in spite of a corrupt culture.

In Paul’s words to Timothy, he warns of a time in the future when times will become so perverted and violent it would make the conditions of Ephesus seem like a Sunday School picnic. Paul writes, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Tim. 3:1). Anyone who has not been living in a cave or on a deserted island, knows we are living in extremely dangerous, violent and vicious days. The last couple of decades, times have rapidly grown worse and worse. Evil is rampant. No longer are children safe in school. No longer can one feel safe attending a House of Worship. No longer is a child even safe in their mother’s womb, as abortion on demand is applauded and encouraged. No longer is morally depraved behavior frowned upon, but is embraced as normal. Mass shootings have now become common place, the sanctity of life has been tossed overboard, perverted moral behavior has become accepted as normal. We have become a society devoid of a moral compass and seek to rid society of any reliance upon the God of the Bible.

The conditions of the day have developed quickly over the last two decades, but Paul predicted, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that such times would come in the last days. Let us dissect Paul’s words to get the full impact of the warning issued when he stated, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Tim. 3:1).

Paul says, “This know.” The Greek word “know” (ginosko) is in a tense which means that what Paul is writing is something so important that it must be heeded, it must be acknowledged, it must be recognized as something of such vital importance it cannot and must not be ignored. It is critical one listens.

What does Paul want us to know? “that in the last days perilous time shall come.” The word translated “perilous” (chalepos) is only found two times in New Testament. The word was used to speak of words that were harsh, ruthless, and wounding; words that were hard to bear. The word was also used in reference to animals that were fierce, vicious, savage and extremely dangerous. As well, the word was used to speak of an environment beset with high risk or danger. So, Paul is clearly warning that in the last days, before the Lord returns, harsh, vicious, savage, dangerous, ruthless, hard to bear times will be prevalent.

The only other time in the New Testament the word translated “perilous” (chalepos) in 2 Timothy 3:1, is found in Matthew 8:28. The verse reads, “And when [Jesus] was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.” The phrase “exceeding fierce” is a translation of the same Greek word translated “perilous” in 2 Timothy 3:1. The word chalepos is used to picture the behavior of two demon-possessed men, whose actions were fierce, unruly, dangerous, vicious, and made the environment they inhabited beset with extreme danger and high risk. If one reads the whole story in Matthew, those who lived in the area of the two demon-possessed men kept their distance from them because it was too dangerous and too risky to be around them.

It seems clear that Paul was warning us that the time would come when the world would be such a dangerous place to live that each day would carry with it its own risk of survival. One is living in a state of denial if one doesn’t recognize we live in such a world today. Society has spun out of control to such an extent that the harsh reality is that we are living in times that are exceedingly fierce, dangerous, and high risk. It is as if the floodgate of evil has been opened. Yet in spite of the rampant evil of today, sadly, sin creates a deceptive blindness to its destructiveness.

It is no coincidence the Holy Spirit inspired the use of word translated “perilous” in 2 Timothy 3:1 that was used in Matthew 8:28 in connection with demon-possession. This writer believes we are living in times when demonic influenced behavior is being manifested throughout our society. What we are witnessing in our society today goes beyond ordinary “meanness” or moral laxness, but what we are witnessing today is evil and moral depravity that is demonically influenced. We are witnessing before our eyes demonic activity being released that is cruel, vicious, fierce, hard to bear,  dangerous, and destructive. And the Bible warns such evil will only grow worse and worse (2 Tim. 3:13).

Why, though, should we be surprised! When society seeks to defiantly establish a secular and godless society devoid of recognition of a Supreme Law Giver, the downward spiral is set in motion. There can be no moral society without recognition of a Moral Creator; to do otherwise is to sink further and further into moral depravity and the spread of unrestrained chaos. The conditions we are witnessing today, society has invited upon itself. Our ousting of the God of the Bible has been replaced with demonic activity that can only be halted by repentance and a return to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As Christians how are we to respond to the perilous times in which we live? We are not to retreat in fear, but each day we must walk in the assurance that Jesus Christ is Lord. We must rely daily upon His power, knowing that He who lives in us is greater than the power of the devil (I John 4:4). We must seek to be a witness to those in the grip of sin of the redemptive power found in Christ, who alone can deliver one from the sinfulness that pervades the culture. Although the culture around us is sinking deeper into darkness, let us embrace the opportunity to shine the Light of Christ’s redemptive grace, which is able to recuse and deliver those sinking beneath a tidal wave of evil and fear.

In the midst of “perilous” times, hope is found in the Christ of the Cross who, not only predicted such times would take place, but promised when such times come to keep an eye on the Eastern sky….for His Second Coming is drawing near.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan