Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
12/30/2005 - James WhiteThis article by David Kupelian (hat tip: Nina) touches on some very important issues regarding the shameless propoganda coming out of Hollywood in the form of Brokeback Mountain. It is well worth the read. Add to this well written and insightful article the fact that most "evangelicals" could not explain the why of the Bible's prohibition of homosexuality (let alone the outrageous concept of "gay marriage" which is in and of itself as coherent a term as "dark light") and you can see we have a lot of hard work to do in the future. The day is coming when even this brief note I am posting right now will be considered "hate speech" and will be censured. Mark it down, it will happen---unless God grants repentance, or brings such utter judgment there is not enough left of the culture to worry about such arcane things as "free speech" to begin with.
Today on the Dividing Line
12/29/2005 - James WhiteContinued both the Ehrman and Deedat responses and took a phone call on whether we should write letters to the editor in response to false teachings appearing in publications. Here's the program.
Today on the Dividing Line
12/28/2005 - James WhiteHad great pre-show music from Mylo Hatzenbuhler (really, I'm serious!) at www.farmboymusic.com (Mylo's less flamboyant personality is a regular in our chat channel). Then we continued listening to Ehrman's NPR interview, covering 1 Cor. 14:34 and the variant there, and then we began listening to a debate from years ago by Muslim apologist Ahmed Deedat. Here's the program.
The DaVinci Code XVI
12/28/2005 - James WhiteIt has taken quite some time to get to the center of Brown's theory (a theory, of course, propounded by others long before he came along), but finally we have arrived. On page 249 we read,
"Behold," Teabing proclaimed, "the greatest cover-up in human history. Not only was Jesus Christ married, but He was a father. My dear, Mary Magdalene was the Holy Vessel. She was the chalice that bore the royal bloodline of Jesus Christ. She was the womb that bore the lineage, and the vine from which the sacred fruit sprang forth!"Of course, this kind of assertion hangs in mid-air, for we have seen that everything that came before this is refuted by history and logic, so we are dealing here with pure fantasy, no matter how matter-of-factly or passionately it may be expressed. No cover-up exists, and Brown has only fabricated the illusion he now propounds. He continues a few pages later,
The royal bloodline of Jesus Christ has been chronicled in exhaustive detail by scores of historians. (253)This assertion is followed by a listing of books proclaiming similar theories, but again, while Brown makes the assertion that "historians" have "chronicled" these things, the fact is these are not books by serious historians at all. Once again, this "fiction based on fact" theme recurs in Brown's work. When he mentions Michael Baigent's Holy Blood, Holy Grail,, he then introduces this dialogue:
"What was the Church's reaction to the book?"...
"Outrage, of course. But that was to be expected. After all, this was a secret the Vatican had tried to bury in the fourth century. That's part of what the Crusades were about. Gathering and destroying information. The threat Mary Magdalene posed to the men of the early Church was potentially ruinous. Not only was she the woman to whom Jesus had assigned the task of founding the Church, but she also had physical proof that the Church's newly proclaimed deity had spawned a mortal bloodline. The Church, in order to defend itself against the Magdalene's power, perpetuated her image as a whore and buried evidence of Christ's marriage to her, thereby defusing any potential claims that Christ had a surviving bloodline and was a mortal prophet." Sophie glanced at Langdon, who nodded. "Sophie, the historical evidence supporting this is substantial." (254)
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Moving the DL to Wednesday
12/27/2005 - James WhiteThis morning's regular edition of The Dividing Line should, Lord willing, make its appearance tomorrow, same time. It is physically impossible for only one person to do the program and run the electronics that are located in a different location, so, we will do our best to continue with our Ehrman response, possibly throw in some Ahmed Deedat material, etc., tomorrow.
Scripture Memorization for 12/26-1/1
12/26/2005 - James WhiteSorry for missing getting this up on Monday. We have been fighting the weakness of the flesh in my home for the past few days, and we still are, I'm afraid. So I'm a little slow getting back up to speed.
I will have to be brief and, well, obvious, this week. What I mean by that is there is a text that I have spoken on so many times, have written about so many times, that obviously I have it memorized, and I firmly believe that any person today who wishes to respond to the challenges of the Christian faith must not only have this text memorized, but must understand what it says, why it says it, and how it is relevant today. If you listen to the DL, you've heard me say it repeatedly: no matter how widely divergent the apologetic challenge in its external manifestations, in almost every single instance it all comes down to the question, "Has God spoken clearly in the Scriptures or not?" And so in many of my books I have addressed, and offered exegesis of, the following text, here taken from the NIV:
2 Tim. 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
I chose the NIV because it accurately handles the meaning of the Greek term qeo,pneustoj (theopneustos) by rendering it "God-breathed" rather than "inspired," and it likewise is better than the NASB in rendering the final "thoroughly equipped for every good work." I have written much on this text. You will find discussions of it in Letters to a Mormon Elder, The King James Only Controversy, The Roman Catholic Controversy, and, of course, Scripture Alone. And years ago Larry Vondra took the time to transcribe the entire section from Warfield on the meaning of qeo,pneustoj, which is available here. I can truly say that the truth enunciated in this text is what separates solid, consistent, biblical Christianity from everything and anything else. Once you part company from the Apostles here, you will never cross their path again.
Christmas Thoughts on Matthew 1:21-23 (Part 2)
12/23/2005 - James White
Matthew 1:22-23 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US."Modern men, chained so tightly to this earth, to this material realm, with their implicit faith in scientism and naturalistic materialism, look upon these words with arrogant disdain. They do not see here fulfillment of ancient prophecy. No, they see here a later Christian community (not Matthew, but writing in his name) ransacking the ancient Jewish Scriptures, twisting anything to their service. Thus, the prophecy given to Ahaz seven hundred years before Christ was only relevant in that day, surely not to any future fulfillment. Modern "Christian" scholars join their ancient Jewish counterparts in rejecting the supernatural nature of Jewish prophecy and its fulfillment in Christ (despite the fact that all of those living in the days of Christ viewed the Scriptures as containing true future-looking prophecy).
Naturalistic materialists (and we are all trained to think in that realm by secular education and by the culture around us) will always look askance at any claim to supernaturalism in our world, even to the point of questioning the basic honesty and integrity of the New Testament writers. But Matthew, following in the line of disciples seen in the Emmaus road incident, is convinced God has in fact given prophetic announcement of what was being fulfilled in the life and ministry of Christ. In relating the experience of Joseph, combined with the virgin birth, and the extraordinary lengths to which God went to bring about this special birth, Matthew sees in the light of fulfillment the words given to Ahaz long ago, words which, in Isaiah's prophecy, made up one third of a three-part trilogy of prophecy (Isaiah 7:14, 9:5-6, 11:1-11). Immanuel takes on its final and fullest meaning, for surely, the term could not have been exhausted in the fulfillment in the days of Ahaz (let alone such phrases as "Mighty God" or "Prince of Peace"). Instead, "God with us" is not merely the promise that God is on the side of oppressed Israel, but that God has entered into His own creation; He is with us as only the Incarnate One can be. In Jesus, God is with us, fully, finally, truthfully, historically, salvifically, powerfully, intimately, personally.
Christmas Thoughts on Matthew 1:21-23 (Part 1)
12/23/2005 - James WhiteTurning my thoughts toward this coming Lord's Day (I will be preaching at PRBC in the morning), the Christmas observance, and our memorization passage, I wanted to note some of the key truths found in the passage, again as a way of helping to "fix" the text in our minds.
And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.Joseph honored God's laws regarding marriage, and hence, upon the discovery of her being with child, could not go forward, he thought, with the marriage, but at the same time, did not desire to disgrace her, so he planned to send her away secretly. We get a picture of how God-honoring and righteous a man God chose to function, in the earthly sense, as the mentor and father of the Messiah. He did not act rashly, but as the next verse says:
But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.He took time to think, to consider. He did not act in the kind of emotional haste that marks modern men. It was at that time that an angel of the Lord came to him and informed him that the Child "who has been conceived in her" did not come from natural intercourse, but was the product of divine action, divine creation. Surely as Joseph received these words he could not help but immediately think of the prophecies of the Coming One, the Messiah. So when he received these words, he could not help but realize that what Mary had said was true:
"She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."The term in Greek translated "you shall call" is kale,seij, second person. Joseph knew what that meant. The father named the child, and Joseph was going to have to be a father to a divinely conceived child. The only way he could do that would be to take Mary as his wife. And, of course, that meant he was to function as the father of the promised Messiah. What an incredible duty! One is reminded of the wonderful song by Michael Card, Joseph's Song and the chorus,
Father show me how I fit into this plan of Yours.
How can a man be father to the Son of God?
Lord for all my life I've been a simply carpenter.
How can I raise a king? How can I raise a king?
His name will be Jesus, Yeshua, Jehovah is salvation, for the simple reason that He will do something. Not that He will make something do-able. Not that He will make a plan available. No, He is called Jesus because He actually will accomplish something, and that, specifically, saving His people from their sins. Two things:
First, we need to be saved from our sins. Sinners are not just "ill" so that they should be looked upon with pity. No, sinners need to be saved. Sinners love their sin. They revel in it. Look around you. Look at the TV. The billboards along the road. Listen to the radio, read a magazine. See? Sinners love sin. Sinners praise sin. Sinners encourage others to sin. That's the nature of sin, that's the nature of sinners. We need to be saved from our sins, because we most certainly cannot save ourselves. We cannot because we do not want to be saved from what we love. That is what makes the Arminian gospel so silly upon reflection: making a plan available without providing for the radical change of the corrupted heart is as brilliant as making it possible for Yankees t-shirts to be sold outside Fenway Park---wrong product, wrong place.
Secondly, He will save a particular people. He will not save every single person on the planet. Yes, He could have, had that been the choice of the Triune God. But universal salvation would have left God with no choices, no demonstration of the breadth of His attributes. His grace would have been a given, hence, not free, not sovereign. Instead, He saves His people from their sins. He is Savior. A given, you may think? Not in today's theological landscape. Few truly believe it anymore, to be honest. [continued shortly]
Big Announcements Made: Now to Work!
12/22/2005 - James WhiteWe made both our big announcements today, filling folks in on the upcoming debate with Shabir Ally in May at Biola (date and specific thesis under discussion at the moment) and then spending a good bit of time laying out the November conference, cruise, and debate (see the information in the right hand column). Then we finally got around to ending the suspense and announcing that I will be debating the issue of homosexuality with the retired bishop of Newark in the Episcopalian Church, John Shelby Spong. This should be a very interesting debate, for the obvious reason that we have both written books on the subject, and this time, I expect my opponent will take the time to read what I've written (unlike Barry Lynn), and I can assure you, I've already obtained his materials on the subject. So the cross-examination should be in-depth and to the point.
After making the announcement I moved on to deal some more with Bart Ehrman's NPR program. Here's today's DL.
Even More Big News on the DL Today!
12/22/2005 - James WhiteI'm sorry I haven't gotten to commenting on our memory verses...it's a busy week for most of us, of course, and even more so for me. In any case, I just got more big news to announce on the DL tonight! 2006 is going to be simply incredible for Alpha and Omega Ministries. While I'm truly excited, I also realize that for Rich and I, this will undoubtedly be the busiest year of our lives. Pray for our health and our sanctification and our focus and our families! Don't forget to be listening tonight, 6pm EST, 5pm CST, 4pm MST, and 3pm PST (see, I don't want any excuses this time!) for the big announcements!
Today on the DL
12/20/2005 - James WhiteDidn't make the announcement, and sort of explained why; commented on the beginning of gay marriage in the UK and the striking down of the teaching of Intelligent Design in the US (complex design is random---didn't you know that? It's a dogma of all fundamentalist secularists, who happen to be in charge in the judiciary and the educational system, which is their own place of worship); took phone calls on the atonement and Reformed apologetics; then finished with more of the Bart Ehrman NPR interview. Here's the program.
Major Announcement on the Dividing Line--Delayed Till Thursday
12/19/2005 - James WhiteNo, the big news hasn't changed---but due to various circumstances, including a medical one, a little extra time is needed to make sure all our ducks are in a row, so to speak, so I am reluctantly moving the announcement to the DL Thursday evening. My apologies but I assure you, it's worth the wait! We don't want to announce something and not have everything ready to go for those of you who will immediately want all the information you need to make your plans, because I know one thing: many of you will not want to be anywhere else November 3rd but in Orlando, Florida. So, just as you need to wait till Saturday night or Sunday morning for some good surprises, for this, you only need to wait till Thursday!
Monk Seeks Recording of JPII's Heartbeat
12/19/2005 - James WhiteOK, this is just plain creepy, but then again, the listing of what Frederick had at the castle church at Wittenberg is just as creepy, just not high-tech. There is something so very non-Christian about this kind of thing you wonder how anyone with a scintilla of respect for biblical teaching could possibly find it attractive.
Scripture Memorization for 12/19-26/2005
12/19/2005 - James WhiteThis week we celebrate, in a more focused way, the incredible claim (and it is incredible when you think about it! Christianity is radical!) that the Second Person of the Trinity, the eternal Son, entered into human existence, born of a virgin, born under the law, to redeem those under the curse of the law. I know I am utterly amazed at the thought, and pray God will never let me lose that awe and wonder! The problem is, of course, that there are so many excellent texts to commit to memory this time of year, and I got a bit of a late start. I will be preaching out of Isaiah 9 at PRBC Christmas morning, but I'll save that for next year...or some year down the road. Instead, I think this is a vital and wonderful passage that will allow me all sorts of thoughts during the week (if I have time to post them!):
Matthew 1:21-23 21 "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US."
This is from the angel's announcement to Joseph, of course, that he should not fear to take Mary as his wife. And there are three major themes one can develop here: 1) Jesus saves His people from their sins: He does not make them savable. 2) Prophecy is real and it is important. 3) Immanuel, God with us, has a greater fulfillment and meaning than most would like to allow for the text in Isaiah. Let's unpack some of these as we move toward next Sunday!
On Doing Odd Things on Your Birthday
12/17/2005 - James WhiteTurning forty three is pretty irrelevant, you know? I mean, forty was big...I guess. Fifty will be big. But for now, you are just...middle aged. Back when I was riding in the 90s I would go for big rides, weather permitting, on my birthday, just to sort of spit in age's face. So since I'm back on the bike, I decided a few days ago that I would set a pretty tough goal for myself---esp. since most of my family was going to be gone anyway, so I pretty well had the day to myself. So I decided I would ascend/descend South Mountain three times in one day. I estimated that would be right at 43 miles (appropriate, given my age) and around 4100 feet of climbing. Well, I made the mistake of telling others about it, so I really had no choice but to go for it! In fact, two of the dear believers at PRBC, shown here, not only baked a cake for my birthday with a picture of me "going over the hill" on South Mountain 3x, but then, precious folks that they are, they showed up on their tandem to ride with me! That made the very difficult task so much more enjoyable (no less exhausting, but so much more enjoyable). It felt to us like it got colder as the day went on. I know, I know, we live in Phoenix, so how can it be cold? Well, it's cold when you spent the summer getting up at 4:20am just to get an hour's ride in before it hit 95, and more than that, those who are cyclists know what I mean when I refer to the climb/descend dilemma: you work hard up the hill, get all warmed up and sweaty, and then you head down and simply freeze to death. In any case, here I am at the third ascent--looks a bit goofy since I was trying to make an exhausted face, but forgot I had my sunglasses on. Oh well, you can tell how dark it is. Some of the cars coming up the hill on that last descent already had their headlights on, but it was only about 4pm. In any case, my estimations were fairly close: 43 miles, but I missed the ascent figures. Came out to exactly 4,400 feet of climbing! Something tells me I will be a tad bit on the sore and tired side tomorrow.
Yesterday on the DL
12/16/2005 - James WhiteSpent the entire program Thursday responding to one of Bart Ehrman's recent interviews on National Public Radio. Ehrman's most recent book, Misquoting Jesus, is making the rounds amongst the enemies of the faith, and in this particular interview, he speaks much of his past as an evangelical, giving us some insights into how one goes from MBI graduate/strong evangelical to "happy agnostic" and leading critic of biblical inspiration and authority. Here's the program.
The Da Vinci Code XV
12/16/2005 - James WhiteAs Brown develops his fanciful theory that Jesus was married (calling it a historical fact---but we have already learned that Brown calls "fact" what history calls "fiction" with shocking regularity) he throws out what is actually a plausible argument: singleness for Jewish males would be unusual at best, and, if Jesus had been single, "at least one of the Bible's gospels would have mentioned it and offered some explanation for His unnatural state of bachelorhood" (245). Of course, one immediately has to chuckle just a little bit: the only thing that makes this statement plausible is that the biblical gospels reflect something akin to the original context of Jesus' life and times---but isn't that the very thing Brown has claimed the Gospels do not do? I mean, the canonical gospels are nothing but made up stories from the fourth century, specifically crafted by Constantine for political purposes, right? A thousand other gospels gathered up and burned, right? So why, oh why, would Constantine forget a little detail like this? If the whole idea is that Jesus was married, but Constantine and now the evil Roman Church wants to bury that fact and make up a fake divine Jesus, why not provide this simple cover story in one of these made-up gospels being foisted upon the people? Brown's entire theory here crashes on the rocks of self-consistency. ...
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Jesus Christ: Full Deity in Humanity
12/15/2005 - James WhiteThis week we are memorizing the Greek term qeo,thtoj (theotetos, pronounced thay-AH-tay-toss), translated in the NASB as "Deity." I noted last time that the King James Version renders it "godhead," which is not only ambiguous, but since the KJV elsewhere renders other less strong terms by the same word (e.g., Romans 1:20), can be quite confusing. The Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker lexicon renders the word "the state of being god, divine character/nature, deity, divinity, used as abstract noun for qeo,j Louw and Nida have, "the nature or state of being God - 'deity, divine nature, divine being.' Thayer's lexicon says, "deity, i.e. the state of being God, Godhead: Col. ii. 9." Thayer is here giving us the words of Grimm. However, he then goes on to provide some important information on his own:
[SYN. qeo,thj, qeio,thj: qeo,thj deity differs from qeio,thj divinity, as essence differs from quality or attribute]
What does this mean? Basically, this lexical source is indicating that the word we have at Colossians 2:9 is different from the weaker term used at Romans 1:20. The term Paul uses here of Christ refers to the very essence of deity, rather than a mere quality or attribute. Thayer notes as one of his sources the work of Richard Trench on synonyms in the New Testament. Though an older source, it is still useful in many ways. Trench said of these two terms: ...
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OK, This is Hilarious
12/13/2005 - James WhiteJohn Samson snuck this into my e-mail box.
Contextual Considerations, Colossians 2:8-9
12/13/2005 - James WhiteFinally home and have a few moments to do what I had hoped to do numerous times over the weekend...
The artificial chapter division between chapters 1 and 2 is actually fairly well placed. Paul is concerned about the infant churches, and expresses that concern in 2:1-2. He has a "struggle" on their behalf (avgw/na, agwna), and for all those who had embraced the faith "second generation," i.e., as a result of hearing the message from his own children in the faith. What is his concern? He desires that their hearts be encouraged and knit together in love. Note the corporate nature of this desire: not simply that each individual be a super-Christian, but that they be knit together as a body, in love, at the most fundamental level. But, as it is in all of divine writ, the balance is perfect: knit together in love, attaining all the riches of full assurance of understanding, and the true knowledge of God's mystery: Christ Himself. True love is concerned about truth; truth without love isn't Christian. Paul desires these churches to have the only possible foundation that can last: one that has a Spirit-borne balance of love and truth.
The Christ he wishes them to have a true knowledge of is the one "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (v. 3). What an incredible statement! How odd these words are to most today! A Galilean peasant, the very definition of wisdom and knowledge, a treasure-trove of all that is true and wise? How absurd! And absurd it would be...if what he says in 2:9 were not absolutely true. But it is the centrality of Christ as Creator (a truth laid out in 1:16-18) that lays the foundation not only for this statement, but for what is to come. Since it is in Christ that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden, then only when we have a true knowledge of Him can we have real, lasting, godly wisdom and knowledge.
And it is this true knowledge of the centrality of Christ that provides the basis for defense against delusion and error (v. 4). Men can produce "plausible arguments," (evn piqanologi,a|), and if one does not have this foundation, one that is two-fold: in the heart (relational) and the mind (true knowledge), one can be washed away. Of course, here is another reason why I am Reformed (I guess I take a deeper view of the term than some): unless you believe salvation is the work of God, involving the unstoppable work of the Spirit of God in creating a "new man" and a "new heart," these words really make little sense. When the Spirit brings about regeneration, the resultant faith I have is of the kind Paul describes: my heart is knit together in love with my fellow believers (see the witness of faith this past weekend with my fellow believers in Tampa...or with my dear friend Roger in London...or my dear fellow pastors in Brazil, etc.) and I have a true knowledge of Christ as the Son of God, my Creator, so that the persuasive arguments of men find no foothold, not because my mind has shut down, but because of just the opposite! I see the world (and its arguments) in light of its true center, Jesus Christ, its Creator, so that I can recognize the errors of those arguments in the proper light. My mind is not suppressing the knowledge of God, but instead I think in the light provided by acceptance of who I am and of who He is. I am reminded at this point of one of my favorite quotes from John Flavel, "I know there is nothing in the Word or in the works of God that is repugnant to sound reason, but there are some things which are opposite to carnal reason, as well as above right reason; and therefore our reason never shows itself more unreasonable than in summoning those things to its bar which transcend its sphere and capacity." ...
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On The Dividing Line Today, December 13th
12/13/2005 - James WhiteHi-energy program today, I guess because I'm excited to be home for the next two months. Had a great time the past two weekends in St. Louis and Tampa, and wouldn't trade that for anything, but I'm a home-body, and to be able to settle into a routine for eight full weeks is glorious! Think of all the miles I'll get in (on my bike instead of a pressurized metal cylinder)! All the blog articles I can write! I even get to get a book outlined, an article for the CRI Journal written...ah, it's wonderful!
Today I yammered away a good bit about a number of things, but mainly covered what happened this weekend, then gave a brief response to Nadir Ahmed and his demand to have "equal time" or he will not call in, and then we took two great calls, one on presuppositional apologetics, one on Calvin and Luther (though I only had a few moments to address the second one). Here's the program.
Some Thoughts on Our Memorization Passage for 12/5-11/2005
12/10/2005 - James WhiteAs we seek to honor God by committing passages of His Word to memory I feel it is very, very important to understand the contexts and purposes of the passages we are memorizing. Rote memorization without a knowledge of the context can often lead to a misuse of those texts, and in my personal experience, I have seen many objections to God's truth answered merely by the way I presented a text (with the context so that the application was clear). This has especially been the case in ministering to LDS up in Utah or out at the LDS Easter Pageant, where so often a foreign context is assumed by the Mormons with whom I would be speaking.
Knowing the context not only helps in the memorization of a text, but it also helps us to avoid the tendency to see these texts as disconnected, disjointed "sayings." When we see the flow of a passage, follow the author's intention and hear his "voice," we can take a portion of that argument (the text we are memorizing) and use it to communicate his truth, but we do so in a way that honors the original intentions of the writer. One of the draw-backs of the addition of verse and chapter divisions long after the original writing is it tends, in our Western minds, to disjoint the text and create sometimes arbitrary divisions where none existed originally.
Take our current text. Colossians "2" is an arbitrary chapter division--how is chapter "2" continuing the thought of chapter one? It is always good to know the focus and argument of the book you are memorizing from (itself a challenge). Paul's concerns in writing to the Colossians were....what? What was his relationship to the church itself? How does he approach his subject? These are all parts of those "background" issues that so many simply never even bother to ask, let alone master. These issues are basic to proper interpretation, yet it is just here that many in the church today skip past the "homework" it takes to master these things, evidently feeling that it just isn't properly "spiritual" to do that kind of study. ...
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Some Quick Notes from Tampa
12/09/2005 - James WhiteGreetings from Tampa. I am here to narrate a musical presentation of the story of Christ Sunday evening at the Lakeside Community Chapel. Goodness, we practice a lot! I hope I can keep everything straight!
I have heard the repeated requests from our readers/listeners. I ordered Bart Ehrman's newest and popular level book, Misquoting Jesus, and will begin reviewing it after I finish the Da Vinci Code series. I am also listening to Ehrman narrating his own---well, the only appropriate term is apostasy, quite honestly---on an NPR broadcast as I am writing this. It is interesting that the interviewer is more interested in his religious background, and his abandonment of a belief in Scripture, than it seems he is interested in discussing it. It is a sad thing to listen to. I am aware that Ehrman's materials are used by a very wide variety of folks: all enemies of the Christian faith find him a great ally. As a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and a former evangelical, Ehrman can "speak our language." So, since he makes grand, sweeping claims regarding the practice of textual criticism and its conclusions, I see that of all the books coming out that interest me---books on the Emerging Church, or Noll's book on the Reformation and Rome today---there are many others just as, or in most cases, more qualified than I am who can respond to them. However, Ehrman has chosen to attack his former faith with zeal in a field that is dear to my heart, hence, it is necessary to respond to his attacks. Further, that work would really continue the Islam series as well in response to Saifullah and Azmy (who likewise have actually started trying to respond to bits and pieces of what I have said about them). So, since I have a small amount of material left in the original Saifullah & Azmy article, I'll finish that up and then move into Ehrman. But, I am also recording his NPR interview, so you will be hearing that on the DL starting, Lord willing, next week.
The Da Vinci Code XIV
12/09/2005 - James WhiteChristianity and paganism have always been mortal enemies, mainly because paganism has no interest in truth while Christianity is, by definition, wedded to Him who was and is the very embodiment of it. The use of lies in the service of paganism is nothing new, and The Da Vinci Code is just another example of paganism using falsehoods to promote its own ends. Over the past few decades it has been proven that a revival of ancient pagan goddess worship will tap into portions of the feminist movement and will normally make the author a nice return on his or her investment. Brown has taken this to a new level of course, which is why he has been sued as often as he has for borrowing his basic ideas from others (they all want a piece of the pie).
Building upon the foundation of pure fiction already laid out as fact, Brown now begins to move into the heart of the "grail story" he wishes to promote. First must come some introduction to the "divine feminine" concept along with some blame to be put upon "the Church" regarding its suppression. Brown writes,
Woman became an offshoot of man. And a sinful one at that. Genesis was the beginning of the end for the goddess. (238)As if Genesis was made up some time later! Of course, this is yet another fallacious assertion regarding this time the teaching and intention of Scripture. Man and woman are created in the image of God. She is no more "sinful" than he is. But it is the very fact of sin and its universality (and hence the need for redemption) that has always been at issue with paganism in the first place, so it is hardly surprising to see the Scriptures being misrepresented here in this context.
Brown moves into the story of the search for the holy grail (without nearly the comedic content that certain British comedy troupes managed to attach to the topic), writing,
Knights who claimed to be “searching for the chalice” were speaking in code as a way to protect themselves from a Church that had subjugated women, banished the Goddess, burned nonbelievers, and forbidden the pagan reverence for the sacred feminine. (239)At this point Brown aims solely at Rome, and at this point Rome has little defense to offer when it comes to her history of burning heretics in the Inquisition and having a horrific record in violating biblical standards with her view of women. Any knowledgable believer, however, should be prepared to demonstrate that Rome's errors in these areas no more represent Christianity than Brown represents serious historical scholarship. Women are not "suppressed" in the Christian faith---women are honored as fellow image bearers and are viewed as equals before the cross of Christ as heirs of eternal life. What feminism does not like is the fact that the Scriptures lay out roles for men and women as ordered by creation itself: that is God's freedom in action, and since the essence of sin is to rebel against God's authority, twisting His creation and all godly relationships He has established, they call the recognition of the creative roles of men and women "suppression." It is nothing of the sort.
Some Quick Notes on Memorization Software
12/07/2005 - James WhiteI've gotten a few e-mails about memorization products. One, the Memorize! program from Laridian, I already had, but had forgotten to re-install after I upgraded from my Palm T3 to my T5. It works quite nicely and, if you have Laridian's Bible software installed, getting the verses set up is pretty easy (I personally use Olive Tree and PalmBible+, so I don't have the Laridian Bible software installed). It has a review function that has you type the first letter of each word in the verse to see if you really know it (each word then appearing when you are right). I have re-installed it now (thanks for the reminder!).
Then a fine fellow from Scotland directed me to SuperMemo 1.1.1 from MapleTop Software. I would like to comment on how it works, but they are being rather slow in getting me my registration information, so I'll have to fill you in at a later point. It certainly looks impressive, but till you get a chance to actually work with it, you can never really tell.
Some Quick Words on Memorization
12/06/2005 - James WhiteRepetition is the mother of memory, we have been rightly told, and such is the case with the memorization of Scripture. I have never bought into all the memory systems out there that use various visualizations and tricks to remember things. Maybe I should, as I am not good with names, though I'm pretty good with faces. Anyway, I memorize Scriptures the old fashioned way: write out the verse, repeat it phrase by phrase until I am able to do so entirely. Review the next day, and move to the next step, the ability to write it back out from memory. I had an old QuickVerse program years and years ago that allowed you to do the same thing on the computer. In any case, I would review the verse for a full week and, if I could successfully cite it and write it out after a week, it would go into the long term list, to be reviewed on a monthly basis.
I am certain there are a number of computer programs out there to assist with this work, and in fact, I will be looking myself for a Palm product to assist me personally. I already have some excellent programs for vocabulary review in that realm, and if anyone knows of a "MemVerse" kind of program (that was back in the 80s) that still exists (or something like it for the Palm), please drop me a line. I'd appreciate it.
I don't buy the excuse some folks offer that "I can't memorize the Bible." Almost everyone I know memorizes passwords and all sorts of numbers and addresses and the like. It is almost always a matter of having a strong enough desire and having a goal you wish to reach.
So as you work on Colossians 2:8-9, make sure once you are able to quote it correctly, work on writing it out. That is the real test of whether you have it plainly in mind. And then review it! Start a card file if you need to, use the computer, whatever will allow you to review over the course of the week and then to review it on a less frequent basis once you have it in long term memory.
Today on the DL: the Attack of the Infanto-Lutherans! And Other Odd Things
12/06/2005 - James WhiteToday I discussed the recent explosion of anti-Calvinism on the part of various Lutherans like Paul McCain and Josh S., and gave them the opportunity to defend their bravado behind a keyboard. They declined, of course. One Lutheran did call, Charlie, and we had a nice conversation. He had, prior to his call, said some very harsh things about me in IRC, but thankfully, we were able to discuss the issue calmly and in a way useful to those listening. I also narrated some interesting "background" material to some of my earlier debates with reference to Gerry Matatics, Scott Hahn, etc. Here's the program.
Pope Benedict XVI Continues Rome's Move to Full Inclusivism
12/06/2005 - James WhiteThat low rumbling sound you've been hearing in the east is the sound of Pope Piux IX spinning in his grave (which, oddly, if the listing I saw at the Vatican is accurate, is not actually at St. Peter's) as the Roman leadership has continued moving ever farther away from his Syllabus of Errors and headlong into embracing pure inclusivism. We had noted more than once John Paul II's statements in this regard. On November 30th, Benedict XVI likewise seemed to give his approval to the viewpoint. From the official Vatican webpage we read,
In elucidating the psalm, the Pope also referred to a meditation on the subject by St. Augustine in which, he said, "the great Father of the Church introduces a surprising note: he knows that even among the inhabitants of Babylon there are people committed to peace and goodness, though without sharing the biblical faith. In the end, then, God will lead those people to the heavenly Jerusalem, rewarding them for their pure consciences."I've seen some interesting expansions of these statements, and I'm hoping the full text will show up in the next edition of L'osservatore Romano, but these statements are fully in line with the interpretation I offered of the relevant sections from the CCC in the debate with Bill Rutland earlier this year. If a staunch conservative like Ratzinger holds firmly to this perspective, there seems little chance the trend in Rome will ever turn back to its former beliefs on that particular subject. Once again we see that "theology matters," since, of course, there is no one with such a pure conscience to begin with, no one who fears God and does what is right before Him "without sharing the biblical faith." A false anthropology combined with a defective view of the atonement results in a false soteriology.
12/05/2005 - James WhiteDiscipline is not the first word people think of today when they think of the Christian life. Who wants discipline? We want freedom, happiness, success...but discipline? And yet, every generation of Christians in the past has come to learn the same lesson: the path to "success" (better, fulfillment, contentment, godliness) is the path of discipline. I could offer you lots of sports analogies to illustrate the importance of self-control and discipline, but if Paul's own words don't do it, nothing will:
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)So with this in mind I would like to invite my readers to join me in the discipline of memorization, primarily of Scripture, but sometimes of terms or phrases directly relevant to theological and apologetic issues, and, once in a while, even memorization of that which claims to be Scripture but is not (i.e., memorization of key texts that would help you to open the door of witness to a Mormon, Muslim, etc.). Each week I will be posting a brief article on a passage or term and inviting you to memorize it over the course of that week. But, unlike some of the little packs of cards you can purchase at a Christian bookstore, I do not believe in simple rote memorization outside an understanding of the original context. When we use Scripture in preaching, teaching, or proclamation, we almost never do so by just repeating a passage of Scripture. We do so in a context, and hence, to truly honor the Word, and to make the memorization effective, we likewise have to know the context of the passage we are memorizing. And so I will seek to provide at least some commentary along those lines so as to place the passage in a context. This will likewise make it easier to memorize it, for if you can lead into the text, cite it, and then apply it, you obviously have a clearer, deeper grasp of it than the person who can simply repeat the words but not explain their meaning. ...
But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)
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The Secularist Jihad and Christian Warfare
12/05/2005 - James WhiteThe pressure is neither subtle nor hidden, but it is all pervasive. If you believe Jesus Christ lives, that as the second Person of the Trinity, the eternal Son, He entered into creation itself a few hundred generations ago in Israel, lived and died and rose again, and rules and reigns in your heart through His Spirit, joining you to a supernatural body of fellow believers all across the world and the ages, you had better keep your mouth shut about it in public places. That is the message of the Secularist Jihad sweeping across Western society. Hiding behind the term "tolerance" and constantly speaking about "not offending" (well, offending anyone but Christians, anyway), the forces of secularism have firmly entrenched their revolutionary leaders in the highest levels of the entertainment industiry, the entire educational system, the government, and, most importantly, the judiciary. Every form of speech is sacred to them---except Christian speech that would say Jesus Christ is Lord...the Lord, the Lord alone, the only Lord, etc. Exclusive claims are out, at least for Christians (Muslims are free, however, to not only deny Christian claims, but to make their own exclusivist claims---partly because they normally do so in Arabic so that the secularists are clueless about what they are claiming anyway).
The Internet is buzzing with the decision (noted here) in which black-robed king/priest of secularism, David Hamilton, ruled that Christians can't pray publicly in government buildings---ok, he would say that's not true, but what he said was that any person chosen to give the invocation be instructed it must not advance any one faith or be used in a bid to convert listeners, i.e., Christians can't pray, since we do not pray to some nameless, faceless deity, but to the Triune God manifested as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Of course, the most ridiculous thing is that Hamilton is allegedly interpreting the Constitution...a document written by a bunch of folks who never once walked out on a Christian prayer during their proceedings. To say they (the authors) intended their words to carry the meaning Hamilton has "found" in them is a gross absurdity, and his ruling makes a mockery of his alleged constitutional duties, but that is the nature of Western culture today. It is on "self-destruct" mode, and words no longer have meanings, history can be re-written at will---all in the service of the Secularist Jihad. ...
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Greetings from the...St. Louis Airport
12/04/2005 - James WhiteMy, they really, really need to replace the carpet here at A16. Horrible!
Had a great time with Pastor Van Lees and the fine folks at Covenant of Grace Church in St. Charles. We covered the New Perspectives on Paul, and I got to use my new Bluetooth tablet to add another dimension to my presentations. Very useful! Technology is wonderful...when it works, that is. Had a great time fellowshipping with Van and Nathan and Jim and everyone else, though my voice is at its limit after two sessions this morning, three on Saturday, and one Friday night. And I'm coughing a bit---I hope that is just from the cold and all the talking, but given what happens when you travel during this time period in an airplane, you never know.
It was nice and cold here this weekend, and I really enjoyed being out in "feels like" temperatures below 20 degrees. Sort of gave me a chance to test out some of my cold weather gear before I head to the UK in February. Leather still seems to work the best. My "Morpheus" coat performed great in the cold.
I was giving a portion of my presentation on the nature of saving faith from the debate against Bob Wilkin this morning when I ran across this quotation from Calvin and realized how directly relevant it is to Dave Hunt's outrageous misrepresentation of Calvin that he included in his most recent newsletter. Here is the citation:
For since pardon and forgiveness are offered by the preaching of the Gospel, in order that the sinner, delivered from the tyranny of Satan, the yoke of sin, and the miserable bondage of iniquity, may pass into the kingdom of God, it is certain that no man can embrace the grace of the Gospel without retaking himself from the errors of his former life into the right path, and making it his whole study to practice repentance. (Calvin, Institutes, III:3:1)
Sure doesn't sound like the representation Hunt makes of Calvin's theology. I can only assume Hunt thinks his followers would never bother to actually read Calvin...sort of like Hunt himself, who admitted he had never read the Reformers when we discussed the issue on KPXQ years ago. Within six months he was claiming to know more about Calvinism than "most Calvinists." Good ol' Dave never seems to let a little thing like the truth get in his way. Of course, since Hunt is a Wilkinite, he wouldn't believe what Calvin said there anyway, ironically.
Quick addition as I put this up now that I have arrived safely home. I was sent a link to some immature Lutheran fellow...I think I need to ask PyroManiac for a comic book cover titled, "The Attack of the Infanto-Lutherans!" Where do these people come from? Truly amazing. Well, onward and upward....
The Da Vinci Code XIII
12/03/2005 - James WhiteLike a true post-modernist, Brown then inserts a discussion about how modern Vatican is made up of "pious men who truly believe these contrary documents (i.e., Nad Hammadi, DSS, noted in the preceding section) could only be false testimony." But it is Teabing's response that reveals Brown's true feelings:
"As you can see, our professor has a far softer heart for Rome than I do. Nonetheless, he is correct about the modern clergy believing these opposing documents are false testimony. That's understandable. Constantine's Bible has been their truth for ages. Nobody is more indoctrinated than the indoctrinator."Do not miss the point: almost everything "our fathers" taught us about Christ is not "debatable" or anything else. It is false. And based upon what? The Dead Sea Scrolls (which do not contain gospels anyway), the Nag Hammadi Library gnostic gospels, and enough utter historical rubbish to dizzy the mind.
"What he means," Langdon said, "is that we worship the gods of our fathers."
"What I mean," Teabing countered, "is that almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false. As are the stories about the Holy Grail." (235)
I note in passing that I saw a blurb on the net a few days ago that puts this kind of rhetoric in perspective: between June of 2004 and June of 2005 Dan Brown made $76,500,000.00 off of this book. Seventy six and a half million dollars. Lies sell.
From this point the narrative moves away from the Bible and the history of the Christian faith for a period of discussion of Da Vinci and his paintings. After introducing the Grail concept, Brown via Langdon begins to promote his "divine feminine" theology:
The Grail is literally the ancient symbol for womanhood, and the Holy Grail represents the sacred feminine and the goddess, which of course has now been lost, virtually eliminated by the Church. The power of the female and her ability to produce life was once very sacred, but it posed a threat to the rise of the predominately male Church, and so the sacred feminine was demonized and called unclean. It was man, not God, who created the concept of 'original sin,' whereby Eve tasted of the apple and caused the downfall of the human race. Woman, once the sacred giver of life, was now the enemy. (238)Brown misrepresents even the doctrines he attacks, as here. He confuses the simple fact of the fall with the doctrine of original sin and its transmission to Adam's offspring; further, he thinks this somehow makes the woman "the enemy." Now surely, if Brown's sole target is Roman Catholicism and medieval theology, there is plenty to complain about therein, to be sure. Medieval theologians speculated, outside the realm of Scripture, on all sorts of things, and were indeed laboring under a grossly sub-biblical view of sexuality, marriage, etc. (a grossly sub-biblical view still represented today in the Roman view of a celibate priesthood). But "men" did not "make up" the doctrine of original sin, no matter how tortured Brown's understanding of it. The universal sinfulness of man is central to the entire Bible's view of sin, atonement, God's wrath, the existence of death, etc. Brown's thesis is nothing more than a complete rejection of biblical teaching in favor of simple ancient paganism, nothing more. But to attempt to resuscitate ancient goddess worship on the back of a pile of lies about Constantine and the Bible (while making seventy six million in the process) is simply reprehensible.
Dave Hunt: Credibility Crash Continues
12/02/2005 - James WhiteIt doesn't matter how often he is refuted. It doesn't matter how often he is challenged. Dave Hunt seems utterly unconcerned about such minor things as truth, accuracy, consistency, or any related issues. When it comes to his most recent crusade, Mr. Hunt's ears are closed. Evidently, he assumes he has already lost any Reformed readers or supporters he once had, so why worry about it anymore? Credibility is a commodity, and evidently he thinks that with his particular audience, the chances they will even care about his errors should they encounter the documentation of them are pretty small.
Back at the beginning of September Hunt wrote a rambling response to a "question" in his newsletter regarding Calvinism (yes, the same subject he repeatedly refuses to debate against meaningful opponents). It was quite clear he was saying that a person who had only been exposed to the "gospel of Calvinism" could not, in fact, be saved. The only saved Calvinists are those who were saved by believing in Dave's anti-Lordship gospel first, and then became Calvinists. As soon as folks began responding to this absurdity, TBC began spinning his article by saying all he was talking about was his (utterly absurd) claim that Calvin believed in a gross form of baptismal regeneration. But this was self-evidently not his point in his article.
Well, in the December, 2005 issue of The Berean Call newsletter, two portions directly relate to the issue of Calvinism. First, Hunt attempts to address the storm he created in September with another brief article, and then, a little later, Hunt attempts to make it look like he can actually deal with 2 Thessalonians 2:13 (he doesn't even start to do so, as we will see). The irony of his first response is that while he begins by making the same argument TBC presented in defense of his September comments, he simply can't hold the line for very long, and immediately gives evidence of his true convictions. After misrepresenting Calvin once again (Lord willing, we will be providing a full response to his errors on this point in the near future) Hunt says,
Am I denying that Calvin was saved? No, only God knew his heart. But if all he believed was (as he taught) that Christ died only for the elect, and that his infant baptism into the Roman Catholic Church proved that he was one of the elect, then he never got saved no matter how eloquently he wrote about Christ's sufferings on the Cross for our sins.Hunt's dogged ignorance is indeed tremendously frustrating (is there no one in his inner circle to stop him?). Anyone who has read even a small amount of Calvin knows Hunt isn't even in the ballpark, so who is he trying to convince, anyway? Only the most bigoted can find this kind of rhetoric at all compelling. But note, it is not only Calvin's views on baptism that are in view. Calvin's doctrine of atonement is in view as well, for he writes, "if all he believed was (as he taught) that Christ died only for the elect...." So, if you believe in substitutionary atonement, and that Christ's death actually saves, you are not saved? Or, since Hunt holds a grossly unbiblical view of the nature of faith (he holds the Wilkin view that precludes the existence of false faith), if you were raised at my church, like my children, and have been taught the gospel consistently, including the perfection of the work of Christ on behalf of His people, then would it follow my children cannot be saved since this is the only gospel they know? But one's view of the atonement isn't the only possible source of a false gospel according to Hunt: ...
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Paul McCain on Jesus
12/01/2005 - James WhiteJust a quick note before I head off to St. Louis. I was just referred to this on Paul McCain's blog. I'm sorry, but is the only apologetic offered by these kinds of anti-Calvinistic Lutherans "You need to say Jesus in every other sentence...preferably at the beginning of the sentence"? Rev. McCain (as he asks to be identified) is afraid to take his eyes off Jesus...so, by means of this highly spiritual sounding mantra, he 1) seems to be insisting he has the right to engage in simple dishonesty and trafficking in falsehoods without being held responsible for so doing (i.e., his misrepresentations and straw-man attacks on Reformed theology), and 2) he declines to engage the very words of Jesus Himself in John 6:35-45. How ironic to claim you just want to stay focused on Jesus, who is the truth, when you peddle falsehoods in His name; how much more ironic to say you don't want to take your eyes off of Him, when you won't listen to Him speak. Chalk up another man who is more than happy to castigate Calvinism, but lacks the conviction to do so in the context of fair debate. Monologues are, indeed, so much easier than dialogues.
P.S. I was just informed Rev. McCain is president of Concordia Publishing House, the publishing arm of the LCMS. I'm very disappointed. I would expect more of someone in Rev. McCain's position. Much more.
Today on the DL: Lots of Calls, No Muslims!
12/01/2005 - James WhiteWell, despite corresponding with Nadir Ahmed and letting him know that he would be treated fairly as a caller on the program, evidently, unless we arrange a full debate with him, he won't call in. Oh well, we tried. We had a nice Muslim come into channel a few hours before the program, with whom we had a good conversation. But despite all of that, no Muslims called. I played a few more clips showing problems with Nadir's understanding, but after about twenty minutes of waiting, we moved on. Immediately the phones lit up, and the rest of the program touched on a number of issues, including Paul McCain's Lutheran anti-Calvinism. Good calls all the way to the end of the program. Here it is.
An Explosion of Anti-Calvinism
12/01/2005 - James WhiteI awoke this morning to a veritable explosion of anti-Calvinism, and the relationship of the various sources of these outbursts is somewhat educational.
Last night I was directed to the blog of Paul McCain, a Lutheran who writes for World Magazine. Specifically, I was directed first to a poem he posted, then unposted, then posted again. I likewise read an article on the "Fruits of Calvinism" and scanned through the comments. I was surprised not only at the vitriol of the rhetoric, but at some of the fairly well known individuals who were cheering him on in the comments.
You would expect the poem to come from the likes of Dave Hunt's camp (he's back at it again, demonstrating repeatedly his utter lack of concern for accuracy and truth in exegesis), but what makes it worse is the attempt made by McCain to defend it through reference to Phil Johnson's discussion of polemics in defense of truth. As I'm sure Phil will note himself, his comments would require the highest, strictest standard of truthfulness in the representation of even those with whom you disagree, and this poem shows no such concern. I quote from here:
Is there room for polemics like this in the church today? As we reflect on the Apostle Paul's harsh words against false teaching in Galatians and elsewhere, and our Lord's firm rebukes and sharp words against error in his day, is there room anymore in the church for such polemics? Why, or why not?
Jesus loves me! This I know
Predestination tells me so
Sovereign God loves me so well,
But He may want you in hell!
Yes, Jesus loves me
Well, maybe He loves me
I sure hope He loves me
I guess I'll never know!
Jesus loves me, I will win!
Can not fall away by sin.
Can't resist His grace, it's true,
Died for me but not for you. ...
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