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An exegetical approach to Israel’s Prophetic Destiny

a33c58e69a0084ea1829e088e9b9d179Seventy Sevens:

An exegetical approach to
Israel’s Prophetic Destiny

 

 

Introduction

 

The prophetic portions of the Book of Daniel have intrigued and captivated Bible readers for millennia. Scholars, Preachers and Laymen, alike, have spilt much ink over the historic and futuristic implications of this inspired work. None of Daniel’s writings has received as much attention as the prophecy of the “Seventy Weeks”. It is this prophetic revelation wherein the restoration of the nation of Israel is revealed; the chronological date of the expected first advent of Messiah; the rise and rule of the “man of sin”; and the ushering in of the Millennial Kingdom.

Daniel’s prophetic contribution to Scripture (beginning 605 B.C.)  has been a key to unlocking the chronology of Bible prophecy. God spoke through Daniel to predict the rise of three, and the fall of four major empires in ancient world history. With precise accuracy the prophesies proclaimed the fall of the mighty Babylonians; the Medo-Persian’s rise and fall; Alexander the Great, and his mighty Greeks sweeping  in to conquer all of the known world; and the crushing power of the Roman Empire. Daniel, further, gives detailed references to the divisions of the Greek empire, after the sudden death of Alexander, and the subsequent fighting of the Ptolemys and Seleucids, not to mention, the rise of the infamous Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

When the reader comes to the portion of Scripture containing the prophesy of the seventy sevens or seventy “weeks” in Daniel 9:24-27; he knows he is looking into the future (from the time of Daniel) towards the Final Kingdom. Some have denied the latter portion of that statement and claimed that the prophecy was fulfilled in Israel’s history; nonetheless, the Word rightly divided will reveal the future state of the Messianic Kingdom pertaining to the restoration of national Israel.

 

The Jeremiah Connection

The prophet Jeremiah plays an inextricable role in the mindset of Daniel. One will also realize that there are three distinct aspects of the following portion of Scripture: “I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years” (Daniel 9:2, NASB). (1) Daniel believed in the infallibility of the prophetic ministry of Jeremiah. Daniel came to realize that the seventy-year prophecy of Jeremiah was coming to a completion, as Darius the Mede became ruler over Babylon. (2)Jeremiah had also predicted that Israel’s sojourn in Babylon was to last 70 years (Jer. 25:11–12).[1] Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jer. 25:11–12) had revealed God’s plan for the nation only up to the end of the 70-year Babylonian Captivity. Daniel wanted to know what would transpire after that. His previous two visions (Dan. 7–8) of forthcoming events dealt primarily with Gentile nations that would rise, beginning with Babylon. (3) This portion of Scripture is significant because it demonstrates that Daniel truly believed that the prophets were spokespersons for God Almighty. Thus, then Daniel begin to intercede.

                                        A Plea from the Prophet

The man of God began to intercede on behalf of his people that at the conclusion of Jeremiah’s 70 years, national repentance would release the Jews back to their land and usher in the kingdom of God. His petition unto the Lord contains Daniel’s pleadings with Him:

“O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us “So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary” (Da. 9:16–17).

 

As Pentecost writes, “Gabriel was dispatched by God to satisfy Daniel’s desire and to reveal God’s program for His people until its consummation in the covenanted kingdom under Israel’s Messiah.[2] “Daniel had been heard by God, and one of God’s mightiest angels, Gabriel (“mighty one of God”), had come with an answer because Daniel was “highly esteemed” (also NASB; “greatly beloved,” NRSV, KJV). “Highly esteemed” is a translation of the Hebrew ḥămûdôt, which describes something or someone desired or counted precious.”[3]

 

Gabriel’s Interpretation of Seventy Years 9:24–27

In what seems to be an angelic visitation, from the Archangel Gabriel, Daniel is instructed to attend carefully to the eschatological message about to be revealed to him. The following message and corresponding interpretation is essentially an Old Testament equivalent to the Apocalypse of the New Testament, and as stated above, is the “key” to understanding much of the apocalyptic writings of the New Testament.

 

The program in the 70 “sevens” (9:24)

As presented by the angel Gabriel, God had a program for the people of Israel and for Jerusalem. The 70 “sevens” were decreed to bring six very specific occurrences to the people and the holy city. These six occurrences could be considered as three ushering “outs” and three ushering “ins”. The ushering “outs” are seen, in verse 24, as transgression, sin, and iniquity. The ushering in is recognized as a “changing of the guard”, more specifically, a changing of the King. Gabriel says, “it has been decreed” (by God) “to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place.” Interactions with these six prophetic goals will be dealt with throughout this exegesis.

The implications are clear; God has decreed that He (in the person of Jesus Christ) will reign in righteousness, in the temple, in the holy city, and over the nation of Israel. Arguably, this was God’s program (essentially) when the Israelites heard the voice of God in Sinai (Exodus 19:5-8). Yet, because of their transgressions, sin, and iniquity, they would not lovingly submit to the rule of God, and were therefore made captives in a land that was not their own. From this point, one can understand Daniel’s prayer of repentance on behalf of the nation and his plea unto God to remember His word to Jeremiah, concerning the 70 years in Babylonian captivity.

Pentecost noted, “The basis for the first three was provided in the work of Christ on the cross, but all six will be realized by Israel at the Second Advent of Christ.” [4] He is implying that Jesus made provisions for the first three ushering “outs”, by using the word “basis”. Historical and contemporary evidence suggests that Israel has not finished transgressing, sinning, nor living lawless. Nonetheless, the final Passover Lamb was slain on Golgotha’s hill. The Blood of Atonement satisfied the judicial requirements of holy God for Israel.

For emphasis, Clarence Larkin specifies:

“It is the transgression of ISRAEL that is here referred to, and the finishing of it will be the turning away of ungodliness from Jacob. Rom. 11:26–27. The transgression of Israel has not yet come to an end, and will not until they as a Nation shall be converted.”[5]

 

For purposes of clarity, although all of humanity has been and will be affected by this prophecy; this prophecy is directly given for Israel. “This prophecy, then, is concerned not with world history or church history, but with the history of Israel and the city of Jerusalem.”[6] Here in this context do the 70 “weeks” have their application and mark the completion of God’s program.

 

“Weeks” defined

Daniel is explicit concerning the timing of Gabriel’s arrival and delivery of this prophetic word. “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans—in the first year of his reign” (Daniel 9:1-2a). This “Darius the Mede” is most likely referring to Cyrus the Great, who came to power in Babylon in the year 538/539 B.C. (the author believes 538 B.C.). By now, the reader will know that seventy “7-day weeks” cannot possibly be the intended meaning because 490 days have passed since the visitation. Verse 25 sheds more light on the starting date of the 70 weeks (which did not begin on the day that Cyrus took Babylon).

One might find it useful to note that the Hebrew people were trained to think in segments of sevens (heptads), similar to the way that Westerners think in terms of tens. They would understand that every seventh year was a sabbath year of rest (Lev. 25:1–7). Further, Daniel’s people knew that seven “sevens” or sabbath years would bring them to the Year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:8–12). Thinking along these terms would bring the Hebrew mind to understand that seventy “sevens” would represent a span of 490 years. Certainly, 490 years would account for enough time to allow the events of this prophetic message to run their course, and for God to complete his program concerning Israel by ushering in His messianic kingdom. (In addition, if days were intended, one would expect Daniel to have added “of days” after “70 sevens” for in 10:2–3 he wrote literally, “three sevens of days” [NIV, “three weeks”].[7])

One further note to the reader: the Hebrews of Bible times used a lunar calendar. While somewhat complex to the Western mind, this Hebrew/lunar calendar completes its yearly cycle in approximately 360 days. (This will be important information for interpreting the verses to follow). The “Western” calendar or the Gregorian calendar operates on a solar cycle as opposed to a lunar cycle. This difference amounts to approximately 5 days; the difference between our 365-day calendar and the Hebrew 360-day calendar. This fact becomes significant in the context of 490 years.

 

The divisions of the 70 “sevens” (9:25–27)

The angel exhorts the prophet to “know and discern” because he was delivering Daniel the answer to his prayer. Beyond the “70 years” of captivity”, Gabriel is conveying that God has decreed an additional “70 weeks” before God “would complete his messianic redemption of the Jews and Jerusalem (which includes both advents of Christ)”.[8] At this point, it is evident, that “time” plays a tremendous role in this prophetic message. Verse 25 marks three clear divisions in these 70 weeks of years. They are divided into seven weeks (49 years), 62 weeks (434 years), and one week (seven years).

 

Seven weeks (49 years)

There is much debate over the beginning of each of these three divisions, even as there are debates over when these 490 years conclude. Verse 25 declares the beginning of this 70-week program will begin with “a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem”. To assume there is a consensus among conservative scholarship, concerning this specific “decree”, would be dreaming. Some assume (as does Athas)[9], the decree to return and rebuild Jerusalem is generally acknowledged as the decree of Cyrus issued in 538 BCE (the symbolic view). However, this does not seem correct. The decree of Cyrus only allowed the return of the Jewish exiles for the express purpose of a rebuilding the Temple (Ezra 1).

One must clearly identify the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem as more than just a release of exiles for the purpose of worship. Interestingly, Price and Ice disagree with Miller concerning the specific decree. Price and Ice argue for the decree by Artaxerxes, issued to Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and 444 BC. Miller makes his claim, “the decree to Ezra in 458 B.C. is the correct starting point for the seventy sevens, but a survey of the events contained in the first sixty-nine sevens is necessary to demonstrate the appropriateness of this option.”[10] Even other highly respected biblical scholars hold to a broad sweep of all of the previously proposed solutions to the specific “decree”.

There is no doubt that this decree is of major importance. Therefore, the accepted view here is that of Artaxerxes I’s decree issued to Nehemiah in 445 BC. The reason for this choice is suggested in Nehemiah 2:5-8. This decree to Nehemiah specifically mentions the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Neh 2:5), which is the strongest argument in favor of it.[11] Yet, whether it be the decree to Ezra or the decree to Nehemiah, it is clear that the city was in a state of ruin 100 years after the return of the exiles upon the decree of Cyrus in 538 BC. “The first seven weeks of forty–nine years bring us to 397 BC. and to Malachi and the end of the Old Testament. These were “troublous times,” as witnessed by both Nehemiah and Malachi.”[12]

 

62 weeks (434 years)

The 62 weeks introduces the “Anointed One the Prince”. There is little disagreement among conservative scholars that this “Anointed One” is none other than Jesus of Nazareth. These 62 weeks span from the days of Malachi the prophet until March A.D. 33 (the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem). It is conceded, that Daniel is given much revelation that depicts the horrific reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanies; however, to separate the “anointed one” from “the prince” grammatically, and then ascribe “the prince” to Antiochus IV is ridiculous.

Gurney has made this error in the following assessment of this prophesy:

Radical scholars have no doubt that this prophecy points to the time of Antiochus epiphanies and no further. The “anointing of a most holy place” is said to be the re-anointing of the altar of sacrifice by the victorious Judas Maccabeus. The “anointed one” who was “cut off” was the murdered high priest, Onias III. The “prince who is to come” was Antiochus epiphanies, whose armies particularly destroyed Jerusalem and massacred many of its inhabitants. He made a “covenant” with the Hellenized Jews for “half a week” (3 1/2 years) he abolished the “sacrifice and offering”. His crowning “abomination” was the erection of a heathen altar on the great altar of burnt sacrifice.[13]

 

Since this is the main thrust of opposing arguments, it seems fitting to quickly dismiss this theory. When one considers the duration between “issuing of a decree” (March 5, 444 BC) and the completion of seven “weeks of years” plus 62 “weeks of years”; the sum total of years is 483. Although the years do not match up perfectly, it makes more sense to apply the prophecy to the time of Christ (476 years) as opposed to the days of Antiochus (269 years). The “Anointed One the Prince” is certainly a messianic title.

Athus, arguing from a Hebraic grammatical point makes the following conjecture:

We assume that the three discrete portions of the seventy‘ weeks’ are all contiguous and successive—that is, that the three stated periods of  ‘weeks’ (7 + 62 + 1) follow one after the other to make one continuous period of 490 years (70 × 7 years). However, only at 9:26 does the narrative specifically indicate such a sequence .This places the death of an anointed one at the end of (or after) the period of sixty-two ‘weeks’ in a way which suggests that the final period of one ‘week’ does indeed follow on from the period of sixty-two ‘weeks’. [14]

 

While Athus can be credited with accurate Hebrew scholarship, it begs the question: How many biblical references are necessary for the (7 + 62 + 1) sequence to be the accurate method of interpretation? Moreover, he validates the introduction and the rejection of the anointed one are within the 62 “weeks” timeframe. The ministry of Jesus definitely meets these criteria, and therefore, must be considered the proper exegesis.

 

The Messiah will be cut off (9:26a)

The end or goal of the prophecy is the appearance of the Anointed One, the Ruler. This refers to Christ Himself. However, Israel as a nation will not have Christ to rule over them. Verse 26 describes this dreadful rejection, “the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing”.

Warren Wiersbe writes:

But this Anointed One, the Christ, will not be permitted to rule; for His people cried out, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). “We will not have this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14). The Messiah will be “cut off, but not for himself” (“and will have nothing,” niv). This speaks of His rejection by the Jewish nation (John 1:11; Luke 13:33–35) and His crucifixion as a criminal, turned over to the Roman authorities by His own people and one of His own disciples. But He died for the sins of the world, including the sins of the Jewish nation.[15]

 

The second portion of verse 26 has often been misinterpreted because of the phrase “the prince who is to come”. Some notable scholars have wrongly placed the destruction of the city and the sanctuary during the time of Great Tribulation. Yet, properly understood, Jesus pronounces the destruction of the city and sanctuary upon his entry (triumphal entry) into Jerusalem.

When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41–44)

 

History agrees that General Titus, of the Imperial Roman Army, decimated Jerusalem and burned the temple (not leaving a stone upon a stone) in 70 A.D. Thus fulfilling the pronouncement of Jesus and accounting for the prophecy of Daniel 9:26. This pre-understanding allows one to accurately exegete the phrase “the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolation’s are determined.” “The Romans are ‘the people of the prince that shall come,’ and that prince is the future Antichrist that Daniel described as “the little horn” and the blasphemous king (7:8, 24–25; 8:23–27).[16] This takes us to the third period.

 

One week (seven years)

Clarence Larkin introduces this final week of sin as well as any other scholar or theologian could do:

Now as the fulfilment of this “Six-Fold” purpose of the “SEVENTY WEEKS” synchronizes with the things that shall happen at the close of this Dispensation, and that are described in Rev. 6:1; 19:21, it is clear that the last, or “SEVENTIETH WEEK” of Daniel’s “Seventy Weeks,” covers the “TIME PERIOD” of Rev. 6:1; 19:21, and confirms the claim that that “Period” is Jewish and has nothing to do with the Church. To prove this it is only necessary to outline Daniel’s “Seventy Weeks.”[17]

 

“The prince who is to come” of verse 26 emerges to sign a (peace) treaty with Israel for seven years (one week). In accordance with pre-trib theology, the signing of this treaty will be preceded by the rapture of the Church, the bride of Christ (I Thessalonians 4:16-17). Now with the bride of Christ celebrating her glorification at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-10); God resumes his final “week” of ushering outs concerning His program with Israel.

Verse 27 indicates a “firm covenant” made with “many people”. Since this entire prophecy is solely concerning Israel, it is easy to understand that the “many people” imply a national body of people. This national body of people raised The Star of David over Israel in May 1948. This national Israel will enter covenant with the Antichrist (the prince that will come). The covenant is to last for seven years; yet it will be broken halfway point (three and one half years).

Isaiah 28:14-22 describes the people of Jerusalem, who make this treaty with the Antichrist, as scoffers and fools. Israel’s leaders will be seeking a solution to their continued military attacks; yet, the Scripture says this deal is “a covenant with death”. For the Jews will be fiercely brutalized, persecuted, and butchered when the Antichrist breaks the covenant in the midst of the final week.

This mid-week breach of the covenant, on behalf of Antichrist, will also be distinguished by a termination of the daily sacrifice in the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. Some scholars rightly believe the tribulation temple will be rebuilt upon the Temple Mount during the first three and one half years of the treaty. In order for there to be a stop put to them, the text demands a temple where sacrifices are being presented.

 

On the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate (9:27b)

This time of Great Tribulation will reveal the true spiritual personage behind this figure Antichrist. Revelation 13 describes “the beast” who all the world wondered after, who was given his power, seat and great authority by Satan (identified in Rev. 12:9). This satanically indwelt individual will set up his image or make his throne in the temple of God. Antichrist’s incredible atrocities against his fellow human beings and his attacks upon God himself (cf. 7:21–25) will include even the idolatrous claim that he is deity with an attempt at forced worship of himself (cf. 2 Thess 2:4; Rev 13:8, 14–17).[18]

Nevertheless, the end will come. Satanically inspired human evil will prevail until it is complete. Pentecost concludes, “But then his end will come (the end that is decreed is poured out on him). With his false prophet he will be cast into the lake of fire when Christ returns to the earth (Rev. 19:20; cf. Dan. 7:11, 26).[19]

 

Conclusion

“O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary” (Daniel 9:17). Daniel received an answer to his prayer. God even sent an angelic messenger to reveal that He is a faithful God. The transgressions, sins and iniquity of Israel will be ushered out; everlasting righteousness will be ushered in with the anointing of the holiest of holies. Christ Jesus will receive his kingdom and he will rule from the throne of David, in Jerusalem.

Satan, with all of his devices and pursuits; cannot and will not prevail against the plans and the purposes of God. Although the hour of darkness came upon the world at the passion of Christ, the Light of the World will cast off all darkness. Daniel received a word from God and he was certain that God Almighty would fulfill the promise to His beloved people, Israel. After all, it has been decreed!

References

Athas, George. “In search of the seventy “weeks” of Daniel 9.” Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 9 (2009): 1-20.

 

Gurney, R. J. M and Gurney, H. “THE SEVENTY WEEKS OF DANIEL 9:24-27.” Evangelical Quarterly 53 (1981): 29.

 

McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible Commentary: The Prophets (Daniel). Vol. 26. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991.

 

Miller, Stephen R. Daniel. Vol. 18, in The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman publishers, 1994.

 

Pentecost, J. Dwight . Daniel. Vol. 1, in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, edited by J. F. Walvoord, & R. B. Zuck, 1323-1375. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985.

 

Price, Randall, and Thomas Ice. “Seventy Weeks of Daniel.” In The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy, by Tim LaHaye, & Ed Hindson, 356-360. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2004.

 

Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Vol. 1. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1996.

 

[1] J. Dwight Pentecost, “Daniel,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1359.

[2] J. Dwight Pentecost, “Daniel,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1361.

 

[3] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, vol. 18, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 251.

[4] J. Dwight Pentecost, “Daniel,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1361.

 

[5] Clarence Larkin, The Book of Revelation: A Study of the Last Prophetic Book of Holy Scripture (Philadelphia, PA: Rev. Clarence Larkin Estate, 1919), 49.

 

[6] J. Dwight Pentecost, “Daniel,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1361.

[7] J. Dwight Pentecost, “Daniel,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1361.

[8] Price, Randall, and Thomas Ice. “Seventy Weeks of Daniel.” In The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy, by Tim LaHaye, & Ed Hindson, 356-360. (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2004), 356.

 

[9] Athas, George. “In search of the seventy “weeks” of Daniel 9.” Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 9 (2009), 4.

[10] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, vol. 18, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 263.

 

[11] Ibid. 263.

[12] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary: The Prophets (Daniel), electronic ed., vol. 26 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991), 157.

[13] Gurney, R. J. M and Gurney, H. “THE SEVENTY WEEKS OF DANIEL 9:24-27.” Evangelical Quarterly 53 (1981): 3.

[14] Athas, George. “In search of the seventy “weeks” of Daniel 9.” Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 9 (2009): 7.

[15] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Resolute, “Be” Commentary Series (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2000), 115.

[16] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Resolute, “Be” Commentary Series (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2000), 116.

[17] Clarence Larkin, The Book of Revelation: A Study of the Last Prophetic Book of Holy Scripture (Philadelphia, PA: Rev. Clarence Larkin Estate, 1919), 50.

[18] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, vol. 18, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 273.

[19] J. Dwight Pentecost, “Daniel,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1365.

Do you ‘Really’ Need to Know Jesus to Go to Heaven?

Introduction

inclusivism image    This essay will take an analytical look at the pseudo-theology of Inclusivism, as described by Ronald H. Nash, in his book, Is Jesus the Only Savior? Nash presents the two major axioms of Inclusivism as: 1) “The Particularity Axiom” focuses on Jesus Christ as the only mediator of salvation. 2) “The Universality Axiom” expresses the inclusivist’s “belief that God must make salvation available to all human beings, including everyone who lived before Christ outside the sphere of Jewish influence and everyone since Christ who has lived without hearing about the gospel” (Nash, 106). Without a clear understanding of these inclusivist axioms, it would be difficult for the reader to understand Nash’s arguments against inclusivism and the subsequent argument for Christian exclusivism.

Analysis

Nash approaches the subject of inclusivism by largely dealing with the works of inclusivists, John Sanders and Clark Pinnock. Nash maintains a strong Christian exclusivist’s position on the subject of salvation. With the use of a strong scriptural hermeneutic, sound reason, and a literal interpretation of the Scriptures; Nash effectively dismantles the theories of the proponents of inclusivism and he properly elevates Christian exclusivism to its rightful place in Christian thinking. Although, there are sections in the book where his Calvinism bears heavily upon his overall assessment; Nash’s major conclusions are solid in rendering the theory of inclusivism absurd.

Incl 2   Amazingly, Sanders and Pinnock label themselves as Evangelical Inclusivists. Yet, they insist that large numbers of un-evangelized people will be saved. Nash points out that many evangelicals “feel” that way, even if they don’t believe the Scripture necessarily teaches such a position. “Inclusivism has become an enormously influential position among evangelicals at the end of the 20th century” (Nash, 175). He quotes Douglas Geivette’s appropriate evaluation of those who are swayed by their feelings more than by Scripture: “Capitulation must come pretty easily when sentiment is a fundamental control on one’s hermeneutics” (Nash, 172). The trend seems apparent; hermeneutical integrity is being replaced by a sentimentality towards a Christ-less majority.

Because of this breakdown in “staying true to the Word” by so many evangelicals; Inclusivism has become a dangerously relevant issue. It has also become an issue among Catholicism. “Indeed, a movement towards inclusivism is one of the major legacies of Vatican Council II (1962-65), which issued a statement declaring that ‘they also can attain to everlasting salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the gospel of Christ or his church, yet sincerely seek God, and moved by grace, strive by their deeds to do his will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience’” (Nash, 109). The big thinking of German theologian, Karl Rahner is, in large part, responsible for this theological backsliding presently held by the Catholic Church. His ramblings do not imply that Christ is not the only Savior; but, that Christ will save a member of an extra-Christian religion if they are truly devout. Nash points out that Rahner believes these adherents to extra-Christian religions have, in some way, already been touched by Christ; thereby making them “anonymous Christians” (Nash, 110). This belief may work for Rahner but it doesn’t seem to work for the members of traditions like Islam and Hinduism. They definitely do not think themselves to be anonymous Christians.

Clark Pinnock doesn’t seem to follow this notion of anonymous Christians either (according to Nash). He claims that Rahner’s notions “sanctify non-Christian religions as vehicles of salvation in the lives of those who call out to God from within paganism” (Nash, 112). Inclusivism is not willing to suggest that non-Christian religions are sufficient for salvation (that would be Pluralism). What they are willing to suggest is,anti_theology “what God really cares about is faith and not theology, trust and not orthodoxy” (Nash, 113). In essence, the jihadist could be sincerely seeking God; therefore, his heart is in the right place. Nash counters by saying, “even as we grant this, the Bible does not speak of people whose quest for the Ultimate leads them to seek after false gods (Nash, 113).

Still a little fuzzy on what inclusivists actually believe?

The typical argument of evangelicals is that two things are required for saving faith: (1) faith must be directed towards the right object, and (2) the proper object of faith must be approached with certain subjective attitudes, including sincerity and genuine commitment. (Nash, 113).

Inclusivism seems to suggest that what is really necessary is the subjective attitude and sincere commitment, and that it does not matter if the object of their faith is a false god. This smacks of pluralism and sounds a lot like some sort of universalism. Yet inclusivists say “no”. They still insist that universalism lacks biblical support and that universalism cannot do justice to the biblical teaching of a hell. “Inclusivists also disagree with pluralist, who teach that non-Christian religions offer genuine salvation. If non-Christians are saved, inclusivists insist they can only be saved on the basis of the person the work of Jesus Christ, the only Savior.

romThe crux of Inclusivism’s arguments ultimately leads to its undoing. Proponents of this philosophy believe that “general revelation” is sufficient to bring people to salvation. Nash reminds the reader that general revelation “is revelation that God makes available to all human beings” (Nash, 118). This “general revelation” or knowledge is said to have worked condemnation in humanity, because they held the evident truth of general revelation in unbelief. Scripture testifies that humankind knows the invisible God by the things He created; moreover, “general revelation also gives humans general moral understanding so that certain kinds of conduct are known to be wrong” (Nash, 118). Concerning general revelation, Scripture expressly states, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,  because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them” (Romans 1:18,19); and again, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans 1:21). And as Nash points out “[A]ll have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23)”. Nash goes on to solidify his position by emphasizing that Romans 1-3 clearly dismiss the idea that followers of non-Christian religions can find salvation through general revelation. Biblical evidence suggests the extreme opposite; according to Bruce Demarest, general revelation serves only to condemn man, not to save him. (Nash, 120).

The inclusivist builds a strawman by arguing, the Jews have special revelation and that none of them seek God either; so therefore it appears that no matter what sort of relation we have, all people are damned to hell. Clearly, this is misleading because not all Jews rejected special revelation. All of the believers in Acts 2 were Jews as were the 3000 converts who responded to Christ at Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost. On this fact alone, the strawman is torn to bits. To be clear, Sanders presents this argument, not to dismiss general revelation; but, to reinforce his argument that general revelation must be a sufficient vehicle leading to salvation for all mankind. However, “the inclusivist’s view of general revelation is assumed without biblical warrant and is then used to compromise other important biblical teachings such as Paul’s identification of Christ’s death and resurrection as an essential component of the gospel” (Nash, 122).

Inclusivist’s like Sanders believe that Christian and non-Christian believers will be in heaven. He says that non-Christian believers are those that believe in God and Christians are those who place their faith in the special revelation of the work and person of Jesus Christ. This necessarily draws the conclusion that Jesus need not be the direct object of one’s faith. He says, “People can receive the gift of salvation without knowing the giver or the precious nature of the gift”; further, “God will accept in his kingdom those who repent and trust him even if they know nothing of Jesus” (Nash, 123). According to Pinnock, people are saved by the “faith principle”. He uses Hebrews 11:6 as the proof text for his claim. He states, “according to the Bible, people are saved by faith, not by the content of their theology” (Nash, 123). This begs the question; does not faith require an object? Is not that object Jesus Christ, who is revealed through special revelation? Doesn’t this line of reasoning contradict the inclusivist’s particularity axiom? How does an object-less faith agree to the irreducible inclusivist claim that Jesus is the only mediator between God and man? Although the inclusivist has no feasible rebuttal for such questions; he still insists a faith which is deficient in theological content can be salvific. This way of thinking flies in the face of Scripture and denies its essential nature. Nash comments, “This kind of faith lacks contact with biblical faith and leads to severely anti-biblical consequences “ (Nash, 129).

Nash sites Pinnock as summarizing the most important theological argument for the inclusivist, “If God really loves the whole world and desires everyone to be saved, it follows logically that everyone must have access to salvation” (Nash, 130). In essence, this makes God obligated to man. At this point Nash exhibits his hyper-Calvinistic dogma. He argues for limited atonement, and further implies all other evangelicals who do not hold to this doctrine are Armenians who deny God’s perfect knowledge of future human actions. Nash rightly refutes Pinnock’s assertion that salvation is ultimately up to the person. However, Nash seems to reject that, “salvation is a consequence of humans participating with God. God’s part was providing a Savior; humans’ part involves the use of free will to accept what God has done” (Nash, 132). Although, it is a mystery that God can be sovereign and man has free will to accept or reject God’s offering of salvation; it is not obligatory for God to reveal his salvific work to every person, in every era, and every geographical location. In this case Nash allows his Reformed theology (which is highly contested) to render his argument less palatable.

“Exclusivists and evangelical inclusivists affirm their commitment to the authority of Scripture” (Nash, 137). Yet, interpretation differs on many of the scriptural texts that inclusivists cite in support of inclusivism. One such Scripture reference is the story of Cornelius in Acts 10. The specific reference in this chapter is verse 34 and 35: “then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how to it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.’” Sanders says, “Cornelius was already a saved believer before Peter arrived but he was not a Christian believer” (Nash, 139). This is to imply that anyone who fears a supreme being and does what is right will be accepted by God. Nash counters with, “while fearing God and doing what is right are important elements of the Christian commitment, they do not exhaust what it means to be a saved believer” (Nash, 139). Nash points out that Cornelius was a God-fearer, and not at all different from the Jews who needed to come to an understanding that Jesus was the Messiah who affected salvation. Peter statement in verse 35 is merely a declaration of realization that God was willing to save the “whosoever” of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews. Pinnock hails Cornelius as a “pagan saint” because of his belief in God before he became a Christian. This seems to be a far-reaching claim and fails miserably for the inclusivist’s case. Inclusivists also suggest that Paul’s sermon in Athens, “acknowledges the authenticity of the worship of the men of Athens at the altar to an unknown God” (Nash, 141). Yet, Nash notes that Paul preached Jesus crucified and resurrected in that Mars Hill address. The biblical text explicitly suggests that God would no longer wink at their ignorance, and that all men would be judged because of their sin. Paul’s definitive claim was that all men must trust in Jesus and repent.

Nash offers the overwhelming biblical support for exclusivism, citing several major New Testament texts that suggest salvation is found in none other than Jesus Christ. Pinnock answers these Scriptures by denying them their exclusive properties.

“Pinnock agrees that Jesus is doing something unique and wonderful for the world, but he denies that this is necessarily God’s exclusive way.” In Pinnock’s own words, “but the text does not exclude from eternal salvation the vast majority of people who have ever lived on the earth” (Nash, 146). This inclusivist speculation grows more and more bizarre as one looks at the whole of Scripture.

Nash points to John 14:6 where Jesus declares, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The question becomes, “what good is a way and the truth and a life that people know nothing about? The words ‘no one comes to the father except through me’ are hardly compatible with inclusivist statements” (Nash, 148).

Near the closing of the book, Nash calls in to question Pinnock’s claim to be an inclusivist. He claims Pinnock supports postmortem evangelism. He effectively disassembles Pinnock’s inclusivism with this blow. Supporters of postmortem evangelism are actually exclusivists. This is true because they believe it is absolutely necessary for a person to make a conscious decision of faith in Jesus Christ (even if it’s after death) in order to be saved. If Pinnock is a supporter of postmortem evangelism, then his claim to be an inclusivist is fraudulent. It would seem that Pinnock and other so-called inclusivist must have their way, at any expense (even at the expense of biblical integrity).

Nash concludes his book with a summary chapter: “WHY I AM NOT AN INCLUSIVIST” (Nash, 163-175). He rightly concludes that inclusivism doesn’t square with Scripture; but, it makes people feel better. Citing J. I. Packer, “inclusivist are more influenced by the ‘American idea of fairness’ than by anything they have learned from Scripture” (Nash, 164).

pinNash decries the effect that inclusivism has had on the psychology of missions. He shows that missions have become more ecumenical and less evangelical. In essence, missions as a whole, has become less evangelistic in their practice; while remaining evangelistic in their mission statements. It would seem that inclusivism has found its way (pragmatically) into the mission field. Nash has well said, “Throughout this book I have been arguing that ideas have consequences. In most of it I have tried to show the theoretical or theological consequences of inclusivist ideas. But it is also important to show that inclusivist ideas have practical consequences as well” (Nash, 168). These practical consequences ultimately bleed over into what Pinnock has said “even the atheist who, though rejecting God (as he understands God), responds positively to him implicitly by acts of love shown to the neighbor” (Nash, 170). One might be apt to recall the Words of God found in the Prophet Isaiah, “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12).

Conclusion

“Weakened the nations” indeed! Inclusivism demands Jesus is the only mediator of salvation. But it also demands that one need not have knowledge of Jesus or his work to be saved. This pseudo–theology is damnable heresy. The label “Christian Inclusivist” is an oxymoron. Christianity is exclusive. Chapter 3 of the gospel of John reveals a narrative between Jesus and Nicodemus, where Jesus claims, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). In verse 18 of the same chapter (the same conversation), “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (3:18). The inclusivist must answer these truth claims of the Savior. They affirm the authority of Scripture; but, what of the exclusive nature of these claims? The evidence Nash presents, suggests that inclusivism has no choice but to reject these words of Christ. One can only be born again by the work of the Holy Spirit through faith in the name of the only begotten son of God (as evidenced by Scripture).

Scripture also claims that condemnation is the condition that precludes faith in Jesus Christ. The exact words are, “he who does not believe has been judged already”. This clearly indicates that judgment/condemnation is an unalterable reality for every human being. Because, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23); condemnation is the just disposition of holy God. Jesus explicitly reveals the remedy, “He who believes in Him is not judged.” The “Him” is none other than Jesus Christ. “For “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED. How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:13,14). The answer is simple, they can’t.

Christianity suffers with the ideologies of flawed thinkers. It is a good thing to be emotionally stirred by the idea of some lost person spending eternity separated from God. But it is a bad thing to bend one’s theology to such a degree that the lost person gets to heaven without knowing the Master. Inclusivism is a demonic play on the emotions, with far-reaching consequences. Its effects are global. Mission organizations are losing funding and recalling many missionaries from the field. Community outreaches have lost their evangelistic edge. The church, as a whole, has lost its palette for the preaching of the cross. All in all, inclusivism has eroded the essential belief in the person and work of Christ while trying to maintain it; inclusivity has destroyed the particularity axiom it claims to preserve.

MARANATHA,

Craig Layton

 

Works Cited

Nash, Ronald H. Is Jesus the Only Savior? Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994.

New American Standard Bible:1995. LaHabra: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.

 

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JESUS CHRIST: The Great ‘I Am’

ego ami

    To present Jesus of Nazareth as, none other than the YHWH (יהוה, YHWH) of Old Testament Scripture is the sole purpose of this writing. The author of the Gospel of John recounts moments in the earthly ministry of Jesus where He identified Himself as YHWH. In the LXX or Septuagint (translation of the Hebrew Scripture into Koine Greek) the verb construction equivalent to the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, YHWH is ἐγώ εἰμί (egō eimi). It is precisely Jesus’s usage of egō eimi that will be considered here, for the expressed purpose of identifying Jesus as no less than the God revealed in Scripture.

Exodus-3-the-burning-bush  The construction of the Hebrew is not easy to discern. אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה is a form of “to be”. It has the sense of “I am” and “come to be”, at the same time. Yet the clearest usage of the utterance is presented within the context of Moses and the Burning Bush narrative of Exodus 3. Here it is used in this manner: “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’ ” (Exodus 3:14, NASB). “The Septuagint… renders the opening of the phrase in Exod 3:14 as ἐγώ εἰμί (egō eimi), which amounts to a title for God elsewhere in the Old Testament (e.g., Isa 43:10, 25; 45:18; 46:4; 51:12; 52:6)” (Miller 2015).

“When God would make His name known to mankind He could find no better word than ‘I AM.’ When He speaks in the first person He says, ‘I AM’; when we speak of Him we say, ‘He is’; when we speak to Him we say, ‘Thou art.’ Everyone and everything else measures from that fixed point. ‘I am that I am,’ says God, ‘I change not’” (A.W. Tozer ).

This could be interpreted to be prophetic, as if to say: “I AM and I AM to be”. “Grammatically, the imperfect form usually suggests a future or uncompleted state. Thus, the phrase can also be translated “I will be who I will be” (Miller 2015).Does this identification of אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) – GOD, indeed offer a prophetic glimpse forward to the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity? One thing is indisputable: God said that He is to be known by the name “I AM”. Therefore, I AM sent Moses to Egypt; I AM delivered the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt: I AM gave the Law to Moses; I AM delivered Israel into the Land of Promise; and it is IAM that promised Messiah.

 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” John 8:58

thDPKK7U3AContextually, it all began on the Feast of Booths. During the midst of the feast, Jesus cried out in the temple, “You both know Me and know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me” (John 7:28-29). Jesus clearly declared that the people of the feast knew exactly who He revealed Himself to be, and from Whom He had come. He left them with no way out of this blatant confrontation with His Messiahship. In southern terms; He essentially said, “You know good and well that I am God; you just simply don’t know God.” He argues that the reason that they don’t readily accept Him as come from God, is because they really do not know God. As a result of these statements; some believed in Him while others wanted Him dead. (Towns, 73) The confusion of the gathered crowds lead to a failed arrest of Jesus by the temple police and a few confrontations with the “Jews” (leaders of Jewish religious life).

splashing-water-cross With a divided multitude and a furious Jewish leadership; the context of the immediate passage is to be understood. Look now at the “crowning moment” (for our purposes); the grand discovery of Christ’s deity; the ageless reference to I AM. Probably four or five days after His mid-feast declaration, the Jews come to confront Jesus for causing such disturbance among the festival crowd. (Remember: Jesus had already declared that He was the Source of “Living Water” (Jn.7:37-38) at the pouring out of the water ceremony, on the Great Day of the feast.) The Feast of Booths had effectively been ruined by this Teacher from Galilee. The Feast had ended and all of the pilgrims were preparing to return to their homes (or had already dispersed). “The stage has thus been set for the major confrontation between the Pharisees and Jesus” (Borchert, 294). Now was the time for the Jewish leadership to shut this Jesus down, with their superiority and political pressure.

da8adb4fd9e64001360072ca9b736979 The Jews issue the argument that Jesus is not a credible witness, due to the fact that He has no witnesses to support His assertions. Their argument was provoked further by another of Jesus’ significant egō eimi declarations, to the lingering crowd. “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12). The sides are sharply drawn; the Jews reject Jesus outright, and Jesus knows who He is. Cosmically the absence of witnesses is an absurd objection as Dr Towns points out, “In the context of Jesus’ claim to be the light, the rules of evidence are irrelevant. One might as well argue that the sun is not shining if it is the only one declaring itself to be the sun” (Towns, 82). “Jesus picked up the theme of the wilderness wanderings and proclaimed for those who followed him that they would not walk in darkness but have the light of life” (Borchert, 296).

Furious over the implications, the Pharisees initiated a debate that resulted in Jesus declaring, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58). It is worth noting that the dialogue between them had returned to the mid-feast “set-up” statement, “You both know Me and know where I am from; and I have not come of myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me” (John 7:28-29). The implications are clearly honed in, by Jesus, to confront the Jewish leadership. Compare Jesus’ statements in this current dialogue with His original statement in 7:28-29. “Even if I testify about Myself, My testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from or where I am going” (John 8:14); “You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also” (John 8:19). It is evident here, that Jesus is again indicating that the Pharisees did not know the One who sent Him or where He came from. Jesus is effectively separating the leaders from the One who sent Him; thereby, drawing the conclusion that they are of a different stock than they suppose themselves to be.

Their argument ultimately came to a head with this identification of the unbelieving Jews. Their argument is made in vs 33, “We are Abraham’s descendants…”, and again, “They answered and said to Him, ‘Abraham is our father’” (John 8:39).  Jesus responded by revealing the truth that they, in fact, were not of Abraham; because they did not do the deeds of Abraham. Nor were they the children of God (vs.42). He goes on to say, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father…” (John 8:44). “The Jews obviously realized that he was rendering a judgment on their status, and they countered …” (Borchert, 305). In response, this infuriated collection of religious elitist, call Jesus a Samaritan and a devil (vs.49).

8-51 The dark hearts of the Pharisees were further convinced that Jesus was possessed of a devil after He put forth, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death”(vs. 51). Here we come to the “meat of the matter”. They understand Abraham and the prophets to be dead. Their question to Him, was then, in essence, Who do you think you are? “They suspect that Jesus is guilty of blasphemy as they charged in 5:18 in making himself equal with God. Later they will make it specifically (10:33; 19:7). They set a trap for Jesus for this purpose” (Robertson, Jn 8:53).The answer to this condescending bunch was no less than, “I Am God.”

Dr. J Vernon McGee describes this moment:

“They hate Him so much that they want to kill Him. They have murder in their hearts, and He has nothing but love in His. He is going to go to the Cross to die for them. They are thinking of death for Him, but He is offering them life. ‘If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.’ He is offering them eternal life, spiritual life. My friend, this Jesus is more than a man” (McGee, 144-145).

Jesus responds to this venomous crowd with these direct words of truth. “It is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word. ‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad’” (Jn 8:54–56).

“The clear answer to their question was thus, that Abraham acknowledged the superiority/priority of Jesus and not the reverse” (Borchert, 308). But how could Abraham “see” Jesus’ day? Was he seeing it from Heaven? No, the text declares “and he (Abraham) saw it? This speaks of an action of the past, right? “Jewish speculation is not a clear indication of what Jesus meant by his statement, but the Jews realized they needed to deal seriously with him. The question was, How could Abraham have seen him?” (Borchert, 308). The answer is coming soon from the Savior.

“How did Abraham ‘see’ our Lord’s day, that is, His life and ministry on earth? The same way he saw the future city: by faith (Heb. 11:10, 13–16). God did not give Abraham some special vision of our Lord’s life and ministry, but He did give him the spiritual perception to ‘see’ these future events” (Wiersbe, 323). Obviously, these “supposed” children of Abraham did not exhibit the same faith of Abraham; therefore, they were bankrupt of any spiritual perception to see the “express image” of YHWH standing before them. In contrast, John testifies, “We saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The contrast could not have been sharper. Those who believed in Jesus were the faithful and believing recipients of Divine Light; while, the men of religious standing were void of any Light and reflected the nature of the devil.

Jesus reveals his greatest light to these “sons” of Satan. “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58). Here it is, the ultimate egō eimi! His statement found in John 8:58 can be translated, “Before Abraham came into being, I AM.” “Again, this was another affirmation of His divine sonship; and the Jewish leaders received it as such. He had once again made Himself equal with God (John 5:18), and this was the sin of blasphemy, worthy of death (Lev. 24:16)” (Wiersbe, 323). That is, unless this clear claim to deity; is, in fact true.  It is true, and it effectively demonstrates that Jesus deliberately ascribes eternal divinity to Himself.

Dr. Towns points to the “double-truly(s)” of Jesus as always addressing the doubters and the unbelieving. The “before Abraham was” indicates a pre-existence of Jesus. The “I Am” reflects YHWH; just as it did in Moses’ day. Therefore, what the Jews heard from the divine lips of the Master was in effect, “You unbelieving doubters need to know that I am ever GOD; even before Abraham was formed in his mother’s womb. I am Abraham’s God.” The I Am is finite human vocabulary expressing the infinite. The “ever-eternally present” is indicated. This answers all metaphysical problems presented in the dialogue. Just as God ever “is”; so Jesus ever ‘is”  I Am. Morris points out, “Jesus is saying that it is important that those addressed come to trust him as the I AM, which looks very much like a claim to share in the nature of deity. People must see Jesus as one with the Father and trust him as such” (Morris, 123).He further remarks, “He was a man, but he was more, and passages like these bring out the ‘more’” (Morris, 124).

This statement of the Master brings an abrupt end to the conversation. “The claim to have been in existence before Abraham must be either delusional or a statement that the speaker was sovereign over time” (Morris, 124). Evidence suggested to the Pharisees that Jesus was “at the least” making a definitive claim to be sovereign over time. They indicate their thoughts by picking up stones, in order to stone Him for blasphemy. Yet, Jesus slips away, into the crowd.

Conclusion

The great apologist and Christian author, C.S. Lewis brings this entire series of events to its intended climax.

    “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to” (Lewis, 52-56).

As presented, Jesus stood up and cried out during one of the three most important feasts of the Jews; that each individual knew who He was and from Whom He had come (John 7:28-29). He rendered nearly the exact verdict upon the group of Pharisees. Taken as a whole; He announced the reason for their lack of understanding was due to their lack of spiritual knowledge of God. He repudiated the argument that these Jews were the spiritual sons of Abraham and God, based on the intent of their hearts. Essentially, He is saying, I am God and you are not. The altars are open. Come to Jesus. Accepting Him as deity was one of the two options placed on the table. The other option was to reject the YHWH.

    The absolute use of egō eimi in 8:58 expresses the unity of the Father and the Son (Morris, 124). No other conclusion could be drawn. It surely was the conclusion of the Pharisees who attempted to stone Him. The Gospel writer, himself, claimed this to be the intended outcome for those who read it. “But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).

MARANATHA,

Craig Layton

Bibliography

Borchert, Gerald L. John 1–11. Vol. 25A. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996.

Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. London: Collins, 1952.

McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible Commentary: The Gospels (John1-10). Vol. 38. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991.

Miller, Jeffery E. The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham: Lexham Press, 2015.

Morris, Leon. Jesus is the Christ: studies in the theology of John. Grand Rapids: Wm. B.Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989.

New American Standard Bible:1995. LaHabra: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.

Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1933.

Towns, Elmer . The Gospel of John: Believe and Live. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2002.

Tozer, A.W., and E. Marilynne Foster. Tozer on the Holy Spirit:. Camp Hill: WingSpread, 2007.

Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Vol. 1. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1996.

 

All Paths Lead to God

 

This essay is an analysis of  the theological philosophy of Pluralism as Presented by Dr. Ronald. (Presented to the School of Divinity at Liberty University, THEO 313-B05 – The Person and Work of Christ)

  Analysis 

quote Hick

The weight of this essay will focus on Dr. Randall H Nash’s book, Is Jesus the Only Savior? Particularly, it will analyze the first six chapters; which treat the theological issue of pluralism as it opposes Christian exclusivism. Nash primarily uses the pluralism philosophy of Englishmen, John Hick, to explain the tenants of pluralism. Nash goes to great lengths to give a concise understanding of Hick’s philosophy, and how his pluralism undercuts and absolutely dismisses the authoritative nature of Scripture.

As a matter of fact, when studying the theoretical hodgepodge of the proponents of pluralism; one will immediately notice in their literature, a gross absence of Scripture is replaced with wild speculation, with no support for their positional arguments. Nash mentions that pluralism asserts “knowledge about God is simply declared impossible and replaced by personal encounter, religious feeling, trust, or obedience” (Nash, 12, 13). This amounts to no more than theological agnosticism, because of the unreliability of feeling and personal encounters. Obviously, this flies in the face of Christian exclusivists who take as their sole authority the revealed truth of the Bible. (Christian exclusivists believe the Bible teaches that Jesus is the only Savior, and that no one can be saved unless they know the information about Jesus, as contained in Scripture; then express a personal and real belief in the person and work of Jesus Christ.)

Hick enters the discussion in the first chapter. He is described as a man who had an “evangelical kind of Christian conversion” (Nash, 13) experience. At first, he held to a generally orthodox theology; however, he lacked a belief in divinely revealed truth. Ultimately, this orthodoxy was abandoned and gave way to a neo-liberal view of theology which paved the way for his pluralistic views. Hick’s pluralism is encapsulated in his following statement: “There is not merely one way but a plurality of ways to salvation or liberation… taking place in different ways within the context of all the great religious traditions” (Nash, 22).

In the second chapter, Nash begins to break open the mind behind Hick’s early pluralism to reveal the evolution of Hick_biohis radical shift from orthodoxy to a purely pluralistic position. “Hick proposed to replace the historic Christian view that Jesus is the center of the religious world with the claim that God is the center” (Nash, 31). Clearly, in the mind of a pluralist like Hick, this major shift made salvation possible without the central figure of Christianity (Jesus). For Hick, this opens the door to most all major religions; but reduces Jesus to little more than an insignificant historical figure. Hick would claim that his knowledge of devout and pious non-Christians gives validity to the notion that an all loving God would not exclude anyone from His salvation.

This logic appeals to the pluralist; but ignores the practical agnostic premise of pluralism itself (specific knowledge about God is deemed impossible). One immediately recognizes that the acknowledgment of and all loving God is an admission of specific knowledge about God. If God is a God of love; then he cannot be the God of a different religious system which does not ascribe love to God. Nash makes this clear on page 33. Nonetheless, Hick remains unshaken in his understanding that God is, in fact all-loving. The logical pluralist leap from this assumption is that such a God would not limit his salvation based on a mere geographic inaccessibility to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The self-defeating nature of this argument is evident in the following question: How can an unknowable God be known as a personal and loving God and at the same time remain unknowable? Moreover, it begs the question: How can one know that God is unknowable? If God were, in fact unknowable; how could anyone claim there to be a salvific intention in God? Nash concludes that Hick’s defeasible delusions are the effects of starting with a conclusion then seeking premises to support it.

move to pluralismFor Hick to avoid this philosophical dilemma, Nash notices that he makes a bold shift from a God- centered theory to a salvation-centered model (Nash, 39). Hick even demands that one drop usage of the name God from religious language. He replaces it with Reality or the Real or Ultimate Reality. The “unknowable-ness” is the foundation for Hick’s evolution to a salvific centered pluralism. His reasoning is that the finite mind of man can only perceive the existence of Ultimate Reality through imagery and symbols that provide the mind with a direction toward perceiving the Ultimate Reality. This speaks to man’s awareness of the Real; but maintains an unknowable-ness. Yet for Hick, these symbols and images presented by the Real are found in various cultures and traditions. Thereby, making this unknowable Reality perceivable through the vehicle of various cultural traditions found throughout the world. Of course, from Hick’s standpoint of unknowable-ness; he can only present his claims of the Ultimate as confidently hypothetical.

all savedIt is incredible that Hick does not believe that all religions are adequate for salvation. He even goes so far as to propose a grading system for religions, in order to qualify them for salvific properties. Yet, not all sects or religions past this criteria. According to Hick, some religions are better than others and some are unworthy of support (Nash, 45). In the end though, Hick believes, “Ultimately and eventually, every member of the human race will be saved. This salvation will encompass even the worst moral monsters of history, including at of Hitler and the Nazis, Joseph Stalin and his secret police, and the entire gamut of serial killers, rapists, child molesters and the like” (Nash, 45). However, Hick has a very broad concept of what salvation entails. He maintains that all religions have the same fundamental theme of sudden or gradual change of the individual from an absorbing self-concern to a new centering in the supposedly unity-of-reality-and-value (Nash, 46). This is more easily explained as a move from self-centeredness to Reality-centeredness. But, if Hick is to maintain his Universalist understanding; there is no need to give thought to the supposed commonalities of the world’s major religions.

The problem with this supposedly commonality is, as Nash states, an oversimplification. Nash explains that the human predicament is understood differently in the various world religions; and is therefore, sought to be delivered from in undeniably different methods and beliefs. Nash’s quote of Harold Netland’s question sheds light on this predicament: “Is the human predicament brought on by sin against a righteous and holy God, or is it due to maya (illusion) and avidya (ignorance)?” (Nash, 48). Clearly, different understandings to the problem present differing means of reaching the goal of salvation/deliverance.

Chapter four deals with the apparent contradictory claims of the world religions and the response of the pluralist. Nash rightly sets forth the laws of logic, as they apply to reason and truth. He ultimately shows that a proposition cannot be both true and false at the same time. Hick and other pluralist attempt to avoid this crushing blow by denying that the truth claims of competing religions actually contradict each other. These pluralist attempt to prove that it only appears contradictory. They go so far as to say that the truth claims of the world’s great religions actually complement each other.

Nash gives a summary of pluralist, W. C. Smith’s idea that essentially, “We should stop concentrating on the idea of ‘religion’ and focus instead on external cumulative traditions and internal faith” (Nash, 59). Smith basically concludes that these truth claims can become true if one appropriates them personally. In other words, “If it works for you; then, good for you.” This makes the truthfulness of truth claims relative to the belief of the one who holds them. However, the strength of Nash’s argument is that if one person’s belief is, in fact, true; then it is not logically possible that someone who believes the opposite to be, at the same time correct. Yet pluralist’s hold to their idea “that the many different conceptions of the divine or religious ultimate… are all various culturally and historically conditioned images of the same single divine reality” (Nash, 66). For the one who knows something of the basic tenants of the world’s major religions; it is impossible to ignore the contradictory and competing conflicts found among them.

The logical question is: What do you do with the incarnate God, who died a sacrificial death to atone for the sins of all; but, only those who placed their faith in Him alone will be saved? For Hick, the answer is simple; the incarnation of Jesus is a myth. Nash indicates that Hick believes the early church transformed a sentimental declaration of the Lordship of Christ into a metaphysical claim that only Jesus can be Lord and Savior. In Hick’s way of thinking, Jesus is not actually the only Savior; but merely, the Savior of the individual believer. Hick treats the resurrection similarly, in that it was not fully an actual event, and that it makes no claims about Jesus’ divinity.

RunzoNash shows that Hick’s idea of Jesus is less than that of Him being God. He holds Jesus in high regard, living in a remarkable consciousness of a relationship with God; but he denies that Jesus ever claimed or thought Himself to be God. Nash contends that Hick believes the church to have deified Jesus, and that, was never the intention of God. Hick argues that the New Testament is vague and ambiguous and that Jesus is largely unknown and unknowable. But, Nash counters by saying that Hick’s skepticism of New Testament reliability is hypocritical considering what Hick claims to know about the historical Jesus. In essence: How does he know so much about Jesus and what Jesus believed about Himself; unless the authentic Jesus is discernible in the Gospel record? This amounts to nothing more than wild assertions, with no relevant arguments to substantiate his claims.

Nash strikes at the heart of the problem, by citing Joseph Runzo’s attack on exclusivism as, “neither tolerable nor any longer intellectually honest in the context of our contemporary knowledge of other’s faiths” (Nash, 92). The issue here is that of tolerance. Pluralism accuses Christian exclusivism as being intolerant of any competitors, and the promoter of an elitist mentality that promotes much of the ills of society. Nash negates such assumptions by stating, “that I do not believe in all the things that you believe hardly makes me guilty of intolerants, imperialism, egotism, arbitrariness, or oppression” (Nash, 93). Therefore disagreement does not demand intolerance. “Nor does exclusivism obligate Christians to believe that everything taught by a non-Christian religion must be false” (Nash, 95).

It seems that Nash’s reason for writing is unveiled at the end of chapter six. “Someday we will all finally discover whether this or that religion, whether this or that theory about religion, is true or not. Hick cannot rule out the possibility that after death, during the process of eschatological verification, one religion will turn out to be true after all and one definitive concept of God will prove correct” (Nash, 99). If the Christian exclusivist discover that pluralism is accurate, nothing will be lost. But the price tag of pluralism is way too high. Pluralism is a gamble that is not worth the eternal risk.

Personal Conclusion

Pluralism, (at least Hick’s view) has been demonstrated to be dogmatically speculative, with absolutely no basis in truth. Hick’s view of pluralism promotes annihilation after death; therefore religion is only retained while living on earth. If this be the case, there is no reason to hold to the tenants of any religion, unless those reasons are driven by ideas of self-improvement. Self-improvement can be found in many of the world’s great religions. There is peace to be had through transcendental meditation. There is self-purpose to be found in the jihad of Islam. But, none of the other great religions offer salvation from a fallen human nature (sin). Christianity is unique in this matter.

Christianity solves the sin problem by providing the Sin-bearer in the person of Jesus Christ. Without the atonement provided by Jesus, an eternal existence separated from God would be the fate of humanity.

Pluralism is a philosophy about religion, not a religion itself. Hick’s pluralism especially, is simply a rejection of the infallibility of Scripture. If Hick had held a high view of Scripture he would have never become a pluralist. It is the my quoteScripture that demand Christian exclusivism. From the proto-evangelium, Old Testament typology and prophecy, to the gospel record and New Testament epistles; the Scripture demands that Jesus is the only Savior from eternal punishment. Further, it demands that any relationship with God must come through the person of Jesus Christ. These are exclusive statements; yet, they are inclusive in the sense that “whosoever” believes in Him will have eternal life.

It may not be politically correct in contemporary society; but it is a fact that differing competing claims cannot be absolutely true at the same time. Today’s society demands tolerance, inclusivity and relativism; however, these come with the price of rejecting the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is absolutely the Savior, regardless of the shifting sentiment of today’s pragmatic culture. If Jesus is Lord and Savior; then salvation originated with God. To be saved and reconciled to God cannot and did not originate with man; therefore, Jesus is the only Lord and Savior.

 

Works Cited

Nash, Ronald H. Is Jesus the Only Savior? Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994.

“Ronald H. Nash (May 27, 1936 – March 10, 2006) was a philosophy professor at Reformed Theological Seminary. Nash served as a professor for over 40 years, teaching and writing in the areas of worldview, apologetics, ethics, theology, and history. He is known for his advocacy of Austrian Economics, and his criticism of the evangelical left.”
Source: Reformed Theological Seminary – https://en.wikipedia.org

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Hypocrites in the Church

Post_Hypocrites    I agree with you that many many people in the churches are hypocritical. One of the most common statements that I here when I talk to people about coming to church is, “There are too many hypocrites in the church.” Although, I am not so sure it is all hypocritical. I think most people that go to the church house haven’t met the Lord. Haven’t you noticed that most don’t seem to give a rip that they don’t look like a church that is modeled for us in the book of Acts? They don’t even look much like churches written to in the epistles of Paul. There are hypocrites in the church, to be sure, but there are also hypocrites in life. Therefore, I suspect that the so-called hypocrites of the church are actually lost people that need Jesus. The Bible tells me that you must be born again (John 3:3). Born-again folks are not just church folks. They live like they are changed and people know it!

 

Post_Hypocrites2I’ve been studying the Anabaptist movement and the radical reformation. And I have been thinking a great deal on how those Christians believed that Luther and Zwingli, Calvin and Knox had not gone far enough in the Reformation. Among other things, these early Anabaptists believed that baptism had no saving powers, but that it was a demonstration of the saving change that had already been brought about in a new believers’ life. Once they put their beliefs to practice and became the first to follow the apostles in believer’ s baptism (in nearly 1200 years), they immediately went house to house sharing the gospel of salvation. Many for the first time heard that Jesus alone could save the soul from sin, not the church. Within a couple of years, tens of thousands are recorded to have been saved according to the gospel and were baptized in believer’s baptism. These newly baptized believers were called re-baptizers, because for hundreds of years infant baptism had been taught to save the lost. Thus the Catholic and Protestant church hunted them down fiercely and ultimately killed most of them and their preachers. But those that were burned at the stake, tried and were tortured for preaching the gospel, preached, convicted, and convinced without fear of death.
It is this type of Christianity; one must be willing to die for. And if you are truly saved and you love your neighbor, especially those of the household faith, you have to be willing to die for them; or at least live for them. This type of Christianity required the Holy Ghost in order to survive and flourish. In its very nature it was a way of life. (And in most cases a brief one.) One couldn’t help but wear that garment of grace for the world to see. Nor could they avoid sharing the good news that set them free with the folks they met.

Post_Hypocrites3

I’m convinced that was the church that the Lord builds. That was a Bible church. I believe that is the only church where the true power of the Holy Ghost is demonstrated and lived out in the eyes of the world who needs Jesus. No, I don’t believe there’s a bunch of hypocrites in the church. I believe the church needs Jesus. I believe the church needs to read the Book and live exactly as it says in the power of the Holy Spirit. Then the world would not be judging the church. It would have to make its judgment against Jesus, who is the Head of the church.

 

 

Reflections of the “Anabaptist Heritage Tour 2014”

It all began for the Anabaptist 2014 tour group in Worms, Germany. It was at the Diet of Worms that Martin Luther stood against all of Catholicism on April 16-18 of 1521.

“Since then your sere Majesty and your Lordships seek a simple answer, I will give it in this manner, neither horned nor toothed. Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”

It just seems fitting to begin this tour of Light on the shoulders of the great reformer, upon whom the light of God’s Word broke forth. Yet to the south in Zürich, a fiery young preacher by the name of Ulrich Zwingli was stoking the flames of Reformation from the pulpit at the Grossmünster. Zwingli’s preaching was not the only kindling he was pitching on the fires. He was gaining a following of some special young men who would move from their love of the Greek language to a bright and burning passion for the Living Word of God.

In Zürich, Conrad Grabel, Felix Manz and others were moved by the spirit of the Reformation and an insatiable desire to see the Church return to the New Testament model. Zwingli, the champion of Reformation in Zürich soon became the arch enemy of these zealous young men, whom he had once fathered in the faith. The tipping point came about when, before the city council, Zwingli surrendered the authority of God’s infallible Word to the determination of the council; concerning church decisions. In the midst of the Reformation, it would seem that the hero loses his nerve and becomes a fierce defender of the government’s sword in church affairs. For the young men he had mentored; this just simply would not stand. Disillusioned by the second Disputation in Zürich these notable men committed the whole of the matter into the capable hands of God.Arising from the prayer, George Blaurock requested Conrad Grabel to baptize him upon a confession of faith in Christ. Grebel did so, and afterwards Blaurock proceeded to baptize the others who were present.

 

The Anabaptist movement was now underway. Immediately following the baptisms of that January night, “the Brethren” begin to share the Gospel: declaring a church solely composed of believers, solely for believers and governed solely by God’s very own Words. Seemingly everywhere but in Zürich, the good news was absorbed among the people. People were being baptized by the thousands. However, this type of success also brought persecution (hot persecution) from the Catholics and Protestants, alike.

The name “Anabaptist” was actually given to them by their detractors. It means “the re-baptizers”. Thus, putting the capstone of their collective hate in the very name Anabaptists would carry for centuries. Simply put, the Anabaptist refused to baptize their infants, as was the custom of the state church. The Brethren believed in regenerate church membership and baptism for the born again. They began baptizing people who were professing personal faith in Christ Jesus. For this they were hunted down like animals and forced to recant or die.

The Emmental Valley, below the Swiss Alps rendered refuge to Anabaptists who were forced to flee the larger towns. The Anabaptist Tour 2014 went into the Emmental Valley. It was easy for the mind to begin to sing, “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me.” However, Transvaal Castle prison was a grim reminder that many Saints were slaughtered in the valley “of whom this world is not worthy”.

A stop in Schleitheim warmed the heart and proved that the devil’s persecution could not stop the Word of God. It was here at Schleitheim, that one of 4 existing copies of the Schleitheim Confession is under glass, in a small museum. These Seven Articles of Schleitheim, February 24, 1527 cemented forever what it meant to take hold of the Gospel plow, as an Anabaptists.

A small detour in Augsburg gave the group a chance to see the location of a great gathering of Anabaptists missionaries in the home of Susanna Doucher, located along the Bürgergässchen. Here a number of Swiss Anabaptists, as well as Austrian and German Anabaptists gathered to plot out a method to fulfill the Great Commission. After a year’s time only two of these great Anabaptist missionaries remained. The rest could not escape the executioner’s blade. Their lives were taken because they believe in the Light of the World.

On to Vienna, Austria where many Anabaptist; most notably Balthasar Hubmaier were tortured and burned at the stake. In the shadows of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, one could sense the spirit of the harlot who rides upon the scarlet beast. Not far from the city was Falkenstein Castle were many Anabaptist were held and sentenced to be gallery slaves. (This was a fate worse than death.)

From the castle, Mikulov, Czech Republic, (Moravia of former times), could be seen at a distance. This next stop at Mikulov rendered evidence of a more religiously tolerant environment governed by Lichtenstein family. It is documented that even one of the princes of this prestigious family was won to the gospel by Balthazar Hubmaier, who enjoyed a 3 year stay in this hospitable town. Here in Mikulov, it is believed that Hubmaier found his peace with his recantation in Zürich, which forever haunt him. He successfully wrote, published works, and shined the bright light of the Gospel during his stay in Mikulov. However, when Ferdinand took control of the territory it would not be long before Hubmaier and his wife Elizabeth were arrested and taken to Vienna, for his ultimate torture and death.

The story does not end with execution. It actually ends in triumph. Although Anabaptists of the 16th century had to hide, worship in secret and suffer many things for the precious treasure of the Word of God; the Word is not bound. Their faith has survived and the sacrifices have not been in vain. The Word of God, revealed to the common man, brought about this great movement called “Anabaptistism”. The word of God has moved people into action for centuries. The Word of God is truth. And in the words of Balthazar Hubmaier, “truth is immortal”.

by Pastor Craig Layton

Pastor Leary Baptist Church, Leary GA

Member of the Anabaptist Heritage Tour 2014

Read about our Baptist Heritage

 

Abortion American Idolatry

Abortion imageAbortion is a “hot-button” topic for many Americans today and has been for some time. “Pro-lifers and Pro-Choicers” square off in every imaginable venue, whether it is in the ivory halls of academia or the hallowed debate hall of government, or even in the living rooms in the average home. Everyone has an opinion on the matter. Some are well informed on the specifics personhood, right to choose and even abortion as a means of welfare.  But the problem still remains that “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.” Psalm 127:3. No matter what side of the issue one is on, the inescapable fact is the child cannot be formed in the womb, but by the hand of God: A gift from the LORD.

However, some have concluded that this gift is arbitrary and due to factors of inconvenience or interference, this gift can be mutilated and cast into the waste basket. Never minding the fact this human being, so abominably discarded was a love gift; a “reward” from a kind and generous God. Not to mention this precious human being was created in the image of God and for His Glory.

When considering this issue one has to look at the global community and see with a wide lens, just what is going on. Many countries such as China are executing the fetus for population control; others are using the killing machine for gender selection; but the main reason is convenience. Infanticide is nothing new; it was being practiced as early as idolatry itself. In fact I’ve come to the conclusion that this child slaughter is no more than a sacrifice of the idolatrous to the gods of self-interest and to the Baals worldwide hedonism. God speaks to this sort of wickedness in Ezekiel 16:21, “You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols.”

The reasoning for my conclusions are identified in the arguments of the pro-choice. Hear the words of an esteemed Chair holder in ethics at Princeton University Peter Singer, “When we kill a newborn infant there is not a person whose life has begun. It is the beginning of the life of the person, rather than the physical organism, that is crucial as far as the right-to-life is concerned.” Singer has reduced the life of a newborn infant to “not a person”. Why, because the doctrine of abortion is a doctrine of demons meant to deceive. He has gone so far to say that the already born infant is not considered a person, even up to 30 days after birth.

Although, Singer’s philosophy is more a ramp to launch eugenics, even more primal to the Pro-choice considerations is “the woman’s right to choose”. This is the thesis that the fetus is a part of the woman’s body and can be handled any way she chooses. Is it not true that the fetus is an individual human being with all the prospect of life and choice potentially in its future?  The fetus is considered an individual person if the pregnant woman is assaulted and her baby dies as a result. The assaulter would be charged with the death of a person, “homicide”. If found guilty, the assaulter could receive the maximum sentence of life in prison. So, why the double standard?  It is clear to me that abortion as a right to choose is nothing more than sacrificing the life of a child to the god of comfort and convenience. By definition this is idolatry.

A more pragmatic conclusion that I have arrived at has been mentioned above, “eugenics”. The definition of eugenics “is the bio-social movement which advocates practices to improve the genetic composition of a population, usually a human population. It is a social philosophy advocating the improvement of human hereditary traits through the promotion of higher reproduction of more desired people and traits, and reduced reproduction of less desired people and traits.” This was a widely accepted movement at the turn of the 20th century. “At its peak of popularity, eugenics was supported by a wide variety of prominent people, including Winston Churchill, Margaret Sanger, Marie Stopes, H. G. Wells, Norman Haire, Havelock Ellis, Theodore Roosevelt, George Bernard Shaw, John Maynard Keynes, John Harvey Kellogg, Linus Pauling and Sidney Webb. Its most infamous proponent and practitioner was, however, Adolf Hitler who praised and incorporated eugenic ideas in Mein Kampf and emulated Eugenic legislation for the sterilization of “defectives” that had been pioneered in the United States.”

Before these human breeders can begin to systematically cull society of all of the “undesirables”, it must first devalue human life. The Supreme Court made that first step for them in the Roe v. Wade decision. As I see it, this world is well on its way to taking the leap from killing fetuses to euthanizing the elderly and the disabled. As the hopes of the eugenicists go, then only the desirables will remain; population will drastically fall and the wealth will flow like water into the vessels of a mutated superior race. This will be the last final leap of human evolution. Yet this is still bowing to the altar of self.

As a pastor of God’s flock there is but one thing I can do with information such as this. Disciple! Disciple! Disciple! From the Word read, practice, and demonstrate God’s unfailing love for man. Reveal the love of Jesus, in the Gospels, for the little ones. Warn the sheep of the doctrines of demons that war for the minds of man. My heart is to preach the Book, Live the Book, and love as loudly as the Spirit of God allows.

Awareness of the spiritual underpinnings of America’s social issues is the beginning of our battle to pull down these demonic strongholds. Saints we have a duty to pray and watch with soberness. This country is on a slippery slope to apostasy. Issues such as these must not be ignored. Yet, we are not without hope. Our God is mighty to save and eager to hear the fervent prayers of his saints. Avail yourselves to prayer and let us sound the alarm to call the body to the pulling down of this and other strongholds in America.

Saints Be Encouraged,

Pastor C

 

Craig Layton is pursuing a BA in Christian Studies with a Great Commission Minor.  He is a conference speaker and Revivalist who speaks to issues from Christian Worldview issues to how to prepare for genuine revival within a body of believers.  He is senior pastor of Leary Baptist Church in Leary Georgia; which is presently experiencing a protracted season of true God sent revival..  Married for 6 years to his wife Kimberly, they have two children and two grandchildren.  You can follow Craig on Twitter at twitter.com/Pastor_COLayton. And on Facebook  at facebook.com/craig.layton72

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“Unchained”

unchained

Imprisoned as a criminal, in one of Rome’s most repugnant jails, the Apostle Paul makes one of the most striking statements of the Pauline writings. “The word of God is not bound ”. The great Apostle and Missionary of the Christian Front sees the Gospel going forward to accomplish its “mission” of  calling the Elect unto Salvation.

Paul makes it perfectly clear that it is for reason of the Gospel propagation that he is in “chains”. He is a prisoner of the Roman government and deemed an “enemy of the state”; all because he has been faithful to the mission. There are some that claim that the Pastoral Letters do not have a significant missiological tone in them. They claim that Paul is setting up the church for the “long haul” and the immanent eschatological hopes are fading. This could not be further from the truth. Paul claims that he suffers “all things for the elect’s sake, that they may also obtain the salvation” 2 Ti 2:10. By this it is clear to me that the Apostle had in mind that the Church “The Pillar and Foundation of Truth”; which by the way IS the Gospel, would continue on in her mission to reach the Elect. To be clear, “The Elect” are those for whom Christ died and not a just a certain few.

Hear the exhortation of the Apostle as he pleads with young Timothy, as he fights Hell by the Acre. “Be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry”2 Timothy 4:5. The city of Ephesus, where Timothy was stationed, was steeped in paganism; the Church was rifled with heresy and Paul was encouraging Timothy to do the work of an Evangelist. In common language, that means to reach the lost with the Gospel!

It is made unusually plain within the Pastorals that God is described as the Savior. We have always deemed Christ as the Savior, since He is the one who finished the work of redemption upon the cross of Calvary.  But in the PEs it is “God our Savior”.  This title given to God demonstrates that it was in the economy of the Father to work out the redemptive plan of man. Therefore, He is Savior. It is then clear to realize the saving intention of God and to underscore the missionary character of Yahweh. If the Church is the ransomed possession of God it goes without saying that she must continue the work of redemption by propagating the “Good News” of God’s saving Grace.

There is a motif of “Good Works” that runs through the letter to Titus. It has the sense of being an habitual activity of the redeemed.  Paul also uses the same motif when speaking of the heretical teachers when he states, “they are unfit for any good work”. The work of correcting any notion of heresy, contains within it the practical work of housekeeping; however, the good housekeeping idea is crucial for the continuity of the Gospel mission. This is the same mind-set for the good works of the Bride. She is to be adorned with them. Not only for the purpose of getting along with the society around her but to have the “above reproach” seal upon her as she invades the dark sector with the penetrating Light of the Gospel.

Let it never be said that the Apostle was content with a maintenance ministry of putting out fires within the already established Churches. He was consumed with starting Evangelical fires with this missionary Gospel that is ever “Unchained”.

 

Craig Layton is pursuing a BA in Christian Studies with a Great Commission Minor.  He is a conference speaker and Revivalist who speaks to issues from Christian Worldview issues to how to prepare for genuine revival within a body of believers.  He is senior pastor of Leary Baptist Church in Leary Georgia; which is presently experiencing a protracted season of true God sent revival..  Married for 6 years to his wife Kimberly, they have two children and two grandchildren.  You can follow Craig on Twitter at twitter.com/Pastor_COLayton. And on Facebook  at facebook.com/craig.layton72

The If & Then of Faith

010-born-again-christian-bumper-sticker-vinyl-decalIn the Pastoral Letters one will find sundry of expected Christian living based on the Character and redemptive work of God. The author uses if-then statements to control the flow of his intentions. More specifically, Paul uses “Since” and “They Must”. This could be said to be true of all of Christian living. A general example of this literary device is Colossians 3:1-2Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. It shows cause and effect. Because we have been raised with Christ, then we set our minds on things from above.

The audience of the Pastoral Epistles is given moral ideals from Scripture because its moral perspective is not relativistic. Sins, such as murder, idolatry, fornication are not only wrong in certain geographical locations; but, are universally sinful. Yet it is the technique of the PE’s to make statements about their relationship to their Lord that gives the basis for his charge to them of their redeemed conversations. Take Titus 3:1-7 for an example of what we can also call “gift-task” language. The instruction that Christians “be subject to” the civil government indicates that such authorities are part of God’s overall order for human society. A proper Christian attitude toward the state requires the Christians “to be obedient”.This idea is a practical outworking of Jesus’ teaching concerning being “the salt of the earth … and the light of the world … that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:13–16). Paul then presents the theological basis for the charge presented to them in vs.1&2. Paul described the degenerate condition of the pagan society in which Christians had to live. Interestingly, his comments focus on the human condition within the society.The verb “were,” placed at the beginning of this sentence, emphatically contrasts the Christian’s former degenerate condition (“at one time,”), which is described in v. 3, with the present regenerate condition (“but when,”), which is described in vv. 4–7.

This expression of humanity’s depraved condition marks the beginning of the third outstanding theological statement in this brief letter. Having initiated a contrast at the beginning of v. 3 with the words “At one time we too were,” Paul completed it in vv. 4–7, beginning with the words “But when.” “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,” Because kindness and love are noted in their usual application to God, being noted as the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22) the fact that Paul expressly stated that man does not naturally possess this attribute makes the case of this argument all the more forceful.

Paul then follows with, “he saved us,” in v. 5 which constitutes the main verb in this lengthy sentence (vv. 4–7). It is the fact of God’s saving action in Jesus Christ that is amplified and explained by each additional clause and phrase. It is his saving grace that enables the believer to live above the human depravity of the past and of that around them. In this passage of Scripture, coincidently is the most explicit reference of the regenerate life.

One of the many reasons for the writing of the Pastorals is to encourage the readers / listeners to be reminded that because their lives had been radically crucified with Jesus, then their words, thoughts and deeds would display the life and resurrection of their Risen Lord.

Craig Layton is pursuing a BA in Christian Studies with a Great Commission Minor.  He is a conference speaker and Revivalist who speaks to issues from Christian Worldview issues to how to prepare for genuine revival within a body of believers.  He is senior pastor of Leary Baptist Church in Leary Georgia; which is presently experiencing a protracted season of true God sent revival..  Married for 6 years to his wife Kimberly, they have two children and two grandchildren.  You can follow Craig on Twitter at twitter.com/Pastor_COLayton. And on Facebook  at facebook.com/craig.layton72

Baptist Heritage

Baptist-HeritageThe theological movement represented by the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries were reflected in the life and writings of men who all lived and died in continental Europe. These men were “first-order theologians, many of them martyrs, who were shaping Baptist teachings by what they did”, rather than what they could theorize. The incredible thing about their lives and their works is that all was done within the border of “Christendom”, albeit on the fringe. Men like Sattler, Simons, Grebel and Hubmaier; who lived their irreducible convictions publically; challenged the established theologians; and gave their lives on the firm belief that martyrdom was simply part of the cross Christ called Christians to bear. Highlights will be brought forth, in this writing, to give a glimpse into the theological battle in which these men found themselves on the front line.

Converted scholar and humanist, Conrad Grebel, a Swiss Anabaptist displays his fiery convictions, as well as, his willingness to be corrected, in a letter to Thomas Munster. One of the more notable arguments against Munster’s methods was the translating of song into the German tongue, for the purpose of congregational singing. No matter, how much one may disagree with his conclusion that singing should not be allowed in the congregation; one must concede to the heart of his arguments which honor the Scriptures and seek to safeguard the believers from falling into unbiblical practices. The heart of the argument is as follows, “whatever we are not taught by clear passages or examples must be regarded as forbidden, just as if it were written: ‘This do not; sing not’.

You can hear the same heart and tone in Balthasar Hubmaier, a hero of early Anabaptist faith, when he argues against the practice of Infant Baptism. In a splendid volley of argument he urges Oecolampad to concede to the clear words of Scripture. “Infant baptism is against scripture, for what is not with the Scripture is against Scripture. Or point out where the Scripture commands baptizing children.” To which Hubmaier’s opponent replied, “I want to do it”. To which Hubmaier replied, “Who has so entirely bewitched you that you do not look to truth?”

In the Schleitheim Confession, Michael Sattler wrote that Scriptural baptism was to be administered to those “who have learned repentance and amendment of life, and who believe truly that their sins are taken away by Christ…” So strongly was this belief in regenerate baptism by the men of that day, until it lead them all to concur with Sattler, when he further stated, “This excludes all infant baptisms, the highest and chief abomination of the pope.”

To be fair, there were other troubles in the establishment of “Christendom” in those tense days. There were even some just as highly abominable, like indulgences or the power of the sacraments to save; but each “season” or century in church history, to be sure, had its anthem. The Seventeenth Century saw a change across the landscape of old establishment in all of Europe. Catholics and Protestants took their shots at one another to the point of war. As war brought on violence, death, poverty and a whole host of “justifiable sins”, the Baptist camp was heralding for the cause of separation and obedience to Christ. This separation began to witness a turbulence among it’s theologians of salvific importance, namely the divide among Calvinism and Arminianism. This divide gave birth to two groups who were then known as General Baptists and Particular Baptists. Other “denominations” found their footing in this period of church history as well. There were lines clearly drawn as well as those lines that were more blurred.

One of the thinkers that sprang from this period was the self-titled “unlettered and simple man” John Bunyan. “Bunyan is claimed by both the Congregationalists and Baptists.” Although the Bedford congregation of which he was the un-ordained pastor, practiced but did not require believers’ baptism. He was author, of what is possibly the greatest Christian work outside of Scripture, Pilgrim’s Progress. A chapter from this classic is exhibited in Baptist Roots, which describes the prevailing thought of the need of careful examination of one’s walk and profession before he could be accepted in to the Church by a congregation. This comes to expression when Christian comes to the Porter of the Palace Beautiful. Porter says to Christian, “”Well, I will call out one of the virgins of this place, who will, if she likes your talk, bring you into the rest of the family, according to the rules of the house.”

Freedom from state persecution sprang forth in the following Eighteenth Century. Along with this came a waning of spiritual fortitude. Apathy, theological lethargy, and ecclesiastical entropy scarred this era of toleration and material accumulation. There was witnessed a decline of Baptists across Europe. But the landscape of America was seeing a Great Awakening at both the preaching of Jonathan Edwards and the revival meetings of Whitfield and Wesley. The Baptist Mission Society was formed in 1792 and its first missionary, William Carey was sent to India. “Baptists, who had been despised in previous years, now found themselves at the forefront of the revolutionary movement, with strong leaders.” Much of what came from this formative time in American history would set the Baptists on a course to establish them as the leading denomination in the world. However it would seem that England would see the diminishing of English Baptists for which the hype- Calvinists are largely to blame. Time and space would fail of providing volumes of example of this very thing, not only in England but in America, as well.

A “free church” effort can be seen in the Nineteenth Century. This Century was heralded by many to be the Great Century. These were the days of Baptist thought that pictured the apostolic church as a missionary church.  It was not the earlier mindset of “extending Christian Civilization; but rather, evangelizing and converting unbelievers.” It was also times of facing some difficult theological challenges which were brought on by the Enlightenment. Charles Darwin introduced a theory called “Evolution” that threatened to shake, predominately undereducated Baptist pastors to the core. Yet, God would prevail by blazing a bright and shining light through the revivals of Charles G. Finney, D.L. Moody as well as others. It was this “season” of evangelical revival that challenged Protestants to be “born again.”

However, it is the opinion of the present author that many historians misse the mark when dealing with the century that followed. Even though a few godly Baptist men beat the drum for a righteous church; the “born again” mentality of the previous era reduced largely to a church of tradition and hollow religion.  The days of prohibition drew a divided line all across the American culture. And by the time of the great depression, Americans were looking to politicians and government for salvation from ruin. Sadly, a scant few were crying out to God in repentance and brokenness.

The World Wars brought great wealth and prosperity to a nation that formerly had been eager to strive vigilantly for the freedom to worship a Holy God. By the end of the Second World War, a nation free from the Great depression, was no longer marching to “Onward Christian Soldiers”; but rather “Happy Days are Here Again”. Although, the days seemed to mark the Great Falling Away in American Baptist life; God was not left without a witness. Mighty men of God were rising up to call a nation unto God. The Forties saw the simple Gospel call of the great evangelist Billy Graham. In the same decade, a fiery young Baptist preacher by the name of Percy Ray, from Myrtle Mississippi, emerged to warn and to plead with a backsliding America to repent and turn to God. The Ministry of this great man of God must have, surely slipped under the radar of many. It was due to Dr. Ray’s ministry that State Capitols as well as the Federal Capitol found hundreds on their steps praying and pleading for a revival like those of Finney and Edwards.

Then there was the resurgence led by Dr. Pressler and Adrian Rodgers; the Moral Majority led by Dr. Jerry Falwell  The Secular Humanism, Liberalism and Feminism of the Sixties and Seventies threatened to snuff out the Christian life of a once evangelistic nation. All of these men rose up at a time when the spiritual pulse of Baptists and a nation was critically low. Through radio and television God sent the heralding voice of men like Rogers and Falwell into the living room of nearly every home in the nation.

 

Craig Layton is pursuing a BA in Christian Studies with a Great Commission Minor.  He is a conference speaker and Revivalist who speaks to issues from Christian Worldview issues to how to prepare for genuine revival within a body of believers.  He is senior pastor of Leary Baptist Church in Leary Georgia; which is presently experiencing a protracted season of true God sent revival..  Married for 6 years to his wife Kimberly, they have two children and two grandchildren.  You can follow Craig on Twitter at twitter.com/Pastor_COLayton. And on Facebook  at facebook.com/craig.layton72