Thursday, May 24, 2007

Book Review

"Essential Truths of the Christian Faith" (R. C. Sproul). After so many disappointing books from the library, I was glad to find this one. I was certain Sproul would deliver, and he does, even from the preface! There he presents ten Biblical reasons that every Christian is a theologian. He holds nothing back as he says "theological errors are sins" (page xix).

The rest of the book is organized into brief theological topics. There are 102 topics, each about two pages. This makes it easy to pick up and put down. It doesn't read like a novel, but covers all the important points.

This book (or one very much like it) should be required reading for everyone who claims they are a Christian. I imagine a great many would find themselves on fire for the Lord like never before after reading it. Many more would likely stop calling themselves Christians...

I agree one hundred percent with Dr. Sproul on every point, save one. Point 98, page 275 ("The Return of Christ"). He takes a stand for a post-tribulation rapture. I lean more towards the dispensational view (as I've said before). This is due to attempts to harmonize the two different "comings" described in the Bible:

  • The "Thief in the night" (1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Peter 3:10, Revelation 3:3 and 16:15). Makes it clear that no one will know the time that Jesus comes.
  • The "great and terrible" day of the Lord (Acts 2:20, the bowl judgments of Revelation, Daniel's last week, etc). With powerful signs in heaven and "time, times, and half a time", the end will roll off like a calendar.
Sproul takes the position that these signs will be ignored for what they are. Certainly a possibility. Unfortunately, he does not go into great detail. I'm certain there are other books that cover this position.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


What's up with the code? Am I implying God is a big programmer in the sky? That we can get through life by following a program, or set of rules?


I am simply making an analogy. And making some points using (somewhat more) precise language. I find English to be a typical ad hoc standard (i.e. terrible, but everyone uses it :)

So, like any analogy it will be good for making some points, but it will break down in points.

Ok, more code.

So why is it Mormons are not Christians? And why can't we all get to heaven through religions with different gods?

From last post we had:

void Person::repentAndTrust(Jesus*);

The problem is Satan has injected some bad code (probably through a buffer overrun :). Let's see:

lucifer ~ cat >> selfrighteous.h
void Person::repentAndTrust(void*)
lucifer ~ cl selfrighteous.cpp

Look at him! Using cat to program! And somehow running Microsoft Visual C++ on a UNIX box! This was before he had his account revoked (Luke 10:18).

So what difference does this make? (note, this really will compile, it is a valid overloading) . It means you can put your faith (repentAndTrust) in anything. Unfortunately, without the right Jesus* you get a no-op function... So, let's look at some more code:

class Mormon : public WorksRighteous
class Jesus;

See, the Mormons have a Jesus too. Problem is, it's not the real one. So repentAndTrust(Mormon::Jesus*) will resolve to the void* function. You can go on and on like this:

// I've had people tell me we'll be able to evolve our
// way out of any problem
repentAndTrust(&evolution); // yea, even entropy

Friday, May 11, 2007

Works Righteousness?

This post will serve as a part of a glossary for future posts.

"Works Righteousness" is a term referring to the idea that one can earn the favor of God. This applies even to people who don't believe in God. In that case, it is the belief that good deeds will make the world a better place, or at least make one a better person.

It is my understanding that Christianity is the only belief system which does not emphasize works righteousness. That is, righteousness (literally right standing with God) is a free gift from God (formally referred to as grace). Works follow from (are the fruit of) grace.

The difference is outwardly subtle. Everyone wants to "do good". But the Christian realizes this does not make one "good". Everything good comes from God, and doing good is what is expected of us. There is no special reward for doing your job! (but there is pay)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Examining Republicans for 2008

I am going to document my thought processes for choosing a candidate for 2008. (I actually had a lot of stuff written down on paper for 2004, wish I had a blog back then :)

For me, 2004 was a critical presidential election. Call me a single issue voter, but I see the biggest impact the president can have right now is selecting supreme court justices. Let's face it, both parties are going to make government bigger and pass lots of crazy, restrictive laws. You just get some different flavors.

We've seen the results. Two new justices, and some change in the direction of Roe v. Wade. I had hoped to see some more decisive action, but any progress is good news at this point.

Looking to 2008, Stevens (age 87) is not going to last long. It is probable that Ginsburg (74) may retire before 2012 (especially if a Democratic president can replace her). So, given the slackful progress of the current court (only two signing on against RvW), another pro-life Republican president is needed.

This will form a limiting criteria as I examine the candidates for 2008. I am not eligible to vote in the Democratic primaries, but I will probably do some analysis of them too.

Let's start with the big three:
  1. John McCain is looking pretty good. He says the right things about pro-life and smaller government. But his track history is a lot more colorful. He also sounds a lot less confident on the differences between embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells than I would like.
  2. Mitt Romney. A lot of people make a big deal that he is Mormon. I assume he is a cultural Mormon, which is not a problem for me. If he actually understands Mormon theology and is still a Mormon, I question his judgment. That said, he has said odd things about abortion. I accept his statement that he is now pro-life, although there is the possibility it is a political decision. He seems like a competent business administrator.
  3. Rudy Giuliani. I don't feel he is dedicated enough to the pro-life cause to push through supreme court nominees who will overturn RvW. With the definite possibility of a Democrat-run Congress, it will be far too easy for him to cave.
So, of the big three, I am not really satisfied. I will look into the second tier more in another post.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Book Review

"Drawing Near" (John Bevere). I liked this book, I feel it made a lot of good points. I have two issues, one smaller and one bigger.

The first is that in the preface he talks about how God inspired him to write this book, "thoughts came rapidly together as I typed, which I had never contemplated or heard before. I quickly realized these weren't my messages -- they were His." That's right! Open your D-ring Bibles and insert this book right after the Revelation to John. Revelation to Second John!

On a more serious note, I take issue with chapter eleven. Here he makes the case that you can be "Blessed or Ignorant" (pg. 181). "Blessed" if you speak in tongues, or "Ignorant" if you do not. Here I feel his hermeneutic breaks down. I am going to stick with 1 Corinthians 14:39b "forbid not to speak with tongues". I'm not forbidding John, but I ask him not to call me ignorant if I disagree with him.

The question is, "What does the Bible mean by speaking in tongues?" On page 171, John claims there are actually "four different categories of tongues". He claims that two are for public use (tongues for a sign to unbelievers, and tongues for interpretation as prophecy). The other two are for personal development (tongues for personal prayer, and tongues for intercession).

I checked my Greek dictionary, but the same word is used for nearly every case of "tongues" (glossa) in the New Testament. The one exception is 1 Corinthians 14:21, where Paul is siting an OT passage. Here he uses heteroglossos, which is clearly the same root word. That whole chapter is about speaking in tongues.

John claims the context makes clear the four applications of tongues, and that this shows there are human tongues (foreign languages the speaker has not learned) and heavenly tongues (which no one would be able to understand).

I don't believe the context is so clear. If I am speaking a foreign language which no one is familiar with, that is the same effect as an uninterpretable language.

A more excellent treatment of cessationism than I can provide from Warfield.

The best point he makes is the distinction between people who see God for what He can do for them, versus people who wish to draw near to God. He gives powerful accounts from Exodus where God calls for the Israelites (led by Moses) to draw near to Him. Moses responds, but the people are only interested in the results of God's favor. This resonates very strongly with me, and reminds me that God has given us the greatest gift: salvation and the promise of being one with Him. Everything else is minor in comparison and extra blessing. Not needed or promised.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Why the Gospel does not make sense

I spent some time working in the field of apologetics, making arguments for the existence of God. It was very frustrating to see this having little effect on people. At the time, I thought perhaps I just wasn't convincing enough, or people are just stubborn.

But recently, I have learned from the Bible, that this will always be the case. That God actually blinds some people to the truth, when it is clearly before them! But why is this?

First Corinthians, chapter one, from verse seventeen has an excellent summary.
  • v18 - "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness". That gives the fact.
  • v22 - "For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom". This is an interesting side note. How many people say, "God should give me a sign" or "Prove it to me".
  • v25 and 29 give the reason - "Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men" and "That no flesh should glory in his presence".
Verse 29 gives the ultimate reason. Salvation is a free gift from God, totally unearned. Our good works do not make us eligible for salvation. Similarly, our understanding of the Gospel is a gift from God as well. So that none should boast (Ephesians 2:8,9).

Is there no hope for the unsaved to come to a knowledge of the Good News? Not at all. The Bible makes it clear that those of humble heart, turning away from sin, and trusting in God can be saved (1 Peter 5:5c - "for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble", and 1 Timothy 2:4 "Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth").