Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Book Review

"The Creationists" (Ronald Numbers) - I read a short creationism / evolutionism book back at the end of September. Looking into the notes, I found most of the references came from this book. The book is about two inches thick, so I started just reading parts of it to check the context of some quotes. I found it to be an easy read, and ended up reading the whole book.

Numbers (hmm, that sounds funny, I'll call him Ronald), tells the history of scientific creationism through profiles of people involved in the movement. Interestingly, little thought had been given to the physical evidence of Noah's flood before modern, uniformitarian geology rose up in the 1800's.

The story of scientific creationism is largely a tale of the failure of the church in the second half of the 1800's. Instead of standing behind the Word of God, and separating from wordly thinking, the church tried to be "relevant". Adopting Biblical interpretation to modern theories, they abandoned their foundation. A hundred years later, we see the total collapse of "mainline" Protestant denominations. Without a literal Biblical foundation, they became open to new interpretations with every swing of social thought. Now these churches are without meaning or any claim to truth. The congregation that remains are full of energy for everything except God, and many have abandoned these "churches". Old earth theology was not their only undoing, but it didn't help.

Of course, this is not Ronald's position. He gives his "testimony" on preface page 16: raised a fundamentalist Christian, learned science in college, and lost faith. Ronald manages to keep a fair tone throughout the book. He delivers some jabs, but to both sides (sometimes skeptical or mocking of creationist reasoning; often chiding evolutionist circular reasoning).

For much of the 1900's, creationism was defended by the work of one man - George McCready Price. Price's book, "The New Geology" (1923) and the derivative work "The Genesis Flood" (1961) by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb, were the primary books for most of that century. Price was influenced by Adventist theology, and Morris worked to clean up much of that. Price was skeptical of an ice age, whereas modern scientific creationists claim a single ice age is best explained by the Flood. Price attempted to use the Lewis Overthrust to challenge the assumption of the order of the geologic column. He claimed the order is random. Ronald claims the order is always reversed. A article claims the order is segmented (apparently random, but with a method). I will need to research this more. The Wikipedia article is just a stub...

Creationists attempted to form research organizations throughout the 1900's. All failed (often due to personality conflicts and arguments over theology), until the Creation Research Society of 1963. Until recently, most creationist scientists were biologists (because Christian colleges focused on medicine, and pre-med curriculum). It is only recently that creationist geologists (for example, Steven Austin Ph.D. 1979; and Kurt Wise who Ronald implies graduated in 1989 - pg 280) have started to appear. Hopefully the next fifty or hundred years will produce some impressive creationist research.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

God's Will vs. Free Will

How do we reconcile an all-knowing, all-good, all-powerful God with the evil in the world? How does our free will compete with God's omnipotence?

Some people like to refer to different types of God's will (using words like "decretive", "preceptive", and "permissive"; or "perfect", "providential", and "permissive"). I prefer to talk about "God's will" and "God's plan".

God's will is what God wants. God wants for us to be perfect, just as He is perfect. God also wants to glorify Himself, and that is going to happen. God's will may or may not come to pass (this includes "decretive" [decreed - what God says happens] and part of "preceptive" [precept, commanded]).

God's plan is what happens (The rest of "preceptive" and all of "permissive"). This includes good things (which are in God's will) and bad things (which God permits to happen).

God permits us our free will. Even when it contradicts His will. But God is in control. He can use bad events to bring people to Him. These bad things remind us that the world is fallen. That we need God.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

How Does Jesus' Death Save Us?

(Mmm, soteriology...)

I previously said:
"We are the defendants, and we are guilty.

There must be a price paid (more like our civil court than criminal). That price can only be paid by the blood of Jesus."
God hates sin (and sinners, you cannot easily separate the sin from the sinner). If you doubt this, read Leviticus 10. Sin can take many forms, but fundamentally it is disobeying God's commands.

God is just. Deuteronomy 32:4 is particularly beautiful: "[He is] the Rock, His work [is] perfect: for all His ways [are] judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right [is] he".

God cannot simply forgive people, without punishment. Would a human judge be considered just if he let guilty people go if they said "Sorry"? We call it a "slap on the wrist", and we are outraged (and rightly so).

We cannot pay the punishment ourselves. This is "works righteousness". If we can pay the punishment ourselves, then we can "earn" our salvation. In a sense, God would "owe" us salvation. You don't thank your boss for your paycheck (well, you might say "Thank you" when he hands you the check). It's yours. If he doesn't give it to you, he is a thief. And you don't have gratitude. You worked hard for that check. In some sense, you are equal (in that you deal equitably). He barters for your work, and you barter for pay. That is not how we relate to the creator of the universe.

So God paid the price Himself. He poured out His wrath on His own Son. Jesus' death reveals the magnitude of our crimes against God. It reveals God's love, that He would do that for us. So God is just. And He is love. Merciful. Gracious.

Consider 2 Corinthians 5:20c-21: "be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made Him {Jesus} [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."

This is the great exchange. Our sins were assigned to Jesus, and He paid the price for those sins: beaten, and removed from the sight of God (Matthew 27:46). At the same time, Jesus' righteous life is assigned to us (we'll ignore imputed versus infused righteousness for now).

Friday, October 26, 2007

EO and the FRC

Haven't had an election post in a while (I talked about Hillary's faith back in June, and did an initial review of the Republicans in May).

I used to spend a lot of time over at the Evangelical Outpost (Joe Carter's faith blog). Now, not so much. Joe went in big time to the Fred Thompson campaign when it first started. But Fred seems to be fizzling. He failed to show at the "Values Voter" debate.

I went through several of the transcripts from the Family Research Council's "Washington Briefing".

I found Mike Huckabee's speech most compelling. I still like Ron Paul's angle (his avoidance of mumbling about the gold standard has helped).

Mitt Romney comes off a little phony and "too well prepared". He is still worlds better than Giuliani or McCain. I don't buy that his Mormonism could damage our Gospel message (hypocritical Christian candidates are far worse).

Since the FRC debate, Joe has gotten behind Mike Huckabee. I like Mike. I still haven't been able to decide on him versus Ron Paul.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Who is a Bishop?

(not "The Bishop" from Monty Python)
I had the pleasure of attending the ordaining of a new elder in my local church today. So, "Who is a bishop?"

The Bible uses three words for leaders of the local church. These words are presbyter (elder), episkopos (bishop or overseer), and deacon.

The word for deacon means an attendant or "one who waits upon another". This office can first be seen in Acts 6 (although the word deacon is not used). Deacons serve the needs of the church, with little authority.

Interestingly, the words presbyter and episkopos are used interchangeably. In Titus (a key description of the office), Paul starts by reminding Titus to appoint "elders in every city" (of Crete, Titus 1:5). In verse 6, Paul starts to describe the qualities of a candidate. As he continues into verse 7, he switches to the term "overseer" (bishop, episkopos). The words seem to refer to the different roles played by a person.

An "elder" (literally older) is not necessarily older in age, but "more mature in faith". The elders are often spoken of as a group or council, making decisions together for the local church.

A "bishop" (overseer) is literally "one who oversees". A bishop is a shepherd, looking out over the flock. The bishop is looking for threats (wolves), and also seeing to the needs of the local flock.

Besides Titus, there is another good bishop passage in 1 Timothy 3 ("A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife...").

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Tricks of Satan

My previous post talked some about who Satan is. And I commented some on an excellent "He Lives" post on Satan.

How does Satan do what he does? Fortunately, he has a remarkably small bag of tricks. Unfortunately, we don't seem to be evolving very good defenses against them.

Satan's main attack is to question God's Word (for us, the Bible). This may be an outright contradiction, but is often more subtle.

In Genesis 3, we are given a close up view of one of Satan's most effective tacts (it worked on Eve).

Now in Genesis 2:17, God had said מות ת מות. That is, eat the forbidden fruit and "dying, you will die".

Now in Genesis 3, the serpent is trying to trick Eve. And Eve is not fleeing from sin (James 4:7, 2 Timothy 2:22, 1 Timothy 6:11). Here we see that pride comes before sin. Eve is showing off before the crafty serpent. She expands on God's Word, and says, ת מתון. That is, do not eat of it or touch it "lest you die".

Now we see how crafty Satan is. Look at a package of rat poison. It will say something like tetra-hexa-mega-death-o-caine 1%, inert 99%. That is, about one percent poison, ninety-nine percent food. How much poison does it take to kill you? How many lies make you a liar? How much deviation from God's Word brings death?

Satan gives back an interesting mix of what God actually said, and what Eve said: מותת מתון. That is, "dying, you will not surely die".

And that day, Adam and Eve died. And some 900 years later, their bodies died. And Satan told a half-truth. Neither Enoch nor Elijah died, but were taken directly to Heaven (they "did not surely die").

Beware of half-truths, and just a little Scripture. Look to all of God's Word. Flee from sin.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Who Is a Priest?

Carl Olson's blog had an interesting article by Father Benedict Ashley. The question at hand is "Who is a priest?"

In the kingdom of Israel, priests were the sons of Aaron. They were assisted by the Levites (sons of Levi). The Israelites were blessed to have the physical presence of God in the tabernacle, and later in the temple (the Holy of Holies).

Sinners cannot be in the presence of God. Because of this, the high priest (eldest son of Aaron) was permitted access to the Holy of Holies only once per year (on Yom Kippur). During this time, the high priest would offer a sacrifice of atonement for his own sins, and the sins of the people.

This was a shadow (or type) for the true High Priest, Jesus Christ (see most of Hebrews, but particularly 2:17). Jesus (having no sins of His own) offers Himself, the perfect sacrifice, to God as the atonement for our sins (Hebrews 7:27, 9:7-12).

The other great symbol is the completion of work. The Israelite high priest remained standing, a sign of the need for continuing atonement. Jesus, however, after presenting His sacrifice, takes His seat at the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:11-12), signifying that His work is done.

Thus, there is no more need for ceremonial sacrifice. The bread and wine shared by Christians is not a sacrifice. It is a remembrance of what Jesus did for us.

All Christians are priests (Revelation 1:6,20:6; 1 Peter 2:5,9). We are called to follow Jesus, and make ourselves a sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1).

In Olson's article (by Fr. Ashley), Ashley covers similar topics, until the final paragraphs. There he says,
"while the community can testify to the suitability of the candidate for priesthood ..., they cannot make the final decision as to his ordination, ... Only the bishops who have the fullness of the sacrament have the authority from Christ through their predecessors the apostles to confer this sacrament. This conferring of the same apostolic authority that Jesus conferred on the Twelve must be by some public act that makes it clear to the flock who their shepherds are. Otherwise the flock will be scattered by 'savage wolves' (Acts 20:29)."
This logic is flawed. Acts makes it clear that wolves will appear from within the church ("shall grievous wolves enter in among you"), and will have "sheep's clothing" (the outfit of a shepherd or pastor, Matthew 7:15). History has shown that ordination by successors of the apostles is no protection from heresy and apostasy.

The Bible makes it clear how the faithful (sheep) are to discern a wolf from a shepherd. John 10:3 makes it clear that the sheep must know the voice of The Shepherd (Jesus, our pastors are just shadow shepherds).

How do we know God's voice? By studying His Word. By hearing it read and examined, and reading and meditating on it (for those who can read and have Bibles).

Experts in investigating counterfeiting will tell you, "you prepare yourselves to spot a phony by studying the genuine article." So too with the Bible.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Know Your Heretics: Donatus

Donatists (named for Donatus Magnus) believed that the authority of a person was correlated to the works of that person. In this particular case, a wave of persecution in 303 through 305 had led some Christians to deny the faith.

The Donatists were looking to see these people permanently removed from the church, and denied positions where they would be performing the sacraments.

Their theology held that the sacraments were not "effective" when performed by "illegitimate" people.

Although Donatism captured a large population of believers (particularly in Africa, see pg 177-178 in "The Rebirth of Orthodoxy"), it was (rightly) rejected by orthodox believers.

It is important to remember that it is God who is "effective" for everything in our lives. There is nothing special about the leader of your church, you, me, or any other person besides Jesus Christ. It is the Father who chooses us and draws us to Him. It is the Holy Spirit who baptizes us into the body of Christ (see all of 1 Corinthians 12). It is Christ who is the payment for our sin debt.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

On Baptism

Having just been baptized, I have been studying baptism as presented in the Bible. The root Greek word is "bapto", and the derived words are "baptizo", "baptisma", "baptismos", "baptistes".

"Bapto" means to wash fully, to immerse (as in water), or overwhelm. It can also imply "throughout" or "thoroughly". There are several baptisms described in the Bible.

John the Baptist preached baptism for the repentance of sins. This is apparently different than baptism in the name of Jesus (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) (see Acts 19:2-5, where people baptized by John needed to be baptized in the name of Jesus to receive the Holy Spirit). It appears to have been transitory, for Old Testament saints at the time of Jesus (the apostles, etc. up to and including Jesus).

There is a mention of "baptism for the dead" (1 Corinthians 15:29). This appears to refer to a pagan ceremony (it seems Paul is saying "they do it", rather than "we do it").

Jesus also refers to a cup and a baptism of suffering that He must endure. This is obviously a reference to the crucifixion.

There is also reference to being baptized into the body of Christ through the Holy Spirit. This is a reference to the moment of salvation. When we are sealed with the Holy Spirit.

So who should be baptized? and why? What does our soteriology say? Is baptism necessary for salvation?

Any soteriology must account for the thief on the cross (next to Jesus). This thief was certainly a criminal, and he may have started off mocking Jesus (Matthew 27:44 KJV uses "thieves", although my Greek skillz are non-existant...). But in the end, Jesus told him "To day shalt thou be with me in paradise". No works, no ceremonies, no Purgatory.

Baptism also does not guarantee salvation. Judas was almost certainly baptized, and he is almost certainly in Hell (Jesus said it would of been better had he not been born, Acts 1:25 says he went to "his own place"). Simon the Sorcerer was baptized, but received some serious rebuking (Acts 8:18-24). And today there are plenty of stories of baptized people becoming atheists.

The pattern in the Bible is (relatively) clear. Repent, believe, and be baptized.

I was baptized as an infant. (My local church is very loving and understanding, they would accept that baptism - if my conscience required it. But they teach that baptism should follow belief. And encourage anyone baptized as an infant to study the issue.)

But a baby cannot repent and believe. It took me some thirty years to reach that point. And so I was recently baptized.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Soteriology is the study of salvation. It is "salvation theory" or the doctrine of salvation. It can be a sore spot of division, but there are some clear Biblical teachings which everyone should be able to agree on.

The first question is "Why is salvation needed?" or "What are we saved from?". This is an important question. It defines what our problem is, and influences what we need to do to solve it.

First off, we are not saved from illness and poverty. There's an excellent quote they play on the Way of the Master radio: "Anyone who says, 'Get saved and live a better life' - has never read the New Testament." (Unfortunately, I cannot identify the speaker). The Bible is clear, get saved and receive tribulation and persecution (John 16:33, the parable of the sower, Acts 14:22, Romans 5:3, Mark 10:30).

We are saved from Hell. But why are we in danger of Hell? For the average person, this seems unreasonable. Ask any 10 people on the street, and probably at least half of the them will say they are good people who deserve Heaven, not Hell.

But the Bible makes it clear: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). God is perfect, and so must we be perfect. How many murders make you a murderer? How many lies a liar?

"murderers, ... and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone" (Revelation 21:8)

Paul uses the analogy of a courtroom (how many laws do you have to break to end up in court? Is the judge impressed that you usually do not break laws? That you believe he is good? That you won't do it again?).

We are the defendants, and we are guilty.

There must be a price paid (more like our civil court than criminal). That price can only be paid by the blood of Jesus.

When we realize that we are sinners, in need of salvation, and that Jesus has paid our price in full, turn from our sins, and trust in God - we are saved. Our "criminal" record is applied to Jesus, and His perfect life is applied to us.

Another analogy used is that of a slave auction. As sinners, we are owned by sin. Jesus' blood "purchases" us. We receive the seal of the Holy Spirit as evidence of this "down payment" against an inheritance of eternal life with Him.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Book Review

"The Rebirth of Orthodoxy" (Thomas C. Oden) - I liked this book, but it was very slow to read. It doesn't read like a novel, and I think it could be reorganized. That said, it makes a lot of interesting statements and has a lot of insight.

Oden believes the "postmodern" movement is actually the death throes of "modernism". Oden classifies the modern age as 1789 to 1989 (Bastille to Berlin). Modern thought started with a great deal of optimism. It was believed rational thought and logic could eliminate all of mankind's problems. The whole history of modernism can be seen in science fiction (which barely existed before the twentieth century). Starting very optimistic, even utopian, then proceeding to more pessimistic and directionless forms. That is postmodernism. The idea that everyone can believe anything they want, and everyone is right. This idea is attractive to many, but is leading a lot of people to look for more.

Oden differentiates Orthodoxy (capital O, like the Eastern Orthodox Church) from orthodoxy (small o), which is what is being reborn. This is seen in churches returning to Biblical foundations, and increasing willingness for churches to take a stand on fundamental differences (for example the Pope reaffirming that the RCC is the only true church).

There is a fair amount here, that I will probably return to later.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Today is my Baptism. A little googling will reveal I have been posting on Christian topics for three or four years now. And as my testimony says, I got saved just under two years ago. There's a long story to all that, and to why it's taken so long for me to get baptized. I'll probably get to it eventually, among other topics.

But today, I'd like to post some of my testimony:
"Growing up, I figured everything was right between me and God. I didn't steal, curse, smoke, or drink. I went to (a Catholic) church, and when I met my wife, I went to her church, were I was told I needed to get right with God, and I 'asked Jesus into my heart'.

I was told I was born again, but my life didn't change. It was while I was trying to live up to my supposed new life, that I finally came to understand I am not a good person in the eyes of God.

I realized that I was really blaspheming God when I called myself a Christian, but was no different than people in the world. That my evil thoughts and intentions made me just as guilty before God as people who carry out these thoughts. I didn't act out my sin, but it was very real inside me.

I struggled with God for some time. My pride kept me from really trusting Him. But, almost two years ago, I finally got down on my face and put my trust in God. I turned from my sin, and put on Jesus as my savior."

Friday, October 12, 2007

On Abortion

Interesting confluence of events. I was thinking about the upcoming presidential election, and about abortion in America. And wondering how the numbers compare with other countries around the world. Then I read an article on CNN. Where there are just under one million abortions in America (it had been about 1.2, and is now about 800k); there were an estimated 42 million abortions worldwide in 2003 (down from a trend of 46 million per year). I found statistics back to 1995 showing 46 million per year. Estimates range from 527 to 836 million (just 1995-2007 at 40 million per year is 480 million).

Then Joe Carter (from the Evangelical Outpost) had an interesting article concerning the Republicans and abortion.

I don't know what point I'm trying to make. But it does back a lot of info in one spot...

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Motives of the Evolutionist (part 2)

The last post ended up being on the motives of some creationists and most of the ID crowd. Sonder spends surprisingly little time pondering the motives of evolutionists, but there are some juicy quotes (page 12-13):
"In fact, Darwin himself stated that his main goal in writing On the Origin of the Species was 'to overthrow the dogma of separate creations.'"
And the top of page 12:
"It would take a few generations before scientists could offer any proof for some aspects of Darwin's theories."
Darwin certainly accomplished his goal. The question is, did his goal affect his process? What happened to collecting data and fitting theories to it? This topic is actually covered some in the book The Creationists heavily cited by Sonder.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Motives of the Evolutionist

Continuing my review of the book "Evolutionism and Creationism":

Sonder spends a lot of print on the Intelligent Design movement (starting around page 78 through the top of page 95). I haven't followed the ID movement much, except from what shows up on the He Lives blog (David Heddle). From what I've seen there, it seems they haven't done a lot to benefit the spreading of the Gospel...

I agree with Heddle, that ID proponents should just come out and admit they are in favor of teaching creationism by God. It would be most honest. If the politics cannot be made to happen, so be it. The Gospel is more powerful than any evolution curriculum, and there are Christians able to reconcile evolutionary theory with an inerrant Bible (Heddle being an excellent example).

It is because of this, I am hesitant to join in with those who pin all the world's problems on evolution.

As I mentioned earlier, the problem is sin.

That said, evolution does serve to sear the conscience of atheists (who need to have this theory in order to reconcile facts from the world).

Sonder examines the motive of the creationist, through one Judge William Overton (pages 88-90), in the case McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education (1982):
"creationist organizations that supported the bill 'consider the introduction of creation science into the public schools part of their ministry'."
I feel the judge's stance on this subject is biased. I wish I could say it is clearly wrong. But there is some sense that some people feel teaching creation will spread Christianity. But that is simply not Biblical (and thus not true).

It is the parents' responsibility to teach the Law of God to children (Deuteronomy 32:46, among others). Do you want a teacher who is not a Christian (are we going to require all teachers be Christian?) to teach your children creation by God?

It is not creationism that spreads Christianity. It is "Law to the proud, grace to the humble." And most people today are proud. The Law of God is a mirror which reveals to us our true imperfect state before a perfect God.

Every lie we tell defames God as a liar. Every sexual thought and action defames God as an adulterer. Our devotion to ourselves as gods, and to imaginings of our mind as god attempts to remove God from His rightful throne.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Atheism Demands Evolution

Thinking about young earth and old earth, creationism and evolutionism.

Young Earth Old Earth
Evolution Nobody Atheists and Theists
Creation Theists Theists

Modern atheism demands evolution, and evolution demands an old earth. Most forms of ancient atheism relied on the notion of creation always existing. Physicists have tried pretty hard to make that work, but have (mostly) abandoned it, because there is just no way to make it work (please don't start me up on string theory).

Ben Sonder's book ("Evolutionism and Creationism") mentions on page 40:
"If he [George McCready Price - author of Outlines of Modern Christianity and Modern Science] could prove that [sic] modern assumptions about geology wrong, then evolutionary theory would collapse."

This sentence is flagged as "Ronald L. Numbers, The Creationists, New York 1992, page 76". [This book is in the central library near me, so I will check it out.]

Is this not true? Sonder does not offer his opinion. He mentions that mainstream scientists ignore the work of creationists (when not deriding it in public statements...). If the assumptions of uniformitarians are incorrect, if the world is not billions of years old, can evolution be possible?

Are there young earth evolutionists?