Belgic Confession: Authority of Holy Scripture

22 Sep

ARTICLE 5 – THE AUTHORITY OF HOLY SCRIPTURE

We receive1 all these books, and these only, as holy and canonical, for the regulation, foundation, and confirmation of our faith.2 We believe without any doubt all things contained in them, not so much because the church receives and approves them as such, but especially because the Holy Spirit witnesses in our hearts that they are from God,3 and also because they contain the evidence thereof in themselves; for, even the blind are able to perceive that the things foretold in them are being fulfilled.4

1. 1 Thes 2:13. 2. 2 Tim 3:16-17. 3. 1 Cor 12:3; 1 John 4:6, 1 John 5:7. 4. Deut 18:21-22; 1 Kings 22:28; Jer 28:9; Ezek 33:33.

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Science confirms what everyone else already knew for centuries about gender

19 Sep

From the Telegraph:

In My Fair Lady Professor Higgins sings a song about the difference between the sexes, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” It comes from an amusingly, ludicrously biased male point of view, but I have used it as the title for my new book on the subject to remind us that the differences between men and women remain a major issue.

I am a developmental biologist who has studied how embryos develop from the fertilised egg. Genes control the development of the embryo by providing the codes for making proteins, which largely determine how cells behave.

The cells in the human embryo give rise to the structure and function of our brains and bodies. These cells determine whether we are male or female, and I want to understand the extent to which important differences in the behaviour of men and women are controlled by their genes during development and by the action of hormones both in the womb and in later life.

Exactly how different men and women are is, of course, a controversial subject. The view that there are inborn differences between the minds of men and women is being challenged by others who call this the pseudoscience of “neurosexism”, and are raising concerns about its implications. They emphasise instead social influences, such as stereotyping, in determining the differences in the behaviour of the sexes.


The development of the brain leads to many sex differences, says Lewis Wolpert (Chris Martin)

An eight point critique of dispensationalism

19 Sep

From Shane Lem’s blog post (featuring Anthony Hoekema):

Bible and the Future Anthony Hoekema (d. 1988) wrote a helpful critique of dispensational premillennialism in his excellent book, The Bible and the FutureBecause I think they are helpful, I’m going to summarize and edit them below.  I strongly recommend reading the entire 20 page chapter for the full discussion – along with exegesis and detailed explanation.

1) Dispensationalism fails to do full justice to the basic unity of biblical revelation.  …One great difficulty with the dispensational system…is that in it the differences between the various periods of redemptive history seem to outweigh the basic unity of that history.  …When one does not do full justice to the unity of God’s redemptive dealings with mankind, and when one makes hard and fast distinctions between the various dispensations, the danger exists that one will fail to recognize the cumulative and permanent advances which mark God’s dealings with his people in New Testament times.  …The principle of discontinuity between one dispensation and another overrules and virtually nullifies the principle of progressive revelation.

2) The teaching that God has a separate purpose for Israel and the church is in error.  …As a matter of fact, the New Testament itself often interprets expressions relating to Israel in such a way as to apply them to the New Testament church, which includes both Jews and Gentiles (cf. Gal. 3:28-29; 6:15-16, Eph. 2:11-22, Heb. 12:22, 1 Peter 2:9, etc.).  …To suggest that God has in mind a separate future for Israel in distinction to the Gentiles is like putting the scaffolding back up after the building has been finished; it is like turning the clock of history back to Old Testament times.

3) The Old Testament does not teach that there will be a future millennial kingdom.  When one looks at the chapter and section headings of the New Schofield Bible, one finds that many sections of the Old Testament are interpreted as describing the millennium.  However, the Old Testament says nothing about such a millennial reign.  Passages commonly interpreted as describing the millennium actually describe the new earth which is the culmination of God’s redemptive work.

4) The Bible does not teach a millennial restoration of the Jews to their land.  …To understand these prophecies (about returning to the land) only in terms of a literal fulfillment for Israel in Palestine during the thousand years is to revert back to Jewish nationalism and to fail to see God’s purpose for all his redeemed people.  To understand these prophecies, however, as pointing to the new earth and its glorified inhabitants drawn from all tribes, peoples, and tongues ties in these prophecies with the ongoing sweep of New Testament revelation, and makes them richly meaningful to all believers today.

5) Dispensational teaching about the postponement of the kingdom is not supported by Scripture.  This teaching must be challenged on at least three points: 1) it is not correct to give the impression that all the Jews of Jesus’ day rejected the kingdom he offered them, 2) the kingdom which Christ offered to the Jews of his day did not involve his ascending an earthly throne, as dispensationalists contend, and 3) if the majority of the Jews had accepted Jesus and his kingdom, how would Christ have gotten to the cross?

6) Dispensational teaching about the parenthesis church is not supported by Scripture.  It is not true that the Old Testament never predicts the church.  The Old Testament clearly states that the Gentiles will share the blessings of the Jews (Gen. 12:3, 22:28, Ps. 22:27, etc.).  The idea of a ‘parenthesis church’ implies a kind of dichotomy in God’s redemptive work, as if he has a separate purpose with Jews and Gentiles.  The church was not an afterthought on God’s part, but is the fruit of his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ (Eph. 3:8-11).

7) There is no biblical basis for the expectation that people will still be brought to salvation after Christ returns.  Dispensationalism teaches that a remnant of Israel and a multitude of Gentiles will come to salvation during the seven-year tribulation.  There are clear indications in Scripture, however, that the church (including both Jewish and Gentile believers) will be complete when Christ comes again (1 Cor. 15:23, 1 Thes. 3:12-13, Matt. 24:31, etc.).

8) The millennium of the dispensationalists is not the millennium described in Revelation 20:4-6.  Revelation 20:4-6 says nothing about believers who have not died but are still alive when Christ returns (as was argued above).  Dispensationalists teach that the millennial age will concern unresurrected people, people who are still living in their natural bodies.  But about such people this passage (Rev. 20:4-6) does not breathe a word!  Further, Revelation 20:4-6 does not say a word about the Jews, the nation of Israel, the land of Palestine, or Jerusalem.

Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, chapter 15.

shane lems

Why are the motives of pro-choice men not met with the same suspicion as pro-life men?

18 Sep

We are told by many on the pro-choice side that men who oppose abortion can’t be trusted.  The real motive they may have is oppressing women, no matter how genuine they may seem to be regarding the unborn.  But if we are allowed to impugn the motives of pro-life men, what about pro-choice men?  After all, one could argue quite reasonably that abortion serves the personal self-interest of promiscuous men.  Perhaps the real motive of pro-choice men is not women’s rights, but guilt and duty free sex.  If abortion is available, then men may reasonably detach themselves from any responsibility they may have had when they engage in consensual sex.  Sex becomes a truly consequence free activity with a sure-fire backstop plan if “worse comes to worse” and recreation turns to procreation.  Men need not concern themselves with seeing sex as a serious act involving loving long-term commitment.  Rather, there is now no excuse for thinking of it in any other way except pleasure.  If the woman wants more, he can say “no thanks and remember, there’s always abortion.”  Furthermore, abortion relieves men of their moral obligation to care for a child they personally would have chosen to abort (had they been women).  If women can say on the one hand “my  body, my choice,” then men may reasonably say  on the other “I agree, it’s your business, not mine.  If you want to abort, fine.  Your life.  If you want to keep it, fine.  Your life.  You don’t need my consent for either.  As a man, I am disqualified in this decision, which also makes me not responsible for the decision you make.  We agreed to have sex, not a baby.  If she wants to be a parent, it is truly, her choice to make alone.”  In short, the availability of abortion allows men to trivialize sex, treating it as recreational only, and relieves them of the moral warrant to keep and care for any children they would have preferred to abort, reducing any incentive to stick around for either mother or child (which has major social drawbacks as well, studies show also here)  Sweet deal, if only there were no God of justice.

A primer on Christian Political Theology

16 Sep

 

Some may disagree with the author’s seemingly strong association between the Kingdom of God and the nation-state of Israel, or the seemingly wholly futurist end of the ages fulfillment of promises made to OT Israel (no fulfillment in the redeemed church), or its overall earthy emphasis, but the rest is pretty solid.

James Patrick:

I must begin with the proviso that this is a summary of how I personally understand the gospel, the message of the Bible, to relate to the imminent referendum for Scottish independence from the United Kingdom. Others have different views about politics and about the connection between earthly kingdoms and the Kingdom of God; this is my initial attempt at a biblical theology of politics. However, I humbly ask the Christian reader to “examine the Scriptures… to see whether these things are so” (Acts 17:11).

1.  Politics is Jesus’ speciality

Colossians 1:16 says that “in Jesus all things were created, in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether …”  We would expect Paul to continue “… oceans or mountains or stars”.  Instead, he specifies “thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities” – all of these “have been created through Jesus and for Jesus”.  That is hugely important.  Psalm 86:9 says “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord”.  Paul goes further, explaining that every form of authority was actually designed with Jesus in mind, as the only one who can properly handle it.

We could be specific, then:  The United States, a federal republic, was created through Jesus and for Jesus.  China, a socialist republic, was created through Jesus and for Jesus.  Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy, was created through Jesus and for Jesus.  The European Union, with its Parliament, Council, and Commission, was created through Jesus and for Jesus.  The United Nations, with its General Assembly, Security Council, and so on, was created through Jesus and for Jesus.  No political system can function properly without His direct oversight and allegiance to Him.  Yet all leadership that genuinely seeks to take responsibility to care for others is a reflection of His character (Eph 3:14-15; Ps 22:27-28; Ps 82), and therefore derives its authority from Him (John 19:10-11; Rom 13:1-7; 1Pet 2:13-17).

2.  God’s plan is for global political unity

A.  Only one legal ruler of humanity
Humanity was designed politically on the model of a family, with Adam as its first ruler, followed by his son Seth, who as the promised ‘seed’ was given authority over his siblings (Gen 4:1-2, 9, 25; Ps 22:27).  This line of authority continued via Enoch to Noah (Gen 5:29), via Shem (Gen 9:26-27;11:31) to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (Gen 17:19-21; 26:3-5; 28:13-15).  Then among Israel’s twelve sons, Judah was given the authority (Gen 49:8-12), and therefore his descendant David was legally ruler of Israel and thus of all nations, for their blessing (Ps 18:43-50; 72:8-11).  Jesus was the direct heir of David’s throne (Matt 1:1-21; cf. 1Chron 1:1–3:24), and therefore legally took responsibility for the actions of His people by dying in their place as ‘King of the Jews’ (John 19:14-22; Num 30:15).  At the same time, though, He was also dying as the rightful King of all nations, who alone could legally pay for the sins of any Gentile peoples who accepted His authority (Rom 5:12-21).  Having appeared the first time to deal with sins, He will come a second time to fulfil all of God’s promises of salvation and restoration of all things (Heb 9:28; Acts 3:19-21; Matt 19:28-29).

B.  Global government awaits its appointed time
From the beginning God has been actively governing all nations.  Adam and Eve, and then Noah, were given humanity’s commission to “fill the earth” (Gen 1:27-28; 9:1), and yet soon after the Flood, humanity attempted a premature political unity at the Tower of Babylon, in disobedience to their commission (Gen 11:1-9).  God thwarted their intention at that time by dispersing humanity and creating nations (Gen 10), but at the same time called Noah’s heir Abram to be a blessing to all the nations (Gen 12:1-3).  Ever since Abram’s day, many nations have attempted to create empires (Gen 14), but the one nation that inherited Abram’s authority has had to wait for God’s timing, while being used by Him to bless other nations (Acts 3:25-26).  Prophets from God’s chosen people Israel not only elaborated God’s future plans for Israel and its promised King to govern all nations (Isa 11; 60; Mic 4; Zec 9–10), but also took God’s messages to other nations and empires (Amos 1–2;Isa 13–23; Jer 25; 46–51; Ezek 25–32; Heb 1:1-2).  Yet even when the promised King finally arrived, after His resurrection and return from Galilee to Jerusalem, it was still not yet time for Jesus to take up the throne of His father David over the nations.  His disciples were expecting these promises of the prophets to be fulfilled immediately for Israel (Acts 1:3, 6; 3:21; Luke 19:11-28; 22:28-30), but they had not grasped how vital all other nations were to His kingdom also (Matt 24:14, 30-31).

Read the rest

“All things are common among us but our wives.” Early Christian sexuality and charity

15 Sep

This past Lord’s Day, my pastor referred to a point made by Tim Keller about how NYC inverts the ethical order of Christianity.  In Christianity, much is made of sex, it is sacred, special, to protected, and not shared with anyone other than the spouse.  Money, on the other hand, is trivial, unimportant, not to be treated as a matter of extreme importance, and should be shared with many.  The culture inverts that, trivializing sex, making it public, shared, common, laughed at, unimportant.  But money is the cultural idol, the most important thing about you, and is to be hoarded, protected, amassed, and used for personal gain.  But this counter-cultural trend has been going on between the church and world for, well, a long long time.

From Dr. Michael Kruger:

While it was not unusual for Roman citizens to have multiple sexual partners, homosexual encounters, and engagement with temple prostitutes, Christians stood out precisely because of their refusal to engage in these practices.

For instance, Tertullian goes to great lengths to defend the legitimacy of Christianity by pointing out how Christians are generous and share their resources with all those in need.  But, then he says, “One in mind and soul, we do not hesitate to share our earthly goods with one another. All things are common among us but our wives” (Apol. 39). Why does he say this?  Because, in the Greco-Roman world, it was not unusual for people to share their spouses with each other.

In the second-century Epistle to Diognetus, the author goes out of his way to declare how normal Christians are in regard to what they wear, what they eat, and how they participate in society.  However, he then says, “[Christians] share their meals, but not their sexual partners” (Diogn. 5.7).  Again, this is the trait that makes Christians different.

We see this play out again in the second-century Apology of Aristides.  Aristides defends the legitimacy of the Christian faith to the emperor Hadrian by pointing out how Christians “do not commit adultery nor fornication” and “their men keep themselves from every unlawful union” (15).

A final example comes from the second-century apology of Minucius Felix.  In his defense to Octavius, he contrasts the sexual ethic of the pagan world with that of Christians:

Among the Persians, a promiscuous association between sons and mothers is allowed. Marriages with sisters are legitimate among the Egyptians and in Athens. Your records and your tragedies, which you both read and hear with pleasure, glory in incests: thus also you worship incestuous gods, who have intercourse with mothers, with daughters, with sisters. With reason, therefore, is incest frequently detected among you, and is continually permitted. Miserable men, you may even, without knowing it, rush into what is unlawful: since you scatter your lusts promiscuously, since you everywhere beget children, since you frequently expose even those who are born at home to the mercy of others, it is inevitable that you must come back to your own children, and stray to your own offspring. Thus you continue the story of incest, even although you have no consciousness of your crime. But we maintain our modesty not in appearance, but in our heart we gladly abide by the bond of a single marriage; in the desire of procreating, we know either one wife, or none at all (31).

This sampling of texts from the second century demonstrates that one of the main ways that Christians stood out from their surrounding culture was their distinctive sexual behavior.  Of course, this doesn’t mean Christians were perfect in this regard.  No doubt, many Christians committed sexual sins.  But, Christianity as a whole was still committed to striving towards the sexual ethic laid out in Scripture–and the world took notice.

Needless to say, this has tremendous implications for Christians in the modern day.  We are reminded again that what we are experiencing in the present is not new–Christians battled an over-sexed culture as early as the first and second century!

Belgic Confession – The Canonical Books

15 Sep

ARTICLE 4 – THE CANONICAL BOOKS

We believe that the Holy Scriptures consist of two parts, namely, the Old and the New Testament, which are canonical, against which nothing can be alleged. These books are listed in the church of God as follows.

The books of the Old Testament: the five books of Moses, namely, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther; Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Eccliastes, the Song of Songs; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

The books of the New Testament: the four gospels, namely, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles; the thirteen letters of the apostle Paul, namely, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thesalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon; the letter to the Hebrews; the seven other letters, namely, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John, Jude; and the Revelation to the apostle John.

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