Thursday, February 28, 2019

Animal Rights, Veganism & Abortion (Considering Abortion From The Perspective Of Veganism And Animal Rights)

            We live in a time and age in which a vegan is glorified and a pro-lifer (anti-abortionist) is condemned by the secular world! The moral values of the secular world seem to have its feet firmly planted in midair.

            This situation confuses many Christians – the young and the old. Youngsters seem to think that being a vegan is to be kind to the animals. While this may be true, they, on the other hand, believe that the mother has the right to choose whether or not to continue with the pregnancy.

            Animal life, today, has a greater value than human life. Or so it seems!

            What does the Bible say about animal rights?

            Steve W Lemke, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, in an article entitled ‘Does the Bible Affirm That Animals Have Rights?’ says:1

No, Scripture never specifically grants rights to animals. The Bible doesn't assume that animals have intrinsic rights, even the right to life. Unlike humans, animals were not created in the image of God. God made humans the pinnacle of His creation, with inherent worth and greater capacities than animals. He appointed humans to subdue and rule over all animals (Gn 1:20-31). God specifically approved the use of animals as food for humans (Gn 9:1-3; Lv 11:2-3).
Since animals have lesser value than humans, they shouldn't be given the rights accorded to human beings, and human life should never be sacrificed to save animal life.
Yes, the Bible affirms that humans have a moral obligation to treat animals humanely. Although animals are clearly not equal in worth to human beings, they have value since God created them as "good" (Gn 1:20-25). So, as part of our God-given stewardship, we shouldn't abuse or pointlessly harm animals. Scripture uses the same word to describe the animating force that God gave animals (nephesh, Gn 1:20-21, 24, 30) as it does in describing how He breathed a living soul into persons (Gn 2:7).
Unlike animals, human souls have unique capacities: self-awareness, abstract reasoning, an orientation toward the future, freedom, moral responsibility, and the capacity to have a relationship with God. Animal sacrifices presuppose that animals have value (Lv 4-6; Heb 9:11-28). Animal pain is a matter for moral concern because God cares for animals (Gn 7:2-4; Ps 104:10-30; 147:7-9; 148:7-10; Mt 6:26; Lk 12:6-7, 24).
Although God gave people permission to eat animals after the flood (Gn 9:1-3), this may have been a concession to human sinfulness. Vegetarianism practiced in the Garden of Eden (Gn 1:29-30; 2:16), and the prophecy that natural predators will live together peacefully in the future (Isa 11:6-8), suggest that the eating of animal flesh isn't God's ideal.
Scripture calls upon humans to treat animals humanely. The Mosaic law forbade the heartless treatment of birds, promising long life to those who don't abuse animals (Dt 22:6-7). Other regulations were given for the welfare of farm animals (Dt 22:1-4, 10; 25:4). Humane treatment of animals is a characteristic of godly living (Pr 12:10).  

            It’s quite clear that we are called to treat animals humanely. There is no doubt about it.

            But how could a vegan, who cares for plant and animal life, care less about human life?

            Interestingly, one of the basic defenses put up by the vegan camp to justify abortion is that plant and animals are sentient beings (having the power of perception by the senses e.g. able to perceive pain). They contend that fetuses are not sentient beings. Hence they find justification in killing (aborting) fetuses.

            If this argument is valid then it should apply to an adult human as well. A person in a coma (in a vegetative or in an unresponsive state) is generally considered to not feel pain. Is it then valid to kill this person because he/she cannot feel pain?  

            God is the creator and sustainer of life. This implies that only God can create or take life off the earth. However, even if euthanasia is to be considered, it could only be on the basis of administering medical support to merely extend one’s life when medial support is no longer helpful to a dying patient or when treatment is more burdensome to the dying patient. 

            If euthanasia is contemplated from within the Christian context, it would be predicated on the fact that death should not be resisted by medical means because a Christian’s eternal destiny is beyond death. For a Christian, death is a good death, for it ushers him/her into God’s presence.

            So if euthanasia is considered on a vegetative comatose patient, then it is not considered on the basis of pain, but on the basis of resisting death and eternity.

            If we merely think about pain as a reason for euthanasia, then scientists would inform us that even a comatose person in vegetative condition can exhibit signs of consciousness and feel emotions (cf. the case of Rom Houben2). Therefore, arguing for abortion based on ‘pain’ cannot be justified.

            It’s one thing for a secular person to consider abortion, but for a Christian to consider abortion is something else entirely.

            In fact, a very plausible argument can be made to justify that Christians who endorse abortion are not Christians, to begin with. Here’s an excerpt from my blog entitled ‘The Christianity of Abortion:’ 3

Chelsea Clinton, in an interview on September 13, 2018, said that as a deeply religious person, banning abortions would be unchristian to her.1
…Matt Walsh, in response to Chelsea’s comments on abortion, termed her as a Satanist:5
…The point is that Jesus Christ is the Lord of Life. He gives life to our children and commands us to care for the precious gift He has bestowed. It is the most twisted kind of heresy to suggest that God may breathe life into your child and then raise no objection if you crush the child's skull and throw his body in a medical waste dumpster. "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you," says the Book of Jeremiah. "Children are a gift from the Lord," says Psalm 127.
… Let us remember, also, that Jesus Christ was Incarnate as an unborn child. He was a "fetus," to use our modern term. A stage of human development cannot be anything less than sacred after the Lord Himself lived through that stage. Christianity is the only religion in the world that believes God Himself was once unborn. For this reason, no religion on Earth is less compatible with abortion than Christianity. You cannot be a pro-abortion Christian. It's like trying to square a circle. It just doesn't work.
Satanism, on the other hand, is deeply compatible with the pro-abortion view. The two go hand-in-hand, a match made in Hell…
It's not hard to see why satanists not only support abortion but consider it sacramental. Through abortion, a woman places her own comfort and convenience above the life of her child. She declares that her child's very humanity is contingent upon, and subordinate to, her desires. Pro-aborts are quite explicit about this. If you ask them when life begins, they'll tell you it begins whenever the mother wants it to begin. They ascribe Godlike power and authority to the individual. What else can we call this but the deification of the self? It is textbook satanism.
            Abortion is predicated on choice – the choice of the mother and maybe even the father. Such people remain in control of their lives, thereby they choose to abort.
            Being a Christian is also predicated on choice. A person chooses to believe in Christ. But in this instance, when a person chooses to believe in Christ, that person willfully surrenders his/her choice or submits his/her life to the rule of the Lord Jesus Christ.
          When the Lord Jesus rules our life, HIS choice becomes our choice. Our choice gets lost in HIS. From this time onwards, a Christian chooses to obey the Lord Jesus and the commands that are taught in the Bible.
            Christianity is not about having a strong social outlook. Christianity is all about loving God and being obedient to HIM and HIM alone. When we love God, we cannot ignore the social concerns of our world. However, caring for social concerns cannot supersede our obedience to God. Our allegiance is to God and to the sanctity of human life.
        Therefore, the entailment of the true Christianity is to hold a high view of God, obey HIM and HIS commands. Hence, true Christians oppose abortion. Those Christians who support abortion may not be Christians, so their deep religiosity does not matter to us.

Endnotes:
1http://christian-victory.blogspot.com/2012/02/does-bible-affirm-that-animals-have.html

2https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-can-we-tell-if-a-comatose-patient-is-conscious/

3https://rajkumarrichard.blogspot.com/2018/09/the-christianity-of-abortion.html   


Websites last accessed on 28th February 2019.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Divine Sovereignty & Human Freedom – A Molinistic Perspective (Doctrines Dividing the Church)

            With respect to the salvation of mankind, there exist two major schools of thought within Christianity. They are Calvinism and Arminianism.

            Very minimally, Calvinism subscribes to divine sovereignty to teach that God chooses some people to go to heaven and others to hell. ‘Arminianism,’ which is predicated on human freedom, teaches that man has freewill to either accept God or reject HIM. This action of man will lead him to his eventual eternal destination, namely heaven or hell.

            Predestination is certainly one of the most controversial doctrines of the Christian faith. But the Bible reveals this doctrine. Hence a Christian has no other option but to understand it to the best of his/her ability.

            ‘Predestination’ refers to God’s choice of individuals for eternal life or eternal death. ‘Election’ is God’s selection of some for eternal life, the positive side of predestination.

            A definite tension (as to who is correct) exists between groups subscribing to Calvinism and Arminianism. Gotquestions.org explains the basic nuances of Calvinism and Arminianism so to understand this tension:1

Calvinism and Arminianism are two systems of theology that attempt to explain the relationship between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility in the matter of salvation. Calvinism is named for John Calvin, a French theologian who lived from 1509-1564. Arminianism is named for Jacobus Arminius, a Dutch theologian who lived from 1560-1609.
Both systems can be summarized with five points. Calvinism holds to the total depravity of man while Arminianism holds to partial depravity. Calvinism’s doctrine of total depravity states that every aspect of humanity is corrupted by sin; therefore, human beings are unable to come to God on their own accord. Partial depravity states that every aspect of humanity is tainted by sin, but not to the extent that human beings are unable to place faith in God of their own accord. Note: classical Arminianism rejects “partial depravity” and holds a view very close to Calvinistic “total depravity” (although the extent and meaning of that depravity are debated in Arminian circles). In general, Arminians believe there is an “intermediate” state between total depravity and salvation. In this state, made possible by prevenient grace, the sinner is being drawn to Christ and has the God-given ability to choose salvation.
Calvinism includes the belief that election is unconditional, while Arminianism believes in conditional election. Unconditional election is the view that God elects individuals to salvation based entirely on His will, not on anything inherently worthy in the individual. Conditional election states that God elects individuals to salvation based on His foreknowledge of who will believe in Christ unto salvation, thereby on the condition that the individual chooses God.
Calvinism sees the atonement as limited, while Arminianism sees it as unlimited. This is the most controversial of the five points. Limited atonement is the belief that Jesus only died for the elect. Unlimited atonement is the belief that Jesus died for all, but that His death is not effectual until a person receives Him by faith.
Calvinism includes the belief that God’s grace is irresistible, while Arminianism says that an individual can resist the grace of God. Irresistible grace argues that when God calls a person to salvation, that person will inevitably come to salvation. Resistible grace states that God calls all to salvation, but that many people resist and reject this call.
Calvinism holds to perseverance of the saints while Arminianism holds to conditional salvation. Perseverance of the saints refers to the concept that a person who is elected by God will persevere in faith and will not permanently deny Christ or turn away from Him. Conditional salvation is the view that a believer in Christ can, of his/her own free will, turn away from Christ and thereby lose salvation. Note - many Arminians deny "conditional salvation" and instead hold to "eternal security."
So, in the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate, who is correct? It is interesting to note that in the diversity of the body of Christ, there are all sorts of mixtures of Calvinism and Arminianism. There are five-point Calvinists and five-point Arminians, and at the same time three-point Calvinists and two-point Arminians. Many believers arrive at some sort of mixture of the two views. Ultimately, it is our view that both systems fail in that they attempt to explain the unexplainable. Human beings are incapable of fully grasping a concept such as this. Yes, God is absolutely sovereign and knows all. Yes, human beings are called to make a genuine decision to place faith in Christ unto salvation. These two facts seem contradictory to us, but in the mind of God they make perfect sense.

            According to other theologians, this tension need not exist. These theologians subscribe to the teachings of Molinism.

            Dr. William Lane Craig offers an introductory explanation as to how Molinism can help us understand God with respect to man’s salvation:2

The biblical worldview involves a strong conception of divine sovereignty over the world and human affairs even as it presupposes human freedom and responsibility (cp. the accounts of Saul’s death in 1 Sm 31:1–6 and 1 Ch 10:8–12). An adequate doctrine of divine providence requires reconciling these two streams of biblical teaching without compromising either. Yet this has proven extraordinarily difficult. On the one hand, the Augustinian-Calvinist perspective interprets divine providence in terms of predetermination, God choosing in advance what will happen. It is hard to see how this interpretation can preserve human freedom or avoid making God the author of sin, since (for example) it would then be He who moved Judas to betray Christ. On the other hand, advocates of revisionist views (e.g., open theism) freely admit that as a consequence of their denial of God’s knowledge of future contingent events a strong doctrine of providence becomes impossible. Ironically, in order to account for biblical prophecies of future events, revisionists are often reduced to appealing to the same deterministic explanations that Augustinian-Calvinists offer.
Molinism offers an attractive solution. Luis Molina (1535–1600) defined providence as God’s ordering of things to their ends, either directly or indirectly through secondary causes. In explaining how God can order things through secondary causes that are themselves free agents, Molina appealed to his doctrine of divine middle knowledge.
Molina analyzed God’s knowledge in terms of three logical stages. Although whatever God knows, He knows eternally, so that there is no temporal succession in God’s knowledge, nonetheless there does exist a sort of logical order in God’s knowledge in the sense that His knowledge of certain truths is conditionally or explanatorily prior to His knowledge of certain other truths.
In the first stage God knows all possibilities, not only all the creatures He could possibly create, but also all the orders of creatures that are possible. By means of this so-called natural knowledge, God has knowledge of every contingent state of affairs that could possibly be actual and of what any free creature could freely choose to do in any such state of affairs.
In the second stage, God possesses knowledge of all true counterfactual propositions (statements of the form “If x were the case, then y would be the case”), including counterfactuals about what creatures would freely do in various circumstances. Whereas by His natural knowledge God knew what any free creature could do in any set of circumstances, now in this second stage God knows what any free creature would freely do in any set of circumstances. This so-called middle knowledge is like natural knowledge in that such knowledge does not depend on any decision of the divine will; God does not determine which counterfactuals are true or false. By knowing how free creatures would freely act in any set of circumstances He might place them in, God thereby knows that if He were to actualize certain states of affairs, then certain other contingent states of affairs would be actual as a result. For example, He knew that if Pontius Pilate were the Roman procurator of Judea in A.D. 30, he would freely condemn Jesus to the cross.
Intervening between the second and third stages of divine knowledge stands God’s free decree to actualize a world known by Him to be realizable on the basis of His middle knowledge. By His natural knowledge, God knows the entire range of logically possible worlds; by His middle knowledge He knows, in effect, the proper subset of those worlds that it is feasible for Him to actualize. By a free decision, God decrees to actualize one of those worlds known to Him through His middle knowledge. In so doing He also decrees how He would freely act in any set of circumstances.
Given God’s free decision to actualize a world, in the third and final stage God possesses so-called free knowledge of all remaining propositions that are in fact true in the actual world, including future-tense propositions about how creatures will freely behave.
Molina’s scheme effects a dramatic reconciliation of divine sovereignty and human freedom. In Molina’s view God directly causes certain circumstances to come into being and brings about others indirectly through either causally determined secondary causes or free secondary causes. He allows free creatures to act as He knew they freely would when placed in specific circumstances, and He concurs with their decisions in actualizing the effects they desire. Some of these effects God desired unconditionally and so wills positively that they occur. Others He does not unconditionally desire but He nevertheless permits due to His overriding desire to allow creaturely freedom, knowing that even these sinful acts will fit into the overall scheme of things, so that God’s ultimate ends in human history will be accomplished. God thus providentially arranges for everything that happens by either willing or permitting it, and He causes everything that does happen, yet in such a way as to preserve freedom and contingency.

            To conclude, divisions among Christian churches over doctrinal matters are rather unfortunate. If we are one in Christ, then much could be achieved in Christendom with the pooling of all resources.

            It is with this objective that these systems of thought are presented here. The hope here is that if Christians subscribing to Calvinism hear and study the Molinistic school of thought, then it is quite possible that they may appreciate the Molinistic perspective. This could then bridge the divide between Calvinists and Arminians.

Endnotes:

1https://www.gotquestions.org/Calvinism-vs-Arminianism.html

2http://pastorseansblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/how-can-bible-affirm-both-divine.html


Websites last accessed on 25th February 2019. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Tree Of The Knowledge Of Good And Evil – Oh What A Blessing!

            Lost in the abundance of good news in the Bible is one least mentioned yet significant detail – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (the forbidden tree).

            This is a familiar narrative. God commanded Adam and Eve to not eat from this tree. But they succumbed to the temptation of the devil, disobeyed God, and ate from the forbidden tree.

The Cross & the Forbidden Tree

            Interestingly, there are at least a couple of similarities between the forbidden tree and the Cross of Calvary.

            First, death was a common element in both the forbidden tree and the Cross of Calvary. The forbidden tree was a means to bring about death upon mankind. The Cross was a means to defeat death.

            Second, Satan was made to be a fool through the forbidden tree and the Cross of Calvary. Satan thought that by killing Jesus on the cross, he could defeat God. But we know that that was not the case. God reigned victorious over Satan through the resurrection and ascension of Christ, thereby defeating death once and for all.

            God displayed the foolishness of Satan through the forbidden tree as well.

            This tree is largely considered to be the precursor of the curse upon mankind. But by placing this tree, God, had in fact, blessed mankind. Although the forbidden tree ensured the disobedience of Adam and Eve, God in HIS infinite wisdom defeated Satan’s plan to pave way for the man to respond to God’s love and goodness.

The Necessity of the Forbidden Tree (An Intricate Part of God’s Plan of Redemption)

            God knew that Satan would assault Adam & Eve through temptation. God also knew that Adam & Eve would succumb to Satan’s temptation. So God, through the forbidden tree, paved way for the man to respond to HIM.

            Just a simple thought should suffice.

            If the cross was a means to defeat death, then death should have a point of entry into the realm of mankind. The forbidden tree provided death that point of entry into man’s domain. In other words, if the cross was a means of death’s exit (read defeat), then the forbidden tree was a means of death’s entry into man’s domain.

Why the Forbidden Tree?

            Evidently, the angelic rebellion occurred in the heavenly realms before the fall of man (disobedience of Adam and Eve). God knew that Satan would orchestrate the rebellion of mankind.

            The purpose behind the orchestration of mankind’s rebellion against God was to bring about a spiritual separation between God and man. However, the separation was not the intent behind the creation of man. God did not create man, for the man to be independent of God. God created man so that man could glorify God by being in HIS presence.

            Why did God place the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?

            Had this tree not existed, we could assume that Adam and Eve may not have rebelled.

            But that need not be the case.

            If Adam and Eve did not rebel or if they did not possess a chance to rebel, they may not have been able to display their obedience to God. But obedience to God can only be accentuated if there is a possibility to disobey God. Obedience would not carry much value if disobedience were impossible.

            Then again, if God had removed every possibility of mankind’s rebellion, then man could only be an automaton. This was and is not a viable environment for love to exist (love between God and man).

            On the other hand, had the tree of the knowledge of good and evil not existed, Adam and Eve may have been tempted to rebel in other ways. As long as Satan existed there was always a possibility of him tempting man to rebel against God.

            But God, it seems, made Satan’s life easy through the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The presence of this tree entailed a possibility to disobey God. Satan recognized this and promptly ushered Adam and Eve into disobedience.

            However, ultimately, God’s wisdom prevailed. Satan was made to be a fool. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil ensured this eventuality.

The Blessing of the Forbidden Tree

            God, in HIS infinite wisdom, ensured that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a blessing to mankind.

            The wisdom of God prevailed. In and through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, God ensured that man had a clear path to respond to HIM (thankfully, through the redemptive sacrifice of our Lord Jesus). This was the blessing behind the presence of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

            Man’s disobedience ensured that he had a clear sight of the good and the evil. In other words, through their disobedience, Adam and Eve learned three important lessons:

            1. They knew that God is good, Satan is evil, and that God would judge and punish their disobedience.

            2. They also knew that God had power over Satan and them.

            3. They knew that Satan had power over them.

            So by virtue of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God, Adam and Eve had a clear sight of (A) The good (and the most powerful) God and (B) An evil (and the less powerful) Satan.

            This clear sight allows man to respond to God’s goodness and love by being obedient to HIM through a conscious disregard of every possibility to disobey God.

            By possessing the knowledge and discernment between good and evil, Adam and Eve (read mankind) could know the difference (if only they made an effort to respond to God) between God and Satan. This knowledge is vital for man to respond to God’s love.

            This is indeed a blessing of God. 

Conclusion

            The tree of the knowledge of good and evil reveals God’s infinite wisdom.


            Albeit its very brief appearance in the creation narrative, the forbidden tree was a significant element in God’s plan of redemption. It was also a blessing to mankind because its presence offered the man a clear sight of God thereby enabling his proper and adequate response to God’s love and goodness. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Lord’s Supper – What Is The Proper Attire?

            While baptism is the initiatory rite, the Lord’s Supper is the continuing rite of the visible church. The Lord’s Supper was established by Christ for the church to practice as a commemoration of the Lord’s death (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20).

            Who participates in the Lord’s Supper? It is generally agreed that one has to be a practicing believer in order to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Anything less is a sin (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). The Lord’s Supper signifies, at least in part, a spiritual relationship between the believer and the Lord. Thus a personal relationship with God is a prerequisite for participation in the Lord’s Supper.

            The believer should also be mature enough to be able to discern the meaning of participating in the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:29). Hence, it is advisable that children do not participate in the Lord’s Supper.

            What is the proper attire to participate in the Lord’s Supper? Before we consider this subject, let us recollect the most important prerequisite to participate in the Lord’s Supper. The believer’s active relationship with God is the most important prerequisite.

            While we participate in the Lord’s Supper, we are to approach the Lord ’s Supper in holy awe (our motives should be thoroughly examined), “Anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Master irreverently is like part of the crowd that jeered and spit on him at his death. Is that the kind of “remembrance” you want to be part of? Examine your motives, test your heart, come to this meal in holy awe.” (1 Corinthians 11:27-28, THE MSG).

            On the other hand, if we give no thought to our participation in the Lord’s Supper, then we run the risk of facing serious consequences, “If you give no thought (or worse, don’t care) about the broken body of the Master when you eat and drink, you’re running the risk of serious consequences. That’s why so many of you even now are listless and sick, and others have gone to an early grave.” (1 Corinthians 11: 29-30, THE MSG).

            In other words, the most important prerequisite to participate in the Lord’s Supper is spiritual in nature, and not physical. The physical aspects such as our attire, posture etc. are secondary, at most, or of no significance at all. 

            So a rich man who is impeccably clothed and a beggar with his ragged attire can both participate in the Lord’s Supper as long as their motives are appropriate. Clothes do not matter while participating in the Lord’s Supper.

            The motivating factor to blog on this topic was my friend’s question to me recently. He asked if it was appropriate to wear shoes while participating in the Holy Communion / The Lord’s Supper.

            In certain churches, the Holy Communion will be served at the altar/stage. The believers walk to the altar/stage to partake in the Holy Communion.

            In other large churches, the believers remain in their seats while participating in the Holy Communion. The elements (bread & grape juice/wine) are brought to their seats. In this situation, the believers may be wearing their shoes while participating in the Lord’s Supper from their seats. Significantly, these churches do not impose any restrictions on attire.

            The disposition of our heart is more important than our shoes or clothes. By being silent on the type of clothes or other paraphernalia that believers ought to wear or not to, the Bible offers greater importance to the hearts of the believers than their attire. The dirt in our hearts has far fetching spiritual ramifications than the dirt in our shoes.

            Does the Bible say whether you and I should not wear shoes while participating in the Lord’s Supper? No, the Bible does not!

            God commanded Moses to remove his sandals because he was standing on the holy ground (Exodus 3:5 cf. Joshua 5:15). Should this be a point of reference for believers to partake in the Lord’s Supper without their shoes?

            I do not think so!

            If you are diligent enough to not wear shoes, but if your heart is not in the right place while you partake in the Lord’s Supper, then you are sinning against the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:27-31). Not wearing shoes does not provide any immunity from sinning.

            God commanded Moses to remove his sandals because God was locally manifesting HIMSELF in the place where Moses was standing. Thus that place was holy ground. 

            Today, there is no localized manifestation of God’s presence (at least not in our churches!). So it really does not matter whether we wear our shoes inside the church or while partaking in the Lord’s Supper.

            But it does matter where our heart is while we partake in the Lord’s Supper.


            Significantly, let us not be legalistic while practicing Christianity. Let not law rule our faith in Christ and fellowship with our Christian brothers and sisters. May the grace of our dear Lord Jesus Christ rule our hearts and minds as we think and decide on practicing our faith. 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

If Jesus Is Seated At God’s Right Hand, Are There Two Gods?

            Honest seekers, students of the Bible, and the detractors of Historic Christianity seek clarity/answer to the presence of the ascended Lord Jesus at the right hand of God. The detractors ask questions such as, “Jesus ascended to heaven and sits at the right hand of God. Does God sit next to himself?”1 Seekers and students of the Bible ponder over the narrative of the ascension and ask whether Historic Christianity teaches the presence of two Gods – one being, God the Father, and the other being, the ascended Lord Jesus.

            The Bible teaches that God raised Christ from the dead and seated Christ at HIS right hand, “That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…” (Ephesians 1: 19b - 20, NIV). This, to any lay reader, would appear as two persons – one being God and the other being Christ.

            Dr. William Lane Craig explains the ascension of the Lord Jesus in his Defenders podcast on the ‘Doctrine of Christ’:2

…when Christ ascends to the Father’s right hand and is exalted, should we conceive of this as a return to his pre-incarnate state or is this exalted state a kind of continuation of the incarnation? The answer to that question is the latter. It is not a return to the pre-incarnate state; rather, Christ always exists from now on in two natures – one human and one divine. That is the lesson of the ascension. Christ did not discard his body and leave it behind. The doctrine of the resurrection is that the same body that was crucified and laid in the tomb was now raised from the dead, gloriously empowered with immortality and incorruptibility and super-human properties, and then ascended into heaven to be exalted to the right hand of God the Father.
So don’t think of the ascension and the exaltation of Christ as an abandonment of his humanity. On the contrary, it is the glorification of his humanity. I think this is a precious lesson to us of the worth and value of our human bodies.[6] …The doctrine of the resurrection and ascension of Christ teaches us that Christ carries his exalted humanity into the eternal state just as we will in the eternal state have human bodies. They will be glorified bodies free from illness, disease, disability, sin, corruption, and mortality, but nevertheless they will be human bodies.
So the…lesson of…the resurrection and ascension is that the incarnation is a permanent condition of the second person of the Trinity, not a merely temporary condition for thirty-odd years to be abandoned by him. Rather it is a permanent incarnation of the second person and therefore an emphasis to us of the value of our material creaturely humanity.

            So this is what we understand. Christ in HIS ascended state exists in HIS state of incarnation with two natures – human and divine.

            Theologian R.C Sproul helps us to understand ‘Christ’s seating at God’s right hand’:3

God’s right hand is the place of “highest favor with God the Father” (WLC, Q&A 54), and the phrase is used throughout Scripture to indicate His power and sovereignty (Ex. 15:6; Isa. 48:13). To say that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father is to say, as John Calvin explains, that “Christ was invested with lordship over heaven and earth, and solemnly entered into possession of the government committed to him — and that he not only entered into possession once for all, but continues in it, until he shall come down on Judgment Day” (Institutes 2.16.15).
In sitting at the right hand of God, Jesus sits on the “throne of his father David” (Luke 1:26–33). He is the Messiah of Israel, “the highest of the kings of the earth” and the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to keep the offspring of David on the throne forever. (Ps. 89:19–37). We are not waiting for Jesus to enter into His messianic reign, He enjoys it now. All of His enemies are being put under His feet as His gospel is preached and His kingdom expands (1 Cor. 15:20–28).
Coram Deo
Even now, Jesus is seated on the throne of His father David at the right hand of God. This means that He is ruler over all and that the kings of the earth rule only according to His sovereign permission. As such, Christ alone is worthy of our highest allegiance, and it is to Him that we must render obedience, even if it means, at times, defying the rulers of this world. Jesus’ kingdom alone is eternal, and His rule is above all others.

            Pastor John Piper explains that when we see Christ, we see God. But this is not in the sense how a photograph represents a person. Christ is to be seen as the radiance of God’s glory:4

There are two things that might keep you from entering heaven and enjoying the glory of God and all his works. One is if your sins were not forgiven. The other is if you went out of existence and all the works of God went out of existence. So if you are to have a happy future in God's presence, two great works are needed: a work of purification of sins, and work of preservation of your existence…
If we will learn from Scripture how to see ultimate Reality, we will see that we need Christ not only to make purification for our sins, but also to provide preservation to our souls and our bodies. So Christ is doubly worthy of our dependence and trust and love and worship.
When we see him sitting at the right hand of the Majesty it is not only to honor the work of his purification in saving us, but also to honor the word of his power in preserving us. We owe our purification to him and we owe our being to him…
There are two more phrases in the verse to look at, but they are easily combined, and in fact do go together: "He [Christ] is the radiance of His [God's] glory and the exact representation of His nature." Or, as we saw from the original words: "He, being the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his nature . . . sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high."
The difference between this qualification for sitting at God's right hand and the other two is that those described what Christ did, while this describes who he is. What he does is "uphold all things by the word of his power," and "make purification of sins" by the worth of his blood. But what is he? Who is he? That's our last question this morning. Who died for sins? Who rose from the dead? Who upholds the universe by the word of his power? Who is sitting at the right hand of God?
The answer is: Christ is "the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his nature." What does this mean? It's important that we take these two phrases together, because they control each other and keep us on track.
When it says that Christ is the exact representation of God's nature, we are to realize that to see Christ is to see God. Jesus said, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father" (John 14:9). Colossians 1:15 says, "He is the image of the invisible God." To see what God is like, you see what Christ is like.
But that could be taken in an entirely wrong way. Suppose you take it to mean that Christ represents God the way a photograph or a painting represents a person, or the way an authorized letter represents the king, or the way a wax impression represents a golden ring. That would be totally wrong. And the other phrase here is meant to protect us from that misunderstanding. He is the exact representation of God's nature not the way a painting represents a person, but the way radiance represents glory. Verse 3 says, he is "the radiance of God's glory."
An Analogy of Sun and Sunlight
In other words he relates to God the way radiance relates to glory, or the way the rays of sunlight relate to the sun. Keep in mind that every analogy between God and natural things is imperfect and will distort if you press it. Nevertheless, consider for example,
There is no time that the sun exists without the beams of radiance. They cannot be separated. The radiance is co-eternal with the glory. Christ is co-eternal with God the Father.
The radiance is the glory radiating out. It is not essentially different from the glory. Christ is God standing forth as separate but not essentially different from the Father.
Thus the radiance is eternally begotten, as it were, by the glory—not created or made. If you put a solar-activated calculator in the sunlight, numbers appear on the face of the calculator. These, you could say, are created or made by the sun, but they are not what the sun is. But the rays of the sun are an extension of the sun. So Christ is eternally begotten of the Father, but not made or created.
We see the sun by means of seeing the rays of the sun. So we see God the Father by seeing Jesus. The rays of the sun arrive here about eight minutes after they leave the sun, and the round ball of fire that we see in the sky is the image—the exact representation—of the sun; not because it is a painting of the sun, but because it is the sun streaming forth in its radiance.

            While we strive to interpret the Bible, we should understand that the Bible cannot be read and understood literally, all the time. In other words, the Bible cannot be literally interpreted always.

            Christ is not literally seated at God’s right hand. In fact, God does not have a right hand!

            God is an incorporeal being. HE is Spirit. God does not have hands, legs, eyes, and ears as we do. But the authors of the Bible speak of God in anthropomorphic terms. This is to attribute human characteristics to God. Hence, in this instance, God’s right hand does not literally denote the right hand of God.

            Christ seated at God’s right hand is a metaphor that expresses the exaltation of Christ. The right hand symbolizes a position of authority and honor.5

            The Bible teaches that Christ rules over everyone and everything because HE is seated at the right hand of God. The right hand of God is a position of power over all other powers, “The right hand of God, therefore, is a reference to both a place of proximity to God the Father and a position of power above all other powers. Jesus the Messiah exists at this right hand of God today, perfectly reigning with God the Father and God the Spirit in community and power.”6

            Since God is incorporeal and Christ exists in HIS incarnational state with both natures – the human and the divine, the Bible does not suggest the existence of two Gods. Christ remains the second person of the Blessed Trinity. God’s core divine nature (The Father) is now exercising power through the Son via HIS incarnational state.  

Endnotes:

1https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/muslim-objections-to-jesus-deity

2https://www.reasonablefaith.org/podcasts/defenders-podcast-series-1/s1-the-doctrine-of-christ/the-doctrine-of-christ-part-7/

3https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/seated-at-gods-right-hand/

4https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/he-sat-down-at-the-right-hand-of-majesty?fbclid=IwAR1TuQy_qJ8f0BjKFYjjxQ6ddtaj-3b4aJRTNWIU1z3blkn5bIbx__v43e0

5https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/muslim-objections-to-jesus-deity

6https://www.compellingtruth.org/right-hand-of-God.html


Websites last accessed on 31st January 2019. 

Monday, January 28, 2019

Three Reasons Why All Religions Do Not Lead To God Or Heaven


          Wikipedia reveals that approximately 7% of the world’s population includes atheists or agnostics.1 If all religions lead us to God, a key majority of the world’s population will be on the right track with only a small minority going astray - denying or being unsure of God’s existence.

            On the other hand, if all religions do not lead us to God, there is a definite crisis. A vast majority of the world’s population could be in jeopardy, for they could believe in falsehood, which jeopardizes their eternal life.

            Wikipedia estimates that 24.1% of the world’s population is Muslims. If Islam is the only true religion, then a 75.9% majority of the world’s population does not believe in the truth.

            This argument could be extended to every religion. If Hindus believe that their way is the only way to heaven, then they disqualify every other religion that contradicts them. So if Hinduism is the only way to heaven, then all the other competing religious worldviews cannot lead people to heaven. This implies a majority believing in a falsehood.

            Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism are not the only religious worldviews that makes truth claims. In fact, every religion makes truth claims.

            This brings us back to the question, ‘Could all religions lead us to God & heaven?’

            Three reasons could be posited to explain why all religions cannot lead us to God and heaven:

            1. Every major religion contradicts the other.

            2. There can be only one God.

            3. There can be only one means of salvation.

Every Major Religion Contradicts The Other

            Every major religion claims exclusivity. I provided a glimpse of the exclusivity claims of the major world religions in an earlier article of mine, entitled Exclusivity Claims of Major World Religions. While discussing the exclusivity claims of Hinduism, I wrote, “Hinduism excludes other religions based on its core doctrines. Consider the doctrine of God in Hinduism. Brahman, the absolute God of Hinduism, is a mysterious being.4

            Although Brahman is one God, he manifests in innumerable forms, “Hinduism is unique because it is essentially a monotheistic faith which acknowledges polytheism as reflective of the diversity in God’s creation. God is one, but also many. He manifests Himself in innumerable forms and shapes.”5 But the God of Christianity does not manifest Himself in innumerable forms. Hence, Hinduism should exclude Christianity or Islam on the basis of the Godhead. The same holds true for doctrines such as karma and reincarnation, which absolutely contradict Christianity and other religions.”2

            Even Islam, Buddhism and Judaism claim exclusivity. So if every religion contradicts the other, then all religions are not teaching the truth. Only one religion would teach the truth, whereas the others do not.

            Historic Christianity also claims exclusivity. Conservative Christians believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven. This belief renders every non-Christian as an eternal inhabitant of hell. But the conclusion that Jesus is the only way to heaven is predicated on the premise that Christianity is the only religion that makes valid truth claims.

            Since every religion contradicts the other, all religions cannot lead man to God and heaven.

One God

            God is the ‘maximally great being’ or the ‘greatest conceivable being’ or the ‘greatest being possible.’ The maximally great being should be omnipotent (infinitely powerful), omniscient (possessing unlimited knowledge), and morally perfect, to say the least.  

            Such a maximally great being ought to be singular. In other words, there cannot be two maximally great beings. They cannot be maximally great if they are equal. Maximal greatness signifies that one of the two would essentially be greater than the other.

            Therefore, there can only be one God.

One Salvation

            Salvation is the deliverance from the power and penalty of sin. Sin is an assault on God. In other words, sin is the transgression or violation of God’s commands.

            If God is one, then the sin of mankind is essentially against that God (because there are no other Gods). Hence, there can be only one means of salvation, for it is that one infinite God who offers the means of salvation to erring finite humans.

            But what if God offers two or more means of salvation to the erring humans? Is this possible? It is possible as long as the means of salvation do not contradict each other.

            There are two major means of salvation offered by the major world religions. While Historic Christianity offers salvation by the grace of God through faith in Christ, the other major world religions teach salvation through good works.

            Salvation by grace through faith is a non-negotiable tenet of Historic Christianity. Historic Christianity teaches that mankind cannot perform good works (i.e. be perfectly obedient to God) to go to heaven because man is a perpetual sinner. Hence, God graciously sent HIS Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to die on behalf of all (the sins) of mankind, thereby paying the penalty for sin, which is death. Christ then overcame death through HIS resurrection and ascension. Thereby, those who believe in Christ are saved by virtue of Christ’s one-time perfect sacrifice and their belief in HIM.

            Contrarily, the other major world religions teach that mankind would have to perform good works i.e. being obedient to God, to go to heaven. For instance, Islam teaches that worship of God and obedience to his commands are the prerequisites for salvation.

            Hence, salvation by grace through faith contradicts salvation through good works. Since the means of salvation in other religions and Christianity contradict each other, there could only be one way to be saved.

Conclusion

            There is only one way to God. All religions cannot lead us to God. Those believing that all religions lead to God are treading dangerously. They are risking their eternity.

            If you are in that boat, think this through and make sense of your life. If you pray to God to lead you to the right path, HE will. May the truth set you free.

Endnotes:

1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_atheism#Studies_and_statistics 

2https://rajkumarrichard.blogspot.com/2017/08/exclusivity-claims-of-major-world.html


Websites last accessed on 28th January 2019.