Saturday, June 29, 2013

May God Have Mercy on America

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Here in America the expression, God bless America, has become such a common utterance in presidential speeches that it now seems like a cheap tag line with little meaning. I say this because God has blessed this nation, in abundance, yet sadly America has progressively forsaken those blessings, while blaspheming the God of such blessings year after year. Over my lifetime I have witnessed a tremendous change within America’s culture, and the downgrade only seems to accelerate with time. The most recent forensics of this comes to us through the redefinition of marriage posited by Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Writing for the majority opinion, in defense of same-sex marriage, Justice Anthony Kennedy criticized elements of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), indicating that those who oppose homosexuality resultantly “injure” and “demean” the “moral and sexual choices” of same-sex couples. What was so striking about this decision was that the court went well beyond rendering a judgment against DOMA. In essence, it vilified all those who oppose gay marriage. Thus, this is much more than a “victory” for those who support gay marriage, it is a broad and open door to the future persecution of all those who choose to oppose homosexuality. In view of this I must say that, before petitioning God for blessings, America should repent of her multiple sins and cry out for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Like rebellious Israel, our nation is destroyed for a lack of knowledge.[1]

Though not surprising, the SCOTUS decision reveals America’s continued descent into darkness. The revelation of this new ruling proved to be grievous for the disciples of Christ, but for everyone else, it was a day of celebration:

The National Cathedral: Following the ruling of SCOTUS regarding DOMA and Proposition 8, The National Cathedral in Washington DC rang its church bells in celebration for 45 minutes to an hour.

The Governor of Connecticut: In response to the STOTUS decisions regarding DOMA and proposition 8, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy flew a rainbow flag outside the Governor’s official residence – revealing a profound change since Connecticut’s beginning.[2]

President Obama: The President quickly weighed on this judgment, declaring the following: “I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it. We are a people who declared that we are all created equal — and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

What the president suppresses and denies[3] (along with most Americans) is that the love found within the institution which “God has joined together”[4] is in no way equal to the hedonistic lust of pornea (sexual immorality) so commonly found within this fallen world. Moreover, though it is true that the presidents and judges of this nation can decree, by law, such a notion of equality, the Supreme Judge of all laughs at such foolishness and rebellion.[5] Sadly, America continues in a downward spiral, but such truth ought to drive the church to more earnest prayer, asking the God of all mercy and grace for the blessing of repentance and spiritual awakening. This we must continue to do, knowing that no piece of legislation, no judicial ruling, and no executive order can turn the hearts of men and women away from their enmity with God. Only the Gospel, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can turn and awaken those who remain dead in their trespasses and sins.[6] We must also pray for “kings and for all those in authority so that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life, with all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim. 2:1-6). In relation to this latter point, I am concerned that the believer’s Gospel freedoms here in America continue to be weakened, and the recent decision by SCOTUS will further accelerate this trend. As mentioned earlier, SCOTUS did more than make a judgment in favor of homosexuality, it made a judgment of those who oppose such conduct. A plain reading of Kennedy’s majority opinion reveals this. Justice Antonin Scalia offered an ominous summary of the majority’s opinion on this ruling, offering a Latin expression that is strikingly familiar to a familiar one from ancient church history:

Justice Antonin Scalia: “To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to ‘dis- parage,’ ‘injure,’ ‘degrade,’ ‘demean,’ and ‘humiliate’ our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homo-sexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence— indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race.”[7]

Having read through Kennedy’s majority opinion on the SCOTUS ruling, I can attest that Scalia’s above summary is spot-on. Though the terms “disparage,” “injure,” “degrade,” “demean,” and “humiliate” are broadly scattered throughout the court’s published opinion, the retributive force of these words is still quite stunning. Scalia’s observations are quite interesting, if not ironic, especially when he invoked the expression, hostes humani generis – enemies of the human race. When I read this, my thoughts were brought back to the writings of Tacitus who described the nature of Nero’s persecution of the Christian community within the 1st century:

Tacitus: "But neither human resources, nor imperial munificence, nor appeasement of the gods, eliminated sinister suspicions that the fire had been instigated. To suppress this rumour, Nero fabricated scapegoats – and punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called). Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judaea, Pontius Pilatus. But in spite of this temporary setback the deadly superstition had broken out afresh, not only in Judaea (where the mischief had started) but even in Rome. All degraded and shameful practices collect and flourish in the capital. First, Nero had self-acknowledged Christians arrested. Then, on their information, large numbers of others were condemned - not so much for incendiarism as for their hatred of humanity (odio humani generis).[8] Their deaths were made farcical. Dressed in wild animals' skins, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or crucified, or made into torches to be ignited after dark as substitutes for daylight."[9]

Tacitus’ description of the Christian community reminds us of the degrading opinions that developed within the Greco-Roman world: Christians were the haters of humanity. The most likely explanation for this label is that the Christian community was unwilling, for conscience’ sake, to participate in the hedonistic and idolatrous culture of the Greco-Roman world, replete with its sacrifices to the gods and licentious living. Such non-participation was seen as an act of hostility against others, especially since the superstitious and pagan world believed that sacrifices to the gods were necessary for the greater good of the broader community. Because of such non-participation, Christians were ridiculed as the haters of humanity among other things. I would suggest that Scalia’s summary of Kennedy’s opinion offers a historically packed preview of what may come in the future. Apart from God’s merciful and gracious intervention in America’s moral and spiritual suicide, further darkness will prevail in this land. My mention of this is not designed to be morose, but to emphasize the continued need to look to the Gospel for genuine light in this dark world. Too often the modern church has sought ways to nurture friendship with the world, but this has only led to compromise and corruption.[10] This could be a means by which the Lord will purify and strengthen His true church here in America. Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers regarding the darkness of their own world (Eph 5:8-11), in order to enjoin them to a more diligent walk (Eph 5:2, 8, 15) as the children of light (Eph 5:8). Contextually and grammatically he continues his appeal by commanding the Ephesians to avoid foolishness while pursuing the will of the Lord (Eph 5:17), refraining from drunkenness while being filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18). Paul then describes what such Spirit-filled living looks like in the children of God: speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be[ing] subject to one another in the fear of Christ (Eph 5:19-21). The verse division between verse 21 and 22 may lead the reader to think that Paul has ceased his description of Spirit-filled living – but this is not the case. Paul’s expansion of this important subject only continues as he describes the beauty of a Spirit-filled marriage, which reflects the glory of Christ and His union with His bride, the church (Eph 5:22-33); and we must not forget that this extends further to a description of a godly family, complete with a father, mother, and children (Eph 6:1-4) who seek to honor the Lord in everything. Yes, Ephesus was engulfed in darkness – but this reality afforded Paul the opportunity to remind genuine believers that their solution was not to dim the light of the Gospel, but to make it radiate more brightly in their individual lives, as well as in their marriages, and families.

Dear reader - what was true in that day is equally true today.

In conclusion, I should also note the profound irony of the homosexual community’s banner which is, of all things, the rainbow.[11] I call this ironic because of God’s stated purpose for the rainbow. Having destroyed the world of wickedness in a deluge, God gave Noah the promise that He would never again “destroy all flesh” by means of a flood. Therefore God revealed to Noah “the bow [haqeshet] that is in the cloud” (i.e., rainbow) as His symbol to all of mankind that He would refrain from giving humanity what it otherwise deserves, thereby supplying a measure of mercy to the sons of men while they live on the earth. The Hebrew word haqeshet (a hunter’s bow) gives us a sense of what is implied by the word mercy: men deserve judgment because of indwelling sin (Gen. 8:21), yet such judgment is withheld as an act of merciful restrain. Those who have ever drawn a hunter’s bow know that it takes a measure of strength to draw and sustain a bow’s tension. Releasing the bow is the easy part, but keeping it drawn and restrained for long periods of time requires significant force. I would suggest to the reader that this is the picture of God’s temporal mercy upon the sons of men in this life, which is similarly unveiled in the New Testament: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36). This text in John 3 unpacks some of the inherentrainbow_04 symbolism of God’s “bow (haqeshet) in the clouds” by revealing God’s presently active mercy and pending wrath. Mercy is now active such that men “live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28), enjoying “rains and fruitful seasons” here on the earth (Acts 14:17). Note that the text tells us that God’s wrath “abides” on all those who do not obey the Son. That word “abides” (menei) is the present active indicative form of the verb meno (abide), indicating a present and ongoing reality in God’s relation with this world. In many respects, this is what we see in God’s bow (haqeshet) – the active tension of God’s merciful restraint which will someday give way to the release of His just and eternal wrath upon all those who resist Him. In view of this, the rainbow is both awesomely beautiful, yet haunting in light of its implied message. Overall, let the reader consider this: the image of the rainbow is not just for the homosexual community – it is for all men in light of God’s present Gospel mercy and promised future wrath. It is a reminder that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23); and that the wages of our sin is death (Romans 6:23); therefore, apart from Christ, all men are counted as God’s enemies (Romans 5:8) and must plead for mercy and grace which is fully revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ:

These truths are not just for one sector of our society, but they are for all men: “…he who believes in the Son has life, he who does not obey the son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” John 3:36.


[1] Hosea 4:6.

[2] From The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut (1638-1639): “For as much as it hath pleased Almighty God by the wise disposition of his divine providence so to order and dispose of things that we the Inhabitants and Residents of Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield are now cohabiting and dwelling in and upon the River of Connectecotte and the lands thereunto adjoining; and well knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such a people there should be an orderly and decent Government established according to God, to order and dispose of the affairs of the people at all seasons as occasion shall require; do therefore associate and conjoin ourselves to be as one Public State or Commonwealth; and do for ourselves and our successors and such as shall be adjoined to us at any time hereafter, enter into Combination and Confederation together, to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess, as also, the discipline of the Churches, which according to the truth of the said Gospel is now practiced amongst us; as also in our civil affairs to be guided and governed according to such Laws, Rules, Orders and Decrees as shall be made, ordered, and decreed…”

[3] Romans 1:18-24.

[4] Matthew 19:4–6 — 4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, 5 and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? 6 “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

[5] Psalm 2:1–6 — 1 Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. 5 Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury, saying, 6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

[6] Ephesians 2:1–3 — 1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

[7] NationalJournal: Scalia: 'High-Handed' Kennedy Has Declared Us 'Enemies of the Human Race', http://www.nationaljournal.com/domesticpolicy/scalia-high-handed-kennedy-has-declared-us-enemies-of-the-human-race-20130626.

[8] Scalia’s reference to hostes humani generis, though strikingly similar in meaning, is probably rooted in maritime history, rather than being a quote from the ancient Roman historian.

[9] Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome (Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 1993), p. 365, italics mine.

[10] James 4:4 — 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

[11] The establishment of the rainbow, as a symbol for the homosexual community, is normally attributed to Gilbert Baker – an artist from San Francisco – who first designed the flag in 1978. There is no apparent evidence that Baker was attempting to imitate the Bible’s description of the rainbow in Genesis 9. Instead, the homosexual community has used several colors (in recent history) in order to depict various aspects and perspectives of the gay community.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism, Chapter II: Lexical Fallacies of Fallible Prophecy

The Book: The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism: An Analysis, Critique, and Exhortation Concerning Wayne Grudem’s Teaching on “Fallible Prophecy”, is available here.

Table of Contents:  9781935358138 _covRGBFLAT[4]

Introduction: A Primer to Prophecy 

Chapter I: Prophecy - A Test of Love

Chapter II: Fallible Prophecy – Lexical Concerns

Chapter III: Fallible Prophecy – The Case of Agabus 

Chapter IV: Fallible Prophecy – A Gift for All?

Conclusion: The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism

In Chapter II we explore the core exegetical fallacies found within the theology of “fallible prophecy.” Despite the clear and cogent descriptions of prophecy found within the Old and New Testament Scriptures, the advocates of fallible prophecy seek to redefine prophecy in the New Testament era by means of profane (secular) Greek definitions. This is a curious tactic, especially since the word prophet (H. nabiy, G. prophetes) is not lacking in scriptural uses and examples. The danger of utilizing secular thinking when defining scriptural terms should be self evident to most; however many today are being drawn into such thinking. This chapter more deeply explores the dangers of redacting biblical word meanings with worldly thinking.