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21 May 2014 (continued from 21 May 2014)

(Curtis Crenshaw, from my book, NOT Ten Suggestions, available here)

From Fox News, from Bill O’Reilly, from CNN, to American Family Association, I’m constantly hearing about Christian “values,” even from Christian news media, with the assumption that values are based on natural moral law.

Last time we talked about natural moral law, what it is, and how that there is really no such thing. This time we shall look at biblical “natural” law, which is far different from what many think.

What Is Biblical Natural Law?

But in another sense we can say there is natural moral law if by that we mean that we are made in God’s image, consequently we have the “memory” as it were of His morality stamped in us. The Apostle Paul put it this way:

14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel (Romans 2:14-16).

The passage teaches us several things. First, the law that Paul says the Gentiles have is nothing other than God’s commandments; that is clear from the context. In the verses that follow, Paul mentions stealing, adultery, idolatry, and perhaps other commandments. It is therefore not a different law, a “neutral” moral law that the Gentiles or non-Christians dreamed up or discovered.

Second, Paul does not say they have the law in their hearts but the “work of the law written in their hearts,” which is its effects. In other words, the very fact that they have a conscience that accuses and excuses indicates that they are made in His image. Animals don’t think about and debate morality. Accusations and excuses are activities that evidence moral consciousness, the only rationale of which is the effect of God’s law in their hearts.[1] And the fact that their conscience functions with the assumptions of God’s Ten Commandments indicates that they really know God, at least in one sense (Romans 1:21). But they don’t want to know Him because they love their sin (John 3:19-20) so they suppress the truth about Him and His morality. Here is how Paul put it earlier in Romans:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:18-20).

God’s existence and morality are “clearly seen” in creation, but they do not want it so they “suppress” it by means of unrighteous practices, saying that they are “free” to do as they like. Sinning boldly is a challenge to God that He is not in charge; they are, and they will have no consequences to their rebellion. Likewise, the Triune God is “manifest in them,” in their conscience as seen in trying to suppress His knowledge as they try to get rid of this constant reminder by giving themselves over to wickedness. Their sinful desires are driving their minds; they are not neutrally investigating morality. Their minds are enslaved to their immorality. What their hearts love, their wills embrace, and their minds justify. They suppress God’s existence by devising alternative theories for our existence, such as evolution, which leaves them “free” to devise alternative theories of morality. In the same passage, here is what Paul says they wish to practice:

26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their [females] exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the [males], leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due (Romans 1:26-27).

Notice how I translated “women” and “men” above as “females” and “males.” There were several choices Paul the Apostle had in words for women and men, but he uses the rare word for “female” and the more certain word for “male” because he is making a deliberate connection to Genesis 1:27 in the Greek translation of the Old Testament where these same Greek words are used:

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

The original creation, Paul implies, was one male and one female. That is the standard.

Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, demonstrates from dozens of sources from classical Greek (Plato and others), from Jewish sources between the Old and New Testaments, and from those outside the New Testament who nevertheless lived during the time of the Apostles,[2] that “natural use” and “against nature” were set phrases that referred to heterosexual and homosexual behavior respectively with no known exceptions.[3]

But the point is that they cannot live in God’s world without assuming His existence and His morality, for they self-destruct (“receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due”). This “error” would seem to be apostasy from God, then “burning,” which is ever increasing and intense lusts that can never be satisfied, that finally leads to diseases from aberrant sexual practices (Exodus 15:26; Leviticus 26:16) and to final judgment at the Last Day. Moreover, such practices lead them to mental distress, depression, and to suicide, which is very high among homosexuals. LGBT insider Tammy Bruce reports that male homosexuals are pursuing unprotected sex even when they know it will lead to disease,[4] which is a death wish. This is a rebellion to God that they can do as they please without consequences. His response is to turn them over to their lusts for destruction and to a warped mind:

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves . . . 26  For this reason God gave them up to vile passions . . . 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting (Romans 1:24, 26, 28).

This dishonoring of God leads to the dishonoring of self. Though not every idolater gives himself (or herself) to same sex unions, Paul seems to be saying that just as those who reject God suppress the truth about Him (v. 18), so many who reject Him also suppress the truth about same sex unions. Therefore, three times we see that God gave them over to their lusts and to a debased and warped mind. If they reject Him, His creation, and His morality, He will reject them, but if they reach out to Him, He will forgive and heal (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

To put it another way, if one loses sight of the vertical, he loses sight of the horizontal. If one denies the Christian God and creation, he denies human relationships. If one cannot define the vertical, he cannot define the horizontal, for the vertical is the standard of measure for the horizontal. If there is no God who created us male and female and told us to fill the earth with children, then we can redefine the family to be two of the same gender who by definition cannot produce prodigy to fill the earth. Thus, their kingdom self-destructs.

Therefore, in two areas they suppress the truth so as to distort the natural law of their conscience: (1) they devise alternatives theories of our origin, denying creation and the Creator, (2) which in turn leads them to devise alternative theories of morality, denying their conscience, the image of God within them, and God’s morality.

Secularists accuse Christians of trying to impose “religion” on society, for wanting to impose our morality. First, as we in Part 1, there is only one morality—God’s. Second, if God’s morality is the only one, He has already imposed it. Third, the secularists are imposing their ungodly immorality on society, and they are doing so in the name of their god—secularism. It is not a question of imposing; it is only a question of WHO is imposing WHAT.

Of course we can argue for God’s morality to our culture without using Scripture, but we cannot argue for it without assuming Scripture.[5] Christians become embarrassed over believing the Bible so they want to distance themselves from it when dealing with non-Christians. It seems better to assume it and then argue one’s case, for that is what God Himself does in scripture. Non-Christians don’t get to determine the evidence or how we present it to them—God does.

Thus, there is no natural, morally neutral moral law that is for all faiths, for each law-giver would imply another god. We would then have many gods, all competing for worshippers.

Become like what they worship. If one worships secularism, he’ll impose that morality. If one worships the Triune God, he’ll recognize God’s law as the standard. Human nature is fallen, which means the hearts of all people are sinful so that there is no neutral moral law code in our hearts but rather a law giver over our hearts—the Triune God. To assert that there is neutral morality implies a god who is neutral, but we have seen that such thinking is rebellious to the one and only Triune God who is infinitely holy, not neutral. Muslims murder innocent people, treat women terribly, and “marry” little girls before puberty because Mohammed was a pedophile. Moreover, Allah does not love and with only one person in him (it), even he/it is not a person and does not value relationships.

Here is how Jeremiah put it:

The heart isdeceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9).

Amen. Ω

 

[1] John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1959), 1:55-56.

[2] Such as Philo and Josephus.

[3] Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice (Nashville: Abington Press, 2001), 500 plus pages. See especially chapter four.

[4] Tammy Bruce, The Death of Right and Wrong (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003), p. 96ff. The movement is known as “bareback,” risking and even seeking to get some disease as a badge of honor to one’s freedom and challenge to God’s authority. (See my comments on this book in the Bibliography at the end of the book.)

[5] John Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2008), p. 242ff.

20 May 2014

(Curtis Crenshaw, from my book, NOT Ten Suggestions, available here)

From Fox News, from Bill O’Reilly, from CNN, to American Family Association, I’m constantly hearing about Christian “values,” even from Christian news media, with the assumption that values are based on natural moral law.

But what is natural law? (1) With some, natural law is the right of the individual to decide moral issues without judges or legislation getting in the way. It is just the individual and his conscience. There is no static set of timeless truths, but each individual and each culture morphs into various standards according to the times. Thus for someone to tell a woman that she should not have an abortion is a violation of her right to choose for herself; it is forcing one’s morality on another. Of course, they don’t want to talk about forcing their morality of choice on a baby who then dies. This choice is especially demanded in the area of sexuality. This is what Judge Bork in his excellent book Slouching Towards Gomorrah calls a radical egalitarianism, which means no one can say anyone is wrong about their choices, for all are equal, and there is no God. But if each can choose, what should we do about murder? Government steps in, as it should, but this only reveals that it is impossible to have complete autonomy; there must be limits on what one can choose. How do we define those limits?[1]

(2) With others natural law is the government ruling according to social norms, and the Constitution must be interpreted by those norms. In this view, the Constitution is reinterpreted with each new generation, and this is the way it should be, they think. But this means the Constitution is not really a binding standard, just a wax nose to be manipulated.

(3) With still others, natural law can be an unchanging norm that is discovered by some human process that is devoid of divine input. They would say that there are moral absolutes, such as not murdering one another. But there are so many things that people cannot agree to that this is hopeless.

The problem with natural law in each case is that man discovers it based on who he is rather than it being revealed based on who God is. Suppose all morality was just natural law, which means we just discover it by ourselves, or make it up as we go along. (a) The first problem is the source for it, for if the world is just molecules in motion, how could immaterial morality arise from matter? If nature is all there is, then the way things are is the way they should be.[2] Thus if one is born homosexual, that is the way it should be. Of course, we deny that one is born homosexual but that people choose that lifestyle.

(b) A second problem, if morality is just discovered, is that morality is only conventions agreed to, for the moment. How do we get others to “discover” it, and who will enforce it? What happens if we can’t agree? If no one enforces it, then we have nothing. If we just discover it, how do we explain that all cultures punish people for murder and theft, and look down on adultery? This flux of morality would be like the murderer who thought it was unfair to be prosecuted because he was doing what was “natural,” according to what his wisdom had discovered. Some were predators and some prey. He was a predator, so why punish him for doing what was natural? We don’t punish wolves for being wolves, do we? Moreover, if morality was just a product of people thinking it up, whose thoughts would prevail? It would seem that we would be subject to majority vote so that the next time a Hitler arose, if he had enough votes, murdering Jews and Christians would be acceptable. But we all know that no amount of rational argument can justify murder, or can it? (Can you say “abortion”?)

(c) A third problem is that if moral law is based on human nature, whose human nature? The position usually assumes evolution, which means human nature is constantly changing as it evolves. In fact, some will be more morally advanced than others in their genetic evolution, and all will be different a thousand years from now. What will morality be like then? By contrast, we can trace God’s absolute moral law back thousands of years from now, and it has not changed because He has not changed.

“Modernist lawmaking is based not on morality but on ‘utility’ and ‘rights.’ ”[3] In other words, it is very subjective; it is not concerned with righteousness but with what makes people feel good, what people want. When we give up the objective standard of righteousness, society goes to war to fight over whose rights get upheld and whose rights are violated. This view creates moral civil war. People will say dumb things like “two people can do what they wish as long as it does not hurt anyone.” But that is just the point: All sin hurts those who do it and consequently those around them with whom they have interaction, both public and private. Since morality is a revelation of the character of the Triune God, it is not discoverable; He must reveal Himself to us.

Natural moral law has so far led us in the West to abortion, and is leading us to the destruction of the family with LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transsexual). It is time we Christians stop catering to the arguments of those who hate God and stand for His law-word. The world has values that constantly change. Christians are adopting their language, trying to appease them, and imposing a Christian standard of “values” on the world. Rather, we Christians could not impose a standard on the world if we had the opportunity; God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, has already imposed His moral standard, His character, and that is the standard by which we shall be judged. It has been clearly revealed to us in Holy Scripture.

The world tries to have “values,” which reveals that they hate God and are in rebellion. They self-destruct against the rocks of God’s law. Moreover, Christians do not have values either, but only the law-word of the great King. In other words, there is only one morality: God’s character, which does not change.

Another way to say the same thing is that morality is persons in relationship. Morality does not exists in the abstract, but it is assumed by persons who are in some relationship, as employee, spouse, sibling, citizens, and so forth. Thus, to speak of natural law as if it exists apart from persons is nonsense. There is only one perfect moral character, God’s, and thus only one moral law code, God’s. Every law enacted by mankind is either an application of God’s character or an act of rebellion against His character. There are no other options. There are no “values” that we can pick and choose but only the Ten Commandments of the Great King—nothing else. His character rules because He rules. Therefore, let us not talk of the world’s values or the Christian’s values but only the absolute, unbending and unchangeable moral law of the one God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. People are always bellowing that Christians are trying to impose their standards on the world, but the fact is that God has already imposed His moral character on the world. In fact, no one can be in any relationship without a moral standard, and each person seeks to make his moral standard the norm. The irony is that at the same time that liberals accuse us of imposing their morality on them, they are doing the same with their immorality. It can’t be otherwise. Every law enacted in Congress is someone’s morality (or immorality) imposed on the minority.

(to be continued next time) Ω

 

[1] Another way to say this is to ask if law is normative or descriptive? If it is normative, there is an unchangeable standard; but if it is just descriptive, then it only “describes” what people do. Those who take surveys to see what people and do and make standards from those surveys are idolaters, using man as the measure of morality.

[2] Philosophers say it this way: What is, is the way it ought to be. Watch for my booklet Is, Can, Ought on my website (www.ftstl.com).

[3] Philip E. Johnson, Reason in the Balance (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), p. 139.

(by the Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw)

(18 May 2014)

There are three views of truth today, and they may  be observed in the way a plate umpire calls balls and strikes. One says that he calls them as they are. Another one calls them as he sees them. And a final one says they aren’t balls or strikes until he calls them.

The first plate umpire holds a view of truth as objective and real. Balls and strikes present themselves to be identified as they really exist.

The second plate umpire has transferred the standard of truth from the balls and strikes to himself. It is his observation that decides what is truth, his subjective standard, and nothing else will do. If something appears to be a ball, he can call it a strike, and no one can question him, though there is room for disagreement and always room for discussion.

The third umpire is the most subjective. There is no objectivity outside himself, for he is the only one who determines what is true. He does not call them as he sees them for they really don’t exist unless he says so.

The first ump seeks to determine what the truth is outside himself. The second one thinks he is the standard for truth, and finally the third one does not believe in truth at all, only in personal opinions.

We may say the first one is a conservative politician who seeks to bring truth to bear on situations, especially the truth of the Constitution. He cannot understand why the second and third “politicians” refuse to believe his objectively clear truth statements, especially when they are based on  a written standard that has come down to us. Thus abortion is always wrong.

The second “politician” is equally nonplussed over the first one’s refusal to understand that truth has a personal point of view. The Constitution may indeed not give us the right to kill our pre-born babies, but that is not considering the view of the girls who get pregnant. They need help also so what does one do with the Constitution? He compromises it.

The third “politician” really does not believe in truth but only in choices. If one chooses to believe in balls and strikes, then they are such for him, but if one rejects that, there is another reality. They may not be balls or strikes. It does not make any difference if the “fetus” is alive from conception and has a heart beat because “truth” for this person is what he or she chooses. The “fetus” is not a baby unless the person chooses to keep it.

With the first one, the fetus is always a baby, and one never has the right to kill it. With the second one, the person choosing is determinative. The third one has the right to determine whether it is a baby.

Thus, there are three world views: (1) truth is objective and lies outside us; (2) truth is in our choices and lies within us; (3) there is no truth, only points of view.

AMEN.

16 May 2014

(Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw)

Bill O’Reilly wrote an insightful article recently on his site regarding the brain washing at colleges. Some wonder why this is happening, and Bill O’Reilly reports the problem without giving the cause or the solution. He reports that political correctness regarding certain “social” issues is the norm both on campuses and in the media. I concur that it is happening.

But Holy Scripture gives the cause: it is the unconverted person’s hatred of God and love for his sins, and the two necessarily go together. In other words, no one is morally neutral regarding the Triune God: either one loves Him or hates Him—there are no other options. In Romans 1:18-28, written about 1900 years ago, we see that those who reject Him have an agenda. Here is part of the passage:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth(Romans 1:18 ESV).

One message of this passage is that the sin one loves is not embraced because one’s logic led him to it but because one enjoys it; therefore, he seeks to justify it. In other words, what one desires drives the will, and the mind then seeks to justify something one is committed to. As the Apostle Paul further stated:

22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting(Romans 1:22-28, NKJ).

Three times Paul says God gave them up to their passions so they could justify themselves and then meet Him in the judgment. The only cure is to repent of those sins and bow to Jesus as Lord and Savior who will forgive and change the desires (Acts 10:43).

In another place of Holy Scripture, we read:

18 He who believes in Him [Jesus] is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed(John 3:18-20 NKJ).

Notice from this last verse that those who are committed hate to sin the light; that is, the righteousness of God and His commandments. We can see that hatred manifests itself with extreme behavior when they face Christians in society, using four letter words, screaming and spitting in our faces, throwing things at us, urinating on us, and so forth. It is not us they really hate but the Triune God and His righteousness. Jesus said to His disciples:

18 If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.(John 15:18-19 NKJ)

We Christians should recognize what is driving the “arguments” for embracing deviant behavior, especially sexual behavior of gays and lesbians. It is not intellectual objectivity; rather, it is hated of the one God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and hatred of His righteousness as revealed in the Ten Commandments. It is subjective desires that drive them. Yet we must not approach them with a holier than thou attitude, for we have our own issues, and save by the grace of God, there we go. As Paul further states, we owe them the Gospel and Christian love (Romans 1:14-16). AMEN.

Stephen Mansfield, Killing Jesus

15 May 2014

It is interesting that two books came out with the same title, at the same time, but with different authors. One cannot normally copyright a title. Of course, Bill O’Reilly wrote the other book with this same title that I reviewed a few days ago. It seems that Mansfield is an evangelical, and has written other Christian type books such as The Faith of Barak Obama, The faith of George W. Bush, The Search for God and Guinness, and Lincoln’s Battle with God. I’ve not read any of those, though I’ve read closely the book I’m reviewing.

There is one caveat. Like Bill O’Reilly’s book, this one denies that the four Gospels can be harmonized at certain points, such as the differing accounts of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. (See my friend’s excellent work, Rev. Lee Ligion-Borden, Ph.D., Resurrection of Jesus Christ: Four Views, One Truth. She points out that differences are not contradictions but confirmations.)

Mansfield’s book begins with 6 BC, not with Julius Caesar as Bill’s book so began, and moves from there to AD 30, the year he thinks Jesus was crucified (others think it was 33 BC).

Mansfield tells the story of Jesus’ death from both the side of Herod the Great, who tried to murder Jesus when he was a baby by having all the boy babies killed from two years old and younger, and from the view of the New Testament, which complements the history. He speaks of Herod murdering his wives and sons over the slightest suspicion so no one would be surprised that he would murder a few boy babies (perhaps a dozen). Thus the story begins with Roman history but is heavily weighed by the New Testament itself. He writes of Jesus committing his mother Mary to His disciple John, and speaks of John’s brothers and sisters, thus denying the perpetual virginity of Mary.

Most of the book presents the last week or slightly more of the life of Jesus with many details given from secular history, biblical history, and theological comments from the Gospels. For example, we have insightful statements about Jesus’ trial before Caiphas and Annas. The former was the actual high priest, but he was the son-in-law of Annas, who in turn was the neck that turned the head. We learn such things from secular history, not from the biblical text, and they shed bright light on the text of Holy Scripture. Mansfield connects those details.

Once in a while, Mansfield misses a point. In John 18:5-6 when the soldiers find Jesus to arrest Him, He says I AM, and the soldiers go backwards and fall to the ground. Mansfield rightly detects the divine statement, but he says Jesus stated “I am He,” rather than the more accurate translation “I AM,” which comes from the Greek Septuagint, which in turn is an accurate translation from the Hebrew of Exodus 3:14, which says “I AM WHO I AM.” But at least Mansfield reaches the same conclusion; namely, that Jesus is the I AM of the Old Testament. In the presence of such majesty, the soldiers fell backwards to the ground.

In other words, Jesus went to the cross voluntarily, not by the force of a few soldiers. After all, Jesus is the creator. We often sing that He could have called ten thousand angels, which is true (Matthew 26:53), but He did not need them. All He had to do was manifest His deity, and the soldiers fell down backwards. (It is interesting that Scripture speaks of the lost falling backwards while the converted fall down on their faces. Such is the consistency of Holy Scripture.)

Then about the middle of the book (p. 133 on), Mansfield presents the details of Christ’s death in morbid detail. I’m sure the details are true, but the four Gospels only give us the bare facts of His crucifixion. The Gospels emphasize the theology of what He did, and Mansfield brings that emphasis better than O’Reilly. If you’re seen Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and all the gore that is presented (again, I’m sure its true because we have ample documentation from other sources), you’ll know how brutal the whippings were and how sadistic crucifixions were, the pain that went with it, and how long it took to die.

In short, this book complements Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus, and I recommend that you read this one also. Ω

Some months ago I anticipated that Bill O’Reilly’s book, Killing Jesus, would be a bummer. I’m glad I did not claim to be a prophet because the book was a delightful surprise. It claims to be a history, and it is at least that. I have not read O’Reilly’s other books, Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy; thus, I cannot vouch for those.

I really expected the book to be full of liberal theories, doubting who Jesus claimed to be and what the Church over the centuries has always understood from the Gospel documents.

However, the authors (including Martin Dugard) begin with a history of Rome at the time of Christ’s birth, and with Herod the Great who tried to kill Jesus by killing all the boy babies two years old and under.

The history is detailed, accurate, and fascinating, quoting from such ancient sources as Josephus, Philo, Tacitus and others. They present the assignation of Julius Caesar and other Roman rulers that is the background for Israel under Roman rule and for the murder of Jesus. We read of the romance between Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, the murder of Caesar, the suicide of Cleopatra―all leading up to the political background regarding the crucifixion of Jesus. After several chapters of Roman history, we are ready for how that plays into Pilate as Roman ruler over Jerusalem and Judea, leading to the murder of Jesus. Everything is about Jesus is history, and we are led to believe that nothing is fantasy or invented. Indeed, the Roman history is well known, and the documents we have of Jerusalem, Jesus, and the Apostles are many times more than what we have for the history of Rome.

We meet other Roman leaders like the decadent Tiberius, the murdering Herod the Great, his younger son Herod Antipas who murdered John the Baptist, Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas―and much more. The whole Roman period reads like a modern day soap opera except that it is worse with Herod the Great murdering his wives and sons, and it is true. Over 100 pages into the book, we are ready for the Four Gospels, with all the historic background to help us understand them.

Then on page 128 and following O’Reilly has Jesus telling Nicodemus that He is the Son of God who has come to save the world. At the end of chapter eight, O’Reilly states:

Jesus will never write a book, compose a song, or put paint on a canvas. But two thousand years from now, after his message has spread to billions of people, more books will be written about his life, more songs sung in his honor, and more works of art created in his name than for any other man in the history of the world (p. 132).

The book does not read like a boring history but is a page turner, not only from the many fascinating facts, but also from the way the authors weave the background, characters, and biblical story together to make this fascinating reading. (The work reminds me of Paul Maier’s work, Pilate, which is also a page turner with its early history and biblical story woven together.)

There is one caveat. Bill denies that the four Gospels can be harmonized at certain points, and he has a tendency to deny that something is true unless it can be confirmed outside the Bible. In other words, often the Bible is not enough. (See my friend’s excellent work, Rev. Lee Ligion-Borden, Ph.D., Resurrection of Jesus Christ: Four Views, One Truth. She points out that differences are not contradictions but confirmations.)

I shall not spoil for you the rest of O’Reilly’s book, but here is the last sentence, speaking of the bodily resurrection of Jesus: “To this day, the body of Jesus of Nazareth has never been found” (p. 258).

Enjoy!

 

Two reviews: The Rt. Rev. Daniel R. Morse, M.Div., D.D., and the Very Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.M., Th.D.,  Dean of Cranmer Theological House

A book recently written by Bishop Kenneth N. Myers, Salvation (and how we got it wrong), sets out to correct centuries of wrong thinking, according to Myers, about the central question of Christianity, how can sins be forgiven. Myers says on p. 14, “Anselm (and the Reformers who followed him) simply got it wrong.” Even more to the heart of the matter Myers says a couple of paragraphs later that he wants to “help people change their understanding not only of salvation, but also of God himself.” In other words, this isn’t a book just about what God does, but about the very nature of God himself.

The form the book takes is a very interesting one—an exchange of letters between Bishop Myers and a young man named Victor Anselmo Boso. Andy, as Victor Anselmo Boso, is referred to in the book, says that he was taught, and believes, that because Adam and Eve sinned against God in the Garden of Eden they were cursed by God, and that since they were unable on their own to pay the penalty for their sins, Jesus Christ paid the penalty by his death on the cross. Myers responds to that letter by saying, “What you have described is indeed the ‘standard’ (or shall I say ‘popular’—because it is most predominant in our part of Christianity) view of salvation. And you are also correct that I don’t believe it.” (p. 27). Myers correctly refers to that view as the Theory of Penal Substitutionary Atonement, and in the rest of the book simply uses the acronym PSA.

There really is nothing new in Myers’ rejection of PSA, which he demonstrates by his very first objection. He asks, “Why should we believe that we are punished for our ancestors’ sin? Adam and Eve sinned. But why should their descendants be punished for their sin? Doesn’t the Bible clearly say that punishment shouldn’t work this way?” To prove his point he quotes Deuteronomy 24:16 and Ezekiel 18:20, both of which say that a person shall die for his own sins, not for the sins of his parents. This objection is flippantly raised very often by people who have no concept of the teaching of the Bible, and no real desire to find out what it is. They have their objections, and they are not interested in a careful study of the Bible.

Myers just quotes a passage with little introduction and little exegesis; in fact, there is no exegesis in the book. To quote Deut. 24:16; Ez. 18:20 to “prove” that one is not made guilty for another’s sin means there is no covenant representation, on the one hand, and demonstrates that he has no understanding that Paul’s argument in Romans 5, on the other hand, is not that such imputation is always the case but that Adam, the First Adam, was the covenant head of the race and Christ the Last Adam was covenantal head of His elect body. The two Old Testament passages he quoted are irrelevant; they have nothing to do with covenant headship.

In arguing that way Myers fails to appreciate a basic principle of biblical interpretation that a verse taken out of context becomes a pretext for a specious argument. The context of the statements in Deuteronomy and Ezekiel is not the same as the context of Genesis 3 when God punishes Adam and Eve and all their posterity with death because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. God created Adam and Eve, as he did everything else, without sin. That is, they had no propensity to sin because they did not have a sinful nature. Genesis tells us that God looked at everything he had made and concluded that “it was very good”. There was no sin in them, and consequently no defilement in their actions caused by a sinful nature.

(To read the whole review, click here)

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