God’s Choice/Election

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R. C. Sproul wrote: “Let’s assume that all men are guilty of sin in the sight of God. From the mass of humanity, God sovereignly decides to give mercy to some of them. What do the rest get? They get justice. The saved get mercy and the unsaved get justice. Nobody gets injustice” – Chosen by God

Justice is rendered by God in ALL respects, but as Sproul asserts it, this can be misunderstood. In the context of God’s choice/election, some make, perhaps unintentionally, God arbitrary in His decisions. They (otherwise known as Calvinists in theological perspectives) try to get around this by speaking of God’s sovereignty, that is, it is God’s sovereign will, His sovereign choice to save some and not others. What is in view with this perspective is this: God chooses who will be saved (apart from that person’s individual will) and who will be lost (in spite of a person’s desire to be saved). To a rational person, this makes God arbitrary, even a monster!

Some reply like this: God chose to save Noah and those in the ark, but decided to let the others drown (callously, without regard to their own desire to willingly submit to the preacher of righteousness and obey).

The word sovereign is defined: Supreme in power; possessing supreme dominion; as a sovereign ruler of the universe (Websters). It is true that God’s sovereignty gives mercy to some; this is in accordance with Hebrews 5:8-9 (“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him”). It is in His power to do this; thus, His sovereignty is exercised. Justice is render to all (2 Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad”), and in this justice, mercy is extended to those who choose to obey. There is nothing in the word “sovereign” that intimates the supreme power (sovereignty) of God taking away volition from His creation, those created in His own image.

Before us, therefore, I offer the following:

  1. Man has free will and can choose whether or not to obey the Lord’s express will. This is taught in Joshua 24:15, Matthew 11:28-30 and Acts 26:19 (just to name a few).
  2. It is God’s desire to save all. This is taught in 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9.
  3. Thus, God has given all the choice whether to be saved or not. This is taught in Acts 2:40

Remarks in relation to Romans 9. The word “Israel” is the physical nation and the church (9:1-6). The children of Abraham are: 1) through promise (Isaac), 2) physical descent (Ishmael) (9:6-10). Thus far, the only reason for individual identification is to contrast physical descent with spiritual descent. The context of God’s election (choice) is this: a contrast between physical and spiritual descent. It was through Isaac and it was through Jacob that God chose to bring His Son into this world; it was not through Ishmael and neither was it through Esau. God’s choice of election was through whom He chose to fulfill His promise to Abraham – not a word about salvation (9:10-11). In Romans 9:12-18, Paul illustrates, via Scripture, God’s choice in this process. 1) God spoke about what would happen (from the perspective of Rebekah) in Genesis 25. The older (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob). In that which Scripture speaks concerning them, i.e., their individual lives, this did not happen. Three options: First, it never happened, and God was wrong. Second, it happened, but is not recorded. Third, application of the prophetic words did not apply to individuals, but to the two nations. For those who accept the Inspiration of Scripture, the first is ruled out. To accept the second option, a viable one, one needs evidence (for which there is none). That leaves the third option, and the context of Romans 9-11 bears this out.

God chose Jacob, and it was near 1,500 years later the words of Malachi records God’s choice in terms of love/hate. Certainly, Coffman had it right when he wrote, in his remarks on Malachi, “This choice between Jacob and Esau had nothing at all to do with individuals, but concerned whole nations of people. ‘The selection of Jacob was the selection of a people rather than an individual.’ … the eternal destiny of Jacob or Esau is not connected in any way with what is written here. This passage in Malachi was written centuries after Isaac’s twins were born; and it was the posterity of those brothers concerning which the prophet wrote” (Barnes, Calvin, Butler, Ellicott, Lange, Pulpit, all affirm similar).

CONTEXT: Paul speaks concerning a contrast between two peoples: spiritual Israel and physical Israel, with the former in good standing with God, the latter not. It was God’s choice to show mercy to those of spiritual Israel rather than physical Israel, and it was God’s choice to show mercy to one nation as compared to another nation. God showing mercy to one, not the other is based on God’s choice (9:15). In this context that Paul makes clear salvation is not in view, but God’s sovereign will in relation to nations is (cf. Dan. 4:17), thus Egypt was brought into the discussion in relation to the physical nation of Israel. Paul’s point in this is not exclusively “God’s prerogative to choose” (though this certainly applies), but to show that God chose to offer salvation to the Gentiles (non-Jews) as He did to the Jewish people (Romans 1:16-17; 9:25-26). Moreover, those who identify themselves with physical Israel, it’s only the remnant of those identified with physical Israel that will be saved (9:27-29).

Why will only a remnant be saved? Because, as Paul states, those of physical descent chose (elected) their own way of salvation, and not the Lord’s (9:30-10:3).

 

Atheism is Alive and Well in Congress

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Some atheistic remarks in relation to an abortion law proposed by the House GOP in Congress: “Women across the country deserve better. This law is a continuation of the Republican Party’s assault on women’s reproductive health” (Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles). “This bill is a cruel and ruthless attempt to undermine women and attack our rights to govern our bodies” (Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wisconsin).

The Dispatch (A-15, 10.4.2017) speaks of the law having no chance to pass in the Senate, and this may well be the case. If so, then why try? Because the life of children is on the line! “It’s not that bad!” someone might say. The Dispatch cites a 2013 Center for Disease Control stat: “…of the more than 664,000 reported abortions in 2013, 1.3 percent occurred at least 21 weeks into development.” Is there some sort of virtue in this low percentage? That is still over 6,000 murders!

Part of the justification to oppose the legislative effort is in relation to pain suffered. Evidently, according to some, pain in the womb by a child is not felt until “at least 24 weeks of development” occurred.

Thus, the moral standard is “suffering” and “pain,” not the nature of life as given by God. Atheism is strong in the Democrat Party!

 

GUN VIOLENCE SOLUTION

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In an editorial (10.3.2017), the Columbus Dispatch admonished readers “not to leap to conclusions about how best to combat this kind of violence” before the facts are all in. The kind of violence the editorial had in mind was that perpetrated by a morally deranged man in Las Vegas, having killed nearly sixty people and injured eight times as many!

One man, however, produced a commentary meme (on Facebook) about how much easier it is to own a particular firearm than it is at being a barber. He would resist my characterization of his commentary-jumping to a conclusion, but in this context, he certainly did. He has often spoken in favor of gun-control (as a very thoughtful man, though one may disagree with him, his words need to be considered).

The man guilty of a deranged act was himself morally deranged. He fires and hope to escape judgment. Escape, he did not. Though he killed himself to escape police arrest. He now is before the Lord Almighty! In a context where the writer speaks of why Jesus came to this earth, and that He is coming again, the Holy Spirit said this: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27, KJV). The morally deranged man did not escape judgment. Yet, in our society, one would not know this at all; apart from some religious folk, nothing is said about such things.

Though the Dispatch heeded us to be more discriminating in conclusion jumping, they also noted the frequency of gun violence escalating in society. What kind of solution is there to these violent atrocities? They admit there are no easy solutions, but a number of options are available to be pursued. Such options are 1) better mental health care, 2) “regulations making it harder for people with mental illness and those with violent pasts top own guns”, 3) “aggressive enforcement against illegal sales.”

Perhaps these suggestions are worthy of serious consideration, but the one solution that should have been proffered, but was not is what is most troubling. The solution I have in mind is much longer in implementation, at the very least a generation’s amount of time. But, given the “solutions” in place already, “the deep cultural rift that makes the problem so difficult to even talk about” will be, and currently are, a waste of time.

What solution do I have in mind?

In the latest issue of Apologetics Press (October 2017, p. 10), Kyle Butt wrote a brief article on how “people all over the world associate atheism with immorality.” It is true, and recognized within the article, that some atheists are moral people. Their morality, however, is not based on atheistic ideology, but an ideology that has its source in theism. It is theism, especially Christian theism, that speaks of transcendent love, kindness, courtesy, respect and behavioral qualities of this sort. Of course, atheists will affirm the same, but as mentioned, they have no foundational reason to do such. Moreover, what separates atheistic approach from the Christian approach is its lack of accountability.

Christian philosophy/ideology teaches that actions and thoughts lived on this earth are accountable to Almighty God, who will bring all into judgment. “For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:30-31, KJV). Atheism can’t give any good reason for a moral foundation that obligates man to act in a certain way; all atheistic ideology can hope to accomplish is that others agree with them, with society compelling behavior norms; of course, this is not a morality based on moral virtue of a righteous Judge, but a “morality” based on self-preservation. Yet, as we look at society as it has implemented this approach, not much is accomplished.

On the other hand, in accordance with the Lord’s way, Jesus said “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). In this exhortation from the Lord we have: 1) a community standard (peace), 2) there is a moral standard (holiness), 3) and accountability.

Yes, it is true the morally deranged will not heed the Lord’s counsel. It’s also true, the Lord’s way is the best solution known to man; man won’t implement, however, because he wants an atheistic society.

GILMORE -ROSENBERG DEBATE: Suffering, Morality and the Existence of God

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GILMORE -ROSENBERG DEBATE: Suffering, Morality and the Existence of God

September 27, 2016, on The Ohio State University Campus. Book published by the Warren Christian Apologetics Center (Vienna, WV); 2017; Ralph Gilmore: Ph. D (University of Tennessee), Professor of Bible and Philosophy at Freed-Hardeman University (Henderson, TN); Alexander Rosenberg: Ph. D (John Hopkins University), Professor of Philosophy, Duke University (Durham, NC)

REVIEW:

Rosenberg’s First Affirmative. Rosenberg argues that suffering prevents one from believing in God. He gave a definition to what he meant: the state of undergoing pain, hardship, distress (5). He spoke of examples of suffering in humanity by other humans and from natural calamities. If God exists, then he had a reason for suffering’s experience. On the other hand, “the existence of suffering is overwhelming evidence, I think, that God does not exist” (9). Since Rosenberg thinks there is no good answer to the question about why suffering exists and is experienced, then it must be the case God does not because is to have a reason, a purpose. The lack of a sufficient explanation from Christians is evidence God does not exist (10-11). He knows this is not an iron-clad position, so he calls it probabilistic or, it’s probably the case God does not exist.

Rosenberg does address what he thinks are “cop-out” answers to what Christians say are reasons for suffering. That which he offered in chart form were flippant replies (I suppose) he heard from others (such as: God works in mysterious ways; we’re too feeble minded to understand God; all dogs go to heaven; God’s a sadist; animal suffering was a mistake).

Rosenberg does not believe man has free-will, thus his argument strikes at the free-will defense that Christians make. In other words, God created humans with free-will, and since humans make bad choices that end up causing much harm, what evil there is in the world (a result of bad choices) is not the fault of God, but of humanity. He believes there is no reconciliation between free-will, suffering and God’s existence. He gave an example of a math-quiz problem. A math-quiz scenario allows one to freely choose the answers given. If a wrong answer given is “incentivized” to prevent a wrong answer (that is, given an incentive to not freely choose the wrong answer), then why could God not incentivize man with free-will wherein he will always choose to do right, rather than the wrong, thus not bring evil into the world?

SUMMARY An atheist says, “I know God does not exist.” Rosenberg does not say this; this leaves him open to criticism (Gilmore exploits this opening). There is no logical argument with premise 1, premise 2, and therefore a conclusion that says, “therefore God does not exist.” Rosenberg offered questions, a semblance of a philosophical argument, a discussion on free-will, but he never gave an argument wherein the premises demanded the conclusion “God does not exist.”

Gilmore’s First Negative. After some introductory words, Gilmore calls out the atheist position as one of arrogance (a word he did not use), arrogant because the atheist said, in effect, “I have surveyed all the evidence, and I know there is no God!” Gilmore also briefly explains what atheists think is their best argument (an argument that Rosenberg did not make, though he came close). 1) God is omnipotent, 2) God is omniscient, 3) God is omnibenevolent, 4) Evil exists (18). Gilmore claims that suffering, as it is interpreted as evil, is not incompatible with the existence of an all-loving God who is powerful enough the eradicate evil.

Gilmore takes up the claim that if God has the qualities Christians declare, then, as Rosenberg asserts, it is perfectly reasonable for man to have free-will and God, at the same time, to eradicate evil and suffering wherein man does not need to experience it. Gilmore calls this nonsense (19). Gilmore defines how omnipotence is to be understood from a biblical perspective, that is, whatever can be done by an all-powerful being, God can do it. God, however, cannot create free-will beings without the possibility of those free-will beings choosing to hurt themselves. “…God cannot make a free being, in a physical world, without the possibility of suffering…” (19) unless he were to eliminate of the special characteristics of man that currently experiences physical and emotional pain. In this connection, Gilmore identifies three “wills” of God: 1) ideal will, 2) circumstantial will and 3) ultimate will of God.

Gilmore brings to the discussion the purpose of animals. He anticipated the question that would be asked of him, “Why consider the purpose of animal existence?” but I had much difficulty in gaining clarity from him in his answer to this. In fact, I had to study his chart (evidently put together by John Clayton) to gain what he desired for me to gain, for I did not read/hear it in his oral presentation (20-23). It seems to go like this: animals are associated with human characteristics, but this is mere fantasy. Second, animals do not feel pain as humans do because animals “…have no susceptive stimuli that can cause immediate protective reaction” in relation to pain. The pain they feel, however, does not correspond with the pain/experience of humans. Third, without the natural “predation” in the animal kingdom (that is, the predatory initiative of animals), the animal population could grow to such a number the animals would starve to death. Purpose associated with the animal kingdom, then, are as in the words Gilmore includes, the words of Thomas Warren, the purpose of the animal kingdom is toward man’s environment, “the ideal environment for ‘soul-making’” and this contributes to man’s moral development. After much effort at trying to understand, I think I see his point, but I can only imagine my “lostness” if I heard it orally!

Gilmore brings to the fore the lack of objective morality Rosenberg subscribes to; it is called “nice nihilism.” Gilmore demands his terms be defined, then identify how it could have come into existence, and why this should be accepted. Gilmore also disputes Rosenberg’s rejection of free-will having any relevance to the discussion, Gilmore insisting that it has everything to do with the discussion because without it there is no intentionality with decisions, thus no moral compass.

Gilmore gives attention to Rosenberg’s theory of the mind. Rosenberg does not believe in free-will, thus he does not (cannot) believe in intentionality. If there is no intent, then what is thought, said and done is determinism, and determinism can have nothing to do with right/wrong, with morality. Gilmore calls out Rosenberg by asking about his brain. Is the “brain” (the material mass of flesh) the mind, or is there something else? The “I” in a sentence (such as “I feel pain”) represents the person; Hume and Russell tried to eliminate the person (the ego, the I, the impression of self-existence), but they had no success. If Rosenberg is correct, then in his determinism, it can’t be said that he intentionality wrote a book.

Rosenberg’s Reply to Gilmore. Rosenberg demands that theism must provide a rationale for how suffering is compatible with and all-powerful, all-knowing and benevolent God. “Unless I can understand how that happened, I cannot accept the idea that a loving God would create the kind of suffering which we see manifest around us…” (32). Rosenberg disputes Gilmore, but does so by assertion, not proving or supporting his assertion. In his mind, since God is so capable as theism argues, He could have employed a different set of Laws that govern humanity than the ones that currently do; if that is so, then He could have employed a set of Laws wherein free-will is compatible with a no-possibility-of-suffering world. Rosenberg also gave him explanation for “the origin of morality,” which he calls altruism. He admits difficulty in understanding why it exists, but ultimately says we could not exist if it did not. In other words, that has to be it: it was brought into existence for self-preservation purposes. “We never would have survived starting at the bottom of the food chain, let alone find our way within 100,000 years at the top of the food chain, without human cooperation, without being nice to one another.”

Gilmore’s Response to Rosenberg. Gilmore speaks about suffering in relation to pain-receptors, and that suffering benefits us because it molds/shapes us in learning to live in this current environment. Free-will is part of this learning process (pages 35-41 develop these thoughts). God had only two choices in the creation of man: 1 create with free-will, 2) create without free-will. When God created man with free-will, He created knowing it was a “two-edged” sword. The gift given can be utilized to bite the giver of the gift (if you will). With free-will, the possibility of evil exists. The evil that does exists is not in catastrophes of nature, but in sin; sin is the only intrinsic evil that exists. Sin is evil because it adversely affects relationship-building, especially with God. the world in which we live, a world that was created without anything evil within, but with the possibility of evil to exist (with free-will creatures) is “as good as any possible world” for man to live (p. 39).

Gilmore’s Negative Rejoinder. Gilmore summarizes his presentation and Rosenberg’s philosophical failings (in principle).

Rosenberg’s Affirmative Rejoinder. Rosenberg asked many questions, spoke about Gilmore’s failing to give an adequate answer to why man feels pain when, in his opinion, God could have created man without feeling pain. “… the job of the theist is to explain why God made evil actual” (p. 45). The remaining moment of Rosenberg’s rejoinder was in introducing normative ethics and meta-ethics in relation to theistic debates.

SUMMARY to this point: Rosenberg spoke of his desire to have explanation of compatibility for the existence of evil with a traditional concept of an all-powerful God. He never did set forth an argument that demanded the conclusion “thus, God does not exist.” Gilmore gave explanation, a thorough one, but it was not an explanation Rosenberg accepted, though he could not give a counter-reply to why Gilmore’s answer was not adequate (indicative of the point “evidence does not matter” when a position is desired).

Gilmore’s First Affirmative. He starts out describing his opponent as a methodological atheist instead of an epistemological atheist. The latter demands that he (Rosenberg) give explanation to all the 300 million species that exist, something Rosenberg can’t do. Since Holy Spirit is not eh latter, then he must be the former. Building on this, Gilmore puts forth an argument (a syllogism): 1) Either Theism or Physicalism (materialism), 2) Physicalism can’t be sustained, 3) thus, Theism. Gilmore gave four reasons why this argument can be sustained, building mostly on the point of objective morality. “Piggy-backing” this, he offers, in his second main argument, another argument built on morality, highlighting the fact that one such as Rosenberg is in no position to judge with a moral standard when he has no moral standard. The argument: 1) if there is a universal moral standard, then theism is true. 2) there is a universal moral law. 3) thus, theism is true. Gilmore gives two additional, complementary arguments along similar lines (p. 50). The remainder of his portion of this affirmative is building the case for an objective morality and how the atheist can’t do so, but he tries, just to same, to live as if there is one. Thus, God exist. Gilmore, in my mind did a very good job; yes, he got into the use of philosophical jargon, but I did not find this troubling like, perhaps, most did.

Rosenberg’s First Negative. Rosenberg tries to distance himself from the traditional suffering/morality arguments atheists put forth, but then proceeds to argue about arbitrariness of God making a command and its relation to morality. He poses an “argument’s sake” 11th command. Did God give this command because it was morally right, or did God give this command because He declared it right? If the latter, then the morally right is based on God’s fiat, God’s decree.  Rosenberg thinks this is an “ungetoverable” dilemma for the theist. He concludes from this that morality exists apart from anything associated with God (p. 64). Rosenberg anticipate the response to his remarks by addressing the “Divine Command” theory, which is the nature of God is such that nothing radiates from His being that is morally wrong, “God’s commands are the morally right ones because of his very essence or nature” (p. 64). On pages 66 through the end of his speech (p. 68), Rosenberg explains “nice nihilism,” (though he calls himself a utilitarian). It is nice because man is a cooperative, altruistic being, which accords well with survival in the desert of the African Savannah.

Gilmore’s Second Affirmative. Gilmore begins by asking questions with unstated answers about the nature of suffering and if there is any warrant to the infliction of it (on occasion). Then he begins to address the age-old Euthyphro problem Rosenberg brought up, asserting that Rosenberg believes Plato proved religion and scientism face the same problem. I don’t think he explicated very well here. Nevertheless, Gilmore then says, “God is who he is, because he is,” stated with much emphasis, meaning that God’s attributes and existence are co-eternally bound. Moreover, Euthyphro dealt with polytheism, not monotheism. Gilmore also declared he is not a “divine-command” theorist, which means if God declared something, that something is morally right; if this is so, then God, in an arbitrary way set forth that which is moral, even the point of commanding another to kill his son! The ring of arbitrariness is social-Darwinism, which can’t account for one single moral fact. Gilmore again emphasized the nature of morality is not in commands, but in the nature of God. He then explicates the nature of holiness in relation to God’s wrath which has a goal that one can see/experience in the ultimate respect. Not so with utilitarianism because it’s subjective in nature, nothing transcendent about it. He finishes his portion of this affirmative, which was nothing but a reply to Rosenberg’s first negative, with a discussion of RNA, DNA and how Rosenberg declared evolution a mess!

Rosenberg’s Second Negative. Rosenberg summarized Gilmore’s last speech, but said it amounted to little because the terms and expressions used have no meanings. For instance, what does this mean: God is who he is, because he is? Moreover, as far as Rosenberg is concerned, neither does the idea of God’s existence and essence being eternally bound have meaning. Rosenberg said he was not going to address what he called “cheap shots” at Christian theist and difficult passages of the Old Testament, that is, he was not going to address it as it pertained to this current debate. He then spent the remainder of his time giving attention to science, and evolution and the “god of the gaps.”  He addressed the phrase “survival of the fittest” having no existence in Darwin’s book, though in the very next paragraph, he spoke of the idea behind its coinage, without using the term. Rosenberg called out Gilmore’s use of a stat, saying that he was wrong, though to later follow that Gilmore was right in the use of something else he said. In all this that was said, there was no denial of Gilmore’s speech, but only explanation of methodology.

Rosenberg’s Negative Rejoinder. His last speech of the occasion was simply to remind people that Gilmore never gave an adequate response to the Euthyphro problem. If one is going to argue the existence of moral suffering implies the absolute nature of moral law, which implies God’s existence, then theists need to “…what it is about God and about the moral laws that so bind them together…” and Rosenberg said Gilmore failed in this.

Gilmore’s Affirmative Rejoinder. Gilmore presented his main argument in chart form again, maintaining that he did prove that God has existence because “physicalism” (materialism) can’t be sustained. Since Rosenberg’s perspective can’t be sustained, the only alternative is God (without regard to whether one can adequately explain this or that). Also, with physicalism, there is no moral source, thus no objective, absolute moral right/wrong.

LAST IMPRESSIONS: From a biased perspective, Ralph Gilmore was more than capable of handling the arguments set forth by the atheistic college professor. The upside of the debate, in my view, was Gilmore’s logical arguments that Rosenberg did not address directly because, I suppose, Rosenberg could (would) not. The thrust of the debate was on morality, a position the atheists have much trouble dealing with; try as they might to thrust the Euthyphro argument against theists, the trouble lands in the lap of the atheist to even determine what is moral or not. The downside of the debate was in the philosophical terms and ideas expressed; most people without some training in this area would be lost. As I listened to some who went to the debate, this is exactly what was expressed. I thought both participants carried themselves well (if one can interpret the words on a page accurately), neither descended into disparagement. I thought Rosenberg seemed to be a worthy opponent.

What Moral Principle was Violated?

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Letter to editor

The article headline reads, “Religious leaders gather in moral opposition to Trump” (page A-5, 8/29/2017), but the article never identified exactly what moral principle or principles were compromised. There was mention of white supremacy, the president’s pardon of a sheriff, a point on transgenderism, but nothing about a moral foundation or principle violated. One Baptist preacher said, “When you identify it as a moral issue, then that’s what needs to be done” (that is, stand in opposition).

It would be much easier to stand in opposition to something on moral grounds if 1) the moral foundation transcends man, that is, is greater than man, 2) if it was known! As it is, there was nothing in the article to identify a principle or principles violated. To this point, therefore, that for which some stood opposed was nothing but a matter of opinion, and opinions are like noses…

Morality cannot originate in man and be transcendent of man at the same time. If there is a moral base, a foundation, it must be in God. So, let us now begin to discuss what is moral/not moral based on God’s revealed will.

 

As of 9.2.2017, the LETTER TO EDITOR has not been printed in the hard-copy of the Dispatch, though it was submitted on 8.29.2017

Did the Law of Moses Demand Perfection? (Galatians 3:10-14)

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Preacher’s Meeting (September 11, 2017, Wadsworth, Ohio)

Preliminary: this is not a position paper, but a study on what I think is a misguided notion concerning justification and perfect-keeping of the Law of Moses. Problem set Out: Can righteousness be attained through the Law if one perfectly obeyed it (2:21). Quite a number of Bible expositors so declare, but below are just a few referenced. “Since the Jews were unable to obey the Law perfectly, they could not make themselves right with God.”[1] “The law cannot justify us because it is impossible for carnal people to fulfill it, and God demands that it be kept perfectly.”[2] In a discussion on the nature of justification and innocence in the court of law, Barnes writes: “In either case, if the point is made out, he will be just or innocent in the sight of the Law. The Law will have nothing against him, and he will be regarded and treated in the premises as an innocent man; or he has justified himself in regard to the charge brought against him.”[3] (italics added, RT) “The only way in which the Law could justify was through a complete obedience to its provisions.”[4] In a discussion on the Law being added, Bales writes, “It could not within itself justify man, for man did not do all the law said all of the time; therefore man was under the curse (Gal. 3:10-11).[5]

SUMMARY OUTLINE of Galatians per chapter, and as will be seen, it’s an over-simplification. CHAPTER 1. Introductory greeting (1:1-5). That which is contrary to what Paul preached/taught is that which is contrary to God’s express will (1:6-11). That which Paul preached/taught has its origin in God (1:12-24). CHAPTER 2. Paul’s Gospel from God is greater than those who live in Jerusalem (2:1-10). The Gospel Paul preached is partial to no one, accepting of all (2:11-21). CHAPTER 3. The Gospel message (seed) antedates the Law of Moses (3:1-9). The law, by its very nature, is unbending and can only condemn or show that one is not condemned (3:10-14). The Law of Moses is not contrary to Paul’s Gospel message (in its blossomed form; Eph. 3:1-7), but is the completion of the very thing the Law of Moses was designed to accomplished (3:15-29). CHAPTER 4. Paul illustrates, twice, to make his point about immaturity/maturity (4:1-7) and a figurative/allegorical understanding of two physical locations (4:21-31). The connection between the two illustrations is made in 4:7 and 4:31. In between these two points is Paul’s concern about those who would try to enslave them (4:8-20). CHAPTER 5. Paul’s perplexity concerning the saints in Galatia is continued (5:1-7). Paul expresses sternness toward those who influenced them into this confused way of thinking, calling upon them to walk in love (5:8-15). Paul contrasts two kinds of walks: those who walk according to the flesh and those who walk according to the Spirit’s teachings (5:16-26). CHAPTER 6. Paul continues with his contrast (6:1-10), then giving some final exhortations to bring his epistle/letter to a close (6:11-18).

THRUST OF THIS STUDY.  Paul’s thought in summary through 3:9. Paul contrasts two systems; the reception of the Holy Spirit either by 1) works of the Law or, 2) the hearing of faith. This hearing of faith pertains to the message preached (1:8; 3:1). The “hearing of faith” is the “gospel” that goes as far back as Abraham (3:8).

Some Remarks on Galatians 2:16. The remarks made here are in relation to Law/faith. Is it one’s personal faith the Holy Spirit is speaking about, or does the word faith stand for something else. Translations (emphasis added, RT). “But knowing that man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, we also believe in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by the faith of Christ and not by the works of the law: because by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (1899 Douay-Rheims Bible). “…knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; because no flesh shall be justified by the works of the law” (English Majority Text Version). “Yet we know that a person is put right with God only through faith in Jesus Christ, never by doing what the Law requires. We, too, have believed in Christ Jesus in order to be put right with God through our faith in Christ, and not by doing what the Law requires. For no one is put right with God by doing what the Law requires” (Good News Bible). “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (KJV). “…yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified” (New English Translation).

I am in no position to speak on Greek grammar as it relates to this verse. By context, however, I have a few thoughts. Paul speak of the system of justification (2:7, 14). This system goes back to his earlier remarks in C-1, there Paul states some are trying to assert a different gospel when there is no other gospel (system of justification) than that which he taught and teaches (1:6-9, 24). Prior to 2:16, Paul speaks only of the system of justification, not one’s personal faith. It is in 2:16, that one reads of both the system of justification and one’s personal response/faith.[6] An AMPLIFIED rendering of my own: yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law [the system of the Law of Moses] but through [anarthrous] faith in Jesus Christ [the system of justification revealed in Jesus], so we also have believed in Christ Jesus [one’s personal response/faith], in order to be justified by faith in Christ [the system of justification revealed in Jesus] and not by works of the law [the system of the Law of Moses], because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Does the “but through faith in Jesus Christ” refer to a system (the New Covenant) or one’s personal faith?[7]

Brief Remarks on Galatians 3:10-12. Galatians 3:10. For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them” (ESV). The emphasis in this verse is on what a person relies (or relied) on. Does one rely on expending energy to obey commands? If so, because failure to comply is guaranteed, the one who so lives is cursed by God. Galatians 3:11. Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” One cannot be/will not be justified by the Law (Law of Moses).[8] Perhaps 3:11 can be interpreted to mean it is evident because no one could possibly have success at meeting the demands of the Law in complete perfection, thus one has to be justified in some other manner, in this case, by faith. Another possible interpretation (one that I accept): The Law, in and of itself, cannot/does not justify anyone, even one who lived it perfectly. Justification comes by faith. The Law of Moses was not designed by God to accomplish that end. What was designed by God to accomplish that end (justification) is one’s faith. Galatians 3:12. But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” The Holy Spirit makes clear as to why one could not/would not be justified by the Law. However, according to the Holy Spirit, one who lived under the authority of the Law, though the Law was not of faith, could/would live by the Law. This means the one who lived under the authority of the Law would be justified, saved, redeemed (in view of the Cross of Jesus) by God as those who live under the New Covenant today. Their reliance was not on the Law, but on God. Another option is that one is to live by all of it and without ail.[9] I do not think this is a natural or reasonable understanding of the passage. In my view, for one to read it this way is the result of the interpretive perspective that to be justified by the Law, one must live the Law perfectly.[10] In what way could one live, or be pleasing to God under a Law that was not of faith? Paul give the answer in Romans 2:28-29, which is another way of saying what Moses did in Deuteronomy 10:12-13.

With this before us: What does it mean to live the law (Law of Moses) perfectly? Does this mean that all things in the Law are obeyed, including the sin offering? If so, then the one who offers is guilty of sin, and the Law could not “justify” (or move one from) an imperfect status (guilty of sin) to perfection.  Does this mean all the exhortations in the Law are obeyed precisely (without any deviation), without regard to the proper motivation?[11] Does it mean one will do as #2 above, but in the spirit in which it was written? Does this mean something else?

Gal. 3:10, plainly states one is cursed when one does not abide by all things written in the Law of Moses to do them. Thus, if one does all the things written in the Law – what then? As set out at the beginning of this outline, some think it results in one’s justification because the Law was obeyed perfectly, that is, there was no violation of the written code. Since there is (was) no curse or condemnation, but the one who did all things in the Law is innocent, then it must be that justification results. I think this is misguided. If one fails in one point to meet the Law’s demands, that same person who failed is guilty of the entirety of the Law (James 2:8-11). It is my contention the one who received no curse because he/she met the Law’s obligations in all respects and perfectly (assuming it could have been done by ordinary man) is still not in a justified position before God because he/she did what was supposed to be done[12] (cf. Luke 17:7-10).[13] Justification is a matter of God’s declaration, not a matter of meeting the Law’s obligations in total, complete sinlessness. Under the authority of the Law of Moses, the Law could not justify anyone (3:11, 21; Acts 13:39). Justification is God’s declaration because “one is justified by faith” (Hab. 2:4). This is NOT the same thing as “justification by faith alone.”[14] The curse of the Law was to point out the guilty verdict of all who lived under its parameters (or authority) when one failed to meet the God-ordained obligations. It had direct application to those to whom it was given. The curse of the Law was not in failing to live it perfectly.[15] The curse of the Law was in showing those who lived under its authority were guilty of sin. This emphasis is important. This distinction places the emphasis in the right location (if you will). There is nothing in the Old Testament (if I recall correctly) that speaks of one obligated to live it perfectly to be justified. There was an obligation given to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8; cf. Gen. 17:1; 18:19; Deut. 10:12-13). Connecting this with the teaching of Paul in Romans 7:22-8:1, the thought becomes clearer (in my mind anyway).

The application (or approach) of many Israelites was to make use of the Law as the standard of righteousness in and of itself. For instance, the Rabbis looked (and look) upon Torah study as the ultimate end of spiritual knowledge and attainment, rather than end of one thing and the beginning of something else (as in Jeremiah 31). There are 13 principles of faith that are incumbent on every Jew, and 2 of them (#’s 8, 9) refer to the Torah. “I believe with complete faith that the entire Torah now in our hands is the same one that was given to Moses…I believe with complete faith that this Torah will not be exchanged, nor with there be another Torah from the Creator…”[16] In a discussion of the greatness of Jacob, the Chumash (anthology of rabbinic commentators) speaks of Jacob spending fourteen years of his life in study of the Torah at the academy of Shem and Eber to become a scholar.[17] In introductory remarks, one reads these words: “…Man’s highest privilege and loftiest attainment is in the study of the Torah itself – the light – whereby mortal man unites with the thought and the wisdom of God Himself.”[18]

Paul wrote to the church in Rome, What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’ Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” (Romans 9:30-10:3, ESV)

The purpose of the Law was more than just to identify sin for what it was, how those who lived under its authority were guilty if one failed to meet God’s obligations (2:15-17; Romans 3:20), it was also to point one to the coming Messiah (Galatians 3:24-27).

If one did not fail in one point of the law, all that could be said about the one who did not fail is that the Law of Moses did not condemn/curse. Does that mean the one not condemned is justified by God? At the very least (or, perhaps, at the very most), one can speak of innocence, but the Law (Law of Moses) which did not condemn/curse could only show/manifest innocence of any violation of the Law’s obligatory exhortations. That innocence did not result in declared justification. In this light, it is my contention there is a gap (if you will) between innocence and justification.

Justification comes from God’s declaration, not anything associated with innocence in relation to wrong-doing and the Law because the Law could not declare on righteous/justified; all it could do is “say” not guilty. I think Paul bears this out in 3:10-24. No one is justified before God by the Law (3:11), The Law is not of faith (3:12), God’s promise to Abraham does not come through the Law (3:14, 18), The Law cannot annul God’s method of justification to Abraham (3:17), The Law was a temporary arrangement (3:19, 23), The Law could not give life/righteousness (3:21), The Law could only imprison (3:22-23, 10), The Law’s temporary arrangement was to teach (3:24).

Objections considered. OBJECTION: What about a “pre-accountable” person (such as an 8-year old) who died under the authority of the Law, but was not guilty of violating the Law’s obligations? Considering Jonah 4:11, those of their “pre-accountable” years do not have a lost relationship with the Lord because knowledge of right/wrong is lacking, thus they are innocent. Innocent, but not declared justified, as in “just as if I had never sinned” type circumstance.[19] OBJECTION: Why talk about something that is only theoretical? This objection was offered, not because it may prove to be an unfruitful study, but because it is only theoretical, not practical or actual. Fair enough, but I suggest the reason for this study is because of the remarks made in the opening of the paper – that one would be or could be justified by the Law if one lived it perfectly. OBJECTION: Philippians 3:9. Paul wrote of righteousness that comes through the Law.[20] And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (KJV). Based on Paul’s own words in Galatians 3:11, Paul was not contradicting what he earlier wrote to those of Galatia. How should it be understood? In relation to Romans 10:3, it is my view that Paul spoke of attaining righteousness from the perspective of those who seek to establish their own. Some, however, have interpreted it to be in relation to Jesus. “Here we infer (from the general line of Pauline teaching) that the primary thought is that of an acceptance for Christ’s sake, as against acceptance for any personal merits of the man.”[21] Perhaps, one might understand the verse in relation to Galatians 3:12 and, if so, then Paul is speaking in connection to Galatians 3:24-27. OBJECTION: Jesus was not guilty of the Law, thus He lived the Law perfectly. He was not imprisoned by the Law because He was innocent of failing to meet its demands. In His innocence, was He justified by the Law? No, justification can’t come via the Law and, justification is a matter of God’s declaration. As Charles Hill expressed it (in comments I have not included in this document), Jesus was extraordinary; He was man, but also unlike ordinary man.[22]

In an Old Testament context living under the authority of the Law meant what? It meant that perfect-keeping-of-the-Law was not the standard of measurement, but faithful loyalty to God was. Much of the Old Law pertained to what could not be done, what was prohibited. If/when a violation occurred, then the Law set out prescriptive commands for reconciliation. That reconciliation prescription, however, was only temporary and seen via the cross of Jesus (cf. Hebrews 10:4). Compare this with the spirit of the New Covenant as in 1 John 2:1, My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

In a New Testament context this means what? James 1:25; Galatians 6:2. “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (1:25). “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (6:2). With these passages, it is clear the New Testament is understood as God’s Law. Thus, the concept of Law is not, and never has been a problem. The problem is, and always has been man’s understanding and application of Law. Under the New Law, it pertains to what must be done. There are prohibitions, but the thrust of the New Covenant pertains to how one is to live (cf. Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Timothy 1:6-11). One’s personal salvation: it pertains to what one should, needs to do. The Lord’s Supper: a participation in what should be done. Assembly: it pertains to what one should do, needs to do. Godly living: it pertains to how one should live (1 Peter 1:13-16). Matters pertaining to such things as the “structure” of the New Testament church must do what needs to be done (cf. 1 Peter 5:1-6). These two passages speak of a Law, the Law of Liberty and the Law of Christ. Under the conditions of the Law as set forth by the Father/Son/Holy Spirit, those applying Hebrews 11:6, 1, with Romans 10:17, 2 Corinthians 5:7 and Acts 2:37-38 (for instance) are declared justified, righteous, saved.

Concluding thoughts of the “thrust of my study.” The Law of Moses was designed by God to identify sin for what it is, show man (the Israelite male/female) he is guilty of it and to instruct each toward the New Covenant prepared by God (Jeremiah 31:31-355, John 6:44-45). The Law of Moses never demanded of its subjects a perfect keeping of its precepts/commands or, to say it is another way, it never demanded a person (male/female) to a never-have-failed-to-live-up-to-its-demands way of life. If one was not guilty of failing to meet the Law’s demands, then that one was innocent of any wrong done, but not justified before God. Justification comes (came to Abraham) because God looks upon the heart of faith and “counted it to him [Abraham] as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Application in a New Testament context (like the point above). Because God set forth His stipulations, as in Acts 2:38; 16:31, etc., justification comes because of the Cross of Jesus.

LAW in Galatians. Paul does not make use of the word in Chapter 1, though he does give some introductory thoughts to his heritage, and the role the Law of Moses played in that. In Chapter 2, Paul begins to bring the concept of law (Law of Moses) into view. He introduced circumcision into the discussion (2:3), but circumcision predates the Law of Moses (Genesis 17). Through verse 14, “circumcision” is the primary word used to stand in the place of Paul’s discussion relative to the Law of Moses. Peter’s apostolic commission to the circumcised (2:7-9). Paul’s apostolic commission to the uncircumcised (2:7-9). The hypocrisy of Peter in application of fellowship/association with Gentiles (2:11-14). It is in 2:15-21, that Paul brings the Law of Moses into focus as it relates to and contrasts with the Gospel of Christ. One is not justified by the “works of the Law” (2:16). “Works of the law” (2:16) must be understood (contextually) to refer to the Law of Moses; “…it is plain that the Mosaic Law is in view.”[23] “Law is unbending, it yields nothing to weakness, its standard is never lowered, not even by a hairbreadth; law makes no compromise, and finds no room for mercy; ‘a man that hath set at nought Moses’ law dieth without compassion,’ Hebrews 10:28”.[24] Through the Law, Jews are made sinners (2:17).[25] Through the Law as a Jew, one dies spiritually (2:19). Through the Law one cannot attain righteousness (2:21).

In Chapter 3, Paul sternly (or plainly) speaks to those of Galatia concerning their waffling on the matter of justification by faith in contrast to justification by the works of the Law. The Spirit (Holy Spirit) did not come via the “works of the law,” but by the hearing of faith (3:2). Perfection (spiritual maturity) did not come via (or by) the flesh, or the works of the Law (3:3, 5). Abraham was justified by God based on his faith (trust), not the works of the Law (3:6-9). Those who rely (ESV) on the Law are under a curse (3:10). The Law (Law of Moses) brought death (cf. 3:10).[26] Righteousness was not attainable through the Law of Moses (cf. 3:11, 21). The Law will not make one justified before God (3:11). Though the Law is not of faith, those who lived under it could be pleasing to the Lord (3:12). Jesus redeemed those who have faith, those who trust in the Lord, from the curse of the Law (3:13). The life of Abraham is the illustration of salvation/righteousness/justification, not Moses and the Law (3:14-18).[27] The Law was added because of transgression (3:19). The Law is not contrary to the promises of God (3:21). Life/righteousness could not be attained by the Law (3:22). The Law imprisoned, held captive (3:23). The Law was a guardian, a teacher, instructor (3:24). The Law of Moses was a guardian, teacher, instructor to bring one to Christ. It was to point one who lived under its authority to Christ, instructing them in the true way of righteousness/justification (cf. John 6:44-45).[28] The guardian (the Law of Moses) is no longer in place (3:25).

In chapter 4, Paul points out the distinguishing difference between two approaches, relating to the role of the Law. When the guardian (Law of Moses) was in control, God’s promise to Abraham was still in the future. It was while the guardian was in place, teaching those who lived under its parameters, that God’s promise came into the world (4:4).[29] The “elementary principles of the word” (ESV) pertains to the material realm, exactly that which the Law of Moses addressed. Paul made use of a historical lesson and turned it into an allegory to make a greater point (4:21-31). Two women and two children. From one woman, a child was born after the manner of human wisdom (Genesis 16). Those born after the manner that pertains to the flesh are in bondage. From the other woman, a child was born after the manner of God’s promise (Genesis 17, 21:1-7). Those born after the manner that pertains to God’s promise are made free from bondage.

In chapter 5, the word “circumcision” (5:2-3) stands for the whole of the Law of Moses. One who receives circumcision, attempting to be justified by the Law is severed from Christ (5:4), that is fallen from grace. The whole Law is filled when one loves neighbor as self (5:14). The Law is implicitly related to the subjugation of the desires of the flesh (5:16-18). In chapter 6, Paul brings the Holy Spirit’s thoughts pertaining to the Law to a close by exhorting the brethren to fulfill the Law of Christ. Those who want the brethren in Galatia to be circumcised, i. e., to obey the whole law, they themselves are hypocrites (6:12).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  1. Bibles: New Living Translation (NLT), English Standard Version (ESV), New English Translation (NET), King James Version (KJV), Good News Bible (GNB), 1899 Douay-Rheims Bible, English Majority Text Version
  2. James Bales, The Scope of the Covenants, James D. Bales, Searcy Arkansas, 1982
  3. Albert Barnes: Barnes Notes on New Testament: Galatians; E-Sword.
  4. Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges: Philippians; E-Sword
  5. Chumash: Torah; Stone Edition: Haftaros and Five Megillos with a Commentary Anthologized from Rabbinic Writings; Artscroll Series, 2000
  6. James B. Coffman: Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians; Firm Foundation, 1977
  7. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers: Galatians; E-Sword
  8. William Hendriksen: New Testament Commentary: John; Baker Book House, 1979
  9. William Hendriksen: New Testament Commentary: Galatians; Baker Book House, 1979
  10. Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament: Jonah (vol. 10; Minor Prophets); Hendrickson, p. 280
  11. John MacArthur: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Galatians; Moody Bible Institute, 1987
  12. Jack McKinney: Truth for Today Commentary: Galatians; Resource Publications, 2017
  13. Douglas Moo: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Galatians; Baker Academic, 2013
  14. Leon Morris: Galatians: Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom; Intervarsity Press, 1996
  15. NET study notes. NET Bible, Second Beta Edition. http://www.netbible.com, 1996-2003
  16. Pulpit Commentary; E-Sword
  17. The Latter Prophets: Isaiah; with a Commentary Anthologized from Rabbinic Writings, Milstein Edition; Artscroll Series, 2013
  18. Gareth Reese: New Testament Epistles: 2 Corinthians, Galatians; Scripture Exposition Books, 2011
  19. Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Galatians, Ephesians; IVP Academic, 2011
  20. Herman Ridderbos: New International Commentary New Testament: Galatians; Eerdmans, 1974
  21. Robert Stein: The New American Commentary: Luke; Broadman Press, 1992
  22. E. Vine (with C. F. Hogg): Vine’s Expository Commentary on Galatians; Thomas Nelson, 1997
  23. Mike Willis; Truth Commentaries: Galatians; Guardian of Truth Foundation, 1994

END NOTES

[1] Jack McKinney on Galatians 2:16. Commentary on Galatians, p. 103.

[2] Erasmus Sarcerius on Galatians 2:16. Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Galatians, p. 72

[3] Albert Barnes on Galatians 2:16 (E-Sword).

[4] Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on Galatians 2:16 (E-Sword)

[5] James D. Bales, The Scope of the Covenants, p. 16

[6] A counter to this understanding of mine may be stated this way: Paul may be talking about the system of justification, but it’s not the system he emphasizes, but the personal response to each. In other words, the response some had to the Old Law was with an emphasis on deeds done, whereas Paul is emphasizing trust/faith in the One who brought the Gospel. As can be seen in the outline. I argue the emphasis is on the contrast to the systems of justification.

[7] In a translator note from the margin of the NET: “tn Or ‘faith in Jesus Christ.’ A decision is difficult here. Though traditionally translated ‘faith in Jesus Christ,’ an increasing number of NT scholars are arguing that πίστις Χριστοῦ (pisti Christou) and similar phrases in Paul (here and in 2:20; Rom. 3:22, 26; Gal. 3:22; Eph. 3:12; Phi. 3:9) involve a subjective genitive and mean ‘Christ’s faith’ or ‘Christ’s faithfulness’ (cf., e.g., G. Howard, “The ‘Faith of Christ’,” ExpTim 85 [1974]: 212-15; R. B. Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ [SBLDS]; Morna D. Hooker, “Πίστις Χριστοῦ,” NTS 35 [1989]: 321-42). Noteworthy among the arguments for the subjective genitive view is that when πίστις takes a personal genitive it is almost never an objective genitive (cf. Matt. 9:2, 22, 29; Mark 2:5; 5:34; 10:52; Luke 5:20; 7:50; 8:25, 48; 17:19; 18:42; 22:32; Rom. 1:8, 12; 3:3; 4:5, 12, 16; 1Cor. 2:5; 15:14, 17; 2 Cor. 10:15; Phil. 2:17; Col. 1:4; 2:5; 1 Thess. 1:8; 3:2, 5, 10; 2 Thess. 1:3; Tit. 1:1; Phm. 1:6; 1 Pet. 1:9, 21; 2 Pet. 1:5). On the other hand, the objective genitive view has its adherents: A. Hultgren, “The Pistis Christou Formulations in Paul,” NovT 22 (1980): 248-63; J. D. G. Dunn, “Once More, ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ,” SBL Seminar Papers, 1991, 730-44. Most commentaries on Romans and Galatians usually side with the objective view” (NET study notes, p. 2131).

[8] Gareth Reese offers a studied opinion the phrase “works of the law” does not pertain to the Law of Moses, as revealed by God, but to “man-made halakhic rulings or interpretations.” He writes, “When Paul writes in Romans and Galatians that “works of law” are not a condition of salvation, we can now understand that he is talking about ‘halakhic rulings’ like those typified by the 20 or so examples in MMT” [the first letters of the Hebrew word assigned to a manuscript in the DSS collection] (pp. 83-84). I find this to be interesting, but not convincing. Reese is convinced the term “works of law” is misunderstood and misapplied by the reformers through the centuries (in this, there is much agreement), but it seems to me that Paul makes himself clear in the context of both Romans and Galatians concerning what he means, that is, the Law of Moses.

[9] John MacArthur writes, “God’s written law itself marks the danger of trying to live up to its standard, which is perfection. If you are relying on the works of the law as your means of salvation, then you have to live by them perfectly” (p. 77). This is a misreading of Galatians 3:12, in my view.

[10] Coffman is mistaken when he writes, “The Law did not even require faith, as seen in the quotation Paul gave here from Lev. 18:5, the meaning of which may be paraphrased, ‘No matter about faith; do the Law and live.’” One could not be pleasing to God without it (faith), even in the context of Leviticus 18:5. Moreover, the Law (Torah) does not need to be understood relative to “do this” and “don’t do this” commands, at the expense of devotional commitment to God (cf. Genesis 18:19).

[11] Ridderbos comments on Galatians 3:10-12 that all who seek justification “out of the works of the law” lie under the curse. He supports this by saying, “…Paul cites Deut. 27:26. In that…all those who do not fulfill the demands of the law in all respects are placed under the curse” (Galatians, pp. 122-123). Looking at Deuteronomy 27:26, the word “all” is in the NKJV (in italics), but not in the JPS, ESV, ASV, Young’s Literal, NIV. Paul, however, does include the word “all” in Galatians 3:10, thus it must be implied (if not explicitly stated) in the context of Deuteronomy 27. The Holy Spirit’s point in Deuteronomy 27 is rebellion, not failure in one point (though failure in one point can be rebellion).

[12] In 3:21, there was not a law given that could give life, that is, give life in terms of justification.

[13] Robert Stein writes, “Believers are unworthy in the sense that at their very best all they have done is what they should have done, i. e., what the commandments teach. They have not done more than that. On the contrary, usually they have done much less. Compare Abot 2:8: ‘If you have learned much Torah, do not puff yourself up on that account, for it was for that purpose that you were created’’ (NAC: Luke, pp. 430-431).

[14] Compare the pitiful remark (in my view) by John MacArthur on 2:16. “All claims that salvation is through belief in Jesus Christ plus something else are blasphemous, satanic lies. The passage is as forceful and unequivocal a statement of the doctrine by faith alone as can be found in Scripture. First Paul establishes it on the basis of his apostolic authority. Second, he establishes it on the basis of his own experience. And third, he establishes it on the basis of God’s Word in the Old Testament” (p. 57). This is not only misguided, but plainly false. “Paul! You should have corrected Ananias when he said to you, ‘And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name’ (Acts 22:16) because he clearly taught belief in Jesus plus something else. Paul, you should be ashamed!”

[15] “Those who did not perfectly obey the Law…came under the curse of the Law” (Willis, p. 185). Obviously, something that could not be done by ordinary man. My perspective on this agrees in part with such sentiments as that which Willis wrote, but not because one did not obey it perfectly. Compare this with what the Holy Spirit wrote in Hebrews 7:19, “the law made nothing perfect” (ESV). The Law of Moses could not make perfect because it dealt with fleshly concerns (9:10; 10:1; 11:40), whereas “perfection” attained is more than just the deeds, works, or actions of man.

[16] Chumash: Introduction: Divine and Immutable, p. xix

[17] “Before going to Haran, Jacob spent fourteen years at the academy of Shem and Eber, a fact the Sages deduce from the chronology of the period. Surely, as great a man as Jacob did not need more years of study to become a scholar.” Later, in the same source, it speaks of him studying the Torah and “it was his own efforts that earned him the prophecy” (Chumash, p. 144).

[18] Chumash, “Torah Study: An Overview” p. xxiv.

[19] Some expositors speak of those 120,000 as infants (Barnes, Calvin, Ellicott), but in a translator’s note of the NET, the number refers to small children, but without regard to age. In the Pulpit Commentary, they are identified as children of “tender years.” Keil and Delitzsch writes, “This is not to be restricted, however, to the very earliest years, say the first three, but must be extended to the age of seven years, in which children first learn to distinguish with certainty between right and left, since, according to M. v. Niebuhr (p. 278), ‘the end of the seventh year is a very common division of age (it is met with, for example, even among the Persians), and we may regard it as certain that it would be adopted by the Hebrews, on account of the importance they attached to the number seven’” (E-Sword).

[20] “From the special Mosaic code he rises to the larger fact of the whole Divine preceptive code, taken as a covenant of ‘righteousness,’ of acceptance: ‘Do this, perfectly, and live; do this, and claim your acceptance’” (Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges: Philippians; E-Sword). I am of the strong persuasion Paul did not have this in mind, because if he did, I am equally persuaded Paul would have said something along this line in other writings of his – but he did not. This is a theology of man.

[21] Ibid.

[22] “Jesus never obeyed the Law vicariously; he obeyed the Law to qualify himself as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of man” (Mike Willis, Galatians, p. 184). I take this to mean that He did not obey simply as a substitute, but He obeyed to qualify as in Hebrews 5:8-9. Though He was tempted in all respects like a man (though without sin), as a man He was never “out-of-fellowship” with the Father, thus, not in need of justification.

[23] W. E. Vine: Galatians, p. 58.

[24] W. E. Vine. Pp. 83-84.

[25] Some difference of opinion as to how best to understand this verse. Douglas Moo has a good discussion on it. The NLT of the Bible gives the opposite view of the perspective Moo adopted, a view I think better reflects what Paul is talking about. Perhaps an accusation was being flung at the Jewish-Christians about how one becomes a sinner when the Law of Moses is abandoned. Paul rejects this and says one becomes a sinner, in truth, when what has been torn down (Ephesians 2:14-15; Colossians 2:15) is rebuilt all-over-again. The NLT gives an alternate view: “But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not!” The difference between the two positions is 1) an accusation laid at Paul’s feet, 2) an approach with a consequence.

[26] An important point is worthy of distinction. Though many speak of the concept of law in general, when such discussions are considered, it is my belief the point made like this are not comparable. In other words, some will speak of “law” as being applicable to “any law.” The concept of law as given by God to man is not comparable to any law of man given to others wherein sin can be identified.

[27] “Indeed, Rambam writes that the Messianic king, the scion of David, will possess more wisdom than Solomon and will be a prophet almost as great as our teacher Moses (Hilchos Teshuvah 9:2)” (The Later Prophets: The Milstein Edition, p. 97)

[28] Contrary to William Hendriksen, John 6:45 does indeed weaken the Calvinistic interpretation of John 6:44. “It is not true that 6:45 cancels or at least weakens 6:44. The expression It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God, does not in any sense whatever place in the hands of men the power to accept Jesus as Lord” (New Testament Commentary: John, p. 239, emphasis his).

[29] Strangely, the Chumash includes the words of Rabbi Zohar Chadash, who said “…that Abraham took him [Lot] because he foresaw that David and the Messiah would descend from Lot…” (p. 55; commenting on Genesis 12:4). Looking at Genesis 49:10, however, the Chumash clearly has the Messiah coming through the line of Judah (p. 279).

Structural Barriers Set By The Lord

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Letter to Editor,

In a recent Faith & Values section of the Dispatch (8.18.2017), an article spoke of the contributions of two United Methodist “’clergywomen” made to Hillary Clinton’s recent book. They were excited to see their own thoughts published in a book that encouraged the former presidential candidate while on the strenuous 2016 campaign trail.

Their excitement is reasonable.

Though they were excited, the two clergywomen lament the “structural barriers and bias against women in ministry.” The term “structural barrier” is a very good term to express that which the Lord spoke on this matter. The structural barrier of the Lord is in the following words: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet” (1 Timothy 2:12).

The clergywomen said they desire that people “live in the word of God.” Would it not be a good start if they, themselves, lived in the word of God by obeying His God-ordained structural barrier?

 

This LTE was submitted to Columbus Dispatch on 8/18/2017, but it was not printed in the hard-copy of the newspaper, I can’t say whether or not it was posted to their webpage at all. -9.2.2017

Letter to Editor (Chillicothe Gazette)

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Over 30 years ago my young family lived on Guam, an island in the South Pacific. We were there as I served my country in the USAF. Guam has a special place in our hearts; I am still in regular contact with a family on the island.

In the August 13th issue of the Gazette was an article on Archbishop Anthony Apuron, accused of heinous sins against the youth. I faintly remember this man, but that had more to do with our devotion to the Lord than anything associated with the Catholic Church.

For years, the Catholic Church has been burdened with such behavioral issues and, as an institution, the Catholic Church speaks loudly, and properly, against moral failings of their own, especially those in religious leadership. There are many reasons why these failings prevail in the Catholic Church. Ultimately, though, it comes down to one’s moral foundation and whether the foundation is a compass followed in life, or not. What prevails in the Catholic Church reflects society. Hollywood, politicians, educators, business leaders and even some in the religious community have the same failings.

The Catholic Church can tell you what is wrong. Often, they can’t tell you why it is wrong, but sometimes, with the moral confusion, some will tell you the exact opposite. Why the confusion? Long ago, God’s prophet gave the answer to this question. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10, ESV)

When man directs his own steps, destruction follows. It’s just a matter of time, even if it does not occur until time’s end. The solution? It is and always has been the Lord, even for such men like those institutionally identified as Archbishops.

 

 

I submitted this LTE to the local paper on 8/18/2017; printed in the Gazette on 9.10.2017, posted to blog 9/2/2017

My Story

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I remember living in New Mexico, serving in the United States Air Force. I was somewhat moderately religious, but the moderation was because of heritage more than anything else. I did read the Bible and had some low-level knowledge, like knowing where the Ten-Commandments could be found when someone asked me. I was also a member of the Nazarene Church, the church of which my parents were associated, but one to which my grandmother was loyal. My experience in the Nazarene Church was good, but my commitment to them was not as good. As a member of the USAF, while in New Mexico, I was introduced to the “church of Christ” for the first time. To me, one church was a good as another and, by and large, they were all good. The churches I knew I had no real interest in would have been the Mormons and Catholics, but Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists – I had no real objections to these.

Due to poor decisions in my life, confusion and misdirection seemed to be the way I was going. I remember well the many evenings I lamented, was angered, and appealed to the Lord for direction out of my stupidity. I had a roommate (Dave Hunt) who had fallen away from the church of which he was a member, but had enough interest in me that he thought I might be interested in attending when he went. This was about the time of Easter in 1983. I went, but was not all that intrigued by anything. What intrigued me more was the conversations my roommate and I had, how he called upon me to “show him in the Bible” whatever answer I would give to his questions and comments. My failings in this area was an embarrassment and moved me toward looking to the Scriptures to gain answers. Mom and Dad purchased a book for my birthday to help me (Naves Topical Bible). After much effort on my part, after some Bible studies with the local preacher, on November 1st, 1983, I was baptized into the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of my sins. That is my story.

From that time forward, I have made it my life to tell the Lord’s story. Not only do I want to tell of His death, burial, and resurrection, but I also want to tell others of His church. I don’t want to be a member of any church – no matter how genuine, serious and devoted the members are or might be – I don’t want to be a member of any church that has no New Testament sanction to exist. The Nazarene Church of which I was once a member does not have New Testament sanction to exist. It came into existence nearly two-thousand years after the Lord’s church was set up by the Lord through His apostles (Mt. 16:13-19; Acts 2:47). According to “Charts on Church History” (Robert C. Walton), the Nazarene Church came into existence, separating from the Methodist Episcopal Church in about 1908 (Chart 71; also see (http://nazarene.org/history)).

Whatever might be said about the particular doctrines of the church, the church came into existence much too long after the time of Christ and, moreover, it has the wrong name. Compare the name Nazarene Church with what Paul said to those in Rome, “The churches of Christ salute you” (Romans 16:16). Is there no significance in a name? To the Lord there is, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). This is the church of which I want to be a member.

My membership in the Lord’s church, the churches of Christ, is not simply a matter of being associated with it; I want to be a worker for the Lord. The Lord’s story, with all my personal failings, is now my story. RT

Children without God results in Narcissism

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-910282 (Why I Raise My Children Without God)

Here are a few of the reasons why I am raising my children without God.

God is a bad parent and role model. If God is our father, then he is not a good parent. Good parents don’t allow their children to inflict harm on others. Good people don’t stand by and watch horrible acts committed against innocent men, women and children. They don’t condone violence and abuse. “He has given us free will,” you say? Our children have free will, but we still step in and guide them. RT – this is in accordance with what atheist think is the best argument for why God does not exist. In fact, it is not that strong of an argument at all. If this is the best they can offer, there is not much offering at all, except upon the offering grill wherein the argument is burnt up! Let us begin by asking what is a good parent. If she offers her perspective, as she did, why is that good and not the perspective some other offers that is different. She has arbitrarily put forth a standard she can hardly defend without going into the realm of self-defeat. Her remark about the children, free-will and parental guidance falls flat when a real parent reflects on the actions of children. Does she stop her children in all respects from engaging is bad/evil deed? If she says she does her best, then about those times she fails, does that make her a bad parent, a bad role model? If for one, then the other.

God is not logical. How many times have you heard, “Why did God allow this to happen?” And this: “It’s not for us to understand.” Translate: We don’t understand, so we will not think about it or deal with the issue. Take for example the senseless tragedy in Newtown. Rather than address the problem of guns in America, we defer responsibility to God. He had a reason. He wanted more angels. Only he knows why. We write poems saying that we told God to leave our schools. Now he’s making us pay the price. If there is a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God who loves his children, does it make sense that he would allow murders, child abuse, wars, brutal beatings, torture and millions of heinous acts to be committed throughout the history of mankind? Doesn’t this go against everything Christ taught us in the New Testament? RT – this follows the same train of thought in the first paragraph. She offered nothing that was substantive, only a response to what she thinks she heard from others. Perhaps she did hear some of these things and, perhaps, there are some who are of shallow understanding that they could offer nothing themselves of substance. She said God is not logical, but not a single time in these two paragraphs of hers did she offer any substance (premises) that results in the conclusion God is not logical. She offered nothing but questions, perplexities and her own sentiment as to why this should or should not happen. The issue in Newtown, or any other town is not the material object that was used in the committing of a crime, any crime – this is exactly the thinking of shallow people – deal only with the surface!

As parents do, God does. He allows for man to live as he chooses. Parents do the same. They offer their displeasure or the support in the actions of their children. The actions and thinking of the children are, by-and-large, a reflection of the parental guidance given! The Almighty does similar. Those who accept His holy purpose for their individual lives will in no way render harm to another person. Those who are taught the Lord’s way, but refuse it – that is another matter.

What an irony! She asked, “Why did we allow this to happen?” meaning those who did are bad parents! She denies it can be fixed by God, but what a great job “she” did in her own philosophical training of children with the confusing moral compass of atheism. In fact, atheism has no moral compass; they have to steal or make use of that which originates in the mind of God, call it their own, and say the Creator of the moral code does not exist!

God is not fair. If God is fair, then why does he answer the silly prayers of some while allowing other, serious requests, to go unanswered? I have known people who pray that they can find money to buy new furniture. (Answered.) I have known people who pray to God to help them win a soccer match. (Answered.) Why are the prayers of parents with dying children not answered? RT – she attributes unfairness to God, a Being she denies exists. Since she, however, sees unfairness in both the trivial and the serious, then it must be the case God does not exist. This is nothing but the ploy of emotion. Questions asked and not answered prove nothing, except to raise one’s wonder. Nothing substantive here.

God does not protect the innocent. He does not keep our children safe. As a society, we stand up and speak for those who cannot. We protect our little ones as much as possible. When a child is kidnapped, we work together to find the child. We do not tolerate abuse and neglect. Why can’t God, with all his powers of omnipotence, protect the innocent? RT – A remarkable point of criticism when liberals, progressives, secularists, atheists and agnostics think it is okay to butcher them in the womb. I guess liberals, progressives, secularists, atheists and agnostics don’t exist! Why don’t those who have so much love for the defenseless protect the unborn innocent? This point of hers goes back to what the atheist thinks is the strongest argument they have. The difference between those of her persuasion and the Lord is this: those of her persuasion can’t really render justice, while the Lord will (Hebrews 9:27).

God is not present. He is not here. Telling our children to love a person they cannot see, smell, touch or hear does not make sense. It means that we teach children to love an image, an image that lives only in their imaginations. What we teach them, in effect, is to love an idea that we have created, one that is based in our fears and our hopes. RT – thus, one’s conscience does not exist! One can’t see, smell, touch or hear conscience, therefore it does not exist and lives only in a non-existent imagination.

God Does Not Teach Children to Be Good. A child should make moral choices for the right reasons. Telling him that he must behave because God is watching means that his morality will be externally focused rather than internally structured. It’s like telling a child to behave or Santa won’t bring presents. When we take God out of the picture, we place responsibility of doing the right thing onto the shoulders of our children. No, they won’t go to heaven or rule their own planets when they die, but they can sleep better at night. They will make their family proud. They will feel better about who they are. They will be decent people. RT – This is utter nonsense! An atheist has no moral foundation, except that which belongs to the Judeo-Christian religion. On what basis would an atheist say it is wrong to commit adultery? “It will hurt someone” the reply might be. So? If hedonism is the moral philosophy of a person, he/she can do what is desired. I gues, her family is proud of this hedonistic moral philosophy.

God Teaches Narcissism. “God has a plan for you.” Telling kids there is a big guy in the sky who has a special path for them makes children narcissistic; it makes them think the world is at their disposal and that, no matter what happens, it doesn’t really matter because God is in control. That gives kids a sense of false security and creates selfishness. “No matter what I do, God loves me and forgives me. He knows my purpose. I am special.” The irony is that, while we tell this story to our kids, other children are abused and murdered, starved and neglected. All part of God’s plan, right? RT – I wonder if she knows the dictionary definition of Narcissism. Here are three definitions from Google: 1) excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance, 2) extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type, 3) self-centeredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as a feature of mental disorder. What Christian teaching, name just one, comes anything close to this. On the other hand, this is part and parcel of atheism. As she closed her essay, she spoke of the value of religion, but since her materialistic viewpoint is only of this world, she has bought into the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4), and he is happy she did.

The God she chooses to deny existence to is the very one she will stand before one day. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” This is her choice, however.