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Category Archives: Apologetics

Apologetics (Greek, apologetikos), means “suitable for defense.” The endeavor of apologetics is to provide a reasoned account of the grounds for believing in the Christian faith.

What’s Christmas REALLY all About?

Why God Became Man

Jesus titles of picture

By Dr. Lehman Strauss

The Incarnation of Jesus Christ

The word incarnation does not occur in the Bible. It is derived from the Latin in and caro (flesh), meaning clothed in flesh, the act of assuming flesh. Its only use in theology is in reference to that gracious, voluntary act of the Son of God in which He assumed a human body. In Christian doctrine the Incarnation, briefly stated, is that the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, became a man. It is one of the greatest events to occur in the history of the universe. It is without parallel.

The Apostle Paul wrote, ”And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh . . . “ (I Timothy 3:16). Confessedly, by common consent the Incarnation of Jesus Christ is outside the range of human natural comprehension and apprehension. It can be made known only by Divine revelation in the Holy Scriptures, and to those only who are illumined by the Holy Spirit. It is a truth of the greatest magnitude that God in the Person of His Son should identify Himself completely with the human race. And yet He did, for reasons He set forth clearly in His Word.

Before we examine those reasons, it would be well at the outset to distinguish between the Incarnation and the Virgin Birth of our Lord, two truths sometimes confused by students of Scripture. The Incarnation of the Son of God is the fact of God becoming Man; the Virgin Birth is the method by which God the Son became Man.

These two truths, while distinct and different, are closely related to each other and stand in support of each other. If Jesus Christ was not virgin born, then He was not God in the flesh and was therefore only a man possessing the same sinful nature that every fallen child of Adam possesses. The fact of the Incarnation lies in the ever-existing One putting aside His eternal glory to become a man. The method of the Incarnation is the manner by which He chose to come, namely, the miraculous conception in the womb of a virgin.

A noteworthy passage pertinent to the Divine purpose in the Incarnation is recorded in the Gospel according to John– ”And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory. the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth’‘ (John 1 :14).

Cerinthus, a representative of the system which arose in the early church under the name of Docetism, claimed that our Lord had only an apparent human body. But the statement, ”the Word became flesh,” indicates that He had a real body.

John 1:14 cannot be fully appreciated apart from verse one: ”In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . And the Word became flesh.” He who was one with the Father from all eternity became Man, taking upon Him a human body. He ”was with God” (vs. 1); He ”became flesh (vs. 14). He “was with God”’ (vs. 1); He ”dwelt among us” (vs. 14). From the infinite position of eternal Godhood to the finite limitations of manhood! Unthinkable but true!

Paul gives another significant passage on the Incarnation in his Galatian Epistle: ”But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:4, 5). In these verses Paul establishes the fact of the Incarnation– “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman.”

God sending His Son presupposes that God had a Son. Christ was the Son in His eternal relationship with the Father, not because He was born of Mary. Since a son shares the nature of his father, so our Lord shares the Godhead coequally with His Father. Yes, “God sent forth His Son,” from His throne on high, from His position of heavenly glory. God did not send one forth who, in His birth, became His Son, but He sent One who, through all eternity, was His Son. Centuries before Christ was born, the Prophet Isaiah wrote of Him, ”For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given . . . ” (Isaiah 9:6). The Son was given in eternity past before we knew Him. His human birth was merely the method of coming to us.

Again, Paul records the following noteworthy statement in the Epistle to the Philippians: ”Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).

Before His Incarnation Jesus Christ was ‘in the form of God” (vs. 6). From the beginning He had the nature of God, He existed (or subsisted) as God, and that essential Deity which He once was could never cease to be. If He seems Divine, it is only because He is Divine. He is God.

He ”thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (vs. 6). The eternal Son did not consider it a thing to be seized unlawfully to be equal with the Father. Equality with God was not something He retained by force or by farce. He possessed it in eternity past and no power could take it from Him. But in the Incarnation He laid aside, not His possession of Deity, but His position in and expression of the heavenly glory.

One of the purposes of the Philippian epistle was to check the rising tide of dissension and strife growing out of Christians thinking more highly of themselves than they ought to think. Being a general letter, it exposes no false doctrines but does enunciate our Lord Jesus Christ as the believer’s pattern in humiliation, self-denial, and loving service for others. This is evident in the seven downward steps of the Saviour’s renunciation of Himself.

(1) ”He made Himself of no reputation.” God emptied Himself! He did not lose His Deity when He became Man, for God is immutable and therefore cannot cease to be God. He always was God the Son; He continued to be God the Son in His earthly sojourn as Man; He is God the Son in heaven today as He will remain throughout eternity. He is ”Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

(2) ”He took upon Him the form of a servant.” His was a voluntary act of amazing grace, the almighty Sovereign stooping to become earth’s lowly Servant. Instead of expressing Himself as one deserving to be served, He revealed Himself as one desiring to serve others. He did not boast His eternal glory and right to be ministered to, but instead evinced His humility and desire to minister. ”The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

(3) “He was made in the likeness of men.” This phrase expresses the full reality of His humanity. He participated in the same flesh and blood as man (Hebrews 2:14). Although He entered into a new state of being, His becoming Man did not exclude His possession of Deity, for He was and is today a Person who is both God and Man, Divine and human, perfect in His Deity and perfect in His humanity.

(4) ”And being found in fashion as a man.” When He came into the world, Christ associated with His contemporaries and did not hold Himself aloof. Thus He manifested to all that He was a real Man. One obvious distinction marked our Lord’s humanity; His perfection and sinlessness. As a Man He was made under the law, yet He never violated the law. As a Man He was tempted in all three points in which we are tempted (I John 2:16), yet His temptation was apart from any thought, word, or act of sin.

(5) “He humbled Himself.” The world has never witnessed a more genuine act of self-humbling. So completely did our Lord humble Himself that He surrendered His will to the will of His Father in heaven. His desire was to do the will of the Father, therefore He could testify, “I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29). It was humiliation for the eternal Son of God to become flesh in a stable, and then to dwell in a humble home in subjection to a human parent. God was ”sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin” (Romans 8:30). Only eternity will reveal the depth of meaning for Him and for us found in those words, “He humbled Himself.”

(6) “He became obedient unto death.” Remarkable indeed! Here the God-man dies. Did He die as God, or did He die as Man? He died as the God-Man. The first Adam’s obedience would have been unto life, but because he disobeyed unto death, the last Adam must now obey unto death in order that He might deliver the first Adam’s posterity ”out of death into life” (John 5:24R.V.). ”For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). To subject Himself to the cruel death of a criminal on the cross was a necessary part of God’s plan of salvation for men, and to such a death our Lord voluntarily submitted. Implicit obedience!

(7) ” . . . even the death of the cross.” Our Lord died as no other person died or ever will die. Other men had died on crosses, but this Man, the eternal Son of God, voluntarily and willingly died the kind of death meted out to criminals, even the death upon a cross. His own countrymen considered crucifixion the worst kind of disgrace. In their law it was written, “For he that is hanged is accursed of God” (Deuteronomy 21:23; cf. Galatians 3:13). Not only did our Lord die, but He died bearing the burden of the worst of criminals and the guiltiest of sinners. Down He came from heaven’s glory to earth’s sin and shame through His Incarnation.

The purposes underlying this phenomenal occurrence can be summed up in seven points.

(1) HE CAME TO REVEAL GOD TO MAN

The Incarnation of the Son of God unites earth to heaven. God’s greatest revelation of Himself to man is in Jesus Christ. Revelation is the disclosure of truth previously unknown. Before the coming of the Son of God to earth many varied forms of revelation existed. Belief in the existence of God is innate. Since man is a rational, moral being, his very nature provides him with intuitive knowledge. As the mind of a child begins to unfold, it instinctively and intuitively recognizes a Being above and beyond the world that he experiences.

Man is so constituted that he recognizes the fact and the power of God by the things that are made. Many of the ancient philosophers marveled at the starry heavens above them and the moral law about them. We live in a world of order and harmony conducive to our happiness and well being, and we, too, recognize a revelation of God in nature.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19, 20). Men may hinder or suppress the truth by their unrighteous living, but there is that which may be known of God which ”is manifest in them.” The existence and power of God are discernible to us all by the things we observe in the external world. Those only who have abnormal, distorted, or biased minds can possibly deny God’s existence.

Job realized that the nature of God in its different characteristics and qualities was not all revealed to man, yet he knew, as all men know, that the omnipotence and unchangeableness of God are exhibited in creation (Job 6:10; 23:12). The savage and the scientist can know two things about God; He is a Being and He is supreme. These are the two things God has been pleased to reveal about Himself.

Do not plead innocence for the man who does not possess a copy of God’s Word. All men have a Bible bound with the covers of the day and the night whose print is the stars and the planets. What is knowable about God has been displayed openly, and any man who suppresses the truth does it “without excuse.” Nature reveals the supernatural, and creation reveals the Creator. Read Psalm 19:1-6 and you will see that the heavens are personified to proclaim the glory of their Creator. Day and night pass on their testimonies giving clear evidence of the existence of the One who made them.

There are other evidences of primeval revelations of God to man, such as to Adam (Genesis 3:8) and to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 26:3-5). The writer to the Hebrews quotes the Son speaking to the Father, in which reference is made to an early primitive and temporary revelation through a book which God allowed to pass out of existence (Hebrews 10:5-7). Doubtless there were other books which likewise have passed out of existence, as the Book of Enoch of which Jude made mention (Jude 14).

We know, further, that God often revealed Himself in dreams as when He spoke to Jacob (Genesis 28), to the patriarch Joseph (Genesis 37), to Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2-4), to Joseph (Matthew 1:20), and to others. Through Moses and the prophets God revealed Himself (Exodus 3:4 and chapter 20). Over thirty-five authors, writing over a period of fifteen hundred years, wrote consistently and coherently, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, of one historically accurate plan of salvation. The Bible in its entirety is a progressive revelation of God.

But of all the amazing revelations of almighty God, none was set forth more clearly and fully than God’s final revelation of Himself in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Since God is an infinite Being, no man could understand Him fully save the Son who is One in equality with the Father. Jesus said, ”. . . neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27). Here, then, is one reason for the Incarnation—to reveal God to man. The fact of God’s existence may be seen through test tubes and laboratory experiments, detected through microscope and telescope, and stated in the discussions of the seminar. But the glorious attributes of a loving God manifested in behalf of sinners can be found in no place or person apart from Jesus Christ.

Philip said to the Lord Jesus, ‘‘Lord, shew us the Father . . . ” and our Lord answered, ”. . . He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father . . . “ (John 14:8, 9). When the Word became flesh He brought to man an adequate revelation of God. Whatever the ancient seers and saints knew about God before Jesus came, we have a more adequate revelation. Since God remains an abstraction until we see Him in terms of personality, so the Son became Incarnate that we might see and know God. ‘‘No man hath seen God at anytime; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him’‘ (John 1:1,8,9).

The dictionary definition of the word ”light” means nothing to a blind man, but one glimpse of a glowworm would be worth more for the understanding of light than all the definitions in the world. One glimpse of Jesus Christ will bring God closer to the human mind and heart than all the theological definitions of Him. No man could perceive the grace of God until the almighty Sovereign of the universe stooped to the level of His own creatures, suffering cruel treatment and dying the death of shame for them. No man understood fully the patience and longsuffering of the Father until Jesus Christ who, when He was reviled, reviled not again, and when He suffered, threatened not (I Peter 2:23). No man can comprehend just how perfect and holy God is until He comes face to face with the sinless Son of God. God has revealed Himself anew to the intelligence of man through the Incarnation.

(2) HE CAME TO REVEAL MAN TO HIMSELF

Through His Incarnation Jesus Christ reveals man to himself. He shows us what we are and what we may become. As we study the purposes of God in Christ, the fact impresses us that man is grossly ignorant of his real self, and that the mission of the Son’s coming included a plan that would enable man to see and know himself as God sees and knows him. We are not the least bit impressed with man’s vain philosophical views of himself, but rather with the accurate historical account of man as it is recorded in the Bible.

The primary fact that man needs to know about himself is his origin. Men are divided in their theories concerning this. We are not strangers to the evolutionary idea which attempts to explain man’s place in the earth. In 1871 Darwin published his book, The Descent of Man, but he said very little that had not been said before. The idea of evolution might be here to stay, but not because Darwin said so. Evolution was taught by Roman and Greek philosophers and even by ancient Egyptians. But the evolutionary idea that man must swallow his pride and be content with the fact that he has oozed from the slime along with the snails is contrary to the revelation in Scripture.

The Bible teaches clearly that the human race had its origin by the immediate creation of God (Genesis 1:26, 27) and that man is the grand consummation of all creation. We are forced to accept this view as against the theory of evolution because of the immeasurable gulf which separates man, even in his barest savage condition, from the nearest order of creation below him. Moreover, history corroborates Scripture in that man was destined to rule over all other animal life. God took special care in the creation of man, for “God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them” (Genesis 1:27). Actually it was not the body of man that was created, for the body was merely ”formed” of those elements necessary for man’s body and which were created long before man (Genesis 1:1). What was new in man’s creation was a form of life which only God and man possess (Genesis 2:7). Created in the image and likeness of God, man differs from every other form of animal. Man, in his lowest estate, seeks an object of worship and has been known to bow before gods that he cannot see, but animals never!

However, man did not retain God’s image and likeness. When God placed our first parents in Eden He set before them one simple restriction, namely, not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for, said God, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Genesis 3 is a record of the fall of man. He disobeyed God and immediately the life-cord was severed. Adam died both physically and spiritually. Physical death began to do its work, and the grave for Adam was but a matter of time. Then, too, his spirit was separated from God, so that he was dead spiritually while alive physically.

Now all men, from Adam down, are born into this world spiritually dead in sin, possessing a sin-nature capable of every trespass against God (Ephesians 2:1). The sin-nature of Adam and the guilt of his sin were imputed to the whole human race, so that Adam’s corrupted nature is of necessity a part of all his posterity. The highest self in man is altogether unprofitable to God. All men are not equally corrupt in word and deed, but all are equally dead, and unless the function of death is brought to a halt, it will destroy not only the body but also the soul in hell. Because of the solidarity of the human race, sin and death have passed upon all men (Romans 5:12). When Adam defaced the Divine image and lost the Divine likeness, he begat sons ”in his own likeness, after his image” (Genesis 5:3). Yes, “by man came death” and ”in Adam all die” (I Corinthians 15:21, 22).

While all of this is clearly stated in the Bible, man still thinks of himself more highly than he ought to think. There were many who had no Scriptures at all in Christ’s day, and they needed this revelation. In order that man should see himself, not in the light of his own goodness, but beside the perfect standard of God’s holy Son, the Son of God became Incarnate. Our Lord said, ”If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin” (John 15:22).

Responsibility increases with knowledge, and so Christ’s coming showed man how far short he came of God’s standard of a righteous man. The Lord Jesus said, “If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin . . . “ (John 15:24). Our Lord did not mean by this statement that man would have been without sin if He had not come. There had been sin all along, as God’s dealings with the human race through its four thousand years of earlier history prove. But the coming of Christ to the earth revealed the heart of man in cruel hatred for Divine holiness. The Son of God Incarnate was sinless in every respect, yet man, Jew and Gentile alike, crucified Him. Alongside Christ’s perfect life and works, man can see the sin and guilt of his own heart.

When man sinned against the Son of God, he sinned against the clearest possible light, “the Light of the world” (John 8:12). He came unto His own and His own received Him not (John 1:11), and then Gentiles joined hands with ”His own” to put Him to death. How sinful is the heart of man? Look at that spectacle on Calvary’s hill and you will see human hearts and hands at their worst.

Time has not improved human nature. Today men still trample under food the precious blood of Christ, and if our blessed Lord were to appear in person today as He did nineteen centuries ago, the world would crucify him again. The world, having seen the light, has turned from the light, for “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). Romans 1:18 to 3:20 enunciates the most searching and conclusive arraignment of the human race found anywhere, and the birth and death of Jesus Christ attest to the truth of this awful indictment.

(3) He Came to Redeem Man

The Apostle Paul states clearly the purpose of the Incarnation in the following words– ”But when the fulness of the was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law” (Galatians 4:4, 5). The Old Testament contains the accurate record of some four thousand years of sin, human failure, and consequent Divine judgment. The one bright hope was the coming of the promised Seed, the Redeemer (Genesis 3:15). With each succeeding revelation from God, the promise grew clearer and the hope brighter. The prophets spoke of the Messiah who would come to deliver the people from their sins. Perhaps the classic prophecy is Isaiah 53. Since the people needed a deliverer from the guilt and penalty of sin, the intent of the Incarnation was to provide that Deliverer. Moreover, all of history and prophecy moved toward that goal even as all subsequent movements have proceeded from it.

Jesus Christ is man’s Redeemer, his Saviour. This truth is implied in His name. Said the angel, “Thou shalt call his name JESUS (meaning Saviour), for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). At His birth the angel testified again, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Even the Lord Jesus Himself voiced emphatically the purpose of His Incarnation when He said, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

The awful state of the world of mankind necessitated the coming of the Redeemer since there could be no hope of deliverance apart from Him. The character of God, which is righteousness, absolute and uncompromising, demands that every sin be dealt with. While God is merciful, gracious, and slow to anger, forgiving iniquities and transgressions, ”that will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:7)., While God is love, God is also holy and righteous, so holy that He is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and [canst] not look on iniquity” (Habakkuk 1:13). His righteousness demands that every sin must be dealt with impartially. In order to be true to Himself, God had to deal with the problem of sin. In order to deal justly and, at the same time, mercifully, someone had to suffer the death penalty for the sin of the world.

In the Person of Jesus Christ God solved the problem of the eternal well-being of the sinner. He sent His Son to die as the sinner’s perfect Substitute, and thereby redeemed the sinner. Man was lost to God and heaven, and God’s purpose in redemption could be realized only through the Incarnate Son of God, for the Son of God Incarnate is the connecting link bringing together God and sinful man. The sinner’s relation to Jesus Christ is vital. Christ became a man “that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9). The Word, who is the eternal Son of God, became flesh and was obliged to be made in the likeness of man in order to redeem him.

Christ defined the purpose of His Incarnation and earthly ministry when He said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:17). There is no implication in these words that there is a sinful class of men who need repentance and another righteous class who do not. Nor is there a suggestion that there are “righteous ones,” for in Romans 3:10 it is said, “There is none righteous, no, not one.”

Consider the conditions under which Christ stated this purpose. Scribes and Pharisees were upbraiding Him because He had gone into the house of Levi to eat with publicans and sinners (Mark 2:14-16). His critics exalted themselves above sinners, priding themselves in an unpossessed righteousness which thereby excluded them from any realization or acknowledgement of their own sin.

In Levi’s house, however, there were those who recognized their sinful state. It was for this reason that the Lord Jesus went to that group, namely, to bring salvation to them. Physicians go into sick rooms, not because of the pleasantness of disease and suffering, but because of a desire to relieve and cure the sick. So sinners are the special objects of the Saviour’s love and power. He came into the world to save sinners.

Although all men are unrighteous, those scribes and Pharisees called themselves ”righteous,” for they were possessed of self-righteousness that is as “filthy rags” in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6). Therefore, as they went about seeking to establish their own righteousness, they failed to see the purpose of His coming. Hence they never heeded the Saviour’s call to salvation. Their kind seldom do!

Had there been righteousness in the human heart, there would have been no need for the Incarnation of the Son of God. And only in the self-righteous heart of the religious, moral man, satisfied with himself, do we find the careless indifference to the Gospel of redemption. When a man assumes a righteousness all his own, he is outside the reach of the Great Physician. The man who excludes his own need of Christ misses the purpose of the Saviour’s coming and will not be saved. Each of us must say with the Apostle Paul, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (I Timothy 1:15).

(4) HE CAME TO RESTRAIN SATAN

The purpose of the Incarnation is further revealed in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Three verses, linked together, assert that the coming of Jesus Christ was to destroy the devil. “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man . . . Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same [flesh and blood]; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:9, 14,15).

In these three verses in Hebrews, we are reminded that the subject of death is dealt with in each of them, and the fact of the Incarnation is substantiated in the clause, “who was made a little lower than the angels.” Furthermore, the purpose of the Incarnation appears in the words, “that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” From this verse, as well as verse 14, it is evident that the eternal Son became flesh in order to die.

Christ’s crucifixion by wicked hands was “by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). Our Lord Jesus Christ testified, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Jesus Christ willed to die, not a sudden and unexpected death but a lingering, anticipated death that He would taste every day of His earthly sojourn. He became man to suffer death.

But why should it be so? We considered the purpose of the Incarnation relative to the sin question. Referring to the matter of death, the Word affirms that the Son of God became incarnate that “through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Of all the works of Satan, among the worst is that of destroying life. Our Lord testified, “He was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). Satan is the spoiler of humanity, his malignant purpose being to bring both physical and spiritual death to mankind.

God placed our first parents in the Garden of Eden and surrounded them with every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. Two of these trees are mentioned; ”the tree of life . . . and the tree of knowledge of good and evil” Genesis 2:9). Eating the fruit of the latter tree would bring sin and death, for, said God, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Satan knew this, therefore we are not surprised when we read that it was of the fruit of this very tree of death that he enticed Eve to eat. He chose the tree of death because he is a murderer. He knew that the death sentence was already pronounced upon all who would eat of it. He delighted in the fall of Adam and Eve, for he knew that physical and spiritual death had struck.

But thanks be to God for the Incarnation of His Son. By the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, through His death and resurrection, He wrested from Satan the power of death. Death no more holds its lethal grip upon the believer. Although death has held sinners in bondage ever since the severing of the life-cord between God and man, the appearing of the Lord Jesus has broken its grip. “According to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began . . . the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (II Timothy 1:9-10).

Before sin was indulged in and death struck, the inclusive salvation plan provided death’s abolition. Since the death and resurrection of our Lord dealt comprehensively with sin, it of necessity affected death. The coming of the Saviour rendered death harmless, and the “sting” of it is gone (I Corinthians 15:55). Oh, the blessedness of an accomplished redemption! How wonderful to know Him who said, “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:18). Death once held man in the vise of hopeless doom, but now Satan is defeated.

The shadow of the cross hung over the manger in Bethlehem, assuring the world that the Seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15). As Adam yielded himself to Satan, Satan held him in death; but by His dying, Christ entered into our death and wrested from Satan that power which he held over us. At Calvary Satan was brought to naught, and now “death is swallowed up in victory. . . Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:54, 57). “The prince of this world is judged” (John 16:1 1). The Seed of the woman traversed the realms of death but was not captured by the enemy. Instead, He conquered the enemy. Thank God the Saviour came.

(5) HE CAME TO RESCUE THE WHOLE CREATION

The Incarnation of the eternal Son is part of the divine plan. That plan comprehends a goal, and God assures the accomplishment of it. Though the salvation of man was God’s chief concern, His plan was never limited to the world of mankind. It is written of the eternal Son, who was with God and who is God, that “all things were made by Him” (John 1:3). Paul writes, ”For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth” (Colossians 1:28). Man was higher than all other created beings in the earth, and other creatures were subject to him. However, after the fall this condition changed. Now if man is to have dominion over the beasts, he must first capture them at the risk of his own life, and then imprison them until they are tamed. All of this resulted from the fall.

But the question is, Will God restore again to man the dominion which he lost through the fall? The prophet said, ”The wolf also shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cocatrice’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9). Indeed, it appears that the prophet here is looking beyond to a time of rescue and restoration of the earth and all of its creatures.

The cruelty of beasts was not the order before sin entered. Such discord among God’s creatures has sprung from the sinfulness of man and is a necessary part of the curse. To remove this curse and rescue God’s creation is one of the purposes of the Incarnation. When Christ comes back to reign and “the government shall be upon His shoulder” (Isaiah 9:6), then the sons of God will be manifested and will share with Him in a restored creation. If it were not so, then all of animated nature would remain spoiled by Satan. But God has said, “In that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground” (Hosea 2:18). Yes, God will “gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in Him” (Ephesians 1:10). At that day our blessed Lord will “reconcile all things unto Himself’ (Colossians 1:20).

Many Christians fail to see that this redemptive work, wrought through the Incarnation of the Son of God, is wider than the salvation of human beings and that it affects the whole creation. The Apostle Paul writes, “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope. Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:19-23). Here we are told that the deliverance of the whole creation will be revealed at the manifestation of the sons of God.

All creation lies in hope (expectancy) of a rescue from present corruption and of deliverance to that place God gave it in the beginning. Nature is now under the curse of sin, groaning and travailing in pain. It is not what it was at first. Nor is it now what it will be when the incarnate Son returns to “put all things in subjection under His feet” (see Hebrews 2:5-9). Before Adam sinned, no savage beasts, no desert wastes, no thorns and thistles existed; but when he fell, all creation fell with him. Now that the Son of God has come and purchased redemption by His death at Calvary, the whole creation must be rescued from the curse, and restored to its original state.

(6) HE CAME TO RESTORE ISRAEL

Any reader of the Old Testament cannot escape the clear teaching that the Messiah was promised to Israel. Of this the prophets spoke and wrote. The Jew had great advantages. “Unto them were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2). Theirs was “the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises” (Romans 9:4). None can deny that from the call of Abraham (Genesis 12:1) to the Babylonian captivity under Nebuchadnezzar (606 B.C.), authority in the earth and divine representation was vested in the Jew. It is common information that since the overthrow of Jerusalem and the transfer of dominion in the earth to the Gentiles, Israel, as a nation, has not held authority in the earth.

When Jesus Christ, the Word, “was made flesh,” “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:11, 14). ”His citizens hated Him, and sent a message after Him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14). In blind unbelief the children of Abraham, refusing to recognize or receive Him, drove Him from their midst and crucified Him. After His resurrection and ascension He revealed to the apostles this mystery. No longer did Israel have priority on the truth, but the message was to be spread abroad to every creature and, during the present dispensation of grace, God would visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name (Acts 15:14).

When Christ came the first time He traversed Palestine proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). He opened the door into the kingdom, but only the regenerated could enter. Were the people ready to receive the kingdom, the King would establish it. However, the offer of the kingdom met with an ever-increasing opposition, and our Lord withdrew the offer for that time. He said to the Jews, ”Therefore say I unto you, The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matthew 21:43). There was no mistaking what the Lord Jesus meant, for the chief priests and Pharisees “perceived that He spake of them” (vs. 45).

Israel is still set aside, but only temporarily. The Apostle Paul writes, ”I say then, Hath God cast away His people? God forbid . . . God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew . . . For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Romans 11:1,2,25).

Anti-Semitism, raging throughout the world today, might lead one to question the future restoration of the Jew. Yet we know that both national restoration and national regeneration for the Jew are a definite part of the plan of God. Israel is not beyond recovery; she is not irretrievably lost. By her fall the whole world was blessed with the message of salvation. A national tragedy resulted in an international triumph. ”And so all Israel shall be saved” (Romans 10:26). The Jew lives in a dark present with a bright future before him. When our Lord said in Matthew 21:43, that “the kingdom shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof,” He was not referring to any Gentile nation but to regenerated Israel.

God gave Palestine to the Jews unconditionally as a possession and a dwelling place (Genesis 12: 1-3). He wants them there. That the Jews would be scattered is plainly taught in the Word of God, but coupled with such teaching are the assertions that they will also be regathered. Study Hosea 3:4,5 and see plainly the scattering and the gathering with the period between. (See also Ezekiel 36: 19,24). The Word became flesh and tabernacled among them once (John 1:14). That same holy One, the incarnate Christ, will come again to tabernacle with Israel. Study, for example, such passages as Isaiah 12:1-6Joel 2:26, 27Zephaniah 3:14-17Zechariah 8:3-8. Already modern inventions have revolutionized Palestine and its surrounding territory. This fact, coupled with the thought of the vast area granted by God to Abraham (Genesis 15: 18), will assure any interested person that there is ample room in the Holy Land to hold all Jews.

While the Jews continue to return to the Land, all signs point to the return of the incarnate Son, the One who is both human and Divine, and the One in whom God’s purposes for Israel are to be fulfilled. According to prophecy, the incarnate One, Immanuel, the virgin’s Son, is to occupy David’s throne. ”For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6, 7). Let us rejoice to see that day approaching.

(7) HE CAME TO REIGN

When the Incarnation had been announced, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:1,2). They were wise men indeed, for they were followers of the truth of God. When the Old Testament prophets wrote of Messiah’s offices, they included that of King. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation: lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9). David wrote of Christ and His kingdom when he recorded the words of God, “Yet have I set My king upon My holy hill of Zion” (Psalm 2:6). Our Lord is not only Prophet, and Priest, but also Potentate.

In studying the purposes of the Incarnation we are forced to the scriptural observation that the eternal Son became Man in order that He might be King of the earth. Paul wrote that “God hath highly exalted Him” (Philippians 2:9). We dare not limit the exaltation of Christ as some try to do. We acquiesce with those who teach that the steps in Christ’s exaltation were His resurrection, ascension, and His sitting at the right hand of God. But such teaching does not go far enough. Study carefully Philippians 2:5-11, and you will see that the steps in our Lord’s humiliation were temporary steps leading to a permanent exaltation, culminating with the bowing of every knee and the confessing of every tongue in heaven and in earth, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The incarnate Son is to appear in His resurrection body and is to sit on the throne of His glory. Jesus Himself spoke of the day “when the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him; then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory” (Matthew 25:31). John writes, ”Every eye shall see Him” (Revelation 1:7). The prophetic utterance spoken by God to David in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 concerning David’s seed having an everlasting throne and kingdom, has a double fulfillment. Primarily it referred to Solomon’s temple. Ultimately and finally it speaks of Christ’s earthly reign as Zechariah 6:12 shows. The day must come when all things will be subjected unto Him (I Corinthians 15:28).

The Psalmist spoke of His throne as an enduring throne (Psalm 89:4, 29, 36). God promises that this earthly throne and kingdom are to continue forever, and that the One to occupy it shall be David’s seed, his rightful Son (I Chronicles 17:11). The genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 will support the relationship of Jesus Christ to David. During our Lord’s earthly ministry, those who sought His help called Him “the son of David” (see Matthew 9:27Mark 10:47Luke 18:38).

Christ’s kingdom is literal, therefore it cannot be realized apart from the Incarnation. Such a kingdom men have been trying to establish for centuries, but nations are farther from realizing it today than ever before. A perfect kingdom demands a perfect King. At the end of the conflict of the ages, Jesus Christ, the God-Man will return to earth to establish His righteous kingdom which will never be destroyed. His kingdom of glory, and His throne in the midst, was God’s first promise through the mouth of the angel Gabriel to Mary, and it links together the Incarnation and reign of the Son of God, ”And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:31-33).

When the King comes, then will His perfect will be done in earth as it is in heaven. This is a blessed truth not without history or hope. The day will surely come when all men will see the revelation of the glory of holiness and joy in the earth. But His reign awaits His return to carry away His Bride, the Church. Everything has been deferred until He gathers her unto Himself. It may be at any moment that the last soul will be added to the Church, and then He will come.

This meditation in no wise exhausts the divine purposes of the Incarnation. Others have written at greater length and, doubtless, we could do likewise. But one thing more must be said. The supreme purpose in the eternal Son’s coming into the world was to glorify the Father. In His great intercessory prayer, Jesus said, “I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do” (John 17:4). God had been glorified in creation, in the remarkable deliverances of His people, and in the exercise of His power over His enemies, but at no time had He been glorified like this. God could never have been glorified if the Son would have failed in His earthly mission in the smallest degree. But the Lord Jesus could say, “I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.” Nothing was left undone, and in everything He did, the Son had the Father’s glory in view. He glorified the Father; His earthly mission was complete.

And now to all of us who have been redeemed by His precious blood, the Apostle Paul writes: “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Corinthians 6:20).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Lehman Strauss taught Old Testament history for eight years at Philadelphia Bible Institute, and served as pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church, Bristol, Pennsylvania, from 1939 to 1957. He was pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church (Highland Park, Michigan) until the end of 1963 when he resigned to devote full time to an itinerant Bible conference and evangelistic ministry both in the States and abroad. Dr. Strauss was residing in Florida and writing his 19th book at age 86 when the Lord called him home in June 1997. His written materials are used by permission…article originally appeared @ https://bible.org/article/why-god-became-man

 

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Dr. J.I. Packer: What Are The Essential Ingredients of The Gospel?

Dr. J.I. Packer: What Is The Gospel Message? 

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4 Essential Ingredients of the Gospel

In a word, the evangelistic message is the gospel of Christ and Him crucified, the message of man’s sin and God’s grace, of human guilt and divine forgiveness, of new birth and new life through the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is a message made up of four essential ingredients.

1. The gospel is a message about God. It tells us who He is, what His character is, what His standards are, and what He requires of us, His creatures. It tells us that we owe our very existence to Him; that for good or ill, we are always in His hands and under His eye; and that He made us to worship and serve Him, to show forth His praise and to live for His glory. These truths are the foundation of theistic religion; and until they are grasped, the rest of the gospel message will seem neither cogent nor relevant. It is here with the assertion of man’s complete and constant dependence on his Creator that the Christian story starts.

We can learn again from Paul at this point. When preaching to Jews, as at Pisidian Antioch, he did not need to mention the fact that men were God’s creatures. He could take this knowledge for granted, for his hearers had the Old Testament faith behind them. He could begin at once to declare Christ to them as the fulfillment of Old Testament hopes. But when preaching to Gentiles, who knew nothing of the Old Testament, Paul had to go further back and start from the beginning. And the beginning from which Paul started in such cases was the doctrine of God’s Creatorship and man’s creaturehood. So, when the Athenians asked him to explain what his talk of Jesus and the resurrection was all about, he spoke to them first of God the Creator and what He made man for. “God…made the world…seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made…all nations…that they should seek the Lord” (Act 17:24-27). This was not, as some have supposed, a piece of philosophical apologetic of a kind that Paul afterwards renounced, but the first and basic lesson in theistic faith. The gospel starts by teaching us that we, as creatures, are absolutely dependent on God, and that He, as Creator, has an absolute claim on us. Only when we have learned this can we see what sin is, and only when we see what sin is can we understand the good news of salvation from sin. We must know what it means to call God Creator before we can grasp what it means to speak of Him as Redeemer. Nothing can be achieved by talking about sin and salvation where this preliminary lesson has not in some measure been learned.

2. The gospel is a message about sin. It tells us how we have fallen short of God’s standard, how we have become guilty, filthy, and helpless in sin, and now stand under the wrath of God. It tells us that the reason why we sin continually is that we are sinners by nature, and that nothing we do or try to do for ourselves can put us right or bring us back into God’s favor. It shows us ourselves as God sees us and teaches us to think of ourselves as God thinks of us. Thus, it leads us to self-despair. And this also is a necessary step. Not until we have learned our need to get right with God and our inability to do so by any effort of our own can we come to know the Christ Who saves from sin.

There is a pitfall here. Everybody’s life includes things that cause dissatisfaction and shame. Everyone has a bad conscience about some things in his past, matters in which he has fallen short of the standard that he set for himself or that was expected of him by others. The danger is that in our evangelism we should content ourselves with evoking thoughts of these things and making people feel uncomfortable about them, and then depicting Christ as the One who saves us from these elements of ourselves, without even raising the question of our relationship with God. But this is just the question that has to be raised when we speak about sin. For the very idea of sin in the Bible is of an offence against God that disrupts a man’s relationship with God. Unless we see our shortcomings in the light of the Law and holiness of God, we do not see them as sin at all. For sin is not a social concept; it is a theological concept. Though sin is committed by man, and many sins are against society, sin cannot be defined in terms of either man or society. We never know what sin really is until we have learned to think of it in terms of God and to measure it, not by human standards, but by the yardstick of His total demand on our lives.

What we have to grasp, then, is that the bad conscience of the natural man is not at all the same thing as conviction of sin. It does not, therefore, follow that a man is convicted of sin when he is distressed about his weaknesses and the wrong things he has done. It is not conviction of sin just to feel miserable about yourself, your failures, and your inadequacy to meet life’s demands. Nor would it be saving faith if a man in that condition called on the Lord Jesus Christ just to soothe him, and cheer him up, and make him feel confident again. Nor should we be preaching the gospel (though we might imagine we were) if all that we did was to present Christ in terms of a man’s felt wants: “Are you happy? Are you satisfied? Do you want peace of mind? Do you feel that you have failed? Are you fed up with yourself? Do you want a friend? Then come to Christ; He will meet your every need”—as if the Lord Jesus Christ were to be thought of as a fairy godmother or a super-psychiatrist…To be convicted of sin means not just to feel that one is an all-round flop, but to realize that one has offended God, and flouted His authority, and defied Him, and gone against Him, and put oneself in the wrong with Him. To preach Christ means to set Him forth as the One Who through His cross sets men right with God again…

It is indeed true that the real Christ, the Christ of the Bible, Who [reveals] Himself to us as a Savior from sin and an Advocate with God, does in fact give peace, and joy, and moral strength, and the privilege of His own friendship to those who trust Him. But the Christ who is depicted and desired merely to make the lot of life’s casualties easier by supplying them with aids and comforts is not the real Christ, but a misrepresented and misconceived Christ—in effect, an imaginary Christ. And if we taught people to look to an imaginary Christ, we should have no grounds for expecting that they would find a real salvation. We must be on our guard, therefore, against equating a natural bad conscience and sense of wretchedness with spiritual conviction of sin and so omitting in our evangelism to impress upon sinners the basic truth about their condition—namely, that their sin has alienated them from God and exposed them to His condemnation, and hostility, and wrath, so that their first need is for a restored relationship with Him…

3. The gospel is a message about Christ—Christ, the Son of God incarnate; Christ, the Lamb of God, dying for sin; Christ, the risen Lord; Christ, the perfect Savior.

Two points need to be made about the declaring of this part of the message: (i) We must not present the Person of Christ apart from His saving work. It is sometimes said that it is the presentation of Christ’s Person, rather than of doctrines about Him, that draws sinners to His feet. It is true that it is the living Christ Who saves and that a theory of the atonement, however orthodox, is no substitute. When this remark is made, however, what is usually being suggested is that doctrinal instruction is dispensable in evangelistic preaching, and that all the evangelist need do is paint a vivid word-picture of the man of Galilee who went about doing good, and then assure his hearers that this Jesus is still alive to help them in their troubles. But such a message could hardly be called the gospel. It would, in reality, be a mere conundrum, serving only to mystify…the truth is that you cannot make sense of the historic figure of Jesus until you know about the Incarnation—that this Jesus was in fact God the Son, made man to save sinners according to His Father’s eternal purpose. Nor can you make sense of His life until you know about the atonement—that He lived as man so that He might die as man for men, and that His passion, His judicial murder was really His saving action of bearing away the world’s sins. Nor can you tell on what terms to approach Him now until you know about the resurrection, ascension, and heavenly session—that Jesus has been raised, and enthroned, and made King, and lives to save to the uttermost all who acknowledge His Lordship. These doctrines, to mention no others, are essential to the gospel…In fact, without these doctrines you would have no gospel to preach at all.

(ii) But there is a second and complementary point: we must not present the saving work of Christ apart from His Person. Evangelistic preachers and personal workers have sometimes been known to make this mistake. In their concern to focus attention on the atoning death of Christ as the sole sufficient ground on which sinners may be accepted with God, they have expounded the summons to saving faith in these terms: “Believe that Christ died for your sins.” The effect of this exposition is to represent the saving work of Christ in the past, dissociated from His Person in the present, as the whole object of our trust. But it is not biblical thus to isolate the work from the Worker. Nowhere in the New Testament is the call to believe expressed in such terms. What the New Testament calls for is faith in (en) or into (eis) or upon (epi) Christ Himself—the placing of our trust in the living Savior Who died for sins. The object of saving faith is thus not, strictly speaking, the atonement, but the Lord Jesus Christ, Who made atonement. We must not, in presenting the gospel, isolate the cross and its benefits from the Christ Whose cross it was. For the persons to whom the benefits of Christ’s death belong are just those who trust His Person and believe, not upon His saving death simply, but upon Him, the living Savior. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” said Paul (Act 16:31). “Come unto me…and I will give you rest,” said our Lord (Mat 11:28).

This being so, one thing becomes clear straight away: namely, that the question about the extent of the atonement, which is being much agitated in some quarters, has no bearing on the content of the evangelistic message at this particular point. I do not propose to discuss this question now; I have done that elsewhere. I am not at present asking you whether you think it is true to say that Christ died in order to save every single human being, past, present, and future, or not. Nor am I at present inviting you to make up your mind on this question, if you have not done so already. All I want to say here is that even if you think the above assertion is true, your presentation of Christ in evangelism ought not to differ from that of the man who thinks it false.

What I mean is this: it is obvious that if a preacher thought that the statement, “Christ died for every one of you,” made to any congregation, would be unverifiable and probably not true, he would take care not to make it in his gospel preaching. You do not find such statements in the sermons of, for instance, George Whitefield or Charles Spurgeon. But now, my point is that, even if a man thinks that this statement would be true if he made it, it is not a thing that he ever needs to say or ever has reason to say when preaching the gospel. For preaching the gospel, as we have just seen, means [calling] sinners to come to Jesus Christ, the living Savior, Who, by virtue of His atoning death, is able to forgive and save all those who put their trust in Him. What has to be said about the cross when preaching the gospel is simply that Christ’s death is the ground on which Christ’s forgiveness is given. And this is all that has to be said. The question of the designed extent of the atonement does not come into the story at all…The fact is that the New Testament never calls on any man to repent on the ground that Christ died specifically and particularly for him.

The gospel is not, “Believe that Christ died for everybody’s sins, and therefore for yours,” any more than it is, “Believe that Christ died only for certain people’s sins, and so perhaps not for yours”…We have no business to ask them to put faith in any view of the extent of the atonement. Our job is to point them to the living Christ, and summon them to trust in Him…This brings us to the final ingredient in the gospel message.

4. The gospel is a summons to faith and repentance. All who hear the gospel are summoned by God to repent and believe. “God…commandeth all men every where to repent,” Paul told the Athenians (Act 17:30). When asked by His hearers what they should do in order to “work the works of God,” our Lord replied, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (Joh 6:29). And in 1 John 3:23 we read: “This is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ…”

Repentance and faith are rendered matters of duty by God’s direct command, and hence impenitence and unbelief are singled out in the New Testament as most grievous sins. With these universal commands, as we indicated above, go universal promises of salvation to all who obey them. “Through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Act 10:43). “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Joh 3:16). These words are promises to which God will stand as long as time shall last.

It needs to be said that faith is not a mere optimistic feeling, any more than repentance is a mere regretful or remorseful feeling. Faith and repentance are both acts, and acts of the whole man…faith is essentially the casting and resting of oneself and one’s confidence on the promises of mercy which Christ has given to sinners, and on the Christ Who gave those promises. Equally, repentance is more than just sorrow for the past; repentance is a change of mind and heart, a new life of denying self and serving the Savior as King in self’s place…Two further points need to be made also:

(i) The demand is for faith as well as repentance. It is not enough to resolve to turn from sin, give up evil habits, and try to put Christ’s teaching into practice by being religious and doing all possible good to others. Aspiration, and resolution, and morality, and religiosity,[15] are no substitutes for faith…If there is to be faith, however, there must be a foundation of knowledge: a man must know of Christ, and of His cross, and of His promises before saving faith becomes a possibility for him. In our presentation of the gospel, therefore, we need to stress these things, in order to lead sinners to abandon all confidence in themselves and to trust wholly in Christ and the power of His redeeming blood to give them acceptance with God. For nothing less than this is faith.

(ii) The demand is for repentance as well as faith…If there is to be repentance, however, there must, again, be a foundation of knowledge…More than once, Christ deliberately called attention to the radical break with the past that repentance involves. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me…whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Mat 16:24-25). “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also (i.e., put them all decisively second in his esteem), he cannot be my disciple…whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luk 14:26, 33). The repentance that Christ requires of His people consists in a settled refusal to set any limit to the claims that He may make on their lives…He had no interest in gathering vast crowds of professed adherents who would melt away as soon as they found out what following Him actually demanded of them. In our own presentation of Christ’s gospel, therefore, we need to lay a similar stress on the cost of following Christ, and make sinners face it soberly before we urge them to respond to the message of free forgiveness. In common honesty, we must not conceal the fact that free forgiveness in one sense will cost everything; or else our evangelizing becomes a sort of confidence trick. And where there is no clear knowledge, and hence no realistic recognition of the real claims that Christ makes, there can be no repentance, and therefore no salvation.

Such is the evangelistic message that we are sent to make known.

Excerpt From Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God  by J. I. Packer.

 

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E-Book Review of Jonathan Morrow’s “Is the Bible Sexist, Racist, Homophobic, and Genocidal?”

God’s Perspective vs. Man’s Perspective

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Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

The default mode of the human heart is to replace our central focus on God and replace this void with idols at the center of our lives. The prolific author and Theologian D.A. Carson has stated it this way, “Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry.” I believe that to ask the question, “Is the Bible Sexist, Racist, Homophobic, and Genocidal?” – is at its core a misunderstanding of what’s at the center of our worship – God or self? Are we going to maintain a God-centered focus or capitulate to cultural relativism with ourselves at the center? In this important e-single from a chapter in Morrow’s larger book entitled “Questioning the Bible” Morrow tackles this question with theological precision, biblical erudition, and logical acumen.

Morrow opens this essay by dealing with the question: “Does the Bible endorse slavery?” He then answers this question by carefully developing five biblical responses: (1) Christianity did not invent slavery. (2) He shows how the ancient Near Eastern cultural context was very different from the modern postcolonial context. (3) Christianity tolerated slavery and was instrumental in its abolishment. (4) Jesus was not silent on slavery; he simply understood what the root issues were–and they all reside in the human heart. (5) The Christian worldview best accounts for human rights and dignity.

The second question addressed by Morrow is “Does the Bible approve of genocide?” In five points  Morrow sets the record straight in understanding the biblical stance on genocide: (1) Things are not the way they ought to be – Israel as described in the Old Testament is not God’s ideal society. (2) The divinely given command to Israel of herem (Yahweh War) concerning the Canaanites was unique, geographically and temporally limited, and not to be repeated. (3) Genocide and ethnic cleansing are inaccurate terms for the conquest of Canaan. (4) We must allow for the possibility of rhetorical generalization in ancient Near Eastern “war language.” (5) The Canaanite incident should be read against the backdrop of God’s promise of blessing for all the nations.

The third question tackled by Morrow is perhaps the most culturally sensitive one at the moment: “Is the Bible homophobic?” He answers this question with five biblical points: (1) The Bible includes homosexual behavior among a long list of sinful behaviors outside of God’s design for human sexuality (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 18; 1 Timothy 1:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Hebrews 13:4; Genesis 1:26-27; 2:18-24; 19:4-9; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27 are passages discussed in great detail). (2) The Bible does not teach that God created people to be gay – Jesus affirmed that God’s intention was the complementary sexes of male and female committing to a permanent one-flesh union (cf. Genesis 1:27; 2:24 with Matthew 19:3-6). (3) While the Bible does not teach people are born gay, it does teach that all people are born sinful (Romans 3:23; 5:12-21). A helpful distinction is quoted by Mark Mittleberg on this point: “We must correct the idea that because desire seems natural it must be from God and is therefore okay. As fallen humans we all have many desires that seem natural to us but that are not from God.” (4) The Bible teaches that change is possible for all those who struggle with sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). (5) Lastly, the Bible teaches that holiness, not heterosexuality, is the goal of the spiritual life. Morrow writes, “All of us are broken; we just express brokenness in different ways. As we repent and are empowered by the Holy Spirit, we pursue holiness. The goal is being conformed to the image of Christ (cf. Romans 8:29). Unfortunately, when these goals get talked about in the context of homosexual sin, some well-meaning Christians have indicated that the goal is for this person to live a heterosexual lifestyle. This may or may not happen. But we need to be clear that whatever our struggle, holiness is the goal.”

The fourth and final question addressed by Morrow is related to setting the record straight biblically on “Is the Bible sexist?” (1) Morrow states, “God’s creational ideal is that women are made in the image of God and therefore possess the same dignity, honor, and value as men (Genesis 1:27; 2:24; Ex. 20:12). (2) Polygamy was tolerated and regulated in order to offer some measure of protection for women in an ancient Near Eastern context. However, this was never God’s plan. Morrow writes, “We hear echoes of God’s ideal when he warns that Israel’s king should not ‘acquire many wives fro himself, lest his heart turn away.’ (Deuteronomy 17:17).” (3) The realities of women in the Greco-Roman world were harsh. (4) The apostle Paul had a high view of women, and the teachings of Christianity began to elevate their status (cf. Paul’s high view and co-laboring with women in Rom. 16:1-16; Phil. 4:2-3; 1 Cor. 1:11; Col. 4:15; Acts 16:14-15, 40; Galatians 3:28 and 1 Tim. 6). (5) Jesus appearance on the scene is indeed very good news for women – Morrow elaborates, “With the harsh Greco-Roman backdrop in mind, we can see how radical Jesus’ view of women really was. First, he healed several women of diseases (Matthew 9:18-26), interacted with women of different races (John 4:9), and extended forgiveness to women who had committed sexual sin (Luke 7:36-50). Jewish rabbis of the day would not teach women, but Jesus had many women followers and disciples (cf. Mark 15:41) and he taught them (Luke 10:39). Women supported his ministry financially (Luke 8:1-3), and he used women as positive examples in his teaching (Luke 18:1-8). Jesus’ women followers were the last to leave at his crucifixion and the first at his empty tomb.”

Morrow patiently, wisely, and practically articulates that appearances and sound bites on these difficult issues are often messy and moral change is painfully slow in a fallen world. The reality is that Jesus came to liberate us from all of our idolatries and bondages to sin. We find our satisfaction in Jesus at the center of all of life. Many of the issues we struggle with as sinners in a fallen world are blind spots that can only be identified and remedied through the lenses of God’s revelation as revealed in the Scriptures. The good news in this little book is that Jesus has come and fulfilled Isaiah 61:1-2 in Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Morrow reminds us that in all of our personal and corporate sin against a Holy, Just, and Loving God He has “thankfully…not left us to die in our brokenness and rebellion; he has redemptively pursued us with the everlasting love of a heavenly father.”

 

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Book Review of Dodson and Watson’s “Called Together: A Guide To Forming Missional Communities”

Outgrowing The Ingrown Church

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Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

One of the most difficult things for churches to do is to stay missional when they are established or become missional when they are plateaud or declining. For years theologians and pastors have asked the question: “How can we outgrow the ingrown church?” Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson have planted thriving churches that are missional and constantly reaching out in the context of community in their respective cities: Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon. There are many ways to be missional as a church, but perhaps one of the most simple, flexible, and successful ways is via small “missional” groups. This book is written as a guide or handbook on a proven and effective way to reach out in your community without compromising the Gospel, edification, or fellowship.

The error that most churches fall into is establishing small groups that are ingrown – what I like to call “holy huddles.” These are groups that are inward (people already in the church) focused. There is nothing wrong with care groups or specialized groups for individuals that are focused on certain needs. However, churches also need to have groups that are outward focused and missional if they are going to keep the gospel alive and thriving in their communities. In this guide the author’s model and teach how this can be done in your own church context and community.

The goal of this guide is to establish and equip missional communities so that the church can be outreach oriented, focused, and intentional. The author’s define a missional community as “a group of people who are learning to follow Jesus together in a way that renews their city, town, village, hamlet, or other space. They aren’t fancy. In fact, they can be a messy community of everyday citizens who are devoted to Jesus, to one another, to their neighbors and their city.” In writing this guide the authors will help you “imagine and form a missional community that is true to your calling” of being salt and light in your community. Crucial to the success of a missional community is in its intentional application of the following: (1) sharing life together; (2) a focus on the gospel and its daily application of faith and repentance; (3) care for your city; (4) caring for your neighbors/hood; and (5) making and multiplying disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The guide is divided into three parts designed to be studied and applied by a small “missional” community group. Each week the session consists of a biblical theme with handouts composed of key themes, verses, and applications and ideas for next steps for missional endeavors in your community. The appendix contains weekly handouts; leadership role distinctions (each group is composed of a host, discussion facilitator, prayer coordinator, meal coordinator, and missional leader – the qualifications and roles for these individuals are described in detail at various points in the guide). Missional communities invite people into a community that “isn’t centered on their needs, hobbies, or passions but the gospel of Jesus and His mission (essentially the opposite of most small groups).

Part One consists of four sessions/weeks on the Gospel: (1) What is the Gospel? (2) The Gospel is Personal. (3) The Gospel is Missional. (4) Living the Gospel. Crucial to the success of a missional community is its understanding of, implementation of, and application of the gospel which they define as: “the good news that Jesus has defeated sin, death, and evil through His own death and resurrection and is making all things new, even us.” The gospel is essentially composed of three aspects: (1) The gospel is doctrinal: it changes what we believe about ourselves and Jesus. (2) The gospel is personal: it changes who we are by transforming us into the image and likeness of Jesus; (3) The gospel is missional: it changes where and how we live for the sake of Jesus and His glorious Kingdom. The focus of these four sessions is that the gospel ceases to be something you agree with or can recite and rather becomes something you live in community with your missional community. This bucks against the individualism of western culture and is actually a return to the model that Jesus set for His own disciples – “missional community.”

In Part Two the focus of weeks five and six are on how the gospel of Jesus is at the center of community by reminding one another of the gospel. Community is based on the early church model from Acts 2:42-27. Both what makes for biblical community and what does not make for biblical community are studied and discussed with great ideas for the application and implementation of true biblical community centered in the gospel. The focus is very much on meeting needs in your neighborhood and with your neighbors as you live out the gospel in community together.

Part Three is composed of what it means to be a “missional” community and how to be missional “together” in your community. The last session (9th week) talks about the commitments that the missional community will make with one another. These commitments are based on what the missional community will do “by God’s grace.” The authors give multiple ideas for the application of what it means “specifically” and “intentionally” to live out the gospel in community. There are many examples of ways that missional communities can attempt to be outreach oriented in their respective cities.

I can’t recommend the concept of “missional communities” highly enough, and this book is a wonderful place to start to launch your own missional communities wherever you are. I hope and pray that this book will be the first of many guides in helping outgrowing the ingrown churches of America and beyond. I personally want to thank Jonathan and Brad for writing this book and hope it’s the first of many to be written as a  very practical guide to help churches make and multiply disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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E-Book Review of William Lane Craig’s “Does God Exist?”

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E-Book Review By David P. Craig

Just because this e-book is short (approximately 60 pages) does not mean that it is simplistic or not weighty. This treatment by Craig packs a wallop. At the outset Craig lays out the outline or skeleton for his cogent articulation and reasoning for the existence of God thus: “A good argument must obey the rules of logic; express true premises; and have premises more plausible than their opposites.” Put simply, a good argument for the existence (or non-existence) of God must meet three conditions: (1) obey the rules of logic; (2) its premises must be true (correspond with reality); (3) have premises that are more plausible than their opposites.

Craig begins with the Cosmological argument for the existence of God in by developing the following formulation: (1) Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause. (2) If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God. (3) The universe exists. (4) Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God. He then gives philosophical and scientific evidence demonstrating that the existence of a God that is a necessary, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal Creator of the universes makes more logical sense than the plausibility of His non-existence given by atheistic philosophers and scientists.

The second argument unfolded by Craig is called the Kalam Cosmological argument and is set out in this simple formulation: (1) Everything that begins to exists has a cause. (2) The universe began to exist. (3) Therefore, the universe has a cause. Craig delves into some complicated mathematical arguments in this section to show the amazing cogency of the Kalam argument. He also gives some compelling evidences from astronomy via studies by Arvin Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin. He also appeals to the Second Law of Thermodynamics and thus concludes: “On the basis of both philosophical and scientific evidence, we have good grounds for believing that the universe began to exist. Since whatever begins to exist has a cause, it follows that the universe has a cause.”

The third argument developed by Craig is the Teleological or Fine-tuning formulation: (1) The fine-tuning of the universe is due to physical necessity, chance, or design. (2) It is not due to physical necessity or chance. (3) Therefore, it is due to design. Here Craig tackles Richard Dawkins central argument from his book “The God Delusion” head on and proceeds to tackle his seven objections one at a time. Craig carefully dismantles Dawkins objections and gives a very plausible defense of the argument of design as a reasonable explanation for God’s existence.

The Moral argument is simply stated by Craig in the following manner: (1) If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist. (2) Objective moral values and duties do exist. (3) Therefore, God exists. Craig concludes his ethical defense for God’s existence in this way: “The moral argument complements the cosmological and design arguments by telling us about the moral nature of the Creator of the universe. It gives us a personal, necessarily existent being who is not only perfectly good, but whose commands constitute our moral dues.”

Craig’s last argument is based on the classic Ontological argument as espoused by St. Anselm in the 11th century and in the modern era by the great theistic philosopher Alvin Plantinga: (1) It is possible that a maximally great being (God) exists. (2) If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world. (3) It a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world. (4) If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world. (5) Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world. (6) Therefore, a maximally great being exists. (7) Therefore, God exists.

Taken together the five arguments developed by Craig make a compelling case for the existence of God – especially when compared with the counter arguments atheists give in their own apologetic of plausibility for God’s non-existence. I highly recommend this clear and intellectually sound defense of the cogency of God’s existence as the best plausible argument for our own existence which brings purpose and meaning to one’s life through the culmination of God revelation in sending His Son Jesus so that through Him we can be reconciled and restored in a right relationship with Him by His grace and for His glory.

Craig concludes why the defense of God’s existence continues to such an important window to the Gospel in our day stating, “Christians who depreciate theistic arguments because ‘no one comes to faith through intellectual arguments’ are therefore tragically shortsighted. For the value of natural theology extends far beyond one’s immediate evangelistic contact. It is the broader task of Christian apologetics, including natural theology, to help create and sustain a cultural milieu in which the Gospel can be heard as an intellectually viable option for thinking men and women. It thereby gives people the intellectual permission to believe when their hearts are moved. As we progress further into the 21st century, I anticipate that natural theology will be an increasingly relevant and vital preparation for the reception of the Gospel by thinking people.”

 

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What is R.C. Sproul’s View on Creation?

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(Excerpted from R.C. Sproul’s, Truths We Confess: A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith [Volume 1]. In other settings, Dr. Sproul has also made a point of highlighting Dr. Douglas Kelly’s book, Creation and Change, as formative in his position on the subject of Creation).

We (Ligonier Ministries – see http://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-rc-sprouls-position-creation/) are commonly asked for a clarification of R.C. Sproul’s position on Creation. Here is his commentary on the Westminster Confession’s phrase “…in the space of six days.”

In the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good. In the Genesis account of creation, we read; “So the evening and the morning were the first day” (Gen. 1:5). This narrative proceeds from the first day to the sixth, each time referring to “the evening and the morning” and numbering the day. On the seventh day, God rested (Gen. 2:2). 

In our time a considerable number of theories have arisen denying that the creation, as we know it, took place in twenty-four hour days. Common to these theories is the acceptance of the dominant scientific view that the earth and life on it are very old. Many consider the biblical account to be primitive, mythological, and untenable in light of modern scientific knowledge.

This crisis has resulted in several attempts to reinterpret the Genesis account of creation. We are reminded of the sixteenth century, when Copernicus and his followers repudiated the old Ptolemaic view of astronomy. They argued that the center of the solar system is not the earth (geocentricity), but the sun (heliocentricity). It was a sad chapter in the history of the church, which had believed for more than fifteen hundred years that the Bible teaches geocentricity, when it condemned Galileo for believing and teaching heliocentricity. Both Luther and Calvin opposed Copernicus’s views, believing them to undermine Scripture’s authority.

Actually the Bible does not explicitly teach geocentricity anywhere. Scripture describes the movements of the heavens from the perspective of someone standing on earth: the sun moves across the sky, rising in the east and setting in the west. We use that same language today. The church thought that because the Bible uses this kind of descriptive language, it was therefore teaching something about the relationship between the sun and the earth. This is a clear case of scientific knowledge correcting the church’s interpretation of the Bible.

There are two spheres of revelation; the Bible (special revelation) and nature (general revelation). In the latter, God manifests himself through the created order. What God reveals in nature can never contradict what he reveals in Scripture, and what he reveals in Scripture can never contradict what he reveals in nature. He is the author of both forms of revelation, and God does not contradict himself.

The church has always taken the position that all truth meets at the top, and that science should never contradict Scripture. Scientific discoveries, however, can correct the theologian’s faulty understanding of Scripture, just as biblical revelation can correct faulty speculations drawn from the natural order. When the scientific consensus on a particular point is on a collision course with the unmistakable teaching of Scripture, I trust Scripture before I trust the speculations and inferences of scientists. That is consistent with the history of the church and Christianity. We believe that sacred Scripture is nothing less than the Creator’s truth revealed.

We have a problem not only with a six-day creation, but also with the age of the earth. Is the earth a few thousand years old or billions of years old (as scientists today insist)? Although the Bible clearly says that the world was created in six days, it gives no date for the beginning of that work. It would be a mistake to become embroiled in too much controversy about the date of creation.

In a Massachusetts college I taught Introduction to the Old Testament to two hundred and fifty students. Because the class was so large, we met in the chapel. Once I opened the old pulpit Bible to Genesis 1, and at the top of the page I read “4004 B.C.” I did some research to see how that date had been determined. In the seventeenth century an archbishop, James Ussher, made some calculations based on the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 and other chronological clues in the Old Testament. He even pinned down the day of the week and the time of day when creation occurred. I hasten to tell my students that we must be very careful to distinguish between the text of Scripture and additions to the text. In defending the biblical authority, we are not obligated to defend a theory based on the speculations of a bishop in times past.

If we take the genealogies that go back to Adam, however, and if we make allowances for certain gaps in them (which could certainly be there), it remains a big stretch from 4004 B.C. to 4.6 billion years ago. We also have the problem of the antiquity of the human race. It seems as if every time a new skeleton or skull is discovered, scientists push back the date of man’s origin another million years.

Scholars have proposed four basic theories to explain the time from of Genesis 1–2:

- the gap theory,

- the day-age theory,

- the framework hypothesis, and

- six-day creation.

Gap Theory

The gap theory was made popular by the Scofield Reference Bible (1909), which more than any other single edition of Scripture swept through this country and informed the theology of an entire generation of evangelicals. It became the principal instrument for propagating dispensational theology throughout America. In this Bible, Genesis 1:1 reads, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” and verse 2 reads, “And the earth became without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” Other Bibles read, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” Verse 2 describes what most scholars consider to be the as-yet-unordered, basic structure of the universe—darkness, emptiness. Then the Holy Spirit hovers over the waters (v.2) and God says, “Let there be light” (v.3). Thus came the light and then the creation of the heavens, fish, birds, animals, and so on.

The Hebrew word in verse 2 translated “was” is the very common verb hayah,which ordinarily means “to be.” Hayah means “to become” only in special circumstances, which are not present here. The Scofield Reference Bible translates verse 2 as “became” instead of “was” in order to facilitate the gap theory. As a result, only verse 1 refers to the original creation. Verse 2 then refers to a cosmic catastrophe in which the originally good and properly ordered creation became chaotic, dark, and fallen. After this period of darkness (the “gap”), God recreates the universe which could have been created billions of years ago, followed by a gap of billions of years (including the “geologic column” of immense ages), after which God returned to his distorted creation and renovated or reconstituted it relatively recently. The gap theory has also been called the restitution hypothesis, meaning that the creation narrative in Genesis is not about the original creation, but about the restitution of a fallen creation.

An entire generation was fed this theory through the Scofield Reference Bible. However, Scripture nowhere explicitly teaches that the original creation was marred and then after many years reconstituted. The broader context of the whole of Scripture militates against the gap theory.

Day-Age Theory

According to the second approach, the day-age theory, each “day” of Genesis 1 may be an age. After all, one day in the Lord’s sight is like a thousand years (2 Peter 3:8). Also, expressions like “in the days of Noah” and “in Abraham’s day” can refer to open-ended periods. The Hebrew word yom, translated “day” in Genesis, can mean something other than a twenty-four-hour period, as it must in Genesis 2:4, which refers to “the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” Accordingly, each “day” in Genesis 1 may refer to a thousand years, and perhaps even to millions of years. This will at least ameliorate some of the difficulties we have with those who argue for a gradual evolution of life-forms on this earth.

However, the day-age theory, like the gap theory, ignores the immediate context as well as the large biblical context. It ignores the fact that each of the six days of creation consists of an evening and a morning. If yom here means something like ten million years, then we need to give the words evening and morning the same kind of metaphorical meaning. From a literary, exegetical, and linguistic perspective, the day-age theory is weak. As a Christian apologist, I would not want to defend it.

The day-age theory tends to accommodate a theory of biological macroevolution that is incompatible with the Bible and purposive creation—the creation of all living things by the immediate agency of the sovereign God. Macroevolution teaches that all life has developed from a single, original cell, and that this happened through a somewhat fortuitous, chance collision of atoms, without an intelligent planner or Creator orchestrating the emergence of these species. Those who favor the day-age theory often link themselves with a position called theistic evolution, which grants the basic premises of biological evolution, but says that God, not chance, guided the process of evolution.

Macroevolution differs from microevolution. While the former teaches that all living things have developed from one original cell, the latter teaches that, over period of time, species undergo slight changes in order to adapt to their environment. Microevolution is not in dispute, either biblically or scientifically. Macroevolution has never been substantiated by observation or experiment, and it places its faith in an endless string of extremely improbable, yet beneficial chance mutations.

A frequent argument for macroevolution is the principle of common structure. All forms of life are made up of the same basic substances: amino acids, proteins, DNA, and that sort of thing. Because all living things have similar constituent parts, the argument goes, they must have developed from common ancestors. A common substance or structure, however, does not necessarily imply a common source. The fact that all forms of life are made of the same basic building blocks neither negates the possibility of evolution nor substantiates it. One would expect an intelligent Creator to have made all life-forms with a similar design—one that works on this earth.

When teaching a university course to thirty upper-level philosophy students, I asked who believed in macroevolution. Almost all the students raised their hands. I then asked them to explain why they believed in it. Their only argument was “common substance, therefore common source.” Most said they believed it because they had been taught in school, and they assumed their teachers knew what they were talking about.

Macroevolution, in the final analysis, is not a question of biology or natural science, which rely upon experimented verification, but of history, which tries to interpret evidence left from the past in a coherent fashion. The discipline of paleontology, which studies the fossil record, claims to put evolution on a scientific footing, but it performs no experiments to substantiate evolutionary processes. It simply lines up similar fossils and infers that one creature must be related to another by common decent.

In the recent past in Russia, leading international scholars who favor macroevolution met. While comparing notes, they found that the weakest evidence for their theories is the fossil record. I remember reading the Royal Society’s bulletin at that time and thinking, “What other source matters?” The fossil record is the one that counts, and yet that is the one that militates against their theory. I read an essay recently in which a professor argued for macroevolution on the basis of certain geological formations. He argued for an old earth on the ground that stratifications in the rocks contain fossils, which indicates a uniformitarian process that took millions of years to produce the whole formation. He then determined the age of each stratum by determining the kinds of fossils contained in each. This is a blatant example of what logicians call begging the question. It is circular reasoning to date the fossils by the rocks, and then date the rocks by the fossils. That just will not work.

We now have good evidence that stratification of rocks proves the antiquity of nothing. Within days after the Mount St. Helens explosion had subsided, scientists discovered that the cataclysmic upheaval of that volcanic explosion had laid down exactly the same rock stratification that had been assumed would take millions of years to develop. In other words, Mount St. Helens proved that catastrophic upheavals can produce the same empirical data as twenty million years of gradual deposition. We will not get into uniformitarianism or catastrophism here, except to say that they have been attempts to accommodate macroevolution. This tends to support and popularize the theory of theistic evolution, and it also uses the day-age theory of Genesis—a dangerous thing to do.

Framework Hypothesis

The third approach, called the framework hypothesis, was originally developed by the Dutch scholar Nicholas Ridderbos. He argued that the literary form of the book’s first few chapters differs from that of its later chapters. Certain basic characteristics found in poetry are missing from historical narrative, and certain characteristics found in historical narrative are missing from poetry. For example, the book of Exodus, with its account of the Jewish captivity in Egypt, has genealogies, family names, real historical places, and an unmetered literary style (i.e., lacking a particular rhythm), making it clearly prose and historical narrative. After the account of the exodus, the book’s author inserts the song of Miriam, which is in metered rhythm and is therefore clearly poetry. The literary structure before the song manifests all the characteristics of historical narrative, as does the structure following the poem.

Therefore, it is usually not difficult to distinguish between poetry and historical narrative in the Old Testament. But the opening chapters of Genesis, according to Ridderbos, exhibit a strange combination of literary forms. On the one hand is a discussion of the creation of a man and a woman who are given names that thereafter appear in genealogical accounts. In Hebrew literature this clearly signals historicity. The Garden of Eden is said to be set among four rivers, two of which we know were real rivers: the Tigris and the Euphrates. The style of writing is not metered or rhythmic, as Hebrew poetry normally is. All this indicates that the opening chapters of Genesis are historical narrative.

There are some anomalies, however. We find trees in this garden with strange names: “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” and “the tree of life” (Gen. 2:9). Had they been apple or pear trees, there would have been no problem. But what does a tree of life look like? Is the author of Genesis telling us that a real tree was off limits, giving it a metaphorical meaning as the tree of life? We are also introduced to a serpent who speaks. Because of these two features, some have argued that the literary structure of the opening chapters of Genesis was self consciously and intentionally mythological, or at least filled with legend and saga.

Ridderbos contended that the beginning chapters of Genesis are a mixture of historical narrative and poetry, with part of the poetic structure being the repeated refrain, “So the evening and the morning were the first day” (Gen. 1:5), and so on. Ridderbos concluded that Genesis gives us not a historical narrative of the when or the how of divine creation, but a drama in seven acts. The first act ends with the statement, “So the evening and the morning were the first day.” The author of Genesis, then, is trying to show that God’s work of creation took place in seven distinct stages, which incidentally fit remarkably well into the stages identified by the modern theories of cosmic evolution.

Therefore, the framework hypothesis allows one to step into a Big Bang cosmology while maintaining the credibility and inspiration of Genesis 1-2. This is not history, but drama. The days are simply artistic literary devices to create a framework for a lengthy period of development.

In America Ridderbos’s work was widely disseminated by Meredith Kline, who for many years taught Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, then at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and then at Westminster Seminary California. Because Kline endorsed the framework hypothesis, many people, particularly in the Reformed community, have embraced it, provoking a serious crisis in some circles. Some Reformed pastors today hold to a literal six-day creation, while others hold to the framework hypothesis, and yet they otherwise hold to the same system of orthodox theology.

ONE MUST DO A GREAT DEAL OF HERMENEUTICAL GYMNASTICS TO ESCAPE THE PLAIN MEANING OF GENESIS 1-2.

Six-Day Creation

For most of my teaching career, I considered the framework hypothesis to be a possibility. But I have now changed my mind. I now hold to a literal six-day creation, the fourth alternative and the traditional one. Genesis says that God created the universe and everything in it in six twenty-four-hour periods. According to the Reformation hermeneutic, the first option is to follow the plain sense of the text. One must do a great deal of hermeneutical gymnastics to escape the plain meaning of Genesis 1-2. The confession makes it a point of faith that God created the world in the space of six days.

 

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2014 in R.C. Sproul, Worldview

 

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Matt Mantry on Evangelism and The Church of Darwin

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Evangelizing the Church of Darwin

Neo-Darwinian materialism [1] prevails as the orthodoxy of science and secularism that reigns supreme. Neo-Darwinian materialists tend to believe that the miracle of consciousness and subjectivity can simply be explained by material causes that arose during the evolutionary processes without any divine intervention. Physical matter is all that there is. Scientific naturalism is seen as Sacred Doctrine that cannot be challenged. If you even dare to utter anything that contradicts current neo-Darwin materialism, be prepared to face excommunication from the Church of Darwin. Prominent philosopher Thomas Nagel once dared to question Darwinian papal authority, and he was declared to be a heretic, blasphemer, and shoddy reasoner. Questioning the Church of Darwin can lead you down a one-way street to becoming an apostate. It is clear that Darwinian dogma promotes a worldview that makes much of materialism, humanism, and free-thought.

With this in mind, Christians must now ask themselves:

- How can we infiltrate the walls of the Church of Darwin and establish a voice in promoting the gospel of Jesus?

- How can Christians evangelize to those who are neo-Darwinian materialists?

- Is there a common ground that needs to be found?

- Or does each side need to double-down on their beliefs, and get comfortable in their doctrinal trenches?

In this article, I am going to try and give a few suggestions to Christians on how to evangelize to those who attend the Church of Darwin.

1. OPENLY DISCUSS THE CONFLICTING WORLDVIEW

There is no doubt that Christians and neo-Darwinians do not see eye-to-eye on the origin of species. However, there are also a number of other conflicting beliefs that need to be discussed. For example, Christians believe in a material and spiritual world, while neo-Darwinists only believe in the material world. According to neo-Darwinists everything that exists has come to be through a mindless process, whereas Christians believe that God has created everything that we see in the world. Neo-Darwinists believe that the chief goal of man is to create his own purpose and find his meaning through human autonomy, while Christians believe that the chief goal of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. The list could go on and on. However, the main point is simply the fact that the way that Christians and neo-Darwinians see the world is extremely different. With that in mind, it is clear that Christians must try to begin building bridges with neo-Darwin materialists by openly discussing their different worldview. This will encourage helpful dialogue, and perhaps open the door for the gospel message to be proclaimed.

2. POINT OUT THE FATAL FLAW IN THE NEO-DARWINIST DOCTRINE

I want to distill a brilliant argument by philosopher Alvin Plantinga and make it accessible to laymen. His evolutionary argument against naturalism is cogent and effective argument. It is a philosophically rigorous argument and it points out a fatal flaw in the reasoning of neo-Darwinians.

It is important to understand evolution. What does evolution entail? Philosopher Patricia Churchland once said:

“A nervous system enables the organism to succeed in the four F’s: feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproducing. . . . A fancier style of representing [the external world] is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism’s way of life and enhances the organism’s chances of survival. Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost.”

What I want Christians to take away is that the evolutionary process is not concerned with forming true beliefs. It is only concerned with survival. Therefore, why should  neo-Darwinists expect (if human beings are the product of a mindless evolutionary process) their cognitive faculties to produce true beliefs? Our minds have simply developed through an accidental process. Why should a Christian believe anything that a neo-Darwinian claims to know? What Plantinga demonstrates is that believing in both evolution and materialism is simply irrational. Christians must remember to always point out this chink in the neo-Darwinian’s armor.

3. PUTTING DARWIN ON TRIAL

Perhaps one of the most important things Christians can do when evangelizing neo-Darwinists is to simply conduct a trial and place Darwin on the stand. Here’s what I mean. Does evolutionary naturalism answer the most important questions about life? Why are we here? Where did we come from? What is my purpose? Can a neo-Darwinist explain why human beings have such longings for transcendence?

Asking pointed questions demonstrates to the Darwinist the inadequacy of his views. Of course, you can also give reasons as to why Christianity is the supreme philosophy during your interactions as well. Tell the irrefutable story of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Explain what it looks like to live a gospel-centered life. Go into detail about how God brought you from death to life. Above all, make sure that you make much of Christ, and trust the Holy Spirit will give you the right words to say. Do not let Darwin off the stand without first conducting a thorough examination of his presuppositions and failures at answering the big questions.

CONCLUSION

It is important for Christians to have a game plan when evangelizing the Church of Darwin, and I hope I’ve provided a few launching points to utilize when conversing with neo-Darwinians. Evangelism must always be contextualized to fit the particular individual and situation. However, there is a certain foundation that all evangelists must have before entering into discussion with neo-Darwinists. My hope is that the Lord will continue to open up the eyes of Christians to the need of evangelizing at the Church of Darwin and remove the fear in pursuing disciples in this context.

[1] Neo-Darwinian materialism can be defined as a belief that all species evolved by natural selection acting on random genetic mutation. Everything that exists can be explained by material manifestations and there is nothing immaterial that exists.

About the Author: Matt Manry is the Director of Discipleship at Life Bible Church in Canton, Georgia. He is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary. He also works on the editorial team for Credo Magazine and Gospel-Centered Discipleship. He blogs regularly at gospelglory.net. This article was adapted from: http://gcdiscipleship.com/evangelizing-the-church-of-darwin/

 

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