Category Archives: Bible

The Danger of a “Little Knowledge”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-robert-jeffress-is-wrong-about-romans-13-and-north_us_598c69eee4b08a4c247f28ad

According to this entry in the Huffington Post, The Bible passage of Romans (chapter) 13: (verse) 1 does NOT justify the use of military force against North Korea intimidation by use of their – North Korea’s – nuclear ability.

Once again, non-believers make the mistake of thinking they have an overwhelming knowledge of God’s Message and will (agenda/program/plan) for mankind.  One is amazed how some cite a particular passage in the Bible and then claim their view is correct, while denying much of the rest of the Bible and ignoring the contextual and historical implications in all passages.

Such is the case here.  The author of the article, identified as “Peter Henne, Assistant Professor at the University of Vermont (in the Department of Political Science)” admits “Now, I am neither a theologian nor a religious studies scholar.”  That part, I believe.  Then Professor Henne goes on to make theological and ‘religious’ comments and conclusions based on his admitted ignorance.

One is forced to the conclusion Professor Henne is coloring God’s Message and agenda with the Leftist program of Karl Marx and Bill Ayers.

One – Professor Henne, for instance – should stick to one’s sphere of knowledge and expertise.  Which seems to be wishful thinking based on Leftist pipe dreams.

 

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Several Myths (at least misunderstandings) Regarding the Doctrine of Predestination

In the catalog of Christian Doctrine (among Biblical based, ‘evangelistic’ Christians), Predestination is probably the one with the most misunderstandings and honest controversy. I use the word ‘honest’ in that it doesn’t seem either side of the issue is intentionally falsifying anything. Both camps use the Bible and thinking derived therefrom to form their conclusion. (Just to clarify, there are non-Christians who use Predestination as a ‘talking point’, neither understanding the real concept nor caring for honesty or integrity in the matter; I am not considering them at the moment.)

There are three major misunderstandings or myths about Predestination which seem to abound.

1. People who reject Christ (which includes salvation, grace and forgiveness) are dragged into Heaven against their will as God has already decided the matter.

Not true. God does not drag souls – people – into His loving care as they kick and scream and squirm, attempting to escape. God clearly allows people to make their own choices in nearly all cases, which explains evil actions in the history of mankind. This includes Adam and Eve’s decision regarding the apple (yes, I know; it’s an abbreviation for that whole episode) and the rather reprehensible actions of various evil man throughout history and the ‘bad’ decisions of all us ‘good’ people.

Probably the most misunderstood example of this myth is the conversion of Saul/Paul. To recap Acts 9: 1 to 22, a Jewish man named Saul was on the road (not with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby) to Damascus with the intent of physically and legally (under Jewish law and authority) prosecuting and persecuting any and all Christian believers he (Saul) could find. On the way, a bright light appeared followed instantly by a physical effect on Saul, according to the text (and in my mind), similar to the effect of a taser application or a polo mallet upside the head – but without serious effect other than temporary blindness. Saul fell to the ground and addressed the ‘force’ which effected this aforementioned sensation, asking “Who are You, Lord?” (One notes Saul quickly understood he was hopeless to resist physically.) The ‘attacking force’ immediately identifies Himself, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting…”

In another passage, Paul – as he then was identified – recounted the episode and mentioned the initial ‘attack’ was accompanied by the same voice saying “You are hurting yourself [or ‘It is hard for you’, both phrases are correct and the same in meaning in the Greek] by kicking against the goads.”

Then Jesus instructs Saul to proceed to Damascus where he will be met by a believer named Ananias who healed Paul’s blindness and gave Paul some basic instruction in Christianity and introduced Paul to other believers with the Lord’s approval.

From this, some gather Paul was ‘conscripted’ in this episode. I understand this transaction as a ‘last chance’ offer to either side with Jesus Christ as God or not. I will stipulate the encounter was enthusiastic. At no point does Jesus say, “Accept me or die, you rat fink!”

2. People who want to accept Christ (which includes salvation, grace and forgiveness) are rejected as God has already decided the matter.

No real evidence for this happening. In fact, the reverse action is claimed in various places. John 3:16 is probably the best known example. Other verses – not comprehensive – are John 6:37, Ephesians 1:13, Hebrews 7:25. There are more yet, but I see no point in transcribing neither the Bible nor other websites.

One major Biblical based argument is based on Matthew 7:21 to 23. This is the passage where, at the Judgement, some say “Lord, Lord, didn’t we … [do a bunch of religious stuff] … in your name…?” Jesus responds, “I never knew you.”

Looking at this passage, there is NO indication of an actual belief and relationship between Jesus and the rejected claimants. Those rejected are basing their justification for salvation on their ‘good works’ and not on a relationship with Jesus.

3. This isn’t fair.

From what I’ve heard – and understood and believed personally – this is the greatest criticism of the Doctrine of Predestination. Because the criteria for those who are ‘chosen’ and those who are rejected is not spelled out fully and satisfactorily to all, the impression of God arbitrarily choosing ‘this one’ and not ‘that one’ arises.

The nature of God precludes this. God is not capricious nor arbitrary. If one accepts and believes (fully embraces, not just nods and grunts) that idea of God’s nature, then Predestination is not capricious nor arbitrary, whether any of us ‘understand’ the mechanism or not.

However, allow me to present a thought on the matter I haven’t heard before in this configuration.

Part of our understanding of the ‘nature of God’, one of the descriptors of God is that He is ‘omnipresent’. Which means He is present in all places at once. God is not limited to Omaha or Poughkeepsie or Karachi or this church or such.
In my understanding – the reader is free to disagree – God is not limited in time, either. God exists and acts yesterday and tomorrow as much as He does today. So when the Bible says “…before the foundation of the world…” this limitation was only a nod to the readers of that time. It can equally mean ‘…after the destruction of the world…’ So, when does God ‘discover’ any particular person has accepted His grace and embraces a relationship with God through Jesus? Before the beginning of the world? After the end of the world? When the individual ‘does it’?

The answer is Yes. God exists in all those places – times – simultaneously.

No doubt many of the readers will say (in a gentle questioning manner) “I’ve never heard that before”. As I said earlier, I haven’t either. I bet that applies to many theologians and Bible expositors as well. However, feel free to pore over the preceding paragraphs and pick out any weaknesses in either the assumptions or logic. And for Heaven’s sake, tell me!

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Set back for the Christian Community

Today is Monday, 6th February 2017. A well known radio preacher made a fool of himself on the air. Not only that, but he demonstrated a huge ignorance of claims made by Christian preachers in the past. Your humble correspondent does not know if the glaringly erroneous statements were made in complete ignorance of the prior claims, or if the speaker assumed no one would ever check.

A little research would have turned up the past claims; and to assume ignorance and blind acceptance on the part of the audience is both insulting and puerile.

The thought upon which he was expounding is valid. Essentially, he was saying the Bible makes no claims counter to that of modern science, and never conformed to the science – mistaken in the macro and sometimes in the micro – of the past.

There is an underlying assumption here that the scientific understanding of 2017 will never be altered. That ‘we’ are at the pinnacle of scientific understand. That in another three hundred years, or one hundred years, or fifty years or twenty minutes, discoveries will be made that alter the current views.

Probably not completely over rule current understanding, but alter it in the sense of expanding understanding and possibly altering the context of certain understanding. Much like how Dr. Einstein’s concept of Relativity expanded and contextualized Sir Issac Newton’s laws of gravity.

The speaker – who your servant hesitates to name – spoke about how the Bible never supported the Earth being flat. This would come as a shock to nearly all students of Theology and Biblical studies until sometime AFTER the age of Copernicus, Galileo, and the like.

Isaiah 40:22 (In the King James Version AND in the original Hebrew) reads that the Lord sits “… on the circle of the Earth…” and was held to be ‘literal’ – meaning as the reader understood it, not as the writer intended it – and indicated a two-dimentional shape (as understood later in Pythagorean or plane geometry). Therefore, the Bible implied the Earth is flat.

I’m not sure if the speaker mentioned it – I turned the station selector in disgust – but there are three passages of the Old Testament – two describing the same event – wherein the Bible implies the Sun stopped or reversed direction of travel, causing the day to be extended. (Joshua 10:12 to 14, 2nd Kings 20:1 to 11 and Isaiah 38:1 to 8) THEREFORE, the Bible says the Sun rotates around the Earth and the geocentric theory of the Universe is proved – according to the ‘science is bunk’ faction which lasted at least into the 19th Century. I notice it is not mentioned much currently.

I have no doubt of the extension of the days in question. Nor do I have any great scientific theory to explain it. The occurrences may well be miracles in the unexplained things of God sense. However, the heliocentric nature of the solar system is reasonably secure. Nor does the Bible anywhere claim otherwise; it does however record reports by eyewitnesses of what they observed. Which may or may not explicable in simple or familiar terms.

I wonder what repercussions this speaking session portend for the Young Earth Creationist (YEC) movement? The entire YEC theory is based on a ‘literal’ understanding of the King James Version of the Bible. Which this speaker denies.

One can conclude Christianity is not as monolithic as sometimes claimed. Then again, God is a very big God.

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Trey Pearson, the Homosexual, Christian Rock Singer. And?

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2016/06/16/christian-rocker-trey-pearson-reflects-on-life-after-coming-out.html?intcmp=hpff

Trey Pearson has publicly announced he is ‘gay’. So what? What possible meaning does this have for the world at large? What does it change in broad (no pun intended) terms? Not much.

It seems to be signaling the end of his heterosexual marriage, but his wife and he remain on good terms, it seems. It may quite possibly end the Christian music career he has been following. It may quite possibly cause broken connections between Mr. Pearson and some in the Christian community.

Frankly, I had not heard of Trey Pearson prior to this article appearing in Fox News. I do not follow ‘Christian music’ as I find most ‘Christian musicians’ are poor musicians in general and could not cut it in the regular music world. Sorry, but that’s my observation. (Feel free to disagree, but it’s a question of taste and not overly subject to rules of logic.)

Having said all that, I want to make a couple things clear.

I do not hate Mr. Pearson. I don’t even know him. He may be a prince of a fellow or he may be a rotten skunk; I simply do not know. I do know he claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ. In that regard he is my brother and I am obliged – ordered, expected – to love him as a Christian brother and also as a human being.

Anyone who fails to grasp that last paragraph doesn’t understand the Bible much, nor the English language.

Do I fully endorse his lifestyle or his actions in some regards? No. As I mentioned, I’m not fond of ‘Christian music’ and homosexual conduct is prohibited in the New Testament. Then again, I don’t fully endorse my – hopefully past – lifestyle or actions in all regards. I’ve never engaged in homosexual behavior, but I have been bitterly angry with others, coveted others property, engaged in petty theft, been derelict in my duties – both secular and Sacred – and chased women. (Not to be indelicate, I caught several.) So my life as a Christian is not unsullied and perfect, EXCEPT as God has forgiven me and credited Jesus’ perfection and atonement to my account.

The same conditions apply to all persons. The exception applies to all persons who have agreed – contracted – with Jesus as followers and protected persons of Jesus. That – as far as I can tell – applies to Mr. Pearson.

So; I will pray for Mr. Pearson, his soon to be ex-wife – and I don’t agree with them divorcing – his family, his future and his service toward God. I would pray and expect he will at some point end his homosexual life-style. Not to satisfy my feelings, or those of any preacher, pastor, or holy man; but in response to God’s extant statement on the subject.

I find this whole matter sad. But it is a sad world, ever since man decided to ignore God’s directions and make up his own. No doubt most of us will survive and even grow stronger in Christ.

Except for those who choose to further alienate themselves from God.

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The Argument for the Triune God

The concept of Trinity is an accepted tenet of Christianity. The concept is widely accepted among almost all groups of Christianity. It is supported by the Bible – normally accepted by all those groups of Christianity. Christians accepting this concept are lumped into the heading of Trinitarians.

The opposition to this concept is the doctrine of Arianism. This should not be confused with Aryanism – the racial theory behind the NAZI ethnic purity belief. Arianism stems from the teachings of Arius; a Christian living about A. D. 250-336. This belief teaches Jesus, called the Christ, was not a person of the God-head, but a created being. (The same teaching dismisses the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost in similar manner.)

The conflict between the Trinitarian and Arian or Non-Trinitarian faction of Christianity is long and detailed in various records. I shall not pursue it further other than to acknowledge the conflict.

The term ‘Trinity’ does not appear in the Bible. Not in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek. It is a term later adopted by the aggregate followers of Christ to describe a number of concepts described in the Bible. This is seized upon by the non-trinitarian faction as ‘evidence’ supporting their position.

For clarity, the concept of the Trinity does NOT assert or imply more than One Single God. In actual fact, the Trinity states there is only One God. However, Trinitarians recognize God in Three “Persons”.
God the Father
God the Son
God the Holy Spirit (Ghost in the King James Version).

All three are God in God’s entirety; yet they are individual in perception and function to some degree. (I refer those who do not grasp this or find it contradictory to the modern physics problem of the photon’s nature; is the photon a particle or a wave form?)

I personally have a problem with the term ‘persons’. In modern English (which may be the problem) ‘persons’ implies three different beings, people or entities. Assuredly a superficial view agrees with this implication. (As is the case with Islam and many other of the non-trinitarian views on the subject.) But it is the accepted term and I’m not going to change it here. The usage has a long tradition behind it and probably no other word fits, either. “Facets” or “parts” are even more likely to imply separate existences.

Christians recognize the Bible – in its entirety – to be the message (‘word’) of God to mankind. Therefore, the entire Bible is to be considered in determining the validity of the Trinity. Any faction, denomination or sect refusing to accept the entirety of the Bible are suspect in terms of Christian adherence.

Starting with the Creation account recorded in Genesis, one finds:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning  God*  created the heavens and the earth.
This frequently used Hebrew word – God (אֱלֹהִים,’elohim ) is plural. When it refers to the one true God, the singular verb is normally used, as here. The plural use in Hebrew does NOT indicate either a committee of gods, or God and angels, nor does it indicate the Trinity. The plural form indicates majesty much the same as various secular Kings and Queens use the “royal ‘we’ “.

Then in Genesis 1:2 …but the Spirit of God* was moving over the surface of the water.
Yes, I did take only a selected part of the verse using the phrase “Spirit of God”. Those desiring to check, please read Genesis 1:2 in situ and note the meaning is not changed nor altered.
Spirit of God is a much discussed phrase. The word in Hebrew translated ‘spirit’ in many translations of the Bible, in Hebrew also can be translated ‘wind’ or ‘breath’. In some translations this phrase is translated into English as “wind from God” (the Jerusalem Publication Society in their 1985 translation of the Tanakh – the traditional Jewish rendering of what is termed the “Old Testament” in English language use Christianity – translates the phrase in this manner. But a footnote indicates other translations render the same phrase “Spirit of God”.) Of value in this difference of translation is to be seen in other parts of the Hebrew Tanakh where the same Hebrew word (transliterated ‘ruwach’) refers consistently to the divine spirit that empowers and energizes individuals (see Gen 41:38; Exod 31:3; 35:31; Num 24:2; 1 Sam 10:10; 11:6; 19:20, 23; Ezek 11:24; 2 Chr 15:1; 24:20).

Here now, there is a problem. In the first two verses of the Bible, “God” creates “…the heavens and the earth” (which is no stretch to consider the entire Universe), BUT, the “Spirit of God” is moving over the surface of the earth. The wording suggests, implies, two entities. But Christians and Jews at least superficially agree the God of Creation is One.

In Genesis 3:8, (please read the entire section, Genesis 3:8-19) the “Lord God” walks in the Garden with Adam and Eve. Not only does the “Lord God” walk, but He makes noise – evidenced by Adam and Eve hearing movement of the “Lord God”. A conversation (rather uncomfortable for Adam and Eve) transpires.

Which indicates God was present with Adam and Eve in a physical form. God uttered sounds – it seems – which registered on Adam and Eve as conversation and words.

This record of God is surely not the ‘Spirit of God’ mentioned other places in the Bible. Nor does it seem to be the Creator God who created the Universe.

Switch attention to John 4:23-24 Jesus, in speaking the Samaritan woman, tells her (23) But a time is coming – and now is here – when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers. (24) God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The full account is from verse 4 to 24; at least verse 19-26 to avoid charges of taking the quotation out of context.

Jesus states God – the Father, the first Person of the Trinity – is a Spirit. Not physical. Which is problematic for those who claim God appears in person in various sections of the Old Testament. (See following.)

Genesis 32:24-30 recounts the incident of Jacob (son of Isaac, son of Abraham) ‘wrestling’ with “…a man”. The word in the text (verse 24) leaves no doubt; Jacob and ‘the man’ (as Jacob thought at the time) were in fact flopping about on the ground, pushing each other around and getting sweaty and dirty. When Jacob’s adversary in this decided to leave, ‘the man’ dislocated Jacob’s hip, putting Jacob out of serious action. But Jacob will not let go. Jacob refuses to allow ‘the man’ go free. Jacob demands a blessing.

‘The man’ tells Jacob his name (Jacob’s) name is changed to Israel. The name is a play on words in Hebrew and means – at least in one form – “Strives with God”. At this point, Jacob demands to know ‘the man’s’ name; One could interpret this question of Jacob as “Who (in the world) ARE you?”

‘The man’ refuses to give his name – other than the above- but does bless Jacob and leaves. Jacob names the place of the encounter “Penuel” literally meaning “Face of God”, and explained “Certainly I have seen God face to face and have survived.”

So either Jacob met God face to face (and hand to hand), or ‘the man’ lied to Jacob and Jacob was in error. Or the Bible was made up much later and fraudulent. Take your pick.

As a Christian, one must presume the Bible is correct and accurate in the records of what participants saw, did and understood.

However, this appearance of God does not agree with the appearance of God in Genesis 1:1. This was apparently a man. A human being. (The text gives no hint of Jacob wrestling and talking with anything else.) However, this cannot be the First Person of the Trinity according to Jesus’ statement in the Gospel of John.

This also applies to several other sections of the Old Testament. Specifically Judges 13, where the ‘messenger of the Lord’ appears to Manoah and wife. The messenger announces the birth of Samson (not yet identified by name) to the yet infertile couple. Later, Manoah tells his wife (Judges 13:22) “We will certainly die, because we have seen a supernatural being!” This verse is translated And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God. This from the KJV. The word translated ‘God’ is ‘elohim’ and can be translated into English in various ways, all dealing with supernatural beings; most commonly “God”.

One is reminded of the statement made to Moses on the mountain in Exodus 33:20 “You cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live.” Other passages that teach this are Deut 4:33, 5:24, 26; Judg 6:22, 13:22, and Isa 6:5. Manoah has the idea that he will die, having seen God.

Probably the over-riding teaching of the idea of the Trinity is Jesus claiming to be God. Either Jesus is telling the truth, or He is not.

If Jesus is telling the truth, the discussion is over.

If Jesus is not telling the truth, then Jesus is in the same category as those who claim to be Napoleon or a chocolate cream pie. Or the text is so contaminated by additions, edits and fabrications the whole fabric of Scripture is useless.

On a sidenote, but related, those who claim to worship God yet question the authenticity of the Bible are very curious. Claiming to believe in God, an Infinite, Omnipotent and Omniscient being and simultaneously thinking He fails or is incompetent to preserve His message to mankind is self-contradictory. Either God keeps what He claims to be His message as He intended, or He is less than omnipotent and omniscient.

John 10 (22-39) Jesus claims to be God. In a confrontation with the Jewish leaders, Jesus announces (verse 30) “…The Father and I  are one.” The NET has a foot note on this verse and word ‘one’ as follows: The phrase ἕν ἐσμεν ({en esmen) is a significant assertion with trinitarian implications. ἕν is neuter, not masculine, so the assertion is not that Jesus and the Father are one person, but one “thing.” Identity of the two persons is not what is asserted, but essential unity (unity of essence). (Provided by bible.org)

This is NOT one single person, not the same person, not the same purpose or goal, but the same essence. To spell it out, the essence is Divinity.

In John 8:57-59 Jesus is hounded by the Judeans (Jewish people in Jerusalem at the time), challenging Jesus’ claim of elating Abraham by stating Jesus is too young; Jesus replies “I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am! “ The term “I am” is a direct quote from Exodus 3:14 and is therefore Jesus statement He is God. If anyone doubts this, the next verse removes all doubt: Then they [the Judeans] picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out from the temple area.

The Judeans took Jesus’ statement as claim to Godhood and were going to stone Jesus for blasphemy. Please note Jesus ‘hid himself’, while speaking to a group of people who were in the process of stoning Him to death. Harry Houdini couldn’t do that without some preparation and equipment.

In Matthew 16 (verses 13 to 20) Jesus asks His disciples their opinion or belief as to Jesus’ true identity. Peter answered (verse 16) You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Rather than deny or correct Peter’s bold statement, Jesus tells Peter You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven!

Note in Hebrew usage, the term “… son of …” was an idiomatic phrase meaning ‘the same as’ (similar to the modern English idiom of ‘chip off the old block’) and does not denote family or genetic relationship. The missionary and partner of Paul “Barnabas” means “son of Encouragement”. Not that Barnabas’ daddy was named ‘Encouragement’, but that Barnabas was a great encouragement to other Christians. When Peter identified Jesus as ‘Son of the Living God’ Peter is saying Jesus IS the Living God.

It is interesting to note that while Jesus is accepting Peter’s recognition of Jesus as God, Jesus is simultaneously speaking of ‘my Father’. Either Jesus has multiple personalities or Jesus is speaking of the Father as the First Person of the Trinity, with Jesus being the Second Person.

I leave out much. However, what I have presented here is enough information to show the reasoning behind the Trinitarian view of God.

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The Sinner’s Prayer

I was listening to the radio this morning and heard a disturbing sermon or exposition. The radio station and speaker will remain nameless – to protect the guilty, innocent or as yet undetermined. The main thrust of the message was the gospel being preached and taught in many churches was wrong. That what is commonly taught about salvation is inadequate and sometimes misleading.

That did pique my interest and I listened for the entire program. I am concerned enough to write this exposition.

I must confess, I’m not sure if the speaker is ill-advised, flat wrong or simply meandering in his thinking. Some points he made were valid and reasonable, others sounded fallacious and indefensible. However, I shall reserve my final judgement.

Yes. I do have judgement. I do get to judge teachings and doctrines of others. I am commanded by the Lord God of Armies to ‘judge’ spirits in 1st John 4:1. The word used in the text is translated ‘test’, but it means to “to make a critical examination of someth[ing,] to determine genuineness, put to the test, examine.” If that doesn’t mean ‘judge’, I’ll be switched.

The text in Matthew 7 (verses 1 to 7) reads
7:1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.1  7:2 For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive. 2  7:3 Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? 7:4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own? 7:5 You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 7:6 Do not give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls before pigs; otherwise they will trample them under their feet and turn around and tear you to pieces.

Jesus in this passage is warning about criteria of judgement. Further He is talking about judging people, not issues, doctrine, logic or purported ‘facts’. So, when Jesus says in verse 2 the standard ‘we’ use to judge others will be the standard by which we are judged. Consider that Christians are judged in the light of mercy and forgiveness; should we judge other people without mercy?

On the other hand, First John 4:1-3 commands us – Christians – to ‘test the spirits’. In short, John, inspired by God to write this, is saying to double check anything that sounds contrary to Biblical teaching. This is why Christians do not put much stock in ‘reincarnation’ or ‘good luck charms’ or such. The teaching is contrary to the Bible message and discredits the power of God.

I don’t think it is out of line to read it as saying we are to analyze various sorts of claims – including sales pitches. I used two dabs of Brylcream for years and women NEVER chased me. (Which is not to say it didn’t work for keeping hair in place within reason.)

However, ‘judgement’ in terms of theology, doctrine and Christian dealings is not only allowed, but commanded.

“Gospel” is an interesting word. As most readers probably know, it comes from the Greek word “euaggelion” (pronounced ‘you-an-ghel-ee-on’ with a soft ‘g’ in the middle syllable; not like ‘hair gel’) and literally means ‘good news’. In the Greek, this could mean any good news, like “You got the raise” or “Our team won the playoff” or “Mother and child are doing well” and so forth.

In Christianity, the New Testament, it refers usually to the ‘good news’ of Salvation. Rather than me re-type it all, please go to BlueLetterBible.org; find the Strong’s Lexicon and check entry G2098.

What the speaker was attacking in the guise of poor gospel was specifically the evangelical concept of ‘The Sinner’s Prayer’. I have to admit, the attack has some merit; but it can be misleading.

The Sinner’s Prayer usually takes on some variation of the following:

“Lord, I admit I am a sinner. I know I cannot save myself from the eternal penalty for my sin and poor conduct. I know you sent your Son Jesus to die as a sacrifice for my sins. I accept the atonement of Jesus on my behalf and accept Your forgiveness. I will live according to your commandments to the best of my abilities and allow You to control my life.”

As mentioned, this is one variation, but it hits the high points. Some variations are shorter and some are longer and more detailed.

This usage has been attacked in the past few years as inadequate. Again, there is some merit to the attack. Yet the usage is not completely without effect or merit, either.

Here’s the explanation:

The Sinner’s Prayer is not, nor ever has been, promulgated as a “Magic Spell” which binds God to our will, or ‘forces’ God to save anyone from sin. Secondly, this approach seems to end the matter of the Christian life with salvation, only.

However, it does seem to be advertised that way at times. The impression one gets is that if anyone merely repeats these words, God is forced to act and all is well. Not ever spoken, but somewhat inferred is reciting this ‘spell’ is all that is required and one can go back to normal life – whatever that may be – and has a total and unrestricted ‘get out of jail – or hell – card’ for the remainder of one’s life. And, this is the goal and end of the matter.

This concept is simply not so.

The Sinner’s Prayer is also attacked in that it is not specifically recorded in the New Testament (or anywhere else in the Bible, for that matter.) This is correct, as far as it goes. No where is Jesus – or any of the other writers of the New Testament – recorded uttering these words. Nor do any of them suggest reciting a particular order of words (in any language) to secure forgiveness of sins. Of course, the composite ideas are espoused and with some repetition.

Just for the record, the term ‘Trinity’ does not appear, either. All Christian fellowships, denominations, groups, sects, sub-divisions and so forth concur on the triune nature of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The composite ideas are espoused and with some repetition.

So how does the Sinner’s Prayer work? It is the outline of an oral contract. Some object to the word ‘contract’. Too bad.

Presumably, the reader has heard the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” on occasion? Further presuming, the reader has heard the terms Old and New Covenant as well?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary (look on line, it’s easy to find) lists ‘testament’ as having an archaic (for example, A. D. 1611) meaning of “…a covenant between God and the human race”. Testament and Covenant both in this context mean “…a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement”. A compact. A contract.

Even though in the modern world we think of contracts as documents to be signed, current U. S. law – and the world in general – recognize oral contracts where both parties agree on a specific agreement.

The Sinner’s Prayer can – should – be used to outline a specific and binding agreement between an individual human being and Almighty God.

The individual human being – called the ‘sinner’ for brevity – agrees to depend upon God for life, both temporal and eternal. Further the sinner agrees to follow God’s will, commands and directions for the rest of his life.

God agrees to remove the guilt and penalty of sin from the sinner. God further agrees to remake the sinner into the ‘reflection’ (image) of God in this life and for eternity. God also promises not to impose a ‘breach of contract’ penalty upon the sinner.

So why the Sinner’s Prayer for this?

A quick review of the elements of the Sinner’s Prayer, as presented here.

“Lord, I admit I am a sinner.”
The simplest verse to justify this statement is Romans 3:23; “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” However, this is merely a snippet and if anything, is rather understated. A couple verses prior, (verse 20 of the same passage) reads “For no one is declared righteous before him   by the works of the law…”
Romans 10:9-10 reads, “…because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10:10 For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation.”
So, some declaration of the matter is recommended in the matter.

“I know I cannot save myself from the eternal penalty for my sin and poor conduct.”
See the above paragraphs. Note the passage in Romans 3 again. There is no declaration of righteousness other than by the Grace of God.

“I know you sent your Son Jesus to die as a sacrifice for my sins.”
One of the keystones of Christianity.
Romans 5:6 and following (entire paragraph): “5:6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 5:7 (For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die.)  5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 5:9 Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood,* we will be saved through him from God’s wrath.  5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life? 5:11 Not only this, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation.”
* “blood” is used here as a euphemism for death.

“I accept the atonement of Jesus on my behalf and accept Your forgiveness.”
This is the meaning of the word ‘believe’ in the New Testament. To rely upon and depend on the subject for what is needed. More than mere assent of existence, ‘belief’ includes acceptance and full dependence upon the subject of ‘belief’.

“I will live according to your commandments to the best of my abilities and allow You to control my life.”
First Corinthians 5:11-21 speaks of the ‘change’ concurrent with the transformation from non-believer to Christian. Christians are a ‘new creation’, yet there is a progression of the individual involved.

So, there is nothing in the Sinner’s Prayer which contradicts Jesus’ teaching or the doctrine of the New Testament.

The only potentially misleading concepts are two. One, it can be misinterpreted as a ‘magic spell’ which binds God to grant the speaker forgiveness. It is not. Second, it should never be presented in such a way to suggest this transaction – even as a binding, oral contract – is the end of the matter. This is the beginning of the Christian life and a transition to recreation in the image of God.

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The following is a bit of further explanation of some the issues involved herein. It is a bit random in organization, but are important in a general knowledge of the Bible fashion.

In the NET Bible website search function, I find twenty-eight pages of Bible references using the word ‘saved’. I counted a random page and found twenty verses using the word ‘saved’. That is 560 verses (more or less). In the words of a famous television commercial from a number of years ago, “I think I’m going to need a bigger box.”

The verses range from Genesis to Revelation. Some verses refer to physical salvation – as in “…saved us from the Philistines…”. Many refer to spiritual salvation and quite a few have double meanings – both physical and spiritual. Obviously I didn’t use all of them in this essay. Hopefully I’ve hit the main points.

The NET.Bible website also shows this definition:
Webster’s
SA’VED, pp. Preserved from evil; injury or destruction; kept frugally; prevented; spared; taken in time.

A favorite text of those who seek to impose greater restrictions on Christians is in Matthew 7, verses 21 to 23.

“21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven – only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’

These are the words of Jesus indeed. However, they aren’t as vague as some suggest. Look at the actual wording; those denied are all claiming to have done things in their own power. “…didn’t WE …” do this or that. Nor do any of those herein denied come to the Lord and say, “I gave You my allegiance and obedience. I trusted Your death and resurrection for my forgiveness.” This seems to be the key to the unspoken lesson of the passage.

None of this is to say prophesy and demon casting are NOT important. However, the only important work in Christianity is that work which is individually directed and empowered by God.

Another aside.
The words ‘belief’ (noun) or ‘believe’ (verb) and the word ‘faith’ (noun or verb depending on usage) are rather weak words in the modern English language. They were stronger words in Greek usage of Jesus’ day.

All to often, the term ‘believe’ is equated with ‘casual opinion’. Something like “I believe Jingles will win the third race at Hialeah today.” A closer meaning is “I believe I’ll have another beer”. The latter suggests a certainty of and intent of action which is a bit stronger than mere opinion or whim.

Strong’s Lexicon shows the Greek word to be G4100 pisteuo, (pes-too-oh). Strong’s reports as meaning:

To think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in [a ‘thing’ either physical or intellectual] in general life.
When used in a moral or religious reference:
* used in the New Testament of the conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of soul
to trust in Jesus or God as able to aid either in obtaining or in doing something: saving faith
mere acknowledgment of some fact or event: intellectual faith.
This last alternative is used as a comparison to the ‘belief’ which is steadfast.

Likewise the word ‘faith’ does not in the Greek signify ‘wishful thinking’. There are two words in Greek translated ‘faith’ in the KJV and can be misleading.

The stronger word is G4102 pistis (pis-tis). It is linguistically connected to G4100 (above) and is similar in meaning. “Conviction of the truth…”
The weaker Greek word is G3640 oligopistos (ah-lee-gawp-ess-toss) and refers to ‘little faith’ or something akin to wishful thinking or a neutral acceptance, not amounting to full support.

One should also note that both ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ are much like strength and ability. They all come in degrees or levels. All of these concepts grow over time and use. The more pushups one does, the stronger one’s arms and shoulders become. The more one knows and relies on God, the stronger belief grows.

End of aside regarding faith and belief.

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Can a Christian be Happy?

I thank a fellow Christian and blogger for the title and basic thought of this essay. My thanks and blessings to Kristeen Nicole Gillooly at https://kristeennicolegillooly.wordpress.com

She can’t help being good at what she does; she has a Celtic surname.

The title was originally Can You Be Happy if You are Not a Christian? In my mind this brings up other associated questions, like “Is a Christian Happier Than a non-Christian?” or possibly even “Does Christianity Make One Happier?”

My considered answer, after some sixty-five years of life, fifty-four years ‘officially’ a Christian, is “It depends. What do you mean by ‘happy’?”

I must be a philosopher; I answer every question with a question. Either that or an incipient politician. (Lord forgive me!) Or perhaps just a dedicated jerk.

The key to the answer is ‘What is Happiness?’

Your humble correspondent finds that virtually no one (believer or non-believer) is ‘happy’. Everyone (non-believer and believer) is beset with the idea of ‘something is missing’. Everyone thinks they are not quite pretty or handsome enough. No one has quite enough money. People think their butt is too big or too small. I’m not tall enough and she’s too tall. Either I’m too drunk or too sober. I trust the reader gets the point – I’m getting weary of belaboring the concept.

Most people think that the key to happiness is attaining what they think they lack. Oftentimes this comes in the form of bits of special fabric with green lettering and pictures of past Presidents on the front. However, even those with vast quantities of funds do not particularly exhibit the characteristics of ‘happiness’. The late Howard Hughes was rich beyond most of our dreams of avarice; he died a hermit, afraid to venture forth from his apartment.

I recommend the Biblical book of “Ecclesiastes”. Written by Solomon, King of Israel and arguably the richest man in the history of the world. It is a personal account of his search for happiness. I will not fully repeat it here, but he tells of chasing wealth, knowledge, women and fame. In the end, he says it is all ‘vanity’; a King James era English word used as the translation of the Hebrew ‘hebel’ (pronounced ‘heh-VEL’). In Hebrew, the word literally means ‘vapor’. So it’s air. Nothing in the vernacular. One of the meanings of the English word ‘vain’ is useless or without effect.

Gentle readers, no one is really happy. Not as adults, at least. When we were kids we were probably happier. When we were young enough not to know. For most of us, we had a place to live, clothing and enough to eat. Someone else paid the bills. We didn’t get everything we wanted, but we had pretty much what we needed and we played and we were happy. Except maybe for baths and when we broke something.

I once knew an adult who was generally happy. I mean really happy. Everything to him was new and fresh and neat. He had a serious mental deficiency. But he was probably the happiest fellow I ever met. Much happier than me at the least. That strikes me as a high price to pay for happiness, though.

People who are not believers can attain a level of satisfaction in life. However, there is always something ‘not quite there’ remaining. An unseen desire, an unthought thought. C. S. Lewis talks about this and I’m sure correctly diagnoses the problem as a lack of God. Please don’t think this is criticism; it is merely an observation of the human condition. The illustration of the ‘God shaped hole’ keeps returning. We all have a void in our soul – that inner part of us which shapes and becomes our mind in the sense of character, ego and moral fiber. It was made when mankind rebelled against God in the beginning. We are all aware of the lack, even if we don’t know exactly what it is or why it’s there.

Christians also have the void. Except, being with Christ, we have some mitigation of the ‘lack’ awareness. It is not that God has fully entered us and there is no lack, no void awareness; but rather that God partially fills it – AND we have the positive expectation that it will be properly and fully filled when we meet Him in Heaven. Christians know – at least should know – why we have that unsettled feeling of lack or waiting for something.

So, are Christians happy in the sense that ‘anyone in the world’ would recognize? Probably not. However, Christians who understand the relationship (not fully understand, but basically understand) between God and us as individuals have a certain ‘contentment’ that does no attach from conditions. Yes, Christians are happy in the sense of contentment; which may or probably may not be discernible to non-believers. Again, this is not a judgment or nasty comment; it is merely the statement that non-believers judge success or happiness by a different standard. That non-believers do not understand Christian standards is not a slam either, the statement only reflects a non-believer cannot understand that which has never been exposed to them.

One last word to Christians who are not happy and unsure they ever will be.

Full happiness, that knowledge the ‘hole is finally filled’ and the unspoken desire is fulfilled will only come when we receive our final reward and enter eternity. If one is without the ‘contentment’ of blessings to come, do not panic! The contentment part is much like prayer and push-ups. It comes with practicing with God and the effects are not instant, but cumulative.

Don’t Panic! God has you.

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