The Temple

Believing a Lie Doesn’t Make It True, Part 3

Many of our strongly held belief’s evolved because we want our faith to make us feel better. Often, our source (the Bible) is silent on particular issues, so we are left with a deductive process to fill in the blanks where the Scripture is silent.

For instance…
The Bible does not explicitly state that all babies go to heaven.
The Bible does not define or even mention a so-called age of accountability.

Both of these ideas have answers which have developed designed to make us feel better about difficult issues. We don’t like the idea that babies who died before being able to consciously choose to believe in Jesus would be subject to the fiery flames of hell. What does the Bible teach about the eternal state of babies? This raises another lie we believe in.

The Bible does not teach that people go to hell for not believing in Jesus.

Let’s examine these issues.

Let’s start with why & when people are condemned. The Bible teaches that all men stand guilty before God, before they even do one thing, and certainly before they reject Jesus. This is clearly taught in passages like Romans 3. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 6:23). Theologically this is called the doctrine of original sin. We have been born in sin. Add to this we are guilty not only because we are born into sin as sinners, but we heartily commit sin on our own, very early in life. According to the Bible, babies are not “innocent.” People are condemned to “hell” because of their own sin – before the gospel has ever been presented, before anyone is capable of responding to the gospel. People go to hell because they are guilty before God because of their sin nature and their sinful behavior.

For the purposes of illustration, it is similar to disease. Let’s say someone has cancer, his doctors offer a life-saving drug or procedure that he refuses. He dies. What caused his death? Did he die of cancer or did he die because he refused the treatment? The cancer killed him, not the refusal of medication. The medication could save him, but the cancer killed him. So it is sin that condemns us. Believing in Christ could save us, but not believing is simply one more expression of my sin and death.

If you say that all babies go to heaven, or if you conclude at this point that babies must go to hell, you are simply demonstrating ignorance as to how people come to be saved. If your theology says that people are saved when they choose to believe in Jesus Christ, again this is not a concept taught in Scripture. People are saved when God in His wisdom and knowledge predestines his children to adoption as sons. This happened before the foundation of the world. Salvation is the work of God and is the result of his elective choice. This goes for all people, babies as well as adults. What if a baby dies before that person expresses belief in Christ? They are saved because Jesus paid the price for their sin.

Because of a misunderstanding of the order of salvation, and a humanistic philosophical attachment to the freedom of the will of man – Christians have compiled a set of doctrines designed to explain sticky problems that are raised by the non-Biblical ideas.

God is just in punishing those who rebel against Him, ignore Him, fail to give Him glory or to thank Him for the life that He has given to them. God is just in punishing them even if they have never heard of Jesus. God is just, and would be just if He condemned all of humanity without ever even sending Jesus. What if God, in a tremendous act of mercy chose to save some of those condemned by their own sin? What if he decided to send His Son to die in their place? This does not make him unjust to send those who deserve punishment to their well-deserved end.

Do all babies go to heaven? The Bible is silent on this issue. It is not silent on the fact that all are born in sin, none are innocent, all deserve the wages of sin.

Is there an age of accountability? Not with respect to salvation. For legal terms and in parenting this may be an important discussion and definition, but the Bible neither speaks of one, nor hints at one.

People go to hell because they are sinners, before any decision with regard to Christ has been evidenced. Certainly, belief in Christ is the means to salvation, but not the reason for punishment. Not believing in Christ for the unbeliever simply becomes one more expression of his sinfulness.

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October 31, 2006 Posted by | Theological | Leave a comment

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

Don’t Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking, by Thomas Kida

This book is recommended by the website skeptic.com and this is the description they give for it:

This enlightening book discusses how to recognize faulty thinking and develop the necessary skills to become a more effective problem solver. Author Thomas Kida identifies “the six-pack of problems” that leads many of us unconsciously to accept false ideas:

1. We prefer stories to statistics.
2. We seek to confirm, not to question, our ideas.
3. We rarely appreciate the role of chance and coincidence in shaping events.
4. We sometimes misperceive the world around us.
5. We tend to oversimplify our thinking.
6. Our memories are often inaccurate.

Kida vividly illustrates these tendencies with numerous examples that demonstrate how easily we can be fooled into believing something that isn’t true.

I have not read the book, but I am going to purchase it and read it. I think the list is great…I have seen these mistakes in my own and others thought processes. I might amend #3, but you get the drift. One of the skills most people ignore is “thinking about our thinking.” What are my criterion for determining truth? What processes do I go through in assessing my belief set? What is my world view?

Had more Christians worked on their “mind” I wouldn’t have to write about believing so many lies.

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October 31, 2006 Posted by | Philosophy | Leave a comment

Believing a Lie Doesn’t Make It True, Part 2

Hold the tomatoes….

Myth #2 propagated by most evangelical preachers is the myth that Jesus is returning in our lifetime. Now before you unload your tomatoes, read carefully.

Every generation since the time of Christ has believed that we are living in the end times. It may be legitimate to believe that Jesus is returning in our generation, but there is no explicit time frame given, and even more important we are told that no one knows the day or the hour. Some of the more embarrassing moments in our history have to do with predictions and pseudo-predictions of the Lord’s return made by preachers through the ages.

To have a healthy expectation of accountability on the part of followers of Jesus to their Lord is an appropriate “eschatalogical” mindset. To insist that the Bible teaches us that the events of the present day fit the Bible’s prophecies is a different matter altogether.

Let’s make some observations:

If we are presently in the “end times”, every generation that has passed before us has not been in the end of the “end times”. They have been in the pre-end times. As such, the prophecies of the Bible only enlightened them to unspecified events they would never experience. Yet their pastors insisted that they believe they were in the end. Disbelieving would not be popular, yet the unbelievers would have been correct. They were not in fact going to see the return of Jesus. Saying that the Bible does not teach that he will return in the 20th century, or in the 21st century is not heresy – it doesn’t. The Bible calls us to live in expectation, to live in holiness, but does not guarantee us information that will pinpoint future events. Yet many preachers make belief in their particular slant on the prophetic a mark of the faithful – a condition of fellowship.

Many of the “end-times” passages commonly believed to describe the end of the world and the return of Christ really refer not to the end of the world but the end of an age, specifically the old age which precedes the “age to come.” Most of the passages that are commonly believed to describe worldwide destruction in fact describe the fall of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70. For instance, the passage of Scripture that tells us that there will be wars and rumors of wars refers not to the end of the world, but to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Yet it is popularly believed to refer to the second coming and even popularized in our songs (see Matthew 24).

Again, our theology must be determined by an appropriate interpretation of the text of the Scripture – not by our popularized notion of the end of the world. Let me challenge some of those popular notions:

1. As already mentioned, the Olivet discourse refers to the destruction of the temple/Jerusalem not to the end of the world.
2. The seventy weeks of Daniel are over, they found their fulfillment in the time of Christ.
3. Much of the book of Revelation also speaks of those days and not these days, meaning that although they had a future perspective when they were written, they have a historical perspective now.

End times preaching is popular. People are interested in the future. People love to be in the know with regards to events yet to come to pass. People are enthralled with spectacular visions of events yet to occur. Many people came to Christ in response to messages that dealt primarily with an end time perspective. These ideas are not released easily or casually. Rarely are the assumptions of the eschatological Illuminati questioned or challenged, nor are they held up to exegetical scrutiny by the popular listener.

I don’t know if Jesus is returning in our lifetime, and neither does anyone else. The Bible doesn’t give us that information. It might be part of my hope, but it isn’t part of my doctrine. That Jesus is coming again is something that we are told of and is part of our doctrine. The other speculative details are not part of the revelational body of information, that is, the Bible.

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October 22, 2006 Posted by | Theological | 1 Comment

Believing a Lie Doesn’t Make It True

I am amazed at what people believe, or think is true. I am amazed at what I hear pastors say is taught in the Scriptures, when what they are espousing is at best speculation. Let me give some examples:

* Satan’s name is Lucifer.
* The end of the world will come in our lifetime.
* All babies go to heaven.
* There is an age of accountability
* God is building me a mansion in heaven.
* People go to hell because they don’t believe in Jesus.
* God has to love everyone equally.
* Man has a free will.

Repeating these ideas in a sermon, book, or teaching doesn’t make them true. Saying them emphatically does not make them true. As Christians, we believe that in order for something to be true (theologically), it must be demonstrated to be true from the teachings of the Scriptures.

Satan is never given the name Lucifer in the Bible. In fact the Bible was written in Hebrew (OT) and Greek (NT) with some small amounts of Aramaic (Daniel). Lucifer is a Latin word which means “light bearing.” Latin as a language was not biblically significant until the 5th century when Jerome translated the Bible into Latin. Jerome translated the Hebrew term “helel” by using the Latin term “lucifer.” Most modern translations translate “helel” as “star of the morning” (shining one in the marginal note) or “Day Star.” The King James (New King James as well) and the Geneva Bible choose to simply transliterate the Latin term into English, and capitalize it as well to intimate that it refers as a title to a person, namely Satan.

A careful reading of the context will nullify this translation. Chapter 14 of Isaiah is a passage which speaks of God having compassion on Israel and restoring them from the captivity in Babylon. When God restores them they will “take up this taunt against the King of Babylon…” (Isaiah 14:4). Isaiah 14:5-21 is the taunt that Israel will take up and declare in their restoration. All of these verses refer to the King of Babylon. They are sarcastic words of mockery at the self-inflated ego of the king.

Verse 12 reads: “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations!” If you continue to read you will read of the arrogance of the king, who felt he was the most powerful entity in the universe, and why not? He ruled the world.

Many readers of this passage have said that the language of the passage cannot be referring to a human entity. Two responses mitigate against this:
1. It is identified as a taunt directed specifically to the king. In a taunt, you would use extreme language to make the taunt more effective. “You think you are so great….maggots will eat your flesh.” The contrast is heightened by the extreme language.
2. Verse 16 further identifies the subject of this taunt as a “man.” Satan is not a man.

Somewhere in history a tradition began based on a mis-interpretation of this passage. It probably started in a riveting sermon – a good sermon delivered with good intentions, but rooted in a misunderstanding. It gained a popularity of its own, and began to be repeated. People began to accept it as true, and to further repeat it. Unfortunately it made its way into the King James Bible and the rest is history. The influence of this translation with its capitalized “Lucifer” became the standardized interpretation of this passage. Presently, in some circles, it is accepted without question or inquiry as to its Biblical validity – and as such has become a popular lie, believed by many to be true.

This reveals a disturbing trend. The motivation and goal of many pastors in crafting a sermon has changed from rightly dividing the word and teaching the meaning of a particular passage. There are many different types of preaching these days, much of it designed to capture an audience. Now there is nothing wrong with capturing an audience, but the preachers starting point must be with the unchanging and eternal word of God. It is our job to expose, explain, exhort, encourage the body with the word of God. That is the starting place, we call this exegesis. Exposition is added to exegesis and it is at this later stage of sermon development that capturing the audience comes into play; after determining the meaning of the text.

Many pastors are adept at capturing the audience and it becomes an addiction. The capturing of the audience becomes the pursuit. This tail wagging the dog approach has taken us away from the classic call of the ministry: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” It is being replaced with shallow, plagiarized, oft-repeated, cliched and alliterated witticisms masquerading as “preaching the word” or “teaching the whole counsel of God.”

There is a dying breed out there, the scholar pastor. It is rare to find a pastor who has taken the time to sharpen his skills, hone his intellect, discipline his study – so that he is truly a resource to the body. What we have now, are people who desire to be trend-setters, good speakers who attract large crowds, populist preachers with a pragmatic approach to church growth and management. As a result, we think Lucifer is Satan’s name…and believe other more egregious lies.

More to come…..

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October 19, 2006 Posted by | Theological | 1 Comment

John Stott

Here are some great Stott quotes compiled by Christianity Today:

The Christian life is not just our own private affair. If we have been born again into God’s family, not only has he become our Father but every other Christian believer in the world, whatever his nation or denomination, has become our brother or sister in Christ. … But it is no good supposing that membership of the universal Church of Christ is enough; we must belong to some local branch of it. … Every Christian’s place is in a local church. … sharing in its worship, its fellowship, and its witness.
Basic Christianity

If you find it hard to believe in God, I strongly advise you to begin your search not with philosophical questions about the existence and being of God, but with Jesus of Nazareth. … If you read again the story of Jesus, and read it as an honest and humble seeker, Jesus Christ is able to reveal himself to you, and thus make God. … real to you.
I Believe in God

The modern world detests authority but worships relevance. … Our Christian conviction is that the Bible has both authority and relevance. … and that the secret of both is Jesus Christ.
Culture and the Bible

The Gospel is good news of mercy to the undeserving. The symbol of the religion of Jesus is the cross, not the scales.
Christian Mission in the Modern World

Social responsibility becomes an aspect not of Christian mission only, but also of Christian conversion. It is impossible to be truly converted to God without being thereby converted to our neighbor.
Christian Mission in the Modern World

Sin and the child of God
are incompatible. They may occasionally meet; they cannot live together in harmony.
The Letters of John

God’s Word is designed to make us Christians, not scientists, and to lead us to eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. It was not God’s intention to reveal in Scripture what human beings could discover by their own investigations and experiments.
Christian Basics

God is a peacemaker. Jesus Christ is a peacemaker. So, if we want to be God’s children and Christ’s disciples, we must be peacemakers too.
Decisive Issues Facing Christians Today

The incentive to peacemaking is love, but it degenerates into appeasement whenever justice is ignored. To forgive and to ask for forgiveness are both costly exercises. All authentic Christian peacemaking exhibits the love and justice—and so the pain—of the cross.
The Cross of Christ

It is never enough to have pity on the victims of injustice if we do nothing to change the unjust situation itself.
The Cross of Christ

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October 16, 2006 Posted by | Christianity, Quotes, Theological | Leave a comment