Fatherly Punishment: Zechariah Devotional, part 12, chapter 8:10-17

God reminds us through the prophet Zechariah that blessing comes to those who learn from His loving chastisement, not to those who obstinately continue as if nothing has happened when He punishes us as our Father.  If we love God and are thankful to Him, it will show in our obedience to Him, in reflecting His justice, love and mercy to others, especially in the Church of Christ.

Zechariah 8:10 For before these days there was no hire for man, nor any hire for beast; neither was there any peace to him that went out or came in because of the affliction: for I set all men every one against his neighbour.

11 But now I will not be unto the residue of this people as in the former days, saith the Lord of hosts.

12 For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.

13 And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.

14 For thus saith the Lord of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the Lord of hosts, and I repented not:

15 So again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not.

pruned vines in May, Wikimedia Commons

For God’s people, (which in Old Testament times was the nation of Israel, and is now known as the Church of Jesus Christ, made up of Christians of every nation), sin angers God.  When we stray against God, he sends his rod to chasten us, not out of hatred, but out of His fatherly love, in order to correct our attitude and restrain our bad behavior.  There are times, as in the history of God’s people Israel recounted in the words of the prophet, when we provoke God’s anger through sin.  Chief among these sins is the sin of idolatry, of having false gods.  This can be the blatant idolatry of bowing down to false gods represented by images invented by man’s imagination, as the Jews engaged in before they had been taken to exile in Babylon, or it can be in the more subtle form of the rule of other life priorities in our hearts, the place where God’s rule is meant to be seated and expressed in our life together as the Church.  These other priorities may be money, work, family, or community, which are blessings if used for God’s glory, when they are not allowed to take priority over God in our lives and hearts, but are idols if they are allowed to be more important to us than him.  God forebears for a long time in the face of such idolatry, when he allows the material blessings to continue.  But sooner or later out of love our Father removes certain blessings in order to discipline His people, to teach us to be more faithful to Him as His obedient child, noted in verse 10 above as the removal of economic blessing and the introduction of strife between the people.  But as with any loving father, His punishment does not last forever.

There is a blessing promised, when the Church will flourish and Her hard times will be remembered no more, as even bystanders looking from the outside see that God is in her midst to bless and keep her.  This blessing involves a remnant being kept by God from among the people, while those who remain in their sinful rebellion, who, instead of repenting of their sin and learning from God’s punishment, continue obstinately in their former ways, are cut off from the people of God.  The promised blessing is for those who prove to be faithful as a result of God’s chastisement, who learn obedience to Him from it.

Let us be those who learn the lessons that God gives us opportunity to learn, teachably, receptive to what He instructs us in his word and by the events that transpire, for we know that He is in sovereign control of everything that happens to us.  God teaches us in his word, and applies it to our lives often through the events that transpire.  Let us be open to what He has to teach us so that we will receive the spiritual peace and prosperity that He promises, which is so much better than even material blessing.

16 These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates:

17 And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord.

The blessing of God is received in thankfulness when we keep His commandments.  When we speak the truth to one another, love truth, and make just and right decisions as His Church, it shows that we are His people, beloved by Him, chastened but not killed, walking in thankful obedience in response to His grace to us.  When we love our neighbor and keep our word, for His glory, out of thankfulness for the blessings He has showered upon us, it shows His work written upon our heart, that we have been taught of Him and know Him.

 

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Please Don’t Say These Six Things at My Funeral

highplainsparson:

A good corrective to modern funerals.

Originally posted on :

funeralThere will come a day, perhaps sooner, perhaps later, when the man in the coffin will be me. They say the dead don’t care, but I’m not dead yet, so as long as I’m still alive, I’d like to have some say in what goes on at my funeral. And, truth be told, I think the dead do care. Not that they will be privy to the details of what happens at their own funerals, but they still care about the world, about their family, about the church. The saints in heaven continue to pray for those who are still on their earthly pilgrimage, so how could they not care about them?

Because I do care now, and will care even after I’m with the Lord, here are some things I hope and pray are not said at my funeral. I care about those who will be there, about what…

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Zechariah Devotional, part 11, chapter 8:7-9, Strength from Heaven

God chastens his own as a loving father punishes his children.  He does it not to hurt us, but to help and heal us when we go astray.  If we keep focused on the salvation that God has promised us, the eternal life that we have to look forward to in him, this will spur us to achieve great things as his Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit, as the grace of God and our thankfulness to him spur us to good works.  The special promise remains with us, that God is our God, and we will be his people forever.

Zechariah 8:7 Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country;

And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.

God has caused his people to be taken captive, the northern tribes by Assyria, and Judah by Babylon, and now Judah has been restored to the land.  Now God gives a more general promise to save his people wherever they might be, from the east to the west, from anywhere on earth.  At no time in the Bible’s history were the northern tribes of Israel restored to the land of Israel, or enabled to gather to Jerusalem for Passover and other feast days, but they were intermingled as an ethnic group with the Assyrians until they ceased to exist.  This promise, then, concerns something greater.  In the kingdom of Jesus Christ, which is the Church, Israel restored at Pentecost (Acts 1:6-8), all of God’s chosen ones of every nation from everywhere under heaven, that is, spiritual Israel, will be saved from all their enemies that oppress them: especially, death, sin and the devil.

Jerusalem was the place of God’s presence among his people Israel in Old Testament times.  This presence is now found in the New Jerusalem, the Church of Jesus Christ, where God indwells and communes with His own (Revelation 21:2).  It is in the Church of Jesus Christ that truth and righteousness are found, for in her his word is proclaimed and his law is kept.  We who gather to this Church enjoy a special relationship with God that the rest of the world does not, to have him not just as God, but to be his people and to have him for our God forever.

Though we walk through life as a valley of tears, struggling against indwelling sin, suffering from death and disease, and being tempted and buffeted by Satan, yet God has saved us from being slaves to these things.  The living hope that we have in him sustains us through all the difficulties of the Christian life.  Though all of the world may be against us, yet our happiness in God is secure, knowing that He is present among us, especially when we gather to worship every Lord’s Day as his people, and that He will be our God forever.  Though our enemies are stronger than we, we feel secure knowing that He will never leave us or forsake us.

Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Let your hands be strong, ye that hear in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets, which were in the day that the foundation of the house of the Lord of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built.

“Building of Solomon’s Temple” Comestor’s Bible, 1450, Wikimedia Commons

God’s grace strengthens us for the work that he would have us to do together.  His peace enables and invigorates us to build his temple.  Although Christ is the builder of his Church, yet he gives us an important role in the work, that of proclaiming the free grace of God in Jesus Christ to sinners of every category and walk of life, and of growing up together in him by his word and Spirit, and walking in mutual discipline according to the law of love.  God’s salvation is assured.  With the outcome secured, we are free to work.  It is hard work, but worthwhile and refreshing.  There is no more important or worthy labor on earth than to work for the purity, peace, and prosperity of the Church.  It is vital, and wonderful.

Let our hands be strengthened and not slack off in this work.  If we allow our own prejudices and preferences to take hold, instead of adhering steadfastly to the word of truth, and the rule of righteousness that God has completely given in the Holy Scriptures, Christ’s Church will be structurally damaged and her construction stymied.  But with God’s grace in our hearts, obedience to his word as the only rule for everything we do in the Church, and love for one another in the unity that God’s truth brings, we will engage in this work with pure intentions and a singularity of purpose, that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, will yield great blessing in the building project, as Christ’s own rule (contained in the Holy Scriptures) is gloriously kept and displayed in us as the Church to a watching world.

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Preacher in the hands of an angry church: the fall of Jonathan Edwards

highplainsparson:

Encouraging material for any pastor.

Originally posted on Grateful to the dead:

Minister. Thinker. Revivalist. America’s greatest theologian. “Homeboy” to today’s Young Reformed. Hero. Icon.

Failed pastor.

Why exactly was Jonathan Edwards, godfather of American evangelicalism, ejected from his own congregation–the church he had served faithfully for over twenty years? And what happened next? How did he respond? I explored these questions in an article for Leadership Journal:

[For a few reflections on what Edwards could still mean to the church today, see this post. For his claim to the title "father of evangelicalism," see this one. On Edwards as the original "ancient-future" evangelical, see here.]

Preacher in the Hands of an Angry Church
by Chris Armstrong

As messy dismissals of ministers go, the 1750 ejection of Jonathan Edwards by his Northampton congregation was among the messiest. The fact that it involved the greatest theologian in American history—the central figure of the Great Awakening—is almost beside the point…

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Precious Promises: Zechariah Devotional, Part 10

Zechariah Devotional, Part 10

God’s promises sometimes seem far-fetched, especially when they are very different from what we see in our daily lives.  It is often hard to believe God’s promises when they so contradict what may seem to appear before our eyes.  In our passage (chapter 8), Zechariah received a word of encouragement from the Lord to His people.  Let us recall that in the previous century they had gone through some very tough times and been ransacked by wicked nations, but God’s promise for a future salvation brought a sustaining blessing that carried them through to those times ahead.

Again the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying,

Thus saith the Lord of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury.

Thus saith the Lord; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the Lord of hosts the holy mountain.

These verses speak of God as a jealous God.  We may often be accustomed to think of jealousy as a negative personality trait or a form of insecurity, but there is a such thing as righteous jealousy.  A woman with a cheating husband has a right to be jealous for his affection.  And just as you would not want to mess with a mama grizzly bear’s cubs, so God’s tender affection for his chosen ones burns with hot fury against any who would come against us.  Israel may have been punished by the Lord’s fatherly hand by evil nations, but woe to those nations!  It would be better for them if they had never existed than to face the jealousy of God for his chosen ones.  He who was angered by Israel’s past sins will not be angry forever.  This applies to the Church, which is the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16), today as much as it did in Zechariah’s day.  He will yet establish Zion.  God is jealous for His people and will never utterly forsake them, but will raise them in Christ and bless them forever.

As the Church of Jesus Christ, it seems like we are a dim light shining in an ocean of darkness.  So many churches have lost the last flicker that remained of their light, whether through compromising the pure word of God in order to conform to the world, or by outright closing their doors.  But God is jealous for His Church, which is Mt. Zion, the New Jerusalem. (Hebrews 12:22, Revelation 21:2.)  The Lord who has established her has promised to yet build her so that she continues to be the place of His presence with men. (Matt 16:18)  Though the worldwide Church of Jesus Christ is experiencing difficult times, there is a promise of future blessing to come.  Let this be a comfort and sustaining source of joy for us when we think about our place in this world as the mountain of God on earth, the place of His presence and glory.  Let us continue diligently in worshiping God and doing everything that Christ commanded, knowing that our God does not dwell in buildings made with hands, but in the hearts and praises of his people gathered in His name.

This mountain of God is to be called a “place of truth.”  The Church is where God’s truth is proclaimed and believed.  The word of God is central to her worship, and the Holy Scriptures are the sufficient standard and regulative norm of all of her activities.  We can be sure of God’s presence as long as the truth of his word is proclaimed among us.  Where His word if faithfully proclaimed, that is where He is.  Unto this mountain which is the “place of truth” we must gather and never forsake it.

This mountain of God is a holy place.  It is “set apart” for Him, which is the meaning of the word holy.  In the Church of Jesus Christ, common worldly ways of doing business do not hold sway, but only the commandments of the Lord administered through the offices He has appointed.  The Church is holy because it has been set apart by God for himself.  Just as the whole is holy, the individual members of the body are holy.

Do you think of yourself as set apart for God in day to day work and activities?  Although Christians must and do engage in lots of things that are very common ways of life even for non-Christians, like work, recreation, family ties, etc., yet the Christian is set apart for the Lord.  There should and must be a noticeable difference in the way that we do things versus the way the world does things.  This comes out especially in motives.  Whereas those of the world are looking out for their own self-interest as commonly understood, their safety and income, those belonging to the Lord are firstly and foremostly concerned with minding the things of God.  They are “set apart”, holy, and consecrated to Him so that nothing will entice them to do something contrary to the glory of God.  And, although we all fail deeply in many ways all the time, there is a high calling to holiness in Christ for all who are in him.  Let us be diligent to be holy, to be consecrated to God when we gather to worship as His church and also in whatever we do in life, for this is God’s work in us, to make of us this mountain his holy place.

Thus saith the Lord of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age.

And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.

Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the Lord of hosts.

God confronts the doubting spirit of His people.  They had been in a state of war and slavery for so many years that it was almost too much to imagine children playing in the streets and old men and women alive in the city.  It is hard to imagine such things when all the old people have died and the young children cannot be allowed to play outside.  The modern culture that surrounds us commonly looks down upon children and the elderly.  Yet despite what our modern culture would have us to believe, having children is a blessing from God, and so is living to an old age.   What is impossible for us to imagine is possible with God.  His miracles are far beyond any of our expectations.  There will come a day, God says, fulfilled by Christ for His Church, when peace will be won and victory so established that His kingdom reigns in majesty, symbolized here by the peaceful and unworried presence of children and old men.  While this prophesied blessing is partly fulfilled in the kingdom of Jesus Christ on earth, especially in the churches where His word is purely preached and the sacraments administered with discipline, the full fulfillment must await the consummation, when Christ Jesus will return.  Every tear will dry from our eyes and all will experience God’s peace.  On that day, and we will not have to worry about any enemies harming us, and perfect peace and happiness will reign forever.

God’s gracious plan in Christ brings peace to us that we can now only taste a little and imagine, but someday we will dine on the full meal.  We can trust it because it is God himself who has promised, as unlike what we see before our own eyes as it may be.  We can work diligently building His holy Temple assured that He who has promised will bring it to pass in His own timing.  Thank God for this precious promise.  Let it sustain us in difficult times.

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Perkins on the Power of the Word Preached

apuritansmind.com

Finally Perkins speaks of the vitality of the Word of God (p. 647, The Art of Prophesying).  It is endowed with virtue in its operation.  This means that the Word has a vitality, a power to convince the hearers of its truth and to bring about that which it promises.  We notice that others in the history of preaching have spoken of this virtue or vitality of God’s Word.  It is a fundamental concept for understanding the Puritan School of preaching, because it is on this insight that the confidence of the preacher is built.  He does not have to rely on the arts of oratory, although he may use them, because the power of the preaching is not in the preacher but in the Word itself.

Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church: Vol IV, the Age of the Reformation, 265.

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The Holy Spirit in the Church Today

The Holy Spirit fills and animates the body of Christ, regenerating her and sanctifying her, filling her with the fullness of Christ and growing her up to his stature.  The Holy Spirit works conviction of sin, faith, and repentance unto life individually and corporately.  He is particularly responsible for any success in all the work of the church.

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The Scriptures Are the Church’s Only Final Rule

IMG_6769The Scriptures are the Church’s charter and foundation, her only final rule for faith and practice.  All that the church does is to be regulated according to the doctrine and practical instructions given in the Scriptures.  Since the Scriptures are her only warrant for ecclesiastical authority, she is not to transact anything not clearly addressed by them.  The conscience of Christians is free from all doctrines and commandments not specifically provided in the Scriptures in matters of faith and worship, and free from anything contradicting the Scriptures in other life matters.

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Book Review: Strange Fire

Book Review: Strange Fire.

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Answer to “The Bible – Divinely Authored? — A Response to Highplainsparson.” by Warbinator

IMG_6767I appreciate your thoughtful inquiry in your response to my blog post entitled “The Bible Proven to Be God’s Word By Its Own Evidence” and your respectful demeanor.  I respond to a few things below:

“The intention of Riley’s post, from what I can observe and determine, was to convince (or not?) the reader that the Bible was authored or significantly inspired by the Christian God (Yahweh).”

You’ve noticed a limitation of my blog post, that is, that it does not actually provide proof from the Scriptures for God’s authorship of them. In it I merely point to some categories of the evidence of divine authorship in the text of Scripture, and invite the reader to examine it for himself to find the evidence in the text.  My belief is that these marks are self-evident in Scripture, and that the reader of Scripture will observe them without my needing to point them out specifically.  However, that’s not to say that it wouldn’t be useful or helpful for someone to write a thorough introductory presentation to explore examples of these proofs in Scripture.  Think of this post as finger pointing to the Bible as containing internal evidence of its authenticity and a general description of what form that evidence takes in the Bible.

“Its main arguments are unfortunately prefaced by a disclaimer which claims that the Pastor’s arguments is not necessarily believable unless:

the Spirit of God witness to his heart to persuade him that it is the very word of God.

This seems unnecessarily disparaging on the part of the Pastor, who by this admission seems to be, before even making them, suggesting that his arguments are not good enough to convince an average critical reader.”

It’s not a problem with my arguments (I don’t think) and certainly not a problem with the evidence.  It’s a moral problem, that the Bible is against the self-interested bias of those who have not been reborn by the Spirit.  It’s not that the evidence isn’t clear enough to be seen.  It’s the tinted lenses worn by unbelievers that obscure the evidence for them.  I can see why the realization that your naturally in-born anti-God bias skews your interpretation of the evidence seems “disparaging”, but I would like to emphasize that we’re all in the same boat here.  I and every other Christian would be in exactly the same condition apart from a miracle of grace changing our hearts from rebellion against God to being beloved sons and daughters of His.  That is to say, we’re not better than you, in and of ourselves.

“He is apparently suggesting that one should perhaps temporarily suspend one’s critical faculty and allow oneself to be overcome by what could very easily be described and even proven with the right equipment to be a delusional fantasy.”

Certainly not!  I’m inviting you to use your critical faculty and examine the evidence in the text of Scripture, in my hope that God will speak to you through it and rip the blinders off.  It’s not a matter of “letting yourself be overcome.”  This is a secret and mysterious operation outside of our control that we only know from its effects on us after the fact.  I detest hyper-sentimental mysticism.

“For his argument to hold water, the Pastor would also have to quantify in some way what the limit of human authorship is, which he seems to have made no attempt to do.”

I agree that this would be required, if the intention of my post were to “quantifiably” prove the argument it was making.  But it wasn’t.  These truths are self-evident in Scripture, where God speaks in a self-attesting way, grasped by the reader as much by intuition as by deduction.  I’m trying to inspire the reader to examine the evidence of divine authorship in Scripture for himself.

As far as contradictions, no contradiction in Scripture has ever been proven.  Your example is not a contradiction. The account in Genesis 1-2 of creation is not in strict chronological order.  Genesis 2:19 recaps 1:25 for the reader’s benefit.  In fact, ancient literature in general does not share the modern concept of strict historical chronology that we’re used to.  The Bible must be taken as intended on its own terms and not read as if it were 21st century western literature.  That’s not a defect of Scripture; it’s just its character in the form of literature in which it was given.

Your assertion of evolution as the origin of species on earth is based on your prior naturalistic assumptions, no proof of error in Scripture.  There is zero empirical (testable, repeatable) evidence for evolution as the origin of species because no one but God was there to witness origins.  Your clock example is pertinent.  If you see the minute hand on the 4, you could surmise that twenty minutes ago the hand was on the 12.  But, if I left a green sticky note on the clock indicating that I had just set the clock 10 minutes ago, that would be evidence that trumps your extrapolation.  That, my friend, is what we have in Genesis 1-2.  It’s an account from the Creator that trumps all human surmises, educated guesses, and extrapolations based on natural data.

“Regarding “monstrous immorality and injustice”; is the injunction to kill homosexuals, moral?”

Yes.

“Is committing mass genocide in the form of Noah’s flood, moral?”

Yes.  This was a judgment of God upon mankind for sin.  God was bringing exactly that punishment with which He had threatened Adam and Eve in the garden, if they sinned against Him, that is death.  This curse is upon all descendants of Adam from conception.  (Listen to my fuller audio exposition here.)  The wonder is not that God brought death upon the earth, but that He saved Noah and his family, who didn’t deserve to be saved.  Wonderful grace.  The flood was a microcosm of that judgment which is coming upon the whole human race for sin, every man, woman and child.  Just like those in the ark, all those who repent of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ as He is revealed in Scripture will be saved.  All others will be damned forever.  This is perfect justice for the damned and unmerited mercy for those who are saved in Christ.

“Indeed I need just refer the reader to the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy to find a great many things that would be considered highly immoral today.”

The moral relativism of our modern societies are largely to blame for misperceptions of the Lord’s statutes, as well as misrepresentations.  But for those who diligently study and consider, the law of God in these books shows itself to be morally perfect and exemplary.

“If you really mean what you are saying here Pastor, or at least implying, that you take all your morals from the Bible and that they are ‘pure morality from God Himself’, then I really would not like to meet you.”

I’m sorry to hear that.  You sound prejuidiced in this regard.  It pays dividends to be more tolerant of people who think differently than you.

“You’d condemn many of my friends as inhuman and feel enjoined to kill them,”

I’m not sure if you were being serious here but I have never been enjoined to kill anyone.  There are several important interpretive principles at play in understanding and applying the various categories of law in the Old Testament.  It’s probably enough to say for now that capital punishment belongs only to the civil government, not to Christians individually.

“you’d approve of slavery of other human beings, and you would condone genocide in the name of God.”

Again, God has not enjoined either slavery or genocide to me or other Christians.  Our weapons are not carnal, but spiritual, to the pulling down of strongholds.  We are conquering the world by His word and Spirit, a blessed and loving conquest.

“I would point my rather under-qualified literary finger at the works of Shakespeare for consideration as being possibly better in many ways than the Bible.”

Shakespeare, although inspiring, insightful, and with an oratorical eloquence not found in the Bible, does not represent around 40 human authors writing sixty-six books in three languages over a period of at least 2400 years to a common scope, theme and purpose.

from my original post: No one writes about the human race the way the Bible does. The Bible presents man as completely unable to do any good thing apart from a sovereign change of his heart wrought by the power of God as a miracle upon the soul. The Bible is utterly unflattering to all humankind and exalts God alone. Its revealed way of salvation by God’s grace alone through Christ for the very people who have earned eternal punishment for themselves by their hatred of Him and their evil deeds, is something that no human being ever could or would dream of. Human literature is flattering to the human nature and character. But in the Bible, God gets all of the credit for everything that is truly good, and man gets absolutely none, which proves that God is the Author and not merely man.

“Like argument 1 this is simply a non-argument. A non-supernatural entity could have written that.”

Firstly, I’m not sure you understand the extent to which the Bible glorifies God and humbles man.  Con men promoting deceitful beliefs always find ways to glorify, and do not go out of their way to denigrate, themselves, as the Bible does its human authors and protagonists.  The Bible literally takes pains on every page to reserve all of the credit for God and none for any human.  I’d like to see someone provide an example of any other human writing that does anything approaching that.

“The sense of right and wrong that, I should correct Pastor Riley, most of us possess (notice the ‘design’ failure in psychopaths), comes from evolution by natural selection.”

First of all your prior assumptions are being asserted as truth.  Secondly, the evolutionary view of the laws of morality is entirely insufficient to account for morality.  If it could evolve, it could still be evolving, which means it would not necessarily apply universally, to all people in all places.  Then, it could not be applied uniformly, and it would lose all utility.  Only the Triune God of Scripture adequately accounts for mankind’s abiding sense of right and wrong, since He made us in His image, reflecting His own unchanging attribute of righteousness.

“Death is painful to observe when of a close relative because a gene carrier and carer of yours is ceasing to be, and therefore can no longer reproduce or care for you.”

Very true, yet we know intuitively that it’s more than just the loss.  The death itself stings.

“The Bible gives false answers to the “human problem”. Evil, for example, is not due to the sin of Adam, it is due to desire which evolved for the reason I stated.”

This isn’t a counterargument, but a mere statement of your assumptions.  As I explained above, the evolutionary model is entirely inadequate to account for morality.  The Bible’s account resonates and matches human experience.  We have guilt due to having violated our guilty consciences.  Nature itself shows that evil must be punished.  In our hearts we cry out for justice against those who have wronged us, and fear retribution for what we ourselves have done.  In God’s glorious plan to save a people for Himself through the sacrifice of His Son, perfect righteousness meets unspeakable mercy.  It is only in Christ that, “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Psalm 85:10  In God’s plan both His justice to punish for sin and His mercy to love sinners are perfectly preserved.

“The Pastor’s first paragraph here seems to be suggesting that those who do not believe the Christian hypothesis who are aware of it choose not to do so because they are scared because they have sinned and don’t want to go to hell.”

That’s correct.  The light of nature shows that there is a God who rewards good and punishes evil.  That’s why all human cultures and religions have believed it in some form.  And we have all done things that violated our own conscience.  We all experience guilt, and know that we deserve punishment.  While some go into a state of denial over it, i. e. atheists, others have embraced the only remedy, the one revealed by God Himself and not of human device.

“I can only hope that the arguments against Christianity which I have provided above and in previous posts were sufficiently articulate and well argued to undermine this assumption.”

Though well-written and displaying a degree of reason, these types of arguments from faulty presuppositions only serve to confirm man’s rebellion against His Creator of whom he knows intuitively.

“Since I don’t believe it exists,”

Ah, but that’s where I don’t believe you.  You and all other sinners yet in their natural state are in a form of denial re: your Creator.

“If atheism was simply a response to fear of Hell then one would not expect to observe an statistical inverse correlation between intelligence and religiosity, which has been found to be the case in almost every study carried out on the subject.”

I fully accept that statistic, as far as averages.  The intelligent among us tend to be more prideful, self-reliant, and this is an obstacle to receiving God’s revelation in Christ.  Jesus said the poor and meek are blessed, not the smart and intelligent.  1 Corinthians 1:18-31 explains that God prefers to choose the less esteemed among us.

‘At this point the Pastor goes back to his circular reasoning of “Like I said in the disclaimer above, you won’t believe anything I’ve written above unless the Spirit has opened your eyes to see clearly.” Again, for a confident belief, surely this kind of backing down would not be necessary.’

 

It’s not the evidence that is problematic but the bias of the interpreters.  I can pinpoint it with a simple question: Do you believe that your reason is autonomous?  If you say yes, you have already ruled out faith in God, in your thinking.

 

“With the proposed argument, by suggesting the only way to believe it is by a personal experience, you are ruling out the only method of truth determination known to consistently work on current data, the scientific method.”

 

The scientific method is not the only source of knowledge.  Different categories require different proofs: courtrooms accept witness testimony, philosophy uses reason, relationships are based on trust, etc.  God requires faith in Him as He has revealed Himself.

 

Thank you for your thoughtful reply to my blog post.  I hope you find some benefit in my response.  Even more, I hope that you will pick up the Holy Bible and read it to see for yourself.

 

Categories: Apologetics | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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